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Experience With Works Councils in the United States (Classic Reprint)

Experience With Works Councils in the United States (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Experience With Works Councils in the United States

In August, 1919, the number of Works Councils in industrial concerns in the United States was 225, according to a survey made at that time by the National Industrial Conference Board for its first report on the Works Council movement, which gave an account of substantially all that were then functioning. Since then, a number of employers have abandoned their employee representation plans, but a much larger number of employers have instituted Councils in their plants, so that in February, 1922, there were approximately 725 such organizations in operation in this country.

The great majority of the Works Councils covered in the Boards first report on the subject 1 had at the time of its publication been functioning on an average for not more than one year. This was a year of business prosperity; production was in demand, labor was scarce and wages were high. Following this came a period of business adversity; the demand for goods fell off, working forces were reduced, and wages declined. Widespread interest was manifest as to how Works Councils would stand the strain of such a period of depression. Were employee representation plans practicable only in times characterized by high wages and high prices? Would employees lose interest in the Councils when wage reductions became necessary? These and similar questions were raised as to the status and value of Works Councils during a period of decreased production and falling wages.

In order to answer these questions adequately, and ascertain the practical experience of employers with their Works Councils during such a period, the National Industrial Conference Board conducted a country-wide investigation. The great majority of the Works Councils treated in the present report have been in operation for periods varying from two to five years. An account of industry's experiences with these Works Councils during that period is presented herewith.


The term Works Council as used in this report is taken to mean

"a form of industrial organization under which the employees of an individual establishment, through representatives chosen by and Works Councils in the United States." Research Report No. 21, Boston, October, 1919.

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