Q: Getting back to the City
of Milwaukee, why do you invest so much back in the community? Is there a real
practical pay-off for that?
Beardsley: Our strategy has just been to be a good neighbor here, and I
think that strategy has been contagious. Our employees have found all sorts of
outlets locally here to make a difference, and I think the impression that we
invest a lot back is more a measure of the energy of our employees than it is a
Q: They really want to save Milwaukee? They want to bring it back to its
former luster? Do you give them the opportunity to do that and does that
somehow make them better workers for you?
Beardsley: I think that we try and set a good example -- the officers
participate in a number of different organizations around here -- and we
haven't had to do much more than set a good example. I think you can see by
looking around this inner city neighborhood that there's a lot to do, and the
challenge, the enthusiasm has been contagious. It's been easy to line up
volunteers to work with youth groups locally or to volunteer at the Clarke
Street School down the road here. It's something that has been relatively easy
to do once we got started.
Q: There was a lot of anger, as you well know, in Milwaukee over the years
about companies leaving, about less jobs, about a breach of the social contract
in the minds of some workers. Is that one reason why you're so active in
Milwaukee? Are you trying to ameliorate that anger?
Beardsley: No, we don't feel that we're a part of that. As a matter of
fact, a lot of that predated me. I have very little knowledge of what went on
Q: Is there anger in Milwaukee still?
Beardsley: No, I don't think so. I think that to a great degree, we're
trying to figure out how to work together. You know, the issue that we have
today is not U.S. management against U.S. labor. It's U.S. management and
labor against the Europeans or the Asians or the South and Central Americans.
We've got to figure out how to work more effectively together.
Q: There could come a time in Master Lock's future where competition is so
intense, you're going to have to cut back. You may have to let workers go.
How do you do that?
Beardsley: I just hope we're smart enough to avoid that situation.
Q: You don't foresee it?
Beardsley: No. We're going to plan to avoid it.
Q: Would a smart worker today -- a smart Sheila Caldwell -- say to herself,
these are different times. Anything could happen. I better keep more money in
the bank. I better keep my eyes open for opportunities. Is that the plight of
the American worker today?
Beardsley: What we hope Sheila is doing is figuring out how she can
increase her skill levels so she has more to offer Master Lock or more to offer
anther employer, so she can do a better job running the improved processes and
the better equipment that we need to stay competitive.
Q: When you talk about investing and productivity, is that the future for
most of corporate America? Investing more, better workers, is that how we're
going to keep our standard of living rising?
Beardsley: Well, I think that's a large part of it. I think having
better and better methods to make better and better products -- employing
progressively higher-skilled workers -- is what will set us apart from other
nations in the world.
Q: A lot of people talk about -- they use the words "social responsibility"
to describe what may or may not be going on today. Some corporate managers
will say social responsibility doesn't belong in a corporate lexicon at all.
Should corporations have a social responsibility?
Beardsley: You're beyond me there, Jeff.
Q: Does Master Lock when it reinvests in Milwaukee have a sense of social
Beardsley: When Master Lock reinvests in Milwaukee, we're doing it to
maintain a positive environment for our workers, a positive environment
surrounding our plant. We do it with the best interests of the company and the
employees in mind. You can term that social responsibility, you can term it
economic responsibility. In our opinion it's just good business.
Q: You don't see a distinction then? Economic responsibility is social
responsibility and vice versa.
Beardsley: I think our goal is to have them coincide, to make actions in
one reflect positively in the other.
Q: Let me return to this one other subject -- is there not a role for
federal government? Can the federal government make it easier for corporations
like you to do what you're doing? Can't they encourage what some people call
the high road? Reinvestment, worker training, worker loyalty, staying in the
Beardsley: You know, I think the decisions that make Master Lock succeed
are local decisions. They're decisions made here about what products we're
going to market, what quality levels we have to strive to achieve, what
training programs are necessary, what new equipment is necessary. This is
where the decisions are made that separate us from our competition. Now, we
are dependent on local service providers, like transit systems, like the high
schools that provide us with educated, disciplined entry-level employees, like
police protection. I think the battle is being fought on a local basis and I
think that's where decisions like that have to be made.
