Lapas attēli

these are laws guaranteeing to women a basic minimum wage, protection from long working hours and from night employment and special provisions relating to the safety and health of women workers. Indicative of the importance of legislation for the welfare of women as setting a basic standard of fair practices in industry is the fact that some 26 States and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage law for women which covers service industries such as laundries, hotels, restaurants, stores, many types of offices and other occupations not covered by the nondiscriminatory Federal wage-and-hour law.

Women in these industries have historically been underpaid. Organization has not proceeded to the extent that it has in the large interstate industries and these workers have, therefore, been less able than many others to protect themselves. Minimum wage legislation sets a floor below which wage rates for these workers cannot fall. The need for protection which this law accords to women is necessary to preserve a basic floor under wage rates and a basic living standard below which wage-cutting competition cannot drive the wages of workers.

In that connection I should like to recall that not so many years ago, I think in 1934 or 1935, there were cases of record where women in laundries worked long workweeks for a take-home pay of $5 and less than $5. They were paid coolie wages; and I recall that, when the Supreme Court in a sort of interim decision reversed a year later outlawed State minimum-wage laws, it was commented, and I think fairly, that the Supreme Court in that decision throwing out State minimum-wage laws had issued a hunting license to sweat-shop employers to go out and find women whose economic plight and necessity would compel them to work for the pitiful coolie wages that were offered.

Also indicative of the significance of special labor laws for women in legislation concerning maximum hours of work. Some limitation on women's daily or weekly hours are imposed by 43 States. These laws are necessary in view of the fact that so many working women have responsibilities for care of home and families that men do not have. Endangering these laws would be one of the greatest injuries that could be done working women.

There are also other kinds of special laws for women which give them protection adapted to their special needs as elements of the working force such as laws dealing with seating, sanitary, and health matters.

The protective legislation to which reference is made has not significantly reduced the area of economic opportunity for women. It has been found that the shorter workday laws for women do not result in a replacing of women by men to any appreciable extent. Indeed, in some instances, these laws have increased employment opportunities for women.

Another type of law which would be jeopardized by House Joint Resolution 49 is the Social Security Act. This act now provides for old-age and survivors' insurance benefits to wives and widows of fully or currently insured individuals, Social Security Act, sections 202 (b), (d), (e). Changes in this law which would either require extension of similar benefits to husbands or widowers or to eliminate the special protection for wives and widows who have serious actuarial effects upon the operation of the Social Security System and would require far-reaching adjustments in the existing law.

In that connection, I imagine that even the discussion of such a change would create problems in localities throughout this country, very human problems, problems in every congressional district, I imagine, and even the apprehension that such expected payments might be abrogated by this proposed action would be considerable.

House Joint resolution 49, if enacted, would require immedaite reconsideration and probable revision of many other laws which extend to women special protections of various kinds. The undermining of this system of protective legislation would have serious and unpredictable results upon the economic health of the country and upon the welfare of all wage earners.

H. R. 2007, however, would have none of the effects which constitute a basic objection to House Joint Resolution 49. This bill would provide for an examination of existing laws and statutes step by step to determine which of them are justified as being reasonably necessary for the welfare of working women on the basis of differences between men and women in terms of physical structure or biological or social function. Meanwhile, the Federal Government would be required and the State governments would be urged to follow the policy declared in the bill so that in the law and its administration there should be no distinctions made on the basis of sex except those which are reasonably justified on the basis referred to. The Federal Gorernment would also be required and the State would be urged to examine existing laws and practice to determine in what areas there are genuine sex discriminations which should and can be eliminated.

This method of approach permits laws which have been enacted for the special protection of women workers to be considered by the Federal and State Governments in the light of facts and considerations as to their reasonableness and their appropriateness to the end of protecting the welfare of the women workers and of promoting the economic health of wage earners as a whole.

Whereas House Joint Resolution 49 might well strike down differential treatment in favor of women which has been commonly enployed to justify labor legislation for women under the fourteenth amendment, H. R. 2007 would permit such differential treatment when there exists a reasonable justification for such legislation. A law granting maternity benefits to women but not to men which would be patently reasonable because of women's differential physical structure and biological and social functions would not be affected by H. R. 2007 but would in all probability be stricken out if the provisions of House Joint Resolution 49 were to become a part of our constitutional law.

