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Two officers were stationed in Omaha for this purpose, while others proceeded into different parts of Missouri and Kansas on a like mission. Several hundred men were found and shipped into the district, much to the relief of the farmers and mill owners.
Early in the spring of 1919 it became apparent that unless unforeseen conditions arose the "big wheat belt” would harvest the largest acreage ever sown to wheat in a like area. Reports received from various sources indicated that Kansas had planted 10,759,000 acres to winter wheat (nearly one-fourth of all the winter wheat sown in the United States), Oklahoma 3,295,408, Nebraska 4,500,000, Missouri 4,243,000, and the States of Texas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa enough winter and spring wheat to bring the total to approximately 40,000,000 acres. Past experience made it plain that an army of men would be needed to harvest this enormous acreage, that it was unlikely sufficient labor for this purpose could be found within the States mentioned. As a part of the recruiting program 49,000 posters announcing the labor needs of the "big wheat belt” were mailed to as many post offices. That much interest was aroused is evidenced by the fact that during a period of six or seven weeks about 15,000 letters were received. Not only did the requests for further information come by regular mail, but by telegraph, long-distance telephone, and special-delivery service. These communications, representing some 30,000 to 40,000 individuals, were received from all parts of the United States and from persons in all walks of life. Engineers, cooks, men with teams, and other special classes were furnished. About two weeks before harvest time additional posters, announcing the location of all United States Employment Service offices in the wheat belt were put up in as many different post offices in territory from which most of the labor was expected to come, the purpose being to draw as many men as possible into the various offices from where they could be rapidly distributed with the least loss of time among communities most urgently in need of their services and at a minimum expense for railway transportation.
Shortly before cutting time questionnaires were mailed requesting data as to number of harvest hands that would be needed, the probable cutting date, wages, and certain other needed information. From replies received it was found that many counties would be able to get along with local labor, which permitted the elimination of such counties from its calculations and the concentration of efforts on other districts. Reports indicated that Oklahoma would need from 10,000 to 12,000 men; Kansas, about 60,000; and Nebraska, about 6,000—this number being in addition to labor that might be found locally.
The total number of harvest hands needed throughout the wheat belt depends upon weather conditions. During a normal season harvest should start in north central Oklahoma about June 5 to 8, reaching the southern Kansas counties about June 15 to 18; the central Kansas counties about 10 days later, and the north central and northwestern territory about July 1 to 5. Under these conditions it becomes possible to utilize the services of many men who start in Oklahoma in the southern or central Kansas counties, and those who commence in southern Kansas finish in time to assist in the harvest in the north central and northwestern districts. However, as it frequently happens and did this year, the Oklahoma harvest was delayed by cold and wet weather until about June 15. Immediately following this date a period of hot weather set in which hastened the ripening of the grain throughout Kansas and caused nearly all districts to call for labor, and to aggravate the gravity of the situation the southeastern and southern Nebraska fields commenced operations, making it necessary to supply three States with men at the same time.
From the following table it will be noted that the various offices have reported an (estimated) attendance of 93,338 and the actual placement of 46,242:
Wages in the harvest fields have been higher this year than ever before. Sixty cents per hour and transportation from Kansas City and other distributing points, or 70 cents without railway fare, became the standard. In Nebraska the prevailing scale has been 50 and 60 cents per hour with board.
The very high cost of railway transportation has proved the greatest obstacle in attracting a plentiful supply of harvest labor, and it became evident very early in the season that the wages as set at 50 cents per hour would not bring in the labor as rapidly as needed; and it was only after it became generally known that the wage had been advanced to 60 and 70 cents per hour that men reported in satisfactory numbers.
When it is realized that the fare to the fields from even such a near-by point as St. Louis amounts to approximately $18, with a like sum involved for the return fare, it becomes a difficult matter to persuade men that there is much to be gained in harvest work. Many interested individuals and organizations, as well as this service and other governmental agencies, have made repeated appeals to the Railway Administration for a reduced railway rate to harvest hands, but so far without success. It is the opinion of the Kansas City field office that with normal labor conditions prevalent in the country during another harvest season, it will require either an abnormally high wage scale or a material reduction in railway rates to bring in sufficient labor to harvest the crops.
