Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Public School Teachers and Right To Work

Sounds like a boring topic, huh? I can see you stifling that yawn! But don't decamp for Dora the Explorer just yet, because you're in for an Anne rant. I'm rusty on ranting, but it came back today in full force.

You know what schools are? They are the spots that viruses of every kind choose for massive meet-ups. Every day, trillions of germs learn how to write paragraphs and reduce fractions. All while finding new hosts just sitting there waiting to fall ill!

This is one of the reasons why liberal states with strong unions provide decent health care to public school teachers. Mind you, I get a hefty chunk of change pulled from my envelope every pay period to partly cover my healthcare policy. But my policy is still generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you New Jersey Educational Association!

I say this because teachers in 28 states are laboring in "right to work" environments. "Right to work" (kind of like "right to life," huh?) has undercut collective bargaining rights and union clout, leading to lower salaries, and yes, higher insurance payments for teachers.

Teachers. Have you looked at a teacher's salary lately? Like, what we get paid to go sit all day among the frolicking viruses?

If you didn't see this story in the news, read it and WEEP.

Texas is a "right to work" state. But I'm not singling out Texas. This could happen in any "right to work" state.

First of all, I got a flu shot. It was free.

Second of all, if I did get the flu, my prescription of Tamiflu would cost $10.00, not $138. Therefore, I would be able to afford it. I wouldn't have to think twice.

Two children have been deprived of a mother. Probably two dozen second-graders must now deal with the trauma of having suddenly lost their teacher. (And which among those kids will feel guilty for maybe infecting her with the flu?) A loving husband has lost his wife.

Not because of the flu. No. Not because of the flu. This woman died because of RIGHT TO FUCKING WORK. I never heard of a teacher having to pay $138 for a prescription! That would NEVER happen in my state! I could be put on the most $$$$$$$$ medicine that is padding the pockets of the most venal Big Pharma executive, and my co-pay would be at most $20.

This nod to my performance of a difficult, tiring job in a germ-filled atmosphere is due to my union.

Right to work? Why don't we call it right to die?

Stay tuned for Supreme Court decisions that will bring right to die EVERYWHERE.

My heart goes out to this family, to the students and staff, and to all the public school teachers who have the misfortune of living in "right to work" states. Pay your dues, get your union card, and persuade all of your co-workers to do the same. This shit has got to stop.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Great Joy to Our City

I'm exceedingly pleased to be able to report that the Philadelphia Eagles have won their first Super Bowl.


As an essentially lazy person, I have most often cheered on the teams wherever I happened to live. My home since 1987 has been the Delaware Valley. Therefore, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, I've rooted for the Iggles. It's just easier, you know?

The last time the Eagles won a national championship, I was one year old. Alaska and Hawaii had only been states for a year. The game wasn't even called a Super Bowl. Oh sure, the Eagles have been in the Super Bowl a few times, but they never won it before. On Sunday night they looked so damn fine.

Sports are a great unifying force for communities. When a team does well, it bonds people. On Sunday my next door neighbor, all in her Eagles regalia, brought me dinner. I gave her and everyone at her party a set of green beads. At the moment of victory, all the doors on my block flew open, and everyone spilled into the street. We wisely didn't climb the light poles or stain the furniture, but we sang and cheered and lit a few sparklers. It made me feel young.

My students were happy as well, the boys especially. Today's lesson consisted of analyzing the Super Bowl commercials for their persuasive techniques. Put another way, we watched the best Super Bowl commercials in class. No one complained!

The city is throwing a parade for the Eagles on Thursday. I'm not going to that. I know, I know ... you're saying, "Anne. Get real. You're missing a parade?" Yes, I am. If I can't be in it, why go?

Congratulations, Philadelphia Eagles, on a great season! Anything that brings us all out of our houses on a cold winter night is a-okay with me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

President Anne Johnson's First State of the Union Address


Members of both houses of Congress, the United States Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sitting members of the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, and my fellow Americans,

My name is Anne Johnson. I have been appointed to serve out the remainder of the term of presidency that would have fallen to Donald J. Trump. This is my first State of the Union Address.

I am going to ask you to do something, Congress. For this one bright, shining moment, none of you know anything about me. You have no idea what my policies will be or how I will act in office, and therefore in this one brief click of time, none of you know whether you will cheer me and shower me with standing ovations, or sit on your hands and scowl.

