Puslapio vaizdai

tinuous unemployment, a sickness or other slight calamity assails them. In a third variation we find a single man living in cheap boarding-houses and generally deteriorating steadily under the influence of drink and irregular habits. The struggle for existence of the married man of this last class is harder, more bitter but he has more to fight for.

The distinction between this general group of laborers and the one first described is found in the relative steadiness of the first group's employment, and the relative unsteadiness of the second's. One works for the same employer for considerable periods of time; the other changes employers frequently. Individuals of the first group frequently pass into the second group, when they lose their steady jobs and are unable to get others. Individuals of the second group sometimes pass into the first group by fortunately dropping into a steady job.

To some this may seem a flimsy basis for classification. It seems somewhat vague, leaving a middle ground, a twilight zone, where a considerable number of people lie in either group, or both, or sometimes in one and sometimes in the other. But it at least has the merit of conforming to life, and it calls attention to two types whose life experiences differ considerably. The members of the group with steady employment are never far from destitution. They are poor, very poor. They have a hard time to make ends meet. They commonly have to take their children out of school by the time that they are sixteen years of age. A period of unemployment, a bad sickness, or other misfortune, will quickly bring them to the point where they must have help. But ordinarily they are making ends meet. The wife or children may have to earn part of the living, but the family is self-supporting,

and as it looks ahead it sees a prospect of steady income and of continuing self-support. It has a certain sense of assurance, of confidence, of hope.

The group which works at a succession of jobs, on the contrary, continually hears the wolf's claws scratching on the door. They live in constant uncertainty, constant fear. They have no more assurance of continuing income, no solid basis for hope, no opportunity to get a few dollars in the bank, no justification in starting to buy a home. They are living from hand to mouth, and never know at what moment the hand may be empty. Their self-respect and honesty are always under the strain of fear; their working efficiency is deteriorated by a continual change of jobs that makes it impossible for them ever to attain efficiency at any. They are, by force of necessity, jacks of all trades and masters of none, and after they pass thirty-five and their strength begins to wane, the effects of undernourishment and the declining courage that accompanies a life of fear, all bring a steadily declining efficiency.

The 'professional casual' is a third distinct type of resident laborer. He is a distinctly lower type than either of the others, but recruited from their ranks. Every employment office is familiar with this type. Any city with three hundred thousand people will have perhaps three or four hundred well-known individuals. Some of them are steady patrons of the state or municipal offices, some of the Salvation Army, some of the charities. Others hang around saloons, hotels, settlement houses. Individuals of the type can be found in almost every country town and rural community. They are a distinct social

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temporarily unable to get work and are taking odd jobs to carry them along. For instance, our office carried a machine operator with a wife and family for about four months at odd jobs, until he was able to get a steady job. He has now been working steadily ever since last September in a machine-shop. But these are not casual workers. They do not belong to the type. They are doing casual work only temporarily, and they neither live the life, nor think the thoughts, nor have the point of view of the true casual.

The casual never seeks more than a day's work. He lives strictly to the rule, one day at a time. If you ask him why he does not take a steady job, he will tell you that he would like to, but that he hasn't money enough to enable him to live until pay-day, and no one will give him credit. If you offer to advance his board until pay-day, he will accept your offer and accept the job you offer him, but he will not show up on the job, or else will quit at the end of the first day. He has acquired a standard or scale of work and life that makes it almost impossible for him to restore himself to steady employment. He lacks the will-power, self-control, ambition, and habits of industry which are essential to it.

The causes which produce the casual are many. A striking number of them are young. In general, these seem to be defective defective in those mental traits which are the basis of industry and ambition, and in the sense of responsibility; defective in moral stamina or training, and addicted to drugs, drink, and vice; or defective physically and unable to do steady, hard work. Absence of the moral ideas and motives which cause most of us to work is probably more important in explaining these younger casuals than any other one explanation. Some of them have families which they make little or

no effort to support, never working if they can get some one else to feed them. Others do not know in the morning where they will lay their head at night. They live permanently in the city, but have no residence. Some of them are moral failures, some defectives.

When we turn to the group of casuals who are older their explanation is even more complex. Many are moral failures, mental defectives, or physical unfits, as already described. Others are the residuum of our labor market. Starting out as common laborers twenty years before, they were for a time steady workmen; then they became subject to irregular employment, either because of industrial conditions, or because of drink or a taste for traveling. Gradually they became more and more irregular in their working and life habits, and crystallized into casuals living from day to day and hand to mouth, without self-respect or ambition. They are almost parasites in the body politic.

