Hold your head high, kid.

Watching the live Wisconsin recall election returns feels like watching the Superbowl — if the Decepticons were playing against the Justice League. As I type, the score is: Decepticons – 3, Justice League – 2. We’re in overtime, and somebody’s about to win. Big.

The crowd behind MSNBC’s Ed Schultz is clearly rooting for the Justice League, and so am I. As we wait for the final votes to be counted in the race between Sandy Pasch (D) and Alberta Darling (R), a very familiar uneasiness is rearing its ugly head — that head belonging to one Kathy Nickolaus, Waukesha County Clerk.

Perhaps you might remember Nickolaus from the Wisconsin Supreme Court brouhaha in which two days after the results were announced, the clerk miraculously discovered over 14,000 votes she neglected to tally. Rachel Maddow dubbed Nickolaus as “the only famous county clerk in the entire nation.” Once again tonight, the country is on the edge of its seat wondering why in the world Kathy Nickolaus and Waukesha County are unable to count votes in a timely manner using the same voting software and equipment that caused no controversy anywhere else in the state.

Something fishy this way comes. Again.

Behind Ed Schultz stands a young girl holding a sign and an American flag. Earlier in the evening, she seemed hopeful, obviously excited every time the Justice League pulled ahead. Now, as the shenanigans have become apparent in Waukesha County, her face is full of real anxiety.

I remember how this feels. When Reagan won, I was about the same age and cried all night because I was scared that he was going to blow up the planet. (Turns out, he only ruined the middle class.) I wish I could tell this kid that’s it’s going to be okay.

But I can’t…

…because it was just announced that Alberta Darling has won.

Hold your head high, kid. Don’t cry tonight; just keep fighting the Decepticons.

A very special thank you to Wisconsin’s Governor Walker

Dear Governor Walker,

I hope you’re able to read this through all of the racket from those tens of thousands of protesters outside your office doors. Then again, as you reassured Fake David Koch, you’re “used to people yelling” at you. Now there’s the mark of true leadership.

You, sir, are a real conservative, and I know the 27% of Wisconsin voters who *did* make it out to cast a ballot in your favor must be proud. Of course, some of those voters who showed up for your state’s alarmingly low turnout are probably a little peeved about your attempts to sneak some pesky language about eradicating collective bargaining in your budget bill, but, hey, who cares about them now, right? You’re in office, and that’s all that matters. No need to negotiate. You know what’s best for those 27% (minus the ones patrolling around outside your office who claim they’d like to take back their ballots now). They have “obviously been asleep for the past eight years.”

Get ’em, tiger.

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, I reveled in hearing stories about how you’re such a conservative rock star that you still drive a 1998 Saturn with 100,000 miles on it. That’s an accomplishment. Not just any politician serving in elected office with a wife and two young kids at home can get away with driving less than 20 miles a day. Wisconsin is only 66,000 square miles. It’s not like you can see Russia from there like Sarah Palin can from her state. Besides, why in the world would anyone in his/her right mind ever want to elect a leader who travels outside of his ritzy neighborhood? That would be ridiculous.

The other day you said you didn’t want Obama sticking his nose in your business. Who does this Barack Obama think he is — the President of the United States? YOU ARE THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN. What could a guy like Obama possibly have over you — a Nobel Peace Prize?  Well, you’ve got a freaking Saturn with a hundred thousand miles on it! He’s got a stoopid degree from Columbia and another useless piece of paper from…what’s that place? Oh, Harvard. Whatever. You didn’t even need a degree to rise to the apex of Wisconsin politics! He’s only got 309,000,000 citizens to worry about. You’ve got, like, at leeeeast five million — maybe six with all the new corporate business you’re anticipating from union busting. You’re right; don’t listen to him. That Obama dude is totally unqualified to even be in the same room with you.

