Clinton Prods U.S. Firms to Treat Their Workers Better

By Strobel, Warren P. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Clinton Prods U.S. Firms to Treat Their Workers Better


Strobel, Warren P., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


CINCINNATI - President Clinton appealed to corporate America yesterday to treat workers and their families more fairly, and he issued a five-point "challenge" outlining what he said are companies' dues to their employees.

In a speech at Xavier University that White House officials billed as major statement on the issue, Mr. Clinton called on corporations to be "family friendly," to give employees health and pension benefits, to invest in training, to give workers a greater say in the company, and to provide a safe workplace.

But, treading gingerly on a politically explosive topic, Mr. Clinton did not so much demand anything of American business as he appealed to CEOs' enlightened self-interest. By doing more than just handing their workers a paycheck, he said, corporations can do well by doing good.

"Let me be clear: The most fundamental responsibility for any business is to make a profit, to create jobs and incomes by competing and growing," the president said in his weekly radio address, devoted to the same topic.

"We recognize, too, that not every business can afford to do more than worry about the bottom line - especially a lot of small businesses," he said. "But many of America's most succesful businesses have shown that you can do well by doing right by employees and their families."

In his address here, Mr. Clinton tried to highlight recent steps major American corporations have taken to change relations with their workers. He cited the case of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which gives new mothers a year of maternity leave and subsidies for child care.

"Arguably, that costs some money," the president said. "But arguably, you can get it back with a fanatically loyal employee who will stay with the company for a long time."

Mr. Clinton announced that he is inviting heads of major American corporations to a White House conference to discuss greater partnership between business and workers. He said it would take place before he leaves for Japan and Russia in mid-April.

But he also stressed that government's role is limited and that his own role would be confined to using the "bully pulpit," as he did in an earlier meeting with participants in a corporate-sponsored school-to-work initiative. In a reflection of the political and fiscal realities in Washington, Mr. Clinton announced no new government programs to ease workers' dislocations.

The president's activities yesterday were his latest and most direct attempt to stake out a position on an issue that he must address if he is to win re-election. The conflict between corporate downsizing and job insecurity on the one hand, and a growing economy and flush stock market on the other, helped fuel the presidential candidacy of commentator Pat Buchanan. …

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