(Relatively off topic content for the Easter lull.)
Published: April 22, 2011
At Swatch, an Enviable Problem: An Excess of Eager Customers for Its Products
By RAPHAEL MINDER
BASEL, Switzerland — Nick Hayek, the chief executive of the Swatch Group, is facing a problem many of his corporate counterparts might envy: he’s doing too much business.
Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaker, is rushing to add factory capacity so that it can make enough watches to meet demand. It wants to add as many as 2,000 employees this year — about 1,500 of them at home in Switzerland. But it is struggling to find enough qualified people.
“Managing our stock is at the moment not an issue for us because demand is so big that we unfortunately don’t even have the time to build up any stock,” Mr. Hayek said last month at Baselworld, the watch industry’s biggest fair. “I hate that feeling of missing sales because of a shortage in products.”
As a management consultant, Nicolas Hayek had been hired by banks to close two manufacturers in the early 1980s, at a time when Swiss watchmakers were getting crushed by less expensive Japanese competitors. Instead, he merged and acquired a stake in the struggling companies and revived the industry with the introduction of the inexpensive plastic Swatch watch.
...Mr. Hayek takes pride in not having responded to alarmist forecasts and cut back production at the onset of the financial crisis. He also says the United States and other Western nations too quickly abandoned manufacturing that formed the backbone of their economies.
“Instead of crying and blaming China for producing goods at a lower cost for the whole world, countries like the U.S., for example, should realize that outsourcing most of the production is a big mistake,” he said.
“The success of Switzerland and in particular of its watch industry — not just in the luxury segment — is the proof that entrepreneurship is likely to flourish in a country that believes in maintaining manufacturing and factories, even with a very high cost base. That is something that the U.S. used to understand, but the days of Henry Ford and others are sadly long gone.”
...Mr. Hayek said he was concentrating on developing the brands that his company already owned. “There might be some more takeover opportunities for us in this industry, but we are not hunting for takeovers,” he said. “We can reach 10 billion francs of sales just by internal growth, and that is our main objective.”
...“We sell watches and not shares.”
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Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was a prominent American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put a dealership in every city in North America, and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation but arranged for his family to control the company permanently.
He was known worldwide especially in the 1920s for a system of Fordism that seemed to promise modernity, high wages and cheap consumer goods, but his antisemitism in the 1920s has been a source of controversy.
he Order of the German Eagle (German: Verdienstorden vom Deutschen Adler) was an award of the German Nazi regime, predominantly to foreign diplomats. The Order was instituted on 1 May 1937 by Adolf Hitler. It ceased to be awarded following the collapse of the Nazi Government at the end of World War II.
Henry Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle on his 75th birthday, 30 July 1938.
Ford was adamantly against labor unions. He explained his views on unions in Chapter 18 of My Life and Work. He thought they were too heavily influenced by some leaders who, despite their ostensible good motives, would end up doing more harm than good for workers. Most wanted to restrict productivity as a means to foster employment, but Ford saw this as self-defeating because, in his view, productivity was necessary for any economic prosperity to exist.
He believed that productivity gains that obviated certain jobs would nevertheless stimulate the larger economy and thus grow new jobs elsewhere, whether within the same corporation or in others. Ford also believed that union leaders (particularly Leninist-leaning ones) had a perverse incentive to foment perpetual socio-economic crisis as a way to maintain their own power. Meanwhile, he believed that smart managers had an incentive to do right by their workers, because doing so would maximize their own profits. (Ford did acknowledge, however, that many managers were basically too bad at managing to understand this fact.) But Ford believed that eventually, if good managers such as he could fend off the attacks of misguided people from both left and right (i.e., both socialists and bad-manager reactionaries), the good managers would create a socio-economic system wherein neither bad management nor bad unions could find enough support to continue existing.
To forestall union activity, Ford promoted Harry Bennett, a former Navy boxer, to head the Service Department. Bennett employed various intimidation tactics to squash union organizing. The most famous incident, in 1937, was a bloody brawl between company security men and organizers that became known as The Battle of the Overpass.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Edsel (who was president of the company) thought Ford had to come to some sort of collective bargaining agreement with the unions, because the violence, work disruptions, and bitter stalemates could not go on forever. But Henry (who still had the final veto in the company on a de facto basis even if not an official one) refused to cooperate. For several years, he kept Bennett in charge of talking to the unions that were trying to organize the Ford company. Sorensen's memoir makes clear that Henry's purpose in putting Bennett in charge was to make sure no agreements were ever reached.
