Editor's Viewpoint

July 13, 2006
The days of a sense of responsibility toward employees has given way to a culture where it is way too easy to slash jobs.

This month, I want to talk about a book. I recently read The Disposable American by New York Times economics writer Louis Uchitelle. While I’m no literary expert, I am an A&P and IA who enjoys a good book every now and then. After reading The Disposable American, I felt compelled to share a little about it with our readers.

In The Disposable American Uchitelle describes the shift in management philosophy that has occurred in corporate America. He compares the job-slashing mentality of modern Jack Welch protegees to that of their predecessors. The days of a sense of responsibility toward employees has given way to a culture where it is way too easy to slash jobs.

When our grandparents were working, and even in most of our parents’ careers, most employees felt a close tie to the companies they worked for. It was not at all unusual for employees to work their entire career with one employer. Many companies offered pensions, medical coverage, and other perks.

How times have changed! Employees are now often considered disposable assets. They are let go at a moment’s whim as a quick and easy solution to save money.

By the way, to paraphrase from the movie In Good Company, why do they call it “letting you go?” It’s not like you want to go anywhere. I guess it’s easier to sleep at night thinking “I let someone go” instead of “I kicked them out on the street.”

Uchitelle notes several examples of this shift in mentality including the closure of United Airline’s Indianapolis maintenance facility (an excerpt from that chapter is what got me to pick up the book in the first place). Within a few short years, the facility went from being a world-class maintenance facility where mechanics were setting records for time to complete maintenance checks to a spiraling descent that ended up with the maintenance facility shutting its doors.

Uchitelle gives other examples of this shift in corporate mentality and the destructive result it is having on the American worker. He interviews employees and management alike to make his case for this shift in attitude within corporate America. If you have a chance to pick up the book, I would definitely recommend reading it.

There are many market forces that are affecting our industry — high fuel prices, global competition, and outsourcing to name a few. How our companies react to these market forces will determine the next chapter in our book. Let’s hope it’s not too late and the final chapter has already been written.

Thanks for reading, and as always your feedback is appreciated.

About the Author

Joe Escobar