Program focuses on management-worker partnerships
A program to explore how management and labor can work better together for their mutual benefit will be held this month in honor of one of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s greatest economists.
“Building Management and Worker Partnerships for a More Prosperous America” is the title of the presentation, to be held Thursday, Jan. 26 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of professor John R. Commons. The event will be held from 5-7:30 p.m. in Varsity Hall at Union South, 1308 West Dayton St., on the UW–Madison campus.
Speakers include former Missouri U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, president of the Gephardt Group, and former Wisconsin U.S. Rep. David Obey, along with representatives from business and labor.
Gephardt served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977-2005. He was elected to serve as majority leader from 1989-95 and as minority leader from 1995-2003. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 and 2004.
In 2005, Gephardt founded the Gephardt Group, which works with companies and unions to apply best-in-class labor-management relations practices. The Gephardt Group has been hired by both business executives and union leaders to foster collaboration and seek mutual agreements.
Obey served Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District for 21 consecutive terms from 1969 until he retired in 2011 and joined the Gephardt Group. He served as chair of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations from 1994-95 and again from 2007-11.
The presentation is expected to focus on several core principles for US companies to be more globally competitive:
- Drive improved results by getting employees to think and act like owners;
- Teach employees and labor leaders critical skills and provide them timely information;
- Trust employees to use common sense to solve problems and improve business performance;
- Increase the level of trust among management, employees and union leaders;
- Develop labor agreements that align the interests of a company and its workers.
The presentation is held in honor of Commons, who was born in 1862. An influential economist, reformer and labor historian, Commons drafted innovative social welfare, labor and economic legislation that made Wisconsin a national model for reform.
Commons is known as the “spiritual father” of Social Security. Most progressive social and labor legislation enacted in the 20th century can be attributed to him or his students and colleagues.
As part of the Wisconsin Idea, Commons worked closely with Robert M. La Follette to draft the Wisconsin Civil Service Law in 1905 and the Public Utilities Law in 1907. Commons researched and wrote policy for the regulation of workplace safety and for unemployment compensation.
His students Edwin Witte and Arthur Altmeyer went on to create the Social Security program in the 1930s. Recognized for his scholarship in labor history and economics, Commons advocated collective bargaining and pragmatic compromise over rigid, uncompromising views.
The free event is sponsored by the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service and the Wisconsin School of Business. No reservations are required for the program.