Monday, February 28, 2011

Quick Hits, Wisconsin workers

Just a quick mention:

I love it when I get something right!  Currently, there is a entry bouncing around the Series of Tubes on Wisconsin workers and their pensions which discusses pensions as a deferred wage as part of their compensation package.  Probably a more intelligent analysis of what I was thinking, and using those pesky facts that really screw with your narrative.

Also, over the weekend, there was an AP article circulating around the papers on a Human Rights Watch report decrying the lack of paid maternity leave in the United States.  Personally, no matter what you think about the lazy parents who can't afford to quit their jobs and care for their children (jeez... why do people keep having children if they don't have 5 years worth of expenses saved up?), that child is still a citizen of the United States, and we have a duty to make sure that a basic standard of living is afforded to every American.  After all, this isn't Arizona.

Now that I know that there are multiple levels of Women's Rights Directors engaged in Standard of Living research at HRW, this is the #3 most awesome job I know of, behind Anything @ the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Director/Curator of the Warren G. Harding House in Marion, Ohio.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Silly Debates

I've been looking for an excuse to post something on the Wisconsin Workers' Revolt, and fortunately, the excuse came gift wrapped to my door this morning.  (Okay, not gift-wrapped so much as folded into a plastic sleeve.)  On the front page of the New York Times this morning, there was an article comparing Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' successful stripping of collective-bargaining rights to the current push by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attempt to do the same.  The comparison of two Midwestern states' policy initiatives seemed apt for this blog, and the article highlights why I've wanted to comment.  Kudos, New York Times!  You are making this girl very happy.

Plenty has been said about the Wisconsin budget, how much of it is not budget related, but rather an attempt to give assistance to big business at the expense (and often detriment) of state services, so I don't really have much to add.  Gov. Walker is always consistent about defending the anti-union portions of the budget.  He is not removing collective bargaining rights for unions - just their rights to have input on their benefits.  They can still bargain for wages.

This is a giant pile of cow manure (something that Wisconsinites should know a lot about).  The idea that one could think wages and benefits are completely different is, at best moronic, and at worst, blatantly deceptive.  Anyone who has worked even one minute in Human Resources knows that when budgeting for a new hire, the TOTAL COMPENSATION PACKAGE has to be considered.  I seriously doubt that Gov. Walker has never heard of this term.  Browsing around the State of Wisconsin website, public benefits are pretty modest, especially when compared to the Federal Government.  (Moment of disclosure: my father spent 30 years with the Army... his motto was that they may not pay him well, but they will pay him long.)  What you see is a combination of insurance, retirement (5% of income to a pension), and paid time off.  Would you expect anyone with a Bachelor's degree to accept anything less?

What gets lost in this is the way public compensation packages are tabulated in contrast to private compensation packages.  In the private sector, a $60K compensation package will be doled out as salary, and then contributions to insurance, retirement, etc are taken out of the salary pre-tax.  So, one's take home pay is closer to $40K.  For public employees, a $60K compensation package starts with a $40K take-home, and then $20K in benefits are given.  So, someone making $38,000 in the State of Wisconsin gets $2000 added to a retirement account, $6000 paid out in health insurance, $4000 to add family coverage, another $4000 in miscellaneous insurance, $2000 in tuition assistance, etc. and has a total compensation package of $54,000.  The problem here is that Walker is trying to deny that this is the case, insisting that the person making $38,000 now pay for all of the benefits, which means that the $38,000 salary is reduced by the benefit package ($16K in the above example), and the employee sees a take-home wage of $22,000.

You try living in Milwaukee on less than $2,000 per month.

The Times article pointed out a real problem in divorcing wages from benefits.  In the Times article examining Gov. Daniels' policy in Indiana, they show:
"For state workers in Indiana, the end of collective bargaining also meant a pay freeze in 2009 and 2010 and higher health insurance payments. Several state employees said they now paid $5,200 a year in premiums, $3,400 more than when Mr. Daniels took office"
So, no raises, and an increase in premiums.  For our state worker making $38,000 per year, Gov. Daniels policy led to an almost 10% DECREASE in take-home pay.  A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that when total compensation packages are compared, Indiana State employees are undercompensated by 7.5% when compared to their private sector counterparts.  Way to go, Mitch.  Way to go.  In fact, the difference is already pronounced in Wisconsin, where the differential is already 11%.  The question is, Why is the governor spending so much of his time and effort trying to curb benefits to state workers, when he should be increasing them to stay competitive in his state's labor market?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Wisconsin, Twitter, and One DoucheCanoe

I want to make it abundantly clear:
I believe that Jeff Cox is a DoucheCanoe.

