HOME PAGE SovereigntyLibrary Catalog
THE FACTORY WORKERS
THE factory found the masses of men living uponthe land. It has herded most of them into cities, and has left a dwindling remnantto work in the country.
It found the forbears of our present vast armiesof factory workers not much better than serfs. It has made peasants, domestics andartisans into wage earners.
It found the artisans still free men. It hasdestroyed their guilds, wrecked their crafts and driven their descendants into factoriesand stores and offices.
It found the intellectuals living upon the bountyof wealthy and powerful patrons. It has evolved from them a class of men living bytheir ability to capitalize their wits; their willingness to commercialize theirtalents, or to engage in work that conforms to the bounds set for them by modernbusiness.
It found an hereditary aristocracy astride likea pack of vampires upon the whole of mankind. It has replaced these exploiters ofmankind with an equally ruthless and more impersonal tribe of capitalists.
This is how the coming of the factory transformedthe generality of mankind.
Now let us see what it has done for and to themasses it has transformed into factory workers.
There are four things which the factory and thefactory system have done for the worker which the protagonists of industrialismseem to feel an adequate recompense for the things which they have done to him andwhich will be later discussed.
First, it has shortened his hours of gainfullabor.
Instead of beginning work at sunrise and quittingat dark, and maintaining a jog-trot pace relieved by social interruptions of allsorts, he starts with the whistle and quits with the whistle, working at a pace setby the machine which be tends. Instead of working an average of at least seventyhours per week, with frequent festivals and holidays to relieve the monotony of hislabors, he now works from forty-four to forty-eight hours per week, relieved by strikes,hard-times and lay-offs. He has more leisure each day, but, as we shall see, he hasbeen deprived of the opportunity of developing the internal discipline necessaryreally to enjoy it.
But the factory did not produce the blessingof shorter hours very quickly. And very rarely were shorter hours voluntarily grantedby the factory owners. High profits were the first fruits of the factory. Then camelower prices. Finally, shorter hours and higher wages. In 1815, the cotton millswere run on single shifts of fourteen, fifteen, and even sixteen hours per day. RobertOwen in his writings records the ghastly facts about the employment of eight andten-year old children for these long hours--with only a half-hour respite at noon.As late as 1860, hours of labor averaged sixty-six per week. Twenty-seven years later,by 1887, they were sixty hours per week. By 1907, they had dropped to fifty-seven.The drop has been steady ever since. At the present time, they average forty-eight,while in many highly unionized and highly organized industries, they are as low asforty-four and even forty hours.
This decline in the worker's hours of daily labormust not be confused with the reduction in his annual time at labor. There are goodgrounds for believing that we actually spend more time at labor today than we didin the days before the factory put in an appearance. During the Middle Ages, andduring the even less complicated and more primitive ages that preceded that period,the' time devoted to leisure was much greater than today. During the Dark Ages morethan one-third of the year was devoted to the celebration of various festivals andholidays.
Men worked in those benighted ages in order tolive.
In this enlightened age, we seem to live merelyin order that we may work.
The second thing which the factory has done forthe worker has been to raise his real wages. For the work he does, he now is paidat a rate that would have seemed incredible to the pre-factory worker. He has moneywith which to buy things, but as we shall see when we study the matter, be, alongwith the general body of consumers, has been deprived of the education that wouldmake it possible for him to spend that money intelligently.
We have no precise figures as to the averagewages in this country earlier than the year 1840. By that time wages had alreadyrisen markedly. With further and further industrialization, they continued to rise.Fifty years later, in 1890, they were nearly double the wages prevailing in 1840.By 1920, they had doubled again, and were approximately four times as high as theywere in 1840. They are: still going higher. Of course these are gold wages, and notreal wages, which would reduce the rise materially. And they apply to the UnitedStates only, which for the past decade has been in an exceptional position becauseit benefited materially from the World War while other highly industrialized nationswere injured. But these wages are nevertheless indicative of what the factory doesfor the worker so far as wages are concerned.
The third thing which the factory has done forthe worker has been to lower the prices which be pays for the things he buys. Whilethis affects the worker as consumer rather than as producer, it is necessary to mentionit here, because the lower prices which the factory has made possible were very earlyin the history of the factory an agency of great importance in improving the worker'smaterial well-being.
At first the manufacturers lowered prices onlyenough to undersell the custom-made and the work-shop product, retaining an enormousprofit for themselves because the buying-public was accustomed to the prices establishedfor the products of manual labor. But when the factory-made goods had taken possessionof the market, competition between rival factories brought prices down to a levelwhich gave the public a considerable share of the reduced costs of production.
Yarn of a quality which in 1815 was sold for3 shillings per pound, brought in the infancy of manufacture as high as 30 shillings.The British mulled muslins which when first manufactured, were eagerly bought upby the rich at $2.50 a yard, are now offered to the poor--of less durable quality,however--for six cents a yard. 12
The fourth thing which the factory has done forthe worker has been to improve his social and political status. He is no longer aserf. He is no longer a member of a disfranchised class. He is no longer hemmed inby a thousand legal restrictions and regulations profoundly affecting the conditionsunder which he works and lives. The factory must be credited with giving the votefirst to men and then to women.
But it has changed the legal and social statusof woman even more than it has that of man. In the factory-dominated world, men,women, and children work outside of the home.
