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To provide means for collecting money advanced for purchase of land, making improvements thereon, and for loans and other purposes.
A public construction service."-As a means for carrying out development plans and providing for the construction of public improvements, the national board, in cooperation with States and with labor organizations, should be further authorized to organize a body of men-returned soldiers and other workers—to form a public construction service. Such a service is provided for in proposed legislation. As far as possible, it should be organized on the principle of collective bargaining and in units of "cooperative crews.” This method is working well in construction work on the railroad now being built by the United States Government in Alaska, where the cooperative crew has very largely replaced the private contractor.
For any construction service thus organized Congress should provide proper standards of labor. These should include safe working conditions, proper living conditions, provision for a scale of minimum wages, and a basic working-day of eight hours this to be increased only in cases of necessity, and to be reduced in proportion to increased efficiency. Employment in such service should, of course, be entirely voluntary and the workers should have full power to organize among themselves for their economic and social welfare. The purpose should be to create nothing like an “industrial army,” but, rather, an opportunity for immediate employment in construction and developinent work which would lead to permanent employment on the land developed.
Deferred classification of departmental employees.—The Assistant Secretary was also in charge during the period of the war of departmental requests to local draft boards for deferred classification of departmental employees. The calling of large numbers of able-bodied men to military service seriously affected the personnel of the Department and its various bureaus. Notwithstanding the needs of the Department, its policy was not to ask for deferred classification of any person who could be replaced without substantial loss in efficiency. The practice was to act only upon the request of the immediate superior of the person for whom classification was asked. Such requests were referred to a departmental committee for recommendation. This committee examined carefully into the circumstances surrounding each request and made recommendations to the Assistant Secretary as to the necessity and desirability of his approval. The Assistant Secretary then determined the departmental policy in individual cases, upon the basis of the evidence developed by the committee and the reports it submitted.
Functions. The Solicitor is assigned to this Department by the Department of Justice. He is its chief law officer and legal adviser. By Executive order of February 16, 1918, in accordance with section 179 of the Revised Statues he is also authorized and directed to
perform the duties of Secretary of Labor during the absence of the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary, his official designation in this connection being Acting Secretary.
Report.—The Solicitor makes the following summary of activities in his office for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1919: Legal opinions rendered, formal.....
48 Contracts and leases examined, approved, or disapproved..
1, 368 Contracts and leases drafted, redrafted, or modified...
17 Bonds, official, examined, approved, or disapproved.
10 Bonds, contract, examined, approved, or disapproved.
16 Bonds, alien immigrants, examined, approved, or disapproved.....
1,472 Miscellaneous matters embracing everything submitted for advice or suggestion
of the Solicitor, or for the formulation of departmental action, not included in the foregoing items...
CHIEF CLERK. Functions. The chief clerk has general supervision of the clerks and employees of the Department and the superintendency of all buildings occupied by the Department in Washington. He supervises expenditures of appropriations for the contingent expenses and rents, and attends to such miscellaneous business in the Office of the Secretary as is not otherwise assigned.
Department quarters.—The failure of Congress to provide appropriations for the various war-emergency services caused the vacating of all quarters occupied by these services before the end of the fiscal year. The customary 30 days' notice was given, so that the Department was not liable for rent after that date. The Food Administration having vacated Food Administration Building No. 2, request was made for that building to house certain activities of the Department. This is a two-story Government-owned building, the ground rent of which is approximately $400 per month. The building was turned over to the Department the early part of March, and on March 24 the Employment Service was moved thereto, vacating the Hotel Gordon property, thereby saving $1,620 per month rental, together with an exceedingly heavy expense of maintenance. On April 15 the Woman in Industry Service also moved into this building, thereby saving $255 per month rental. Congress, by the act of March 1,1919, placed in the hands of the Public Building Commission absolute control over all space in Government owned or rented buildings in the District of Columbia, and in the act approved July 11, 1919, made appropriations for the maintenance of the Government-owned buildings erected for war purposes. The Department accordingly made request of the commission that the building occupied by the Department, 1712 G Street NW., Food Administration Building No. 2, and the building 1410 Pennsylvania Avenue be placed at the disposal of the Department of Labor. By authority dated June 25, 1919, these buildings were allotted to the Department. Food Building No. 2 is now occupied by the United States Employment Service, the Women's Bureau, and the Children's Bureau. The removal of the latter bureau into that building permitted the other activities housed in the Department building to expand so that they may perform their necessary functions hitherto impossible because of lack of space.
The quarters occupied now by the Department are the Department building proper at 1712–1722 G Street NW.; a rented building comprising 63,994 square feet of net office space, on which it holds a lease of five years from July 1, 1917, renewable for a like period; Food Administration Building No. 2, a Government-owned building, comprising 53,140 square feet of net office space; and the premises at 1410 Pennsylvania Avenue, a three-story Government-owned building now occupied by the local office of the United States Employment Service. These buildings are adequate in the matter of space for the present needs of the Department.
