The Job Ahead for Industry
NATIONAL SERVICE NOT THE ANSWER TO MANPOWER PROBLEM
By IRA MOSHER, President, National Association of Manufacturers and President, Russell-Harrington Cutlery Co., Southbridge, Mass.
Delivered before the South Jersey Manufacturers Association, Camden, N. J., February 1, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 297-299.
I WOULD like to stand here tonight and tell you that industrial management had a brand new job for 1945. I can't. Management, like everybody else, has only one task. That task is winning a war. It isn't new, and it is greater today than ever before.
There was a time last Autumn when it looked as if industry's program for 1945 might be a two-phased job involving both production for victory and more concerted planning for peace. The generals, the statesmen and all of us were optimists then. It looked right as rain. The D-Day landings had been an outstanding success. General Patton's tank columns had roared across France like wheeled lances stabbing into Germany. Victory was running ahead of schedule in the Pacific.
I am raising no question of blame for this attitude. The whole nation shared it, and with reason. We simply thought that we were a whole lot nearer home than we were, which is a very human error. We are not interested in pinning blame anywhere. We are only interested in victory.
And victory will not be won by wishing or bickering. It will be won by fighting and dying on the battlefront and tears and sweat and above all—work, WORK and MORE WORK at home.
The fortunes of war—the tides of battle—have upset many strategic plans, most production schedules.
Even preliminary steps in reconversion to peace production are now definitely out until victory is a reality—not a possibility or probability.
We face a demand for tremendously increased war production short-handed in some areas and some industries—we have local manpower problems.
But we also face another danger—that we shall now exaggerate the gravity of that manpower problem as greatly as all of us did the certainty last fall of V-E day before Christmas.
Management assuredly wants to give the military everything it needs, but let's be careful we do not defeat these ends by compulsion.
No! National service legislation is not the answer to the manpower problem!
A "work or fight" law would penalize the millions of voluntary workers who for 3 years have helped make possible our boasted war production miracle. It would extend to those, who under compulsion prefer to work rather than fight, the benefits reserved for men and women who are risking life and limb on fighting fronts. Such discrimination would certainly destroy the morale of loyal workers with disastrous effect on sorely needed production.
The pending May "work or fight" bill would give foxhole standing to those "last-minute men" who chose to work rather than fight, for under this legislation they would, as work draftees, get such GI benefits as transportation allowances, re-employment rights and moratorium on obligations. This would be rank discrimination against millions of loyal workers who have stood by their gun-making for three years, as well as thousands of 4-Fs already employed on war work.
Without reflection on the 4-Fs whose physical classification is usually no personal stigma to them, this would largely mean that the hesitant patriot, the poolroom habitue, the night club crooner and such would be more richly rewarded than the men and women who have been responsible for the stupendous war production record.
I'm speaking by the book! NAM has just completed an intensive survey that shows that the current manpower problem not only can be met, but is being solved on a local level. We covered more than 100 war industry centers—some in critical labor areas and others where only a few skilled workers are needed.
Everywhere the answer was the same. In many cases the worker shortages had already been met; in others the situation is rapidly clearing with war plant job applications mounting as the public realized the need for more workers.
Out of it all came the logical, American alternative to compulsion. If we must have legislation at all, let it authorize the creation of ceilings on civilian employment where the type of trained worker most needed is now to be found. By giving WMC ceilings at the local level and by the use of controlled referrals and compulsory releases, workers would still have a wide freedom in the choice of war jobs. We can enforce the "work or fight" principle without national legislation that would create the very kind of slave economy we fight against and not contribute an iota to victory.
In considering proposals for universal national service legislation, the problems of war production have been management's chief concern. Management has no responsibility for the conduct of military operations. It does have a heavy responsibility for production.
Arguments have been advanced that compulsory service legislation is needed to boost the morale of our armed forces; or that it is needed to mobilize or punish a minority of Americans who may not be contributing their full share in the war. Our position is that such legislation will not help war production, whatever else it might do for national morale, either overseas or at home.
