Birth of the Human Employee - Using Henry J. Heinz as Example

Birth of the Human Employee - Using Henry J. Heinz as Example

When we look back at the end of the nineteenth century and see a man like Henry J. Heinz it is hard not to ask ourselves why did he decide to conduct business in the fashion that he did when so many of his contemporizes were choosing to exploit their work force. What was it about the man was it that made him choice to conduct business with his employees in mind going so far as to rent entire trains so that he could fairy them for picnics, to give away a great deal of his money to improve the lives of others, to basically change the relationship of the employer and the employee. Was it simply his upbringing that changed this, was it the changing times, or was it a matter of belief, in this paper we will examine what it was about the man that made him change the world did its business.

Heinz as an employer was very different from his contemporizes of that time for take a man such as Andrew Carnegie a man who preferred to have no direct contact with his employees instead relying on his management to deal with them on a day to day basis while as his biography has stated “H.J. Heinz would often get directly involved with his factory workers and might help with personal problems” (H.J. Heinz: A biography pg. 245)actually listening to each of their concerns going so far as to being on a first name basis with several of his employees. For seeing the time he took to speak with his employees and learn their own troubles it is easy to conclude that Heinz was a caring employer which would be true though it could be said about Heinz that he held himself on a different field then them as would a minster would his flock or his congregation, to such an extent that he believed that he knew what was best for them as his biography once again tells us “Heinz felt he protect the workers from themselves and society.” (H.J Heinz: A biography pg.245) This can go further it the way of showing that Heinz had a distinct separation from himself and the work force. Another stark difference between Heinz and Carnegie is that as Carnegie had complete faith in his management team Heinz was more like to blame his for problems in the factor going so far as to be openly critical of them, while Carnegie would be more likely to blame most of the problems on the work force.

One of the possible reasons for Heinz treating his workers as people rather than serfs as many of this time period did could have been his own upbringing. Henry j. Heinz was the first son of German immigrants Henry and Anna Margaretha Schmitt, he would be the first of eight children and later the one who managed the family garden. It easy seeing Heinz living in this simple way could have been the way he was, and showing that Heinz was no stranger to a hard day’s work, it could have been having lived this life that made Heinz aware of the demands made on a worker in his everyday life, and his work life. At the time many new business were being created and many new fortunes were being acquired but a lot of the mentality from the old rich still survived creating what could be called Neo-serfdoms were the worker was completely dependent on his employer sometimes to the point of the worker living in company housing and shopping at company stores at excessive prices. With the exploitation of workers happening around him it could be said that Heinz and his way of worker treatment was singularly a unique idea as exploitation was a much easier form and more cost effective to the employer from that we can gather that capital wasn’t the only thing driving Heinz though we can assume that it was at least a portion of why he created his business.
It could also be see that Heinz so that things were slowly beginning to change the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth were a time of great change in work force regulations were slowly coming into effect, an certain laws were being discussed and enacted. Whether Heinz pioneered some of these ideas or simply followed behind though we do know that he was a firm believer in several of them, including sending his son Henry Heinz II to lobby for the pure food and drug act in 1906.

Another reason for Heinz choice of business style could have been his religious beliefs. A devoted Lutheran Heinz original desire was to become a minster of the faith preaching the bible to the devotee. Even in his handbooks for each employee we see religious annotations, it could be that the teachings of charity of the bible were transfixed to his method of handling business. It could also be that Heinz deeds work acts of good work as the Lutherans would call them believing that if good works are absent then faith must also be absent. We do know that even though he was a business man he kept his religion very close to him even going so far as to hold communion on Sundays and giving the sermon himself, so it might not be too far off to say that his work was religiously driven.

In conclusion it is most likely that Heinz had chosen his way of employee treatment because of his upbringing, understanding what it was that a working man had to endure most likely made it easier for him to understand what it was that the needed and what would motivate them to give them their all. While it could be said that his religion could be part of it and would also fit in with his upbringing it is too hard to place a defiant answer on whether that was the deciding factor or if it was just part of the reason.


Henry J. Heinz: A Biography by E. D. McCafferty , Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 13, 2008)
H. J. Heinz Company by Debbie Foster, Jack Kennedy, Arcadia Publishing (October 9, 2006)
The good provider: H. J. Heinz and his 57 Varieties by Robert C. Alberts, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1973