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Determined and Persistent

Marty Morgenstern

Covered California Board of Directors Member

Marty Morgenstern

Q: You implemented collective bargaining in 1979. How did you successfully bring about that change in the employee-employer relationship?

A: If you're the one who wants the change, you have to be determined and persistent. You also have to be flexible. You're not right about everything, and you're never going to get everything you want. There are certain things that you don't compromise on. But you do try to accommodate other people to reach your basic goal.

Q: How do you balance the competing needs of two different groups that you support?

A: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Talk, meet, confer. If you strongly identify with the needy, and you identify with unions, and you want to help them both in a given situation, you must be prepared to say no to both of them. There are situations where you can't make everybody happy, and you may end up making nobody happy. So know that you've done the best you can and be prepared to live with your decision no matter the outcome.

Q: In the push and pull of negotiations you may ruffle the feathers of a friend or ally. How have you handled that?

A: I trusted the fact that people I have a good relationship with recognized the realties that business is business, and we both have to do what we have to do to maintain our integrity. If that's going to destroy a relationship, it's not my fault. I certainly have not taken it personally when people have taken positions that ruffled my feathers. I recognize that they are doing their job just as I am

Q: What advice do you have for budding leaders in public service?

A: I don't think public service is different than private service. I think what makes one successful is taking work seriously, and finding ways to do your job better. It consumes a lot of your life, and it's an important part of your life. I've had a hundred jobs. Once when working in a pawn shop I volunteered to pick up the mail while the regular guy who did it was away. I was rewarded with a week's vacation even though management knew I was leaving at the end of the summer. They also found me another part-time job. I was in college at the time. You should always do your best, whether you're rewarded or not.

This interview with Marty Morgenstern was conducted on November 13, 2012 and has been edited and condensed. When this interview was conducted, Marty Morgenstern was Secretary of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency.

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