Friday, April 19, 2013

No Conflict Between People and Business

The letter appeared in the NJ Star-Ledger on March 12, 2013:

People over business 
After reading The Star-Ledger article, “MetLife to shutter Somerset office, move jobs to North Carolina” (March 8), I couldn’t help but wonder how such a large, successful corporation, spending $400 million over 20 years to promote its brand on the new Meadowlands stadium, can justify closing its Somerset office and putting as many as 1,500 out of work. While the $100 million-plus in tax breaks and incentives it will get to move to North Carolina makes business sense, it doesn’t make “people” sense. 
MetLife likes to tout itself as a caring, people-centered company that provides its customers “guarantees for the ‘if’ in ‘life.’ ” Apparently, it forgot about its employees. The families of the 1,500-plus New Jerseyans who will lose their jobs if they choose not to move have no guarantees. 
Crista Pontilena, Hackensack

I responded:

Crista, if any of those 1500 employees had decided to quit their jobs with MetLife for a better paying or more enjoyable job, retirement, etc., should they be condemned for not caring about people?  MetLife is run and managed by people, too, and they have no guarantees that any of their employees will not do just that. In fact, every year millions of employees quit their jobs to move on to better life opportunities. Employers have the same moral right to move on when better business opportunities arise.

Nature provides no "guarantees" for either employer or employee. Neither is there any such thing as "People over Business," unless you believe that some people should be guaranteed a living at other people's expense. 

There is no conflict between people and business. A job is a two-way street, and both the businessman and the employee have a moral right to terminate an employment contract, because each has a fundamental right to pursue his own self-interest. Neither has an automatic moral claim on the other, beyond the terms of any mutually beneficial voluntary employment contract. Your one-sided focus on MetLife is grossly unfair.

Related Reading:

"Greed" is a Two-Way Street

Business vs. Workers' Jobs: Who Makes Who Possible?


Mike Kevitt said...

I think Ms. Pontilena's complaint is when an employee quits, it's easy for the employer to fill in the gap while hiring a new employee or to find he doesn't even need another employee. But, when an employer lays off or fires employees, or shuts down, for whatever reason (like, to move to NC), it devastates the employee or employees. The only way an employer can be so devastated would be by having ALL its employees (or most of them, especially key employees)quit all at once, and that's hardly likely to ever happen. I think that's her complaint.

Even if this is true, it's nothing to push for legislation (or for 'law' by other means) about. It can be handled elsewise, privately.

IS this true?

Mike LaFerrara said...

Possibly, although she says nothing about legislation. But, I'm not sure MetLife "forgot about its employees," since they apparently have the option of moving and keeping their jobs. Not a great option, but at least an option. The company is probably hoping to keep as many people as possible.

But it is true that large successful businesses have a lot more economic power than individuals. That shouldn't be held against them, because it's earned. That power also creates plenty of opportunities for individual job-seekers, investors, and customers. We need more of it.

Mike Kevitt said...

True, she didn't say anything about legislation. I usually assume that anybody expressing the kind of things she was expressing have ideas of legislation backstage, even if they don't mention it. I suppose I should be more careful about that assumption.

We DO need more economic power of big businesses, everywhere. People could more easily find new jobs when they lose their jobs to layoffs, plant closures, etc.