Labor Drives for Total Security
MAY 01, 1965 by PAT VINCENT
Mr. Vincent is a free-lance writer specializing in the business and industrial field.
You are hired by the company the day you leave school.
You move up the seniority ladder at a fixed and unalterable pace.
There’s no need to make a special effort or develop new skills: your position and pay are fixed by the time you spend on the job.
You receive financial assistance when you marry, later get additional benefits for your children.
You retire at the age of 55.
The worker’s paradise?
Not so, say Japanese union leaders about the "lifetime employment plan" which covers approximately 40 per cent of their country’s work force. In fact, both labor and management are now trying to find some way of dismantling
Or at least there has been—until now. For the mid-sixties is witnessing a massive drive by the labor hierarchy to impose a similar strait jacket on management and employees in this country in the guise of "total security."
Decked out in the full panoply of expensive union propaganda, the term has an undeniable seductiveness: it is all-encompassing, impatient with logic and history. It promises everything to the worker and asks nothing; seemingly, he can’t lose.
The Obvious Strategy
The strategy of implementation is becoming clearer day by day. You can see it in the attempt to focus attention on a few untypical situations as universal models, and in the increasing number of theoretical articles being published in those reliable bell weathers, the journals of opinion. "See—it works!" says the first. "And it’s an intellectually respectable concept, too," says the second.
Take the case of the total job security program recently negotiated by the United Steelworkers of America with Alan Wood Steel Company. In itself, the program for the 2,500 employees of the small
The basics of the contract are familiar to everyone by now. For each worker, a guaranteed average rate of earnings which will "protect" him from a reduction of more than 5 per cent because of demotion or other job changes by management; a guarantee of 38 hours pay for each week in which an employee works, even though he is on the job only part of the time; payment to each worker with 10 or more years tenure of the equivalent of 85 per cent of his pay should he be laid off, until retirement; and sharing with all employees 32.5 per cent of savings achieved through labor or materials efficiencies.
No Mention of Weaknesses
In "selling" this program to the country, labor spokesmen make no mention of the many factors in the program which have caused disillusionment abroad, such as the worker’s loss of mobility and versatility, the discounting of incentives, the sapping of individual initiative, and the inability of companies to compete or even stay in business under this kind of financial burden.
Instead, any suspicion as to the economic feasibility of the program is to be allayed by the intellectuals. Providing an ideological base from which to influence the mass media is their role in the strategy of implementation. And just what is the philosophical justification for "total security"? Just how is this concept to be structured into American life?
Here is Robert Theobald, author of Free Men and Free Markets, writing in The Commonweal of
As Mr. Theobald candidly states, this concept "justifies income without toil."
And how is this total security to be paid for?
By penalizing each employee who has the ambition and initiative to develop and market his skills beyond an arbitrarily fixed point. To quote Mr. Theobald, "We should establish the principle that the portion of income required to maintain a reasonable standard of living should be tax free. Taxes should only be paid on incomes rising above this level."
Here, then, is the cost which labor is to pay for "total security": regimentation, abrogation of the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, atrophy of skills, and a universal but minimum standard of living at a "reasonable" level.
Is it not ironical that just as labor in
The introduction of compulsory social insurance in cases of sickness, or compulsory social insurance in cases of unemployment, means that the workers must be subject to examinations, investigations, regulations, and limitations.
Samuel Gompers (1916)