Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/288
marginal girls thus forced down the wages of others who were not partially supported at home. Facts showing these conditions in Oregon were determined by an investigation conducted by the Oregon branch of the consumer’s league. The report claimed that “nearly three fifths of the women employed in industries in Portland receive less than $10.00 a week, which is the minimum weekly wage that ought to be offered to any self-supporting woman wage-earner in this city.” Accordingly, in 1913, the Oregon Legislature passed a minimum-wage law, being the second state to do so. The law was the first, however, to be put into effect. Massachusetts had previously adopted a minimum-wage law in 1912, but was slower in putting it into effect. Oregon’s law further differed from Massachusetts’s in providing a penalty of a fine or prison sentence for violations. Oregon’s law served as a model for the California and Washington legislatures of 1913. Nine states now have minimum wage laws for women.
The minimum wage laws of the Pacific coast states create industrial welfare commissions with the power of setting minimum wages for women. These wages are recommended by conferences called by the commission and composed of employers and employees of the particular industry and of the public, each equally represented. The wage is legally set, however, only after a public hearing. As a result of rulings by the industrial welfare commission, the employers of industry now pay all women wage-earners in Oregon at least $8.25 a week. In Portland, the only large city in Oregon, the minimum wage is $8.64 a week in manufacturing establishments and $9.25 in offices and mercantile houses. Apprentices may work at $6.00 a week. In Washington, the minimum wage has been set at $8.90 in manufacturing establishments, $10.00 in stores, and $9.00 in telephone and telegraph offices and in laundries. The Washington apprenticeship ruling is somewhat better in that it limits the number of apprentices and the length of time of apprenticeship. The variation in the minimum wages is due to the theory that the wage should be a living wage. As to the effect of the minimum wage on business, the worker and society, no official reports or investigations have been published, although such reports are expected in a few months from the industrial welfare commissions and from the national bureau of labor statistics. However, the mercantile employers of Portland in the summer of 1914 testified before the federal industrial relations commission: (1) that the number of employees whose wages were increased was twenty-two per cent. of the total number of female employees, and that the amount of such increase in relation to the total payroll of both men and women was two per cent.; (2) that “as nearly as could be ascertained, no employees were discharged”; and (3) that the general effect on business was “negligible.” Perhaps the strongest criticism of this testimony being typ-