Commentary

Super Bowl week laughs: Group founded by Lt. Gov. Forest purports to grade NFL for adherence to conservative “Christian” values

Dan ForestIf ever you find yourself in need of a moment of mirth in today’s stressed out news cycle and you’ve already checked out all the day’s headlines at The Onion, here’s a great #2 option: surf on over to the website of the “Faith Driven Consumer” and check out their latest LOL ratings of corporate America.

As we’ve reported on a few occasions previously (most recently last December), the group, which was co-founded by North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest, purports to assess businesses for their “commitment to full equality and inclusion of the Faith Driven Consumer market segment” (which basically translates to how closely the companies toe the values and political lines laid down by the religious right). One of the group’s previous Christmas shopping guides, for instance, downgraded the giant retailed Sears because it included lingerie models in its catalogs. The current “index” gives higher scores to companies that support an anti-choice position when it comes to reproductive freedom for women.

This week, in an effort to grab a few seconds of attention in the media circus surrounding the Super Bowl, the group issued a statement taking the National Football League to task for registering a “score” of only 24 out of 100 on the “faith equality index.” This is from the statement:

“The National Football League is significantly comprised of Christian players, coaches, and executives, and as such, many in our community assume the organization is welcoming of Faith Driven Consumers. But its score of 24 out of 100 says otherwise.”

As to how and why the grade was bestowed, Forest’s buddies aren’t (as has been the case ever since the days of the hysterical lingerie downgrade) providing many details. Read more

Commentary

Supporting workers’ rights should be a faith community priority

Stan KimerHaving started this series in late April on the importance of engaging both the business and the faith/religious communities in promoting workers’ rights, I am now alternating each post between the business community and faith community connection.

A few months ago I read and clipped out of the Raleigh News and Observer (originally printed in the New York Times) a provocative article titled “Do Churches Fail the Poor?” by Ross Douthat.  I saved it knowing I would write about it in this blog. I felt the title was indeed relevant since it is primarily workers living near the poverty level that ironically receive the fewest employments benefits and rights.

This fascinating article led with a quote from a Harvard University social scientist Robert Putnam who said, “Most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they have been using all their resources for …. not at all focused on issues of poverty.”

When sharing the stage at an event with Dr. Putnam, President Obama remarked, “Despite great caring and concern, when churches pick the defining issue that’s really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, fighting poverty is often seen merely as a ‘nice to have’ compared to ‘an issue like abortion.’”

The Douthat article went on to attempt to debunk this critique by pointing out that religious charities direct billions of dollars to important and helpful institutions like schools and hospitals. But no matter what side of this discussion you fall on, I do feel strongly that people of faith should increase their focus on advocating for better rights and benefits for the most vulnerable of working Americans. If you are involved in a place of worship, consider helping to start a committee to research and take action on this issue, starting with accessing resources available through the North Carolina Council of Churches and the North Carolina Justice Center. Here are some links that might prove helpful in such an endeavor:

The NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project,

The NC Council of Churches Lectionary on Living Wages and

the Council of Churches Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.

Commentary

Paid sick leave: Good for workers, good for business, good for customers

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the fourth installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse on engaging the faith and business communities on the issue of workers’ rights. You can read the previous installments by clicking here, here and here.]

Having started this series in late April on the importance of engaging both the business and the faith/religious communities in promoting workers’ rights, I am now alternating each post between the business community and faith community connection. This month I write about one of the key workers’ rights that businesses ought to support: paid sick leave.

First, a personal story. A few years ago, when I took a weekend trip out of town, I enjoyed a large breakfast in the hotel restaurant. My server was sniffling and sneezing, obviously not feeling very well. I engaged her in conversation and she shared that as a single mother, she could not take the time off despite her cold. She had a choice between working sick (which admittedly is not good for her customers who could catch her cold) or not having the cash to pay that month’s rent and buy food. What a sad situation for a hard working American to be placed in!

Here are some startling facts published by the North Carolina Justice Center:

  • Though almost everyone gets sick a few times per year, 1.2 million or almost 40% of North Carolina workers have no earned paid sick leave.
  • And those who need it most, low wage earners, disproportionately do not have paid sick leave. 60% of those earning below $20,000 per year do not have access to paid sick leave.
  • Children with parents who have paid sick leave to stay home with them recover quicker from their illnesses and return to school faster.

