Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/69

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
57
PENDING PROBLEMS FOR WAGE-EARNERS.
PENDING PROBLEMS FOR WAGE-EARNERS.

By A. E. OUTERBRIDGE, Jr.

IN studying the important question of management of employees of industrial establishments from a common-sense as well as just and humanitarian point of view, it is necessary to remember that a factory is not an eleemosynary institution; the functions of the two are radically different, and experience has proved that modern manufacturing industries can not be practically conducted under the old idea of paternal or patriarchal regulations. The operative is jealous of his personal freedom and suspicious of purely philanthropic schemes originating within the establishment, and he resents any beneficial regulations savoring of charity. He does not complain of the strict enforcement of just rules, but he is quick to take advantage of laxity on the part of overseers, which, if continued, soon leads to chaos. On the other hand, unjust regulations can not be permanently enforced under the modern labor restrictions, for labor legislation in this country is extremely comprehensive, and takes cognizance of such infractions.[1] In some instances where labor legislation has been elaborated to a degree which was unduly oppressive to employers, it has served to restrict industrial development, reacting upon the intended beneficiary — the employee — and has necessitated the abandonment of such policy. The "granger legislation" relating to railroads in some of the Western States affords a well-known illustration of this tendency. Employees are no longer ignorant of their rights or privileges, and employers, as a rule, neither care nor dare to trample upon them; but experience has also proved that wherever numbers of men are massed together, a certain degree of strict rule is essential to the preservation of order and proper conduct of business.

Many of the rules and regulations of workshops and factories which appear harsh or unjust to the uninitiated are in reality necessary to protect the faithful employee from impositions of

  1. The labor laws differ greatly in the different States. Massachusetts has led the way in such legislation, and the other States are following in her footsteps. Most of these laws increase the responsibilities of employers, thus: Methods of protection from fire and accident must be provided in all factories and workshops, and employers can not by contract exempt themselves from liability for injuries to an employee. The buildings must be provided with proper sanitary arrangements; each room where machinery is placed must be connected with the engine room by speaking tubes, electric bells, or appliances to control the motive power. The most minute regulations relating to the entire economic system of factory construction, operation, and inspection exist; and laws governing the payment of wages, exemption from fines or garnishment of wages or tools of trade for debts, etc., cover every phase of employment growing out of the factory system and are distinctly favorable to labor.