An Open Missive to our Federal Elected Officials: Who Polices the Federal Government in Following Hiring Practices?

As a dual-service, disabled veteran, possessing two master-level degrees from accredited colleges and engaged in the pursuit of a Ph.D., I am finding, from personal experience and in speaking to others pursuing employment with disabilities, discrimination is alive and well.  I can understand the discrimination in private sector hiring; I do not like it but understand it.  Risk, costs of health insurance, and costs of doing business increase when hiring those with disabilities.  I do not see government as a “jobs program” in any way; however, the government has taken it upon themselves to enact rules specifically to hire those with disabilities.  Thus, the government should be more open to hiring those of us with disabilities.

People ProcessesFederal Government hiring procedures provide two hiring paths, competitive and non-competitive.  Under competitive, there are several ways of being placed ahead of others and points are awarded for certain hiring preferences, of which being a veteran is but one.  In non-competitive hiring, Schedule A provides for disabled people to sidestep the traditional, or competitive, practices of hiring to have an opportunity of obtaining employment without having to compete with candidates not experiencing the special conditions caused by disability

Disabled people are supposed to be able to employ Schedule A hiring practices for Federal Hiring because disabled people know how difficult it is to be hired for the private sector, city, county, and state government hiring.  Here is where those in hiring positions for the Federal Government are able to bypass the system and not hire disabled people:  no one is policing hiring.  I was informed, very politely, by the Inspector General’s Office that they do not inquire or investigate compliance with regulations for hiring.  The question to you, elected Federal Officials: who polices and ensures compliance with written protocols established by OPM for hiring?

As a disabled veteran, hiring in the private sector has become more difficult as my injuries have become more noticeable, from fall 2010 to present.  Having a disability that is nerve based, causing tics/twitches/spasms, hiring officials acknowledge directly or indirectly that since my cost to employer-based health care will come with a pre-existing condition and higher overall costs in ADA compliance and loss of potential (blue) money, I become the “candidate to beat,” and finally will be told, “you are overqualified,” “you are over-educated,” or my personal favorite “you are not a good fit.”  Thus, after four consecutive years of seeing my ability to be hired in the private sector diminish, I began more heavily pursuing employment with the Federal Government.

In June 2016, I was, finally, awarded a Schedule A letter to add to my documents in Federal Hiring.  With the Schedule A letter, I was provided OPM training on how to be “Direct Hired” and walked through the OPM website governing the policies that govern Schedule A hiring and disability hiring for the Federal Government.  Since the award of the Schedule A letter, I have had a VA hiring official refuse to use the letter claiming VRA and VEOA are both more efficient, and then not hire me for being “overqualified.”  I have experienced hiring managers tell me that “Direct Hire” authority lies with managers, and you need to know those managers to employ Schedule A preference, but the hiring managers cannot tell you who else to speak with to receive Schedule A hiring.  The absolute best excuse has been a hiring manager’s claim that there is no such thing as non-competitive hiring, that all applicants must be hired under competitive hiring standards, and then proceeded to tell me I am not qualified for the position because my degrees were not specifically those desired in the advertisement, even though the advertisement did not specify a specific degree, other than master-level.  Most recently I have been offered positions so far below minimum pay levels only because the government knows that desperation often breeds compliance, even if compliance creates actual harm, all in the name of some future date of possibly being hired for the wages qualified for at the time of hire.

Hence, I emailed the Inspector General’s office regarding these circumstances and received the following reply, “The Inspector General’s Office does not monitor compliance with hiring in the Federal Government.”  Thus, Elected Officials, I ask you, “Who regulates and ensures compliance in hiring for Federal Government positions?”  “Who is accountable for OPM regulations being adhered to by local hiring decision-makers?”  “Where can those who are disabled and trying to work turn for a reconciliation of just grievances?”  You, the elected officials, created this hiring system with preferences for disabled people to find work with the Federal Government, so who is policing the hiring for you?

I have now contacted elected officials in four separate states while living and voting in those areas, Ohio, Arizona, Utah, and Michigan, asking the representatives of elected officials directly the same questions posed in this missive.  Senator McCain’s office was the most oblique and obtuse claiming that if hiring practices are not being followed it is due to a lack of training somewhere, but the issue is not important enough for the senator’s time.  Upon arrival in New Mexico, I asked about hiring at the VA Hospital in Albuquerque and was told by several officials at the VA Hospital that the HR Department was under extra scrutiny due to a significant lack of following the hiring guidelines for Federal Government hiring; but, none of those people could tell me who polices the hiring practices and ensures compliance.

Why is this important; because disabled people are not receiving the kind of hiring support they need.  With the current costs to business operation in the private sector, I can understand, I do not like it, but I can understand, that hiring those with disabilities is going to be a major cash outlay upfront with increased risk.  As a business professional, I understand the risk/cost structure, and I understand that the speed of business dictates finding the lowest cost/risk, candidate.  For the city, county, state, and Federal Government positions, I cannot fathom why disabled people are dragged through such egregious hiring practices.  I did an unofficial survey of 25 Federal Government, NM State, Bernalillo County, and City of Albuquerque employees asking them one simple question, how long did it take for you to be hired initially.  The answers ranged from multiple months to 5 years of constant applying.  If the employee had been promoted, I asked how long did the employee wait for the promotion, and the answers ranged from 3-months in the initial position to 15-years.  As a business professional, I can confidently say this is where enormous amounts of blue (potential) money are being wasted, and as the axiom goes, burn enough blue money and green money, in this case, taxpayer funds, evaporate!

