« AnteriorContinuar »
Whatever the kind of work or process, there is one feature common to all this unskilled workthe purely mechanical performance of a monotonous process requiring little thought, intelligence, or ultimate responsibility, and destructive to rather than promotive of the power of initiative and intelligent thinking, and capacity for a higher grade of skill. Since little ability or intelligence is required, the supply of labor for those stages of the work is plentiful, competition great, and pay correspondingly low. Certain of these industries might, nevertheless, appear to be preferable for different reasons for the young girls just out of school. One industry might seem to offer opportunity for financial rise or self-development for the mature worker. Another not having this qualification might be preferable because the type of work and product handled are nice and clean, and the sanitary conditions superior. On the other hand, certain industries might be discouraged for young girls because of the necessity of continuous standing, damp or oppressive atmosphere, or severe physical demands.
It is hardly necessary to discuss here the lack of opportunity and the low wage received by young girls in the three great factory industries—textile mills, metal trades, and paper goods. Besides these disadvantages, we may briefly note the influence of the noise and vibration of machinery, continuous standing, and heavy, oppressive atmosphere on the young girls in the textile mills, which rank second in the number of women employed. The metal trades, which rank third in the number of women employed, make heavy demands on the physical strength of the young workers; so much so that some employers allow women workers to work only one-half day at the machines, and to spend the other half on some process requiring less physical strength. The paper trades, which rank fourth as women-employing industries, offer clean work and pleasant surroundings for the girls. The processes are, however, largely mechanical and monotonous, and the trade does not offer large opportunities for development or financial advancement.
B. Mercantile establishments.-The department stores and shops of Worcester, which draw almost one-fourth of the girls leaving school, might seem to offer a better field and more opportunity for advancement. Girls of 14 to 16, however, must usually begin as cash or floor girls. The much more comprehensive study of 1906 ? showed that few cash girls rose to the higher position of saleswoman because of lack of maturity and ability.
C. Medium skilled trades. - Machine operating: The machineoperating trades, such as the corset trade, certain branches of the
1 This classification is based on the definition and classification used in the Report of the Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, 1906, pp. 33–34.
• Report of the Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, 1906,
Statistics gained from records of factory inspector, together with those acquired by personal visits.
A. Unskilled industries.—The textile industry, wire and metal goods and paper goods manufactures offer comparatively small opportunity for self-development, as has already been shown, though in
cases larger opportunity for financial advancement. The majority of the processes in the textile mills are highly mechanical and offer little opportunity other than tending machines. Weavers get good pay ($5 to $14 per week), but this branch has been closed to women in one large factory, because of the 56-hour law. In the carpet mills a large number of hand sewers are employed, and receive $12 to $18 a week. In the worsted and yai'n mills a small number of burlers or menders (hand sewers) receive from $6 to $12 a week.
The metal trades are probably the most hopeless of all trades as an industrial career for women, yet they are the third largest womenemploying industry of Worcester. The superintendent of one of the large wire factories granted that “there is little future” in the trade. Beginners in this factory start with 75 cents a day, the majority getting $1.75, with a maximum of $2 a day.
The paper trades are more desirable, in that the physical demands are less severe, the work cleaner, and the surroundings probably more attractive. The manager of a large envelope factory, however, frankly says there is no future in the business for girls, and that only workers of a type not high enough for skilled trades should be encouraged to go into it. The average girl learns the processes in one to two months, but according to one employer requires three years to reach the maximum speed. Folding of envelopes by machine is wholly unskilled work, the girl merely feeding the paper into the machine. Folding envelopes by hand requires a certain degree of accuracy, deftness, and speed, as does also covering pasteboard boxes with glazed paper. With the piecework system, envelope makers receive from $9 to $15 and box makers from $4 to $12, according to process and product. The manufacture of fancy pap products, such as valentines, cards, etc., is pleasant and attract.
stays six months. In spite of this provision, the proprietor estimates that he loses annually more than $1,500 on his learners. A clothing factory requires a deposit of $1 from all learners. Another clothing factory keeps back $10 for loss of the forewoman's time, which is refunded to the worker at the end of the first year if she is still working in the factory.
Reports from the less skilled industries show a still more serious situation. One of the large paper-goods firms, with a total force of
. 200 workers, says he "takes on 250 learners during the year and that 50 per cent do not stay long enough to give themselves or the work a fair trial. Many come from curiosity and stay only a week or two, yet each girl has cost several days of the time of a high-priced forewoman." The manager of a biscuit factory employing about 75
” workers says the girls stay with the factory only a short time. A wire factory with a still lower grade of work shows still greater fluctuation in the working force. The processes can be learned in a few days and the maximum wage reached in two months. The result is that, although the regular force consists of about 150 women workers at any one time, from 450 to 500 learners pass through the factory in a year, generally staying but a few months.
