Throwback Thursday and Power Corrupts

I used to be a member of a union. I made a couple of commercials (one TV and one radio) for a local bank; they and the ad agency liked me enough so that they wanted me to do more. In fact, I continued to make commercials for the bank even after I moved to the other side of the country. Anyway, I was not allowed to make more than two commercials without joining the union. (Even though only one relevant union existed at the time, I will refrain from naming them explicitly.)

If any of the commercials aired even once in any 13-week block of the year, then I received a residual check. The money was good especially considering how little time it took for me to record any of the commercials. However, at least half of the checks I received were not for me, but for someone with whom I shared a last name. Literally dozens of calls to the union local office never corrected the problem. My compensation was controlled by the union local where I had originally lived and not where I was living after I moved. When I stopped making commercials (the bank was purchased by a larger one) and the residuals ended I ceased paying union dues.

This article from Automotive News is titled, “6th ex-UAW official pleads guilty.” Here is the beginning of the article:


“A former high-ranking UAW official in the union’s General Motors department pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of conspiracy and fraud.”

“Jeffery Pietrzyk, who was an assistant to former UAW-GM Department Vice President Joe Ashton, is the 10th person to plead guilty as a result of an ongoing federal probe into misuse of union funds. Six of the 10 are former UAW officials.”

“Prosecutors said Pietrzyk conspired with other union officials to take bribes and kickbacks related to vendor contracts for watches, backpacks, jackets and other items. The UAW said it has changed its purchasing procedures since the contracts Pietrzyk was involved with were awarded.”


I can’t believe I have to write this, but UAW is the United Auto Workers union. It boggles my mind how anyone has blind and complete faith in any institution of people, be it unions, governments or private companies. Power corrupts.


See the source image


OK, why did I show this portrait of Bonanza from TV Guide? Fifty-five years ago this month (or 1964 for those of you who are bad at math) was the beginning of the 1964-65 TV season. For the first time in over a decade NBC would have the highest-rated show for an entire season and that show was Bonanza. I have never watched an episode, by the way.

Only a numbers nerd like me would find the Nielsen ratings interesting. As I have written before I considered writing a book in which I would reveal the most popular prime-time TV shows in history based on an analysis of the ratings. I would not have been able to simply use an “unadjusted” rating, however. Why? OK…


1964-65 Rating
Bonanza 36.3
Bewitched 31.0
Gomer Pyle, USMC 30.7
The Andy Griffith Show 28.3
The Fugitive 27.9
2004-05 Rating
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 16.5
American Idol-Tuesday 15.7
American Idol-Wednesday 15.3
Desperate Housewives 14.5
CSI: Miami 12.4


The average rating that pushed CSI to the top of the Nielsens in 2004-05 would not have made the top 30 in 1964-65. Using methodology I used in my books about the greatest baseball and football teams of all time, I was going to use standard deviations from the mean as a way to be able to compare shows from different eras. No one in the publishing business with whom I spoke thought the book was a good idea so I didn’t pursue it. Courtesy of someone at Nielsen I had collected data on TV ratings from 1960 (when the rating methodology was significantly changed) through about 2005.

I can tell you, as I believe I have before, that for one season the most popular TV show was the last season of Seinfeld, with a rating more than four standard deviations above the average for that year. When NBC executives tried to convince Jerry Seinfeld to do one more season (at a reported $5 million per episode) one of their points was to ask him if he wasn’t curious about how much higher the ratings could go. He answered that the only way to know if you’ve hit the top is when the ratings start to decline.








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2 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday and Power Corrupts

  1. The Unions have long outlived their intended good. I don’t know of a single Union that isn’t completely corrupt at the top. Workers who are forced to be in a Union in closed shop states often don’t know that they have a semi-out as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Communication Workers of America vs. Beck. The National Right to Work Committee has done a lot to help workers who are under the heel of forced Unionism.

    I’ve never been much of a TV watcher but I used to enjoy Bonanza. I never saw a single episode of Seinfeld.


    1. I will reiterate that blind, unwavering faith in any institution of people is misguided, to say the least. Don’t interpret that statement as a sign that I am religious.


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