The girl who works in a department store has, in some respects,
more attention paid to her physical welfare than any other class of
employes. Rest rooms, medical service and welfare secretaries are
now found in all the larger establishments. Merchants realize that
illness and physical discomfort interfere with the efficiency of a sales
Employment in a department store is supposed to be easy work compared with that in a factory. According-to the workers, it is far more exhausting than appears to be the case. Constant standing is the greatest hardship. The law is obeyed, and seats or stools are provided in the proper proportion, and the use of them is permitted, when the employes are not busy. There are, however, a few places where this privilege is forbidden, either by an unwritten law, or by explicit directions from the floor walker or manager. In the rush season preceding Christmas, and whenever special sales are held, there is almost no opportunity to rest.
All the hardships of the conditions of work are intensified by long hours of toil. The injury caused by standing is more than proportionately increased by overtime work. At the last session of the Legislature, the law was amended, eliminating the privilege of overtime work heretofore granted to stores and mercantile establishments for twenty days preceding Christmas. No greater boon was ever bestowed upon this class of employes, and no more strenuous time has ever been experienced by this office than in the enforcement of that section of the law relative to hours of labor. Night inspections revealed the fact that the majority of merchants respected the law even behind closed doors. A few violators were found but no affidavits were made. The absence of authentic records of the hours of labor, the juggling with time clocks for the sole purpose of deceiving the inspector, and the inability to get employes to testify for fear of losing their positions are some of the obstacles in the way of bringing unscrupulous managers before the bar of justice.
During the summer months, government orders for food for the soldiers on the border, caused some overtime work in the cracker factories. The proprietors seemed to think that a state law should become null and void when it came to filling government contracts. Persistent violations on the part of the Pelican Cracker Factory necessitated the filing of affidavits. Conviction was secured and the usual fine paid.
Two fatalities were reported for the year;--the unfortunate elevator episode in which Johanna Beecher lost her life, and the case of John Ford, a thirteen year old boy, who was the victim of an accident while riding on a bakery wagon.
This boy was not employed by Leidenheimer & Co., but is another example of the persistent and pernicious habit of drivers employing or taking minors on as helpers on wagons. An appeal has been made to Supt. Reynolds for the assistance of the police to prohibit this dangerous practice. The remaining accidents were of a minor character.