Have you ever tried to negotiate with your employer for better pay, better working conditions or to fight an unfair termination only to realize your lone voice of reason had little to no affect? That’s probably about the same time you wished there was a labor union to help voice your grievances.
Most people underestimate the value of labor union representation until it’s too late. Now Wisconsin residents have been added to that list, after state legislators there voted to revoke collective bargaining rights of public sector employees.
With a population of only 5.6 million people, what’s going on in Wisconsin might seem of no consequence to the rest of the country. You might even be asking yourself ‘why should I care?’ Your cause for concern has nothng to do with the fact that this
year’s Super Bowl champs are from Green Bay; it has everything to do with – in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The Wisconsin state assembly said it voted to end collective bargaining as a way to cut the state budget. Regardless of the reason, there are 355,000 Wisconsin residents who no longer have union representation to help negotiate their rights. That comes to only 7% of that state’s population, apparently a segment too insignificant to consider. But that’s the reason labor unions and collective bargaining is needed in the first place.
Unions were created in an era where most of its membership worked in the manufacturing sector. Eventhough most of those jobs have been replaced by jobs in the technology field, unions still have a role to play when it comes to ensuring fair wages
and other common interest employee concerns. Women and other minorities who oftentimes find themselves being paid less and treated more unfairly than their white male counterparts, have needed this representation most of all. Yet labor unions have a poor track record when it comes to recruiting this segment of the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor
Statistics, 15 million people or roughly 30% of Americans are represented by unions.Nationally, people of color account for 30% of all union workers. Women account for about 45% of the membership.
If for no other reason than self preservation, union members everywhere have a stake in what happens in Wisconsin. During the country’s slow economic recovery, there’s sure to be some ammenties employees will have to do without, but the right to
union representation shouldn’t be one of them.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at firstname.lastname@example.org. See the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.
*If ever there was a case study that supports the need for the new national health care law it has to be the case against Dr. Kermit Gosnell. He’s the Philadelphia general practicioner charged with murder last week.
Prosecutors say Gosnell performed late-term abortions in his home-based clinic – a procedure for which he was not trained – that caused the death of at least two women and that he often delivered live babies whom he killed by cutting their spinal cords after birth. It makes my stomach churn to think about what lawmen say hundreds of women endured at Gosnell’s hand.
Why would these women, mostly poor minorities, risk their lives at Gosnell’s clinic? Why did state regulators fail to inspect the clinic since 1993 and fail to investigate the forty-six lawsuits filed against the doctor since he opened the clinic in 1979? If the women could have afforded safer, better healthcare I’m sure they would have sought it. And those state regulators? They didn’t think poor minority women were worth their time or their concern.
Policiticans have created public policies that benefit private industry from insurance and prescription drugs to the prison industrial complex. When there’s money to be made they have not ignored potential profits. If we are to believe (as reports said) that Gosnell made millions of dollars in his illegal enterprise while putting the health of women at risk, and that state regulators suspected, yet ignored the loss of state and federal income taxes that probably reached into the tens of thousands of dollars, I can only conclude that they cared less for the safety and well being of their minority constituents than for their lost profits. In other words, they would rather lose millions of dollars than to provide adequate healthcare for millions of disadvantaged people. And that is discrimination at its worst.
According to a recent healthcare report, Blacks and Latinos made up nearly half of the estimated 50 million Americans with no access to affordable insurance or health care. Under the Affordable Care Act, 30 million uninsured Americans will get healthcare coverage. So why are some politicians fighting tooth and nail against it? They say it will add millions of dollars to the American deficit. But what’s a few million dollars added to the already billion dollar deficit if it will allow everyone cheaper and safer access to healthcare? And if it always has been about the money why are doctors like Gosnell allowed to exist and profit millions of dollars? Evidently it’s not about the money.
If the women and babies harmed by Gosnell were White he would not have been allowed to operate for so long. He would have been charged with murder after the first complaint was filed years ago. State health officials who were questioned for not doing periodic inspections and not investigating those scores of lawsuits should be held accountable. They were paid to do a job and they failed miserably at the expense of a generation of new life.
*I met him at the gym as he sat waist deep in the Jacuzzi. I had just exited the steam room and almost walked past him still trying to clear my vision when he spoke to me. We exchanged a quick hello, then without even a pause he asked me out on a date.
I turned him down primarily because I was in a relationship. But even if I wasn’t I don’t accept invitations from total strangers. I make it a policy to have at least the basic information about a person – his full name, place of work and phone number – so if I go missing the police will have some information about the last person to see me alive.
The fact that he had seen my hair in its perm-less naturally curly afro state and didn’t seem alarmed was impressive I must admit. But I didn’t give him a second thought until we met a second time by chance.
It was at the brushless car wash. I had walked into the lobby to watch my car go by on the conveyor belt when I saw him. He asked me something about the gym.
“Are you working out today?” “No,” I replied with a hint of puzzlement. “How do you know I work out?” “I’ve seen you there before,” he replied.
It took me a few minutes of mental prodding for me to remember our first brief encounter. Then we talked for the few minutes that it took for our cars to go through the wash.
