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MIT Sloan Throughout the Crisis: Leading the Conversation (continued)

imageProf. Tom Kochan

Kenneth Kochan: The Voice of the Workers

Tom Kochan, the George M. Bunker Professor of Management at MIT Sloan, has focused his career largely on America’s outdated work and employment policies. Kochan’s understanding of the relationship between labor and management in this country has made him a leading voice in a widespread financial crisis that will require many changes in the practices of each before recovery will be possible.

As co-director of the Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER), and through extensive research and publication, including his latest book, Restoring the American Dream: A Working Family’s Agenda for America, Professor Kochan has called attention to the new challenges facing working families. Again and again, he has stressed the need for fundamental change in established employee and labor-management relationships. He says the economic crisis only made him redouble his efforts to bring labor and management together, seeing it as a crucial component to a successful recovery.

“We simply are not going to have a sustainable recovery if we don’t apply some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years about the need for more cooperation at the workplace. Dialogue about minimizing layoffs and what kinds of changes should be made in terms of both work practices and public policy just has to happen at the level of the firm.” Looking back to the 1981 - 1983 recession, Kochan points to the work of Donald Ephlin, one of the most innovative labor leaders of the day. By agreeing to significant wage concessions in return for the commitment to innovation that led to the creation of the car company Saturn, and the joint venture between GM and Toyota called NUMMI, Ephlin was able to bring a number of U.S. automakers back from the brink of bankruptcy. “The same type of leadership and innovation are still needed today,” Kochan says, “[along with] a willingness to accept short-run pain for a commitment to long-term innovation.”

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