WOMEN IN INDUSTRY
More than 2,000,000 of America's Women who work in factories deeply affected by war---Women's Labor Organization's work to maintain standards---National League for Woman's Service renders valuable aid--- Value of this work recognized by the Secretary of Labor---United States establishes employment agencies throughout the country---The Gompers Committee.
It is evident to the least observant that Labor's share in winning the war is second in importance only to that of the military arm of the Government. It is also evident that grave dangers will attend the shifting of women into men's places and the readjustment that must be brought about by the withdrawal of millions of men from American industry. It is undoubtedly in the industrial and economic field that the war will mark the most far-reaching transformation in the condition of women. Even in times of peace women were working in two hundred and ninety-five trades and occupations out of the three hundred and three listed in the census, and we can well imagine what further development of woman's work and woman's power is to be brought about in the near future. Of the millions of industrial workers in America more than 2,000,000 are women, and no sooner had war been declared in Europe than the equilibrium of industrial affairs touching women began to be upset in this country. The real problem, however, began to be acute after the first draft and various agencies have been at work to remedy, in so far as they could, the situation.
The most important phase of the question of women in industry is that concerning standards, and very early in the war the National Women's Trade Union league of America, in annual session at Kansas City, Missouri, adopted certain standards of industry for government contracts. The report of the Committee on Woman's Work in War Time adopted by the delegates to this convention said:
For the first time in our history, trade union women representing their respective trades have been called by the Government into active service in order to meet intelligently the difficulties and complications which will arise in the industrial field as the result of our entrance into the war. It is therefore incumbent upon us to consider the best way of protecting the great mass of women workers from the exploitation that may follow.
Trade union women are serving on committees appointed by the Council of National Defense and on state and city defense Committees, thereby in an official capacity representing the interests of the women workers and voicing for the first time the needs of this most exploited group in the country.
We therefore recommend to the proper government committees the following outline of standards to be established for government contracts, and the following recommendations to protect working women in the necessary industrial adjustments that are now in process of development.
STANDARDS OF INDUSTRY FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS
1. Adult labor.
a. The highest prevailing rate of wages in the industry which the contract affects.
b. Equal pay for equal work.
c. Those trades where there is no wage standard whatsoever shall be placed in the hands of an adjustment committee.
d. That all wages be adjusted from time to time to meet the increased cost of living-by this committee-and that other wage questions be submitted to it.
3. The eight-hour day.
4. One day rest in seven.
5. Prohibition of night work for women.
6. Standards of sanitation and fire protection.
7. Protection against over-fatigue and industrial diseases.
8. Prohibition of tenement house labor. .
9. Exemption from the call into industry of women having small children needing their care.
10. Exemption from the call into industry of women two months before and after child birth.
Regarding the shifting of women into men's places the report continues: "In the adjustment that must follow the call into service of men, women will inevitably take their places. There will be grave danger that they will be paid less wages than men. We therefore recommend:
First-that the Government shall require in its contract equal pay for equal work.
Second-that technical and trade training be opened to women in all schools and colleges on equal terms with men.
Third-that in the establishment of local committees of mediation and conciliation of industrial disputes trade union women as well as men be appointed.
EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES AND TRANSPORTATION
It is of the utmost importance at this time that the federal, state and city employment agencies shall be perfected and that a Woman's Department in each of these agencies shall be created. The closest cooperation should exist between these agencies in order that there be the speediest adjustment in the labor market and that women shall find opportunities for work easily without unnecessary delay between jobs.
We urge the Government through the Department of Labor not to send women into any industry unless there be guaranteed the standards of labor set forth in this report. Where women are sent away from their own localities proper housing should be assured them and transportation and wages for the days spent in travel should be furnished
In order to carry out these provisions so that women workers shall be protected and shall not lose their faith in the integrity of the Government, a Transportation Committee should be established connected with the Government Agencies. The duty of this Committee shall be to direct the workers to decent housing accommodations and to see that the places of employment to which they have been assigned are open on their arrival and conform to the above standards. (Such agencies as the Young Women's Christian Association and the Travelers Aid under a Government Committee could be effectively used for this purpose.)
COOPERATION WITH THE SECRETARY OF LABOR
The Committee expresses its confidence in the Secretary of Labor who is in charge of this work and recommends that the National Women's Trade Union League offer him our united support and cooperation in order that we may be of service in helping him meet the difficult problems in connection with the work.