He said he was a police officer and a former NCAA basketball standout. That and the fact that we had met once before made me comfortable enough to exchange phone numbers with him. If for no other reason I thought it a good idea to have a police officer in my electronic rolodex. You never know when you might need one.
For the next few weeks all we did was text each other. I thought the texting would progress into an actual telephone conversation, but it didn’t. Instead one day he asked me to send him a sexy picture.
Besides the fact that I don’t have a library of “sexy pictures” stored in my phone waiting to send upon request, I thought the request was outside of the context of our non-existent relationship. And I told him so.
From his first text I noticed that he never used my name only generic greetings. He always called me “dear,” “sweetie” or “gorgeous” so as not to confuse me with other potentially gorgeous women he might text. And when I asked him to meet me at the gym so we could work out together, seeing as he claimed to be into that kind of thing, he never seemed to be available.
So when I got the text from him recently saying “Hello sweetie. Im going 2 ask u 4 a huge favor. My folks put me in a bind. Can you loan me 300 dear. Don’t hurt me. Lol i’m embarrassed to ask already,” I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I re-read the message to make sure it said what I thought it said. I was so taken aback I called my mother to tell her: A guy that I had met only twice and spent less than ten minutes in a face-to-face conversation with had just asked me to borrow $300.
“He must be joking,” was her response.
If it was a joke, it was on him. We laughed about it. Then I texted him back telling him his request had been denied.
Even in the most dire situations I never would ask a person I’d met only twice to borrow $30 let alone $300. And who in their right mind would find it appropriate to do so?
Were our chance meetings the beginning of a setup? Our meaningless banter and his unwillingness to use my given name were signs that something was amiss, but I never imagined where it would end up. He’s a police officer for goodness sake. At least that’s what he told me. Maybe that too was part of his cover. Had I just met someone fishing for prey and he cast his line to see who he could snag?
Since that fateful day I’ve received only one text from him; something about the weather. I guess he realized that he overplayed his hand and it was better for him to cut bait and cast in another pond. This big fish was not biting.
*I’ve never met anyone who attended the New Orleans Jazz Festival and didn’t have great things to say about their experience. On the gulf coast the city is known as the mecca of good music and great food, thus the name the Big Easy. And that’s a combination I rarely pass up.
As an airline employee I get free airfare to anywhere my airline flies. Hotel rooms I get at a discount. But never one to spend money if I don’t have to, I decided to make my trip to the Big Easy Jazzfest a daytrip.
My alarm went off at 6am. I hit the snooze button. At 6:09 I headed for the shower. As usual I spend too much time in the shower and in the mirror. It’s now 6:30. I should be headed out the door so I can get to the airport in time to catch the first flight to New Orleans. Wallet, check; cell phone and earphones, check; umbrella, floppy hat and sunglasses, check.
I hold my breath, set off three bug foggers and leave before I am overcome by the fumes.
I park the car, make it through security and board the plane. It’s packed. It’s seems everybody is headed to Jazzfest. Even people I don’t know ask me to get in their photo. So I lean in and make new friends. A few hours later I step off the plane at the Louis Armstrong International Airport. The man at the information desk points me to the bus stop. The airport bus will take me downtown. Then I’ll walk two blocks to Canal Street and take the Jackson-Epanada bus to Jazzfest. I always take public transportation when I’m in a new city. It’s a great way to sightsee and it’s always cheaper than the alternative.
I get a text while I’m on the bus. A guy that I’ve talked with a total of ten minutes over the course of a month just asked me to borrow $300. I’m not sure if it’s a joke, but I called my mother so we could laugh about it. I text him back to tell him I don’t have the money to give him. If I never hear from him again it will be too soon.
I pay the entry fee into Jazzfest and walk into a sea of people and music.I stop at the gospel tent to get my praise on. Then I get in line for a Nawlins rum punch. Immediately I feel the effects of the alcohol so I take my vitamins, get a bowl of seafood bisque and figure out the rest of my day. Six hours from now I need to be at the bus stop on my way back to the airport.
There are at least five sound stages featuring different genres of music. Everyone is sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets at every stage. Eric Lindell, John Boutte’ and Allen Toussaint are a few of the performers. I didn’t bring a chair so I walk, shop and eat all day.
I get a fried pork chop sandwhich on white bread. I can’t remember when I had one last. Certainly not since I lost fifteen pounds on the Special K diet. I finish the sandwhich as I comtemplate how much all this eating is going to set me back. I stop at the prailine booth for some sweets.There’s probably enough sugar in one prailine to give me a cavity. But what the hell, this is New Orleans.
A jewelry vendor tells me his brother is Billy Paul, of ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ fame. He claims to supply jewelry to well known musical artists, including Erykah Badu. He said Badu was wearing his jewlery when she stripped naked in Dealey Plaza
last month. He’s about to recount the time thirty-five years ago that he and his brother were escorted to the county line in my hometown when another customer asks him a question distracting him long enough for me to get away.
I find my way to the Zataran’s food demo booth. I like to cook as much as I like to eat. A local chef demonstrates how to make lobster filled ravioli with butter sauce. I sit down long enough to eat the samples passed out and to soak up some air conditioning. Then I head back out for more music and food.
