Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Right to Work (i.e. the right to be poor)

“Right to Work” laws are bullshit. We already have a right to work, that’s what a free market supplies. What “Right to Work” really means is the right for companies in the states that have these laws to compensate their employees as little as the laws possibly allow. It lets them keep from giving employees benefits, and lets them fire employees at any time for no reason without any legal repercussions.

The “Right to Work” laws should be called “The Right for Employers to do Whatever the Fuck the Want” laws.

“Right to Work” is one of those propagandistic phrases, like “Pro Life”, or ‘Voter Protection” that the right uses to make it sound like they are doing something that really is the exact opposite of what they say it is.

According to Wikipedia:

A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act.

Proponents claim that companies in states that have Right to Work laws have higher employment rates. While this is true, many of those jobs pay less than in non-Right to Work states and many are part time.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the ills of Right to Work:

Opponents argue that right-to-work laws restrict freedom of association by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include fair share fees, and so create a free rider problem.[15][16] The absence of fair share fees forces dues paying members to subsidize services to non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union). Thus, these individuals benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues.[15][17]
The AFL-CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered[17] and worker safety and health is endangered. For these reasons, the union refers to right-to-work states as “right to work for less” states[18] or “right-to-fire” states, and to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
Business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation in the Southern states.[15][19][20][21] Critics from organized labor have argued since the late 1970s[22] that while the National Right to Work Committee purports to engage in grass-roots lobbying on behalf of the “little guy”, the National Right to Work Committee was formed by a group of southern businessmen with the express purpose of fighting unions, and that they “added a few workers for the purpose of public relations”.[23]
The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business,[23][24][25] and other groups.[22]
A final argument against these rules is that they place limits on the sort of agreements private individuals, acting collectively, can make with their employer.
A February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found:[11]
Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states, after controlling for individual, job, and state-level characteristics. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.
The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in [the study's] regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.

To be fair, there are other arguments for Right to Work that are stated in that Wikipedia entry and I encourage you to read the whole thing and come to your own conclusions.

I support unions because I believe that it helps all workers, not just those who belong to unions. When I worked for Boeing, I received excellent benefits including health, vacation, and a paid week off between Christmas and New Years. The same was true when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Since I was a salaried employee, I couldn’t join a union, but it was the unions that the hourly wage workers belonged to that helped get all employee these excellent benefits.

Other benefits we have all gained due to unions are the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health insurance, retirement packages, holidays off, a minimum wage, and a safe work environment. Without unions many workers would still be working 60 hour work weeks in unsafe conditions for pennies an hour.

If you don’t believe that many employers wouldn’t pay you next to nothing, think again. There is a reason many jobs have been moved overseas, because in places like China and India, terrible working conditions and dirt poor wages are the norm.

As it is, families who rely on the bread winner who makes minimum wage are the ones most likely to be in poverty and rely on government assistance programs thereby costing all of us more in taxes, not to mention the drag on the economy from less people spending their income on consumer goods rather than basic subsistence.

If every worker made enough to have extra to spend on goods like TVs, cars, and homes, the economy would boom like it did after WWII when the GI Bill allowed millions to get good educations and good jobs and spend the extra income above subsistence on lots and lots of stuff.

When all of use earn a good wage and benefits, we all benefit.

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Social Justice | , , , | 4 Comments

Finally, A Concise, Coherent Post In My Comments Section!

I received a very interesting comment on my post about some conservatives wanting to secede from the Union. The comment reads:

Author : Jon Smith (IP: 76.181.154.219 , cpe-76-181-154-219.columbus.res.rr.com)
E-mail : jsmith293@hotmail.com
URL : Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/76.181.154.219
Comment:

Idiot

I’m not sure if Mr.Smith is calling me an idiot or the conservatives idiots, but since he used the singular I’m going to assume it is the former.

The only thing I can think to say in response IS that, unlike many other negative comments I tend to get, it was clear, concise, grammatically correct, and spelled correctly, if a bit vague.

In any case, please keep the comments coming!

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tiredness, Drunkenness, and Artistic Perormance

I’ve been terrible depressed, to the point sleeping 36 hours straight sometimes. Just getting up out of bed is a struggle, as it writing.

I’m able to write now with the help of a glass of wine and a couple of Xanax. It’s interesting because I just read an article about how being very tired or drunk allows artists to actually be more creative. This is no surprise. I think we need to enter a difference state of mind, to drop the barriers. It sure seem to work or me.

The other thing that really helps, at least for me, is music. Right now it’s The Beatles. I think the one that does it best for me is Pink Floyd, although I suspect that Bob Dylan would be pretty good too. Also Sting and The Flaming Lips.

November 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Books, Music, and Life in Genral

I’m listening to The Beatles “Abbey Road”. “Here Comes the Sun” right now. If you like The Beatles and you have all their recordings (as I do), listen starting with the “Please Please Me” and go in cronologic order until you reach “Abbey Road”. It will blow your mind. Oh, listen to then on Bose headphones. You’ll get a fanatic aural experience. If you don’t have Bose and you love Music, spend the extra $$$ (About $120. Worth every penny. Try Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” first. Amazing!

