janradder: (Default)
Almost as soon as I hit the street, the bike started trying to dart out from under me, like a racehorse anticipating the bell. When I reached the Greenway and had a wide open trail in front of me, it leapt forward like a rocket and we sped along as fast as we could.

A few minutes outside of Minneapolis, a large hawk or falcon dropped down beside me. It was just a few feet away, and the two of us flew along, side-by-side, feeling the wind blowing against us. After about fifteen or twenty yards, it turned its head to look at me then swooped back into the air and flew away.

As I made the loop back to Minneapolis, I came up beside a set of train tracks and a long freight train rolled by, pulled by two engines. It seemed to last forever, box car after box car, followed by a nearly endless line of flatbeds. Each time I thought it had ended, it hadn't. The train outpaced me, stretching out towards Minneapolis, and as I rode through St. Louis Park, it looked like the train stretched from the suburbs all the way to the outskirts of Minneapolis.
janradder: (Default)
Yesterday, for the first time in maybe a month or more, it rained -- a sweet, gentle, soaking rain that was desperately needed around here. Usually, I hate the rain (at least being stuck out in it), but yesterday, I really enjoyed the feeling of it, and each time I had to walk from the car to a store, I did it slowly and leisurely.

On the flip side, along with the rain, we've got temps back down into the fifties (though I think today the high was supposed to be sixty -- yippee!). It's sort of odd walking around in a jack on June 7th and still feeling cold, and looking around at all the other people bundled up and shivering. Last night, I saw a pair of bikers wearing insulated jackets and winter hats and still looking quite cold and miserable.

I wouldn't mind the cool weather so much (in fact, I kind of enjoyed it today at the zoo, where the family went with [livejournal.com profile] snurri -- it felt a little like camping, for some reason), except that here in Minnesota, summers are so damn short that whenever any of these cold days encroach on it, you feel like you're getting cheated.

Sometimes

Apr. 30th, 2009 09:27 am
janradder: (godzilla)
I really, really, really, really, really hate driving in Minnesota.
janradder: (crying)
Look -- I know how fun Christmas is and all, and it gets pretty damn dark and pretty damn cold in Minnesota for a pretty damn long time, but enough already. If you're not willing to take your Christmas decorations down yet, at least have the decency to leave the Christmas lights on your front lawn off. I'm just sayin'.
janradder: (Default)


A sore loser.

Did I mention I plan to screw over Minnesotans by dragging this out as long as I possibly can thus ensuring the state only has one senator for at least the next six months if not longer? I do it because I care. Deeply. About not losing.
janradder: (Default)
Sonia Pitt, fired MnDOT director and recent recipient of a $90K a year job with Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration, has been once again fired.  According to the article, she was hired just two days after being dismissed by MnDOT.  Two weeks ago, after being on the job for two months, her new employer finally got around to doing a background check.  Based on the 25 page arbitrator's ruling which upheld her firing in May, the TSA decided perhaps they did want her working for them anymore.  In addition to her most recent firing, Pitt may also face criminal charges for taking an unauthorized state-paid trip and billing the state for over 94 hours of personal phone calls.  Yay for justice!
janradder: (Default)
Sonia Pitt was a  MnDOT executive in charge of emergency response.  Last August, when the 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, she was on  an unauthorized state paid trip to Washington D.C.  When she heard about the collapse, though her job was to oversee emergency operations, she chose stay in D. C. for another 10 days before returning to Minnesota while search crews continued to look for the bodies of the 13 people who died in the collapse.  Later in the year, for these actions, she was fired.  Her termination letter states that "she engaged in activities that violated MnDOT's ethics code and was involved in 'activities that cannot withstand public scrutiny without embarrassment. ... do not safeguard the public trust in the integrity of MnDOT, and undermine public trust in the Department.'" (from the Minneapolis StarTribune)

Now, as a reward for this violation of the public's trust, she's been awarded a nice job at Homeland Security in the Transportation Safety Administration.