Wouldn't it be nice to keep that moment and live within it for awhile?

Because that, my friends, is exactly what we need. We've got to step back, acknowledge philosophical differences respectfully, and dedicate ourselves to working together for all citizens.

Nothing will ever get done if two sides both entrench and legislate by fiat when they find themselves in power. All you'll have is a sea change in policy every four years.

How about we try a new tactic? Let's bring some sanity and decorum back to this chamber. Let's take a deep breath and see if we couldn't possibly work together for the greater good.

Look at that! You're all applauding! It's a good idea, isn't it? I like it too.

Now, here is the part of the speech where the president gets down to brass tacks and starts crowing about last year's accomplishments and planning next year's, with an eye to the voting base and the party. I'm not going to do that. I'm a blank slate, remember?

Here's a novel idea: Go put your heads together and bring me some good ideas! I have no voting base to please, because I wasn't elected! I'm open to any reasonable, judicious, thoughtful, and sober suggestion, so long as it will make Americans better off than they are now.

There's one word I want to leave you with, my fellow Americans. That word is temperance. This past year, we have been sadly lacking the temperance and reserve necessary to do the important job of running the country. We are going to dial down the drama and look at this task as something that professionals do.

Temperance. If there's anything I've learned from my previous work experience as a school teacher, it's that nothing gets done when the heat is turned up and the voices go shrill. But if we keep things reasonable and respectful, if we converse with humility, we can restore this democracy to health.

Thank you, and Gods bless America!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Work and Play with My Union

I feel like I'm being let in on the final act of a play. At the tender age of 58 (almost 9) I have become active in my local bargaining unit.

Due to the resignation of one of my school's teachers mid-year, I agreed to be a member of my unit's Rep Council. (I'm already on the negotiating committee.) You know what I didn't know? Being a rep means you're warmly welcomed at state- or region-wide leadership conferences.

On Friday I went to my first-ever winter leadership conference. It was good ol' unionism at its finest.

The conference was held in Atlantic City, at a casino. We had a one-hour workshop Friday from 6 to 7 p.m., then a sumptuous banquet from 7-9. Then our unit's regional director cordially offered to drown us in alcohol at the hotel bar. Then the other members of my unit who were there decided to play beer pong in the large, loud pub on the casino's ground floor.

Saturday morning we had a gourmet breakfast, followed by four hours of workshops in which it seemed that everyone (myself excluded) was nursing a morning head. Let me tell you, readers. I've struggled through many a 5-hour teaching workshop, but this union one was riveting. The hours flew by. I'm not even being glib.

We had a mid-morning break during which we were showered with fresh fruit, hot beverages, and pastries. There were stacks of salt water taffy sitting everywhere.

After the final two-hour work session, we had a lavish luncheon buffet that featured five different desserts.

I had a private room in the casino. I've lived in New Jersey since 1987 and never stayed in a casino before.

I watched the sun rise out of the Atlantic.

EXHIBIT A: AS ABOVE


The union paid for my room, for all of the food, for parking, and (through a member) booze. I'll be reimbursed for the mileage to and from the conference.

I write this because in a few weeks the U.S. Supreme Court will render a decision that will make union dues 100 percent optional. This is a goal long sought by corporations and the one percent, who correctly perceive that collective bargaining benefits workers in terms of wages, health care, and working conditions.

Would you cough up $50 out of each of your monthly paychecks for union membership if you didn't have to? Especially if you were told that you would benefit equally with every member who does pay their dues?

So as I donned my union identifier badge and shouldered my swag bag, I had a sense of twilight, or autumn, in the whole organized labor adventure. It's a given that a conservative court will take a tire iron to unionizing's knees. Public sector unions will find themselves begging members to pay dues, and employers will be sure to hire candidates who won't want to join the union.

Until all of this crashes down, my fellow union reps and I will gather in Atlantic City to hold an idea dear -- that workers are stronger when they are bound by formal ties.

PS - I spent 24 hours in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I arrived with $50 and left with $50. Casinos and bars don't move me, wallet-wise.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women's March on Philadelphia 2018

If you sit on the left side in the elevated train from New Jersey to Philadelphia, there's one place where you can look out the window and see the skyline of Philly all arrayed just two or three miles away. On a day when the sky is clear, it's a sight -- not Manhattan, but a vast, gleaming city nevertheless.

