Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Parasite Consumes its Host(ess): A guest opinion by Christopher Bauman

         It was inevitable. A parasite will eventually consume so much that the host will die. Such was the case with the Baker's Union and it's host, Hostess.
         The union and the company were at an impasse for quite awhile. Two of the major sticking points were the fact that some Board Members had received a raise, and that the union did not believe that the company was already on a very thin profit margin.  
         Several factors had contributed to this razor thin margin. For instance, due to government coercion, schools are no longer allowing this type of treat to be sold in government-controlled public school cafeterias. Indeed, in many school systems, such occasional snacks are no longer even allowed to be brought from home. The unintended consequence of removing this choice from a parent's options was to dry up a significant portion of the consumer demand.
         Coercion on the union's part was also a factor in the strike that crippled the company. The strike vote was not a secret ballot, not at all like the secret ballots that Americans are accustomed to having on an election day. Unions typically make it very clear that THEY KNOW HOW YOU VOTE. The intimidation factor in this type of voting is very instrumental in forcing it's members to toe the line with what the union management wants.
         Hostess also has (HAD is now the operative word, actually) a contract with the Teamsters Union. That contract forbids the company from using any independent carrier or trucker to ship Hostess products. The company was never able to enjoy the lower-cost shipping rates that a free-market transportation system will provide, thus denying the company an opportunity at ever capitalizing on a chance to earn a little more money.
         To the credit of the Teamsters Union, they re-negotiated their contract with Hostess, and allowed some “give-backs.” They first demanded a look at the company's financial records, though, and after examining them, they believed that the company was, indeed, in financial trouble. The Teamsters then recommended that the Bakers Union have a second, and this time SECRET, strike vote. This second, secret vote would have removed any intimidation factor, and thereby produced an honest result. The Bakers union management declined this advice, of course, and 18,000 jobs have perished.
         And about those Board Members who had received a pay raise....unions have always (wrongly) felt that it is their business to know what wages other people make. The Board answers only to the investors, the very people who have made the entire thing possible in the first place. If a union member wants a say-so in how much those executives make, they should risk their own money and become investors.     

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