I have written a couple of times about what I see as a shift in business relationship with labor. While it can be correctly argued that these ideas have been around for a long time – in fact they were SOP before the labor movement - the shift as I see it is the boldness with which it is proclaimed not only unashamed but with an utter matter-of-factness which says this is not only true but it is the only way to look at it and so unchallenged.
In the previous blog I quoted an American Airlines vice president, who said Pilots are expenses. They are not assets like planes or computers. That line expresses a stunning contempt for the employees who actually provide the services which the corporation sells to customers, unlike that vice-president whose contribution to the company for which he is paid multiples of the pilots’ salary appears to be dehumanizing its employees.
In my company, the president, when recently asked about restoring the wage and benefits conceded by the Union when the company was in a management-caused death spiral, said “I was hired by the stockholders to increase profits”. In other words, he was not hired to honor agreements with the employees. Both these, I observe is the openly expressed view that employees are not themselves vested in the company’s success. They are, in their view, enemies to that success. Whatever contribution employees make is paid in full – indeed, way beyond full - on Friday. So what is the further adjustment?
The adjustment is found in the recent controversy embodied by the Hobby Lobby case. There is a lot here. There is partisan politics where any policy attached to a man with a (D) after his name will be opposed. It doesn’t matter if it helps people, saves lives and saves money, these people will oppose it. All benefit be damned and let people die so long as we get an (R) in there. I have no doubt many of the companies complaining about policies “for religious reasons” are really motivated right here.
There is also the issue of forcing one’s religious choices on others. Anti-birth control is a doctrine of one Christian sect, how is it that it becomes the law of the land? That is not the meaning of the first amendment. Add to this the laughable hypocrisy of - because of point one – a prominent Southern Baptist pronouncing “We are all Catholics now” when the SBC typically considers Catholicism to be an anti-Christian cult.
These have been covered by other diaries and articles. The issue I’d like to point out is the further degradation of employees so that even what they earn is not considered theirs.
When a person gets hired by a company, he agrees to work producing product or providing services for a wage. He also provides “sweat equity” and through his commitment, loyalty and enthusiasm gives value to the company and invests in the company’s success. With the recent developments not only is the latter denied but the first as well.
The issue with employers such as Hobby Lobby is they look at what the employee earns and say they decide for the employee what he will do with those earnings. In other words, it is still considered the company’s money and the company feels privileged to tell the employee what to do with it.
So, from dehumanizing employees as enemies of the company we are turning to an attitude that employees’ pay is not theirs but still belongs to the company who must spend it on the employees’ behalf, justified by saying they will spend it “foolishly” (ie on things not approved by management). In other words, A Nanny Company.
While it is not really cricket to quote some Krazy Kommentator as if he is reflecting a movement or anything, I was at “Christian” site where a man was arguing that a “Christian” employer should be concerned if their employees are buying, say, alcohol with their wages and it should be allowed for them to pay their employees wages which can only be used in a company store filled with “approved” things. Yes, he went there and it seems to me the attitude that what a company pays an employee is still in the company’s discretion what to do with will go there. Company Town with Company Stores. And, since this is really about increasing profits and not about any concern for my moral well-being, there will be price-gouging as well as very sub-standard living conditions. Just like before. There no right won over the past 125 years which is not on the chopping block to the corporations. Those who claim that unions have outgrown their usefulness miss this.
In reality, I have earned my pay and it is mine to use as I see fit. My investment in my company is just as real as and more tangible than those who just contacted their broker and believe themselves entitled to double-digit increases every year. In any given 90 minutes, I do work which my company sells equivalent to my entire week’s wages - including the benefits which my company is currently refusing to pay into. Any idea that my contribution to the company is a threat to its existence is false. Any idea that my pay is not earned but given to me by people who then can choose for me is false.