Showing posts with label labor unions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labor unions. Show all posts

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Snake and Potatoes

A few weeks ago I saw a t.v. commercial in which a shopper specifically compared prices between Wal-Mart grocery items and the same items from a local Mid-Atlantic grocery chain, one that I happen to patronize with great fidelity. The chain, which has Acme Market stores all over the place, pays its workers good wages and gives them health benefits. The Wal-Mart ad mentioned Acme by name and showed the price comparisons on screen.

What I wanted to do after that was go to Wal-Mart and photograph its disgusting grocery aisles, which I have only traversed two or three times, in every case with great dismay that anyone would purchase such suspicious-looking foodstuffs.

In the news today is a story about a woman who found a live snake in a bag of potatoes she bought at Wal-Mart.

http://www.inquisitr.com/808443/woman-finds-living-snake-in-bag-of-walmart-potatoes/

Wal-Mart says it will refund her money on the sack of potatoes if she has the receipt.

Now, I'm not saying I totally buy this story hook, line, and reptile. It's rather convenient that this lady had the right kind of container to put the snake in. If I found a snake in my potato bag (which I wouldn't, because I get my potatoes at Acme Markets), I wouldn't be able to catch or contain it. But the fact that my local news radio is running with this story says a whole lot about Wal-Mart groceries.

It's been several years now since my mother-in-law suddenly found her apartment infested with giant black ants. These ants arrived suddenly and were like nothing any of us had ever seen before. They weren't the teeny tiny little pismires typical to Mid-Atlantic kitchens. They were more than a quarter inch long. And fearless.

Finally my mother-in-law found the source of the ants. They were living in the bottom of a box of Wal-Mart brand breakfast cereal. When she threw out the cereal, the ants disappeared.

And then she continued to shop at Wal-Mart, because the prices are so low!

I'm not here to tell you how to spend your grocery dollar. I'm here to tell you how I spend mine. I pay more for my groceries than I would if I bought them at Wal-Mart. But here's what I'm paying for: ant-free cereal, snake-free potatoes, fresh local produce, and health care for workers. The local Acme Market is very small -- smaller than those super-pharmacies that are popping up everywhere. You can do as you like, but for me, smaller is better. If I want to take a hike, I'll go to the mountains. If I want a quart of milk, I want it in three minutes, from pickup to purchase.

One last anecdote, and I'll close with another shout-out to Acme Markets.

One night I was in a hurry. I went to the Acme and grabbed a bunch of things, including enough filet mignon to feed self, Mr. J, Heir and Spare. When I got home, I discovered that I had left the bag with the filet mignon in the cart in the parking lot.

I drove back to Acme, and I asked at customer service whether or not anyone had turned in a bag of filet mignon. Yeah, right. Of course not! Whoever found that puppy in the parking lot sort of hit the lottery!

But you know what the on-duty manager at the Acme told me? She said, "Go on back and pick out what you lost. Just take it." Maybe she recognized me, but I don't know. I didn't recognize her. How did she know I was telling the truth? She didn't. I could have been a cunning filet mignon thief. I also could have taken twice as much as I bought and lost.

Okay, compare that to Wal-Mart demanding to see the receipt for a bag of potatoes that had a snake in it before they would refund the price of the potatoes!

Acme Markets, this commercial is for you. In this world, we get what we pay for. I'm not rich, but I want good food and happy staff. And no snakes with my potatoes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Despicable, Heartless Woman!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," a voice crying out in the wilderness for collective bargaining since 2005! Today's sermon is about a sermon I heard over the weekend. Sadly, I can't produce the text of that sermon for you, because I couldn't find it on the news radio web page. But tra la la! This is a blog! I can say anything I want and not attribute it, because I'm not being paid!

The sermon I heard:
I was driving, so I didn't catch her name, but her title was dean of the School of Business at Drexel University. The news radio, KYW, billed the sermon as a "business commentary."

The dean spoke to the topic of "disgruntled employees." Here is the gist of her sermon, and I am not exaggerating:

*If you have a disgruntled employee, he or she can ruin workplace morale. Said employee will complain to others who will also then become disgruntled.

*If one of these employees comes to your attention, take swift action. Delaying can only make matters worse.

