A Direct Connection…

Amazon spokesperson Mary Osako, meanwhile, told Businessweek that “our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon.”

“This direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the wants and needs of our employees. Amazon’s culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.”

SOURCE: Amazon Workers Vote Against Forming Union | TIME.com.

Lets face it unions today have a pretty bad reputation with many of us. In the past they have tended to make an enemy of the people who hire their workers.  It was always an adversarial arrangement.  Whatever the company wants the union is against. With that reputation it is hard to form unions today. I know I just finished a post recently about a paradigm shift needed to solve the unemployment/education problems in our country but this is another one that will require a similar shift. I hope Amazon is doing just that.

Unions of the past just have to move beyond and adversarial relationship with employers if they hope to have a place in the 21st century. Likewise employers must do what is needed to rekindle the loyalty that many mid-twentieth century companies had. They must once again start treating their workers as assets instead of liabilities.

I admit up front that I have only a limited exposure to the employee side of Amazon but from what I can glean they try to treat their workers with respect and they do pay more than the prevailing wages along with attractive benefits. Jeff Bezos is one of the few present CEOs who seem to look mainly to the long-term future when mapping out his company’s strategies.

Here is a quote from an article about Amazon along with some info about salaries.

Amazon PayThe company deserves praise for heavily investing in its business and hiring full-time workers at a time when many other firms are playing it safe. Even an extremely healthy economy is going to include jobs that don’t pay very well. But the fact that President Obama has chosen an Amazon fulfillment center as the backdrop for a speech on how to bring back strong, middle-class jobs illustrates the difficult position the government finds itself in as it tries to encourage a more robust recovery. SOURCE: Amazon’s Hiring Spree Shows Difficulties for American Middle Class | TIME.com

I certainly hope that Amazon is serious that its culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates.” To be competitive in the coming years will demand a loyal workforce who is willing to adapt to changes as needed. It will require companies to treat their employees with respect and as valuable member of a united team. If unions can adapt to this new paradigm then they will have a place in future society.  If not they will, as the current trends indicate, simply go the way of the dinosaur.

The Turning Point…..

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“Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”  – Ronald Reagan

ReaganSometimes when we look back at history we wonder how did we get to where we are.  We often have trouble pinpointing a particular person or date to where it all began. On January 20, 1981 when Ronald Reagan uttered the words above  he ushered in a new breed of Republicans. These particular words were the turning point to gridlock and jumping from crisis to crisis that we see today.  It is also the specific moment that I turned away from the Republican party to look elsewhere.

No longer was government to do the people’s business but instead they were to just get out-of-the-way and let our corporate elite run the country as they had during the Robber Baron days a century before.  Government had no meaning to those who swallowed those words hook line and sinker. The safety net for our citizens lost its meaning to them.  This was the turning point where we backed away on our pledge to make sure our citizens would not starve. This was the point where “entitlements” to our poor or aged became a dirty word for some. Government became a hindrance instead of the benefit. The people’s business took a back burner to corporate interests or was actually thrown entirely off the stove.

I believe that any serious student of U.S. history knows that capitalism without regulation was a pre-cursor to the death of the middle class. It was a point where those trying to keep our food and drugs safe were stymied by lower and lower budgets. The agencies responsible for our banking system and financial sector were gutted. Taxes which were from that point on deemed almost evil were difficult to obtain to maintain our countries infrastructure and safety nets. Common sense and compassion took a back burner to greed and corruption. The people’s business suffered greatly.

stoolAnother turning point that compounded these same problems  was the sudden popularity of the MBA program in this country. That was the point where employees changed from being an asset to be treasured and treated with respect to being a liabilities that needed to be removed or gotten at the lowest possible cost. I remember very distinctly when that happened in the corporation that I was employed.  Up till that point most employees were very loyal to the companies that hired them. Chevy guys would never dream of buying a Ford and visa versa. Suddenly employer’s loyalty to workers disappeared. Benefits were taken away. Wages were stifled in order to increase corporate profits. What used to be a three-legged stool of  owners/employees/customers was suddenly taken into severe imbalance.