Not all common laborers are residents of a community, however. Intermingling with the resident laborers we find a multitude of men who are continually wandering from place to place: to-day working in a factory in Minneapolis; a month from now on a construction job in Des Moines; later, bobbing up on a dam job in Wisconsin; migrating to the harvest fields in the fall, and then to the woods, to construction work, or to some factory job for the winter. These men too reveal distinct sub-groupings. We find among them temporary migrants, skilled migrants, common laborers, and tramps.

The temporary migrant is found particularly in agriculture and contracting. Many farmers, farm-hands, and city men, who are permanent residents of some community for the bulk of the year, go to the harvest fields in the fall. Many carpenters, painters, and other

classes of mechanics, or steady laborers, leave town during periods when local employment is slack and good opportunities are presented elsewhere. This is particularly noticeable now, when so many are leaving their permanent homes to work for the government in other localities. But most of these men will either return to the towns from which they start, or else take up a permanent abode in some other locality. They do not spend their life in travel.

The true migrant - the Ishmaelite of modern times has no abode. He lives where he happens to be. If he gives you a so-called permanent address, it is the place he left years ago, never to return, or else it is fictitious. This type of migrant reveals two distinct classes the skilled migrant and the unskilled.

We find the skilled man in such types as tile-ditchers, cant-hook men, farm-hands, and steam-shovel engineers. Side by side with them are common laborers who work on construction of dams, railroads, bridges; in the lumber woods and harvest fields; or wherever large gangs of men are assembled from distant places.

These men have no homes. They have either no families or several families. They live in the camp or the lodging-house. Their pleasure is found in the saloon and its accompaniments; in the pool-room or the movie; or in the rough jokes of the camp. When in town they are the prey of the saloon, the 'hook shop,' the second-hand store, the employment agency, the municipal police court, the lodging-house thief, the pickpocket. On the job, they are ordinarily parts of a gang who are 'hands' in the eyes of foreman and employer. In camp their lot is often little better. I have known cases where men have worked a month and have been in debt to their employer at the end for

employment fees, post-office fees, board, hospital fees, and transportation.

When I was a child, I was much interested to learn that the Arabian Bedouins, wandering over the desert. travel certain routes year after year by which they pass through certain oases at certain times. Tens of thousands of these camp-workers follow a similar trail-passing from industry to industry and locality to locality in a more or less regular path of migration. As the seasons pass, they move from contracting to harvest to lumber-woods to railroad work, and often insist on going to certain definite localities at each season.

I am trying to make clear that we have in America several hundred thousand, probably more than half a million men, who have no homes, who are residents of no community, who are parts of no particular industry, whose contact with the life of our nation consists in contact with cheap lodging-houses, private employment agencies, secondhand stores, and pawnshops; vicious women, saloons, and municipal police courts; industrial camps, where the minimum of decency and cleanliness is maintained; the brake-beams of the freight car; and a total absence of any home, church, or community life.

These Ishmaelites of the twentieth century are one of the by-products of our economic system. The exploitation of a continent's natural resources, the single-crop system of agriculture, the alternations of industry due to the seasons, the fact that in a new country labor has to be attracted to new points in the process of developing new enterprises, have been the economic bases of a labor-distribution system in which labor has been shifted here and there to meet the demands and needs of capital and land. We have forgotten that, while labor may be a commodity, laborers are not. We have met the needs of industry without protecting the per

sonalities of laborers. We have developed our resources while spoiling citizens. Hundreds of thousands of men for whom no individual industries, no community, no particular group of socially visioned people have felt themselves responsible, have been steadily deteriorated and ruined by a life of migration and irresponsibility.


We will now trace the relation of the employment system in America to the labor types. We are very charitable in speaking of it as a system; for it is precisely the absence of any system of distributing labor which is the outstanding characteristic of the situation. We have, in all centres where laborers congregate, commercial agencies which make a business of selling jobs to laborers for a fee. We have state and municipal offices in nearly half of the states, but in most cases each local office works individually and without any correlation with other public offices in the same state. The Federal government has had an extremely crude employment system in the post-offices, and has made a weak attempt at federalstate coöperative offices in the Immigration Bureau. Both of these experiments were failures, and the Federal government is now attempting to develop a real organization of the labor market through the Department of Labor. Little practical progress has been made, and no genuine success will be achieved until the nation more fully recognizes some of the fundamental facts in the situation with which they are seeking to cope.

