Law Forbids Working Women and Boys More Than 54 Hours a Week

New York Times, October 1, 1912

The law limiting the hours of employment in factories for women and boys under 18 years to fifty-four hours a week went into effect at 12 o'clock last night. This will affect more than 300,000 women, nearly two-thirds of whom are employed in New York City.

This amendment to the State labor laws was a result of the agitation that followed the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. It permits women and boys to be employed overtime for one hour a day, provided that the total hours a week do not exceed fifty-four. A factory may employ women ten hours a day for five days, provided it does not keep them at work longer than four hours on the sixth day. Work by women and children on the seventh day is absolutely prohibited.

Canning factories are exempt from the operation of this law between June 15 and Oct. 15. Between those dates the present law, which permits the employment of women sixty hours a week, is allowed to remain in force in canneries.

The only protest which the State Labor Department has received from the manufacturers has come from candymakers. They have engaged Alfred J. Tolley as counsel and intend to attack the constitutionality of the law. They will make the plea that the exemption of canneries for a period of the year is an unjust discrimination and invalidates the entire law.

The new act further provides that women and children shall not be employed before 6 o'clock in the morning or after 9 o'clock at night. As there is a question whether the Legislature has the constitutional right to restrict the hours of labor for a woman more than 21, the law is so worded that it will apply to women under 21 even if the regulation is not upheld by the courts in regard to older women. This provision reads as follows:

No female minor under the age of 21 years, and no woman shall be employed or permitted to work in any factory in this State before 6 o'clock in the morning or after 9 o'clock in the evening.

The act of the Legislature prohibits the employment in factories of children under 14 years of age. No children between 14 and 16 years can be employed unless they have certificates showing they have had an eight-year public school course and that their health is first rate after a physical examination by two physicians. Further than that, no child under 16 years is allowed to work except between 8 o'clock in the morning and 5 o'clock in the evening.

Before it was amended, the State labor law limited the hours of employment of women in factories to sixty a week and not more than eleven in any one day. Most factories in New York City have been running on this basis. First Deputy Labor Commissioner John S. Whalen said yesterday that a good many manufacturing establishments had cut down the hours for women to fifty-four a week before the amendment was passed.

It has been demonstrated that long hours do not pay. More than $366,000,000 was reported lost last year to New York City and State factory workers by reason of 13,400,00 causes of illness. There are 31,000 factories in the State, with a total of 1,250,000 workers, by the last census. In a year these factories use $2,409,000,000 in raw materials and produce finished products to the value of $11,000,000 a day. Another reform which went into effect last night at 12 o'clock was an amendment forbidding smoking in factories, requiring fireproof receptacles for all waste and inflammable materials, directing that every factory shall be registered, with full particulars, at the State Labor Department, and prohibiting the employment of women within a month after they have given birth to children.

Yesterday the State Labor Department distributed printed notices to factories required them to give the hours during which the women in the different departments are to work. These notices are to be posted conspicuously, to aid State Labor Inspectors in learning how the law is being obeyed. The enforcement of the law against smoking and other safety regulations is left to the Fire Prevention Bureau.

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