The Eyes of Labor Are Upon Us

The Eyes of Labor Are Upon Us

Hollywood’s writers and actors are giving new energy and a prominent voice to the struggles of workers everywhere.

When I heard Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, make the case for her union members, I was moved.

Did you know that 87% of SAG-AFTRA union members don’t qualify for health insurance? How much do they have to make to qualify? $26,000 a year. In other words, only a select few top earners make big money. Everyone else is barely getting by. This is a working person’s struggle for rights, respect, and compensation.

And the lords of the entertainment universe are not pleased…

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger (who made $45.9 million in 2021) said, “There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic.” What’s not realistic is the idea that income inequality will go unchallenged. It’s unrealistic to think that we “the people,” will continue to passively take whatever the corporations we support with our labor and our buying power dish out.

In her speech, Fran Drescher said:

It’s really important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world, and particularly the eyes of labor are upon us. What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.

Greed is a deadly disease. The good news is there’s a cure and the labor unions in this country have an outsized role to play in providing this cure.

“An entire system incentivized to exploit workers.” There’s nothing more American than that. Not when you consider that unpaid forced labor helped create countless American fortunes.

Tragically, the exploitation of workers of every race is woven into the fabric of this nation. You don’t need a degree in American history to know that American workers in meat-packing plants, in mines, and in garment factories (to name a few) have died in this struggle.

To highlight what Fran Drescher said in her rousing speech:

We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity. Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions, because at some point the jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored.
This is a moment of truth and inside of this truth, we can more clearly see how wrong things have gone in our corporations, our branches of government, our schools, and our media. We can see how broken we are and what widespread corruption and malfeasance does to society.

American freedom is a point of honor, but how free are people who work themselves to the bone, who neglect their mental and physical well-being, and who shirk their responsibilities at home? How free are people who work all day and yet they can barely afford rent, utilities, food, or medicine?
America is the richest nation on earth, and in my lifetime, this wealth has grown exponentially, particularly since the dawn of digital. What I have yet to see is an attendant growth in generosity from those who benefit most (or any legislation to make them pay their fair share of taxes, at the very least).

Income disparity today is ugly and alarming. On average, CEOs today receive about 398 times the annual average salary of production and non-supervisory workers in their firms. It’s disgusting and wrong, and it’s time to turn this tide. It’s time for workers to unite and demand fairer treatment for all.

For Better Results, Understand the Relationships Between Creativity, Productivity, and Accountability

For Better Results, Understand the Relationships Between Creativity, Productivity, and Accountability

People are being asked to do more with less. In the ad agency business, this has been going on since the first days of Digital Disruption. Today, with COVID-19 raging across the land and the globe, so-called “thought workers” who can work from home are doing so, but at what cost to themselves and the economy at large?

While it is true that some people excel in a home office and everyone saves on commute time, not all people, nor all teams are meant to work remotely.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development:

In the longer-term, productivity performance could improve to the extent that the crisis catalyses wider and smarter adoption of efficient telework practices, raising worker well-being and efficiency and lowering firms’ costs. This could speed up the transition into a “new normal”, which would have been more gradual in the absence of the crisis, given uncertainties and costs around the necessary organisational and management changes and other hurdles – cultural reluctance or legal constraints.

Emerging evidence provides support for this notion: 61.9% of hiring managers interviewed in a recent US poll stated their intention to rely more on remote work in the future. However, against these positive longer-term productivity effects stand potentially adverse effects arising from increased spatial distance among employees, e.g. impaired communication resulting in lower innovation or the fusing of work and personal, family and social life leading to hidden overtime.

“Hidden overtime” is a nice way of saying that with no division between work and home or work and play, We, the People are fast becoming automatons.

The process was well underway prior to the pandemic. Now, it’s worse and the impacts are rippling through our society. Overworked and underpaid productivity hounds burn out and lose their edge and effectiveness. When this happens, we all lose. Unhappy and unproductive workers are not exactly the best shoppers or most pleasant people. No sustainable work practices, no disposable income, no stoking of the economic engines.