Industry transferred the work of women and children from the home to the factory. The workingman's wife and children perforce forsook their home in order to obtain employment. To the extent to which women and children were drawn from domestic industry to factories it is accordingly fair to say that (factory) machinery entered and broke the circle of the workingman's home. 13
In changing the economic foundation of the familyfrom a domestic production to a factory production basis, the factory changed theentire social status of women and children.
The center of the woman worker's economic, political,and social life is, as a result of these changes, no longer in a home. It is outsidethe home.
Home is merely the place where men, women, andchildren of the factory age "bed and board," although it is becoming lessand less even the place where they board. It is a dormitory--a mere place from whichthe workers go to work and the children too young to work, go to school, and fromwhich all severally go to be entertained. It is not the place where they really live.It is no longer the place where they take root, and which nourishes the self-respectof every member of the family because it expresses their conceptions of life. Thefactory has made them into individuals who express themselves in what their jobsenable them to buy; individuals who devote themselves to spending rather than tothe work of creating homes.
A shrinking, but still large number of womenlargely confined to our farms, have remained "homemakers" in spite of thefactory. The minority of able women have become "careerists," while thefortunate group who marry well have become "shoppers." But the overwhelmingmasses of the women of the country have been made into "job-holders." Forin our industrialized economy men ,can no longer support their families from theirown earnings. According to Professor Irving Fisher, it requires two wage earnersfor a family of five to attain the family standard set by the Department of Labor.
In 1920, the continental population of the UnitedStates was 105,000,000. In that year, it is estimated that there were 24,351,000families in the country. The number of persons gainfully employed was 41,641,000.This gives 1.7 income producers per family of 4.3 persons. For up-state New York,which is highly industrialized, the indicated wage earners were 1.8 per family. ForNew York City, entirely urbanized and industrialized, the wage earners were 1.9 perfamily.
Women furnished almost entirely the increasednumber of wage earners per family. In 1880, the gainfully employed males over theage of 10 were 78.7 per cent of the total number. By 1920, there had been an actualdrop of 78.2 per cent. In the same period the females gainfully employed rose from14.7 per cent of the entire female population over the age of ten, to 21.1 per cent.In forty years, the number of women in industry, relative to the population, hadincreased by 50 per cent. There is no reason for expecting that this invasion ofindustry by an equally emancipated, equally enfranchised, equally educated, but ofcourse also equally uneducated, womankind will cease.
It must not be forgotten that the inevitablecorollary of making the woman economically independent was to make men as well aswomen economically independent of each other. Slowly but surely, the law is takingcognizance of this change. Property law, marriage and divorce law, law as it relates.to children, to sex-life, to labor, is adjusting itself to the new economic statusof men and women.
To the extent to which this transformation ofthe political, social, and economic status of the male and female worker is an improvement,to that extent the factory should be credited with an improvement in the conditionof the worker.
The change in status, however, has been accompaniedby a change in the relationship of men and women and children to each other. In thisfactory-dominated world, with its indifference to whether the workers who keep itsmachinery in operation are single or married, men or women, adults or children, thehome has disappeared as the economic unit of society; the individual has taken itsplace. The enforced cooperation of all the members of the family in producing thenecessaries of life, has been replaced by competition between them for jobs. Individualcompetes with individual, regardless of sex or age, in the impersonal arena of thelabor market. Men and women, whom nature intended to be partners, have become economicrivals. They seek each other out only in response to nature's imperious biologicalmandate.
The economic individualism introduced by thefactory has reduced marriage to the status of a sexual adventure. Children endangerthe adventure. To support themselves as they desire both husband and wife tend towork. Children interfere with this routine of working outside of the home, lowerthe scale of living and so endanger the continuance of marriage. The rise in divorceand desertion is a natural consequence. Present day criticism of marriage as an institutionis an indication of the fact that mankind is beginning to fully accept woman's andman's economic independence. This independence is something which the factory hasproduced for the worker. Under it the home has lost; perhaps the individual workerhas gained.
So much for what the factory has done for theworker.
Now what has the factory done to the worker,and what is it continuing to do to him?
1 It relentlessly mechanizes the workman andreduces all workers, except the few "blessed" with administrative genius,to mere cogs in a gigantic industrial machine.
2. It decreases the number of workers engagedin productive and creative labor by reducing the number of workers required to producethings and by condemning the remaining workers to elaborate methods of flunkeyingfor one another.
3. It arrays worker against employer, separatingcapital and labor into two independent and mutually antagonistic interests, and inflictsupon society an unending succession of foolish and often bloody strikes.
4. It makes it almost impossible for individualworkmen to be self-sufficient enough to develop their own personalities.
5. It destroys the skilled craftsman to whomwork is a means of self-expression as well as a means of livelihood, by offeringwork only for machine feeders and machine tenders, thus making it more and more difficultfor skilled workmen to find employment.
6. It creates workers without initiative andself-reliance, and fills the state with citizens who lack a sustained interest inpublic affairs and good government.
7. It transfers the satisfying of the economicneeds of the worker from the home to the factory, robbing the worker, his wife andhis children, of their contact with the soil; depriving them of intimacy with growingthings--with growing animals, birds, vegetables, trees, flowers; and destroying theircapacity for fabricating things for themselves and of entertaining and educatingthemselves.
