Wages and Hours
Undoubtedly, the best measure of an industry's success in utilizing resources effectively lies in the trend of productivity per man-hour. The extent to which consumers are able to enjoy the product of a particular industry, however, is determined by its price, which is a function not only of productivity, but also of the prices which must be paid for the resources employed. In addition to productivity trends, therefore, any evaluation of labor relations policies must also consider the level of wages as a major component of resource cost.
As in most other aspects of industrial relations in this industry, sharp differences of opinion have been expressed regarding the "reasonableness" of the wage rates prevailing in the industry. Employers and consumers have strongly felt that these rates are "too high"; union spokesmen, of course, take the opposite view. It is to an evaluation of this issue, as well as to others related to the process of wage and hour determination, that this chapter is directed.
The trend of union money and real hourly wage rates over the past four decades is summarized in Table XVI and is shown in Figure 4. With the exception of the brief postwar drop in 1922 and the more prolonged drop of the early 1930's, the money rates of all building trades workers have risen steadily throughout this period. In real terms, however, the rise has been very much smaller and far less steady, though still substantial. The varying fortunes of the workers in terms of changes in real hourly rates may be seen in the summary of selected periods in Table XVII.