The Eternal Question: Where Do the Best Ideas Come From?

Question: Where do great ideas come from?

Answer: Great ideas come from the minds, hearts, and souls of people who are experts at connecting disparate dots.

To do this deep work and connect disparate dots, people must have the room to relax, and the room to let their minds wander. Ergo, I want to present to you what I consider the ideal office space for a creative worker today:

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Creative People Need Some Space to Think, Okay?

In a work environment where Slack, text, email, and project management software are always on and always dinging for attention RIGHT NOW, the team’s performance is bound to suffer.

Ad agencies can become pressure cookers where people have too many meetings and too many tasks on their plate. When this happens, people are not their best selves, which means their best ideas are not being sought, nor found.

People must be free to think, free to speak truth to power, free to go for long walks, and free to dream. When anyone or anything impinges on this creative freedom, trouble ensues.

Stress kills people and ideas. Ergo, the conditions that create stress must be managed successfully. You do this by becoming more accountable to yourself, to your team, and to your customers. When those are your north stars, you’re in alignment and when you’re in alignment you can do the “heavy lifting” required to achieve great things.

The 12 Point Plan to Save America

I hear a chorus of cautious and concerned voices in the mainstream media warning Democrats to refrain from pushing their agenda too far to the left. When you’re on the inside looking out, I suppose you’ll do that.

Here’s what I believe: Hesitation kills and this is the absolute worst time in American history to play it safe. The federal government is broken. It does not need a tune-up. It needs a complete overhaul or it’ll never run again.

Were I able to mold a candidate from human clay (as Karl Rove has done), I’d put the following platform forward.

The 12 Point Plan to Save America

1- Reinstate the draft and make military service (or the equivalent public works service) mandatory. It’s the only way to run an Empire.

2- Simultaneously reduce the size of the Empire. We currently maintain more than 800 military bases in 70 countries overseas. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have 30 foreign bases combined. Let’s reduce the footprint to 200 total overseas bases and put all those dollars saved into infrastructure and social services.

3- Make Election Day a national holiday and encourage the use of mail-in ballots and paper ballots (to prevent hacking and boost participation rates).

4- Treat guns like cars. Own as many as you want, but each gun must be registered with the state and you must prove you’re competent with firearms (via regular testing) in order to have a license.

5- House the homeless and provide universal healthcare for all people and all conditions. If you need to know how we will pay for it, we will close more than 600 overseas military bases. See #2 above.

6- Outlaw for-profit prisons and turn all but the most high-security prisons into mobile work camps, where people work outside on farms and on other infrastructure projects.

7- Encourage corporations to focus on their triple bottom line and provide job training and jobs via a public/private partnership dedicated to improving our city, county, state, and national parks; providing affordable and efficient public transportation; and creating sustainable energy and agriculture solutions.

8- Make all campaigns for public office publicly funded and remove all dark money from the process entirely.

9- Welcome refugees and put them on a fast track to citizenship and job training.

10- Officially recognize and apologize for our original sins—slavery and genocide—and make restitution to the victims’ offspring. Also, establish two new memorials on The Mall in Washington, DC.

11- Pay our best teachers as much or more than lawyers. See #2 above.

12- Create a North American partnership with Mexico and Canada where all citizens can easily travel and work in any of the three nations.

Keep Following The Money

Keep Following The Money

Democrats and other concerned Americans are now asking, “How did we fall this far this fast?” My counter is we didn’t all of a sudden arrive at the gates of kleptocracy. It’s been a slow drip of corporate and government malfeasance ever since Nixon lied about Vietnam, Watergate and everything else. Yet, it is true that we’ve never seen such blatant disregard for the rule of law by the executive branch of the federal government before, and it’s 12 days before Trumplethinskin takes the oath of office.

Let’s look at Don’s many ties to Russia—all financial. TIME last August published a piece that lays it out, plain as day:

It’s true that Trump has failed to land a business venture inside Russia. But the real truth is that, as major banks in America stopped lending him money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financial backing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows.