8. It condemns not only the natural robot, butthose capable of creative effort in the crafts, the arts and the professions, torepetitive work, because it leaves open no field in which they may exercise theirtalents and earn a livelihood.
It is impossible, within the limitations of asingle chapter to do much more than direct attention to the evidence for these conclusions.But an analysis of the most significant aspects of the influence exerted by the factoryupon the workers of the world, is sufficient to justify all the conclusions. A glimpseof the worker, while he was still, presumably, a human being and before he became,in the expressive language of Adam Smith, "a manufacturing animal," furnishesa good point of departure.
The conditions under which the goods were producedwhich the world consumed prior to the introduction of the factory seem to have beenmuch alike everywhere. The situation in New England was much like the situation inold England, and it is amazing how similar to the pre-industrial conditions in thosesections are present-day conditions in those regions of Russia and India where industrialismis still in its infancy.
Farming was then generally accepted and treatedas a part-time occupation. The seasons not having been abolished by industrialism,it is still in essence a part-time occupation. We have simply ceased to recognizethe fact because specialization has begotten the monstrous superstition that no mancan profitably devote himself to more than one occupation. Today we are so accustomedto the sharp separation of the occupations represented by farming and manufacturingthat it is difficult to realize how abnormal this separation really is. There areseasons when the farmer has little to do. Those are the seasons when be is free todevote his time to manufacturing.
Henry Ford says:
The real problem of farming is to find something in addition to farming for the farmer to earn a living at.
This is the situation today. But it was not thesituation before the coming of the factory. Practically the entire working populationdevoted itself to part-time farming and part-time manufacturing.
In colonial New England, the villages in whichthe first steps toward industrialism developed, consisted of the homes of artisansand tradesmen who were also farmers. Each villager had a plot of land.
These and the tradesmen and manufacturers who live in the country generally reside on small lots and farms, from one acre to 20. 14
The weaving, blacksmithing, tanning, cobbling,milling, pottery-making, grist-milling in which these New Englanders were engagedwere essentially part-time occupations. Tench Cox discusses this aspect of theirlife in some detail:
Union of manufactures and farming is found to be convenient on the grain farms; but it is still more convenient on the grazing and grass farms, where part of almost every day and a great part of the year can be spared from the business of the farm and employed in some mechanical handicraft or business. Those persons often make domestic and farming carriages, implements and utensils, build houses and barns, tan leather and manufacture hats, shoes, hosiery, cabinet work, and other articles of clothing and furniture, to the great convenience of the neighborhood. In like manner some of the farmers, at leisure times and proper seasons, manufacture nails, potash, pearl ash, staves and heading, hoops and hand pikes, ax-handles, maple sugar, etc. 15
Some quotations from the diary of Thomas B. Hazard,known as "Nailer Tom," who was a famous mechanic in those days, give agood idea of what this combination of many kinds of work meant to the skilled artisanbefore the coming of the factory:
Making bridle bits, worked a garden, dug a woodchuck out of a hole, made stone wall for cousin, planted corn, cleaned cellar, made hoe handle of bass wood, sold a kettle, brought Sister Tanner in a fish boat, made hay, went for coal, made nails at night, went huckleberrying, raked oats, plowed turnip lot, went to monthly meeting and carried Sister Tanner behind me, bought a goose, went to see town, put on new shoes, made a shingle nail tool, helped George mend a spindle for the mill, went to harbor mouth gunning, killed a Rover, hooped tubs, caught a weasel, made nails, made a shovel, went swimming, staid at home, made rudder irons, went eeling. 16
The notable fact in connection with all thesevaried activities is the admixture of work and play. If the worker "played"'during the day, be labored at nail making or something else, at night. The day wasnot divided by the clock into mutually exclusive periods of work and non-work. Mostof the play had an admixture of productive labor in it--it produced game or fish,for instance, while much of the work had elements of play in it.
Compare this record with the one which a modernfactory mechanic would produce if he had kept a diary of his activities:
Worked in the factory, home and listened to the radio. Worked in the factory, went to the movies in the evening. Worked in the factory, listened to the radio; worked in the factory, went to the movies; and so on, ad infinitum.
This would be his record, perhaps varied withan occasional marriage and funeral, or a dance or an outing under the auspices ofhis church, his union or his political ward leader.
The modern worker is a creature of routines.The general life of a highly industrialized country, which may seem full of interestand color to the traveller from another country, who is not a party to its routines,has no existence for the worker. As he goes through the daily routine which his factoryimposes upon him he has neither time nor inclination to see it as a whole. He isa slave to a routine which changes hardly at all from day to day and from year toyear. He knows nothing of what might be called the normal routine of life which changesfrom season to season with the grand cycle of the year, and which used to be brokenup into an infinite variety of occupations by the need of solving the myriad of individualproblems which develop as summer changes into winter and winter into summer.
The work of the colonial villager was physicallyharder than is that of the modern factory worker. His life was full of discomfortsand privations unknown today. But his life was plainly not without many compensationsfor the hardships involved in producing for himself what be needed and desired withoutany of the tools and machines which science has since made it possible for the homeproducer to use.
Industrialism came and began by putting, as someof the early protagonists of the factory proudly proclaimed, the idle elements ofthe population to work. The first factory workers were not artisans, who happenedto be unemployed--modern unemployment did not yet exist. Neither were they farmersor farm workers who preferred factory work to a landless existence. The first factoryworkers were the women and children of the villages and the countryside. These werethe "idle elements" of the population which were to be put to useful work.
