Skip to comments.[Bitpig] The Kine That Tread The Corn
Posted on 09/26/2006 8:30:36 PM PDT by B-Chan
the kine that tread the corn
As one who comes from a background of working class poverty, I know what it's like to live in fear. While the average middle-class worker gets a yearly raise (plus a Christmas bonus and plenty of paid holidays) and has a little cash put away for a rainy day, most low-skilled workers are people who live paycheck to paycheck and who do not receive regular wage increases. These workers are extremely reluctant to agitate for more money out of fear of being fired and replaced by a lower-paid foreign worker (legal or illegal). Thus they live in fear of watching their children go without. I watched my own parents suffer through this nightmare for many years. It is not a pleasant way to live. It destroys people.
Of course, in a free country with a capitalist economy, job loss is a fact of life. Market forces, world events, and the unpredictability of the real world guarantee that some businsses fail each year, throwing thousands of workers and managers onto the streets without a regular wage. Occasionally dishonest employees, crooked unions, or sheer laziness on the part of workers results in the destruction of a business. More often than not, however, it is bad management that leads a company to financial disaster, not bad labor. A failed business gets run into the ground by its owners and managers, not its workers; after all, who makes the decisions that lead to success or failure? MANAGEMENT, thats who. And when the business falls down, the same owners and managers who crashed the company float safely to Earth on their golden parachutes; meanwhile, the poor saps who trusted the geniuses with the big salaries to keep the business solvent end up on the street. Thus those of us with no source of income other than wage-labor live in constant fear of financial disaster.
I believe it is immoral to cause a human being to live in fear when an alternative exists. The alternative is to structure our businesses so that the fear of destitution due to sudden unemployment fades to its lowest natural value. Part of this restructuring is for those of us who own businesses to change our focus from getting rich to making a living; and another equally important part, is to begin to treat employees as human beings, not human resources.
Our family business is, I think, a good example of such a restructured enterprise. It employs many low-skilled people, and, although the employees grouse a good deal about conditions (as do all workers everywhere), the people my folks have working for them are in general extremely loyal, responsible, and honest. Why? I believe one reason is because our folks have zero interest in playing the sort of corporate motivational mind games one learns in business school the kind of psychological warfare that drives away employees by the basketful for such crimes as insubordination or failure to recognize problems as opportunities Yes, the company has a few employees with negative attitudes, but as a matter of fact our folks have never fired anyone who was doing the job they were being paid to do no matter how disrespectful, snippy, loudmouthed, or ungrateful they have been. Our family business pays for good work, not good attitude. Too bad more businesses dont follow that policy!
Another factor in the working class culture of fear is the policy most employers have of treating their labor costs as just another fixed expense. The drive to cut labor costs may benefit the bottom line in the short term, but in the long term low wages turn employees into enemies. Market forces must be acknowledged, of course, but when it comes to matters of basic human dignity there are concerns that transcend the market. Human beings are not human resources and must never be treated as mere disposable cogs in an owners money-making machine. The moral businessperson does not allow his or her employees to suffer in fear of suddenly being thrown onto the streets due to everyday low wages; instead, he or she pays his or her workers as much as he or she can afford, not as little as the law lets one get away with. A moral employer is furthermore genuinely concerned about their employees as people. He or she is attentive to the needs, problems, and complaints of his or her workers, and is loathe to fire anyone except for in the most greivous of circumstances.
(I am proud to say our folks are moral employers, and I say that as one who has spent a good deal of time working for them myself at the lowest wage level, I might add!) Immoral businesspersons who treat their people like robots, pay them as little as they can get away with, and fire them at the drop of a hat deserve every bit of hell they get in return.
Unlike most capitalist enterprises, our family business pays its workers the maximum wage which it can afford while remaining solvent, which is why it has such loyal employees, and why our employees outpeform those of our competitors. The extra money our folks pay in wages comes out of their own pockets. Those of our family who own and/or manage the company make significantly less per year than others in similar positions in the industry but the simple fact is that our folks dont care. We all do all right and none of us has ever missed a meal because the family biz pays its workers a few bucks more than the competition does. The workers at the company see how frugally our folks live and it motivates them to work hard for them and with them; they know our folks dont consider them to be cattle, and they reciprocate by giving the company their best.
