All this work described at the tenter hooking, the yarding, the folding, inspection, and ticketing, was of a different character from that carried on under the bonus and task system in a large room where sheets and pillowcases were manufactured. This work afforded the only instance of an application of Scientific Management to the processes involved in the great needle trades and was, on that account, of special interest.
The white cloth is brought on trucks to the girls, who tear it into lengths, in accordance with written orders received with each consignment. They snip the cloth with scissors, place the cut against the edge of an upright knife, set at a convenient height on a bench, and pull the two sides of the cloth so that the knife tears through evenly to the end; then they stamp the material, fold it over, and place it on a truck to be carried to the machine sewer. The weekly wages before the bonus was introduced had been $5.98 and were now with the bonus $6.75, though workers sometimes tore more than the 1190 sheets required by the task and made from $7 to $7.50 by a week’s work. The quick workers occasionally stopped for 10 or 12 minutes in the morning and ate a light lunch. The task was severe for the muscles of the hand and forearm, and apt to cause swollen fingers and strained wrists, though the girls bound their wrists to prevent this. All the work was done standing. The loosened starch flying here was annoying, both to the tearers and the girls at the sewing-machines.
Since the time of the inquiry, all the girls engaged in tearing have been relieved and transferred to other positions, and the work of tearing has been done by men.
Here the sheets are turned back and hemmed by workers who sew tandem, one girl finishing the broader hem and the other the narrower one, their task being 620 sheets a day. The girls at the machines formerly earned $7.50, and now earn with the machine set at the higher rate of speed from $8 to $11. They stop for 10 minutes in the morning, and clean the machines and clear away the litter around them. The sewing and stooping are monotonous, and the work on bonus here is apt to cause nervousness, because of uncertainty occasioned by frequent breakages in the machines.
There is a room at one side of the department, where the girls were to rest when they had completed their tasks. But the present foreman, not understanding the system, comes to the rest room and hurries them out again, even after the 620 sheets are finished. One of the girls in the department, an Italian girl, who used to run far beyond the task at the machine, had fallen ill under the strain of the work, or at least left the factory looking extremely ill and saying that she had broken down and could not remain. Another unfortunate result of the speed at the sewing-machines is that the girls are more apt than before to run the needles through their fingers.