As soon, however, as the competition of factoryproducts began to disorganize the existing economy based upon agricultural and handicraftproduction, and to create unemployment, the factories found it easy to recruit workers.The growth of the factories was so rapid, however, that shortages of workers developedin spite of these sources of labor. Armies of the unemployed had to be deliberatelycreated in order to make more rapid development of the factory possible.
Artisans, peasants, and domestics were thereforedeliberately driven by political, social and economic pressure into the factories.The craftsmen and their families were already being forced into the factories bythe destructive competition of the cheaply produced factory goods. In addition, thepeasantry, wherever feudal or semi-feudal conditions prevailed, were driven intothe factories by shutting off their access to the common lands on which from timeimmemorial they had grazed their animals, and by rack-renting those foolish enoughto stick to the land. Only domestic servants did not have to be forced into the factories.Changing social standards made force unnecessary in their case. The domestic wasrobbed of self-respect by the decline in the economic utility of the home. So longas the home was creative and productive, everyone in it could feel that they werecontributing usefully to the life of society. But with the coming of the factory,the manor-houses and the houses of the rich and powerful ceased to be the economiccenters of their districts. They became mere show places. They were used by the wealthymerely for competition in "conspicuous waste." The domestics in them werereduced to the status of pure parasites. To this day, domestics find the factorya welcome relief from the social ignominy and the social tyranny of domestic service.
In America, the factories relied upon the apparentlyunending stream of immigrants for their supplies of workers, and when the streamdid not come fast enough, agents were sent to Europe to increase the labor supplyof the textile villages of New England, the steel regions about Pittsburgh, and thepacking-house centers like Chicago.
Degradation of both labor and laborers was oneof the first results of the transfer of work and workers from the home-shop and theworkshop to the factory. The factory with its labor-saving machinery can be considereda social gain only if its effect upon the worker is ignored.
With the coming of the factory, the worker foundthat the skill which he had already acquired was no longer a marketable product.Factory machines could be operated by unskilled workers--untrained women and oftenchildren were sufficiently strong and intelligent. Since the factory took over thework of the craft which had formerly given him employment and it was difficult fora skilled mechanic to change his calling to one equally as skillful and remunerative,the market value of his labor was reduced to that of unskilled workers who operatedthe factory machines.
This consequence of the coming of the factoryis well described by Professor Dexter S. Kimball:
The new methods of production have enabled many unskilled people to take an important part in many industrial fields formerly occupied solely by skilled workers. Today in nearly every large manufacturing industry the unskilled or semi-skilled labor greatly outnumbers the skilled, and a product of great accuracy and high finish is turned out by such organizations. This principle of extension of the field of labor is a broad one. As more and more skill and thought have been transferred to hand and machine tools it has become increasingly easy for men and women to take part in what was formerly entirely skilled industry. The actual production of shoes, watches, typewriters, etc., is conducted almost entirely by semi-skilled labor. 17
Professor Kimball labors mightily to justifythis process in discussing what he calls the factory's extension of the field oflabor and its elevation of labor. Let me quote him further on this point:
Manifestly these new methods have multiplied man's productive power many fold, enabling him to produce more per unit of time, with a corresponding reduction in the cost of production. This feature, and the principles of the elevation of labor and the extension of the field of labor more than compensate in the long run for the effects of degradation of labor, though as before noted the many benefit at the expense of the few. Human progress apparently cannot take place without someone suffering. Theoretically all should be greatly benefited by these improved methods, and the reason why such has not always been the case is not because of the processes themselves, but because their net result is to increase production solely. They do not carry with them inherently any influences tending to rearrange the distribution of the increased profits derived from them, nor to offset the effects of the fierce competition rendered possible because of this increase in productive capacity. Invention and its result always act quickly; social and political changes move more slowly. The natural law of supply and demand operated quickly under the older and simpler methods. The complexity of modern methods tends to make these laws act much more sluggishly. It is only after a struggle lasting over a hundred years that there is hope, even of instituting reforms that will in a measure restore the equilibrium of distributive methods so badly distorted by the results of the great inventions. * * * 18
While the introduction of these new methods may degrade certain classes of labor, they may, on the other hand, elevate others. The skilled mechanic who has been engaged in drilling plates is not necessarily degraded by the introduction of the drilling jig, because his skill can be utilized to make such tools; and this class of labor, namely, the skilled workers in the metal trades, has, on the whole, usually benefited rather than otherwise, by the new methods, though at times trying periods of readjustment have ensued upon the introduction of labor-saving machinery into their own industry.
Again the unskilled worker who is taken from low-paid menial employment and taught to operate a semi-automatic machine can usually earn more money than formerly and be elevated to a higher plane. The history of manufacturing in New England shows very clearly the absorption into the manufacturing industries of the successive waves of immigration of unskilled labor that have from time to time moved into these states." 19
Unfortunately it is necessary to call attentionto the great probability that the coming of the factory has actually reduced therelative proportion of skilled to semi-skilled workers. Professor Kimball himselfhas already admitted that the factory has enabled unskilled workers to take an importantplace in many industries formerly occupied solely by skilled workers. But in addition,he is almost certainly wrong on almost every point he makes about the elevation oflabor. He is under the impression that "low-paid menials" (What does bemean by "menials"? Does he include skilled domestic servants--cooks, seamstresses,butlers in the class of "menials"?) are elevated to a higher plane whenthey are taught to operate a semi-automatic machine? In what respect are they higher?He mentions only their pay for their work. But is he right about the fact that theex-menials who have gone into the factories are higher paid? Taking wages, board,lodging, washing, medical care, etc., into consideration, the average domestic servantis much higher paid than the unskilled or semi-skilled factory worker.