Now, The Wall St. Journal is reporting that Don’s businesses owe more than $1 billion to 150 different entities. This does NOT include “off the books” deals with Russian oligarchs. It could be that he owes them much more.

Don’s need for personal financial gain above all else, including country, is about to cost us all dearly. Putin owns this guy, and yet many on the right continue to support him, instead of the sitting POTUS and our intelligence officers. Political, economic, and cultural divisiveness has taken us to the edge of a new cliff.

As the nation teeters, and the media pundits scramble to decode another Tweet from Don, his team of political hacks are busy creating havoc and ascending to the highest offices in the land. One of the top hacks in the room is Jared Kushner, Don’s son-in-law, and fellow real estate rich guy. The New York Times just exposed his significant business dealings and conflicts of interest.

The Kushner family business has participated in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions in the last decade, many of them backed by opaque foreign money. In all, the company owns more than 20,000 apartments and approximately 14 million square feet of office space, including the building that houses the Midwest headquarters of AT&T and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In what could be an interesting case of familial foreshadowing, Jared’s dad, Charles, was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations in 2005. Real estate in New York is a tough business. Developers are often short of the cash they need. Enter the Russian and Chinese investors who are flooding their freshly minted monies into the United States, particularly into real estate. They have been buying our land, our buildings, and our companies at an alarming pace for many years. Now they’re buying the federal government too, and we the people are left to watch the country get stripped for parts.

This is not about left and right, it’s about right and wrong. This is a brutal class war between global elites (not coastal elites) and everyone else. Look around you and see who owns what. Chinese investors are swarming all over the Portland real estate market, for one, and the market here is now hugely over-priced. It’s not just commercial real estate that they’re buying. According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, U.S. home sales to Chinese nationals totaled $27.3 billion last year. Our desire to make more money at all costs and support a lifestyle that can not be sustained is our great weakness as a nation.

Previously: Follow The Money

Digital Distortions of Epic Proportions

The commercial Internet has been “a thing” for just over two decades. It’s new technology with no official, or agreed upon, manual. Many people don’t know how to use this network of nodes; nor how it can be used to distract and mislead.

Media literacy is sorely needed in this country today, along with a much better sense of personal online security and an understanding of the cyber terrorism threats facing our society. So-called “black hat hackers” can attack many of our most important systems—banking, transportation, communications, even weapons systems—all brutal hacks that could cripple our economy and our ability to fight back.

Messing with our election is a more heinous crime than we realize, and we need to respond swiftly with punitive action. A show of digital force! It’s also high time that we more fully grasp why China, Russia, Iran and other states are working against us. We’ve been so focused on the terror threat from radical Islamists that the new arms race (for the world’s remaining natural resources, including water), that we’ve taken our eye off the global threats ball.

Don can pretend to “Make America Great Again” in his dreams. Meanwhile, strong actors on the global stage are licking their chops at how stupid, confused and vulnerable we appear to be at this juncture in time. Do you think leaders in China and Russia admire Don’s bluster or confuse it with strength? Don’t kid yourself. Don’s playing checkers while our enemies play chess.

To effectively guard against real harm, Americans of all political preferences better find a way to get on the same national security page, or things could get very bad before they get better. Don can skip all the intelligence briefings he wants. We the people can’t afford to be that willfully ignorant.

One idea to strengthen our digital defense is to make a greater investment in talent. The New York Daily News is suggesting a digital talent “draft.” The writer notes that brilliant techies go to work in corporate jobs for big money, which presents a recruiting obstacle for the federal government. How do we convince people to serve? I’m not sure we need a draft, although I like the option of public service for graduating high school students. At the rate we’re falling from grace and prominence, the need to serve is now self-evident.

Sadly, a blizzard of distractions is used by Don and his ilk to confuse and diffuse. Don will continue to Tweet nonsensical and insulting things and the media will continue to run with it as news, instead of explaining what these Tweets truly are—digital distractions purposefully placed there by an autocrat (obsessed by his Putin-like race for ill-gotten fortunes).

