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Can unions and Democrats beat the oligarchs?

Wy Spano
Wy Spano

In mid-February Minnesota’s union community held a two-day “start the 2018 elections” conference. Well organized. Seminars on finding candidates, getting the message out, etc., etc. Capped by a forum with the four current DFL candidates for governor of Minnesota who were well received and able to periodically excite the hundreds in the audience. There was a genuine feeling of empowerment. “If there’s enough effort, enough money, enough smarts, labor can help win 2018 for Democrats,” seemed to be the feeling.

Labor’s interest in the 2018 election is, to put it mildly, justified. Unions have already seen a drastic deterioration of their power, especially in the private sector, where managements are able to fight unionization with ease and with the support of conservative national and state governments. In 1983 16.8 percent of private sector wage and salary employees were in unions; in 2015 it was down to 6.7 percent.  

The percentage of public sector employees in unions remained, during the same three-decade period, about 35 percent. But the very idea of public sector unions is now under attack. Republicans in Minnesota talk openly and gleefully of matching Wisconsin’s public employee union busting under Gov. Scott Walker. All that Republicans have to do in Minnesota is win the governorship and keep control of the House and the Senate and they can put unions into permanent nonentity status.  

Action at the Supreme Court

On Monday of this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the “bust public employee unions” case Janus v American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31.  Swing vote Anthony Kennedy sounded like he was ready to join the four dependable conservatives in seriously hobbling public employee unions all over the country, waiting for state legislatures to finish the job.  

So can unions, and their allies in the DFL party, win in Minnesota in 2018?

It’s going to be tough. Labor union impact on elections is traditionally an organizational, not just a monetary activity. Unions agree on whom to support and then methodically convince members, families and neighbors. There’s some money involved, but it’s the people outreach that’s important.  Till 2000, Minnesota had effective limits on campaign spending, so people power in campaigns was important. Then the federal courts blew the lid off campaign spending controls. Money got to be more important.

Enter the oligarchs, both Russian and American. Russian oligarchs, with no one to stop them, will keep on meddling. American oligarchs (Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, et al.) have been dominating U.S. elections for some time. Until now, Minnesota hasn’t had much oligarchic action because our state wasn’t “in play.” Now we’re the leading national political battleground, with more congressional seats in question than in any other state (four), an appointed Democratic senator  (Tina Smith) on the ballot for the first time, and an expected Republican candidate for governor (Tim Pawlenty) whose candidacy will be freighted with presidential talk from the beginning. (As to calling Americans like the Kochs and Adelson oligarchs, they seem to fit the dictionary definition: “a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence.” Whether the U.S. is becoming or has become an oligarchy is a subject for a longer discussion.)

Pawlenty and the presidency

Will former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty run for president if he’s elected again as Minnesota’s governor? Does water run downhill? Pawlenty ran for president through most of his eight years of gubernatorial service. For the last nearly six years, Pawlenty has been near the heart of the political money beast, running the lobbying/political arm of the nation’s very largest financial institutions. Now he’s ready to become the establishment Republicans’ anti-Trump, poised to be the presidential candidate conservatives don’t have to apologize for.

Can unions and their DFL allies prevail while swimming against the overwhelming current of the oligarchs’ money river, dedicated mostly to Republicans? If you’re a hardcore realist, you’ll say, “No way.” If you’re an optimist like me you’ll wonder if voters might stop trusting the flood of ads and brochures money can buy, especially when the messages could be coming straight from Moscow.  Could campaign messages from friends and neighbors re-take the value they once had?  

Maybe. But we’re going to have to return to a practice we used to have in Minnesota: trustfully talking politics with each other.  That won’t be easy.

Wy Spano has been involved in Minnesota political life for over 40 years, as a newsletter editor, commentator, lobbyist, grad school teacher, and citizen activist.


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Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by richard owens on 03/01/2018 - 08:56 am.


