3.86 research on the workplace (66)

Thu, 1 Jun 89 23:14:29 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 86. Thursday, 1 Jun 1989.

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 89 09:41:47 EST
From: Johnfox@RCN

My present research interest is the work-place or place
of employment as a social and fraternal institution as well
as an economic resource. All of my research has been limited
to occupations and crafts which were prevalent in New England
through the late 1960s. Much of my research has been
conducted through oral interviews.
In a period of 10 years I have acquired a collection of
about 100 interviews with workers and management personnel in
the following occupations: railroads (some interviews are
with men who were involved with the establishment of an
airline by a railroad company), shoe manufacturing, game
publishing, fishing, and leather manufacturing.
In looking at these interviews as a unit, I have come to
be aware that most of the retired and displaced workers tend
to look to their past work experience as having been
fulfilling. In interviews they stress how happy they were at
their job, how rewarding it was, and how well the
owners/management treated them. When they touched on times
or events that seem to bring the perception into question,
they usually found an explanation which did not modify or
destroy their images. Most of the workers recognized that
their job had had some undesirable elements about it. Yet,
as they surveyed their working life, they came to the
conclusion that the good outweighed the bad.
If these perceptions were limited to one company or one
occupation it might be easy to dismiss. But my interviews
leads me to conclude that the perception is not unique nor an
aberration. This view is strengthened by the fact that Tamara
K. Hareven, in her work on the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company,
uncovered similar perceptions (Family Time and Industrial
What may really be unique about this perception, is that
it seems at variance with the way workers today view their
work experience. My research is not complete enough for me
to draw more than tentative conclusions. On the surface, the
dichotomy between my interviewees and current workers might
be partly explained by the growth since the end of World War
II of the impersonal corporation. Most of the interviewees
worked in small factories or in occupations which put them in
daily contact with the owner. Few changed places of
employment or occupations unless forced to by factors outside
of their control. For many, the workplace provided not only
economic support, but fraternal and social relationships which
gave substance and meaning to their lives.
I would appreciate others who have or are conducting
research in the work-place share their findings or suggestions
regarding my research interest and hypothesis. Hopefully, my
work will lead to a paper being presented at a professional
conference. I will be glad to forward a copy of any papers
I deliver to all who would like to receive one.
Please send all replies to my e-mail address.