Manpower for the Production Front


By RICHARD C. BROCKWAY, New York State Director, U. S. Employment Service

Delivered before the New York Chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Management, September 17, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 47-50.

THE printed announcement of this meeting raised a series of questions on use of manpower and concluded with the following statement: "With crises of one kind or another closing in on us, with contradiction following contradiction, the employer, either in defense work or civilian supply, has about reached a point of exhaustion. This is particularly true regarding manpower requirements. Under such conditions, management becomes a day to day affair rather than a controlled projection of plans for achieving objectives demanded by the war situation."

It was suggested that I might be able to supply information that would help you to chart a more clearly defined course; help you to do some long time planning. I will try.

Planning—long time and realistic planning—is the contribution industry can make to the manpower program.

Your announcement reflected conditions of today all too accurately. It is true, in general, that personnel planning is in a day-to-day stage. To some degree this is unavoidable. But a great deal more planning is possible. That it has not been undertaken is probably due not only to uncertainty as to the plans of government, but also to a kind of inertia, an unwillingness to take drastic new steps until drastic steps are forced, and also to a kind of incredulousness that the manpower situation could possibly be as acute as it is painted.

Let me assure you that the manpower situation is just exactly as acute as it is painted. And our almost unique position here in New York City, where a labor surplus of kinds exists, should not lull us into any complacency. Already, conditions are beginning to force fluidity in the entire American labor market. Simple arithmetic shows these conditions, so I'm going to

resort to a few figures and hope you will bear with me. On Monday of this week, for the first time, we were toldthat by the end of 1943 we may expect the military forcesto number from 10 to 13 million men. And there was nopromise that that top estimate was final. President Roosevelt has said that there will be no needto call boys from 18 to 20 until after the first of the year.

For purposes of planning for labor supply, I think we cansafely assume that after the first of the year they will becalled.

We can expect then that our army of 10 to 13 million men will be drawn from the 18 to 45 age group.

There are 27 age groups in this span from 18 to 45 years. In each group there are approximately a million men—a

total of 27 million draft age men in America, on whom the armed forces have already drawn or will draw in 1943.

This means that by the end of 1943 every other man in the 18-45 age group will be in the army.

Men between 18 and 45 who aren't in the army will have been deferred either because they have physical handicaps or because they are "necessary" men to industry.

Now—in what position is industry to meet this kind of manpower drain?

I'm not going to talk about civilian industry—industry that cannot be justified as essential to the war effort because civilian industry is being more realistic about the situation than war industry. Civilian industry knows now that to the extent that it survives at all, it will have to take the kind of labor it can get and is already swinging rapidly to the employment of women, older workers, and the physically handicapped.

War industry shows quite another picture, however.

We hear more and more every day about women in war industry. The papers and the radio reiterate the theme. But actually the war plant with as many as 50 per cent women employees is exceedingly rare.

War plant workers today are preponderantly male—and under 45 years of age.

I'd like to ask those of you who represent war industry —Can you tell me how many men you are going to lose to the draft?

If you can, if you have taken such an inventory and done any planning as a result, you are in very select company.

Proof lies in some studies that we have recently completed for several of the very largest war contract holders—plants that have well developed, competently functioning personnel departments, I am going to cite a few examples from these surveys because I believe they are typical. They add up to a well connected blow between the eyes and dictate immediate, vigorous counter-action.

We sent our men into these plants to study the occupations, the type and length of training required for competent performance on the job, the age groups employed, by occupation and department, the extent to which women were employed, the possibility of further use of women, the extent to which training and up-grading had been initiated by the plants, etc.

On the basis of Selective Service practice, the male employees were studied by age group to make the following tabulations of draft liability:

First—Men under 30 doing jobs requiring less than six months' training. These are the most liable to immediate draft.

Second—Men under 30 doing jobs requiring more than six months' training. These men have higher, more essential skills, but employers can expect trouble in getting deferments, because of the youth of the workers.

