U Is For Unions

When compared to the steady decline in middle-class income over the past 30+ years, a nearly identical, parallel decline in the number of union jobs in this country seems to have an undeniable connection, particularly since organized labor and collective bargaining serve as a great equalizer between employees and employers. Union membership saw its last uptick just before Ronald Reagan took office in January of 1981 and it has declined steadily since, along with middle-class income. Since August, 1981, when President Reagan abruptly fired the striking, unionized air-traffic controllers, unions have experienced a decline in membership, and have seen their representational power at the bargaining table nearly disappear. Coupled with our vanishing middle-class, the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, our halted generational mobility and our economic decent, it is hard to see any winners from the fall of organized labor, unless you count the mega-wealthy and multinational corporations, who have benefited from taxes incentives and trade agreements that have rewarded them for moving good-paying jobs overseas. The losers are lots of skilled workers, much of the middle class and our economy. Corporate lobbyists have fought successfully to weaken workers’ power, suppress wages and eliminate tariffs and tax regulations that protected America-made products. In the long run, everyone is harmed by these short-sighted policies because as workers’ wages fall and their skills diminish, our economy suffers and it becomes more difficult to compete.

A Decline in Unions since Reagan

Reagan’s 1981 firing of the air traffic controllers hushed many unions, as the newly empowered Phelps Dodge and International Paper quickly followed suit, replacing their striking workers. The next great blow to manufacturing, most of which comprised of union jobs, came in 1994, when President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), resulting in the loss of 682,900 manufacturing jobs. Then, in 2004, President Bush signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), from which followed the closing of 40,000 manufacturing plants. According to the National Association of Manufacturing (Nam.org), the U.S. claimed 19.5 million manufacturing jobs in 1979 and 17.2 million today, but union jobs in that sector is down to 9.6% today, from 24.1% in 1979.

More recent efforts to weaken unions and eliminate collective bargaining abilities have occurred in various states, through the “Right to Work” legislation that is now the law in 25 states. This legislation dilutes unions by forcing them to represent and defend non-union employees in labor disputes and even allows those nonmembers to sue the union if theyare dissatisfied with their representation. Other laws have been inserted into the bargaining process to make it more difficult for unions to represent members. For example, a law now requires employees to prove their individual support for their bargaining representative before collective bargaining can begin. This not only slows the process, but it contributes to additional and early conflict among members even before the negotiating can begin.

Prominent Economists Support Strong Unions

According to many economists, the loss of strong, unionized workers hurts business and the economy in the long run. A statement signed by forty prominent economists on February 25th, 2013, called for businesses to help restore unions and cited studies showing that businesses with union employees are no more likely to fail than those with non-union workers. In fact, dedicated, better-trained and well-paid union workers have a greater stake in a company, which helps stabilize businesses, particularly in a recession.

UnionStrikeFurthermore, it is misguided for businesses to view employees as adversarial, when all parties benefit from a profitable company and collaboration. The only businesses that benefit from an adversarial relationship are the vulture capitalists, who profit from using their vast wealth to buy successful businesses, leverage their assets by acquiring debt and then file bankruptcy, reaping great capital gains for themselves, but leaving the carcass of the once thriving business and workers in the dust.

Years of favoring such practices have left a tremendous tear in our economic fabric. The middle-class has been beaten down by wrong-headed policies and their struggle just to survive is evident in the country’s overall decline in competitive innovation and economic standing. They have been burdened by a Federal and corporate income tax structure that favors the ultra-rich and corporations. The deregulation of banking and Wall Street crushed middle-class retirement savings and the value of their homes. But the middle-class has the power to reverse these harmful policies, stop the cyclical recessions, help restore our economy and strengthen our global, competitive strength. When more Americans are well paid and have job security, they stimulate the economy through increased local spending.

Signs of Unions’ Sprouting Rebirth

There was a time in this country when labor was recognized as the driving force behind capitalism, from which grew the great middle class that built this country on “American ingenuity,” making the U.S. the king of industry and innovation. Written into the National Labor Relations’ Act of 1935, was the recognition that business benefits and protects itself “from injury, impairment, or interruption…by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employees and employers.”

There are some hopeful signs that there may be a restored interest in unionizing workers. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement of 2011 demonstrated the need for people to unite in shared economic interests. UnionOccupyAnd the recent protests for better wages by fast-food workers are showing younger and unskilled workers that there is power in the collective. The “Employee Free Choice Act,” which simply allows workers the choice to organize a union through a simple majority, is catching on, too. And, finally, the Affordable Care Act is the first legislation that begins to unchain employers from providing medical insurance to employees, thereby equalizing labor costs with other industrialized countries. The odds are still stacked against workers, but there may be a glimmer of hope that the U.S. will be on the leading edge again. And global competitive factors may force these changes sooner than we may think.