He is entirely wrong when he says the "wavesof immigrants" to this country consisted of unskilled labor. If he thinks anItalian peasant is an unskilled laborer, then he has never discovered how much skillit takes to raise a garden. The vast majority of these immigrants were skilled workers--highlyskilled workers: they were farm workers, stone masons, basket weavers, tailors, domestics,for whose skill, however, the factory had no use.
But Professor Kimball is most wrong in failingto distinguish between the degradation of labor, and the degradation of the laborer.The distinction between the two is of the utmost importance. If it is kept in mind,it becomes plain that as far as the great masses of workers are concerned, the questionis whether it is possible for the factory to degrade the labor which it requiresthem to do without ultimately degrading the laborer himself.
If we omit the casualties which involve degradation,but which are due to those periods of readjustment caused by inventions to whichProfessor Kimball referred, we can make what has taken place clear by simplifyingthe issue. At all times, we have a certain proportion of potentially skilled laborers.Whether or not they find skilled labor at which they can work and earn a living isdetermined by conditions over which, in an industrialized world, they have no control.Limited numbers of them will find skilled work to do, and if they find employmentat such labor as tool-making,, they may enjoy an elevation of labor. But ProfessorKimball has shown that in many industries the proportion of skilled workers has gonedown; that in many of the new industries only unskilled and semi-skilled workersare employed, and there is no evidence furnished that the tool-making necessary forthese industries offers sufficient employment for the skilled workers who are excludedfrom the industries which might formerly have employed them. On the contrary, thereis a considerable body of evidence that large numbers of potentially skilled laborersnever do find employment that really utilizes their capacities. They are forced towork as semi-skilled or unskilled laborers--perhaps never have the opportunity tolearn a skilled craft because of that. For them, as compared to their forbears, therehas been a real degradation not only of labor, but also of the laborer. The potentialjourneyman machinist finds himself compelled to be a mere machine-operative and tolive upon the relatively lower scale of existence which that involves.
The higher productivity which industrializationmakes possible--the higher wages and the lower prices which follow--cannot reallycompensate the laborer for the loss of satisfaction involved when the work he hasto do is constantly degraded. They are a form of compensation which in effect meansthat in return for accepting the mechanization of his working life, he should devotehimself to extracting happiness only from the time he devotes to consumption.
If each new invention, if each new automaticmachine, if each new factory means a degradation of a particular type of labor, thencumulative inventions, cumulative labor-saving machinery, cumulative industrializationmust involve a cumulative degradation of labor. With the perfection of factory production,the degradation would reach its apex. The work he did would express nothing of theworker's own capacities. The worker would become an automaton. He would have to compensatehimself for his dehumanized labor by the increased joy which he would get out ofthe consumption of the things which greater production and lower prices would enablehim to buy. Having been cheated out of all chance to get happiness out of his work,be would have to be satisfied with the happiness be could extract from an ever-increasingconsumption of factory-made products.
The modern factory has use for three types ofworkers, says Mr. John C. Duncan in his "Principles of Industrial Management."
First, unskilled workers, mere manual laborers,of which it uses many especially in the continuous industries. According to Mr. Duncan,improvements in the technique of these industries tend to reduce the numbers of theseworkers, but they can hardly become, as he hopes, extinct, as long as there are inefficient--marginal--factoriesin existence.
Secondly, semi-skilled workers, an intermediategrade of labor between the unskilled manual laborer and the highly skilled mechanic.The semi-skilled worker, according to Mr. Duncan, is the ideal type for the efficientfactory. He is already the most numerous of the three types and should become universalin the future. According to Mr. Duncan the semi-skilled worker's qualifications areas follows:
In addition to regularity and good health [he] must have: (1) Ability to learn to handle machinery of a more or less semi-automatic type without injury to himself. (2) A willingness to attend closely to such machinery, seeing that it is constantly running properly, and is always supplied with material to keep it producing. (3) Ability to keep the machinery in his charge in good running order.
These qualifications are modest in the extreme.By comparison, "Nailer" Tom Hazard was a veritable genius.
Thirdly, the factory has use for skilled workers,the most highly intelligent and best educated non-professional class in the country,often earning wages which compare favorably with the incomes of teachers, lawyers,doctors, and other professional men.
In the interest of efficiency, and of coursein response to the economic pressure exerted by efficient competitors, each factoryis driven to increase the proportion of semi-skilled workers and to reduce the proportionsboth of skilled and unskilled workers which it employs. Mr. Duncan says:
The great problem of a manager in any place is to introduce machinery and so arrange the work that the unskilled worker will be unnecessary, and the call for the highly skilled man will be small. . . . An organization which must have a large number of the third class of workman, the highly skilled man, is likewise undesirable, not be cause his services are not valuable, but because so much depends upon him. His grade is so high that it is difficult to obtain him. . . . It is highly desirable to get machinery to do as much of his work as possible.