Third—Men over 30 doing jobs requiring less than six months' training. These men are least likely to be drafted, because of their age (although up to 45 they too are draft-subject) and are the most likely candidates for up-grading within the plant to more highly skilled jobs or transfer to jobs on which women cannot be used.

Fourth—Men over 30 doing jobs requiring more than six months' training. These men are the only real backlog of male labor on which industry can now depend.

The grouping does not take into account dependency and physical factors, but in other respects it is entirely valid as an index to potential loss to the armed forces. This is what one plant survey showed: Fifty-five per cent of the concern's present male employees are under 30 and are going to be drafted or have a fight on their hands to keep out of the draft—and one employer was stunned by the report.

Another plant had 2,000 employees classed as learners. Only per cent of the learners were women. Of the men, only 5 per cent were over 30, learning skilled jobs or semiskilled jobs from which they could be upgraded, and so fair bets for draft deferment. On the other side of the ledger, thirty-three per cent were under 30 and training for semiskilled work which would not justify deferment; and 62 per cent, although training for higher skills, were under 30 and so deferrable only on the basis of strong evidence that they were irreplaceable. To sum up, 92 per cent of the 2,000 learners in this one company were in the groups most likely to be drafted.

I can give you other examples—a plant employing only 6 per cent women, with 55 per cent of its men in the under-30 groups.

A plant employing only 7 per cent women, with 62 per cent of its men in the under-30 groups.

A plant employing 9 per cent women, with 62 per cent of its men in the under-30 groups.

One almost unique plant employs 48 per cent women— a ratio due chiefly to the fact that the plant is new and the handwriting on the wall is daily becoming clearer. Even this plant is facing trouble. Of its total employees, only 52 per cent are men, but of those men, 64 per cent are in the under-30 groups.

These are startling figures—and there is no reason to believe that the instances are unusual. Further, although these are large war plants, with high calibre personnel administration, the figures that we laid on the line after completing the surveys with the cooperation of the plants themselves, were shocking, eye-opening evidence of a threat to production that the companies themselves had not realized.

It is no criticism of the companies or their personnel administrators that they were not aware of the situation. Personnel administration, in itself, is a relatively new field. A war situation comparable to today's has never existed. Plant expansion has been so swift that personnel officers have their hands full if they keep hiring up to schedule, get people on the payroll and manage to handle grievances and make

adjustments to keep employees morale at a satisfactory level. There has not been the time, nor a recognition of the necessity for getting off at a distance and looking at the personnel picture as a whole; for using the inventory approach to personnel planning. Moreover, we are all suffering, undoubtedly, from a hangover from the personnel practices jag that was possible during depression years. We have not yet got entirely out of our minds the habit of picking and choosing, the habit of knowing that no matter whom we hired for what job, there were plenty more where he came from.

I have noted with a great deal of interest, and I think you will recognize that this is true, that the great majority of war plants are young men's plants. Young concerns have expanded rapidly to meet the emergency, and to a large extent it has been the imagination and drive of young men that has made the quick transition possible. Company officers are young men. Personnel officers are young men. The point I am making is this: young men who grew up in the depression era have never experienced a labor shortage. They know now that there is a shortage of high skills, but it is a long jump from there to a recognition of potential general labor shortage, with the radical revision in planning and operations which that recognition requires.

I have tried to show with a few specific examples actual conditions in actual plants that we are facing a general labor shortage, that it is beginning to be serious, and that it will be critical before another year is past.

If you concede the evidence, then the next question is—what to do about it.

There are plenty of plants keeping a weather eye out on the labor supply situation—and I have talked to a lot of employers on this subject recently—who will tell you they don't have to begin to worry until the line-up at their gates begins to dwindle. Then will be time enough—they tell me —to begin to plan for changes in hiring practices.

