Welfare Work - The New Industrial Policy

The following appeared in Facts magazine, July 1905

Welfare Work: The New Industrial Policy

By Chas. M. Steele

            Until ten years ago the term "Welfare Work" was a phrase without meaning in the industrial world. Today it stands for a definite policy on the part of employers which may bring about the solution of many of the vexed problems of labor and capital. The leaven of this policy already has begun to work.
          The birthplace of welfare work was the factory of the National Cash Register Company at Dayton, Ohio, and the father of the plan is Mr. John H. Patterson, of the Cash Register Company. Mr. Patterson, in the face of opposition, criticism and ridicule, has carried out successfully at the Dayton factory the most advanced ideas of welfare work.
          As a result of Mr. Patterson’s efforts, the National Cash Register factory has been made the model industrial plant of the country. Its employes work under ideal conditions, so far as sanitary buildings and attractive surroundings are concerned. At the same time they have the largest advantages in the way of opportunities for self-education. By constant encouragement to self-improvement, they have become probably the best trained and most contented factory workers in the United States. This has been the result largely of the company's welfare policy.
          Picture to yourself a factory situated in the beautiful Miami Valley surrounded by well kept lawns, tastefully placed shrubbery and shady trees. Imagine tall buildings with such extensive window space that the walls seem to be made of glass, with trailing vines climbing up brick supports between the windows. With this picture in mind surround your factory with the pretty vine clad homes of con-tented working men and let a long line of hills form the background. You will then have an idea of how welfare work shows its effects in the externals of the National Cash Register factory.
          The welfare work at the National Cash Register may be classified under three heads: Intellectual, physical and social. The company holds as an article of its creed that a well trained workman is the best possible investment. Believing this, the National Cash Register has done many things for the training of its employes. First of all, there are the schools of many kinds. There are agents' training schools a Dayton and in a number of cities in the United States, where candidates for positions on the selling force of the company receive a course of six weeks' instruction before they are allowed to represent the company. After they have become salesmen and have proven successful, they are brought back to Dayton once every two years for post graduate courses.
          There are schools for repairmen, schools for factory foremen, school for janitors and a school for waiters. There are classes in English for the stenographers of the company, in cooking for the women workers, and in emergency nursing and first aid to the injured for persons employed in the mechanical divisions. Besides these there is an officers' school, where the president or general manager meets the heads of departments and assistants for lectures and conferences. There is an advertising school, where campaigns of publicity are planned.
          The caring of the company for the physical well being of it employes is seen first of all in the construction of the factory buildings. Large windows admit light and air in abundance. At the same time an efficient ventilating system has been installed which changes the air throughout the factory buildings every fifteen minutes. Cleanliness is a noticeable characteristic of the plant, a force of over 75 janitors being constantly employed in sweeping, scrubbing and washing windows. The same cleanliness which is seen in the care of the buildings is encouraged in the personal habits of the employes. To this end the company has provided 73 lavatories, 120 shower baths for the men and 14 tub baths for the women. Once a week in winter and twice a week in summer the employes are allowed twenty minutes on the company's time for bathing purposes, towels and other toilet accessories being provided free of charge.
          A well stocked library is provided for the employes, who are allowed to withdraw books for one cent a week. The best magazines and newspapers are also furnished.
          Among the thousands of visitors who come to the plant every year there are many persons of note. It is the company's aim when-ever possible to have these men and women—leaders of thought in many lines—address the workers. Besides these, eminent lecturers are brought to Dayton at the company's expense, to deliver addresses.
          Possibly the most extensive and expensive form of intellectual welfare work that the National Cash Register or any other company attempts is that of educational trips. Delegations of employes from the Dayton factory have been sent-to many cities to inspect other factories, and to seek for improvements to be introduced in their own work. In the summer of 1904, the company, believing that the Louisiana Purchase Exposition offered exceptional opportunities from an educational standpoint, closed the factory and sent all of its workers to St. Louis, paying the entire expenses of the heads of departments, their assistants and the women employes, and paying half the expenses of other workers.
          Clean aprons and sleevelets for the women, white suits for the janitors, dresses for the kitchen employes and laundry workers arc furnished and laundered by the company.