*The first step you should take is to warn the employee sternly to stop such behavior.

*If the employee does not heed the warnings, swift termination is recommended.

That was her sermon.

I almost drove into a ditch.

Nothing about having a chat with the disgruntled employee to see if there actually is a problem at the employee's level of the administration that could have a negative impact on the company's profitability.

Nothing about having a chat (or having human resources conduct a chat) to find out if the employee is having personal, relationship, health, or mental problems that could be addressed in a compassionate manner.

Nothing about talking to other employees about the impact the disgruntled employee is having on them and to gather opinions as to the damage the disgruntled employee is doing to company morale.

Basically scold 'em and screw 'em. Quickly.

And this moron par excellence is Dean of the LeBow School of Business at Drexel University, where tuition is $62,000 a year. This woman is influencing future generations of business leaders.

Annie's Swift Response to the Sermon:
When I got home from the grocery store, I went to the news radio web site to try to find the text of the commentary and the exact person who delivered it. I was unsuccessful. Everything I searched for "Drexel School of Business" brought up ads for the school.

So I went to Drexel's home site, and sure enough there was a female dean at the LeBow School of Business. She had an email that consisted of a string of numbers and letters, something like this:
z39QZT46 at Drexel etc. etc. etc.

So I sent z39QZT46 an email. It went like this.

Dear z39QZT46,

I happened to be driving along, and I heard your advice on how to handle disgruntled employees. I can't agree with you enough. I've been involved in business and industry for decades, and I think your practical advice should be heeded by everyone and anyone in a position of decision-making in a company.

You should be very proud of yourself. Our nation needs more forward-thinking professors like you, to guide the young people who are going into management positions so that they can assure a productive workforce. Jolly good show.

God bless America,

Anne Johnson
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

The email didn't get bounced back to me, so someone over at Drexel got it. May the entire place be damned for its despicable heartlessness.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Job Ecology

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Wow, what a hectic weekend! Extra Chair arrived with her luggage and many lovely gifts from China. I threw a birthday party for Spare ... had all three of her college roomies and her best friend over for dinner. Not a great way to prepare for a week of teaching school. I'm tired!

An anonymous commenter left a very thoughtful response on the post "Closing Gaps." This commenter said the world would be better if we had "job ecology." What a lovely metaphor! Instead of shipping jobs overseas and mechanizing human beings out onto the streets, wouldn't it be great if the goal of business was not entirely profit, but also the continued contentment of workers?

Mr. J and I often talk of Old Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol. Reading that story, we're not sure what kind of business Fezziwig is running... only that he employs apprentice clerks. But boy, oh boy! Christmas comes and the whole place is dancing and feasting and having a great time -- including Fezziwig, his wife, and his pretty daughters! Even Scrooge loved Fezziwig.

Can you imagine a CEO in these days, dancing and drinking with his or her employees? I suppose it must happen some places. Doesn't happen in my place of employment.

It seems to me the nature of our species to seek to consolidate wealth and power within a small extended family group, and to hell with everybody else. The ecological model would seek to consolidate worker security so that everyone could get out of bed in the morning not dreading a pink slip. This would increase satisfaction, spending, and (I believe, though many CEOs would not) individual performance.

Job ecology would mean that my daughter The Heir would not be an "independent contractor" who finds herself with a $450 tax bill. Nor would her employers be so pressed that they couldn't offer her benefits, because the big corporations that hire them would pay government benefits all down the ladder.

Now I have to run and teach one last class today. Teachers used to have job ecology in the form of tenure. This, of course, is being eroded -- not because there are bad teachers, but just because no one should have job security. No one.

Global climate change? It's not just in the atmosphere. It's in how we're living. The center cannot hold.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oh Please, Like We Won't Have Twinkies!

The companies that bought Hostess face a daunting reality. People just don't buy Twinkies and Wonder Bread like they did back in the day when I was young. But soft (for a millennium), dear reader. Both products are still popular and still rolling off the shelves.

We are seeing here another case of union-busting. Owners make unreasonable demands that workers cannot accept. Bankruptcy is declared, and the "new owners" hire back the old workers with all the concessions and more. This is not good faith collective bargaining. It is despicable.

The workers at Hostess were fully aware of the depressed sales. I'm sure they would have been willing to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement. In this national climate, however, they never got a chance.

