The application of Scientific Management to women’s work in the Delaware Bleachery was very limited, extending only to about 12 girls, all employed in folding and wrapping cloth. The factory, on the outskirts of a charming old city in Delaware, is an enormous, picturesque cement pile, reaching like a bastion along the Brandywine River, with its windows overlooking the wooded bank of the stream.
The girls stand in a large room, before tables piled with great bolts of material, and stamp tickets and style cards, fasten them to the roll, fold over the raw edges of the material in a lap, tie two pieces of ribbon around the bolt, wrap it in paper, stamp and attach other tickets, and tie it up with cord to be shipped. Here, after a time-study was made of the quicker girls in all the operations, different tasks were set for different weights of material; and if the task was accomplished, a bonus was paid, amounting, roughly speaking, to a quarter of the worker’s hourly wage. The arrangement of the different processes was so different for each worker, after and before the system was installed, that none of the girls could compare the different amounts of work she completed at the different times. But the whole output, partly through a better routing of the work to the tables, and by paying the boys who brought it a bonus of 5 cents for each worker who made her bonus, was increased from twenty-five to fifty per cent.
The girls’ hours were decreased from 10-1/4 a day with frequent overtime up to nine at night to 9-1/4 a day with no overtime, the Saturday half-holiday remaining unchanged. Here is a list of the changes in the week wages. The work at the time of the inquiry was slack. Sometimes there were only a few hours in the day of wrapping of a kind on which the task and bonus was applied. Besides, these workers were in the midst of an establishment managed by another system. The bonus was given on the basis of the former wage. And this remained lower in the case of workers employed fewer years by the firm, though sometimes their task was the same as that of workers employed longer. Where the girls wrapped both the heavier and the lighter materials, the allotment of these was in the hands of a sub-foreman, who, instead of being in the new position of a teacher rewarded for helping each worker to make her bonus, was in the old position of a distributor of favors. The slackness of the work had led the management, in a good-willed attempt to provide as well as possible for the employees, to place several girls from other departments under this sub-foreman. One of these less strong and experienced girls, at the time of the inquiry, was receiving such an amount of heavy work that she could wrap only enough of the task to enable her to earn from $3 to $5 a week. The firm’s policy was paternalistic, and while in many ways it had a genuine kindness, it was not in general sympathy with Scientific Management, though the superintendent is a thorough and consistent supporter of the new system. But he had not been able, single handed, to achieve all the necessary adjustments, in spite of the decided increase of output the new methods had already obtained for the company.