On this day in 1914: Ford announces wage hike

In 1914 the Ford Motor Company announced that it would henceforth pay eligible workers a minimum wage of $5 a day (compared to an average of $2.34 for the industry) and would reduce the work day from nine hours to eight, thereby converting the factory to a three-shift day. Overnight Ford became a worldwide celebrity. People either praised him as a great humanitarian or excoriated him as a mad socialist. Ford said humanitarianism had nothing to do with it. Previously profit had been based on paying wages as low as workers would take and pricing cars as high as the traffic would bear. Ford, on the other hand, stressed low pricing (the Model T cost $950 in 1908 and $290 in 1927) in order to capture the widest possible market and then met the price by volume and efficiency. Ford's success in making the automobile a basic necessity turned out to be but a prelude to a more widespread revolution. The development of mass-production techniques, which enabled the company eventually to turn out a Model T every 24 seconds; the frequent reductions in the price of the car made possible by economies of scale; and the payment of a living wage that raised workers above subsistence and made them potential customers for, among other things, automobiles--these innovations changed the very structure of society.

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