Now that the Dow is under 12,000 again, it only takes $1.44 to buy one Euro, and Israel may have oil reserves that equal Saudi Arabia we can all take a breath. Oh, wait a minute, maybe not. The world is going crazy. I can’t make up my mind, who should I vote for next year? Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann? At least Bachmann is a reader. Her favorite economist is Ludwig von Mises (money demanded for usefulness). When she goes to the beach she takes von Mises to read while she is sunbathing. I am not too sure what Sarah reads. Or, if I really want to worry, will Humala, the newly elected president of Peru, grow closer to Brazil or Venezuela (Chavez)? What if China calls in the debt we owe them? Or what if Greece defaults? So many things to worry about.

The fact is I can’t do anything about all those other things, other than vote for Bachmann, but I can think and write about things that can be changed. One of those things is how management responds to people. Especially when managerial decisions hurt people.

Silicosis is a disease affecting South African miners. It appears that during the years of apartheid in South Africa that poor blacks were used to mine gold for the Anglo American Company. As a result of this exploitation, 196,560 former miners from South Africa and 84,240 from other African states have this occupational lung disease.

Here is a situation where those in power took advantage of those less fortunate for the purpose of mining gold. This activity took place in very deep mines with inadequate ventilation. The court system has ruled that these miners can sue their former employers and seek compensation. However, the phrases that concern me are:

1. We are trying to get our arms around what the potential might be.
2. It’s speculative at this stage to assume there is going to be a huge number of suits or whether in fact those suits will even be successful.
3. It is too early to determine liability.

Here is a situation where the managers of Anglo American worked around appropriate safety measures to keep costs low and profits high. They exploited black workers for the benefit of shareholders. One worker stated that his employer never gave him a mask to protect him from the silica dust. The Mineral Resource Minister of South Africa, Susan Shabangu stated that “mining companies have known for decades that silicosis is preventable yet were reluctant to incur the expenses of providing adequate underground ventilation.” Thus, Anglo American is liable for payment to these former employees.

We would like to think that these corporate deficiencies are limited to South Africa, China, etc, but this is not the case. I have a friend that lost her 22 year job because of a manager that did not like her politics and high wages. They “restructured” the company to eliminate her position, and other older well paid workers, and give it to a younger lesser paid employee. Another example is my neighbor who is in his late 50’s and is now having to work harder because his company has raised sales requirements. This new requirement is in place for one reason only, to eliminate the older higher paid sales personnel. Reminds me of Circuit City, that fired 3,400 employees. These employees were their best sales personnel. Pretty smart, oh by the way Circuit City went out of business.

Please know that I am not placing age discrimination on the same level as Silicosis, but the fact is managers are making horrible decisions trying to squeeze more sugar out of the sugar beet. So when I see corporations getting sued for bad decisions, I think they should. And I think these managers that make illegal decisions should be held accountable. I remember an old TV show named Baretta, starring Robert Blake. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

Any of you reading this blog that are managers, be honest and treat your employees well. Your customers will thank you for that by sticking around. Remember that friend of mine who was forced out by the restructuring? I was a customer of that company and I have found someplace else to take my business. And I will continue to tell people about the horrible managerial practices of that company.

And that is my thought for the day!


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