Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview
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the distribution of workers were those of length of time in the market, wages, and union participation. These were analyzed statistically but were not found significant.


Although building is a vast industry, employing thousands of men and involving the fabrication and assembling of great quantities of raw materials, the basic human relationships in the industry are for the most part informal and unstandardized. Interpersonal relations in building achieve their essential character not only from the technological organization of the industry with its itinerant patterns of manufacture and handicraft techniques, but also from an accumulation of attitudes, sentiments, and traditions which form the culture of the trades. Perhaps more than workers in any other industry, the building workers function as independent units, each worker pursuing employment and making arrangements to apply his skills according to personal contacts, personal preference, and a personal schedule. Due to the fact that building projects are of relatively brief duration1 and that a new labor force is assembled for each job, there is an almost continuous turnover, producing separate employment patterns for individual workers. Without a stable and permanent relationship, tradesmen and employers are constantly engaged in negotiation, the tradesman attempting to find desirable new employment and the employer attempting to assemble enough competent workmen to enable the job to proceed.

The Worker and the Foreman

The selection of the labor force and the control of hiring is placed directly and almost completely in the hands of the various trade foremen who direct the work of their crews on the job. As the crews are small in size and must work intimately together in handicraft production, foremen regularly employ their own personal standards as to background and temperament in order to assemble a harmonious working group. Not having to accept preselected workers from a front office, the foreman's own preferences are his only guide. Thus racial, ethnic, and religious bias find frequent expression. Franklin, a student of Negro employment opportunities in the building trades, has written,

It must be remembered that the foreman is a man of some nationality or race. If he is in any way race conscious, this fact is very often displayed by his giving the advantage to members of his race. For that reason it often occurs that the job is dominated by Italians when there is an Italian foreman, by Jews if there is a


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Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations
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