Management firmly believes that if the nation has a man-power problem, it should be solved as such. On the other hand, if the country confronts morale difficulties, they too should be met, but not by endangering war production.
But really, we don't need new legislation so much as we need fair interpretation and fearless enforcement of laws now on the books. We need more than lip service to the "no strikes for the duration" pledge and an end to the work stoppages that in 1944 involved 2,100,000 workers and cost the war effort more than 8,500,000. man days of production. We need an end, too, to union "feather-bedding" and "make work" schemes, production restrictions and other practices which deliberately slow down the output of war goods.
A substantial improvement in the existing manpower situation can be accomplished by management itself through re-analysis of work methods, manpower scheduling, and the elimination of labor hoarding. In addition, the more accurate estimate of needed manpower would eliminate much of the confusion and aid materially in identifying and solving existing shortages. If we all, government, management and labor make victory our one objective and production for victory our prime concern, the manpower problem will vanish.
But despite the views of Washington officials, 1945 will not always be with us. I am not exactly imparting a profound secret when I tell you that there will be a 1946 and a '47 and all the numbers up to the end of time.
Reconversion may be on the government proscribed list at present. But management must continue to study the problem and plan so that we shall not be as unprepared for peace as we were for war.
Even as industry works for war it must continue to plan for peace—to set the stage for a future in which Americans can earn more, buy more and have more.
The core of that future lies in productive jobs—jobs that create things to buy and money with which to buy them—not jobs legislated into being to add to an already incredible national debt which will reach the frightening sum of 300 billion dollars before this war is ended.
Manufacturing industry which is the principal source of employment in this country, although it accounts for only 25 per cent of the labor force, intends to go right on thinking of the day when victorious Americans are going to ask delivery on their postwar jobs.
According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing industry stands ready to supply 30 per cent more jobs than in the last year of peace, and that even during the employment ebb expected during the immediate transition period, the job level will remain above that of 1939.
Furthermore, 66 per cent of manufacturing industry will have reached full scale employment levels within four weeks after reconversion is allowed to begin—95 per cent will reach that same peak within eight weeks.
I need not remind you that if all the other great segments of our economy—agriculture, the service trades, distribution and transportation—do as well, we shall have maximum employment. If not the equivalent of the political catch phrase "full employment" which really means full deficit finance jobs, leaf raking, boondoggling and all the other makeshifts of the depressed thirties.
Productive employment—more things being made and more things being sold because more people are being paid for making them is the lasting way to jobs and prosperity, not the route of more and more government spending.
The process of prosperity in this country isn't a new one but a sure one. It may not appear to be the answer to a generation which baa acquired the warped theory that sheer "wanting" is all there is to "having."
I know industry is frequently charged with failing toprovide "something new"—something "different."
Economics, like morals, have a certain set of commandments. The language of the Ten Commandments may be outdated today, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with their principles.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with sound economic principles either.
Management's mistake has been an error of omission. In a day of economic soothsayers bellowing from a variety of stumps, management has elected to make silence a virtue. Management must learn to speak up.
Mere talking won't be enough either. Good intentions have an odd way of being suspected when they're not supported by definite action.
The only way to re-establish a non-faltering, nonemergency economic system in this country and in the world is by example—by performance. That means industry must set the pace, plant by plant and industry by industry.
Manufacturers are no different from any other group. Some are farsighted. Some aren't. Not all of them can be expected to demonstrate industrial statesmanship. But enough must!
Economic leadership will come by doing, by carrying out the principles of free enterprise we talk so much about By having a program of industrial action. And there is such a program sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Industrial Council.
It is a two-phased program aimed at (1) increasing opportunities for all Americans to earn; and (2) increasing opportunities for all to buy.
