In dealing with the matter of the cooperation of Negro workers, the Secretary recognized that, since they constituted about one seventh of the working army, their enthusiasm, confidence, and cooperation would be developed best by giving them representation at the council table where matters affecting them were being considered.
He therefore created the Division of Negro Economics in the office of the Secretary of Labor and appointed as Director of Negro Economics Dr. George E. Haynes, then Professor of Social Science at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. This step and appointment met with hearty endorsement of white and Negro citizens and organizations, North and South. The work of this official was to advise the Secretary and the heads of the several bureaus and divisions of the Department of Labor on policies and plans for improving the conditions of Negro workers and for securing their full cooperation with white workers and employers for maximum production.
1 Department of Labor Report, "The Negro at Work," etc., pp. 124-133.
The Secretary of Labor, with the advice of the Director of Negro Economics, adopted a plan for local county, city, and state Negro Workers' Advisory Committees composed of cooperating white employers, Negro workers, and, wherever possible, white workers, in order to develop racial understanding and good-will. These committees in counties and cities in eleven states were effective in preventing friction, antagonisms, and suspicions, in promoting the welfare of Negro workers, and in promoting cooperation for greater production. Negro officials known as Supervisors of Negro Economics under the general direction of the Director of Negro Economics were appointed in each state to assist the local citizens' committees. As the racial-labor problems which had to be met were local, the task was to get the local communities organized to meet them and at the same time to recognize the larger national needs and standards in dealing with local situations. State Conferences, arranged by the Director of Negro Economics through the cooperation of Governors, state directors of the United States Employment Service, and local employers and workers, and composed of representative white and Negro citizens, were held in twelve states.
Negro Workers Advisory Committees were established in eleven states and did work that had a far-reaching effect. For example, operations at an important port of debarkation for soldiers and for war supplies seemed to be facing a serious labor shortage due to the lethargy of workers. Local white citizens and officials adopted a plan to compel all men either to go to work or to jail. The chairman of the local Negro Workers Advisory Committee sought out the leaders of the work-or-jail program. He proposed, instead of the jail program, a ten-day publicity and educational campaign by the Advisory Committee with appeals to Negro workers to rally to the labor needs of the occasion. One result from this campaign was applications for work from more Negro laborers than were needed. Other results gave a permanent city-wide racial cooperation on matters of common interest.
After listening to the report of a year's work of the Negro Workers Advisory Committee of North Carolina, the late Governor Bickett said, "If every man, white and black, in the United States could read and digest this report, it would go a great way toward solving all our race questions." White and Negro newspapers, small and large, North and South, carried many articles and editorials recounting and commending the results of this work fostered by the Department of Labor.