If the Hostess workers go back to their factories at pennies on the dollar, you should really forgo those snack cakes and Wonder Bread. What, you don't stock your pantry with such toxic waste? Me neither!

Still, we love our sweet stuff, don't we? If the Hostess workers get a fair contract, we'll need to buy Twinkies to support the cause!

How can we do that and not kill ourselves with Twinkies? Which, if you'll pardon me, are about the most unhealthy food product available to humankind.

BETTER USES FOR TWINKIES: FREE ADVICE!

1. Draft dodgers: Place those puppies end-to-end at the doors to your house to keep out the cold air.

2. Squirrels getting on your bird feeder? Put out a box of Twinkies. A cruel way to end the lives of cute furry mammals, but hey. Birds gotta eat.

3. I'll bet the cream inside those things works just like WD40. Haven't put it to the test, but for a fair labor contract, I sure will try.

4. Create a time capsule for your back yard. Put in ten boxes of Twinkies. Your descendants will wonder why they are so intelligent, if this is what you did in your time.

5. Parrot food. If you are really sick of your parrot.

6. I'll bet crumbled Twinkies would make your sidewalk less slippery in an ice storm, if you scooped out the white stuff first.

7. Target practice.

8. Keep a box or two around to prove that you can bypass bad, sugary, carb-laden food for good, healthy food like turnips. Remember to buy new boxes and throw away the old ones unopened. I don't think there's much danger that vultures will eat Twinkies -- and if they do, they're probably the only creature that could digest the damn things without bodily harm.

9. Adopt one as a pet. They're the size of gerbils and would last just as long.

10. Okay, okay, if you must do something kinky with them, well ... maybe as a massage item, but I wouldn't be keen on oral. Just me, though. If you don't swallow, then maybe.

As usual with my free advice, I'm mindful that this economy stinks. Therefore, as part of my salary and benefit givebacks, I must pay you to take this advice. Send me an invoice care of my email.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ten Things To Do on Black Friday That Won't Get You Near Walmart

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," waging war on Walmart since its first slimy minions slunk out of Bentonville, Arkansas! No sirreee, you will find no support of this despotic, underhanded, and business-killing behemoth here among the Old Ones!

I've just finished reading a few stories about the first stirrings of labor unrest at Walmart. A fraction of the company's million or more hopeless slaves "associates" will stage strikes or walk-outs on Black Friday!

Walmart, you've done it this time. The company has ordered workers to its stores on Thanksgiving Day, in order to sell, sell, sell ... get a foot up on the competitors, who at least have the decency to stay closed until midnight.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" can remember a day when local families owned local department stores. The big spoiler was a retailer named Sears. It started putting older business districts on the skids in the 1960s. And now look! Sears can't keep its head above the water either! On rolls Walmart, the only game in town in far, far, FAR too many places. The company pays so poorly that some of its workers get Medicaid, food stamps, and child support welfare. We're subsidizing that place. So whatever ducats you save getting stuff cheap there, you are putting out in your tax bill.

Enough common sense! Let's generate a list of fun things to do that are better than going to Walmart on Black Friday!

1. Search your house for each and every stray sock. Put them all in a huge pile, and sort them by size and relative color. Fold them neatly. Re-arrange your drawers so that everything is neat and tidy. Then start looking for stray change in the same manner.

2. If you have a cat or dog, comb out every single strand of hair that might get shed onto your carpet (or worse, your upholstery). Don't stop combing until no more fur gets caught in the comb! And don't be a cheater. Use a real cat comb ... not some thing you pull out of the bathroom that you would use on your wet hair.

3. Organize your grocery coupons and clipped recipes. Group the coupons according to product, in alphabetical order, then put them in chronological order with the nearest date of expiration first, and the latest date last.  Recipes should be laminated, alphabetized by category, and carefully placed into file folders. Don't stop there. Alphabetize your cookbooks and put sticky notes on the pages of your favorite recipes. As you do this, study other recipes in case you missed something easy and tasty. (Considering that you will be doing this the day after Thanksgiving, you won't be as hungry while doing it.)

