Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: Most people would not mistake either of us for a couple of tough union roustabouts. Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Teamsters?

RN: Card-carrying, baby.

CP: What, your touring musical-theater troupe was a closed shop?

RN: We should have been so lucky to have had union rules in that little sweatshop of the arts. No, I was a warehouse laborer. It was a summer job, and what I remember most about it — besides how much it made me appreciate my college education — was how we underpaid students were required to fork over sizable initiation fees and dues for 12 weeks of employment.

CP: My life in organized labor started early, too. At 16, I joined a collective-bargaining unit to work as a stocker at my local grocery store. I remember thinking it was totally worth it because I was earning $4.99 per hour. And there were many other union jobs after that.

RN: That's right, starting, if I'm not mistaken, with your tenure in the Hairdressers Guild.

CP: Go ahead and laugh, but I've known plenty of hairstylists, and you would not want to cross them if they did put up a picket line.

RN: Theirs is a fierce tribe, yes, but that's not exactly a hardship scenario when, like me, you're bald. Anyway, I was also invited into what is now Education Minnesota, at least until I realized that the classroom was not my natural habitat. Weren't you in the Aqua Follies or something?

CP: Umm, I think you mean the mighty National Association of Letter Carriers, an AFL-CIO affiliate with 300,000 members. I proudly wore the mail bag of the U.S. Postal Service on the mean streets of St. Paul for three years while pursuing my baccalaureate in poetry. Everyone knows not to mess with a postal worker, right?

RN: Yeah, especially one who speaks in rhyming couplets. No, I was thinking of your seafaring days. I'm picturing festive Labor Day fêtes during your rebellious deck-mopping phase.

CP: I'd love to tell you all about my high times on the Great Lakes, but am pledged to do so only with my former shipmates in the merchant marines. As Yale has its Scroll & Key, we have our own secret society — Taconite & Beer.

RN: Here's hoping you spent much of the late 1970s pulling out that union membership card when the checkout lady at the Red Owl asked for some identification. I know I would have.

CP: And here we are, comrades in newspapering and longtime members of the Communications Workers of America, Local 37002.

RN: I can hear the chanting: What do we want? Labor Day! When do we want it? Now!

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib