Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

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Being Anti-Union Equals Anti-Worker

In nearly every single argument regarding Unions I receive two responses:

  • Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.
  • Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I find both of these arguments ridiculous and let me tell you why.

Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I have had a lot of jobs in my lifetime and I have never belonged to a Union.  At a lot of my jobs, I have sat next to or worked with someone who to put it bluntly sucked at their job.  They either didn’t work very hard (or, as hard as I think they should) or they were difficult and some we’re so busy holding on to knowledge that they actually hindered the work of the people around them.  Some people in this world are lazy.  This isn’t an opinion – it is an observable fact.  Some people rise as far as they can on the food chain and then stop putting in the effort – in other words – they just do what they need to do to get by and that’s it.

But, to say that Unions protect bad workers as a reason to not have a Union means that you’ve never experienced how bad workers are protected every day.  I once worked with a woman that was so bad that I wondered if she had pictures of our boss dancing naked at a pool party because nothing ever happened to her.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for her or what, but she did as little as possible and when you asked her a question, you usually got a blank stare.  For the record, I hate blank stares and I hate pulling someone’s teeth to get an answer, so I become an non-team player and just go find the answer myself and refuse to work with people who don’t want to work with me.  Oh, I’m pleasant, but pretty much, I’m calling you a moron in my head.

We’re never going to eliminate bad workers, but eliminating protections for good workers just to punish the bad ones is a lousy idea.

Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.

I once had a job where I busted my butt.  I was the second one in (in a group of 35) and the last to leave at night.  I would stick around work writing reports until 6 or 7 after arriving in the office at 8 and skipping lunch or eating at my desk.  I received near perfect reviews, which should have translated into large raises, as you received a percent based on the five point scale you met (earn a score of 5, you received 5%, for example).  However; since I was at the top of the food chain for my wage group, I never received the top raise.  Never, not once.  And, before you say, “Well, Julie, that’s just one job.”  This has actually been at the last three jobs I’ve held.  It’s one of the reasons I move around – to get that wage I feel I deserve.

At one position, I was told by my boss that yes, I did a great job; but you’re overpaid, so I’m not giving you a raise.  That wouldn’t happen in a Union position.  There would be set rules to follow.  I’m all for merit pay, but it seems like merit pay means, bust your ass and we’re give you whatever we feel like giving you.

Now, I’m blessed in that I have a college degree and I work in a field that has more positions than available workers.  When I’m unhappy or feel unappreciated, I just send out my resume and, usually, within three months (sometimes more, sometimes less) I have a brand new job with a brand new higher salary.

However; most people aren’t blessed to have a skill or live in an area where their skill is in high demand.  They get what the market pays and when times are a little tough, they cut salaries of the workers.

Have you ever noticed that CEOs never take pay cuts?  CEOs always have health care.  CEOs have paid sick days and vacation days.  Why is that?  Have they worked harder than the rest of us?  Hardly.  Have they made the company more profitable or run better?  Only if they’ve laid off a bunch of people for the first one and not very likely for the second.  There’s a reason the CEO of your company doesn’t want the workers to join a Union.  And, it has NOTHING to do with “You shouldn’t have to join a Union to work here.”  When employees join together to negotiate salaries and benefits, all of the employees benefit: from the dishwasher up to the computer programmer or sales clerk.

Want some hard facts?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “In 2012, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742.”  That’s a difference of $201.  Over the course of a year, the amount adds up to $10,452 more that the Union member earns.

Still think Unions are bad for you?

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GOP Voter ID Laws to Curb Democratic Voting

Voter ID laws aren’t about fraud – we all know it.  Republicans don’t like losing elections and, due to their lack of any agenda resembling polices that will help America, they don’t win many National elections.   How will they fix this?  They’ll scream about non-existent voter fraud and pass voter laws to prevent it.

But, finally, one Republican has admitted the truth.  It’s all about taking votes away from the Democrats.  Robert Gleason, chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, when asked about the voter ID laws responded with “Yeah, I think a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this: We cut Obama by 5 percent, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won. He beat McCain by 10 percent, he only beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably photo ID helped a bit in that.”

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Fact Check and Insurance Rebates

I’m going to start this by saying that I trust FactCheck.org.  It is at the top of my list of places to check when I receive emails where I’m not believing or I doubt what I’m seeing.  What I like about Fact Check is that I don’t always agree with them.  I am human and I don’t like it when facts mean I have to reconfigure my beliefs.  You can make this statement about a lot of humans – you know who you are.  People do not like to be proven wrong and they especially don’t like being proven wrong with numbers and facts.  Anyway, if they agreed with me 100% of the time, I would think they are biased and if they disagreed with me 100% of the time, I would believe that they were biased.

