The most common method employed to remunerate labor is to pay according to time or to the labor done. Obviously, time wages are based on piece wages for a group if not for the individual. The same industry often employs both methods. Farmers usually pay their regular help by the month, but employ men to gather corn by the bushel. About coal mines also the wages of some employees depend on output; of others, on time. Organized labor generally opposes piece wages on the ground that the most efficient workers are paid but a fair wage, while those less efficient are underpaid. For this position it is criticized by those who argue that a time wage takes from the highly efficient and gives to the inefficient. Yet as labor leaders say, the interests of the few who might possibly profit from a system of piece wages must give way to the larger interests of the whole group.
Piece wages in some industries are impossible. What scheme could be devised for paying house carpenters according to their output? Ordinarily, the product of one cannot be separated from the products of others on the same job. Likewise the store clerk, while he may get a commission on his sales, must be paid time wages for his time spent in trying to sell goods, and in doing various other duties about the store. We may say, therefore, that piece wages can be best paid in those industries where each worker's product is distinguishable from the products of his fellow workers.