    “…to return to a practice we used to have in Minnesota: trustfully talking politics with each other. That won’t be easy…”

    To watch the legislative sessions and committee hearings over the MNLARS problems is to see an adversarial and determined quest, not to understand the problems, but to find ‘blamees’ and demand their immediate firing ( and an apology from the governor himself for hurting licence customers).

    When that has ever worked as a problem-solving method is unclear, but in the public sector it is a recipe for continuing the willful amnesia of destroying institutional memory and hanging the whole mess around the governor’s neck.* Firing is a TV solution- ‘getting even’.

    (*presumably so a Republican governor can be elected.)

    After many hours of hearings the actual problems or even the hardware and software itself has never been the topic of questions or even made public. How the heck can we hold or contribute to a ‘trustful’ discussion of MN problems in governance if all we can do is look for somebody to destroy in vengeance?

    This attack style is sickening and ruins positive efforts to fix the system. Leaders should lead.

  2. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 03/01/2018 - 12:06 pm.

    Russians at our door

    The blame is really getting out there. The Republicans do get money from powerful people, so do DFLers. And let’s not forget that almost all money donated by unions in Minnesota go to DFLers.

    Are things really that desperate in the circle of the Left that we have to extend fear of Russians in Minnesota? If you are an ‘optimist,’ then focus what you are optimistic of the platform of the DFL. If you are an ‘optimist,’ tout the good things unions deliver (which continues to be less and less attractive to the working class).

    The effort of fear in this makes me wonder if Minnpost has a funny pages section.

  3. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/01/2018 - 12:27 pm.

    The day of public unions are almost over…make it quick.

    The days of the “non-democratic” public unions and their bullying techniques hopefully will be ending soon – or at least some measure of freedom will allow some balance to the mix .

    The time of public unions “buying and paying” for elected politicians and holding the public hostage are almost over based on current trends.. “Bargaining” with their own politicians will soon collapse over its own weight of excess and corruption as true freedom is allowed to counteract these public unions.

    Regarding union education, the old model of union, trickle down education, should be over soon as advancements in technology, education competition, and education choice are allowed. Of course there will be bitter clingers to the old ways and old power structures, and the old political payoffs that have deprived quality education for many.

    The old fashion model of public unions and their power should be brought to a more moderate position or they will collapse under their own excess.

  4. Submitted by richard owens on 03/01/2018 - 02:20 pm.

    Who can name the

    5 freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment?

    petitioning of the government

    …and just ONE MORE…


    So if I understand correctly, people do have a constitutional right to associate with other like-minded people to form a group that will strengthen their power- you know, like the NRA, or even some other association that for example will negotiate on their behalf, like a UNION.

    One of you who despise unions, tell me please, do you think unions are hurting YOU?

    I think this is just one more Republican sacred cow- hatred of unions they cannot control.

    (disclosure- I’m not a union member nor do I benefit or get hurt by others’ union activities.)

    Why do people want to take something from others when it would be otherwise one of our essential freedoms?.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 03/01/2018 - 03:04 pm.


      Other associations, which exert much more influence and control over average Americans are the ones using the aforementioned 1st Amendment “right to petition their government”.

      Among these are the AMA, PHARMA, the banking lobby, ALEC, the insurance lobby and more–

      These are associations designed to leverage the power of corporations and profit seeking individuals to actually make the laws that govern those of us that belong to a church and maybe a township board. They make tax law, banking law, state government legislative agenda and more…

      So why the hate on unions? They are small potatoes except for their members and their contract negotiators.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/01/2018 - 06:21 pm.

      Nothing the SCOTUS does will restrict the freedom of assembly. In fact, it strengthens it by allowing folks to opt out if they wish, leaving only real believers.

      If union membership is such a great deal, unions should see little change. But then, in light of 1/2 of the Wisconsin teachers union leaving when given the opportunity, one must ask, “who really benefits from unions?”

      Watch where the loudest screeching comes from for your answer.

  5. Submitted by richard owens on 03/02/2018 - 10:27 am.

    My question was

    “…tell me please, do you think unions are hurting YOU?”

