Monday, February 28, 2011

What's All This Collective Bargaining Noise?

If you've followed my blog then you know I write about being a firefighter quite a lot. I have never used this blog for political reasons, and don’t intend to make a habit of it, but this topic is an exception and I feel I must address the issues.

In the news lately, you may have heard some talk about collective bargaining and binding arbitration and other lawyer-sounding blah, blah, blah. As a firefighter I thought I'd give you a small taste of my feelings on the matter.

Hey, no dozing off. I'll try to keep this as interesting as I can.

First the boring part. (No jokes about how all of my blogs are boring, either.) Collective bargaining is how local governments negotiate with their public employees. It provides a set of rules to level the playing field between the bosses and the employees. If a fair deal cannot be agreed upon between the two parties, the contract goes to an arbitrator who looks at similar-sized communities (along with a bunch of other factors) and rules on what he/she believes is fair. Sometimes the bosses get what they want and sometimes the employees do. The arbitrator’s decision becomes the contract, hence binding arbitration. Whew. That was rough. So now here's my unbiased, wink, wink, take on what's currently going on.

If the politicians take collective bargaining from us, you can imagine what happens to our rights when it comes to negotiating. And this isn't about pay or benefits, either. Sure, those issues will be affected, but this has more to do with safety. A lot of people don't realize that equipment, staffing, ect. are covered in our contract negotiations. Here is a likely scenario of a future negotiation.

Boss: "Hey, (insert public employee name here). We found firefighter turnout gear that is much cheaper than the stuff you're wearing."

Public employee: "But, sir/ma'am. That gear isn't as good as what we have. We will be in greater danger if we use that. Can't we compromise?"

Imagine evil laughter.

Now we're in a sticky spot.

At least the budget will be fixed. Right?

Oh, shoot. That really isn't true, either. Tough economic times call for everyone to cut back, I get it. This plan doesn't do that. The politicians will still overspend, they will simply make us pay for it. Kind of like not buying your kid as good of a car seat so you can get that nice new high-speed rail. This attack on unions is just that--an attack on unions.

Let's look at Wall Street as an example. When a company's revenue goes down, let's just say hypothetically due to a poor economy, how do CEOs keep afloat? They probably take pay cuts and hold off on spending more money until things get better, right?

No? They layoff workers. Or buy cheaper parts. Did you know 2x4 lumber is really 1 ¾ x 3 ½?

I'm a firefighter. I'm not rich. I make more money than some and less money than others. Collective bargaining came around about thirty years ago. Firefighters rose from lower middle class to where we are now as a result. If you were running a city, you wouldn't like that too much, I don't imagine. If you could pay someone pennies to do a job, why would you pay them more?

Over the last few years, Wall Street and banking CEOs destroyed our country through their greed and lack of fiscal responsibility by causing the greatest economic downturn since the depression. This hurt everyone. To fix this, few CEO's if any have gone to jail or helped turn around the economy. They're not even hiring people because of fear of another crash. The people in power can't take the money from the poor since the poor don't have much to take. They won't take it from the rich, so that leaves the continuously diminishing middle class once again.

This isn't firefighters looking for extravagant paydays while watching the country crumble around them. Hell, Columbus firefighters deferred their last raise to help the city get through the hard times. Money isn't as important as getting a fair shake at the table.

I'd like to add something personal here. Sometimes at night while I'm in the fire house getting ready to lie down, I think about my family. Actually, I take that back. I think about my family every night. But some nights I think about my co-workers having to tell my wife and son that I'm not coming home. That's a pretty heavy weight but it is my cross to bear. I, along with firefighters and law enforcement personnel around the country, do that for the citizens paying our salary every day.

When the government tells you we are costing too much, ask yourself, "How many rich teachers do you know? Or firefighters? Or cops?"

Let me ask you this. Do any of you believe the teachers, firefighters, cops, etc. bankrupted this country with secret plans of world domination? Some people do. OK, not the world domination part, I threw that in. If you look at the grand scheme of things, the money saved from cutting our legs out from under us, even if the governments drastically cut our pay and benefits, would barely dent the deficit. Actually, dent is too big of a word for what it would do. This is a coordinated plan to break the last strong unions in the country. It's happening in Wisconsin, it's happening in Ohio, and it'll happen where you live soon.