What is wrong with our society that we continue to reward assholes, incompetents, and the lazy with brand-new jobs doing the same thing they failed at so horribly?  If there were any justice in this world, Sonia Pitt would be flipping burgers at some fast food chain, asking customers, "you want fries with that," while bragging to any and all who would listen that she "used to be somebody."
janradder: (Default)
What was the temperature last week?  The fifties?  Today it feels like about eighty degrees after having to mow the lawn which sprang into an unwieldy wilderness overnight.  I am covered in sweat and have heat rash on my face and behind my ears.  So spring lasted, what?  Two days.  It's days like this tha I wonder why the hell I ever moved to this god-forsaken place.
janradder: (crying)
Oh my fucking god, it is actually fucking snowing outside.  It is April 26th and it is FUCKING SNOWING!!!  Who do I talk to about this?  In no way is this possibly acceptable.  Jesus Christ!
janradder: (frustrated)
As I get ready to watch the Red Sox and Yankees square off to play baseball, the sun outside is shining and it is SNOWING.  What the fuck?


(And what the hell is up with Eric Karros' big hair and the bug eyes?  Yeeeesh.)
janradder: (Default)
It's March 31st and it is difficult to see out my window because the snow is falling so fast.
janradder: (Default)
So Lori Swanson, Attorney General of the State of Minnesota and avowed union backer, is also a union buster.  Last week, her office suspended Amy Lawler, an attorney in the AG's office.  The problem is, Lawler is also a union organizer who is attempting to organize her office.  Of course, Swanson's mouthpiece has stated that the suspension has nothing to do with organizing efforts but does anyone really believe that?

The story of Lawler started in February when  she along with two others representing an organizing committee delivered a letter to Swanson asking that she recognize the employees will to be represented by a union  [the letter can be found in the sidebar of the linked article, along with Swanson's response].  Almost a year before the letter, a majority of attorneys had signed union cards which state that they wish to be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 (following that initial drive, last spring, a lawyer from the office was fired by Swanson in retaliation for union activity).  Lawler joined organizers quickly after only four months on the job in the AG's office in response to strong-arm tactics from management in the form of a coffee meeting with the head of the office social committee:

"He started talking to me about why we didn't need a union," Lawler said, "how people only need unions if they are lazy and don't want to do work, and if they're not very good at their jobs and they need protection."

Lawler said the attorney claimed union organizers within the office were backed by an outside political faction intent on bringing down Lori Swanson.

Lawler said the same attorney later approached her and other employees, asking them to sign what she described as a loyalty petition.

"The second paragraph is all about how great Lori Swanson is, how she's the first attorney general to graduate at the top of her class, how she's the first attorney general with such extensive public and private experience, how she never brings politics into the office, how she's all around a great leader," Lawler said. "And then the last paragraph is about how we decry the union's tactics, we don't want them representing us and they don't speak for us." [emphasis added]

Following the letter from the organizers Swanson began conducting her own polls of staff regarding their desire to organize, polls which included captive audience meetings (typical union busting strategy, by the way) and neglecting to invite pro-union lawyers to the voting sessions.  After announcing her results, Swanson decried the letter from the OC as an attempt to embarrass the AG and her office.  She also continued to state that the lawyers who work in her office, legally, have no right to organize.

Just days after Lawler went public with this matter, surprise!  She was removed from her job!  No, not anything as garish as being fired, instead, she was placed on "administrative leave."  The reason given was that Lawler did not go through the proper channels in voicing concerns over ethical issues in her job.  Of course it had  absolutely nothing to do with her union activities. Wink-wink.  Deputy Attorney General Karen Olson, who explained to the press why Lawler was removed from her position also told reporters that she has "asked that she [Lawler]  provide to me, by the end of the week, any information she has regarding ethical concerns. And in fact, if she has any ethical concerns, she should report any violation to the Minnesota Board of Professional Responsibility,"

Yesterday, Lawler delivered a 20 page letter in repsonse listing those concerns which she says she previously raised with supervisors. 

In addition, Lawler highlighted eight specific incidents when other attorneys in the office faced their own ethical challenges. . . .

Lawler described an incident when an attorney in the AG's office refused orders to add inaccurate statements to a consumer's affidavit.

