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classes of mechanics, or steady labor- employment fees, post-office fees, board, ers, leave town during periods when hospital fees, and transportation. local employment is slack and good When I was a child, I was much inopportunities are presented elsewhere. terested to learn that the Arabian This is particularly noticeable now, Bedouins, wandering over the desert, when so many are leaving their per- travel certain routes year after year by manent homes to work for the govern- which they pass through certain oases ment in other localities. But most of at certain times. Tens of thousands of these men will either return to the these camp-workers follow a similar towns from which they start, or else trail — passing from industry to industake up a permanent abode in some try and locality to locality in a more or other locality. They do not spend their less regular path of migration. As the
. life in travel.
seasons pass, they move from contractThe true migrant - the Ishmaelite ing to harvest to lumber-woods to railof modern times — has no abode. He
has no abode. He road work, and often insist on going to lives where he happens to be. If he certain definite localities at each season. gives you a so-called permanent ad- I am trying to make clear that we dress, it is the place he left years ago, have in America several hundred thounever to return, or else it is fictitious. sand, probably more than half a million This type of migrant reveals two dis- men, who have no homes, who are resitinct classes -- the skilled migrant and dents of no community, who are parts the unskilled.
of no particular industry, whose conWe find the skilled man in such tact with the life of our nation consists types as tile-ditchers, cant-hook men, in contact with cheap lodging-houses, farm-hands, and steam-shovel engi- private employment agencies, secondneers. Side by side with them are com- hand stores, and pawnshops; vicious mon laborers who work on construction women, saloons, and municipal police of dams, railroads, bridges; in the lum- courts; industrial camps, where the ber woods and harvest fields; or wher- minimum of decency and cleanliness is ever large gangs of men are assembled maintained; the brake-beams of the from distant places.
freight car; and a total absence of any These men have no homes. They home, church, or community life. have either no families or several fam- These Ishmaelites of the twentieth ilies. They live in the camp or the century are one of the by-products of lodging-house. Their pleasure is found our economic system. The exploitain the saloon and its accompaniments; tion of a continent's natural resources, in the pool-room or the movie; or in the single-crop system of agriculture, the rough jokes of the camp. When the alternations of industry due to the in town they are the prey of the saloon, seasons, the fact that in a new country the 'hook shop,' the second-hand store, labor has to be attracted to new points the employment agency, the municipal in the process of developing new enterpolice court, the lodging-house thief, prises, have been the economic bases of the pickpocket. On the job, they are a labor-distribution system in which ordinarily parts of a gang who are
labor has been shifted here and there 'hands' in the eyes of foreman and em- to meet the demands and needs of capployer. In camp their lot is often little ital and land. We have forgotten that, better. I have known cases where men while labor may be a commodity, lahave worked a month and have been in borers are not. We have met the needs debt to their employer at the end for of industry without protecting the per
sonalities of laborers. We have devel- did not happen to make good at a paroped our resources while spoiling citi- ticular task, he was discharged and zens. Hundreds of thousands of men some one else hired, instead of being for whom no individual industries, no transferred to some other task better community, no particular group of so- adapted to his qualities. Foremen have cially visioned people have felt them- considered the power of discharge as selves responsible, have been steadily their one unfailing method of discideteriorated and ruined by a life of pline. Discharge has been in industry migration and irresponsibility.
what spanking used to be in the home and the schoolhouse. In each case it
has been the means by which those too III
lazy to think of better ways of proWe will now trace the relation of the ceeding have dealt with the weak in employment system in America to the
Excessive discharge in labor types. We are very charitable in industry has been as disastrous in its
. speaking of it as a system; for it is pre- effects on the industrial and social efficisely the absence of any system of ciency of labor as excessive whipping distributing labor which is the out- on the soul of a child. It has weakenstanding characteristic of the situation. ed the worker's self-respect, decreased We have, in all centres where laborers his self-reliance, and encouraged subcongregate, commercial agencies which servience. The continual change of make a business of selling jobs to labor- jobs has prevented the worker from ers for a fee. We have state and muni- ever learning any job well, and has de cipal offices in nearly half of the states, stroyed all interest in his work. but in most cases each local office works The losses are equally disastrous individually and without any correla- from the employer's point of view. It tion with other public offices in the takes the time of foremen and booksame state. The Federal government keepers to hire and fire, and the time has had an extremely crude employ- of foremen to instruct the new hand; ment system in the post-offices, and fellow employees and machinery are has made a weak attempt at federal- slowed down while he learns his job, state coöperative offices in the Immi- and breakage and waste are increased. gration Bureau. Both of these exper- Millions of dollars are lost to employiments were failures, and the Federal ers every year by the slowing down of government is now attempting to de- their plants and wastage of time and velop a real organization of the labor materials caused by excessive labor market through the Department of turnover. Labor. Little practical progress has There are certain principles which I been made, and no genuine success will believe must be recognized in order to be achieved until the nation more fully reduce the social losses that I have recognizes some of the fundamental been pointing out. We must have a facts in the situation with which they system of employment offices, national are seeking to cope.
