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shifts at 500, 1,000, and 2,000 cycles per second in no more than 10 percent of those individuals exposed.
Free translation of that is: 10 percent of the exposed population is going to be pretty deaf after awhile. [Laughter.]
But that is a perfectly straightforward, specific, and perfectly attainable objective by means that we know, and it is a technician's
The question of whether or not it is socially desirable or economically feasible to set a more protective standard under which those people would not be so deaf, or could even continue to hear throughout their life is not a technical one. It is not a question for the type of advisory committee which you would expect to set up for a regulatory body. But it is a question a division of occupational safety should have facilities to find answers.
I have already spoken of a responsible body and have said that the statute should be explicit on the point, and should centralize responsibility for occupational accident prevention in the State department of labor. This is contrary, I know, to practice in several States that place responsibility for occupational safety in workmen's compensation boards, or industrial commissions separate from the department of labor. The difficulty with that practice is that occupational safety is not very closely related to workmen's compensation, which is a specialized activity in its own right.
In addition to responsibility, an agency requires some authority if it is going to work successfully. The statute should provide specific authorization for the division of occupational safety in the labor department to enter and inspect for compliance with laws and regulations, to enforce the laws, and to bring enforcement action through the appropriate courts in cases of noncompliance. I think we all recognize that authority to require compliance with the laws and regulations is essential; also that neither the authority nor the compliance will, of themselves, prevent accidents and injuries. They will provide an environment in which it will be possible to prevent accidents and injuries, and they will probably tend to mitigate the injury from such accidents as do occur. Most accident prevention as well as most compliance with the regulations must come from voluntary actions of employers and working people subject to the law. To insure that such voluntary action will be properly directed and effective, the statute should give the division authority to provide advice, assistance, and training to employers and to working people in the organization and in the operation of safety programs.
Finally, it is not possible to carry out a program without people and money. There should be provision in the statute for proper staffing of the organization. I know the practices of the States vary widely in staffing and appropriations. Currently, provisions vary from nothing to about $1.25 per year per nonagricultural employee. And staffs vary from 0 to 1 for every 5,000 nonagricultural employees. What should be provided is a matter of judgment. It appears to me that you can set up a minimum program with an appropriation of 20 to 30 cents per year per nonagricultural employee, and you can set up a reasonable, satisfactory program for about twice that. You will need an inspection staff of about 1 person per 20,000 to 30,000 employees. Thank you.
President CATHERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Van Atta, for this additional contribution to the subject matter with which we are concerned. I know that some of you have some questions, but we will hold those for this afternoon, however. Our next panel, under the chairmanship of Carl Cabe, will proceed immediately after a 5 minute break for coffee.
[Whereupon there was a short recess.]
President CATHERWOOD. We will proceed with the panel discussion. I will present to you Carl Cabe from Kentucky.
Panel: PREVAILING WAGES Chairman: CARL CABE, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Labor
First let me introduce the members of the panel: Lawrence Barker of West Virginia; James J. Butler of Missouri; L. R. Peterson of British Columbia; and Robert M. Duvall of New Hampshire.
This happens to be a lazy panel today. We insist that you do most of the talking. One thing we should discuss is the major differences in the wage law in the States and in Canada. Les Peterson will give us a thumbnail sketch on the Canadian wage law.
L. R. PETERSON, Minister of Labour and Education,
British Columbia Department of Labour I am in complete accord with Dr. Cabe. From conferences I have had with individual commissioners here over the years I gather that this is a subject of importance to most of the departments of labor in the United States.
It does not pose the same problem in Canada as it appears to in the United States. At breakfast this morning, one delegate mentioned that of all the problems his department has to deal with, this one is the most difficult. We have so little to do with it, I must confess that I do not know much about it. In Canada, generally, we do not have laws which predetermine the rates to be used in bidding on public construction. We do have legislative provisions which require that a fair wage be paid on all jobs in which Government money is involved. This is a Federal statute under our Constitution which applies only to construction projects in which the Federal Government is involved. It generally provides that the people employed, whether employed by the contractor or subcontractor, shall be paid fair wages. It provides also that work be limited to 8 hours per day or 44 hours per week, subject to extensions of these provisions in case of emergencies. The act defines wages as those which are generally accepted as current for competent workmen in the district in which the work is being performed, according to the character or class of work. It requires in all cases that the wages shall be fair and reasonable.
Several Provinces likewise have established similar legislation to this which governs the provisions that apply for government contracts under their jurisdiction. That is not true in all Provinces of Canada. It is true in the Province of British Columbia and in several other Provinces. The basic philosophy of this legislation in the Provinces is likewise that workers engaged on Government construction work employed by private contractors shall be paid such wages as are generally accepted as current in the district. A fair wage is decided upon the basis of surveys. In our Province, the decision of the Minister of Labour as to what is a fair wage is the final decision. There are no hearings and no separate tribunal apart from the Minister of Labour.
