The Report

Not long after the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, the Virginia-Carolina Service Corporation, based in Richmond, began lobbying for an amendment to the act that would exempt home workers. The Service Corporation commissioned a report to argue for the vital importance of the income earned from tobacco bag stringing by many families in Virginia and North Carolina. The authors of the report solicited and published testimony from agents who distributed the bags and from local government officials.

Virginia-Carolina Service Corporation
General Office 1413-15-17 East Franklin Street
Richmond, Virginia
April 13, 1939.

Hon. Graham A. Barden,
House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Barden:

Upon my return to Richmond after my interview with you in Washington on March 16th, it was determined that a survey of the bag stringing conditions in North Carolina and Virginia would prove helpful in connection with the contemplated amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. For this work I selected Mr. Carleton Stutz, a graduate of the University of Richmond, a young man of unusual intelligence, who has determined to make social welfare his life's vocation, and Mr. Peter A. Maxfield, another outstanding young man, who hopes to devote his life to welfare work. Both of these young men were instructed to go into the homes of workers who supplement their income by stringing bags, to interview these persons, and to record exactly what was found, irrespective of whether or not it was helpful or hurtful to the cause of bag stringing in the home. The photographs were taken by these young men, the idea being to portray home conditions as they found them. It is obvious from a reading of their reports that no attempt has been made to alter, or change, or shade the findings in any respect.

I have spent sufficient time to read each report with care; the reports as a whole are typical of the conditions of the people in North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia, who engage in this type of home work. Their plight is almost unbearable, and while it is true that the amount earned by each stringer is not large, in the community in which they live it pays the rent, the light and heat for the home, and in many cases purchases other articles as essential as food and clothing. To the man who lives in the city and who, by reason of his vocation, is required to maintain a certain social standard requiring the payment of $50.00 a month rental for an apartment, the sum earned by these stringers is equivalent to more than $50.00 a month to this latter type of individual.

If you will study the survey, so far as it pertains to negro workers, you will find that they are cable of and do string many more bags than the white stringers. In at least one of the cases herein included the negro stringers earn as much as $110.00 a month. Many other negro stringers earn comparable sums. A fair interpretation from this would lead me to believe that even if it be assumed that the stringing of bags could be done in factories, the work would be confined by the employer entirely to negro labor. Further, to eliminate home work would take away the only supplemental source of income that many people in the mountain districts of North Carolina have; the only work which they are capable of performing, and would deprive people who are required to take care of aged parents and relatives and children of tender years of all opportunity of giving to them the benefit of sufficient food.

We believe most earnestly that the stringing of bags is helpful to many people who receive these bags from distributors. While it is true that the corporation itself does not know who these stringers are, we are advised that the distributors give the bags, as far as possible to needy people. We most respectfully and earnestly suggest that some provision be made by Congress to eliminate all doubt concerning the status of home work in the stringing of cotton tobacco bags; that if it is felt that any further information is desirable on this subject that both Mr. Stutz and Mr. Maxfield be summoned and interrogated, and that additional and independent social workers be sent into the districts to obtain reports on the conditions of the people who do this work.

Sherlock Bronson

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