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bonus

bonus, extra amount in money, bonds, or goods over what is normally due. The term is applied especially to payments to employees either for production in excess of the normal (wage incentive) or as a share of surplus profits. The wage incentive was designed during the late 19th cent. not only to increase production but to reward the more skillful and more energetic workers. The hourly or weekly wage was to be figured as payment for a standard rate of work, and the workers who exceeded that standard were to receive a bonus. However, the system fell into disfavor with labor unions because rate cutting was often resorted to when bonuses became too high. Industrial engineers of the 1930s realized that definite standards of accomplishment and quality must be set to make wage incentives workable. Many firms have used an annual bonus plan for distributing abnormal profits to employees. The term is also applied to payments to former servicemen in addition to regular pensions and insurance. Veterans of World War I lobbied to obtain a bonus for their military service. In 1924 each veteran received an adjusted compensation certificate entitling him to a payment averaging $1,000 to be made in 1945. In 1932 about 15,000 unemployed veterans formed the "Bonus Expeditionary Force," or Bonus Marchers, and marched to Washington to demand immediate payment of the certificates. President Hoover ordered troops to oust them from federal property. In 1936 Congress passed a law permitting the veterans to exchange their certificates for cashable bonds. A number of states voted veterans' bonuses after World War II and the Korean War.

See W. W. Waters, B.E.F.: The Whole Story of the Bonus Army (1933, repr. 1969); V. D. Kennedy, Union Policy and Incentive Wage Methods (1945, repr. 1969); J. K. Louden, Wage Incentives (2d ed. 1959); R. Marriott, Incentive Payment Systems (3d rev. ed. 1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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