Thursday, November 5, 2009

I would furlough, but it isn't in my job description

Imagine a world where your 300-pound neighbor is walking his Pekingese and toy poodle down your street when, suddenly, out of nowhere, a giant piece of space junk comes hurtling through the sky at breakneck speed. The neighbor, with surprising cat-like quickness, prepares to dodge it when, from out of nowhere on the other side comes Madonna, whose extreme meditation session causes her to levitate thousands of miles from her home in New York, London, Abu Dhabi, or wherever the heck she is living now, and is now warbling back toward the earth. Madonna slams into Mr. 300, knocking him into the path of the space junk, which lands squarely on his legs. He survives, but is trapped. You run out of your house to help. Your other neighbors run out, too, but they refuse to help. One says he can't lift because he stubbed his big toe taking out his trash. Another says helping his neighbor is not in his job description as provided by the Succubus Homeowner's Association. Stupid? Yes, but amazingly, this is exactly how unionized labor in the United States works, well, minus the whole Madonna flying through the air thing.

This week, Ford, the only Detroit automaker to not take the government's bailout scam, announced that things were turning around. Ford is actually starting to make money, and Consumer Reports found that the quality of Ford vehicles was equal to or, in some cases, superior to Honda and Toyota. That's the good news. The bad news for Ford is that the United Auto Workers rejected contract amendments that would have saved the company money but, more importantly, would have helped rid Ford of something dumber than the B.C.S. and martinis made without gin. It is called job classification.

In a nutshell, job classification means that there are more job titles at a Ford plant than there are women who have slept with Wilt Chamberlain. If a piece of machinery breaks down, only someone with a specific job classification can repair it, even if someone else standing three seconds from the malady could take care of it. That means an assembly line comes to a halt, which means Ford doesn't make cars, which means Ford (and it's unionized workers) don't make money. I'm glad our Succubus Homeowner's Association hasn't thought of this; the idea that if my dishwasher breaks, because I am not a trained dishwasher repairman, I am not allowed to fix it and have to wash my dishes by hand until a Succubus-approved repairman arrives. This is the main reason the Ford Fusion, which recently received higher ratings that the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, is built in Mexico withOUT union labor.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. It doesn't make sense to protect union jobs that may disappear anyway since the union rejected the deal. But what appears obvious to us is an eternal "Unsolved Mysteries" marathon to the union mind. Take what's happening with teachers in Savannah.

Yesterday, teachers' union members protested outside the Savannah-Chatham County School system offices. The reason for their demonstration, they said, was two-fold. First was the fact that the school board was holding a regular meeting on one of the teachers' state-mandated furlough days, and that is an excellent point. If we really are that desperate to save taxpayer money, the board's business can wait a few days or a week. But had corporal punishment not been outlawed by the EPA, USDA, NBA, AAA, and ESPN, the second reason for the protest would merit the big board.

The teachers say they received an e-mail from School Superintendent Thomas Lockamy saying more furlough days may be necessary to help balance the budget. The union leaders say teachers can't make ends meet with the estimated two-percent loss in their annual salaries caused by the three furlough days currently on the calendar, much less a few more. As someone who has been forced to make ends meet with an almost 100-percent loss in his annual salary this year, I will gladly present the world's smallest violin to the union members so they can Jack Benny their troubles away.

Secondly, I'm sure Alfreda Goldwire, local American Federation of Teachers President, and her counterpart with the Georgia Association of Educators would be happy to help the teachers make up that two-percent loss by refunding their union dues money. After all, if the school board should feel the pain of the teachers, so should the union that professes to represent it's best interest. However, if I were Kenny Rogers in "The Gambler 26, Dr. 90210 Scuplts The Perfect Poker Face," I would bet that President Obama will go hot-tubbing with Glenn Beck before any union gives up their moolah.

Why give money back to help your members continue to engage in what the union endlessly tells us is "The Most Important Profession.......In THE WORLD" when they can instead give some of that money, in the form of political contributions, to such lovely, hometown folks as the Service Employees International Union, which sent thugs to physically assault people at one of those infamous Congressional town hall meetings in St. Louis this past August. National teachers unions also regularly give teacher's money to such wholesome, milk and cookie-type groups as ACORN and Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Wonder if the Rev. will foot a teacher a hundred or two so their power doesn't get cut off?

To be sure, unions are not the only problem here. American car companies have been mismanaged for decades, and no one, not teachers, not administrators, not politicians, not even many ordinary people have the guts to introduce true competition in the education system to improve schools (or especially to give me the $9,000 or so in my tax money that's being spent on my first-grader so I can choose how best to educate her). But when someone does come along with solutions to problems, it's a good bet that a union leader will try to be there to get their piece of the pie, and the solution (and the union rank and file) be damned. America needed unions many decades ago, when sweatshops and filthy working conditions were common. But while teaching and building cars aren't exactly cushy work, sweatshops they are not, and today's union leaders are the ones who more closely resemble yesterday's industry barons.

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