Thursday, February 17, 2005

A personal grassroots journalism project

I guess I have started a grassroots journalism project. Years ago I served several terms as union president in the staff employees union at San Jose State. Lately I have seen some developments in the union I am very disturbed about. So, I have started this blog to voice those concerns, and to start a conversation on the subject.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Union leadership, a delicate balance

Man balancing stuffIt is not easy being a union officer. There is a lot to balance. You have a lot to do with almost no resources. You have a lot of people who make a lot of demands, but only a handful offer to help out. It seems you have an impossible mission and you do not get paid for all the work you do. It often is a thankless job and it is a source of a lot of heartache. Is it any wonder that union leaders can be very tempted to take short cuts? If nobody is paying any attention, it may seem, who would notice?

But, there are some places where you can never cut corners. You can't cut corners when it comes to democratic principles. If you don't adhere to strict compliance to fair election procedures, honest reporting of union funds, and communication to your constituents of what the union is doing, how can you claim to have a constituency?

In my opinion you cannot cut corners on organizing. If you are not recruiting new members and not seeking to include folks from all over your workplace in the functions of your union, how can you claim to be an organization that bargains collectively and represents equally?

I believe you cannot cut corners on communication. If you can E-mail 70% of your employees but 30% of the employees are in jobs that don't have E-mail and you just write those folks off, these are lower paid mostly minority workers without computers, how can you possibly claim any legitimacy?

I believe you cannot cut corners on representation. It is the union's responsibility to represent employees, to defend the contract through aggressive grievance handling and professional bargaining that includes work site organizing to win better rights as well as improvements in wages, hours and working conditions. Otherwise, why even have a union?

A union is not a monarchy or a secret society. Sometimes, when faced with a lot of work and an apathetic constituency it is easy to cut corners. It is hard being a union leader. But, I believe, if you cut corners on what it means to be a union then you have cut out too much. If you cut corners too deep, you will cut out the union's soul. Then, I believe, you are no good for anybody!

It's too late to die young

Too Late to Die Young, by Harriet McBride; this book is coming out in April and it is already a must read. I just read a story by her in the AARP magazine. I think this is the first time I have ever read anything in an AARP magazine, especially one delivered to our front door!
My first wife, Candy’s death at 33 was such a shock because I was the one expected to die young. The women in Candy’s family all seem to live very long lives and I was morbidly obese. Candy always used to talk about what she was going to do after I died. The idea that I would out live her was as alien as the concept of what happened on 9/11 was before 9/11. Candy died almost 14 years ago. I will soon be 50.
McBride has Muscular Dystrophy. She was told over and over she was going to die young. She is 47 now. Her story is a wonderful testament to the importance of living life fully. The truth is we do not ever really know when we are going to die, or not die. We need to never give up and need to keep living life like each moment is our last, or not.
Today could be my last, or I could live another 50 years.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

We are thinking of logos for the union

We need a new logo for our new union? Here is my idea!

Friday, February 11, 2005

We can't fix everything

I once thought and believed with all my heart, "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." I got active in my union, I attended community meetings, I went to city council meetings. I was a steward. I walked picket lines and nobody cared. I chanted through a bull horn. This made people mad. I have had a gun aimed at me, more than once.
It almost ruined my life and still I was frustrated. It was not enough. More had to be done. Most people did not care. I was angry. I was unhappy. I was working as hard as I could and I was always tired. Still, some people who I was trying to help didn't think I was doing enough work to fix their problems, other people I leaned on for support didn't show so I tried to do their work, but most people either still did not care or they considered me a nuisance.
Apathy, lethargy and momentum are huge forces. I learned I cannot move a herd of elephants. I have had to back off. Less is more than nothing. Well, maybe, I can move just one elephant?

Blog Full Disclosure Statement

Dear Blogosphere:

One of the topics of conversation that came up in last night's great Geek Dinner with Robert Scoble is how a person presents his or herself and establishes a virtual identity with blogs. Should a person have one weblog where all thoughts, opinions, passions and ideas are presented? Or, should a person divide their blogs into categorys that can be viewed as a whole or by category? Or, should they have separate blogs for different parts of their lives?

I went the different blog route. I do not want folks to have to sift through what to them may seem like noise to get to the content (the signal) that they want. Also, I do not want folks to be turned off on what I present on one topic because they disagree with an unrelated opinion.

The down side is I may not be presenting an honest digital identity of who I am. So, for the sake of honesty and full disclosure, here it all is:

My Family Weblog
This where I chronicle my family and personal life. This is a digital journal of the folks who are nearest and dearest to me.
My Geek Blog
This is where I write about my work and passion for emerging technology in higher education.
The Edupodder Blog
This is where is host content specific to podcasting in higher education and content related to the sessions I teach in the Center for Faculty Development and Support at SJSU. This often crosses over with my Geek Blog. I am concerned that dual posting between this and my Geek Blog may happen too often and may dilute the topic conversations on each.
The Black and Blue Blog
This is where you can read bicycle news and information related to the bike club I am active in, the Almaden Cycle Touring Club. I am the publisher of their monthly newsletter and I use this blog as a club news source and a place to coordinate production of that newsletter.
My Opinion Blog
This is where I hide my opinions of everything from movies and wine to politics, religion and relationships. If you disagree, I respect your opinion.

So, there it is Blogosphere, that is who I am. For the sake of full disclosure, I am posting this to all my blogs!


My wish, a democratic CSUEU, formerly CSEA, CSU division

The California State University division of the California State Employees Association, CSEA, was the union that represented employees in four bargaining units of the California State University System. Now, that division of the union has broken away (to an extent) and formed the California State University Employees Union, CSUEU (which is still affiliated with CSEA.)

I believe in my heart in the concept of collective bargaining. I am a former president of the CSEA (now CSUEU) chapter at San Jose State University.

With that history in mind, I hope the new organization has an increased focus on democratic principles and practices. In my opinion labor unions cannot be secret societies that are not accountable to their constituencies, that do not report their budgets, expenditures and income to the constituency and that fail to communicate matters like policy and by-laws, union meeting times and locations, officer nominations, the status of bargaining and the distribution of union funds to the people they represent. In my opinion employees have a right to know what their union is doing and where their money is being spent.

In my opinion democracy is at the heart of unionism. The union has to have firm processes in place to address problems, complaints and issues not just between the employees and the employer, but between the employees and their union. I hope the new union makes democratic representation a core value as they move forward.