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LABOR LEGISLATION OF THE FORTY-EIGHTH GENERAL
This report shows all laws directly affecting labor enacted at the last session of the Legislature. The number of laws passed by the Assembly is large enough to merit very favorable commendation on the part of all workers, and as all honest citizens are either manual or intellectual workers, their commendation of those worthy of it will have potent influence on future legislation relating to labor. There must also be taken into consideration the fact that a deadlock existed for some period of time over the election of United States Senators; as two had to be elected under the old method of election by the General Assembly; and which will not happen again owing to the change made in the United States Constitution wherein it specifies that they shall be elected by a direct vote of the people.
Having cleared this obstacle from the pathway, the Forty-eighth General Assembly proceeded rapidly to enact more labor legislation than any previous Assembly and accomplished this by well directed effort and hard work. The true friends of labor who appeared before the different committees of the Assembly were impressed with the activity shown in their behalf by the members of the Forty-eighth General Assembly and were cheered with the thought that any meritorious measure passed in their behalf, which would remedy any adverse condition under which they labored, would receive prompt approval at the hands of the Chief Executive, as he has always been found in the front rank of those who advocate progressive legislation.
This assurance naturally encouraged the friends of labor to redouble their activities in presenting petitions to the Legislature for the amelioration of their different adverse conditions. There were a few of the bills presented that received adverse action; which will be passed in the future when the Assembly has had time to contemplate their possibilities and when the Assembly may revise their opinions relative to constitutional objections regarding them.
Among the more important laws passed by the last Assembly was House Bill No. 841 which entirely changed the Workmen's Compensa- . tion Law passed by the Forty-seventh General Assembly.
HOUSE Bill No. 841 In its revised form it contains many changes for betterment along with the provision creating an industrial board of three members who are to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The duties of this board will be to administer and enforce the provisions of the Act and they are supreme in these powers and only charges of fraud or questions of abstract law can be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The powers thus conferred mark very important changes for the efficiency of administration as under the old Act petitions had to be presented to the courts for appointment of arbitrators to decide disputes under awards, .etc.
Under the new Act these methods of procedure will be eliminated as the board is clothed with powers sufficient to eliminate the necessity for them and consequently it simplifies the process of this law.
The board may require the necessary legal evidence of financial competency on the part of the employer who elects to operate under the new Act that will forestall in some cases, any action on the part of the employer to go into bankruptcy to evade the liability contracted through such election.
There was considerable contention engendered relative to disfigurement under the provisions of the old Act and great uncertainty as to the proper amount of compensation to be paid in cases of that character which permanently impaired the earning power of the worker, but a classified schedule of indemnities is provided in the new Act.
While these specified indemnities may not appear adequate in many cases owing to the differences that exist in the earning power of workmen, yet it serves as a basis to work from and can be changed as experience demonstrates the various changes necessary. It also expedites settlement of claims of that character and this in itself is a very commendable feature.
The Act extends the provisions relating to the term "employer” and "employee” as it allows employers; not specified in the extra hazardous class; to elect to accept the provisions of the law.
The maximum and minimum amounts for fatal and non-fatal accidents remain as before, i. e. $3,500 and $1,500 for fatal; and $12 and $5 per week for non-fatal accidents.
Three members constitute the board, not more than two of one political party; term six years after the first one is appointed. One member shall be a representative citizen from the employer class operating under the Act, one from the employees operating under the Act and one not identified with either class, this one to be chairman of the board. Salary $4,000 per annum in each case.
Like all legislation of similar nature there naturally exists suspicion as to its benefits in the minds of many, as the average human being must always be convinced of the usefulness of any new idea, especially when that idea disturbs the existing order of law or finance, but as all progress must have a basic point, we feel that the Workmen's Compensation Law as passed by the Forty-eighth General Assembly is a step forward toward the protection of the workers against adversity caused by the hazards incident to their employment.
The spirit of the present time is one of rapid progress, and as we have had an immigration of approximately 1,000,000 people a year for the last ten years from countries where state insurance of the worker is an accepted condition, it naturally follows that the compensation
laws of this country in the near future will become more and more identified with the idea of national insurance.
SENATE BILL No. 133 This bill was strongly advocated by all the representatives of organized labor but especially so by the railroad brotherhoods, as the coal mining industry and building trades generally have semi-monthly pay days and in some cases in the building trades, weekly pay days. The railroads objected on the plea of added expense in making pay rolls, etc., but a statement was presented by the committee representing the railroad employees that the annual interest on deferred wages amounted to $8,000,000 annually, and the railroad managers did not refute this statement.
The Wabash and Baltimore & Ohio Railways have shown advanced ideas in regard to semi-monthly pay days as they announced their policy to be two-week pays all over their systems regardless of the laws on the subject in the various states in which they operate.
The Electric Headlight Bill was also passed but the Full Crew Law fell by the wayside to help along the semi-monthly pay day.
HOUSE Bill No. 102 House Bill No. 102, which provides for wage loan associations and limits the earnings on the capital stock of same to 6 per cent annually provides that money may be loaned at a maximum rate of 3 per cent per month or 36 per cent per annum, secured by assignment of wages and was a step toward the elimination of the loan sharks, whose disreputable practices have received the greatest condemnation.
This law is some relief, but coupled with the semi-monthly pay day will help the social condition of the worker, but until a weekly pay day is established and the newspapers cease to accept loan shark advertisements, it is but one of the steps of the ladder of social reform.
HOUSE BILL No. 348. Some years ago, the Legislature passed a law demanding that coal operators and owners provide wash houses for the use of their employees, but the Supreme Court held it invalid for the reason that it specified but one class of employees. The present Act meets with those objections as it applies to all workers whose employment make such facilities necessary to the general health, comfort and safety, and it was advocated strongly by all the representatives of labor but especially so by the original sponsors of the first law—the United Mine Workers—who also secured the passage of House Bill No. 332, which is known as the Miners' Qualification Act.
This Act provides for a commission of three miners appointed by the Governor whose duties are: to meet at proper places in various parts of the State and examine applicants for certificates as practical miners and all fees for certificates to be deposited with the State Treasurer. This commission displaces all the county mine examining boards pro