4. Clean out your email queue. Open and read any email that you don't remember the contents of. Make new folders and sub-folders for family, friends, associates, fans of "The Gods Are Bored" and enemies. (Hopefully the last two don't overlap!) Individually contact everyone in your email box just to say howdy.

5. Re-read all the statuses on your Facebook and make new comments on them. Individually contact each Facebook friend you have and write him or her a thoughtful, personal note based on fond memories you share.

6. Oh, look, there's that neglected ukelele! Practice makes perfect! Just make sure that your quickly-departing house guests aren't planning to biff off to Walmart!

7. Try on your Ren Faire/Fairy Festival/Pagan/Steampunk/LARP outfits and model them for an appreciative partner. If your partner is not sufficiently appreciative, sulk. If your partner is appreciative, switch on the Marvin Gaye music and ... mmmMMMMMMMmmmmm! Sexual healing, baby.

8. Repeat #7 as needed.

9. Enough with the factory-made sequins! Hand-sew those puppies onto your favorite costume! You only have 335 days until the next Halloween, so get cracking.

10. Put on your coat, your hat, your scarf, your sturdy boots. Seek out the small, local merchants ... the local farm store ... the local thrift store ... the crafter, the corner pub. Tip liberally. Tie one on in time to go to your local tree-lighting ceremony. Everyone in town already knows you're crazy.

BONUS ACTIVITY THAT WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF WALMART ON BLACK FRIDAY

11. If there are job actions planned in your area, buy a humongous bag of bagels (local baker) and distribute them to the strikers. Walmart is the poster child for corporate greed, the visible Scrooge among us. Just in time for the holidays, let's resuscitate old Mr. Fezziwig and do it his way!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day 2012

I go back to teaching tomorrow, but I am bound and determined not to martyr myself to my job anymore. Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Labor Day 2012!

The Labor Movement was begun to combat extremely long working hours, bad working conditions, and child labor. Out of the moral struggles of working people came the 40 hour work week, regulations for safety and health, and revised ages for child labor. Anyone who put in a 40 hour week had to be given health care benefits and a pension plan (most everyone, that is). Workers could bargain, i.e. negotiate in their best interests.

Corporate interests have found sneaky ways around all of these provisions in almost every profession except public sector employment. Take it from me, the public sector is also under siege.

Let's look at what corporate America has done to undermine workers' rights:

1. Instead of working people too long, they work them not long enough. If you hire someone at 28 hours a week, you don't have to pay them benefits.

2. Instead of putting people on the payroll, they hire "contract workers" who have no benefits beyond what they, as contractors, can afford to buy.

3. Cheap child labor produces goods abroad, where countries set their own labor laws.

4. Blue collar work has been sent to foreign countries where laborers are subjected to long hours and dangerous working conditions.

5. Coal mining now employs fewer people who use machinery to knock down the mountains, resulting in widespread environmental destruction.

6. Renewable energy sources will not flourish until the finite fossil fuels are exhausted, leaving environmental destruction behind.

Basically, business tycoons have figured out how to bust unions. First they moved factories from one part of the country to another, then they just sent the factories abroad.

Would you be willing to pay more for goods if everything was produced in America, by workers who were covered for health and pension benefits? I will answer that question for you. Of course you would, because you would be one of those workers who had health and pension benefits.

But then some people wouldn't get richer than God at your expense.

I petition the bored gods to afflict the comfortable and to restore American workers' rights. Now, there's a job for some really mighty deities!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wisconsin Came First

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proudly serving the 99% since 2005!

Unless you're an ostrich, you have noticed a growing swell of unrest in our country. The unrest stems from workers being downsized or gouged for wage give-backs ... and the educated unemployed (many with onerous college loans) demanding more equitable treatment.

This isn't going to go away. When you don't have a job -- or you are off for a few weeks in the summer -- you have plenty of time to protest.

In my humble opinion, the images of Wisconsin teachers rallying in the state capital in protest of attacks on their collective bargaining rights was the shot fired over the bow that started the whole Occupy movement. Madison, you gave us an image of hard-working people, people who hold the future of America in their hands every day, becoming furious at broken promises and wealthy string-pullers behind the scenes.

I am old enough to remember other protest movements. They were successful. The more strident the reaction to protesters, the more sympathy the protesters accrue. Trust me, every school teacher everywhere watched the news out of Wisconsin every night, or read about it in the few remaining newspapers. More importantly, other labor unions were watching too.

