Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Graded #6 part 2, The Hell Factory

Over the past two years I have worked for Charter Plastics, Inc. which is a factory that produces polyethylene pipe products. While reading through Taylor, I realized that there are plenty of signs of things that he says are going on which shouldn’t be happening if we are to achieve “maximum prosperity.”

Taylor claims that if you are to achieve this “maximum prosperity” that both the owner and the employee must reach a maximum. For the employees to reach their maximum prosperity, they should be paid higher wages than usual and must develop a “state of maximum efficiency.”

If this is the case for maximum prosperity I do not believe Charter Plastics will ever reach this target. The employees such as me were rarely in an efficient state which is nowhere close to a maximum efficiency. Almost all of the employees were working as slow possibly to try and avoid a full day’s work. Taylor defines this to be “soldiering.” Although we usually tried to work slowly, it was near impossible to avoid doing a full day’s work because we worked 12 hour shifts almost every day. Also the amount of work you completed in a day (which was number of pipe coils you created) was not something you could change by working slowly. The pipe was created at a constant rate which meant no matter what there was an X amount of feet of pipe that you had to make. Even though you could not change the amount of pipe being created, there were several other things that could be done around the shop while you were waiting on the machine. This is where people would soldier. Everyone would sit around and act like they were busy when the management (not so much management, but some foremen and the people higher than the foremen) would walk around so they wouldn’t be told to do something else, whereas when no one was around we would all sit around and do as little as possible. Now you know the workers will most likely not reach a state of maximum efficiency.

The act of soldiering was not the only thing hindering Charter Plastics employees from reaching a maximum prosperity. Taylor also states that higher wages than usual are part of the process. Although Charter pays decently and offers overtime, almost all of the employees feel that they are underpaid for the work we have to put up with. Above it may sound like an easy job because we could sit down at times and do nothing, but many people called it a “sweat shop.” Before this summer we worked 12 hour days with no breaks at all, not even a bathroom break. Even the job of coiling the pipe itself was very tedious and dangerous. One of my friends in the Marine Corps that also worked at Charter said he would rather go back to Parris Island for 12 weeks than to come back to Charter. So that should be enough to show that we were not compensated enough for our work.

I think that several factories are in the same boat as Charter Plastics. Some friends for different companies tell the same horror stories which lead me to believe that almost no factory workers will ever achieve a maximum prosperity. So even though I agree with Taylor that both sides need to reach a maximum prosperity, I do not believe this will ever happen because I do not know a single factory worker who was ever in a state of maximum prosperity.

On a side note – I personally don’t think that it is that bad of a job, but it is easy to compare with several things that Taylor talks about. I still go back and work there whenever I can, but that may because I like to have money.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Nice post - you do a particularly good job of pointing out how alive all of Taylor's interests are.

Your post does raise many questions, of course, invited by your interesting narrative. Could Taylor turn things around, make them more productive? Or is this a case of human efficiency being irrelevant, i.e., of Ford vs. Taylor, as we talked about in class. When work becomes mechanized enough, the human aspect of the work may be secondary.

We could also talk about Taylor's inability to predict the globalization of labor, which give factory wages in the U.S. tremendous downward pressure...