House Joint Resolution 49 would introduce wholesale confusion into the laws affecting family status and property rights. These laws have grown up over the years on the basis of long-accepted differences between the sexes. Many of them accord men or women a status which is not accorded in equal degree to the other sex. House Joint Resolution 49 would set in motion a torrent of litigation to determine whether the many laws based on assumed sex definitions now on the statute books are valid. Its vagueness will remove from family and other relations the protective mantle of well-established statutes and rules evolved through the centuries.

When this committee held hearings on the equal-rights amendment in March 1945, we asked a number of questions concerning its effect which in our judgment are still unanswered. For example:

The amendment insists that equality of rights shall not be abridged by any State. But just what does that mean? In some States, for example, females reach their majority at 18, males at 21. Will the amendment bring new liberty to males by forcing their majority down to 18 throughout the United States or impose a restriction on females in order to equalize their age of majority with that of males, raising them to 21? In some States for voting purposes a wife may have a residence apart from her husband. Will the marital domicile be the husband's place of residence or the wife's place of voting? What wil happen to the old-age rights of dower and courtesy which exist in some States? Will these rights be altogether abolished because they are not equal? Will the State be compelled to equalize the crimes of rape and seduction? How will Congress and the States go about passing appropriate legislation to make Adam and Eve indistinguishable under the law ?

Would the amendment mean that Congress and the States would uniformly require that the wife has the same legal duty to support her husband that the husband has to support his wife, or would it mean that in order to equalize the situation the law would be that the husband has no obligation to support the wife, since at present in the majority of States the wife has no obligation to support the husband? Would it mean that a ground of divorce available to a husband will be the failure of his wife to support him-just as now the ground of nonsupport is available to a wife in a suit for divorce? Or would equal rights under the law mean that both obligations would be abolished?

As we pointed out in 1945, the language of the proposal is so vague and the construction which may be placed upon its provisions so uncertain that any attempt to forecast its effect in specific detail, if it is ratified, would be an extremely hazardous undertaking.

H. R. 2007, however, by comparison, attacks the problem of discrimination in an entirely different manner. Under this bill legislation to advance the status of women to a level of equality in economic, social, and political fields would be based on prior study of facts and careful recommendations reached by a Presidentially appointed commission.

That this is a sound method of procedure in this difficult complex field is shown by a bulletin of the Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor issued in February 1947. This report summarizes legislative action taken in the States during the period from 1938 to 1945 which freed women in this country from many handicaps arising out of obsolete laws. Summarizing this report, the Women's Bureau pointed out that during the period 1938–45:

Twelve States modified their laws to extend eligibility of women for jury service. In seven States women were admitted to jury service for the first time: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont. Delaware and Oregon repealed optional privileges for women, making women and men subject alike to jury duty. New York and Illinois extended their jury duty provisions to admit women to service on grand juries, and Rhode Island strengthened requirements for calling women jurors.

Oklahoma--one of three States removing barriers to women's participation in government-in a general election in 1942 amended its State constitution to make women eligible for all State offices. Eight of these had previously been reserved to men. Wisconsin repealed its law restricting legislative employment to men. In New Jersey, married women benefited by a law specifying that, “The right of citizens of the State to hold office or employment cannot be denied or abridged on account of marital status."

Typical of legislative effort to recognize woman's status as an individual in society is the recent Georgia statute giving a wife full right to her personal earnings, free from any claims of her husband. Married women in North Carolina were freed from an old handicap when that State abolished its free trader law which required a married woman to obtain her husband's consent and to observe prescribed court procedure in order to engage in business on her own account.

It is to be noted that these developments occurred during a period when there was no concerted direction given to the removal of unfair sex discrimination against women such as would be provided for through the studies of the presidential commission for which H. R. 2007 would make provision. This bill would permit reexamination of all Federal and State laws and regulations which provide for differential treatment between men and women and the laying out of a coordinated program for the progressive elimination of those differentials which have no reasonable foundation. This method represents a sound legislative approach to the problem of assuring equal status for men and women.

