„We Provoked Business Students to Unionize“ – a good example for critical teaching

If you want to know, what good critical teaching is, you should read this article. Body and mind, feeling and thinking are being connected in the classroom (https://criticalmotteaching.wordpress.com).

Abstract. „Many industrial relations (IR) scholars experience some angst at their (mis)placement in business schools. While our Abstract Many industrial relations (IR) scholars experience some angst at their (mis)placement in business schools. While our expertise broadens the curriculum, the topics central to IR and union?management matters often are met with student resistance, particularly in North America. At our wits? end, we decided to employ a deception simulation. We devised an award winning exercise that broke business students? psychological contract with their professor and gave them an opportunity to organize collectively to redress this injustice. Students observed first-hand the triggers of union organizing as well as their responses to inequity. Anonymous student feedback showed an overwhelmingly positive reception to the exercise. Ethical standards developed to scrutinize deception are used to review our own exercise according to our profession?s standards. Deception is rarely used in teaching and is often associated with malevolent, callous or selfish ends. We challenge this viewpoint. Its power is in generating relevant controversies and evoking emotions that help memory consolidation.“ (Taras/Steel 2007: 179)


Amitai Etzioni about „The Making of a Peacenik“

Amitai Etzioni (89 years young) speaks about his life and how he became a „peacenik“ and an activist professor. A very interesting and impressive story.

Bob Dylan on Management and the Economy

All quotes from http://bobdylan.com. There you’ll find all the lyrics (and more interesting stuff). See also Bob’s contribution to Critical management studies: http://www.kritische-organisationsforschung.de/?p=1776.
On leadership

„Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parking meters“
(Subterranean homesick blues)

On job satisfaction

„You can’t live by bread alone, you won’t be satisfied“
(Something´s burning, baby)

On demand and supply of work

„The work was cut down
And more work was cut,
Where the miners work almost for nothing.“
(North country blues)

The boss isn’t around… (motivation?)

Well, the pressure’s down, the boss ain’t here,
He gone North, he ain’t around,
They say that vanity got the best of him
But he sure left here after sundown.
By the way, that’s a cute hat,
And that smile’s so hard to resist
But what’s a sweetheart like you doin‘ in a dump like this?“
(North country blues)

Being sacked…

„It`s all over now, baby blue“
„I ain´t gonna work on Maggie´s farm no more…“

Reasons for losing your job / globalization

„Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore,
My flashlight’s from Taiwan,
My tablecloth’s from Malaysia,
My belt buckle’s from the Amazon.
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet,
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin‘ thirty cents a day.
Well, it’s sundown on the union“
(Union sundown)

Theory of economic crisis (underconsumption)

„Here’s an evening haze settling over town,
Starlight by the edge of the creek
The buying power of the proletariat’s gone down,
Money’s getting shallow and weak

Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory
it’s a new path that we trod
They say low wages are a reality
If we want to compete abroad“
(Working man´s blues #2)

Research methods (thanks to Rainhard Lang)

„When I was in Missouri
They would not let me be
I had to leave there in a hurry
I only saw what they let me see“
(Tryin‘ To Get To Heaven)

„Corporate apologies: Beware the pitfalls of saying sorry“

Interesting, but somewhat cynically sounding piece on „Corporate apologies: Beware the pitfalls of saying sorry“ by Jeffrey Pfeffer. (Source:  http://jeffreypfeffer.com/2015/10/corporate-apologies-beware-the-pitfalls-of-saying-sorry/). I see 2 hypotheses, which would be interesting to test empirically: a) Power -> +probability of apologizing OR b) Apologizing –> -power. Or is there a feedback loop: power (t1) –> apologizing (t2) –> power (t3)? But we should also ask: In whose interest would this kind of research be done? (I don’t have a simple answer.)

„The uber-ization of everything“

„Robert Samuel, founder of Same Ole Line Dudes, makes up to $1,000 a week to stand in line. He waits in line for Broadway shows, sample sales, tech releases and even brunch waitlists. Samuel recently spent 48 hours outside the Apple store in the Meatpacking District waiting for the iPhone 6s. He was the first in line, slept in a fold-up cot for two nights, had pizza delivered to his spot and snagged $1000 for the gig. Samuel’s business joins dozens of “Ubers” like Lugg: Uber for Movers, Doughbies On-Demand: Uber for chocolate chip cookies, Minibar: Uber for alcohol and Breather: Uber for peace and quiet — all of which essentially allow customers to buy their way to the front.“ (Source: The Uber-ization of everything: These guys make $1,000 a week standing in line – Salon.com)

The comments in the media are interesting. I haven’t read all of them, but two kinds of comments seem to be frequent: 1. Hey, these guys make a lot of money. (That’s good / too much). 2. Very clever business idea.

Critical comments might be hidden somewhere in my google search results, but seem not to be very frequent.  I think of comments like this: Do we want other people standing in line for us? How does this „uber-ization“ change our society by changing the moral basis? Michael Sandel is asking questions like these in his book „What Money Can’t Buy:The Moral Limits of Market“ (a summary you can  find here: http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/s/sandel00.pdf).

(See also my post about standing in line for others in Berlin: https://employmentrelations.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/kann-ich-einen-termin-fur-die-zulassung-meines-autos-kaufen-na-klar-optimale-allokation-uber-preise).

„Participation rights in practice: what are the power bases of worker representatives at the board?“

„Workers’ right to be represented on the board (of directors, or supervisory board) of their company is so widespread in Europe that it is deemed a core element of the European social model. Yet, very little is known about how those participation rights operate in practice. This Policy Brief outlines some of the key findings of the first-ever questionnaire-based survey of worker representatives who serve on company boards in 16 European countries and in European Companies (SEs). It demonstrates that necessary conditions must be met for board-level worker representatives to be able to exert real power over corporate strategic decisions. A German version of the Policy Brief is available for free download on the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung website.“

Source: European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) – Participation rights in practice: what are the power bases of worker representatives at the board ? / European Economic, Employment and Social Policy / Policy Briefs / Publications / Home

Toxic Workplaces – Why Your Workplace Might Be Killing You

Why Your Workplace Might Be Killing You“  – this title of a short article refers to a paper „The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States“ by Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer, and Stefanos A. Zenios. The authors summarize some of their research results as follows:

„We have seen that employer decisions about work and the workplace are associated with excess deaths and healthcare costs in the U.S.. To put our results in perspective, our model’s estimate of workplace-associated mortality is comparable to the fourth (cerebrovascular diseases) and fifth (accidents) largest cause of death in the U.S. in 2009 …, and exceeds the number of deaths from diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza. Our model also estimates that the workplace-associated healthcare cost is comparable to the estimated cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2007 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011), which was $174 billion“ (Goh/Pfeffer/Zenios 2015: 25).

The meta-analysis estimates the relative risks of poor health outcomes associated with exposure to ten workplace stressors:

  • Unemployment,
  • lack of health insurance,
  • exposure to shift work,
  • long working hours,
  • job insecurity,
  • work-family conflict,
  • low job control,
  • high job demands,
    low social support at work, and
  • low organizational justice.

„We find that more than 120,000 deaths per year and approximately 5-8% of annual healthcare costs are associated with and may be attributable to how U.S. companies manage their work force. Our results suggest that more attention should be paid to management practices as important contributors to health outcomes and costs in the U.S.“ (Goh/Pfeffer/Zenios 2015: 1).

The following picture shows the impact of several workplace stressors, expressed by odds ratios,  compared to the impact of second hand smoke exposere (expressed by odds ratios) (Source). 

That means, for example, the risk (precisely: the „chance“) of a doctor-reported illness is 2.2 times higher for workers without health insurance  compared to workers with health insurance. Workers with low job control face a higher risk of mortality (nearly 1.5 times higher).

Corporations externalize most of these costs. One policy implication is that they should internalize these costs.

The paper has found a lot of attention, see for instance the article in „The Atlantic“.

„Across age groups, views of unions are most positive among young adults“

Interesting results from a survey conducted in the U.S. in March 2015: The views  of unions are more positive among young adults.

„55% of those ages 18-29 view unions favorably, while just 29% view them unfavorably. Among older adults, favorability ratings of unions are mixed with about as many holding favorable as unfavorable views.“ (Source: http://www.people-press.org/2015/04/27/mixed-views-of-impact-of-long-term-decline-in-union-membership)

The age effect is even observable if one controls for the political orientation. (Unfortunately the survey uses different age categories in the next two tables.)


See also the article here.