Crowd of Applicants outside Highland Park Plant after Five Dollar Day Announcement, January 1914

Summary

Ford workers disliked the new assembly line methods so much that by late 1913, labor turnover was 380 percent. The company's announcement to pay five dollars for an eight-hour day compared to the previous rate of $2.34 for a nine-hour day made many workers willing to submit to the relentless discipline of the line in return for such high wages.

Ford workers disliked the new assembly line methods so much that by late 1913, labor turnover was 380 percent. The company's announcement to pay five dollars for an eight-hour day compared to the previous rate of $2.34 for a nine-hour day made many workers willing to submit to the relentless discipline of the line in return for such high wages.

Crowd gathered at the Ford Motor Company's Highland Park plant, on Manchester Street outside Building M after the announcement of the five-dollar day, January 1914. As Ford production men surveyed the phenomenal productivity increases of their new assembly line methods, they also noted a disturbing by-product: the workmen disliked the system and expressed their displeasure by taking jobs elsewhere. By late 1913, even before assembly lines were fully implemented throughout the shop, labor turnover was a whopping 380 percent. People quit so often that in order to expand the labor force by 100 men, the company had to hire 963. In January 1914, Henry Ford -- probably in response to the urging of James Couzens -- took perhaps his boldest step ever, one that transcended engineering. The company announced that it would pay five dollars for an eight-hour day. Since the previous rate had been $2.34 for a nine-hour day, this was a shocking announcement. The work in the factory was no easier, the pace no less relentless. But the pay was now so good that people were willing to do the work. In practice the new wage went only to people deemed "qualified" after an investigation into their private lives. Nevertheless, the lure of the money was so strong that most employees put up with such paternalistic policies, however reluctantly. This bargain between Ford and his workers -- submission to the relentless discipline of the line in return for high wages -- would turn out to be as important as the Model T itself.

Detailed Description
Artifact

Photographic print

Subject Date

January 1914

Creators

Unknown

 On Exhibit

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Object ID

84.1.1660.P.833.29

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Material

Paper (Fiber product)

Technique

Gelatin silver process

Color

Black-and-white (Colors)

Dimensions

Height: 8.25 in

Width: 10 in

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