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28719: Durban (response): 28634 Pierre on Workers Struggles (fwd)

Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com> responding to Mario Pierre's reply
about exploitation of labor writes:

Certainly organized labor has played an important, positive roll in the
U.S. and other countries, and of course workers have every right to
negotiate better terms and conditions of employment with whomever they
are working for.  I?ve got no problem with any of that, and I am glad
to see that the Grupo M factory is apparently still providing job for
Haitians up on the border.  While there certainly are employers in
Haiti and elsewhere who underpay and overwork their employees, I have
never been to that free zone up on the DR border so have no idea if
Grupo M would fall into that category.  However, my guess is that
"exploited" workers (to use Mario?s term) are more often than not found
in businesses that are struggling to survive themselves.  Profitable
business have the resources to pay better, and are more likely to do

Any employer who fails to recognize that his employees are a vitally
important part of the business has got a problem.  However, most
companies, and certainly all successful companies, are aware of the
importance of their employees and will go to some length to keep them
happy.   Similarly most workers everywhere appreciate that fact their
employer is operating under some constraints.  Some, however, are
simply unable to see themselves on the same team as management, and in
my experience those are the workers most likely to create problems.  My
guess is that Mario Pierre, a self-proclaimed ?worker (himself)? would
probably fall in that category.  Why is that?

Unlike Mario, I see the primary struggle not as one between worker and
employer, but rather as a struggle for both of us to keep our company?s
customers satisfied.  That is to say, I am more interested in expanding
the pie rather than in trying to figure out a better way to divide up
the existing pie.  Those who concentrate on the latter often find that
their ?pie? has disappeared (witness Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, two
airlines notorious for their terrible service to Haitian passengers,
but whose unions were quite energetic in demanding more of the company

Mario probably feels that a consumer boycott of Levi-Strauss (Grupo M?s
customer) is a perfectly legitimate way of fighting for worker?s
rights.  Whether that is effective is, at best, a very questionable
proposition.  What it does do is upset your key customer, while
simultaneously setting management against employee.  Not smart.

Enterprise, the car rental company, says it best:  "If you take care of
your customers and employees, the bottom line will take care of
itself."  Time and again our company in Haiti has worked Saturdays,
Sundays, night shifts, you name it, to meet deliveries for desperate
customers.  That is our focus, and all of our workers know it.
Similarly, we are all on the same team and everyone takes a tremendous
amount of pride in a job well-done.  The assumption and reasonable
expectation of all employees is that as the pie gets bigger, we may
each get a larger piece of it.

There is a competing interest, of course, and that is what percentage
of any profit is re-invested in growing the business.  We tend to
re-invest a lot and in fact, have never paid a dividend.  As a result,
we have a fairly stable business with many customers.  Had we elected
to maximize workers? salaries from the beginning, we probably would
have pleased Mario Pierre, worker.  But we would be employing 30 people
instead of 500.  Salaries might be slightly higher, but with a slimmer
customer base, job security for all (management and worker) would be
much less.  As it is, our growth over the last 20 years, while
certainly not phenomenal, has provided room for internal promotions.
Almost all supervisors started out as workers, and one key manager (who
has since finished her college education) started out soldering parts
for $2 a day.

Lance Durban