The latest edition of the yellow pages just landed on my front steps. I was looking through the “Mediation” section and came across a listing for a meditation studio. That happens all the time—people seem to have a tough time telling the difference between “mediation” and “meditation”. Mediation is always getting confused with something else. It’s enough to give even a well-adjusted mediator an identity crisis.

And if the news from Wisconsin is any indication, there are people in very high places who are more confused than anybody. The story goes like this…

The Wisconsin State Employees Union has been working without a contract since July 2003. Negotiations at this point are at a standstill. As a way to administer CPR to revive negotiations, the Union has invited Governor Jim Doyle and his administration to participate in mediation.

In a truly bizarre twist, Doyle rejected these overtures. Using reasoning straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a spokesperson for the administration explained, “We are deeply disappointed that Council 24 has decided to walk away from the negotiating table. We do not believe that now is the time to throw in the towel on negotiations…”

Someone apparently forgot to tell the governor that mediation is widely defined as “assisted negotiation”. If the administration ever does agree to mediate, let’s just hope they don’t show up with yoga mats and crystals.

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