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WOMEN'S BUREAU 1. Origin and Mission
This bureau was established as a statutory bureau under Act June 5, 1920,1 "An act to establish in the Department of Labor a bureau to be known as the Women's Bureau.” Its functions are to formulate standards and policies to promote the welfare of wage-earning women, to improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunity for profitable employment. The bureau has authority to investigate and report to the department upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of women in industry. The Director of the Bureau publishes the results of these investigations in the manner and to such extent as the Secretary of Labor may prescribe.
The interpretation of this mission by the Director of the Women's Bureau 2 is as follows:
1. To consider all general policies with respect to women in industry and to advise the Secretary of Labor as to the policies which should be pursued.
2. To keep informed of the work of the several divisions of the department in so far as they relate to women in industry and to advise with the divisions on all such work.
3. To secure information on all matters relating to women in industry and to collate such information into useful forms.
4. To establish useful connections with all governmental departments and divisions on this subject and with voluntary agencies and societies.
This bureau, formerly known as the Women in Industry Service, organized in July, 1918,3 was established by an appropriation in the act providing for the sundry civil expenses of the government for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1919, its function being to serve as a policy-forming and advisory body during the war emergency, whose special duty was to develop in the industries of the country policies and methods for the most effective use of women's services in production, and safeguarding such employment from injurious conditions. This service was continued by appropriation during the following year 4 and until it became a statutory bureau by the act of Congress above quoted.
(a) Investigations and Recommendations Concerning Women in Industry. - The bureau obtains original information by means of a force of field employees, and studies such information to determine upon standards and policies for employment of women. The fact that there are 48 legislative bodies in the various states, with the right of self-government, makes an evident explanation of the great diversity of laws for women workers. Employers in one state can transplant industries from a locality where they think the regulations are too rigid to another state with more elastic labor laws, or manufacturing interests objecting to proposed labor legislation for the betterment of industrial workers ir. one state can threaten to transfer their business activities to the adjoining state which may have less stringent laws than the ones proposed. Again, corporations which operate in several states may inform the legislators that they will concentrate all their capital and all their activities in the states where they will be least hampered and restricted by labor laws.
141 Stat. 987 (Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1923, 88 96745-96745d). 2 First Annual Report of the Director of the Women's Bureau. 3 Act July 1, 1918 (40 Stat. 634, 696). 4 Act July 19, 1919 (41 Stat. 163, 225).
(b) Co-operation with Other Agencies.—The bureau co-operates with other national, state, and local agencies for the exchange of information regarding activities of women in industry. The state surveys are one way in which the Women's Bureau has co-operated with state departments of labor. The investigation in Oklahoma was undertaken at the direct request of the state labor officials, and in Illinois, although the survey was not initiated by the state department of labor, the state officials co-operated whenever possible with the bureau agents.
(c) Research Work.—The Research Division has served as a bureau of information in regard to the various aspects of the employment of women, compiling data necessary for the studies made by the bureau and also putting in available form many facts from the United States census, state laws, and other sources, for use throughout the country.
The bureau has continued the research study of the history, operation, and administration of the various minimum wage laws in the United States, this study having been begun shortly after the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision declaring the District of Columbia minimum wage law unconstitutional. A careful analysis is being made of those laws that are now in operation, so that the experience of the various administrative bodies may be made available for those who are seeking to establish some method of enforcing wage standards for women. Copies of all forms and schedules and methods of using them have been secured from the states that have these laws. The study has so far been carried on in California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin where the state officials have given the fullest and most helpful co-operation to the representatives of the bureau.
(d) Educational Work.--The bureau disseminates knowledge by means of bulletins, radio talks, moving picture films, and exhibit material for schools, colleges, churches and industrial and labor organizations.
(e) Special Studies.— The bureau conducts special studies, such as the family status of bread-winning women in selected cities; absenticism among women in textile mills; domestic workers and their employment relations; industrial accidents among women; standard and schedule hours of work for women in industry; conditions of employment in the canning and preserving industry in the state of Washington; the occupational progress of women; women's inventions as shown by records of United States Patent Office, etc.
4. Labor Legislation for Women in Industry
The Fifth Annual Report of the Director of the Women's Bureau summarizes this topic as follows:
"The chief interest in the various states has been directed toward securing a legal limitation of hours of work for women. Bills for regulating hours were introduced in the Legislatures of 18 states. These bills were of many different types, but most frequently the standard sought was the 8-hour day or the 48-hour week. In Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, 11 states in all, the standard under discussion was either an 8-hour day or a 48-hour week. In Iowa and Connecticut a 9-hour day and 50-hour week, and in South Dakota a 10-hour day and 54-hour week, were the goal. In a few other states, such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, effort was also directed toward the extension or modification of the existing law.
“The result of all this activity has not been very great, but in some cases definite action was taken. In South Dakota a law was passed, and went into effect on July 1, 1923, limiting hours for women, except telegraph and telephone operators, to 10 hours a day and 54 hours a week. In Wisconsin a law was passed reducing from 10 hours a day and 55 hours a week to 9 hours a day and 50 hours a week the hours of women employed in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments, laundries, restaurants, confectionery stores, telegraph and telephone offices or exchanges, and express or transportation establishments. The hours of women in hotels were limited to 10 hours a day and 55 hours a week. In Minnesota the 9-hour day was changed to 912 hours, and with the 54-hour week was extended to include, in all localities, all women workers except domestics and nurses, and telephone operators in towns of less than 1,500 population.
“In Massachusetts, although no new law was passed, attempts to repeal the 48-hour law in favor of a 54-hour law and to repeal the prohibition of night work were unsuccessful.