in scope and monopolizing the whole The essence of our industrial pol- employment business, which will be so icy with respect to labor has been con- carefully worked out that every worker tinuous turnover. In every industry, can be placed in the nearest job that though not in every individual estab. he is able to fill and will have access to lishment, our employers have followed every job open to a particular capaca policy of hiring and firing. If a man ity. Our system must be able to keep
every workman employed with the sands of jobs would be filled annually maximum steadiness; must be able to by local men which are now filled by sift and classify the laborers, so that outsiders; tens of thousands of men
; individuals who have a tendency to kept at home who are now emigrating degenerate into casuals may be spotted to other localities. and if possible held to steady employ
The effect which such a system of ment; and must be able to sift out and offices might have upon labor turnover furnish employers with the kind of men is even more important. That portion they want. It must dovetail the indus- of the labor force which is most fretries of each locality so as to use every quently changing jobs would soon be man in the locality as steadily as pos
recorded in the files of the employment sible in that locality.
offices. A glance at a workman's card To accomplish these manifold purpo- would show his history – whether he ses we must have a national system of was a casual, an irregular laborer, or employment offices, with branches in normally a steady man. It would show every locality, and a central clearing the kind of work he has followed. Any house. Within this national system local office desiring further information must be zones or districts, with clear- concerning a certain man could quickly ing-houses for each district; and within get it by telephoning or telegraphing the districts must be sub-districts with other offices in which he was registered. their own clearing-houses. If a local The sifting of men and their individoffice in a sub-district could not fill an ual treatment would become a practiorder, it would telephone the order to cal possibility instead of a theoretical its clearing-house, which would seek to ideal. The offices could use pressure to obtain a man from some other local hold a man steady. office in the sub-district. If the demand The record of employers would be could not be filled in the sub-district, equally useful. Those plants which reit would be transferred by the sub- vealed excessive turnover could be district clearing-house to the district easily sifted out, and the matter clearing-house, which would seek a brought home to the attention of their man in the district. Similarly, if the managers. By personal interview, buldistrict could not fill the order, it would letins, and correspondence the offices clear the demand through the national could call to the employers' attention clearing-house.
the causes of excessive turnover, its This clearing-house system, if it were cost and its treatment. The criticism combined with a monopoly of the labor of workmen against individual firms market, would enable the public em- could be brought to the employer and ployment offices to check labor migra- the faults corrected. tion by always finding the nearest man To illustrate. A certain firm in Minwho was competent to fill the position. nesota has been employing two or We should not then have men leaving three hundred men in a construction Chicago to fill jobs in St. Louis at the camp for about two years. They have same time that men are leaving St. a good camp, with steam heat, iron Louis to fill the same kind of jobs in beds, good wash-rooms, and other conChicago. The pressure would be put veniences. The firm provides good on men to make them remain where food. The foremen do not drive the they are, instead of to cause them to men. The wages are high. Neverthemove. Within a big labor market like less an excessive turnover of labor conNew York or Chicago tens of thou- tinued. The public employment bureau
determined to find the cause. Upon in greater the turnover, the larger the vestigation, man after man reported profits. The interests of the employer that the company was providing good demand a small turnover. The interfood but poor cooks were spoiling it. ests of the laborer demand a steady The company, for their part, showed job. The interests of the employment that they were paying high wages to agent are exactly opposite: the more their cooks. But they were not getting men he sends out, the greater the numthe service. Correction of the difficulty ber of fees. Private agencies are daily quickly cut the turnover. In two sim- shipping men by the thousands who ilar cases it was found that a brutal they know will not stick. Frequently foreman was the cause of frequent they know that the man's real intenquitting; in another, wages had fallen tion is to jump the job he is sent to and below the market rate. An office in go to some nearby work. But what's continuous touch with the employers the difference? Large turnover means and men of a given labor market de- large fees, and large fees are the object. velops a surprisingly intimate know- The state and municipal offices as ledge of the conditions in the several heretofore managed in this country establishments.