House Joint Resolution 49, the equal rights amendment, constitutes a cumbersome and lengthy method of obtaining for women the equal status under law to which they are entitled. Adoption of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of each House of Congress and would require ratification by the legislatures of threefourths of the States. Differential treatment of men and women is found principally in State rather than Federal legislation. Since the terms of the proposed amendment are extremely broad and vague and there is room for considerable difference of opinion between lawyers and other persons as to their meaning and effect, it can be expected that each State will inquire very closely into the consequences of its ratification on their laws and practices.

For example, community property States would undoubtedly take a great interest in the effect of the amendment on the legal right of the husband in such States to manage property acquired during marriage.

The difficulties of adopting a constitutional amendment of the type proposed in House Joint Resolution 49 have already been exemplified in the history of the child-labor amendment which still has not been ratified by a sufficient number of States to make it a part of the law of the land.

Even if the equal-rights amendment is ratified, there would have to follow a lengthy period during which the States and the Federal Government would be required to amend many of their laws which establish distinctions based on sex. In cases where action to amend such legislation was not taken, litigation would be required to strike down unfair discrimination provided in such laws. This would be a long and costly process and wholly unsatisfactory as a sound method of approach to the problem of securing equal status for men and women,

H. R. 2007 on the other hand provides a method whereby the Federal and State Governments through their legislatures and their executive branches would be able to approach the problem of eliminating unreasonable distinctions based on sex on a sound step-by-step basis. The Commission on the Legal Status of Women which would be appointed by the President under this measure would make a full and complete study, investigation and review of the economic, civil, social and political status of women, and the nature and extent of discriminations based on sex throughout the United States, its Territories and possessions.

It would be required prior to a date fixed in the legislation to submit to the President its final report including "recommendations for such legislation as may be necessary to cause the laws of the United States and their administration to conform with the policy" set forth

[ocr errors]




in the act that "in law and its administration no distinctions on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social function." The legislation would propose that similar action be taken by the several States.

H. R. 2007 recognizes that many laws now on the statute books and many administrative practices are reasonably devised to promote socially desirable ends and that this legislation requires a careful study in order that the good may not be thrown away with the bad. The approach proposed in H. R. 2007 is a sound approach to the whole problem.

The elimination of discrimination on the basis of sex has long been overdue. There are many anachronisms in our law and practice which operate unfairly to bar women from equal opportunities which would enable them to become more productive members of society and the opening of which would create an atmosphere assuring them of reasonable opportunities for living their lives and performing their functions as women.

The realization of a status for women in economic, civil, social and political fields equal to that of men has been given decisive importance by the commitment which this Government has taken as a signatory of the United Nations Charterto promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all distinction as to

While House Joint Resolution 49 purports to be directed toward the realization of the objective of full sex equality, it would, we believe, prove to be a cruel hoax upon its sponsors. H. R. 2007, however, would establish a basis upon which sound and consistent progress could be made toward the realization of the objective of equal status under law for men and women throughout this country, and its Territories and possessions.

I would like as a detail, referring to the bill, to suggest that in section 2 (a), page 3, line 4, that the per diem allowance might be reconsidered and increased to, say, $25 a day, which would be 60 percent, approximately of the salary of a Congressman. It would be paid only for the days worked. If the members of the commission are to really get to work and do a thorough job, and if the membership is not to be limited to persons who have other means of income, it seems to me that that allowance should be increased.

Mr. CHADWICK. What was the amount of the suggested increase? Mr. SIFTox. I say, for example, $25 a day for a day's work.

Congressman Wadsworth has referred to the bringing up to date of the various dates in the bill.

I would like also to call the attention of the committee to a very exhaustive and yet not exhausting article on this subject which appeared in the Connecticut Bar Journal for September 1947, by Mr. William S. Roach, a member of the New York bar, entitled “Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution."

Although it is a thorough assembly of the facts regarding this subject, and the conflicting points of view, I assure you that it will not put anyone to sleep. It is a very lively discussion of the subject and may be of some value in the consideration of this bill.

ľ should like to say that this CIO testimony was to have been presented by Mrs. Gladys Dickason, vice president of the Amalga

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »