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As a mature and seasoned detailed oriented professional with a proven track record of innovative out of the box intagibles, I consider this article elightening!




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Using this blog as a personal sounding board is not something I do. However, the events of the past weeks have made it impossible for me to ignore some of the lunacy being bantered around the web. Since I am an Internet Marketing professional, I need to follow web-trends on a regular basis. These matters concerning public employee unions and teachers in particular that have been the hot topics in all news cycles are too personal for me to not make my thoughts known.

If you follow my postings for business reasons and do not want to get involved in the very personal rant, by all means please disregard this posting.

Okay, let’s follow the “evil public unions” logic for a minute. What are the arguments given for why public employee unions (and for that matter, public employees themselves) are bankrupting America?

Financially based arguments:

  1. Pensions are out of control
  2. There is little or no incentive to perform well, since payment is guaranteed by taxpayers
  3. They allow bad apples to thrive because of union protection and seniority
  4. Collective bargaining hamstrings municipalities in negotiations

Emotionally based arguments:

  1. Public employee unions are corrupt and are used for political actions more than to benefit union members
  2. Public employees do not have to face real-world challenges of the marketplace
  3. Public employees are given better benefits than your average working stiff
  4. Public employees do not have to work fulltime to collect annual salaries (this one kind of straddles the financial/emotional line)

Without the intervention of discussion from either side of these arguments, I think most would agree that these are the primary issues being brought up regarding public employee unions. There may be more of minor concern, but for now let’s address these top 6.

Pensions are out of control

To start, even though this is a financially based argument, it is emotionally charged in its framing. Sure pensions are out of control – mortgages are out of control; gas prices are out of control; military expenditures are out of control; baby food prices are out of control. When you don’t have the money to pay your bills, EVERYTHING is out of control, at least regarding money.

But what is really behind this national movement to claim that public employee pensions are out of control? Quite simply, bad contracts with promises that in our current financial state, often cannot be kept. Someone made bad decisions during negotiations and gave away the store, or at least gave away the keys to the store.

Now there is little call for a national referendum on all poorly entered contracts’ promises. If there was such a call, it would mean we would need to seriously examine the housing crisis, the financial crisis, pollution, oil prices, and even our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of poorly negotiated contracts. Why? Because these problems also arose from negotiations between parties leading to contracts for services that are no longer affordable to the average American.

If it is a valid argument to claim that poor negotiations are a reason to blame the results, then it is valid to claim that ALL poor contracts require “busting” of those who benefit from those contracts.  What is needed is not to drop public employee unions, but rather to drop the negotiators who screwed up.

There is little or no incentive to perform well, since payment is guaranteed by taxpayers

This argument begins with two assumptions. First, that someone enters into public service with fewer scruples than non-public employees, otherwise how could they live with themselves knowing that they are taking something from the taxpayer without an expectation of performance? Second, it belies the reality of public service layoffs – payment is only guaranteed if the job is guaranteed.

On the face of this argument it would appear to also be a fully charged emotional argument and not a financial one. However, the current national discussion revolves around why public employee unions are bad and private unions are good. If being in a union leads to a lack of incentive to work, then it would hold true for all types of unions, since the unions all “guarantee” certain payments. It must therefore be a financial argument based upon the lost monies incurred due to poor or no performance on the job.

How else could the point be made? If the job itself is not guaranteed, than the pay for that job is also not guaranteed. So the only financial hardship that can be incurred from public employees’ performance must be from that underperformance. This infers that the majority of public employees do crap work, or that public service jobs themselves are used for crap work. The argument again exists only when you no longer have the funds to pay for the work, or you have to question why the majority of Americans have been willing for decades to allow public jobs at all. Tell that to the next fireman who is busy putting out your fires.

They allow bad apples to thrive because of union protection and seniority

This one has the best legs of all of the financially based arguments; when a union protects people who are destroying the fabric of the service sector in which they work, the cost of doing business and covering the butts of these bad apples can get painful. There are few who like to even try to defend unions from this attack since it is like trying to defend people on the sex offender lists.

But here again is an argument based upon preconceptions. People who are not actually involved in the disputes that lead to the categorization of some public employees as “bad” are no more likely to research what lead to the labeling any more than they will check the sex registry to see how many people actually committed violent sex crimes and how many were teenagers who once had consensual sex with their 17-year-old (and therefore minor) partner. The person has been labeled as bad, and therefore we are paying a salary to someone who should be fired (or castigated, or run out of town). Guilty even if proven innocent.

Anyone ever hear of a CEO who was ruining a company but the board of directors protected them? Has anyone questioned how an Arizona congressman was allowed to avoid arrest recently because Arizona law prohibits the arrest of a state congress person while the Arizona congress is in session?

This is at best a baby and bath water argument, and should be rejected out of hand because it paints too large a segment of the population with a single, tainted paintbrush.