Id like to also point out that employee theft and laziness at our folks business is nearly nonexistent. Bosses and owners who penny-pinch their workers are the ones with the worst employee theft/sabotage/work ethic problems; frankly, I am more sympathetic to employees who steal from miserly bosses than I am to their employers, and I say that as a member of a business-owning family. If rooting for Bob Cratchit over Ebenezer Scrooge makes me a communist, then long live the revolution, comrade. If preferring the barely-solvent but human Bailey Building & Loan to the highly-profitable but monstrous Potters Bank makes me a softy, then thats fine, too.
(I might also mention that a good many of the employees of our family business are ex-cons, homeless people, elderly poor folk, and others who are considered unemployable damaged goods" by other so-called Christian businesspeople. Well, our folks do not profess to be good Christians, but to them even ex-cons, biker mamas, and grouchy old farts are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect as workers.)
Im not trying to brag here. I have nothing to do with the running of our family business; in fact, my own career is in an entirely different field. But over the years I have worked for our folks in every capacity, from shit-shoveler to management, and I am very proud of them and the way they run their business. Theyll never get rich doing it, but getting rich wasnt their goal when they started the company making a living was. This they have done, and done admirably, while managing to treat their employees as human beings. Other business owners could and should profit by their example.
I'm not sure I understand the point of this post.
Make of it what you will.
Do any of us really need more than that? Really nice article, B-Chan.
What does this have to do with cows (kine)?
Greed and its effect on the human condition? Respect for those who work to keep your company going? Not so hard to understand, really.
In the case of human beings, God. To think of a human person in terms of his or her economic value alone is to reduce them in status from a human being to that of a mere object. You and I both know that's wrong.
Watch out! If the local media finds out you hire excons, they will drive you and all your employees into ruin.
Heh! It's no secret. Many of our folks' best and most trusted employees are ex-cons. More than a few of them worked for our business for years, saved their cash, and own their own homes and profitable businesses today.
One wonders what the author thinks about hiring illegal aliens?
That's all about paying the least possible wages, but politically correct bleeding hearts prefer not to see it that way, and this heart seems to be of the most sanguinary.
I am satisfied to earn a reasonable middle class living. I grew up poor; I now own a small but homey brick house, an old but reliable truck, and have a family -- which is way more than I ever dreamed I would have as a kid. I have achieved my childhood goals!
By the way, I have nothing against rich people, provided they obtained their wealth honestly. Most of the rich people I know (and I do know a few, some of whom are names you would recognize) are genuinely decent, hardworking, and honest people -- and are by and large extremely generous as well.
As for me -- if I happen to get rich, great, but I have no desire to work any harder than I do now for the sake of making more money. I prefer to spend my time at home with my family rather than working for a few extra bucks. But that's just me.
Our folks only hire workers who are native-born citizens, naturalized citizens, or documented, legal residents of the United States with appropriate work visas. They do not hire illegals, even though they could do so very easily. (And yes, the validity of all documentation is checked.)
I understood. I really enjoyed what you wrote. But, more than that, I think what you wrote is a reminder to all about those things that are really important.
Nicely written. I agree. I am a proponent of capitalism, but I believe in ethical and moral capitalism and treating employees like garbage is neither.
don't say I didn't warn yopu. Been there and done that.
"give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with food convenient for me:
lest I be full, and deny thee,
and say, Who is the LORD?
or lest I be poor, and steal,
and take the name of my God in vain."
And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. -I Timothy 6:8
Turns out you're right!
1. The employees with "bad attitude" are, I trust, not working with the public.
2. When a business becomes a publicly traded corporation, investors look at the bottom line. Hence the layoffs at Ford, the re-structuring of GM, the divestiture of unprofitable segments of corporations, etc. Many, if not most investors pay no attention to the well-being of the work force. Their concern is with a profitable turn on investment.