Anyway, Fact Check recently wrote an article about President Obama’s July 18th speech touting the savings of the Affordable Care Act (which is more commonly known as Obamacare).  Fact Check called the article “Obama Overhypes Health Savings“.  I’m not going to disagree with Fact Check that President Obama made the health savings sound wonderful, he did.  Unfortunately, his hype is needed to overshadow the hype on the other side, which claims no savings and total financial ruin for all if we continue on the Affordable Care Act path.  I just think Fact Check is overhyping the overhyping.

Case in point the following quote from President Obama

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.

Fact Check takes issue with this because ” The average rebate is about $100 per family — not per person. It’s not 8.5 million rebates “averaging around 100 bucks each,” as the president said. Instead, it’s 8.5 million consumers who will benefit, with an average rebate of $100 per family.”

I’m not really sure what the issue is here.  Fact Check admits that the rebates average $100 each.  When millions of Americans open the letters, I’m sure that the letter opener most likely be either the male or female head of a family.  I’m sure that the rebates for single people will be less than the rebates for families.  No, President Obama didn’t say millions of American families opened letters, but I don’t think what he did say was too much hype.  — This is a matter of opinion, not an actual fact.

The fact is that millions of rebates will be sent out this summer and that the average of these rebates is around $100.

But wait…there’s more!

Fact Check, also, takes issue with the fact that President Obama didn’t mention that a lot of these rebates are going to businesses.  In fact they say just that:  “But the more glaring omission is an acknowledgment that a lot of this money goes to businesses, not individuals.”  I don’t see the problem in this, either.  Even if the employer gets the rebate, it has to be used to benefit the employee.  In fact, Fact Check even quotes the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as saying such, ” if you bought your insurance through your employer, your employer must use the rebate for your benefit.”  I don’t really understand their problem with the hype in this case.

I think the main point in all of this is that the Affordable Care Act is to some extent causing people and businesses to save money on their health care insurance premiums.  Second to this is that it didn’t cause premiums to go up, as the opposition claimed it would.

 

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WiscNet – Why should you care?

I received the following email from Senator Vinehout.  Because WiscNet is providing low cost high speed broad band to Wisconsin schools and libraries.  AT&T thinks this is unfair, even though it WiscNet followed the rules and came out as the lower bidder.  We’re supposed to save money – not spend the most.  The members of our legislature need to remember that they work for the people of Wisconsin.  And, we’re fed up with them caving to special interests like scared children.

 

Bowing to Political Pressure, UW pulls the plug on WiscNet
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“It’s a sad day when political pressures from telephone company lobbyists keep us from working together? It’s frustrating, yet fascinating,” read a recent statement from WiscNet officials. At issue is the decades old relationship between the University of Wisconsin and WiscNet and whether, despite separating from UW, WiscNet will be allowed to contract with the University to provide internet services.

The internet was developed by researchers and education institutions. The Department of Defense and many universities contributed to its creation. To this day universities share data on super-fast connections created and maintained through cooperative efforts of the universities themselves.

WiscNet was a natural outgrowth of work at the UW and its desire to share the internet with public and nonprofit entities. At least 38 other states have similar research and education networks. Many networks operate under the auspices of the state universities and today continue to provide services to local county and municipal governments, health care institutions, libraries and schools.

The thinking is: sharing services lowers the cost of government.

WiscNet evolved into a nonprofit that served 500 members including three quarters of public schools, all libraries, technical colleges, state agencies, the legislature and the court system. A 2012 Legislative Audit Bureau report showed WiscNet accomplished its goal to bring low-cost internet to public entities. WiscNet fees were substantially lower than published commercial prices especially for high bandwidth users. The audit also showed the network functioned in ways that revealed its UW parentage – sharing staff and using the UW personnel, benefits and accounting systems.

WiscNet’s success attracted the attention of commercial telecommunications companies, especially AT&T. The telecommunications giant is a big player. AT&T spent almost $1 million lobbying state legislators in the last session with 21 lobbyists working on their behalf – more than half were employees. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, last year the company spent $17 million nationwide and ranked 10th out of over 4,000 organizations that lobbied in 2012.

Lobbyists found fertile ground in the State Capitol for germinating their argument that the public sector should not compete with the private sector. Slipped into the 2011-13 budget was a provision that stopped the UW from being a partner in WiscNet. But internet services provided to the UW could still be competitively bid and – presumably- if WiscNet won the bid in open competition they could be awarded a contract like any other company.

This is exactly what happened this spring – in an open and competitively bid process, WiscNet was awarded a contract to provide services for the UW Madison. Part of the justification for this selection was that WiscNet’s initial equipment cost was 85% less than AT&T’s bid. The university claimed it was following the Supreme Court decision that “insures[s] that the public receives the best work or supplies at the most reasonable price”.

