Whiting Williams' "What's On the Worker's Mind By One Who Put On Overalls To Find Out"

Whiting Williams' "What's On the Worker's Mind By One Who Put On Overalls To Find Out"

Author: 
Whiting Williams

Williams was the former assistant to a college president and personal director for a Cleveland steel company. He researched the book over seven months working as a common laborer in the steel mills and in a rolling mill, as a coal miner in two towns, as a shipbuilder, as an oil man in a refinery, and as a worker in the iron mines. He adopted "no half measures in the manner of disguise" and equipped himself with "a different name, a slim pocketbook, rough clothes, an unshaven face and a grammerless lingo." He made a point of announcing that he had "cheated no employer" as he worked hard to understand the ruptured relations between "Labor, Management, and the Public -- the investors in brawn, brains, and bullion, and the burgeoisie." He also obscured all identifying details of the companies, as well as their geographic locations "because neither commendation nor criticism of communities or companies is intended or desired." He was just as unwilling to offer conclusions or prescriptions, but did pinpoint the workers' main complaint: terrible foremen.

Reviewers found the book "perhaps, more interesting than important" and cited as a key flaw Williams' method, saying two weeks of tossing bricks from pile to pile was too short a time to "get the exact point of view of a man who has spent thirty years doing the same job."

Book Excerpt: 
"People cannot be interviewed for their feelings. The interviewer can only listen, and then try to understand becasue he is not only hearing but experiencing and sympathizing."
Year of Publication: 
Wed, 1920-09-01
Rights Information: 
public domain
File(s) (e.g., scanned article PDF): 
City of Publication: 
New York City
Book Publisher: 
Charles Scribner & Sons