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What we have done experimentally—is to take 10 reasonably significant program areas and, for each, evaluate them on the basis of key components (or provisions) and accord each of the 10 a weight or total point value of 100. This procedure obviously yields a total of 1,000 points, if all criteria are met.
On the basis the 10 standards evaluated, the highest points went to the subjects of safety and regulation of private employment agencies.
On the basis of States, the top decile (tenth) included California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, and Puerto Rico—although not necessarily in that order!
Our preliminary index—and certainly tentative and subject to revision comes out to 0.509 in terms of a “national average.” In reviewing both the components and weighting, I am inclined to feel that the “509 index” may be an overstatement. Certainly if we pursue its perfection, there would be adjustments and improvements that I am sure each of us could suggest.
There is a conceptual bias, for instance, in favor of the sheer enactment of “having on the books" a piece of legislation and probably not enough weight accorded to the administrative resources staff, funds, and techniques—for accomplishing the intended results.
Also, I doubt if equal weight in computing the overall index should be assigned to such items as wage payment-wage collection and anti-age discrimination as compared to safety and minimum wages.
Then, to be fully in the swing of things, we should have a "seasonally adjusted” index. Since, however, we are dealing more with the geography of the States than the seasons of the year, I think it would be better to call it our geographically adjusted index and by this means take into account the variations in the labor force composition of the several States, thereby according the heavily industrialized States with higher weights than the farmlands of the prairies and the badlands of the West !
Thus, you see, much work remains to be done. All that I am suggesting today, really, is that the tide of events is sweeping us onward to some sort of computerization of where we stand and how we move.
Whether the LSB-LSI will provide an answer, or suffer an abortive and ignominious end, will depend in large measure upon your interest and receptivity.
So also will the next matter that I wish to touch upon.
Providing a Guideline of Standards
Ever since Miss Perkins established our Bureau in 1934, it has devoted a major share of its energies and resources to assisting the States in their labor standards problems. Frequently with the assistance (or prodding) of the IAGLO, we have prepared suggested draft language or technical amendments to existing State labor laws.
Over the years there has evolved in almost score of program areas draft language, or suggested standards considered desirable to be reflected in State law. To a very substantial degree this work has been built upon extracting, utilizing, and adapting the better provisions and approaches taken by States in these subject areas.
We have been assembling and reviewing the product of 30 years to the end that we might present to you a compilation of basic labor standards for your review and, hopefully, your use.
We are now approaching the time when this should be placed in draft form before the IAGLO for comment and criticism. These standards range from wage and hour laws to fair employment practices, labor relations, and migratory labor. Currently we are working with a group of 18 so-called basic standards, but this number may be shaved or supplemented as our review continues.
I should like to stress that I am not now talking about so-called model bills but rather an enumeration or identification, if you please, of the elements, components, or ingredients which go to make up a well-rounded workmen's compensation law, a child labor law, a safety or prevailing wage statute.
In large part this is responsive to the many requests which we receive from you folks and from others interested in strengthening labor standards who seek ideas or answers to the recurrent question: How do I know, or what should be considered as the essential ingredients or provisions of a good labor law in a given subject area
I hope you will help us in this endeavor—both singly and collectively through the mechanism of the IAGLO.
Utilizing Reciprocity Arrangements
Finally, I would like to toss one further item in this luncheon hopper. Last November at a very fine meeting of Western IAGLO States in Reno, we had a relatively brief but what I felt was an intriguing discussion of interstate reciprocity agreements.
I felt the subject matter and the potential of reciprocal arrangements between the States was such that I asked the Bureau's staff to dig into the subject. Some of you provided information. Much more research needs to be done and I hope you will cooperate with us in telling us whether you have agreements or understandings with your neighbor States. And also the areas where you believe interstate arrangements would be helpful.
We found that some—but apparently not very many-reciprocal arrangements existed in the area of wage collection, workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, migratory labor programs, regulation of private employment agencies, and wage garnishment.
Usually, reciprocity rests more on informal understandings and administrative cooperation than on formal agreements authorized by law. However, in the area of wage collection legislation the laws of a few States specifically permit the assignment of wage claims from one State to another and provide for formal agreements for this purpose. I understand that one of the most recent is the agreement reached by California and Hawaii this past year. Alaska, Nevada, and Oregon laws also permit interstate wage collection arrangements. Other States, such as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, exchange information on crew leader and migratory labor problems. Some 15 States are participating in a school transfer record program whereby they honor record cards of migrant children from other States. In another area-regulation of private employment agencies -interstate aspects are important, as we discovered in a conference we held this spring with a number of Eastern States. I was quite interested to note in a recent NBC “Meet the Press” program involving six State Governors references to interstate arrangements, cited by Governors Reed of Maine, Scranton of Pennsylvania, and Kerner of Illinois to meet specific problems, and to improve the States' viability in dealing with them.
