• U.S.

INDUSTRY: Work & Wages

4 minute read

A week’s work: 32 hours. A week’s pay: $14.40.

In a radio speech last month General Hugh Samuel Johnson, Industrial Recovery Administrator, gave that measure for the maximum work and minimum wage of unskilled labor in the trade codes then being prepared by U. S. Industry. Last fortnight the cotton textile code was approved with a 40-hour week and a $12 wage. When he was deluged last week with other codes submitted for approval, General Johnson discovered that none of them came up to his standard. Undaunted, he scheduled a mass of “gold fish bowl” hearings for this week and next.

Major trade codes filed last week:

Steel. The foremost U. S. industry, Steel, offered a 40-hour week and minimum pay ranging from $10 in the South to $16 in the North and West. Collective bargaining was provided by means of company unions set up for that purpose—an “open shop” provision which the American Federation of Labor threatened to fight. Steel prices were to be based on new regional quotations instead of the old “Pittsburgh plus” system. Simultaneously eleven steel companies headed by Youngstown Sheet & Tube, Republic and Carnegie announced a 15% wage increase at once for about 100,000 workers. Soft Coal. This code represented only the unionized one-quarter of the bituminous industry, promised much controversy. Provided was an eight-hour day and an average 36-hour week for the year. Minimum pay: $5 per day for underground workers; $4 per day for outside men. Employes did not have to live in company houses or trade at company stores. Lumber. Work & wages ranged from 48 hours at $10.80 for cypress and pine men in the South to 40 hours at $18 for Philippine mahogany. In West Coast logging camps the minimum rate was to be $20.40 for 48 hours. This code made a bow toward forestry conservation but General Johnson said he would not even consider a 48-hour week. Employers insisted their pay rates were nearly double current levels. Wool Textiles. A shade above the cotton code, the wool code provided for a 40-hour week, with $14 as minimum pay in the North. $13 in the South. Machines were limited to two weekly shifts of 40 hours each. Child labor was banned. Oil. Price and production control still saw big companies and independent producers battling as fiercely as ever within this industry. They did, however, agree on a 40-hour week, at $18.80 in the North, $16 in the South. Cloak & Suit. Women’s garment workers were given a 40-hour week with $14 as the minimum wage. Overtime was prohibited. To rid the industry of sweatshops all goods manufactured under the code were to be labeled NIRA.* Men’s Clothes. A 40-hour week at $14 in the North, $13 in the South. Electric Goods. A 36-hour week at $12.60. Contracting. Monthly employment was cut from 206 to 150 hours, with minimum wages equaling those paid by State Highway Commissions (29¢ to 41¢ per hr.). Subcontractors were required to obey the code. “Bid peddling” was outlawed. President Roosevelt last week issued orders putting the rayon, silk and thread industries under the cotton textile code at their own request. He also gave General Johnson a permanent appointment as Industrial Administrator.† General Johnson fixed his own salary at $6,000 per year. Meanwhile the possibility of a temporary blanket code for all industry hung over Washington and the nation all last week. General Johnson felt that some such summary step was necessary to help purchasing power and consumption catch up with production and prevent a fresh collapse. He drafted a 35-hour, $14-per-week sample but nowhere in the Recovery Act could his lawyers find authority to compel industries to accept such a set of regulations until they framed their own. Over the week-end General Johnson put up to the President a proposal for issuing such a temporary general code and following it up with a Wartime publicity campaign to induce all employers to subscribe voluntarily.


†His original appointment was for only 30 days.

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