The recovery program, partciularly the NRA, counts for a good deal with the factors of the needle trades and also of the distributive trades, in which hundreds of thousands of American Jews are vitally interested.
The needle trades, through their labor unions, have supported the NRA from the very beginning. They, no doubt, have gained from it probably as few other trade unions did. The Recovery Act has been responsible for the establishment of the 35-hour work-week in the most important branches of the needle-work industry, for the fixing of definite minimums of earnings, and for the elimination of child labor.
REORGANIZATION OF NEEDLE TRADES
The general rising of labor standards offers also protection to the legitimate employers from the vicious competition of the chiselers and sweatshoppers. In fact, the spread of the sweatshop in the depression years has been horrifying. The consequences were disastrous for Jewish capital and labor alike.
The fine hard roads and the high-powered motor cars, which have helped to increase unemployment among the railroad workers, were also the cause of mass unemployment in the biggest needle trades centers of the Eastern states, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, by making possible the employment of the most docile and cheap labor (woman and children) in the country towns.
The Codes of Fair Competition, by equalizing working hours and wages rates for New York and small industrial centers, have tried to wipe out the sweatshop and to stop the migration of shops into the suburban and sub-standard districts.
Furthermore, to take a branch of the industry still overwhelmingly Jewish, an attempt has been made to create, through the codes, almost uniform working standards for the entire ladies’ garment industry throughout the country. This, by and large, is an initial step toward a much needed regularization and stabilization of a chaotic and highly competitive industry.
In conclusion, the first phase of the New Deal was marked by a desire to bring to the factors of the needle trades speedy relief. Now, the next phase of the recovery program, by holding out to our people the promise of orderly industrial change, of plan and method, may have still more beneficial results for both Jewish labor and capital in the billion dollar clothing and garment industries.
THE MENACE OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Bright as the picture may appear, there are, however, a few dangers lurking behind some traits of the New Deal. Its central prop, upon which the present Administration’s entire economic policy rests, is, let us remember, the self-regulation of business groups by the so-called trade associations. In other words, under the protective wing of the Blue Eagle, we are witnessing business taking a leaf out of the book of trade unionism.
Business, like organized labor, is developing the practice and technique of associated activity. The individual is being put under a discipline: in a trade union he has to share jobs, in a trade association, on the other hand, he shares market opportunities with the rest of the members of the “guild.” For, in a few words, the trade association, this new thing under the sun, is in a way a revival of the old-fashioned guilds of: aster artisans and traders.
Again, ours is a century of economic nationalism and trade contraction, as against the 19th century of unlimited economic expansion over the world-wide market.
Now then, in an age of economic nationalism people who form the majority in a craft or trade are liable to become egotistically group-conscious. They may entertain fears as regards competitors, alien from them by race, religion, or culture, in word: the social-marginal group. Yet the Jew is the purest embodiment of the social-marginal element in our modern society.
Thus, a trade association, much alike a medieval guild, with its notoriously strong anti – Jewish bias, may strive to preclude the Jews from membership or make it in other ways difficult for them to keep up with the given economic opportunities in a rather limited market.