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(A fair wage for every employee, even for municipal workers, is truly one of the best things any community can hope for.)

I  joined the CWA, Communications Workers of America, in 1995 as a Steward in the local 3170 branch representing the Alachua County Library. I faced a learning curve to get up and over for sure. But eventually I sat in enough negotiations, read enough contracts,  met enough people and found my footing within the group.

After my second year as a Steward I ran and was elected for a three year term to be the head of the Library District’s union, making me a VP in the larger CWA group called local 3170. I ran two more times and served in this capacity for a total of ten years. During this time I organized our contracts, sat as part head of negotiations for all benefits of our  workers and also defended every nut case difference that came up between workers and administration within the library district. I tried to settle all grievances fairly. I felt being previously  an owner of my leather shops for 14 years and then being employed as a Mall  store manager for five years might help me to see each side of every conflict, or grievance, fairly. This was my aim.

I quickly found the  workers I helped to represent were facing boards, administrators, who were either made up of elected county officials or  made up of people appointed to these positions by those same elected officials. My first real awakening came when I began to think some,  just some,  people who were deciding on what salaries should be for many of our county workers couldn’t tell  a hammer from a water pipe, not a high voltage wire from a telephone pole, a house from a mansion, a pot hole from a curb or a book from a wrench. I felt this could be  problematic. Luckily, the director of our library district at that time did too. She had, in fact, asked the CWA if they would become a representing Union for her own Library district! This is how bad it was……

You see basically  the governing board of our library was,as I have said, made up of elected officials. They wanted to be re-elected and they also knew the community liked the Libraries. But they also knew the library buildings  were not going to disappear no matter what they did or didn’t pay the people who worked in them. Raise requests, even from the library director, were hard to get through the board. To be fair, Florida had not yet seen the huge increases of property values which would later lead to greater tax collections at that time. But one  influencing factor in all of the prevailing causes of the low  wages paid in Alachua County during the 1990’s, I would think, was what these board members thought was actually  in their best interest: they wanted newer buildings, shinier sidewalks leading up to them and more items for check out along with more open hours at each Library  location. So just how bad did it get?

By the time I took over as head negotiator in 1997 the pay scale in the Alachua County Library District and in most of Gainesville’s  needed municipal units were on a tilt, a bad one. My Stewards Ruth and Bill got to work. What we found after three years of analyzing and collecting data was Gainesville had a CPI ( consumer price index)and cost of living , (COL),equal to most of Florida’s major cities, falling only3% behind Fort Lauderdale,while being equal to Orlando, Tampa and Miami. So it cost as much to live in Gainesville as it did most other areas  of Florida at that time! Yet our Librarians were being paid a full 38% below the States average pay for these same Library positions held in these other city libraries. That’s a tough sled. It made the Alachua County Library District a revolving door for many talented Libraians who left for better employment.

Really, I’m thinking mostly due of politics, the pay range in Alachua county was so bad in comparison to other counties in Florida every municipality in our city  was facing similar impossibly low pay grade ranges as well. But no one, in politics or not,  gives politely when they are asked to yield  to an economic stream they don’t want to go down. Oddly, I have to say I thought most of the other side of any table I sat at during my years as a CWA negotiator was filled with mostly good hearted people-all exceptions excluded. But people  have their own personal interests and goals to consider so nothing is ever as black or white as you hope it might be. Especially, when it comes to money.

Fortunately, with a huge effort by my Steward Bill and with the corroborative effort of other CWA officials, , we were able to document a wrong and convince our local boards to try and fix it. The first 3 year contract I signed had a 18%  raise for Librarians in conjunction with  three years of a  2% COLA(cost of living adjustment)each year along with 3  years of paid for performance raises of 5,4 or 3% . The next three year contract contained a 10% raise, the same COLA and the same paid for performance raises. The end result of these six years was our Librarian wage fell approximately just 6-8% below the current state average. Eventually, in my last three year contract, we got up to even with the state average in pay for our workers. It would be amiss to not mention during the same years we, the CWA Union,  won benefit rights for significant others, extended family definitions for the sake of bereavement, increased the over all accrual of earned time off for all employees ( an accrual improvement that was later cutback for new  first five year employees) and added an optional Holiday each year  for all employees.

