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

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

union agent has the opportunity to make personal selections. As a result, reserve workers who are anxious to receive as much employment as possible seek the favor of the business agent. However, while the reserve workers frequently are forced to cater to the whims of the business agent, nevertheless, at the same time the business agent often is able to build up a following among the rank and file because he is looked upon as something of a protector of the reserve workers' interests. Thus, at times, business agents retain their jobs through their personal dominance over the reserve workers even after they have lost favor with the elite.


Summary and Conclusions

The technological and organizational requirements of building produce highly individualized employment patterns. As a result, interpersonal relations in the industry are for the most part informal and unstandardized. A particular balance has been struck in the relations between journeymen workers and their supervisors. Journeymen and foremen rather freely select and relate themselves to one another at work and in the community. The opportunity for personal choice, particularly on the part of the foreman, in terms of the factors of religion, race, ethnic identification, and more subtle but nevertheless highly significant criteria of "sociability," "good judgment," and "initiative," creates primary group situations which possess considerable internal stability. At the same time the personal ascendancy of the supervisor is limited by (a) the requirement that the foreman be a union member and subject to union control, (b) the fact that the foreman-journeyman positions are readily interchanged, and (c) the recognized lack of social and economic power in building employer organizations.

The primary group organization of working crews in building where status is carefully regarded and craft ego finds nurture plus the limitations in the personal ascendency of the supervisor constitute together an interrelated security system for the craftsman. It would seem that the security system of the journeyman is jeopardized whenever a major change in this social equilibrium is contemplated or occurs. Intelligent policy with regard to such matters as union control over foremen, working rules, and hourly wage rates, must necessarily include a consideration of the crucial effect change may have upon the whole structure of interpersonal relations.


NOTES
1.
An inquiry made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1932 concerning the elapsed time of building construction in ten representative cities revealed that the number of days elapsing between the date work was started and the date the building was completed averaged 88.8 days for one-family frame house construction, 88 days for commercial structures, 143.5 days for apartment buildings, and 235.6 days for public buildings.

-135-

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