Voluntary Cooperation of Manpower


By PAUL V. McNUTT, Chairman, War Manpower Commission, Washington, D. C.

Delivered before War Council of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, 31st Annual Meeting Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, April 27, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 505-508.

ONE year ago, the War Manpower Commission was established by Executive Order of the President. This occasion offers a fitting opportunity to report-on our progress during the past year—and to look ahead during the coming year.

About this time a year ago, we began to emphasize the vast manpower problems facing American employers and American workers.

The facts were plain. Our armed forces needed men. Millions of men. The very cream of our young, healthy, able-bodied men. Not many people understood that fact—or itsimpact upon our productive capacity. Now, everybody knows that our armed forces must have ten million eight hundred thousand men by the end of 1943.

But that was only one side of our problem—the military side.

The other side was our production problem. Staggering goals were set for building airplanes, weapons, tanks and ships. Yet our armed forces absorbed the heart of our working force, at the rate of 400 thousand men per month. It was obvious that we must replace those men in industry, and find millions of new war workers besides. We foresaw the needfor 16,400,000 in munitions and other essential industries by the end of 1942, exclusive of our armed forces and of agriculture. We foresaw the need for recruiting, training and hiring millions of women, older workers, physically handicapped workers, and workers from minority groups.

Much progress has been made in utilizing the nation's manpower. We are meeting our production goals. Unemployment is nearing a minimum. Thirty percent of our working force is women. Reluctance to hire women has given way to acceptance. Employers who once ignored this source of labor now enthusiastically are seeking out women workers.

Encouraging gains have been made in the employment of older workers, handicapped workers, and workers from the minority groups. Here, as in the case of women workers, we see reluctance giving way to acceptance. Slowly, but surely.

Fortunately, there have been some unexpected, but very welcome, gains in production efficiency. These gains have helped to alleviate our manpower shortage.

Among them are countless production short-cuts that have saved thousands upon thousands of man-hours. One single large war contractor reports that its workers have contributed over 17 thousand suggestions. Nearly half of them have been production short-cuts. The management-labor committee in that plant has accepted 22 hundred short-cut suggestions and put them into practical operation. Such patriotic ingenuity is a tribute to the employer and workers alike. They deserve the very highest commendation their fellow-citizens can give them.

Other gains have come from new manufacturing processes that save materials. By eliminating wasted materials, there is a corresponding elimination of wasted manpower all along the line.

Another gain is increasingly evident—the value of repetitive production experience. Last year, America's employers and workmen were struggling with brand-new production problems. They had to learn how, and produce, at the same time. They are producing better materials, better weapons, at a rate no one dreamed could be possible.

In the last year, our munitions production showed a greater percentage increase than munitions employment. In other words, each workman and each plant is turning out more and more as they acquire that vital "know how."

These good signs are comforting.

But we still have a big manpower job ahead of us.

Our armed forces still need men. They must have several hundred thousand men per month until the ten million eight hundred thousand total is reached.

Those millions of future fighting men must be replaced. We must find and train about 5 million additional workers to meet our production goals in munitions and other essential industries by the end of 1943.

Where will they all come from?

From the ranks of housewives. Students. Older workers, handicapped workers, minority groups, and from workers who transfer from less essential activities into war work.

There are no other sources. So let's face facts, and not deceive ourselves. The only way to avoid a manpower shortage in your community, and in your operation, is to draw upon these reserves of waiting, willing manpower.

You noticed, I think, my mention of the need for further transfers of workers from less essential activities into war work. That is not a pleasant prospect for anyone. All of us are suffering some inconvenience from the shortage of manpower in the less essential fields. Those shortages are particularly hard on some of you.

And that is why I want to emphasize the need for a voluntary, aggressive campaign to weed out waste.

This country has been wasteful of its manpower. We cannot afford that luxury today. We must take up the slack. Let me cite a few examples:

Some employers are still hoarding manpower. That is, they have more workers on their payrolls than they actually need. Perhaps their reasons are good, perhaps not. In any case, hoarded manpower is wasted manpower.

