On last night’s broadcast, we were truly pleased to discuss a safety program that is jointly managed by labor and management at
Stockton Steel, a subsidiary of Herrick Corporation, and one of the largest steel fabricators in the country. The company reached 4.5 million work hours, over 3000 days, free of lost-time incidents, and the company marked the impressive milestone with a celebratory barbecue. Joining us to discuss the details of the program were Stockton Steel’s Corporate Safety Manager, Tom Davies, and Iron Worker District Representative Erik Schmidli.
The program is notable for a number of reasons. Not only is it a success in terms of health and safety, it is a model for labor –management cooperation. For, as Tom is quick to point out, one of the by-products of having done the right thing for workers was a significant increase in profitability. Perhaps the most refreshing fact of all, is that the program was indeed initiated by the CEO of Stockton who wanted to take the company from good to great. It is a testament to what good things can come about when people care more about what is right, and worry less about who is right.
This snapshot of events in American industry has further convinced me of something I have long believed to be true – we can have it all. We can have an industrial base in this country that is, profitable and people centered. We do not have to choose between the two. To maintain that we do, is to create a false dichotomy that is divisive, and ultimately destructive. The same is true, of course, about our current political quagmire.
Recently, Senator John McCain received the 2017 Liberty Medal from former Vice President Joe Biden at the National Constitution Center. He was, in my estimation, his usual dignified self. There he was being recognized for his achievements by someone from far across the political aisle. Rather than try on some false persona and intimate that he and Biden were ideologically similar, McCain spoke to how men of good will, who often disagree, should treat one another when they engage. He said:
“We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity.”
McCain outlined for us not just the need for cooperation, but also the responsibility of it. He’s clear that it is only when we work together for a greater good do we ever find solutions to our problems. He was also not squeamish about admitting that we, as a people, are not perfect, but that cannot deter us from our goal, because we have been given the means to do so. McCain remarked:
“What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed.
Finally, he described, in a way that perhaps only John McCain could, what the difference is between true patriotism and shallow, jingoistic nationalism. When I heard the following words, I realized deeply what a loss our country will suffer when John McCain is no longer a loud and constant voice in the United States Senate. He was never more eloquent when he said:
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.
So thank you, John McCain. Thank you, Tom Davies, and thank you Erik Schmidli. Thank you to everyone out there, and I believe there are many, who rise above ego, petty jealousies, party politics and shameless, self- serving grabs at power. Thank you for viewing our workplace and our nation not as an arena, where after useless bloodletting only those still standing receive all the wealth and glory due the victorious gladiator, but rather as an opportunity to promote the most good for the most people by facing each new challenge with a spirit of cooperation and respect, even for those with whom you may not agree.
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. Listen to the latest episode at laborpress.org or check out the entire Blue Collar Buzz library at www.am970theanswer.com.