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UNITED STATES DEP ·ME!f OF LABOR FRANCES PERKINS, SECRETARY WOMEN'S BUREAU MARY ANDERSON, Director BULLETIN OF THE WOMEN'S BUREAU, NO. 110 THE CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION IN THE TELEPHONE INDUSTRY By ETHEL L. BEST UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE WASHINGTON: 1933 For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis - - - Price S cents LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, WOMEN'S BUREAU, Washington, May f3 , 1933. I have the honor to submit a report on the effects on women opera.tors of the change from manual to dial operation in the telephone industry. The success of the industry in so planning its employment program for 2 or more years ahead that practically the only operators laid off at the final cut-over were temporary workers engaged only for the last few months, makes this a notable example of the possibilities of long-view planning in cases of technological change. . Every assistance was given the Bureau by the telephone companies in the supplying of all information desired and in granting access to records. This courtesy is gratefully acknowledged. The study was made 'by Ethel L. Best, industrial supervisor. Respectfully submitted. MADAM : MARY ANDERSON, Hon. FRANCES PERKINS, Secretary of Labor. II https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Director. CONTENTS P age Letter of transmittaL______________________ __ ________ _____ __ ____ ________ II Introduction------------------ ----------------------------- ----------- • 1 A complete cut-over to the dial system__ _________________________________ _ 4 A partial cut-over to the dial system ____ __ ________ ________________ ___ _ 11 III https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis THE CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION IN THE TELEPHONE INDUSTRY INTRODUCTION The telephone industry is the product of our scientific and mechanical age. It is not an outgrowth of an earlier hand industry, as is the manufacture of cotton and woolen cloth, of boots and shoes, or of furniture. Although the telephone industry sprang full-born into existence, it has been subject to the gradual changes and improvements of all growing things. The improvements have been largely technical, but accompanying these changes have been alterations in personnel, in training, in service, in the many coordinating activities of a highly developed and integrated Nation-wide service system. In the early days telephone operators were boys, but t hey were often impatient and would " answer back " to subscribers. They were even known to meet afterward to fight it out with some especially irate customer. So after 2½ years girl operators were introduced, with satisfaction both to the subscribers and to the company. Before long women had for the most part supplanted the boy operators, and by 1890 there were approximately 3,000 women employed in the Bell Telephone System. 1 Of the hundreds of occupations in which women were engaged in 1930, according to the Census of Occupations,2 only about a dozen employed more women than did telephone operating. Nor is the only occupation open to women in telephone service that· of switchboard operator, in which such large numbers find employment. There are now opportunities for them to work as clerks, bookkeepers, cashiers, employment supervisors, engineering assistants, office managers, production supervisors, commercial managers, librarians, and research workers, and in many other positions. In short, the teleuhone industry, like most large enterprises, has many different kinds of work and offers a wide variety of jobs to its women workers. It is also like other great industries in that it is constantly im~ proving its equipment and installing the latest and best designs invented in its engineering and laboratory departments. Throughout history, from the invention of the spinning jenny or the powerdriven loom in the textile industry to the most highly mechanized packing and wrapping machines of today, such changes cause a displacement of human labor by the machine. In one of the latest changes in the telephone industry.2 that from manual to dial operation, the same human problem ot the disposition of the displaced worker is involved as in a factory when a more mechanical method 1 Bell Telephone Quarterly, January 1932, p. 34. 2 U.S. Burea u of the Census. Fifteenth Census, 1930. Summary, table 3, p. 9. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Occupation Statistics, U.S. 1 2 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY of manufacture is installed. The more social the viewpoint 0£ man- agement, the mo~e. ~oes the worker displaced by new inventions become a_ resp?ns1b1hty to be cared fo~. B_ecause the telephone system carries science and forethought mto its human as well as its technical planning, the method employed in its recent change to the dial system and the effects on the workers have been carefully examined by the Women's Bureau. 3 . Technological change in an industry such as the telephone, which is already technical to a high degree, is not one to be easily understood by the telephoning public. They realize that, under the dial systeni, instead 0£ calling "central" £or local calls and giving the number wanted, they turn small numbers on a disk, there is a click, and the connection is accomplished. They no longer hear" Number, please~ " at the other end of the wire, and i£ the wr~ng number is connected the fault does not lie with the connecting agency but with themselves. To the ordinary telephone user it seems that everything now is mechanical, whereas formerly it was human. It is not surprising that this lack of knowledge, combined with the large amount 0£ technological unemployment, should make the dial system appear to the ordinary subscriber as an almost .perfect example of the replacement by the machine of human beings. To some extent this is the case, but to l;low great a degree and by what careful planning and efficient work the hardship to the workers is minimized is not so clearly realized. The tech1:10logical change to the