A-10899, AUGUST 21, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 136

A-10899: Aug 21, 1925

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1925: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 14. IT IS NECESSARY FROM TIME TO TIME TO ENGAGE THE TEMPORARY SERVICES OF UNSKILLED LABORERS IN THE FIELD. THIS IS PARTICULARLY NECESSARY AT THE VARIOUS FIELD STATIONS WHERE EXPERIMENTS AND INVESTIGATIONS IN AGRICULTURE ARE BEING CARRIED OUT. WHICH IS THE MINIMUM OF GRADE 2. THE DEPARTMENT IS CONFRONTED WITH THE PROBLEM OF ENGAGING TEMPORARY HELP AT A RATE WHICH AT SOME SEASONS OF THE YEAR. WHILE AT OTHER SEASONS OR IN DIFFERENT LOCALITIES IS SO INADEQUATE AS TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF ENGAGING SUCH HELP AS MAY BE NEEDED. IT DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE ECONOMY TO PAY MORE THAN ONE IS REQUIRED TO PAY IN ORDER TO SECURE SERVICES. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT IF THE DEPARTMENT PAYS A GREATER WAGE THAN THAT CURRENTLY PAID BY OTHER EMPLOYERS THERE WILL RESULT A LOCAL DEMORALIZATION OF LABOR WITH ITS ATTENDANT EVILS.

A-10899, AUGUST 21, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 136

CLASSIFICATION OF CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES - EMPLOYMENT OF TEMPORARY UNSKILLED LABORERS OF THE FIELD SERVICE TEMPORARY UNSKILLED LABORERS ENGAGED FOR THE NECESSARY FIELD WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE MAY BE PAID WAGES AT LOCAL CURRENT RATES WITHOUT REGARD TO THE RATES ESTABLISHED BY THE CLASSIFICATION ACT OF 1923 FOR LABORERS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, AUGUST 21, 1925:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 14, 1925, AS FOLLOWS:

IN THE PROSECUTION OF THE AUTHORIZED ACTIVITIES OF THIS DEPARTMENT, IT IS NECESSARY FROM TIME TO TIME TO ENGAGE THE TEMPORARY SERVICES OF UNSKILLED LABORERS IN THE FIELD. THIS IS PARTICULARLY NECESSARY AT THE VARIOUS FIELD STATIONS WHERE EXPERIMENTS AND INVESTIGATIONS IN AGRICULTURE ARE BEING CARRIED OUT.

UNDER YOUR DECISIONS, 4 COMP. GEN. 625; ID. 755; ID. 1078, ETC., IT WOULD APPEAR THAT SUCH SERVICES CAN NOT BE ENGAGED EXCEPT AT THE RATE OF $900 PER ANNUM, OR ITS EQUIVALENT, WHICH IS THE MINIMUM OF GRADE 2, CUSTODIAL.

IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE COST OF LABOR VARIES GREATLY, NOT ONLY IN VARIOUS SECTIONS OF THE COUNTRY BUT AT DIFFERENT SEASONS OF THE YEAR IN THE SAME LOCALITIES, THE DEPARTMENT IS CONFRONTED WITH THE PROBLEM OF ENGAGING TEMPORARY HELP AT A RATE WHICH AT SOME SEASONS OF THE YEAR, OR IN SOME LOCALITIES, EXCEEDS THE MINIMUM RATE OF CUSTODIAL 2, WHILE AT OTHER SEASONS OR IN DIFFERENT LOCALITIES IS SO INADEQUATE AS TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF ENGAGING SUCH HELP AS MAY BE NEEDED.

IT DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE ECONOMY TO PAY MORE THAN ONE IS REQUIRED TO PAY IN ORDER TO SECURE SERVICES. ON THE OTHER HAND, IT IS OBVIOUS THAT IF THE DEPARTMENT PAYS A GREATER WAGE THAN THAT CURRENTLY PAID BY OTHER EMPLOYERS THERE WILL RESULT A LOCAL DEMORALIZATION OF LABOR WITH ITS ATTENDANT EVILS.

WHILE THE SITUATION TOUCHED UPON IN THE PRECEDING PARAGRAPH PRESENTS A PROBLEM DIFFICULT TO HANDLE, IT IS NOT COMPARABLE TO THAT WHICH ARISES IN LOCALITIES CONTIGUOUS TO THE LARGE CITIES AND IN ALASKA. IN SUCH PLACES THE CURRENT WAGES OF LABORERS RANGE FROM $4 TO $9 PER DIEM, AND IT IS MANIFEST THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN NOT ENTICE PERSONS TO WORK FOR IT AT $2.50 A DAY MERELY BECAUSE IT IS THE GOVERNMENT.

