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The Myth of Fair Value - William Poundstone

It was rather fitting that last week Harley-Davidson workers in Milwaukee got their first look at a proposed labor agreement that would take effect in 2012 at about the same time as President Obama spent Labor Day at Laborfest where he announced a $50 BILLION jobs plan centered around transportation infrastructure including the rehab of 150K miles of road.

Well, I’ve traveled Milwaukee roads (and lived to blog about it!) and I can say they need rehab!  No argument there.  Bring on the new asphalt.

Speaking of jobs, Wisconsin has lost 35,000 manufacturing jobs since Obama took office in January 2009.  A total of 182,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000.  In July 2010 the unemployment rate was 7.8% a couple of points below the national average.  A good job that pays a good wage with health care and provides for a secure retirement even if you’re not rich might sound like simple ideas, but American workers are in dire straits.  There are job cuts and plant closings facing down families and the job cause is more urgent than ever.

This fact has not escaped Harley-Davidson executive management as workers in USW Local 2-209, USW Local 460 and IAM Lodge 78 will vote on a new labor contract Monday, September 13th which would preserve about 1,300 jobs in Milwaukee (PTO) and Tomahawk.  You can read the full 65-page text of the agreement on the Cyril Huze blog HERE.

The key highlights are they plan to institute a 7-year pay freeze, implement salary cuts, create a two-tiered work force, cut a couple hundred positions and use seasonal workers (who would make about half what current full-time employees earn).  According to the Kansas City Journal tier-1 employees would be paid between $30.50 and $34.38 an hour during the first year of the agreement, depending on job classification and tier-2 would earn between $21.96 and $29.87 an hour.  Pretty dam good pay if you’re unemployed!

And now just days before the vote Harley-Davidson CEO, Keith Wandell sent a letter to employees “highlighting his concerns” or what some might call spinning “why you should earn less.”  The letter was made available to JS Online by an employee.  You can read the full text of the letter HERE.  The key highlights are:

  1. An ultimatum — that if the contract is rejected the board will act the following day to authorize the process to relocate the production operations
  2. H-D is restructuring the design process to reduce development time and place a greater focus on “WOW”
  3. H-D is reducing the size of the dealer network
  4. H-D is challenging their suppliers like never before
  5. H-D is aligning all manufacturing operations under a common “production operating system”
  6. H-D is doing everything with fewer people (including salaried h/c) to run leaner at today’s lower volume

There is a Wisconsin metaphor: “You only worry as far as you can milk it.”  The recession favors management as an excuse to slash costs and puts more pressure on workers to agree to the demands.  In addition, the motor companies go-forward business strategy and restructuring is getting some traction.  So, it looks like labor concessions are an insurance policy for the future.

UPDATE: September 14, 2010 — H-D posted a press release HERE on the ratification details of the new 7-year labor agreement.  The company expects to have 325 fewer unionized employees in Milwaukee and the new contract will generate about $50M in annual operating savings in 2013.

Photo courtesy of William Poundstone

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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timeoutAccording to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to WOW (wallow on the web), where they become public remnants of a dream — or an ambition — unfulfilled.

I started blogging in 2006 which seems like a long time ago… then in 2007, prior to taking off on an extended motorcycle trip I started the Northwest Harley Blog.  The thinking at the time was that a mix of hobbies (motorcycle and photography) would be a natural fit and thus was born — rantings of a motorcycle enthusiast.

Many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — try to build an audience and leave their day job, land a book deal, get attention from traditional media or simply to share their so-called genius with the world. I did not! Some even assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.  Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a time commitment and inspiration. Some actually believe those TV advertisements about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month?

As a “closet journalist” I like to provide a unique voice and work to accurately report and find unusual angles on stories related to motorcycle causes and the industry.  I also like to provide chronologies of my various ride and rally wanderings. After two+ years, or put another way — after 500 posts, 873 photo’s edited/uploaded, and several thousand moderated comments later I feel the blog is a successful hobby after obtaining on average 24,000 unique monthly views, but it’s also at a cross-roads.

trollThe internet is different now.  It used to be about research, accuracy and quality entries.  The good bloggers had something to say about the big motorcycle issues of the day.  Now it’s about snippets from people who pump out dreck or large excerpts of other articles.  Original and high-quality content has become dumbed down.  Bloggers are required to spend more time ‘digg-n’, ‘tweeting’, ‘facebooking‘, ‘youtubing‘ and SEOing their posts than they do on the actual posts themselves. Even H-D is pushing their social media outreach staff to pump up the noise level on marketing messages in non-traditional channels — i.e. bloggers.

Sure it’s cool to have all this media presence, you can tweet ad infinitum and make videos clips if you’ve got a burning desire to do so… especially if you love new media and are thrilled to be in constant contact with your fan base or “tribe.”  In other words, if its an end unto itself.

But, that’s what bothers me.  There is a point of diminishing returns and a mental cost to all the work.  In the early days all that was required to “win” at blogging was to show up early each day.  Today?  You need a team of social marketers to get your message out, a second team to manage any fall-out from whatever you’ve said and a third to manage all the SPAMers and deletion of bad behavior rolled up by the Google machine in the form of drive-by trolls and haters who try and take up residence.  As a result blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants!

Not all blogs fade from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, band-camp, and swim practice, or perhaps even housework. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter or Facebook and drop evangelizing via the blog platform. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some small slice of their personal time.  This brings me full-circle about a decision.

I’m going to take a blogging timeout. Little if any new material will appear during the month of October.  I plan to resume in November.  Why?  Having blogged consistently for over three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the effects (both good and bad) and determine what if any new direction should be taken.  If you have an opinion or viewpoint I’m sure you’ll let me know.

I appreciate the allegiance of the blog reader base who subscribe and those who visit the site regularly.  If you happen on to this site during the month of October I hope you’ll enjoy looking through the archives.

Enjoy fall and ride safe out there…

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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