The appalling condition of the Jewish artisan class in Poland has become a very acute problem. Roughly a third of the Jewish population of Poland consists of artisans, and they represent one-half of the whole artisan population of Polandâ€”in large towns, such as Warsaw and Lodz even 70 percent. From material that has now come to light it appears that their condition is not only tragic, but is growing worse from day to day.
According to Mr. Rosner, President of the Central Association of Jewish Artisans, a man making a pair of shoes, which means a full day’s work, gets the magnificent sum of about thirty cents. In Lodz a tailor gets about fifteen cents for sewing a coat, and about three cents for sewing a pair of trousers. According to other official reports, the average earnings in the Lublin shoe trade are about thirteen cents a day. A tailor gets about four cents an hourâ€”in some parts of the country less than two cents. A watch-maker gets about four cents for mounting a watch, an extremely difficult task. A woman working at home gets about one and a half cents for making a shirt. What is even worse is that unemployment in these trades in which Jews are mostly employed is growing rapidly. In the timber and the building trades employment has diminished by 40 percent.
These figures are so terrible, that it would be difficult to believe them were it not that they come from official reports. It is impossible to understand how human beings can exist on such earnings. And the position is made even worse by the fact that many Jewish workers can not afford to buy the license which they possess before they are allowed to work. In Lublin 3,544 workers have been fined for disobeying this law, and 662 workshops have been closedâ€”leaving their unhappy owners without any means of livelihood.
To a large extent this situation is due to the terrible competition, to the reduced purchasing power of the Polish population, and to the fact that foreign markets are practically closed to them. But to a certain extent it is also due to the unfriendly attitude of the Polish Government towards the Jewish artisan class. Their chances of obtaining credit from the State banks are very small, and the Jewish banks have been so weakened that they have to refuse even small loans. Trade unions with Christian majorities are anything but friendly towards Jewish workers and give them little support. And, though it has become the policy of the Polish Government to help the small artisan. the Jewish worker has so far had not the slightest chance of benefitting from this new policy.
And there is no hope of improvement. True there is a large and widespread Association of Jewish Artisans, uniting 564 guilds and 400 unions, with a total membership of about 150,000. This body is fairly influential, but it has not been able to improve the situation of the Jewish masses by one iota.
And now an entirely new situation has arisen. So far all attempts at uniting all the Polish workers had failed, and only about 20 percent of them were organized in unions. Now the Polish Government is following the example set by Russia, Italy and Germany to unite all the unions in one organization, membership of which is to be compulsory, and which is to have legal and compulsory power over its members. The trade unions, Jewish as well as Christian, have protested against this step.