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Sam Adams

Browder and Speed-Up “Engineer”
Join Hands For Incentive Pay Scheme

(September 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 37, 13 September 1943, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The big drive to put over the piecework-speed-up system known as “incentive pay” was launched some time ago. Behind the new scheme of cheating the American workers was a combination made up of the Administration, big business, some misleaders of labor and the Stalinists. The ranks of the labor movement, however, having more than enough experience with such plans for increasing the profits of the bosses, voiced their determined opposition to this ingenious system which originated in the ranks of big business.

But on Sunday, September 5, a new attempt to popularize and convince a skeptical working class of the benefits of incentive pay was made by two persons of seemingly divergent views, who are, however, really close friends these days.

On that day, the Worker, organ of the Stalinist Communist Party of America, carried a long article by its leader, Earl Browder, entitled Incentive Wage – Key to War Labor Problems. Simultaneously, the New York Times published a featured letter by one Albert Ramond on Incentive Pay Viewed as One Solution of War Effort.”

Earl Browder needs no introduction, for the labor movement is fairly well acquainted with this leader of the union-wreckers. But Mr. Ramond is not so publicly well known. But he should be. Since 1937 he has been the acting head of the Bedaux Company, an agency devoted to devising ways and means of speeding up workers to increase profits, but politely referred to as “industrial engineers.”

The Bedaux Company earned the deep hatred of the labor movement not only for the vicious speed-up and piecework systems it introduced into industry, but also for its blatant anti-union activity. This hatred was not confined to the “company,” but was directed especially against Charles E. Bedaux, its founder and sponsor.

When the Duke of Windsor planned to tour the United States for the purpose of studying plant management and production, he announced that his associate and companion would be the same Mr. Bedaux, who left the country in 1937. But the protests of the labor movement, the personal denunciations by Green, Lewis and a host of other labor leaders was so sharp and indignant that the Duke gave up the idea of bringing with him this notorious slave-driver.

The real meaning of incentive pay, however, is illustrated by the fact that Albert Ramond, present head of the Badeaux Company, is one of its loudest and most persistent advocates.

Labor Action has described the operation of incentive pay on many occasions. The real key to the problem is to be found in the manner in which Browder and Bedaux, in advocating its adoption, are compelled to plead for the scheme and to explain “past irregularities.”

What are these “irregularities”? They are simply that, under such schemes, the increased productivity of the workers was “rewarded” with proportional declines in wage rates so that at the end, in relation to total production, the workers actually suffered wage cuts. On the other hand, the benefits of increased productivity, realized in enormous profits for the bosses, went into their hands, and their hands alone.

Beautifying Incentive Pay

Both Browder and Ramond admit that this past history of such schemes as incentive pay do not make it easy to put it over on the workers this time. Ramond excuses his class of exploiters by saying that it wasn’t true of all businesses, only some of them. Browder says that “This tendency of the manufacturers to cut rates arbitrarily destroys, of course, the very foundation of the incentive system.” To make it work now, they mustn’t do this – the leopard should change its spots!

Browder lies. The foundation of incentive pay is precisely what big business says and does with it. Big business did not invent this scheme in order to improve the wages and standard of living of the workers. It introduced it for the specific and sole purpose of increasing the productivity of the worker while actually cutting his wage rates and, in effect, reducing his standard of living, but increasing profits at the same time.

This is borne out by the fact that since the turn of the century the productivity of the American worker has gone up and up and up. But the worker’s share in this productivity has steadily declined!

Another aspect of this campaign by Browder and the Bedaux Company is the inference they make that the workers have been stalling on the job. Ramond states that incentive pay would give a “badly needed stimulus to production in war industries.”

What Labor Has Contributed

These gentlemen malign labor. Anyone with half an eye can see how vast has been the production of war materials. The skill and productivity of the American worker is unequalled anywhere in the world. Moreover, this has always been true. But it is especially true in this war. As a matter of fact, the Administration^ and; a number of big business leaders have expressed their astonishment at the productivity of labor in the modern American industries.

It is also admitted that war production in many fields has surpassed original plans and heeds (tanks, shells, etc.). President Murray of the CIO has even publicly warned against the danger of unemployment in a number of war industries.

What, then, is behind this boss-inspired campaign for incentive pay? More profits! Not satisfied with the greatest profits in history, American’ capitalists and their underlings, agents arid new-found friends, in the shape of the Stalinists, have devised this scheme to defraud the American workers even more than at present.

Browder is behind this campaign because, agent of Stalin, ally of England and America, he supports the Roosevelt Administration. He is fully aware of the deep dissatisfaction of the workers with the wage freeze and the hold-the-line order. He knows that the workers are getting the wrong end of the stick and that they are stirring with resentment at the fact that the war is enriching the already rich capitalist class, while they have had to make every sacrifice.

The workers are fed up with the “high cost of living, the enormous taxes which overburden them, the farce of price control, and with the thousand and one ways in which they are cheated. And they see through the farce of “equality of sacrifice” which has meant only sacrifice by them, while big business wallows in the wealth produced by their toil.

The Stalinists stand four-square behind the Roosevelt program, especially its domestic policies. To forestall the resentment of the workers, Browder offfers incentive pay as the only means open to an increase of workers’ wages.

Thus the Browder aim is to quiet the protest of the workers and mobilize mass support for Roosevelt’s fourth term campaign. It is this scheme which coincides with the big business plan for increased profits.

Jumping a Hurdle

The Administration, big business and the Stalinists have argued against wage increases on the ground that they would produce inflation. They are ready to grant wage increases on the basis of the incentive plan. But this would apply primarily to the war industries producing war goods. Obviously this production would not increase the amount of consumer goods in circulation. How, then, do they square their opposition to wage increases with their willingness to grant them such increases under the incentive plan? The answer is, that they do not square it, for they cannot. And this alone serves to expose the whole game.

One needs only to glance over the list of sponsors of incentive pay to see what it really is. It is not at all accidental that Browder and Ramond chose the same day to make their pleas. But it would have been more in keeping with events to have printed Ramond’s letter in the Sunday Worker and Browder’s article in the New York Times.

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