The second class of worker is most desirable. The advantages of this class are: (1) A short apprenticeship makes the man valuable to the employer. (2) The employee with his limited capacity feels his dependence on the employer, and is likely to be a faithful and attentive workman because he receives a larger income than ordinary laborers, and could in most cases obtain employment only as a less valuable man in another place. (3) The employee becomes proficient in doing one thing, and is thus able to turn out a large product . 20
Machiavelli could not have stated the reasonsfor the factory's warfare upon the skilled worker more cogently.
But if modern industrialization is thereforecredited with elevating the status of the unskilled workers, it must be debited withdegrading the status of the skilled laborer and the craftsman.
In the great Ford factories few of the operationsrequire much training in order to make the workers proficient, and there are veryfew jobs for highly skilled workers, as Henry Ford himself makes abundantly clear:
The length of time required to become proficient in the various occupations is about as follows: 43 per cent of all the jobs require not over one day of training; 36 per cent require from one day to one week; 6 per cent require from one to two weeks; 14 per cent require from one month to one year; one per cent require from one to six years. The last jobs require a great skill--as in tool making and die sinking. 21
By reducing practically all the workers to thestatus of machine feeders and machine tenders, taking from them all initiative andresponsibility, and dividing and sub-dividing the work, all kinds of human materialcan be used equally well. Cripples and morons can do much of the work just as wellas whole-bodied and whole-minded men. In the Ford factories no one is refused workon account of physical condition. The crippled are paid the same minimum wages asable-bodied men who may be doing the same work. Out of 7,882 kinds of jobs in thefactory.) at the time of which Mr. Ford writes, 4,034 did not require full physicalcapacity. In fact, 3,595 could be performed by the slightest, weakest sort of menand most of them could be satisfactorily performed by women and children. Of thelightest jobs 670 could be filled by legless men; 2,637 by one-legged men, 2 by armlessmen, 715 by one-armed men, and 10 by men entirely blind. At the time of the analysisthe factory used 9,563 sub-standard men--123 had crippled or amputated arms, forearms,or hands; one had both hands off; 4 were totally blind; 207 blind in one eye; 37deaf and dumb; 60 epileptics; 4 with both legs missing; 234 with one foot or legmissing. The others had minor deficiencies.
This is magnificent! Especially if we shut oureyes to the fact that many of these cripples are produced by the factory system whichthus prides itself on finding useful work for them. But to appraise judiciously thecombination of good-will and ingenuity displayed in this achievement we must considerthe conclusion which Mr. Ford draws from his efforts along this line:
Developed industry can provide wage work for a higher average of standard men than are ordinarily included in any normal community. 22
This is at first sight rather ambiguous becauseit does not state clearly what Mr. Ford meant by the expression "average ofstandard men." The context, however, makes it clear that Mr. Ford really meantalmost the exact opposite of what the statement seems to say. What he meant to say,and what his statistics proved, was that the division and sub-division of labor ashe practiced it, made it possible to employ more sub-standard men than the communityprovided. What he proved and should have said was: Developed industry can providewage work for more men of certain types--physically or crippled types of variouskinds--than are ordinarily included in modern communities. He should have added:it therefore provides less wage work for men of other types--those capable of highlyskilled work--than are ordinarily produced in the average community.
The factory in which scientific management hasdivided and sub-divided labor and introduced the most efficient and powerful machinerynot only reduces the opportunities for work for skilled workers, but makes it possibleto use more sub-standard men than mankind provides! With the community furnishing,as yet, an insufficiency of cripples and morons for the needs of the efficient factory,normal men and women must be impressed into jobs far below their true capacities.They must, however, be compensated for the sacrifice of their personalities uponthe altar of the moloch of factory production. For implicit obedience to the rulesand formulae established by the management and the surrender of all individual judgmentand initiative, they get what all factory workers get, if everything works perfectly:higher wages and shorter hours than they would have received under a non-factoryregime.
The ingenuity of the devices in the modern factory,which make it possible to use low-grade workers for dangerous tasks and to make theirmovements automatically synchronize with the needs ,of the machines they operate,is amazing.
In the automobile factories, large numbers ofmen have to stand all day before presses which punch sheet steel. The operation ofinserting and withdrawing the material requires no skill at all, but it does requirethat the worker withdraw his fingers and hands before the press, which rises andfalls automatically, cuts them off. In spite of screen guards of various kinds, asteady stream of accidents nevertheless used to come from these punch presses. Theworkers, in moments of carelessness, perhaps due to the fatigue of monotony, or theindifference which repetitive familiarity breeds, left their fingers and hands inthe presses. The problem before the management, if accident costs were to be keptdown, was automatically to insure that the worker withdrew his hands before his pressdescended. The problem was finally solved by the simple expedient of handcuffingthe worker's hands to a lever which pulled his hands away from the machine at themoment that the press descended.
Go to the press rooms today and you will seethe lines of workers standing before their presses, their hands jerking away eachtime the presses move. As the individual workers do not control the movement of thepresses, which are started and stopped by the foreman, once they are handcuffed tothe machines their hands are jerked automatically backward until they are released.Even though they may be out of material, they have to stand before the press, theirhands jerking back and forth. There they work, chained to their machines, as thegalley slaves were chained to their oars. They cannot leave even to attend to theneeds of nature until they attract the foreman's eye and he unlocks their handcuffsand releases them.
