Cool and calm are called for in this time of stress

Cool and calm are called for in this time of stress
Date June 15, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
To the Editor:

I’m acutely aware of how important Maytag is to the current and long-term welfare of all citizens of Newton. It’s been heart-rending to see many friends dismissed from their employment at Maytag. Some of these folks have served Maytag for decades. It’s been equally troubling to see other friends anxious and apprehensive over the future of their factory jobs. My prayers go out to everyone affected in these difficult times.

It is imperative that we all engage in mature, constructive and realistic dialogue. I was impressed that, despite the tension and high stakes, Pat Teed emphasized that negotiations have been conducted in a “gentlemanly” manner. Now, more than ever, we need men and women who exhibit grace under pressure.

I’m not sure that repeatedly invoking Fred Maytag‘s memory is going to solve anything. Mr. Maytag ran his company with integrity and good will in a mid-20th century framework. Unfortunately, we’re not in the mid-20th century anymore. I abhor the thought of any American jobs shipped out of our country, yet it’s na & iuml;ve to pretend that there aren’t tremendous economic pressures to export jobs to obtain an economic advantage. Somehow, these pressures have to be balanced against a fundamental need for our workers to be employed and paid a fair wage.

Maytag workers have a tradition of hard work and dependability. However, many consumers ask, “What have you done for me lately, and how cheaply have you done it?” I don’t have to like it or agree with it, but the fact is many (if not most) consumers and shareholders are price driven, and they want to see value instantly. For every worker calling for Ralph Hake’s ouster, there is a financial analyst criticizing Maytag management for not aggressively cutting more workers and importing more jobs. You can decry Mr. Hake’s salary all you want, but right now I wouldn’t take his job on a bet. I don’t subscribe to the notion that everything would be so much better if someone else was in charge. The last CEO would have been content to move Maytag out of Newton entirely.

I believe that both Maytag‘s workers and Maytag‘s managers are honorable men and women who want a thriving, successful company. Ultimately, I believe their differences can be resolved. Until that resolution is achieved, I see no benefit to name-calling or vitriol. To even imply that anyone should fear for their safety while walking the streets of Newton during this dispute is deplorable. I have faith that everyone involved can rise above the fray and reach a fair outcome. The welfare of this community demands nothing less.

Terry Rickers



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