Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on Unions...

Unions.  So much controversy.  My thoughts may surprise many people.  Love’em, hate’em they are with us to stay.  That can be a good thing.

Unions gained a strong foothold from tremendous abuse by employers in the early coal miner days that brought about Tennessee ErnieFord’s famous song, “16 ton and what’a you get? Another day older and deeper in debt, St. Peter I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store.”  Working conditions were extremely dangerous, a living wage was non-existent, and a whole host of other issues were present.  Born out of this abuse from too strong an employer the unions finally came into being. 

If the unions disappeared completely then I have no doubt similar conditions would return in some cases.  Hence the love-hate relationship continues.  The problem to me appears to be most acute if one or the other becomes too powerful and then abuses its power.

Negotiations should have a goal to achieve a win win final outcome, not a win lose.  I think this can best be done if all union members would participate more closely in the process.  I would encourage all that have a direct interest on the employer side to have some say and direct knowledge in the process also.  I realize this can be difficult to do, but I think this will bring better outcomes for all.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Response to letters…in Pike newspapers

Normally I do not get into “shooting” matches with letters to the editor. However, I would like to take a moment to respond to some letters in last week’s papers.

The first item; it was stated that our Federal government and by implication Pike County as well is “run by the Tea Party.” The Tea Party concept stands for no nanny state. In other words there is no one better able to manage your business than you. To prove that the Federal government is not run by the so called Tea Party movement we saw the President maintained his Obamacare in the face of intense Tea Party opposition. If the Tea Partiers were “running” things I can assure you there would be no Obamacare.

As to Pike being run by the Tea Party – I am the only active Tea Party board member, and you can bet on one thing, I do not run this board. This board is composed of an intelligent, dedicated, and independent group who care about the welfare of our county. They come from different walks of life and represent a whole variety of folks. We have some philosophical differences, but remain committed to the well being of the citizens and we each one understand that our first charge is from the declaration of independence, and that is to secure the fundamental rights of the People first and foremost.  As to the massive pay increase to the board members – we have gone from the old IRS mileage allowance of 46 cents to 56 cents. I now get 30 cents more per meeting. I will try not to spend that all in one place. My understanding is that no pay increase has been made in board member per meeting charge since 1992.

Next there was a policy of no pay for more than one meeting per day. That has changed to per meeting period. After we have had multiple meetings with labor negotiations and other important issues the time was getting to be an issue, and it did not seem like too much to at least get paid per meeting. We could schedule them on different days and get paid and no one would fuss.

The final straw seemed to be when we went to a meeting at 5PM, immediately followed by another at 6PM that went till midnight with a labor negotiation. There was no supper break, just hard at it serious back and forth discussion. That was seven hours uninterrupted of meetings. I am not sure if my union friend would go to his job and work 7 straight hours for $40 bucks or not. Somehow I don’t think so. Now it is important to realize that many of the board members are handling items during other times, such as calls to the labor board, or insurance companies or meeting with department heads. I have traveled to Nebo several times and north of Baylis and have welcomed phone calls to listen to citizen concerns. I have traveled to homes to talk with folks about their issues. These are not paid hours or miles. Michael Boren out of love for the unique architecture and history of our court house has spent many unpaid hours supervising and checking concerns expressed by custodial staff. Justin Noble has spent countless unpaid hours trying to resolve the labor issues, meanwhile getting to work at his job at 3 or 4 in the morning. He has also missed many of his son’s ball games. Harry Wright grits his teeth and makes it to many meetings and various places in the county, in spite of severe physical handicaps. Andy Borrowman makes it to nearly every meeting, many without pay. This doesn’t count many hours on the phone and responding to emails. I could go on about the many hours Jim Sheppard has spent on the budget and Cleve Curry on Public safety and the ambulance projects, and Tami Webel traveling and meeting with people and visiting projects for the economic development ‐ all of these and many more for no remuneration. Fred Bradshaw with serious medical concerns meeting with road and bridge and economic development needs outside of paid meetings.

I will be the first to admit I had no clue about the true responsibilities we take on when we choose to run for the office of Pike County Board member. I am not complaining, however I think it is important for the public to have a better idea about just what goes on. If you think the board is in it for the money you should think again.

Further, we the board, live under constant fear that we will inadvertently say something technically inappropriate that will give so called cause to initiate some type of labor dispute. We have to hire attorneys who can speak for us since we do not understand all the lingo and word meanings that could easily be misinterpreted then subsequently lead to a grievance.”

I hope this helps all to understand a little bit more about the tasks and responsibilities that go with the position of Pike County board member. Everyone on this board welcomes inquiries as to what is going on with our local government. We would request that you try to reach us and let us get back to you when we are able to have time to discuss your concerns. I should state that the opinions and thoughts and observations expressed here are my own and in no way reflect any official board opinion.