Thursday, May 25, 2006

Disposable Workers

Bob Herbert has a column in the NY Times today where he discuss a recent book by economist Louis Uchitell, The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences. Uchitelle argues corporate leaders have overdone it with layoffs:
Mr. Uchitelle's thesis is that corporate layoffs have been carried much too far, that they have gone beyond a legitimate and necessary response to a changing economy.

"What started as a necessary response to the intrusion of foreign manufacturers into the American marketplace got out of hand," he writes. "By the late 1990's, getting rid of workers had become normal practice, ingrained behavior, just as job security had been 25 years earlier."

In many cases, a thousand workers were fired when 500 might have been sufficient, or 10,000 were let go when 5,000 would have been enough. We pay a price for these excesses. The losses that accrue to companies and communities when many years of improving skills and valuable experience are casually and unnecessarily tossed on a scrap heap are incalculable.
Look at that last highlighted sentence again. Now, think about how employers justify their arguments that we don't really need OSHA to be an enforcement agency that cites and fines companies.

No, no, no:
Aside from being like families, employees are our most important resource. If they get injured or killed, we have lost an enormous investment in their skills and experience and must then find and train new workers. That's quite enough incentive to encourage us to provide a safe workplace. (So we don't need no stinkin' regulations or fines.)
So employees who are trash (despite their skills and experience) when the bottom line calls for it, suddenly become their most valuable resource when it comes to avoiding regulations and enforcement.

Anyway, just thinking....