and the Men
by Louis Stark
Reporter, New York Times
investigators reported that until 1934 little attention was
paid to seniority in hiring after layoffs. This goes beyond
the statement of Leo Wolman, chairman of the Automobile Labor
Board, that seniority, in the past, "generally applied in the
industry in times of layoff and rehiring" but that the prevailing
practice was one "not fixed by rule and was therefore subject
to changing policies of managements." The Automobile Labor Board,
according to the report, has developed rules relating to seniority
and rehiring "which constitute a distinct advance over previous
conditions," but under the seniority rules a worker's seniority
status applies only at the company which employed him last.
If a worker with seniority loses his job his chances for employment
with other companies are said to be limited to peak periods
"when all workers with seniority status have been rehired."
The report said that the regulations of the Wolman Board were
so administered as "not to meet the needs of those workers who
have voluntarily presented their problem to those conducting
Automobile Labor Board, in its report of ten months' activities,
made to President Roosevelt, claims that:
Discrimination caused by union
activity or union membership is not a problem of any magnitude
at the present time and has not been for some time in the past.
Wherever agreements are made between the industry and the Board
or the industry and labor to return men to work or to restore
to employes their seniority, it is the Board's information that
these agreements have been fairly observed. Furthermore, in all
of the many instances in which the Board had ordered individuals
or groups back to work, they have been returned to work so far
as the Board knows. Few cases have been brought to the Board's
attention of violation of its orders or decisions.
to the seniority rules established by it, the Board says that:
In general the industry has
observed the rules fairly and carefully....Under the system and
the Board's rules and rulings, every worker in the industry under
the Board is protected by an orderly and legal method in his lay-off
and rehiring, with review by the Board if necessary. He thus finds
himself protected not only against the possibility of the pay-off
period or the period of re-hiring being used as a method of discriminating
against him for ulterior motives growing either out of the struggles
about organizing or out of alleged personal favoritism of the
lower supervision, which causes so much uneasiness in the minds
of the workers, but above all against the general hazards and
uncertainties of lay-off and re-hiring. Before the system of seniority
these were almost unlimited.
THE NRA inquiry did not go into the workings
of section 7-a, the collective-bargaining provision of the Recovery
Act, as this was excluded from the presidential order.
members of the Automobile Labor Board, according to Mr. Wolman,
"are satisfied that collective bargaining is extensively practised
in the industry." One may question whether the fundamental groundwork
for genuine collective bargaining can even exist in an industry
whose industrial relations are colored by the conditions disclosed
by the NRA investigators, an industry maintaining industrial espionage,
where men are bitter against their foremen, where they complain
of "terror and discrimination," and where they claim that they
are ignorant of their true earnings under the prevailing group
and bonus systems of payment.
In one particular the report foreshadowed the action taken by
the industry when the code was extended by the President in February.
It suggested that regularization of employment should be promoted
by fall announcement of new models instead of having all companies
present their new cars in January.
The report pointed out that three
large companiesFord, General Motors and Chryslerwere
increasingly obtaining a greater and greater share of the business
volume and it was suggested that this tendency toward concentration
"should not be accelerated by the government," because "the contribution
of these small companies far exceeded their importance in rank
of production," and "the value of preserving the status of the
efficient smaller units is obvious even to the casual observer."
sales swing to the lower-priced-car field was found to be a dominant
circumstance in the industry resulting in a growing concentration
in the three large companies which produced 77 percent of the
automotive vehicles in the United States in 1929 and 88 percent
in 1934. A different story was told as to the smaller companies.
Working capital of eight of these companies declined from $179
million in 1929 to $79 million in 1933.
report treats the dealer as an important factor in regularization
and it was charged that the manufacturers have maintained an unreasonable
attitude toward their dealers in recent years. Reforms in sales
and purchasing methods to relieve destructive pressure on dealers
and automotive parts manufactur ers were recommended. The effect
on the status of labor in the parts-manufacturing establishments
was stressed when it was pointed out that hundreds of parts-suppliers
were dependent on the purchasing methods of a few automobile companies
and that the inequalities of bargaining power have caused undue
burdens to be laid on the labor employed by the partsmanufacturers.
report called for a reform of labor practices, extension of facilities
for collective bargaining and amendment of the code to provide
for a 40-hour week, with a maximum work-week of 48 hours and time
and a half overtime for all over 40 hours. The code, as extended
by executive order, provides an average work week of 40 hours
and for time and a half overtime beyond 48 hours.
epoch-making report is summarized by the Research and Planning
Division of the NRA in these words:
automobile industry, like its product, has changed so materially
that its present structure, without industrial plan ning, is socially
inadequate to meet its responsibilities accruing out of the changes,
or to achieve in the future the lowered cost of the product, the
satisfactory labor relations and the continued vigorous progress
to be expected of our leading industry."