In the main lines of Jewish industrial activity, such as the various clothing trades, the new situation created by the establishment of Codes of Fair Competition presents a rough approximation to stabilization of industry. Needless to add the enlightened leaders in both the capital and labor camps have long aspired to a stabilization of their industry.
In one particular branch of this vast industry, a branch which is over ninety per cent Jewish in its capital investment and management and sixty per cent Jewish in its labor force, the ladies coat and suit industry, the NRA has been conducive to setting up uniform working standards in the entire industry, with proper regard to local variations in cost of living, freight rates, etc.
By and large, this achievement is an initial step toward a much-desired regularization of a chaotic and tragically competitive industry.
CLOTHING TRADES EVILS HINDER STABILIZATION
Of course, the extensive spread of the needle industries over our immense country, and the boundless variety of its production lines and subdivisions, are formidable obstacles on the path to stabilization of employment and to a reasonable degree of standardization of output, as a means against hectic seasonal changes in styles and fashions.
Another handicap in the race toward higher standards of earning and better working conditions is the uneven degree of unionization of the labor groups. The gains on the part of labor as a result of the NRA vary in proportion to the strength and influence of the trade union organization in this or that industry.
The so-called Jewish trades in the clothing industry, concentrated as they mainly are in New York City, with their labor unions of long standing, have scored an outstanding success through the union’s work on the Code Authorities, in which vast industrial rights are vested.
UNION PARTICIPATION OFFERS OPPORTUNITIES
The participation of union leaders in the NRA practice has offered an opportunity to utilize the accumulated industrial competence and organized power of labor for the improvement of working conditions without first resorting to wasteful industrial warfare.
Besides the uneven measure of unionization throughout the industry, and as regards its geographical divisions, the other big hindrance for the normalization of the needle trades consists in poor general business conditions. The purchasing power of the mass of consumers pitifully lags behind the large, and potentially still bigger, output of the clothing and garment factories.
These main causes of industrial maladjustment are largely responsible for such present-day evils as the speed-up and stretch-out system of work, low minimum wages for skilled workers, too short seasons, “chiseling” and many other abuses, which the NRA is unable to extinguish and which one and all aim at lowering production costs.
All the same, the codes did bring a speedy relief to a disorganized industry, always beset by the menace of the sweatshop disgrace and degradation, which underwent terrific trials and tribulations in 1930-1932, but which has seen better days since its rise, mainly through the efforts of Jewish capital and labor, to the enviable status of a billion-dollar industry.
NRA EFFECTS ON WOMEN’S WORK
The growth of women’s work in modern trade and industry has been one of the most distinctive marks of our post-war economic development. Let us appraise then the effect of the NRA codes on the employment opportunities of women.
One of the first effects has been the elimination of the slow or inefficient woman worker, who is frequently an older worker. In certain areas or trades there has been a displacement of Negroes by white workers.
Another effect of the codes has been the sharing of work to a greater extent than formerly between industrial plants and geographical areas. This has reduced the extreme seasonality of operation characteristic, in the case of the needle industries, for instance, of certain centers of the women trades, but has introduced more seasonal operation into other centers.
The final effect of the NRA codes, in the last analysis, is to eliminate the inefficient worker, and possibly to displace efficient workers as well through technological improvements. Thus, the employment market in the skilled and semi-skilled trades is becoming highly selective, under the circumstances of shorter hours and fixed minimum wages.
SERVICE OCCUPATIONS AND THE CODES
Besides the needle trades, the distributive trades, such as retail stores, and the so-called service occupations and trades, dry cleaning and pressing establishments, restaurants, etc., in which great masses of Jews are employed, have been affected by the NRA codes.
In certain cases the small enterprise was “cutting” prices which were fixed by trade associations dominated by, or obeying, monopolistic interests. This has caused not a small confusion and mutual recriminations in unfair practices as between the “small fellow” and the “trust.”
Now the trend is toward the elimination of price fixing from the codes altogether. As a byproduct, a smoother functioning of the NRA from the point of view of several important Jewish occupations may be expected.