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food factory, paper company, bakery, engine room of varnish works, milling, kiln burners.
It is believed that employers are quite generally complying with the provisions of this law. The record of prosecutions of alleged violations for the year is as follows:
The principal reason for the passage of the one day of rest in seven law is that it is a health measure intended especially to protect those wage earners in specified industries who work not only seven days per week but long hours per day. Incidentally, some of its advocates hoped that by giving one day of rest in seven to those continuously employed, a place would be provided for a part of the unemployed workers of the state.
In the case of The People of the State of New York v. C. Klinck Packing Company, decided by the Court of Appeals on February 5, 1915, the constitutionality of the law was upheld. In giving its decision the court said in part:
We see at the outset that it is applicable only to certain classes of employees. But these are they who work in factories and mercantile establishments. We know as a matter of common observation that such labor is generally indoors and imposes that greater burden on health which comes from confinement many times accompanied by crowded conditions and impure air. Thus special conditions are presented which become a reasonable basis for special consideration.
Can we say that the provision for a full day of rest in seven for such employees is so extravagant and unreasonable, so disconnected with the probable promotion of health and welfare that its enactment is beyond the jurisdiction of the legislature? Or does the very reverse seem to be its character? We have no power of decision of the question whether it is the wisest and best way to offset these conditions and give to employees the protection which they need even if we had any doubt on that subject. That question, as we have many times said in other similar cases, is for the legislature. Our only inquiry must be whether the provision on its face seems reasonable, fair and appropriate, and whether it can fairly be believed that its natural consequences will be in the direction of betterment of public health and welfare, and, therefore, that it is one which the state for its protection and advantage may enact and enforce. It seems to me very clear that we may answer that it is such an one.
The thought of one day of rest in seven has come down to us fortified by centuries of recognition. It is true that often it has been coupled with and perhaps subordinate to the desire for religious observances. But the idea of rest and relaxation from the pursuits of other days has also been present and whether we like it or not we are compelled to see that in more recent times the feature of rest and recreation has been developing at the expense of the one of religious observance.
I suppose that no one would contend that continued and uninterrupted indoor labor would be good even for an adult man. The laws which have been passed and sustained with general approval in almost every jurisdiction limiting the hours of labor for women and children and for those engaged in especially trying employments, such as mining and the operation of railroads, amply evidence the widespread belief that in certain fields the public health and welfare are subserved by generous opportunities for relaxation and recuperation. A constantly increasing study of industrial conditions I believe leads to the conviction that the health, happiness, intelligence and efficiency even of an adult man laboring in such employments as those mentioned in this statute will be increased by a reasonable opportunity for rest, for outdoor life and recreation, for attention to his own affairs, and, if he will, study and education.
Then we come to the question what is a reasonable opportunity, and within wide limits that problem, is for the legislature. Anybody would probably say that one day in thirty or sixty would be too little and one day in each two days extravagant. Between these extremes none can safely assert that the mean adopted by the legislature of one day in seven is unreasonable. In fact, historical and worldwide customs seem to make it a natural one and we should not interfere with it.
At the same time the court rendered a decision in the Matter of Peach which involved the constitutionality of the amendments to the one day of rest in seven law which were passed in 1914. In upholding the constitutionality of the amendment passed as subdivision 2-f of section 8-a the court said:
The provision exempting employees of dairies, creameries, etc., numbering seven or less, seems to me to be based upon a perfectly reasonable classification and, therefore, within the legislative power. It is to be observed that all of these employments deal with perishable products consisting of milk or having milk as a basic element. It is apparent, therefore, that they could not be wholly suspended for twenty-four hours without either total destruction or serious impairment of their products, and that the only manner in which the statute could be complied with would be laying off part of the employees from day to day. It is then quite probable that in small establishment it would be more burdensome than in a large one, to lay off each employee one full day in seven. It is not difficult to perceive that it might impose a greater proportion of extra work on those who remained if no extra men were hired or a greater proportionate burden on the business if extra men were employed to take the places of those who were temporarily idle.
In addition I think that the legislature might consider the widely prevalent belief that in larger establishments there is necessarily lacking the same beneficial personal relationship between employer and employee which prevails in a smaller one, and that the demands and strain upon the employee in the former are apt to be greater, and that, therefore, there is greater need for oversight and regulation.
