When refused, they named twelve cents as an ultimatum. The company was willing neither to pay such a price nor to antagonize the workmen.
The dispute was settled by a demonstration. The superintendent was himself a graduate from the bench and had been an expert workman. The company's contract with the assemblers' union set $4.50 a day as the maximum wage. To prove his contention that even twelve cents was too great a price, he set the back pieces on ten ranges himself, under the eyes of a committee, and proved that at six cents a range he could easily earn the maximum day wage. The price agreed upon was eight cents, little more than half the original demand. Without the demonstration the men would have accepted twelve cents reluctantly.
In the course of the interviews with employers, it became evident that there was agreement on one point--to educate the worker to realize that the house's policy in
handling its men gave added value to the sums paid out in wages.
_The shiftless or unskilled man works mainly for the next pay envelope, with little or no regard for the continuity of employment, the possibility of promotion, of pension, of sick or accident benefits, of working conditions, or the like_.
The skilled worker, on the contrary, and the more desirable class of laborers, nearly always rate their wages above or below par, according to the presence or the absence of these contingent benefits or emoluments.
To the average man with a family, the ``steady job'' at fair wages is the first consideration. It appeals more strongly to him than intermittent employment at a much higher rate; while the younger, restless, and less dependable man, both skilled and unskilled, gravitates to the shop where he can command a premium for a little while. Just as managers are always looking for the steady worker, nearly all agree in assuring their employees that faithful and efficient service will be rewarded with continuous employment.
To carry out this policy is sometimes difficult in businesses where demand is seasonal and where a large part of the product must be made to order. Nevertheless, the manager who adjusts his production program to cover the entire year has the choice of the best workers even when other factories offer higher rates. Likewise, the employer who sacrifices his profit in bad years to ``take care of his men'' and hold his organization together recovers his losses when the revival comes.
So deeply rooted is this desire for a ``steady job'' and so generally recognized as an essential of the labor problem that several large industries have developed ``side lines'' to which they can turn their organization during their slack seasons; while others in periods of depression pile up huge stocks of standard products, making heavy investments of capital, for the primary purpose of keeping their men employed.
How such a policy reacts on the wage question, and hence on the efficiency of employees, is shown by an instance which lately fell under
my notice. By a long and persistent campaign of education and demonstration, a small ``quality'' house forced a rival ten times as large to adopt the careful processes on which this quality depended. Adopting the small man's methods, the competitor, instead of training its own operatives to the new standards, sought to hire the other man's skilled workers. The premium offered was a thirty per cent advance. It was refused, however. The tempted mechanics, analyzing the rival's proposal, hit on the disloyalty contemplated towards its own employees. They were to be discharged or transferred to other departments to make room for the new men.
Measuring this cold-blooded policy against the consideration, the unfailing effort of their old employer to ``take care of them'' in bad seasons, the workers decided to stick to the smaller company and refuse the advance.
_Next to continuous employment, among methods of increasing the value of wages, is the policy of making promotions from the ranks_.