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The history of negotiation, mediation and arbitration

Sam Zuiker Humor

Sam Zuiker

[1]At Director Kay McMurray’s first National Conference, he talked too long at the end of a long day. Then he asked for questions. Sam asked, “If your presentation goes on past midnight, do we get credit for a second meeting?”  Kay of course did not know the agency practice of giving a mediator credit for two meetings if the session went past midnight, but the mediators roared at Sam’s question.

At another National Conference when the Director had been pontificating for some time, Sam raised his hand and said, “It’s clear that you don’t have a watch, but I’m hoping you have a calendar?”

There had been intense coverage of negotiations at a major company by local television stations. When negotiations adjourned there were several microphones thrust in Sam’s face.  The lead reporter asked “the Commissioner” to comment on the tone of the meeting.  Sam replied, “It has been extremely cordial and equally unproductive.”

When I was at Minnesota Nurses Association, a colleague Janet and I were jointly negotiating contracts at Duluth hospitals with Sam as our mediator. Throughout a marathon session spent primarily in separate caucuses, my friend Janet had refused to make any significant moves, and she had frequently asked Sam to “tell those Sapsuckers we’re not going to give any more.” About midnight during an MNA Caucus, Sam knocked on the door and without warning led the Hospital’s negotiating committee in.  They took their seats across the table; Sam sat at the head of the table and said, “Janet, I brought those Sapsuckers in, tell them yourself.”

Sam was assigned to my negotiations with a River Falls, Wisconsin hospital. Our 10-day strike notice was filed and we were meeting the day before it expired.  Sam had been in the nurses’ caucus for a while and I took a break to call the office, leaving him with the committee.  I came back to find him teaching them to sing “Solidarity Forever.” He told me if I was going to take them out on strike, they should at least be able to sing some union songs – his subtle way of telling me I had not prepared them adequately for a strike and perhaps I should rethink my strategy.

Sam was usually assigned to mediate the negotiations between 3M (Mother Mining, as we said in Minnesota) and OCAW.  The Union had a negotiating team of 8 -10 members and the Company usually had a main team of about a dozen members with dozens more seated behind the primary committee.  On one occasion in the 1980s, Sam met briefly with the Company committee before calling the first joint session.  The lead negotiator painstakingly introduced Sam to the dozens of Company committee members, to which Sam’s response was, “And I suppose when we get together with the union you’re going to plead poverty.” Talk about a dose of reality with one comment!

There are too many Sam Zuiker war stories to repeat – and they are all true.

Maureen told me this story about their first meeting: As a new hire visiting the Minneapolis office for the first time, Maureen wore a new expensive suit, parked her Mercedes and entered the office. (She learned later Sam saw her car.) The first person she met was Sam. After hellos, Sam gestured with his hand toward her from feet to head and said: “This job is about more than just looking good!” Maureen made a similar gesture toward Sam and said: “Obviously!” They both laughed and began a great friendship.


[1] Retired mediator Maureen Lobenski shared these Sam Zuiker stories with me, and told me Sam was her mentor, from whom she learned a lot about mediation.


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