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BULLETIN OF THE
U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.
WHOLE NO. 123.
EMPLOYERS' WELFARE WORK.
MAY 15, 1913.
BY ELIZABETH LEWIS OTEY, PH. D.
There is a tendency in labor circles to condemn employers' welfare work. It is claimed that much of it is tinctured with paternalism and fosters a spirit of dependence on the good will of the employer incompatible with the aims of labor, and as a result the workers never reach their full development. The demand is for rights not charity; that workers be paid enough and then left to order their lives as they see fit. It is rather taken for granted that welfare work is done at the expense of wages; that if the employer were without this particular fad the sum expended on it would be added to wages. This view is based on an assumption impossible of proof, but a priori argument is of course against it, as welfare establishments paying a lower wage would be unable to compete in the labor market with the ordinary establishment doing no welfare work. An eminent French authority has recorded of France that it has never been shown that the average wages in welfare establishments are lower than in others, nor does the little evidence in this country prove it. In the cotton industry in the South the presence or absence of welfare work bears no relation to wages. A further objection to welfare work is that it is begun and maintained to prevent strikes and labor organizations. Obviously from the quid pro quo relation of employer and employee this position is well taken, particularly when one considers the employer's prompt declaration of his motive in instituting welfare work: that it is good business policy and results in a better labor force. It has been said that the employees in the McCormick plant of the International Harvester Co. refrained from a sympathetic strike when the operatives of the Deering Works in the same corpo
1 Levasseur, Questions Ouvrières et Industrielles en France, 1907, p. 808.
2 Report on Conditions of Women and Child Wage Earners in the United States, Vol. I; Cotton Textile Industry, p. 594.
ration struck because of the extensive welfare work in the former plant. To cite French experience again, the verdict there is that establishments with welfare work have been less exposed to labor troubles than those without.2
There is, on the other hand, quite a strong sentiment in favor of welfare work. In a large philanthropic society, composed chiefly of capitalists and employers, a special welfare department has been organized with committees in different parts of the country especially to interest employers in improving the working and living conditions of their employees. Their methods are educational," conservative and nonaggressive." The endeavor is to show employers what other employers have done for their employees, and to make “tactful and comprehensive suggestions" to them. It is perhaps significant that this organization does not believe in resorting to legal enactment to assist in securing the conditions desired. It would imply a political faith of nongovernmental interference in the relations of employer and employee.
The aim of this study has been to give an account of what is done for the welfare of employees in certain establishments noted for welfare work, with the hope that it would become clear what is the legitimate field for such work. Nearly 50 establishments were personally visited. For convenience these are grouped under three heads-manufacturing establishments, mercantile establishments, and public utilities.
It should be noted in this connection that the character of the labor force determines to a certain extent the conditions in the place of work. Thus stenographers and clerks will not put up with the same lavatory facilities as factory girls. Where office women are employed on a large scale with no available lunch room near by, the company is very apt to operate one for them. In a cotton mill, however, where many women are employed, a dining room is so rare as to be almost unheard of. Moreover, the kind of output may be a factor in deciding whether there shall be welfare work. Where foodstuffs are manufactured the demand is for cleanliness. It might not be considered as meeting such requirements to have employees eating their luncheons in the workrooms, accordingly dining rooms are either provided or employees are required to eat outside of the place of work. Similarly in department stores in large cities a lunch room of some kind becomes a necessity, as eating lunch at the place of work is out of the question.
No comment has been made to ascertain the validity of labor's criticisms, as it would involve a study of wages, strikes, and unions
Welfare work in a great industrial plant," Review of Reviews,
1 John R. Commons, 1903, vol. 28, p. 79.
2 Levasseur, Questions Ouvrières et Industrielles en France, 1907, p. 804.
clearly beyond the scope of this article. Nor has the writer undertaken to recount the defects in the welfare work already organized or to suggest changes. Such criticisms must be based on a more prolonged and intensive study of the individual establishment than was possible in the present instance. Where comments are made on the effectiveness of welfare work-that is, whether the employees in an establishment actually use the club rooms, lunch rooms, etc., or belong to the benefit societies-the employer's opinions and estimates have been accepted.
