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Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

Work has been a grueling slog these past few weeks.  These days a person feels like they shouldn’t complain too much though.  Because of the economy a lot of workers are doing the work that two or three were doing only a few years ago. My staff, such as it was, has remained the same, but each person has been saddled with twice the work load.  Hence I find myself having a day like today where I spend about 3 hours prepping pizza.  I don’t mind it, but it IS mind-numbingly dull work.  There is a lot of time to let the mind wander and skip from subject to subject and even the occasional flight of fancy that might result in a short story sometime down the line.  I always carry a small notebook with me. A primitive PDA, as it were.  I write down ideas for work- recipes, ingredient combinations, equipment notes, etc.  I also write down story ideas, column ideas, review notes.  Occasionally I’ll write down stuff I hear from co-workers and people on my travels through the days.   Pithy things like:

“Hey! If I wanted any lip I’d jingle my zipper!”


“Shit! We’re busier than a three-legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond.”

 Today I was in my little niche making pizzas and listening to my i-Pod. I listen on a little dock speaker – not safe to have head phones on in a kitchen full of fire, knives and other shit that can mess you up if you’re distracted and in a headphone-induced, sound bubble.   

I reviewed a discussion I had the day before with a teacher friend of mine who was nervous about the goings on in Wisconsin and that state government’s efforts to revise collective bargaining for its public employees and teachers.  A lot of people here in Michigan think it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll be going through the same sort of battle as early as this summer. Our state’s new governor, Rick Snyder, was formally CEO of Gateway and is no friend of unions.  I told my friend that I thought teachers should share the pain along with other public employees.  In my line of work I’ve been feeling the pain since mid-2007.  I work for a private university and as soon as the market took a dump my wages were froze.  I haven’t had a raise in three years.  I lost 8k from my 401k (our retirement investments were handled by AIG) and my health insurance premiums have increased by 20 percent.  In the mean time, the upper 5% on the economic food chain and public employees have experienced some minor turbulence or nothing at all.  Mind you, I think the teachers should be last on the chopping block. However, I told my teacher friend it was maybe time to share the reality most of the rest of us were experiencing.  But again- if we can significantly make budgetary headway without modifying teacher’s collective bargaining, then I’m all for it.  If not then I guess we’ll have a battle on our hands. 

 I’m thinking we’re wrong in scapegoating public employees, though. I’m inclined to push for more taxation on big business, and making the upper crust give up more.  That’s a pipe dream, I know.  The Republicans will see to it that their gravy train keeps rolling by feeding that greedy firebox of big industry, which would be fine, if these industries were interested in creating jobs, competing or innovating.  But they’ve recently figured out that they can take the money, do nothing, and no one will say anything. The unspoken Quid Pro Quo with the public has been violated.  There’ a coming class war and the protests in Wisconsin are the canary in the coal mine.  Its good seeing the slumbering middle class get out in the streets and start fighting back.  I have no idea where it’ll all end up.  I had been wondering where the outrage and anger was amongst the “silent majority” these past couple years while economic atrocity after atrocity piled up and the Big Dogs took more of the pie.  The fuse has just been lying there for a while now. Leave it to the tone-deaf, arrogantly stupid Republicans to give the people a burning match. Scott Walker will now spend the bulk of his likely single term governorship stonewalling like Nixon on one side while shoveling buckets of cash out the back door on the other.    We’ll probably see the same sort of scenario play out in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois.  The question is – how big and how effective will the public outcry become.  I think people are encouraged by what happened in Egypt and Algeria.  People saw that taking it to the streets is a sure-fire way to get the Big Dog’s attention.  What happens after that can be predicted up to a point.  The Rich will circle the wagons and protect what they believe is theirs at all costs. If they get greedy and give nothing back, then there will be a problem.  Right now, I’m betting on the problem.  


Feb. 22nd, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
There’ a coming class war and the protests in Wisconsin are the canary in the coal mine.

Agreed. But there's always been controversy over whether public sector employees should have the right to organize and strike.

What's interesting to me is how "union" has become a dirty word in contemporary America, roughly coinciding with the US switching from a manufacturing (blue collar) to a service-based (white collar) economy.

It's also interesting that Walker proposes to allow workers to continue collectively bargaining on wage issues -- but not on benefits or workplace conditions-related issues.