The process of making the low grade worker measureup to the necessities of the factory machine can hardly go much farther.
Is it necessary to point out in further detailhow the necessities of the factory relentlessly mechanize the worker, decrease thenumber of workers engaged in creative labor, and produce workers without initiativeand self-reliance? In factory work no means are afforded the worker for self-expression.There is no possibility of joy in work without it. Indeed, no joy is permitted orsought. As the greatest factory genius America has produced says:
When we are at work we ought to be at work. When we are at play we ought to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two. The sole object ought to be to get the work done and to get paid for it. When the work is done, then the play can come, but not before. 22
This compensation is logical enough in a systemof production in which repetitive labor, "the doing of one thing over and overagain and always in the same way," is an essential factor.
The protagonists of the factory justify thisrepetitive labor on the theory that the great majority of workers prefer it and thatmost of them are incapable of any other. Henry Ford makes the flat assertion thathe has not been able to discover that repetitive labor injures a man in any way.And he gives a number of specific illustrations to prove his assertion. He goes further."Scarcely more than five percent of those who work for wages, while they havethe desire to receive more money, have also the willingness to accept the additionalresponsibility and the additional work which goes with the higher places," hesays on page 99 of his book. On page 103 he says: "The average worker, I amsorry to say, wants a job in which he does not have to put forth much physical exertion--aboveall, he wants a job in which he does not have to think."
There are, however, good grounds for suspectinga major inconsistency in the arguments of the proponents of industrialization onthis point. If it is true that most men prefer the repetitive work which the modernfactory offers them, how explain the dislike of their jobs which is indicated bythe high turn-over of labor in most factories, and the almost universal prevalenceof "soldiering" in our factories? Frederick Winslow Taylor, in the "Principlesof Scientific Management," calls attention to the contrast between the energyan American workman will put into a game of baseball and the energy he puts the verynext day into his job. Taylor asserted that deliberate "soldiering" inmany instances cuts down by more than one-third to one-half what should be a properday's work and maintains that this constitutes the greatest evil with which the working-peopleof both England and America are now afflicted. In the packing-houses and the automobilefactories and in all factories in which the speed of the worker's operations aredetermined for him by a continuously moving platform, "soldiering" maybe eliminated. But the dislike of the work remains even though this particular consequenceof the dislike be eradicated. As a matter of fact, it is not repetitive labor thatis the damning fact; for there is repetition in labor of all kinds. It is the factthat the repetitive labor is without significance: that it is an isolated operation,and not a process with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Mr. Marlen E. Pew relates a story which illustrateshow dreary human life may become through the humdrum of factory life. Years ago,Robert Hunter met a stew-bum on the Bowery and questioned him. He told this story:
"I was born in a New England shoe manufacturing town and as a child went to work in a factory. My parents were poor and needed the two or three dollars I could earn by sweeping floors. There was a road through the town that led to the country and I used to yearn to follow that road to some country-side where boys could lie and dream under the trees or play in the brook, but I kept on sweeping from early morning till late at night. As a youth I was put onto a machine. It was necessary for me to make a certain number of motions to operate the machine. Once I counted those motions. There were only nine. This was my life, making those motions. All day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks per year, I repeated those nine motions. As a man I got a larger machine and it required of the operative fourteen motions. Day in and out for ten years I fed my life into that machine. In the meantime I had married a girl who operated a machine in the same shop. We had some glimpses at happiness, but after all, existence for us both came down to those fourteen motions. Because I felt nothing was ahead for me I became ugly and on occasion would seek relief in booze. All the time the road was calling to me--'come out and play, lie under the trees and dream and bathe in the babbling brook.' One day I saw red and started to walk on that road. I have tramped over the country. I have been hungry and cold and threadbare a thousand times. 1 have been in jails, slept in flop-houses and box-cars, panhandled on the streets, drunk when I could get the price of booze and now I am a Bowery bum."
Mr. Hunter said: "Well, was it a mistake?"
"Mistake?" snapped the hobo. "Iwill say it was no mistake. I'd rather freeze and starve than go back to those fourteenmotions; no sir, I'm still on the road and on the way out." 24
Henry Ford has recognized the fact that factoryworkers cannot be kept to their work unless they are given some relief from it inthe shape of shorter hours and fewer days of work per week. The fact that the factoryhas made work more and more monotonous and more and more mechanical has been an influencein shortening the hours of labor. This is clearly recognized in the report of IndustrialConference called by the President.
The problem of hours has undergone a fundamental change through the introduction of large scale factory production and the growing concentration of our population in cities. Men and women can work relatively long hours at work which is interesting, which calls upon their various energies, which gives some opportunity for creative self-expression. Work which is repetitious, monotonous, and conducted under the confining indoor conditions of even the best industrial plant, especially where the plant is located at a distance from the homes of the workers, makes much more exacting physical and nervous demands. If the inevitable conditions of modern industry do not offer variety and continuing interest, the worker should have hours short enough for more recreation and for greater contact with his fellow workmen outside of working hours. 25
Henry Ford thinks that men should work fewerhours per day and fewer days per week in order to have leisure in which to consumewhat the factories produce for them. If a man works only five days per week, insteadof six, he will have two days per week in which to use his automobile instead ofonly one day. He will wear out his automobile twice as fast, thus enlarging the capacityof the market to absorb the products of the automobile factories; he will use uptwice as much gasoline; wear out twice as many tires, in short, double his abilityto consume while cutting down the time he devotes to production.
