I always enjoy Frontline. This interviewer however didn't present both sides of the issues. He should have had a CEO or two who didn't have such a dedication to workers, community and customers. One such interesting CEO is Albert Dunlap, brought in to save several companies such as Scott Paper. He brings another view to the issue that was clearly not present in the program. That is that business only exists for the benefit of it's shareholders. They risk the capital that makes all else possible. Although not a subscriber to his theories in total, it would have provided an interesting contrast to the CEO's who were portrayed as quite human. Next time this interviewer should quit playing softball and learn how to play hardball instead.
I only caught the last half of this segment but was impressed with the contrast that it presented. Although all will agree that it was not total, I thought it was very impressive for a 60 minute session.
I fear that people have a slanted view from the outset, and that is the cause of much of the negativity that they feel in response to the CEO's profiled. Fortunately this is not the only view. It seems that many beleive that these large businesses owe their employees something. Although we all would like to have security in our jobs, we must accept that this is not the case. We are marketing our skills in the exact same fashion that these producers are marketing their products. We are all proud of the products that have been represented here, but many of us do not apply the same standards to the work force. If we as workers do not hone and improve our skills we are destined and deserve to fall by the wayside. Some of us may hold an appreciation for a rotary phone, a 286 computer or a tin can; we have to admit that we do not purchase these items and the CEO's of the companies are made them have moved on too. Survival is a part of life and we have to accept it.
My point of view is not an ignorant one. I work in a manufacturing plant, having survived, sweated and been frusterated by lay-offs. The two ingredients that made me survive are (admittedly) luck, and the extra effort. Of the hundred or so inviduals I was hired with in 1992, barely a handful survive. These workers are the ones that would through breaks, and try a little bit harder - not a requirement of the job, but we still have a job. To further, I have been the one that was aware (and still am) that in manufacturing my job just may disappear tomorrow. I am willing to go to school at night, to reinforce my employability, so that I may not be stuck on the out. Once again, an investement that costs me time now, but hopefully something to fall on if the need arises.
My final point is a statement that Robert Reich made. This struck a nerve as being a part of the problem, although not the whole. To paraphrase he stated that business wanted government to stay away as they did when they deregulated the airlines, but ask for government to step in for a tax break. If the government is loosening on taxes isn't that really getting out too ? Isn't this the mentality that built the huge bereaucracy in the first place ?
Once again, kudos to the editor for as objective a viewpoint as possible - given the
Our parents were the only generation that had the type of jobs & job security that most of the people you interviewed want. No generation before them or after had it as they did. So the problem I see with the people that you interviewed was that they are living in the past. You cannot have jobs with guarantees and high benefits/pay at the same time. You have to prove that you are worth what you get, not that you are entitled to it.
FEAR MONGERING, FEAR MONGERING FEAR MONGERING!!!! What is guaranteed in this life? Certainly not a job in any one company, at any one place for ever. Would any of those "loyal" empployees hesitate to leave their company for a better job with better pay and benefits at another company. I think not. But, if a company wants to leave to benefit itself, it can't because of some social or individual loyalties??? This country was built by big businesses, not by big government. Washington is in our homes and lives on a daily basis. We don't need big government! Companies are in business to make mony- government is in business to spend it. We can do well with govermnment staying in D.C. and allowing business to compete, until they violate the law. Reisch and the administration have a lot of room to talk about being loyal to workers and owing them something. How many ferderal employees have they displaced, due to "downsizing" or what- ever else thay want to call it. Businesses do a pretty good job without government intervention. By the way, Robert and Bill, how many American businesses do you know of that are running in the RED? Please, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!
I'd like to say I think you web page is very impressive with it's appearance and ease of use. I feel you've created a very good format to help with the exchange of ideas and communication. Frontline seems to be the new 60 Minutes.
Nice Going Frontline
I have worked at MASTER LOCK CO.for 30 years. I am proud to tell FRONTLINE that I am an employee of the MASTER LOCK CO. I can tell you in all that time the only time I was worried about my job was during the two strikes 1974 6 weeks 1980 13 weeks. During the the small layoff in the early eighties that affected only the very latest hired employees. I was so confident of my job I started a big project in my yard. Never was I worried about not having a job. I know it sounds like a Fairy tale but it is true. Its like the american dream. Start with an employer and retire with the same one which I plan on doing. This company is here for the long haul. Our 75th year in serving our customers prove this to be true.Our common goal is to be the Biggest and the Best in this global economy.
As a business owner and also an employee of several corporations in the past, I can relate to both sides of this debate.
I do believe though that large corporations in general are beginning to reap the lack of commitment that is festering below the surface in many employees. A balance needs to be struck. It is fine to make the appreciation of stockholder worth a paramount goal, but having a background on Wall Street, I believe that the street is notoriously short-sited, which short circuits long term investment and growth plans for many corporations.
Finally, on a different front, I am delighted to see the
detail that PBS is providing for background for these
issues, but I think that a more real time vehicle for
discussion and feedback would be helpful. Have you a
follow-up discussion with several of your guests in an
on-line forum with involvement from on-line folks?
Your report on the effects of downsizing and the "new" economic reality painted a much maligned picture of doom and gloom. The overriding theme from the displaced workers was "what is the company going to do for me?". Since when is a corporation a democracy? Training and upgrading skills are the responsibility of the individual. As indicated in the report, the economy is in very good shape in both absolute and relative terms. Without the downsizing of corporate America, the U.S. would be in the same boat is many of the European ecomonies struggling to get it's bloated costs and social benefits down in order to compete in the global economy.
Millions of people from all levels of the socio-economic ladder are taking proactive
measures to improve their standard of
living without the assistance of others. Despite sounding cliche, hard work and
sacrifice still matters.
Derek P. Pitt
Kansas City, MO
Enjoyed your program of 21 May on "Does America Still Work"? It is hard for me to believe that for America to become competitive in the global economy millions have had to become unemployed. Isn't there a better way? Aren't the workers who are laid off consumers too? If millions of our citizens are relegated to minimum wage employment we as a society are in for big trouble. Downsizing/reorganizing/reengineering is not the answer. Unless we solve this problem soon millions of ex-workers will see themselves as having little or no stake in society.
This segment was somewhat enlightening. However, your softball approach to questioning these corporate mogals on issues such as downsizing (firing), employee involvment in decision making and corporate restructuring was lacking. These individuals were not pressed on the very issues which are of great concern to the average (non-millionaire) american. Additionally, questions concerning corporate crime, government bailouts for greedy stockholders, and the degradation of the american environment by corporate interests were not part of the agenda. I am disappointed that frontline cannot be counted on for a more incisive brand of journalism. In the interest of fairness to frontline, I will concede that the corporate and congressional (also corporate) censors are a powerful force and that there hand is prevasive. For there to be a future for frontline, one must understand journalism critical of corporate America is off limits.
I am an economic development specialist for the State of Vermont. I caught your special by accident last night. I was absolutely delighted with the quality and insight PBS brought to the screen. To see and hear these production people talk about their jobs, the quality of their lives, and to hear the CEO's encourage them to actively acquire new skill sets in order to be prepared for the future...... well, I think you did an excellent job portraying the realities of today's manufacturing climate. I think we still work, in fact I think we have the edge! Thanks for the great show!
The chords struck on last night's Frontline dealing with the loss of high paid jobs and downsizing during the 80's in Milwaukee sounded the cry that good workers , good products and the bottom line go hand in hand.
Harley Davidson, Master Lock and Chrysler prove that skilled workers who love their community and will fight hardship to stay and work there are the best kinds of employees. I'm a financial analyst and an owner of a 94 Harley Dyna Low Rider and I know that my bike was built with pride and workmanship. My disposable income drives this economy and drives American companies that build high quality products. I wouldn't buy anything but Master Locks because I appreciate the quality of the product. Enough of the low end stuff U.S. manufacturers are providing the American consumer. It's a sad commentary when one skims through a Sunday Kmart circular the mediocure products proudly "Made in the USA".
Hell, when I used to live in Madison, WI as young man in my 20's 15 years ago, I was witnessing the end of what were the last days of the manufacturing heyday in Milwaukee. IT took these men and women displaced from their jobs 7 or more years to get back where they were before the massive plant closures. They and their communities lost alot. The American working man and woman's soul was ripped out. The bottom 40% of the American workforce is suffering while the American economic engine and Wall Street continue to soar to new heights. No wonder the rest of the industrialized world pities the US blue collar worker as one who will work for a $7 per hour sub wage rate and two jobs just to make ends meet. These jobs need to continue to be created. With the advent of workfare in Wisconsin and elsewhere, job creation is most critical to the success of these people. Those who have lost skilled jobs have to find new niches where they could then leave the lower paying semiskilled jobs open for new entrants to the workforce, formerly on public assistance.
The evolution must continue. If the American economy does not create the market for
skilled workers, our role in the New World Economy
will elimately fail. Trade is good. Underdeveloped and developing markets must be
created and those markets will produce the lower
cost products. With better incomes, then these consumers will be able to buy better
manufactured, higher quality goods from the Master Locks,
Chryslers and Harley Davidsons made in the USA.
