In the old feudal days, the employee was a serf, bound to the soil of his employer. He received a bare living and shared not at all in the gains of the man whose chattel he was. In the days of transition between ancient feudalism and modern industrialism, Civilization greatly improved the relationship between employer and employee. The proprietor and all his men worked side by side in the same shop, performing the same tasks. Each was proud of his skill. Each took delight in his work. Each understood the other. Oftentimes the employee lived under the same roof with his employer, enjoyed the same recreations, and ate at the same table. The skilful, competent, shrewd employer gathered around him the best men in the trade. He profited greatly and his men shared in his prosperity. The invention of machinery and the great enlargement of industrial units makes such relationship between employer and employee impossible. Yet, when employment conditions are improved to match the improvements in machinery and production, we shall go back to the ancient shop for the fundamental principles upon which the new and better relationship will be built.
Observe carefully what these fundamental principles are. First, men who love their work and take pride in it; second, mutuality of interests in that work; third, mutual understanding between employer and employee. By this we mean an understanding by each of the other’s point of view, personality, ability, motives, intentions, ambitions, and desires. Already Civilization is groping toward the establishment of a new relation upon this basis. Scientific methods of employment are being adopted in more and more of our industrial and commercial plants. These insure the fitness of the employee for his work and, because of his fitness, his love for it and pride in it. They also insure a better understanding between employer and employee, whose relationship to each other is guided and controlled by a sympathetic and expert corps of men and women especially selected and trained for just such work. Profit sharing, the bonus system, the premium system, study clubs and classes, and many other forms of giving an adequate day’s pay for a day’s efficient work are all evidences of the desire on the part of the employers and employees to mutualize their interests.
It is true that to-day, perhaps, we have reached the very flood-tide of organization of employees into labor unions and employers into associations, and that these organizations are frequently antagonistic. But these are only evidences of our blind groping toward the ideal. These movements show that we are awake to our needs, that we appreciate the intolerable nature of present conditions and that we have determined to better them. It is inevitable, when such an awakening comes, that we shall eventually learn by our mistakes and direct our effort toward the true solution of our problem.