In addition, after three years of study and gathering statistics we, the CWA, was able to change sick leave and vacation time all into one leave bank called PTO for each employee. This change gives the employee a right to their earned  time off without strings attached to it , strings like-just how sick are you?  The successful bargaining during these years at the table for the library district and  with Gainesville’s other Municipal contracts was a result of a huge effort on many people’s part.Truthfully, the time and effort spent  on making  these changes happen was well worth it.

A fair wage for every employee, even for municipal workers, is truly one of the best thing any community can hope for. Remember, we’re all neighbors. We all need water, power, places to study and roads to travel on. I have seen it first hand, over twelve years, how there is a definite need for contract negotiations to take place between the elected officials and the  private workers or municipal workers of any city. All workers need a voice, a clout, or a way to right wrongs in their community whether these wrongs have developed out of mistakes from past decisions or from out and out wrong doings.

If we lived in a fair world then municipality workers might not need to have the right and ability to negotiate every aspect of their jobs-but me? I haven’t found that world yet. Does anyone really want an elected official to tell them what their family should be able to afford to eat? And then have these same elected officials authorize to pay for building all of your  town’s new Wal-marts  store’s needed infrastructure with your tax dollars? Not so much.

So in a nut shell….Governor Walker is trying to bust the union in his state-Wisconsin-trying to end the right of municipal workers,teachers and alike, to negotiate pay raises. At at the same time he is offering tax incentives to outside businesses to encourage them to come and build in his city. I’ve read these business incentives are equal to the amount of money he is trying to not pay his teachers…

We need unions…we did in the   1930s,,and we do now. Meanwhile, please enjoy your up-coming weekend off, another right the  Unions won for you.

Franque

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( I’ve received over 50 comments on this post–I’ve posted what I could. they are interesting, diverse and thought provoking.) franque23

 

Make no mistake about it. The one issue in Wisconsin this week is the attempt of Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker to remove the Unions right to bargain for ALL benefits, not just some.

All the other issues brought to the forefront of this struggle now, the hours, wages, benefits, all of the work conditions are secondary, just a bait and switch move by those who want to destroy the Unions in this country. You see to keep negotiations as it is, to keep the process now called interest based bargaining that is currently used by unions when meeting with management, ensures all issues will be bargained for in good faith. The middle class loses its chance for meaningful dialogue with the ruling class if it gives up it’s right to bargain for all working conditions.

My wife notes Wisconsin governor (and the new Republican regimes) are seizing control and enforcing their agendas using the reasoning that they were elected so this is what the people want. Yet when Obama was elected by a 67% margin during our last Presidential Election these same Republicans became obstructionists, refusing to cast a single vote for programs President Obama brought forth during his first two years in office? These same self-serving elected officials ignored the will of the people through the electoral process then by doing so. Now? They say their election to office means what they think should happen. Odd, but also, unfortunately, typical.

No matter if you voted for tea party runners or not, it’s time to write your representatives if these officials are taking your state to dark places like pushing for the loss of  bargaining rights for workers or like turning down a 90% Federally funded transportation system. The pen (can be) mightier than the sword, if used.

You can do it. We can make a difference. America is the largest middle class experiment in the history of Mankind. It’s one that should keep going on through due process, through working people having a right to bargain for every aspect of their jobs. Period. Write(e-mail) yours and Wisconsins Representatives on this matter.

Franque

PS. Please note: I was head negotiator for CWA( Communications of America) Union for 10 years at my Library district. I was re-elected to office a total of 3 times to serve for 3 year terms each time. I also served 3 additional years as Union steward.  I know evil has many bedfellows. But the right to bargain is a fundamental right the America worker must protect at all costs.


