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President signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act: government now respects women and workers

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In a ceremony rich with symbolism, President Barack Obama signed into law The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act on January 29, 2009. In front of a cheering throng who applauded enthusiastically when Ledbetter was introduced, the President said, “This is a wonderful day. It is fitting that the very first bill that I sign is The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.”

The president described the Act as, “upholding one of this nation’s founding principles that we are all created equal and we each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.”

The president effusively praised the woman whose fight led to this day. “Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or household name. Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. But…she decided there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. Her fight took us to this day. It is the story of women still earning 78 cents for every dollar men earn. Today in 2009, countless women are still losing countless income….”

He continues, “Signing this bill today sends a clear message that making our economy work is to make sure that it works for everybody. It is not just unfair or illegal, it’s bad for business. Today I sign this bill not just in her honor, but for women who came before; women like my grandmother who worked in a bank…and for my daughters and all those who come after us so that there are no limits to there dreams.”

Ledbetter demonstrates the power of the grassroots to bring change from the bottom up. It is that power that will lead to a similar signing ceremony for the Employee Free Choice Act allowing workers to freely organize to improve their lives.

“This grandmother from Alabama kept fighting because she was thinking about the next generation. This bill is an important step. A simple fix. Thank you Lilly Ledbetter.”

It is not yet time for a “Mission Accomplished” banner, but we are finally moving in the right direction.

About the AuthorRon Moore is a freelance writer living in Silver Spring, Maryland with decades of service in the grassroots community as a local union president, union organizer, national AFL-CIO staff, and writer for the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

This article originally appeared in the Washington DC Examiner on January 29, 2009. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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Corporate Leadership Awards: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Just as frightening as the plummeting value of our 401(K)s, housing values and overall confidence, is the absolute lack of leadership from our current CEO ranks. I’d give our “C” level executives a “D-” for how they are responding to the current crisis.

So in our first ever “Workplace911: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Leadership awards,” we’re going to take a hard look at the deteriorating state of leadership. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger. Even if you don’t have almost three million frequent flyer miles, like yours truly, it’s hard to get the image of that US Airways plane going on its Hudson River cruise out of your mind. Sully did a remarkable job landing that plane. Absolutely remarkable.

But is he a hero? According to a source no less august than Sully himself, he isn’t. He said he and his crew “were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do.”

Yet when you enter “US Air hero” into Google you get 14,380 links. It is my premise that the state of leadership has declined so far, that today just doing your job looks heroic.

To test this theory, I talked to a number of pilots since the splash landing. Each one said that just before they take off, they always think about where they’d land if they had to ditch the flight. In fact, one said that this is a regular challenge that they must face during their sessions on the flight simulator.

In fact, if you look at everything that Sully did on that day—coming up with a plan almost instantaneously, making a water landing so smooth that it looked like it was on pavement, walking through the sinking-into-the-Hudson cabin, twice—it’s all standard operating procedure for pilots.

Please don’t get me wrong, if I could hire him as my personal pilot from now on, I would. But there is a big difference between doing your job really, really, really well and being a hero. Just as there is, unfortunately, a big difference between most of our current crop of leaders and even just doing their job well. Let me explain…

Also making headlines recently was John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch. For those of you who are regular workplace911 readers, you know that we nominated him for man of the year in 2008, for his lobbying of the Merrill Lynch board for a $10 million dollar bonus for selling the formerly storied brokerage house to Bank of America.

For those of you who are not regular readers, calling Mr. Thain the man of the year was an ironic selection intended to illustrate the greed and avarice that led so much of our economy to the edge of absolute collapse. Recently it was revealed that Mr. Thain’s greed was on an order of magnitude as much as four times what I reported at the end of last year.

Half empty? Those were the good old days. Today the leadership glass is a Dixie cup and we’re lucky if it contains a nary a drop of water.

But apparently in what passes for leadership today, when the going gets tough, today’s CEOs go shopping. Shopping?

