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Posted: January 01, 2013

Rundles wrap up: The advantage of perspective

Jeff Rundles

I heard a weather report one Thursday last month that said Friday would be in the 60s, Saturday in the 40s, and Sunday in the 20s.

It got me thinking that it would be cool – strange, yes, but still cool – if instead of the weather that same thing just happened to me as a person. On Friday I would have been 60, just like I am, Saturday about 45, and on Sunday I’d spend the day as, say, 25.

On Monday when I got to work someone would ask me, "So, how was your weekend?" To which I would reply, "You have no idea. Pretty normal Friday, bought a sports car on Saturday, then Sunday I mastered a smart phone, got 837 new Facebook friends, became gluten-intolerant, and my wife suggested I stay home a couple of days.

"How was your weekend?"

Ah, if only you could turn back the clock. Now that I’m myself again, and after regaining just about the only advantage of age – perspective – I got thinking about some of the labor/management machinations that have recently been going on.

A few years ago, in these pages, I wrote of a nurses’ strike in Northern Michigan that had been going on for something like six years and I suggested that the nurses in question had ceased to be on strike, but rather had retired. It appears as though the same thing just happened at Hostess Brands. There are indications that the management there played fast and loose with pension "obligations," not to mention with bonus payouts, and these points can and will be argued in bankruptcy court. But the central issue at hand, or so it seems, was management’s contention that it could no longer operate as a going concern in the face of labor demands and, calling labor’s bluff, shut down the company. I don’t believe anyone wanted to see the elimination of 18,500 jobs, but you either make money or you don’t.

Seems like the same thing is going on in the National Hockey League. Sure, as sports professionals, hockey players want to be like their NFL, NBA and MLB counterparts, but the cold facts are that you either make money or you don’t. Hockey, apparently, falls in the "don’t" category. Hey, I’ve been a print journalist pretty much all of my life so I have plenty of empathy for hockey players. That and $7 will get you a cup of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera Geisha at Starbucks.

Then there was the mid-December vote in the Michigan legislature to make the state a so-called Right-to-Work state with two pieces of legislation – one dealing with government employees and the other with private-sector workers – that ban requirements that nonunion employees pay union dues. Pretty interesting that Michigan, the 24th state to enact Right-to-Work legislation (Colorado is not among them), has long been the poster child for the organized labor movement in America but, as I said, you either make money or you don’t. The unions bash the move as union-bashing – which it clearly is on some level – but the simple fact is that companies subject to union organizing have decided to not "Say Yes! To Michigan," or "Ya to da UP" either. So, in economic development terms, do you want strong unions and dwindling jobs, or an incentive for companies to set up shop and hire people?

It’s not like they banned unions; like every other entity today the unions are just going to have to work harder and convince more people to pay their dues. I grew up in union country, Michigan, and saw a lot of good that unions did for workers and their families, but that doesn’t make them sacrosanct. It’s 2013 for Pete’s sake, and everyone has new economic realities.

Just ask the bakery workers and their former managers at Hostess, or both sides in the NHL dispute. You either make the money or you don’t.

I hear that it will be back in the 40s this weekend. Maybe I should buy some slacks. If I have the money, of course.

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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