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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, May 01, 1932, Image 85

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1932-05-01/ed-1/seq-85/

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f FIVE-DAY WORKING WEEK
INEVITABLE
Say*
WILLIAM GREEN,
Pr«tid*nt
American
Federation
of Labor
William Green
THE struggle for plenty of
work and suitable pay
with a sense of security
for the future is almost
as old as the human
race. It is mankind's
eternal problem.
Equally strong as a compelling
force in life is the desire for con
genial work meriting the skill and
craftsmanship of the worker.
Work well and skillfully done has its own sense
of gratification and creates its own thrill of
pride. The worker likes to be known for his
skill as a craftsman.
The struggle to work and the desire for con
genial work is the problem of more than 10.
000.OCO people in the United States today. It
presents the largest economic question of the
time, and is fraught with deeper and more far
reaching consequences than any other question
of which I know.
Unemployment for us has reached the high
level of a major national calamity. It is a
challenge to the business and economic genius
of the day, and cannot be thrust aside with the
fleeting and futile expedient of “odd jobs.” As
a Nation cognizant of our responsibilities, we
must meet it with effective and constructive
remedy.
This calamity has not been brought about
solely by business depression. The depression
more probably has been one of its effects
rather than one of its causes. It unquestionably
served to magnify and to multiply the troubles
which this downward cycle brought to the
country.
For several years before the stock market
crash turned business into a downward swing,
Industrial unemployment was on the steady in
crease. It started two or three years after the
close of the World War and climbed steadily
during the intervening years. In the last 20
months it has grown by peaks and leaps, so
that today more people are affected by It, di
rectly or indirectly, than at any other time in
our history.
(
VARIOUS estimates give the number of per
sons who are out of work as from seven to
ten millions. There is no dependable estimate
whatever as to the number who are on part
time work or who are subsisting through the
expedient of chance jobs.
Depression and stagnation in business served
only to intensify and to make more clear this
problem which has been threatening men and
women in industry, and in other lines of en
deavor as well, for several years.
The introduction of labor-displacing ma
chinery and of new processes ji production
has taken place at a pace and on a scale in
recent years as to completely reshape the in
herent structure of industry, and to raise the
serious question of whether we are in a vicious
cycle which, drawing closer and tighter, must
ultimately destroy the efficacy of the new mech
anism itself.
Even in the prosperous years of 1925 and
1926 more than 1,600,000 wage-earners were
out of emp.oyment, and in 1929, at the peak
of prospert:y, the number had grown to
2,400,000.
With the displacement of men and women in
Industry and forcing them into idleness, the
buying and consuming power is constricted
and reduced in a corresponding degree. Men
and women employed, with their wages as buy
ing power is the necessary complement of pro
duction. I he law of supply and demand has
its own way of maintaining its equities.
Let us look at some of the figures: Man's
producing power per day in our manufacturing
industries, by reason of new devices, increased
What We May Expect
1> ELEASE of men’s minds for intellectual and
cultural development.
More time for family life, the education and
guidance of children, visiting friends and increas
ing the strength of our social structure.
We may expect an increase in the demand for
commodities and products, even novelties and unes
sentials.
Demand upon the machine of production will
be greater.
A five-day working week will affect favorably the
circulation and velocity in the movement of money.
four times as fast in the 10 years from 1919
to 1929 as in the previous 20 years. The yearly
rate of production per man employed in 1929
was 49 per cent greater than in 1919, but the
gain in the 20 years before that was only 11
per cent.
Summing up these changes year by year, we
find that, although manufacturing industries
produced 42 per cent more in 1929 than in
1919, they actually dispensed with the services
of 193,000 men.
PROBABLY a better view of the situation is
found in the conditions on the railroads.
In 1923 there were 2,000,000 men engaged on
the railroads. In 1929, however, this number
had been reduced to 1,700,000. although, during
that time the volume of railroad traffic was
steadily increasing. Larger engines and cars
and longer trains were taking a toll in the
number of men employed.
Today the number of men employed by the
railroads is 1.300,000; a net loss of 700.000 In
approximately eight years. Not even the most
optimistic railroad manager believes that more
than 300,000 of these men will again find em
ployment with the railroads, and there are some
who believe that the day is not far distant
when the present volume of traffic may be
handled by a million men.
The question may well be asked: wnat are
these men doing and where have they turned?
Some of them unquestionably have found em
ployment in other trades and vocations, but be
yound any doubt they are to be found also in
the ranks of the great army of unemployed.
Coal mines in those years reduced their work
ing forces by 120,000 men, and it is estimated
that 800,000 men in agriculture lost their job6
by the Introduction of new machinery.
New industries and the expansion of old ones
have not been able to absorb these workers, and
there is no indication that with the passing of
the depression they will be taken again into the
ranks of employed wage-earners. The future
in its present outlook for them holds nothing
of certainty and stability. They are faced at
whatever age they may have attained with the
necessity again of a new start; of possibly