IN MANY INSTANCES THE SERVICES OF UNSKILLED LABORERS AMOUNT TO A NECESSITY, AND UNLESS THE DEPARTMENT IS IN A POSITION TO PAY CURRENT WAGES INCALCULABLE LOSSES WILL OF NECESSITY BE SUSTAINED. I HAVE REFERENCE TO A CASE WHERE EXPERIMENTS HAVE BEEN CARRIED ON BY THE DEPARTMENT OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS TO PRODUCE, SAY, A DISEASE-RESISTANT PLANT. CROSS- FERTILIZATION, SCIENTIFIC SELECTION OF SEED YEAR BY YEAR, AND COMPARATIVE NOTES HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY KEPT, AND A HIATUS OF ONE YEAR WILL SET THE WORK OF TEN AT NAUGHT. THIS HIATUS MAY EASILY OCCUR IF AT HARVEST TIME THE GOVERNMENT IS UNABLE, BECAUSE OF ITS INABILITY TO PAY THE CURRENT LOCAL WAGE, TO SECURE HELP.

IT IS A COMPARATIVELY SIMPLE MATTER TO APPLY GENERAL WAGE SCALES LIKE THOSE PROVIDED FOR UNDER THE CLASSIFICATION ACT TO A GIVEN LOCALITY, SUCH AS THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, BUT TO ATTEMPT TO SET A SCALE WHICH MAY NOT BE DEPARTED FROM THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES PRESENTS A PROBLEM WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE OF SOLUTION.

IN VIEW OF THE EXIGENCIES ABOVE OUTLINED, I HAVE THE HONOR TO PRESENT THE SITUATION TO YOU WITH THE REQUEST THAT YOU ADVISE ME WHAT PROCEDURE MAY BE FOLLOWED IN ORDER THAT TEMPORARY UNSKILLED LABOR MAY BE ENGAGED AT LOCAL CURRENT WAGES FOR THE NECESSARY FIELD WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT.

THE PURPORT OF THE CITED DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE IS THAT THE APPROPRIATION ACT OF DECEMBER 6, 1924, 43 STAT. 704, EFFECTIVE DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1925, AS EXTENDED DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1926 BY THE ACT OF JANUARY 22, 1925, 43 STAT. 764, REQUIRE THE ADJUSTMENT OF RATES OF COMPENSATION OF FIELD POSITIONS TO CORRESPOND AS FAR AS MAY BE PRACTICABLE TO THE RATES ESTABLISHED BY THE CLASSIFICATION ACT FOR THE SAME OR SIMILAR POSITIONS IN THE DEPARTMENTAL SERVICE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

THE APPROPRIATIONS MADE BY THE ACT OF DECEMBER 6, 1924, SUPRA, PROVIDING THE FUNDS TO CARRY OUT THE PURPOSES OF THE STATUTE, IT IS UNDERSTOOD, WERE BASED ON ESTIMATES SUBMITTED BY THE SEVERAL DEPARTMENTS, INCLUDING THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, THROUGH THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, OBTAINED BY A CLASSIFICATION OF FIELD POSITIONS MADE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CIRCULAR NO. 13 OF THE PERSONNEL CLASSIFICATION BOARD, DATED NOVEMBER 13, 1923. WHILE THERE IS A QUESTION WHETHER SUCH CLASSIFICATION OF THE FIELD POSITIONS WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INTENT OF CONGRESS, THE SITUATION CREATED THEREBY MUST BE THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT ACTION.

CIRCULAR NO. 13 OF THE PERSONNEL CLASSIFICATION BOARD EXPRESSLY EXCEPTED THE FOLLOWING FIELD POSITIONS FROM REQUIREMENTS OF CLASSIFICATION:

(A) POSITIONS THE DUTIES OF WHICH ARE TO PERFORM OR ASSIST IN APPRENTICE, HELPER, OR JOURNEYMAN WORK IN A RECOGNIZED TRADE OR CRAFT, WHEN SUCH EMPLOYEES ARE PAID AT HOURLY OR DAILY RATES FIXED IN ACCORDANCE WITH COMMERCIAL OR TRADE SCALES AND PRACTICES PREVAILING IN THE LOCALITY.

(B) POSITIONS OCCUPIED BY LABORERS, WHETHER SKILLED OR UNSKILLED, PAID AT HOURLY OR DAILY RATES FIXED IN ACCORDANCE WITH COMMERCIAL OR TRADE PRACTICES PREVAILING IN THE LOCALITY.

(C) POSITIONS OCCUPIED BY EMERGENCY OR SEASONAL EMPLOYEES HIRED ON A TEMPORARY BASIS AT RATES FIXED LOCALLY.

IT IS REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THEREFORE THAT THE ACTS OF DECEMBER 6, 1924, AND JANUARY 22, 1925, SUPRA, WERE ENACTED WITHOUT REFERENCE TO EMPLOYMENT OF TEMPORARY UNSKILLED LABORERS DESCRIBED IN YOUR SUBMISSION, AND THAT SUCH PERSONS MAY BE EMPLOYED AT LOCAL CURRENT RATES OF WAGES FOR THE NECESSARY FIELD WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. THE QUESTION IS ANSWERED ACCORDINGLY.