MARCH 18, 1996
MARGARET WARNER: Thank you all very much for being with us. Dave Gaylor, let me start with you. How different is your economic situation today than what you expected when you got out of college, what you thought your life, your professional life, was going to be like?
DAVE GAYLOR, Independent Contractor: Well, I think when I graduated from college back in the 70's, I had a perception that my career would be with maybe one or two companies, and that it would last as long as I wanted it to, but the security would be there, and I think that over the, over the past two decades, I've had an awakening to the fact that it's not that way anymore. I, myself, have been with a number of companies, the last one being AT&T-GIS here in Dayton.
MARGARET WARNER: The former NCR.
DAVE GAYLOR: The former NCR, right, and that was a 13-year relationship, and unfortunately, that ended. My whole outlook on career has changed and moved from a security standpoint to one that I think the key is going to be flexibility. I have to be flexible and probably other people in the work force are going to have to be flexible to be able to adapt to the needs, the changing needs in the work force and be able to meet those needs with some kind of skill set that we hopefully have.
MARGARET WARNER: Lucille Dursch, you've had to go through a lot of changes also. Tell me how you've coped with that.
LUCILLE DURSCH, Community College Student: I'm very insecure because I haven't got the skills for today's work world, and I'm going back to school at Sinclair, and hopefully I can finally get a job. I'd love to go back to AT&T-GIS but not in the area that I was in, maybe on the same floor, but, umm, because I cried when I left there, and my financial status has dropped dramatically.
MARGARET WARNER: Tony Curington, you are at the GM plant. You're not on strike because you're working on parts for non-GM plants, but tell me how has your career followed or not followed the expectations you had.
TONY CURINGTON, Auto Worker: My expectations of my career was in banking. I did that for 10 years, and I always wanted to get into a field where I could kind of grow and earn a decent wage to provide for my family, so I had the opportunity to join the GM family. It's not really what I like, but I don't think anybody--and I tell my kids this too--that you are going to always get into something that you think you'd like and after a while you find out you don't like it, but you stay there because of the rewards or financial security.
MARGARET WARNER: So how secure do you feel financially or economically?
TONY CURINGTON: We have a lot of plants that GM has closed, gone South, and gone North, the borders, so we're always in a tenuous situation, and everybody's stressful and everybody's on pins and needles, but everybody's kind of got to keep a positive note about it.
MARGARET WARNER: Jeff Woodward, you've also had to make some rather major changes in your life, your leaving Mead's Nexis-Lexis. How secure are you feeling?
JEFF WOODWARD, Corporate Executive: I think the realization for me is that the kind of lifelong security my father--father retired from NCR after 35 years here in Dayton, and those kind of days are gone and umm, we are all, I think, moving toward becoming really a nation of independent contractors to a large extent. Once you accept that, if you have the skill sets and the educational background to adapt, if you can be an adapter, but really in a way there is about as much security from being able to do that as there was from being associated with a major company in a lifetime situation.
MARGARET WARNER: Explain that. What do you mean?
JEFF WOODWARD: Well, just like a company has a product, you have a product to offer. The product is yourself, and if you, if you can keep that product new and alive and if you can keep it optimistic and meet the challenges, I think you're absolutely in better shape to dictate your own future than you are if you are a cog in a wheel and the wheel gets sold from machine to machine, and the new owner of the machine may not think that wheel's very important, and I would rather be in control.
MARGARET WARNER: Gina Clark, you've also gone through some--a lot of changes--
GINA CLARK, Temporary Worker: Starting with an acquisition and going all the way back to 1987 the company I was working for was bought, so I was displaced, and so I moved to Dayton in 1988, and very quickly, after moving to Dayton, a company I was working for was bought and sold again, so this is--this has gone on for several years, but most recently, I've gone from making well over $50,000 to making less than $12 an hour, so, yeah, not feeling real secure, and last time I was doing my taxes and it wasn't counting the numbers on my W-2's; it was counting the number of my W-2's, because I'm now currently working as a temporary.
