Union Busting at Conn-Selmer Now?


South Bend Tribune

Conn-Selmer is still on strike. A comment added today, on an earlier post, said the company is having a job fair to, presumably, hire replacement workers.

It sounds like the strike was caused, at least partly, over bad feelings about a failed lean implementation at that particular plant. Sad.

One striking worker said:

“Workers who have spent their adult lives at the company might be out of luck if the strike ends badly, Fruchey said.

“The company has asked us to learn jobs throughout our careers that you can't use anywhere else,” he said. “I can't make saxophone bells some place else. How about trombone slides? Where am I going to do that?””

It's unfortunate that this worker sees his skill set as being so limited — making horns. With a more effective lean effort, one that engaged all employees and worked to develop them, this employee might have a more positive view of himself and would maybe have some more generally marketable skills (such as implementing lean!).

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Mark Graban: Please explain how lean implementation fail at this plant. This worker does a specialized skill, Bach is one of the last places for this kind of work. What do you mean by “marketable skills (such as implementing lean!)”?

  2. I’m saying lean failed because management is focusing too much on labor cost and has obviously created an antagonistic environment. I’m not blaming individual workers. Usually, management wants to just “make the numbers” and regular employees are left being concerned about quality, but management tells them to ship it anyway.

    I feel bad for the workers at Bach.

    But, also…. if you identify yourself with a very specialized skill set (such as trumpet bell bender), then your job and career opportunities are going to be limited.

    If lean had been implemented better at Bach, you could have some skills that could be applied at almost any company.


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