Cannibals prefer those who have no spines.
- Stanislaw Lem
A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.
- Stephen Covey
I understand the role and importance of capitalism in making America what it is today. Business is what drives the creation of jobs and opportunities, and without the free market, most of us would still be carving shopping lists on cave walls and hunting buffalo for food and clothing.
That said, capitalism is too often a double-edged sword that brings out the worst in those predisposed to greed and avarice. Too many companies achieve their success despite their best efforts to exploit their workers, without whom said success simply wouldn’t be possible. Without workers, who would build the widgets that the company sells to customers? Business don’t succeed because of their CEOs and senior management. They might steer the ship, but the workers are the ones in the hold doing the hard work of rowing. Truly successful companies are the ones whose senior managers realize and recognize those who make it possible to enjoy that success- those on the front lines making the products their customers want to buy. They understand that without those workers, their multi-million dollar compensation packages would be only a figment of their imagination.
And then there’s Caterpillar, which somehow manages to remain profitable despite finding new and different ways to squeeze their front-line workers:
Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness. […]
Caterpillar, which has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits, defended its demands, saying many unionized workers were paid well above market rates.
So, because their workers are what they define as “well paid,” they should be punished for Caterpillar’s profitability by being required to make a significant, long-term financial sacrifice? All while senior management continues to enjoy ever-increasing salaries and stock options? I may have been a History major, but even what little business acumen I’ve absorbed over the years tells me that you don’t kill the goose that lays your golden eggs.
Perhaps the captains of industry sitting in their well-appointed corner offices have convinced themselves that they and they alone are responsible for Caterpillar’s success. It would seem that they’ve forgotten that any profitable business invariably involves a compact been management and labor. Profitability is difficult to attain without effective leadership, but it’s equally difficult to achieve without a labor force committed to the company’s success. When management celebrates the company’s success by metaphorically taking a dump on their workers, they’re delusional if they think those employees are going to meekly acquiesce to accepting whatever management deigns to provide them.
Please, sir…may I have another??
“A company that earned a record $4.9 billion in 2011 and $1.586 billion in the first quarter of this year should be willing to help the workers who made those profits for them,” said Timothy O’Brien, president of Machinists Local Lodge 851. “Caterpillar believes in helping the very rich, but what they’re doing would help eliminate the middle class.” Several labor experts told the Times that Caterpillar is a pioneer in tough labor negotiations meant to drive down workers’ wages.
Last year, Caterpillar’s CEO made nearly $17 million in total compensation. At the moment in the U.S., the typical worker would have to work 244 years in order to earn what the average CEO makes in one year.
Caterpillar gave it’s CEO a 60% increase in total compensation as a reward for the company’s performance. The reward for those actually responsible for Caterpillar’s success is the demand that they meekly acquiesce to a six-year pay freeze.
The beatings will continue until morale improves….
And here you’d been thinking that the era of the Robber Barons ended long ago….