When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

02 October 2006

The Insecure American

Pressured by foreign competition and impatient domestic investors... employers broke the post-war "work contract" with employees under which they had shared the gains and risks of the post-war economy. As a result, more of the risks were shifted onto employees. Under the old contract... "workers received job security, guaranteed benefits, and good pay,” while "employers got loyal, productive workers who invested in skills specific to their jobs and didn't jump ship when times were tough." Under the new contract, set unilaterally by employers in a labor market in which private-sector unions are about as weak as they were in 1906, workers have no job security, they pay more for their health insurance, and they face lean retirements on 401(k)s. A 1980s memo from the CEO of General Electric stated the new contract's terms: "The only job security is a successful business. If loyalty means that this company will ignore poor performance, then loyalty is off the table." Peter Drucker expressed the underlying dynamic in a chilling image: "Companies built to last like pyramids are now more like tents."
The Insecure American (The Atlantic Unbound, September 21 2006)


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