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RESULTS OF LABOR DISPUTES, BY CAUSES OR OBJECTS, 1908.
Questions relating to wages gave rise to 65.9 per cent of all disputes in 1908, as compared with 62 per cent during the five years previous. The next most frequent cause is found in questions relating to unions and the collective agreement, the number of disputes arising from these causes being 38, or 12.6 per cent of the total. In the matter of wage questions, neither employers nor employees seem to have gained a decided advantage in so far as is shown by the results here given. In questions affecting organized action, the balance was decidedly in favor of the employees, they being favored in 17 instances and the employers in 13. In the matter of hours of labor, the reinstatement or discharge of workmen, and questions of shop rules, the employers were generally successful.
The following table shows the number of disputes occurring each year from 1903 to 1908, by the number of employees affected, also the total working days lost each year:
LABOR DISPUTES, BY YEARS AND NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES AFFECTED, 1903 TO 1908.
The number of employees affected did not exceed 25 in practically one-half the disputes occurring in 1908, the same being true for the 6-year period, 1903 to 1908. The number of working-days lost in the last year is in excess of the number lost in any other year than 1905, in which year nearly one-half the employees affected (15,349 out of a total of 32,906) were in disputes lasting more than 180 days.
The question as to the organization of employers was answered in 235 of the 302 disputes in 1908, it appearing that they were organized or partly organized in 125 cases and unorganized in 110 cases reported. In 39 cases where employers were organized the dispute was settled in their favor, as against 25 in the employees' favor and 59 cases compromised. Where the employers were not organized, they gained in 33 disputes, lost in 28, and in 44 a compromise was affected.
In 16 instances it was reported that the employers broke a collective agreement, and that employees broke such an agreement in 21 cases. Arbitration was resorted to in 6 cases, and in 29 the dispute was settled by the intervention of official mediators.
DECISIONS OF COURTS AFFECTING LABOR.
(Except in cases of special interest, the decisions here presented are restricted to those rendered by the Federal courts and the higher courts of the States and Territories. Only material portions of such decisions are reproduced, introductory and explanatory matter being given in the words of the editor.]
DECISIONS UNDER STATUTE LAW. ALIEN CONTRACT LABORERS -- DEPORTATION - EVIDENCE- Ex parte George, United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, 180 Federal Reporter, page 785.-Harry George was arrested under a warrant issued by the Secretary of Commerce and Labor and held for deportation to Greece, the country from which he had emigrated two years and nine months before the proceedings in question, the act of Congress of February 20, 1907 (34 Stat. 898), prohibiting the immigration of alien contract laborers. George petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, on which petition the present trial was had in July, 1910. The result was a dismissal of the petition, George being remanded to custody to be held for deportation.
There was proof of conviction for a felonious offense, but as the case was decided independently thereof it will not be here considered. It was not disputed that the proprietor of a shoe-shining establishment in Birmingham, Ala., while in Greece had offered to advance transportation money for George, taking a mortgage on his land as security therefor, and promising to employ George at a rate of $20 per month, out of which wages the loan for transportation should be repaid. The petitioner's plea was that the warrant did not designate the transaction with sufficient clearness, as to which Judge Grubb, speaking for the court, said:
The warrant charges that he was induced or solicited to migrate to this country by offers or promises of employment and in consequence of an agreement to perform labor in this country. The petitioner was fully apprised by the warrant that his deportation was sought by the Government because of a promise made to him or an agreement made with him to perform labor in this country, which induced his immigration. There could be no room for doubt on the part of petitioner as to the identity of the transaction relied on by the Government, since he could have received but one such promise and made but one such agreement. The warrant was sufficient as to this charge, certainly when unobjected to on the hearing and criticized for the first time after deportation was ordered and collaterally upon a writ of habeas corpus. The warrant charges each of the elements of the ground of deportation relied on, and is not void.
Continuing, the court said:
The evidence shows without conflict that the petitioner was within the excluded class, called “contract laborers.” Upon a promise to employ him upon his arrival in this country at stipulated wages in a definite occupation, made by one who advanced him money for his passage, secured by a mortgage on his property, and accompanied him on his journey, he came to this country, went to work for such person at the stipulated wages and at the designated occupation, repaid the advance out of his wages, and continued in the employment of the person who made the promise and advance for a year.
