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The number of situations secured, which is always necessarily below the number of calls for help from employers, has steadily increased from 1,505 in 1897 to 3,143 in 1901. It has proved nearly impossible to secure places for men; nearly all the places found by the bureau being for women.

The superintendent of the bureau, whose report appears as Part II, renews his recommendations for State control of employment offices and points out new instances of fraud practiced by some of the private agencies.

Complaints.

The scope of the Commissioner's powers and duties may be set forth by a statement of the complaints brought before him in the period under review, thus:

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For purposes of comparison, the figures regarding complaints under the Labor Law in the years 1898, 1899 and 1900 have been added. Complaints in 1900 were particularly numerous on the subject of tenement work-notably the carrying on of tenement manufactures without a license. The diminution in the number of such complaints indicates a more general compliance with the law requiring a license.

The complaints respecting violations of the law in factories. and bakeries are discussed at length in the report of the Bureau

of Factory Inspection, to which reference may here be made. Of the other complaints, those relating to public work and the payment of wages require particular consideration.

WEEKLY PAYMENT LAW.

The Labor Law requires all corporations to pay wages in cash and all corporations, except railways, as often as once a week.

Under the cash payment law, the Department received two complaints and upon investigation sustained both. The only difficulty now found in the administration of the law is in connection with the use of bank checks. A number of corporations finding it inconvenient to transport and guard large sums of specie away from cities or villages have been in the practice. of paying their employees with bank checks, which the workmen find some difficulty in cashing unless they depend upon saloonkeepers for that courtesy. The question whether bank checks are "cash" within the meaning of the law has been referred to the Attorney-General.

The Weekly Payment Law prevents a great deal of injustice to wage-earners. In 24 cases this year, the Department has been appealed to for its help in enforcing the law. Twenty of the complaints were, upon investigation, fully sustained and the remaining four partly sustained. Compliance with the law was thereupon enforced. In another instance, a strike of workingmen took place for the purpose of securing the weekly payment of wages. The Department, through the Bureau of Mediation, succeeded in inducing the men to return to work, but could not compel the employers to pay weekly as they were not incorporated. As there have been other disputes from the same cause, it would appear necessary to widen the law so as to cover individual employers as well as corporations, as has been done in several States. The objection that such a law would be unconstitutional does not seem entirely valid, inasmuch as the Massachusetts statute has been sustained by the courts.

A more immediately necessary law, however, is one requiring

railway companies to pay wages fortnightly instead of monthly, as at present. In this respect New York is behind several of her sister commonwealths. Besides, the law now discriminates against the employees of railroads as compared with those of other corporations. There is no ground for affirming that it would be impracticable for railway companies to pay their employees semi-monthly.

PUBLIC WOrk.

Article I of the Labor Law prescribes certain conditions which must be observed by public officials having charge of public works and which must also be inserted by them in all contracts for public work. These requirements are (1) that the contractor shall not allow his employees to work more than eight hours a day; (2) that he shall pay not less than the prevailing rate of wages in each trade; (3) that he shall employ only citizens of the United States and, in the employment of laborers, shall give preference to citizens of this State; (4) that he shall use only such stone as has been dressed or carved within the State.

The total number of complaints on the subject of public work, as indicated in Table 3, was 60, and the manner of their disposition was thus:

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That the total number of complaints is so much smaller this year than in 1900 or 1899, when the enforcement of the law was first entrusted to the factory inspector's department, is of course due to the annulling of the prevailing rate of wages and the

Includes complaints concerning both hours and wages together.

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stone-dressing clauses by decisions handed down in February and March by the Court of Appeals.* These decisions also cast doubt upon the validity of the Eight-hour Law, and although the Court of Appeals subsequently declared that they did not affect the Eight-hour Law, the reasoning used and principles declared were such that many contractors became morally certain that the Eight-hour Law would ultimately share the fate of the other clauses, and being thus assured, make no pretense to obey the law. Efforts to prosecute them were made unavailing by the decisions of county courts that the Eight-hour Law is unconsti tutional; it is hoped to obtain an authoritative decision within a few months.†

The Alien Labor Law had already been pronounced unconstitutional as long ago as 1895 by the General Term of the Supreme Court at Buffalo (People vs. Warren, 13 Misc. 618). One of the grounds of the decision was that it violated the treaty of the United States with Italy. Hence the alien labor clause would be invalid not only with respect to municipalities but also with respect to State work. Similarly in the case of the stone-dressing law; while it was municipal work that gave rise to the case, one of the court's reasons for holding it invalid was that it transgressed the interstate commerce clause of the United States Constitution and this objection would apply with equal force to public works of the State.

In any event it seems clear that to secure any effective regulation of the conditions of employment on public works an amendment to the Constitution will be needed which shall confer adequate authority upon the Legislature. The lack of such public regulations is apt to involve great social waste; for when contractors are allowed absolute freedom of contract, the more unscrupulous bidders base their estimates upon the employment of labor at the cheapest possible rates without any regard to the probable social consequences. Instead of employing local work

*See Judicial Decisions in Appendix I.

†On June 13, 1902, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Department, unanimously affirmed the constitutionality of the Eight Hour Law.-LABOR BULLETIN, June, 1902, page 146.

men they would send to Europe or Asia for Italian, Polish or Chinese laborers, with the lowest standards of living. When they had completed their contract they would abandon these laborers, many of whom, being without employment, would be dependent upon the local charities. Their maintenance would thus in the end cost the State more than it had saved by using cheap labor. The Contract Labor Law offers some hindrance to such proceedings, but does not prevent the employment of cheap labor. Instances have indeed been reported in which public contractors have paid their workmen starvation wages and sent them to the poor authorities for additional aid. Certainly, in such a case the State would lose nothing by prescribing as the minimum wage-rate a sufficient compensation to maintain a family in decency and according to American standards of comfort. Unless the right of freedom of contract is accordingly limited by such laws as the United States Contract Labor Law and others of this class, the danger is always present that sweatshop conditions of life will be spread through other classes of the population, while local workmen, left without work, must also suffer a deterioration in their standard of well-being. The State already finds the slums and sweat-shops a sufficiently dif ficult problem without aggravating the evils by encouraging the employment, on its own work, of half-paid workmen.

"Freedom of Contract."

Notwithstanding the social wastefulness and extravagance of the laissez-faire policy respecting public employment, the proposal of a constitutional amendment which shall confer upon the accredited representatives of the people the requisite power to regulate the wages and hours of workmen employed by the agents of the people in cities and towns, has already met with opposition on the part of citizens who fear the possible consequences of limiting the right of free contract, although that right has never been unrestricted. Thus an influential organ of public opinion has characterized the above-mentioned proposal in the following language:

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