Sunday, April 14, 2013

What Didn't the Unions Do?

     I currently work as a temporary custodian at M.A.T.C. (Madison Area Technical College) at the Truax Campus in Madison, Wisconsin. Hired through private staffing agency Hiring and Staff Services, I temporarily replaced a unionized worker on sick leave, and when that employee returned, I replaced a non-unionized temporary worker.
     I do not plan to pursue continued employment as an M.A.T.C. custodian past April 2014, when - as has been recently decided - the union's contract expires, and they begin to get laid off through attrition.
The following is a letter to the editor which I wrote to the M.A.T.C. newspaper the Clarion; it has not been published because I have refused to cut half of its content in order to fit a 250-word limit.

Dear Editor,
In the Clarion’s March 6th issue, staff writer Kate Palmer argued that M.A.T.C. should continue employing unionized custodial staff. The American Federation of Teachers (A.F.T.) agrees, characterizing the alternative – private employment of custodians – as “outsourcing”.
Among their reasons: private companies may have lax background check standards, non-A.F.T. custodians have different standards regarding compensation, and $17,000 annually is not enough for people with children to feed.
The arguments seem compelling, but what do they suggest to the average young person – who has no dependents, a sparse resume, and few specialized skills (and about a quarter of whom have been arrested for non-violent drug crimes) – about his job prospects with the college?
It suggests that he has less of a right to work to earn the means to survive if he has been arrested, and that he should not be encouraged to delegate the right to negotiate with management on his behalf to whomsoever he chooses (be it a private company, or a union which is more radical in its compensation demands than the established union).
According to Palmer, M.A.T.C. custodians perform “hard, dirty labor”. However, some entry-level M.A.T.C. custodians are engaged in physical work for only half of their shifts. While A.F.T. asserts that private companies suffer from high turnover rates, quality of work, and training problems, entry-level janitorial work requires little training, and no specialized skills.
While A.F.T. says taxpayers are unwilling to pay taxes to workers lacking “pride in their performance”, to keep collective bargaining at its current prevalence – rather than to offer custodians raises for better performance, negotiating with them directly on the basis of their own individual merits and skills – risks retention of under-performing employees.
Additionally, A.F.T.’s concern about the potential for imperfect maintenance under private contracting is somewhat valid now among unionized custodial staffs. Furthermore, A.F.T.’s concern that to cut unionized custodian jobs could lead to cutting teacher pay is counter-intuitive, because the abhorrence of custodial department cuts could be made to appear to justify more aggressive pursuit of cuts in teachers’ compensation.
Differences in the compensation standards of entry-level custodians versus teachers – and of custodians who have specialized custodial skills – should be tolerated, because the latter set of workers are engaged in work that is more productive than basic, entry-level custodial upkeep.
MATC should implement efficiency recommendations the workers have made, and workers should be given individual incentive to use spare time in their work days to find ways to improve the efficiency of workplace tasks.
Taking these steps would save money and effort, decreasing turnover rates and increasing job dedication, decrease the risk of teacher pay cuts, increase chances of custodian raises, increase compensation to taxpayers, and improve custodial services to teachers and students.
Minimum wage laws have been characterized as “cutting the bottom rungs off of a ladder”. In a similar vein, the wage system is a staircase, and the continuum of individual compensation standards is an escalator; while a broken escalator should eventually be repaired, it should not be off-limits to stair-climbers.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Letter to Tammy Baldwin on Gun Control

Dear Senator Baldwin,

The Second Amendment says that the security of a free state depends upon the right of "the people" and "well-organized militia" - two overlapping concepts - to bear arms; and "bear arms" means "take up arms against the government".

Jefferson said there is liberty when the government fears the people. And for good reason; governments killed 290 million people in the 20th century. We cannot allow governments to even keep track of who owns which weapons; certainly not at the federal level, and although state gun legislation has been put forth as an alternative, the 2nd Amendment should be construed to mean that the federal government must intervene when the states infringe on the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

While some leaders say "just give the people a[n up-or-down] vote", I believe that the 2nd Amendment requires the federal government (and the states, as a condition of remaining part of the union) to refrain from infringing on these rights. I myself am pro-choice, but I regard the right of human adults to efficient and effective self-defense as something with which governments have no authority to interact.