dial operating of the telephone probably is better known to the men and women of the United States than any other recent technical change, and there has been much discussion as to the numbers 0£ women displaced by the dial and some interest as to how they fared. What actually happened to women in two cities is typical 0£ the process now going on in many towns and cities throughout the country, and a .brief description of the change may be helpful in understanding the problems incident to -he cut-over from the old ·or manual to the dial method. J;:n manual operation, when, a customer lifts his receiver a tiny light burns on the switchboard beside a small hole or " jack " representing the terminus of his line. An operator inserts into this jack a plug on one end of a connecting cord and asks " Number, please 1 " If she receives an ol'der for a telephone served from the same office, she inserts the plug on the other end of the cord into the jack of the desired line and then rings on the circuit. Lamp signals show whether the called party answers and when the parties hang up. Should the call be for a telephone in another office in the same city, the answering operator "passes" the call for completion to an operator in the other office_, using an interoffice (trunk) line. Intercity (long distance) calls require cooperation by at least two operators and often more. Frequently four operators are involveda local operator answering th~ call and advancing it to a nearby toll operator for forwarding to a distant toll operator, who in turn passes it to the distant local operator £or completion. If there is no permanent direct ci:ucuit and one mu~t be "built up", then an operator at each " switching point " also enters the picture. 1 Described briefly, the method used was to stop adding permanent employees to the rolls al'1 much as 2 years before tbe propo,;ed chan ge, and to t11ke on onlv emplo:vees engaged definitely on a temporary basis. When the cut-over dates arrived, only four women among those o~ a perma~ent basis were laid off. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION 3 Dial systems substitute electromechanical processes for some-not all-of these manual operations. In an all-dial area no central-office operators are required to complete strictly local calls correctly dialed. Operators are required, however, to assist customers who dial incorrectly or who need other help. In an area part dial and part manual, operators assist in completing calls from either type of office to the other. All these, as well as the local operators in the smaller cities and towns where manual operation is retained, will continue to increase in numbers as the volume of telephone traffic grows. Manual or dial, there is the same need of operators for many special services, among them interception of calls for changed or discontinued numbers and supplying information about new telephones or the numbers of those in distant places. Similarly, the number of operators handling short-haul toll calls and long-distance calls has been little, if any, affected by the dial system. The same is true of operators at private branch exchange boards, of whom there are about as many in the country as central-office operators. The program calls for the introduction of the dial system for handling local calls in fewer than 500 of the 6,000 exchanges of the system that was studied by the Women's Bureau. Most exchanges will not be cut over-at least, such is the present plan. But where the cut-over is to be made, infinite care and planning are being used. The change to dial was begun in 1920, and it is planned to have the conversion substantially completed in a few years. The sample of the methods employed in making the cut-over may be regarded as typical of what is occurring in large and small communities throughout the country. In rehearsing the planning and experience of the telephone industry during thi~ period of technological change, it is realized that much of it may not apply to technological changes in a single industrial plant. However, the general principle of long-time planning for changes, with constant care and thought for the employees affected, may be applied to any jndustry. Mr. Ching, of the United States Rubber Co., said in a speech in Chicago that the hardships resulting to the worker through technological changes could almost be measured by the suddenness with which such changes were effected, emphasizing further the need for long and careful planning before installing technological improvements that dispense with large numbers of workers. In the telephone industry, where every effort is made to mitigate the hard~hip to the workers of technological change and improvement, there is practically no unemployment except in the case of temporary employees, who know when they are taken on that the job probably will last only until the change to dial is made. The long-time planning in this instance shows that much can be done to prevent general dislocation where new and labor-saving equipment is introduced. There are two ways of introducing a change: The entire system may be altered at one time, or the change may be gradual, with the jnstalling of the new method first in one section and then in another. In the present study of the change to the dial system in telephone operating, the examples described are the change of about one third of a city's telephone stations and the change of the stations of an entire, but much smaller, city. It is apparent that the difficulties involved when an entire city is cut over to a changed method present https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 4 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY far more complications in adjusting the employment problem than when the change is gradual. In both cities the change was planned for more than 2 years in advance, and careful arrangements were made to eliminate unemployment, with its personal and social consequences, as far as possible. To ascertain the effect of the change on employment, a matter of great interest to the Women's Bureau, the numbers o.f operators on the company's books at three dates were taken