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T Is For Television

I can give up a lot of comforts but not TV. Television has been the backdrop of my life growing up an only child to necessary chatter when I am working around the house. It’s on now. Even though the on-line options for watching shows have changed television viewing for most, including me, there’s nothing like having on that boob tube. It is the backdrop and soundtrack of my life. I confess my TV is my sleep aid, too. Find me an old, familiar show and my mind can settle into slumber.

And, yes, I watched a lot of TV as a kid. Mom didn’t make it my babysitter but I wasn’t restricted, either. As an only child, I learned a lot about life, sibling dynamics and the world from TV. Besides the PBS children’s fare, sitcoms showed me how different families interact and I can still recite commercials from back in the day. I can’t imagine how I would be today without TV.

I know a few people who do not own a television. (I have seven throughout my house, including one in my bathroom.) Now, I have an advanced degree and varied interests. But I love sharing that commonality of TV with friends. When I find out someone is a fan of “The Sopranos,” “Break Bad” or “Mad Men,” I know they appreciate good writing, acting and editing. It’s a wonderful diversion and great conversation.

Sitcoms alone are like my extended family. From the Bradys, the Bundys and the Ricardos, to Roseanne and Dan Conner, Rob and Laura Petrie, Frasier, Niles and Martin Crane and Jerry, Elaine, George anTelevisionLucyd Kramer, these characters are my friends – including Friends! I make no apologies. TV is a free, clean diversion from our busy lives. It brings joy and connects us. It’s relatable. If I say, “VItameatavegamin”, most know I am referring to the classic “I Love Lucy” episode. People born after Lucille Ball died know her. It’s Americana. If I say, “No soup for you!” or “Are you master of your domain?” or “Yadda, yadda, yadda,” almost everyone knows these lines are from “Seinfeld.”

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And when I need a good belly laugh, I can hit YouTube for something in my memory bank like this:

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Roz

Cracks me up every time!

So take my smart phone, if you must. Take my coffee maker. I’ll get by. But keep your hands off that remote!

S Is For Suppression

When some politicians and citizens talk about wanting to take back America, I know some mean specifically from our first African-American president. But for the rest who make this acclimation, since they are almost always white men, I believe what these folks really want is to go back a lot farther in time to a post World War II era or even before the Civil War because those were times when white men dominated unquestionably. If they could just suppress the rest of us again, it would be easier for them, like in the good old days.

I like to study old movies and television for the changes in attitudes toward various classes. It’s pretty shocking sometimes to see how blind we were to bigotry. I wouldn’t want to go back where women had to marry for economic survival, people of color had little chance for educational or professional advancement, people in the LGBT community lived in constant, mortal fear of being outed or people with disabilities simply fell through the cracks.

But I can see how it was simpler when everyone knew their place and different groups kept to themselves. Most had fewer choices but, by playing by society’s rules, one had a degree of certainty in life. Any choice outside the norm automatically marginalized you from association within the acceptable constraints. And white guys with a certain level of social status could be C students and still rise to CEO and even President. But when we began to raise more boats, and expand legal and social protections and college education for lower-income people, women and minorities, it diversified society and our options. More minorities could be all sorts of professionals with advanced degrees, women could remain single, financially independent or even become mothers without being shunned and LGBT citizens could be out, if not fully protected.

I can even see why, if I were a white male, I would like to take it back to a time when I didn’t have to compete with everybody or had the upper hand on other groups. I even understand how scary it might feel to lose that. I just wish those who would like to suppress the rest of us back to 1960 would be a bit more realistic about those not so good, old days.

Mad Men, the drama set in the 1960s, does a brilliant job pointing out the challenges of that Post World War II era. As a single, white female, I can feel that particular restriction the women characters experience as they navigate and conform to avoid ostracization. In the first season, the new girl is taken to a doctor for birth control because it is expected she will sleep with the married men, if the men want it. The divorced woman, or “the divorcee,” is looked upon with suspicion as a “man stealer” by the wives and as a dangerous seductress by the husbands. And in the workplace, the women endure the accepted sexist treatment, which makes being taken seriously about anything an arduous task.

