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Tag Archives: Workforce


Workers’rights in the 21st century: Unions and Conscious Capitalism

Is there still a place for labor at the table of a “Conscious” company?

By Larry Fedewa, Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

My first experience with a union came when I represented the newsroom’s intention to hold a vote for a union to the publisher of a national weekly newspaper. I had a summer job there after my first year as a high school teacher.

Later, as a training developer, I wrote, produced, and oversaw one of the largest industrial training programs in history for the Railway Labor Executives’ Association (a council of all major rail union presidents). I also executed major projects for the Federal Railroad Administration, AMTRAK, Conrail, and others. Still later, I worked very closely with the National Education Association, the professional teachers’ union in a major joint venture, a national research project, and addresses to two national conventions.

The reason I mention all this background is to establish my position as an ardent supporter of the labor movement. My comments come from a firm commitment to the need for workers to take their place at any table which determines their fate. The purpose of this essay is to explore a possible alliance between unions and “conscious” companies.

The first factor in this dialog would be the fact that “Conscious Capitalism” promotes the most expansive view of workers’ rights ever to be advocated by corporate management in the history of capitalism. At last, workers are accorded the respect due to major stakeholders in the organization, whether a corporate giant or an entrepreneurial start-up. Almost always this means sharing in the profits of the company if not outright stock ownership.

This view of the business flows from an idealistic definition of the enterprise which includes, among other things, the function of profits as a necessary means to a greater good. The greater good is the mission of the firm as providing a community service through the sale of its goods or services. Conscious Capitalism challenges everyone in the organization to contribute to the fulfillment of this mission and provides the resources to do so.

Conscious Capitalists also tend to be anti-union.

Most believe with former Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, that unions introduce an adversarial relationship between management and labor which detracts from the collegial environment necessary for the Conscious Capitalist company to be successful.

True to that description, the unions argue that underneath the sheep’s clothing, Conscious Capitalists are really hiding their power to dictate and enforce their own definition of workers’ rights. The workers ultimately have to accept that definition or find another job. With every company defining workers’ rights in its own way, no standards will be set or recognized. This is just the same old thirst for power presented in modern dress.

So, what’s the answer? Is there a place for unions in a Conscious Capitalist company or not?

The first element of the answer is: if the employees want a union, there is a place for a union. During a transitional period such as the current one, there will continue to be employers who do not accept the new ways. The old paradigm of management versus labor will be in place and needs to be followed.

Over time. however, more and more companies will join the new movement – particularly since there is much evidence accumulating that indicates “Conscious” companies are substantially more successful financially.

In order to maintain its relevance, therefore, labor will have to adapt. The first step in that direction is to find a new answer to the question of a union’s role in a worker-friendly enterprise. Here are some ideas.

First, many companies will be trying to transition to the new style. Unions could help them succeed. But why not hire a consultant or new senior staff to guide the company in the new direction? These may be useful measures, but no one outside the organization has the same motivation and investment in success as the people working there now. However, they are generally as inexperienced as the owners.

Involvement of a knowledgeable and sympathetic third party can be welcome to all sides. However, the union must be truly invested in the cooperative approach in order to be credible. To achieve this posture, unions should be reaching out to the small but growing body of Conscious Capitalism experts. Honest discussions about sensitive issues will profit both sides.

Another role for unions in the new world of work we face is that of advocating national (and international) standards of what constitutes workers’ rights in this new century. As movements like Conscious Capitalism illustrate, 40-hour-workweeks, paid vacations, pensions and health care are not always enough to keep the economy going in the right direction.

Today’s workers want to be part of the company in new ways, ranging from profit-sharing, to shareholders, to open communication with governing bodies, including full financial disclosure, to a “cooperative culture”, and many other new practices. Workers want to be treated as persons, not robots.

This transitional period is reminiscent of the early days of the TQM (Total Quality Management) movement, which can be seen as an earlier step in this direction. The eagerness of workers to become involved in contributing their ideas and expertise to product development and manufacturing was often almost tangible. It revealed to many of us just how much talent had lain dormant in our workforce.