have in most cases (not in all) develBut most important of all the advan- oped a similar motive favoring turntages are two that the market for over. In their case it is unconscious. labor would be centralized, and that They measure their efficiency by the those in charge would be interested in cost per head to the state of the men serving the needs of the employer and sent out. They brag that it has cost the employee rather than in personal the state but 30, or 25, or 19 cents per profit. Centralization in the labor man sent out, as compared with the market has the same advantage that two-dollar fee collected from workmen centralization in any market has. The by the private agencies. Since most of buyer and seller have the maximum the state and municipal agencies have opportunity of getting in contact with a set budget, say five or ten thousand some one with whom they can do busi- dollars per year, approximately, all of ness. At present, with a large number which they spend, their average cost is of unrelated employment offices oper- lowered in proportion to the number of ating in the same town, state, fed- men sent out while spending the approeral, commercial, philanthropic, trade priation. The larger the business, the union, and the rest, — the employer smaller the average cost per job filled, , who wants a certain kind of man fre- and the better the showing. The nationquently places his order in one office al result is an emphasis on the number, while the employee who seeks that of men sent out rather than on the kind of work files his application in quality of service rendered. Instead of another. The two fail to meet. With studying their local market, to develop a single coördinated system of offices, policies that will give the local workers the two will come together in every the maximum continuity of employinstance.
ment and local employers the steadiest An employment system run for pro- possible labor force, their effort has fit will never give either our indus- been concentrated upon getting orders tries, our workers, or the nation sound for jobs vacated, and men to fill them. service. The profits of the employment They have made no effective effort to agent come at so much per head. The decrease labor turnover, and if they do, more heads, the more dollars. The they will impair their showing before
their legislative bodies by running up a ties had employment offices. The higher per-capita cost for placement. Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., charity se Cheapness rather than quality has been cieties, commercial associations, setthe criterion thus far applied to their tlement houses, the Salvation Army, service. And it is the criterion that and other semi-public or charitable will continue to be applied until we organizations, were running a host of
a establish a comprehensive system of agencies, more or less defiled with the employment offices, in charge of men taint of charity. Thousands of private who understand the employment prob- profit-getting agencies were in operalem and are technical experts in deal- tion in all of the labor centres. ing with it, and who are independent of The number of employment agencies the annual and biennial criticism of lo- in the country ran into the thousands, cal legislative bodies, not conversant probably the ten-thousands. But each with the problems being worked out. was a distinct unit. The postmasters It is only under such conditions that had no effective system of coöperating the employment organization can at- with each other, and made no attempt tack and solve the vital problem of our to coöperate with the immigration bulabor market.
reau offices. The various immigration offices were distinctly local, and had no system of coöperating with one an
other. They had no clearing-houses. I have emphasized two points as They were in no effective coöperation fundamental to a successful organiza- with state offices except in half a dozen tion of the labor market: first, a con- cities. The state offices of each state solidation of all public employment were, as a rule, run as local offices and agencies into a single system under the without any centralized management auspices of the Federal government, of the state labor market. The philwith sub-districts and clearing-houses anthropic agencies coöperated neither just as we have in the Federal Reserve among themselves nor with the public banking system; and, second, a mo- offices. Decentralization, disorganizanopoly of the labor market, so far as
tion was and is — the keynote of employment-agency work is concerned, the situation. by this Federal employment system.
The first essential step now is legis A further word on these two points is lation that will weld all of the existing now necessary.
state and municipal offices into a FedThe country had no lack of employ- eral system, centralized, coördinated, ment agencies when the war broke systematically managed, and conout; it has none now. The only trouble trolled by big, far-seeing policies. The is that they are not of much use. The same legislation should eliminate forpostmasters were acting as the em- ever the private commercial agency, ployment agents. The Federal Immi- which has cursed our economic system gration Bureau was also running a sys- far too long. Monopoly is essential in tem of employment offices. This is order to ensure that all orders for men now discontinued, and a new set of and applications for work shall be Federal offices, under an employment brought to the same office, so that chief of the Department of Labor, is in buyer and seller may have their needs process of establishment. More than met with maximum rapidity and effione half of the states had state em- ciency. It is likewise essential to check ployment offices. Many municipali- turnover and migration. Philanthropic