learning another trade and of trying to fit
themselves again into the industrial and eco
nomic structure.
Since we live under a money economy which
has social sanction, society owes every person
an opportunity to earn a living. Under our
economic organization, business and industry
provide the opportunities of work. Clearly It is
essential to business and industrial prosperity
that every one should have a steady job and an
assured income. This cannot be brought about
by the displacement of men in industry with
the machine and thereby destroying the wages
that constitute buying power and determine the
range of consumption.
This problem has reached beyond the persons
who are actually employed. It hangs like a
shadow over the worker at his task, for he does
not know when new machines and new pro
cesses may rob him of his job and his income.
A long record of faithful service is no guaran
tee for him. Efficiency and skill in the perform
ance of his work do not afford protection for
him. He finds himself faced with a situation
more cruel than the law of the jungle—It is
not even a question of the survival of the fittest
—because the machine is taking its heaviest
toll among the skilled and best-trained workers.
THE trend of mechanical invention and
of machine replacement is to relieve the
' human hands of their most intricate and
skillful efforts in the production process.
Craftsmanship that has required years in
apprenticeship and training is duplicated in
the twinkling of an eye by the machine, and
the worker finds that his long years of arduous
training are no longer of consequence. His
art and skill, upon which his subsistence and
livelihood depend, are submerged in a machine.
This is a cruel process, and its effect and
influence have reached far beyond the number
of people who are actually employed in
uiuusuy. 11 nangs over iik ecuiiuiiiic
structure Itself and raises the broad question
of whether the range of opportunity in this
country and the possibility of substance and
economic independence for many people of
this and coming generations are to be denied.
We know that employment is the only
solution for unemployment. No one has
estimated the costs of the business depression,
but we know that it runs into staggering totals
in dollars and in intangible values of human
capacity. Jobs must be made available and
men must be put to work. Business and
industry must either face this fact and act
upon it or society will be compelled to lay
down rules for business and industry which
will afford the remedy.
The coming of the five-day week is in
evitable. The attitude of society toward the
machine since its first installation in industry
has been to more and more control Its
operation, and to restrict and limit its
competition with human effort. That is one
of the self-evident things in the history of
business and industry.
Since 1919 there has been little shortening
of the work hours. This is a strange incon
sistency in the industrial growth in the
intervening decade. Although the machine
was displacing men and the human equation
assuming increased consequence, the hours of
work have remained almost unchanged.
In this respect we are out of step in the
march of progress. The whole aim and
purpose of machinery in industry is to perform
faster and to afford a
larger measure of free
time for the worker
himself. This tend
ency brought about the
48-hour week. And Its
inevitable consequence
in the present situation
will be in a still snort
er work week.
The eyes of labor are con
stantly to the future. A century
ago the movement for the 10
hour work day began before the
12-hour work day had been en
tirely won. Before the 10-hour
day was won the movement for
eight hours had taken form and
became a concerted drive in
1886. In 1926 before the wage
ctiiucia iiau jrcu iuii)r wyn vug;
eight-hour day the effort for the five-day
week started.
Other questions are presented by the growth
of the “machine age." The strain on nerves,
eyes and muscles; noise, monotony and tension
in the operation of powerful machinery
running at higher speeds are increasing the
physical and mental tax upon the individual
worker, and in more cases than we fully realize
is resulting in greater risks.
THE shortening of the work week In recent
decades has released the minds of men
for Intellectual work and cultural development.
Only with the realization of shorter hours of
labor have workers had the energy to read
and to study after the day’s occupation, or to
engage in those recreational pastimes which
are accepted as essential to the social well
being of our people.
The enormous increase in reading and in
attendance at adult classes in the last dedada
is evidence of wakening minds and growing
vigor, following shorter hours at work aotf
release from toil. This is the social Justifl*
cation for the increased use of machinery in
the productive process.
Attendance at night school classes increased
from 515.000 to 914.000 in the six years after
1920. In the eight years from 1919 to 1927 we
almost doubled our publication of books and
pamphlets, and 470,000.000 were printed In 192Y
alone. The publication of books tripled in
those eight years.
Circulation of daily newspapers increased
from 33,000,000 to 42,000.000, and the circu
lation of magazines grew from 92,000,000 to
121,000,000,
Besides reading for pleasure, there are more
people today who are trying to understand the
fundamental facts of their environment and to
equip themselves with knowledge to meet their
problems. This is a healthy sign of the day,
pointing to a more intelligent and progressive
citizenship. The five-day work week will give
this movement a great impetus and afford
returns in larger and broader social values and
benefits to the country as a whole.
We cannot close our eyes to the fact that the
five-day week means much in family life. It
brings the parent into more frequent association
with his family. It gives him the opportunity
for & larger participation in the education and
guidance of his children.
There is time foe visits and for friends There
Continued on Seventh Page J

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