In review of the terrible driving conditions experienced Monday, with very few local business closed, I would like to share my thoughts on employee safety and big business.
When my husband woke up this morning, got dressed, and drove to work, I spent 45 minutes working from home, stressing about if I would be getting a call from an emergency worker, saying that he was being transported to the hospital. He doesn't work in the emergency services field. He isn't a doctor, or a nurse, or a snowplow driver. He is an office worker, who handles customer complaints from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
My mother had to take a day unpaid today because it was unsafe for her to drive to work, but her place of work wasn't closed. She also is not an emergency worker, doctor, nurse or on the police force. She is a social worker. She has five at home dependents, and lost an entire day's worth of wages.
Cashiers, customer service agents, gas station attendants, retail workers, and many other people had to drive to work today because their employers stayed open.
While North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, West Acres Mall, and many local schools were closed in order to keep their employees and patrons safe, many of the big businesses in town remained open. This forces their employees to either use their vacation time or risk their safety to make it to work. Also, if they choose the second, they have to find child care for their kids, who aren't at school.
However, the managers and directors of many of the locations that stayed open were missing from the office. They either stayed at home or worked remotely, which likely wasn't an option for their employees.
I find it disturbing that employers are held to such low standards, that they can choose to place their monetary gains over the safety of people. And that in some of these cases, the employees were told "if NDSU is closed a full day, we close" or "If West Acres closes, we close" and when it came down to the wire, blatantly ignored their promises; saying such things as "well, you are already here, so you might as well stay" even though the roads will get progressively worse as the night comes, and the weather gets colder.
This is my appeal to anyone in positions of control in business: Stop protecting the money, and start caring about your people.
If you choose to open your company in a place that has dangerous weather. Then please, treat it, and your employees with respect, and close your doors when safety is at stake.
Svare lives in Barnesville, Minn.