Measurement of Trifles

Like the fisherman in The Arabian Nights, Detroit's Federal Judge Frank A. Picard had unwittingly let the terrifying genie of portal-to-portal pay out of the bottle. By last week, as union claims swelled up to a terrifying $5 billion, Judge Picard set valiantly to work to lure the genie back in—or at least cut him down to a manageable size.

The genie, at that time safely encased in the bottle, first rolled up on the industrial shore in 1943. Then, workers at Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. sued, under the Wages & Hours Act,...

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