Ways to fix the hiring issue:

  • USAJobs.govEach Federal Government office needs to have a single person solely responsible for Schedule A and all other direct hire authority programs that non-employees can communicate with to apply directly to that organization. All open positions would run through this office first providing the option to request Schedule A preference, and upon that selection, USAJobs.gov would automatically drive the applications to the single person responsible for direct hiring and provide this person’s name and contact information to the applicant.
  • Stop the redundant efforts. Once a background and reference check has completed for one office, make this information available to all offices for 365-days.  With applicants making multiple applications to several different offices, this alleviates contacting those references multiple times, duplicating work, and wasting resources.  The technology to share is already available, and this is a low-cost, high-return option to invoke.
  • Every worker in government expects everything to take an inordinate amount of time to complete work. The longer the waiting game takes, the more potential (Blue) money is wasted exponentially.  Start shaving unproductive hiring practices, processes, and procedures.  Streamlining the hiring process overall is needed!

Blue Money BurningConsider the following as a general guide.  For every five dollars of blue money wasted, fifteen to fifty green taxpayer dollars evaporate.  Thus, when a position is open, the lost potential is the annual salary of the new hire for every month the position remains open and unfilled, and the green money loss is the annual salary of the position open every two months.  Between others having to work harder to cover the open position (Blue), the added strain and stress of working shorthanded (Blue), and the lost productivity of the entire team including the costs of long-term planning (Blue), along with other factors, are “hidden costs” of conducting business.  In the blue money loss, the green money evaporation is found in less time for maintenance, tools, and people are used harder and longer, overtime for important deadlines, and commitments lost are all, but not a complete list, of green money evaporation pits.

  • While not directly a hiring practice, reducing employee churn, training, and promoting more quickly is a best business practice. The people in government make the government, and I am not the only customer service professional pointing to government offices as the epitome of incompetent people wasting resources and destroying morale and customer relationships.

Case in point, at the Regional VA Office in Phoenix, AZ, three people regularly man the front desk and are the face of this VA facility.  Of these three, one person is incompetent and intentionally mean, remarking in demeaning and insulting tones to questions and speaking ill of the veteran they just “helped.”  One is trying and means well.  The third could not be hired to clean road kill off streets and is completely and utterly a drone, for example saying they are working on a task but never accomplishing anything productive.  Several times while being harassed assisted by these individuals, I witnessed the third person asking for help from another employee to staple forms together, asking “where does the staple go in the form again?”  Hence, I was not surprised when Phoenix became the face of incompetent and heartless government workers literally killing veterans.  Clean house of the deadwood, replace with hard-working people and streamline the process of work to reduce the opportunity for drones and hacks to manipulate the system.  Of the 10-15 people that regularly float through the Phoenix VA Regional Office Front-Desk/Waiting Area, I think two might actually be working.  The rest seem to have an amorphous purpose doing ambiguous work in a cloud of confusion taking taxpayer wages for no productivity.

  • Customer service improvement begins internally, employee to employee. Want to slow churn, improve how employees serve each other.  Want to reduce churn significantly, get the supervisors, team leaders, and other organizational leaders out of the office, onto the production floor, and actively exemplifying customer service and professionalism.  Improve employee to employee customer service and departments like the VA and DMV will immediately begin to change their horrendous reputations.

I am not the only person in this country paying taxes and angry about the drones and dregs hired to conduct government business.  It is past time to demand accountability for the taxpayer money waste at all levels of government.  Decreasing waste begins with improved hiring, respect for the government they work for by being honest in their employment, and increased regard for the people they serve.

When an employee commits a crime, they should be able to be fired and never re-hired by the government, then held accountable in a court of law for their crimes.  When an employee does not pay their taxes while working for the government, they should be fired and never re-hired, then held accountable like every other citizen not paying their taxes.  To hear about government computers full of porn, child porn, and online gambling, tells me there are workers that are not being supervised properly, work is not being done, and the supervisor and the offending employee need to be fired and never re-hired, then held accountable in a court of law for their crimes.  Being paid to work and not working is theft!  Child porn is a crime!  Watching porn on a computer while being paid is both sexual harassment and theft, both of which are crimes!

The taxpayer receives a slap to the face when federal, state and county government employees are caught gaming the system for personal profit, are not required to remit the monies ill-gotten, and are not fired, or worse are fired and an obscure union regulation returns them to work at the same salary and position of authority, or worse are promoted after being returned to work.  These are failures in treating people properly, honoring the tax dollars invested, and reflecting a failure of elected officials to supervise government workers needed to run the government.  When will our elected officials become the leaders we are paying them to be, holding those malfeasant characters legally and morally accountable and removing them from employment in government?

Your'e HiredWe hired you, the elected officials, to run the government for us, not to enrich yourselves at our expense, and not to allow nefarious and untrustworthy people to lie, cheat, and steal our tax monies and keep being paid with our tax money!  More egregious still is allowing those who have abused the power of government to cause harm, then allow those abusers to quietly leave the government with their pensions, and no criminal charges are ever pursued, e.g., Lois Lerner among many others.  When you want to know why the approval rating for elected officials is so low, look no further than the issues raised in this missive.  Fix the problems!

A Recent Customer Service Issue – Or, An Example of Why it is Past Time to Shift the Employment Paradigm

            Many sources, most of them veterans, will agree with this statement, “Dealing with the Veterans Administration is an activity fraught with hostility.”  On March 2013, I had the misfortune to experience another hostile occurrence.  Following is what happened.  The VA Hospital left a message in my voicemail alerting me that they had scheduled an appointment for me.  The message included instructions for me to call if this appointment caused scheduling difficulties, which it did.  I called the number, punched in the extension, was hung up on once, called back, and reached an appointment scheduler. The VA had scheduled my appointment for the middle of my workday, which required that I take time off my job to make the return call to discuss the scheduling conflict of the appointment.  The request was simple; please change the appointment to either early morning or late afternoon.  Although I requested no date preferences, travel and loss of work considerations were important and difficult to arrange and especially significant because I was a new employee and attendance is critical.