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 03/02/2018 - 03:26 pm.

    Nope, not hurting me

    because I’m not in a union.. With union participation going down, the real question is, are unions helping the workers? When workers opt out of a union, they don’t believe the union is working for them. The number of workers who leave the union, when given the chance, says a lot about how the workers feel.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 03/02/2018 - 09:12 pm.

      Thanks Joe.

      So it’s not the IDEA of a union. so much as the feeling among the workers that it is a forced ideology their union represents. Yes?

      I am puzzled why folks think labor has any advantages over capital.


      • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/03/2018 - 08:00 am.


        I think most people are fine with like minded people lobbying for their self interests. That is part of living in a democracy.

        The challenge here is to remember what Public Employee Unions seem to have for goals now days:
        – Keeping their existing employees employed
        – Raising the compensation for the employees
        – Fixing the work rules

        None of these are aligned well with the goals of us citizens:
        – Make government more effective and less expensive
        – Improve the quality of government services

        We live in a very competitive world, and the burden cost of government needs to be minimized if we want to maintain or relatively high standard of living. The Unions seem to not be aligned with that goal.

        Now Private Unions will fail when they drive the business costs too high. Our American Consumers have proven that they are not willing to pay a Premium for their involvement. Unfortunately there is no such control on the Public side.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/03/2018 - 09:59 pm.

          Sure . . . It’s unions and big government

          That’s the problem. Nothing to do with anything having to do with things like this:

          “Tax cut scoreboard: Workers $6 billion; Shareholders $171 billion

          “It’s raining stock buybacks on Wall Street — thanks to President Trump’s massive corporate tax cuts.

          “The White House has celebrated the tax cut bonuses unveiled by the likes of Walmart (WMT), Bank of America (BAC) and Disney (DIS).

          “Yet shareholders, not workers, are far bigger direct winners from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.”

          “the burden cost of government needs to be minimized if we want to maintain or relatively high standard of living. The Unions seem to not be aligned with that goal.”

          Sure . . . That’s it: If we could just get rid of those greedy unions (or, at least, “get them aligned with that goal”) and cut government spending and services to below the bone levels, everyone would be able to maintain their relatively high standard of living.

          $1.5 TRILLION in additional deficits and national debt plus interest paid to bondholders to pay for the latest round of colossal (and permanent) multi-million or billion dollar tax cuts for corporations, shareholders (and bondholders) and $1,000 tax cuts for middle-class people for a few years (if they’re lucky — especially here in MN) and not much at all for less than middle-class working people (if anything).

          And, if corporations and shareholders are going to be paying even lower taxes in the future, who’s going to be stuck paying off that $1.5 trillion (plus the interest) do you suppose? The middle-class and working-poor tax fairy?

          But it’s public unions and too big government that’s putting stress on on our relatively high standard of living . . .

          Would you please — just once — give us a break.

          “Workers $6 billion; Shareholders $171 billion”

          And that’s just within the first eight weeks of the new tax bill taking effect!

          Remember how — in December, before the bill was passed — the tax breaks for corporations, shareholders and business in general were going to lead to massive investment in factories, equipment, hiring, great paying jobs, hog wild economic growth, revenue flowing into state and federal treasuries?

          But what do you know . . . “It’s raining stock buybacks” instead.

          Huh. Who would have thought?

          But never mind . . . Just because it doesn’t look like that $1.5 trillion (National Credit Card) investment in business expansion, hiring and great paying jobs is going to happen anytime soon doesn’t mean we can’t increase average people’s incomes or make it possible for them to maintain their relatively high standard of living . . . No siree . . . All we need to do is get rid of unions and shrink the size of government in order lower business costs and finance even MORE tax cuts for businesses so they can keep their money (that they get from us) so they can invest in new plants and equipment, expand and hire more people in great paying jobs.

