Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 130 pages of information about Wage Earning and Education.

The report gives extended consideration to the machinist’s trade, which constitutes by far the largest body of skilled workers in the city.  This trade has been affected more than any other by the progress of invention and the modern tendency towards specialization.  In many establishments the all-round machinist, competent to do independent work and operate the wide variety of machine tools now used in the trade, had practically disappeared.  In his place are found “specialist” machine hands who have learned the operation of a single machine tool, but have no general knowledge of the trade, and who if called on to perform work requiring the use of a machine tool different from the one on which they are employed are unable to do so.  There are hundreds of drill press hands who cannot operate a milling machine, lathe hands who know nothing of planer work, and so on.  The subdivision of these occupations follows closely the advance in invention, so that employers advertising for help frequently specify not only the machine tool to be used but add the name of the firm which manufactures that particular type of machine, with the result that there are about as many kinds of machinists as there are manufacturers of machine tools.  Table 18 shows the estimated number of men employed, with their distribution in the various branches of the trade.


----+ | | Estimated | Workers | Per cent | number | --------------------------------+------------+-------------+
Lathe hands | 18.8 | 3,384 | Drill press operators | 17.9 | 3,222 | Bench hands | 13.4 | 2,412 | Machinists | 12.7 | 2,286 | Screw machine operators | 9.4 | 1,692 | Milling machine operators | 8.6 | 1,548 | Tool makers | 8.3 | 1,494 | Grinding machine operators | 6.2 | 1,116 | Planer hands | 2.2 | 396 | Turret lathe operators | 1.8 | 324 | Gear cutter operators | .7 | 126 | --------------------------------+------------+-------------+
Total | 100.0 | 18,000 | --------------------------------+------------+-------------+

Specialization has operated to lower standards of skill and keep down wages.  The average wage of the “all-round” machinist is very nearly the lowest found among the skilled trades.  The union scale is but 14 cents an hour above that paid unskilled labor, while the average earnings of machine operators range from four to 12 cents above laborers’ wages.  Only among the highly skilled tool makers do the wages approach those received by skilled labor in most other industries.  Table 19 shows the average, highest, and lowest rates per hour for all branches of the machine trades in the establishments from which data were collected during the survey, with the per cent employed on piece work and day work.

Follow Us on Facebook