To assist him to establish these industrial standards and make them obligatory upon these employers accepting Government Contracts whether through the Department of Labor or through the Department of War, the Committee recommends the adoption of the following resolution:
(Resolution No. 32, introduced by the Chicago Delegation: )
WHEREAS, We know that our Government wishes to give its war contracts to those employers maintaining the highest industrial standards, and
WHEREAS, As workers we find that some of these contracts have been given to known exploiters of women and children, and
WHEREAS, The Department of Labor at Washington has no power to make inspections of industrial plants, and the Government therefore is in no position to control such employers, although a corresponding power of control is vested in the Children's Bureau, and the Public Health Service, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the delegates to the National Women's Trade Union League in Sixth Biennial Convention assembled, ask Congress to enact such legislation as will give full power to the Department of Labor to make inspection of all industrial plants handling Government Contracts, and be it further
RESOLVED, That because of the great increase of women workers, women a well as men inspectors be employed.
While the committee heartily endorses Resolution No. 14 introduced by Delegate Mary Anderson of Chicago, a member of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union, we further recommend that this suggestion be adopted for all Government Contracts which affect those industries in which trade organization exist.
GOVERNMENT SHOE CONTRACTS
WHEREAS, The policy pursued by the War Department in letting orders for army shoes has been and is to place such contracts with non-union shoe manufacturers whose employees do not receive sufficient compensation for their labor, and
WHEREAS, The United States Government has inaugurated a policy in the placing of army shoe contracts to which we must enter an emphatic protest and which is in contrast to the Allied Governments who have placed their order with union firms, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That we, the delegates to the Sixth Biennial Convention of the National Women's Trade Union League, respectfully request the Army and Navy Department to place all future Government orders with union shoe manufacturers, where self-government prevails in the workshop which is a necessary development of our free institutions and where the Government will be guaranteed no interruption on this work so that orders will be promptly filled.
The committee further recommends the adoption of Resolution No. 17 introduced by the Resolutions Committee which is as follows:
WOMEN'S WORK IN WAR AND NATIONAL LABOR STANDARDS
WHEREAS, It has been conclusively proved that long hours and the breakdown of legal standards for the protection of working women and children mean a breakdown in health and an increase in industrial accidents, and
WHEREAS, There is danger that in the present excitement the public may lose sight of the importance of maintaining the educational and labor standards which have grown up in these states and which are an essential bulwark of democracy, and
WHEREAS, England's experience under like circumstance has proved on the one hand that increasing the hours of labor actually lessens the output, and, on the other, that the crippling of the schools was accompanied by an increase of thirty-four per cent. in child delinquency, while the small money saving made in this way in two years was only enough to support the armies for FIFTEEN HOURS therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the National Women's Trade Union League in convention assembled protests emphatically against any attempt to lower educational standards or to weaken the laws safeguarding the workers, especially women and children, and that we do all within our power to maintain and help establish as well as guard every other law enacted for the protection of women and children in industry; that we secure equal pay for equal work where women are forced into the positions left vacant by men, and be it further
RESOLVED, That while there is no law protecting mothers with young children from entering industry that we make every possible effort to prevent mothers with young children from being called into industry except as a last resort
The Committee further recommends the adoption of Resolution No. 18 introduced by the Resolutions Committee urging international standards in industry which is as follows:
WHEREAS, The right to live through work is not to be denied and
WHEREAS, The efforts of individual nations to raise the standard of life for their own workers are perpetually hindered through the international trade competition of countries with lower standards, it has now become necessary to meet this situation through international agreement and
WHEREAS, During the war the working class has in every nation contributed its all; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That we, the delegates to the Sixth Biennial Convention of ht National Women's Trade Union League urge that there be included in the treaty of peace to be signed at the conclusion of war, labor clauses, to take effect within a definite time, prescribing standards covering conditions of work, the hours of work, and the wages paid, so that the workers may be insured such elementary rights as the eight-hour day, one day rest in seven, no child labor, the abolition of night work for women, a living wage in proportion to the cost of living in each country, and equal pay for equal work.
The Committee recommends to the National Women' Trade Union League in order to meet effectively the problems that will arise that the National Executive Board work in conjunction with our members on the various Committees of the Council of National Defense and other authorized bodies to obtain the best results possible for the women workers in the country.