          “Workers $6 billion; Shareholders $171 billion”

          40 years of carbon copy implementations of your beloved Trickle-down economics freak show and the middle-class has been all but eradicated (along with unions) and we’re at a point where roughly 3,200,000 Americans are in possession of 90 percent of America’s assets, including its cash; and the other 316,800,000 of us own the rest.

          But that (and its quality of life impact on 90 percent of Americans) has nothing to do with insane economic policy and 40 years of obscenely low tax rates for those 3,200,000 high rollers . . . No. The reason those people own 90 percent of America and everyone else owns 10/316,800,000enths of if it is unions and big government.

          Have another shot of Kool Aid . . .


          • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/04/2018 - 05:06 pm.


            Please note that I was against the Dec tax cut. I agree that it was irresponsible.

            My preferred goals is to:
            – make our government as effective and efficient as possible
            – to ensure that citizens of today pay as they go (low debt to kids)

  7. Submitted by richard owens on 03/03/2018 - 10:11 am.

    Police Unions too?

    Firefighters too?

    Or just teachers and administrators and their staff?

    Isn’t Civil Service well designed to make sure merit and experience is also rewarded?

    We’ll find out how quickly and cheaply the MNLARS system will get up and running, now that 40 people associated with the work are getting the ax. (sarc)

    As a practical matter, anti-union, anti-government voices should acknowledge: We can’t run a just society if we expect our public workers to be cheaper, more competent and completely beholding to every single taxpayer who wants to say they are worth less and should have no collective bargaining.

    But Police and Fire are exempt from those voices, no?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/03/2018 - 02:41 pm.


      I don’t want to have them make more nor less than people in Private industry…

      I want them to be:

      – paid what each individual is worth in the market

      – paid based on the challenge / responsibility level of their individual position

      – paid based on how well they perform in that position

      – laid off in order of the lowest value employee first (cost and performance factor into this)

      The current system as I have said dozens of times rewards tenure, degrees and staying in the same organization.

      It in no way encourages high performance, improved productivity, hard work, high quality, risk taking, etc.

      And I think we tax payers deserve more from our public servants and their organizations. Especially after spending 10s of millions of dollars on a flawed computer system.

      • Submitted by richard owens on 03/03/2018 - 05:37 pm.

        Civil Service was invented to stop patronage.

        A new executive would fire everybody who is not “loyal.”

        Without public service employees, we would be at the whim of the next boss.

        How in the world could you abandon all the safeguards chasing the next perfect employee? In my long years, I have never seen that perfect employee walk in the door. It just doesn’t happen.

        Furthermore, the most costly problems come from a loss of institutional memory. We apparently have forgotten WHY the public employees have been protected from the whims of elected leaders.

        I am at a loss as to why our public servants have become targets of such animus. Mostly they all put up with people (think Trump) who think they know everything and yet are completely out of their element when uit comes to the public business and how it must be run.

        It seems folks have had only bad experiences with their public employees, or there is some other reason for the resentment and unrealistic expectations.

        They aren’t well paid. Without security or the respect of the people, why would anyone want to serve or teach?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/04/2018 - 12:22 am.

          Oh Come Now

          CEOs, managers and supervisors change often in the modern private sector large corporations. They keep the good performers who are willing to support their agenda and they remove the others.

          How do you expect the new Govt Dept Heads who are put in place by the people we elect are supposed to improve quality, productivity, cost effectiveness, etc if you in essence tie their hands with fixed bureaucracy and protected employees?

          I used to work for a fortune 100 company that was free to fire pretty much at will. They had very low turnover as the Management changed, but they were not shy about laying off employees who were change averse. The organization needed every productive employee in the organization pulling the oars in the somewhat same direction if they wanted to be successful in a very competitive world.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/06/2018 - 12:18 pm.

            OK I’m coming!

            “CEOs, managers and supervisors change often in the modern private sector large corporations. They keep the good performers who are willing to support their agenda and they remove the others.”
            So, are you saying the good old boys network is now extinct? Experience says just the way “T” plays the game, kiss his ring and pledge loyalty. “Other than your opinion” After 40+ years in industry I think this is “BS”, they are no more efficient than most other sectors. Show some performance metrics?