MadMen

Mad Men depicts what it was like for other groups, too, or anyone different from the Anglo male, whether it is someone from Italian or Jewish heritage, the LGBT community, African Americans, the differently able, those divorced, and then had the nerve to speak out of line, be at all aggressive or otherwise behave restlessly in their place,

While it’s not like it was in 1960, there are still enough Neanderthals who wish it were. Since I am a single, white female, I can speak authoritatively from that perspective. I know that feeling of being minimized in words or actions for no other reason than because of my gender. As much as I have had to endure, there is no way I would go back and have to suppress my intellect, independence, humor, style or sexuality As she often does, Gloria Steinem said it best describing the way it still is for our gender. “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon.”

We needn’t look any further to see where the haters are headed since Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy. Has anyone else noticed this is the first presidential candidate who is called my her first name, exclusively? Even George W. Bush was called Bush 41 and “W,” but Mrs. Clinton is Hillary. Now she doesn’t mind because she been navigating through hate for decades and she’s tough. Still, it’s a double standard.

Since her announcement last week, the topic of sexism has gained prominence. Days following her announcement, I tweeted when the #EverydaySexism hashtag was trending and I struck a nerve with the tweet because I got the most favorites, retweets and followers from this one than any other to date:

#EverydaySexism when male coworkers simply ramp up name calling, sexual innuendo if I give better retorts. #CantWin #MadonnaOrWhore”

I think it resonated for many because it’s a truth many of us have lived. The tweet was inspired by years of sexual harassment in the workplace. Yes, it still happens. If I were not female, not single and, in this case, not straight, I would not have faced this treatment. I am not sharing this because I feel like a victim. And it wouldn’t have bothered me if I could have given them my comebacks! But I couldn’t. It’s just reality. I was working in a male dominated setting where I was called a whore by one man every day. “Hi, whore,” was his daily greeting with a full-on grin. And it got old fast when every single time I turned down a meat dish someone brought to share (because I am a vegan), some guy would chime in that I wouldn’t turn down all meat. I never socialized with these men, I was more educated, better dressed and conducted myself as a professional. But I had to build cooperation with these guys so I had no choice but to take it or quit. I had much funnier comebacks but could never say them. Why? Because, as the tweet says, they would turn on me, ramp up the harassment and stop collaborating with me.

What were my unspoken retorts to the sexist men, you may ask? To the, “She’ll eat some meat,” my response was, “Yes, just not dead, aging flesh that rots unless chilled,” You’re right, but only if measures up to my standards,” or, “Yes, if hasn’t been separated from a heart and soul.” I had dozens of lines about the inadequacies of guys who, in this scenario, took a job where they strapped a phallic symbol to their leg, but I’m going to stop here for my personal safety.

R Is For Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner is an American treasure. With a comedy career stretching into it’s eighth decade, where do I begin? First, if you are over six years old and do not know who he is, you have already missed out on added joy in your life. Carl Reiner is one of the inventors of sketch comedy and TV sitcoms. His television presence goes back to the first black and white glimmers in American living rooms as a costar on arguably the most golden show of TV’s “Golden Age,” Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, in which he was part of the comedy gold ensemble with Caesar and Imogene Coca, as a writer and actor. He also created and starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show, still my favorite sitcom. If you have seen it, you might know him as Alan Brady, the arrogant and egotistical star of the fictional show for which Van Dyke’s character writes.

Fast forward to this century and you might know Carl Reiner from Ocean’s Eleven, as the older guy with the “medical event.” He just published his latest book, “I Just Remembered,” and has done the book tour, appearing on Conan, CBS Sunday Morning and Bill Maher. At ninety-five there is not only no slowing down for him, he is as relevant and funny as ever. I follow him on Twitter, although his wit may go over some troll heads. A mind like his is rare and a delightful journey every time he appears. Here he is on Conan, where he coins a new social media term, the selfishie:

If you know what’s good for you, you will follow him on twitter @carlreiner. Here are some of his recent tweets:

Watching the Oscars, I was once again happy, as I was last year, not to hear my name read in memorial.”

If won uses two many homonyms, don’t ewe think it ‘s a might child dish? Eye due and sew should ewe. “

Went to 4 yard sales & not 1 owner would sell me his yard but all wanted me to buy the junk that was in it.”

If Dr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) could not find a way to stay, what chance have we earthlings? “May flights of angels sing him to his rest.'”

Excited to report that the brilliant & witty Bill Maher has agreed to a write a preface for my new bio. Wanted Mark Twain. but unavailable.”