C.A. Arlington, VA
I found the program very informative. It would appear that we have to deal with the issue of retraining workers in a far different and better fashion than we have to this point. It also pointed out that the mind set of many executives in America as well as the stockholders need to be adjusted. Americans in general need to start thinking "in the long run", rather than the current quarter bottom line. Get in make a buck and get out is not the way to sustain our economy. Until we reward people for "long haul" thinking the economic climate is not likely to change much.
George P. Jones, III
I watched most of your show last night regarding corporate downsizing, rightsizing, etc. The show in general was very good and balanced as are virtually all your shows.
I would like to comment on the issue of CEO compensation. CEOs may be somewhat overpaid. Worker's may be underpaid and the gap between seniormost management and worker's may be too great. Nevertheless, I am concerned with the trend towards vilification of CEOs. They do produce products, create jobs, attempt to and often succeed in maintaining or increasing productivity, and they create wealth. While they may deserve less than they make, they much more nearly deserve what they make than do entertainers of all categories (e.g., basketball players, football, actors, etc.).
My greatest concer is that we, as a society, will pay a person 100s of millions of
dollars to entertain us (by stuffing a ball through a hoop, knocking someone
senseless on artificial grass, or acting out violence on the screen) while we will
pay an engineer or biotechnologist who creates health, wealth and well being a wage
that will barely afford a home.
San Antonio, Texas
Americans are still trying to work inspite of the attempts to cut wages and benefiets.Employers for the mostpart have very little sympathy for raising families or the betterment of society.Take a good look at the car lotts, Newcars are sitting there with no buyers!This is the proof that the minimum wage needsto be addressed!No-one should have to work two jobs to make ends meet!
Does America Still Work brought up some interesting questions, offered insight into changes which can and do occur (Harley-Davidson for example), and left me with more questions than answers. Clearly, there is room and opportunity for change on the part of both management and labor which can result in the meeting of both parties needs. Neither one is a bad guy who is solely responsible for the difficulties which we find ourselves in. Global competition, information technology, a significantly larger workforce (i.e. the babyboomers) and a number of other factors have seemingly assaulted the US within the past decade. We are all responsible for this and we can create better ways of working and living as we go into the next century. However, we can't do so by falling back on old ways of thinking and doing business. The principle problem is that our institutions are not equipped or prepared to address these issues. Business is running as fast as it can to keep up with technology, global competition, shareholder demands and general complexity compounded by the rapid speed of change. Government is large, cumbersome and trying to catch up, but it seems to be overwelmed by the relentless pressures and demands of simply managing its own affairs before a vocal and demanding public. Education is without money and seems to have burdens that are intractable. That leaves the citizenry as a mass of stranded individuals which has no place to turn to. There is no longer a community meeting to attend where concerns and hopes can be shared. This brings me to the main point I wish to raise. As long as the American populace remains isolated and has no way of coming together to grapple with these issues we are at the mercy of our institutions to do the work for us, and, as I already mentioned, those institutions are overwelmed with their own survival. For our democracy to remain successful it needs to create forums where people can come together and dialogue about these huge issues in a meaningful way. Such a dialogue would need to be ongoing, facilitated, and information intensive.
It would be an exploration into
the assumptions and beliefs which constitute our current thinking. We would need to
create an inquiry into values, hopes and dreams. It would need to extend past the
issues of business and employment to include the environment, peoples of all
nations, and more. Unfortunately, there is no institution of any magnitude which is
addressing these issues to the degree needed. New paradigms in thinking and
behavior can evolve proactively or reactively, the choice is ours. Thank you for
the work you are doing. Your contributions are essential.
Brian J. Carroll
Chrysler Chairman Robert Eaton was truthful in admitting that his salary is tied to Chrysler's stock performance. However, a company's stock price tends to rise when layoffs are announced because investors perceive the layoffs as short-term cost cutting. Therefore, Mr. Eaton can make a quick bonus by laying off workers and forcing them to take unemployment benefits. This really means that the taxpayers contribute to Mr. Eaton's paycheck by funding the unemployment and welfare programs which assist these workers. Instead, it would be better if unemployment insurance program were funded by premiums charged to the employers. The premiums could then be set by the number of workers the employer lays off during a defined period (3 - 5 years, for example). If a company has a history of boosting its stock price by announcing layoffs, it would pay a penalty of higher premiums if the layoffs were announced during a period of relative profitability.