We are entering a period of instability, and as with all protests, the most active ones will be young people -- college graduates who feel duped by the high tuition, untenured adjunct professors, and zero job prospects in the real world.

In keeping with our state-by-state mop-up after the black magicians seeking to destroy democracy, I pose a rhetorical question: What would Jesus say about America's plight right now?

Here's what I think. I think he would wring his hands and try to drum up enough food for the people around him in his little sphere of influence, hoping that these people -- inspired by his example -- would themselves go out and pay it forward.

I don't get the sense that the DC40 crowd considers itself part of the 99%. I don't get the sense that they care about the poor, the tired, or the huddled masses longing to be free. (Duh! Of course they don't! That's what's engraved on the Goddess monument in New York's harbor!)

As in Madison, so in the rest of America. It cannot go on like this. We don't want to burn down mansions. We want equity. We want to work for a decent wage. We want our children to work and to live in a country where they can assemble for redress of grievances.

If we took all the God stuff off the table, even the Tea Party would be with us. All we want is for things to be fair.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. --Full text, First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On, Wisconsin. We are the 99 %.

Friday, March 25, 2011

United We Bargain, Divided We Beg

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." Tonight we have lit the Shrine of the Mists to honor the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred 100 years ago today.

This workforce of primarily immigrant women had tried to unionize in 1909, but wily bosses caused rifts between the workers, who came from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. The employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory worked 10-hour days from Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. Most of them were women, because the wage they earned was not enough to live on. They could only contribute to family incomes. They couldn't support themselves -- even with those hours.

When the fire occurred, the exit doors were locked. The product being made -- cotton shirts -- was highly combustible. You jumped, or you fried. Either way, you died.

Much more so than the efforts of the "hillbillies" down in the coal mines, this tragedy in the heart of New York City galvanized the organized labor movement and was often cited when advances were made in shortening the work week and in providing safety standards for workers.

On this of all days we should pause for a moment and consider the benefits of collective bargaining.

They say that Communism destroys incentive. Well, left to its own devices, Capitalism does the same. When you are only paid if you're healthy enough to work, when you can never hope to stop working until you die, and when you have no share in the profits of your employer, you might become a tad frustrated by your lot in life. The only incentive left to you is to cut corners on the job or, like old Fagin in Oliver Twist, find a more lucrative line of work.

Public sector employees are not a bunch of greedy divas trying to drive state budgets into the abyss. These unions are made up of men and women who want decent (not grandiose) wages and sufficient (not excessive) benefits. Many public sector employees are intelligent enough to be willing to bargain for fair contracts that will help keep budget deficits in check. At the same time, to expect any unionized employee to shoulder the burden of balancing a state budget while the state's wealthiest citizens don't get tax increases is ... what's the word? ... demoralizing. It stifles incentive. And the last thing you want to see coming up your driveway when your house is on fire is a demoralized firefighter.

It is in no one's interest reduce the pay and benefits to the people who teach our children, who protect us, who watch what's being dumped into the streams and rivers. Public sector employees might not be poor immigrants crammed into a sweatshop, but they do produce a product: our future.

In honor of the many people who have died fighting for unions, please keep your heart open to the notion of collective bargaining. No one is trying to become a millionaire off a union contract. But trust me to death on this one: a reduction of pay and/or benefits in public schools will have a catastrophic effect on education in this country. There's nothing more dangerous than a sick teacher who will do anything to hold onto her job.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

They Are All for Sale

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," liberal pro-union communist pinko subversives since 1981! I'm not a member of the Communist Party, but if you're blue you must be red.

In the previous presidential election we Democrats all had a big choice to make. Hillary or Barack?

The largest labor unions supported Hilary Clinton in the primaries. I should have listened to the buzz.

Honestly, Barack Obama is the biggest disappointment of a president that I have experienced in my long and varied life. Mind you, I'm no stripling. I had a viable memory when President Kennedy was shot. I watched John Glenn head into space.

And yet, at age 51, I succumbed to a dynamic young man whose platform was "Time for a Change."

Would someone please convince me that this president has done more good than harm?

