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Archive for December, 2010

Breaking: Union Approves Contract at Kohler

Happening now.

Kohler Co. union employees voted Sunday to accept a contract with the company that calls for a two-tier wage system, extensive use of temporary labor and a five-year pay freeze for current employees, with bonuses.

Officials said 62% of workers voted in favor to accept the new contract, and 38% voted “no.”

The company’s contract proposal followed what is becoming a familiar pattern: It preserves relatively high wages for current production workers while offering much less to future employees. Such two-tier strategies dangle an incentive in front of the current employees – the people who get to vote – by largely protecting their economic self-interest.

Under the newly approved contract, new employees would get 65% of the current wages. Union officials have said current production workers average about $22.50 an hour, which would mean an average of a little more than $14.50 for so-called “Tier B” workers. That comes to about $30,000 a year.

While freezing the pay of “Tier A” workers, the company proposal provides for a $1,000 bonus upon ratification of a new contract, and another $1,000 on April 1, 2013.

Each bonus would be equivalent to about 2% of the current average pay. The bonuses, however, would not raise the wage base.

This is both a sign of how weak UAW Local 833 leadership has become, and how concerned many of the Kohler rank and file were about their jobs in this still fragile economy.

There no doubt is a big sigh of relief going on in many places in the Lakeshore as word spreads.  Fears were high that a strike at the largest employer in Sheboygan County was a real possibility.

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Big Ten Reconsidering Division Names

Well, the collective media and alumni “Meh” must have been enough.

Jim Delany has spent more than two decades as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, overseeing two expansions and the formation of the Big Ten Network.

None of it prepared him for the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the conference’s new division names for football.

Delany said during an interview with AM-720 in Chicago on Thursday that the names Legends and Leaders were picked to highlight the conference’s rich history, and that “to a great extent it’s fallen on deaf ears.” Many fans have instead mocked the names and asked officials to reconsider, which Delany said could happen after the first of the year.

“I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90% approval rating,” Delany said during the interview. “But to get a 90% non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising.”

The league will be split into two divisions beginning next season, when Nebraska becomes the 12th member. The Cornhuskers will be joined by Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa in the Legends Division. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue will comprise the Leaders Division.

At least, assuming those are still the names by then.

“We want to breathe a little bit,” Delany said. “I don’t think you make a judgment in 48 hours or 72 hours. Eventually we’re going to have to address the issue of whether or not it’s sustainable, but I don’t think that’s an issue for today.”

Delany said the conference chose the divisions based on parity, rather than geography, which made naming them East-West or North-South impractical. The Big Ten also considered using names of historic players or coaches, but Delany said that would have been “too limiting.”

The commissioner also said there was little consideration given to changing the conference name from the Big Ten, unlike in 1990, when Penn State became the 11th member.

Delany said university faculty, presidents and alumni supported keeping “Big Ten” and that it represents a brand rather than the number of institutions. The name change also would have affected the branding of the Big Ten Network, which launched in 2007.

“It’s humbling, to say the least, because we’re trying to build fan bases, not push them away,” Delany said of the uproar caused by the new division names. “I was surprised. I’ve been around this business a long time, and it’s one of the more surprising things.”

Jim Delany isn’t a dumb guy; but he’s also not an academic.  He’s a guy who sits in a corporate tower in Chicago at the Big Ten (plus 2) offices.

How the hell did he not focus group these names?

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Five Days My A**

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Pawlenty Wishes He Sought 3rd Term as Minnesota Governor

Yeah, it’s a real shame he’s got that Presidential run to fall back on.

Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn’t even hesitate.

“Yes,” he answered when asked by the News Tribune editorial board this week whether, after the Republicans took control of the Minnesota Legislature in the Nov. 2 election, he wished he had run for another term.

“If I would have known then what I know now,” the Republican lamented, and “given what I’ve been through and hoped to accomplish, but that (the DFL-controlled Legislature) blocked. But you can’t predict the future. And of course, I made my decision after the 2008 election when President Obama and the Democrats swept everything. I looked at that and (decided against) having to go over there and ram heads with (DFL Sen. Larry) Pogemiller and (DFL Rep. Margaret Anderson) Kelliher and their like. (There was a) high probability of that. Hindsight is 20/20.”

This week has been all about hindsight for Pawlenty, who visited Duluth on Wednesday on the last leg of a statewide, accomplishments-touting, farewell tour. He met with the editorial board and with the News Tribune’s online broadcast arm, DNTV, before touring housing for veterans he said he helped to create.

He arrived at the newspaper with a clear agenda, to spread the word that during his eight years in office government spending and the burden on Minnesota’s taxpayers went down, job growth went up, education improved, energy grew cleaner, the state became more veterans-friendly and Minnesotans’ overall quality of life improved.