U.S. workers, be they blue collar or white collar, have had unrealistic expectations with regard to job security and their standard of living in general. Since my Peace Corps experience in 1973-74, in South America, I have always thought that the difference between our standard of living and theirs, exists not because we are in some way better than they are, but for various historical and institutional reasons. Once institutions, such as government by military dictatorship, disappear and it is economically viable for foreign workers to perform the same tasks as U.S. workers, and get paid for it, doesn't it seem logical that the gap between the two would close? Wouldn't the closing of the gap imply both the improvement of the foreign worker's standard of living and a lowering of the U.S. worker's standard of living? People who were born in the United States between 1930 and 1960 were among the most fortunate people in the history of the world, from a material welfare point of view, but we're running out of refreshments and the band is packing up to leave. So let's stop the whining and come to grips with the fact that the party is over.
America has not worked for me. The American Dream was dead before I reached the age of eighteen for my family. My parents are impoverished and skilless, my grandparents are hounded by the IRS and I have no knowledge, self-esteem or mental competence. As far as I am concerned, I am dead. The corporate world is not interested in me due to my ina- bility to pass urine tests. I have nothing to offer your society. All through my life, your society certainly re- frained from offering me any help. Now I am a borderline psychopath with a gun. The only future I see for me is prison or death, for there is no longer any help offered for my kind, the people that fall through the cracks. There may have been a time I could be helped, but that time seems past.
When asked about excessive CEO compensation, Robert Eaton of Chrysler, replied that the pay of many CEOs is tied to the performance of the stock -- as if we were to think that some sort of discipline has been applied. Doesn't he realize that that is a large part of the problem? In the casino atmosphere of Wall Street, stock performance may have little or nothing to do with the long-term prospects of a company, with the quality of its product, or with the quality of its management.
The legacy of a corporate America that throws away its dedicated workers is a society that loses all respect for employers. The "Downsizing" mentality, while defended by those who would accept a multi-million dollar salary and stock options, is nothing more than the loss of allegiance to the workforce that made the corporation great and the nation that allowed it to set up shop and prosper. Corporate America has little allegiance to workers and even less patriotic sentiment. More times than not they could care less whether the United States sinks or swims so long as they can point to gargantuan profits. It is refreshing to see a Corporate Executive from Harley Davidson extol the virtues of caring for the employees who make the Harley Davidson enterprise so great. He is to be commended and others should follow his lead.
Concord New Hampshire
Once again another program on this subject that misses the mark. Each time I see one of these programs I am struck by how hopeless everyone views the situation. In order to understand the solution we must understand the history that delivered us here. At one time we lived in a vacuum. We produced goods and in turn consumed the goods we produced. One of the problems was, that after a time we produced garbage. (As a consumer, if given the choice between higer priced low quality, and lower priced low quality, which would you purchase). When the Asian based manufacturers first introduced their products here they were not of top quality, but they were inexpensive. The consumer went for lowest price possible price.( A trend still active today) If American companies & American workers want good jobs at decent wages. Build high quality products, and then purcahse the products you produce. The competition can only survive if you buy their product. The public needs to stop going for the lowest prices, and the companies need to stop looking for the cheapest labor. If this trend continues each group will produce its own extinction. It has nothing to do with this so called "Global Economy". Its time we stopped crying in our beer and started using our minds.
E. C Bielfelt Jr.
I found this program very well done and presented but provocative and disturbing in a variety of ways:wo points seem to me to be worth making: First this was one of the best arguments for reforming and making universal our health care system. Specifically it makes the case for abandoning the present system which ties health insurance to employment, because life-time (or even long-term) employment can no longer be counted on. The need is for a truly national system, whether an extension of Medicare or some other mechanism. It really makes no sense for people to be forced into making decisions on taking jobs on the basis of the availability of insurance. Second, the program highlighted the growing pursuit of greed at the highest levels of American corporate business. How many employees of big corporations could be given additional benefits (and even "golden parachutes" in the event their jobs were downsized) if the power structure of these companies was restrained in their lust for wealth. There needs to be some measure of social control here, perhaps through the tax system.
J D Darroch
I'd like to say I think your web page is very impressive with it's appearance and ease of use. I feel you've created a very good format to help with the exchange of ideas and communication. Frontline seems to be the new 60 Minutes. Nice Going Frontline.
Something does seem a bit out of balance when CEO's are making millions and the front line workers can no longer make enough to raise families.
However, it is going to be impossible to compete against workers making $1/hr or less in the rest of the world. Americans are going to have to start learning how to do what we've been best at -- improvising.
