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Mr. Roach. I think I agreed with you on that, that you are apt to have that approach more from this side of the table than yours. I would not presume to urge that approach to you, of course.
Mr. WADSWORTH. Might I interrupt there?
Mr. WADSWORTH. It strikes me that perhaps one answer to the question by the gentleman from Pennsylvania is this: That the Congress should not submit to the legislatures of the States a proposed constitutional amendment unless two-thirds of the Members of Congress believe it to be a good thing.
Mr. CHADWICK. That may not be true, but that again is on the level of the Congress and not on the level of the committee.
Mr. WADSWORTH. Well, why do we have committees?
Mr. WADSWORTH. Is the committee willing to be a channel! Should not the committee express its judgment on the merits of the question? The House or the full committee may overturn that judgment, but after all we are sent here to examine into questions, to study them, and to form an opinion and to express that opinion finally in the appropriate procedure.
Mr. CHADWICK. May I ask you another question: Why do we have political parties, political party conventions, and convention resolutions?
Mr. WADSWORTH. I am not just yet able to convince myself that those two conventions did it as a matter of conscience or opinion.
Mr. REED. I just want to state that the committee desires to continue until 12:30 and then we will recess and reconvene at about a quarter to 2. We hope we will be able to conclude in a very short time after that.
Again I wish to suggest that if there are any of those who wish to testify today and who have statements, that it would facilitate matters a great deal if we avoid as much as we can cumulative statements, and if you will just touch on the matters that have not already been touched upon, or give a brief summary of what you have in your general statement which will be filed and considered by the committee as a part of the record.
Mrs. STONE. I would like at this time to call on Mrs. L. M. Lister, representing the National Council of Negro Women. Mrs. Lister is from San Antonio, Tex., and has to make a train this afternoon.
STATEMENT OF MRS. L. M. LISTER, REPRESENTING NATIONAL
COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN
Mrs. LISTER. My name is Mrs. L. M. Lister. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before your subcommittee as a representative of The National Council of Negro Women in support of H. R. 2007, the women's status bill, which would declare as legislative policy for the United States: No distinction on the basis of sex except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social function.
The National Council of Negro Women is a bipartisan organization which serves as the correlating agency of 24 national women's organizations with a total membership of 850,000 women. It was founded in 1935 under the leadership of Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, its pres
ent president. The National Council operates through its 61 metropolitan councils located in 23 States throughout the United States and the District of Columbia. Its membership includes women representatives of all classes, interests, and activities.
The National Council of Women is one of 30 national women's groups comprising the National Committee on the Status of Women which has endorsed H. R. 2007. At its annual convention held in the Department of Labor Auditorium, Washington, D. C., on November 9-15, 1948, it unanimously reaffirmed its support for passage of the bill which was initiated in the House by Representative Wadsworth and enjoys the support of a bipartisan group of Congressmen.
The primary purpose of the bill is to provide a practical program for the elimination of legal discrimination against women, in which all citizens who earnestly desire the removal of such discriminations can unite.
We believe that the Wadsworth bill provides a comprehensive, positive, step-by-step action plan for eliminating unwarranted distinctions between men and women by a specific-bill-for-a-specific-ill procedure. The bill on the status of women is needed because it will:
Establish a legal policy regarding equal oportunities and equal responsibilities for both sexes; end the confusion over equal rights; get immediate action to clean up legal discriminations and disabilities; avoid ambiguities and abstract formulae by dealing with a highly complex problem in a systematic realistic manner.
The bill on the status of women would do four things: It would declare a legislative policy for the United States-no distinctions on the basis of sex, except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social function.
It would provide a commission, to be appointed by the President to study and review the economic, civil, political, and social status of women and the extent of discriminations based on sex; recommend legislation necessary to bring laws and government practices into conformity with the declared policy.
It would require all Federal agencies, so far as existing laws permit, to review their regulations and practices and to revise them accordingly.
