As I reflect on another Labor Day that has come and gone in Payson, I am disturbed in what I see in my community, my state, and my country. Please note that I am a fiscal conservative yet believe that management should be working with labor to rebuild and restore the American Dream.
Labor Day was established to celebrate the American workers’ contributions to society and how much they have benefited the economic welfare our our great country. Without labor providing the efforts to build all aspects our our economy, we would not be and could not be the greatest country in the world.
With that being said it is quite disturbing to me to note the sheer number of Americans that are out of work. Just this past week, my wife was told that her position was being eliminated after spending nine years with National Bank of Arizona. Due to continued economic stress in the industry, positions were eliminated and she became an official casualty of slow economic growth. How ironic that her official day for unemployment from her position would be Monday, September 3, 2012, Labor Day.
She has now joined the estimated 12 million plus that are unemployed with some estimates as high as 25 million unemployed with many just giving up. How tragic that the greatest country in the world can not figure out how to get Americans back to work. In reality this changes everything for me as I return to the voting booth in November.
Frankly, I do not care in this election about the distractions of “social” issues including the alleged “war on women”, same sex marriage, and any other attempt to distract from what is most important. And that is growing the economy and getting Americans back to work so we can continue to compete globally and manage to get our debt under control so we remain solvent as a nation. So to all candidates I don’t care if you like same sex marriage or you oppose same sex marriage. The war on women has occurred in my own family and it is about lack of employment which means no job. I don’t want to hear about abortion and birth control as that is merely a distraction to the real problems in America which is lack of employment with wages that are acceptable.
I don’t want to hear about government bailouts and growing government jobs. I want real private sector jobs where everybody pays a fair amount of taxes. I don’t want to hear about increasing the number of individuals on the government payrolls since that will only add a greater tax burden to those in the private sector and will continue to grow the national debt. I want to know how my leaders are going to grow manufacturing jobs, careers that involve technology, and employment that is not adding to the working poor.
The town of Payson prides itself in keeping employees who due to budget cuts have nothing to do. For example we now “loan” our building inspectors to a neighboring town and the neighboring town pays the Town of Payson for their intermittent service. We do not have a budget to fix a pothole but we have plenty of money to pay the health benefits of those who have left employment with the town and some are even employed in other communities. We cannot afford that golden parachute policy as a community when we cannot even keep a community pool open for more than eight weeks due to budget. The town should put its citizens first.
In my Labor Day reflection I look at the largest private employer in Payson. Yes, Walmart. I am not a Walmart fan. I see Walmart taking great advantage of employment seekers by hiring large numbers of employees that receive no health benefits at a wage that keeps workers in poverty levels while their CEO made $18.1 million last year in a down economy. Approximately 50% of Walmart employees receive no heath insurance benefits from the company. Walmart has a $14 billion profit and their employees are treated like second class citizens. So I vote with my dollars as often as possible and I’m not giving them many of mine, only as a last resort in Payson. Is it not amazing that Walmart is the single largest employer outside of the federal government but over 50% of their employees with children live below the poverty line? What voice does labor have at Walmart?
So I shop as much as I can in places that have better relationships and better conditions for their employees. For example, I cannot lie, my favorite retailer is Costco which just happens to have the highest rate of employee satisfaction and retention in the retail industry. Compared to Walmart’s retention rate of about 50%, Costco averages about 20%. Costco pays 92% of the cost of their employees’ insurance. The average wage is approximately 60% more than a Walmart employee. Costco’s CEO in 2010 had a salary of $350,000 and bonus of $190,400. Including stock awards and other pay, he received $3.5 million. There is no comparison when you look at corporate responsibility and how they treat their labor force.
My point is real leaders do not take advantage of their employees and real leadership genuinely works to create an environment of trust and is demonstrated in the way they lead. Clearly Costco believes in Labor and Labor Day and keeping their employees happy. So I’m supporting them.
As my reflection continues, I look at how labor has been treated at Payson Schools. Reductions in Force have simply become a means to an end of getting rid of employees that administration and school board does not like. While “downsizing” the social studies department in a RIF during the spring of 2012, the district rids itself of a social studies teacher through the RIF policy only to turn around and hire a school board member’s child in a social studies position. Clearing this is nepotism at its most basic level. It is most disgusting that Payson Schools have created deep distrust amongst their labor force by playing political games and practicing nepotistic activity throughout the district. Labor has no voice in Payson Schools.
Labor Day really should be about the American worker. The innovative hard working American worker. But for me I am very discouraged that in America, too many are unemployed, underemployed, and taken advantage of by poor management. One only has to look in Payson for examples of misguided labor practices both for and against non-management employees.
So if you are a left wing nut or a right wing nut, I don’t need your noise. I need solutions to put a labor force back into production that involves a strong private enterprise system. Just maybe my reflections on Labor Day 2013 can be much more positive.
For more fuel on Payson schools, the Payson Roundup has several articles in Tuesday, September 4, 2012 paper. Check them out. http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2012/sep/04/school-district-must-not-abuse-layoffs/?c=46969