The contention here is, of course, that unions as well as management must embrace this new style of company culture as the means to solving our wealth gap between the rich and the middle class. The reduction of taxes and regulations of the Trump era are doing much to enhance the wages of the lowest income workers.

But from a macro view, the real challenge is to enrich the middle class, which is responsible for much of the consumer economy on which our national wealth ultimately depends. The Leftists want the government to use the tax system as the instrument for re-distributing America’s wealth from the very rich to everybody else (legal or illegal). That would weaken the individual’s motivation to work hard on which America’s free market capitalism has been built and which has created all this wealth.

Conscious Capitalism is an answer to the question of how we solve the wealth gap without turning to socialism. Union support – with an updated agenda – will help America achieve the right outcomes.


Essential or not?

The COVID-19 experience helps us decide what is essential and what isn’t

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline

One effect of the lockdown is that we find ourselves with frequent decisions as to what is essential to our survival and happiness and what isn’t. Life gets stripped down to essentials, with all the extras becoming secondary, if that. Here are some ideas along these lines.

The first essential is food. The availability of food for us to buy entails a massive industry. First, there is the source which is the farmers and ranchers who provide our meat, fruit and vegetables. Their activities require thousands of acres of land and huge amounts of water for crops and livestock, which in turn depend on favorable weather. Bad weather can bring both floods and droughts.

Then there is also a vast capital expense required for equipment and labor to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops which feed both people and animals.

Ahead is the immense supply chain which involves the transportation, processing and ultimately delivery to the thousands of stores and restaurants which will make our food supply available to all of us. It is important to remember that this entire industry and all its parts must continue to operate at all times in order for us to survive. Any significant disruption could have disastrous consequences. 

Closely related to food is water. Humans can survive longer without food than without water. The availability of water involves another massive industry as well as favorable weather. When we turn on a faucet and water appears, it is well to remember what has gone into that daily miracle.

The moral of these reflections is that 1) we are all radically dependent on the proper functioning of extremely complicated and expensive sources and supply chains for the very fundamentals of our existence, and 2) that the survival of the human race depends on factors which are mostly beyond our control.

Among other things, these essentials remind us that they depend entirely on people working, pandemic or no pandemic.

The subject of “work” brings up another consideration: buildings may not be as universally essential as we thought. Specifically, our housing is essential. If we never thought about that before the “shelter in place” mandate appeared, staying home for three or four months certainly showed us the importance of our house.

For many, however, the experience also demonstrated that “office” is not essential to work. We have been forced to discover that, thanks to all the modern communication technology, much of the work we do can be as easily preformed at home as in an office. So, offices are not really on some lists as essential.

But work really is essential. We have discovered what we always knew – that our work is what keeps us going, defines our place in this society, which, if we are not satisfied with the way things are, provides alternatives for us to test and follow. Work is also critical for society as a whole because it constitutes the means by which all those complex supply chains are sustained. Combined, they are the “economy” which is followed so thoroughly by the news – and Wall Street.

Another essential which has been forced to the front of our attention span by the pandemic is our family. In many cases, parents who work hard in often stressful circumstances have re-discovered the importance and the joys of marriage and parenthood by staying home for extended periods. They have become re-acquainted with their spouse and children, and spouses and children have in turn made their own discoveries.

Fathers especially sometimes become almost mythical figures to children who see them only for short periods, often in a disciplinary circumstance. The rest of the time their father is talked about but not there. Getting to know each other better is beneficial to all.

Hygiene is another subject which has drawn more attention in the last few months than in the last few years. We have been told ad nauseum how to wash our hands and sterilize every surface in sight. Like it or not, cleanliness – of person and environment – has become a new essential.

Shopping, restaurants, sports events and sports teams have fallen to lower placed priorities. All are missed – acutely by some – but there are other ways to get exercise and to prepare and consume food and drinks, other ways which involve much less risk of contracting disease.