‘If I would have known then what I know now,’ is the story of every human being’s life.  I’m still kicking myself for not buying 100 or so shares of Marvel Entertainment back in college when it was trading for a $1 or so.  It ended up being worth around $55 a share before “The Mouse” purchased them and would have converted those shares to Disney shares to boot!

In all seriousness, I like Tim Pawlenty as a person from the time I chatted with him at CPAC 2010, and everyone in politics pretty much knows Pawlenty is running for the White House in 2012, which is fine.  Does he have a shot is the real question.  For him to suddenly say, “Hey, I should have run for re-election in my current, look at what would have happened?” only seems to imply he’s not serious about seeking the Presidency.

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Senate Dems Balk on $1.1 Trillion Pork-Laden Omnibus

The continuing resolution (CR) we all knew was coming has finally arrived.  Senate Dems don’t have the votes to clear the Pork Fest which is the the Omnibus bill.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Thursday night that he was abandoning efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending measure to finance the government through Sept. 30 because Republicans would not support it.

Mr. Reid said he would work with the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on a stop-gap spending bill instead. Senate Republicans also said they would not support a House-passed temporary spending measure running through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead, they want to develop a separate measure running only through the early part of next year.

At that point, Republicans will control a majority in the House and six additional seats in the Senate, giving them greater leverage over any spending decisions.

Republicans had pledged to stop the spending measure, even though it included millions of dollars for projects that they had requested, and had even threatened to force the entire bill, which is more than 1,900 pages, to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

Mr. Reid in floor remarks on Thursday night said that he had spoken with Republican senators who had previously expressed a willingness to support the spending bill and concluded they would not vote for it.

“They’re not going to support this legislation,” Mr. Reid said. “We now have a simple choice. Are we going to help people in America?” He added, “The answer appear that it’s going to be no.”

Mr. McConnell, in floor remarks, praised the Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, for its work on the spending bill that he defeated.

McConnell has told National Review that he kept most of the GOP membership on the Appropriations Committee together except for two.  That alone is an amazing feat given how the Senators from Alabama are with their pork projects.

No word on how long the “CR” will last, but expect to see another attempt at an Omnibus in the new year with the new Congress.  Frankly, a better sign of controlling government spending would be to have the Congress just pass another “CR” which will last until the end of fiscal year 2011.  That way, you will still have the government operating, but all federal agencies will be forced to work under the previous years budget numbers. Congress could still pass emergency appropriations for military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That in itself would be equal to passing a 3 or 4 percent basis cut in the growth of government.

UPDATE: See on Twitter columnist Jim Pethokoukis saying something I momentarily forgot:  Paul Ryan will be the House Budget guy starting on January 5th.

Man, this thing is setting up perfectly for Paul Ryan to start wielding the ax in 2011.

Wield away Paul.  Wield away.

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A Smart Move by Quad Graphics

With more and more things going digital and the traditional products offered by Quad no longer in vague, this is a good business move by Quad Graphics to help ensure its viability in the printing industry.

Quad/Graphics Inc., the Sussex-based commercial printer, said Thursday it has combined its recently acquired HGI Co. in Burlington and Menomonee Falls with the commercial and book operations in Enfield, Conn., and Leominster, Mass., to create a new commercial and specialty print division.

Quad/Graphics purchased the Enfield and Leominster plants earlier this year as part of its acquisition of Worldcolor.

The company said it will spend $13 million on equipment and plant expansions in 2011 for the commercial and specialty print division. The investment includes the addition of digital and conventional presses with capabilities for short- to medium-run commercial work as well as specialty print, such as large-format in-store signage and displays.

Craig Faust, previously president of HGI, was named president of Quad’s commercial and specialty print division:

The new division’s offerings complement Quad’s retail insert, direct mail, book, directory, magazine and catalog operations, said Joel Quadracci, company chairman, president & CEO.

“Through our investment in HGI and its Tempt in-store marketing promotions unit, we have broadened our services to all types of marketers and publishers, and positioned our company for future growth,” Quadracci said in a statement announcing the new division.

Quad/Graphics’ commercial and specialty division specializes in quick-turn and transactional commercial products such as marketing collateral; print-on-demand custom publications; short-run books, catalogs and directories; specialty binding; and in-store/point-of-purchase materials.

By offering this new division, Quad can help compensate for its traditional business like magazine printing; which is being eaten up both by declining subscription rates and digital subscriptions on media like the iPad.

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Quote of the Day

UW-Madison Law Professor Ann Althouse in a post highlighting the new PPP Polls numbers on Wisconsin Senate match-ups for 2012 when Herb Kohl is will be running for re-election.

Adding tags to this post, I had to make a new one for Kohl. I’ve been blogging for nearly 7 years. Kohl has been one of my Senators the entire time. I never had the occasion to make a tag for him? That means something.