We recommend that a Committee be appointed to call upon the President of the United States, Secretary of War, Secretary of Labor and the appropriate committees of the Council for National Defense and lay before them the recommendations here outlined.
Finally, the Committee appeals to all working women to maintain their hard-won standards of hours, wages and conditions through these times that try men's souls and that in the words of the president of the National Women's Trade Union League, "Let us never forget that organization is the heart of it all. In ordinary time industrial freedom is the most important freedom, as industrial democracy is the most important democracy in an industrial age. Now that democracy is declared on all sides to be worth dying for, surely it is worth living by. Industrial freedom requires the trade-agreement workshop, and the trade-agreement workshop requires the organization of the workers. Just as the individual nation cannot alone protect its liberty and life in this world war, so the individual worker cannot alone protect her liberty and life in the industrial struggle.
This report was signed by the Committee on Woman's Work in War Time, which consists of the following:
Mary Dreier, New York, Chairman; Agnes Nestor, First Vice-President, International Glove Workers ' Union of America, Chicago; Mary Anderson, International Executive Board Member of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union, Chicago; Melinda Scott, Vice-President, United Hat Trimmers of New York; Emma Steghagen, Boot and Shoe Workers' Union, Chicago; Elisabeth Christman, Sec 'y-Treas., International Glove Workers' Union of America, Chicago; Elizabeth Maloney, Fourth Vice-President, Hotel and Restaurant Employees' International Alliance, Chicago; Olive Sullivan, Office Employees' Association, Chicago; Rose Schneidermann, Cloth Hat and Cap Makers' Union, New York; Hilda Svenson, Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Accountants ' Association, New York; Nellie Lithgow, Hosiery Workers' Union Philadelphia, Pa.; Julia O'Connor,, Telephone Operators Union, Boston, Mass.; Katherine Lindsay, Office Employees' Association, Baltimore, Md.; Alice Scott, Hat Trimmers Union of Newark, N. J.; Angelina Berte, United Garment Workers' Union, St. Louis, Mo.; Clare Armstrong, Young Women's Christian Association, Topeka, Kan.; Louisa Mittelstadt, Beer Bottlers' Union, Kansas City, Mo.; Rhoda McCulloch, National Young Women's Christian Association, New York; Mabel Gillespie, Stenographers' Union, Boston; Emma Pischel, Meat, Food and Sanitary Science Inspector, Chicago; Dora Lipschitz, Waist, Silk Suit and Dressmakers' Union, Philadelphia, Pa.; Mary Haney, United Garment Workers' Union, Chicago; Fannia Cohn, Vice-president of the National Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, New York; Mrs. Walter McNabb Miller, National American Woman Suffrage Association, New York; Mme. Geubel de la Ruelle, Department of Labor, Paris, France,
This resolution was unanimously adopted by the Delegates to the Sixth Biennial Convention of the National Women's Trade Union League of America, June 9, 1917.
At the conclusion of the Convention which adopted this report a special committee went to Washington and presented it in person to President Wilson, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Labor, after which Secretary Baker wrote to Miss Mary Dreier, New York, chairman of the Committee, as follows:
May I thank you for the report of the Committee on Women's Work in War Time, and express to the League through you my hearty sympathy with its spirit and intention. You can rest assured that no attack upon our hard-won industrial standards will receive any comfort from me. Experience during the war has demonstrated beyond possibility of argument that you cannot cheat nature, and that those who have been insisting so many years upon the maintenance of a national minimum are more than vindicated. As Secretary of War I am more than ever concerned, for on the protection of basic standards of life our nation power ultimately depends.
Mrs. Raymond Robins, president of the National Women's Trade Union League of America, said:
"Trade and technical training of women is of the utmost importance at this time. England recognized this by providing such training to her women after the first months of the war. We must demand that in the new development of public school education girls be given the same chance as their brothers for training in knowledge and mastery of their respective trades. It has been the object of the National Women's Trade Union League to work out plans for a program that comprehends the scope and purpose of industrial democracy.
"America calls for that training which will give to her working women not only the capacity to adapt themselves to the changes that are going on around us, but to the power to shape and direct them.
"To prepare such leadership for working women in America, the National Women's Trade Union League, in the face of what seemed insuperable difficulties, four years ago undertook the establishment of a training school for active workers in the labor movement. Already this school has justified our work and faith and the generous support of far-sighted women who made its foundation possible. Literally millions of women are looking to our organization for help and leadership in the struggle for self-government in their daily toil. America at war opens a new field for its cooperation.
"We are endeavoring to unite in maintaining and extending our hard won standards in industry, and are alert to resist the efforts of ignorance and greed to capitalize a national emergency into dollars coined from the exploited labors of the poor. This war has proved that child labor, the twelve-hour day and seven-day week are economic waste and national betrayal. Exploitation of labor is treason to the state. We women of the Trade Union League are demanding a real economic preparedness. In my opinion an eight-hour day, a living wage, one day's rest in seven, and adult labor, should be a condition in every contract made for Government supplies.
"Under the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense, there are being organized in every state committees for the protection of women and children in industry. Here practical knowledge of industrial life and trained service for dealing with industrial conditions is of highest importance for the national welfare.
"Not only are unorganized woman workers in vast numbers used as underbidders in the labor market for lowering industrial standards, but they are related to those groups in the industrial centers of our country that are least Americanized and most alien to our institutions and ideals. These groups cannot be led from the outside. From within the fellowship of their daily life and labor must their salvation come. "
Mrs. Robins' interest in the American women in industry began many years ago when, as a trained nurse in New York, her observations of conditions under which women labored led her to endeavor to procure more favorable legislation upon the subject. She was early convinced that working women must have the aid of organization through trade unions. In order to gain the fullest possible knowledge of the real problems of women industrial workers, Mrs. Robins and her husband went in 1905 to live on the top floor of a tenement house in Chicago. In this section of West Olive Street where she lives, there are twenty-three nationalities in a population of 70,.000 people living within a square mile.
In England the problem not only of maintaining standards already achieved, but of elevating and improving the conditions of women workers during the war, was met by the influence of men's trade unions. In this country also the protection of the standards of labor will depend upon the effectiveness of the labor union; but in this country the women's trade unions will play as conspicuous a part as the men's unions. The National Women's Trade Union League of America was organized in 1903, with a view to uniting the women workers of the country, whether or not they are already in unions, and those women outside the ranks of labor who sympathize with the labor movement. The League has state branches in various parts of the country and constantly seeks to improve the conditions of working women.
Although closely affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, the League is an independent association. Its platform urges the organization of all workers into trade unions, equal pay for equal work, the eight-hour day, the minimum wage scale, full citizenship for women, and all the principles embodied in the economic program of the American Federation of Labor.
The Women's International Union Labor League was organized in 1899 for the purpose of improving labor conditions, and has concentrated its efforts almost entirely on encouraging the use of goods bearing the union label. The direct influence of this organization on the maintenance of high industrial standards during the war may not be especially significant, but the encouragement it has already given to women to join the various trades unions cannot fail to have a favorable effect.
It is the duty of every American woman interested in the maintenance of standards for women in industry to uphold the principles set forth by such organizations, for it is largely through their efforts that industrial legislation has been secured in the United States, that wages have risen, that hours of labor have decreased, and that general conditions have improved within the last quarter of a century. It should be a matter of pride to American women everywhere that these groups of women have been shouldering their industrial burdens with a growing intelligence and effectiveness. The war will be a strenuous test of the strength of their unions.
In no instance has the Government failed to recognize the importance of the problems concerning women in industry The Committee on Labor, of which Mr. Samuel Gompers is chairman, forms one of the seven divisions of the work of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense. Through this Committee every effort is being made to avoid the unfortunate industrial experiences of England in the first months of war. The chairman and many workers on the sub-committees are giving their time and abilities freely as a patriotic service to the Government. The Committee on Labor, including its national committees and sub-committees, has a membership of about five hundred. There are eight national committees and chairmen, one of which is the Committee on Women in Industry, of which Mrs. Borden Harriman of Washington, D. C., is chairman. The executive committee consists of: Mrs. Borden Harriman, chairman; Miss Pauline Goldmark, secretary; Mrs. George Vanderbilt, treasurer; Miss Grace Abbott, Miss Mary Anderson, Mrs. Frances C. Axtell, Miss Sophonisba P. Breckinridge, Mrs. Sara A. Conboy, Mrs. V. Everit Macy, Miss Mary E. McDowell, Miss Melinda Scott, Miss Florence Thorne, Miss Mary Van Kleeck.
There are sub-committees as follows: Location of Workers and Conditions of Labor; General Living Conditions of Transported Workers and Local Transportation Facilities; Industrial Standards (a) hours of labor, (b) weekly day of rest, (c) night work, (d) rest periods, (e) protection from overfatigue and industrial diseases, (f) sanitation, (g) wages, (h) prohibition of tenement house trades; Women doing Work customarily done by Men, (a) suitability of the work, (b) wages; Alien Women in Industry; Colored Women.
The function of this committee is to concern itself with the standards, hours, wages and conditions of women in industry. State committees of this committee have been organized in twenty-four states
At the first meeting of the Committee on Women in Industry the following resolutions were adopted:
Resolved, That we reiterate the statement of the labor Committee of the Council of National Defense, that in the interest of health, output, and peace in industry there should be no movement to relax existing labor standards, especially in regard to hours of labor and weekly day of rest.
II. MARRIED WOMEN WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Resolved, That we view with alarm the increase of employment of married women with young children, and believe that efforts should be made to stem this movement as far as practicable, especially as regards night work, and that these women should be the last to enter into industry.
III. NOT TAKING PLACE OF WAGE EARNERS
Since women in their generous impulse to render service are offering to enter industry, therefore be it- Resolved, That their attention be called to the danger of undercutting existing wage standards and of displacing workers dependent on their own earnings.
A United States Employment Service has been established under the Department of Labor as a war emergency measure. It should be a matter of pride to American women that one of their number, Miss Hilda Mulhauzer, of Cleveland, Ohio, has been made assistant director of this important work. Miss Mulhauzer will concern herself especially with the problem of employment for women and girls. She was chosen for this responsible position because of her wide experience and remarkable executive ability. Headquarters have been established and officers placed in charge in forty-four zones and there are a number of subbranches in various cities and towns. In eight of the zones there are (at this writing) divisions for women and girls with women acting superintendents These are as follows: Newark, N. J., No. 9 Franklin Street, Margaretta Neale, superintendent; Baltimore, Md., Stewart building, Nannie Irvine, in charge; Washington, D. C., Department of Labor building, Grace Porter Hopkins, acting superintendent; Indianapolis, Ind., 319 Federal Bldg., Morna Hickam, in charge; Chicago, Ill., 845 South Wabash Avenue, Estelle Barfield, superintendent; Denver, Colo., 355 Federal Bldg., Katherine M. Herring, clerk in charge; San Francisco, Cal., No. 2 Appraisers' Bldg., Virginia M. Spinks, acting superintendent; Los Angeles, Cal., Post Office Bldg., Elizabeth Blackiston, in charge. The Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense has Women in Industry as one of its ten divisions. Miss Agnes Nestor, Chicago, a member of the Committee, and president of the International Glove Makers ' Union, is chairman for this division.
The Woman's Committee has held itself in readiness always to make its machinery available in any way suggested by Miss Nestor to help the country and its women in the handling of this delicate and difficult problem.
Elsewhere in this book will be found accounts of the activities of the National League for Woman's Service, the Mayor's Committee of the City of New York and other war organizations of women, in the interest of the woman in industry problem.
As has been stated elsewhere, the National League for Woman's Service has been specifically engaged through a very efficient committee on women in industry in registering women of the country who desire employment under government contract. A number of women who afterwards organized the National League for Woman's Service asked Miss Grace Parker of New York to go to England in the fall of 1916 and make a survey of how the resources of women were being used in England's crisis. Miss Parker spent two months in England and upon her return made a comprehensive report of her investigations. Her study was made possible by the cooperation of the Duchess of Marlborough, the Marchioness of Londonderry, Lady Jekyll, Mrs. Lewis Harcourt, Mrs. H.J. Tenant, Mrs. Walter Runciman, Miss Pictor-Turberville, Mrs. Charles W. Furse, Commandant-in-Chief V. A. D., Miss Lillian Barker, Lady Superintendent Royal Arsenal, Plumstead; Miss F. H. Durham, Chief Woman Inspector, Board of Trade, and many other English women who through their supreme self-sacrifice are helping to meet England's great need in this her greatest crisis.
It was after Miss Parker's return to America, and a short time before this country became involved in the war, that the National League for Woman's Service was formed. Immediately upon a declaration of a state of war by this country the League announced its war emergency program which is being carried out all over the country with such telling effect.
Its particular work concerning woman in industry was done in cooperation with the United States Department of Labor, the officials of which have publicly expressed their appreciation of the work that has been accomplished by the League.
Chapter XI. The Red Cross
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