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PUBLISHED MONTHLY BY THE NATIONAL FOUNDERS' AssociATION AND NATIONAL METAL TRADES AssociATION IN THE INTERESTS
OF THEIR WORKMEN
THE REVIEW, which is published by The National Founders' Association and the National Metal Trades Association, desires to have all foundry and machine shop employees fully acquainted with the policies and purposes of the two Associations.
Employees of members of the Associations who wish to receive the magazine regularly are invited to send their names and addresses to
Room 842, 29 South La Salle St.
with the understanding that they incur no expense or obligation.
New applicants should state the name of employer and whether they are employed in foundry or machine shop.
The National Metal
will be held at
Hotel Astor, New York
Wednesday and Thursday
What the Eight-Hour Agitation Means
Justus H. Schwacke*
The so-called eight-hour day has now been actively agitated for about twenty years. In the earlier period, in order to obtain the sympathy of the public and to allay the fears of employers, it was continually stated there would be no curtailment of product, because the lessened draft upon the workman would maintain his vigor and the output would remain the same. But as practically all product, even at that time, was by highly specialized machinery which the workmen tended without much effort and the output of the machinery was limited only by the hours it worked, refutation of the statement was easy, and the fallacy was abandoned.
The humanitarian argument was then substituted. This was taken up by many well-meaning men and women in all walks of life, few, if any, of whom had practical knowledge of industrial life or necessities, and they have done more to mold public opinion in favor of the eight-hour day than any other influence.
The employing interests, and the larger interests in particular, generally remained silent, because of aversion to publicity, and the belief that any attempt at rebuttal would only result in prolonged argument and waste of valuable time.
The public in general sees but one side of the question. It does not seem to realize the inevitable higher prices of all products under an eight-hour day, due to the inevitable higher costs because of the lessened product of the shorter work day.
This paper is, therefore, an attempt to strip the question of all irrelevant matter, and present the right point of view. Great economic changes are slow in being established and for good reasons. In times long passed, certain trades worked from “sun up to sun down.” It was during President Van Buren's time (about 1840) that the ten-hour day had its inception, yet within only a few years many trades still regularly worked twelve hours.
*William Sellers & Co., Inc., Philadelphia
Wages in a new country due to the scarcity of labor have always been higher than in an old country, and the higher wages in this country due to such scarcity and the necessary development of our industries to compete with the labor of the old countries is what so enormously stimulated our invention of labor saving machinery, and more recently to the same end and for the same reason the production of automatic machinery. In these respects, we outstrip the whole industrial world.
But other industrial countries have followed and are following us at such rapid pace that before the present great war they were in successful competition with us for our own markets, and the industrial necessities of their war have so stimulated their capabilities for production that it is highly probable when the war is over, this country will be under the fiercest competition it has ever known.
Under these conditions demand is made upon the employing interests for an eight-hour day.
Let us look at it clearly. Wages in foreign countries are much lower and the hours longer than in this country.
The efficiency of foreign labor has been increasing for years, and it is stated, may now be superior to ours, due to the discipline growing out of the war. The machinery it will use will be at least as efficient as ours. Consequently the output will equal ours per hour, if it does not exceed ours. Now how can we compete with the foreign producer upon this showing even though we should continue to work a ten-hour day?
In reducing our product by curtailing our hours we must enlarge or increase the capacities of our plants to produce the same amount as when working ten hours. This involves not only a very considerable increase in capital account, but in all those unavoidable costs which make up overhead charges, and which the business must also earn as well as a fair profit to warrant its continuance. In many cases the difference in