I thoroughly enjoy everything about this man but for me, Carl Reiner’s greatest contribution is the Dick Van Dyke Show. It’s smart, sophisticated and, thanks to Dick Van Dyke, brilliant physical comedy, a template for all future sitcoms. The writing and timing is so impeccable, it’s as funny the first time I see it as it is the fiftieth time. Reiner created and wrote the show, which is based on his real life. The characters bloom with realism and it’s that honesty in the humor of every-day life and the brilliant dialogue that are still so damn funny today.

Besides creating and writing the show Reiner occasionally appeared as Alan Brady, a star of the fictitious Alan Brady Show. In this link, his head writer’s wife, played by Mary Tyler Moore, comes to apologize to him for revealing his baldness on network TV. The comedy timing is incomparable.

Here's the Dick Van Dyke scene where Carl Reiner as Alan Brady deals with having is baldness revealed on national TV:
Click link above to watch the Dick Van Dyke scene where Reiner, as Alan Brady, deals with his baldness exposed:

Please indulge me a bit more with sharing a couple of my favorite scene from Dick Van Dyke. I know you have ninety-five years of brilliance, Mr. Reiner, but this is President Obama’s and my favorite show. Frankly, most episodes are just too good for a snippet and are worth watching in their entirety. But I edited a few hilarious scenes of Van Dyke’s physical comedy that stand alone well:

DVDDon'tTripOvertheMontain

Don’t Trip Over That Mountain” (where Rob sprains his entire body and tries to conceal it from Laura)

DVDMyHusbandIsNoADrunk

My Husband Is Not A Drunk,” in which Rob is unwittingly hypnotized to go from drunk to sober every time a bell rings.

DVDLaura

Pink Pills and Purple Parents,? a flashback to when Laura first met Rob’s parents and takes a few too many tranquilizers to help her cope.

Carl Reiner deserves this blog post all to his own but he would disagree and remind me I would be remiss not to mention his son is Rob Reiner, director of “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Stand By Me,” “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally,” in which his wife Estelle Reiner said the famous, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Carl will fight me again for not mentioning how he and Mel Brooks still have diner together every night, being best friends of more than six decades and now both widowers.

I could obsess about this post more than any other because I respect this man that much.But it’s “R” in the April blog a day challenge and I’m tired! Carl Reiner, you inspire me to write better, see the funny, take risks and get up every day just in case.

Q Is For Quality or Quantity?

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” Mae West

Indeed, Mae, indeed. So which is it, “quantity or quality?” asked the girl with commitment issues. Decision?

Both. In both there is a measured enough. Plus considering the option is a good exercise to know what you truly value.

If it’s quality you desire, satisfaction is your measure. Your sense memory holds an enduring, satiated state. Your standard has been met. You feel calm in being aware of, knowing and appreciating quality.

On the other side of the coin, the satisfaction in quantity also holds a feeling of contentment. Your experience and satisfaction remain in the sense memory. If quantity is your standard, you feel the equivalent state of calm and an awareness of and appreciation for the quantity enjoyed.

Our daily lives are filled with quantity and quality choices, some without great consequence like premium or regular gas, vending machine chips now or veggies when you get home, cleaning the bathroom for company with a quick wipe or deep disinfecting. Other quality and quantity choices with greater consequence might be to save years for a rainy day or for a big purchase or spend a little money regularly on small enjoyments, take a job you hate for big bucks or do work you love with other rewards or wait for Mr./Ms Right verses take Mr./Ms Right Now and now and now? Every choice has consequences.

Choosing quality in life is great. Of course, it will edit what you bring into your life. Limiting your own choices may be worth it, even if satisfaction is delayed. If you don’t achieve the same measured satisfaction in quantity and are left longing for the quality, it’s worth the wait, unless your measure of quality was wrong.

Quantity definitely has its benefits. Variety is the spice of life, they say. Life is finite so getting as much as you can out of it is great. In quantity there is less regard for delayed gratification, which might not be worth the wait and might never come. And quantity may be the route to finding what one truly wants, even if what one wants is quantity, unless you missed the quality filling up with quantity.

In either case, desire rooted in envy, gluttony, greed, anger, pride, laziness or lust (the seven deadly sins) is poisoned and will never fully fill your wish, void or desire. Nothing good comes long term from those seven deadly sins and there are always negative consequences. (I have this theory about karma that the longer it takes for bad deeds to catch up to you, the worse your karma. Think O.J. Simpson. If I commit a small wrong and get payback in the same day, I am simply grateful for the lesson.) Materialism is our culture’s best example of bathing in the deadly sins and encompasses at least five of them. I’ve never known anyone driven by materialism who isn’t substituting for a deeper, inner desire for which neither quantity or quality will ever be met.

