Employment Agencies- Public and Private


How Men Applying for work are Robbed and What the State of Washington has Done to Stop It,

By Henry A. White.

The Federal Commission on Industrial Relations found many things in the field which might and ought to be bettered. Not the least of these is the manner in which private employment agencies are run. Below is the recommendation concurred in by the labor section of the Committee, known as the Manly Report. Paralleled to it is letter being mailed by the state Free Employ. ment Office of Missouri to firms wanting help:

“That Congress shall drastically regulate or prohibit detective agencies and private employment agencies doing business in more than one state, employed by a company doing interstate business, or using the mails in connection with their business.

“We have to compete with many private agencies and most of them give dependable service but must derive their income by charging an office fee from $1.00 to an exorbitant sum. I am giving you this information to make it evident that when you procure help through the State Free Employment Office you are likewise aiding the unemployed financially.”

It is not strange that the Federal Commission makes this recommendation. There is not a worse state of affairs existing today in the United States than is found in the manner men are treated by private employment agencies. That the State Free Employment Office knows this is evidenced by the fact it recommends employers to obtain help through its office rather than through the private labor agencies.

Very few persons, however, know anything of this and therefore the following facts, obtained from members of the International Brotherhood Welfare Association who have been “up against” the preposition, are given.

The way in which railroad labor is hired through agencies and how it happens, many times that large bodies of men follow One another to railroad jobs at short intervals will first be considered,

When a “gang” is sent out, in nine cases out of ten, an understanding exists between the gang-boss and the agency to the effect that the fees shall be split fifty-fifty.” Under these conditions it is not strange that large numbers of men are constantly going to and from the job, for it is to the interest of the gang-boss to keep his men for a short time only, as every change in the gang means money in his pocket.

This often amounts to $100.00 a month for the boss alone and as this vicious practice is continued for months at a time the laborers are robbed of many hundreds of dollars every year.

The average pay of a “gandy-dancer” is $1.50 a day. His board and lodging average $4.00 a week; to this must be added a compulsory hospital fee and in many cases car insurance fee. These fees are collected by the commissary clerk of the Campo, no matter how short a time a man works. They are also split ‘fifty-fifty’ in a majority of cases and the “gandy-dancer” gets no benefit from them.

If he works a week, he draws $9.00 less his board and fees, leaving him $300 if the employment shark’s fee is also deducted. If is fired to make room for another victim, with so little money in his pocket, he must “ride the rods” or a “side door Pullman” if he wants to get anywhere. And this legalized robbery has been going on for years without protest or any effort being made to stop it.

Again, when the agencies advertise for men to fill positions in the cities, the applicant very often finds, after paying his fee, and tramping long distances, that he is to a or that the person or firm to whom Was sent never applied to the agency for help. If he reports this to the agency he is sent out gain on another wild-goose chase, and this is continued until the poor fellow gets discouraged, drops the whole thing and loses his money. If he demands the return of his money the agency will tell him that it has earned the money and unless considerable pressure is brought to bear upon the agency, it keeps the money.

The fees vary from a dollar to as high as twenty per cent of the first month’s pay, and if the agency thinks it has a “sucker on the string” it will go the limit. A few years ago the writer applied to an agency for position and was told that the fee would be fifteen per cent of the first year’s salary if he held the position that long, and the position only paid $40.00 a month and board.

The “system” is responsible for this state of affairs, but in spite of the “system” the State of Washington found a way to circumvent and beat the private labor agencies. It abolished them and in their place established State Free Employment Bureaus; and during the month of July, this year, these bureaus found employment for 7,000 men.

What the State of Washington did can be done in every state in the Union if people want to have it done. Mr. Reader, what are you going to do about it?