Labor Relations and Productivity in the Building Trades

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

VIII Working Rules and Labor Efficiency1

The effectiveness of an industry in raising its productivity is not only determined by the nature of its technological developments; of great importance also is the efficiency of its labor and managerial personnel. Thus, improving productivity is not only a matter of the quantity and quality of capital; it is also traceable to improvements in design, in planning, and in controlling, which are the functions of management, and to more effective effort, increased speed, or greater skill, which are the functions of labor.

It is mainly in connection with the latter aspect of productivity that the working rules of the building trades unions have been a subject of analysis for many years.2 It has often been alleged that these rules limit output, impose unjustified restrictions on the freedom of management, and generally impose unreasonable costs upon consumers. These charges have attracted increasing attention in the past decade because of the acute need for an extensive and efficient home- building program to meet the vast backlog of demand accumulated during the depression and war years.

It should be recognized that the working rules of the build-

____________________
1
The term "labor efficiency" will be used in this chapter to denote the physical effort, speed, judgment, or other factors which depend upon the worker himself, as contrasted to the term "productivity," which is most often used to mean output per unit of composite input, which is affected not only by labor's efforts, but also by capital, managerial talent, and other variables.
2
For the most reasoned discussions, see Royal Montgomery, Industrial Relations in the Chicago Building Trades ( Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1927), Chap. IX; Haber, Industrial Relations in the Building Industry ( Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1930), Chap. VIII; and Sumner Slichter, Union Policies and Industrial Management ( Washington, D. C.: The Brookings Institution, 1941), Chap. VI. For a more sensational type of "disclosure" see Dickson Hartwell, "The Lowdown on the Slowdown," Colliers, Nov. 8, 1947.

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