The Ford company was the last Detroit automaker to recognize the United Auto Workers union (UAW). A sit-down strike by the UAW union in April 1941 closed the River Rouge Plant. Sorensen recounted that a distraught Henry Ford was very close to following through with a threat to break up the company rather than cooperate but that his wife Clara told him she would leave him if he destroyed the family business. She wanted to see their son and grandsons lead it into the future. Henry complied with his wife's ultimatum. Overnight, the Ford Motor Co. went from the most stubborn holdout among automakers to the one with the most favorable UAW contract terms. The contract was signed in June 1941.
The Battle of the Overpass was an incident on May 26, 1937, in which labor organizers clashed with Ford Motor Company security guards.
The United Auto Workers had planned a leaflet campaign entitled, "Unionism, Not Fordism", at the pedestrian overpass over Miller Road at Gate 4 of the Rouge complex. Demanding an $8 ($121.28 in 2010 dollars) six-hour day for workers, in contrast to the $6 ($90.96 in 2010 dollars) eight-hour day then in place, the campaign was planned for shift change time, with an expected 9,000 workers both entering and leaving the plant.
At approximately 2 p.m., several of the leading UAW union organizers, including Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen, were asked by a Detroit News photographer, James E. (Scotty) Kilpatrick, to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. While they were posing, men from Ford's Service Department, an internal security force under the direction of Harry Bennett, came from behind and began to beat them. The number of attackers is disputed, but may have been as many as forty.
Frankensteen had his jacket pulled over his head and was kicked and punched. Reuther described some of the treatment he received: "Seven times they raised me off the concrete and slammed me down on it. They pinned my arms . . . and I was punched and kicked and dragged by my feet to the stairway, thrown down the first flight of steps, picked up, slammed down on the platform and kicked down the second flight. On the ground they beat and kicked me some more. . . " One union organizer, Richard Merriweather, suffered a broken back as the result of the beating he received.
The group then beat some of the beret-wearing women arriving to pass out leaflets, along with some reporters and photographers, while Dearborn police at the scene largely ignored the violence.
The mob also attempted to destroy photographic plates, but the Detroit News photographer hid the photographic plates under the back seat of his car, and surrendered useless plates he had on his front seat. News and photos of the brutal attack made headlines in newspapers across the country. Kilpatrick's photographs inspired the Pulitzer committee to institute a prize for photography.
In spite of the many witnesses who had heard his men specifically seek out Frankensteen and Reuther, Bennett claimed, "The affair was deliberately provoked by union officials. . . . They simply wanted to trump up a charge of Ford brutality. ... I know definitely no Ford service man or plant police were involved in any way in the fight."
The incident greatly increased support for the UAW and hurt Ford's reputation. Bennett and Ford were chastised by the National Labor Relations Board for their actions. Three years later Ford signed a contract with the UAW.
A partially fictitious account of these events appear in Upton Sinclair's book, The Flivver King.
In reply to this post by anonymous
How labor won its day
By Patricia K. Zacharias / The Detroit News
September 4, 1997
Peter J. McGuire
The Father of Labor Day, Peter J. McGuire of New York City, in 1882 introduced the idea for the holiday.
McGuire introduced his idea formally at a meeting of the Central Labor Union on May 18,1882. "Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry," he said.
The following September New York workers staged a parade up Broadway to Union Square. Few, if any, workers got the day off. Most were warned against marching in the parade with the threat of getting fired. Despite the warning, more than 10,000 workers showed up for the march. Led by mounted police, bricklayers in white aprons paraded with a band playing "Killarney." The marchers passed a reviewing stand crowded with Knights of Labor: a holiday was born. McGuire's holiday moved across the country as slowly as did recognition of the rights of the working man.
Twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland, long a foe of organized labor, but under voter pressure, signed a Labor Day holiday bill. Earlier that same year, President Cleveland's most famous labor conflict, the Pullman strike in Chicago, had forced the president to call up federal troops. Employees of the Pullman Co., which produced sleeping cars for passenger trains, protested wage cuts. Led by Eugene V. Debs, the American Railway Union (ARU) in sympathy refused to haul railroad cars made by the company. A general railway strike ensued, interfering with mail delivery. When the ARU refused a court order to return to work, Cleveland sent in federal troops. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered," he said. Rioting broke out: strikers were killed and leaders jailed, but even as the strike was broken, the labor movement gained steam.
Strong support for the feisty American labor movement emerged in worker dominated cities like Detroit, where thousands of men and women struck the plants and shops and marched the streets demanding a fair shake. Few cities are more identified with the advances of American workers than the Motor City.
