Humanist Business Values

Author Emily Dietle

My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks

An anonymous Las Vegas CEO recently announced that he would be ending the employment of twenty-two of his one hundred and fourteen employees, claiming that “Obamacare” has forced him into a financial corner. Across the country, Zane Tankel, Applebee’s New York Franchise CEO, after analyzing their profits has preliminarily said that they won’t be opening any new chains or hiring more people. All in the same week, we find Papa John’s CEO, John Schnatter, revealing that the pizza chain will be cutting shifts and raising prices.

What is being claimed, by these, and a few misdirected business owners across the country, is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cause or contribute to the collapse of their business due to the  “financial burden” that will be enacted in 2014. The upcoming changes will require that employers with more than fifty employees offer health insurance to their full-time workers, or incur a $2,000 per employee penalty. This is not about part-time employees or contractors, it’s ensuring that full-time employees —that are invested in their company— have access to health care.

The Vegas CEO said, in his public statement, that “Elections do have consequences, but so do choices.” Yes, the choices that he made to hire full-time employees, and not encumber himself with the responsibility of providing health insurance for them will certainly have consequences. It has consequences for his employees, that were simply seeking a job, that will now be left searching for a way to maintain their livelihood in a hostile job market.

Owning, operating, and managing a business comes with certain responsibilities, to both the bottom line and to employees, the latter being often overlooked or intentionally ignored for the sake of profit. What must  be recognized is that the health of the employee directly impacts whether the books are being penned with red or black ink. This is no different than the importance of maintaining functional equipment, and it should be blatantly obvious to business owners. It is clear that business practices need an infusion of ethical humanist values, to enlighten CEOS like Tankel, Schnatter, and the anon.

First, it should be suggested that business owners, CEOs, and managers pick up a copy of the Humanist Manifesto III , where they will find language to structure their businesses by, including the following confirmations and aspirations:

  • We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity.
  • Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern.
  • We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.
  • Humanists are concerned for the well being of all.

Second, persons responsible for making decisions about their employees should be aware of articles twenty-three and twenty-five, as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares the following:

  • Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

How should this translate to employers? If they are to employ persons, they should either provide for their health and well-being through an affordable insurance plan, or pay the employee fair wages that would allow for them to sustain their health, well-being, and livelihood in a competitive market. If they cannot handle such a responsibility, business ownership is not the path they should choose.