          Believing that good food is as essential to good work as light and air, the company provides a hot luncheon for all its women employes, for the heads of departments and assistants, for all the office employes and assistant foremen in the factory. In time it is expected that luncheon will be provided for all the factory workers as well. The women and men each have a large, cheery dining room, where the noon meal is served at a little less than cost, the company believing that it gets a large return in the increased efficiency of the employes during the afternoon hours.
          The officers, heads of departments and their assistants take luncheon each day at the Officers' Club. where they have ample time for rest and for the interchange of ideas about the business, and for listening to short addresses by distinguished visitors.
          In order that the women employes who are busy all day may have an opportunity for learning domestic arts, classes in cooking. marketing and other branches of household economy are concluded under the direction of the company's chef.
          The same care for the health of the employes is shown all through the factory. In the departments where women work, high-backed chairs and foot-rests are provided to increase the comfort of the workers.
          In the polishing department a system of suction pipes and fans has been installed by which the harmful dust is withdrawn from the atmosphere.
          In connection with each of the women's departments a rest room is provided, where any girl may retire when ill or over-fatigued. A trained nurse is in constant attendance, and the company's physician is within easy call. An emergency hospital with all appliances for dressing wounds is also established, and the factory foremen are furnished with simple appliances to be used in case of injury. By means of these provisions for the health of its workers the company saves much time which would otherwise be lost through sickness if first symptoms were neglected.
          The social phase of welfare work centers about two organizations, the Men's Welfare Work League, and the Woman's Century Club. The Men's Welfare Work League is an organization of about 2,500 members, the object of which is to secure the improvement of working conditions throughout the world. The Woman's Century Club, with a membership of about 600, has a similar purpose with reference to the women. This club is affiliated with the Federation of Women's Clubs, and carries on classes in literature, music, art and other branches.
          Under the auspices of the Men's Welfare League a "settlement house" has been established in the neighborhood of the factory, where people of the neighborhood meet and where classes are conducted in carving, sewing, drawing, embroidery and basketry. The Women Century Club has a house of its own, the old Patterson Homestead which is now known as Rubicon Club House. Here those of the women employes who do not live in Dayton may secure a home.
          A branch of welfare work through which the company has had a great influence on the people and the surroundings of the neighborhood, is that of landscape gardening. At the time when welfare work was started the surroundings of the factory were like those of most industrial plants—anything but attractive. After the company has made its own property beautiful with lawns, shrubbery and vines, it taught the people of the neighborhood, by lectures and demonstrations, the principles of landscape gardening. As a result of this campaign of education the factory neighborhood has been change from a region of tumble-down houses, ash heaps and tin cans to a neighborhood of beautiful homes and well kept yards.
          In order to give the boys of the neighborhood a healthful occupation and to keep them out of mischief, the company has set aside tract of land for gardening. This plot is divided into seven little farms, which are allotted to the boys of the neighborhood. The company furnishes seed, bulbs and tools, and an instructor is also provided to direct the boys in their agricultural tasks. All that the little farmers raise they are allowed to keep, and many of them earn a good sum of pocket money through their gardens. At the end of the year prizes are awarded for the best gardens and the best vegetables.
          From all these various branches of welfare work the National Cash Register reaps a direct benefit through the "suggestion system in vogue at the factory. All through the plant are placed boxes in which employes are invited to drop suggestions for improvements in any department of the business. For every suggestion adopted a cash prize is given, and for the best suggestions, quarterly prizes amounting altogether to $500, are given.
          With these inducements the employes are led to work with brains as well as hands, and the company gets a rich return for all the training which it gives its employes. Through welfare work and the suggestion system, therefore, the National Cash Register employes are now working hand in hand with the company to help solve in a practical way the great problem which is confronting the world today—how to unite capital and labor so that they may work harmoniously together for the good of both. The welfare policy has resulted in more contented and efficient workers and has proved a commercial and financial success. In the words of President Patterson, it has been carried on, first because it is right, and second because it pays.