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But, secondly, the employer has an interest in the con tinuity of employment.
This arises (a) out of the knowledge acquired, through previous service, of the laborer's disposition and character, especially as to honesty, truthfulness, and sobriety; () out of that mutual adaptation, in way and habit, extending even to the tone of the voice and the carriage of the body, which results between man and master, and between every man and his mates, from long acquaintance; (c) out of that familiarity which the workman acquires with the peculiarities of his employer's business, which is wholly additional to a mastery of the technicalities of the occupation, and which includes an intimate knowledge of the localities in which the industry is prosecuted, of the fixtures and machinery in use, of the customers, it may be, of the establishment; and lastly, of the minor yet important characteristics which often distinguish the product of one establishment from that of any other, and thus give it a quality which, though it perhaps adds nothing to its utility in the hands of the consumer, yet serves the purposes of the producer for the advertisement and easy recognition of his wares'; and (d) out of the loss of time or of energy which every change, simply as change, involves, in greater or less degree.
The interest which, on the above several accounts, employers have in preserving the continuity of employment, varies greatly. No employer, it may be assumed, but is interested to a degree in knowing how far he may look to his individual workmen for the simple virtues of honesty, truthfulness, and sobriety; but in many large departments of industry the advantages which we have indicated as implied in the retention of workmen would
Many manufacturers and dealers will recognize this element as of no small importance. They identify the products of different establishments by their style and finish, as easily and certainly as the editor of a newspaper comes to identify the smallest clipping from a contemporary by its paper, type, and "make-up."
seem shadowy and unsubstantial. New men taken on in an emergency do as much work, and perhaps do it as well, as the old. The conditions of the business, the nature of the products, are not such as to make it worth while to retain a workman at any great sacrifice, so long as another of the same industrial grade can be had.
In other branches of industry, however, the advantages which have been enumerated are not only substantial but of great importance. At times, indeed, they are recognized in the grading of wages somewhat according to the length of service; and probably few employers of labor in these branches would deny that the reason of the case would justify that system being carried much further than it is. Yet, while the distinct acknowledgment of the advantages of continuity of employment, by money payments proportioned to length of service, is still highly exceptional, it may be said that these advantages are almost as a rule recognized by employers in a preference given to their older employees in the event of a reduction of force; and since, as has been shown heretofore, regularity of employment is to be taken into account in reducing nominal to real wages, we may fairly say that these advantages are actually paid for in no inconsiderable amount.
Yet, though workmen are thus compensated through money payments, or, more frequently, by preference given them in reductions of force, for the power they have acquired, through continuance in employment, of rendering a higher quality of service; in general, at least, there is strong reason to believe that they are not paid as much on this account as the considerations adduced would warrant. The force of custom, the jealousy of fellow-employees, the stress of trades-union regulations,' and, not least, the failure of the employer to recognize the full merit of the
"Many trades unions or societies disavow the purpose to prevent workmen of exceptional merit from receiving wages above the average.
workman and the degree in which it contributes to his own success; these latter, in connection with the master's knowledge that, though the workman may take from him these advantages, he can not carry them to any one else, are in a great majority of cases sufficient to keep the remuneration of the higher grades of labor from rising proportionally to their real worth. Yet we can not doubt that the employer's conscious interest in the continuity of employment does enter,' in almost every issue joined between him and his workmen, as an element in deduction from the computed difference between the wages paid and the wages demanded. Few masters in any branch of industry could contemplate the sudden change of their entire laboring force as less than a business calamity, while in many branches of production it would involve great loss if not ruin. Partial changes may indeed be effected without actual sacrifice of capital, but not without a marked increase of labor and of anxiety on the part of employers.
A very striking demonstration of the importance of this consideration in many branches of industry is to be seen by the most casual ob. server in the phenomenon of a part of the laborers in a trade wholly unemployed. Why are not all employed at lower prices ? This would be the effect of simple competition. The answer is found partly in the force of personal consideration and respect arising out of acquaintance and association ; but mainly in the employer's interest in the continuity of employment. He could not afford for a short time to take on new hands even at lower rates.
WHAT MAY PLACE THE WAGES CLASS AT A DISADVANTAGE?
We have seen (Chapter X.) that the only security which the wages class can have that they shall receive the largest possible remuneration which is compatible with the existing conditions of industry, is found in their own perfect mobility. Without this, they are clearly subject to reductions of wages under pressure, to be succeeded only too surely by industrial degradation (Chapter IV.). And it is further evident that it matters not, in the result, whether the total or partial immobility of labor be produced by physical causes, by the force of positive law, or by fear, ignorance, or superstition. Any thing which deceives the sense of the wage-laborer or confuses his apprehension of his own interest may be just as mischievous, in a given case, as bodily constraint.
Following out this line of thought, we find that the wage-laborer may be put at disadvantage,
I. By laws which act in restraint of movement or contract. Such laws may not be prohibitory, but merely regulative in their intention, and yet retard more or less seriously the passage from occupation to occupation, or from place to place. Even the mere necessity of registration imposed must have an effect, however slight, in the nature of obstruction; and unless it can be shown' that, by increasing the intelligence and confidence with which
See p. 169.
changes of location or of occupation may be effected, it more than compensates for the degree of hindrance and irritation which the merest act of registration involves, it must be condemned as prejudicial to the wages class, whose supreme interest is the easy, ready flow of labor to its market.
But it is not of such incidental or perhaps wholly undesigned mischief that labor has had chiefly to complain in the past. Those countries are very young whose history does not afford repeated instances of direct and purposed obstruction to industrial movement and contract, in the interest of the employing class, which has generally been largely identical with the law-making class. The vicious maxims of English legislation in this respect extended even to the American colonies, free as they kept themselves otherwise from the industrial errors of the mother country, and laws in regulation of service and of wages remained long on the statute-books of these enlightened communities.
A brief recital of the English legislation in restraint of the natural rights of labor will not prove uninstructive.
After the frightful plague, called the Black Death, which swept over England in 1348–49, carrying away “ perhaps from one third to one half of the population," wages rose, from the temporary scarcity of labor, to rates previously unknown; nor can it be doubted that laborers, thus by a great accident made for the time masters of the situation, assumed a tone which employers relished quite as little as they liked their higher terms. To meet this exigency,” Edward III. issued a proclamation forbidding the payment of more than customary wages, 3
* Rogers, Hist. of Agr. and Prices.
• " Because a great part of the people, and especially of workmen and servants, late died of the pestilence, many, seeing the necessity of masters and great scarcity of servants, will not serve unless they receive excessive wages,” etc., etc.
Namely, those wages which had been paid in the 20th year of King