about 6 months previous to the cut-over, at the time of cut-over, and after the cut-over was established, 7 months after in one city and 6 months after in the other. The plans of the company for the change as they affected the operators were checked with care, as were also the results after the cut-over. The effect of the change on the workers who remained with the company was noted in regard to Sunday work, split tricks, and night work. The company furnished the names and addresses of .displaced operators 4 and these women were visited in their hon1.es about 12 months after the change to obtain information on their work experience in the period since the cut-over. Earnings of these displaced women at the time of the cut-over were supplied by the company so that they could be checked with the earnings on succeeding jobs with other employers. As- all workers who returned to the telephone company in the same city were reinstated at the salary at time of leaving, no comparison was necessary for the wages of this group. A COMPLETE CUT-OVER TO THE DIAL SYSTEM Due to the growth of this city, a manufacturing community of nearly 200,000 population in New England, it became necessary to abandon the old telephone building and the manual type of operation and to provide suitable quarters for housing a modern telephone plant under the dial system. Early in 1927 it was determined that the change from the old to the new system should be made in July 1930. It was estimated that the :full :force o:f employees would be needed up to the date of the conversion, and t he problem was to so plan their intake and outgo before the cut-over, and the disposition of surplus after the cut-over, as to avoid laying off employees who might wish further employment. The plan adopted was to let the normal resignations gradually reduce the regular (permanent) force, but to keep the total :force at full strength by replacing these losses with tern porary employees who could be released after the cut-over. On this basis the regular force woul'd be down to requirements by the time of the cut-over if the plan were put into operation in October 1927. Accordingly, all applicants registering after October were told that, if employed, their services probably would be terminated when the new dial system was installed. Up to the middle of 1930, employment conditions in this city were extremely good, and in order 'This term is used here to describe the women f'mployed under the manual system and dropped at time of the cut-over, in spite of the fact that all were t empornry employees engaged to work only until that date. Many were absorbed later by the telephone company. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 5 CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION to obtain sufficient numbers of the type required for telephone work special recruiting measures were necessary. However, enough applicants expressed a preference for this type of employment, and these readily signed a clause stamped on the application blank that pointed out the short-term nature of the prospective job. A representative of the company then visited the homes of the accepted applicants and explained to the parents or guardians that the work probably would not be permanent. This was satisfactory in most cases, although several parents thought permanent work would be more desirable and withdrew their daughters' applications. During a period of approximately 6 months before the cut-over it was not practicable to attempt to recruit and train inexperienced people for the short time remaining. There was available a group of former employees, mostly married, who from time to time came in on call and assisted the company when unusually heavy traffic, vacations, or other condition reqmred extra emJ?loyees for short periods. These people, classed as " occasional ", did not expect nor desire permanent employment and obviously fitted well into the employment program. However, to obtain the number required it was necessary to interview practically all who could be reached of the employees who had resigned in the previous 5 years. Actually,; more of them could have been placed than were available, and ot those enlisted only half could work full time because of their respective home duties. The shortage still remaining was due to the extensive retraining necessary to effect the change to the dial system without service interruptions. A year in advance of the cut-over a small group of operators were given from 4 to 6 weeks' intensive training. The general training of all operators requiring it was begun in March 1930, each employee receiving from 2 to 4 weeks of instruction. All training was on company time, and of course it was necessary to have substitutes at the switchboard during the hours of training. For this purpose, 91 experienced operators were borrowed from other cities. These had their transportation and subsistence paid during this period and were returned to their home offices immediately after the cut-over. At midnight of July 14, 1930, the entire city was cut over, that is, changed to the dial system of operating. Before and even after the cut-over there was much discuss10n among the citizens as to the number of women displaced by the change, and rumor reported between 500 and 600 as so affected. To obtain accurate information, the numbers of operators at 6 months before the change, immediately before the change, and at 6 months after the change were copied from the pay rolls. These figures follow: Total J anuary 1930. _. __ ___________ • _. _________________________ ______ _ June l 930 __ ______ __ .. -- _. ______________________ __________ _____ _ January 1931. _. _____ _____ __ ___ ___________________________ __ ____ 177813 °-33- 2 https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 547 534 249 Regular Temporary 323 192 Occa• sional 32 312 179 43 249 ---------- ------ ---- 6 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY The disposition of the 534 operators on the books m June, just before the cut-over, was as follows: Temporary and occasional Regular _______ TotaL . ______________________________________________________________ ___ . . ,__ Retained .. _. ____ . ___. ____ _______________________ _____ __________________ ___ . . __ ._ Transferred .. __. ____ . __________________ .. ________ ______________________________ . Resigned .. __ .. __ ._ .. ____ __ ____ . ___ . ______ . _______________ . ___ . __ . __________ ._.