ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
ORDINANCE CONCERNING WORK HOURS AND WAGES
February 19, 1900
Although this ordinance was passed, it was vetoed by Mayor Carter H. Harrison II and the council failed to override. In explaining his action Harrison criticized the council for not referring the matter to the proper committee and for acting upon it too hastily. He stated that the ordinance was meant to apply only to manual laborers but by its construction it covered clerical employees as well. He chose the Department of Public Works to demonstrate how this law would be misapplied. There there were three types of laborers: those digging ditches for water pipes and earning $2.25 a day, those cleaning out sewers for $2.00 a day, and those cleaning streets and receiving $1.50 a day. Wages were in line with the degree of hard work involved. Street cleaners were generally old men who could do only light work and who were grateful for what work they could get. The mayor also pointed out that much of the labor on normally busy streets was done routinely on Sundays and holidays when traffic was light. Double compensation for this work would have been an undue hardship on taxpayers. Further Harrison noted that the city had more pressing needs. Better bridges and more policemen, street lights, and parks were of greater priority.
Points to Consider
According to this ordinance if one worked ten hours on a Sunday, what would he receive in compensation?
If one worked six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, with no overtime, what would be his annual income?
Describe the living standard of a single man receiving a regular two dollar daily wage in 1900.
Why might the council have acted favorably on this ordinance?