Efficient Workers

"Efficient workers must be helped to attain even greater efficiency. And these objectives must be gained by methods that are in harmony with the principles of a democratic society; they cannot be gained by commanding them; they must be gained by supplying incentives that will induce voluntary action."

S. D. Warren Company, a paper manufacturer, published a catalog of production-incentive posters in 1942, simultaneously supporting the cause and promoting their products.

(Photo, S.D. Warren Company,
Posters Used by American Industries
as War Production Incentives, 1942. 93-2129)

(Photo, b&w, S.D. Warren Company,
"The colorful poster campaign...", p. 6, 93-2127
Courtesy S.D. Warren Company.)

"Get Hot / Keep Moving"
(Unattributed. Poster, 163991.09,
28" x 40", 93-2318
Gift of S.D. Warren Company.)

"It's a Two Fisted Fight"
(Fisher Body Division, General Motors Corporation.
Poster, 164393.07, 31" x 41", 91-10320, 1942,
Gift of Fisher Body Division, General Motors Corporation.)

The government urged industry to organize "joint labor-management coordinating committees" to insure cooperation during the war. Often these were no more than "morale committees" that produced and distributed posters and organized bond rallies. But some teams went further, working together to resolve production problems and labor-management issues.

"Together We Can Do It"
(Oldsmobile Division, General Motors Corporation, 1942
Poster, 164371.43, 30" x 40", 91-10322.
Gift of Oldsmobile Division, General Motors Corporation.)

Posters called upon workers to conserve, keep their breaks short, and follow supervisors' instructions. Yet the main underlying goal was to convince workers, who still were nursing wounds from the violent labor conflicts of the 1930s, that they were no longer just employees of General Motors or United States Steel. Rather, they were Uncle Sam's "production soldiers" on the industrial front line.

"Wear It Proudly"
(Magill-Weinsheimer Company, 1942.
Poster, 303735.20, 28" x 38", 91-14113.
Gift of Peabody Museum.)

Labor management committees issued series of posters that addressed plant issues. Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, for example, encouraged women to participate fully in production.

"We Can Do It!"
(Artist: J. Howard Miller,
Westinghouse War Production Co-Ordinating Committee.
Poster, 1985.0851.05, 17" x 22", 87-13107)

However, another poster in the same series ("Ask Your Supervisor!") makes it clear that women and their fellow workers could take this empowerment only so far.

"Any Questions about York Work?
Ask Your Supervisor!"

(Artist: J. Howard Miller,
Westinghouse Labor-Management Co-Ordinating Committee.
Poster, 1985.0851.38, 17" x 22", 91-2543. Purchase.)

Factory walls and bulletin boards, series after series of posters directed employees to get to work --anything less was practically treason.

"Kiling Time Is Killing Men"
(Artist: Reynold Brown,
North American Aviation, 1943.
Poster, 164814.01, 32 1/2 x 42 1/2", 91-14114.
Gift of North American Aviation.)

(Photo/cover, Steel Horizons,
2 pp., spread, posters, 93-2128)

"We've never seen anything like it."
(Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation,
Steel Horizons, 1942,
On the "flood" of production incentive posters.
Courtesy National Process Company.)

With the onset of the war, company artists and art departments turned their talents from advertising to production-incentive posters. "Beat the promise" was the slogan of one of RCA's wartime worker-incentive campaigns. The "promise" refers to the company's established production quotas, which workers were urged to surpass. "Never Late Is Better", "Thanks for Loafing Pal," and "Don't Be a Bottleneck" were created by commercial artists using silk-screen techniques pioneered by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s.

"Don't Be a Bottleneck / Beat the Promise"
(Radio Corporation of America.
Poster, 164349.05, 18" x 22", 91-16238.
Gift of RCA Manufacturing Company.)

"Thanks for Loafing, Pal!"
(Walter Kidde & Company,
Poster, 164560.11, 17 x 23", 91-16239.
Gift of Walter Kidde & Company.)

"Never Late Is Better"
(Walter Kidde & Company
Poster, 164560.13, 17 x 23", 91-16240)

This image plays on the famous "Uncle Sam Wants You" figure on World War I recurring posters. Employers did not expect their work force to take all poster slogans literally. Rather, they may have used some of these posters to create an atmosphere of unity, urgency, and productivity.

"Are You Doing All You Can?"
(General Cable Corporation, 1942.
Poster, 164976.03, 22 x 28", 91-16242.
Gift of General Cable Corporation.)

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