The American worker is an endangered species. No, Iâ€™m not talking about the threats of outsourcing or downsizing. Iâ€™m referring to the fact that a growing number of companies no longer refer to people who work there as workers, or even as employees. They have become something else.
Shelf stockers at Wal-Mart, tellers at Bank of America, store managers at Kohl’s and cashiers at CVS are all called Associates.
The people who make lattes at Starbucks are not merely baristas. They are also Partners.
At Jet Blue, the pilots and flight attendants are Crew, as youâ€™d expect. But so are the reservations agents and secretaries in the home office.
Target and Whole Foods Markets employ Team Members.
Even better, everyone at The Walt Disney Co.â€”from CEO Bob Iger on downâ€”is a Cast Member. Lights, action, camera!
The worldâ€™s most famous search engine company is, of course, staffed by Googlers.
If there are other names out there you’re aware of, please send them to me, or comment below.
Speaking of Google, I did some searching around the Internet and could not find a single company that refers to the people who work there as workers. Unions, of course, still talk about workers. That may be why some corporations have opted for a language of their own.
To be sure, there are plenty of companies that still refer to the people on the payroll as employees. Some of themâ€”Southwest Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and The Container Storeâ€”are well known for treating their employees well. Most show up regularly on FORTUNE’s list of Great Places to Work. Maybe if you are good to your employees, it doesnâ€™t matter what you call them.
Iâ€™m not sure what to make of this new nomenclature. I suspect my left-leaning friends would see the disappearance of the â€œworkerâ€ as an effort to mask the class divides between owners and the workers, and to paper over the conflicts between bosses and employees. As Associates, Partners, Team Members, Crew and Cast Members, weâ€™re all in this together, right?
Then again, Circuit City laid off about 3,400 associates earlier this year to save money, saying it would replace them with lower paid workers, er, associates.
Iâ€™m pretty sure Karl Marx wouldnâ€™t approve of these new names.
Associates of the World, Unite!
It just doesnâ€™t have the same ring to it.