Sunday, June 5, 2016

Unions Aren't the Problem, Executive Mismanagement/Overpay Is

Besides repeating the simplistic Republican mantra that, ’Unions are the problem,’ we should be asking and possibly demanding these people answer a simple question. ‘What, specifically, is the problem the Unions are creating?’ 

When Unions died, so did wage growth. And, yes, Unions did some damage, but they also did a great deal of good. Using overly simplistic messages to destroy them and to mischaracterize issues doesn't help anyone move the economy or the country forward.

The problem isn't the Unions. The problem is executive mismanagement coupled with a lack of accountability throughout companies, a lack of balance in wage distribution, and not listening to their own shareholders nor to their workers. Of course, tax reform and overburdensome regulation are important concerns for businesses . . . usually not for big businesses, however. Simplifying the tax code and bringing balance to business tax revenues (decrease small business tax burden) are an entirely different topic and are real drags on the economy.
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The lack of wage growth is the largest drag on the economy throughout much of the country and in nearly every sector. It's also what has been starving small businesses of customers, especially in rural areas. People increasingly have empty pockets but long hours to pay their ever-increasing bills. 

Simply put, wages should rise when the administrative and executive wages rise. If this would have been taking place over the course of the last four decades, the country’s electorate wouldn’t be as rightly angry and outraged as it is now and the economy would be more robust nearly everywhere.

The top brass of most of these companies, the administrative and other executives all take home too much of the profits compared to the lowest wage workers that generate those revenues and profits. Of course, those who have the largest salaries want to keep all their money and move their company to where they can make their products under substandard working conditions while they continue to rake in their big compensation packages.
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It seems that Caterpillar had growth for years on the backs of six year wage freezes for employees, all of that with the UAW’s consent. So, I'm at a loss at where the blame should actually go in that equation, especially with the executive pay being what it is. Even Caterpillar shareholders are upset with the executive pay and compensation strategies of the company. CEO Oberhelman received a $4 million bonus last year, ramping up his compensation package to nearly $18 million. That should be ridiculous to anyone.

The shareholders realize they shouldn't be paying him that money nor moving jobs out of the country, but, that's why Caterpillar is in a repurchasing stock mood so as to not have to bother with answering to shareholders in the future.

To the public, companies like Caterpillar and Ford use tired clichés that stoke anger and resentment left behind from the 1980 Union wars. People that buy into those clichés are giving those CEOs a $18 million dollar annual pass.
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No one person is worth $18 million over the actual workers that actually build the product that generates those revenues, are they?

A company can buy the cheap talking points that the CEO is throwing out to excuse the company decision to abandon the country, the community, the state, and the workers that made their revenues possible. I won’t buy. I'm not that gullible.

I won’t be part of the wage stagnation problem in this country. Some people want to have a substantive discussion about the issues that face us. Other people just want to blame someone else for what's going wrong. Unions. Obama. Now Hillary. It’s always anyone but the guy pulling the $18 million salary. Anything or anyone but the people actually responsible for making those decisions to outsource. If that high-priced guy can't strike a deal, is he really worth all those dollars?

And, manufacturing jobs, have been holding steady in places like Illinois without a robust economy. The job losses occurred prior to President Obama.

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As is the case with Caterpillar, some people blame workers when they should be focusing some attention elsewhere within the company. These decisions are made by extremely well compensated CEOs and other executives who disregard even their own shareholders. Why would they care about their employees, the communities where their workers work, let alone the country that allowed their companies to flourish?

Especially after six years without any of Caterpillar’s workers having a pay raise. 

Don't just give me a break . . . give them a raise.

Instead of renegotiating a contract with workers, the company is leaving despite shareholders’ votes of dissatisfaction with the executive pay equation. If the public doesn't see the problem with that equation and with Caterpillar's failed leadership and lack of accountability, which delivers that failed leadership model tens of millions of dol
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lars every year, then the public is simply unwilling to see the complete picture.

Unions may have made some unfortunate decisions decades ago. They may even make some bad ones today. That doesn’t make Unions detrimental to American workers or to the American economy. As Union membership has plummeted, so has manufacturing jobs, so has wage growth, and so has reasonable discussion about how to address these problems. 

States like Texas and countries like Mexico are safe havens for these companies, where they can disregard standards for workers, disregard standards for pay equity and continue their polices of wage stagnation while boosting their annual salaries and bonus packages. 

If the public doesn’t hold these companies and elected officials accountable to reforming the system to incentivize better behavior and/or punish these cheapskates, who will? 

If the public buys into these old clichés about Unions being the problem and we allow them to win that narrative, we’re also part of the problem. 

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