--Prisoners are still sitting in Guantanamo without the benefit of representation.
--Energy companies are still raping the land with wanton abandon.
--The Big Money interests are rocking on with no more oversight than they had under Republican watch.
--To my mind, the worst (until tonight): A president who garnered every single pro-union vote in the nation turned his back on organized labor in Wisconsin and has been absolutely mute on the subject of workers' rights.
--And now we're bombing Libya. I'm sorry, but what's happening in Libya has to be settled in Libya. America has spit in the eyeball of national sovereignty for 110 years and counting. This is all about our oil supply. Civil wars rage in Africa, genocides continue unabated, and we don't lift a finger. If it happens in a country bubbling with crude, we bomb.

President Obama, you're a disgrace. You promised to support collective bargaining. You haven't. You promised to shut down Guatanamo. You haven't. You said things would change. They have. For the worse.

You had a bully pulpit. Why didn't you use it?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day 2009



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Labor Day, 2009. Today we offer up yet another of our yearly sermons in favor of organized labor.

Many people don't remember that 100 years ago, workers were fighting and even dying for the minimal basic treatment we get in the workplace today.






Child labor: out.
Fourteen-hour shifts: out.
*Slave wages: out.
*Dangerous, deadly working conditions: out.
*Six-day work weeks: out.

Now you're saying to yourself, "But I do work way more than 40 hours a week, and I don't get paid enough to keep up with my bills, and I have no health care, and I'll get laid off the minute I get sick."

That's because the American labor movement has been crushed. Mother Jones would weep if she could see it.

In the 1950s, a third of the labor force carried a union card. Today, less than ten percent of workers are in unions. Why is this?

*The movement of workers from blue-collar to white-collar jobs. White-collar workers didn't think they would ever need unions. Ahem, wrong.
*The concerted vilification of the labor movement by conservative politicians and talk show hosts.
*The sharp decline in sectors of the economy where unions were strongest.
*Admittedly, corruption and greed among some unions. (I would like to thank those bad apples for spoiling the whole barrel.)

What we've lost with the death of unions is the power of collective bargaining. No one wants to give back wages and benefits they've earned in past decades through unionized activity. But no one also wants to see a company go belly-up because the company can't afford its workers. The concept of collective bargaining doesn't negate common sense. It just requires fairness from employers, not rule by despotism.

My husband receives his health benefits through a union plan. Every year it costs us more, and it doesn't cover some of the crucial health care needs in our household. But if he became ill and needed surgery, we wouldn't lose our house. We wouldn't have bill collectors calling us at all hours and hounding us for money we don't have.

My husband hasn't had a raise in five years. That's because his union has given back its raises, recognizing the problems in his industry. Next they'll probably have to give back wages. But (hopefully) my husband will be protected by seniority and not dumped in favor of a young worker who won't demand health care, or a living wage, or fair working hours.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" regularly petition the bored gods for a resurgence of organized labor. Not because we want to bankrupt the likes of Alice Walton and other corporate owners. But because they aren't sharing a big enough piece of the pie. When less than ten percent of Americans control 90 percent of the wealth, that's not equitable. It's not. Rush Limbaugh can praise it daily as a model for personal attainment, but it is not equitable.

When you get down to it, the 90 percent of Americans who aren't wealthy aren't asking for equality, they're just asking for justice. To this American, the only way we'll get it is by organizing and returning to collective bargaining.

Today my family (sans Heir) will go into Philadelphia and march in its annual Labor Day parade. The event is very anemic now. It's cloudy outside, so probably it'll be even more anemic than the past two years. Nevertheless, it's an important show of solidarity. United we bargain, divided we beg.

This is the first year of my working life that I have been given membership in a union. (They call it an "association," but that's okay. It's a union.) When the union leader introduced himself to me last week, I threatened to hug him. I also pledged that I would not scab if the unsigned contract does not win approval. I could lose my job (slowly and painfully) for this decision, but I won't budge. A world without unions gives us a world where the few get rich on the backs of the many.

In closing I would like to praise my husband, Mr. Johnson, for being on the executive board of his guild. He spends long hours on union business. He helped block his company's owner from taking -- and spending -- the company's pension plan. If not for his union, he would almost certainly be on the street with his hat in his hand. And this is a man who has so many state and national awards that he can't hang all the plaques on the wall -- there isn't room.

