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Long DURATION OF ATTACHMENTS.—One result of the exaggerated expenses and the increase in the number of seizures is that the period during which the workman has to yield a part of his wages is greatly prolonged. A paper manufacturer reported that out of 180 workmen whose wages had been attached 100 had not been released during 5 years. Other statements show that at the mo. thly rate of payment provided by the court it would take, in some cases, 12, 14, 16, 26, 40, and 161 years to pay the debts and added expenses.
DEPARTURE OF THE WORKMEN.—As a result of the above conditions, the workman who is seized does not always resign himself to accept the retaining of the tenth of his wages. After a certain number of pay days, and sometimes after the first, he leaves the country or goes into another factory. If his creditor succeeds in finding him, he disappears again. Over 80 answers to the ministerial circular spoke of the sudden disappearance of workmen seized as of common occurrence, and many directors complained of the inconvenience caused to the establishments by the instability of the personnel as a result of the law.
DISMISSAL OF WORKMEN.-Another factor that renders the law so ineffectual in its application is the dismissal of the workman by his employer as soon as the attachment of his wages is made. The notification of a seizure on a workman frequently creates an unfavorable impression on the mind of his employer, who sees the beginning of a responsibility which he generally does not care to assume. Under this law the employer is obliged to assume a position which produces bad feeling between him and his workmen. It is a source of interminable discussion, renewed every pay day, and finally ends by the employer losing his authority over his men. To avoid the inconveniences arising the employer frequently dismisses the workman.
MATERIAL AND MORAL CONSEQUENCES OF SEIZURE.-A workman who once quits his employer, either voluntarily or by dismissal, the tirst time a portion of his wages is retained, falls into the habit of shirking payment; he buys and does not pay, and when his credit is exhausted he leaves for other regions. He becomes a rover, working a few months here and a few months there, living a life of disorder, and often finally provokes a break-up in his family. Not only do the men suffer from this law, but also the women and children. Wages of women and children are frequently seized to pay the drinking debts of husbands and fathers, and frequently the wages of children are seized to pay debts of parents who have abandoned them.
NATURE OF DEBTS GIVING RISE TO SEIZURE. - The butcher, the baker, and the grocer are the last to have recourse to the law. The principal use of the law is by saloon keepers, and keepers of certain stores which do business on the long-credit system. The law tends to increase the habit of drinking, owing to the facility with which a workman can get credit for drink. One manufacturer says, “The law regarding the attachment of wages is partly responsible for the ravages of alcoholism, and if this curse continues to make frightful progress in industrial centers
it is because of the facility with which the workman can find a permanent credit with the saloon keeper always out of proportion to his resources, and consequently hurtful and immoral.” In one case, out of 70 seizures in 1899, 33 came from drinking saloons; and in another case, out of 10 seizures, 8 came from saloons. The most numerous and the severest criticisms are addressed against the effect of the law in encouraging those houses which sell on the long-credit system. This system, it is said, is fatal to the purse of the workman.
REFORMS SUGGESTED.-Among the reforms suggested are (1) the total abrogation of the law, (2) its retention with reform in the matter of legal expenses, and (3) its reform so that the attachments should be possible only for“ obligatory debts;" that is, for those debts contracted for what are called necessaries of life, excluding debts of the saloon and those of establishments practicing the long-credit system.
Ninth Annual Report of the Department of Labor of New Zealand,
for the year ending March 31, 1900. xxiv, 128 pp. This report consists of an introduction, 24 pages; statistics of persons assisted by the department of labor, 8 pages; an account of accidents, disputes under the industrial conciliation and arbitration act, 1894, and legal decisions under the factories and other acts, 54 pages; statistics of permits granted for child labor and a statement of accommodations provided for sheep shearers, 2 pages; statistics of hours of overtime in factories and of the number and wages of employees in factories and railway workshops, 64 pages.
INTRODUCTION.—This part of the report consists of a review of labor conditions in New Zealand, an analysis of the statistics presented in the report, remarks upon the workings of various labor laws, and the reports of local factory inspectors and agents of the department.
PERSONS ASSISTED.-Detailed tables are given showing, by occupations and localities, the number of persons who obtained employment through the agency of the department. The statistics are presented by occupations, localities, and months, and show the conjugal condition of persons assisted, the number of their dependents, the number of months unemployed, and the causes of failure to obtain work.
During the fiscal year ending March 31, 1900, the department assisted in this way 2,147 persons, of whom 1,115 were married and 1,032 were single. These persons had 4,471 dependents, of whom 1,115 were wives, 3,032 were children, and 324 were parents or others. Thirty-seven wives and 40 children were sent to workmen. Of the persons assisted, 486 were sent to private employment and 1,661 to Government works. The cause given for failure to obtain employment was slackness of trade in 2,129 cases and sickness in 18 cases.
In addition to the above cases, 256 women and girls secured employment through the women's branch of the department. These, together with the 2,147 persons assisted by the men's branch, make a total of 2,103 persons who secured employment through the department.
EMPLOYEES IN FACTORIES.—This presentation covers all employees who came under the provisions of the factories act during the fiscal year ending March 31, 1900. The tables show, by localities and industries, the number and average weekly wages of all factory employees, arranged according to sex and age groups. During the year there were 48,938 persons employed in 6,438 factories. This was an increase of 3,633 employees and of 152 factories over the preceding year.
