The labor costs of a door today is 35 cents.
It was $4 in 1929. Hand finishing body frames of wood before
panelling cost 20 cents today. The cost was $3 in 1929. Trimming
the body costs $4 today and cost $12 in 1929. Welding back and
quarter panels used to require six welders and twelve finishers.
The work now requires one machine, two operators and a helper.
|Not all cars move down the line, setting
the pace for the men who make them. Skill not speed is
required of these men at work on an engine of a high-priced
IN 1928 and 1929 three skilled men were
required to do certain machine work which had to be accurate
to within .0005 of an inch. Today the same part is finished
by one unskilled mechanic in the same time that formerly required
three men. A new inspection machine, using the photoelectric
cell, eliminates from ten to twenty inspectors. An automatic-lock
manufacturer is introducing buffing machines which entirely
displace labor. A labor saving of 60 percent is estimated for
a new method of polishing moulding strips. Ball bearings, formerly
inspected and sorted by hand, are now handled by machinery.
A 50 percent labor saving is expected by the use of a full automatic
hydraulic vulcanizing machine.
five years ago a well-known auto manufacturer finished 100 eight-cylinder
motor blocks on a given line-up with 250 men. Today the same
line-up finishes 250 motor blocks with 20 percent more operations
using only 19 men. Five years ago these men were paid on an
average of $13.20 per 100 blocks per operation. Today by doubling
and tripling the number of machines, and using Tungsten Carbide
tool tips, also by increasing the number of operations allotted
to each operator, the workmen have received a cut to $5.20.
manufacturer at the time of a strike in 1934 employed something
over 1000 men. Since then he has eliminated 150 men from his
payroll and increased his production 15 percent. This was accomplished
"by speed-up and labor-eliminating machinery."
does "speed-up" mean in terms of the individual worker? Here
is J. Kennedy's story:
were speeded up to where it was a point almost unbearable and
you were told by the foreman that you either had to keep up
your end of the work or, if you did not, there was hundreds
of men out at the gate willing to take your place. That threat
was held over your head several times a day and to show you
that the work was almost unbearable for the average man, the
men working on that line, there was not an average of two men
out of fifty on that line that were forty years of age. There
was not an average of ten men out of fifty on that line that
were 35 years of age and the majority of them were between 20
and 30 years of age.
don't know whether it is generally understood by the layman
what a speed-up consists of or how it reacts on the men. It
is hard on their system. It makes them in some cases what you
would call a physical wreck and a nervous wreck. I can go home
after 9 hours of production in the shop and before I eat my
supper lay down and go to sleep and then prodded [sic] to come
and do my work. That is a fact. If I work four days and I go
back after the next three days to work, it just takes exactly
that much time for me to get to feeling right again.
Madden was one of those who said that the group bonus system
served to eliminate men from the payroll. Each man in a group
was busy trying to figure out a way of reducing the number of
his group members in order to increase his pay. He charged:
done that he finds eventually after one pay, we will say, that
he has not increased his own pay but that he has very frequently
disposed of one of his fellow-workers; so that there is no lasting
benefit at all from this and it cannot be. The system itself
takes care of that, that when it gets to a certain amount the
bonus is reduced. Another thing particularly bad about the bonus
system, and it is also the piece-work system, is that it sets
up a false average. The speed of the fastest man is set to be
the speed of the average man which is of course as we know absolutely
credits time-study men with helping to bring the industry to
its efficient peak in the decade that followed 1920. But, it
The competitive conditions of the past few years have reached
down to these time-study men. They have been forced to show
how to make inequitable reductions in working time to hoId their
own jobs and, from setting jobs on an efficient basis they have
come to set them on a speed-up basis that puts production demands
beyond human capability to produce day after day.
system which the investigators found to be widely existent was
bitterly resented by the workers as being un-American. William
McKie, a tinsmith, found the so-called "service" men employed
by one company obnoxious. He said:
You would think in the ordinary
course of human dealings that at least a worker would be entitled
to talk to any other worker during his lunch hour, during his
own time, or speak to a worker going across the bridge going
home, in the busses or in the street cars or at such times and
places but that is not so.... The service men during every lunch-hour
will come around and see half a dozen men sitting around and
the service men will simply say: "Move, boys" or if you don't
particularly move they will simply put somebody down beside
you at another particular time to see just exactly what you
are talking about.