The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship


How you can help promote craftsmanship...

If you are among those who believe craftsmen don't get enough respect for their accomplishments, here is a way to help make “Craftsmanship” and “labor” respected words again. We have to be realistic and realize that newspapers aren’t going to print a section just about craftsmanship, but perhaps they will do a section on the labor side of business. I’ll be the first to admit this is a long shot, but with your help you never know.

I truly believe that the long term effect of mass produced products in the world today has been the loss of personal contact between the user of products and the craftsmen who produce them. Consumers believe that all products come from machines and that a magnificent building suddenly appears because a brilliant architect designed it and a bunch of unskilled laborers assembled it.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Today the tooling to build the high-speed manufacturing processes requires more skill to design and build than that which was required of the craftsmen who produced the products in years past. The beautiful structures of today are the result of the efforts of many trades coordinating their skills to complete large projects in record time. The building trades have become more specialized in recent years because the subcontractors have become more specialized, not because the workers are less skilled.

You can help advance craftsmanship in your country by simply spending a few moments forwarding the letter below to your local newspaper editor. Just copy all or part of the letter and paste it in an email or print it and mail it to your editor. If you want to copy or print a version that is just the letter itself and does not contain this introduction, CLICK HERE.

A Suggestion for Newspaper Editors:

Add a weekly LABOR SECTION to the paper

Consider these facts:

1) Mondays present a content problem for every newspaper’s business section because the stock markets were closed all weekend, so this would be a good place for a section devoted to labor news.

2) A survey will find that many more newspaper readers fall into the “labor” category than the “business” category when it comes to employment.

3) All major newspapers have a business section, but few, if any, have a labor section. This would be an area to become a leader in journalism rather than a follower.

The main goal of the Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship is to promote good craftsmanship, and, in doing so, make the general public more aware of the magnificent work that craftsmen and tradesmen do daily without fanfare. I believe the reason that labor topics aren’t covered in newspapers is that the people who decide on and produce the content know little about the trades. Journalists are usually the people who got A’s in English in school. They don’t find what labor does interesting, so they don’t write about it. A good labor section would need a reporter who understands the challenges and rewards of working in labor and the trades. Expert financial and business writers have spent a lot of time learning about those aspects of business, but in most cases they just don’t understand or appreciate the intelligence it takes to be a good craftsman and what good craftsmen are capable of doing. Henry Ford was a craftsman long before he was a businessman. The businessman who owns the army of road graders, dump trucks and concrete laying machines constructing the interstate highway near you most likely didn’t start with a degree in business. He probably started with a wheelbarrow and a pickup truck doing quality work.

I believe that labor deserves it's own section at least once a week; however, after 30 years of business experience I realize the resistance to trying something new. Once a month would be a major improvement. It's just the right thing to do. September 11, 2001 taught America that the “heroes” in this country are not the movie stars, baseball players and CEO’s that we used to glorify. Regular people doing their jobs extremely well, like the local policeman or fireman in New York, came into much higher regard once people saw firsthand what their jobs involved. If you think they are the only people who risk their lives daily, try sending a reporter to follow the typical day of an ironworker building a bridge or skyscraper.

That brings us to the obvious question of what this new labor page could contain. Here are some suggestions:

∙ A feature story monthly about one of the trades. The article would detail exactly what these tradesmen do, how they coordinate their work with other trades, wages for average workers, physical requirements, length of apprenticeship, working conditions, safety considerations, a list of local unions and availability of employment.

∙ Stories about the small, local businesses that are selling craftsmanship; such as shoemakers, bakers, cabinet and furniture makers, custom auto paint shops, welders, masons, sign painters, machinists, etc. These would not be just anyone in these businesses, but the ones who make extra effort to be the best in their area or offer something special.

Unions shown in a positive light. In my life I have never read a story explaining how the large building contractors benefit from unions. For example, a contractor may suddenly need 300 skilled employees to complete a project they were awarded. Unions will supply the skilled help needed until the job is completed. Think about how union workers pitched in and saved the day during the 9/11 crises. How about the union workers who worked seven days a week after the Northridge earthquake to replace collapsed bridges in record time?

∙ Union happenings, promotions, social events

A listing of labor jobs that are available locally and the skills required

Accidents that happened to local workers or health concerns of different trades. What will be done in the future to prevent these problems

∙ Local stories about the graduation of an apprentice or sons or daughters following in their parent’s footsteps in the trades

Stories about seemingly simple jobs that take a special skill, like a waitress who takes a complex food order for ten people on a scrap of paper or by memory (an engineer would need 100 pages to convey the same information), or how field workers can handle heavy items for ten hours in 105 degree heat by pacing themselves

These are just a few examples of the type of interesting articles that could be written about labor using a little creative journalism that many readers would enjoy. At the same time your newspaper would be better serving your local community because we can’t all be businessmen or journalists. It would give the labor segment of the community at least one day out of seven when their efforts could be documented and appreciated. Some positive stories would be a nice change after six days of bankruptcies, crooked CEO’s and corporate scandals. 

As an additional consideration for newspaper editors, the advantage of this type of article is that most do not require a short deadline. General interest articles could be prepared well in advance and used when appropriate.

Any portion of this letter may be used without mentioning its author, Joe Martin or the Foundation as long it is used in a positive manner. My goal is to make the public aware of the work done by the great craftsmen of the world, not Joe Martin. Comments or suggestions regarding this letter can be addressed to The Joe Martin Foundation, ATTN: Craig Libuse, 3190 Lionshead Avenue, Carlsbad, CA 92010, or email terry@craftsmanshipmuseum.com.

Thank you for your consideration,
Joe Martin

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