            The attitude of the appointment scheduler went from simple hostility to overt and active hostility at my request to move the appointment time.  The appointment scheduler reminded me in the most descriptive tones bordering, but not crossing into, profanity that it is “YOUR RESPONSIBILITY” [Emphasis his, meaning my responsibility] to keep the appointments as scheduled by the VA regardless of the inconvenience it causes me.  December 2012, before the start of my current employment, this appointment had been scheduled three times.  The VA canceled the appointment three times, and only once was the cancellation communicated to me prior to my driving to the hospital, checking in, and waiting for the appointment.  The same appointment scheduler provided the same hostile attitude in person as on the phone and made the following statements, quoted verbatim:

“Employment is NOT an excuse for moving an appointment with the VA Hospital System.” [Emphasis his]

“Moving your appointment is a privilege being extended to you that has not been earned.”

Judging by certifications on the walls of this person’s office, he is an example of award winning customer service at the VA Medical Center.  Having been a patient at several VA Medical Centers across the country, having been a customer at several of the VA Regional Offices, and having been a customer of the various VA Call Centers, unfortunately I have found this attitude typical.  This conversation was reported to the Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) for review.  I declined further follow-up as unnecessary.  The PACT team member did have a unique thought process; she continually returned with the same descriptive term for this incident, ‘not compassionate’.  I refuted this determination several times claiming unprofessional, irresponsible, and ludicrous, but the main complaint continued to be ‘not compassionate’.  The term simply does not fit the incident.  This incident was not created by a lack of compassion, but through an organizational culture gone rogue, hostile, and grown wild.

Returning to the incident, let us be clear and simple; the problem is not the workload the scheduler was quick to point out and often stated the amount of appointments scheduled in a month; it is not the individual; always the problem remains with the system, the organization, the processes and procedures, and finally the training.  This is institutional deterioration at its most egregious level.  “Juran’s rule (Tribus, n.d., pg 5) whenever there is a problem, 85% of the time it is in the system; only 15% of the time will it be the worker.”  This is very telling in this situation.  Before looking to the worker, examining the system will be the answer 85% of the time.  Organizational cultures are the “system” described by Tribus (n.d.) and Juran.  Organizational Designers will specify cultural steps for improvement, thus the PACT team, the focus on compassion, and the ultimate deception ‘customer focus’ hidden under the guise “Patient Aligned Care.”

The problem is a dual core issue, no personal responsibility for outcomes and no personal accountability for results.  This is the organizational culture feeding the hostility, the derision, and animosity found in all VA/Veteran interactions.  The front-facing customer service agent is not held accountable nor feels a responsibility towards the work he or she performs.  Because the same employee is protected in his work by the system, the system becomes a detriment to patient/customers and safeguards the individual from criticism and censure preventing the possibility of change in the individual.  The incredible amount of bureaucracy legislated, litigated, and lumped upon the VA must be exposed to the disinfectant of sunshine i.e. brought to the public attention, reduced bureaucracy in support of veterans and their families, and new solutions created to improve service.  The real solution is not focusing upon a culture grown wild, but short-circuiting the existing corporate culture to jumpstart a new culture.  It is past time, especially where all government agencies are concerned, to shift the paradigm, remove the job security, and breathe the life of freedom and true customer centered focus, i.e. the taxpayer, back into the various government and non-government organizations.

Considering the above incident, if the scheduler was an independent knowledge contractor whose contract extension rested solely upon the referrals and customer surveys of the VA’s customers, the above incident would not have occurred because accountability and responsibility would demand the patient receive higher value as a customer.  If the same accountability and responsibility were carried to the entire chain of command, to all the processes and procedures, and to the organizational hierarchies, the VA would not be the punchline before the epithet in a veteran’s story, but become respected for the work it does.  Yes, the VA has a difficult task to perform.  Yes, the workload is daunting.  Yes, as a government entity, cost constraints and budget decisions matter more than patient care.  Nevertheless, the patient should be more respected, valued, and serviced more appropriately.  By shifting the employment paradigm, an advantageous outcome to all stakeholders involved in the organization is a firmly projected possibility.

Reference

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

Benefits in the Workplace – Or, shifting the paradigm on worker compensation

While discussing the shift of employment paradigms with a fellow traveler, the question was raised that if everyone is an independent knowledge worker, what about fringe benefits and non-wage compensation.  Whether these are called benefits, perks, bonuses, fringe benefits, the end result is the same; competition in non-wage areas is employed to attract talent to an organization.  The history of benefits can be directly traced to the Federal Government requiring, by legislation and non-legislation, business organizations to compete without direct wage compensation to attract and hire an employee.  Therefore, wage compensation cannot be used to compete for talent pursuing or attracting qualified employees.  The sources for this requirement can be found in several legislated actions, the most important being the War Labor Board during WWI and the New National War Labor Board during WWII both of which carried presidential power and were not legislated.  These two periods of wartime effort formed much of the landscape found in modern employment situations; namely, classes of employment with specified wage ranges, equal pay for all sexes, the mandated eight-hour workday, the forty-hour workweek, and non-wage benefits.  Frequently, the definition of benefit is challenged, attacked, and litigated.

The dictionary holds several definitions for the term ‘benefit.’  Those with direct application are “to derive … advantage,” “a payment or gift,” and “something that is advantageous (Dictionary.com, n.d.).”  A follow-on question often asked is, “If the benefit offered does not provide an advantage to you personally, why not choose something different?”  For example, medical insurance is often offered as a workplace benefit.  However, if wages are not sufficient to allow participation, if premiums are involuntarily removed from paychecks, if employment requires membership, and if the offered ‘benefit’ is not used, is advantage really enjoyed; of course, not.  Yet, the cost of the unused ‘benefit’ is not compensated in employee wages because of wage laws and the possibility of litigation or accusations of unfair labor practices.  Although adapting a diversity of plans to meet a diversity of employee needs is preferable, the costs of customization are, frankly, exorbitant and extreme.  Yet, the buzzwords in employee benefits are always customizable, morale boosting, and game changing, as benefits are tools to compete for talent.