In another case, she says an assistant attorney general was criticized for removing false statements that a supervisor had inserted in affidavits.

Current and former staff attorneys who asked that their names not be used, confirmed both incidents to MPR News.

Lawler says another attorney was ordered to invite consumers to a meeting with the attorney general, but the attorney was not allowed to tell those consumers that the event was also a press conference. That incident was also confirmed by a former attorney.

Other allegations include a supervisor asking an attorney to make blog post lauding the Swanson administration, and employees being hired with the explicit instruction that the position required loyalty to Attorney General Swanson, and that those advocating for the union were not being loyal.

Swanson responded to the letter by again stating that it was an attempt to embarrass her office and repeating that state law prohibits attorneys in her office from forming a union.  Today, to show what a great supporter of unions she is, Lori Swanson spoke at a picket line of members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 who were protesting a change in insurance plans for retired members.

Following the Local 49 event, Swanson was asked if she'd been getting a bum rap on unions.

"I think I've got a great relationship with the labor unions in Minnesota" she said. "I work incredibly hard in the office for the working people of Minnesota and and for all ordinary Minnesotans. And I'm going to keep doing that, keep fighting for the people of Minnesota and keep fighting for ordinary people."

She was also asked about the recent allegations of unethical conduct in her office.  Swanson responded by saying:
"An employer can't respond to anonymous allegations from anonymous former employees or disgruntled employees," she said. "That puts the employer in an untenable situation. If you want to give me names of people and specifics, I'd be happy to talk to you."
I really shouldn't be shocked at any of this but I can't help it.  I am.  People who claim to represent workers shouldn't then go out and trample those workers' rights to organize.  People who claim to support labor, who walk around flaunting their union credentials shouldn't then go and piss on their own employees when they try to form a union. 

This is an issue which is deeply personal to me.  Eleven years ago, I worked at PICA (Parents in Community Action) Head Start in Minneapolis and after two years of seeing how the staff was treated and tired of not getting raises while the director saw her salary double, I and a group of co-workers decided to organize.  For my troubles, I was fired (along with another employee who was seen signing a union card).  Eleven years later and admitting to nearly a dozen unfair labor practices (which included my firing), PICA Head Start in Minneapolis still has no union.  And they never will have a union because most the politicians on the left, when it really comes down to it, couldn't give a crap about labor except for the money they get in campaign contributions.

When I was fired from Head Start, the labor endorsed DFL mayor, Sharon Sayles-Belton, sat on the PICA board.  When I met with her about my situation she did not look at me once.  Her main question was whether or not Head Start could function if the employees formed a union and was shocked that other Head Starts (like the one in St. Paul) were already organized.  Paul Wellstone, union supporter, man of the people and savior of the left, would not support us.  After months of negotiating he finally sent a letter to the president of the labor union (not to us, the workers, but the head of the union) saying that, in theory, Head Start employees had the right to organize and that he supported that theoretical right.  Martin Olav Sabo, another labor endorsed candidate, would not even agree that we had the right to organize.  The only Minneapolis or Minnesota politician who did anything was Mike Freeman who was Hennepin County Attorney at the time.  The minute he heard about our situation, he sent a letter to the director of Head Start informing her that violating federal law (by firing a labor organizer) was not an offense his office would take lightly and was a violation of Head Start's contract with the county  which could result in the loss of said contract.  He also sent a letter to the employees informing them of their right to organize.

It really depresses me to hear about cases like Amy Lawler's.  It takes incredible courage to join an organizing committee and it's such a huge risk to put your own neck out on the line.  Her act of courage lost her her job.  DFLers should be counted on to support organizers.  They shouldn't have to be asked and begged and pleaded with to recognize their employees' right to organize.  If they really are pro-labor, they should  show it.  But they don't because when it comes down to it, they aren't.  But next election cycle, you can be sure  Lori Swanson will get that labor endorsement, and she'll go out and talk about how much she fights for the working Minnesotan and how  much she supports labor and all their causes, how she feels for them and how much she helps them in their struggles.  Just as long they don't come into her house.

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