Labor Relations and Productivity in the Building Trades

By William Haber; Harold M. Levinson | Go to book overview

VII
Policies Toward the Introduction of New Techniques

There is probably no industry which has been more severely criticized as being backward in the development and application of new techniques than the construction industry, particularly residential construction. The primary responsibility for this state of affairs has been variously placed upon the shoulders of labor, management, suppliers, government, financial agencies, or equally upon all.1 If true, these charges represent a severe indictment of an industry whose effectiveness is of great importance in contributing to a rising standard of living for the American people. The present chapter, therefore, will attempt to provide a factual background of the extent to which new techniques have in fact been developed by the industry and to evaluate the role played by both unions and employers, particularly the former, in aiding or retarding the adoption of these techniques.

Over a decade ago, Professor Slichter, in his analysis of union policies toward technological change,2 pointed out:

. . . . a great many technological changes have the effect of (1) increasing the hazard or onerousness of the work, (2) reducing the skill required, or (3) reducing, at least temporarily, the number of men required. In any of these cases the union is confronted with a problem of policy. It has three principal alternatives; it may attempt to prevent the introduction

____________________
1
See, for example, "The Industry Capitalism Forgot," Fortune, Aug., 1947, p. 61; Lee Loevinger, "Handicraft and Handcuffs--The Anatomy of an Industry," Law and Contemporary Problems, Winter, 1947, pp. 47-75; Robert Lasch , Breaking the Building Blockade ( Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1946); and U. S. Cong., Temporary Nat. Econ. Committee, Investigation of Concentration of Economic Power: Monogr. No. 8, Toward More Housing, esp. Pt. II.
2
Sumner Slichter, Union Policies and Industrial Management ( Washington, D. C.: The Brookings Institution, 1941), Chaps. VII-IX.

-103-

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