In his speech titled, “What the chamber of commerce can do in promoting better industrial relations in a community,” Alexander C. Brown spoke explicitly about the vital role chambers of commerce fulfill in their community. He believed that there is an essential relationship between the employer and the employee that is interdependent on both to work together for a better society and increased productivity. He states:
The chamber of commerce, if it is to fulfill its proper functions in a community, should be better equipped than any other body to give thoughtful study to the basic principles governing proper industrial relations and so to formulate them that they will be clearly understood by employer, employee, and the public. The first step of the chamber of commerce…in accepting this responsibility is the formulation of a definite labor policy composed strictly of principles, not methods. Such declaration of principles should not only be equitable, both to employers and to employees but should emphasize that, at all times, the public interest is paramount.
When he delivered this speech, Brown was the President of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. His words are relevant today as they were when he gave them in 1922. Our divided country shows no indication of improvement. The chamber’s role, according to Brown, is to bring groups together for the public interest good. Chambers should be the commerce driving force for uniting our communities.
As Chambers work to strengthen our local economies, we can, and I believe, should proactively work to create a united community. Brown spells out that the role of industry, management and the worker are vital for a healthy economy. For the economy to work, management must be acting strategically as well as responsibly to succeed. The workers must be able to trust management while they perform their jobs and are trustworthy.
Today chambers of commerce need to be the commerce driver for their service territory. We need to step up, be the pro-active organization that helps management understand their role to lead their companies for stable growth and gives workers confidence that they too will realize the benefits from a stable economy. Workers need to be responsible for their role in the company’s success. Together, as a community, all will succeed and not be divided.
Picture an economy where the leading elements of the community trust each other and work together rather than viewing the relationship as, “us against them.” Chambers of commerce need to step into the discussion and describe the vision of a united economy and hold the players accountable to fulfill their role for the community to succeed. Chambers of commerce are forces for good in the community. State what you expect in your community and hold the leaders accountable to live up to that expectation. Communities working together are the communities that are succeeding. It’s was 96 years ago, but Brown’s words are as true now as they were when he delivered them. Are you talking about the “public good”?