No job yet. I’m waiting to hear back from one company in Ohio. I could work remote from home. $80,000, no benefits, so after arranging for my own, I’d be taking home about what was at my last job.

I’ve been out of one of my psyho meds for about a month. At $197 for a month’s supply, it’s a big chunk of my limited finances. I really need them. Without them, I go from cranky to angry outbursts to uncontrollable tears. Now I understand how the poor and unemployed can’t hold down a job.

Nebraska gives virtually nothing to adults for Medicaid. We’d have to rack up $1100 dollars a month before they a penny. With a total monthly income of Barely $200, this would bankrupt us.

I’m lucky, I can go to the VA. My wife on the hand has nothing. Everything is out of pocket.

Ugh.

Hey, the “Abbey Road” CD left of “Her Majesty”. Bastards!

November 26, 2012 Posted by | Music, Social Justice | , | Leave a comment

Sour Grapes and Secession

There has been talk by radical conservatives after this past election about seceding from the Union. Though most of this is just sour grapes from a mostly white majority who see their 236 years of privilege slipping away as American society becomes more diverse.

These people call themselves patriotic Americans and talk about democracy and liberty, but their words and actions show utter contempt for the true meaning and values of democracy.

In a democracy, at least the American style of democracy, majority rules. These people had no problems accepting that G.W. Bush won a “mandate” by first losing the popular vote, and for his second term, winning the popular vote by a 2.5% margin.

In this past election, president Obama won the popular vote by an almost 4% margin, but conservatives called it a squeaker and certainly not a mandate.

This arrogance, this failure to acknowledge facts, their failure to accept the will of the majority show that they either don’t understand what democracy means, or really don’t believe in it. Either way, they have proven themselves to be unpatriotic.

This anti-democratic, unpatriotic attitude has extended to the refusal of some states to accept and implement the law of the land in the form of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By doing this, they show utter contempt for democracy and disregard for the welfare of their citizens.

Perhaps the federal government should, since they refuse to act to implement federal law, withhold other federal assistance.

Most of these states are gulf states. What if another category 5 hurricane were to decimate the gulf coast and the federal government gave these states a big “fuck you!” and refused to send in FEMA aid? What if federal funds for road and bridges, education, and other programs were withheld? Perhaps after several years of this, the abused and destitute populations of these states would vote out the cretins who show no regard for their welfare.

Of course, this would never happen because we live in a democracy and the President must consider the welfare of all Americans, even those who disobey and despise him.

Maybe secession would be a good idea after all. We could rid ourselves of states that refuse to follow the law and, as these states’ economies fall into disarray, millions of former Americans would stream north to regain their birthrights to true democracy and liberty, leaving despots to rule over their crumbling oligarchies.

In reality, what hopefully will happen is that the citizens of these states will begin to see that their governments do not represent their best interests and vote them out in 2014.

November 23, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Social Justice | , | 2 Comments

A Little Bit About Compassion (or lack thereof)

In my last post I mentioned how I am out of work.  

I had an exchange on FB today with an old friend.  I’d shared a post supporting workers’ rights.  Her response was:

“They” didnt take anything from u; it’s called a … paycheck! It’s a new day in a brilliantly rebounding economy that bends over backwards to help small business thrive. Go start one! The time is ripe! Hire someone off the burgeoning, I mean, shrinking unemplyment rolls. Be a role model; show the evil capitalist, free market business owner how it’s done. Have u ever written a paycheck for somone else? Do u have any idea what it takes to actually run a business? Sry, the incessant ‘Being Liberal’ whining is … incessant!

I was pretty hurt by this.  As I said in my reply to her, I’ve worked hard all my life.  I’ve been laid off several times, which has set me back financially each time.  My real, effective, take home wages adjusted for cost of living are less now than 20 years.  I’ve regularly put in 60+ hour weeks at salary, working hard for raises that never came (not for anyone, not just me), bonuses that were cut, and 401k and stock options that lost money.  Not because of quirks of the economy or changing markets, but because of short term strategies by company execs who were trying to maximize their own and their stock holders returns in as short a time as possibly, while ignoring planning for long term growth.  Such has been the High Tech, and many other industries of the past 20 years.

What really gets me about this is not that I’ve been forced to start all over again, looking for a job, starting at the bottom at another company, struggling to pay the rent, bills, and buy food and clothes for my kids.  This stuff happens.  I’ve been though it before, I’ll be ok.  

What really bothers me is my friend’s attitude.  The idea that I should be grateful for my paycheck (which I am), and not complain when I’m used, overworked, underpaid, and the thrown away.  Go start a small business.  Sure, let me go get those several thousand dollars I’ve stashed away to start one up.  Oh wait.  I had to use that to pay my rent and car payments and car insurance, and electric bill, and buy food after the last time I got laid off.  And don’t forget those medical bills.  You know, the ones on top of the $5,000 in premiums I paid last year.  Oh, I got a kid with special needs who requires a $60 co-pay every week when he has to get therapy?  Ah well, just be thankful I’ve got health insurance at all.  What, the $400 a moth in prescription medication co-pays?  No problem.  Just write them off on my taxes.  Maybe I’ll get an extra $1000 break this year.  