The writ is discharged, and the petitioner is remanded to the custody of the sheriff to await the execution of the warrant of deportation.
EIGHT-HOUR LAW-CONSTRUCTION OF LEVEES ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER-EMERGENCIES— United States v. Garbish, United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, 180 Federal Reporter, page 502.—This case involved the construction of the emergency provision of the Federal eight-hour law of August 1, 1892 (27 Stat. 340; U.S. Comp. St. p. 2521). This law restricts the employment of labor on public works to eight hours per day, with exceptions for cases of extraordinary emergencies. Harman Garbish was indicted for a violation of this statute by working his men in the construction of a levee. There was no question as to the facts, but only as to the application of the law to the facts. Garbish demurred to the indictment, and the demurrer was sustained, as appears from the quoted opinion of Judge Foster, who spoke for the court.
The opinion follows: Stripped of the surplusage, the indictment charges that on August 17, 1908, the defendant, a contractor, was engaged in building certain public levees on the banks of the Mississippi River in the parish of St. James, La., and required and permitted the laborers employed by him, and engaged in the said work, to work more than eight hours in one calendar day. The indictment further sets up that during the months of August, September, October, November, and December the waters of the Mississippi River annually fall below the level of the surrounding land and are retained within its banks without the necessity of artificial levees; that the work was being done in the ordinary and usual course of levee building by the Government of the United States, in preparation for the high waters that annually come down the river; that the existing levee was not of sufficient size and strength and did not comply with the Government standard, and was being destroyed and replaced by the new, higher, and stronger levee; that nothing unusual or out of the ordinary had required the destruction of the old levee, or the building of the new levee; and that the contractor had the usual time to complete the levee, so as to allow it to settle and pack and become ready to withstand the next annual rise of the river.
The defendant rests his case on the proposition that the building of levees on the Mississippi River, in the eastern district of Louisiana, at all times presents an extraordinary emergency; and hence that particular work is exempted from the operation of the law. This is denied by the Government, and the indictment contains the general averment that no extraordinary emergency existed. The question thus squarely presented is decisive of the case, if defendant's contention be sustained.
The building of levees in Louisiana has at all times presented many problems. It is absolutely necessary, not only for the preservation of property and to permit the cultivation of the land, but to safeguard the very lives of the inhabitants as well, that levees should be built on the banks of the Mississippi River in this locality. Therefore it has always been usual that levee work proceed with the greatest dispatch, and the labor of the day has never been restricted to eight hours. In the nature of things, it is impossible to employ an unlimited number of men or teams in the building of levees, as, no matter how great a force the contractor may assemble, the work will not permit of crowding. It is necessary that levees be built in as short a time as possible, in order that they may settle as much as they can, and that the grass may become well rooted upon them, before they are called upon to bear the strain of a high river.
It is true that the months of August, September, October, November, and December are the most favorable for levee building, but there is no certainty that during any part of these months the river will maintain a low stage. When the river is bank full, necessarily no levees can be built. Statistics of the river's height, at New Orleans, show that during the past 25 years the river has been bank full on nearly every day of the year, and these statistics may well apply to the locality where the defendant was working. An unprecedented rain, or an early freeze followed by a thaw, anywhere in the valley of the Mississippi River or its tributaries, might unexpectedly cause the river to rise at New Orleans. No one can foresee or anticipate the acts of nature, and who can say that a few days' more time, in which it might have become solidified, would not have so materially added to the levee's strength as to enable it to withstand the pressure, and without which it might signally fail.
All of these facts are within the common knowledge of the people of this district, and, in connection with the specific allegations of fact in the indictment, overcome the mere conclusion of the pleader that no extraordinary emergency existed. The case presented here is not that of a contractor trying to complete his job on schedule time, nor is it a question of expediency or the saving of expense. In my opinion, the building of levees on the banks of the Mississippi River in the eastern district of Louisiana presents at all times an extraordinary emergency, within the meaning of the statute.
It may be that the indictment is otherwise demurrable, but I prefer to base my decision on the broad ground above set forth.
The demurrer will be sustained, and the defendant discharged.