It would urge the States to declare a similar policy and bring their laws into conformity with it.
Where there is a real need for the passage of the women's status bill which is to insure legal equality for all women, this need is accentuated for Negro women who in large numbers are forced to supplement their family incomes because of the low economic level at which the majority of Negro families are forced to subsist due to employment discriminations and educational inequalities.
Secretary of Labor Lewis B. Schwellenbach testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Saturday, March 6, stated most of the 18,000,000 women now at work in this country are holding down jobs because they have to. He stated that the days are gone when women worked "just to have something to do" or to get "pin money." He said now 84 out of every 100 working women “must work to support themselves or others.” Many of these, he stated, are war widows, left with the responsibility of raising young families or women who may be the sole support of aged parents or other
relatives. We feel sure that unfair discriminations against women both in law and practice should be eliminated in order that they may be free to shoulder these responsibilities unhampered. They need a more nearly equal chance to get jobs and protect their position in the working world; in other words to equalize their bargaining power as gainful workers. Most employed women feel the need of minimum wage, maximum hour, and similar laws, especially since there are large numbers of unorganized women in the labor market.
Argument to the contrary, there still are discriminations against women in the United States. For instance, in many States, women are denied the right to trial before juries on which women may serve; many States place limitations on a married woman's right to choose her own domicile and some restrict control of property. Some cities still prohibit marriage for single teachers. Other discriminations are a matter of custom and practice; for example, the conventional family choice is generally for men as doctors and lawyers; some employers discharge women employees when they marry. Many distinctions are to the advantage of society both men and women. For example, maternity benefits; widows pensions; minimum age for legal marriage lower for women than men because girls mature earlier than boys; laws making family support the responsibility first of the husband.
The National Council of Negro Women is unalterably opposed to the so-called equal rights amendment which is nothing less than a declaration in fundamental law that women, however different from men in their physical structure, biological or social function must be accorded by government, identical treatment with men. We believe that the equal rights amendment would jeopardize protective labor legislations for women and the safeguards they provide.
The equal rights amendment in the several forms in which it has been presented, in the opinion of respectable authority, lays down a standard of identical treatment of men and women which would also dangerously disrupt well-established legal rules governing the relationship of members of the family and of property rights which are governed by State law. It would also interfere with any future differential treatment of the sexes in divorce, in the social socurity and workmen's compensation laws, and in other areas of law where a legislature or rational grounds believe that changes in the rule are in the public interest and are necessary to strengthen the family union.
We urge the early enactment of H. R. 2007. I wish to thank you.
Mrs. STONE. We have Miss Selma Borchardt representing the
FEDERATION OF LABOR Miss BORCHARDT. I hereby submit my formal statement.' As the chairman has asked us to be brief I shall not read the statement in full, but merely comment on it. The American Federation of Labor opposes the so-called equal rights amendment because the proposed legislation would give no rights to women which they could not more effectively obtain by specific legislation without in any way endanger
ing the benefits we now enjoy. We in the labor movement have learned through sad experience the tragedy of blanket legislation, through which in an effort to remove certain specific evils would deprive us of many gains. In the first place, we believe that the proposed legislation would destroy benefits to the family which we think are absolutely essential in addition to destroying the protection which industrial women must have.
We believe as a fundamental principle that it is never proper to abrogate a social gain for the general welfare which has been won through hard struggles over a period of years, won through tradeunion bargaining, through legislation, and in judiciary decisions, in order to benefit a select group in a community. By abrogating the industrial legislation which is essential to the well being of women workers to benefit the career women who are not immediately affected by it, the proposed law would immediately jeopardize not only such industrial legislation but would also injure the fundamental law of family support.
We, in the trade-union movement, are, may I say, essentially conservative, in that we seek to conserve those social gains which we as a Nation and our people have won.
We feel, therefore, that because actual equal rights are not to be granted through this legislation, but that through it actual social gains will be lost, that it is far wiser and truly more beneficial for the common good to eliminate specific evils by specific legislation.