We have known for a long time that these employers are looking at a mirage when they mistake a line-up at their gate for labor supply. I think most personnel managers admit this privately whatever their explanation to us of their inertia—otherwise they would not keep open at night in order to invite new lineups. Whether they admit it or not, proof of the mirage was a sampling we took recently, with the employer's permission, on a typical daily gate line. We talked to 105 men. Ninety percent of them were employed and shipping around on their day off for better conditions and better pay. If this is true at one employer's gate, it means that his own men are using their days off for the same purpose, lining up at other comparable plants.

If you concede that the size of the daily line-up can be discounted as any index of labor supply, the question then arises—to what extent can Selective Service be depended on to defer men now employed by war industry, whatever their age, and whatever their job.

Yesterday General Hershey pointed out that up to now industry has gained what he called "a great deal of incidental protection" through deferments. The time is near, however, he said, when there must be a decision whether men are more valuable to industry or the armed forces. Industry is going to be "shocked" he said into realizing that many men can be replaced and that more and more women will have to be utilized as replacement. This warning cannot be taken lightly. I have heard it said, authoritatively, that the philosophy behind the Selective Service System is that every man between 18 and 45 belongs to the Army— that these men are only on loan to industry, to the minimum extent necessary, to supply manpower for essential production and civilian services.

War Manpower Directive No. 1 ordered the UnitedStates Employment Service to prepare and keep current lists of essential activities, essential occupations and so-called critical war occupations—An occupation is classed as essential only if it is necessary to an essential activity and if at least six months training is necessary before a worker can perform satisfactorily on the job. An occupation is critical if it is essential and a labor shortage exists or is impending.

These lists of essential activities and essential and critical occupations have been supplied to the Director of Selective Service.

War Manpower Directive No. 5 calls upon the Director of Selective Service to relay these lists to all local boards and to grant temporary deferments to persons engaged in essential occupations, to the extent required for the maintenance of essential activities.

At the same time, the Selective Service System instructed all local boards to call on the Employment Service whenever additional information is needed to decide the occupational classification of a registrant, under these conditions:

First—when there is any doubt whether the occupation of the applicant is actually essential.

Second—when additional information is needed to determine whether a local or national shortage exists in the occupation or is threatened.

Third—when a local board is considering whether or not a registrant is replaceable by his employer.

It should be understood clearly that the Employment Service has no official status in the Selective Service program. In providing as complete and reliable labor market data as possible, our representatives act purely in advisory capacity as technical experts on labor market conditions and occupational requirements. Responsibility for decisions on occupational deferment rests solely with the Selective Service System.

However, the fact that Selective Service is calling on the Employment Service for this advice is important to you and to all industry—primarily as evidence of swiftly tightening integration in the manpower program. And further implications of the provision for temporary deferment of essential men, should be perfectly clear. You may reasonably expect that your first requests for deferments for men in essential occupations will be granted. You may also expect however, that when you make application for renewal of those deferments, you will be expected to give evidence that you have made a bona fide attempt to replace the essential man; or, if a replacement has not been immediately available, that you have either instituted training yourself or asked public authorities to institute training for you, to develop replacements from among workers who are draft exempt. I cannot speak for Selective Service and the Army, but all the evidence seems to show that you are going to get scant sympathy for your requests for deferment renewals unless you can show convincing evidence that you have taken all possible steps to solve your own manpower problems without encroaching unnecessarily on the manpower needed by the armed forces.

You can find basis for this conclusion in War Manpower Directive No. III which instructs the United States Employment Service to give priority to employers in essential activities whenever applicants are available in essential occupations. This directive provides specifically that the Employment Service may deny priority service to any employer in essential activity:

First—if the wages and working conditions he offers are below the prevailing standard for the area or less advantageous to the individual worker, or

Second—if the employer has failed to utilize his present employees effectively through training, up-grading and job breakdown, and

Third—if the employer has failed to transfer to essential work any employees working in critical occupations on now-essential work under his ownership and control.

In other words, the War Manpower Commission is saying that the U. S. Employment Service shall give priority help to employers who help themselves. That this same policy will certainly be carried over into Selective Service in the granting of deferments is implicit in the statement of purpose for appointment of the War Manpower Commission: I quote "to facilitate the most effective mobilization and utilization of the manpower of the country."