Collective bargaining hamstrings municipalities in negotiations

This one is simple. YES, collective bargaining by public employee unions hamstrings municipalities during contract negotiations. Add to that list laws against slavery, child labor, blackmail, murder, and a host of other “hamstringing” limitations on the power of municipal managers. Managers who, by the way, are public employees – so why should we hand them more power to hamstring the wishes of the public during contract negotiations in the first place?

This argument is financial like greed is financial. Of course you can make more money (or save more money) when you have all the leverage in the entire deal making process! The point is one for morons and union busters.

Public employee unions are corrupt and are used for political actions more than to benefit union members

Let’s make quick work of this first emotionally charged argument. I defy anyone to not find a direct correlation between the states with the most corrupt public employee unions, and those with the most corrupt private employee unions. In one case you have corrupt politicians making deals with greedy public union officials, and in the other you have corrupt politicians making deals with organized crime union officials.

If Tony Soprano could have worked his way into the public school system, there would be no difference between the two types of unions at all. The fact is that where states have allowed unchecked political corruption, everything is corrupt. Public employee unions are only one factor in a morass of vice.

Public employees do not have to face real-world challenges of the marketplace

What are real-world challenges today? Will a New Yorker agree with someone from Appalachia? Does California face the same challenges are North Dakota? This argument stinks of the “real American” label put on by so many prominent talking heads in the past decade.

Anyone who is not sitting in the comfort zone of a financially secure future has challenges; call them real-world or common or whatever helps you to define them, the challenges presented to Americans to meet budgets are definitely real. If someone thinks that being a public employee eliminates those challenges, they should give a little thought to exactly how public employment creates that protective bubble. They should think hard and then maybe, if it bothers them that someone else is so financially secure, go out and try to land one of those super public employment jobs!

After all, isn’t it the American way for each of us to be able to go out and make a decent living to support our family? If you non-public job is not cutting it, go get one of those magic public ones.

Public employees are given better benefits than your average working stiff

Just a rehash of the “public pensions are out of control” argument. Take the pensions as the best of the better benefits, add the time off factor (for teachers it is theoretically 3 months a year, for police and firemen it is multiple holidays and sick leave, etc.), and then add the public employee health plans that are supposedly so superior to non-public plans.

We come full circle back to the negotiation question – are public employees taking advantage of average Americans when they collectively bargain themselves into a decent benefits package? Or is it simply that as non-pubic employees, many people who have not been able to bargain for fair health benefits or sick leave or pensions are jealous?

I happen to know many corporate executives who have some pretty impressive benefits, and I also know that those benefits are paid to those executives regardless of the performance of those workers or of the company for which they work. They negotiated themselves as nice a package of benefits and they exercise their rights under contract to collect those benefits. The average working stiff will never get on that gravy train.

One last thing on the benefits that public employees have – contrary to what many believe, all benefits (pensions and medical plans) are paid into be the public employees are part of their compensation. There is no additional costs to the taxpayer.

Public employees do not have to work fulltime to collect annual salaries

Overflow from the previous argument and one of the most visible factors used by those who claim public employees are scamming us all. Most everyone who works needs to work almost 22 days per month on average, so when we see anyone who manages to lower that average we have a tendency to think of them as slacking off.

The most obvious “offenders” are teachers who, as is claimed so often by talking heads, are off the clock by 3 PM and get 3 months off every year. If we are going to try to keep these arguments relative to budgetary considerations, we need to be somewhat more accurate in the initial calculations made – you can’t balance a budget that is based upon skewed numbers.

I can’t speak for all teachers in all states at all times, but I can speak for the teachers I know in the states in which I have lived and I can tell you two things:

When “quitting time” for teachers is 3 PM, it is clocked against a 7 AM or 7:30 AM starting time, with a 20 minute allotted lunch. No matter how you do the math we are talking 7 hour day at a minimum. Unless you know teachers who have magic time that somehow folds into those 7 hours, they all need an extra hour or two every day simply to process paperwork on daily activities and children’s progress. And of course there is the after school time needed for special meetings with principals, students, or faculty that are required by state laws or local districts. Likewise there is review and grading of work done by the students, and there is preparation for upcoming district-mandatory testing. So let’s get real with what “clocking out” at 3 PM really means.

That 3 month claim is wrong on the face of it. Yes, it is substantial time but it is 2 ½ months by virtually every state calendar. Again, just looking for accuracy in managing budgets, so we need to be clear how much “off time” is given. So we are talking about 10 weeks of paid time off that teachers get as part of their annual salary.

    Let’s be clear about this; if a teacher makes $45,000 a year they are collecting $3,750 per month regardless of whether they are in the classroom or in summer recess. Divide that up into “working-stiff” parlance and you have about $21 per hour on an 8-hour per day, 22 work day month. So it is decent wages when compared to someone making $12 an hour, but would you care to compare it to the average salary of college-educated private sector workers? Check it out – lower than virtually any profession except for secretarial work when measured for a 4-year college graduate. And that education level is the minimum required for a teacher.