The issue of shifting the employment paradigm regarding fringe benefits and non-wage compensation is a two-fold issue.  By no longer requiring organizations to invest precious capital in non-wage compensation, the business organization possesses the freedom to contract with another small business owner, i.e. the worker, as an equal.  This means that the right to control what is offered as compensation rests as a negotiation tool for contracted services.  The worker has the freedom to reject or accept terms offered to find a perfect match.  This also places the worker in a unique position to be accessible as an equal with other companies vying for business.  Being equal with other business owners provides an entirely new market for many companies vying to do business solely with other businesses.

Innovation, freedom, and empowerment are words that are bandied about often, but, when one side of the equation has had their freedoms and rights stripped in exchange for a paycheck, innovation, freedom, and empowerment are muzzled.  This is exactly what has transpired in the modern workplace.  The Federal Government squeezes employees into a one-size-fits-all mold and employers are forced into complying in exchange for favorable employment law interpretations that Labor Unions constantly and expensively attack.  The costs are passed onto consumers who are already forced into the traditional role of ‘employee’; the vicious cycle turns and the only winners are politicians and political appointees.

A paradigm is nothing more than a pattern, a mold, or method.  A paradigm shift is nothing more than changing the mold, pattern, or method.  Many paradigm shifts, especially where data is understood, refer to changing the perspective of understanding, interpreting, or analyzing.  Kuhn (1996) offers logic points that detail the paradigm shift argument while detailing how paradigms are chosen, created, and clung to.  A logic point worth considering is that rules can overturn paradigms.  The paradigm is the mold or pattern, but rules are processes that people cling to like traditions, this does not say that paradigms are not clung to, as the human psyche does not like change.  When paradigm shifts meet rules, rules rule; but, only until a crisis occurs can rules be disregarded for a new paradigm.  A paradigm is created first by thought; these thoughts become actions in a specific pattern.  The specified pattern, repeated, becomes habit, which become processes when taught to another.  Processes become procedures when written down and applied to a larger audience through training.  The training done in accordance to specifications is the paradigm molding the future.  Employment has become a pernicious and hostile paradigm draining freedoms from individuals, capital from business, and producing waste, which invites government to legislate more restrictions on personal power.

Yet, it is asked, where is the crisis that will provide the impetus for changing paradigms?  The answer lies in the current economic and government state of decay and overregulation.  Here is a conundrum of a crisis.  Businesses cannot financially afford to retain sufficient employees to satisfy consumer demands; however, businesses cannot afford the consequences of an insufficient number of employees to perform the necessary work.  Look at one of the exorbitant, non-wage costs of an employee workforce: medical benefits have quadrupled in less than four years.  This is a 100% increase in year-over-year costs for the last four years, and the forecasts say this is going to continue for the foreseeable future.  This is a crisis in employment driving a shift in paradigm thinking.  Right now the answer lies in reducing employee hours, which cramps budgets for workers, reduces payroll, and wreaks havoc.  The retail industry has reported the largest drop of employee hours, down to 30.2 for full-time employees.  This does not mean that 9.8 hours are no longer needed by those previous full-time employees, those employees simply now must either stretch their dollars farther, make more familial budget cuts, or get another job.  Putting this into greater focus, this means a stay-at-home caregiver is out of the question.  If both parents are working already and had their hours and wages cut, this means both parents are now working part-time jobs on top of reduced full-time work.  The added tax burden of the second job, does not improve the financial lot of the family, nor will it sufficiently cover the lost wages of the cut hours.  Since wages are not going to go up for less work, a second job is not going to be the value-added solution, a different answer to the paradigm must be found.  This is a prime example of lost freedom, lost ‘Right to Control,’ and lost liberty, all in the name of old paradigms.

Another fellow traveler postulated that no freedoms are stripped in the modern workplace; his argument being that sacrificing the ‘Right of Control’ is expected as a condition of employment.  The counter argument is that the employee should never have to sacrifice his ‘Right to Control’ for a paycheck.  Businesses gain and benefit from professional and credentialed knowledge, experience, efficiency, and education of those aligning themselves with a brand or business organization, and, therefore, lose nothing, but rather embellish and enlarge the scope of the organization with greater opportunity for success and profit.  The requisite of employment to disavow a person’s inalienable right to freely and rightly pursue his work in a manner subsequent to his credentialed preparation and professional experience as he sees appropriate is foundational to his basic rights.  This is the first paradigm needing to be shifted in the modern workplace.  In shifting this paradigm, much of the problems and costs inherent in human capital are reduced or eliminated entirely.

References

Benefit. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 06, 2013, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/benefit

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. (Third ed., Vol. VIII). Chicago, ILL: The University of Chicago Press.

 

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Shifting The Employment Paradigm – Or, Hastening The Trend to Stop Knowledge Loss

Several mainstream academic and corporate researchers are reporting a trend in employment, shifting from an employer-employee relationship with fixed costs to a non-traditional or contractor based workforce, where costs rise and fall as needed to fill business needs.  American Express recently announced a huge layoff; other business organizations are also scaling back employee hours or executing mass layoffs.  Since the New Year (2013), several business organizations have announced reductions, under Federal Government pressure, making full-time employees become part-time employees with less than 20 hours a week scheduled.  Before implementing mass layoffs and the inherent drain of knowledge resulting from those layoffs, business leaders would do well to research shifting from employees to knowledge-based contractors, which has proven profitable and unencumbering to the ebb and flow of transition and to the uninterrupted, well-ordered processes of success as well as solving the unintentional consequences of unresolved patterns of cost escalating loss.