A grand Old House

(Avatar Magic, by Gerald Franquemont, is on Kindle and downloadable to most computers and reading devices.)

I remember my days as a child when my family would visit Sagamore Hill, the three – storied home of  Theodore Roosevelt. It’s simple, there was nothing so about it. Ha!  Many of the walls of the great sunken living room were adorned by huge animal heads the likes of which I’d only seen or heard of in books.  Menacing bear, tiger, and lion skins lay on the floors looking as if they might rise and pounce at any moment. Hard wood floors and large stairway banisters were all protected from the bright light of day by layered white laced curtains. These all helped to accent the many  large oil paintings hanging on the walls throughout.

Living Room to run around in until caught doing so

Nice rugs-hope they don’t bite

In the rear of this stately mansion was the kitchen, backed by what appeared to be a wood shed. Behind this was an ice house and finally, further off, stood buildings I thought to be where the everyday help lived-they were small, windowed wooden shacks not more than twenty by twenty as I recall. But  the most impressive feature  of all  was the houses’ view  of the harbor-one stretching out below this hill top location as far as the eye could see. Sail boat’s white sails flickered in wind as they scooted left or right across  the bay. To the right of this panorama stood a trellised  grapevine arching  over a walk-way offering a bench or two to sit on.  I was told it was here the President  used to like to sit  during the late afternoon hours.

Right here!

I’m guessing back then visits to this house and others like it conjured up memories in my parents of a time gone by. Of course these times were shaken from our realities by World WAR, hardships, and perhaps by a better understanding of the limited world wide supply of goods, not to mention African Animals. I could only stare at this home wondering how ever was it all possible? Not that my home was any less then middle class. Actually I often thought of my family as being upper-middle class as I grew up. Still it was apparent to me, even as a small child, something had been lost along the way of prosperity-so I thought.

It is at best bizarre to think of the home I raised my children in when compared to the one I enjoyed as a child growing up. I almost have to laugh thinking if only I could have  transported my 7,6 and 4 year old back into my childhood home! So much of what they might see there in my childhood home back in the 1950’s would be strange to them.  Perhaps my home life would seem as different to their home experiences  as I thought  the things I saw at Sagamore Hill were different from my life  so long ago. Oh, the things you’ll see!

The milkman usually beat everyone to our doorstep in the morning, though there was an egg man too who I never really saw much. Men would come to our door almost weekly to sell throw rugs, cleaners and most regularly the Fuller-Brush Man would show up too. The doctor came if you were sick; the knife sharpener drove his truck by clanging a bell as he passed. We could all run out and watch as he sharpened parents and neighbors knives on a big wheel he peddle pushed in circles. For my dad there was a beer man who also brought the soda I loved to drink. All these products, services and more were brought right into our community, right by our houses lining streets full of children playing upon hand chalk-drawn hopscotch boards or stick ball. But most of all, at least to me and the rest of my friends who had never heard of after school care, there was the ice cream men-two of them. And we all knew which one we liked better.

Now who  first called the JUDY ANN ice cream man, “Judy Ann the garbage man” ,and rounded us up to chase this truck down our block until he was off it I just don’t know. But  my whole group of six or so did regularly do this. I still remember the day this driver actually stopped his truck much to our chagrin. He got out, walked on over to us and asked: “WHY do you do this to me?”  Funny at the time I don’t think any of us knew for sure, so this was a hard question to answer. I vaguely remember all of us running away from him as though a swarm of bees were attacking us.

But if truth be told I think the charismatic personality of Bud, the GOOD HUMOR MAN, was the main cause of the Judy Ann’s ice cream truck drivers nightmares on our block. We all just loved this man Bud. Heck, I’d even spend the six silver dollars my Grandma gave me on buying ice cream from this man over his protests against me doing so-Bud even offered to run a credit for me instead as I recall. But I was insistent-he should take the silver dollars. Boy-am I happy about this decision now! Not.  Anyway, there was more proving this Bud man was a miracle PR person.