President Grover Cleveland, called out troops in the historic Pullman strike in 1894.
With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1837, Detroit's population had grown to 10,000. Housing boomed and overworked carpenters became some of the first Detroiters to organize into unions. On April 3, 1837, the city's first strike broke out among the carpenters and journeymen seeking 10-hour work days and $2 pay.
Joining the movement, organized printers in 1839 created the state's first union paper, The Rat Gazette. The term "Rat" was coined to describe the nonunion workers who spied for the bosses on organzing efforts. Union organizing centered on the skilled-trades workers of Detroit. Early organizing efforts drew sharp reaction from the employers, who formed their own organization to counter unionizing activity, the Detroit Employers Association. They immediately fired and blacklisted workers identified as union organizers, calling them "unwanted undesirables."
The slogan of the Employers Association, "Prevention Is Better Than the Cure," struck fear in the heart of immigrant laborers seeking a better life in Detroit and helped make Detroit famous as an anti-union town.
Detroit's first Labor Day celebration was on Aug. 16, 1884, according to Adelbert M. Dewey, one of the union pioneers. A program held in Recreation Park attracted 50,000 Knights of Labor and the Trade and Labor Assembly, making it a popular and real holiday. The large crowd of laborers marched proudly and defiantly down Woodward Avenue to the park. Labor leaders included Richard Trevellick, a ship carpenter from Detroit, who was called the "old warhorse" of the labor movement.
His efforts earned him blacklisting by the shipyards. He became president of the National Labor Congress, the first national labor organization in the United States. Detroit workers later built a house for him in the western part of the city and presented it to him as compensation for his organizing efforts.
By 1900 the trend toward using the holiday largely for recreation so tempted the tired workers that unions affiliated with the Detroit Trades Council adopted special resolutions. They set fines against members who failed to show up for scheduled union functions. But as an incentive to members, 50 pounds of tobacco awaited the union with the best showing.
Cleveland signed a bill June 28, 1894, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day as several armies of hungry unemployed marched on Washington to seek relief. This photo shows Jacob. S Coxey's "Army of the Commonweal of Christ" marching on the capital.
Detroit continued to grow in size as abundant capital, skilled labor, and cheap raw materials made the city the center of auto manufacturing. In 1899, the city's first automobile factory, the Olds Motor Vehicle Co., opened. By 1905, 29,000 vehicles had been produced in the city.
With the expanding auto industry, Detroit's population exploded. Between 1910 and 1929 the number of the city's inhabitants tripled to 1.8 million as immigrant workers and Southern farmers sought work in the auto plants to provide a better life for their families.
Not all shared equally in the fruits of labor, however. While industrial capitalists, lumber barons and real estate developers prospered, Detroit's workers continued to toil long hours at low wages. When the "Roaring Twenties" ended in the stockmarket crash of 1929, Detroit took a hard hit. The 10-year Depression followed. Since companies could no longer sell their products to struggling, often hungry families, they shut down production. A vicious circle of worker layoffs and plant closings brought more poverty.
Laid-off Briggs workers cried, "Buy American? With what?" The Detroit News reported that people were being found in the city's streets, victims of poisoning from spoiled food scavenged from garbage cans. Unemployment in Michigan reached 43 percent in 1932. In Detroit the grim statistics listed one-third of the population as unemployed and penniless. Evictions littered the curbs with meager possessions. The ousted had no safety nets, no unemployment insurance. People relied on family, charities and public breadlines. Hobos marked an X on the fences of compassionate, generous homeowners who would give a free meal.
A Sept 5, 1916 Labor Day parade of Detroit workers marches down Woodward.
On March 6, 1930, 35,000 jobless workers marched down Woodward in national protest against unemployment and hunger. In the early 1930s thousands joined together and walked to the Ford Motor Co.'s employment office in Dearborn. Henry Ford, whose plants had laid off more than one-third of his employees had declared that anyone "who wanted a job could find one." The marchers intended to take old Henry up on his statement.
Violence erupted between the unemployed and police who joined Ford security forces. Shots were fired into the crowd, killing four protesters.
During the following years, a wave of auto strikes spread to other occupations. The cigar and hotel workers and retail clerks struck for job security, better wages, safety and dignity.
Few strikes resulted in major victories for the workers, but the growing militancy of Detroit auto workers taught many employers that cutting wages would only provoke costly strikes.
