The Relationship between Housing Quality and Worker Morale and Motivation When Leaving Home to Move into Work Provided Housing

The Relationship between Housing Quality and Worker Morale and Motivation When Leaving Home to Move into Work Provided Housing
By Mitchell Pokrywa
The relationship between housing quality and worker morale and motivation is one that can be looked at from two different perspectives which I think can have two totally different impacts on the individual. When a person or family is uprooted from their home to move into work provided housing individuals can have varying reactions. Two specify on the two extremes one can either be excited for a new start or on the opposite end of the spectrum one can have feelings of nostalgia for their old home and life.
The two ways I believe one would interpret the system of work provided housing and the incentives that come with is to either use it as a tool of motivation to achieve better housing by becoming more skilled at your job which would make a person more valuable to a company which is reason to deserve better housing. The other way is to see it as a way of discipline if you do not increase your value to the company over time what was given to you can be stripped from the company. Depending of the type of person you are, the way you interpret the system can provide with different results out of the work provided housing system.
“Not all company towns employed such dramatic forms of social control. Industries that needed to attract skilled workers found it to their advantage to create towns where their power was less evident” (Crawford, 30). For a person who sees this as move into provided housing as a new start that person may see this provided housing as an incentive to work harder to achieve better success and skills at their job to obtain better housing from the company.
“They exercised total authority, imposing a system of arbitrary rules the violation of which was punishable by heavy fines. If a miner refused to pay he would be dismissed, his family evicted from their company house” (Crawford, 30). However for a person who is not viewing this move in a positive light and is feeling nostalgia for their own home, this person may not see this as a positive chance to obtain more through better work but as a threat of losing the provided housing if they do not work hard enough. For someone like this I do not feel that they would mend well into this system because of their deep feelings of nostalgia for their old home and way of life.
“You went to work at dawn, got home at dark, and they took out of your pay the rent, and then they operated a grocery store, which was a company store, and they took the cost of your groceries out of your pay, and so on, until you virtually had, you know, there was a sort of self-contained world.”
This article suggests that in this particular company town everything is contained within the town and all the wages are circulated within the town which means that the money given to the workers is essentially all given back to employer. What this represents to me is that this company town is using its power to assure that it makes the most profit from the employers. This doesn’t allow the employees to have the freedom to do what they please with their earned wages. The company is forcing the employees to spend their money within the town using this as form and enforcement on the employees to assert their control over them which can cause mixed reactions from certain employees depending on the personality of the person.
Excerpt from “[Interview of Virgil Charles],” [1995]. Click image to read interview

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This is an image of a company grocery store and this picture shows how the employees all were forced to spend their money within the constraints of the company town showing the power that the employer had over the employees, using the company town as a form of discipline over the employees.
“[A Typical pioneer town],” [1880-1920]. Courtesy of [The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion].

“José and Mónica had one of those houses that the Imperial Sugar Company used to give to the workers a long time ago over there in Sugarland. It was a company town, and they lived in a company house. They had about five rooms, that’s all. We were too big a family for that house. Mónica and José had six children, and you have to remember that we had Ignacio and Beatriz and their little Charlie with us, as well as our whole family, including another very small baby: our youngest brother, Andrés.”
When reading this article I took that the family in this company home used this provided company home as motivation. It seemed to me that clearly the provided housing for the family was not adequate for the family in it and the family needed more space. I feel that this shows the company did not provide them with what they needed and this could be used as motivation to obtain better housing through acquiring better skills for work to become more valuable to the company.
“[Lydia Mendoza, a family autobiography],” [1993]. Click image for article

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The picture above is a picture of a company housing of Dupont employees and it shows how the towns were structures and how some of the dwellings differed from others. This to me can be seen as incentives to see what you have and what you could have based on the quality of your work.
“[History of the American West],” [1912]. Courtesy of [The Library of Congress: American Memory: Immigration, American Expansion].
This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.” A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/assignments-the-concept-of-home-spring-2013/

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