Consider the costs, not simply dollars and cents, but intellectual cost, productivity costs, time lost, and more that is now draining the resources of these organizations.  The fixed employee costs are too egregious to be borne, but the need for the work of the employee remains.  The fix to the problem continues to lie in disconnecting the employee and connecting that same worker to the organizational brand as an independent contractor.

For example, Company A employs 200 people.  Federal Government Regulations declare that the new fixed income costs have risen to $10,000 per employee, totaling $2 million annually.  Company B is a direct competitor to Company A and employs the same number of people, but 175 of these employees are contractors with various length contracts for specific work projects, hour of the day specified, and wages.  Company B, according to the IRS, employs only 25 employees at the same cost per employee of $10,000 totaling $250,000.  The advantages are obvious, realistic examples abound, and the process is slowly advancing.  It is past time to hasten this work.

Consider the loss of intellectual power during a mass layoff.  This is a potential (Blue) cost and the impact is measured in final (Green) cost outlays.  John Q. Worker, has been with Company A for three years and has moved from production labor to supervisor, mainly by his competency in keeping production running smoothly.  John and his senior team members have been groomed as subject matter experts and are recognized for their professionalism and work knowledge.  John’s team is laid off along with several lower ranking members of other teams.  The knowledge drain in production creates a debt into which training, time, and other company resources must be poured to recover the loss of knowledge when John and his team were laid off.  In a down economy, how does Company A recoup the loss of knowledge?  What happens if John and his senior team members, who all work well together, approach Company B and offer their knowledge for sale?

This single cost reflects a vast amount of organizational resources that will require double the cost outlay to replace.  How is the investment doubled? John was just one person; however, the doubling of the investment comes from the immediate lack of knowledge coupled with the need to train a replacement on the job.  Layoffs only work in boosting short-term profit margins but remain a permanent lose-lose situation for the business organizations due to the intellectual drain, the doubling of costs to replace and restructure, and the need for business to continue.  Needs of business do not go away when employees are laid off.  Yet, how many of these now doubled costs would be an issue if John was changed simply from an employee to an intellectual worker, in fact, all those who were laid off.  John and his team would remain in their current roles performing their skills and talents with freedom and independence, and the company would gain a powerful resource for improving production as well as taking a straight loss and turning it into a permanent gain.

This is the power of the independent contractor model.  Layoffs are straight loss scenarios: employers lose, employees lose, communities lose, states lose, and ultimately the entire society loses.  Jobs lost in New York make for tougher times in California.  Collins (2001) wrote, in his book ‘Good to Great,’ about this cycle of layoffs and the destruction caused.  If American Business cannot or will not choose a different model to embrace, other than employee/employer, the American Experiment is doomed to fail; doomed because the same problems inherent in ‘Right to Control’ are the root causes to runaway government power grabs, compensatory spending problems, and theft of public resources for personal gain.

Other thoughts from Collins (2001) include the following gems for consideration, regardless of your level of leadership.

“Mergers and acquisitions play virtually no role in igniting transformation…”  This means that changing organizations through merger or acquisition does not correct the core problems in an organization.

“Technology … has virtually nothing to do with igniting transformation…”  Adopting new technology does not change core problems.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness … is largely a matter of CONSCIOUS CHOICE.”  [Emphasis mine]

The final quote from Collins (2001) is the perfect thought:  choose greatness, free the employee to become an independent contractor.  This brings about the final conclusion discovered by Collins (2001): “… Good to great companies paid scant attention to managing change, motivating people, or creating alignment…”  Collins (2001) declares this is possible because the workers were empowered with the dual culture of entrepreneurship and discipline.  Other authors and business researchers are drawing the same conclusions.  When the employee is empowered, truly empowered, the organizational leaders are free to drive the company because the people problem is solved and the freedom to use their skills and talents as a contractor perfects the processes and procedures.

Shift the paradigm, free the employee, and watch the business become great.

How does Company B from our example manage all the contracts?  The HR team contracts two-contract lawyers for contract design.  One full-time IT person engineers the contract website where the prospective contractor creates a contract using options personally motivating to the contractor.  Upon legal endorsement of the validity of the newly created contract, the head of the HR Team, working in concert with the head of the department, makes operational changes to meet essential requirements, which are presented to the potential new contractor for negotiation and agreement.  Upon reaching an initial agreement, the document goes back to HR Legal Team for final review and approval.  Once completed, the new contractor signs with the department head and work begins.

References

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great why some companies make the leap… and others don’t. (1st ed.). New York, New York: HarperCollins.

© 2013 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

A Contradiction – ‘Or, An Exercise in Restoration.’

Shifting the business paradigm is comparable to shifting the December-placed holiday of Christmas to its rightful place in April.  The enlightenment is a bit distorted at first because of tradition, familial activities, and misguided Christian beliefs.  The enlightenment of shifting the business paradigm is a bit distorted at first because of similar reasons of tradition, company decisions and procedures, Federal and State Government intervention, the de-humanization of business organizations, and misguided employer/employee beliefs.

The history of Christmas is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by early religious leaders to direct the energies of early Christians away from holidays previously celebrated, specifically, the Roman Holiday of Saturnalia and the Scandinavian holiday, Yuletide.  Thus, a new holiday was created.  The history of business is a complex accumulation of events over time originally precipitated by financial leaders to direct individual craftsmen into organized activities for power with government and other business organizations.  Thus, modern business organizations were created.  Just as the symbols of Christmas stem from the holidays mentioned and were given an acceptable ‘Christ-like’ connection, so did business practices stem from corrupt political practices and were given an acceptable name of democratic enterprise.