You see as much as I and my friends chased the Judy Ann the Garbage Man out of town we all knew he had, in fact, the best Italian ices going. Yeah on a hot summer day these Italian Ices could challenge any nutty buddy, chocolate eclair or coconut pop sticks the Good Humor Man had to offer.  The bottoms of these Italian ice cups got all crystallized into a sweet syrup, so good for growing young children.  But maybe, and I’d like to think it, our different reactions to these two different ice cream men was all about heart.

It was an odd day, an end of an era for me when Bud, the Good Humor Man, showed up at our kitchen door. He came telling my Mom he had quit the route. He said my mom shouldn’t let her children eat the Good Humor Ice cream any more. I was standing right there hearing him explain the company had turned from all natural ice creams products to artificial additives. He was upset-he said others had quit their routes too in protest. He hoped the company would change their mind and go back to a natural product. This all had to take place around 1958ish or even earlier.

Of course, the company changed nothing as far as I know and Bud became a past memory from my childhood. He’ll never really understand how much his daily rounds, ice creams and smiles meant to me and to all my friends as we ran out of the house flagging him down on hot, sunny afternoons. He used a special sequential ring of his truck bells I still recall today.  I’m sure, if my brother were alive today, he could recall this ringing tune with me ring for ring. So many whiffle ball games interrupted by special ice cream pops. Our dog, Socks, always guarded the whole process no doubt waiting to lick the pop- sickle sticks or ice cream cups as well.

In these days our communities were busy places-full of street playing children, full of servicemen, full of  mothers who stayed home and full of times gone by……..2/17/11 you should have seen 2/17/57.

Brothers with our dog Socks–

Break time from baseball-

Franque

http://www.nps.gov/sahi/index.htm


a 14 foot long front view of tracks to freedom

In the middle 1860s people secretly moved themselves almost as cargo might ship  from the Southern States of the US to a more promising life in the North. Only these people had no safe containers to travel in and no legitimate avenues to travel on. The passage ways these people took to attain what they hoped would be a better life came to be known as The Under Ground Railroad. There were no transportation tickets for slaves to buy, no planes for these people to catch.

Several years later many of  these same people would help America build its actual railroads-ones leading to the west.

Free to help build our country

The wooden crossties, railroad ties, were approximately 8 and 1/2 feet long weighing up to 200 pounds each. Still, many people worked all the live long day laying track. And you know many of these workers knew some of the very people who had once enslaved them might even ride on these very same rails.  Still, they worked to lay tracks out west.

And they made it happen

But all this track laying and celebration came after the building of the Under Ground Railroad. The ones lucky enough to move on this railroad traveled daily in fear of being  beaten, shot or hung if caught. Their stays along the way while traveling this railroad consisted of secret back rooms, damp cellars, barns, farmer’s fields and isolated woods. Food came as it could-not from a shelf in a store but as it was caught, given  or stolen. It is certainly a world experience hard to imagine while living in today’s life full of supermarkets, luxury homes and cars. But mostly it is a world hard to imagine while living in a society with comparative freedoms as we do in the US now. Thankfully times have changed.

It is odd to think that a real likeness to this same image, the past image of an imaginary railroad that led people to safety and to freedom,  is perhaps the same real existing thing that could once again lead American people out of a sort of bind. You know-a freight train today can move one ton  of goods 436 miles on just one gallon of fuel! Just imagine if all our commerce moved on our rails today? How much freedom from the  price structures of gasoline would this afford the American people today?

But wait! Many say our rail system is too downgraded to do the work. Well, isn’t there a whole bunch of people running around saying we need jobs? Lets get to work and lay tracks to the future. Others say they don’t want a big government subsidized rail system. Gee…what subsidizes the building and repair of our roads  everyday?

