#1 – Let’s honor and esteem our workers.
#2 – Let’s protect our workers.
There seems to be a whole lot of anti-labor sentiment these days. That is, I think, a little wrong-headed. And it reveals some very short memories.
Let’s take them in reverse order:
#2 —Let’s protect our workers.
So, here’s the thing. People can be cruel, horribly abusive to other people. So can companies, with “bad” leaders and “negligent” policies.
And, well-meaning people can be “duped” by those with whom they do business. Yes, Virginia, there are companies that abuse its workers.
Do you remember the case of the sweatshop workers making clothing for the Kathie Lee Gifford line? When it was first reported, Kathie Lee stated firmly that it was not happening. She then discovered it was. She apologized, and worked toward better worker conditions, appearing at the White House while Bill Clinton was President, to counter international sweat shop abuses.
Or, do you know the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire? Here’s the summary paragraph (from Wikipedia):
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. It was also the deadliest disaster in New York City until the destruction of the World Trade Center 90 years later. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls. Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.
In the aftermath of the fire, within two years the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union “had organized roughly ninety percent of the cloakmakers in the industry in New York City. It improved benefits in later contracts and obtained an unemployment insurance fund for its members in 1919.” (from the Wikipedia article: International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union).
So, protecting the workers seems to be a long-term, and ongoing need. Further reminder: let’s remember that Chesley Sullenberger, leading a team of true professionals to land an engine-less airplane safely in the Hudson River, served as the Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman.
And this is a true ongoing need. Workers need safety; workers need protection. There is a long history of companies cutting back on safety. (Remember Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 were killed in an explosion in 2010. — “In 2009, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine for 495 violations and proposed $911,802 in fines.”) You might want to read: Fatalities Higher at Non-Union Mines—Like Massey’s Upper Big Branch.
Labor Unions take safety and protection quite seriously. I don’t blame them.
Now to the first of the two:
#1 – Let’s honor and esteem our workers.
I’ll keep this simple, and quote from Abraham Lincoln, from his annual message to Congress, 1861:
“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
Protect our workers. Honor and Esteem our workers. Two good reminders for this Labor Day.
I admit, I’m over my head, in so many ways, in so many areas. For example, Bob Morris (our blogging colleague) has written about, and obviously “gets,” these books based on brain research – I’m just pretty baffled. Maybe not enough of a science background; maybe just a general failure of intellect.
But, at the risk of violating my own policy about not getting into politically charged issues on this blog, let me share a couple of other “I don’t understand” issues that are in the news right now – and bothering me.
Item #1 – why are there so many who are so anti-union?
There is little doubt about this reality – there are a lot of people who are so very anti-union. But do they simply not know the past, or do they forget the past?
Because of unions, we have limits on how many hours companies can require people to work; we have paid time off; we have work safety. We have… the list really is quite long.
Does anyone remember the praise we lavished on Chesley Sullenberger after the miracle on the Hudson, when he, and a crew (as he always reminded everybody) of people, just doing their jobs, saved the lives of a plane-load of people? What does this have to do with unions, you ask? Sully was active in the Air Line Pilots Association (yes, that is the pilot’s union); he was the Air Line Pilots Association safety chairman, championing safety causes, concerned about flight hours, especially the need for proper sleep, for pilots. Unions care about safety and work conditions – which matter to everybody. I think his time in his work with his union helped make him the right pilot for the crisis that he faced.
I write this as we remember the anniversary of the event that propelled the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union to its days of greatest effectiveness. The cause: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Here’s some info (from the Huffington Post – note the paragraph from Women’s Wear Daily, from 1911, in its coverage of the event):
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: A Look Back
March 25, 2011 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, mainly Jewish and Italian immigrant women, in New York City. The disaster eventually led to the establishment of better working standards and safety regulations.
Women’s Wear Daily sent over its coverage of the 1911 event. Some excerpts from the fashion newspaper’s page one story:
The lesson for the sewing trades to learn from the tragic fire at Washington place, New York, the terrible loss of life, seems to lie in the neccessity of more discipline and less selfishness which is concealed under the guise of personal rights. We are individualists in this country, and yet there comes a time in every industry when the individual should consider and should be made to consider the rights of a community.
This catastrophe will bring vividly to mind and will create the opportunity to inaugurate a fire drill and other protective measures in places where many people are employed. This would not alone guard against the repetition of so terrible a holocaust but would mean the starting of better discipline in many shops in the sewing trades.
Life today in the United States is lived at a tremendous pace. So many people are thrown into very close contact with others so that the slightest mistake by one may injuriously affect many.
Yes, I know that unions have at times “over-reached,” but do we really believe that companies, if left to their own, would treat workers well, and build a fair and safe workplace? Do we really? Sure, some would – but what about those which would not? Do you think some companies might lock a group of young women into a room, lock the exits, and make them work in conditions unfit for human beings, with no escape, even in the midst of a fire? Should there be any groups advocating for such workers? Put me on the side that says yes!
Everyone of us has benefitted from the work of unions. We should honor that, acknowledge that, remember that.
Item #2 – why are there so many companies who move “overseas” to avoid the tax rates in the United States? (General Electric is one of many — paid no taxes in the US last year).