Do you want the teacher teaching your kids or the police officers and firefighters saving your lives to be the lowest bid price? There is a saying, "You get what you pay for."

Let me leave you with a joke I read on Facebook the other day. I don't know who came up with it but it wasn't me. A CEO, teabagger, and union worker are sitting around a table that has a dozen cookies on it. The CEO takes eleven of the cookies, turns to the teabagger, and says, "Watch that union guy closely. He's going to try to take some of your cookie."

We don't want much of that cookie, just enough to keep us and you safe.

We are held to a higher standard for a reason. We have good jobs. But we're not stealing your money. The government should look elsewhere to find where it went.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your History

I cringe just thinking about this blog.

The other day my wife and I were cleaning out our crawlspace in our basement when we stumbled across a tote full of my old artwork and childhood papers. Submerged within this tote was all of the stories I had written as a kid; I'd say about 11 or 12 years old. When I wrote these stories, I was obsessed with the slasher horror movies and it showed in my writing.

Reading these awful stories today is like torture. And do you know what is even more torturous? The fact that I'm going to share it with you. Yes, you heard that right, I'm going to show you my earliest work. The following is the first page of my first ever novel. (I say novel even though the entire story is a whopping 12 pages long.) Here it is with zero corrections. Go ahead and have a laugh.

The story was titled, "Your History." The byline was, "This is one class that you'd better pass!"

Alright, alright. Stop laughing.

On a side note, "Your History" was so successful (in my mind) that I wrote a sequel called "Your History Part 2: School Days" And the tagline for that masterpiece was, "Time for a Long Vacation."

And now my first-ever first page of a novel (with a few comments from me in red.) Enjoy.

This is such a mistake.

It is time for the first day of school and Mr. Stean is organizing his notes. Marc Stean is a substitute teacher for Mrs. Judy Eagle's 10th grade History class. Marc is tall, (6'4"- 6'5"), muscular, and weighs approximately 200 lbs. He has black hair and black eyes. (Notice how the descriptions just flow out of my 11-year-old mind?) Marc is not a teacher who usually dresses up, he likes to wear casual clothes but today is very special so he has dressed up. Judy is in the hospital for nine weeks. She is on IV's and oxygen. (It's all in the details, folks.)

Marc leaves for school and says that he is ready for anything. When the day gets underway, kids snicker and laugh at him. The day is almost over and the kids are acting up. They don't listen to anything Marc says.

James, a red-head, spits a spit-wad into the back of Marc's hair. Jimmy put chewing gum on Mr. Stean's chair. John got into the gradebook and changed all the grades. (Did I really think that stuff happened in schools?)

That night, Marc decides to be more strict with the kids. Marc also thinks about all that has happened that day. This angers Marc, but he keeps his cool. He says to himself, "I never should have taken this job. My day has been a disaster and I'll go crazy before this grading period is over."

The next day is even worse. He thinks about the things that had happened. Anything bad that could happen, did. (OK, maybe I could use a little more description here.) This continues for five straight weeks, when the principal comes in and sees the kids messing around in the class.(Five weeks in five paragraphs. That, my friends, is called efficiency.) The principal fires Marc and says, "Don't ever come back if you can't keep your class under control." (Ohhhh.)

He goes home furious and looks at the pictures on the wall.(???) He loves to design and make-up ways of killing for movies. Marc just loves seeing blood and gross violence.

He has a wrist-band that he wears around the house. It is a band that slides onto his arm. It is about the length of his forearm. The blade is 12 1/2 inches long. The blade is razor sharp and can slice through bone and meat like it was butter. (See how the similes roll from my fingers like... uh... like... well, I can't think of anything right off-hand.) The blade slides out the band when he clinches a fist and backup when he releases. He puts this along with some clothes into a wooden floor in the cellar.

And there you have it--my first page as a budding writer at the “tender” age of eleven. The story progressed from this strong first page into slasher-style violence. I feel sorry for my grandma who typed every bloody word. I mentioned in another blog once that I wonder if she was secretly pushing my mom to have me committed and I still believe that could be the case. I'd love to give you more fun and entertainment but I must save the last 11 pages of this exquisite writing for my next submission to my publisher. Get ready, Rhemalda, to go into the "Your History" business.

I know they'll love it. Don't you think?