Thursday, March 10, 2011

[1617] WISCONSIN- I’m just about to finish our short study in Exodus- will of course continue to comment on the protests going on in the world- but will probably do one more post on the Exodus thing. I am going to start a study on Islam- yes- we will be getting into areas that are confrontational, talking about the rise of radicalism- are all Muslims radical? Stuff like that. Today, Peter King- the rep. from N.Y. begins hearings on the subject. Some are calling him a modern day Joe McCarthy- others see him as a sort of hero. So we will be trying to teach what Muslims actually believe- and whether or not Islam even has one monolithic voice.

Okay- let’s see if we can discuss the current mood in the country and maybe try and mix it in with our Modernity study [yes- I still have that study to finish too]. Last night the governor of Wisconsin pulled a ‘fast one’. The state house has been in disarray for weeks- the Dems walked out- denying the quorum needed for the Repub’s to vote on the budget- and to ‘strip’ the workers of their ‘rights’. So after a few weeks of waiting, the Republicans did an end run and separated the Collective Bargaining language from the rest of the bill and passed it on a party line vote- 18 to 1. The fugitive Democrats [hiding out in Illinois] came racing back to the state and the protestors were ransacking the state house late last night. MSNBC reported that the governor single-handedly stripped the workers of 50 years of their rights. Rachel Maddow reported that the rights he took away- Collective Bargaining- had nothing to do with money or costs to the state- but they were only ‘workers rights’ [sort of like safe working conditions and stuff like that]. And the Right wingers reported it as a victory for the American taxpayer. Who’s right? Okay- my firefighter union brothers might get mad- but let me let you in on a secret. For 25 years I was involved with bargaining for our ‘rights’ [we never say we are bargaining for money- we always say ‘for the safety of the people’] over the years we mastered the procedure. Our contract with the city had ‘automatic overtime’ at one time we worked out a deal where the city had to pay us overtime- automatically- for every 2 out of 3 checks. It was a complicated change in state law that said employees working more than 40 hours a week had to get paid overtime. Well we worked 24 hours on- 48 off. We averaged 56 hours a week- and the 2 pay periods that racked up 120 hours on the time card gave us ‘automatic overtime’- one check would have 96 hours of pay- so we actually had to work a few hours at straight pay before we would even get overtime. Now- every so often a new commissioner would get elected- he would see this [as well as other deals we had made with previous commissioners] and he would want to ‘correct it’. Go ahead- try your best buddy! We would send our team down to bargain [remember- we had collective bargaining] and the city would send their team. O yeah- we were bargaining with them to reduce overtime- and if ‘our team’ were on duty that day- well yes- we called in overtime to cover the shift because we were short handed- you know- bargaining with the city. Hey- this would drag on for months- years- heck it was getting us more overtime! Well, eventually the novice councilman would catch on- realize it was no skin off our back [or money from our pockets] and he would call it a day- smart man. We also ‘bargained’ for paid holidays- the way that worked was every year the city gave their employees 7 paid days off- you know, Christmas, new years- etc. So we of course had to work those days [1 shift out of 3 would always be on duty one of those days] so we got the city to pay us overtime for that day. Even though we weren’t actually working ‘overtime’ yet we bargained for it and they paid us. Now- when you work a 24 hour shift- getting overtime would add around 5-700 hundred extra- just for that day! You say ‘what a deal’ we’ll wait. We also bargained for ‘the right’ to sell back that same holiday- yes- even if you worked the day, got paid the overtime- you could still sell the day- and get another 24 hours of overtime- for the same day. Every now and then a city leader would catch on- see the deals that were made- and they would think ‘darn it- we must change this’ okay- lets go back to ‘the bargaining table’ and O yea- more overtime!

Now- when Rachel Maddow- or Michael Moore go on national T.V. - telling the world ‘these people are just trying to hold on to their rights’ we do indeed like that. Look- all deals are not like the ones I just showed you- but many times it’s stuff like this that the management has worked with for years [like Walker’s past dealings with negotiating] and they sincerely do want to get rid of bargaining- as well as ‘bust the union’. So you have both sides doing their best to portray it in the best possible light.

A few points to keep in mind. What Walker and the Repub’s did was really not the end of the world- to be fair. Some states do not have collective bargaining [Virginia]. The public sector workers in those states do just about as well as the sates with it. Just recently, president Obama ‘arbitrarily’ froze the pay of federal employees- how could he do that! The law does not allow federal workers to have collective bargaining- so Obama did what MSNBC calls dictatorial- one man rule- a Nazi! Yes- the president did not bargain for the freeze- something that would have never passed if the workers had collective bargaining- the president had the ‘right’ to freeze their pay- the same thing that Walker wants to do in Wisconsin- have the ability to ‘freeze pay’ without having to bargain with us- you know- the overtime kings! Now do you see a little more? Now- say if Walker stripped the whole sate of collective bargaining [like other states have done] say if he even outlawed unions! What would the public sector workers have left? Would they simply be like the average Joe in the private sector- basically if you don’t like the job- leave. No- we still have what’s called ‘Civil Service protection’ what? Yes- as a firefighter- even if I had no Union- no collective bargaining- the city still couldn’t just up and fire me- I could appeal to the Civil service commission and they would hold a hearing on my case and I would either win or lose. Now- in Wisconsin you have the Civil Service protections- you have the Unions- and you still have collective bargaining [even for those who just got stripped of it- they still retain a portion of it for wages]. To describe this as some sort of outrageous overthrow of the rights of people is a bit much- but heck- if the governors/leaders want a fight- by golly we will fight- to the end! O- and we might need some overtime to do it. [we’ll do the modernity thing later].

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