DEARBORN - If the development of the moving assembly line was Henry
Ford’s claim to fame in eyes of industrialists, manufacturers and
business men, then establishing the $5 per day wage was his way of
guaranteeing its success. On Jan. 5, 1914, Ford made the announcement
that changed manufacturing and society forever.
Without a doubt the moving assembly line, as it applied to the
automotive industry, represented a monumental advancement in production
capabilities and potential earnings. Mass production of automobiles also
drove down the cost of each vehicle, making vehicle ownership a reality
for more people.
However, in order to optimize the assembly line, a stable workforce
was needed that could be trained and then relied upon to fulfill their
assigned tasks on a daily basis. In the early days of automotive
production , a high rate of turnover (as much as 378 percent, or 53,000
employees per year, according to Henry Ford in his book, My Life and
Times)kept manufacturing facilities from meeting production goals. As a
result, Ford and his team placed significant effort into studying other
manufacturing facilities in search of ways to secure staffing.
Ultimately, to put an end to production losses, months after
establishing the moving assembly line Henry Ford made a decision that
shocked many of his auto-industry peers while simultaneously spreading
hope to thousands of average citizens. Henry Ford raised the base pay of
plant workers from $2.34 for a nine hour day to $5 for an eight hour
Just as the moving assembly line changed the business model for
building cars, this change in pay made a drastic and lasting impression
on society. The $5 work day drew workers from around the world, helped
build the middle class, and fostered “The Great Migration” of workers
from the south to the industrial mid-west – all activities cemented into
the history books school children still study today.