The Demise of the American Worker

On February 11, 2014, in Employment, by admin

I have never been a fan of unions, with good reason. Their over the top policies are very destructive to the overall business environment. They started out to protect workers, but as their power grew, they became their own worst enemy, business wise. In today’s business environment, and especially in the south U.S., unions remain a weak force as most states are open shops states.  Further, most of these states laws concerning employment are what is called “at will”. Simply stated, the worker wills to work for the employer, and the employer wills you to work for them.  The American way. Nothing  more.  Great.  This follows our formula for pro-business and freedom overall.  Only something went wrong along the way. The evolution of the new economy dictated change in the way companies handle, and apply this ‘at will’ standard. The expectations of Wall Street have evolved into a ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitude, fueled by technology that allows trading large amount of shares in a nano-second.  So if you are a CEO of a publicly traded company, by definition your mantra is to maximize share holder wealth.

Here is where we run into a conundrum. In order to feed this insatiable short term thirst of Wall Street, companies are making snap decisions every day involving the you and I’s of the working world. If a company is not going to meet analyst’s expectations, or worse, report a loss, well, just announce a “x” percent layoff.  Business model or customer be damned. We are seeing this today as well; and  in the fact that hiring is seriously lagging considering the growth potential of the economy. All of this leads to an American worker is void of any loyalty, and for good reason. Again, this is all good, only one major problem, there are not a lot of choices for the American worker out there. So many workers; me included, are in jobs that pay substantially less….but we feel we must take them to survive. We are not happy, the company is not happy if they were thinking of something other than their bottom line, you get the picture.  Never has the American worker been in more perilous employment in history.  So what is the answer?

There is not an easy answer.  In a recent trip to South Korea, I became friends with a manager of a major Seoul hotel that employs in excess of 300 people.  Yes they have unions. When I inquired about the power of the unions, he indicated that much of their power comes from the employment laws in Korea. He further said that the only way he can lay off workers is to show three years, count them, three years of operational loss before he can let employees go via work force reduction. This is very excessive indeed, but it got me thinking….if companies were force to not reduce their workforce until after “x” quarters of operational losses, maybe there would be some protection for American workers who just want to be productive.  Business environments change, and  as some of you go crazy reading this, thinking how horrible this is to the business environment, let me give you some statistics about South Korean economy. The unemployment rate stands between 2.3-2.7 percent.  In America, that is defined as better than full employment. Average household income is north of $46,000 USD per year.  And by the way, I have never had better customer service than in Korea in my many travels abroad.

The American worker is in peril.  Yes, many of our workers do not understand that a pay check is not automatic, that there is value to your employer behind the service you are supplying for that paycheck. These are not the type of workers any company needs.

But maybe, just maybe, employers need to take a hard look at themselves. Employees should be assets to the company. Figure out ways to embrace them. Do not let our government dictate how they should be treated. But if you cannot get your act together in this regard, Mr. Company “XYZ”, I am happy for the government or someone else to step in and force you think beyond your little short term Wall Street attitudes. Citizens of the U.S. pay for good products and services…..but corporate America has given us little reason to go beyond finding the best bargain and paying as little as you can.  American workers deserve better, please do not push them to a point of regression thinking or wishing they had a union or someone else to look after their interests.

Corporate America, these people feed you. Try to get it. It is not difficult. This is why I tend to support private companies, small business, and companies with known positive corporate cultures.  I believe in the American worker, and you, and companies, should also.

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