"With production alone as the goal, industry in North America was dominated by the assembly line, standardization for mass consumption."
- Arthur Erickson, architect, in a speech at McGill University School of Architecture
On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford installed the world's first assembly line, allowing for mass production of his most famous car, the Model T. The assembly line revolutionized car production with significant gains in output and quality, and workers saw an increase in their salaries and a decrease in their work hours.
However, in all the euphoria, what was ignored was the significant social impact of the assembly line. The work was repetitive and could easily be automated. Workers no longer developed trade skills and became dispensable.
Over time, the balance of power shifted to the factory owners, who began to mistreat the workers. This forced the workers to organize and launch a movement to protect their rights and responsibilities, an effort that continues to this day.
“This place is different from any I’ve worked in every respect.
If you work here you gradually become an automaton.”
- William Bradley, The Degradation of Work Revisited by Stephen Meyer
"The skilled mechanics may be in the factories, but they get little or no chance to use their skill. The work in each department is split up into so many operations and instead of carrying a piece of work from start to finish they do only a small part over and over."
- An anonymous president of an early automobile union