    Those who want to use public employee bashing as a means by which to highlight their political credentials have taken the low road in a very serious discussion. There is waste and corruption and a need to revamp a lot of things under the umbrella of public services. This includes social and military public service sectors, and the need to address the failures inherent in many segments of these services is real. But the culprits in every bad decision made in any of the public services are political entities.

    No union gets to write its own contracts; no public service creates the money for its own payroll; no corruption continues without the willing cooperation of local, state, and federal politicians. So to listen to anyone in the political arena try to point fingers at the recipients of benefits made from the failure of those politicians’ decisions is like listening to a drunken boat captain complaining about the reef he ran into.

    Where there is a breakdown in the system, find the starting point and work forward from there. Fix the leak and you stop the flood – simply mop the water and you’ll be mopping for the  rest of your life.

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    Ha! New Kah!

    No, it’s not some Bostonian talking about their new wheels, or Kim Il Jong’s answer to south Korea’s question about what his intention are towards them. It is the time of year once again for all of us to try and select the way we want to spell Chanuka or Chanukah or Chanukkah or Channukah or Hanukah or Hannukah or Hanukkah or Hanuka or Hanukka or Hanaka or Haneka or Hanika or Khanukkah.

    Lucky Christians with their oh-so-easy Christmas – I guess in some non-Christian countries there might be some confusion as to whether it is Cristmas, or even Kristmas but that’s about as hard as it gets. As for the Islamic Ras as-Sana al-Hijreya, I suppose Jews might have it easy in the U.S. in so far as misspelling of holidays is concerned.

    My point is that if you are trying to reach an audience with a term that is very commonly misspelled, you might want to consider the variations of that spelling in your marketing. Why miss out on a connection simply because of someone’s inability to match your spelling? After all, their dollers and sents are as good as anyone else’s!

    So have a happy holiday whoever and wherever you are!

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    Google Cars

    Okay, so Google wants to move into the auto business by engineering a car that self-navigates.

    First Google Instant, now this – a most natural extension. How’s that you ask? Well, think about it; what is Instant if not a near driverless adoption of search. Not actually driverless, but certainly the removal of the need for a complete “destination” in search before achieving results.  Seems natural that some of the engineers working on Google Instant might have said something out loud like “Wonder if anything else can navigate without direction?”

    The extension of Google into the automotive field is just a little scary. The number of obvious links to Google search are already quite heavy:

    • PPC for EZPass/SunPass
    • Links vs. bridges and tunnels
    • Google Maps and maps themselves (remember those paper things that showed where you wanted to go?)
    • Display Ads for Road signs and billboards 

    Maybe the transition will be as simple as moving the analytics experts into car mechanics, engineers into car design, and webmasters into upper management. Since the car industry has had such a hard time using its own expertise to move forward in the past decade, it might actually work.

    I wonder if Bing will become the new Honda to Google’s GM?

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    Brits Brief?

    According to a survey by Virgin Media Business, the British show a 33% to 32% preference for using Twitter over Facebook. Considering the number of variable language preferences between American and British English, the preference might be a result of internationalization more so than brevity. The Zed vs. Ess wars constantly fought between the written versions of English might very well find a peaceful resolution in the confines of Twitter. After all, the drive towards abbreviations and acronyms in social texting lend themselves towards that resolution.

    Why concern yourself over whether you are going to Optimize or Optimise your website, when you can simply SEO it? Do you need to memorize / memorise your spelling to understand “Rmbr 2 brng ur lunch”? When your are in the “Town ctr” is it really important if it is the center or the centre of the town?

    Some of us have lived in fear of the complete dumbing down of the English language to the doublethink levels of Orwell’s 1984, but perhaps it is not the dumbing but rather the shortng of the language that we should fear. If the trend in business (at least British business to date) is towards abbreviated communications through social media, there is a good chance that spelling in and of itself will fall into disfavor. If “I’m gettin’ married in the mornin'” was good enough for My Fair Lady, won’t “Im getng marrd n d mrnin” work just as well in transliteration?

    God, I hope not!

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    It looks like we might have to increase security along the New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana borders. Threats to U.S. jobs are one thing, but threats to U.S. history are another.

    Thomas Jefferson not a great American and Jefferson Davis is – one helped form the U.S. the other tried to destroy it.

    Phyllis Schlafly one of our great philosophers? Joe McCarthy was right and there is no basis for a separation of church and state in this country?

    I am so grateful that none of my family ever had to experience the “Atlantic triangular trade”, but then again, how bad can it be to have been sold into triangularly?

    Thank you Texas for reminding us all that those of us who forget history are doomed to repeat it, but those of us who rewrite history doom our children to ignorance.

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    Hello world!

    Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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