Some employers are still pirating workers away from other employers. This practice benefits no one, and hampers war production. Do not steal the other fellow's manpower. Find your workers, train them, and keep them.

Last fall pirating was a serious problem. I can tell you today that in the areas covered by Employment Stabilization Plans, it has been effectively checked. And checked, mind you, by voluntary action. Employers, themselves, and the representatives of labor recognized that neither management nor labor was helped by ceaseless, senseless bidding for workers when there were not enough workers to go around.

Job shopping is another cause of waste. Literally thousands of workers shift from job to job—most of them unaware of the fact that this aimless turnover is good news to the Axis.

The President's "hold-the-line" Executive Order of April 3 and the regulations which we issued under that order have already checked this turnover to a great degree. The inquiries which we get in our regional offices and in the Washington office indicates sincere and honest support for the provisions of those orders. Employers are checking on their proposed hiring. Workers who want to change jobs are asking whether or not their move would come within the terms of the order. Every question is an indication not merely that Americans want to obey the law, but that Americans are committed to "holding the line," committed to the teamwork that is essential to winning the war.

These wasteful practices explain why employment stabilization agreements have been set up in 70 areas around the country. There is nothing mysterious about these employment stabilization agreements. They are simply common-sense, logical methods of combatting needless waste of manpower.

If you come from a community that has an employment stabilization agreement, get a copy of it and read it carefully. You'll find that it is fair, equitable, and practical. It ought to be—because the employment stabilization policy of the War Manpower Commission was approved by our National Management Labor Policy Committee, and each local agreement has been approved by the local management-labor advisory committee. These agreements have often been tagged with the label of "job freeze". I will leave it up to you to deride whether they can fairly be called "freezes".

Sometimes I am asked what the War Manpower Commission intends to do about the employer who breaks the rules, I am told that some mining companies are not mining their best shafts, that some lumber companies, with Government contracts, are developing their more distant and less easily cut stands of timber. I am told that some are hoarding labor or mismanaging their affairs for private gains. And I am asked to denounce plants and industries who indulge in such practices.

Again I am told of union, rules which stand in the way ofthe war effort. I am told of "featherbedding", as it has been called in the public prints. I am told of union rules which stand in the way of maximum production for every worker every hour of the day. And I am asked to blast at these practices of the labor unions and the unions which apply them.

I might say that with relation to both management and labor we usually find these reports as exaggerated as the story of Mark Twain's death. But when we find these, we are dealing with them. We are dealing with them whether they are practiced by management or by labor.

We are doing it quietly and objectively as a good manager or a good engineer or a good union executive approaches the evils which he finds before him.

Ours is a task of personnel management on a national scale. Ours is not a field for flamboyance and vitriolics.

Restrictions are of three kinds.

There are restrictions which relate to mismanagement or mis-allocation or misapplication of the labor supply. Usually those cases arise through misunderstanding, but whenever they are found it is part of the function of the Bureau of Utilization to point them out and suggest the remedy.

Or there are restrictions on hours, the hours of work. There are far fewer such restrictions than some public discussions would lead one to believe. The so called 40 hour week is not such a restriction. It is a wage law, but our regulations under the 48 hour week—issued in pursuance of an Executive Order of the President of the United States—are coping with such restrictions wherever they are found.

Other restrictions by labor and management take the form of limiting the units of productions per hour or per day. Against those, the Bureau of Labor Utilization of the War Manpower Commission has directed its efforts just as it would with any other condition that impeded maximum war production.

For every symptom of bad utilization—job absence, labor turnover, production restrictions and stoppages, low morale, incomplete performance on the job, idleness, and the non-use of women and the physically handicapped and the aged—all of these are within the purview of the Bureau of Labor Utilization. Ours is not a task of fixing blame, ours is a task of helping you to remedy those conditions wherever they are found.

A source of waste we hear a lot about is job absences. I am glad to report that the country knows a great deal more about this subject today than it did six months ago—and our understanding is helping to combat it. We know that job absence is caused by a large number of different things, and we are taking steps to counteract those causes.

No one knows exactly how much of work absence is inexcusable, or can be readily prevented. But we do know that there is too much of it. Every employer and every worked should join in a campaign to stop job absence. It can be done. The records of a number of progressive, far-sighted companies prove that, beyond doubt.

