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When we passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, we worked for it, and we asked the Members of Congress to vote for it, and did everything we possibly could to have the act passed in 1933.
When the National Recovery Administration was set up we worked on that, too. And I could not just begin to count the number of codes that I have sat in on in an advisory capacity, and that applies to all of the representatives of labor that were stationed here in Washington, the American Federation of Labor. We were supposed to be selected as labor advisors for the administration, but we agreed upon one thing, and that was this—and it is a matter of record in every code hearing—that we were sitting in there representing labor free of all obligations. We were not receiving one penny of any description from any source, because we were already getting paid, and the records show-I think the Congressional Records show—when they checked up to ascertain the salaries of the N. R. A., they found
ss our names just ciphers. We did not receive any remuneration. All of the employers throughout this Nation of every industry came in there. They presented their case. They even selected attorneys to represent them. These codes were all submitted, not by labor, but by industry. They were the sponsors, and after they did get them there was a clause in every code, 90-day.clause, if they did not like the minimum rates and the maximum hours that were set up in those codes, or any other part of the labor provisions, they had the privilege of coming back in 90 days.
I want to tell you the railroads of this country did more business every 90 days than they ever did in the history of the Nation. You never saw such a vanguard coming back to smash down everything they agreed to, the employers in every industry. We had lots of opposition there. They would come in there with briefs from here to the Capitol. After they would once agree on it, they formed industries over night in the Willard Hotel-industries that were never heard of. They would form groups and go in and get a code. There were probably at one time around 800 codes in there. That kept us going night and day, and, as I say, they were back every 90 days.
They would never agree on the minimum rate. And they chiseled. We know all about the compliance division. We have had thousands of cases. But that did not make any difference. That is what we were here for.
Congress comes here to make laws. If you are not satisfied with the laws that they make, there is always a proper way to try to remedy them. We were in this job to handle complaints and cases.
There is no law that was ever written on the statute books that was not violated. And they will be violated. We have no guardian angels.
This bill ought to pass. And I want to say this: This is not only going to be confined to Government contracts. You might as well be honest about it. You don't suppose that we are going to permit employers engaged in Government contracts to comply with all the provisions of the minimum rate and maximum hours, and then we, on the other side of the street, say, “Here, you can pay what you please over there."
We had it in collective bargaining. We had it in the codes. They agreed to it. And we want it now. We have it under the WagnerConnery bill. We fought for that.
While I am here, I want to compliment this committee on something, and that is bill 8519. That is the amendment to the Hurd Act that was in this committee that has passed both Houses. This is the first time in 30 years that they have changed the Hurd Act or done anything to help labor. Here is where millions of dollars were stolen from labor in giving the contracts, in every department of the Government.
McCarl handed down decisions against it, because the Hurd Act said this. When the contract would fail and the bonding company failed, the only thing that he would be responsible for was the material and the equipment. McCarl says,
6 You could not collect the wages. There is nothing in the law.”
On one project alone labor was robbed out of $139,000. That was Langley Field, and they haven't got the money today, and that is 5 years ago.
That is what we are faced with in these conditions. These employers come in, and they were in the minority when they came in there. If they were not in the minority, they would never have had a code with the minimum rates and maximum hours in there. They could not convince the National Recovery Administration or those sitting there. They made these codes. The President was responsible. He thought that is what they wanted.
I have a code in here wih the highest rates of any code that was written, highest rates of pay, and it is far below that, and the highest rate was $1.70, minimum rate in that code; but the employers were satisfied. It was a voluntary agreement. All these were voluntary over in the Department of Commerce. And then afterwards they came in and tore them down.
We know about complaints. Why, we could stand here for a month and talk about the violations. But that does not make any difference. It is only the chiseling, cheating contractor that does not live up to the minimum wages.
I think we ought to pass this bill. Labor needs that, and the employer needs it too. There are thousands of employers, representing millions of employees. We represent 300,000 here I am speaking for; and when I say 300,000, why that many employees have all collective bargaining and are in favor of this bill 3055 and hope you
The CHAIRMAN. Who are the other gentlemen you mentioned?
STATEMENT OF FRANK E. WALSH, REPRESENTING UNITED
GARMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA
Mr. WALSH. My name is Frank E. Walsh, of the United Garment Workers of America.
First, I do not want to get into any contest with the Representative from Missouri as to who has the best agricultural State. I did not think that had anything to do with the bill.
Nor do I agree with the opponents of the bill when they said that this will drive small industry out of business. The argument is advanced by the opponents of the bill—and it is admitted by themthat if they have to comply with a decent wage scale, due to the fact that they have unskilled labor, then they cannot compete nor operate in business.
In other words, they are asking you Members of Congress to permit a manufacturer who, by reason of inferior materials and workmanship, to loot and bargain with the Government, and perhaps take advantage of them and sell them inferior materials.
If the small manufacturer, so-called, in agricultural districts has got to build his plant and industry upon the sacrifice of the industrial worker like me, who does not know anything about growing potatoes, only pay the farmer's price for them, then what are you going to do with our industrial workers? I can't raise potatoes or tomatoes. There is no room in my flat for them. If I have to compete with the agricultural semi-industrialist, who has never served an apprenticeship as I have, and whose employer knows nothing of the manufacturing skill that my employer does, then if the Government will not set a standard of living who in the world will set it?
If the Government is perfectly willing to buy from these manufacturers, materials that are made by unskilled workers which would be virtually inferior to that made by a skilled worker, then you are setting a bargain upon fakery and chincanery. If the Government cannot buy the very best made, and if they won't approve a standard of living commensurate with our American ideals, then you cannot hope for private industry to do that.