__ Laid off .• ____ ___ • ______ _______ • _____ •• ___ ._. _____________ .__ __ _________ _________ 31 2 22Z 253 37 18 7 94 9 4 112 At the time of the change, then, 260 employees were retained, though, as apparent from the table last preceding, this figure was reduced by normal resignations to 249 during the following 6 months. The number of operators laid off was 116, and of these all but 4 were temporary or occasional operators. The 4 exceptions were married women not especially desirous of remaining at work. Of the 131 operators who were transferred, only 2, who were changed to plant work, could be transferred within the city itself, as all might have been cared for in a case of partial cut-over; but positions were offer ed in nearby towns and cities, and as far as possible the inclination and convenience of the operator were consulted. Of the 179 employees hired for temporary service from 6 months to 2 years before the cut-over, 5 were employed by the telephone company within the city, 94 were transferred to exchanges in other cities, and 4 resigned, leaving 76 who were laid off. Of 43 "occasional" employees, consisting of ex-operato·rs rehired in the 6-month period immediately before the cut-over, and who neither expected nor, as a rule, desired permanent employment, all were laid off but 5 who resigned and 2 who were retained by the company. In spite of the small number of women laid off in relation to the population of nearly 200,000, it was a large enough group to be of public interest, and the telephone company sought the cooperation of the chamber of commerce and the mercantile bureau in finding possible work for the operators affected. A personal canvass was made by the telephone employment supervisor among employers of women all over the city, and as a r esult approximately 38 jobs in 24 concerns were offered. These positions consisted of office work, sales work in stores, and counter work in r estaurants, with salaries ranging from $12 to $25 a week. Only 11 girls of those laid off accepted permanent positions thus provided, the r emainder not being interested in the positions offered. Visits were made a year after the cut-over to 78 operators whose employment had terminated at that time. An effort was made to interview all of the 116, but some had moved and could not be located, and others, though called upon repeatedly, were not found at home. It is to be remembered that of the 116 laid off, 76 were short-service people who had been recruited for ( and were agreeable to) temporary employment; 36 were ex-operators who had accepted reemployment with the distinct understanding that they wished to work only until the cut-over; and 4 were regular employees (married women) https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 7 CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION who were not averse to quitting work. Most of these employees did not wish further employment at the time; all were offered telephone positions in other cities and given a chance at positions with other concerns in the same city, more of which could have been located for them by the telephone company had there been sufficient demand, but none of the employees laid off accepted these offers. Some of them expected to seek employment eventually but planned to wait at least until fall. That some of them subsequently were anxious to find employment and had difficulty in doing so was, of course, due chiefly to the changed circumstances brought about by. the depression. Of the 78 who were interviewed, 39 had been reengaged without loss of time for temporary work with the telephone company, as there was need of extra operators to take calls until customers became more familiar with the dials. Also, summer vacations had begun and substitutes were necessary to replace regular operators. Eventually it was found possible to retain permanently 18 of the temporary workers visited, and a year after the cut-over they still were employed by the telephone company. Of the other 21, 15 were kept for less than a month, 5 for 1 to 4 months, and 1 resigned voluntarily. · The disposition of the other 39 5 operators whose employment terminated at the time of the cut-over was as follows: Offered telephone positions in other cities___ _______ __________ 24 Accepted __ ___ _______ ___ __ ------- - --------------------Refused ___ ___ __ ___ ____ _____ ___ ________ ___ __ ____ _______ 7 17 Offered both nontelephone positions and telephone positions in other cities_ -- - ------- - - - - - ---- --------------- - ----- -- 6 Accepted___ ________ ___ ____ __ _____ __ ____ ________ _______ Refused______ ___ __ __ __ ____ ________ _____ _______ ________ 4 2 Acquired positions through their own efforts__ ______ _________ 9 The period at which the cut-over took place was unfortunate. By the summer of 1930 the difficulty of obtaining work was much greater than it would have been a year earlier. A scarcity of jobs was developing all over the country, and in the city where this cut-over took place there was, in addition to the effect of the depression, a normal lack of positions for women. The city was one principally of men's employment, with industries where there were few opportunities for women. In spite of this fact, many of the operators who were laid off wished to find their own jobs, or wanted to rest for a while before taking a new position, or for other reasons did not care to consider the opportunities offered by the telephone company in other cities or in nontelephone work in their own city. The greatest objection to taking work in other cities came from the mothers of the girls, who were unwilling to have them leave home, and from the fact that wages were too low to allow of the paying of board and room. In some cases the girls were too young to leave home and in others they could not be spared, either because their services were needed or because their e·a rnings would then be paid for board and room to strangers and not go to the family budget. A number of the girls who were living at home said that if they took a job in 6 Other than 39 reengaged by the telephone company. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 8 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY another city they would have nothing left, either for clothes or to send home, after they had paid their board and lodging. In most cases where nontelephone work was offered the work was not of a type desired, and the girls felt that they could do better if they themselves looked for jobs. All the operators regretted having to leave the telephone company; one girl said, "Telephone work is the only thing I'll ever like." It was very difficult to find employment, and the experience of one girl was that of many: "I've walked and walked, looking for a Job. I've even thought of trying housework, but that only pays room and board. I may have to take it, but I don't want to." The hardships in seeking employment consisted not only of "walking and walking " but in many cases of weeks without work and without pay. Of the 38 girls who lost time between the cut-over and their next job, 10 lost 6 months but less than a year before finding work and 3 were without work the whole year. The extent of lost time for industrial reasons in the year following the cut-over was r eported by all but 1 of the 78 women interviewed. Forty-three of them lost at least 3 months, 21 of these losing 10 months or more. Of all the 77 women reporting, only 21 had worked the entire year without losing time. The st eadiest work was reported by the girls who stayed on as temporary operators with the telephone company in the same city, and 18 of the 21 who reported work for the entire 12-month period after the cut-over were in this-group. Of the 25 women who during the year worked only in jobs other than with the telephone company, only 2 had a full year's work and 16 worked for less than 7 months. A third group of the operators laid off worked part of the year with the telephone company, in the same or other cities, and part of the year on nontelephone work, and these women reported less employment during the year than did either the women only with the telephone company or those only in nontelephone work. Although the wages of those who remained with the telephone company m the same city were not changed, the wages of those transferred to other cities or towns or of those employed in other kinds of work showed considerable differences from their pay before the cut-over. A number of women transferred to t elephone work in other cities or taking jobs with other companies in the same city had a marked decline in earnings; in telephone jobs the smaller cities had lower schedules in some cases. For the 48 women in telephone work, either in the same city or transferred to other towns and cities, the earnings after the cut-over were as follows t · Same _____ ___ ____ ___ _____ ___ _______ ___ ____ _____ 31 L ess ____ ___ _________ ___ ___ ____ _______ _____ _____ 11 ~1ore_____ ___ _______ __ ______ ____ _____ __________ 6 Of the 29 women who at time of the final interview were not in the employ of the telephone company and who reported their earnings, as many as 25 were receiving less than formerly. Two earned the same as before and two had higher earnings. Five who had received from $15 to $16 a week as telephone operators, a year later reported earnings of from $6.25 to between $13 and $14; and 7 of 8 whose earnings with the telephone company had been from $17 to $18 were earning with other companies from $7 to $14 or $15. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION 9 The list following shows the kinds of employment of the 33 operators ( the 29 just discussed and 4 others) who were not in the employ of the telephone company a year after the cut-over: Sales in stores ______ _________ ___ _ Clerical ___ _______ ______________ _ Private bra nch ex change___ ___ ___ Factory_________ ___ __ __________ __ 10 8 7 4 I B eauty parlor _______ ____________ Waitress--- ----- - - --- ---------- Training for nurse____________ ___ Helping in h ospital pharmacy __ __ - 1 1 1 1 It is not surprising to find, with this wide variety of jobs and in most instances a decrease in pay, a strong preference for telephone work. A number of the operators expressed no preference because of no other experience, but of 38 women who made a comparison, 33 preferred telephone work to other work. Fourteen declared that the telephone work was interesting and the working conditions were pleasant, and one girl summed it up by saying, "I liked the bosses, I liked the pay, I liked the girls; oh, gee, I even liked the building." Five girls spoke especially of the pleasant working conditions, and one girl who went to work in a factory said, "In telephone work you've no hard work and no dirt." Seven girls spoke of the better pay in telephone work and four of the shorter hours. One girl who had worked on" information" at the telephone company said it wa~ the best of all jobs : " K ept you smart and alert and taught you to spell, looking up names all day." There were 5 girls of the 38 reporting who preferred their new jobs. The reasons they gave were "No Sunday or holiday work"; " Better hours, nicer work"; and "More definite hours and less strain." One girl, though declaring that "The telephone company is a very nice place to work ", said she appreciated the uniformity of hours in her later job. On the whole, the opinions of the majority were strongly in favor of telephone work over any other, and the sentiments of many were expressed by the girl who said, "I was heart-broken when I lost my job. It was so nice there. You had different types of people over the lines all the time; always enough work to keep you interested; it's more interesting to be busy than slow." But the f eeling of many of them was expressed by a former telephone operator who commented, " New inventions are good for something, but they are not working good for poor people." Technological changes in the telephone system, as in