            Here is how your message comes across: If I work 20 years at Graco working my way up the ranks, I am an honest loyal employee, If I do the same thing for the State of Minnesota, I am a lazy low life bureaucrat hiding form real work. As before show some metrics.

            There was a great Bloomberg article yesterday that strongly disputes your opinion, they suggest America’s steel industry collapsed from arrogant and incompetent leadership across the entire business segment. We all know, or should know 1 data point does not create a trend, however in this case it suggests, gross and widespread incompetence at the highest levels of industry, and now they want free stuff from the government to cover their excessively poor leadership!


            • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/06/2018 - 05:14 pm.


              I don’t know much about steel factories, leadership and their unions, however if they are similar to GM… There was plenty of blame to go around.

              And ironically they operated almost the same then as our government does today. They were large near monopolies who could raise prices with almost no fear of competition, financial troubles, bankruptcy, etc. (sound familiar)

              So that is just what they did… They raised prices, the leaders / union members made excellent compensation and they all became arrogant. I mean why cut costs, improve effectiveness, improve quality, improve productivity, etc when people have to come to you…

              Then their blissful near monopolistic bubble was popped when consumers learned that there were better and cheaper options available. That is why I am happy to challenge our governmental public employees with competition where ever possible.

              People grow and improve when challenged, ensuring their wage, job security, etc certainly is not the best way to motivate them give the tax payers more for less.

              • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/07/2018 - 09:23 am.

                Come on now back at you!

                Managers run the companies and get back the big $ for success. If management is too ignorant or arrogant to work with the unions, blame the unions? This is akin to if you lost the war, blame the soldiers! So they operated as a monopoly, they still screwed up their industry, which you noted was supposedly, self governing and efficient! “There is competition wherever possible” are you ignoring the facts of the market place? The State, Fed. etc. must compete against the open market for the same folks, we aren’t born with a government job sticker on our forehead. So your message comes across, hire the lowest $ folks you can for government Jobs, and then when they don’t perform to a private sector with 2-3x the resources and wages, (and no political oversight) it proves your point on how in effective and in efficient they are. You do realize competition for top folks costs $ in a competitive market?
                Ironically, with all the “R”‘s in governemnt they seem to be more interested in those cushy get nothing done high paid bureaucratic jobs than the lefties! You got the billionaires sucking on uncle Sam’s purse strings in the white house, must be too-tough in that private sector. Food for thought.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 11:20 am.


                  I think you underestimate the power that the Unions wielded back in the 50s, 60s and 70s… And are forgetting that the USA was enjoying an excellent time when most of the world was still recovering from WWII, global communication was expensive, global transport was expensive, etc. Finally, the US citizens truly believed in “Buy American” and “Buy Union”, and spent their money accordingly.

                  I am sure the managers and workers could have done better and been more forward thinking, but they didn’t. They were allow squabbling over the golden eggs instead of caring for the goose.

                  Now back to government managers and workers, how is this similar to GM and the steel industry?
                  – Revenue stream continually increases whether they are effective or not.
                  – Departments have little to no incentive to improve effectiveness, efficiency, quality, productivity, etc
                  – The employees always want more job security and compensation with little in the way of accountability

                  • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/07/2018 - 02:03 pm.

                    I think not

                    Show the numbers!
                    Back to “your point” not mine: The mangers are fabulously self governing and effective at weeding out poor performance! Like Sears, Kmart etc. don’t suspect those folks are unionized? So, how do we explain Germany Japan, and their unions, the language difference? My point has and continues to be: it takes 2 to tango, and laying blame on “The workers” is a cop-out for poor management, “Sun Tzu 101. smart generals win wars before they are fought. its their job to manage the business, all aspects of it. Can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen, you took the money W/O doing the job, looks like those managers are morally flawed. Not sure why you feel a need to keep covering up for these folks failures, and blaming every one including the cleaning lady for their leadership failures, so much for taking responsibility.

