Saturday, August 21, 2010

She Didn't Get Mad -- She Got Even . . .

I've seen a lot of different ways of quitting, from just not showing up to lighting the building on fire . . . but this is cool, if not classy.

This young lady, tired of her boss (as so many employees are), decided to quit publicly via a series of e-mails. Check it out:

Friday, August 13, 2010

States vs. The Feds: Predictions of Things To Come

As a general rule, the individual States have lived in peace with the federal government. At least they were silent in their seat at the table, what with so much of their money coming from Uncle Sam.

But that was then and this is now.

Arizona, tired of the feds not enforcing immigration laws, decided to do it themselves. The U.S. government has sued Arizona. Coming to the aid of Arizona are now several other States threatening to pass their own immigration laws. The Feds have threatened to sue them, too.

The Feds passed ObamaCare. Before the ink was dry, several States sued the federal government.

The U.S. House appears ready to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (again) and States fear that the U.S. Senate will do the same in the lame duck session between November and January. Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah are conducting referendums to determine whether a secret ballot election for workers trying to unionize should be mandated. In short, the states are trying to pre-empt the effect that the Employee Free Choice Act will have if passed.

Historically, the States have not fared well in litigation with the federal government, mostly because of the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution which provides, in essence, that if the Feds have entered the fray, then the States have to step aside or, at least, cannot pass laws contrary to federal law.

What this new level of conflict between the States and the federal government means remains to be seen but it indicates a strong divide between Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and how each believes this country should be run and who should run it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How To Motivate Employees? Stop Demotivating Them

I received this e-mail yesterday from a bright guy I know who is doing what it takes to get through this rough patch in the economy . . . (names changed to protect the guilty)

Today, my bosses boss catches me just after lunch and asks: "Did you see that email?". To which I replied, "um no, what is about?" He says, 'Bob (my immediate supervisor, and his direct report) said he received an email from HR that they're 'adjusting' your pay rate back twenty-four cents an hour. To which I replied, "that's not even near funny enough to be a joke." He responded, "I'm not kidding, they really did this."

So, I sallied over to the computer to find the email and I'll be damned if he didn't scrap off a lousy $9.60 per week for themselves.

I graduated FROM THEIR PROGRAM top-of-class, have maintained a perfect attendance record, worked every scrap of overtime asked of me, showed up in the freak snowstorms when nobody else bothered to and have passed every single qualification exam to be certified across three distinct aircraft; been lauded by teams I've worked for and THIS, THIS is how they acknowledge my promotion to Aircraft Mechanic C, Level 7?

I took this job to get access to more credible, higher paying salaried positions, whilst learning the trade-craft of modifying airframes for certain foreign and domestic customers to become a better manager of the processes used to create the value.

Did the bosses boss step up and make a move to correct the correction? Nope.

There is no way this company could undo this kind of kick to the balls. Of course, they asked to me come in and work early once again, and the weekend too. For what?


Yes, I have a thought. Short the stock of that company hard. It will only be a matter of time before that quality of management kills the business and I have always found it easier and more satisfying betting against the losers than for the winners.

Even though job openings at businesses fell to 2.54 million in June from 2.6 million in May, meaning there is now five unemployed workers on average for every job opening, those numbers don't tell the whole story . . .

The government says there are 227,000 open manufacturing jobs, more than double the number a year ago. One hundred eighty-three thousand have been created since December, the strongest seven-month streak in a decade.

And, it's hard to fill these jobs because they require people who are good at math, good with their hands and willing to work on a factory floor.

Obviously this company both fails to value its employees and doesn't understand that replacing a skilled technician on a factory floor, even in this labor market, will be tough.

I suspect they will find out soon enough . . .

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So what are smart companies doing right now?

Get real and get creative . . .

Real comes first, and this is real: Company job openings fell for the second straight month in June, a sign that hiring isn't likely to pick up in the coming months. Businesses aren't adding enough new workers to bring down the unemployment rate, currently 9.5 percent. Why? Because the government-sponsored "recovery" has been a show and the market is not buying it, not anymore. This is not to say it won't continue to try and print its way out of the recession (or avoid the next one) but only that it has never worked and isn't likely to work this time. Indeed, recent data suggests the second-quarter growth rate was far weaker than initially reported -- so weak that it might even have slipped back into negative territory were it not for federal government spending and inventory building.

Which means what? A likely double-dip.

The last time around there was a reasonable argument that "we didn't see it coming." That argument is no longer reasonable.

And that means companies need to be ready . . . not just in the traditional ways of "cut, cut, cut" via layoffs. After all, most companies have cut to the bone. There's not much left other than red meat.