The financial case is also strong for businesses. A recent study from the National Partnership for Women and Families showed that companies that provide paid sick leave reported fewer occupational injuries, which more than offset the $255 cost per year per employee of providing the paid leave. And when employers provide paid sick leave, this earns higher employee engagement and commitment, resulting in less turnover. As a career development consultant, I often present that the cost of recruiting and “onboarding” a new employee can run from 75% – 125% of one year’s salary, so providing a key benefit to prevent employee departure is an excellent business investment.

So as with other workers benefits that I will write about in upcoming blogs, providing employees with earned paid sick leave is a win-win-win: good for the business, good for the employee and good for the customers.

And to conclude my story, despite her being under the weather, my breakfast server that morning in addition to bringing this key issue to my attention, did provide great service, and I tipped her about double the going rate since I knew it could make a difference in her life.

Commentary

Why people of faith should emphatically support workers’ rights

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the third installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse. You can read the previous installments by clicking here and here.] 

I started this series in April on the importance of engaging both the business community and the faith/religious community in promoting workers’ rights. I will alternate each month between the business community and faith community connection, and since I wrote my first business community piece last month, this month I introduce the faith perspective.

I write the faith perspective with a long history of leadership within the North Carolina Council of Churches, including serving as their President in 2011 and 2012. This strong and active organization within North Carolina includes 17 denominations and eight individual congregations that have over 6,200 congregations and about 1.5 million congregants.

The overall mission statement reads, “the Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ.

Wow!! Engaging people of faith to support fair treatment, compensation and benefits for all workers falls squarely in most of these individual elements. Let’s explore several of them one by one:

  • Economic Justice and Development. Even as we live in one of the richest nations of the world, the gap between the poor and wealthy continues to grow, and many people even with full time jobs struggle with living in poverty.
  • Human well-being. Typically those in the lower paying jobs struggle to barely survive, and often do not receive benefits higher wage earners commonly receive critical to human health and well-being. Lower wage earners often go without healthcare benefits, family leave to deal with illness, fair treatment during pregnancy and more.
  • Equality. It is only fair that all hard working people are compensated well enough to live and afford basic necessities.
  • Compassion. People of faith should always have a strong commitment to bettering the lives of all people, and true compassion means speaking out and advocating for those who are struggling to survive and may not have the time and energy to engage in this advocacy.

While the North Carolina Council of Churches is itself overtly Christian, many of the committees and task groups working on issues such as this (see for example the N.C. Families Care Coalition) are interfaith and include members from non-Christian faith communities as well as additional Christian denomination not a part of the Council. This underlines that promoting justice in our world is a strong common commitment across the universal faith and human community.

I now look forward to continuing this faith discussion in alternating months.

Commentary

Engaged employees who are treated right deliver better business results

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development. This is the second installment in a series of posts he is authoring for The Progressive Pulse].

Last month I announced that I would be writing a monthly series focused on the importance of engaging both the business community and the faith / religious community in promoting worker’s rights. I will continue this series alternating each month between the business community and faith community connection.

This month I would like to address a key value proposition for the business community to treat its employees properly and respectfully which includes providing key benefits critical to the employees’ well-being. Benefits such as paid sick days, extended family medical leave and child care assistance and family flex time are key items that low-income and single-parent families particularly need.

But how can business leaders be engaged in discussing providing these benefits? They may feel that it costs a significant amount of money and will drain profit from their own pockets. The investment return key is “employee engagement.”

What is engagement? Engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and it goals, often resulting in willingness to volunteer discretionary effort. When employees are compensated fairly including key benefits, they are indeed more engaged and committed to doing a great job for their employer.

Consulting firm EXTRAordinary! Inc. performed a study on employee engagement and the results showed:

  • Engaged employees average 27% less absenteeism than those who are disengaged.
  • Workgroups with lower engagement average 62% more accidents.
  • Higher levels of team engagement equate to 12% higher customer satisfaction score.
  • Engaged teams average 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability.

So before concluding that providing a living wage and offering additional benefits is spending money unnecessarily, I urge all business owners and leaders to consider these employee engagement statistics and benefits and do a realistic evaluation on the positive business results that treating employees well will bring.