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So when did a holiday celebration like the boat parade turn into a commercial venture equal to the Super Bowl? We now count 62 sponsors of this mega-extravaganza.

There are so many benefactors lined up hoping to get their names before the half-million attendees that the event organizers had to devise numerous contribution levels to accommodate them.

First comes the ubiquitous "title sponsor." If you cough up enough money, they have to put your name everywhere that this thing is mentioned. So it's not just the boat parade, it's the BellSouth Winterfest Boat Parade Presented by Nokia Featuring Holiday Theater of the Sea. Too bad that rich bald person didn't get his mitts on it and somehow add National Car Rental Center or Republic to the name.

In order to figure out the levels of sponsorship, we had to refer to the special BellSouth Winterfest Boat Parade Presented by Nokia Featuring Holiday Theater of the Sea program.

If you can't get in on the hyperextended name, then there's an offering of "presenting sponsors," which is somehow superior to "official sponsors," who are just a little better than "founding sponsors," who lord over the "event sponsors," followed by the plain ol' "boat parade sponsors," and finally there are the "contributing sponsors," whose contributions apparently don't mean that much.

We get a real sense now of what holiday giving is all about.

And now, for a lesson in how to threaten somebody while wearing a Cheshire-cat smile, let's turn to Avante of Lake Worth.

The Palm Beach County nursing home has spent the last few weeks engaged in fruitless efforts to derail a unionization drive organized by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE). In the weeks before the election, a disturbing flier was circulated among the home's 100-odd, largely Haitian work force. With the New Times logo prominently displayed on its front, the four-page flier recounts our story describing how a previous UNITE effort to organize a shrimp-processing plant in Deerfield Beach had resulted in the plant closing its doors and relocating to Jacksonville.

Just in case anyone could possibly miss the point, the flier drives it home at the bottom of the back page: "Here at Avante... we would bargain in good faith... but bad things can and do happen...."

Only one problem. In its selective editing of the original article (for which Avante failed to ask permission to reprint), the nursing home left out an important point: It's illegal to threaten employees to prevent them from voting for a union.

Of course labor lawyers say those kinds of threats are difficult to prove, because they're easy to shroud in shades of disguising gray. But then again, disguised or not, sometimes threats can also backfire. The flier ends: "It all depends on the union's demands in negotiations.... Are you prepared to take that risk?" The answer was a resounding YES: The union won the November 23 vote by a margin of more than two to one.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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