People say ” But no there is no money to rebuild America, to create a high speed rail system now.” Well, lets cry together when remembering the wealthiest in America just beat down a 4% tax increase on their earnings through muscling their way into  Congress. Do you want to know what the tax % was on the 1% of the wealthiest in America when America did and could build the roads and dams we still use today? Drum roll please……90%. Yeah, 90% taxes on the rich helped build this country and the rich stayed rich, even back then at this 90% tax rate—this is how much money our rich actual did and do have.

There is plenty of money to rebuild America. It’s just the ones who have the money won’t spend it on the US, not any more.  We need another type of RailRoad to get this job done.

Mistakes may happen along the way

But we can leave the old days behind and make a new start.

Here’s hoping.  Can we make it happen again?

Franque

*Some pictures from Wigwag.wordpress.com

** I built this 14 foot long track thinking all the time of how far we have come as a society since the days of slavery. A co-worker, Gail, helped with the various photographs we time-lined placed along the track. Enjoy.

2/8/11   WAIT!!! this story just in about a high speed rail in the US. Now we’re talking!

Write all your congressional representatives-America needs to get this done. China already has an excellent high speed rail system in place.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/02/08/biden.rail.network/index.html?hpt=T1


Many people today think our world is obsessed with sex.

But at least today, Super Bowl Sunday, we all take the day off to celebrate just a game between two teams, two teams of might, skill and determination. It all comes down to the plays. Well, ok, the ads too and to be honest, these may or may not slip a little sex into them.  You know the saying: “Sex sells”.

In all, in the most of it, today will be a fun day off from the constant rattling we see and hear about sex in papers, tv shows and on tv.( Hey anyone see the last Victoria Secrets add?-Just saying.)

So there is this: JUST ENJOY THE GAME. Get away from it all. OH and I wonder how many of these phrases will be used by today’s broadcasters?

Let me know if you hear any of these:

Super Bowl highlights-

 

It’s just a matter of inches

 

They’re using the spread formation

 

It’s the two minute drill

 

drive it,

 

jam it,

 

ram it,

 

pound it in there

 

poke it through

 

split the up rights

 

look at the hole they opened up

 

keep pushing

 

its way down in there

 

what a hit

 

what a grab

 

sacked again

 

caught from behind

 

on sides kick

 

there’s a kick for you

 

they’re going one on one

 

illegal formation

 

illegal use of the hands

 

he shanked it

 

there’s a measurement coming up

 

too many men

 

He’s looking for his tight end

 

there’s one for the books

 

a minute can take forever

 

we’re all tied up

 

What a spanking

 

Clearly, this is out of bounds

 

what a blow out

 

he, might, go, all, the, way

 

score!

 

Touch Down

 

What a game!

 

Have fun!

Franque

 


10)    I recently decided to wash the single hair left on my head as I showered. I usually use plain soap for this but today my wife’s words are echoing off the tub, “Use shampoo-it’s better.” I reach down and grab a  friendly looking bottle of shampoo as the shower water gushes over my head and face. I clear my eyes of the water torrents just enough to see the label reads; “For extremely moisturizing, long lasting effects.” Great.  My heads nearly 100% under water and what I need now is more Moisturizing? What? After my shower I want this gloppy-goo  to stick on my one remaining hair? One haired people have to be careful what they do to it-just saying.

9)    Statistics show over 50% of the World’s population is paranoid. See?     Denial is REALLY always the first step to recovery.

8)    Me is for worry? The world has over  40,000 nuclear weapons on it today, all in the hands of countries the likes of the US , China , Russia , Pakistan and who knows who else? Some ask how many times over could all this nuclear power destroy the Earth? Me? It’s only the first time that bothers me so much. I’ve read fantasies, some people are odd this way, that if a war happened between the US and China over 30,000 nuclear war heads might be launched before lunch time. This is precisely when the bobbing  and weaving strategy might help out- Quick. Run over there, no here, ah forget it..