The essence of our industrial policy with respect to labor has been continuous turnover. In every industry, though not in every individual establishment, our employers have followed a policy of hiring and firing. If a man

did not happen to make good at a particular task, he was discharged and some one else hired, instead of being transferred to some other task better adapted to his qualities. Foremen have considered the power of discharge as their one unfailing method of discipline. Discharge has been in industry what spanking used to be in the home and the schoolhouse. In each case it has been the means by which those too lazy to think of better ways of proceeding have dealt with the weak in their power. Excessive discharge in industry has been as disastrous in its effects on the industrial and social efficiency of labor as excessive whipping on the soul of a child. It has weakened the worker's self-respect, decreased his self-reliance, and encouraged subservience. The continual change of jobs has prevented the worker from ever learning any job well, and has destroyed all interest in his work.

The losses are equally disastrous from the employer's point of view. It takes the time of foremen and bookkeepers to hire and fire, and the time of foremen to instruct the new hand; fellow employees and machinery are slowed down while he learns his job, and breakage and waste are increased. Millions of dollars are lost to employers every year by the slowing down of their plants and wastage of time and materials caused by excessive labor


There are certain principles which I believe must be recognized in order to reduce the social losses that I have been pointing out. We must have a system of employment offices, national in scope and monopolizing the whole employment business, which will be so carefully worked out that every worker can be placed in the nearest job that he is able to fill and will have access to every job open to a particular capacity. Our system must be able to keep

every workman employed with the maximum steadiness; must be able to sift and classify the laborers, so that individuals who have a tendency to degenerate into casuals may be spotted and if possible held to steady employment; and must be able to sift out and furnish employers with the kind of men they want. It must dovetail the industries of each locality so as to use every man in the locality as steadily as possible in that locality.

To accomplish these manifold purposes we must have a national system of employment offices, with branches in every locality, and a central clearinghouse. Within this national system must be zones or districts, with clearing-houses for each district; and within the districts must be sub-districts with their own clearing-houses. If a local office in a sub-district could not fill an order, it would telephone the order to its clearing-house, which would seek to obtain a man from some other local office in the sub-district. If the demand could not be filled in the sub-district, it would be transferred by the subdistrict clearing-house to the district clearing-house, which would seek a man in the district. Similarly, if the district could not fill the order, it would clear the demand through the national clearing-house.

This clearing-house system, if it were combined with a monopoly of the labor market, would enable the public employment offices to check labor migration by always finding the nearest man who was competent to fill the position. We should not then have men leaving Chicago to fill jobs in St. Louis at the same time that men are leaving St. Louis to fill the same kind of jobs in Chicago. The pressure would be put on men to make them remain where they are, instead of to cause them to move. Within a big labor market like New York or Chicago tens of thou

sands of jobs would be filled annually by local men which are now filled by outsiders; tens of thousands of men kept at home who are now emigrating to other localities.

The effect which such a system of offices might have upon labor turnover is even more important. That portion of the labor force which is most frequently changing jobs would soon be recorded in the files of the employment offices. A glance at a workman's card would show his history- whether he was a casual, an irregular laborer, or normally a steady man. It would show the kind of work he has followed. Any local office desiring further information concerning a certain man could quickly get it by telephoning or telegraphing other offices in which he was registered. The sifting of men and their individual treatment would become a practical possibility instead of a theoretical ideal. The offices could use pressure to hold a man steady.

The record of employers would be equally useful. Those plants which revealed excessive turnover could be easily sifted out, and the matter brought home to the attention of their managers. By personal interview, bulletins, and correspondence the offices could call to the employers' attention the causes of excessive turnover, its cost and its treatment. The criticism of workmen against individual firms could be brought to the employer and the faults corrected.

To illustrate. A certain firm in Minnesota has been employing two or three hundred men in a construction camp for about two years. They have a good camp, with steam heat, iron beds, good wash-rooms, and other conveniences. The firm provides good food. The foremen do not drive the men. The wages are high. Nevertheless an excessive turnover of labor continued. The public employment bureau

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