OLAB Firms Strike Labor Deal

by Jim Amidon

July 14, 2016

There were plenty of anxious moments Wednesday when students attending Opportunities to Learn About Business met with union labor negotiators.

With an industry-wide strike looming, the 10 OLAB companies had to go toe-to-toe with hard-driving union bosses during a tense three-hour period. The negotiations are a critical aspect of OLAB, now in its 44th year.

“The students have had so much classroom work thrown at them in the first 72 hours of the program, and they are just starting to figure out how the business simulation works when we threaten them with a labor strike,” said program director Jim Amidon. “It really makes them think on their feet and fully collaborate with one another.”

Enter Wabash alumni, volunteers, and sponsors, who force the rising high school seniors into uncomfortable positions.

“I am so grateful each and every year that the Wabash alumni from the Indianapolis Association of Wabash men take time from their busy schedules to negotiate with the students,” added Amidon.

Headed by Jon Pactor ’71, the negotiators are lawyers, bankers, or top business leaders. Over the course of three hours, they split into teams of two and try to convince the young OLAB companies to treat their fictional employees better.

These labor talks come just minutes after the students have learned about the history of labor in American business in a fast-moving lecture given by long-time OLAB professor Humberto Barreto. Game-master Greg Shaheen and Barreto made sweeping changes to the OLAB labor negotiations in 2016, which gave both union leaders and corporate officers a more level playing field from which to start.

While the primary focus of the union was earning higher wages for employees, the alumni lawyers pushed hard for healthcare, paid breaks and vacation days, and even profit sharing. Some even managed to negotiate season tickets to Wabash basketball games. (The latter, while odd, turned out to be a savvy play by the Labbies, who realized Wabash basketball games are free and therefore handed over a key bargaining chip without taking a financial hit.)

“I think the changes me made allowed the students to better understand that there is a financial cost to every decision they make when striking a labor deal,” Amidon said. “Greg and Bert put monetary values on every possible union plea, which really helped the students (and negotiators) understand the costs and benefits more clearly.”

Negotiators included Scott Benedict ’98, Rick Cavanaugh ’76, Aaron Cook ’06, Tim Craft ’00, Greg Estell ’85, Tom Gunderman ’89, Tyler Hardcastle ’15, Brad Johnson ’71, Eric Lindley of the Goodrich Trust, Jon Pactor ’71, Trent Scott '88, and Ken Siepman ’87. 

OLAB is grateful to the dedication of its volunteers, and its long-time sponsors, the Goodrich Trust, Carmel Rotary Club, and the Scientech Club. On hand for the negotiations were Eric Lindley of the Goodrich Trust, Joe Kiley of Carmel Rotary, and Jim Dillon and Victor Wenning of the Scientech Club.

“OLAB is the special program that it is because it is entirely free to the student participants,” Amidon said. “That allows students from all over the country, regardless of financial circumstances, to enjoy this amazing program. We remain deeply grateful for the generosity of our sponsors.”

OLAB advertising campaigns take center stage on Thursday and Friday. On Friday afternoon, OLAB companies will present reports to stockholders, which are judged by Rhetoric Professor Todd McDorman.

Commencement for the 44th OLAB program is Saturday at 2 p.m. in Salter Hall of the Fine Arts Center.


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