March 24, 2020

How Are You Reacting to COVID-19?

By Paul Bieber

There is no correct answer. We will only know six months from now what worked best, if anything. There are many opinion pieces from the left, the right and our President. None answer the needs of our country cogently.

What of our glass industry? What should we be doing? Should we close our businesses and send people home with full pay? Sick or vacation pay? Have them file for unemployment, where, after taxes, they may get between 40 or 50% of their previous wages? Again, no right answer.

If you are in a state of forced shut-down and no travel, what comes next? Are we, in the glass business, an emergency industry? Yes, for breakages, no for interior renovations and lots of maybes in-between. Are IG manufacturers, temperers and laminators emergency companies? In random cases, yes. In making for stock , a resounding no.

If you are in a state without an emergency shutdown, you stay open for business, but here is the key question of this article: What about the health of your employees? If you close down, is it healthier for people to stay home collecting unemployment, or to continue working with a health risk that could then run through your entire company, no matter the size?

I do not have the positive answer for this. Last night I discussed this with my wife, Elaine. When I was working we had about 200 employees in three states. What would I have done if this virus appeared while I was the decision-maker? I could not come up with any other answer than health comes before profit. But, for the working families who need that weekly paycheck to put food on the table, they would take the risk of working for the sake of their families. They will not be able to buy groceries and pay the rent on unemployment.

Every small business in the U.S. will need some sort of governmental financial help to continue paying wages when their state goes to a shelter-in-place condition.

I don’t have the answers other than to say that health, to me, is the most important goal. I hope that our state and federal governments help all of us get through these times.