other industries, are made because of their increased efficiency. As the lastmentioned operator said, "They are good for something." The following are the r esults to the consumer of the change to the dial system as reported by a company bulletin: "It [the dial] is somewhat more accurate than manual service and when fully installed in a given place the dial service is quicker. During hours of light use, such as nights, Sundays, and holidays when manual boards have to be operated with a skeleton force, and therefore with a somewhat slower service, the dial service is just as rapid as during the busier hours of the day. The dial system is also proving more adaptable to improvements and developments to keep pace with the rapidly incr easing requirements of the telephone service." The result to the operators laid off has been shown, but there was also some difference resulting from the change to the operators who stayed with the company. On the whole, the effect was an improvement in the working conditions. Operators formerly worked on the https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 10 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY outgoing switchboard (A board), the incoming switchboar.d (B board), and the toll or long-distance switchboard. Under both systems, the old er manual and the dial system, there was also the information service. With the change to the dial system, the A and B boards were no longer necessary, and the toll board cared for the requests for assistance that formerly would have gone to the B board. This necessitated more toll operators and also gave the toll operators more varied work. The change to dial, with the work principally .long-distance calls, resulted in a smaller proportion of split tricks (morning-evening shifts, work periods with a break of from 4 to 5 hours between the periods) and of Sunday work than was found under the older system. The proportion of night workers increased slightly with the introduction of the dial system, although the actual number of night employees declined from 27 to 15. Percent of women under- === == == == == === ===--=== = === ====== ==== = ===_____ ====== ======== = =:~:~ri;~:: ~g~~i~~ _ _______ ____ ----== ----= ---- = - == -_____ -= -------__________ Afternoon-evening Night shifts . ___ _______ ---- -- -- - --- ----- ---- ------ - -- -------- - - ---- -- -- ----- - ---- Sunday work ______ ___________ ___ - -- - -- --- -- -- -- - -- --- ---- ---- -- - --- ---- --- - -- -- method, January Old N ew method, January 1030 1931 44.1 27. 1 23. 9 4. 9 51. 0 49. 8 20. 1 24. 1 6. 0 36. 9- 47. 0 Operators who formerly had been on the A or B boards noticed more change with the new method than did the operators formerly on toll, the principal difference being that in addition to plugging in on the switchboard it was necessary now to operate a dial to connect the incoming call with the city subscriber. One operator, who found the calls coming in on the toll board much more interesting than over the A and B boards, said : " You talk with operators all over the country; there is difference ip pronunciation and accent; you hear new things and new places. Sometime I hope to get a trans-Atlantic call." For most of the operators formerly on the A and B boards the new work was easier than the old. " Work is easier on toll now; the board is smaller, not so much reaching. U sed to repeat numbers all day long, now just say 'right'", was the opinion of one girl. Probably because of the very lack of monotony on the toll board compared to the A or B, another ~irl found it harder, but the majority agreed with the operat'Or who said, '' For us the dials are better." The telephone operator as a rule is a young woman. Few under 18 years are employed, but rarely is one hired who is over 25. In January 1930, 6 months before the cut-over, about 60 percent of the operators were under 25 years of age and only 2.7 percent were 40 or more. In .1 annary 1931, 6 months after the cut-over, a little less than 40 percent were under 25 years and 4.8 percent were 40 or more, illustratmg the fact that the transfers and lay-offs had been among the younger women. Of those laid o-ff, 69.8 percent were under 25 years of age and 42.2 percent were under 20 years, the natural https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO l>IAL OPERATION 11 result of the taking on of young women for temporary work after October 1927. In spite of the youth of those laid off, it was not easy, even with every assistance given by the telephone company, for them to find work. In factories where new methods of work result in lay-offs, it is frequently the older and less adaptable worker who is first discharged. The experience of this group of telephone operators is indicative of the large body of women, many of them much older, who lose their jobs through changes in industry and for whom there are apparently no other immediate openings. The best effort of industry cannot prevent temporary unemployment from technological causes, but the public that benefits by more efficient methods should be aware of its responsibility and not allow the worker to bear the entire burden of change and progress. A PARTIAL CUT-OVER TO THE DIAL SYSTEM Two years before the change to the dial system in about one third of the stations in this city, arrangements were made for a new building to house the heavy mechanical equipment required, and at the same time plans were made to take care of the employment problems that would arise in the change. It was realized that it would be necessary to hire some new operators before the cut-over, on account of the normal business increase and the usual need for the replacement of those leaving the company, so all those hired in the 2-year period before the change were to be told that their employment probably was only temporary and might terminate at the time of the cutover to the dial method. In hours of work, earnings, and all other respects, the conditions of work of the operators hired with this understanding of only temporary work were the same as those of the regular employees. Six months before the actual cut-over it was found that by careful planning