Among the essentials most missed, however, are social events and interactions with other people. Some have discovered that the absence of crowds and gatherings is so important that being deprived has led to depression or worse. Others – often a significant number – have decided to seek communal activities, whether parties or protest marches, in spite of advice and even prohibitions to the contrary. To them, a full social life is essential, damn the consequences!

Just some contemplative thoughts (while working at home!).


I Work From Home. Here Are Some Tips To Make It Easier

Working from home is a massive lifestyle change, but there are things you can do to make it easier.

By David MarcusThe Federalist

This week, owing to the coronavirus, many Americans are going to experience the highs and lows of working from home. While there are definite plusses to working from your own abode, it’s not all sliding across the living room floor in a white button-down shirt and socks.

I have worked from home for the past two years and it takes discipline, fortitude, and a solid work ethic. I have none of these things. So how do I manage?

A friend years ago told me that his mother and father met at work. The first thing his mother noticed was that when the boss left, his father was the only one who kept working. That’s a big part of working from home, that kind of self-motivation. But there’s a flip side to that: when home and work mix you are always at home, but you are also always at work. It’s important to set some boundaries.

Small things can make a big difference when you work from home. My biggest piece of advice might be to go outside during the day. Did you ever have that thing where you neglected to drink water for several hours and then you feel awful and you’re like, What is wrong with me? Then you drink water and instantly come back to life? Going outside is like that when you work from home. You go stir crazy like a boiling frog otherwise.

It’s very easy for the walls to start feeling like they are closing in when you telecommute. That’s why keeping your place clean is more important and more difficult. Not to sound too much like Jordan Peterson, but a messy place makes it harder to work effectively.

If you work 9-5 outside the house, then you probably spend about 7 or 8 hours awake in your house at most on a weekday. Now you will be doubling that, and the more time you’re in your place the messier it gets. Trust me on this: it accumulates fast. Maybe while everyone is hoarding toilet paper you can hoard some paper plates. Work is an excellent excuse to not do the dishes.

Now, this is going to sound pathetic and sad, but social media can be your friend when you work from home. In an office environment you chitchat, water cooler yak, call it what you will. The day at work is sprinkled with social interactions. Checking in on Twitter or Facebook isn’t just a time suck when you work from home; it helps keep you sane by socially interacting, albeit imperfectly, with other people.

Another thing worth considering is the concept of a virtual commute. Whether your IRL commute is short or long, it’s probably riddled with ritual. You might stop for a bacon, egg, and cheese, read the Post on the subway, pull in for a Half and Half at Dunkin, etc.

The commute is a home to work limbo. You aren’t working, but you are compelled to be where you are. Giving yourself a half-hour before and after working with similar rituals, like listening to a podcast, reading a book, or playing a game on your phone can help.

The most overwhelming thing about working from home for an extended period of time is that it is a lot of time in your own head. Traditional workspaces are full of novel diversions and distractions; your place is kind of just your place. In the absence of external stimulation, your mind turns in on itself, which can be a little jarring. Weird stuff will pop into your head. If you get mental claustrophobia, take some breaks. There’s no reason the rhythm of your workday has to be the same at home as it is at work.

Making your home your office, especially if it goes on for a long time, is a major lifestyle switch. But it’s one that is in many ways under your own control. Give some thought to what you want it to be like, how you want it to flow, and experiment with schedules and work patterns that work for you.

Finally, when you close the laptop, close the laptop. This is easier for some of us than others. As a journalist I’m always at work in some sense; news never stops, especially these days. But I still need to carve out time to log out and watch a movie, or do some cooking while listening to music. Let your home become your home again — at least until you wake the next day and start it all over again.


Oppose H.R. 5365, the “Muhammad Ali Expansion Act”

MMA Coalition Letterhead

 

Dear Chairmen Kline and Upton:

We write in strong opposition to H.R.5365, the “Muhammad Ali Expansion Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin to regulate mixed martial arts (MMA), which is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and fastest growing throughout the world.  This misguided legislation is yet another unfortunate and unneeded regulatory power grab that will stifle the dynamic innovation and success of MMA. Continue reading


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