The longer we remain divided and dysfunctional, the weaker we become as a nation. We can get stronger as individuals by learning how media, including digital media, is being used against the interests of freedom. We can get stronger as a nation by removing blame for how this happened, and refocus now on how we save ourselves from disaster.

It won’t be a political effort that saves America. It will be a post-political coming to our senses. We live on one planet with limited resources that must be shared, or chaos and death reign. Lines between nations, between states, between parties, and between people are artificial constructs. There’s one planet, and one people living on it. For now.

Follow The Money

The Koch brothers lost this Presidential election to the Mercer family, but they won plenty of House and Senate seats to make sure their bidding gets done.

The master puppeteers who pull all the strings behind the screen hold a truly dark view of America and the people in it. To see just how dark their worldview is, let’s take a look at the Koch’s holdings: Minerals. Oil. Coal. Chemicals. Beef. Wood. Not one of these product categories is sustainable.

The billionaires are in a race to the end. Their apocalyptic vision is that the Earth’s natural resources will be extracted and used by them, for gross profits, no matter what the damage is to the environment. This short-sightedness is only possible when the ultra-rich can successfully escape the global climate crisis. The thing with that is climate change can hit with alarming speed. Drought, fires, or an ice age can all sweep in and leave famine in its wake. Nevertheless, the players continue to make horrible bets with our collective future.

Do you see how the political drama is all about the battle over finite natural resources? Sure, you and I may care about gun control, our failing schools or reproductive rights. The billionaires care much more about controlling raw resources, and in their shitstem, “we the people” are mere “labor units.”

It is time to stop obsessing over Hillary and Don, Blue and Red states, Democrats and Republicans. The super rich versus everyone else is not binary. It’s a few powerful families against the rest of humanity. As long they keep us divided, they keep us conquered.

Top 10 Reasons I Am Voting For Hillary in 2016

Several people have asked me who I like for President. My answer has caught both friends and strangers off guard. One possible reason for their surprise is the fact that I have voted for third party candidates like Ralph Nader in the past, and I continue to advocate for reconstruction of the two-party system.

Nevertheless, I like Hillary, and not in some lame “I guess she’s okay” way. I like her a lot, and for me the choice this year is stark. There’s Hillary, and there’s everybody else. Because I feel this way, I thought it might be helpful to write down why I am voting for Hillary, not Bernie, in the Oregon primary and again in November.

I don’t expect Sanders’s or Trump’s supporters for that matter to buy my arguments, but here they are for better or worse…

    1) Hillary is a progressive at heart and a tactical realist in practice. We’ve seen just how effective this model is during the Obama Presidency, and to a lesser degree during Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House.

    2) Hillary is a strong advocate for gun control. I’m not a one-issue voter, but if I were this is the one issue that makes all the difference to me. Bernie’s record on this issue and his current position on gun control is hugely problematic.

    3) Hillary is a strong woman and it’s time for a strong, incredibly qualified woman to lead the nation and the world toward greater equality and rights for women everywhere.

    4) Hillary is formerly our nation’s top diplomat, and in a dangerous world gone mad, I trust her more than most in Washington to use the power of the U.S. military judiciously.*

    5) Hillary is the original gangsta when it comes to healthcare reform, and as President she will have the power to make the Affordable Care Act better than it currently is.

    6) Hillary is a feminist icon who will work hard to protect women’s right to choose, equal pay for equal work and family leave.

    7) Hillary will appoint several sensible Supreme Court justices who respect the Constitution and enlightened applications of the law.

    8) Hillary has lots of friends up and down the aisle, which is what makes organizations run smoothly and what will make it possible for Hillary to create an incredible team of smart, savvy Americans dedicated to forwarding her agenda.

    9) Hillary knows how Washington and the world works and is practical enough to compromise when she needs to and to hold her ground when that’s the best play.

    10) Hillary is a tough fighter and the kind of ball-buster capable of putting Trump’s bombastic balls in a permanent vice, and following that, Putin’s.

Are you cool with that? Great, now let’s watch a video.

