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Ohio CIO Protests Employment of Women for Over 45 Hours a Week

(9 February 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 6, 9 February 1942, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The present controversy between the Ohio CIO Council and the Ohio Department of Industrial Relations on whether the state should permit industries to work women employees more than the 45 hours a week legal limit indicates a general problem.

George A. Strain, industrial relations director for the state, reported he had already issued 62 temporary permits to “industries facing emergency need of disregarding the 45-hour limit.” Ted F. Silvey, Ohio CIO secretary-treasurer, vigorously protested the relaxations in the law, stating that the industrial director “is willing not only to blink at violations of the law, but has lent himself actively to set aside a law he has sworn to enforce.” Strain is said to have murmured something about Pearl Harbor.

Colonel Battey, chief of the liaison division of the office of the Undersecretary of War, said:

“Eventually, the only labor supply may be women. The day is past when employers may compete with the Army for physically fit men. That day ended with the treacherous assault on Pearl Harbor. Women can fill many types of jobs, not only as well as but better than men.”

Whatever the proportions, there will be an influx of women into industry. Although in some areas men are being fired because of war priorities, in many the effective male labor supply is being exhausted, making the hiring of women imperative. Employers will try to cut the wages of women workers below that of men employees just, as eagerly in war-time as they have in peacetime. They will also welcome the fact that women can be sweated more than men and are not so likely to join a union.

The basic reason for the double exploitation of working class women is the capitalist system of exploitation and inequality, which encourages passivity in and takes advantage of the physical weakness of women. Unions have often reflected this pressure of capitalists to cheapen labor costs and thus increase their profits by setting up in their contracts lower pay schedules for women. This naturally causes indifference to the union. Also, in times of stress, union men often demand that married women workers be laid off first. However, it is true that married women with families are greatly in need of their supplemental earnings to provide a decent living.

Differential pay schedules for women and union discrimination erect a barrier between women workers and the union which is the only force that can fight to secure better conditions for women workers. Unions which have such barriers also risk losing the active cooperation of women in the shop, a force they need more than ever today, when taxes, rising prices and decreasing real wages make necessary a tremendous fight for higher wages. The Ohio CIO is fighting an exemplary battle for maintenance of the minimum hour law for women.

A union program for women workers should include: (1) equal pay for equal work; (2) good minimum wage and hour laws for women in those states where none or poor ones now exist; (3) no tampering with or violating laws already in effect.

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Last updated: 18 September 2014