                    How is it similar? They have revenue streams they have objectives, budgets, costs, reporting structures etc. taxes go down, adjust budgets, same accounting as industry uses, cut expenses or go to the bank, make investments based on Capital Long Range Improvements (bonding). Evidently you never worked on an new project. Does not our City, State, Local government build bridges, roads, dams sewer, water, etc, etc? Doesn’t someone have to do a land survey, geographical analysis? check structure code compliance, check materials, design’s are to specification, design and engineer the bridge, oversee and project manage to contract compliance, that it comes in on time and budget and to specification. Looks like a lot of outputs I managed in industry!

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 03:35 pm.


                      I think I have clearly stated that both parties were responsible… There is a reason why the union members said that GM stood for Generous motors.

                      The nice thing about the private sector and competition is that people are highly motivated to do good or they get fired… It seems government employees just come back and ask for more money.


                      Why do folks who defend Public Unions fear performance and accountability so much?

                    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/08/2018 - 09:40 am.

                      We disagree

                      The org chart has the CEO and BOD at top not the shop foreman, or the union steward. If the CEO etc. cut bad labor deals they are still responsible. The CEO is ultimately accountable/responsible for the performance of the company. The buck stops at the CEO, not at the loading dock. Or do we have different understandings of business structure?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 10:45 am.


                      Yep, we disagree. I think as long as long as the Unions have the right to strike and shut down the businesses, create complicated compensation and job security policies, create hire /fire rules, etc…

                      They own some of the responsibility for the organization’s dysfunction…

                      I do agree in true “employment at will” non-union situations, management owns the responsibility.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/04/2018 - 10:17 am.

        Examples and data for comparison, please

        “I don’t want to have them make more nor less than people in Private industry…I want them to be paid what each individual is worth in the market.”

        While others could provide many more examples, let’s take this small handful for starters. Please provide examples of private sector organizations that provide services in the following areas (so we can get focused on what those who work in the public sector ought to be paid in relation to what those doing the same work in the private sector — “the market” — are being paid):

        — Home health care and basic assistance for senior citizens opting to stay in their homes as opposed to moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes

        — Mental health care for developmentally disabled individuals, the indigent homeless and apparently disturbed people caught up in the criminal justice system, etc..

        — Child protection services

        — Housing and care of the criminally insane

        — Waste water treatment

        — A spectrum of services comparable to those provided by the Department of Health

        — A spectrum of services comparable to those provided by the Pollution Control Agency

        — A spectrum of services comparable to those provided by the Department of Transportation

        And, as Richard alluded to:

        — Fire fighting

        — Policing

        — Incarceration services (publicly-run vs. private prisons, for example)

        That is just a small handful of the of services the public sector provides. The individuals who help deliver those services are the individuals you say should be paid “what they are worth in the market.”

        So please tell us . . . What private sector companies provide the services listed above “in the market” and what some of the individuals working for those organizations are paid so we can begin to compare apples to apples and get a more precise idea of what it is you’re talking about in terms of dollar amounts and the ways in which those private sector providers are encouraging the kind of high performance, improved productivity, hard work, risk taking, high quality and increased efficiencies you always say the public sector is not.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/04/2018 - 11:18 am.


          On your list I see many different professions that align with Private sector jobs.

          Healthcare and counseling
          Facility and Systems Engineering / Maintenance
          General Management
          Environmental, Civil, other Engineering

          As I wrote to Hiram elsewhere.

          As for your comment. “I find it difficult to see how when unions fight for these things, their goals are at odds with American citizens.” (ie wages, benefits, working conditions)

          If they stuck to those things I would not be as concerned. Unfortunately they instead fight for:
          – higher wages for older workers, not better worker
          – higher job security for older workers, not better workers
          – job placement for older workers, not better workers
          – power to make organizational change/ improvement very hard

          This rigidity and burden makes for a very expensive and ineffectual organization.

