Dec 12

Maybe I Was Wrong

The Michigan-Union Thing 

I have followed the events that have taken place in Michigan over the past several days quite closely not only because I have been very interested in the debate taking place there … over the “right to work” legislation … but because of the implications of what all of this might have for other states, and particularly to northern states such as mine that have not historically had “right to work” regulations. Let’s look at this for a moment to avoid confusion … a right-to-work state is one in which a worker has the right to choose whether he or she will join (and pay dues to) a union that has organized (has a collective bargaining agreement with) a given employer. Specifically, if I take a job at a place that has been organized by a union, I must join and pay dues to that union if I want to work for that employer at that location. I have belonged to two unions in my lifetime … one was the UAW (autoworkers union) and the other was the UGM (grainmillers union). I had no choice in either case. The places where I worked (one in Melrose Park,Ill., and the other in Kankakee,Ill.) were unionized factories and to work at either, I had to become a member and pay my dues. I had no problem with this. The union bargained on my behalf and in general, I felt that the dues I paid were reasonable. However, at those times, no money was taken out of my pay for PAC (political action committee) funding and my insurance and pension contributions were at my election (decision) and were paid into an employer fund and not to the union. In most situations, this is no longer the case. You join … they take your money … you follow the rules of the contract that is in place … you have very little, if anything, to say about it.

The arguments on both sides of this issue are somewhat valid to me. If an employee truly benefits from the efforts of a given union, they should contribute to that union … on the other hand, this is America, and I don’t see why any worker should be forced to join a union or any other organization if they choose not to do so. Nor should they be forced to contributer to any funds that they wish not to. The big arguments (or at least the ones getting the most publicity) as to why new legislation is needed (or not) seem to be that in “right to work states” the unemployment figures are much less than in “non right to work states” … often by better than 25 percent or more. The opposite side of the argument is that wages in “non right to work states” are typically 15-20 percent higher than in “right to work states.” Nobody seems to look much further … for instance, what are the cost of living comparisons that go along with these numbers? For example, I know it does not take as much money to live in Nevada o rTexas as it does in New York or Illinois. I also know that in some cases, unemployment figures have as much to do with what industry dominates a given geographic area as it does with unionization or non-unionization. So it is hard to sometimes see through all of the rhetoric and know what the reality of a given situation is. In the case of Michigan… a state that I would have never dreamed would join the ranks of the “right to work” states, I guess we’re going to find out. And I firmly believe that what happens there will determine what will happen elsewhere in pretty short order. This is not over and should prove to be a story worth following over the next several months.

I Was Wrong – The Backpack Saga

For many years I regularly referred to the State of New Jersey as “cheap” and on one occasion I paid the price for my position. You see, I was actually picketed by a group of New Jersey loyalists when I spoke at a trade show there a few years back and while I have to admit to being a little embarrassed by the episode, I held firm to my belief that New Jersey and its residents were a bunch of cheapskates. I will not, at this point in time, recount the story of the events that led me to my conclusion and position on the New Jerseyites, but suffice it to say that I had reasonable cause. BUT NOW … I must reverse myself, at least somewhat, and while I am not quite ready to claim that New Jersey people are generous and benevolent, I am going to at least go back to a position of neutrality … yes, as of this date (12/12/12), I will no longer make fun of them or call them “cheap” and why, you may ask, have I taken this new stance?

The Evidence … Could I Have Been Wrong?

Well, it is because the very nice people at JE Berkowitz sent me a Berkowitz carrying case along with a very plush golf towel and finely made t-shirt after their vice president, Bob Price, had completely thrown me into a tizzy by way of a prank he perpetrated against me over the Dora the Explorer Backpack matter of a few weeks back. You’ll need to go back and read the blogs about this from a few weeks ago if you are truly interested in the details. Sure, I made fun of New Jersey and even Bob himself, but then he struck back and actually out-pranked me. Imagine that, a guy from New Jersey getting the better of a guy from Chicago. Who could have thought it possible?

But let me tell you, I have new found respect for these people. You see, Bob and his c,rew went to great lengths to prepare and send me this very fine gift. The tote bag came all the way from China, the t-shirt from Nicaragua, and the towel from Vietnam. Do you have any idea how hard that must have been to get these items from all of these far-flung places and then put them in a box and Fed-Ex them to me? Thank you Bob and the team … you made my day and I promise to use each of the items you sent to me, although one of my grandsons already has asked me for the tote bag and my son has been caught eyeing the golf towel. I have already worn the t-shirt so I think it is safe to say I’ll be keeping that. Either way, thanks for being such good sports!

Hey Doug Studt

I still haven’t received my 2013 calendar and the New Year is only a couple of weeks away. Your 2012 calendar is pinned to my wall just above the computer screen so I start out every morning by seeing the words Torstenson Glass Company Since 1889 when I turn on my computer. Is this it? Is this the end of a beautiful relationship? Will your Chicago-centric calendar now be replaced by a Pilkington one? Time is running out, Mr. Studt!!! Even New Jersey is making you look bad here, Doug.

The Sports Thing

This morning I got an e-mail from avid White Sox fan and former administrative assistant Bobbie Rovner informing me that Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis had been signed by the Yankees for the 2013 season. Bobbie might be one of the biggest White Sox fans I know and she was also a Kevin Youkilis fan so this was a disappointment to her for sure. However, Bobbie’s son Alan lives in New York and was no doubt quite pleased by this move. But to me, the interesting thing here is that Youkilis played several years for the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees’ biggest rival, and was very much adored by Red Sox fans. So now, the arch rival Yankees grab him and I have no doubt that this is as much an “in your face” move by the Yankees as it is a strategic one. Some will argue this of course, but even in the sports world, revenge and one-upsmanship can be regularly observed. Human nature, I guess … in sports, our personal lives and in business. It’s just the way it is. We’ll miss you, Youk.

The Quotable Thing

Tom Lafferty sent me this quote a few weeks ago and I had promised him that I would use it, so here it is. Thanks, Tom, and say hello to brother Art for me.

“There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory” -Josh Billings



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  1. Chuck Knickerbocker

    Lyle, the list of former Red Sox playing for the Yankees includes the likes of Roger Clemmons, Johnny Damon, Wade Boggs, and most notably, one George “The Babe” Ruth. Looks like Boston breaks them in, sends them to NY. SportsCenter had a feature on this today, think they said there’s been 38 players over the years, but these are the most recognizable names

  2. Lyle R. Hill

    Thanks for pointing this out Chuck. It almost does look like Boston is a feeder system for the Yankees. But now that I think about it, some businesses (in the glass industry) have also served as such and especially so with some of the aluminum suppliers. Maybe some comapnies recognize talent better than others. Interesting for sure. Lyle

  3. Amy

    There are also many who just mistake their memory. Refer back to your “Quotable Thing” blog on Sept. 26th. Let’s try a little harder on the imagination. The beautiful state of Michigan is.

    Merry Christmas to all your FANS!!! May they keep reading your blog and articles in 2013 and beyond!!

    1. Lyle R. Hill

      Amy who … do I know someone named Amy? Only kidding and thank you for being my daughter. Love ya. Dad

  4. Tommyc

    Berkowitz gives everyone cheap SWAG.

    1. Lyle R. Hill

      Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. It’s the holidays … let’s share the love. Lyle

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