Sunday, May 30, 2010

Union Strength: Chapter Two

Political Activism

There are frequent complaints, from both inside and outside the union, about unions involving themselves in politics. There seems to be an impression that unions have their own political agenda, and speak for all of their members. No organization, political or otherwise, can speak for each individual member. They can only speak to the goals of their organization. By extension, as a member of an organization, members are painted with the organization’s message. If a member disagrees with that message, they have every right to say so. Wouldn’t it be a more effective effort to help shape that message in the first place?

Union members seem to live in a fantasy world that allows them to receive the benefits of union membership without accepting any responsibility for working toward protecting and furthering those benefits. Whining about union dues, without looking at what they provide, is shortsighted ignorance.

The responsibility of your union is twofold, to represent you with the company, and to protect and promote the ability of unions to represent you with the company. This is becoming more difficult as union membership dwindles. Think about it. The more union members, the larger the union voice in the halls of power, the more strength unions have. This is the big picture, but we must promote it at the local level.

As individuals, we have little leverage when attempting to get our arguments heard. We are members of a union that is supposed to help our voices be heard. However, there must be a united voice with a clear message. Unless your union receives clear direction from its membership, they must determine the message for themselves.

Obviously, few issues can be handled at the Local or District Level. The national union must plan and implement the most effective methods of promoting the needs of the membership. Those whom they represent must guide them. This means that individual members must make their wishes known to their Local, the Locals must pass this on to the District, and the District must instruct the National.

All of this is internal to the union. To bring about change the union must interact with those outside the organization. This is where politics comes into play. Who can best help the union reach its goals? Public pressure can help to convince legislators, direct talks with legislators can educate them to the needs of the union, associating with other groups who have similar concerns can also help. However, to make changes, the legislators themselves are the required audience of the union message.

Fact: Access costs money. Union dues pay for this access. What is said once this access is achieved is up to you. Not your local, not the district, not the national union. You. If you don’t speak up, then you have to live with what is decided for you. You can object to your dues being spent on political activities, but you are still being represented. So why not involve yourself in the process?

This all starts at the local level. Are you satisfied with those that represent you? If so, then work with them to help shape a message. If not, look around you for those who might be better equipped, and willing, to represent your needs as a union member. Either way, get involved, and get others involved. The more active members, the lighter the load on each. Just imagine what would happen to your job should your union fail, then imagine what could be accomplished if your union succeeds.

What is it that you want as a worker and a union member? What are your top priorities? Are they close to home, such as job security, or keeping quality healthcare for your family? On the other hand, are they broader concerns, such as the right to organize, or preventing jobs from disappearing abroad?

Look at your household budget. We all have many different bills, and make decisions about the value of where we are spending our money. Is shopping at Wal-Mart more cost effective than at Safeway, is U-Verse as cost effective as Dish? We look at how our money is spent, what we get for that money, and make adjustments accordingly. We pay union dues, shouldn’t we make decisions how they are best spent? We are all part of the political process, there is nobody preventing us from making our voices heard, shouldn’t we take responsibility and help shape the message? I say yes, emphatically!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Amgen Tour of California