          • Submitted by ian wade on 03/06/2018 - 02:30 pm.

            The definition of who or what is a “better worker”

            is rather arbitrary in nature. Anyone that has done time in a corporate environment will attest to that. As for your curt dismissal of older workers, I can only surmise two things…you haven’t reached the age where ageism has affected you and you’re probably a six sigma devotee.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 08:32 am.

              Kind of

              Actually I was laid off once because I let my perceived cost exceed my perceived value. I was older, highly compensated for my position and I challenged people who did not like being challenged.

              I was frustrated and angry at first, then I remembered that managers do need employees who will somewhat fall in line behind the plan. I was not a good fit for the organization at that time and it was good that I was ousted. And since I had kept my skills up, I found a new job that matched my views in ~2 months.

              As for 6 Sigma, yes I am a certified Black Belt. For folks who do not understand what that means. 6 Sigma is a process and tool kit for improving or creating products / processes.

              To Improve a Controlled Product or Process
              “D”efine the project business case, goals, scope, etc
              “M”easure the current state
              “A”nalyze the data
              “I”mprove the product / process
              “C”ontrol: Institute controls so the Improvement is maintained.

              To Create a New Product or Process
              “D”efine the project business case, goals, scope, etc
              “M”easure: Determine and document critical requirements
              “E”xplore: what the possible soultions
              “D”evelop: the chosen solution
              “I”mplement the chosen solution, verify results, ensure control

              • Submitted by ian wade on 03/07/2018 - 01:20 pm.

                We all know that Six Sigma is

                there to weed out inefficiency and variance, but it also stifles innovation and growth. Your own experience of being laid off for challenging the status quo should have clued you in on that. When a company promotes on the basis of having the right answers instead of asking the right questions, it ultimately destroys innovative thought, and along with it, experimentation that leads to new and sometimes better products, services and process.
                We all strive to retain and grow our skill set, but ageism plays a factor no matter how good you are, or think you are. I sincerely hope that your empathy level for others grows before the inevitable happens to you…and rest assured, it will.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 02:02 pm.

                  More to It

                  One needs to use the correct tool for the correct job.

                  DMAIC is there to weed out inefficiency and variance.

                  DMEDI is there to ensure one defines and documents the critical customer, business, regulatory, etc requirements before one starts researching and developing a solution… What you develop is pretty wide open as long as the performance, reliability, quality, serviceability, features, etc meet the requirements.

                  As for “we all strive to retain and grow our skill set”, I spent some time as a Supervisor and I can assure you that is not correct. Every year I would work with employees to discuss how they wanted to grow their capabilities and knowledge… A small subset desired to do so and of then some would not follow through on their goal.

                  The reality is that as we get older, things other than work and our ability to do it often become a lower priority. Now that is fine and healthy, however should we be paid more for working less or making fewer yearly capability gains?

                  • Submitted by ian wade on 03/07/2018 - 03:08 pm.

                    So you think as a worker ages he/she should be punished for it?

                    I’ve also spent some time in a supervisor capacity and I know one thing for sure… when the rubber meets the road, and cuts have to be made, HR doesn’t give a rip that you may have been a team player, attended all the workshops and kissed the right rings. At the end of the day, your employment is distilled down to your age, your salary and your employee number. It’s salary and headcount off the books, and you can thank the other MBA’s with six sigma “black belts” for your eventual demise.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/07/2018 - 04:27 pm.

                      Comp Policy

                      The biggest problem I have noted over the years is that often supervisors want to give people higher than cost of living raises instead of explaining to the employee…

                      “Another year has passed… You get a cost of living increase because your capabilities are the same, your workload is the same, your responsibilities are the same, etc. So we are going to pay you what we paid you last year + some for inflation.”

                      The problem with this is that after many years the employee is paid more than the market wage. So of course there is a business case for replacing them. And worse yet, they layoff the individual and they can not get any where near the same wage.