We all have DoucheCanoes in our lives.  They are that neighbor from the next building over, the guy with the cubicle next to the breakroom at work, the wife of your Sunday School teacher, the woman who gave birth to you (not mine, but, you know...).  They walk around us as seemingly normal members of society.  They wave when you pass on the street.  They make excellent lemon bars.  But, one day, you had to make an opening in a conversation where you learned their hatred for gays, whites, blacks, Finns, Korean-made shoes, Weimeraner owners, single men with cats, or some other group in such an offensive and irrational manner that you KNOW that no about of conversation and discussion will convince them that their argument is bordering on the insane.  The problem intensifies when you figure that speaking with them on any topic besides safely trodden roads may reveal other deeply held crazy beliefs.  And, you still see them - they live next door, they're at work, at church, at Thanksgiving Dinner, so you try to remain as civil as you can, but all the time knowing that the receptionist thinks that the Finns cannot be trusted as a race that spends half the year without daylight.  She is a DoucheCanoe.  You tolerate the DoucheCanoe because you need your mail and phone calls, and she makes excellent lemon bars, and if you confront her, your Norwegian ancestry may cause these three critical items to never grace your workspace again.  Such is the problem with DoucheCanoes.

Jeff Cox is a DoucheCanoe.  I'm pretty sure he's been to a number of parties where newcomers were warned, "That's Jeff - be careful, don't bring up your UAW membership, because Jeff is a DoucheCanoe."  Jeff has a nasty habit of posting hateful things on Twitter using his own name.  The Mother Jones article has cherry picked some items from his Twitter feed and (now defunct) blog.  It confirms what you'd suspect from a guy who Tweeted that riot police should use live ammunition on protesters in Wisconsin: He's a DoucheCanoe.  This is a guy who on nights and weekends (from the blog timestamps), writes dumb things on his blog figuring no one's really every going to read them.  Jeff Cox, the man, is a DoucheCanoe.

However, does being a DoucheCanoe in your time off mean that Jeff Cox, Deputy Attorney General of the State of Indiana, deserves to be fired?  In my mind, no.  If as an attorney, his conduct violated ethical standards, then there exists a process to determine whether a punishment should be meted out.  If he had tried to use public resources to advance his personal political beliefs, then yes, he should be trotted out in front of an Ethics panel.  However, it seems like he was like me - writing down his thoughts on his own computer at the end of the day, on his own time.  It wasn't until Mother Jones used his state-issued email address to contact him that it looked like he was starting to get himself into trouble.  Never respond to press on your work email.  Copy.  Paste.  Reply at 10pm.

In closing, I want to show you that Jeff Cox is not a lunatic.  In a Google Cache of his last posting to ProCynic on Blogger, he writes the following:
Most unions, in fact, serve as an essential counterbalance to management, who in the absence of unions and other worker protections can get all too abusive. So, if you want to talk about the conflict of interest presented by public employee unions, I hear you. ...But don't question the need for unions and collective bargaining in general. In this age of ruthless corporate penny-pinching, they may be needed now more than ever.
Sadly, for Jeff Cox, a Union IS often the best mediator between management and workers. They provide clear rubrics for compensation to help deter gender wage discrimination by managers, setting rules to prevent the abuse of overtime rules, and set forth clear guidelines as to the employee's responsibilities for interacting with their management.  I do have a sad footnote to Cox's comment.  Rather than present a conflict of interest, public employee unions protect non-elected government employees from being the subject of arbitrary political retaliation by setting forth termination procedures agreed to during collective bargaining.  Such a public employee union would have acted on your behalf, Jeff Cox, in presenting a wrongful termination  proceeding against Greg Zoeller.  They'd be the ones protecting your right to be a DoucheCanoe.  THAT's what Wisconsin is demonstrating for:  So that THEIR DoucheCanoes can continue to be DoucheCanoes without fear of retaliation by elected politicians fearing a PR nightmare.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time is not on my side. No it ain't. No.

If you ever want to have all your free time sucked away in one fell swoop, have your husband be awarded a research grant which will take him away to a foreign country for an extended period of time while you decide to go back to school and take on part-time school while studying for the GRE and still working full-time and also being volunteered for two separate committees for some great causes that you just. can't. say. no. to.  Plus, gym, shopping, cooking, cleaning... baking granola...

So, no, I haven't given this up, I just needed to get into a groove. Hopefully I'll get on this shortly, as I do have my own opinions on the Wisconsin General Work Stoppage, Illinois' Gov. Quinn's tax policy, and the entire legislative agenda for the State of Indiana.  Plus, there's the question about whether or not the Federal Government already wrote the check for Hubby's research, or if it is part of the Draconian cuts proposed by the House of Representatives.

At least boredom is not an option.