You know who you should listen to, though? Texas Governor Rick Perry! There’s a guy who has REAL experience in screwing teachers who aren’t even unionized. Plus, he’s got a $27,000,000,000 budget deficit in a state where he’s served as the highest ranking elected official for over a decade. I’m so glad his flip-flopping, Republican-slash-Tea Partying bohiney is supporting you on Newt Gingrich’s I’m With Stupid website. You must be over the moon about finding a conservative powerhouse like Newt to tout your cause. It’s not every day that a check-kiting, ethically sanctioned former Speaker of the House will stand up and yodel your praise on every corner of the internet. Have you gotten a quote from Scumbag Steve yet? You could be Master of the Universe with a Perry-Gingrich-Scumbag trilogy behind you. Need to get on that, Smithers.

If I had to pinpoint the one item for which I’m most grateful, Governor Walker, it’s that you have really brought unions into the spotlight again. What a relief. Most people in the Right-to-Work states had forgotten what those even were! Remember when you wistfully compared what you’re doing to the Reagan Presidency? Well, don’t get carried away. Even Reagan had a union card (not that it meant anything to him, of course, but he had one). I think people need to know how irrelevant unions are since the world is a perfect place now that you’ve been God of Wisconsin for a month and a half. You’ve shown the globe that US workers aren’t willing to stand up for their ridiculous beliefs if you don’t include those silly marches on your capitol, the Twitter Army, the petitions, and the busloads of supporters who’ve ruined your peace and quiet since you got back from the Superbowl. Why should they protest for their ideals, anyway? You’re in charge, and it doesn’t matter if the people who voted in your state are rallying to negotiate. Yours is a totalitarian regime — I mean, Conservative Extremist regime, sorry — and they’re gonna have to just take your word for law. The end. “It’s for the good of the taxpayers [and the Koch brothers].” If the unions are there to protect the workers’ rights, how will you and your campaign financiers ever raid the poor and give to the rich? People in this country died, were beaten, and lived in danger for the sole purpose of advancing American labor rights. No big deal. I think we’re all past that. Who cares? Forget about it. Greedy workers.

Good luck on those layoff notices you’re mailing out next week. I’m sure when your kids ask you about that, you’ll have just the right thing to tell them while still maintaining your status as their conservative uber hero. Come to think of it, you’ll probably have appropriate wisdom to share with all the children of the working families you’re about to lay off: “Well, your moms and dads were state employees who didn’t support me like some of the other public unions, and so I had to parade around in my vanity suit a bit. Sorry you guys lost your house, but your parents almost cost me the Wisconsin election last year.” How are you planning on counterbalancing the cost of all that unemployment? Maybe Rick Perry will loan you the three billion he sucked from Texas education into its Rainy Day Fund. That’ll show those uppity teachers in both states!

On a final note, sending Sarah Palin to rile the troops was not your best move. We can’t trust Communists or Socialists or Amazons or Moose, and she can see them all from her backyard. Too close to the enemy, Scott.

Good luck with that Madison police chief who’s all up in your grill after that phone call you had day before yesterday with Fake David Koch. Yikes. I’m sure there are five gazillion Creationists begging for God to send you an angel to help with this mess. They must be feverishly sending 20th generation, emergency prayer FWD FWD FWD FWDs to everybody who’s ever mistakenly given them an email address. Never fear (unless you end up dealing with that fallen angel with the horns and the red face paint).

In solidarity — wait — you know what I mean,

KK

 

 

Maintaining testicular fortitude: a referential reminder for heroes on the verge of giving up

To Whom It May Concern, Heroes, and Otherwise:

Illustration by Jon Keegan

Illustration by Jon Keegan

Tyranny. My beloved F12’s word bible widget defines that as “cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control.” Sometimes, when we fear something for so long, we just accept it. That doesn’t work for me. Tyranny has no success rate, so why bother?