Which means getting creative on the cost side of fringe benefits . . .

There are dozens of examples and we'll ferret through some of them in this blog, but today's focuses on getting control of medical costs which, by the way, the new government program is not going to accomplish.

One of the most creative alternatives I've seen is called "Travel Surgery." It goes something like this . . .

Medical care in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive and there are lots of darts to throw at the guilty. But, putting the guilty aside for a moment, let's look at reality - medical care, especially surgical care, is far less expensive and just as good in many other countries. Travel surgery is an opportunity to save money on expensive procedures like knee and hip replacements, hysterectomies and open heart surgeries that put many self-insured medical plans far into the red every year.

Examples: Sending employees to India can lower surgical costs on average by 80%. In the U.K., prices are about 25% less even after you take into account airfare and hotel. Mexico has many world-class hospitals and doctors that charge 30-40% of the going U.S. rate.

California-based medical travel facilitator PlanetHospital has specialized in overseas health care since 2002. Of the 21 countries in its network, the top recommendations include Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Besides having hospitals with international accreditation, these countries also have a less onerous visa process with minimum savings to employers of at least 50%.

Are there hurdles? Sure, not the least of which is convincing employees to take a "surgical vacation." But, if employers begin the process now, they will be in a position of saving big dollars when they need them the most.

Learn more about Travel Surgery at:

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Recessions Brings Happiness? Yes, it has.

Today's New York Times reported that "amid weak job and housing markets, consumers are saving more and spending less than they have in decades, and industry professionals expect that trend to continue. Consumers saved 6.4 percent of their after-tax income in June, according to a new government report. Before the recession, the rate was 1 to 2 percent for many years. In June, consumer spending and personal incomes were essentially flat compared with May, suggesting that the American economy, as dependent as it is on shoppers opening their wallets and purses, isn’t likely to rebound anytime soon."

Bad news? For business, probably so. But for people, it might be the best thing that has happened to them in decades.

New research suggests that consuming less makes people happier. Studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo their neighbors.

The question that remains is whether this is only temporary, and whether conspicuous consumption will raise its head again when (and if) the economy improves substantially. Or, is this a wake-up call, a forced lifestyle change for millions that will make them healthier and happier in the long term and result in a recognition that more never becomes enough?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Fundamental Problem: Labor As Commodity

"They keep piling more and more work on us, but they want to pay us less and less. It’s a slap in the face." - Michelle, an employee at a Mott’s apple juice plant in Williamson, N.Y., where 300 workers have been on strike since May 23 over company demands for a $1.50-an-hour wage cut.

Comment seen on Facebook: "So? [What is she supposed to do] quit and go find another job? Oh, wait, the economy stupid, you can't find another low-paying shitty job. Or CAN you?"

One more anecdote that captures the fundamental problem faced by the American workforce -- globalization. Indeed, when a company can get good labor for $4 an hour in Mexico and $2 an hour in China making apple juice, for example, there appears to be little competitive advantage remaining in the United States, at least as a manufacturer. Of course, there are exceptions, e.g., certain high-tech manufacturing operations and manufacturers servicing other U.S. manufacturers that require just in time delivery or inure to the benefit of geographical proximity. But they are just that - exceptions to a general rule.

The fundamental problem for the American worker is the great leveling, where most labor is pure commodity in the global marketplace and, like the price of gold, it must the same in Dubai as it is in Mumbai as it is in New York.

The government can intervene (and has) to avoid the inevitable which will only act to delay it. And the inevitable is that the market decides what gold is worth on any given day, and it so decides what labor is worth on that same day.

That is immutable truth and nothing you do, I do, or the government does will change it.

In the end, each individual who wants to survive this great leveling must develop a skill set that, even on a global playing field, is in demand. Such is the primary rule of the market.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Employee Free Choice Act - Tyranny of the Majority?

Just when the last of the dirt was thrown onto the grave of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), it is resurrected by the likes of Harry Reid.

Not happy that the Republicans have been able to stymie his plan to create the United States of France through use of the filibuster, he has a new plan -- do away with it.


Discussed in detail in this week's Time Magazine,,8599,2008012,00.html, the plan goes something like this . . .

Wait for the lame duck session after the elections in November when the lame ducks have nothing left to lose and then amend the Senate rules to limit or eliminate the filibuster in Senate which has been a political delaying tactic since the adoption of the Constitution.

If they can pull this off, we will know first hand what the "tyranny of the majority" really means. We'll also see the unionization of America. EFCA is a sure thing to pass the House between now and the time a new House is seated next January. The only hold-up has been the Senate which may no longer be the case. We shall see.

Stakes are high.

Suggest you consider contacting your Senator and let them know how you feel.