A Real American Workplace

After studying corporate downsizing, a government staff sees it up close.

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When describing his pet project, the Office of the American Workplace, Labor Secretary Robert Reich promised in 1993 that it would guide a worried public through the job market’s turbulent seas. “The workplace is a win-win or a lose-lose situation,” he said. “We all win or we all lose together.”

Let’s hope he’s wrong. It turns out not even the folks at the Office of the American Workplace are safe. All 50 OAW staffers–who studied workplace conditions, strike prevention, and worker-friendly options to corporate downsizing–are likely to join the cruel job market they know all too well.

The GOP tanked the OAW’s $7 million budget after President Clinton made the agency responsible for monitoring federal contracts and canceling those with companies that use scabs. Apparently, Clinton gave OAW the new responsibility as a boon to unions after he failed to pass an anti-strike replacement bill.

OAW staff members, meanwhile, await word on their future. “The Labor Department and the union haven’t worked out what will happen,” says one ex-staffer.

Who should these latest victims of downsizing go to for advice? No one’s quite sure. In the past, they could always turn to the Office of the American Workplace.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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