* This week, legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight celebrated Herbert Hoover’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He called it a heroic act and plainly suggested that Trump is “brave enough” to do the same.

Flipping Ageism and Ad Agency B.S. The Bird

In the advertising agency business, it’s best to get out before you get old. Or so goes the common wisdom. Naturally, there are many notable exceptions. David Ogilvy was 39 when he wrote his first ad, and he spent the next 25 years of his life actively involved in the making of advertising.

One could argue that it’s a job for young people, due to the late nights, immense workload and high pressure situations that come with landing and keeping multi-million dollar clients.

Joanthan Cude of McKinney believes one must become and then remain “resilient” to survive in advertising.

As I began ruminating on life and advertising, I couldn’t help but think about how, as one ages from 25 to 50, advertising becomes a steep pyramid, and people fall off in droves. It’s not necessarily because their talent dims or because they lose their ability to think critically or because they can no longer connect with young consumers. It’s because, for all the psychic highs an agency career can bestow, it comes with a tremendous amount of wear and frustration. Much of your best thinking and a lot of blood, sweat and tears end up on the proverbial cutting-room floor.

Cude doesn’t mention ageism in his article, or the fact that if you’re over 40 and working in an ad agency, you better be working from a corner office or your days are numbered. Instead, he puts the blame squarely on the people who fail to be resilient. Of course, that POV is a failure in itself. Let me rephrase resilience. Let’s call it shit-sandwich eating, because that’s a lot closer to reality. Some totally sane, resilient people simply opt out, not because they’re beaten down by the ad game. Some people find or create a better game for themselves, which is the ultimate act of resilience.

Also, let’s examine a few cogent facts here. Agency attrition has nothing to do with older people not knowing how to relate, or sell, to younger people. Younger people are clearly not the demo. According to Media Post, Americans older than 50 have double the discretionary spending power of any other age group. The average head of household is 52. The average new car buyer is 56. The average Mac user is 54.

In short, the market for goods and services is dominated by people who are over 50, but the people charged with serving up the marketing strategies, the creative ideas and all the rest that helps drive the economy forward are much younger, sometimes decades younger.

What if young people work in advertising because they don’t know any better? Seriously. It’s easy to be swayed by a decent salary and beautiful workspace, plus the chance to see your work on TV or in print. Put another way, what if young people are the only people agency owners and managers can convince to work there?

When we moved to Oregon, I was 43. I half-heartedly looked for an agency job here. Given the tattered economy and my own disgruntlement with the agency business model, I needed a new answer. For a time, I thought I’d need to leave advertising and start over. Then I saw what I needed to do. I needed to separate what I love about the work, from what I detest about the toxic agencies where it is created. From this initial spark, Bonehook was born.

Bonehook is now the anti-agency. I’m a critic and a practitioner of advertising, and my company is a reflection of me. The agency business is bloated, antiquated and a great waster of the client’s time and money. We start from this premise and ask prospective clients if they’d like the traditional treatment, or if they’d prefer a better way.

Beyond The Swoosh: How Oregon Can Be More Like Nike

Earlier this month Nike announced the start of a succession planning process that will conclude in the appointment of the company’s next Chairman.

Enigmatic Phil Knight, Oregon’s only billionaire, will relinquish his powerful Chairman role. At the same time, his son Travis ascends to a seat on the company’s board of directors.

The Oregonian’s editorial board came out in favor of these moves, and in favor of success in general. “Oregon is known as hip, innovative, tolerant and an overall cool place to be. Unlike Nike, it’s not necessarily known for success,” the board argued.

According to the state’s largest newspaper, success is attained by building a great brand, going beyond your natural strengths and not letting mistakes cripple you. All lessons that we can glean from Nike’s path from Blue Ribbon Sports to the global sports powerhouse it is today. Provided we’re willing to overcome any reservations we may have about Nike and Knight.