Please take a minute today and meditate on the benefits of a unionized white-collar labor force that would run its business and negotiate with integrity. Dare I say this health care debate would be quickly settled, with justice for all?

Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Twilight of Organized Labor

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." Forget eternity. Where will you be spending Labor Day?

Yesterday my husband's labor union voted to give back its $25.00-per-week pay raise that was due to kick in on September 1. If you combine that with the fact that we now have to pay $150 a month more toward our health care, you can see that Chateau Johnson is losing ground.

The gesture of goodwill made by Mr. Johnson's union towards the clueless folks that bought his plant two years ago will not help management balance its books. Nor will it save jobs, nor will it save his union. In a global economy, the days of collective bargaining have come to an end.


Being rather laid up right now, I brought some movies home from the library. One of them was Norma Rae. It has always been a favorite of mine. But watching it again, after a period of many years, just made me weep.

In the film, a textile union organizer comes to the small Southern town where Norma Rae lives in order to install a union in her cotton mill. In one scene, the organizer tells a sparse crowd that he's there not only to make their working lives better, but the working lives of their children and grandchildren, who will also go into the mill.

That's where I started crying. Because the mills have all closed down. The work is now done in Malaysia, China, Vietnam. Under the same horrid conditions that haunted Norma Rae, for even fewer wages than she earned in her days prior to joining a union.

Take a look at the speakers at the Democratic National Convention. I haven't seen the entire tally, but I can remember a time when important keynote addresses would be delivered by presidents of big unions like the AFL-CIO. It ain't happening this time.

Last spring my daughter The Spare decided to do a big diorama on organized labor. So, to help her, I looked up the major candidates' opinions on the topic. I had to hunt like a hound to find any mention of unions on Barack Obama's official web site. When I finally found his position on labor, it consisted of a single paragraph about a single piece of legislation.

We have returned to a Guilded Age on a global scale. A scant few hold the wealth, with no qualms about their rights to it and no sense of social justice for the many who barely survive while generating that wealth.

Barack Obama says he will work for America's middle class. I hope he can find it, because from where I sit it's disappearing ... along with its creator, the labor union.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Worst Job in the World

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," swimming in Jello since 2004!
I wonder if it's really possible to swim in Jello. Tell you what. I'm not going to be the test dummy for that experiment.

Just now I read on the Internet that the Los Angeles studios have cancelled their writers' contracts. There's a strike going on, and the studios now have no new t.v. shows to sling at the couch potatoes. Except, of course, the reality t.v. garbage, which any good couch potato ought to love in and of itself.

Readers, the producers of your favorite t.v. dramas are trying to bust a strike. They're saying to themselves, "Heck. We don't need the writers we have, those stinking strikers who want a share of video/online profits. We can just go out on the sidewalk and pluck new writers out of the unemployment lines."

Sadly it's true. The writing field is saturated with creative people who can't get a break in the business. I'm not talking now about all you lucky stiffs who know how to write medical journals and software pamphlets and "how to" manuals for putting together the new gas grill. I'm talking about people who write novels, poetry, television shows, plays, song lyrics, screenplays. That kind of stuff.

Gosh, if Ronald Reagan could crush the air traffic controllers' union, smashing the t.v. and film writers' union ought to be a snapperooni. Our nation's producers of television and film are banking on it. How hard can it be, with potential scabs on every street corner?

It doesn't help when so-called lefties like Bill Maher decry the strike as "the wrong thing at the wrong time" and go right on with their shows.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you creative writing. The WORST JOB IN THE WORLD.


See this dude? He's a honeydipper. Sucking nasty stuff from the sewer. Guess what? His job looks pretty good to me. And safe, too. You're not going to find thousands of people straining at the bit to scab him. Frankly I wish I had his skills and know-how, so I could step in and dip honey.

Still I wouldn't scab him, or shaft him, or cross his picket line.

The moral of this sermon: Support the striking t.v. and film writers! Turn off that tube and take up a nice wholesome hobby. Instead of watching Desperate Housewives, why don't you be a desperate housewife and seduce your best friend's husband? Then you can write your own dialogue and not even be a scab.

As usual, asking no compensation for such sound advice.