MARGARET WARNER: And Jim Whalen, now your company is benefiting from this changing economy.
JIM WHALEN, Corporate Executive: We are a designer and builder of automation equipment, and our niche is really in the microelectronics, the computer field. We've been able to increase our exports and also increase our business domestically to the point where over in the last six years we've more than doubled our business, grown it at over 15 percent annually, so we've been a real success story I feel like in Dayton, Ohio.
MARGARET WARNER: And how personally secure do you feel?
JIM WHALEN: I feel very secure.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's talk a little bit about, in fact, what impact as you're all coping with the changing economy it does have on your family life. Dave.
DAVE GAYLOR: Well, I think there have been some pros and cons to it. The cons, of course, the boys, I have two teenagers, three teenagers, for that matter, but the two younger ones are periodically asking, have you got a job yet, have you got a job yet. On the other hand, they see me more, and I've been able to do more things of personal interest with the community, as well as spending more time with them.
MARGARET WARNER: Jeff, what about you?
JEFF WOODWARD: Really, umm, even though I commute to Gainesville, Florida, the reality is the family tells me that I'm easier to live with now than I was before. I was spending sixty or seventy hours a week with Lexis at that time.
GINA CLARK: I have to disagree. I have to disagree, because I have been a single parent for years, and when you're making the kinds of money I was making with an expense account, with the ability of, as you said, to come and go as you please, I never had, I never understood all of the slings and arrows that were, you know, thrown at single parents because we just never experienced any of that. When I lived in Houston,I had a nanny and a housekeeper and never had to do any of those, you know, things. I could spend time with my son and do my job well, and when that kind of income goes away, you have to work, you have to be some place at 8 and leave whenever the boss's project is done and get permission to go to a dentist appointment, much less your son's football game. It changes your whole life, and my son, Jordan, has been extremely patient, but his patience is running thin, I think.
MARGARET WARNER: Lucille, what about you?
LUCILLE DURSCH: Of course, as you get older, you find out your skills aren't up to date, and as you get older, I don't--you can't prove it, I guess, but they don't want to hire the older folks for all kinds of reasons, and I'm also kind of being educated on that at school, about how the work world looks at older employees. They may be dependable but sometimes, I guess, they're set in their ways and they're not flexible, and I'm very flexible, I'm very dependable. (laughter among group)
MARGARET WARNER: Jim, let me ask you, what, I mean, you, your company is very involved in the global economy. Do you think that's all to the good as we, as we move, all of us, into this global economy, and do you think to downsize?
JIM WHALEN: Of course, one of the political issues is the whole issue of trade barriers which Pat Buchanan advocates. I think a free world trading society is just as important. I think that if we put any kind of barriers up that we're going to keep competition out, we're going to become more inefficient.
GINA CLARK: I'm not against multinational competition. I mean, I want to make myself extremely clear. I loved the fact that while I was with AT&T for a short time that all the work that I did was international. I was constantly on the phone to Russia, to Hong King, you know, it was fascinating, and it was leading edge, and it was wonderful, but the people that I was working around had watched people that they'd worked with for 35 years lose homes, commit suicide, so I'm thinking to myself if that's the cost of branching out into this many markets this fast, then maybe we need to step back and take a look at this, and I'm not saying slow down the process, but let's take a look at it and say are we going the right way?
JIM WHALEN: One of the unfortunate things with these multinational companies is that they have pressure, they're publicly traded, they have pressure for quarterly earnings results, period, and, you know, if they have to--they're very blatant about if they have to lay people off or cut costs, that's what they do to meet their quarterly earnings so their stock price can stay up. One advantage that Gem City Engineering has is that we are a smaller company, we have 500 employees, we've been in business 60 years privately held, and we don't have these quarterly pressures. We have a tremendously loyal work force. Our average tenure of people is more than 12 years, and we've been able to do that because we're, we're good to people. When times are tough or whatever, we don't go through those exercises, so, umm, it's unfortunate with these multinationals but it's a reality that they have to, they're victims of the shareholders and this quarterly earnings.