I spent time two years ago where I put in 370 hours in overtime in just three months.  I got no extra pay.  I was never thanked for all the extra work.  I didn’t get a raise or a promotion for saving my business group’s ass because of their poor planning and lack proper resources.  What I got was a whopping 8 hours of comp time.  Not even a atta-boy pat on the back.  And that is par for the course for every high-tech company I’ve ever worked for.

So to be told that I should be grateful to my company for giving me a paycheck when they work me like a horse, pay a less than inflation pay raise every year (one company I worked for no one ever got a pay raise for 4 years.  Given the rate of inflation, I lost several precent per year in income), makes me angry because it reeks of the “fuck you, you’re on your own; at least I have mine” attitude that has taken over at least 50% of the population.  I didn’t build that?  Maybe not, but we sure as fuck kept it running and made it work.  Me and millions of other workers who did the real work that made the products and kept all the businesses going.  

I’m appalled at the assumption that just because I am angry about how unfairly many American workers are being treated, that somehow that means that I think capitalism is evil.  That is just knee-jerk, Faux News regurgitated bullshit.  I’m all for capitalism, but I’m also for fairness.  When a company lays off workers, but the officers of the companies walk away with their millions, and then are hailed in Forbes as paragons of business, that’s not capitalism, that’s unadulterated greed and a misplaced sense of where the real success of a business comes from:  it’s workers. 

But the real problem with her attitude is not the economical aspect.  It is the human aspect.  The implication is that I should just be grateful and STFU.  This reeks of a sense of privilege and lack of compassion.   And what makes it hurt all the more is that I knew her to be a kind, caring, gentle person.  But that was a long time ago.  

She claims she is a Christian.  Well, I was raised a Christian; I spent most of my life as a devout Christian.  I remember the stories of Jesus preaching kindness, forgiveness, mercy.  I took joy in reading how he urged us to give to those in need.  That if someone asks for your shirt, give him your cloak too.  If you feed the poor, care for the sick, comfort those who are destitute, it is as if you were doing these things for him.  

Where are the examples of these beautiful words?  Where are they being put into practice?  Certainly not here in America, at least not by the vocal, fundamental Christians who, like my friend, seem to have no problem dismissing those in need and who are struggling and suffering.  

I spent years studying the New Testament before abandoning religion.  Rarely do I see a self described Christian acting at all in a Christ like way.  This is one of the main reasons I gave up on Christianity, and all religions.  I saw that just believing didn’t make you better or moral.   I’m not perfect, far from it.  But I try hard, every day, to ease the suffering of anyone I meet.  I work hard to support causes that help people who are in need.  I don’t just say, well I have mine, go work for yours.  I ask myself what can I do to help them help themselves.  What can I give, even if only a kind word or action, to make their day just a little brighter.  I put myself in their place and try to understand why they suffer and why they are where they are.  

I’m no longer religious, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think some religious thought can’t be useful.  There are lessons to be taught in most religions.  So, for the Christians out there reading this, please remember what Jesus meant when he said that if you do these things (feeding, clothing, caring) to the least of you, you do them to him.  But also remember that the reverse is also true: when you belittle, berate, insult, and cast aside those who are less fortunate than you, you do those things to him.  If I learned anything profound from my priests, it was that.  

That is empathy.  It is compassion.  And that is what is lacking in the words and actions of many of the pious, devout Christians that I hear about and know. 

 

  

November 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

A Lot Has Happened

If there are any actual readers of this blog still out there, you have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity here lately, and for good reason.

I lost my job almost three weeks ago.  I’ve been applying like crazy and I’ve had two interviews, one of which I didn’t get and the other I’m still waiting to hear about.

You would think I’d have more time to write, and I do.  I also have plenty of ideas of things to write about as well.  The thing is, with being bi-polar II, depression and anxiety go hand and hand.  Needless to say, both have been playing havoc with my mood and my ability to focus.  

My days have become a blur of several hours of job searches, filling out applications, etc., followed by some light house work, but mostly wandering from computer, to book, to TV, to just staring off into space, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes.

I’ve written here before about depression and mental health.  It can be debilitating and it is a daily struggle.  At least I’m keeping up with the job searching and and meeting with recruiters.  Unemployment is coming in and savings are covering a few months of rent and such.  I’ll be ok, but at 52, age discrimination is becoming a real worry.  Luckily, I’ve got a long and varied background in computer administration.  Everything from desktops to the largest servers, and OS’s from Windows, to Unix, Linux, Solaris and AIX.  Its a pretty broad, but also deep, background.  Also, the job market is heating up.  It is just a matter of time.   Either than, or a career change.  Ugh!  I hear Walmart’s hiring (shudder).

November 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

   

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