With the heaviest of hearts and knowing I’d be forever blacklisted, I begged you to examine the plight of one laid off employee: a worker who performed her duties to the extreme satisfaction of the “shareholders,” someone who willingly worked incredibly long hours at a severely reduced rate in comparison to that of her male counterparts, someone who was two months away from being vested in her pension, a full time worker who was replaced by a less skilled junior employee who was hired to work part time hours. On a personal level, I noted the laid off employee faced grave financial prospects should she, her three children, and husband, who is a stay-at-home parent, be forced into foreclosure — something totally avoidable should the employee receive entitled benefits and payment from vacation time earned. 

It was overwhelming. 

“I am so angry, so affected by this decision. It seems like a vindictive step backward. It is not supposed to be like this,” I told you right before I broke down and cried out of desperation and frustration and panic at the reality of what the company in question had executed. 

I believe you were sincere when you said: “In life, things don’t always happen the ways they should or the ways we would like for them to be, but that’s just how it is,” but I disagree. A lot. Here’s why:

I belong to a labor union, and what you’re placating violates every basic tenet of unionism. My brain is wired to instantly alert me to this kind of weird, Montgomery Burns, corporate bullshit because it would never fly with any decent union representative. Laying off good employees in order to fulfill personal vendettas is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Or drowning kittens because they’re too cute. Or something like that. It just doesn’t add up to anything logical, and therein lies my concern.

tyrannyjef

It shouldn’t have to be like that, and it won’t, so I gave you my Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., soapbox speech. As everybody who is not living under a rock in a remote cave knows, King believed in and preached “character rather than color” during a volatile time in American history when people were afraid to speak against racist tyranny. Maybe that’s why he had a Nobel Peace Prize under his belt by the time he was my age. I am willing to bet both arms that MLK was sick of hearing people tell him that “things weren’t the way they should be, but that’s just how it is.” Imagine how fucked up this country would be today if he hadn’t been born with that set of steel cojones. 

In 1920, how many women were heckled as they waited in voting lines to practice their newly acquired 19th Amendment Right?

tyrannyvote

Oppressed by the gender-based tyranny of some, these women bravely fought and died in more than a handful of instances so that I could waltz into the voting booth like it was MINE  (and with my daughter by my side). This didn’t happen forever ago, might I remind you. When my grandmother was born, she wasn’t eligible to vote by default of that nasty double X chromosome problem, which apparently was believed to hinder one’s ability to mark a ballot. These days, my daughter regards stories about women’s suffrage as if they’re cast from the bowels of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The prior discrimination is that unbelievably wrong. All the same, I’m sure someone must have mentioned at one point before that 19th Amendment passed that “it wasn’t supposed to be like that, but that’s just how it is, ladies.”

Yeah.

Tyrannical witness

witness

One of the worst examples of passive acceptance to tyranny was when the United States along with the United Nations stood by as an estimated one million Tutsis were killed in Rwanda by their Hutu rivals, whose sole intent was nothing short of genocide. As if that wasn’t enough, the Hutus raped an estimated 500,000 women and girls routinely as part of an encouraged, public war ritual as they emerged from schools, churches, etc. This wasn’t 500 years ago; it happened in the last decade, people. When did we step forward to answer their repeated pleas for help? When it was too late, that’s when. You know why? Because what was going on over in Rwanda “wasn’t the way it should be, but that’s just how it was.” Furthermore, when the RUF rose to power in Sierra Leone shortly thereafter, did we take heed? Nah, we bought African blood diamonds in record numbers and felt sorry for the terrible situation going on over there, far away on the African continent. We knew it shouldn’t have been that way, but “that was just the way it was.” Luckily, courageous souls came forth and reminded the world, again, that it shouldn’t have to be like that and won’t. It’s not enough — not yet, but is it worth the trouble? It is. Everyday.

I hope your diamond was worth it.

I hope your diamond was worth it.

More candidates for “Shouldn’t Have Been Like That and Aren’t Anymore”:  Salem, Massachusetts; the Holocaust; Integration in Little Rock; American child labor; slavery; lead paint; my marriage. Heh.