The people are free to organize into militias, so that (1) standing government armies which would interfere with the execution of just law cannot do so nor oppress the people, (2) foreign militias - including foreign and international armies, and including possible host-country conspiracy to allow such armies to invade - can be repelled and defeated, and (3) foreign armies can be repelled and defeated, without requiring the maintenance of standing armies, whose very existence risks popular oppression.

People need AR-15s to defend themselves against conquering armies.

Ask yourself: How active could the U.N. become inside the U.S.? How much approval from international agencies do we need to conduct warfare? On top of training foreign militants abroad, is America becoming a training base for foreign militants and armies?

Ask yourself, Why on Earth would something called "Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership" exist?

I do not own any potential weapon more deadly than a common steak knife (incidentally, "assault weapons" only become "assault" - and also, indeed, "weapons" - when they cease to be tools in defending against violence, and instead become "tools" that perpetuate violence), so I will not be directly affected by any of these potential new laws.

However, I believe that the notion that information-hoarding, admittedly "monopoly-on-legitimate-violence"-supporting governments, should track our capacities to defend ourselves and one another against it, is diametrically opposed to what this country was founded upon.

Additionally, the Interstate Commerce Clause should be construed to require federal intervention to prevent state bans on interstate sales of weapons. Connecticut and other states can ban the manufacture of weaponry if they please, but states may not interfere with purchases and sales.

I do not want you to vote against any new proposed gun control legislation; I would like you to help other senators block votes regarding such legislation. These inalienable rights should not suffer the risks associated with votes nor debates.

"Gun control" for the "safety" of Americans means less freedom from tyranny and violence for women, gays, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, political radicals, and non-violent drug offenders.

The federal government has been characterized in legal code as "foreign" to the states. Please help Senator Johnson defend the people of Wisconsin against the attacks and pillaging of the foreign federal army, and from potential joint popular attacks by it and its allies abroad, Statist and terrorist alike.

Here is "Senator Baldwin"'s automated response:

Thank you for contacting me about federal gun policy.  I respect and value your thoughts as Congress debates ways to protect our families and communities while upholding our Second Amendment rights. 
Recent mass shootings, from Newtown, Connecticut to Tucson, Arizona and Oak Creek, Wisconsin have heightened our focus on strategies to reduce gun violence and save lives.  Clearly, we must do more to keep our children and communities safe. 
I heard from thousands of Wisconsinites, including sportsmen and women, law enforcement officers, veterans, gun violence victims, and school and community leaders on this issue, and I appreciate you adding your voice to the debate.  I am a gun owner and firmly believe in the Second Amendment and the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  I also believe that, as the Supreme Court has ruled, this right can be reconciled with reasonable, common sense safety measures.
The Senate recently debated gun safety legislation, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act (S. 649).  I believe the bill represents a commonsense approach to reducing gun violence and addressing holes in our mental health system. 
Federal law has required background checks for certain gun purchases for 20 years.  But such checks are not required for purchases over the internet or at gun shows.  I voted to close loopholes in our current background check system, while explicitly prohibiting the federal government from creating a national gun registry and making misuse of records a felony crime.  I also voted in favor of an amendment which would give law enforcement additional tools to crack down on gun trafficking.
In addition, I voted in support of a ban on future sales of military assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.  The provision I supported explicitly excluded from the ban hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns by make and model.  Weapons made for war and intended for mass killings do not belong on the streets of our neighborhoods. 
On April 17, efforts to advance this legislation were blocked in the Senate.  Should there be an agreement that would allow the bill to pass, it will be brought back to the Senate floor for a vote.  I was extremely disappointed with this setback, and do not believe this is an end to efforts to reduce gun violence in our nation.  Please be assured I will continue to listen to your feedback as we work to find consensus on legislation that protects our families and respects our Second Amendment rights.
Once again, thank you for contacting my office.  It is important for me to hear from the people of Wisconsin on the issues, thoughts and concerns that matter most to you.  If I can be of further assistance, please visit my website at for information on how to contact my office.

Tammy Baldwin
United States Senator

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