Tag Archives: Unions

Who in America is Ready to Balance the Needs of Unions with Those of Business?

As a very young man out of college in the early 1980s, I was put in charge of a power plant testing crew. We had developed a way to hook up two semi trucks worth of equipment to a power plant in a space of about 4 weeks and to run the signals from this equipment down to our Hewlett Packard 45 portable computers (they were the size of a small cow) through large multi-pin cables. We wrote sophisticated computer models using Basic computer language to determine operational problems of newly built power plants.

I would take a crew of a dozen technicians out to small and large towns across America and spend several weeks unloading our test equipment, carrying it up the dozens of stories of power plant grating, and installing it with our trusty tool bags strapped around our waists to then run real time analyses.

Well, I didn’t know the power of unions until I arrived in St. Louis. On one of the very first days of our set-up, I was busy kneeling down to fasten a pressure monitor to a railing with my crescent wrench when all of a sudden I felt two sets of arms, one on each side of me, pick me up still in my crouched position, and carry me to the elevator. Two union boys were sent to explain to me that all wrench tightening from here on out would be done by union employees.

The set-up, which normally took 4 weeks, took eight, and ran way over budget. They didn’t support us on weekends, and curiously, they had a tradition that the workweek ended on Fridays at noon even though we were to pay them until 4:30.

After several weeks of delays, for which of course I took the managerial heat, we were within hours of completion when noon Friday came around and the union walked off the job. I had pleaded with the union boss that the additional test crew of 40 people was now on a chartered plane coming to start the test on Saturday and that I needed his folks to just stay a couple of more hours to complete the eight weeks of work. He just kindly nodded in my direction on his way out of the plant.

I then rallied my crew; we grabbed our trusty tool kits and completed the job. This did not set well with the local union and the incident went immediately up their national headquarters, over to the CEO of Babcock and Wilcox, down through the division president to the project manager who had engaged our group for this job. He got on a plane Friday afternoon and met us that evening at our place of dinner.

My crew of a dozen and I met after 14 hours of hot, sweaty work completing our task to relax at dinner in a private room of a local steak house. We had just begun to chortle and kibitz when in popped this project manager. He demanded an explanation of my union intolerance.

I kindly explained to him that unless he intended to fire me on the spot that he should back down his rhetoric immediately. I calmly reminded him that because he was not a member of the union, he did not have jurisdiction over my jobsite, and that he should kindly explain to the CEO of Babcock and Wilcox what a farce our country’s union/management relationship had become. I then impressed upon him that if he had no further use for this conversation that he should either leave or take a seat at the table for I had a steak to attend to at mine.

Union distortions like housing distortions take years to correct and unfortunately, the height of union power paralleled the time that America’s cowardly management had other countries to escape to without having to face the hard work of balancing and co-opting our work force with the needs of American business.

Where multinational outlets have not been available, our union distortions have continued unabated and we now have the likes of government worker unions, teacher unions, and the powerful American Medical Association must be put in check for our country to right itself.

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Filed under Full Employment, Unions

The Gingerbread Corporate Man (A Bedtime Story)

After having travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to build their little stone baking mill, an elderly American couple wished for a son. Knowing that America considers corporations to be citizens, they decided to bake a gingerbread corporate man. They added equal amounts of capital, toil, and love to bake their son. Upon coming out of the oven, he immediately began to delight his parents.

He worked side by side bringing them prosperity and joy. However, as he grew older and collected more capital unto himself, he grew haughty and began to think, “Why do I toil for the benefits of my parents. I am the capital of flour and sugar, and they are but mere laborers.” So one day to his parents’ horror, he ran down the dirt road for other worlds singing, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread corporate man.”

As he ran down the path, he happened upon the mayor of the town who asked, “May I take but an arm or a leg to help feed the townspeople?” The gingerbread corporate man would have none of it, running away shouting, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread corporate man!”

A little further down the road he met a tree hugging, spotted owl who exclaimed, “Slow down your development! I want to eat you.” But sidestepping the owl’s advances, he ran away shouting, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread corporate man!”

Over the Wall, he dropped to the street finding a gaggle of banker geese honking, “Don’t stop! We will collect all of the flour and sugar in America and give it to you for your journey.” The gingerbread corporate man, thought a moment and asked, “You don’t want to eat me?” “No”, they cackled. “We want to eat a bit of every bag of flour and sugar we take from the little old ladies of America and give the rest to you so that you grow big.” “You’ve got yourselves a deal!” shouted the gingerbread corporate man as he ran down the street.

As he neared the seashore, he came upon a bevy of bakers from the baker’s union who shouted, “Stop, you have all our flour and we will be without a livelihood if you run away.” “Will you bake until the midnight hours toiling in heat?” asked the gingerbread corporate man. “No, will you let us eat you?” retorted the baking guild. Instead, he ran down to the sea shouting, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread corporate man!”

As he reached the shore looking back toward the mayor, spotted owl, gaggle of geese, and bakers all running after him, the gingerbread corporate man shouted, “Oh no! They will catch me. How can I cross this deep ocean?” At that moment, he came upon a crafty Huli Jing, a Chinese fox lingering at the shore. The fox exclaimed, “Climb upon my tail and I will swim across the Pacific.” “You won’t eat me?” asked the Gingerbread corporate man. “Of course not”, said the Chinese fox, “I want to help you.”

As the gingerbread man climbed aboard, he brought the huge bags of flour and sugar that weighed down the fox. The fox said, “Climb upon my back so you won’t get wet.” As they swam closer and closer to China, the gingerbread man added more and more of the capital onto himself, making him bigger and bigger, weighing down the sly fox further.

When China appeared on the horizon, the fox said, “You are much too big and powerful for my back and I am tired. If you want to enter China, you must bring all your fast ideas with you and hop upon my nose to keep dry.” Wanting to escape the Americans who wanted to eat him, the gingerbread corporate man did as he was told.

As soon as they reached the Eastern shore, the Huli Jing tossed the gingerbread corporate man into the air, opened his mouth, and snap, that was the end of the Gingerbread Corporate man!

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Filed under American Governance, China, Multinational Corporations, U.S. Tax Policy