This was the focus of a major segment last night on 60 Minutes. It was an enlightening segment. Only the CEO of Cisco agreed to appear on camera, and his case was clear. He made the following points (all from my memory of the interview; my paraphrase):
The United States, after Japan’s lowered rate goes into effect, will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Companies have a responsibility to its shareholders, so they would be irresponsible to pay this high tax rate if they can move operations overseas (in some cases, just an “office/headquarters, with few people) and pay a much lower rate, saving billions of dollars for their shareholders.
But…but… how can they claim that we have the greatest nation on earth and not support the needs of that great nation? Do they not realize that we have national expenses that far outstrip these other nations? Consider the military budget: the American military, that keeps the sea lanes open and thus the oil moving across the oceans into our gas tanks, is a very expensive “perk” for these companies. So, it should not surprise anyone that our taxes are higher. And if every company moves away, to countries without such a military, to pay a lower tax rate – then what? Do these companies think that the powerful navy of the Cayman Islands, or Switzerland, will keep the sea lanes open for their international business concerns?
So, yes, there are responsibilities to our shareholders – but what about the larger issues, our larger “responsibilities?”
By the way, in my opinion, this was the failure in this wonderful 60 Minutes Segment – this question was not asked at all.
So – I don’t get it. I, for one, am glad we have unions. And I, for one, am glad that we have the largest military in the world – it is a big world, and in this global economy, we need our strength – the strength of our companies, the strength of our workers, the strength of our unions, the strength of our military.
These are just two issues that concern me at the moment.
Here’s a question: do you have a checklist? It sounds so simple, but it is so profound in its simplicity. We forget what to do. And because we forget what to do, we don’t get it (all) done. We need a checklist.
The idea is vigorously championed by Atul Gawande, Surgeon, Rhodes Scholar, Macarthur fellow, (the Genius Grant) medical writer extraordinaire, and Harvard Professor. In his article in the New Yorker, The Checklist, Gawande describes in detail the many places and procedures that have gone from dismal failures to amazing successes just by following a checklist. Here’s a paragraph describing the cardiac unit at a hospital surrounded by the Alps, where people come in “from cardiac arrest after hypothermia and suffocation:
Speed was the chief difficulty. Success required having an array of equipment and people at the ready—helicopter-rescue personnel, trauma surgeons, an experienced cardiac anesthesiologist and surgeon, bioengineering support staff, operating and critical-care nurses, intensivists. Too often, someone or something was missing. So he and a couple of colleagues made and distributed a checklist.”
The checklist meant that people literally were able to live – people with similar injuries that killed the many that came before. And the reason was clear – the emergency workers were too busy to remember everything they needed to do. They needed a usable, tangible reminder: a checklist.
Recently at the New Yorker Festival, Gawande (he writes for the New Yorker) spoke of this, and reminded everyone that the hero of the year, Chesley Sullenberger, is a true believer and a faithful follower of the checklist approach. (Read the post Captain of the Checklist). Here’s the key excerpt:
To illustrate, (Gawande) discussed the way in which the media had rapidly mythologized the pilot Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed a commercial plane in the Hudson River. “There became questions of who exactly was the hero here,” Gawande said. “Sully kept saying, ‘I want to correct the record. This was a crew effort.’ ”
In saving the plane, Sullenberger and his co-pilot showed daring, but they also methodically went down a list to ascertain their options, and chose the next step until they landed safely. “They adhered to their rigid discipline—they went through their series of checks.”
Did you catch that brilliant simplicity?
• went down a list
• chose the next step
I think that all of the time management insight on the planet boils down to this three step process:
1) plan the next thing well (so that you always know the next thing to do)
2) put it on the list
3) and then do the next thing on the list.
Then — repeat the process…
(Note to our readers — normally I would simply leave a comment on Bob’s blog post, but this one needs more room).
I really liked Bob’s post, Q #122: How to become more persuasive. There is nothing I disagreed with, but here are some thoughts I would like to add to the conversation.
Much of what he said is confirmed by the great thinkers in rhetoric. Aristotle spoke of the three primary means of persuasion: logos (the logical appeal), pathos (the emotional appeal), and ethos (the ethical appeal). Bob spoke of four critical factors, including (in shorthand form) credibility, pathos/passion leading to a deep emotional connection between speaker and audience, and other great bridge-building traits that connect speaker to audience.
At the heart of ethos is the idea of, the centrality of, credibility. Here’s a simple and compelling illustration. Normally, the better speaker (i.e., the more dynamic speaker) is the most persuasive. But if the subject discussed is airline safey, no one could match the current credibility of Chesley Sullenberger (the pilot who landed a plane successfully in the Hudson River). Though he is also a clear and compelling communicator, his credibility is so far off the charts that his persuasive abilities in the arena of airline safety would truly be unmatched.
But, as persuasive as these factors are, there is a step that comes before them all. This step is what the ancients described by the word stasis: bringing the audience to a complete standstill in their thinking. In order for anyone to be persuaded to change in any way — in their thinking, their attitude, their behavior — the audience member has to understand: “something is wrong about my current state. My thinking is off; my behavior is not working; my attitude is contributing to the problem.” As long as a person thinks all is ok as it is, no persuasion is possible. Stasis is that moment when a speaker helps the individual stop and think: “I have got to make a change!” When that happens, and only when that happens, will persuasion then become possible.
Bob’s post provides great tools to help that happen — to bring the person to that moment of standstill, and then to point to a new direction.
But bringing the audience/the person to a moment of true stasis — to a true moment of standstill, and the acknowledgement and realization that something has to change — that is the great challenge of persuasion.