|Name:||United American Bosch; Springfield (MA) (USA)|
|Products:||Model types Others|
United American Bosch, Springfield, Mass.; successor of American Bosch Magneto in Dec 1930.
United American Bosch; Springfield, Mass. - Trade names Ambrola, American Bosch, Bosch, Cruiser, Essex
Robert Bosch, the founder in 1886 of the Germany-based Bosch Magneto Company, built the Springfield Bosch plant in 1911. Early photographs of the factory interior show lab-coated machinists producing parts for the emerging automobile and truck industry.
By 1920 the four-story plant employed 3,000 workers and turned out 50 percent of the all of the electrical starter parts required by the U.S. vehicle industry. The outbreak of World War II led to the rapid expansion of the plant. In 1941 the U.S. Office of Production Management (OPM) authorized Bosch officials to build a $700,000 facility for aircraft magnetos. The Federal Defense Plant Corporation (FDPC) provided $400,000 worth of new machine tools for the expansion.
Bosch also opened a production facility in Providence, Rhode Island which employed 600 workers. Growth might have been even greater, but the OPM denied a $2,000,000 federal appropriation to more than double Bosch's production capability for magnetos. The OPM wanted magnetos to be built primarily in plants shifting from automobile to war-related production. But even with this more modest expansion, the company generated profits for the first six months of 1942 four times greater than in all of 1941.
Concerned about the loyalties of Bosch management, at the end of 1941 the United States Treasury assumed formal operation of the plant and the federal Alien Property Custodian's Office (APC) took possession of all foreign-owned stock. With ownership issues resolved, the plant received and additional $4,000,000 in leased machine tools from the FDPC in the spring of 1942 to expand production.
By 1942 Bosch magnetos or fuel injectors appeared in virtually every U.S.-built plane, battleship, aircraft carriers, destroyer, and submarine as highly skilled machinists, operators and assemblers turned out precision parts with very little tolerances.
Sales rose to $13 million in 1941, reached $31 million in 1942 and peaked at $61.2 million in 1944, while in that year employment jumped to 7,300 from under 1,000 in 1941. The APC paid out small stock dividends, but chose to set aside close to $2 million in cash to assist it in what it anticipated would be a costly adjustment to peacetime production, These cash reserves would figure prominently in the plant's return to civilian ownership in 1948.
Nearly every metalworking factory in greater-Springfield in the early 1930s remained non-union. However, by the early 1940s the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) had organized Bosch and several other plants. The 1940 local 206 agreement established the principle of plant-wide seniority and contained strong maintenance of membership language, stating that employees "will be required as a condition of employment with the Company to maintain their membership in good standing during the life of this Agreement."
In 1940 the union negotiated a grievance and arbitration procedure, seniority rights, six paid holidays, and a vacation schedule. All layoffs and recalls now followed plant-wide seniority rules. Wages steadily crept up as well, with eight and 10 cent per hour increases in 1938 and 1939. In five years base rates rose from a range of 20 cents to 50 cents an hour to a new range of 60 cents to $1.21.20 The labor agreement greatly reduced the arbitrary authority of foremen, the catalyst that had sparked worker organizing in the plant.
In the early 1950s Bosch workers voted to withdraw from the U.E. and affiliate with the newly formed International Union of Electrical Workers during a vigorous period of anti-communist activity in the national labor movement. A week-long wildcat strike in 1958 and bitter strikes in 1968 and 1971 over wage and job security punctuated a rocky labor-management relationship and surely influenced management's work location decisions from the mid-1950s forward.
The APC sold the plant in 1948 for $6 million to AMRA, a two-year old financial holding company headed by Charles Allen, the president of the Wall Street investment firm Allen and Company. The holding company's board of directors included the major partners of several Wall Street legal firms as well as the presidents of the American Securities Corporation and the American Overseas Development Corporation.
In 1949 Allen merged the Bosch with ARMA Corporation, a Long Island, New York defense electronics firm, to form American Bosch-ARMA (ABA), with headquarters on Long Island. Bosch became one of several production facilities owned by a financial holding concern with a growth strategy predicated upon product and market diversification, cost cutting, and eventually the construction of low-wage, non-union plants in the South. The switch from a localized ownership-with at least some concern for the well-being of the Springfield plant and workforce-to ownership with the ability to play off against one another the interests of several production facilities in a search for maximum profits, commenced the slow downward slide to closure.
The Bosch plant's new owners had a growth strategy predicated on product and market diversification, wage and cost cutting, the construction of plants in the non-union South, and the establishment of numerous joint production ventures in Europe. Early on, management informed workers that a move of some work to a low-cost area had to be made for the company to preserve profits. A "Dear Worker" letter read in part "When one or more companies start producing in an area where operating costs are much lower, other competitive companies in the same field also have to move in order to survive. It is either move or quit." During 1959 contract talks, management once again warned workers of global wage pressures American Bosch's foreign competitors enjoy a greater and too frequently a decisive cost advantage over us .... A major cost factor is of course labour costs .... For every dollar earned by an AB employee an employee of a foreign competitor is paid an average of only 25 cents. This means that where our average hourly rate is $2.66 the comparable hourly rate in West Germany is 66 cents, in Japan 27 cents and only 80 cents in the United Kingdom.
This shortened article has been collected from "Historical Journal of Massachusetts", Winter 2003, written by Robert Forrant (EE).
Remarks from '50 Jahre Bosch 1886-1936':
Robert Bosch, founded in 1906 the 'Robert Bosch New York Inc.' which was renamed in 1908 to 'Bosch Magneto Company', later 'American Bosch Magneto Corp.'. In 1917 the Springfield Bosch plant was confiscated for army supplies. In 1921 formation of the 'Robert Bosch Magneto Company Inc.' in New York. In 1929 the brandname 'Bosch' became arranged with German Bosch. In 1931 'Robert Bosch Magneto Company Inc. (New York) and 'American Bosch Magneto Corp.' merged into 'United American Bosch Corp.' in Springfield.
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