Shifting for betterment would be advisable if the workers actually bettered their condition. But this is an open question. All learners or inexperienced workers in any trade, whether it offers a future or not, must serve a certain amount of time in the unskilled processes. A large proportion do not stay long enough in any one trade to become skilled workers. The result is an army of drifters and unskilled workers always condemned to irregular and uncertain work, inefficiency, and low pay. The instability and irresponsibility of young workers, together with the efforts of the Consumers' League, have resulted in the exclusion of girls under 16 from the better factories and industries. Five of the eleven clothing factories visited, employing about 750 women workers, do not admit girls under 16. Unfortunately, this increasing tendency to exclude girls under 16 from the better factories has a reflex action on the industry itself, complicating the labor problem of the better industries, by allowing the unskilled trades to ruin those who might in mature years become skilled workers.
The girls of 14 and 15 leaving school to go to work then have little choice except the unskilled industries, where they must spend from one to two years in purely monotonous or mechanical work. After one to two years' experience, they are eligible to the more skilled industries from the standpoint of age; but the study of 200 women in one of the highly skilled trades of Boston and 109 in those of
1 Amount pot ascertained.
Worcester has revealed only 4 workers who began their career in unskilled trades.1
The effect is, however, equally disastrous to the industry. All employers in all kinds of business complain of the scarcity of responsible, to say nothing of skilled, workers. One clothing factory was forced to send to New York this fall and import a large number of workers. Another had to close one room of its factory, with a capacity for about 40 workers, because of inability to get workers. One of the clothing firms offered the investigator $5 for every worker she would send him. Dressmakers are closing their shops and going to work by the day or into the shops because of inability to get help. The demand for skilled workers far exceeds the supply. The opportunity for the skilled worker is great; the opportunity for the worker to acquire this skill is small.
The present method of learning the trades in the factories has proved far from satisfactory to all concerned. The new worker usually "picks up the trade” with what aid and time the forewoman or some other skilled worker can give. The majority of firms of the various industries visited agree that this is an inadequate and expensive process. The demand on the forewoman's time is continuous and the return small, since a large proportion of the workers do not reach the stage where they can give adequate return. The proprietor of the corset factory who estimated that his learners caused him an annual loss of $1,500 has been cited. The proprietor of a shirt factory estimated that each learner meant a loss of $50 to the firm. A shoe firm “will not bother with green girls—too expensive," while another takes only bright girls. A paper firm reports that one girl teaches another in both hand and machine work, but that this is an expensive method.
E. Summary of industrial conditions which confront young workers.Several facts, then, are to be noted. The little girl of 14 or 16 has an opportunity to enter only unskilled work. The monotonous mechanical work which she does is destructive to rather than promotive of intelligence, responsibility, and preparation for a higher grade of work. The masses of young girls do not easily adapt themselves to this mechanical, monotonous work; drift from one place to another, thus learning or becoming proficient in no one trade. When they reach the age which makes them eligible for a higher kind of work, therefore, the masses have not developed or have lost the power to take advantage of the opportunity now opened to them. The factory industries requiring more skill have no satisfactory system of training the prospective worker for the trade. The result is that the mass of workers who begin work in the unskilled trades remain there and never get any higher.
1 Study of dressmaking made by the research department of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, Boston, to be published in its series on Economic Relations of Women.
F. Need of trade-training school.-One great need of the industrial world stands out prominently-a trade-training school which can take the 14 or 15 year-old girls who will not go to the regular schools and must go to work in a year or two. If this trade-training school can give her such equipment that she may be lifted over the preliminary unskilled processes in the industry and put upon work which continually trains and develops her for a higher kind of work, the great mass of unskilled, unstable workers must in time decrease.
VI. WOMEN-EMPLOYING INDUSTRIES OF WORCESTER.
With this in view, three problems come up for consideration: First, what are the women-employing industries of Worcester? Second, what are the opportunities as to numbers needed, self-development, financial compensation, and future outlook in each trade? Third, what can be done to adapt the women for the better trades and adapt the trades to the women workers so as to secure for both the best possible results? In other words, what is the need of and opportunity for trade training?
The general facts learned from the study of a single year's group of girls serve as a fairly good index to the women-employing industries of Worcester. Statistics show that approximately 1,300 women and 138 minors were employed in the mercantile establishments of Worcester during the past year; that 8,000 women and 1,000 minors, not including home workers, were employed in manufacturing in Worcester;' that is, five-sixths of the women and five-sixths of the minors at work are engaged in manufactures.
Four industries occupy almost 90 per cent of the women employed in manufactures. The machine-operating trades, covering the production of corsets, women's clothing, and shoes and slippers, stand foremost, with 52 per cent of the women and 65 per cent of the girls employed in these four industries. The textile industries rank second, employing 18 per cent of the women and 20 per cent of the girls. Wire and metal goods rank third, with 15 per cent of the women and 9 per cent of the girls. The metal trades draw a comparatively small number of girls from school, because of the heavier physical demands. Envelopes and paper goods rank fourth, with 13 per cent of the women and 5 per cent of the girls.
1 Statistics from records of factory inspection. These figures must be accepted as indicative rather than statistical,