Q: There is a lot of worker anxiety out there, I think you would
acknowledge. And what they see is profits are up but wages aren't up. Stock
prices are up but people keep losing jobs. Is corporate America doing all it
can for the American worker?
Beardsley: You know, I think change produces anxiety, anxiety at the
worker level, anxiety at the management level. Manufacturing in the United
States has undergone terrific change in the last fifteen years and I think
that's created anxiety throughout the operation, but I think we hit our low
point in the early or mid-eighties. I think manufacturing is doing better now.
We're more cost-effective on a world basis than we ever were previously. So I
think we're going to see things improve. As a matter of fact, they are
improving now. I think we've created more jobs in the last three or four years
than any comparable period for quite some time.
Q: But pay isn't going up, there's still a lot of layoffs, probably people
have to switch jobs more often than they used to. Is that just the reality of
a different kind of an economy and a more competitive world?
Beardsley: Well, I think I'd argue that pay is going up. I think what
we're finding is we're replacing unskilled jobs in the manufacturing sector
with more skilled jobs. And so if you measure job type to job type over the
last ten to fifteen years, you may see pay scales haven't kept up with
inflation, but a lot of the people who were in those jobs fifteen years ago are
higher-skilled workers today, taking home higher pay rates. I think you'll
find that the structural economy has boosted the overall condition of the
worker. I think it's starting to do that and I think we'll see more of that in
Q: Well, let me ask you this then. What do we have to do better? Certainly
we're not all the way there yet.
Beardsley: Well, what we can and should do better is recapture the
market share that we've lost to overseas competitors over the last fifteen or
twenty years, and we can do that just by concentrating on process improvement,
concentrating on flexibility, concentrating on innovation.
Q: To compete better?
Beardsley: To compete better.
Q: Are American corporations competing well enough or is there still a long
way to go?
Beardsley: American corporations have made a lot of progress. I mean,
the automobile industry is an example, but they have a long way to go. There
are certainly all sorts of things that we could do better in the future than
we're doing them today.
Q: But you think we're moving in the right direction?
Q: And anxiety is going to stay with us because it's a part of the process
Beardsley: It's part of the creative process, that's right. It's
Q: Workers are anxious for some legitimate reasons. Pay isn't going up.
The distribution of income is highly unequal in America, the land of
opportunity for all. Is that going to change?
Beardsley: In any given population at any given time you have people who
are overpaid and underpaid. I think that's the nature of a rapid change
process, and certainly we've been going through a rapid change process
recently. What we need to focus on is moving from a manufacturing period in
the sixties where we had a lot of manufacturing employees who were relatively
low-skilled, to the need today for higher-skilled employees, to differentiate
U.S. workers from their cohorts in other countries overseas. We have a big
educational job to do to move people up the ladder in terms of the skills
necessary to make us a more productive nation, a more productive manufacturing
Q: Where is that education going to take place? Is it going to be on the
factory floor, in the schools? Where?
Beardsley: It's got to start in the schools. We need to do more in
terms of starting skill development in the high school area. Pupils need to
understand that not everybody needs to go to college to make a very decent
living. Skilled workers in our operation, in the automobile industry and a
number of manufacturing operations make very good incomes. And yet there's
very little work done at the secondary school level to prepare people for
careers in manufacturing. But I think the bulk of the training is going to
occur within the manufacturer itself. We've got to bring people in with basic
skill sets and train them to operate advanced equipment, to help us design
processes, to help us improve the productivity of our operation.
Q: Are corporations doing enough of that kind of job training?
Beardsley: I think they're certainly moving in that direction out of
Q: But there's a way to go, isn't there?
Beardsley: There is a way to go. We can succeed by working together in