"In New Hampshire the 48-hour week bill was defeated, but a joint resolution was passed by the House and Senate asking the General Court to investigate the question.
"In Maine the Governor has called a special election, under the initiative and referendum law, on the 48-hour measure which was initiated during the past winter.
"New Jersey has to its credit a law which has been hotly contested through several legislative sessions—the prohibition of night work for women. This law does not go into effect until December, 1924, but even with such a delay its passage has been hailed as a real achievement for the organizations which have backed it and fought for it for years.
"Working conditions in industry have received scant attention from Legislatures during the past year, probably because many states have already established excellent standards in this regard. According to the latest available information Vermont was the only state considering this subject. In that state a bill calling
for standardization of the seating law passed the House but was defeated in the Senate.
"In Minnesota an unsuccessful attempt was made to secure a law requiring the appointment of a woman on the Industrial Commission.
“In Vermont an attempt was made to repeal the laws requiring the appointment of a woman factory inspector. This attempt was not successful.
“Minimum wage laws have been the subject of discussion in 11 states-Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas. In South Dakota a minimum wage law was passed, and in Arizona the minimum amount was raised from $10 to $16 a week.
"In Massachusetts effort was made to secure the repeal of the minimum wage law. This effort was not achieved, and attempts to amend the law to make it mandatory were also unsuccessful."
The minimum wage law for women and children in the District of Columbia 5 'was declared unconstitutional.6 Efforts to pass a minimum wage law in New York and New Jersey, and to repeal such law in Massachusetts, have been unsuccessful.
The constitutionality of the California law was questioned, the case being brought by a woman who sought employment as an apprentice in a candy factory at a rate below that permitted legally, and who alleged that the law was discriminatory because there was no minimum wage law for men. On September 22, however, a superior court of the state handed down a decision, ruling the law valid. It was stated that the case would be carried to the highest court. In another instance the Attorney General sustained the California Industrial Welfare Commission in refusing to allow the money due the women cannery workers to be put in escrow, pending the final decision as to the validity of the California wage law. The minimum wage law in the state has been strictly enforced.
In Massachusetts a test case on the constitutionality of the minimum wage law was based on the refusal of the Boston Transcript to publish the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission's advertisement of a firm failing to comply with one of the minimum wage decrees. In the municipal court of the city of Boston and in the superior court the case was decided against the newspaper. An appeal was then made to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which handed down the decision that newspapers cannot be compelled to publish the names of employers failing to comply with the rulings of the minimum wage commission. However, the only limitation that the decision imposes is in connection with the newspaper publication, and it is now optional rather than mandatory for newspapers to carry such publications. Although some newspapers may decline to print advertisements of noncompliance, it is interesting to note that during the period that the case was before the court, such advertisements were published by the commission in 50 newspapers throughout the state. The Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industries advanced the belief that the commission is not likely to be seriously handicapped in the matter of advertisement. A new decree has been approved during the year, by the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission, providing a minimum wage of $13.20 a week for women 18 years of age or over who have been employed a year in the manufacture of druggists' preparations, proprietary medicines, and chemical compounds. With the establishment of this decree, 17 occupations are now covered by minimum wage rates.
8 Act Sept. 19, 1918 (Comp. St. Ann. Supp. 1919, $$ 3421428-342142 w).
6 Children's Hospital of the District of Columbia v. Adkins, 52 App. D. C. 109, 284 F. 613; Adkins v. Children's Hospital of District of Columbia, 261 U. S. 525, 43 S. Ct. 394, 67 L, Ed. 785, 24 A. L. R. 1238.
In Arizona an employer operating a candy factory, who had paid an apprentice less than the minimum wage, was granted an injunction by the state court to restrain the state officials from prosecuting him for noncompliance with the law. The state is appealing from this ruling, and the case has now been set for oral argument in the Supreme Court of the United States.
In Wisconsin a minimum wage questionnaire was sent to employers asking them to reply to four questions upon the operation of the minimum wage law as it affected their own business during the year. In all, 863 establishments complied. In answer to the question, "Were any minors and (or) women discharged from work because of the present minimum wage law?” only 37 firms replied in the affirmative and 826 in the negative. To the question, "Was it necessary to rearrange hours for minor and (or) women employees on account of the minimum wage law?” 93 firms answered affirmatively and 770 negatively. The question, "Has the minimum wage law caused any change in lines manufactured by you, or in the kind of business carried on by you?" was answered affirmatively by 54 firms and negatively by 809. The replies to the last question, “Proportional to your total working force are you now employing more or fewer minors than a year ago ?” show that 327 firms maintained about the same ratio as a year ago, and that 173 firms reduced and 197 increased the proportion of minors.
The Ohio Minimum Wage Investigation Commission, appointed by the last Legislature, met in Columbus on February 6. There was a large representation of proponents and some opponents of minimum-wage legislation, and as a result of the hearing it was decided that the commission should go ahead with its investigation, in spite of the United States Supreme Court's decision in the District of Columbia case.
The commission asked the proponents and opponents to submit briefs on the operation of the minimum wage law in California, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, in order that the commission might check up by investigation those points upon which the two sides might fail to agree.
Adoption of the "blanket amendment" to the United States Constitution to take the following form: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation"—has been advocated for the past three years by one group of women.
On the other hand, another large group of women, consisting of almost every organization of working women and of women interested in improving industrial conditions in the United States, although deeply interested in the question of equal rights and recognizing the need to abolish unjust legal discriminations against women, have objected to the proposed amendment on the score that it is ambiguous and likely to jeopardize those labor laws for women enacted during the past 70 years in the various states and regulating to some extent condi