The War Manpower Commission was appointed just six months ago tomorrow. During that period it has been accumulating information and issuing directives to established agencies to tighten the coordination between them. Mr. McNutt has announced, as a general policy, that no blanket controls are contemplated; that direct measures of control can be looked for on a regional basis as labor supply problems in particular regions became critical.

Last week saw the first direct action of this kind. Twelve western states, spanning the continent from New Mexico and Texas to Washington, Idaho and Montana, were designated by Manpower Commissioner McNutt as a "critical labor area." At the same time, all occupations in the lumbering and non-ferrous metal industries were designated as "critical occupations." The order prohibited any employer in the region, whether essential or non-essential, from hiring any worker in any of the critical occupations, unless the worker could present a United States Employment Service certificate of separation from his previous employment; and it prohibited any worker from quitting a job in the two critical industries without obtaining a United States Employment Service certificate of separation. This drastic step was taken because rampant labor piracy threatened production in these industries.

The plan for control was drafted in close consultation with outstanding leaders of management and labor in both affected industries, and will be enforced, where enforcement beyond the cooperation assured by management and labor is necessary, through the Army, the Navy and the Maritime Commission in their control over operations of their contractors. At the same time, steps are being taken to adjust whatever inequities in wages, housing and working conditions have influenced workers to leave employment in the lumber and non-ferrous metals industries in the past.

Similar action can be expected as necessary in Baltimore, since a Manpower Commission Director has already been appointed there. Baltimore was selected by the War Manpower Commission as an early testing ground because manufacturing employment there increased 74 percent from 1939 to 1942, because tens of thousands of new war workers are needed there in the near future, and because labor shortages there can be eased by the increased use of Negroes and women. First announcement of A. A. Liveright, formerly with the U. S. Employment Service in New York and now Manpower Director for the Baltimore Area, was a flat, barely elaborated statement that "employers who are not now using Negroes must make their plans to use them."

The word "must" did not imply compulsory legislation, he explained, but, I quote, "it is just an obvious fact that all sources of local labor must be used if our war program is not to bog down. And you may rest assured that the government will not sit idly by and let that happen."

Canada, in the past few weeks, has frozen all labor, has barred all getting and giving of jobs, except through the public employment service, in order to have absolute assurance that skills essential to the war program are used where they are most useful and most necessary.

We in New York State are already confronted with critical problems of labor supply and of labor piracy in certain areas. I cannot tell you yet what control to look for or where. But I can assure you that degrees of control will be forthcoming whenever they are necessary—tomorrow, or a month or six months from today.

From the point of view of management, it is important to realize that when hiring is barred except under given conditions, with permission, the sure meaning of the restriction is that permission will not be given until all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. For months now, the alternatives have been reiterated—-training, upgrading, the employment of women, the employment of older workers and the employment of the physically handicapped wherever possible. This formula is as valid for New York City as for any place in the country. This week saw the New York City shipyard barriers against women broken after we had dragged bottom on the supply of experienced shipyard

workers here. Other barriers are being broken. Employers from other cities and other states are now calling on New York City as one of the few areas of labor surplus in the nation. Before many days have passed a single out of state employer will be here with a schedule that calls for the hiring and out-migration of 20,000 New Yorkers. The tide is turning. The American labor market is becoming fluid. There are no islands any more. Now is the time to plan— realistically and boldly, setting aside habit and convention. There is no contradiction in the program. There is no need and no excuse for planning as a day to day affair. I repeat to you—deferments for your present employees are not the answer. Inventory your personnel now. If you recognize that inability to replace your present employees is going to be the only criterion for their deferment from the draft, the conclusion is inescapable. Your job now is to train, to upgrade, to employ women, to employ minorities, to employ older workers, to employ the physically handicapped—to make employment plans in the light of obvious military manpower needs. You have the chance to demonstrate to the world that this is a total war of the whole people, with no halt to be called until all of the people are working all of the time with all of the skill they possess.