Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Let's talk about the UAW....

But let's first get this out of the way. I've got but a few peeves in life, and one of them is when folks pass judgments or form opinions based on things they hear, or just from the "herding" effect. Remember the guy I blogged about who was voting for Bush just because he was Republican? And he was Republican just 'cause? And had never really thought about it? 'Cause you know, his parents were Republican, then is brother was Republican, and then his wife was too?


Please, if you take just one thing away from my blog, please take this:

"Think. It's patriotic."

Have any views and opinions you want. I don't care if I agree or not. I promise to embrace every viewpoint that comes around. Respect will always be abundant here. Provided those viewpoints and beliefs and opinions are formed through gaining education and understanding on an issue.

And now, the UAW. Love it, hate it, think it's outdated, think it's the best thing since velcro, whatever you think. Fine. But for Christ's sake, please learn about whether the suspicions you have are real before you decide it should be abolished.

I do not have membership in a union. I work in the private sector as an employee. However, I've served as a laison to several union plants over the years. And just as importantly, I have an education on the matter. A formal one. I studied labor relations and loved every last minute of it. So I have educated opinions based on what I've seen with my own two eyes inside union plants for years, as well as studying passionately the events of history through the present.

And let me share something with you, dear Internet. Never have I seen an issue so clouded and labeled and misunderstood as the UAW. Notice I didn't say "unions?" I said specifically "UAW?" Because when is the last time you heard folks cracking jokes about teachers taking too many coffee breaks? (The way we hear the jokes cracked about auto workers...) When is the last time you've heard slams about medical workers who "get their jobs back" if they are caught with a drug or alcohol problem? (The way we hear the same slam about auto workers.) When is the last time that you've heard a complaint that the fire fighters are too lazy and end up compromising their work and costing insurance companies more money on claims? (The same way we hear auto workers are a lazy bunch and are at fault for the prices of cars.)

And why do people immediately think of the automotive industry when someone says "union?"

The fact of the matter is that every major professional industry uses the principal of solidarity. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, law enforcement, painters, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, you name it; they belong to a union. Strength and power is found in numbers.

I'm going to take the time to address the myths that I've heard. I'll stick to only the abundant ones.

Common myth #1: The UAW is full of weak, lazy workers.

I will guarantee that the majority of people why have made this claim have not worked in a union environment. The UAW workers are the toughest workers I've known. And they care about what they are doing. It's the union folks who are tearing up when a first new model rolls of the line, or a last model rolls off a line. These are people who put their hearts into what they do fifty times more urgently than most white collar engineers I know. You want to talk about laziness and coffee breaks? The engineering center at GM has a coffee station every few feet. And it's always packed to the gills. I've known white collar engineers to come to work, read the paper, sit on the can for a half hour, get a coffee, and then go to a meeting at 10, after having been at work since 6:30 or 7. Those examples alone waste three to three and a half hours each day minimum. How can a UAW worker do that while working on a moving line that gives them each a new product to touch every few seconds? Do people seriously think they stop the line for the union workers to go sit in the can for a half hour or read the paper for awhile?

Common myth #2: The UAW exists to protect weak, lazy workers.

How so? Do people out there honestly think that corporations do not attempt to dismiss workers just because they are UAW members? And further, that they do not succeed in dismissing those workers? Being a union member is not equivalent to having a "get out of jail free" card. Yes, if a union member is disciplined or fired, he/she has a right to file a grievance with the union, and if the union sees fit, it will try to rectify the situation. But here's what you may not know... First, the union member has to do things exactly right for even a hope at that representation. One day late to the union steward, and no dice. Further, the union steward can (and will, often) deny helping. The union ONLY gets involved in situations where the employee was treated unfairly, treated differently than what has become past practice, or has special circumstances warranting another chance.

Now when I think about that, I think it's only decent. And I wish all companies allowed some room for dicussion and reflection in these matters. But they don't. The rest of us in the private sector can be fired on the spot after devoting thirty years to a company, simply because someone doesn't like our socks. Who thinks that's a crappy reality? I sure do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Edit on the State of Confusion...

