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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Amazon Union Drive

The important news that you may not be aware of is a unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama.  This is a very, very big deal that could have an impact far wider than just one of the many Amazon locations.  I consider myself mostly neutral when it comes to unionization; by and large, I think employers which have a labor union are in that situation because they deserve it.  

Amazon is a test case though in what's wrong with many employers in the United States today.  As my former Labor Law instructor at Villanova recently said on LinkedIn...

Amazon's pitch is "Don't let the unions come between our relationship".

A warehouse employee counters that by saying "But we don't have a relationship.  We have a relationship with a computer and an app".  

The above also exists in an environment where Amazon employees are afraid to use the bathroom while at work* as the company relentlessly drives for more efficiency and productivity.  Oh, and the company was founded by one (if not the) richest man on Earth.  Now I like getting my Amazon packages quickly with my Prime membership, but I would not complain if I waited an extra day for delivery in order to make sure that Amazon employees are treated more like human beings than a piece of machinery.

Granted, unionization isn't always the best answer to addressing employee issues, but sometimes it may be the only answer that's left for employees.  As a professional, this makes me truly sad.  I believe to my very core that individuals are capable of representation themselves...they don't need an intermediary...but what happens when the leadership of an organization won't actually listen to individuals?

There are better ways out there to do things from a labor-management perspective.  It's worth looking at, for example, how things are done in Germany.

As it stands though, I can't help but support the workers who want to organize in Alabama.  What other choice is left for them?

(*) Citation:

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Last Gasps

Two Last Gasps.

The first is (hopefully) winter.  In some respects, it has been one of the most difficult winters I've had in a long time.  This is how I suspect difficult years end, by the way, in a kind of last gasp.  And I can't even claim to have had things all that bad, by most practical measures.  What I can claim though is that, for the most part, this is not how I imagined my life would be at age 50-something (I am too tired to do the some point, you just stop counting anyway).  That's not a measure of what you might think, by the way.  I would have hoped that I would just have more of this "battles inside my head stuff" figured out.  

Was it always this way?

That's a great question.  I think that, in the past, I always had what I'd call bumpers to my life...things that basically forced me to just plow through stuff.  These are the things that good husbands and fathers do.  Think along the lines of "I don't know what the Hell I am doing, but I'm just going to do it anyway".  With age though, some of those things just go way.  Kids grow up and become successful.  Marriages end and begin again.  Before you know it, there is nothing left to distract me, and here I am, left to answer 40 years of "why" questions.  

Maybe, just maybe, Spring is part of the answer.  A kind of magnificent metaphor.  No matter how horrible the Winter was, between bad weather, pandemics, and insurrections, the snow piles dwindle into nothing and Spring comes.  Maybe I just need to stop thinking so much and just enjoy the coming flowers.

Another last gasp is Kmart.  One of the few remaining Kmarts in the known universe, located in Edwardsville (PA), is closing.  My first trip into a Kmart wasn't really a was a kind of proto-Kmart known as Kresge's in downtown Scranton.  My brothers and I would parade down there with my mother, probably looking like a duck walking with her ducklings, and do the shopping thing.  A high-point was stopping in the cafeteria, where we could get a soda and on the rare occasion a muffin.  Kresge's evolved into Kmart, the staple for us being the one located in the Birney Plaza in Moosic.  Alas, that died a slow death a few years ago, only to be replaced by a pretty nice supermarket.

Anyway, I couldn't forgo the opportunity to make my last stop in one of the last Kmarts in the universe, so my younger stepson and I make the few-mile trek.  It was everything one would expect...this combination of sadness and apathy rolled into an odd mix of horrible-looking clothing and a few Craftsmen tools.  I did end up getting some tools during that trip by the way.  I also saved the bag.  30 years from now maybe I'll pull it out from a drawer and reminisce about how my brother Chris had this habit of pouring some of each different kind of soda into his cup as we were at the small Kresge's cafeteria.  Yes, he was a rebel even back then.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

It's Been A Long Road, Getting From There To Here

I don't think I have ever gone this long without posting something before, but February was a long month, even though it is actually the shortest month.  As for why it has been so long, I wish I had a good answer other than, maybe, "tired".   That can be tired as in physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.  While it may not seem like much on the outside, writing this stuff can be taxing on me.  Granted that I enjoy this...I would be doing it for going on 13 years if I didn't...but sometimes things just get in the way.  

Work has been taxing, and I readily admit that I am needing to learn new skills to make it work.  The skills, by the way, have nothing to do with strategic job stuff.  More like the skills associated with balancing my needs to do everything right, self-flagellation when I get it wrong, and better understanding my boundaries.  There is a kind of moral here, namely that getting older doesn't mean you have all the answers.  It also makes me question how well I have served my own needs by having stayed at the same employer for so long.  Was I ultimately too isolated from the "real world"?  No sense expending too many mental calories on that one, as the rear-view mirror examination is best used in very small doses.  

For the record, trying to mentally back out of certain thought patterns is very, very difficult for me.  For example, where I should be in life right now, I think, is working towards an eventual retirement.  That's the big goal.  I should be viewing what I do now through that lens, not the one where I over-examine in microscopic detail what I do every day.

Then there are the reminders every once in a while where the universe tries to re-focus your head.  Recently, in my case, part of that has been a friend who is going through cancer treatment.  Here I am wallowing in whether I cheesed someone off at work and this person is dealing with "the Big C".  I readily confess, in a brief moment at work that I nearly broke down thinking about it.  Sometimes "...universe tries to re-focus..." is just a fancy way to say "...dramatically unfair $hit..." (with apologies for the quasi-swear word).

I do sometimes wonder if I have reached a kind of existential moment in my life, with more questions about "why" than there are actual answers.

In any event, I am moving along.  Part of that moving along involves my doing a better job at work of just focusing on task other words, just trying to get some stuff done.  Part of that, in turn, involves being less emotionally invested in things.  I need to come to work, do my best, and leave work.  I am learning (make that trying to learn) that I need to save the emotional investment for things where an actual emotional investment is more appropriate.

Re-reading the above, it seems like I have spent a few hundred words trying to say something that could easily be described in a single sentence.  So I'll give that a try now:

"I am re-examining just how important my professional experience should be in the context of my larger life."

How's that?  I know, all of the above is an incredible exercise in over-thinking.  Maybe that's the point...and also the problem.

* * * * * *

On a more practical, non-internal dialogue note, I am officially fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.  I should probably feel more relieved than I actually do, but in all fairness personal worry about the pandemic hasn't been much of a driver for me over the past year.  If anything, I worry more for others, including those who are more vulnerable to infection because of their health or what they do for a living.  Here's to hoping that we, as a nation, have turned a corner in the fight against the virus.