Just as Christmas has become a secular as well as Christian potpourri of love, family, religion, greed, frustration, envy, strife, even violence, and other desirable and undesirable characteristics, business practices have evolved into similar characteristics.  Just as craftsmen worked initially because of their love of family, to provide for them in adequate provision, and for their love for their craft, business organizations have morphed into a desire for gain and greed and control.  While de-humanizing, this morph is not bad, simply misguided and easily corrected by returning the ‘Right to Control’ back to the individual employee.

Through the charitable feelings of a person’s heart to “Give good gifts,” the current celebration of Christmas often loses the main component of the professed holiday, Christ.  Well-intentioned people have vainly fought for the rights of the worker with the energies of their hearts only to result in further captivity, the fundamental flaw in the unrecognized logic being not ‘rights’ but individual freedom.  Rights cannot be given by man to man; rights come from a supreme being to man.  Individual freedom can be given from man to man, from business to man, and from government to man.  Since the mid-1600’s, professors of religion and well-intentioned people have been trying to “Put Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  The problem is a fundamental flaw in the logic of the holiday; Christ does not belong in Christmas.  By celebrating Christmas in a time and season where Christ does not belong, we perpetuate a myth, a sham, and a lie.  Does this mean we should not celebrate Christ’s birth date?  The answer is unequivocally NO!  Labor unions are a lot like Christmas celebrations.  Should we abolish labor unions?  The answer is NO!  Should we condone the violence unleashed when unions are angry, the constant theft of resources, the preparations for something good which ends with legal battles?  NO!  Mixed logic, moral decay, and those who preach ‘Power to the worker,’ and steal that power for personal gain are enemies of individual freedom.

I am not proposing the elimination of Christmas but rather for placing it where it belongs in the month of April when Christ was born, just as I am not proposing the elimination of correct and right business practices but placing it where it belongs in the negotiable hands of free individuals to negotiate a win-win scenario where work is concerned. Moving Christmas does not destroy Christmas, but places the celebration into its proper place and leaves December open for a different holiday.  Mainly, we must choose to celebrate Santa Claus or Jesus Christ.  These are not one and the same; these two people are not and cannot exist in the same holiday without creating confusion, perpetuating lies and deceit.  Power for personal gain and individual freedom cannot exist at the same time without creating captivity, confusion, and the perpetuation of lies and deceit.  An old mentor constantly quoted this axiom, “If the solution is not ‘Win-Win,’ it is a straight loss.”

While St. Nicholas is reported to have been a person or monk who traveled around doing good, he never had a sleigh, reindeer, and magical abilities.  The man celebrated at Christmas as Santa Claus is a myth, and in the same breath as singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ we want to honor Jesus Christ as the “Reason for the Season.”  The duplicity is a struggle for the conscience and the heart. Just as we inherited and sustained this struggle from the captivity of our fathers, we inherited and sustain a mode of earning a living from our fathers that tries our conscience, our hearts, and wallets.  Consider the problems with being a customer, the dehumanizing influence of the business organization, labor unions, etc.  Many of the problems in business stem from inherited tradition that did not work in times past and continue to not work now, but remain supported simply due to fear of change or because, “That’s now how it is done.”  Holiday celebration and employment conditions are linked in a myopic cycle that is anathema to anything different.  Dauten (2003) talks about this problem extensively and his suggestion of “Killing the status Quo” is excellent.

Tolkien offers wisdom very applicable to our modern world.  “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Along with, “It’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple Life.”  Ask yourself some questions such as “Do I honor a “Simple Life?”  “Has my holiday celebrations become more about outdoing last year’s celebrations and gift giving for personal achievement?”  “What is the aim of my holidays?”  “Why am I celebrating, what am I celebrating, and/or do I enjoy celebrating?”  If you do not like these answers, change.  Shift the paradigm where holidays are concerned.  The same argument holds for working, ask, “Do I enjoy what I do?”  If yes, “Do I enjoy those I work for?”  If the answer remains yes, consider job security, personal/professional growth, and long-term prospects.  Yet, if at anytime the answer is no, shift the paradigm, consider becoming an independent contractor selling your knowledge and experience.

Just as the Roman calendar and Jewish calendar place the actual birth of Christ in April, the same calendars place the death of Christ in April.  The bible records Christ’s celebrating the Passover before His death.  The Passover was also recorded as occurring during His birth. We can certainly celebrate Christ on His actual birthday, celebrate His death and resurrection more circumspectly, and change how we worship the Savior of the world.  Just as these facts substantiate the birth of Christ, facts of business corruption and coercion substantiate the plight of the individual worker as a craftsman.  We can change that just as we can change when we celebrate the birth of Christ.

With the bustle of Christmas 2012 in the rear-view mirror, with 2013 fast approaching and before the “bills of Christmas” come due, consider the holiday paradigm.  Ponder the feelings of joy, life renewal, and hope that fills the breast in the early days of April.  With the bustle of day-to-day stress, tax seasons approaching, and bills for overextending finances, consider shifting the business paradigm.  Ponder the freedom of negotiating your business life and regaining the control that has been relinquished.

References

Dauten, D. (2003). The laughing warriors: How to enjoy killing the status quo. Richmond, CA: Lumina Media.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Employee Practices – Or the Trouble Labor Unions Cause Part 1

Disclaimer:  For the record, this author is not anti-union.  I am anti-violence when used as the tool of ideological individuals to destroy private property, intimidate, threaten, and pressure as negotiating tactics.  I do not support individuals who intentionally work slow or damage machinery as a labor-negotiating ploy.  I do support accountability, responsibility, and reasoned negotiation by impassioned people to correct faults, improve safety, and raise the bar of excellence.  I fully support groups of people combining together to focus effort upon a problem and raise awareness in the public eye.  The moment this group of people become violent, raise their voices or fists in anger, and try to force someone else to do what they want or steal money or other resources for personal gain, the group of people have crossed the line and become a force not supported or worthy continued sustenance.  Thus, I am not anti-union; it is important to note this clearly in the beginning as many people have mistaken my stand on unions to be anti-union when this is inherently false.