Althouse is a good barometer of Wisconsin politics in my opinion honestly.  She’s intelligent, coy, and not afraid to speak her mind.  She’s also more moderate than either side is willing to admit.  Chances are, if you’ve locked up Althouse’s vote you might have a shot to win statewide. (She voted Obama in 2008, and in her comments said she voted Johnson over Feingold in November.)

Out in DC a couple weeks ago a few friends asked me about Republican Senate chances in Wisconsin in the next cycle.  I told them the usual, “You never know, I mean look at what I just help accomplish?”  or “Well, he’s a mint unto himself, so it’s always a tough go.”

But if Althouse is just noticing she’s never had to write about Senator Kohl in all the years of her blog — one of the few in Wisconsin with a legitimate national audience — a campaign defining “Nobody’s Senator” as an “Absentee Senator” they might have a shot.

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Reason TV Presents “The Budget Chef”

Must say, I chuckled when I saw Nick was wearing the leather jacket under the apron.

He’s going to be buried in that thing, I swear.

Quick thoughts:

1) Any mocking of Julia Child without the accent is comedy gold, let alone parody gold.  Doing the accent is pushing it.

2) This points out exactly why I disliked Tom “The Hammer” DeLay so much as GOP Majority Leader.  Suffice to say, there’s always fat in the budget.

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Random Thoughts

The Favre Streak Ends

Not that I take a brief  moment of satisfaction for the man’s misfortune (He might be placed on the Injured Reserve list by the end of the night, thus ending his season and probably a career.), but part of me wishes this happened as a Packer…in 2008.

Another Favre Reverence While I’m at it…

It me, or is being the Press Secretary and/or Communications Director for Senator Herb Kohl a lot like being Favre’s back-up during the Packers Days?  I mean that in the sense of you’re only needed on very rare occasions when called upon to do the job you’re being paid to do.

Look at it, since the start of this month, our Senior Senator has issued three statements measuring a grand total of four total sentences or less.  One was on the Debt Commission, another on the “high-speed rail,” and today another on the cloture vote on the tax cut extension.  These statements were four sentences, one sentence, and two sentences respectively.

There’s something to be said about the brevity of his press office.  Just not sure what that is yet.

“Leaders and Legends”

This is “Marquette Gold” on a conference wide basis.  It will not end well.

What the hell was the Big Ten (Plus 2) thinking?

Steele Running for Re-Election as RNC Chair

Well, he had the whole political world convinced he wasn’t running as of last night, then things changed.  I don’t believe it will change the overall outcome at the RNC’s Winter Meeting next month.

Steele’s record is one of gaffes, debt, mismanagement, and favoritism.  Sadly, all Steele has done has proved his critics right who claimed he drove GOPAC — the traditional candidate school for the party — into the ground during his tenure there too.

Well, He Didn’t Want the Tax Cuts to Begin With

Feingold was a “Nay” on cloture. If this shocks you, you clearly weren’t watching the campaign.

ObamaCare Ruled Unconstitutional Through Virginia Lawsuit

First of all, given this quote how the sam hill has Josh Marshall kept TPM operational for over a decade?

To borrow a line from James Lileks, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution is the “Odo” of public policy; morphing to whatever whim Congress deems it can and should do by their own desires.  So this thing’s ending in the Supreme Court one way or another.

Until then, conservatives will hope Justice Kennedy stays healthy and liberals will urge Justice Kagan doesn’t recuse herself when the case gets there.  (She’ll have to.  As Solicitor General during the early stages of the policy debate she was instrumental in determining the legal status of the law.)

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Smarter Materials Could Lead to Smarter Budgeting

A friend of mine sent me this last week thinking I might find this interesting, and indeed I did.

Seems for a number of years, the engineering brainiacs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been trying to figure out not just smarter, stronger building materials, but ones which will last the test of time, erosion, and normal wear and tear.   The “Life-Cycle” of the project to use the term they did.

MIT researchers are hoping the work they do can lead to better, stronger buildings, along with better, longer sustaining roads, a better environment, and for those who have to work public policy — Smarter, taxpayer-funded infrastructure budgets.

They also look at the environmental cost from laying the various kinds of pavement and concrete on highways and hope to have a full report out next August.

Here’s the summary from one of the preliminary reports on road infrastructure:

In year one, the life cycle assessment project of the Concrete Sustainability Hub has made significant contributions to our understanding of the environmental performance of pavements. We are delivering a new level of clarity for the industry, for policy makers, and for designers, and we have created a foundation to build upon for future studies. Life cycle assessment provides a rigorous means of testing the relative environmental merits of various design alternatives, and can provide quantifiable means of reducing both economic and environmental costs of pavement design alternatives. Combining the pavement LCA model with Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) will allow policymakers, Departments of Transportation (DOTs), and designers to accurately measure both cost and the environment impact in the design of pavements in order to have a better maintained and more sustainable US highway system.

The other preliminary report, on building design, can be read here.  The final report is due August 2011.

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