Greed: A Sequel
In an article I posted earlier, titled "Greed: The Achilles Heel of Capitalism," the assertion is that many of the companies and institutions in the United States operate with money as the bottom line, harming people.
On January 28th, 2010, I received word from someone I know well concerning still another business that follows that mantra of 'money first and to hell with people.'' But this one is so egregious that it deserves to stand alone as a prime example of how bad things have gotten. First, a general overview and after that the facts about how that company's approach affects a single human life.
This firm recently moved to break its employees' ties with a union that in all honesty does not seem to have produced much in the way of benefits or protection for its members. Still, the company is determined to outsource all the tasks that unionized workers now perform.
At a recent meeting attended by about half the union's members, the employing institution requested a change in wording in the contract with employees. Instead of being able to outsource work only if "significant" financial savings would result from the change, employees were asked to substitute the word "reasonable." The motion passed by the slim margin of two votes, which now means the company can hire non-union personnel from outside to perform work done by current employees, including those in the union. You can guess where this is headed and what will happen to all those employed at present who fail to go along with this 'small' change.
But, just in case you're brain is on vacation at the moment, here's what's occurred with one such employee who's worked there for thirty years. A management rep handed that person an envelope. Inside it were papers that announced he would henceforth become an employee of an outsourced firm that would oversee his area of work. The papers also indicated that he would lose all seniority, forfeit 25% of his current salary and be responsible for a $100 increase in monthly health insurance premiums. And, if he didn't agree to sign those papers, he'd be out of a job.
You may be saying to yourself right about now, 'that's horrible, awful, disgusting, despicable.' But you haven't heard the worst of it. Here's the real kicker:
The company engaged in these shoddy proceedings provides health care at three hospitals and other care centers and is solely owned by a large church denomination, and the last sentence in the company's mission statement says this: "We demonstrate behaviors that reflect our core values of compassion, excellence, human dignity, justice, sacredness of life and service."
That's what things have come to in this economic society of ours. Now, lest anyone come to the wrong conclusion about my position in all this, I am not arguing for an alternate economic or social system. I love this country and its ideals. I simply want all of us - businesses and individuals alike - to honor and value people more than our yearning for money. And it can be done.
My father worked in a factory for twenty-five years that had a profit-sharing program and gave a percentage-of-profit bonus to all its employees at parties each year; free haircuts every ten days to all employees; free uniforms and laundry costs; a company doctor and nurse, along with free prescription service; a company dentist and assistant; a fulltime chaplain; subsidized lunches; free rolls, coffee and a dozen world-renowned papers available for reading every morning; and paid its Owner/C.E.O. a reasonable but not extravagant wage each year.
What is lacking in our present economic climate is mutual trust between employers and employees, respect for all people, decent wages and benefits, and an admission that money is not as important as the human values we say we honor. If companies treated employees fairly and paid them well, workers would work harder, produce more and buy more along with the rest of the public, and everyone would be better off. But first we have to call into question the accepted mantras that 'bigger is better' and 'more is better.'
Maybe it's time do with a little less, so that everyone has enough.