The most important thing is that the educational system
must be revitalized or scrapped if necessary. In the
company I work for (an Information Services Staffing
Company), I can tell you that we would LOVE to be able
to take part of our tax liability and put it into
training programs. Only those who are on the cutting
edge will know where the jobs are and what skills
John S. Kennedy
Thank you for returning to report on the progress of those who have lost their jobs and thus their livelihood. Too often we forget the profound events of the past to repeat them in the near future. Today we face an uncertain future as to our job security and it's effects upon our families and communities. America cannot break the short term gains for long term stability in business as in politics. How far up the ladder do we need to go before we all realize that no one is immune to disruption in their profession.
Jody Allan Dobis
I just couldn't believe the same old tired rhetoric about how terrible the corporations are. First of all it shouldn't be anyone's business how much CEO's make.I doubt the average employee realizes how much is involved with their jobs.It's rather surprising that nothing is said about the network anchors making seven or more million a year or hollywood liberals who make tens of millions a year. Also, I rather think the unions have brought a lot of this on themselves.It is said many times over that the Company isn't loyal to the people. Well how about the unions going on strike numerous times when they don't get everything they want.People should realize exactly how much it really costs an employer to hire someone. Why doesn't Frontline do programs as that, instead of having such an extreme Socialist as Reich. Finally, after seeing these kind of programs on PBS I look forward to the day when the Congress finally cuts off all of my tax money to you.
America does work: The work ethic is very much alive, but it has been beaten nearly to death by the new managerial class that has taken control of America's seats of power. The managerial class believes greed is good and believes that the individual is the only meaningful unit of society and the quarterly report is the only meaningful time frame. Therefore selfish greed and immediate reward drive all decisions of this managerial class. They pay only lip service to labor and the greater needs of society and posterity. The elevation of the managerial class has driven the decline of the middle class, the decline of organized labor, and the rape and decline of American society.
Does America still work? Yes, mostly for smaller companies not included in your Frontline piece. By focusing on the evils of big companies and pandering to paycheck envy with the constant refrain over wage gaps, you produced a narrow report unworthy of the scope suggested by the title. By letting Secretary Reich present his views without mentioning the recent study ã conducted by the Clinton administration ã that showed that layed-off workers are finding other work relatively quickly and for nearly the same pay, you've presented a one-sided picture of the state of the economy.
You deserve full marks for an excellent documentary. Companies like Harley-Davidson and Master Lock should and could be a blueprint for all companies in my country and yours. Their involvement in the community and their employee relations are to be commended. This show just how much these companies are a part of the national fabric. If they are healthy then the community at large will be prosperous. After all, we have to work learn to work together. If we don't, the consequences for the future are not good.
Keep up the good work!
Ladysmith, BC CANADA
I thought your segment tackled a tough issue. I have somewhat mixed feelings on how the show came off. I think it is important to tackle the tough issues like this, and that by looking at a single community made the problem of presenting it more manageable, but I felt somewhat 'hollow' after watching it. I am not exactly sure why, I think it is from the lack of proposed solutions that were presented. Although the companies who had representatives on the show realized that it was important to consider the employees and environment, there seemed a lack of a bigger picture. I think I liked the Harley-Davidson's CEO view of the 6 stakeholders, and thought that further exploring the relationship of the six would have been interesting.
As for my personal views I think that corporate america is
becoming less sensitive to people and more concerned with
short term gain. In a previous workplace that I saw that
workplace transform from a customer service orientation
to a customer sales orientation. The structure of the jobs
there changed, and the main office became less friendly to
the employees. Resultantly, stress rose and the workplace
environment was (IMHO) seriously diminished.
Although I realize that corporations need to constantly
innovate to survive and thrive, I hope that businesses
gain a conscience. Although corporations are considered
persons before the law, it seems that they do not have
the same social tendencies that have made us a success
as a species. Hopefully this is just a phase.....
Despite your observations that most laid-off workers would not be rehired in the industries you showcased, you focussed on two "success stories". Why weren't those who were not fortunate enough to be re-hired to good paying jobs profiled?
It seems to me that you did not ask the obivious question. If these workers are unnecessary why were they hired in the first place. If I were a stockholder of a downsizing company I would not reward management earlier bad decisions that they are trying to fix now. Management at Chrysler needed to downsize because management feel asleep and lost any competitive advantage they may have had. Yet, the stockholders reward management for failed policies of the past with high salaries and stock options. Management should take responsibility for their past failures and admit to their short comings. The future of the American (or anywere in the world) corporation belongs to those companies that work in a partnership type of arrangement with their workers. You don't fire your partner. We, as workers, also have a responsibility to be as productive as possible. I would be anxious to hear the views of any else on this matter.