The following tables summarize the employment activities so far as it is possible to reduce them to figures. Table 1 deals with the activities of the service during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1919; while Table 2 covers the entire period during which the Employment Service has operated as a separate branch of the Department, that is, from January, 1918, to June, 1919, inclusive.
Table 1.-- Activities of the United States Employment Service during the fiscal year
ended June 30, 1919, by months.
TABLE 2.- Activities of the United States Employment Service, from January, 1918,
to June, 1919, inclusive, by months.
89, 002 92, 594 177, 831 320,328 329, 587 394, 395
484, 033 1, 227, 705 1,476,282 1,588, 975 1,724,943 1,024, 330
62,642 70, 369 118, 079 171, 306 179, 821 221, 946 250, 152 500, 510 513,662 606,672 748, 934 525, 486
51,183 58, 814 100, 446 149, 415 156, 284 192, 798 217, 291 395, 530 362, 696 455, 931 558, 469 392, 934
587, 200 496, 299 523, 736 361, 061 487,929 449, 155
730,881 487, 475 539, 393 387, 256 510,689 519,485
514,436 406, 824 440, 833 309, 158 424, 738 404,948
372, 186 299,118 327,660 232, 135 333, 587 319, 813
7,133, 831 12, 104, 184
From Table 2 it will be noted that approximately 10,000 persons were placed in jobs of all kinds each working day for the 18 months' period, and this without costing them or their employers a cent and at a cost to the whole country of but $1.34 per placement. The saving in fees to the men and women directed to employment by the Federal Government in cooperation with States and municipalities is estimated at not less than $10,000,000, while the saving to the country in hours of labor gained by minimizing the time lost by these workers between jobs and in reducing labor turnover is estimated at many more millions.
Placements were made of every kind of worker, from common laborers and domestics to high-salaried professional and technical workers. It was not uncommon for a $1,800 examiner to place a $15,000 engineer or executive. The recruiting and placing of farm labor has been one of the special features of the work of the Federal Employment Service during the last year and a half.
Women constituted 20 per cent of the total workers placed and many a woman has found in the Federal Employment Service a gateway to the industrial, commercial, or professional life she has desired to enter. Large numbers of college-trained women have used the service, which has been working in conjunction with alumnus associations throughout the country.
The common-labor placements were but 23 per cent of the total of slightly under 5,000,000 persons placed. The other 77 per cent consisted of skilled labor and other workers engaged in specified occupations.
In arriving at its figure of $1.34 as the average cost per placement the United States Employment Service has included all the cost of building up and equipping the service. In private corporate financing, these items would be considered as permanent investments. and would not be chargeable to operation.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE WORKING CONDITIONS OF WAGE EARNERS.
In the performance of all its duties the Department has always been mindful of the fact that the self-respect and prosperity of a Nation are but the aggregate of the self-respect and prosperity of its citizens. And as the great mass of the population of the United States is engaged in wage-earning employment, any advancement in the condition of the workers must necessarily contribute in equal proportion toward the welfare of the country as a whole. Indeed, , the Department believes that in order to fulfill the obligations laid upon it by its organic act it must devote its utmost efforts toward improving the conditions surrounding the worker in industry. By that act the function of the Department shall be to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment."
During the war the Department was authorized to set up machinery for investigating working conditions, and where advisable to recommend standards for their improvement. In another portion of this report the accomplishments of the Working Conditions Service so established are given in some detail and need not be repeated here. It is sufficient to say that although this organization was primarily created for the purpose of stimulating war production the results of its activities have been such as to assure the value of its services in times of peace. It is therefore strongly urged that early legislation be enacted with a view to reviving and continuing the activities of the Working Conditions Service.
TEMPORARY ADMINISTRATIVE ASSIGNMENTS.
In the annual reports of the four preceding years attention has been called to the embarrassing situations which have arisen through the increase of departmental work. It is highly desirable that greater elasticity should be obtained through temporary administrative assignments. It is therefore again recommended that section 179 of the Revised Statutes be so amended as to empower the President to afford relief through Executive order by adding the following clause:
The officer so authorized and directed in anticipation of vacancy, sickness, or absence shall have authority meanwhile to perform such duties as the head of the Department to which the President assigns him shall prescribe.