To understand unions in the modern world of labor relations, solid historical perspective is required.  With the beginning of the industrial revolution, labor unions began forming.  The intent was to improve working conditions, standardize working hours, and reduce accidents.  With technology advances in the beginning of the industrial revolution, maiming, blindness, lung conditions, and many other machinery caused problems were horrific.  The use of children in labor camps, on-board ships, and in mills was a horrendous injustice, completely wrong, and desperately needed correction.

Some small local or geographically/industrially specific unions had organized prior to the 1880’s.  These unions were violent in nature, full of angry people, who felt justified in harming those running the large manufacturing plants where horrific injuries occurred with no chance for the common worker to improve working conditions.  While raising awareness, these violent unions also harmed their cause with violence thus defeating their purpose without changing anything.

Unions have been steeped in communism theology and continue this theology to this day.  The principles of labor for the worker come directly from the writings of Karl Marx and the ‘Communist Manifesto.’  The first large-scale attempt at unionizing workers to improve conditions on a national scale in America is found in the Knights of Labor.  .  The Knights of Labor rejected socialism, communism, and radicalism.  This attempt fails for a lot of reasons, mainly the lack of unified structure and political pressures.  Society was not ready to change in the 1880’s; so labor unions in the US changed tactics, leaders, and aims; many of the Knights of Labor who eschewed American ideals are found in and form the bulwark of the change in unionism tactics..

From this rebirth come the first recognized labor unions formed by Samuel Gompers.  Samuel Gompers is the titleholder for longest serving president in the American Federation of Labor (AFL) now known as the AFL-CIO.  Samuel Gompers is a radical socialist bent on forcing through an ideological agenda.  Between 1880 and 1940, several things occurred:  society shifts where child labor is concerned, violence in union strikes and boycotts catches national attention, and Gompers concludes a national organization of labor into small local bodies electing labor friendly politicians into the political landscape.  With the election of President Wilson, Gompers becomes a household name outside of union families, and WWI sees a growth in both union membership and union influence in all political forums throughout the US.

Another aspect to the emergence of labor unions and power was found in their cozy relationship with organized crime.  Prohibition brought to the US powerful families of criminals dedicated to smuggling alcohol and other illegal products.  These families brought organization, power, and violence.  The unions brought forced labor dues, manpower, and energy; and the meeting of money and organization fostered a relationship of blood, violence, and scare tactics that continue unabated today.  It is important to note that violence, strikes, boycotts, and the friendly relationship between labor unions and organized crime has only increased with time, not decreased.  FBI reports continue to document the connection between organized crime, mafia, and labor unions.  From Samuel Gompers to Richard Trumka, current president of the AFL-CIO, violently settling grudges, attacking innocent people to force union membership, and threatening business owners and destroying business property to force the adoption of a union or remain union continues.

Gompers set the standard for a two-pronged attack on business: (1) violently striking employees limiting production and breaking equipment and (2) employing the courts to harass, intimidate, and harangue business owners and individual employees.  The reason for the attack mattered not and someone else always paid the cost.  The attacks worked due to a mixture of empathy and sympathy combined with a desire for power and future election possibilities.  This pattern of attacking remains effective for the same reasons.  Politicians, hell bent on personal power with a desire to reign as an American king, cozy up to the union plate of money and political favors.

The IRS granted employers the ‘Right to Control.’  Labor unions stepped in and demanded the ‘Right to Control,’ and the employee was left in the lurch with no rights, no liberty, and no way out.  A simple process exists when employees desire union membership, while complicated in legal maneuvering; the process is fairly straightforward and simple. When labor union members wish to end their union membership, the process is through a court system of union-biased laws and union inflicted violence.  Federal Law becomes convoluted and myopic regarding union labor laws.  For example, “Closed Shops” might be against the law, but the practice remains strong.  In a “Closed Shop,” every job must be a union job and membership is prerequisite to employment.  If a union member should discontinue his membership in the union, the union member loses his job, “Closed Shop.”  Officially, this is a practice that has been stopped, but state and federal law is union-biased, so the practice simply shifts to under the table.  “Open Shops” come in two varieties, “Agency” and “Free Rider.”  These shops are anything but “Open.”

“Agency Shops” are businesses where a majority of the employees have elected for union membership and even non-union members are forced to pay union dues.  These non-union dues payers have no voice in the union, no rights in the union, but have forced union representation, supposedly, if trouble arises.  In theory this works; in action many non-union forced dues payers are second-class citizens in these “Open Shops,” and the union could care less provided the money continues to roll in from forced dues.  “Free Rider Shops,” are exactly the same thing, only, the labor union cannot force non-union members to pay dues for union coverage.  The union coercion of the decision makers and of other employees to entice them into a union in “Free Rider Shops” is well documented.  Tire slashing, late-night threatening phone calls, intimidation, and threats of physical harm are also well-documented problems in “Free Rider Shops.”

The problem inevitably is money.  According to the union, if the employee wants union protection, the employee will pay for it.  The average union labor dues is around $400 annually, this is before the forced payment of healthcare cost, retirement, etc.  This number does not include the cost of operation the employer must pay to support the union.  Training costs are not included in the operating cost nor reflected in the dues cost.  All these variables are not fixed and add to the overall cost of unions. Adding in the intimidation factor, loss due to theft and breakage, loss due to strikes, etc., the difficulties unions cause and the overall cost to society to support unions is well past the unsustainable point.  More on the general overall costs of unions can be found here.

