Daily Video

April 6, 2009

Some Share Pain of Bad Economy

As more Americans continue to lose their jobs – more than 600,000 in March – some companies are giving their employees the option of shared sacrifice in order to help keep employees from losing their jobs.

In this report, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman visits several businesses where employees are choosing to cut their pay or sacrifice benefits in order to save money and prevent some of their coworkers from losing their jobs.

At a brass instrument factory in Elkhart, Indiana, workers have agreed to a four-day work week in order to save 25 of them from losing their jobs. At a non-profit hospital in Boston, doctors chose to cut benefits and pay to some employees to save the jobs of lower-paid employees.

The trend is the flip side of “gain sharing” – where employees benefit from a company’s successes.

Quotes

“It’s kind of like who gets in a lifeboat and who doesn’t get in a lifeboat. So I think it’s better that we all get an oar and just kind of paddle along and keep each other floating.” – Stephanie Artley

“I said to the staff, ‘I’d really like to avoid layoffs to the extent possible because it’s a hard time for people to get jobs, and many people’s spouses have already lost their jobs, and we don’t want to put folks through that.’” – Paul Levy, CEO Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

“If it starts at the top, and if the executive level and below take dramatic action to role model that, yes, I believe that people will respond with loyalty, people will respond with greater work efforts, and people will adjust their own personal economic needs to help the company survive.” – Detlev Suderow, Brandeis University

Warm Up Questions

1. Why are people “laid off”? What is happening to the American economy that is forcing employers to get rid of some employees?

2. How might employees “share the pain” to help a company make it through the recession?

Discussion Questions

1. If you had a good job during a recession, do you think you would take a pay cut in order to save the jobs of your coworkers? What would affect your decision?

2. Why do you think the brass instrument and hospital workers were willing to sacrifice, but the firefighters were not?

3. Would you like to work for Paul Levy, the head of the hospital? Why or why not? Do you think he will attract better employees by treating them better?

4. Do you think people in certain professions are more or less likely to sacrifice to help their fellow workers? What are the benefits of not sacrificing during hard times?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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