Labor Day 2012

I was given a book by a professor at Farmingdale a few years ago “Ideas Are Free” is the title. It sat on a shelf in my workshop unread. Last week I opened the book to a page with paragraph heading “It’s not your job to think.” I actually heard that phrase from a supervisor when I was a young man working as a technician for NY Telephone Company (now Verizon). I didn’t pay any attention to that idiotic statement then, and I recommend that no one ever take that sentiment serious. Moreover it was not the attitude that was reflected by the company

Frederick Taylor introduced the modern science of business management. His work has been credited with making industry very efficient, and workers more productive. There is a quote from Taylor’s writing below

"All of the planning which under the old system was performed by the workman, as a result of his experience, must of necessity under the new system be done by the management in accordance with the laws of science……. It is also clear that in most cases one type of man is needed to plan ahead and an entirely different type to execute the work."

The worker was not asked for his initiative

"We do not want his initiative. All we want is of them is to obey the orders we give them, do what we say and do it quickly."

As much as Taylor did for the science of management, he would be laughed at today. In the past I have written about the “Intelligence of Work”

When I worked as a craftsman for NY York Telephone the engineers would give us detailed plans to complete a job. The more experienced technicians would look at the plans and tell the engineers what had to be changed in order to get the results they wanted. The telephone company was a fairly enlightened company. AT&T and affiliates (Ma Bell) were known for being great managers. As a result of the workers input we would re-write the Bell System specs.

Numerous innovations were developed in the field while in the course of doing our jobs. We got no pay for our inventions, but our writings and inventions would be in our employee file to be judged when being recommended for promotions.

Some of the best lessons were learned during the most stressful emergencies. When hit by a hurricanes or an ice storms, workers were dispersed to regions that needed them. The interaction between craftsman allowed them to learn more about procedures each had learned, and now were being taught to the new members of the crews. When they went back to their normal assignments they brought new skills with them, and left a few with the host crews. This was an unanticipated benefit, but if it was intentional, it would have been genius.

This creation and dissemination of ideas goes on in every arena the medical professionals, firefighters, law enforcement professionals, laboratory scientists, teachers, construction workers and many others, but without having this vast army of people at that level where things are actually built, we can’t have continued success as a prosperous nation.

As many of you know, LIMBA has endorsed the building of a demonstration track for Maglev. The Maglev (magnetically levitated train) was invented here on Long Island and built in China and Japan. If the investment community decided to build out a national system it would create 20 million new jobs in engineering, construction, electronics, power generation and distribution and numerous other crafts. That is just one example of ways that we can keep craftsman employed and innovation alive. And there are numerous other ideas out there that would also contribute to our betterment. 

As we honor the role of the working people that actually physically assembled this nation on Labor Day, we must ask, where are the visionary leaders that will re-engage this valuable segment of the population? Enjoy your Labor Day holiday!

Ernie Fazio

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