The Rolling Stones were right – You Can’t Always Get What You Want. But that doesn’t stop many people from trying.
I’ve been watching media reports lately of some Labor-Management issues for the same reason you might slow down to get a quick glimpse of a horrible traffic accident – to witness destruction, pain, and suffering from the air-conditioned comfort of your own space.
People tend to entrench themselves along ideological lines very quickly in labour-management disputes. Without knowing any of the details, or even any of the issues, people somehow feel they are entitled to an opinion. This works well for the people whose views of the world are shaped by their favorite TV show, and who name their children after movie stars. However, people with a brain (with apologies to the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz) need to dig a bit deeper before jumping on any particular bandwagon.
It is very rarely that a labor-management dispute has much to do at all with the substantive issues that each side articulates. More often the disputes are perpetuated by politics, emotional considerations, and issues of procedure that make the Department of Motor Vehicles look like a positively high performing organization.
Perhaps most unfortunately, such negotiations take place on the premise of dividing up a fixed pie. If one side gets more, the other gets less. If both sides could get past the crap, they might figure out a way to bake a bigger pie. But that would require trust, innovation, and initiative — elements in critically short supply in organized labour, and in almost all large corporations.