Management and managed : a study of the development of shop floor industrial relations at Chrysler Corporation's Dodge Main, Detroit, factory, 1930-1980
The thesis argues that industrial relations outcomes in different car manufacturing companies differed primarily because of managerial traditions, rather than because of differences in technological or market positions. These traditions were shaped and altered according to top management's political origins, the particular firm's corporate structure, its business strategy and market position. Managerial control is seen as a dual mechanism: a power relationship between capital and labour in which the balance of forces remained largely unchanged throughout the period investigated; and as shop floor authority over the labour process. The extent of the managerial 'frontier of control' over the pace and pattern of work throughout the fifty years studied at Dodge Main varied according to the capacity of collective worker organization to struggle to place restraints upon that authority. Collective action was largely shaped by workers' views of what constituted their "legitimate rights". These views reflected the interplay of a complex of forces: outside political developments, government policy, managerial ideology, the development of the particular company's industrial relations' strategy and the workers' awn recent experience of workplace struggle and of cyclical economic movements. The study examines changes in the management structure and business and industrial relations strategy of the Chrysler Corporation of America, focusing particularly an developments at Chrysler's biggest factory, Dodge Main, with comparisons taken from General Motors and Ford which operated in the same market using similar technology. The main empirical findings are that mass unionism was achieved in a period of heightened struggle after managerial practice had "legitimised" important aspects of shop floor union organisation; and that subsequently Chrysler experienced widespread sectional bargaining and the emergence of custom and practice agreements that imposed significant restraints on management's "right to manage" between 1939 and 1957. These restraints on managerial authority were only consistently challenged and then eventually limited or removed when major changes in the market situation imposed changes in business strategy and changes in management structure first between 1956 and 1959 and then in 1978 to 1982. Managerial responses to product and labour market changes were thus found to be a major element determining the particular configuration of a firm's industrial relations system.