In June, AT&T threatened the University in a letter. The UW responded noting they followed the letter of the law in the procuring services from WiscNet; but would be withdrawing their award to WiscNet citing “business and political considerations—including the potential for ongoing appeals, litigation and legislative changes”.
Instead of competitively bidding services, UW Madison will now “begin transitioning to the operation of our own network.” This action prompted the Senate and Assembly higher education-related committees to call a public hearing to further delve into operations at the UW.
All the uncertainty surrounding WiscNet concerns many local superintendents. I spoke with a few local schools districts and learned some schools are ending their relationship with WiscNet and others are leery about the future and looking for options.  One local Instructional Technology Director said he was watching carefully and wondering if his job truly was to bring the lowest cost, best service to his school district.
People complain about the cost of government and encourage schools and local governments to work together. But when the 8,000 pound gorilla shows up in the Capitol and complains they can’t win a bid, often legislators are too eager to change the rules.
Things have gone too far when big companies threaten the state because they’ve lost a bid.

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Indiana’s Unconstitutional Anti-Gay Law

According to Indiana law, which will take affect next July 1st, breaks the separation of church and state in a manner that is shocking:

IC 31-11-11-5
Solemnization of marriage in violation of this article
 Sec. 5. A person who:
(1) is authorized to solemnize marriages by IC 31-11-6; and
(2) solemnizes a marriage in violation of this article;
commits a Class C infraction.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

In other words, if you are legally capable of performing marriages in the State of Indiana and you perform a gay marriage, you commit a Class C infraction (“A person who commits a Class C misdemeanor shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of not more than sixty (60) days; in addition, he may be fined not more than five hundred dollars.*“)  Really? And, two sections down, there’s this:

IC 31-11-11-7
Solemnization of marriage between persons prohibited from marrying
Sec. 7. A person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying by IC 31-11-1 commits a Class B misdemeanor.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

If you perform a gay marriage, you commit a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine*. I’d like to mention that this is not only against the Constitution of the United States of America – it is, also, hypocritical. One of the right-wing arguments against gay marriage is that it is against their religion (which isn’t true).  But, if they believe in religious freedom, how can they possibly support a law that restricts religious freedom?

Oh, who am I kidding?  Anti-Gay people would give up their own freedom in order to harm gay people.  They’re truly crazy!

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Obamacare and unAmerican Companies

Here’s a quick, yet truthful thought.  Every large company that is announcing cutting employees’ hours to avoid paying healthcare for them isn’t a company that should be held up in esteem.  It is a company who should be avoided as much as possible and derided for being unAmerican.

It is time the profit hogging corporate types and Wall Street bozos start taking care of business and the American Worker.  You break your back for forty years, do you get a pension?  Hell no, you probably don’t even get a watch.  You get a 401K that isn’t worth shit if the banks and Wall Street screw with the economoy, like they did in the run up to the crash of 2008.

Our health care system needs  a lot of changes.  We spend more than nearly every other developed country and, yet, we’re sicker than ever.  Part of this is that we don’t take care of ourselves and part of it is that companies don’t take care of employees.

I have healthcare.  I happen to have a skill set that will remain in demand probably until the day I die and beyond.  I am blessed because of this.  Many people – in fact, the majority of people – are not blest as I am.  I will not have to worry about health care, because I’ll never have to work for a company that doesn’t offer it.  Even when I worked as a contractor, because of my earning power and salary, I was offered health care paid for by the company – that doesn’t happen often in contracting jobs.

Don’t blame President Obama for forcing companies to do what they should’ve been doing all along.  The CEO has health care.  The President of the company has health care.  So should the workers on the floor who actually perform the duties that keep the company going.

The Republicans don’t understand this.

Fox News doesn’t understand this.

The people in the red states don’t understand this.

We do the work, we should reap the benefits.  The guy on top – he didn’t dig that ditch, put that car together, bake that pizza – the guy on top is receiving the big salary made possible by YOUR hard work.

Don’t forget that.

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So Called Christian Right

So, you joined a group that is fighting for freedom, but all it’s really doing is fighting gay marriage.  And, you vote for a politician because he believes in unfunding Planned Parenthood, again while claiming to be something you’re not – Christian.  You claim that you’re following Jesus, but you vote for politicians who want to make it harder to become a US citizen.  You claim to follow the Constitution, but you want to impose YOUR religious beliefs on the rest of us.

Sad, really.  The whole Taxed Enough Already crowd is full of hypocrites.  The Constitution supports the separation of church and state.  And, no matter how many times some wrong wing person wants to proclaim that we are a Christian nation, we’re not.  This isn’t a “Christian” nation and we weren’t founded on the Christian religion.  We even put that fact in a treaty in 1797.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. ~ Article 11 Treaty of Tripoli

There are groups who dispute the Treaty of Tripoli.  They claim that George Washington never saw it, even though it was written during his administration, and when the Senate heard it Article 11 wasn’t there.  Sigh – sad, isn’t it?