Personally, I believe that greater attention should be given by the IAGLO to the merits and possibilities of reciprocal arrangements in a wide variety of labor standard areas.
I need not detail or describe the increasingly mobile characteristics of our economy and society. I do not believe-as some cynics have suggested—that the States are an anachronism or that their boundary lines should be obliterated. I do believe, however, that all of us must be responsive to changing times and circumstances and seek constructive solutions to our problems.
We have examples of so-called interstate compacts dealing with water resources, transportation, motor vehicle safety, etc. We have joint legislative actions, such as the New York-New Jersey Waterfront Commission, and there is a Southern interstate nuclear compact to which some 16 States are signatory. These are all signs of the times.
This might well be an area in which the IAGLO might want to consider a special committee on interstate reciprocity.
I have sought to outline for you all too briefly, and perhaps too cryptically, three devices designed to assist in the upgrading of labor standards:
-An "LSI” to measure progress.
procity. Each, in its own way, can contribute to the fulfillment of our mission of assuring those whom we serve that our service is abreast of the times and alert to the future !
There are several other areas to touch upon at this luncheon. I will do so briefly. Commissioner Catherwood indicated that one of the areas that Mrs. Peterson would have talked about had she been able to attend was that of credit and consumer protection. For the low-income group, this is a widespread problem. We are told that part of the agony of Watts, Chicago, and Cleveland, and some of the other unfortunate situations arises from sharp and very high and unfair credit practices, particularly affecting low-income workers. One of the areas in this general field is wage garnishment. I do not know if any of you, or how many of you, have looked at your wage garnishment laws in recent years. It is largely a court affair, with the creditor going into court and getting a judgment, in turn compelling the employer to garnish a substantial amount of the worker's pay. There was a very novel and, I think, a very interesting approach in the New York Legislature this past year. As I recall, the proposal came out of the Governor's advisory committee on consumer borrowing, or an organization of that type. It would do this: it would say that the pay of a worker would not be garnisheed until the worker had made more than the prescribed legal minimum wage for a 40-hour week. In other words, earnings would
a be protected to the extent of the hourly minimum wage times 40. And this would be in order to enable the worker to maintain some semblance of keeping himself and his family together.
The bill did not succeed in the 1966 legislature, but this type of proposal merits serious consideration. Another aspect of the garnishment problem is the common employer practice to discharge a garnished worker. You know, a wage garnishment situation which permits the discharge of a worker for nonpayment of bills is just about one step removed from throwing him in jail, which was the old practice where he couldn't earn any money. Today, if a worker is thrown out of a job because of wage garnishment, he may have difficulties of reemployment. So, as I say, I would like to suggest for your consideration looking at the problems of excessive credit, of debt pooling, of wage garnishments in your States to see if there is something that can be done to improve the situation. There are only two States—Texas and Pennsylvania—which completely forbid wage garnishments. If I recall correctly, New York now prohibits discharge for garnishments. It is the first such law in the country, and protects the worker from discharge if he has one garnishment in a 12-month period. There is underlying all of this, ladies and gentlemen, I think, a very basic principle. In fact, there are two principles which really guide and motivate us in the area of protective labor legislation. The first is to establish a decent, solid, good base in terms of minimum wages, in terms of other necessary protective standards—safety, etc. The second is to prevent the erosion of that base through practices such as the unfair garnishment laws and poor workmen's compensation laws, which do not provide benefits necessary to continue the maintenance of the family or to support the injured worker so that the base is there, and then it is not eroded by a number of other types of practices.
Let me in 2 minutes touch briefly on two other subjects, each of which, I hope, will be further discussed during the course of the week. There were references in your President's report this morning to the Princeton resolution of the IAGLO, calling upon the Secretary of Labor to undertake a study of dual jurisdiction in relations between the Department of Labor and the State labor agencies. We have moved ahead in terms of developing a project. In discussing it yesterday afternoon with the executive board, I outlined our tentative thinking. I explained that no specific funds were available at the moment for carrying out the study which, according to our thinking, would be undertaken by an outside private research or university group. The areas we are considering including in the study are minimum wages, overtime, equal pay, and child labor as one group. The second: occupational safety and industrial safety. The third: apprenticeship and job training. And finally, the area of statistics and research where, of course, there is a great deal of work going on now which, by and large, is not a controversial area but where sound cooperative arrangements can be worked out. Areas that would not be involved in any such study, according to the present plan, would be the general manpower areas, the work of the USES and unemployment compensation, workmen's compensation, etc.
In my final minute, let me make what is tantamount, I think, at the moment to an announcement. There was reference made in President Catherwood's report this morning concerning Walsh