CLEVELAND TWIST DRILL CO.
The Cleveland Twist Drill Co., of Cleveland, Ohio, endeavors to make the working conditions agreeable for employees. There are separate lunch rooms for men and women, where they obtain food at cost. Periodicals and magazines are subscribed to for the men, while the women have a special rest and recreation room with a couch for reclining. Well-ventilated individual lockers are provided the employees. Shower baths have been put in for the men in the hardening department, where the work is of such a nature as to make a bath after it desirable. Convenient washing troughs, with warm water and soap and towels are also furnished the men. Within the shop spot lighting is rather general. The dry emery wheels are provided with blowers to keep the air free from the pernicious dust. In some departments the problem of furnishing good ventilation is very difficult, as, for example, where the drills are dipped into boiling oil after being hardened. Hot or boiling oil necessarily gives rise to disagreable odors.
The employees have been encouraged by the company to form a mutual benevolent association to care for their disabled fellow workers. The members are divided into two classes-junior members, those under 18 years of age; and senior members. The dues are, respectively, 15 and 25 cents a month. The amount of sick benefits for juniors is $3 a week and for seniors $5, running for a period of three months in cases of continued disability. Before being entitled to any sick benefits the member must have been disabled two consecutive weeks. Certain accident cases are debarred from benefits-accidents arising from bicycle racing or other sports and from intoxication, or accidents occurring while in any other business. The investigating committee, of which the president is permanent chairman, has charge of the ill or disabled members. The association relieves members of assessments when the treasury has as much as
$300 in it, and not until the funds are reduced to $200 does it again levy any assessments. If there are not sufficient funds in the association a special levy may be made upon members to meet the demands. Once the association ran 22 months without collecting dues. Certain fines imposed by the company, such as failure to ring up when coming to or going from work, go to the association. There are about 200 members, or about one-third the number of employees.
CLEVELAND HARDWARE CO.
The Cleveland Hardware Co., of Cleveland, Ohio, makes frequent. changes in its industrial betterment in order to hold the interest of the employees. Its aim is to get the employees to take over the work, as, for example, in the Mutual Benefit Association. The company started it, contributed $100, and then induced the employees to take charge. This association is very like that of the Cleveland Twist Drill Co., with employees holding all the administrative offices. Membership dues are of two kinds-50 cents a month for senior members and 25 cents for juniors. Members paying the former sum receive $5 a week sick and disability benefits for the first 13 weeks and $2.50 for the second 13 weeks, while those paying the latter sum receive one-half the amounts. After 26 weeks, members can draw no more benefits during that year. Junior members are under 18 years. At the death of a senior member $125 is paid his heirs, and one-half the sum in the case of a junior member. When the amount in the treasury reaches $1,500, the dues are reduced one-half until the $1,000 mark is reached. The association is in a flourishing state, with a membership covering practically all the 800 men employees.
The office force and foremen have a dining room where they pay 10 cents for luncheon. This sum covers the cost of food and service, but not the lighting, heat, and space charges. Plants are in the windows, and one side of the room is fitted up for a lounging room with easy chairs, lounges, etc. Adjoining this room is the employees' library-the first betterment work of the company. Several autograph copies of books donated by their authors when the work was started are kept there. At present this library is a station of the city public library. The office women are provided with clean aprons twice a week at the company's expense.
The company was the pioneer in having an emergency hospital. It has fitted up a small hospital room in the shop and has a nurse from the Visiting Nurses' Association in charge. She spends part of the day in the shop, dressing wounds, etc., and the rest of the time she visits the sick in their homes and incidentally acts as truant officer in case of absences. When employees are not at work