Question of the Week

Are You Lost in March Madness?


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March Madness is here, which means that die-hard college baseketball fans will be logging in many hours in front of the flatscreen in the next few weeks, and that even those who know little and care even less about hoops are likely to have filled out a bracket in an office pool. Even President Barack Obama made good on a campaign promise to an ESPN.com writer that he would fill out a bracket if elected, and indeed he did. (His final four? Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and North Carolina winning it all, Newsday’s Off the Glass blog reports.)

The tournament is a notorious distraction for U.S. workers, and John Challenger, chief executive of global outplacement and business coaching at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, usually makes a “lighthearted attempt” to annually estimate of how many billions of dollars employers will lose in productivity during the tournament. But Challenger declined to make an estimate this year, telling U.S. News & World Report that “now that we are in the worst of times, there is no need to generate additional sources of anxiety and stress.” In fact, he says, “we hope that employers utilize March Madness this year to cut workers a little slack.”

So tell us: Has March Madness caused you to miss any work this week—either because you took time off to watch games or got distracted at your desk by your brackets? Or, in these times, are you afraid to do anything to put your job at risk? And if you’re in it to win it, who’s in your final four?

Answer in the comments section.

Read last week’s answers to this question: Should Lawyers Form Their Own Unions?

Answer of the Week:

Posted by Peter Blum - All workers, including attorneys, should be in unions. Unionized workers are generally more productive and do a better job than nonunionized workers.

I was in a union as a public defender at The Legal Aid Society (UAW local 2325). My experience was overwhelmingly positive. Staff attorneys achieved better working conditions. Our clients received better representation as a result. Moreover, no clients were hurt during strikes. If an attorney had, for example, a trial or an important deadline that could not be moved, that attorney was authorized to cross the picket line.

Our clients knew that the union ultimately benefited them; they were the union’s greatest supporters during strikes. Ironically, those opposed to criminal defendants receiving good representation were the union’s greatest critics; they were generally the people who accused us of “abandoning” our clients.

Unionized law firm attorneys will not necessarily raise costs for clients. I can even envision unionized attorneys reforming the profession in a way that will cut costs for clients. The real worry of partners is that unions will cut into their hefty profits.

Law firm attorneys’ conservative ideology and lack of solidarity are the greatest obstacles to unionization. Most law firm attorneys (certainly not all) are establishment types who spend their careers as hired guns for the capitalist class. Not your typical union candidates, to say the least.

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