Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States

By Isaac A. Hourwich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
HOURS OF LABOR

EVERY reduction of the hours of labor, even when not accompanied by an increase of the daily or weekly wage, is equivalent to an increase of the hourly wage. Moreover, a reduction in the day's work, all other things being equal, provides more days of work for every employee, which brings a direct increase of earnings. The length of the working day accordingly offers a fair measure of the effects of immigration on labor conditions. It is not complicated by the variations of the purchasing power of money, nor is it affected by the uncertainties of the index numbers. A reduction of hours is an unerring arithmetical fact. And, fortunately, the publications of the Federal and State labor bureaus furnish ample material for a comparative study of the hours of labor from the beginnings of the factory system in the United States.

There is unconscious humor in the first report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics on early factory conditions:

The earliest operatives in our mills were of the home population--an active, intelligent, industrious, thrifty, well-educated, orderly, and cleanly body of young men and women, . . . daughters of independent farmers, educated in our common schools, (for years they supplied a periodical with articles written wholly by themselves,) who could think and act for themselves, who knew right from wrong, fair treatment from oppression, and who would be grateful for the one, and would not submit to the other.1

____________________
1
Report of the Massachuseus Bureau of Statistics of Labor, 1869-1870, pp. 91-92.

-311-

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