Despite all his success, Phil Knight was never hugely popular in Oregon, except among fans of Oregon Ducks sports teams. Some of that probably is a product of his personality and some of it because Oregon does not easily embrace financial success. And maybe that’s the biggest difference of all between Nike and Oregon. It’s hard to be successful without fully embracing success.

When you strip out these words and lay them bare: “Oregon does not easily embrace financial success,” they seem absurd. What do Oregonians embrace? Bottomless bowls of granola? Nature, and a more humane approach to work? I think yes, Oregonians do follow their own rules and the rules are relaxed. At the same time, the people of Oregon are complex and can’t be summed up that easily. For instance, the state has a rich industrial history, and we continue to lean heavily on manufacturing today. Locally, “Made in the U.S.A.” means “Made in Oregon.” Nike, of course, manufactures its shoes in overseas plants. That’s at odds with the Oregon way, and you might say the American way. Making shoes in Oregon would reduce profits, but it would win a lot of hearts and minds.

Back to the idea of not embracing financial success. It sounds like a Sunday School lesson from the New England Puritans who came West, not for gold but for a virgin land upon which to imprint their indelible and chaste stamp. Of course, none of that squares with the history of bar owners, loggers, ship builders, fishermen, cowboys, and various other rogues who also made Oregon what it is today. I don’t know if Phil Knight identifies with the Puritans or the rogues. What matters is resolving in some way these conflicting views of ourselves as Oregonians. To truly reject the creation of wealth makes us outcasts in the American experiment. It seems to me what we want is the creation of sustainable wealth through more conscious means.

For too long being pro-business has meant being anti-environment. Here again we find tension between the poles, when what we need is agreement to meet in the middle. We can achieve controlled growth, but it is growth, nonetheless. Ideas about Californians going home are stale. Statistically speaking, no one’s going home. Now, let’s meet the reality of population growth with economic growth, so the great majority can afford to benefit from the world-class schools, healthcare, transportation, food and beverage, architecture, arts and sports that help define Portland and Oregon. The magical beauty and mild weather are gifts. The rest we must work to perfect.

In Stormy Waters, More Journalists Jump Ship (With No Shore In Sight)

In Stormy Waters, More Journalists Jump Ship (With No Shore In Sight)

Journalists are under siege today. In many countries around the world, journalists risk and sometimes lose their lives in the line of duty. Here at home, the threat isn’t violence against their person, but a failure of the business model that for decades supported them rather handsomely.

The number of full-time U.S. daily newspaper journalists has plunged to 36,700, according to the American Society of News Editors, down from around 55,000 before the 2008 economic downturn and the acceleration of an industry-wide print advertising and circulation decline.

This week we learned that advertising columnist at The New York Times, Stuart Elliott, agreed to take a generous buyout offer from “The Gray Lady” and bow out.


David Griner of Adweek wrote: “For those in the advertising world, Elliott’s departure might be the most stunning. He is widely considered the most influential advertising journalist in the U.S. and has guided the newspaper’s coverage of the ad industry for decades.”

With Lewis Lazare long gone from the Chicago Sun Times and now Elliott out, there are now zero reporters working the ad industry beat full time at a major newspaper in this country.

Meanwhile, reporters of all stripes struggle to make ends meet. See the following Tweet:

Given the marketplace reality for journalists today, the most shocking media news of the week is the massive walkout staged by editors at The New Republic.

According to Ad Age, the magazine has lost at least 55 people from its masthead — a mix of fulltime employees and contributing editors — since Thursday. TNR will not publish its next issue on Dec. 15.

In a memo to staff on Thursday, The New Republic CEO Guy Vidra, said the magazine was replacing its editor, moving its headquarters to New York from Washington D.C. and cutting the number of issues in half to 10 starting in 2015.

“We are re-imagining The New Republic as a vertically integrated digital media company,” Mr. Vidra said in his memo Thursday.

This, of course, caused the group of old school media elites at TNR to be utterly outraged. That their outrage would also cause them to terminate employment at a time when there is little opportunity to go elsewhere as a journalist is a testament to the strength of their beliefs, and to the deep distaste journalists have for Silicon Valley’s version of “new media.”