You can tell a lot about the culture of a company by the way it treats its employees.Ã‚Â We hear from CEOs all the time how they believe that their employees are their greatest assets.Ã‚Â Unfortunately what these CEOs say doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always correspond to the way they actually treat their Ã¢â‚¬Å“greatest assets.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I spoke with a friend of mine today who has worked for the Orange County Register for the past 31 years.Ã‚Â He has been out on disability dealing with Stage 4 Colon Cancer for the past few months.Ã‚Â He learned on Friday that the Register had eliminated his position, effective immediately.
Employees have three basic needs: to be treated fairly and equitably through salary, benefits, and job security; to have a sense of achievement about their work and their company; and to have camaraderie with their co-workers. This can be found in every country and occupation, from research scientist to autoworker. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s white-color or blue-collar; it applies to 95% of the workforce.
I have watched the Orange County Register attack public employees in their editorials as being over paid and recipients of bloated pensions.Ã‚Â In their lead editorial today they opined about how the current County Board of Supervisors Ã¢â‚¬Å“sided with taxpayers by challenging retroactive benefits boost for retired deputies.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â
The editorial conveniently forgets that at the time the benefits were enacted three conditions were in place that drove the decisions made. First, the 3% @ 50 pension benefit had become the standard for public safety employees in California. Any jurisdiction wishing to hire qualified law enforcement personnel needed to provide this benefit.Ã‚Â Second, at the time the benefit was negotiated, we were experiencing an economic upturn in California and Orange County.Ã‚Â The financial calculations and forecasts indicated that the contributions necessary to meet the future liabilities were manageable. Third, the public support for law enforcement and public safety personnel was at an all time high after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.Ã‚Â Virtually every Republican in the state was lining up behind public safety employees, tripping over themselves to move to the front of the line and demonstrate how much they supported public safety.
Yet the Orange County Register editors ignore those inconvenient truths and bash the prior Board of Supervisors (all Republicans) as lap dogs of greedy unions.Ã‚Â This position was puzzling to me until I spoke toÃ‚Â my friend today.
He started chemo about a month ago and was hoping that his doctor would let him return to work at least part time.Ã‚Â His doctor had previously indicated that he would more than likely be out on disability for at least a year, but the financial strain would be significant and he felt that he would certainly lose his job if he was out that long.
AsÃ‚Â of Friday, August 3rd he wont have to worry about his job.Ã‚Â The Register told him that his job had been eliminated.Ã‚Â He has lost his job after 31 years of dedicated service.Ã‚Â He will receive no severance pay, no buyout, and will lose his medical insurance.Ã‚Â Well, if he can afford his $800 COBRA premium, I guess he can keep the insurance for 18 months.Ã‚Â After that, no matter how much he can afford, at his age and now with a history of cancer he will not be able to get any insurance at all.
He was told that he can apply for a new job at the Register, but he figures that it is unlikely he would qualify given his current medical condition and the fact that more than 100 other employees, who have now lost or will soon lose their jobs, will be competing for those same few vacancies. At 61 years old, my guess is that my friend would be more likely to find a minimum wage job working at WalMart as a greeter.
So IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m no longer surprised at the RegisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s position on public employees.Ã‚Â Considering how they treat their people, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m glad I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work for them.Ã‚Â I understand now why people like John Seiler, who took the RegisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s buyout offer earlier this year, have no problem being critical of public employees and their benefits.Ã‚Â Heck, he got his so why should he care.Ã‚Â I guess that goes for the editors like Steven Greenhut as well who hold the same point of view.Ã‚Â I doubt he has to worry much about getting laid off.Ã‚Â The worst he has to fear would be getting a golden buyout offer.Ã‚Â
But Steven, I do wonder how you feel about the way your corporate bosses have treated a guy youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably known for years and talked to from time to time in the halls of the Register?Ã‚Â I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect an answer; I know you have to worry about your job.
One final note, on August 1, 2007 the RegisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s parent corporation Freedom Communications, Inc. announced the purchase of five publications from Colusa Publishing Company, Inc., a Morris Newspaper Corporation in northern California. The publications include: The Willows Journal, Willows, Calif.; Orland Press-Register, Orland, Calif.; Colusa County Sun-Herald, Colusa, Calif.; the Corning Observer, Corning, Calif. and Smart Shopper, Orland, Calif.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The acquisition of these publications shows our belief in community newspapers,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Jonathan Segal, president of FreedomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Community Newspapers Division.
Well Jonathan, to bad for my friend, you and the corporation you help run have no belief in your employees, and no integrity as an employer.Ã‚Â It certainly doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak well for Freedom Communications moral and ethical character when you eliminate the job of a 31 year employee while he is out on disability, fighting cancer.
Looks to me like the employees of the Orange County Register could use some of that good old union representation they let go of years ago.Ã‚Â As the phrase goes, “Live Better, Work Union.”
It was interesting to read the “Values” identified on the Freedom Communications, Inc. website.Ã‚Â I have a hard time believing they actually apply any of these values in the management of their business.
Respect for Individual Freedom
We cherish the basic freedom of individual expression, our individual rights to be, to think, to act, to fulfill our destinies as we understand them Ã¢â‚¬â€ knowing that our own freedom should only be limited by respect for the rights of others to their individual freedoms. This founding principle of our great nation is the guiding principle of our enterprise.
We understand that the choices we make in life have consequences and that we are accountable for those consequences. We strive to make choices that are constructive and upbuilding for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our colleagues and customers, and for the communities in which we live.
We firmly adhere to a personal code of values. These values are the bedrock of our relationships, both personal and professional. Our integrity develops out of respect for ourselves and others, and it carries with it a strong sense of moral responsibility. We demonstrate integrity by striving to do what is right.
We are a community, a free association of human beings sharing values, bonded by daily experiences and secure in the knowledge that we care for and respect each other. We are united by our humanity and our shared commitments. We acknowledge the differences among us, as well as our common needs. We respect the guidance of those who are wiser and more experienced than we are in building our enterprise and in sustaining our unique bond.
We seize the opportunity to learn Ã¢â‚¬â€ to seek, to listen, to grow and to achieve our full potential. Moreover, we support the learning of others by striving to open minds, to enlighten those around us and to assist those engaged in the processes of development and discovery. Learning is one of our highest priorities. It is constant and without end.
I hope the readers of the Orange County Register will consider Freedom Communication’sÃ‚Â adherence to its stated values when they consider the editiorial positionsÃ‚Â theirÃ‚Â flagship publicationÃ‚Â takes.