FAMILY ISSUES OF EMPLOYEES: THE CASE OF
EXCEL INDUSTRIES, INC.
A Conflict with Public Perceptions in the United States
James S. O'Rourke
This is an authentic case study dealing with corporate communication, media relations, community relations, and the operation of an employee child care center on the premises of a company in the Midwestern United States known as Excel Industries, Inc. The company is a supplier of window systems to the automotive industry that acquired a subsidiary firm known as Nyloncraft, Inc. The decision of Excel Industries executives to close a child care center operated by Nyloncraft, Inc. caused great harm to the reputation of the company, largely because of media coverage and community reaction. Corporate executives acknowledge that careful planning and a different approach to communicating the message might have saved them from considerable grief and criticism.
1. Family Issues and the American Workplace
The workforce in North America, particularly in the United States and Canada, is becoming increasingly female, reflecting a general trend toward two-paycheck families.
According to a study entitled Workforce 2000 from The Hudson Institute, an increasing number of women are entering the North American job market. Between 1990 and 2000, two-thirds of all new workers will be women. And, by 2000, some 61 percent of all working-age women will be employed.
Most studies also indicate that these women are entering the job market more for economic than for professional reasons. While the number of women
P. Ulrich and C. Sarasin (eds.), Facing Public interest, 241-250. © 1995 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
with college degrees and professional credentials is rising, so is the number of single-parent families headed by women. These families are, for the most part, well below average in income and education, and are more likely than two-parent households to require public assistance.
Employers are coming to realize that what had fonnerly been seen as «wo- men's issues» - including flexible scheduling, maternity and family leave, and daycare - are really «family issues» deserving serious attention from both the public and private sectors. Some of these matters have become the object of protracted and heated negotiation during collective bargaining. And, what once was regarded as a lUxury or fringe benefit in many organizations, is more frequently viewed by employees as an entitlement.
In North America, and especially in the United States, daycare for the children of working mothers is not seen as an entitlement to be provided by government. The U.S. Federal Government views itself as constitutionally excluded from issues related to management of education and childcare, and state and local governments cite a lack of funding. Corporate America has increasingly come to see a social responsibility for the children of their employ- ees, and employees have come to expect and depend on such corporate...