The Department building proper is a modern, fireproof, steel and concrete building, built according to plans approved by the Department, and with the exception of lack of space serves well its needs. Food Building No. 2, while all to be desired as regards ventilation, light, etc., is a flimsy, temporary building, not at all suited for office work, and on account of its flimsy construction there is a serious risk to valuable Government papers, to say nothing of the danger of life from fire. Every effort is made to lessen the fire hazard in this building, but little can be done, and the officials of the Department view with alarm the continuing of its occupancy as a Government building.
Personnel.—The cessation of activities by certain of the war bureaus has caused a great increase in the work of the statutory bureaus and of the chief clerk's office. Inquiries are being constantly received asking for information formerly supplied by these services. In most cases the work begun by them must be finished or the money already spent will be lost. These new activities have become a part of the Department of Labor and the general public continues to make inquiries concerning them; this, together with the addition of the United States Employment Service and the Woman in Industry Service, has placed additional burdens on the different branches of this office.
The Secretary's Office has at this time 17 clerks detailed from the various bureaus and it is endeavoring to keep the work current with these. The bureaus are themselves hampered by lack of clerks and it is therefore requested that additional assistance be appropriated for so that these bureaus may be relieved.
The questions raised in the annual report for 1918 as to increases in salaries for clerks and maintenance-of-building employees will not be discussed here, though the situation is even more acute than ever. Congress has placed this matter in the hands of the Reclassification Commission for Government employees, and apparently no action can be had until Congress acts upon the report of that commission.
Library.-The past year was a particularly arduous one for the Department Library because of the increased demands made upon it by all the new services of the Department as well as by the older bureaus. Extensive use of its unique resources was made also by other Government offices and by investigators from outside the Government service interested in labor, child welfare, and reconstruction problems. The constant demand for information regarding the literature of reconstruction led to the compilation of two bibliographies on that subject which were widely circulated and extensively used. A list of labor periodicals and newspapers in the library, arranged by countries, was also prepared. The accessions to the library doubled those of the preceeding year and the circulation was trebled. The big increase in the volume of work to be handled, without any increase in staff, has resulted in serious arrears of cataloguing. It will be necessary to increase the staff of the library considerably if it is to continue to give adequate service. Particularly does it need additionsl assistance to enable it to keep up to date with its current cataloguing and to do the detailed subject indexing which is basic to good service in a special library.
The inadequacy of the space allotted to the library, noted in last year's report, has been a serious handicap throughout the year and the need of providing larger quarters for the collection is again urged.
General conditions. The work of the Appointment Division was necessarily increased during the period of the war. The natural increase of the work of the Department to which must be added many problems caused by the war activities and the period of readjustment following the signing of the armistice placed a very heavy strain upon the division. During the war period the Government service was greatly handicapped by being obliged to employ persons without proper qualifications to fill positions made vacant either by enlistments or the draft. In many cases it was practically impossible to obtain persons of the requisite skill. Many of those employed had absolutely no experience and in many instances were unreliable. Another element which lessened the general efficiency of the services was that large numbers of the experienced employees, with many years of efficient service to their credit were kept at low salaries on account of the laws which limited the number of and compensation attached to the statutory positions in the various bureaus of the Department. Being paid from statutory rolls they had to be kept at the lower salaries and when new, inefficient, and inexperienced employees were brought in at much higher salaries these efficient but low-salaried workers were called upon to coach and teach them and supervise their work. Much commendation is due these old employees. Many of them could have gone into private work at increased compensation; but their loyalty to the Government kept them at the work which they felt was most important to their country. Had many of the old employees of the Government accepted the better positions which were theirs for the asking the conditions in the service would have been very much worse than they were.
Entrance salaries.—There should be no position under $1,000 per annum in the Department save those of part-time employees, such as charwomen, etc., and those now existing should be so graded up that the present $1,800 position would pay at least $2,250. Under the present system Congress has created a number of positions ranging from $720 to $1,800 per annum.
The low-salaried positions greatly exceed in number the higher salaried ones, and this should be reversed; or, at least, the number of higher salaried places should equal that of the lower. This would afford an opportunity for the lower salaried persons to get deserved promotions. Under the present system, with a schedule embracing possibly four positions in the $1,800 per annum and other high-grade salaries and a hundred or more in the lower salaried grades it will be admitted that there are few opportunities for the lower salaried employees to advance. The chances of vacancies in the higher grades are necessarily limited by reason of the small number of such places.
Officials and employees. There was an increase in the force of the Department of 1,975 employees as against 2,376 for the year ended June 30, 1918. The statutory positions were increased from 428 to 463, and this increase was mainly in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the force of that bureau being augmented by an addition of 23 employees out of a total of 35 new positions for the entire Department. The administrative organization of the Department, that is, the working force of the Office of the Secretary, including the Chief Clerk's office, the Disbursing Office, the Division of Conciliation, the Division of Publications and Supplies, the Appointment Division, and the mechanical, watch, and labor forces of the Department, received only 9 additional positions.
There is an apparent increase in the nonstatutory positions to the number of 1,723. This increase was mainly in the United States Employment Service. A very large majority of these employees are paid only a nominal salary, however, being State, county, or municipal officers cooperating with the Employment Service. The total increase in all positions, statutory and nonstatutory, including those receiving a nominal salary, is 1,975 over the year ended June 30, 1918. As compared with the previous year this increase is slightly over 82 per cent.