Michael Keane, Ph.D.
Michael Keane is currently working in the sheet metal industry for a contractor in the Chicago, Illinois market. Michael is a member of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation International Association (SMART Union). His career in the sheet metal industry included establishing a Building Information Modeling (BIM) training program and BIM software for his union’s train-the-trainer training programs.
Michael co-invented and obtained a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a fully automatic sheet metal fabrication facility. However, with all of his efforts towards automation and computerization of the sheet metal industry he wondered what effects such technologies had upon the individual lives and work experiences of his brother and sister sheet metal workers. Michael recognized that automation usually meant less work opportunities in general and that it had a deskilling effect upon work tasks and he understood that these did not bode well for a Building Trades Union whose “product” or “commodity” was skilled labor.
In this light, Michael’s research sought to understand if the members of his union understood the nature of the changes that were being brought to his union via automation and computerized technologies and whether or not the members of his union were ready or resistant to these changes.
Michael believes that labor unions act as essential checks and balances to the power of business ownership which has been instituted into law in the United States. However, he theorizes that with this having been structured into law under the light of an industrial based economy and with a technology based economy emerging where collaboration is essential and the adversarial “labor-management” division of labor is outdated, that the survival of his union requires a new understanding of its role and its structures. Additionally, with this new work having changed the work of a sheet metal worker whereby collaboration is prized over competition, Michael, while at the ITI, produced a curriculum based upon relational practices and socially constructed understandings of how this new work can “fit” for the sheet metal worker.
Michael learned of the Taos Institute through his friend and advisor, Dr. Tojo Thatchenkery, where he was a student of Dr. Thatchenkery’s Organizational Development and Knowledge Management graduate program at George Mason University. Michael received his PhD from the Taos Institute PhD program in 2018.