I did read everything I could get my hands on regarding the situation in Jena, Louisiana prior to making any personal opinions. However, I have just been enlightened from a source previously unfound. NPR apparently broke this news story way back before the mainstream media got it, and there were a few details included that were coincidentally omitted from all other accounts.

I referred to this victimized white boy as being beaten inches from death. Interestingly enough, it appears that the evening following the fight, this white boy attended an awards ceremony of sorts at school and then went out with his friends afterwards.

That sounds a whole lot more like a schoolyard fight, even if it did have uneven odds with regard to the participants, and a whole less like a group of animals who savagely beat a lone and unarmed person.

And there is more.... It also seems that the lag in time I noticed about this whole situation is explained by noting that the black boys were football stars, and the town took care to hush the situation and wait to deal with it after the football season had ended.

Now, if those things are true, particularly the first part, then these boys should not be charged with anything as dire as what they have been charged with. Assault and battery is even pushing it.

State of Confusion

Alright. I'm all about free speech. Seriously. Protests, pickets, boycotts, you name it. If it's for a proper cause, is handled appropriately, and above all, is done peacefully without a drop of violence, I'm a guaranteed supporter.

Union strikes at the newspaper? I've bought my last paper. (Seriously. I haven't purchased a newspaper in this town for years and years - the one and only exception is the one that comes out at Thanksgiving with all the salepapers in it.)

I've seen plenty of concerted activities where people band together for a common cause or belief, and many of them I've not necessarily agreed with or been much affected by. However, I'm a supporter.

But today's business going on in the south has me perplexed. Exactly why are people marching? Just to show their anger that racial inequality exists? Heck, I'm pissed off about that too, but it seems a vague and broad topic to be organizing thousands to follow around Al Sharpton for the day.

So being perplexed, I watched a bit of it on television. (At my parents' home, of course, as I still do not have a television plugged into an electrical outlet in my home.) Now it seems these people are marching because they perceive a difference in how the "law" was applied to either "side" in this case.

I say that's not true.

Apparently, after a little follow up research, there is an area of the school grounds, at a certain tree, where white kids have been hanging around for some time. Black kids either weren't welcome or chose not to be there or both. We have not really been told in anything published if there were areas where black kids hung out that white kids either weren't welcomed or chose not to be there or both. We only know of this area for the "whites." Apparently a few black kids decided to join the party in this area, and trouble ensued. The following day, some ridiculous excuses for human beings hung nooses in the tree as a sign that the black kids shouldn't come back.

The actions are reprehensible. Sickening. Deplorable. Inexcusable. Enough to make me want to visit each of the white bastards that did it and explain personally how horrible it is, as well as to visit every black person who had to witness these things hanging from a tree where he/she goes to school.

However sickening, inexcusable, etc., the actions are not, in fact, unlawful. The actions are in such bad taste and send such a violent message that perhaps they should be against the law. However, the fact remains that hanging nooses in a tree is not against any law presently.

Just as, at one time, if a person had AIDS or HIV+ and had consensual intercourse with someone who was not informed, there was no crime committed. It was just as heinous an act before the laws made it punishable by the court system as it was after. And yet, because our justice system is designed as it is, the actions had to occur, land situations in court, grow big enough for society to recognize it and implore the lawmakers to move on it, and now we have those laws on the books.

Right now, again, hanging nooses in a tree as a racial sign of hatred and unacceptance is not a violation of any standing law. In fact, although I hate this fact, some would argue it's a demonstration of free speech. I won't really go there. I don't like the argument. But it is, in fact, a valid argument.

Let's look at the facts. The rope wasn't stolen. The tree the nooses were hung in is fine, so no property was defaced. No physical violence of any kind was committed in the presentation of these hatefully constructed eyesores. I could go on and on, searching through every last possibility, just as the school administration apparently did, and come up empty, just as they did.

So the white bastards who have been likely been bred to hate people based on skincolor have not committed a crime, as much as I'd like to see them pay for the hurt they've caused others. In fact, I applaud the school administration, who did everything they could legally do to punish for the actions. The perps were suspended. The administration went on record saying that many people looked into it to see if this action fell under anything that justified a greater penalty. They came up empty. Now, you can bet, that the school in question here will likely develop a policy on racial slurs and signs of hatred, much like schools have developed policies on gang activity and violence. (Remember the stories of the schools who now have a "no touch" policy so strict that children may not exchange "high fives?" Yep. Once the ball gets rolling, sometimes it even goes too far. The point is, a need has to arise for policy, and then policy is born. Not the other way around. Nobody is clairvoyant. If anyone was, school shootings and other terrible occurrences would never happen.

So the white kids were stupid. And they did something heinous, and were punished for it to the maximum level of punishment allowed by the existing rules of the community. We all wish that level could have been a little more severe, because we're all embarrassed for this sorry souls and the pitiful parents who've raised them. If that were the end of the story, we'd be done here.

But it wasn't the end of the story. Multiple black kids beat the daylights out of a single white boy. Just like a scene out of a streetgang movie. It just so happens that physically beating the daylights out of someone and taking that victim inches from death is a crime. A punishable crime. And thus, the kids who committed the crime now owe a debt to society for that crime, and are being charged accordingly.

So first of all, why all the signs that scream white law and black law are different? They look just the same to me. Had the black folks hung something in a neighboring tree to support their position, they would not be guilty of any legal wrongdoing either. And if the white kids had beat the crap out of someone, they would be the ones charged with a crime.

We can argue that there are discrepancies and imbalances in our laws based on how traditional "blue collar" vs. "white collar" crimes are handled, coupled with the statistics on how the instances of those crimes fall racially speaking. This is a valid argument, and one I have lots of interest in. When a CEO embezzles or ruins the retirement funding for hundreds of people and gets a slap and a monetary fine, but a personal friend of mine has a boyfriend in prison for five years because he had an unregistered gun on him for protection, and the first is characteristically white and the second is black, we have something we can talk about.

But if you put emotion aside and examine the facts of the current situation, it's very simple. The white folks did not commit a crime, and the black folks did. This is not an example of any discrepancy in how the law is applied to those who break it. It's a case of one group committing a crime and the other committing a heinous act of expression that deserves a good old fashioned ass whoopin. But not a five or six on one type of ass whoopin that leaves someone nearly dead and is punishable by a court of law.

If you ask me, both the white kids and the black kids did the same thing. They both exherted a belief that there is distinct inequality between the races. Both groups. Same message. Both wrong.

I've been blessed with friends of all colors and walks of life. I love them all. I can tell you about a few, though, that were sincerely in favor of breaking down racial barriers and perceptions. And I can contrast them with others in my life who were so full of contempt and hatred that they did just the opposite.

I was 19 years old, working in an office. I grew up in a neighborhood that was a melting pot, but one that didn't have a huge population of black people. There was every Arabic background present, every last religious conviction present, but only a sprinkling of black people. So, growing up, I didn't have many friends who were black, simply because black children weren't around to be friends with. So here I was in the office one day, and one of my colleagues who I adored brought her wedding pictures in. I looked at them, marveled at the size of her wedding party and her choices in flowers and decor, and came upon pictures of her and her new husband jumping over a broom. So I asked what in the hell they were doing jumping over a broom with silk flowers hot-glued to it. And she giggled and patiently explained, much as I would have explained any custom we have in my family or "culture" that was found to be different than hers. But she was cut off in mid explanation by another colleague who was fuming with anger that this was being discussed, and even more irate that I didn't know about this custom. She thought it was the worst case of racial discrimination ever. Simply that I didn't know the deal with the broom at black weddings. Folks, never forget the power of examining a situation for intent and purpose before casting judgment on a person's position.

Folks, I've got news for the world, I don't know squat about any culture I haven't been exposed to properly. I have no idea how people use prayer rugs, or why Eastern Indians wear wraps on their heads that are a foot above their heads. This does not mean I have disdain for these people. On the contrary, I'd love to know and understand more. Culture is fascinating.