Growing up in the mountains, I never, ever expected to spend most of my life a stone's throw from Philadelphia. But as I looked out of the train on Saturday morning, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to become a citizen of the Great Blue Northeast. I even teared up a little bit. Sheesh. I'm a sentimental slob.

When I was young I thought the government taxes were too high, and I thought that through hard work and bootstraps and all that, anyone could become rich and successful. Moving to the city (first Baltimore, then Detroit, then Philadelphia) changed my worldview. Perhaps if I had stayed in Appalachia I would be like so many people living there now: conservative to a point where they don't even vote in their own best interests.

Instead, I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. So on Saturday, January 20 (a day that will live in infamy), I got on the el with my tambourine and my fairy sweater and my Pagan jewelry, and I rode into Center City, Philadelphia. There were lots of other suburban white women on the train, even though I went in two hours early. Lest anyone sneer at suburban white women, please remember that we are a demographic that gets courted by politicians of every stripe. It's up to us to do the right thing, which is never a given.

I disembarked the train at 13th and Locust and got myself a breakfast sandwich at a little cafe called Jean's on Walnut Street. Then I walked around City Hall, in the opposite direction that I had come on New Year's Day with the Mummers, and walked down to Logan Square, across from the Free Library of Philadelphia (where Gumby works! I'm proud of her.) I had learned that a group called Drum Like a Lady would be forming at the fountain, and I wanted to get there before it got too crowded to see if I could find the drummers.

It's easy to find drummers. Have you ever noticed? They give themselves away. And in this case, the leader of Drum Like a Lady is not only an accomplished drummer, she's almost a goddess in human form -- tall, beautiful, vigorous even in a leg brace, and ready to do some upbeat leadership.

I joined the circle just as it began to gear up, and what a phenomenal experience it turned out to be. These lady leaders knew what they were doing. They had designated one person as the heartbeat (more circles should try this ... it's the essential piece so often missing). Drawing on the heartbeat, all sorts of women with all kinds of percussion were able to play along. I think we had it all, except for those hella heavy djembes and dun duns. I'd thought about taking my doumbek, but the tambourine turned out better, because occasionally I danced -- and the tambourine can keep an easy beat and fill in some spaces.

When we lady drummers got our groove going, we were sending energy to the sky. It was a very multi-racial and multicultural group, all in happy harmony. The leader, LaTreice Branson, took turns addressing the crowd through a bullhorn and playing a small djembe.

The crowd got thicker and thicker, pushing our circle in on itself. Only once did I have to ask a tall, young white boy to take his camera elsewhere when he pushed in front of me to get photos. Mmm mmm, yeah, they are always around. But at least he did as I asked.

As I said, the drum circle's diversity was awesome. No one would have mistaken me for anything but a Pagan in my fairy sweater, with my acorn necklace dangling. There might have been one or two other Pagan women there, judging simply by attire and hair. Readers, we all sounded great. And we drummed for two and a half hours.

We led the march (sort of), but in the throng we kind of got spread out a bit. All of a sudden I felt a tug on my elbow, and there was Gumby, grinning from ear to ear! We hugged, and I hugged Gumby's boyfriend (I really like him), but I had to move on to keep up with my circle.

Once we got to the Art Museum, we drummed for another long stretch before the speeches started. Then the leaders left, and the minute they did, all the rhythm went with them. It was okay, though. There were plenty of speeches. Dozens and dozens. I stayed for them all.

When the whole thing was over, I walked alone back to the train.

Quite a few of my teaching colleagues had gone in a group. Both Olivia and Gumby attended. But on this day I elected to make my own way and find my rhythm sisters and make a noise for the Resistance. It turned out swell.

It sure looks like we'll be marching for years to come. I can take it. I'm a Mummer.

Resist.
Persist.
And rise!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Another March

My my, I do get my exercise! Another year, another march.

The good thing about being appointed president (rather than elected) is that no one knows what I look like. I'm therefore free to mingle with the citizenry. I will do so in Philadelphia at this year's Women's March.