JEFF WOODWARD: I'm not too sure I buy that. I'm not too sure it's not AT&T management responding to bonus plans. AT&T lays off 40,000 people and the chairman gets a $5 million bonus payout. There's something not right about that equation.
DAVE GAYLOR: Oftentimes, companies look for the magic fix-it. We're into re-engineering; we're into infrastructural changes, and things like that, kind of like the soup of the day, what works today. And the issue is we don't give it time to nurture, to progress, to check it out. We want to go for the next quick fix, and oftentimes when that happens, people get caught in that shuffle. To me, the movement of the work force is going to be more towards the area of small business. I think we're going to see a more--a boom in people looking at small businesses as an option careerwise and as a professional direction for themselves, and less so on the big corporation.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that this changing economy has affected the whole loyalty issue, the loyalty question, the loyalty employees feel to companies as well as vice versa?
TONY CURINGTON: Well, you know, I can kind of sympathize by saying there isn't any.
JEFF WOODWARD: I think loyalty is pretty passe. I think most people would settle for fairness at this point in time, that treat me fairly. Treat me--if you come in and buy my company, learn my skill set, learn what I can do for you before you just lop off 20 percent just to make the numbers. Make sure it's the right 20 percent.
MARGARET WARNER: Does anybody here think that the government should be stepping in to try to soften the effects of all these political--all these economic changes we're seeing?
JEFF WOODWARD: I think we've proven to ourselves in the past that whatever the government steps into it mucks up. At least, that's what it's prove to me.
MARGARET WARNER: Does anyone feel differently on this question about government's role? Lucille.
LUCILLE DURSCH: Well, I would just like to see 'em continue or improve, uh, the assistance to help displaced workers to get back on their feet. I would like more, I guess you'd say, financial assistance trying to get my education up to some kind of skill.
JIM WHALEN: We need an environment nationally and locally that's going to be conducive to small business and growing small business and making that the backbone of the United States. The other important point, though, is education and training. We need to have that addressed at the local levels, at the state levels, and at the national level. And I think that that's crucial to develop a good quality work force in the United States.
MARGARET WARNER: Are any of the major political figures on the national scene do you think speaking to these issues in a compelling way?
DAVE GAYLOR: Well, you read where Pat Buchanan has come out and we've talked about AT&T this day, that--and he's pretty much skewered Bob Allen for the layoffs, and yet, "U.S. News & World Report" said he has not released any of his AT&T stock, so yeah, the words are there. You hope that what they're saying is valid and true. You trust it is. But on the other hand, actions can speak louder than words, and, and is that just a ploy to be elected, or is it in actuality his stand and his concern about the future work place impact?
MARGARET WARNER: Gina.
GINA CLARK: And I also think, you know, actions do speak louder than words. I would really like to see the current administration just stick to the original promises that it made. Do I trust any of the candidates? (shaking head no)
LUCILLE DURSCH: Not very much.
MARGARET WARNER: Tony.
TONY CURINGTON: That's my sentiment there. I have absolutely no trust. If I can't reach out and touch 'em, you know, I just don't trust 'em, but it's the thing that Jeff was talking about that every time the government gets in, you know, it seems like there's more hands in the pie. Somehow, somebody else benefits other than the small businesses or the persons who's actually doing the work.
LUCILLE DURSCH: I agree with him completely. I think a lot of times they promise you what you think you want to--tell you what they think you want to hear. Then when they get in there, uh, either they change their mind or somebody vetoed 'em down, they don't tell you they haven't got the all in all power to do everything they're promising you.
JEFF WOODWARD: When this country started, the people in government were something else before they were politicians. We now have professional politicians. The idea that you can be a politician all your life and be prepared to deal with the kinds of problems and questions that this country has anymore, I think, I think we're past that point.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you all very much. This has been terrific. Thanks.