American Workers’ Labor Day Message: Restore our Voice at Work! – Thomas A. Kochan, Erin L. Kelly, William Kimball, and Duanyi Yang

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From The Conversation.

When earlier this year courageous teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona marched on their state capitals to get a pay raise and better funding for their students, they spoke for the majority of American workers who lack an effective voice at work. Their actions should serve as a wake-up call for employers and politicians alike: It is time to restore our voice at work.

Teachers are not alone in demanding a change.  A recent national survey of the workforce we conducted found there is a persistent and deep gap between the influence and say American workers believe they ought to have at work—

MIT Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies Erin Kelly

something we call worker voice–and what they experience.  A majority of workers report they have less say than they believe they should have over key issues such as compensation and benefits, job security, promotions, training, new technology, employer values, respect, and protections against abuse and discrimination.  And between a third and one half report a voice gap on decisions about how and when they work, safety, and the quality of their products or services.

The long term decline in unions is a key reason for this voice gap and many workers see reversing this decline as part of the solution. In the same survey nearly 50 percent of the workforce (equivalent to 58 million workers) report they would join a union if given the chance to do so today, a number that is up from one third of the workforce in prior decades.

But rebuilding worker voice in ways that work in today’s economy and for the full range of workers who want more of a voice will require new strategies on the part of unions and other worker advocates and an entirely new labor law.

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Here’s how workers would spend the corporate tax cut – if they had a voice – Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Prof. Thomas Kochan

From The Conversation

Over 200 CEOs have said they will raise wages or give bonuses as a result of the large corporate income tax cut passed late last year by Congress.

Some view their plans as simply a public relations move, others as a response to tighter labor markets or worker pressures. Pretty much everyone hopes that it might signal a new era in which corporate leaders share earnings with workers in ways they have not done in the past.

I’m among those who hold such a hope. Only if such profit sharing becomes the norm will the long-term trends in widening income inequality and wage stagnation be reversed.

But why should this decision be left to CEOs? Don’t workers have a legitimate claim and stake in what is done with the profits they help produce? New research I’ve been leading at MIT finally gives workers a voice on these issues and many others. Read More »

Microsoft CEO’s advice on pay raises is wrong for all (not just women) — Thomas A. Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From Fortune

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently stirred up a firestorm of criticism for suggesting that silence is the key to success in the workplace—women shouldn’t ask for a pay raise or promotion but just let managers notice their good work and all will take care of itself. Though Nadella later backtracked from his remarks, it’s not just women who should take issue with that advice. It is exactly the wrong advice for everybody. It is time we all start speaking up for and at work for fairness, efficiency and mutual respect.

Just look at where “silence” has gotten us over the years.

We can start with the gap that has grown in wage and productivity growth over the past 30 years. As shown in the chart below, before that, from 1948 to about 1979, wages and productivity grew in tandem; thereby, expanding and strengthening the middle class and making it possible for baby boomers to live the American Dream of improving on the standard of living they experienced growing up. Since then, productivity rose 64.9%, and hourly compensation rose only 8.2%. The decline in the traditional vehicle for worker voice—trade unions and collective bargaining — accounts for a significant portion of this wage-productivity gap. It is clear that all workers should be speaking up at work for their collective and individual fair share of the economic progress they help produce.

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