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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Head still buzzing from ACBF

Buzzing from the noise. The hall has a capacity of 5,000 and people drinking beer tend to get loud.

I volunteered to help out at the American Craft Beer Festival (brought to us by and it was a great time. I had never attended a beer festival before so it was quite an experience to work in one. Being in such a large, noisy crowd was difficult at first. Thankfully, most of the other volunteers were nerdy white folks like me so there was plenty to talk about when we were not emptying swill buckets and lugging four gallon coolers on our shoulders 150 yards across the floor of the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston. Friday's session was a pretty intense workout but by Sat. the crew chiefs had a more sensible water delivery scheme worked out. Next time I hope they have some kind of wheeled conveyance on hand for transporting those heavy water coolers.

I learned some interesting things about the workings of such events. For instance, the union laborers that came with the convention hall were incredibly lazy and completely ignored me when I politely asked them for simple things like a mop and bucket. There I was offering to do their job for them (when they were refusing to do it) and they acted as if they didn't understand English. Other volunteers had identical experiences with them. The union schlubs wouldn't lift a finger unless their boss cracked the whip.

I think of myself as pro union in principle but after meeting those slobs my opinion has been altered somewhat.

Speaking of unions, NPR's Ira Glass had an interesting segment about what happened in Barbados during a recession in 1991 when the IMF forced austerity measures on the nation.

The Barbadian unions met with govt. ministers and industry representatives and together they managed to make the necessary pay cuts that would prevent mass layoffs. Some of the largest privately held corporations opened their books to the union reps and a brave new era of cooperation and transparency was born.

To this day in Barbados there is an annual meeting of labor and corporate reps organized by the government in which all the parties sit down an essentially listen to each other talk about what they're up against. This respectful relationship between management and labor has endured ever since, according to those interviewed on This American Life. There is a reasonable level of trust between the parties which is maintained in part by the establishment of annual meetings between the three blocs.

It's hard to imagine such events transpiring here in the States where sadly the cold war between labor and capital is still being waged (to everyone's detriment.)

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