Labor Day Message 2007



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Members and friends
I was thinking recently about the intelligence of labor. I mean physical
labor. There is an unspoken belief that physical labor is somehow short
of intellectual input. It is truly a silly assumption. But I’m afraid
that too many of us make that mistake. Problem solving is the essence of
being a good mechanic.
 
I was listening to a professor that had written a book on the topic and
was being interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC. The professor came to the
same conclusion that I did. There is a high degree of intelligence in
this kind of problem solving behavior. It is very different from verbal
ability, which is our usual method of judging mental ability. It is not
just a matter of training and exposure. Training can only take you so
far. People who do not have the inherent skills to be an innovative
mechanic may never be able to acquire those skills. In other words they
may not be "smart" enough. The author a professor himself, asked Lehrer
this question,"Did you ever see a professor trying to fix something".
His experience was that, despite the number of degrees that hang on your
wall, you could be the epitome of ineptitude and colossal stupidity when
it came to mechanical things. On the other hand people with PhD’s are
not excluded from the joy of that kind of creativity. This professor and
his father, also a professor, were quite adept at building and fixing
things. His dad worked as a lumberjack in his youth and he was working
as a handy man after his retirement for the joy of it.
 
Studs Terkel is known for his respect of the people who work with their
hands. There is a nobility in it according to Terkel, and it should be
respected. But it is more than just noble. The job of being a fireman
intrigues me. Beside having the routine courage to enter a fire to fight
it, what do you do when things go wrong? Every fireman will tell you,
they eventually things will go wrong.  What you do next draws  from your
training, but it is usually your wits that save you. When I left the US
Coast Guard years ago I worked for the telephone company. We had manuals
that could tell you chapter and verse exactly how a job should be done.
Those manuals were obsolete the day they were printed, because the
craftsman in the field, in many cases, had already figured out a better,
faster way to do the job. The company knew it too, and encouraged the
workforce to rewrite procedures that were improved upon in the field.
 
After leaving the telephone company I went into financial services
sales. In the middle of that career I built my own home. I took a small
house with no basement and asked my architect to design a much larger
house around that original house adding 1500 square feet and digging a
basement. I took time off from my work and built the house myself. There
were problems encountered that could be foreseen. Most of the problems,
however, had to be solved as they became apparent. There is a joy and
satisfaction in accomplishing, what was for me at least, a mammoth set
of tasks. I did have a few talented people help me work things out.
 
There is a conclusion that I have reached about labor and the general
welfare of all of us. As we manufacture less and have fewer workers that
can do this physical work, we become a poorer nation. An
intellectually
poorer nation. If you speak to some people in
business they look at labor as a necessary evil. Others business owners
see the labor force as a well-spring of innovation and progress,
resulting in even greater success. I guess it is all in the way we see
things.
 
As for me, a man who knows first hand the abilities of the workforce, I
see labor as the great asset that it is. It is appropriate that we honor
our working people. Have a nice Labor Day weekend
Ernie Fazio

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