EMPLOYEES IN RAILWAY WORKSHOPS. — The statistics of employees in railway workshops show the number of men and apprentices employed and their average wages, by localities and occupations. During the year ending March 31, 1900, 1,303 men and 161 apprentices were employed in railway workshops in New Zealand.
DECISIONS OF COURTS AFFECTING LABOR.
[This subject, begun in Bulletin No. 2, has been continued in successive issues. All material parts of the decisions are reproduced in the words of the courts, indicated when short by quotation marks and when long by being printed solid. In order to save space, immaterial matter, needed simply by way of explanation, is given in the words of the editorial reviser.]
DECISIONS UNDER STATUTORY LAW.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF STATUTE-EXEMPTION OF WAGES FROM GARNISHMENT, ETC.-Kirkman v. Bird, 61 Pacific Reporter, page 338.-Suit was brought by John M. Kirkman against William Bird, jr., to recover for a debt due for goods and merchandise. May 13, 1896, the plaintiff recovered a judgment in an inferior court of the State of Utah for $285.47, and costs amounting to $11.25. On December 12, 1899, an execution was issued on said judgment, and the Rio Grande Western Railway Company was garnisheed. On December 28, 1899, the railway company answered that it was indebted to the defendant, Bird, in the sum of $77.50 for services rendered from November 1 to December 12, 1899, but that said amount was exempt from execution. The defendant also filed an answer, alleging the same facts as set up by the railroad company. The attorney for the plaintiff tiled an affidavit admitting the facts alleged in the foregoing answers, except the conclusion that said earnings were exempt from execution, and alleging that at the time the goods and merchandise were sold and the judgment rendered the said Bird had no property except his monthly earnings for personal services, and that one-half of said earnings at the last-named dates were, and ever since have been, subject to the execution of said judgment. The district court of Salt Lake County, Utah, before which a hearing was had, held that the earnings of the defendant in the possession of the railway company were exempt from execution, and rendered a judgment accordingly in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff, Kirkman, then appealed the case to the supreme court of the State, which rendered its decision May 14, 1900, and affirmed the judgment of the district court.
The opinion of the court, delivered by Judge Baskin, shows the further facts in the case, the legal points in dispute, and the reasons for the decision. It contains the following language:
The respondents claim exemption under an act of the legislature approved March 9, 1899 (Laws 1899, p. 99, sec. 7), which exempts from execution “the earnings of the judgment debtor for personal
services rendered within 60 days next preceding the levy of the execution, by garnishment or otherwise, if the judgment debtor be a married man, or with a family dependent upon him for support.” The appellant contends that the legislature did not intend that said provision should have any retroactive effect, and that the judgment in this case giving it such effect is in violation of section 10, article 1, of the Constitution of the United States, and impairs the obligation of the implied contract between the parties which arose upon sale of the said goods and merchandise previous to the passage of said act.
At the date of the implied contract and the rendition of said judgment (May 13, 1896), under the attachment law then in force, garnishment of one-half only of the defendant's earnings for his personal services rendered within 60 days preceding service on the garnishee was permissible. (2 Comp. Laws 1888, p. 307, subd. 7; Laws 1896, p. 211, sec. 7.) Section 7 of the act of 1899 did not abolish the remedy by garnishment, but simply amended the former act so as to exclude the whole of such earnings for services rendered during such period from the operation of that process, when the judgment debtor is a married man or has a family dependent upon him for support. So that the alleged injury complained of in this case is said limitation of the remedy by garnishment. Therefore, the only question presented is whether this limitation impairs the obligation of the contract.
In the case of Bronson v. Kinzie, 1 How., 315; 11 L. Ed., 144, Chief Justice Taney in the opinion said: "Undoubtedly a State may regulate at pleasure the modes of proceeding in its courts in relation to past contracts as well as future. It may, if it thinks proper, direct that the necessary implenients of agriculture, or the tools of the mechanic, or articles of necessity in household furniture, shall, like wearing apparel, not be liable to execution on judgments. Regulations of this description have always been considered, in every civilized community, as properly belonging to the remedy, to be exercised or not by every sovereignty, according to its own views of policy and humanity. It must reside in every State to enable it to secure its citizens from unjust and harassing litigation, and to protect them in those pursuits which are necessary to the existence and well-being of every community. And, although a new remedy may be deemed less convenient than the old one, and may in some degree render the recovery of debts more tardy and difficult, yet it will not follow that the law is unconstitutional. Whatever belongs merely to the remedy may be altered according to the will of the State, provided the alteration does not impair the obligation of the contract. But, if that effect is produced, it is immaterial whether it is done by acting on the remedy or directly on the contract itself. In either case, it is prohibited by the Constitution."
Creditors as well as debtors are presumed to know that the legislature has an inherent power to enlarge, limit, alter, or repeal remedial statutes, provided that contracts are not directly impaired, and a remedy be left, though less convenient and less prompt and speedy, than the one so changed or repealed. Also to enact such laws as, “according to its own views of policy and humanity, it may deem necessary to protect the citizens of the State from unjust, merciless, and oppressive litigation and other evils detrimental to the common weal, and protect them in those pursuits of industry, and secure to them those privileges and rights, which experience has already shown, or in the