To help 11 million returning servicemen, 18 million war workers, and 26 million other Americans earn, industry intends to use its war-increased productive capacity to provide more jobs, to make those jobs pay more, and to encourage steady advancement to higher paying positions by providing better tools and better methods.
That means industry is committed to bolder risk taking in starting new ventures.
In addition to creating new jobs, management intends to see that they are good paying jobs. That means wage policies which pay workers every last cent their production can justify. It means creating tools and methods to improve that production.
Products can't be sold to people without money to buy them.
Business further intends to open every route for advancement of its workers to this end. War has taught us many special avenues and special training steps which have uncovered unsuspected talents. That's why returning servicemen are going back into better jobs than the ones they left.
We are learning much in the public interest about new abilities and how to use them so both labor and management benefit. And the practices established today will be part and parcel of that peacetime tomorrow.
But it doesn't mean a thing if we increase wages and earning opportunities if prices go up as much or more.
To start with production must be on an efficient basis; next the only way we can hold prices down in a democratic nation is to encourage free, open competition. When men compete against each other for personal advancement and better jobs—when manufacturers compete for markets—then product quality stays high and prices come down and stay down.
That sort of competition will bring the technical advances we have learned during the war out into the open where the public can get their benefits quicker than any other method under the sun.
It will make sure that industrial research and long-range planning actually engineer low prices into our products. Then we'll have the better world by working for it instead of wishing for it.
But manufacturing industry and business alone cannot accomplish every detail necessary to re-vitalizing the process of prosperity.
The public has a responsibility.
The public ought to examine existing legislation and proposed legislation with one yardstick: Will it help our economy to expand and thus make jobs that are productive?
The plain facts must be made apparent to this public.
Industry in order to do its best for jobs and opportunity needs sound tax laws that leave sufficient funds for expansion, investment and improvement because only that way do we get jobs.
Every person with a nickel's worth of brain in this country knows that we have a war to pay for and a terrific national debt to liquidate. That means taxes, generally speaking, are going to be higher than they hung Haman. But let us see that they are applied in a manner calculated to advance our economy, not hamstring it.
The public should also demand impartial and vigorous enforcement of laws that keep business truly competitive. Good management is against monopoly—against anything which attempts to fix prices, restrict trade or zone areas of exclusive selling.
The future is also going to demand a "new look" at our labor policies. I use the plural. There hasn't been a single definite, national, workable labor policy in this country to date. There have been compromise, expediency rulings, special gadgets and other forms of management-labor relationships with all sorts of official and semi-official blessing and favoritism. The recent Ward decision shows clearly the need of Congressional action to give the nation a workable and fair national labor relations policy which fixes responsibilities as clearly as it defines rights—and which guarantees freedom of choice among individuals and unions.
Without it, we face the unique, if stupid position in history of a nation that threw away world leadership and domestic prosperity because it chose to indulge its energies in a local "fist fight."
As president of the NAM, I shall welcome an opportunity to sit with responsible executives of any responsible labor group to draft such a national policy. Or better yet, to bring to bear such influence as we collectively own toward the formation of a national board of economic advisers comprised of strictly "public members" to aid in the formation of a labor policy that is primarily in the public best interest before it considers either labor or management.
Let's start to tell each other—our managers, our labor leaders, our law-makers—a little more about a thing called "equal privilege" instead of special privileges and class benefits. And let's stop talking about our economy as if it were dead.
Am I, or are you, going to tell American youth that we have reached a peak—that we're done for—that this is all there is and we'd better stop and divide it? Not as long as there is one chance that our kids will turn around and say, "Come on. I want to see what's on Mars I And the quicker you work out this business here, the quicker we can get on with it."
Gentlemen, I doubt whether we will reach other planets in our lifetimes. We seem to have our hands full right here on earth.
We've got a job creating a better America, a better world right here on this mundane sphere.
Let's—capital and labor—black and white—rich and poor—right and left—altogether—make them work to produce that better and better nation—which is our natural destiny.