                      So here is my comp policy question… If you are going to pay 2 equivalent roofers to re-shingle your house… They both come with excellent references…

                      Roofer 1 has 5 years experience and bids $7,000
                      Roofer 2 has 25 years experience and bids $10,000

                      Which one do you hire?

                      Should we pay based on the job difficulty and performance, or based on the workers age?

                      And please remember that if we do give an “elder pay” premium for Teachers… That means we have to increase class sizes because we can not afford as many Teachers…

                      This stuff is complicated and worth thinking about.

  8. Submitted by Anita Newhouse on 03/04/2018 - 01:31 am.

    Not all citizens are driven or beholden to business.

    The MBA’s are the ones destroying “what makes America great” by insisting that profitability and competition are the measure of every darn aspect of American life! So completely tired of the intrusion into service sectors like education and healthcare, of business managers who know literally nothing about sectors they wish to “standardize” and where they insist they can “find efficiencies”. Core competencies in services are not reproducible for standardization like industrial widgets and their process tolerances or marketing strategies for investment products. The fact that the concept of freedom in human services depends mightily on constructs unfit for spread sheets doesn’t register with these folks. Where are allowances for collaborative and differentiated instruction that enables learning freedom in the face of persistent and unrestrained competition? That unions exist to push back against this onslaught of dehumanization requires they be purged by the business elite-the MBA’s. My generation X has pushed the business narrative to the breaking point and the damage they’ve wrought on education, healthcare and social services will be my children’s job to fix. My solice lies in the fact that we, as a generation are the smallish ‘thought’ between the babyboomers and millennials and the emerging sensibilty is that Oligarchs peddle creative and intellectual oppression.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/08/2018 - 10:19 am.

    I wish Mr. Spano had discussed his topic

    The disparate wealth distribution that has accompanied the wage suppression movement begun during the Reagan presidency is simply not sustainable. We’e seen this wealth gap before, and we reduced with collective bargaining and labor rights. The assault on labor and labor rights has had a long run, but there are clear signs that that run may be coming to an end.

    American workers can defeat the oligarchs, they’ve done it before. The mission is probably NOT as difficult as it would seem, but it’s a liberal mission. All we really need are some effective liberal champions who will labor and labor rights on the table and keep them there… something Republican appose and Democrats have been refusing to do for decades. We have to be honest about this and demand the representation that elite’s have been denying us. We do still live in a democracy, and we can use that fact to our advantage.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 10:58 am.

      Correlation vs Causation

      That would be an excellent discussion as long as all causal factors are raised.

      – Better environmental laws in the 70’s increased cost of doing business in the USA

      – Foreign competitors improved greatly

      – Global communication and shipping cost were falling

      – American consumers went from Buy American to buy best value from anywhere

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/08/2018 - 01:47 pm.


        It’s actually not true that environmental regulation simply increased costs because those regulations also created markets for more efficient production, and technological innovation.Clean and efficient production actually decreased costs. The idea that regulations strangle economies is simply another Republican economic myth.

        Foreign competition may have increased, but US productivity also increased dramatically.

        Why would more efficient communication and shipping conditions have an negative effect on American business but positive effect for everyone else?

        The “Buy American” movement was never a dominant feature of our economy but the number of American manufactured goods decreased as we switched to a service economy. Buy the way, those “buy American” campaigns… were largely Union sponsored- Remember the: “Look for- the union label…” commercials?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 03/08/2018 - 02:31 pm.


          Of course many jobs moved to 3rd world countries because they did not have the same environment regulations. Therefore China, India, Mexico, etc have a lot of pollution.

          And since the American consumers did not care where there products / services come from as long as they gained their personal extra value, it hastened the departure of many industries. I mean most companies who chose to stay here soon went bankrupt for lack of customers who were willing to pay more to cover the extra expenses.

          When shipping and communication costs decreased, it became much cheaper to arrange for and bring foreign lower cost products to the USA.

          As for the fall of Buy American

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