Workers in a trade are often transients, seeking other positions when fired or the firm closes. They carry with them information of their previous work and company operations. Leslie Kreisler, a Hungarian and general manager of Jaques Kreisler Jewelry learned of my work at the defunct W K Manufacturing and contacted me. In the trade, Willie Klein of W K Manufacturing was well known among the Hungarians. I met with Leslie, and the firm’s president, Jacques Kreisler. The firm was the major manufacturer of watchbands and costume jewelry, with plants in North Bergen, Secaucus and Hopewell, New Jersey. After a few meetings and negotiations, I was hired as production manager.
The firm had moved three years earlier from New York City to New Jersey because of high labor costs and union interference. North Bergen had cheaper labor and a covert association with a local labor union had been established. The mayor of North Bergen anxious for industry in his area, honored a few of the executives and me, with police shields. We could open employee lockers, or examine employee’s belongings or packages to check if they were stealing merchandise. The coordination with the union and town officials offered many advantages.
Some of the expert jewelers moved from New York and continued working for the Kreisler firm. The New York jewelry union appeared and tried to induce the workers to join by promising much higher wages and better working conditions. Many were tempted to switch from their local union and a strike erupted. A covert meeting with Jaques Kreisler, Mr. F, president of the local union, and the mayor was made to resolve the situation.
Prior to the walkout, the worker who was the leader in motivating the workers to switch unions, was arrested. An examination of his locker revealed “stolen” jewelry items. While the pickets were outside the plant, programmed individuals arrived. Some leaflets were scattered about and fights broke out. The local police arrived, as “scheduled”, and arrests were made. None of the outsiders were arrested, but the most vociferous of those that wanted the change, were locked up. The leaflets that were found had subversive anti-American contents.. In a short time the strike to change unions was over and work resumed in the factory.
This was an educational experience for me, and an exposure to underhand techniques in industry. In jewelry production the most active period was before the Christmas season. During that period the designs for the following year were finalized, but after the Christmas season, time was needed to make new tooling and set up new production lines. It was not profitable to keep workers idle while changes were made, or to let good workers go. I needed three weeks to set up the new production lines. With the aid of union leaders, and a cooperative workers union representative, a strike based on a planned, minor, contract infraction took place. Indignant workers went on strike fighting for their supposed rights. After the new production lines were completed, the firm made minor concessions and the strike was over. The cost for the concessions was compared to the cost of wages for workers for three weeks.
The union contract was negotiated yearly. A confidential meeting with Mr. F led to an equitable solution. The firm could have yielded an eighteen cents an hour increase, but an arrangement was made with Mr. F that the demand for a fifteen cent an hour “increase” would be presented to the workers. The firm was to reject it as excessive. After “negotiations” with the union leaders and the workers, a twelve cents an hour compromise was settled upon. This was good for the firm, and the union leader received a secret cash reward. .
The firm had a profit-sharing incentive. system. Time study men would set production rates. The fifty-fifty incentive system I established was innovative. As an incentive, a worker surpassing the production quota set by time studies would receive a bonus. If the rate was 100 pieces a day and the worker made 200 pieces, he would get half of his daily wage added to his pay for that day. The workers felt they were in their own business and worked hard to get increased wages. Production increased overall without adding more workers. An added concession was also made to Mr. F. Two of his men were to be employed and added to the time study engineers. The two men that Mr. F not time study men. They wandered through the plant as time study men do, but in their notebooks they took bets, and loan sharked for Mr. F and his associates.
My management and engineering skills were appreciated, but after two and a half years I resigned to seek new developments and expansion. I had an opportunity for a challenging position with a new California firm, Paper Mate.