all these temporary employees could be kept. Some could be transferred to other central offices in the city or to nearby towns; extra operators would be needed on the intercept positions and in the information service, and more operators would be used on the toll board as this service increased; the coin boxes were to be cut over gradually, and some of these operators would be needed until 2 months later, when the transfer, was complete; a careful arrangement of vacations to begin immediately after the cut-over would give work to some until the normal separations would open regular positions; and the telephone company of a neighboring State agreed to employ a number of operators in a resort for the summer, by the end of which time it was thought positions with the home company would be made available through normal turn-over. By these various means it was planned to retain the 125 temporary operators employed in the offices in which the service was to become dial, as well as some temporary operators in offices where the manual system would remain, but which were affected by the change because of the probable transfer of displaced operators whose seniority would entitle them to employment in these offices. When a change takes place in a factory it usually is possible to tl'ain people gradually as they learn the new job, but in a service https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 12 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY industry such as the telephone the training must be done in advance of the change so that the public may not suffer through the inexperience of the operators. For this r eason , the use of the dial had to be taught to the regular oper ators. This required 34 instructors, and it was necessary to fill, temporarily, n ot only their positions but the positions of the operators durin g this time of learning. It took about 35 hours for an operator to learn to handle efficiently the work of the new system; and 350 operators received this training, which was given for a few hours each day over a period of 2½ months. Six months before the cut-over, the total number of operators in the offices that were to have dial operating was 424. This number was considerably la,rger than would be needed under the dial system, so it was necessary to provide not only for the 125 t emporary operators but for a number of the regular employees. These were cared for by the same methods already described as providing work for the tern.porary operators. From this time, 6 months before the cut-over, when it was found that it would be possible to k eep both regular and t emporary operators, the status of the latter was changed to r egular. After November 22, 1929, somewhat less than 6 months before the change, obviously it was impracticable to train new people for such a short period. The hiring of new operators was restricted as much as possible, and the few that were hired were told their employment would end in May when the cut-over occurred. To keep down the number of new opera~ors, 137 ex-employees avai~able for occasional employment were notified and came back for periods of from 1 to 5 weeks, and j2 operators were borrowed from a neighboring city for 3 weeks before the cut-over. When the time of the cut-over finally arrived, May 3, 1930, there were 435 operators in the offices to be changed to dial, and only 33 of these had been taken on since November 22, 1929, and so were scheduled to be laid off. In other offices also there were son~e operators hired since that date who were temporary employees and could not be r et ained. I n all, 61 operators were to lose their t emporary jobs and must look for other work. That the total operating force in the cut-over offices h ad to be reduced to a large extent is apparent from the following figures: Before change, November 1929 _____ ___ __________ ____ ______ __ At time of change, Ma y 1930 ____ __ ___ ___ _________ __ __ __ ______ Immediately a f t er ~1ay 1930 ___ __ ____ __ _____ ____ ___ ___ ______ After November 1930__ ____ ________ ___ ___ ___ __ ____ ________ __ 424 435 287 128 These reductions were accomplished as already described, and in this process the company found itself able to provide jobs not only for the temporary operators whose status had been changed to regular but for 27 of the 33 hired since November for service only until May. 6 The fa ct that the cut-over occurred in the business section of the city resulted in a large percent ( 65.3) of the employees being operators with length of service of 2 years and over; nearly one third of the entire number had been ,with the company for at least 5 years. At the time of the cut-over, nearly two thirds of the operators were retained at the dial offices and were given work either on the 6 10 of the 27 ""ere r et ained in the cut-over oflices . https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CHANGE FROM M ANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION 13 toll board or on the boards handling the calls from dial to manual or the other way about. One third were transferred to other offices in the city or nearby towns, 9r to temporary work-as aid to subscribers or on intercept positions--until permanent places should become vacant. Only 6 operators from the cut-over offices and 55 from other offices in the city were la.id off. Although it was impossible to retain these 61 operators, all of whom had been taken on as temporary workers within the preceding 6 months, the telephone company still felt a responsibility. As was true of the complete cut-over in the other city, the period at which the change occurred was unfortunate. In the spring of 1930 positions were beginning to be scarce, and the chances of securing work were much less than if the cut-over had occurred in 1929. The telephone company realized this situation and gave as much work as possible to its former employees. In spite of the fact that 56 of the operators laid off were under 25 years of age, and none were over 30 years, it was not easy :for them to find work. A canvass of openJngs was made by the employment supervisor and 8 girls were placed in stores as salesgirls, on