Today, our paychecks magically appear in our bank accounts on the 15th and 30th of each month.  How would you like to stand in line for hours to receive your paycheck?  That's what is taking place in this photograph taken during the Powder Plant Days in Old Hickory.  Approximately 12,500 powder mill workmen stood in this line for hours in front of the pay windows to receive their weekly compensation.  Old Hickory News -
The following information is taken directly from David Brand's Thesis at Vanderbilt University -  "Fill the Empty Shell: The Story of the Government Munitions Project at Old Hickory, Tennessee 1918-1919"   May 1971
The Wages
The problem of setting satisfactory wage scales plagued DuPont officials throughout 1918. On March 22, DuPont officials from Wilmington and Old Hickory met in Nashville to discuss wage scales. They decided that unskilled workers and those classes of tradesmen which could be recruited locally should be paid according to the prevailing wage rates in the territory surrounding Nashville. They agreed that they would have to establish higher scales for those trades for which the supply would have to be recruited from areas north of Nashville.

Assuming that they could recruit sufficient laborers, carpenters, and blacksmiths from the Nashville area and the region south and southwest of Nashville, they established a scale giving unskilled laborers .30 per hour and carpenters .40 or .55, depending on their skill. Electricians, iron-workers, millwrights, machinists, pipe fitters, sheet metal workers, and plumbers and steamfitters those workers who would have to be recruited from areas north of Nashville were offered between .55 and .72 an hour, depending upon their skill levels. These wage scales were put into effect on March 23.

The coming of the Old Hickory plant upset wage stability in Nashville also. Leaders of businesses established in Nashville before 1918 complained that the powder plant was stealing their workers with unnecessarily high wages. The Nashville city government, which had paid unskilled workers .27 and hour prior to the beginning of the construction at Old Hickory, considered raising its scale to .37 1/2 in June. Mayor Henry Gupton of Nashville, with urging from the resident engineer at Old Hickory, opposed such a raise and convinced the city commissioners to raise the scale only to .30 an hour.

Fill the Empty Shell: The Story of the Government Munitions Project at Old Hickory, Tennessee 1918-1919 Thesis of David E. Brand May 1971

 

Overtime
In addition to setting up acceptable wage scales, DuPont officials needed to establish a policy for overtime pay.  In the beginning, no overtime pay at all was given at Old Hickory.  At Old Hickory and several of the other DuPont war contract plants, workers demanded time and a half or double-time pay for Saturday afternoon work and double-time pay for Sundays.  At first, DuPont responded to these demands by informing workers that they were not required to work on Saturday afternoons or Sundays.  Chief engineer Pierce favored this policy because, if DuPont paid overtime at some plants,  "it will be necessary probably to put it into effect through the entire DuPont Organization."

DuPont resistance to overtime payments waned when company officials learned that DuPont was probably the only government contractor not paying double time and that government boards had granted double-time payments for Saturday afternoon and Sunday work in each dispute they had mediated.  Although DuPont officials maintained that the government had no jurisdiction over their labor practices, because of the independence granted by the March 23 contract, they decided to pay overtime at Old Hickory.  Beginning on June 16, 1918, the company paid double time to all those who worked on Sundays after having worked five and one-half days during the week.  Those who had taken more than one-half day off during the week were given time and a half for Sunday work.