Last year my daughter Gumby and I went to Washington, DC for the Women's March on Washington. Gumby put me through it, I tell you. She wasn't satisfied until we got all the way to the White House ... from RFK Stadium, a round trip of 8 or more miles.

EXHIBIT A: GUMBY AT THE WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON, WHITE HOUSE


Learned my lesson, for sure! Can't keep up with Gumby! As I understand it, both of my daughters will be attending the march in Philly, but I'm not going with either one of them.

Instead, I will be joining a troupe called Drum Like a Lady . I am totally stoked. I can't decide whether or not to take my doumbek, but the tambourine is portable and can keep a heartbeat. Being part of the drum corps means I'll get a front seat at the speakers' podium.

I don't care about front seats, but drumming up some energy ... well, that's the ticket.

Judging by how many of my friends and acquaintances are attending this march (12 in rough count), it is going to be a vast throng of humanity.

And what is the purpose of large political rallies? Solidarity and sisterhood. Sending a message. Considering how thin-skinned some elected presidents are, it's got to be a thorn in the side.

I hope, wherever you are, you'll set aside a few minutes on Saturday to petition the Goddess Columbia for a safe end to the madness. Take a minute and bang a pot in front of your house. Or put up a sign.

EXHIBIT B: THE PRAYER WARRIORS HATE THIS GODDESS


EXHIBIT C: ANNE'S TO-DO LIST

1. Make a sign or bring a drum.
2. March
3. Campaign
4. Vote

We resist. We persist. We rise.

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Anne's Address on the Occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My fellow Americans,

Nine years ago, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, many folks (myself included) believed that we had moved beyond the corrosive racism and prejudice that marked much of our nation's history. But most of the people who thought Obama's inauguration signaled an end to prejudice were, themselves, white.

Black people knew differently. They knew that the pulse of racism still beat strongly in America. They weren't optimistic about change. They saw the blow-back coming. It's no coincidence that Black Lives Matter was formed during the Obama administration. Even as President Obama sought to widen the safety net with affordable health care and protections for the poor, ordinary Black Americans faced an America that was "business as usual" -- police brutality, wage inequality, and fewer opportunities than white Americans enjoyed. Indeed, I have had Black friends tell me they weren't one bit surprised by the election of Donald Trump, they fully expected a racist to follow Obama into office.

Sure enough, that's what we got. A racist chief executive, with racist advisers, encouraging the most virulent racist behavior and indulging in it themselves. Now that we have seen this behavior elevated to the national stage in an unprecedented way, it is time for me to ask you: What can you do about this?

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't waste his wrath on the loudest racists. He reserved his scorn instead for the good people who did nothing. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." How many of us blush a bit as we realize we are the "shallow people of good will?" I know I do.

And so, my fellow Americans, I would ask you: What can we "people of good will" do to deepen our commitment to absolute racial justice in our nation? We need to start in our own homes and communities, forging ties with minority citizens so that we can better understand their plight. We need to find government leaders who will actively seek to end racist practices in America, and vote for those leaders. We need to look our brothers and sisters of other races in the eye and witness their experience as citizens from their point of view.

We need to pay more than just lip service to the quest for racial equality in America. Because if we don't do anything, and the racists do something, then Black lives won't appear to matter at all.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the kind of America that would vote -- twice -- for an African American president. Let us be mindful of the needs of our fellow citizens and willing to assist them in their quest for equality and justice. And let us denounce, in no uncertain terms, any actions, any gatherings, any speakers, who advocate for a racist agenda. This hate is off the plate. Now and forevermore.

On this important day, I commend all Americans who took part in community service in their neighborhoods, in their cities, and in their school. Bright blessings upon you. You are the change that we need in this great nation. Keep up the good work! 

Finally, I wish to use this occasion to re-instate, immediately, all protections and benefits afforded to those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Dreamers, your months of fear and anxiety are over. Your path to full citizenship is clear. We embrace you with open arms and encourage your wildest dreams -- because it was the dreams and plans of all the immigrants before you to become successful in America, and look at all they have done!

I make this announcement today in the spirit of justice, which was what Dr. King dedicated his life to pursuing. We will have justice for all in America. We will again be the land of opportunity. We will be a force for good in the world, and at home.

Thank you, and Gods bless America.