CNN Senior Executive Producer
From a pancake house to the White House, a glimpse today of what may be required to get us through 2009.
President Obama likes to point to the American workers who have cut their hours rather than see their fellow employees lose their jobs. There was a great example this week from Mr. B’s Pancake House in Michigan. The wait staff volunteered to work a shift without pay. It saved their boss $700, a lot of money for a small business during hard times. A recent survey cited by CNN Money showed only one out of five Americans are willing to volunteer reducing their hours. They may not have a choice.
California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered tens of thousands of government workers to take off two days a month without pay. California has to close a $42 billion deficit. Two employee unions challenged the Governor’s order. Today, a Superior Court judge in Sacramento upheld it.
From Germany, word that BMW is reducing working hours at its largest manufacturing plant in order to save jobs as car sales slide.
Take the day off certainly sounds better than find a new job. This week began with the 70-thousand or so layoffs by seven major companies on “bloody” Monday. The list steadily grows.
Yesterday big plane maker Boeing announcing 10,000 job cuts.
Today, small plane maker Cessna says it’s cutting 4,000 jobs in Wichita alone.
Yesterday Starbucks announced 6,000 jobs will be lost.
Today, Kodak announces more than 3,500 job cuts – at least 14 percent of its work force.
I could go on.
Those are all big employers. But, as we’re often reminded, it’s small businesses that generate the majority of American jobs. Which is why a story from the Raleigh News & Observer caught my attention. It cites the case of Rush Hour Karting – a place in North Carolina where grownups can have a pizza and race go-karts. (For doubters - The proof is on this YouTube video.) Rush Hour’s 24-year-old cashier told the Raleigh newspaper her job responsibilities have expanded to cleaning the public restrooms at night. “It’s better than shutting down” she says.
But employers take note. Management Professor, Ben Rosen, at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill emphasizes how important it is for management to share the burden of sacrifice. “Even when people are hurt, if they think the policies are fair, they can live with it," says Professor Rosen. "If an employee thinks he's making a sacrifice but the top managers are still going on retreats to Florida in the middle of winter, then it won't seem fair."
Which brings me back to CNN headquarters. Here in Atlanta, Mayor Shirley Franklin, like Governor Schwarzenegger, has ordered government workers to take time off, unpaid, every week. She’s reduced the work week of 4,600 city employees to four days – nine hours a day - Fridays off. No choice. A 10 percent reduction in pay. Mayor Franklin is taking the same pay cut herself.
And just as I’m writing this blog, at about 4 p.m., here’s President Obama, live on CNN (watch here) sternly lecturing Wall Street executives who we now learn took nearly 20 billion dollars in bonuses in 2008 as many of their companies were asking for government bailouts. President Obama called the Wall Street bonuses “shameful … the height of irresponsibility.” President Obama’s central message: “All of us are gonna have responsibilities to get this economy moving again.” It’s the same point Professor Rosen makes. Message to executives: share the burden.
It’s hard to get a handle on how many companies across America are asking its employees to make sacrifices in order to save jobs, and how many executives are sharing in that sacrifice. This CNN Money piece is a great place to start figuring it out.
If you work for such a company, please leave a comment and let us know. We’re trying to get a handle on what, in the months to come, could become a way of life in America. Shared sacrifice. Call it President Obama’s Way. Call it Mayor Franklin’s Way. Call it the Mr. B’s Pancake Way or the Rush Hour Go Karting Way. Whatever you call it, for 2009, it seems to be the road ahead.
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