Some absence from work may be the result of negligence and irresponsibility on the part of workers. Some of it may have its roots, as the cartoonist would have us believe, in sheer laziness or too much Saturday night celebration.

But a very great part of it can be met by sound personnel management. The worker who does not know his job and is not given an opportunity to be part of the team feels frustrated. Bad supervision makes its mark on the absencerecord. Poor organization of work will lead to personal conflicts which result in turnover and absence from work.

Community conditions, also, are a vital factor. Shopping hours. Laundry service. The hours of ration boards. The effective organization of the community transportation system.

Those are only a few. But I hope I have made my point. It is not merely personal rectitude. Good personnel management and good community management must team up if job absence is to be beaten. Everything you do to weed out waste is helpful to the war effort, helpful to your fellow citizens, and helpful to your fellow businessman. Can your community afford to countenance waste? Is it not time that your community took steps to use your manpower efficiently, so that the Limited supply can be stretched further?

The War Manpower Commission, and its local offices, stand ready to help in every way possible.

Our field force now includes seventy-five full time manpower utilization consultants. This group will eventually be increased to the hundred consultants, as rapidly as we can find the men with the ability and experience to handle the jobs.

Meanwhile, our staff of 75 is doing its best to keep up with requests for assistance. Frankly, our present problem is to assign these men where they are need most, rather than to find places to send them.

In some regions, their load has been eased through the use of part-time consultants—volunteers who serve without compensation. We are counting upon part-time consultants to help meet the increasing demand for this type of service, even after our full staff of 200 full-time men has been recruited.

It is not the function of these consultants to tell anyone how to run his business. Their function is to help management men look at their own problems and analyze them.

The "manning tables" offer an excellent example of the way in which the Commission's industrial consultants can and do help employers. The "manning table" might be called a manpower inventory, which permits orderly withdrawal of men inducted into the armed forces.

Since the inauguration of the manning table plan last fall, over 13 thousand inquiries have been received from interested employers. More than 5 thousand firms have requested participation in the program. Most of these requests have been approved. To date, about one thousand firms have completed and obtained certification for their own manning tables.

We have not pressed for acceptance of the manning table program. Interest in it has grown by leaps and bounds because it is a sound and healthy activity for any employer. It centers the attention of management on the best use of worker skills, upgrading, training, and the need for future replacements. We believe this type of manpower inventory will have permanent benefits for the employer, in addition to its wartime benefits.

Our industrial consultants have been able to render invaluable help to employers eager to develop their own manning tables. Wherever a knotty problem develops, the manpower utilization consultant supplies the advice and experience that untangles the knot.

Another example that will interest you is the case of a boiler factory in New Jersey. This factory did not employ women. Nor did it see any opportunity to use women to ease its shortage problem.

Upon the advice of the manpower utilization consultant,this boiler factory worked out a manning table for itself. In the process, each job was analyzed. The final result showed that 28 per cent of the jobs could be filled by women.

If you have any problems that call for the help of industrial consultants, I suggest that you get in touch with the War Manpower Commission director in your local area or region. But since our budget and our staff are limited, let me also ask your forbearance if the consultants cannot respond as promptly as you might wish.

In this report of progress, it is worthwhile to note that our operations have been conducted on a voluntary basis.

In the absence of compulsory methods, the results have been astonishing. The process has been democracy in action. As we look abroad at the forced slavery that darkens the Axis and occupied countries, we can take pride in our accomplishments, achieved in the American way.

Now, let us finish the job.

The going will be harder from this time on. Our military and production manpower must be supplied from a constantly dwindling pool. But the needed reserves are there—if we tap them. We have the manpower available—if we do not waste it. The manpower problem cannot be licked in Washington. It will not be licked by someone else. That leaves the job up to you, and your fellow citizens—all of us.

We have asked for your cooperation and understanding before. We ask you for that cooperation and understanding again.

With the voluntary support of employers, workers, and the public, the job can be done.

The people of this country can do anything they make up their mind to do. . . .