It was reported that amidst the carnage at Merrill, Thain remodeled his office to the tune of $1,220,000. Laying people off at the same time that you are buying a $1,405 waste basket! As we used to say in Jersey, if brains were dynamite, he wouldn’t have enough to blow his nose. But at least Thain would have a really nice place to toss the tissue.

As remarkable as his lapses are, Thain merely scores a “bad” on our leadership rankings. To really plumb the depths of what passes for leadership today let me present Carol Bartz, the recently selected CEO of Yahoo.

In a widely reported story, Ms. Bartz recently met with a group of investors, industry analysts and journalists. She took three questions. Calling the last one “nonsense” she ended the dialogue. Three questions!

Ms. Bartz has long been known as being a hard-charging executive. But she forgets one simple fact. Although you may sit in the big chair, Carol, you don’t own the chair. Your investors do. And they deserve more than three answers when they’re paying you $19,000,000 annually.

Okay, I’ve been called “Dilbert with a solution,” so I have the reputation for bringing an edge to my writing. But I have to be honest with you, what has been going on recently in the executive suites has broken my heart. So many people are suffering and people like Ms. Bartz seem to be living in a parallel universe. A perk-encrusted universe.

Is it too much to ask for a leader to lead? To cut his or her own salary and bennies before tossing employees under the bus? To, dare I say, be humble in the face of their own failures?

I believe in pay for performance. I’d just like to see someone among our current crop of “leaders,” show that the performance escalator goes down as well as up.

About the Author: Bob Rosner
is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and contributor to On The Money. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com. You can contact Bob via bob@workplace911.com.

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An Open Letter to Bank CEOs

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I hope you are sitting down when you read this—Obama isn’t Superman or God. He can point us in the right direction, but we’re going to have to pitch in to help get there, each and every one of us.

I’ll give you two simple things to do in this blog entry. But we can’t stop here. Write to us with your suggestions and strategies. We’d love to see ‘em no matter how big or how small. Anything that will help the cause—ours!

Both of the strategies that I’ll suggest here revolve around a simple concept: TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program, a.k.a. the bailout bill) was a loan, not a gift. But in the clumsy hands of Treasury Secretary Paulson, TARP became a gift to anyone who lined up at the trough because there was no accountability (“Heckuva job, Paulie!”).

Let’s not leave accountability to the SEC or government committees anymore. Let’s let everyone who gets a government handout know that we’re watching too.

Action #1: Write to the CEO of your bank or any bank that you are an investor in. My letter appears below:

“Dear Mr. Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America:
I was happy to see the government ride to your rescue. As an account holder with your bank, and as a citizen, I need to remind you that this money was not intended to clean up your balance sheet, provide bonuses or for executive perks. NO! It is money that must be recycled into the community in the form of loans to serve as a catalyst to increase overall economic activity. It is a loan, not a gift to you and you need to return the favor by loaning it to others in your community. I’ll be watching. Please don’t act in a way that will force me to move my assets to another financial institution.
Bob Rosner

Action #2: When you are at work, explore what you can do to help the overall economy. An example, a friend of mine has an apartment building that went from 100% occupancy to 25% occupancy. She is now struggling to make her mortgage payments. She suggested to her bank that she could make interest only payments until her occupancy rate improved. The bank turned her down. What we need is more flexibility and more businesses looking to support the overall economy rather than just focusing on the company’s narrow interests. BTW, how will another foreclosed building help any bank? Or any community? Let’s all encourage our businesses to act in the best interest of everyone.

It was once said that what was good for GM was good for the country. I believe the opposite is now true. What is good for the country is now good for millions of businesses. We need to think about a bigger marketplace and how we can positively contribute to it.

So whatever your business, ask the question, what can we do to get all of us out of this mess? Can you avoid a massive layoff by exploring job sharing, unpaid sabbaticals and other options to keep more people working? Can you provide your products or services to people who are hurting at a discount? Does your company have a program to encourage employees to volunteer in the community?

To bastardize a famous statement, “Ask not what your government can bail out for you, ask what you can do for your community and country.” And keep asking.

I look forward to hearing your ideas and input. Let’s all get busy!

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and contributor to On The Money. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com. You can contact Bob via bob@workplace911.com.

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