Taking into account these and perhaps other considerations we believe that the legislature was justified in making this classification. In determining whether it will enact such legislation as this the legislature must necessarily always consider the two elements of ne ity for the legislation and of the burdens which its enactment will inflict upon those who are subject to it. There must be a reasonable relation between the two, and frequently legislation has been condemned because the ends to be gained did not afford any adequate or proper justification for the interference and burdens which were imposed on individual rights.
In considering subdivision 2-e of the one day of rest in seven law the court decided as follows:
The remaining provision of the statute which exempts “employees, if the commissioner of labor in his discretion approves, engaged in the work of any industrial or manufacturing process necessarily continuous, in which no employee is permitted to work more than eight hours in any calendar day," presents greater difficulties. In fact, we are compelled to express the belief that it is unconstitutional because of the attempt which the legislature has made to delegate its powers to the commissioner of labor. The proposition is so well settled that we need not cite authorities in its support that the legislature cannot secure relief from its duties and responsibilities by a general delegation of legislative power to some one else. It seems to us that that is precisely and broadly what is here attempted. The provision as a whole means that certain employees shall be exempt if the commissioner of labor “in his discretion approves.”
The question whether it shall take effect in any and all cases is left wholly to his volition. Under its terms he has the power without check or guidance, so far as we can perceive, to veto the entire clause and decide that its benefits shall never be extended to any case although it comes within the precise terms of the statute, or to permit the exemption in one case and deny it in another precisely similar one. Of course, it is not to be assumed that the commissioner of labor would intentionally be arbitrary and unreasonable in the exercise of this power, but nevertheless the legislature has attempted to confer upon him the opportunity which would permit of these shortcomings and we are to judge of a statute by what is possible under it. In the absence of any guide it might very well happen that an administrative officer with the best of purposes would nevertheless be very fallible in the execution of them.
In view of this last decision denying the Commissioner of Labor the power to grant exemptions from the provisions of the one day of rest in seven law, such exemptions as he has already granted are thereby nullified. Hence unless an additional amendment, conforming to the above quoted court decision, is passed, all persons employed in factories and mercantile establishments and not specifically exempted in the law, must be given twentyfour consecutive hours of rest in each period of seven consecutive days.
Experience under the law shows that wherever it has been possible to arrange the schedule of work on a six day basis without hiring more men, the weekly hours of labor have not been reduced and no place has been found for unemployed workmen. For example, some men who have formerly worked eight hours per day seven days per week now work eight hours per day four days per week and twelve hours per day two days per week; taking the twenty-four consecutive hours' rest in each period of seven consecutive days demanded by the law. Since the Legislature has no power to regulate the total hours of male adults in factory work, it obviously cannot give the worker the relief intended by the law if excessive hours are necessitated for one or two days per week in order to gain one day's rest per week. For it is doubtful if a day of rest so gained is of real benefit to the worker.
In other cases, where the provisions of the law are met by hiring extra men, the men whose hours are reduced have usually suffered a corresponding reduction in wages. The one striking exception to this rule was the case of the men employed in the engineering departments of the breweries of the State who, through their unions, succeeded in obtaining the same weekly pay for six days as they formerly received for seven. A few other minor exceptions have come to the attention of the Department of Labor. Where the law is complied with only by reducing the weekly wages of the employees affected the advantages of the period of rest so gained are again doubtful unless the daily hours were excessive.
Since the primary object of the one day of rest in seven law is to protect the health of the wage earners of the State by insuring them rest periods, it is suggested that such object may be better secured by adequate rest periods every day than by a longer rest period once a week obtained only by working excessive hours on all or a part of the other six days. Thus eight hours a day seven days per week is probably less injurious to the health of the wage earners than fifty-six hours per week divided into four periods of eight hours each and two periods of twelve hours each. This consideration, it may be noted, is equally important whether continuous or non-continuous industries are considered.
The Commissioner of Labor therefore recommends that subdivision 2-e of the one day of rest in seven law be amended so as to exempt absolutely any industrial or manufacturing process whose employees have an eight-hour day or shift whether the process be continuous or not.
The experience under this law has demonstrated too that the one day of rest in seven law does not insure adequate protection to those wage earriers who work excessive daily hours. It is generally understood that the Legislature has no power at the present time to regulate the daily hours of all wage eamers of the State. In order to supplement the benefits of the one day of rest in seven law, the coming constitutional convention should give the Legislature specific power to regulate the daily and weekly hours of all wage earners.