Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tecumseh Small Engines - Closing up Shop

Well, a truly sad day for motor heads, Tecumseh closed it's U.S. small engine plant and apparently there will be no more Tecumseh engines produced. The power equipment Co. Ariens always used Tecumseh engines and they were incredibly reliable. The Tecumseh Snow King engine on my snowblower is close to 40 years old and still runs reliably, burns no oil and starts on the second pull every time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Unions Successful and Relevant in the New Economy

A Recipe for the Teacher's Unions

Judging by the public discourse during the auto industry meltdown, a large segment of the population prefers handing over tax dollars to investment banks over giving even more modest sums to struggling auto companies. There are many different motivations to this, lefties don't want to reward the auto companies for building gas guzzlers and shitboxes, but the larger block seems driven more by anti union sentiment, and that's a shame. Although they have largely been immune to this sentiment, even the teachers unions find themselves facing increasing increasing anti-union sentiment. With continued, drastic school budget shortfalls, the teachers unions will soon be in a more perilous position than the UAW, and that takes some doing. The UAW only has to negotiate with the manufacturers they serve, the teachers have to negotiate with the public, and a positive perception of the union is required for their survival. Even in the progressive and relatively wealthy town where I live, the teachers union is loosing the support of the normally sympathetic parents, and that's not good.
What can the teachers union do to ensure the survival of unionized teachers? More...
Well, in my view, there are basically two different types of unions; labor unions and trade unions. A labor union is one where, in general, the workers are not united by trade, but rather by industry. The auto workers for example are a labor union, they don't all have the same skills (some are electrical workers, some are welders, some are upholsterers etc.).
The Carpenters Union is an example of a trade union, they are all carpenters (more or less). For the Teachers Union to succeed and thrive, they NEED to stop acting like a labor union and start acting like a trade union. Promoting quality, consistency and convenience are the keys to success. The Carpenters and Electricians have been selling this for years and it really works. Trade unions essentially act as certification organizations, much like Universities do when awarding MBA degrees, it indicates that the worker has the skills and knowledge required for their profession. To the employer, this provides the benefit of knowing what you are getting from a technical training perspective. Teaching on the other hand is a different animal, all the education in the world can't guarantee a good teacher, there are too many intangibles. What if being in the union guaranteed a good teacher? If the Teacher's Union was self policing and worked with the school administration to root out poor performers and help improve overall performance? Certainly the parents would favor this arrangement, and it would save the administration a lot of labor and headaches. Teacher's work conditions on the whole are undeniably tough and could be improved, but in order to get the community to fork out the extra dough to improve things for the teachers, there needs to be a something in it for the community. That something can really only be one thing, better quality teachers- give the public a reason to prefer unionized schools.