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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

The minimum wage was a hot issue in 1914 as well as today. Department stores already were discovering an easy way around a new state law establishing a $10 minimum wage ($10 a week, that is) for female store clerks.

Because the law established a “weekly wage rate,” instead of a “weekly wage,” department stores would be able to pay less than $10 simply by cutting employee hours. The $10 rate was for a week of six eight-hour days, or 48 hours, for an hourly rate of about 21 cents. If a department store chose to have some of its force report only on the four busiest days of the week, or 32 hours, it still would have to pay them 21 cents an hour, or $6.67 per week.

It was already clear that some department stores were planning to do exactly that.

In other minimum wage news, the state’s industrial welfare commission ruled that a new $8 minimum wage for female factory workers would not apply to canneries.

From the factory beat: The big new Spokane Woolen Mills plant in Parkwater had produced its first cloth and was gearing up for full production. It planned to employ somewhere between 25 and 75 men, depending on how the market responded. It stood “in the center of one of the great wool-growing centers of the United States” and would be getting its raw wool from Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

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