Also fascinating was the irony that a custom was brought forth from days of slavery that is practiced by both families who did and those who did not have slavery in their past heritages. But that's a story for another day. I think black culture in our country has amazing parts to it. But just like every other culture, it also has parts that seem to not make a whole lot of sense. Slavery is a horrible black mark on the history books of humans in this country (and many others!) Do we see Holocaust survivors bringing any part of the memory of what they endured forward into a grandious occasion like a wedding? Of course not. So thus, I don't understand the broom thing. I accept the broom thing, certainly. Folks can do whatever they choose in life provided it doesn't infringe on the rights and privelidges of another.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Bad Day

Today was a very bad day. I don't even want to relive it to the extent I'd have to to blog it all, but work did not go well today.

I am trying to be positive and optimistic. We have to smell shit once in awhile to know how pretty flowers smell. I know. But it was really bad.

And it was really bad literally because I am a woman, not a man. And I do mean literally. How frustrating. It makes me irate. I do twice the work of any of the men I work with. And yet, at the end of the day, the presence of boobs matter most.

And that's all I have to say about that.

In other news, I'm a bit concerned that we may be expecting again. I say "concerned" because I had planned to wait at least a full cycle before even risking another go at it. But it looks as if nature may have had other plans. Looking at the calendar, this should be impossible. Let's hope so.

Last but not least, to top it all off, I'm just absolutely sick worrying about money lately.

And now for a count of blessings to put all of this grief behind, at least for the night.... We're both healthy. We have a home to sleep in. (A few too many, actually, which is the source of the money problem.) Our families are happy and healthy. We had a chance to get away from reality last weekend, and that was nice.

Today I looked back at the Eliot blog about the little boy who lived 98 days, and thus had 99 celebrations of life. It put things in perspective even more than counting blessings.

I weighed myself a day early for a sneak peak. (I joined a group of friends online for support.) I lost roughly 1 lb. in the past week. Considering vacation with wine and pizza, I'll take it! I'll still weigh in tomorrow and see how things look. Heck, maybe that one pound will creep back somehow. I shouldn't speak too soon!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


...are undoubtedly one of my favorite gifts in life.

There are two people right now that I consider very best friends. They are nothing alike, yet I love them for the same reasons. They are genuine, loving, fun, very alive, spontaneous, have nary a pretentious bone in either body, and I enjoy every single moment spent around them. They make fun times all the more excellent when they are around. I can talk to either of them every day for three months, and then not again for six months, and we'll pick up right where we left off effortlessly.

One of them is originally from a very far away country, and has lived in the US for roughly 15 or so years. She got married last weekend. It was a brilliant affair.

And now to my point.... The American lifestyle impacts our friendships in ways I didn't realize. But I learned this at the wedding, and the few nights of celebratory events leading up to the wedding. And it's got me thinking.

Many people came from Europe for this wedding. Amazing, beautiful, people. They wore traditional clothing to the ceremony, mostly if not all handmade. The majority of them were not family members of my friend's. Rather, they were friends.

There are reasons this amazes me, and I've come to realize that this amazement I feel is a result of being very American.

Two of the bridesmaids were childhood pals of my friend. Now I mentioned my friend has lived here in America for a good 15+ years. How many people have you been in sporadic contact with who live on continents oceans away from yours who you would travel the globe to see? Even for a wedding? And it gets better. One of them moved away from their original neighborhood at the tender age of seven. Seven! And here she is at 35, 28 years later, wearing a bridesmaid dress. That is certainly a friend indeed.

There is not a single person from age 7 or even age 16 who moved and I still talk to regularly. In fact, there are literally no people I graduated high school with that I still talk to regularly.

And here's why I think being part of the American lifestyle influences us. People who come from where my friend was born? Family and friends are way more important than work. One of them has twelve weeks vacation a year.

And she probably talks to our mutural friend more than I do. My friend and I live roughly five miles apart. That doesn't even involve interfering time zone differences or plane rides.

I think we should all try for better balance in life. Interestingly enough, while I was pondering this earlier, I came across a quize on CNN.com about having balance in your life. Of course, I failed it miserably. I'll work on this.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Must keep going....

I'm so low on energy, and have a whole lot of crap to get done here. Our cousin is home from Iraq NEXT WEEK and I'm determined to have a house ready for him to stay at if he needs to. How frustrating. Every project around this place is half done. I only have five minutes to be here online. 5:30 I'm up and running.

I've gotten through a ton of laundry this week. That's an accomplishment.

Work has been insane lately.

That is all.