private branch exchanges as switchboard operators, or ·in other work not with the telephone company. Ten were recailed :for t emporary work with the company, 11 were tmnsferred to other offices in neighboring towns, and 32 were without jobs. The names of all the 61 were kept by the telephone company, and at the end of 10 months its r ecords showed the following disposition of the operators : R eem ployed by company________ 26 Transferred in company_________ 10 8 P ositions with other employers___ Declined position with telephone 4 company______________________ Ineligible for work with telephone company (poor work) ___ Could not be located___ _____ _____ 10 3 Within a year, therefore, 44 of the 58 women who could be located were employed, and 36 of them were with the telephone company. During the year many of the women had been out of work for longer or shorter periods. Twenty-seven of them were visited, and information was obtained of their lost time between jobs, differences in pay , and preferences for various kinds of work as compared with t elephone. Of the 17 reporting time lost between lay-off and first subsequent job, 5 lost from 4 to 8 months, 8 lost from 1 to 3 months, and 4 lost less than a month. In a number of cases the first job either could not be kept or was not satisfactory, so that other work was sought. Some of the telephone work in other exchanges was not accepted, because of differences of pay in the smaller towns or because it was night work and solitary. In nontelephone work the pay was less in 6 cases in a total of 9 positions. For all 27 women visited, the first work immediately after the cut-over showed the following comparisons with the pay in the former telephone job. Same ___ ____________ _______ _ 10 women, all in telephone. Less ______ __________________ 12 women, 6 in telephone and 6 not. More_________ ______________ 5 women, 2 in telephone and 3 not. The 17 telephone operators who had received a different rate were those who had been transferred either to another town or to another type of work, while the 10 retained for temporary work https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 14 TELEPHONE INDUSTRY with the company were paid their former salaries. The declines in the earnings of women having nontelephone jobs were greater than the decline in salaries on telephone work. Of the 6 women in nontelephone work who received less, 2 had been earning $22 a week and had come down to $12 and $13.50, respectively, while of 4 whose salaries had been $16 a week, 2 women earned $10, 1 $11, and 1 $15. During the 13 months that elapsed between the cut-over and the interviews with the workers there was considerable shifting of jobs and unemployment. Nineteen of the 27 women had more than one job, 2 women reporting 4 different work periods. During the 13 months, 16 of the women worked less than 8 months and only 3 worked through the entire period. This lack of employment was not always due to the impossibility of obtaining work but occasionally was due to personal reasons. However, of the 22 women who reported that they had lost time, only 1 said she had lost no time for industrial reasons. During the 13 months following the cut-over, all but 4 of the workers visited had been employed for either a longer or a shorter period by the telephone company. No time was lost after the cut:. over by 10 women, who were immediately given temporary work, but of this number only 2 were employed continuously for the 13 months. Others were called back at various intervals, 1 waiting only a week before being summoned, while 3 were not called back for 7 months and 2 not for 10 months. A few ( 4 women) were not sent for, and these probably were among the 10 women considered ineligible because of poor work. At the time of the interviews with the former operators, 19 of the 27 reported work with the telephone company, 6 were unemployed, and 2 had other employment. A few women compared their experience in different kinds of work as compared with telephone and explained the basis of their preference. Telephone work was liked because of better pay, or because they were familiar with the work, or because hours of work were better. One reason for preferring nontelephone work was better chance of employment, by which was meant future openings, and another was shorter and more definite hours, the latter having reference to the system j.n the telephone company of changing shifts every few months. However, the majority (8 out of 10) gave opinions in favor of telephone work. There was some shifting in the proportions who worked at night and on Sunday among the operators who remained in the offices when the dial system was installed. Because of the elimination of operators to attend to the city calls ( except to give information and aid to the subscribers), and their principal employment on the longdistance switchboard, the · proportion of night operators was less after the cut-over than before and the percent of Sunday operators was higher. The split trick consists in work in two periods with an interval of from 4 to 5 hours, and usually it is considered less desirable than a single shift. In November, before the change, over one third (37.4 percent) of the operators were employed on split tricks, while after the cut-over a slightly larger proportion (39 percent) worked these hours. https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 15 CHANGE FROM MANUAL TO DIAL OPERATION Before Night work _________________________________________________________________ ___ _ Split trick __ __________________________ __________________________________________ _ Sunday work _______ -------------------------------- __ -------------------------- After change change Percent Percent 8.8 37. 4 36. 3 6.0 39. 0 40. 6 Aside from these changes, the hours were the same for the operators before and after the cut-over, namely, 8 hours on day and night shifts, with 15 minutes off in the morning and in the afternoon, and 7 hour·s on evening and split shifts. Lunch periods were an hour in length and there was a 15-minute break in each 3- or 4-hour work period. 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