The choice of quantity or quality is the road diverging in Robert Frost’s yellow wood but which for you is the one less traveled and, therefore, the one that makes all the difference? Can you achieve the perfect blend of both? I don’t think anyone can tell someone else what is right for them. Perhaps the right choices is feeling a happy medium, in which case Mae just might have a point.

QuantityMaeWest

P Is For Population

I tend to approach issues at their root cause to find objective solutions and often use the “Conditional Formula,” meaning, “if this, then that.” Therefore when it comes to social and political issues, my life-long, number-one issue is the human population, because there is not one problem that isn’t rooted in our ability to manage 7+ billion humans. I figured someone has to opt out. So I did.

I, hereby, out myself with this deeply-held conviction. Not to compare or minimize what LGBTQ folks endure, but as a straight woman in a society with a near idolatry of all things children, I usually keep my position to myself, thus feeling closeted. I’m a liberal and believe in free will and understand the human desire for fulfillment through parenting.PopulationBabies I understand for those with children nothing is more important in life, as nothing should be. I derive an equal level of joy knowing I am mitigating my impact on this planet the best way one can and in alignment with my core principle. I don’t hate children but I don’t want any. Nor do I think that 250 live human births every minute is a miracle. But I do think describing natural, human biology as a miracle is part of the problem. My parents raised me with free will and not only abhorred the idea of imposing one’s beliefs upon another, applauded and agreed with my decision. However I have been chastised and ostracized.

Thanks to the Internet, I don’t feel quite as alone as I used to with my choice, although most of my friends (no coincidence) don’t have kids, either. The “childless” stigma has abated somewhat in America but is far less taboo in Europe. I share my choice with Helen Mirren, Gloria Steinem, Stevie Nicks, Oprah Winfrey, Chelsea Handler, Jennifer Aniston, Ashley Judd, Marisa Tomei, Margaret Cho, Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres, Dolly Parton, Katharine Hepburn, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Anjelica Huston, Liza Minnelli, Kim Cattrall, Candace Bushnell, Cameron Diaz, Zooey Deschanel and lots of not famous women, all who have spoken out about their choice. (Guys, not that you don’t count because you have options, you just don’t have a womb.) Fortunately being first-world females, we have the choice and the ability to live and support ourselves without needing a husband and a family for sustainability.

While I realize there is more emotion tied to human procreation, I submit it took decades to convince the majority that the responsible thing to do was to spay and neuter dogs and cats to avoid over-population. Except for a few who still breed animals for financial profit (and the dopes who support the industry), this is now the norm. Human overpopulation is far more devastating and we have long surpassed the tipping point to our survival. I know how gloom and doom this sounds to some and I know how defensive people get about this. Unfortunately, every reason I chose for not having children has come true and at a faster rate than predicted. We’ve long passed our planet’s optimal maximum for sustainable quality life (depending upon the study, sustainability is between 1.5 and 3.5 billion) well over fifty years ago. Life as we know it, as we are living, is simply unsustainable. But let’s see if my premise is correct; that population is the root to all our problems:

The environment. First, the only reason we call a “natural disaster” a disaster is because it causes harm to people. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, forest fires, floods, blizzards, mudslides, volcanoes are natural events. But the more people inhabiting the planet, the greater nature’s impact upon us. But the actual, poisonous damage done to the planet is human caused. And the faster we use up our planet’s resources, the harder it will be to continue to sustain 7+ billion. The western world may feel cushioned but not so for island nations in the pacific that are disappearing under water due to the ice cap melt. Still, Florida is raising their highways because of rising water levels, while California is in a drought and has a year of water in reserve. Our ecosystem depends on the rain forests, which is vanishing at a rate of 80,000 acres a day as land and lumber is needed. Fifty thousand species go extinct every year. Our meat-eating costs an exorbitant amount of land, water and resources. And we continue to disregard the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

PopulatonDrought

The more people, the easier to exploit labor with more people than jobs. Wages fall. More people means more traffic and more aggressive wear and tear on roads and bridges. The more people, the more hungry mouths to feed and the higher cost to produce more food. And poor countries have a higher death rate so people have more babies so some make it to adulthood. So the birth rates in poorer countries is much higher, putting a bigger drain on limited food and water. One third of our global population is under 20 years old and in under-developed, poor countries. We are in military conflicts for natural resources (oil), which is depleted faster due to more people. And the Syrian conflict is actually over water.

Of course there are other factors that impact society’s problems. But the suffering is greater on 7 billion than three billion. It breaks my heart what we did to this beautiful planet. I know no decision we make is more personal. But it also has the greatest impact.