Moving on to the whole point of this which is this: Stop being a hypocrite.  Stop supporting politicians who would rather give a tax break to a billionaire, than feed hungry school children.  If you want to show your love for Christ, then follow what He preached:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:31-40

Everytime a program that feeds the poor or clothes them – offers health care to them or just gives them a hand to help them help themselves is knocked down or cut by a politican, our country moves from Jesus’s right hand to His left hand. We move from being one of His sheep to being one of His goats. And, we all know how that story ended, right?

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25:41-46

I can hear the unrighteous (the ones who think they are righteous) speaking now, “But, I give to charity, so I’m good. We can’t have the government spending that money.” Oh, no? We can’t have the government taking our taxes, which is our money, and giving it to the poor? We can’t have that, but we can use religion to justify your hatred of gays? We can use religion to justify control of what a woman can or cannot do with her own body? We can use religion to go to war? We will vote for a politican who will give that money – our money – to an oil company in the form of a subsidy? But, we can’t take care of the least of us, which Jesus actually commanded?

If you don’t agree with gay marriage, fine – you have the right to your opinion.  If you don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose, fine – you have a right to that opinion, too.  But, don’t claim that your love of Jesus is why you don’t believe in the freedom of others, because you’re full of crap.  I know it and He knows it.

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Shelling Out to Access Your Pay

How would you feel if you had to pay a fee to access the money from your paycheck?  I know I’d be pretty upset.

That’s what’s happening to employees at various companies.  These companies have phased out paper checks or direct deposit and there’s nothing the employees can do about it.  They don’t have a choice, but use the prepaid cards their employers are handing out.

According to an article in the New York Times, “one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.”

This is totally outrageous.  When people complain about regulations, they don’t realize the reasons behind why we have them.  This is a reason.  Companies shouldn’t be cutting costs by so much that their employees have to pay fees in order to receive their own money from their paychecks.

Read the article and decide for yourself if I’m correct.

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Gay Marriage: The Real Inequality

Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.  That means that gay people in states that recognize or have gay marriage will have their marriages recognized.  This is good – for them.

For those of us who are gay, in non-legally recognized marriages and living in the wrong states, nothing has changed.  We still do not have the right to inheritance, hospital visitations and joint income tax returns.  It, also, means we don’t have the responsibilities and protections that marriage offers.

There are legal ways around this.  My wife and I have registered as Domestic Partners, so we have some of these rights.  And, prior to Domestic Partnerships being legal in my state, we had signed power of attorneys for health and legal matters.

BUT…

What we can’t do is file a marriage, filing jointly income tax return.  And, this is what burns my butt.

By myself, I will pay $12,260 in Federal Income Taxes in 2013.  My wife (who earns less than I do) will pay $2,978.  Together, that’s $15,238.  (This is based on the IRS Withholding Calculator.)  Using the same calculator, I calculated what we would owe if we could file as a married filing jointly couple and the amount is $13,901.  That’s $1,337 less than what we’re separately paying now.

I don’t think I’m receiving $1,337 in extra Federal Benefits, do you?  What am I getting for this money?  Why is MY marriage not recognize by the Federal government because a bunch of bigots didn’t want gay marriage nine years ago – and they won. (By cheating, the question was worded so that yes meant against gay marriage and no meant for gay marriage.  I can’t tell you the number of my friends who were happy it passed, because they couldn’t figure out the difference.)

In any case, we have a long way to go.

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Conservative Hypocriscy

When the end of time comes and America falls, we can leave our failures at the feet of the stupid.  I really believe that.  The further along in time we go, the dumber the people of this nation get.  Right after the tragic shooting on Friday, the pro-gun morons (because, let’s face it, those people are morons) are throwing out statements calling for more guns in this country, not less.

Gun ownership is up in this country.  In fact, we own more guns then ever before.  Unfortunately, Mass Shootings are, also, up.  More mass shootings are happening every year as well.

The truth is that more guns owned will not make our country safer.

And, here’s something else:  we don’t just own more guns – we own more assault rifles.  WTF?  Why do we need assault rifles?  What’s wrong with limiting the number of rounds that can be held in a clip?

And, why is it that we ban gay marriage in our state constitutions, but we’ll accept other states’ concealed carry permits?  We want to regulate who can marry and who’s marriages can be recognized, but God forbid we recognize love between two same sex people.

And this is for the assholes who claim that God isn’t allowed in schools:  Kiss my fucking ass!  You people are more concerned with waving banners than protecting children.  Fuck you and your families.  I hope the next fucking asshole who decides “Hey, today’s a good day to kill people”  starts with Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, the fuckhead that runs the AFA and every fucker at the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

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