Workers swarmed through Henry J. Kaiser's Richmond, Calif., shipyard in World War II, building 747 ships for the Navy. The war "had siphoned off the most hardy specimens," a newspaper reported, so Kaiser was left with many workers too young, old or infirm to be drafted.
The workers needed to be in good health to be effective on the job, and Kaiser offered them care from doctors in company clinics and at company hospitals. The workers paid 50 cents a week for the benefit.
It was something new in industrial America — a bonus offered to attract scarce labor while wages were frozen during the war.
The war ended, the workers quit the shipyards, leaving behind...