I have not been a fan of cycling, until today.  The 2010 Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 event made a convert of me.  I feel fortunate to live and work in the Sacramento/Gold Country area, and was pleased to be able to experience the excitement of a world-class bicycling event close up and personal.
I live in Rocklin, which is just over 20 miles east of the state capitol building in Sacramento on Interstate 80.  I work in Auburn, which is just another 15 miles or so east.  I went to Auburn this morning and found the perfect place to view the race.  I took some snapshots, which turned out quite nicely.  I will post them as soon as I can figure out how to get them off of my daughter's digital camera.
Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California seemed very well organized, the staff and volunteers all knew their jobs and followed through, helping to make the event exciting and enjoyable for everyone.  The crowds were large, enthusiastic, and well behaved.  The weather was wonderful, at least for the spectators.  I imagine it was a bit warm for the cyclists, in the 70s with 40ish percent humidity and little wind.  But then again, they were going fast enough to kick up quite a breeze.
I was sitting at a bend in Lincoln Way, between Auburn City Hall and the Placer County Courthouse.  The riders were lining up to cut the corner as close as they could, and as a result they passed by me by less than a foot.  I am not an experienced photographer, so I was blindly snapping shots as quickly as I could.  But the results were very satisfactory.
I enjoyed following the remainder of the stage online using the "htc tour 2010 tracker" on the Amgen Tour of California website.  I especially enjoyed the announcers.  To their credit, they had a fairly good idea of the history of our region, but I had to smile when I heard our Capitol Building referred to as "the Capitol House."  That aside, the coverage was exceptional, and I learned quite a bit about the teams, the riders, and some of the strategy that was being employed.
I wish that I didn't have to go to work tomorrow, Stage 2, from Davis to Santa Rosa should be exciting.  With beautiful countryside, tough riding, and iffy weather, Monday should be eventful!  I wish all of the competitors the best of luck.
Stay tuned for photos!!!  See Ya!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Union Strength: Chapter One
Responsibility
   With rights comes responsibility. This sentiment, this ideal, is common to us all. Where we seem to differ is in application. I believe that my responsibility is not limited to my family, but extends to everyone. I am required to help where and when I can, to give what I can, to make life better for everyone. I am not wealthy; I cannot often afford to give monetary assistance without hurting my own family. However, I can give my assistance by aligning myself with others who think as I do.
   The most effective engine of change is association. By joining forces and working toward a common goal, those of limited means can effect monumental change. This is the primary reason for the existence of the service organization, the political party and yes, the union. We join to support a common cause, to promote our ideals and to make life better for everyone.
   However, life is complicated. Our limited time and resources require us to make choices about what we can accomplish and what must be set aside. We all work hard to support our families financially, we make time to spend with those we love, but somehow we tend to forget about everything else.
   Men and women willing to risk all for people they would never know built our nation. They were sure what was right and moved ahead. Now we live in an era in which personal interest trumps any other consideration. We see larceny and fraud go relatively unpunished, with greed as a byword.
   This must stop. The only way to stop this trend is by banding together. Valuable time must be invested by each of us to do what deep down we know is right. Those elected to lead us must clearly understand our stated wishes, or they will continue to put words in our mouths. Write letters, send emails, discuss issues with others. The information is out there. Look for trustworthy sources, compare sources and information, and make up your own mind.
   This has all been a preamble to my main point. We are all members of a union. We need a union to protect us from a corporation whose primary goal is to increase shareholder value, rather than to provide the best telecommunications services in the world. Read the corporate mission statement. We are not on the list. We have to look out for ourselves, each other, and those who will come after us. This is a huge responsibility, which we cannot meet alone.
   How can we accomplish this? There is a union meeting once a month, attend it. Hear the most recent news, raise your own concerns and work with others to formulate plans. This will take about two hours of your time each month. If you join a committee, you may have to spend a couple more hours.
   The consequences of inaction should be clear enough to you by now. We have lost jobs and benefits, and are uncertain as to our future with this company as well as in retirement. Who can fix it? We can. Only we can.
   We pay quite a bit of our income for very few positive results. Are you willing to throw good money after bad? Are you willing to continue complaining without working to be part of the solution? Or are you willing to sacrifice four or five hours a month for the protection of jobs, benefits, and a future for union employees?
   The choice is yours. Our predecessors fought for our rights as employees, now we have a responsibility to each other and those coming up in the future.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Technorati Claim

Please ignore this post. I need to place this claim token so that Technorati can find it. GB9NWA7SNNWA
Please come back next week for a new posting. I am having an interesting time with the research, and I hope you find next week's posting of interest. See Ya!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First Post!

Let's get started, shall we? I am a registered Democrat and have been since 1976, when I first became eligible to vote. I choose to remain a Democrat as I believe that, as a nation, we are responsible to help those who cannot help themselves.
We are part of a market economy. The market will move along with or without us, and there will always be those left behind. We need to lift them up and carry them along. If, ultimately, they are able to get their feet back underneath them, so much the better. If not, then we must continue to carry them. This is the price that we pay for choosing our way of life.
That being said, I disagree with much that I am hearing from both the liberal left and the radical right. The noise generated by both ends of the spectrum seems to be drowning out any rational discussion of the issues.
That is why I have started this blog. I want a forum for everyone to discuss the issues of the day. We may not achieve consensus, but we may be able to discard our partisan blinders and show respect for one another's views. And, God forbid, we may even be able to change one another's minds now and again.
So let me know what you are thinking! Join with me in civil discourse, and let's have fun together.