The breakthrough in union strategy, the 1937 wave of sitdown strikes, began to turn the tide. Employers had been able to defeat the conventional walkout strike with replacement workers. Picket lines suffered the hazards of weather, police and boredom. The sitdown tactic allowed strikers to shut down production and remain protected from the weather. The arrangement also allowed the workers to develop a solidarity difficult to foster with a conventional walkout. The sitdown wave grew rapidly after the historic victory of General Motors workers in Flint. Their 44-day occupation of the Fisher Body plant forced General Motors to sign a contract with the union on Feb. 11, 1937.
Fisher Body sitdown strike
The historic sit-down strike at Fisher Body in Flint in 1937 began a wave of sitdown strikes that helped turn the tide for labor.
Nationwide that year there were 177 sitdown strikes that lasted one day or longer, involving more than 130,000 workers. Locally, more than 100 sitdowns erupted in the factories, stores, and hotels in the winter and early spring months of 1937.
Most of the federal laws protecting workers were passed during the 1930s. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which strengthened unions' rights to organize and negotiate with employers, was key legislation. Unions gained power during the 1940s as America fought World War II. Walter Reuther's legacy strengthened the rights of the working man. When wages were frozen during the war, Reuther began negotiating for benefits such as paid vacation and sick leave.
Labor Day rallies in Detroit became the launching pad for Democratic presidential candidates to announce their campaigns. Candidates Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson came to Detroit to jumpstart their races and woo union support. But big labor's leaders would later lose much of their clout with the rank and file. Many moved to the suburbs and abandoned the Detroit parade. Attendance dwindled to barely 6,000 in 1966. Workers spent the three-day holiday enjoying backyard barbecues, boats and summer cottages: the fruits of their victories.
Neither shamed by fines nor encouraged by prizes, workers refused to turn out for parades in the 1970s, and the parades were cancelled until 1981 when a meager 3,000 aging veterans of pioneer sit down strikes and picket line battles reassembled to give the traditonal show of solidarity one more try.
Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman addressed a Labor Day rally in Detroit in 1948.
In the next year, America's economy became unglued: large numbers of Michigan automotive workers were laid off in the recession. Police said the 1982 parade drew 170,000 marchers and onlookers, reflecting support for laid off workers and striking air traffic controllers who had been fired by President Ronald Reagan the previous year. In 1987 the Labor Day parade drew 100,000. But the momentum petered out. The struggles of the past faded as workers enjoyed the benefits of collective bargaining.
Today, most Detroiters think of the holiday as a last summer fling. Many Americans have forgotten the holiday's roots in unionism. Relaxing at the beach or barbeque, it's easy to forget our grandparents who marched in the streets in huge parades celebrating the working man's efforts with a show of solidarity. Without union intervention, overtime pay, vacations and sick leave policies might not exist, nor workplace safety rules protect us.
The long legacy of labor history surrounds us not only in our city's auto industry, but in our architecture and art work, and most important in the job benefits and quality of life we all enjoy from the labor victories.
Fisher Body sitdown strike
Waitresses at Woolworth's staged an eight-day sitdown strike in 1937, singing, dancing, exercising, doing each others hair and nails until finally management recognized their union and gave them a five-cent per hour pay hike.
A song: "Union Maid"
There once was a union maid;
She never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks
And the deputy sheriffs that made the raid.
She went to the union hall
When a meeting it was called,
And when the company boys came 'round
She always stood her ground.
A song: "Talking Union":
Suppose they're working you so hard it's just outrageous,
And they're paying you all starvation wages.
You go to the boss, and the boss will yell
"Before I raise your pay I'll see you all in Hell."
He's puffing a big seegar, feeling mighty slick
'Cause he thinks he's got your union licked.
Well, he looks out the window, and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree
He's a bastard ... unfair ... slave-driver ...
Bet he beats his wife.
Now, boys, you've come to the hardest time.
The boss will try to bust your picket line.
He'll call out the po-lice and the National Guard;
They'll tell you it's a crime to have a union card!
They'll raid your meetings, they'll hit you on the head --
They's call every one of you a Goddamn Red---
Unpatriotic ... agitators ...
Send 'em back where they came from.
In reply to this post by anonymous
Interesting story & it's all true. Nicholas hayek was a visionary & patriot to his country. He became a reveered Swiss businessman and was credited with saving their signature industry. How do I know? Let's just say a family member worked in the NYC, then Weehawken, NJ offices & the Lancaster, PA factory. However, as far as The Times story is concerned, this must be a dated or re-run story. Why?, because sadly, Mr Hayek passed away last year. Nicholas, Jr. is the CEO now. see:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10441563
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