Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wishing I could root for my local teamsters

In a few weeks, 1500 pounds of books will be on their way from Michigan to my door. Two pallets loaded with boxes. I have to choose an LTL company; LTL stands for Less Than Load, for shipments that don’t fill an 18-wheeler. I have my LTL shipments held at a trucking terminal for me to pick up, because then the delivery timing is under my control.

Prices are pretty similar between LTL companies, so the choice comes down to how convenient and pleasant the terminal is to work with. Last week I went to three local terminals to see which one I should choose. All three turn out to be non-union companies.

Part of the problem I had last year with the local YRC terminal is apparently related to YRC being a Teamsters company. That led to endless internal disputes about taking responsibility for the shipment damage, pissing matches about how long to delay unloading trailers at the terminal, and strict rules about who is allowed to operate a forklift (rules unrelated to who has the training to safely operate a forklift). These seem really important to the workers and the management, which are generally the two sides to union negotiations. But there’s a third side to the business: the customers. The union doesn’t want to negotiate with the customers, or even take the customers into consideration. And the net result is that a union shop is harder to deal with as a customer.

I don’t want it to be that way. I want the union and the management to say “Hi, customers! We know what you want: reliable shipping, with your delivery handled carefully and safely by trained workers who care about doing a good job. YRC can do that, because we’re a union shop.”

Instead I find myself driving into a terminal that looks like it should be condemned, run by a company that frantically advertises for new drivers on craigslist. And thinking that this would be a far better option than ever dealing with YRC again, because at least this place isn’t a Teamsters shop.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunlight shouldn’t hurt

A simple set of principles when you’re responsible for public money:

Keep track of the money.
Keep track of your mission.
Be transparent about where the money goes and why.
Don’t take the money for yourself.
Don’t give the money to your family and friends.
Don’t spend the money on something that benefits you, your family, or your friends: no junkets, no office parties, no fancy anything.
Always avoid conflicts of interest.
If it looks bad to people who agree with your mission, don’t do it.

Any others?

Friday, April 6, 2012

The bells of freedom

Let the bells of freedom sound:
we are free, we are free, we are free.

For a thousand generations shall this story be told, each generation to the next:
we are free, we are free, we are free.

We dry at last the bitter tears of slavery:
we are free, we are free, we are free.

And you shall teach your child on that day, saying:
we are free, we are free, we are free.

Let no one doubt the power of faith. Our bodies were broken by hard labor, yet now we are free. Our children were slaughtered, yet now we are free. We were there, yet now we are free.

We fight to give our children a better life, just as our parents fought for us, just as their parents fought for them, all the way back to our ancestors enslaved in Egypt. We are taught that we were there ourselves, that each generation must face that struggle, must rouse and rise up and search for freedom. And now we are free.

I have never seen a righteous man forsaken, or his children begging for bread. Is that line more difficult than the statement that we are free? We jail more than a million people a month in our country. I went to high school with 1500 other people. That’s how many people are locked up every hour. Do we understand freedom differently when so many of us taste imprisonment?

Serious people argued in the Supreme Court just last week that our only real freedom resides in our right not to act. Is that what we now mean by freedom? Has the famous American optimism been transmuted into a faint hope that we won’t have to leave our homes?

Each generation faces the struggle for freedom, just in a new form. May remembering our ancestors in Egypt give us hope and give us strength. We have faced worse, and survived. We have taken many steps towards freedom. We celebrate each of those steps towards freedom, and say dayenu even as we take the next step. And we proclaim our freedom in order to claim our freedom. We are free, we are free, we are free.

Happy Passover.