These two events that created the “government is the problem” Republicans and “employees are the problem” business leaders caused a dramatic shift in our economy.  When workers lost their living wages they were no longer able to buy the goods and services they had previously. To counter the loss of buying employers cut wages and benefits further. Anyone without an MBA could clearly see this cause/effect but it just didn’t seem to occur to those who  now are on most rungs of the corporate ladder.

To end this post on an upbeat, I believe that the day is coming when a balance will be restored. The majority of us will realize that our government needs resources to keep us and our world safe. Employers will realize that without a living wage their workers will never buy an increasing number of the products they desire to make.  I am an optimist. I believe this day will come. I just wonder if we will be able to pinpoint that particular point in time as easily as when Republicans became the party of “government is the problem”

Employers say they can’t find workers

Source:  Life Inc. – Role reversal: Employers say they cant find workers.

“Employers are getting pickier and pickier,” Holmes said. “We want the perfect person to walk through the door.”Other experts also are seeing evidence that employers just aren’t working as hard to recruit workers, either because they can’t afford to or they don’t feel like they have to. Employers may not be looking far afield because they cant afford moving expenses. Employees may be less willing to move because of the housing bust.

I guess I am just showing my age here but at the beginning of my working years it seemed like employers hired and then trained their workers to match the job. Now days they seem to expect you to come on-board fully loaded and ready to fire.  Certainly there are many jobs that require an extensive education. Nuclear physics and fields like that come to mind in this area.

But many jobs can be learned with just a few weeks or maybe months of training. Why aren’t employers willing to hire and then train their workers anymore?  I think one answer to that is the idea of loyalty. They don’t think they will stick around after being trained. When I started working as an engineer for a “large communications company” in 1970 the workforce I entered contained many loyal workers. They knew that if they did their job their employer would take care of them and their families. Most expected to work their entire life for the company because they knew their employer cared for them.

Somewhere along the line this type of thing went out the window. It seemed to happen when companies started treating their employees as liabilities instead of assets! When that happened the basic relationship between workers and their bosses changed dramatically and as a result loyalty quickly disappeared.  This was about the time that the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) degrees became the hot jobs. I like to blame everything bad that has happened to the Reagan administration so I will also put part of the blame on their deregulation fever. 🙂

Loyalty is just not part of the job description any more in the U.S.  We all see it everyday when we encounter “people behind the counter” of most businesses. Most really don’t care whether you like their product or service; they just want to get through the day and get their paycheck. If another job comes up that pays a little more they will quickly dump the job they have for it. Fortunately there are exceptions to this general trend. I try to go out of my way to praise someone who goes the extra mile for me. They need all the encouragement that can get it today’s world.

Can we ever get back to company/employee loyalty? Probably not to the extent that it was in my early working years but I think that if employers dumped a few of their MBAs and started treating their employees as assets again things might just change. There are a few companies out there that do that but they seem to be far and few between.

But what do I know…

Something happened in the Early 1980s…

Looking back on my life in the corporate world something very distinct happened in the early 1980s. Loyalty disappeared. Companies started treating employees as liabilities and employees therefore lost any sense of commitment to their employers. Lifelong employment with one company began to be a thing of the past. I like to blame in on the Reagan administration and their fierce conservatism, which by the way was very moderate compared to today’s radical right conservative agenda, but it could have been just as likely to be things like “world trade”. Whatever it was it spelled the doom of loyalty.

No matter the source, starting in the 80s corporations started cutting back on employee benefits and the constant drum of downsizing started. “Doing more with less” was an never ending mantra. At the same time companies started reducing benefits and perks. This change caused employees to began to feel somewhat betrayed by their employers. It used to be that you went to work even though you weren’t feeling well because you had a job to do.

The days of working thirty years for one company and then retiring with a nice fat pension quickly began to disappear. Today “30 years and out” is about as common as dinosaurs! I consider myself very fortunate to at least get in on the tail end of the “30 years and out”. A very good friend of mine chose a different path. He worked for about six different companies during that period of time. As a result he has little or no pension coming from any of them. He did manage to put some of his own money in 401k’s but not nearly enough to make up for the pension he lost.

I don’t understand how a young man or woman now days can even think about retirement security. What with some of our politicians even trying to eliminate Social Security for future generations our society might just end up in a work until the grave situation. How sad that is.

And the journey goes on…