Clinton urges worker-manager unity More production, better jobs will result, he says

July 27, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- President Clinton yesterday called upon America's workers and managers to stop fighting and start cooperating to make more-productive companies and better-paying jobs.

"You've got to leave behind the labels that have shackled us for so long," Mr. Clinton said. "If you don't, nothing the president can do will revitalize America."

During his luncheon speech at the government-sponsored conference on the "Workplace of the Future," Mr. Clinton also lobbied for support of his deficit reduction plan.

He said both lower deficits and better jobs were needed to improve the nation's lagging economy -- lower deficits to keep interest rates down so that businesses can invest more, and better jobs so consumers can buy and save more.

"We've created 150,000 new jobs a month in the last five months. That's nowhere near enough," Mr. Clinton said. He accused congressional Republicans of delaying everything from flood assistance for the sodden Midwest to his package of tax increases and spending cuts.

"This institutional gridlock is bad for America," he said.

Then, in a scene reminiscent of local celebrity Oprah Winfrey, the president was host for a two-hour panel discussion, calming nervous workers, challenging academics and questioning executives.

Under the glare of television lights and in front of an audience of about 400 invited managers and union leaders, Mr. Clinton praised companies like Denver-based U.S. West and Tucson, Ariz.-based Magma Copper Co., for giving workers control of their jobs, sharing financial information and creating "family friendly" workplaces.

"We've got to make our jobs more interesting to make our jobs more secure," Mr. Clinton said.

The president said he expects the federal government to start adopting new management techniques after Vice President Albert Gore's report on government efficiency is issued in the fall.

"This will be very important to national productivity. Government spending is one-fifth of the GNP," he noted.

Mr. Clinton didn't respond directly to several speakers' calls for changes to labor laws, but noted that Japanese workplaces are more productive because of cultural, not legal differences.

But, he insisted, "a lot of specific" improvements to the economy will come out of his performance.

One of the most important results: "a new tone for business."

"Harry Truman once said it was a major part of his job to convince people to do things they ought to be doing anyway," Mr. Clinton said.

Laura Henderson, founder of Rockville-based Prospect Associates and a panelist at the session, agreed: "The economy requires that we do business in very different ways. We must perceive that workers and managers have a shared destiny."

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