May I point out that we women trade unionists would be expected to fight to preserve the laws which protect women workers. We do fight to preserve those industrial laws which protect women, but even more are we determined to first to preserve the family, to protect the inalienable rights of the child.
The proposed legislation, in the opinion of practically every constitutional lawyer, would throw into the courts the question of family support. Under the common law, and by statute, the father is responsible for the support of his children. The proposed legislation would immediately throw into the courts the question of whether the father, or the father and the mother are equally responsible for the support of their children. We submit, gentlemen, that this legal question would, in time, undoubtedly, be ironed out. But, if men and women are equal in the eyes of the law could not any father raise the question of how much of the responsibility for support must be taken by the wife. It would take time, you must admit, to take the question through the courts for an ultimate determination of who must support the child should that question arise. And what is to happen to the child in the interim? Our concern is more for the child than for the career of his mother or father. Who will care for the child, the State? We do not wish to see a principle established which would say at any time it is the fundamental duty of the State to care for the child.
We proceed on the basis that the child belongs to the family and that the State intercedes only when the family breaks down and the child suffers. Yet, the legislation proposed to this committee would abrogate that fundamental principle of social procedure and moral procedure, we hold.
If men and women are equal at law, what is to happen to maternity laws, until the courts decide that maternity laws are applicable only to women? Are we to abrogate the benefits women now enjoy under
maternity laws because such laws are not applicable to both men and women? It is indeed a nice legal question. We are not concerned only with the ultimate decision, for ultimately there probably will be a more social solution, but we ask why not proceed by specified legislation to remove the present evils, rather than having specific legislation enacted to interpret the broad ambiguous laws covered by this very broad proposal?
To return to the question of the woman worker again: The question has been raised here asking if it would not be better to have working women get their benefits by trade-union agreement. If they can, that's fine. We in the American Federation of Labor believe in a free tradeunion agreement. We try to get all our benefits through a trade-union agreement. But we would not abrogate our rights to negotiate for those agreements, sir. It is our position that laws, basic laws established by statute, are a floor and that beyond that point comes the free negotiation of a free trade union with a free employer for benefits above the floor which has been established for the common good by statute.
We think that concept is important. We submit to you as proof of our position that no group has achieved greater success in negotiating agreements and has made more of a contribution by free negotiation than have the railroad brotherhoods. Yet the railroad brotherhoods pioneered in the field of labor laws. They do not say that the law affords them the maximum protection, but they do say that the law establishes the minimum upon which free-trade unionists and free employers are then able to build through negotiation. We would conclude, sir, with this statement of this principle, that free-trade unionists want labor laws as a basis of public social safety upon which to build. Starting with such laws as a base we then negotiate for what is above that level for us as trade unionists. Now our positive position here is that we endure wholeheartedly the women's status bill. In H. R. 2007 there is a positive declaration of specific points upon which the Federal Government may act where the Federal Government has a right to act. It is well to point out at this point that there are many fields that have been mentioned here for Federal consideration where the Federal Government would have absolutely no right to act, but the women's status bill (H. R. 2007) clearly and exactingly defines those fields where the Federal Government may of its own right and with complete authority act to advance and protect the rights of women. We endorse that bill wholeheartedly. The plan set forth in H. R. 2007 embodies a procedure which we think does protect the common good, as well as advance the status of women.
It is our belief that women should enjoy every privilege and every right which the law gives to men, provided that in the exercise of such rights and privileges that other privileges which women enjoy especially, for the protection of the common good are not lost. We would preserve for women those general rights they share with men and those special ones given them. In addition, we would seek to remove all legal limitations which today deny women specific rights which in the interest of the common good they should enjoy.
Furthermore, we want women to assume full duties and responsibilities of citizenship, such as jury service, and we ask that they be given every opportunity to exercise those rights by Federal law if it