Take 6 is on the stage harmonizing like nobody’s business. I get a fried alligater po’boy with hotsauce and continue to walk. I get another rum punch to wash it down and stand inside the gospel tent to listen. Rum punch and gospel music; is that sacriigious?
I accidently pass by the booth of the guy who claimed to be Billy Paul’s brother. He’s not looking. I turn the corner before he does. I start to see the same vendors twice. And people at the booths are starting to greet me with a nod that says ‘haven’t we spoken once today already?’
Kirk Franklin is about to perform on another stage. I scurry over to get an earful. How short is he?
Aretha Franklin was scheduled to perform at the same time on another stage, but she canceled. Earth, Wind and Fire performed in her place. Even better! Everybody danced, sang, ate and drank.
My bus back to Canal Street is leaving soon. On my last round I stop to take a free picture with a Jazzfest background. In the photo I pretend to play the saxophone with sunglasses and my floppy hat.
I make my way out of the festival and to the bus stop. I see a bus in the distance, but for some reason it never moves towards me. For fifteen minutes I stand there waiting. Finally I hail a cab to Canal Street. It costs me $9, but I made it to my airport connection bus and that’s all that matters.
As we board the plane I notice the guy standing at the seat in front of me. We make eye contact and speak. It’s Kirk Franklin and his son. He was on the stage when I left to catch the bus. Apparently he had faster transportation than I did.
I thought about engaging him in conversation, but I decided against it. After six hours of walking around in the heat my hair looked a mess, I was sweaty and tired and he was tending to his son. So I leaned against the window and fell asleep.
*When I left my first career job eighteen years ago I rolled over my company 401(k) into an independent retirement account. And that’s where it has sat mostly untouched ever since.
A decade ago I was smart enough to invest some of the money in oil stocks. So even though I pay more as a consumer, as an investor I make a profit when the price of heating oil and gasoline go up.
But oil stocks aren’t cheap. If I had enough money to buy enough oil stocks to get rich I’d be rich already. And that’s not the case.
So here I am holding an IRA that’s not growing faster than I’m getting older.
It’s funny how the closer I get to “old age” the younger “old age” looks. And with each passing year my retirement fund is getting closer to becoming my income.
Never one to turn a deaf ear to lessons on income diversification, I recently learned that I can purchase real estate and precious metals in a self-directed IRA instead of watching stocks like PSInet go from hero to zero worth in my portfolio.
I’ve always understood that real estate is a great asset if it’s a rental property that provides positive cash flow for the owner. So when I heard that I legally can use the cash in a self-directed IRA to purchase real estate I got excited. And I don’t get excited easily, just ask my mother.
Most people who have IRAs or company 401(k)s are forced to invest in the small selection of stocks and mutual funds offered by their fund managers. That’s because fund managers get paid off the buy and sell fees generated through those transactions. The more transactions fund managers oversee the more money they make regardless of the profit or loss of the investor.
Yet in a self-directed IRA the investor has a better chance to profit because of the kinds of investments available to her. Sure those self-directed fund managers make money too. But there’s more money to be made with millions of people buying and selling stocks and mutual funds than on the purchase of a few pieces of real estate in the same period of time. It’s in my best interest to know who’s working in my best interest. And that’s what led me to learn more about precious metals too.
It’s not by chance that $1 doesn’t have the same purchasing power that it did a decade ago. And while many people have their own theories as to why, most people agree that the value of precious metals is going up. Why do you think there are so many gold parties these days? Somebody somewhere knows that gold is better to have than cash.
Although this might not be news to some people, millions of others have cash sitting in a supposedly untouchable retirement account that is losing value when it could be doing just the opposite. I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t know all the answers. But if I don’t’ plan for my future someone else will and chances are it won’t be in my best interest.
*There’s a guy at the gym where I work out who always is watching me. The fact that he notices me is not the problem. At 5’11” I’m taller than most people and not hard to miss even in a crowd. It’s the way he looks at me; as if I’m a steak dinner and he’s been on a tofu diet for a very long time. I think I’ve even heard him say “um um um” under his breath when I walk by.
Some women might consider it a compliment for a man to give them the “come hither” look to get their attention. But I prefer meaningful conversation. For most men that’s too much like climbing Mt. Everest. So they don’t bother to try. This gym guy doesn’t speak to me at all. So I ignore him and his deer-in-headlights gaze as he grunts and stares, mostly at my body parts. Because of my workout attire – not something I wear anywhere else – he gets to see more than he would under normal circumstances.
The other day the gym guy happened to be in the weight room on the day that I do deadlifts. So he stood nearby – conspicuously I might add – and watched me lift. For two warm-ups and four sets. When did he plan to complete his workout? After he finished watching me, I presume. He might as well have had a tub of popcorn.
Even when I left the weight room and went upstairs to do aerobics, a few minutes later he found a reason to be upstairs too gazing in my direction.
That’s when I came up with the ideal of hiring a body guard. Although I can defend myself, sometimes it takes a man to tell another man when he’s making a fool of himself. If I tell him how disrespectful his actions are he probably would consider it a victory that I acknowledged him. And I refuse to do that.