We have also incorporated into our legislation that similar provisions shall apply. For instance, in construction of schools under our Public Schools Act, the decision of the Minister of Labour shall be binding thereon, and there is no conflict in British Columbia between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour. And the same applies in any other legislation where it has been incorporated; for instance, in construction of houses. These are generally the provisions. There are legislative provisions relating to enforcement, etc. But I will not take your time at the moment to go into them because, as I have indicated, I think this is probably a greater problem here than it is in Canada. That has been my limited experience.
Commissioner CABE. I wanted Les to make a brief statement about the Canadian laws, since they are so different. But, actually, the more I think about some of our own laws—I'm not really sure but what we might have some identical to his in Canada, because we have about everything else when it comes to prevailing wage laws. I am going to take the prerogative of reading a letter I received from one of the commissioners about a month ago. It is not from Missouri.
History of legislation is that a Missouri law was used as a base and an amended version of it was introduced as a bill in the legislature. The labor committee amended it and we pointed it out in a new draft. The house amended it from the floor and in a slap happy fashion, the bill was finally adopted as amended. It was because of these various amendments that we got an administrative monstrosity on our hands. The attorney general's rulings were followed as well as some verbal advice. After the first determination was made, an appeal to the appeals board was instituted. The attorney general reversed himself on two points: One, the definition of locality; and two, that there should be two classifications rather than one. After the hearing, the figures were worked over again and a board determination published. It is this determination that is before the court at the present time. One of our cities appealed practically every point of law. And on the basis of the rates running unrealistically high and could not be supported, the building trade appealed on the basis of it. The interpretation of the law was incorrect and the rates were unrealistically low. The home builders' case is in the county court and the union case is in the county court. This latter one is resting quietly while the other case is being adjudicated.
The statute is that the superior court of the county denied a motion by the attorney general's representative that the case be dismissed on the basis that the Home Builders' Association was not a proper party to be bringing action before the court because it did not build anything. This motion was denied and the case ordered to be tried on its merits. It has not been set for hearing and the attorney general's office now is trying to get an agreement with the counsel for the Home Builders' Association that the case be remanded immediately to the lower court. If so, the union's appeal will undoubtedly be transferred to the county court and both appeals considered at once. When this will happen, or if it will happen, we do not know. The only thing I can say is that we have confusion compounded, as we have a bad law and we operated under contradictory rules and the appeals were heard by a prejudiced board. If the lower court can make any sense out of it whatsoever, it will be a miracle. I am anxious to find some workable law that we can offer as an amendment to the crazy quilt that we have at the present time.
Incidentally, this was not written to be read. This letter is to me and this is the
it came. In some ways I think that sums up the problems in prevailing wage. That is one of the things that many of us have been confronted with for several years and increasingly so in the past few years. That is one reason why I would like some of these things to come out of the session this morning. When you total all of this up, you will find that about 35 States in the United States have prevailing wage laws, as well as the Provinces of Canada. But they have many variations. Some apply only to public works in certain counties. Some have prevailing wage on all work under contract for the whole State or only a part of the State. Others cover all public buildings, while some cover only highways. Some cover all State construction; others cover all public works, be it State, county, or political subdivisions. Some apply to specific projects; then some apply only if it is above a certain amount. Ohio has $300; Kentucky has $25,000. So it has to read in a little different way than I believe it was published.
In fact, I received a letter from Nelson Bortz yesterday. He said, "I see $25,000 is one part of your law and $500 in another part of the law. Which is the correct one?” In the letter I wrote Nelson, I said, "It is both.” It is perfectly clear, Nelson. All you have to do is read the law. [Laughter.]
There has been a great deal of talk about having minimum wage discussed from the floor. So what we want to do primarily is receive questions from you—I think every member on the panel has had experience with the prevailing wage law, as well as some of you—and see if we can pool our thoughts on at least certain areas of it. Although it certainly will have to come in, we want to keep away from saying that "our law reads this way in my State," or "my law is this way in my State." We want to discuss as much as possible. Since we have not done this before, I do not know whether it will be possible or not, but we want to try to come up with some good ideas, either as a means of writing a prevailing law or of improving it. With all of the comments that have been made, there is no doubt that there can be much improvement in the law. We talked yesterday and we came up with three or four things which we thought might be a good place to begin.
Again, with such a broad law, how can we limit this to certain areas? We thought we would start out with two or three and see where to go from there. One thing we mentioned was an appeals procedure. In other words, can you work fast enough if someone disagrees with the determination? Can you appeal it and still get it out in time for a construction ? Another thing, you might be interested in talking about statutory deterrents. If somebody failed to comply, what do you do in terms of public authority, in terms of the contractor? What are your inspection procedures? What are your enforcement procedures?
And a third one we lined up-and from here we thought we would go anywhere—I was trying to give you some kind of picture, in an attempt to limit this somewhat, with the various types of classifications. Because, if you determine a wage rate, then what happens if you go out and the contractor has nobody on the job but laborers, for instance? What does this get you into? This was another subject that came up rather frequently in our discussions yesterday. So let's go back and we will see if we can stick to these items. We are not trying to handcuff you. We are trying to set up a framework within which we might be able to come up with some pretty good statements on what a prevailing wage law should cover,