This bill is very important. There are boot and shoe manufacturers of Missouri, the Representative of that State said they were merely subsidiaries of larger manufacturers who operated in Boston and St. Louis. But they say these small plants were taken in by whom? Taken in by the townspeople. My God, if you are going to put a penalty upon us industrial workers that we have to subscribe half of our wages to build a plant for a manufacturer, then, truly, I think Hoover will be right-there will be grass in our main streets and it will be growing in every street. This deals only with the manufacturer or contractor having business or sale with the Government, and not with private industry.
If he sells to the Government, should he not help to make a contribution to elevate the standard of life? After all, this small chiseler does not sell material, Members of Congress. He sells labor at the lowest possible cost to him, and he puts me in competition with a man whose wife and family work while mine go to school and stay home.
Sure, the furniture manufacturers object to the hours because they will have 60 hours, and they infer that we should go back to the days when the toilets were outside—“we”, but they don't say “ they are willing to go back there.
If Congress does not pass this bill, how in the world are we ever going to get out of this depression? We have waited a long time for business to take the initiative and to pay a decent wage and to lower the hours of employment, in order to speed work over a wide area of our country. That they failed to do, and then only did Con
. gress enact legislation based upon a condition that was created not by labor but by those that control industry largely. We are hopeful that you gentlemen will see the wisdom of passing this act as written, for it does mean a great deal to the garment worker as well as the boot and shoe worker.
My industry has been wrecked by chiselers. Now, are you going to put my family on relief! Aren't we more helpless than the agricultural worker! We have no room to grow these potatoes. And when you say the cost of living is rising, let me say this to you: I have discovered after 22 years it is not so much the cost of living as it is the cheap cost of living, or the cheap living. I can live in New York or in Boston just as cheap as I can in Missouri, if I have to, but I don't want to do that. I want my children in school. I want to live better.
We plead and beg you Members of Congress to enact this law as written. I thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Next witness, please. STATEMENT OF W. C. HUSHING, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE REP
RESENTATIVE OF THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR
Mr. Chairman, my name is W. C. Hushing, national legislative representative of the American Federation of Labor.
The advocates of this bill who have spoken previously have explained our viewpoint in an excellent manner, and I hope that if any labor men follow me they will make their remarks as brief as possible, in order that the committee may begin to consider the bill in executive session.
I want to say this: We are absolutely in favor of this bill. It seems to me that the opponents of the bill are unduly alarmed, and that they have presented arguments here which are not on firm foundations. Attempts have been made before this committee to make it appear that this is an extension of N. R. A. Nothing is further from the fact. It is true reference is made to the codes, but that is for the purpose and for this purpose alone: Under N. R. A. for the first time minimum wage rates and maximum hours were applied to industries as a whole. For that reason that is the only yardstick we have to refer to.
The principle of this bill has been adopted by the Federal Government years ago.
The Federal Government in 1868, I think, passed the first 8-hour law applicable to its employees. That was later extended to all contractors and subcontractors doing work for the United States Government.
This principle is now to be extended further—to what? Child labor, convict labor, and minimum wages and maximum hours. So the principle is there, endorsed for years by the Federal Government, and it apparently is a simple matter, and I hate to see the issue beclouded in the manner some of the opponents have endeavored to becloud it.
We sincerely hope that you can see fit to report this bill at an early date, and we hope that it passes this Congress.
You have heard the general contractors' representative speak and advocate the passage of the bill. And I am not going to make any criticism or make any reference to chiselers, but I will say this:
It will give the decent, fair contractor a break with those contractors who are not decent in the treatment of their employees.
Unless there are questions, I thank you.
FURTHER STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID I. WALSH, UNITED STATES
SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS
Senator WALSH. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Committee: I would like first of all to review the history of this legislation. Up to the Supreme Court decision every person doing business with the Federal Government had to comply and agree in writing when they made the contract to meet these stipulations that are mentioned in this bill; not only these stipulations but many more which I will refer to directly, because they had to solemnly agree to abide by and live up to and support the terms of the code. So we are not dealing with a new proposition of Government contracts requiring some stipulations in regard to labor conditions.
The Finance Committee conducted the investigation into the operations of the N. R. A. Not a single, solitary witness, with possibly one exception or two, which I cannot think of, appeared before that committee without saying it is desirable and important to retain the three things, the labor features of this bill. There were severe and bitter criticism of the N. R. A., but it related to various other features of it that are not embodied in any way in this bill.
There were bitter attacks upon it because of price fixing. There were bitter attacks upon it because in the code making the bigger industries monopolized and injected terms into the codes that were a disadvantage to the small ones. There was a bitter attack upon the way it was being administered by code authorities in the various states, bitter attacks upon the assessments made and the wages paid to those who were conducting the code authorities. And there were bitter attacks made on some of the terms of the codes, and some of the terms which they had relating to fair competition.
But in all these hearings no one ever said that the wage provisions were not satisfactory. Indeed, one of the witnesses who has appeared here--and most of the witnesses who appeared against this appeared before the Finance Committee protesting the N. R. A.Mr. Edgerton when he appeared before the committee was asked by Mr. LaFollette-I refer to page 1594:
Mr. LA FOLLETTE. Would it be a fair statement that questionnaires showed practical unanimity of opinion in favor of some proper application of minimum wages?
Mr. EDGERTON. Yes.
Mr. EDGERTON. Yes, sir; those two things. Those two things were the two things on which all of them, practically all of them, expressed an interest.
The CHAIRMAN. “Expressed an interest ”–do you construe that to mean that they were in favor of it, Senator?
Senator WALSH. Yes. I did not continue the reading of it. But they were in favor of it, yes, in all of the questionnaires.
It was really interesting the zeal and earnestness with which every manufacturer who took the witness stand began his first sentence“Of course, I have nothing against the minimum-wage provisions.