The fees involved in discontinuing membership in a union are hidden deep in the miasmic swamp of mouse print, but since the union member is technically given this information, the fees are legal.  The process usually requires the employee to hire a lawyer who specializes in contracts.  The union, who will employ contract and litigation lawyers, does not cover their own legal fees and passes them on to the union member in an effort to keep the dues money coming in.  Many people with similar horror stories, who relate the process of discontinuing membership in a union, can be located through an easy Google Search.  Discontinuing a union membership can become more difficult than a space shuttle launch, and the costs are always borne by the individual wanting to leave the labor union.

This remains America, the land of the longest living constitution in recorded history, yet the freedom ending labor unions are allowed to thrive due to the power of money in politics, the power of organized crime, and the thrust and parry of politicians and judges too concerned with continuing power perks to right the wrong.

Fear keeps unions living, fear of being a victim and fear of becoming a victim.  Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear to risk, all these and more drive the union machine.  Yet, the birth of freedom in a worker’s heart makes courage overpower fear.  The ability to work in partnership with a company breeds new freedoms, powers, and strength.  Fear is destroyed courage, confidence, and freedom.

The problems with unions can be eradicated by freeing the worker, by placing the ‘Right to Control’ back into the hands of the individual worker.  The saying went abroad that Michigan would become a ‘Right to Work State’ only when the fires of the sun cooled.  Yet, the impossible has occurred and Michigan is now a ‘Right to Work State.’  The impossible does occur.  Free the worker.  Shift the employment paradigm.  Let this process to truly ‘Free the Worker’ begin by removing the chains of forced ‘employee’ by allowing these workers to be contractors, consultants, and controllers of their own individual destinies.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Employee Benefits – A History of Corruption and Coercion

From humble beginnings atrocities begin.  Every action must follow immutable and unalterable laws, consequences follow choices; this article follows the influence of choice pieces of legislation from impetus to current event entanglements.  Only through learning history can proper change produce preferred results.

Modern employment, as we know it, began with a small change from the republic principles of free enterprise morphing into the democratic philosophies of top-down government control.  Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen coming home from WWII had left jobs and wanted those jobs back; so, the Federal Government changed policies, wrote legislation, and veteran preference in hiring began.  Sounds good, right?  But by carving out exclusions for veterans, other people wanted to possess special treatment.

What occurred in Federal Legislation has caused some serious problems; the first of these problems began with the altruistic ideal of full employment.  Full employment refers to  “the continuing policy and responsibility of the Federal Government . . . to coordinate and utilize all its plans, functions, and resources for the purpose of creating and maintaining . . . conditions under which there will be afforded useful employment opportunities, including self-employment, for those able, willing, and seeking to work, and to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power.”  (Scitovszky, 1946)

The Federal Government in 1945, with enough good intentions to pave a super-highway from New York to Beijing, sought to avoid the natural swings which occur in finance and wrote a bill, eventually entitled the ‘Employment Act of 1946’ to avoid future problems experienced between the prosperous 1920’s and the depression of the 1930’s.   To try to improve financial situations for the Federal Government, employment was considered and tied to economic indicators, suggesting low unemployment equates to higher tax revenues and dollar strength.  This reasoning is valid; however, the consequences spinning off these legislative nightmares are self-defeating.

The next time these economic indicators were reviewed was in 1976 with the ‘Full Employment and Balanced Growth Bill.’  Both of these bills, 1946 and 1976, show tremendous influence from Keynes and his theories of being able to spin into prosperity by incurring unsustainable debt.  Sections 2b and 2c of the original bill from 1945 are crucial to understanding the nightmare problem.  In 1945 the legislators declared full employment is possible for all those who desire it, and proposed full employment through federal government spending.  See the problem, especially in the current fiscal cliff negotiations; the Federal Government has become a consumer of goods and exercises a little known principle “Those who pay, control.”  By becoming a consumer of goods and spending money as a customer, the Federal Government can now demand private enterprise obeisance.

Section 3 of the 1945 version of this legislation requires that the president forecasts and writes a budget to increase or decrease spending based upon unemployment numbers and percentages.  The president must forecast spending on a yearly basis to which Congress must then write the underlying legislation as part of the budgeting process.  The president was made directly responsible for the employment of every person in the US who wanted to work, desired to work, was healthy enough to work, and the legislative bodies would produce the needed bills to make it happen.

Flash forward from 1945 to 2012 and the problem is glaringly obvious.  With a disinterested president failing in his legal duties to propose legislation and forecast employment and spending to the House of Representatives and the Senate, a contentious House and Senate that is more interested in internal politics, divisive sound-bites, class warfare and race games, and world economy fluctuating between dead and dying, the problem with this legislation becomes clear.  There is no control mechanism that compensates for the above.  Dictating through top-down government what businesses need to produce and still call it free enterprise is not possible.  The principle of full employment limits choices by forcing people to become employees through inflation, limiting markets, and the over regulation of enterprise.  These laws do not treat people equally because of the definition of employee, which feeds into the description of full employment.  Ranchers, farmers, and other independents suffer because of these laws and the definitions and classifications of the term ‘employee’ and ‘employment’ including ‘self-employment.’  Making the Federal Government a consumer has failed to provide true economic freedom and prosperity.

The nightmare of compensatory finance, as established by Keynes, is the main problem facing America today.  These two little known bills continue to rob America of greatness, steal future generations of prosperity through debt, and keep the Federal Government wasting tax dollars on frivolous projects.  Full employment is a worthy goal, but it is not obtainable due to the following reasons:  Federal Government spending into debt just to buy goods not used; Federal Government spending simply to keep unemployment numbers low; or Federal Government spending to soften financial cycles, all of which are unerringly wrong.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

References

Barro, R. J. (2011, August 24). Keynesian economics vs. regular economics. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903596904576516412073445854.html

Sanotini, G. J. (1986). The employment act of 1946: Some history notes. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Scitovszky, A. (1946). The employment act of 1946. Social Security Bulletin,