Feature Editor Another Labor Day is approaching - the 96th since the
day became a holiday to honor the American worker.
Laboring and the jobs at which each worker labors is an integral
part of his or her life. Work represents status, identity,
self-esteem and a pay check traded for the fruits of the worker's
Oklahoma economists and labor experts generally agree that the
status of labor and jobs in the 1990s will be much different than
Times are changing, tools are changing and job standards are
changing quickly on almost every job in today's work place.
Views on the status of labor in the 1990s were solicited from
Dr. Larkin Warner, regents professor of economics at Oklahoma State
University; Craig Knutson, economist for Southwestern Bell
Telephone Co.; David Carnevale, professor of public administration
at the University of Oklahoma and former 14-year veteran union
executive; Chalmers Labig, associate professor of management at
Oklahoma State University; Ross Williams, president of the Oklahoma
AFL-CIO Union; Dr. Ray Alonso, professor of strategic management at
University of Oklahoma; and Will Bowman, research specialist with
the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
Labor challenges of the 1990s - Key challenges in the 1990s are
predicted to be:
- Providing enough quality jobs in Oklahoma.
- Increasing productivity to be competitive on both a national
and international level.
- Education of workers to keep stride with technology.
"Whether you are talking about unions or management, the key is
going to be high productivity - watch your P's and Q's," said
"Organized labor will not be growing in the 1990s. If you are
not going to increase your productivity, you are not going to be
able to compete. Education and OJT (on the job training) are going
to be very important.
"It is going to be imperative in the '90s that you are going to
have to be terribly articulate and terribly literate just to follow
the instructions," he said. "I don't believe in high tech jobs. I
believe every job has high tech in it. Everyone is going to have to
be articulate and literate enough to operate those tools.
"The decade of the '90s is going to be very competitive. What
we are competing against is a terribly well educated world
population - our business population is well educated, that is."
Knutson noted that the Hispanic and Black growth rates into the
work force "are going to be two to four times the rates of whites."
"Education is absolutely paramount to achieving that goal of
productivity and quality," he said. "We've got a large group entering
the force in the '90s that historically have not had high education
achievement levels and that could cause problems in the 90s."
"The biggest challenge is to have an economy that is creating
enough jobs so we don't have a population decline," Warner said.
Williams said he considered labor's challenge "the same thing as
that of the chamber of commerce - to bring jobs to Oklahoma -
quality jobs. What needs to happen for that to take place is what's
been in the press lately - that we have quality education in
"We need to have decent workers compensation benefits and
unemployment benefits - most people unemployed never qualify for
it," he said. "We need a better system to take care of those that
lose their jobs."
Bowman said workers must be prepared to adjust to changing jobs.
"The challenges will be finding employment and obtaining the
necessary training to keep up with technology," he said. "The
working public will have to expect to have changing careers more
often and upgrade training more often. Workers unemployed, for
whatever reason, will have to go into other fields, which of course,
will require other training. …