Amid the unending and depressing election coverage, I read something yesterday that really gave me heart. Joanne Chang, one of Boston’s most beloved chefs, wrote this piece for WBUR’s Cognoscenti. In it, she confronts the conundrum that so many small business owners are facing regarding healthcare for their employees. While Joanne, a business owner here in Massachusetts, has been dealing with the requirement to subsidize her full-time employees healthcare for some time, she was with a group of non-Massachusetts chefs recently and was disappointed by their apparent dread at soon having to do the same under Obama-care. They were actually already exploring the idea of cutting their employees’ hours to avoid the regulations. Maybe some of you will find her surprise at the attitudes she encountered a little naive but I didn’t. I found it inspiring.
You can be successful and earn a decent living and love what you do and create jobs and you can do it with humanity and grace. You can put your employees and colleagues – heck, all other human beings – health and welfare above your profits. You can bravely and calmly (not something I’m so good at but god bless) state your indignation and not hide it for fear of looking innocent or unsophisticated. We worship the mighty dollar in this country and bestow the label of success on those who make a lot of it. We like to dismiss those who don’t pursue it relentlessly as unambitious or ineffectual or even lazy. Well I can’t imagine anyone telling Joanne Chang that she is any of those things especially lazy. I wish business owners large and small would embrace their humanity and realize what a better world we would live in if they would. Just because you throw something in the collection plate at church doeesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to exploiting your employees. Compassion is a badge to wear 24-7, not just when it’s conducive to increased revenue. I couldn’t agree more with Joanne’s final statement that, “… in the final analysis, I would not consider profit made on the backs of uninsured workers well-earned.”