Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

During an election cycle, America’s favorite four letter word overwhelmingly becomes “Jobs.” The primary concern of every politician is to provide opportunity for job creation. That’s what they say. The understood promise is that they themselves will somehow create jobs. That unlikely reality would more likely occur from a working knowledge of government purse strings than from previous credentials in the marketplace. Contrary to assertions from conservatives, government does create jobs, many jobs, and many good paying benefit enhanced jobs. Meanwhile, small businesses are touted by both sides of the aisle as being the backbone of the economy, though such employment rarely provides comparable compensation favoring workers. Truth be told, the most important job creator is really the consumer, so, counterintuitive as it may seem, employees are the fundamental economic engine driving business growth.

Similarly, many say government only creates stifling regulations that impede job creation; less government would mean more jobs. In an amazing management ventriloquist act, even workers occasionally make that claim. Railing against OSHA restrictions, unsafe workplaces are actually defended as better than fewer jobs.

Comforted by simplistic truths, the ruling belief system remains that businesses create jobs. Maybe some businessmen go into business to create jobs. Tax and spend government undoubtedly does. Mostly, however, business is about creating wealth and maximizing profits by having as little overhead as possible. Employees are overhead. The fewer the workers, the lower the wages, the better. In a perfect business world, employees, and all their red tape, would be made obsolete. The business of technology is constantly pursuing that goal. The Industrial Revolution sought modern means to achieve productivity at the lowest cost. That revolution continues with great expectations as Dickensian outsourcing to cheaper wage markets now complements machine’s labor displacement in further reducing overhead. Forced flex time, optimizing employee use, is a new “Just in Time” strategy that maximizes benefits to the employer, while robotics continues towards eliminating human presence in the workplace altogether. Until then however, without those pesky workers all the entrepreneurial mojo in the world, alone, wouldn’t produce a single product. Businesses and politicians talk the talk of worker value, but rarely walk the walk. Some support minimum wage increases and implementing work equality, but not many – certainly not enough.

Just as an employee is fortunate to have a good employer, employers benefit greatly from the service of loyal workers. From this arrangement both derive an income. The employer provides the circumstances for work to be performed and that performance brings about realization of a product that otherwise wouldn’t occur. This is the marriage of business and labor without which entrepreneurship would never succeed.

This relationship remains like marriages of old. Only a short time ago, women had few spousal rights. Wives who provided necessary contribution so their husband could amass professional standing and fortune could be dismissed at any time without compensation, having no claim on the value created through years of mutual contribution to the household. The assets of youth spent, a woman could find herself replaced by another more desirable. An unjust system didn’t recognize her contribution beyond what compensation she had already been provided. Eventually, the inequity of that arrangement was recognized. Let’s call this the democratization of marriage. What about a democratization of the workplace? Unions continue to be steadily marginalized. Despite their contribution to higher wages, why is such a quasi-governmental exercise of collective empowerment the best that Americans have come up with? All that keeps workers from obtaining justice is for them to voice their needs at the ballot box. Minimum wage and wage equity issues are significant voicing of ongoing injustice. Still, what difference does it make how much one is paid if that paycheck can be withdrawn at any time for any reason or none at all? What about leveling the playing field of labor laws, treating those employed as favorably as their employers, and recognizing the indispensable contribution of workers to the businesses they help build?

Workers shouldn’t be treated as tools, something acquired and discarded at the whim of ownership, replaced or terminated with no say by those that worked hard at contributing to ownership’s success. Many employers today don’t even bestow severance pay. Rightful benefits accrued throughout the previous year are denied in entirety because termination takes advantage of occurring even a day before one’s “anniversary” date – servitude’s humiliation made all the more overt.

Workers need to take a giant step beyond localized union solidarity to utilize the democratic process towards providing work equity and wage equality. Equal pay for equal work, long overdue, is having its day. Let’s get equally fundamental: equitable job security for work time invested.

Employment justice is not something that would ever need brokering in the land of the free and the home of the brave if workers here, there, and everywhere again come together for their mutual benefit and find the bravery to politically challenge those that continue to dial back worker freedoms.

Politically, being “pro-worker” cannot continue to be equated as “anti-business.”

Let’s champion American ideals above business’ bottom line.

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Gary Anderson lives in Bath.


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