Bureau of Labor Statistics.Early in the '80s, the people of Kansas began to feel the need of legislation to determine questions regarding the rights of labor. As the result of this agitation, the legislature of 1885 passed an act creating a "bureau of labor and industrial statistics." By this act the governor was authorized to appoint a commissioner to be known as the "Commissioner of Labor Statistics," for a term of two years, whose salary was fixed at $1,000. The commissioner was given power to "take and preserve testimony, examine witnesses under oath," to enter any public institution in the state, any factory, workshop or mine, in the discharge of his duties, and require persons, companies or officers of corporations to furnish answers to his interrogatories when investigating any subject.
On May 1, 1885, the governor appointed Frank H. Betton of Wyandotte the first commissioner of labor statistics. Kansas is one of the pioneer states in the organization of such a department, for although the value of authentic and accurate information in regard to the working classes was recognized, the first action in this regard was not taken until 1869, when the state of Massachusetts organized the first state labor bureau.
In his report, transmitted to the governor on Jan. 1, 1886, the labor commissioner reported upon conciliation and arbitration, labor organizations in Kansas, views of the workingmen, convict labor, the mining industries of the state; reviewed the growth of manufacturing industries in the state, furnished a wage table and reported upon the railroads within the boundaries of Kansas.
In 1886, in order to procure accurate results, the commissioner inaugurated a system of monthly blanks, distributed them among the labor organizations, with a request that they be distributed among the various members, and requested that the questions be answered and the blanks returned to the commissioner's office. Statistics were also gathered from ninety per cent. of the manufacturing and kindred industries, which show that the average number of employees in Kansas in 1886, was 13,988.
In 1887 a bill was passed by the legislature to encourage coöperative societies, and another "to secure the laborers in and about coal mines and manufactories the payment of their wages at regular intervals, and in lawful money of the United States." This last act was due to the efforts of mining companies and some other corporations in various parts of the country to pay their employees in scrip good for trade at the companies' stores.
In 1898 a law was passed "to create a state society of labor and industry," which provided that whenever seven or more laborers, mechanics or wage earners of any kind, "now organized or (who) shall hereafter organize in any county, city or muncipality in the State of Kansas," for the purpose of collecting and studying statistics of labor and industry or for "the investigation of economic and commercial or industrial pursuits," the organization was to be allowed one delegate for the first 50 members or fraction thereof and one delegate for each additional 100 or majority fraction thereof, to represent it at the annual meeting of the state society of labor and industry, which was fixed by law for the first Monday in Feb., 1899, and each year thereafter on the same date. These annual meetings are held at the state capitol at Topeka. By the act of creation, the delegates from the different societies in the state were authorized to elect a president, vice-president, secretary and assistant secretary, "which officials shall constitute a state bureau of labor and industry and said secretary shall be ex officio commissioner of the bureau of labor and industry and state factory inspector, and said assistant secretary shall be ex officio assistant commissioner of said bureau." The duties of the commissioner remained practically the same as they were under the bureau of labor statistics, but he was instructed to pay particular attention to industrial pursuits, strikes and other labor difficulties, also to coöperation and trade-unions.
During a little more than a quarter of a century since the Kansas bureau of labor statistics was created, legislative enactments have widened the scope of the bureau and had for their purpose the improvement of the industrial conditions and the protection of the interests of the laboring classes.
This has necessitated an increase in the personnel of the bureau, which in 1910, consisted of the following members: A commissioner and factory inspector, an assistant commissioner and assistant factory inspector, two deputy factory inspectors, a chief clerk, a statistical clerk, and a stenographer.
At each session of the legislature, labor has received increased recognition, until today there are more than forty labor laws, most of which were enacted as a result of suggestions from the bureau. Two of the most important of these laws are the child labor law and the law providing for the report of all accidents due to defects and faults in the operations of machinery, or other industrial equipment. By the fire inspection law, the commissioner of labor is ex officio state superintendent of inspection, and thus brings under the scope of factory inspection, the work of inspecting fire escapes and means of egress in buildings of three stories or more in height.
During the year 1910 the inspector and his assistants inspected 1,553 manufacturing establishments representing 26 different branches of industry and employing 54,948 laborers. The bureau has gathered statistics from 458 labor organizations, located in 74 cities of Kansas, and as a result of the investigation of labor difficulties, strikes and accidents, has been able to suggest legislation upon these subjects, which is one of its most important functions.
The enforcement of the labor laws of Kansas rests with the labor bureau. Prosecutions with regard to the infringement of the child labor laws have been made in over thirty cases. The enforcement of the eight-hour law by the bureau has been accompanied by great success, which has led to a better recognition of the law. Commissioner Johnson, in his report of the current work of the bureau of labor, at the twelfth meeting of the State Society of Labor and Industry, said that the following resolution was adopted at the third annual convention of the state federation, "On the question of coöperation with the State Society of Labor and Industry, we desire to say that we consider this one of the most vital questions that will come before this convention. We wish to point out the fact that in the state of Kansas the trade-unions control absolutely the state bureau of labor. They elect in convention assembled the labor commissioner and his assistants, a privilege not given to organized labor in any other state in the Union. . . . This plan of allowing the labor-unions to elect the officials of the bureau makes it possible to place union men as factory inspectors, statistical clerks, etc., and in fact, in the State of Kansas every employee of the labor bureau is a union man."Pages 253-255 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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