In baseball, there are nine players on each side. After three strikes are called against a player, he's out.
In labor strife, any number can play, and any number of strikes can be called -- from one to a dozen or more.
Sometimes the whole ball game ends after one strike causes management to close down a plant and build a new one elsewhere. Sometimes strikes continue or recur so frequently that the brains of the disputants appear to become scrambled.
Naturally, I am most keenly attuned to newspaper strikes. They affect me most, and I am painfull aware of their consequences.
When a newspaper shuts down, its readers learn to get their news from other resources. If the struck newspaper later resumes publishing, it must try to win back its readers. But some readers never come back, and some newspapers never resume publishing.
Advertisers learn to use other media, such as radio, TV, magazines, or suburban "shopping" papers. A newspaper that survives must try to woo back all of its advertising revenue. But in some cases that, too, cannot be done.
The men and women who once made a living from the struck newspaper drift off to find other work, very often in new fields. Writers may go into public relations or advertising. Blue collar people whose skilled hands made them printers, engravers, pressmen and stereotypers learn new skills and begin working as electricians, carpenters, mechanics and machinists.
Once they move, many are lost forever to newspaper-related jobs because they don't want to risk going back to an industry that has become known for its shutdowns and labor strife. A worker finds it traumatic to have to uproot his family and move to a new locale to find a new line of work. Even one such episode can be one too many.
So I was saddened to learn that the Times of London had been forced to stop publishing yet again, this time by journalists rather than printers. My mind went back to the many New York City newspaper strikes that resulted in a steadily smaller choice of viewpoints for the reader and a steadily smaller list of job opportunities for reporters and blue-collar workers.
At last report, the Times journalists were holding fast to a demand for a 21 percent wage increase while the company said it expected to lose $24 million this year and therefore could pay only an 18 percent increase.
Anybody over the age of 16 knows that outsiders are seldom in a good position to judge the baloney content in statements issued about labor disputes. Sometimes, alas, even some of those who are striking or being struck don't know the full truth.
However, whether we're inside or outside the struck industries, it is clear to all of us that strikes are like wars: Nobody wins.It's just a question of who will lose the most. The public is left to wonder why the two parties were not rational enough to settle their differences without bloodying each other.
Leon Jaworski expressed some interesting comments about strikes when he spoke at George Mason University's Law School graduation exercises on Saturday. The former Watergate special prosecutor warned that the United States may be entering a new era of civil disobedience similar to that of the 1960s. Jaworski put much of the blame for this rebellious attitude on public employees who go on strike in violation of state laws forbidding strikes by public employees.
"We are about to set the cycle in motion again." Jaworski warned.He said the only difference between the disobedience of the '60s and that of the present era is that " the rule of law is (now) being flouted by the older generation."
Jaworski made it clear that he understands the salary needs of teachers, policemen, firemen and other public sevants who must make enough money to raise their families decently. All of us can identify with that point of view -- I because of my bias in favor of the noble newspaper worker and his salary needs, and you because of your bias toward your own field of work.
However, Jaworski stressed the point that people on the public payroll know what the law is, and they must obey it. They must pursue their goals by legal means, not by thumbing their noses at the law.
"What can we expect of todayhs children?" he asked. Will they grow up to be good citizens who respect the law? Or will they remember the example set for them by their teachers and by the policemen and firemen and others who defied the law and struck for what they wanted"
Permit me to add another example: the star athlete who has a contract to perform for one more year at an excellent salary, leths say $300,000. He tell the team it can stick that contract in its ear. He won't plat unless he gets $500,000. What kine of example does he set for those -- young or old -- who think of this athlete as a hero and would like nothing better than to be able to emulate him?