Gainful work, even in the most efficient industries,absorbs more than fifty per cent of the worker's waking hours. It is, however, sotedious, so uninteresting, in the modern factory, that it can be said truly thatthe worker is required to yield half of his life to boredom in order that he mightdevote the other half to eating more than is good for himself; wearing out more thingsthan is rational; and destroying the natural resources of the earth faster than realcomfort and true enjoyment make necessary?
One of the most interesting consequences of thegreat development of our factories is referred to in the brief extract from the reportof the Industrial Conference called by the President, above quoted--the fact thatfactories tend more and more to be located at considerable distances from the homesof workers. With domestic production and with workshop production, home and the placeof work were generally one and the same. With the factory, they are never the same.In our factory-dominated civilization there seems to be a tendency for the home andthe place of work to move farther and farther apart.
Most often the factory is located in a largecity because among other advantages, the city furnishes it an ample reservoir oflabor. It is not easy for the factory to get away from city congestion because eventhe factory located in the suburbs of a city, or even in a rural region, tends onlytoo quickly to build city conditions around itself.
Time must therefore be spent by the workers ingoing to and from work. Lunches have to be eaten away from home. And in the largercities, much of what is gained by the shorter hours of work in the factory, is lostby long trips back and forth in crowded street cars, elevated trains, subways, andsuburban commutation trains. The worker flatters himself that he works only eighthours a day, while his grandfather worked ten or twelve. He forgets that he oftenspends from one hour to as high as four hours each day going to and from work, andthat he dissipates some of the increased wages of which he is so proud for luncheonsand transportation expenses. The luncheon restaurants multiply in every city in directratio to the increase in its street car systems and its suburban population.
But surely the very worst of the influences ofthe factory upon the worker has been the extent to which it has added to the insecurityof his economic life. It would be absurd to say that the worker of the pre-industrialage was without fears that are comparable to those of the modern factory worker.But while comparable, they were often ameliorable. He was dependent upon the favorof the lord of the manor, if a farm worker, or upon that of his journeyman master,if an indentured apprentice. But in neither case was there any insecurity about his"job." That he might suffer injustices from those for whom he worked wastrue, but at least he was face to face with his employer. It was the coming of absenteeand corporate ownership which made appeal from injustice so difficult and unsatisfactoryfor the worker.
Today he often finds himself unemployed as aresult of conditions which neither be, nor the impersonal corporation for which heworks, may be able to control. As W. L. Chenery says, "Unemployment and thefear of unemployment are twin evils created by the factory system." These areamong the gravest of the disadvantages from which the modern worker suffers thathe may at other times enjoy the material well-being with which the factory systemjustifies itself. Chenery presents an excellent picture of what this means to theworker:
The possibility of being workless and without income hangs over the great majority of wage earners. The factory worker of today knows little else that he could turn to account. He must live by his trade or not at all. In order to obtain employment be must ordinarily reside in congested cities, where the possibilities of subsidiary means of support are denied him. Usually he does not own the house or the tenement he lives in. He neither cultivates nor harvests the vegetables and fruits which his family consumes. If he is able to eat eggs, or to drink milk, he obtains these articles from dealers who are themselves far removed from the scene of actual production. His clothes are bought, not made at home. The modern factory worker must retain his job if he wishes to continue alive, and yet he knows that at recurrent intervals, regardless of zeal or fitness, many men and women will not be employed. 26
"At recurrent intervals!" When businessis bad; if there is overproduction in his particular industry; when he engages inone of his periodic strikes, or if some change in industry, such as the introductionof a new product, or movement of the factory to a new section, results in throwingout of work those in particular factories or particular regions-at these recurrentintervals he is unemployed. Is it any wonder that the fear of unemployment robs thefactory worker of the security which is essential to any orderly economic, social,biologic life?
We have had about a hundred years of the factoryin America. What has it done to the workers of America? The World War revealed thefacts: Our workers are neither physically nor mentally creatures of which Americamight be proud, of which she might say, "These are my sons, in whom I take greatdelight!" Lewis Mumford describes the situation aptly:
It is no special cause for grief or wonder that the Army Intelligence Tests finally rated the product of these depleted agricultural regions or of this standardized education, this standardized factory regime, this standardized daily routine as below the human norm in intelligence: the wonder would rather have been if any large part of the population had achieved a full human development. The pioneer, at worst, had only been a savage; but the new American had fallen a whole abyss below this: he was becoming an automaton. 27
But the factory worker is not merely an automaton.He is a joyless automaton.
There is no song on his lips; no laughter inhis heart.
Gone are the spring songs, the harvesting songs,the chanteys and the lays.
The factory worker at the top works grimly toaccumulate profits; the factory worker in the ranks, grimly to remain on the payroll.The strain numbs nerves, sears spirits, and imprints itself indelibly on the expressionsof the faces of the workers from top to bottom.
Go where men whose faces are marked like thatare to be found; there you will find the factory.
GO TO CHAPTER VII