Look, all I’m saying is that in the grand scheme of things, refuting the specifics of this layoff? Giving in to what’s right vs. what’s easy? Pfft, small beans in comparison to everything else others before you have been brave enough to battle. Don’t let the insignificance of tyranny drag the genre down for us all. There is a way, but you’ll have to will it. 

It shouldn’t be this way. And it won’t.

 

With respect, support and much optimism, 

Kristan

 

 


FedEx and the Real Price of Those Socks You Bought at WalMart

Featured

With the recent barrage of corporate cutbacks and layoffs nationwide, a new mantra has emerged amongst those of us still employed or suffering from reduced pay cuts: “Well, at least I have a job.”

Oh, gosh. What is the logic in being grateful for the gross financial negligence of upper management? What kind of slave-driving, corporate brainwashing crap is it that we’re buying? We should be mad. And angry. And fed up.

Fred Smith, FedEx’s CEO, recently announced an across-the-board reduction in pay for his workforce. To make it seem fair, Fred’s gonna suffer with the masses through these hard times by slicing his own pay by twenty percent. Man, he sounds like an alright guy, right? Let’s see what Forbes has to add.

According to Forbes’ statistics, which placed Fred Smith as the 51st most-compensated CEO, the esteemed patriarch of the “FedEx family” makes an annual salary of 1.39 million. Well, make that 1.12 million after his humble reduction. I’ll be honest: The guy deserves to make a lot of money. After all, Fred founded FedEx and has spent nearly four decades overseeing it. Being the labor rights advocate that I am, I’d be willing to go as far as to claim Fred’s salary would be an example of “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” Of course, that’s only his salary.

Last year, in the midst of an obvious economic state of emergency, Fred accepted some chump change from the company. Forbes categorized it as: bonus (1.4 mil), other — my favorite (4.34 mil), and stock gains (only 25.07 million). Calculator, please? All in all, Smith made $32,210,000.00.

His drivers, whose pay averages between 20,000 and 51,000 depending on location, are reciting the new mantra, happy they at least have a job. On FedEx’s “Citizenship Blog,” [vomit] a worker wrote this comment in response to Monsieur Smith’s announcement:

Thank you Mr. Smith. I am proud to take the 5% paycut. I’ve only been here 10 years and the main thing I’ve learned is that we (FedEx) is a FAMILY!!! I would rather have paycuts rather than a few of our “family” members losing their jobs. If this decision had come from anyone other than Mr. Smith himself, I’d be worried. I trust Mr. Smith and know that he is looking out for us and our families. To all of you whining about your 5% loss – you’d better thank God you still have a job and thank God we have someone like Mr. Smith watching out for YOUR job. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my FedEx family! [sic]

Smith made roughly 850 times more than the hull of his delivery folks last year. What kind of Kool-Aid are they putting in the water jug up there? When a CEO takes a pay cut, it’s generally not a sacrifice; it’s PR bizwax. PR like this is a good thing when just year before last Fred Smith’s FedEx corporate homeboys were slapped with an official court order by the government to discontinue their labor violations against drivers in California. Don’t take my word for it; see what the National Labor Relations Board had to say.

It’s not just FedEx or Fred Smith’s Empire of Seemingly Corporate Evil. It’s everybody — me, too. We’re cheap and arrogant and possibly ignorant. Combine that with a few incredibly misguided political labor decisions and BAM! Look at where we are now — just happy to “have a job.”

The American labor market is a whole other ball of wax from its unionized inception a century ago. Our jobs have been shipped overseas and farmed out recklessly by both the donkeys and the elephants. “Made in America,” a phrase once indicative of real national pride and loyalty, has shifted into some kind of netherworld obscured by NAFTA and CAFTA and consumer greed. When you’re standing there in Wal Mart at three in the morning in San Diego shopping for underwear and socks which you forgot to pack in Dallas, chances are you’re gonna nab the cheapest products without caring where they were made or by whom.

