FEATHERBEDDING: Make-Work Imperils Economic Growth

When Rock Island railroadmen complained about their corncob-filled caboose mattresses half a century ago, they unknowingly baptized a working practice that is as old as man's labor and as fresh as this week's news. Chided the trainmaster: "What do you want—featherbeds?" Since then, featherbedding—the purposeful slowing down or spreading out of work to make jobs—has become one of the most emotion-packed points of dispute between U.S.

management and labor. Today the practice pads U.S. labor costs by more than $1 billion a year, plagues a broad spectrum of industries ranging from...

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