Labor and labor conditions can be studied from many angles and with several ends in view. What is commonly called the labor problem is not so much one problem as a complex of many problems more or less related to one another. The question of wages and the influences determining wage rates, the hours of labor, factory conditions, seasonal and trade influences making for unemployment, trade union policies, attitude of employers toward labor organization, and several other phases which might be mentioned as constituting parts of the general problem of labor, make any all-rounded study of this subject a highly complicated one.
The present monograph is a study of labor conditions in the new industrial South. No attempt has been made to investigate agricultural labor or indeed any labor outside of the rapidly developing manufacturing industries which are changing many old social and economic practices. In view of the short time allowed for this study (two years) and the fact that much field work has been required for the gathering of statistical and other data, it has been necessary to select certain industries which fairly typify new developments. In this selection both the number of workers employed and the technique used have played a part. In other words, it was the purpose of the authors to select industries employing a large enough number of men to have their wage rates determined by the general economic situation in which the South finds itself today rather than by purely local influences or influences peculiar to a single industry. It has also been the object of the authors to select industries calling for varying degrees of skill.
After considerable study of the relative importance of southern industries, it was decided that the furniture industry, the lumber industry, and the cotton industry were fairly typical of southern industrial development. For that reason those industries have been selected for this study.
In view of the vast number of manufacturing establishments in these typical industries, it was, of course, impossible to visit all or gather data from all. A sufficient number, however, was visited so that the condition described can be said to fairly represent those for the industries selected. When local influences operated to vary the conditions in any given branch of manufactures, mills or factories, showing these variations, were studied. Thus in cotton manufacture, large and small, good and so-called "bad" mills were visited and conditions in both isolated mill villages and mill villages located within large towns were studied.