That’s when you should think about this article and others like it, which discuss the direct links between offshoring for profit, layoffs, and the effects both have contributed to weaken the economy. (Of course, you might also consider the ten year-old Filipino kid who possibly made the socks you bought at three am from WalMart — a labor violation in THIS country as well as a human rights issue, but let’s take it one step at a time here, shall we?) This new reality hits us in the wallet in the sneakiest of ways, too. You might believe a company like FedEx would be incapable of sending American jobs outside their scope of delivery, but you’d be forgetting the small details, which add up to large problems for all of us. For instance, FedEx would rather let the cheap Airbus brand bank off of US delivery dollars than put that cash back into its own economy by boosting up more orders from American based Boeing.

We are getting what we paid for now. Those unbelievably low prices are costing us our jobs.

colleencrosby

Colleen Crosby as Rosie the Riveter (http://www.project-insomnia.com/colleen/Rosie/rosie.html)

How are we going to fix this mess? I still think unionization isn’t a bad thing in principle. In fact, I have seen it work for me much more than I haven’t. Good unions create a system of checks and balances. However, it’s time for them to really step up their game. Seriously. All of them. Locals need to quit behaving like every day is election day and focus once again on maintaining regular progress for  American labor as a whole. Members must abandon entitlement and remember they’re paying for a cause and a contract, not a birth right. Additionally, there are so many ridiculous, legal stipulations for organizing that workers have their hands tied unless there are good programs with proper funding. It’s all possible, but the movement desperately needs some real labor messiahs to lead it in the right direction — brainiacs who care about the future of workers in this nation, who understand tactics beyond the paint thinner and tire slashing stereotypes as well as how to regain public trust intelligently.

FedEx employees have been targeted for unionization for quite some time, and its employees really need to start paying attention now to the impending FUBAR situation. After having read many of the comments on the official FedEx threads, I felt such sadness for their plight. They’re warned not to associate with unions because “all unions want are their money.” Well, duh. Unions want you to pay dues, yes, because people shouldn’t have to work for free. I know how that goes; I paid dues simultaneously to two different unions at one point. One contract was terrible and not enforced properly by the world’s worst agent. The other was beyond amazing. I was happy to dole out dues to both, though, because even in the worse case scenario I was getting a better deal than most. What are you paying for? The negotiation of your future. Your insurance benefits. Your pension. Your raises and rates. Your vacation and option time. Mandated progressive disciplinary programs. Representation. Healthy and non-violent work environment. If that’s not enough, what do you want?

FedEx folks and others have also been frightened by their companies’ claims of corruption within the unions. Oh, THAT again. Thanks, Hollywood. Of course, there’s gonna be corruption. It’s everywhere: churches, school boards, city councils, the Girlscouts, charity groups, tax-evading Joe the Plummers, the Democrats, the Republicans, and so on. I can’t think of anything that could escape potential misconduct without proper effort and enforcement. Members get the leadership they elect. Corruption is a by-product of apathy. If unions weren’t such a huge threat to the wallets of corporate executives, they wouldn’t be regulated as heavily as the pharmaceutical industry. When you get down to it, corruption is not fueled by some guy wanting to fight for the right to leave his work station to use the toilet without fear of being fired. Really.

The bad guys are the ones who want to outsource and offshore labor. They’re not the ones who have to take a five percent cut in pay while their boss makes 32 million dollars. Union evil isn’t the root of corporate failure. Corporate failure is the root of corporate failure. (Read: Don’t blame bailouts on the UAW. Auto workers have been wailing about financial mismanagement for decades.)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a labor activist and a most decent man. He died fighting for fair labor. In fact, he was attending a sanitation workers’ rally for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters when he was assassinated. I don’t think a lot of people my age realize it now, but this was King’s biggest plight. He knew safe working conditions, equal rights and equal pay were what people needed in order to help strengthen the core of this nation. And he was right, wasn’t he? Eh, FedEx, et al,  listen and learn from history, will you? As with anything else, left unattended labor will wax and wane. With your help along with that from others, we could really cultivate King’s garden and make fruit of this economic madness. Finally.

“Well, at least I have a job.”

Dr. King, can you hear our people now?