Sunday, January 30, 2005

Towards a More Flexible Union

I had not heard of Andy Stern or his union but this NYTimes Magazine profile portrays him as a fascinating guy with meglomaniac tendencies (which are, in the end, a prerequiste for a politician, right?) and some innovative ideas to maintain and grow union membership and power. A few choice quotes:
"Last year, while he campaigned as many as six days a week for Kerry and other Democrats, Stern nevertheless undertook a series of actions that infuriated party leaders. First, with his encouragement, the S.E.I.U.'s locals voted to endorse Howard Dean before the primaries. Then Stern gave more than $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association because, he said, some of the G.O.P.'s gubernatorial candidates had better positions for workers. As if that wasn't provocative enough a signal, Stern chose the moment of the Democratic convention in Boston to remark publicly, in an interview with The Washington Post, that it might be better for the party and the unions if John Kerry lost the election."
Stern's 10-point plan would essentially tear down the industrial-age framework of the House of Labor and rebuild it. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., he says, would consist of 20 large unions, and each union would be devoted to a single sector of the 21st-century economy, like health care or airlines. Ever the apostle of field organizing, Stern wants these restructured unions to put more time and resources into recruiting new members in fast-growing exurban areas -- in the South and the West especially -- where a new generation of workers has never belonged to a union.
Stern's big idea for coping with this new kind of multinational nemesis is to build a federation of unions, similar to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. except that its member unions would come from all over the world. As Stern explained it, a French company might not be so brazen about bullying American workers if it had to worry about a French union protesting back home. The point, he said, is to force companies like Sodexho to adhere to the same business standards in New York and Chicago as it does in Paris, by building a labor alliance that is every bit as global as modern capital.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Generosity as Part of the Business Plan

The Seattle Times has a great article on Costco and Dick's, a local restaurant chain, that do well in part by treating their employees well. I've always questioned the wisdom of companies that cut benefits and wages to the bare minimum. Treating your employees that way breeds dissatisfaction, disloyalty, and turnover.

I worked for the same local video store throughout high school. There were other jobs I could have taken but my boss paid me relatively well and allowed me to keep a very flexible schedule. As a result, I was loyal. So were at least three or four other employees who, like me, worked odd hours. In exchange for being flexible and paying slightly above-market wages, my boss got a stable workforce that was much friendlier and smarter (one of the other employees was an assistant DA working at night to pay off law school debts and the other worked on the weekends to pay for his college tuition) than what would normally be expected at a local video store.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Doing the Math for 2005

Upbeat stories about "penny-stock roulette" appear in the Grey Lady.


Market valuations near historical highs


Interest rates need to go up and the dollar needs to go down

= ?


From Baseball Prospectus:
"Coming in for me was totally different than most players.... I think you have to ask Rocket [Roger Clemens], myself, probably Randy [Johnson] and the upper-echelon-type of player, because there's a much grander responsibility that comes along with being who I am, and I understand that completely."
-Alex Rodriguez

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Delta's Hidden Agenda

Delta slashed its fares across the board, ostensibly to compete on price with the low cost carriers. They had to know, however, that all the other legacy carriers would match them. Therefore, I can only guess that their real intended end game is to bankrupt at least one other legacy carrier, most likely US Airways (which had proposed union cuts rejected today). That would make sense and, if enough seat miles were removed from the market, it could improve the currently miserable industry economics. Perhaps they think the US government will stop bailing out airways rather than letting them fail. It's possible. I am a little surprised that Delta is making this move rather than one of the carriers with stronger balance sheets (relatively; none of them are good).
In the meantime, the price cuts should be good for consumers.

Maintaining One's Conviction

I came across this quote from Admiral Jim Stockdale today (although I cannot remember where). He spent 8 years in a prison camp and is describing why he made it but a lot of optimists -- who often thought they'd be released shortly -- did not.
"You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Different Ways to Deal with Customers

The Social Customer has a good writeup on Real Networks. He's correct that Real has shown a healthy ignorance of its customers' needs and desires. Getting customers this riled up can't be good for business.

Macromedia provides a good contrast to Real. They saw Real getting killed in the above discussion and used it as an opportunity to ask for feedback on their products and business practices. Smart move.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


In an otherwise uninteresting game, I enjoyed Ashlee Simpson's half-time performance. She is an awful singer who cannot stay on key and whose musical career depends heavily on producing, lip syncing technologies, and her sister's good looks. Her appearance last night was a complete debacle that ended with the crowd booing her. Fantastic. Combined with her SNL fiasco, perhaps this might convince her to stop making music.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Gladwell's Personal Tipping Point

Given the popularity of his first book, high demand for $40k speaking gigs, and a highly anticipated forthcoming book, Malcolm Gladwell has reached a personal tipping point. Good for him. His New Yorker articles are phenomenal and he has a singular ability to combine diciplines (most commonly, economics and psychology) in approachable and engaging prose.

Check out this profile in Fast Company.

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