This morning I read about the bakers union refusing to accept the contract offer from bankrupt Hostess. If they don’t come to terms, Hostess will close and Wonder Bread, Hostess Twinkies, Fruit Pies and Ding Dongs may be gone forever. This is a big deal in our country because Hostess’ annual sales are $2.5 billion, they employ 18,300 people, and operate 33 Bakeries and 570 Bakery Retail Outlets. But most importantly, Hostess CupCakes are the perfect snack around a fire on a campout in the cool mountains of Colorado. I am 56 years old, and I love Hostess products just like I did when I was a kid.
I think the bakers union is making a mistake. Since we won the cold war, more than 2 billion people have entered the global work force, most of them wanting exactly what a Hostess Twinkie symbolizes, the American dream. Many of those who were liberated from the lack of opportunity in their government dominated economies are now highly motivated to do whatever it takes to prosper. In their newfound freedom, they want to innovate, learn, work, sell, and enjoy the profits. Advancing their skills is the door to production, which allows them a better life. We won the cold war so more people could govern themselves, increase their own value and self-worth, and prosper. Many of them are doing it.
In his book, That Used To Be Us (2011), Thomas Friedman emphasizes two developments that have changed the world forever. One is globalization. Globalization impacts every one of us right now. The production of and the prices of the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the electricity we use, and the food we eat are all impacted by globalization. We need to understand globalization and how to function productively in a globalized marketplace or we’ll be discouraged that the things we did before don’t work any more. If you are a Christian, I suggest you start by reading Thomas Friedman’s older book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999). It will explain some of the changes you’ve seen, even in your church. In addition, The World Is Flat (2005), also by Friedman, is a must read for anyone who desires to succeed over the next twenty years.
The second development is the information technology (IT) revolution. Here are two examples of where we are going: in the future we will need fewer teachers because, increasingly, teaching is done more accurately and more effectively by computers. With every gain teachers unions make to increase funding their own members, they are providing financial incentive for the schools to replace them with computerized education. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time. Another example are the janitors in oil refineries in Baton Rouge who can’t clean toilets unless they know how to use the computer to check in, order supplies, and report problems. Do any of you remember having to talk to someone to schedule a flight, reserve a hotel room, or make a long-distance call? Not anymore. Those jobs were not outsourced. They were replaced with IT systems. On November 11, 2012, 60 Minutes reported that manufacturers in American are looking for over 3,000,000 new employees right now, but they can’t use unskilled, unmotivated workers. They need competent workers who can think critically, communicate accurately, and who can collaborate with others. Manufacturers today are not simply looking for people who will show up, but for those who can program, operate, and maintain very expensive, complex machinery.
The workers at Hostess need to be grateful to have a job at all. Europe just slipped back into recession, which is where we may be headed. For their own good, Hostess workers need to get back to work and to take every extra moment they have to take classes to prepare them for the 21st Century workplace. Every community now has tech schools that help people learn a skill. In January of 2012, for those with less than a high school degree, unemployment was 13.8%; those with a high school degree and no college, 8.7%; those with some college or an associate degree, 7.7%, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 4.1%. If we want to work, we need to assume the responsibility to make ourselves competent so we can offer enough value that another is willing to pay us well.
I recently led a roundtable discussion on the east coast that was attended by a very successful businessman from Dallas who was a strong Christian. In the roundtable he said he hadn’t been to church in years because it offered no value to him. The group largely agreed. 21st Century Evangelicalism has an opportunity to do a better job increasing the value of Sunday morning worship in the lives of our hearers. Life is more than spirituality and morality. Life also requires competency, wisdom, understanding and production. I believe Christ wants everyone to be better off. I think if we will do what we have encouraged the Hostess bakers to do, stop negotiating for more money, but instead be grateful, increase our value to those we serve, and produce a better product, then we will all be rewarded.