Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Industrial Relations and Sun Tzu

"Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

"To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence."

"There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

Back to the trolley car company and it's management's efforts to break the unions.  Since January, management has enrolled local television and newspapers to characterize the union workers as lazy, coddled, and overpaid.  Television stations and newspapers are corporations.  Corporations like low wages and hate unions because unions negotiate for pay and benefits for their workers.  This was a natural alliance for the trolley company and the media.

Management's strategy was to provoke a strike and then use public anger and local politicians to break the unions.

 Management blustered its way into a confrontation with workers.  This hostility and public uncertainty has dragged on for over 10 months.  Reference Sun Tzu's prolonged war quote.

There was a brief strike followed by a 60 day cooling off period, during which management did nothing, save for additional slander.  They now have a protracted battle and the four day strike has reinforced in the minds of the public that the union would strike again, if necessary.

By turning the encounter into a prolonged engagement, they now find themselves also in opposition to state and local elected officials, state and federal mediators, and ultimately, the four million people who life in the bay area.

Remenber the media?  Well sometimes an enemy can be useful.  Newspapers and television have no interest in news.  They sell advertising.  Creating anxiety inducing stories is part of the way they get people to read the paper or watch the news and then watch the advertising.  Each night has become a deadline to a possible strike.  The papers and television use the headlines to keep the populace on edge.

By declining to provide management with the strike they wanted, but keeping the potential for a strike viable, the unions  have been able to put the hysteria encouraging press to use. By staying at the table, they have exposed local politicians and appointed mediators to the arrogance and pointless hostility of management.

 The corrosive effect of public exposure is beginning to have a powerful effect.

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