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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 91, no. 2361]: June 14, 1913

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REAL ESTATE BUILDERS AND NEW YORK, JUNE 14, 1913 ■■Ilililillllllllllllllllli ||;>;;i;ii;SSiii:*i:iiiiai!;iSiigiiiii«!;:ii'i:!';;i^^^ A REVIEW OF THE NEW FACTORY LAWS Property Owners and Business Proprietors May be Arrested for Violations, but Factory Operatives Are Immune—Some of the Fire Commissioner's Powers Taken Away. DURING tlie last session ot the Leg¬ islature thirty bills were introduced at the instance of the Wagner Factory Investigating Commission, of which only five failed to become laws. .\ number of these measures relate exclusively to rural industries, such as the canning of fruits and vegetables, but several others make radical changes in the law govern¬ ing the employment of women and chil¬ dren in industrial and mercantile estab¬ lishments, the plain purpose of which is to promote the safety, health and com¬ fort of the operatives, especially those who may have been the helpless victims of rapacious employers. All for Employees. The striking peculiarity of all this fac¬ tory legislation is that, while it bristles with demands and restrictions upon property owners and business proprie¬ tors (for disregard of which they may be punished criminally), factory workers remain substantially immune from statu¬ tory exactions and criminal prosecutions. They may refuse, with impunity, to heed fire alarm signals or to participate in fire drills. No punishment is provided for med¬ dlers who tamper with fire extinguishers or for employees who carelessly or wil¬ fully throw inflammable materials upon floors, instead of depositing them in refuse receptacles. Indeed, employees may disregard every provision of the laws relating to the general safety and well-being of their fellows—including all sanitary regulations and fire precautions of every description—without risking fine or imprisonment. The only excep¬ tion to this general condition is that smoking in a factory is punishable as a misdemeanor, whatever the status of the offender may be. A State Board of Factory Control. From a governmental standpoint, the most important of the new laws are Chapters 145 and 695 of the Laws of 1913. The first of these provides for a thorough reorganization of the State De¬ partment of Labor and a widely ramify- in.g extension of its jurisdiction, which is achieved, in the main, by the creation therein of an inquisitorial and legislative body—the Industrial Board. This board is to consist of the Commissioner of Labor and four associate members, who are to be appointed by the Governor, subject to the approval of the Senate. The Legislature has conferred upon the new body the broadest and most sweeping powers concerning the con¬ struction of factory buildings and the regulation of industries therein, includ¬ ing the authority to enact what may be termed industrial ordinances, that are to have the force of law. Violations of provisions of the industrial code, or of the regulations or orders of the board, are declared to be misdemeanors and are to be punishable as are offenses against the labor law itself. Powers of the Industrial Board. .\n idea of the scope of the legislative jurisdiction, which has been delegated to this new arm of the Labor Depart¬ ment, may be gathered from the follow¬ ing quotation from the new law: "§ 51. The board shall have power * * * 4. To make, alter, amend or repeal rules and regulations for guarding against and minimizing fire hazards, personal injuries and disease, with re¬ spect to (a) The construction, alteration, equipment and maintenance of fac¬ tories, factory buildings, mercantile establishments and other places to which this chapter is applicable, in¬ cluding the conversion of structures into factories and factory buildings; (b) The arrangement and the guard¬ ing of the machinery and the storing and keeping of property and articles in factories, factory buildings and mer¬ cantile establishments; (c) The places where and the meth¬ ods and operations by which trades and occupations may be conducted and the conduct of employers, em¬ ployees, and other persons in and about factories, factory buildings and mercantile establishments; * * *" Fire Commissioner Loses Powers. By the other measure (Chapter 695), which amends the Fire Prevention Law, the Fire Commissioner, after October 1, 1913, will be stripped of the more impor¬ tant of his powers and duties in respect of factories and factory buildings, in¬ cluding particularly his control of the means of egress therefrom. -Apparently, the new statute expressly excepts factories from the jurisdiction of the commissioner to require the reme¬ dying of dangerous conditions existing in such places, in violation of any law or ordinance respecting fires or the preven¬ tion of fires. Doubtless it was the in¬ tention of the draftsmen of the statute merely to relieve the Fire Commissioner of control of the means and adeauacy of exit from factories; for Section 774 of the Charter, as amended by the new act. provides: "The Fire Commissioner shall enforce all laws and ordinances and the rules and the regulations of the Indus¬ trial Board of the Department of Labor in respect of d) the prevention of fires." But this general authority concerning the control of fire perils in factories seems to be curtailed by an amendment of the following section of the Charter, which was efifected by the same act, namely: "§ 775. Powers of the CFIre) Com¬ missioner. The commissioner is em¬ powered to * * * "2. Order, in writing, the remedying of any condition found to exist in, on or about any building structure, * * * place or premises, except tenement houses, and except factories as defined by the labor law, in viola¬ tion of any law or ordinance in respect to fires or to the prevention of fires, except the tenement house law." Under the circumstances, it is more than likely that local jurisdiction of fire conditions in factories has been reduced to the control of fire alarm installations, fire e.xtinguishing equipments and fire drills. This seems to be a relapse to the condition of divided responsibility for the protection of factory workers against fire perils, which is generally be¬ lieved to have made possible the Asch Building disaster. "Home Rule" Sacrificed. So, too, the jurisdiction of the local Board of Health is seriously encroached upon by a number of laws providing amendments to the labor law concerning the lighting, ventilating, plumbing, clean¬ liness and general sanitary conditions of factories, including bakeries. Another of the laws makes drastic changes in the regulations concerning industries carried on in tenement houses, and pos¬ sibly conflicts, in some degree, with the tenement house law and the general jurisdiction of the Tenement House De¬ partment. Wholesale Transference of Functions. Whether or not the wholesale trans¬ fers of functions from local officers and boards to a new State body and to the Commissioner of Labor, attempted by the new factory laws, properly harmon¬ ize with the "home rule" provisions of the Constitution remains to be deter¬ mined by the courts. However this may be, many of the new amendments to the labor law seem to be repugnant to the spirit, if not to the letter, of the so-called "home rule law" (Chapter 247, Laws of 1913). the avowed purpose of which is to give to the cities of the State a larger measure of control of their purely local affairs and interests. The apparent conflict of these new statutes will not add to the security of factory workers, any more than it will promote the interest of taxpayers and business proprietors. The Cost. The financial demands the new factory acts will make upon property owners and manufacturers will be numerous and. in some instances, burdensome. They will bear more severely, however, upon those who may hereafter erect factory build¬ ings. The original bill of the Factory Commission, relating to the construction and the allowable number of occupants of factory buildings, would have been utterly ruinous to the owners of loft