The Free (and stupid) Market

This evening I read about yet another large company, Cingular Wireless, discontinuing some basic perks for employees.

No more coffee.
No asprin to help with the caffeine withdrawal headaches.
And no more company paid-for snacks of any kind.

Total company-wide savings: Supposedly just over $1 million.

That seems like a lot until you compare it against the combined salaries of the executive officers.

$100 million, perhaps? Not unlikely.

At competitor Verizon, compensation for the CEO alone was over $9 million in 2000.

So here’s a radical thought. What if every executive earning over $100,000 at Cingular (and companies in similar predicaments) voluntarily contributed 1% of their salary to maintain “quality of life” perks at their respective companies?

Morale would soar, you’d have a lot fewer sleepy or headache’y employees, and overall, the quality of output would probably improve or at least not deteriorate.

Call it a “Worker Productivity Contribution” of sorts. And let’s face it… when folks are getting $9 million a year, is 1% off the top really going to affect THEIR lifestyles all that much?

Then again, even post-Enron it seems that most Americans just aren’t very concerned about these sort of things. Sure, every once in a while there’s a “Fat Cat CEO Thrives as Company X Lays Off 12,000” story which results in some mumblings and ineffective rumblings for a short time. But nothing really changes with our screwy American economic system, which continues to so blithely reward those executives who, well, screw over the most employees in the short run and investors in the long run.

The Invisible Hand is more like a pickpocket than a guide. Adam Smith must be rolling over in his grave.







One response to “The Free (and stupid) Market”

  1. Matt Hendrickson Avatar
    Matt Hendrickson

    I think it’s sad that these companies are cutting out these perks, only to give their executives these outrageous salaries. I guess I’m of the thought that a happy employee is a more productive employee.

    What the cutting really says is that the companies don’t really care about their employees, that they are nothing more than drones who put in their 8-10 hours a day and good luck if you’re laid off. Do you really think that someone is going to give his or her all when it comes to productivity in that situation? I probably wouldn’t; I’d only do what was required and that’s it.

    While in College, I had the fortunate opportunity to work in a place where the company actually CARES about its employees. Workout rooms, the occasional treat, incentive programs for safety or performance, on-going training, those all showed that the business does care about employees. It even went so far as to NOT change the name of “Personnel” to “Human Resources” on the simple fact they felt that “HR” implied that the employees were nothing more than worker drones or tools.

    And you know the funny thing? They have more people there that have worked there 10, 20, 30 years than other companies I’ve worked at. These large corporations could stand to learn a lesson or two from the small companies!

What do you think?