7) We are at least in good hands when it comes to our National Security.. Our leaders  think a fence will keep out invading hoards of Ne’er-de-wells. Hey. Wait a minute. Didn’t China start trying that like 2,000 years ago? And then again, wasn’t there some kind of wall or fence put up in Germany-you know , one the US was so happy to take down? I’m thinking it may be time for new ideas. But the truth is the Great Wall of China was constructed more during times of peace then in times of warfare-it really most often was a government run project to keep the people busy, employed so to speak. So that’s what is so neat about our Mexican climbing fence gym-jobs for everyone!!! Oh wait. Darn it. This four million a mile constructed wall of ours was done through no bid contracts.

6) According to some Social Security will go bankrupt as first reported sometime after 2016. I’ve also read estimates placing the date for this occurrence to be sometime around 2022 and most recently by 2032. Still others predict 2050 will be the bankrupt break through year for Social Security while hollering over those who claim Social Security always was bankrupt so it never “will be”. Fortunately all those funds we pay out for our Social Security are locked boxed away from the decision-making power of those who will in all likelihood  never need them. What? That’s not true? Oh crap-so Social Security is maybe an experiment about greed? In truth Social Security is the corner-stone of America ’s middle class building blocks. Those who want to destroy this system are really from Mars-or maybe I read somewhere they are from the mid-west,  someplace cold, I  just can’t remember now.

5) Oh wonderful. We need to get concerned in the US about the rights people living overseas have to demonstrate. If we can just get those people free! Soon thereafter they will be applying for demonstration permits and getting assigned site approvals for them just like we have here.  In the US permitted demonstration sites are well marked off, open to public use and completely out of harms way, and, completely out of sight and hearing of the people we hope to demonstrate against. Here’s my suggestion since you asked: we all need to find demonstrations assigned demonstrating sites located in the Caribbean .  It’s a no brainer! Can you hear me now?

4) Pot is very bad. It leads to things like harder drugs, theft, break and entering and to other things like becoming President of the United States as well.  See? There’s a clear cause and effect working here. Where there is pot, there is smoke, and where there is smoke there is fire. So maybe we should fire  pot law  enforcement in the US ? According to what I read, over 4 billion dollars was spent in the US during 2004 just enforcing pot laws-it is unclear if this includes rehab, jail time and the money it takes to become President after you have tried it.

3) At least Americans know where we stand! Errr, not likely.  Here’s a post I received from a reader just today:

Which country has the worst geographic knowledge?

“According to the National Geographic Society, a survey of 18- to 24-year-olds from nine nations put the United States dead last in general geographic knowledge scores. One in seven — about 24 million people — could not find their own country on a world map. The survey revealed that Americans possess a pathetically poor sense of where they are — much less any knowledge about the rest of the world. And even more alarming, those who participated in the survey were recent high school and college ) .”

So lets be perfectly clear:  No Child Left Behind  has left 24 million completely lost instead!  I guess as long as we can find the bathrooms we might be ok?

2) I hear in three years the interest on the money we owe China will be enough money for China to support their entire Army with. Now that’s worth fightin’ for.

From the article below:

“To put $14 trillion in perspective, our national debt is larger than the total economies of China, the United Kingdom, and Australia combined.”

http://www.defeatthedebt.com/understanding-the-national-debt/how-much-do-we-owe/

Number 1)  Last month this post missed being the top 9th read one on this  blog by one reader.  Thank you you one non-reader you! But I can’t let go without posting my number one question too!

Number 1 Question)  If the minority of Muslims or what have you minorities of any kind in the world  become the majority in any country at some point in the future, will  those who are now the majorities in these countries then become the minorities and get all the benefits minorities now get-like admission standards in schools  etc.? Again, just asking???

Franque-

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