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|Saturday, March 26th, 2011|
One of the results of my last retreat (March 11-19):
|Wednesday, November 24th, 2010|
|Writer's Block: Unplugged
For how much money would you be willing to spend a whole week away from the Internet, TV, and mobile phones? Would you suffer withdrawal pains?
What an oddly appropriate question, as I came back from retreat not too long ago and haven't written anything here since.
You wouldn't have to pay me anything. That's part of what I call "retreat". I try to do this at least two or three times a year, and I highly recommend it.
If there is something else going in my life, it can make going on retreat a little bit painful to do. The solution is to set that week aside well ahead of time, like a couple of months or more. Then warn everybody who needs to be warned, including the people who contact you in the week or two before your retreat, desperately needing your help (this always
happens). Just smile and say "I'll give it my full attention - when I'm back
If you are the sort of person who thinks the world will fall apart if you do something like this, then it would probably be all the more helpful to you.
|Saturday, October 23rd, 2010|
No phone or internet for the next week. Be well!
|The struggle continues
The IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union lost a very tight National Labor Relations Board vote
yesterday. The IWW recorded 22 separate unfair labor practices on the part of the franchise owners, and might file a formal challenge to the election on these grounds. A victory would have made the JJWU the certified legal representative of Jimmy John's workers in 10 stores in the Minneapolis area. It would have obliged the franchise owners to bargain with them over wages and benefits.
This is a disappointment, but it needs to be kept in perspective. The IWW was formed in 1905, decades before the National Labor Relations Act was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt. There was no legal process in place to recognize unions at that time: for the first few decades of its existence, the IWW didn't sign any contracts at all. Agreements between management and unions were completely informal. They were enforced by the power of the union to go on strike or find other means of disrupting the company's operations if the company offered substandard wages and working conditions. It was a rough and intensive process, but it worked: using a variety of direct methods, the union was able to bring about improved conditions in the industries where it had a significant presence.
Government doesn't create unions. It only recognizes them and allows them a limited number of powers under the law, none of which mean much if the union doesn't have the power to enforce them. Under the NLRA, the employer is required to bargain in good faith with a union that has won certification, but they are not
required to sign a contract with that union. Many unions have found this out the hard way after winning NLRB certification and finding that the employer refuses to deal.
If you read the National Labor Relations Act itself, available online
, it says right in the beginning that it was intended "to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred". In other words, it was written to allow business as usual
. The entire first section of the Act is an attempt to argue that legal unions and collective bargaining are good for business.
Needless to say, business has never really believed this, and unions shouldn't either. Collective bargaining is only good for business in the sense that strikes and other forms of direct action are much, much worse for it. Workers forget that at their peril.
The best side of the Act is that it does protect concerted activities
on the part of workers, whether or not they are represented by a union
. No doubt the JJWU will make good use of that power as they continue their struggle. Many people will be watching Jimmy John's to make sure they respect it.
|Saturday, September 11th, 2010|
|Sunday, September 5th, 2010|
And today and yesterday I was sick as a dog. The food? Some strange Canadian virus from my old friends? Who knows?
The parrot is insisting that it is "night night", so to bed I must go directly.
On Friday night I had a great dinner with my friends Heather and Patrick from Winnipeg and their three adorable children. We had Ethiopian food at Fasika in Saint Paul. They are in town for the General Assembly of the IWW
, which is going on this weekend right here in the Twin Cities.
I was a Wobbly, delegate, acting branch secretary-treasurer and member of the union executive board up until around 2001 - I think - when the branch dried up and died, I resigned from the e-board, and soon thereafter stopped filing reports. I just plain burned out and there was no one here to support me. I still have regrets about those days, but things just went the way they did.
Sometimes the old growth has to die off for something new to happen. A few years later, there was a new branch going here with entirely new people, doing street protests and surprise, actual on-the-job organizing. Now there is an IWW Starbucks union
and, most recently, a daring new campaign to organize Jimmy John's
It brings a tear to my eye. I'm going to sign up again and be a dual-carder as I was in years past, IWW and ATU.
We may be on the verge of another transit strike in the Twin Cities, and my other union, ATU Local 1005
, could certainly use support.
Edit: I should make it abundantly clear that I do not speak for Metro Transit or for ATU Local 1005. Also, even to say "may be on the verge" is probably less than responsible of me.
So here are the facts: the union was given a contract offer. Union members voted it down with 98% voting No. Union leadership and management are still talking. I am sure neither of them care to negotiate through the media, which includes people's personal blogs, so that is probably about all I should say on the topic for now.
|Sunday, August 29th, 2010|
Tonight: a great flock, a great aerial squadron of nighthawks
in the twilight sky, soaring, circling, diving all together, the sharp eerie "peeet" of their calls bouncing off the roofs and pavement. These birds in late summer were the music of my childhood.
I remember telling a friend in grade school what I'd just learned about them and their strange lives, how they lived on insects they caught in the air like bats do, how some people thought they used the echo of their voice to navigate, how they really weren't hawks at all but another kind of bird called goatsuckers
, how they were called that because country people used to think they came and stole milk from nanny goats at night, heaven knows why...
And I think it was about then that he threatened to punch me in the mouth if I didn't "stop making shit up".
This taught me a couple of things. One is that many people absolutely do not believe in anything beyond their own direct experience.
There is some value in that: for one thing, it gives you some protection against the idea that people who are authorities
and have written books
invariably know more than you, and should always be trusted. For another, it discourages you from thinking that reading something in one, two or three different places is really the same thing as knowing
it. This is a disease that affects a lot of people who have read a lot and experienced little. Higher education is plagued with it. People just keep reading each other's bibliographies and get no closer to the truth than they were when they started.
On the other hand, if we refused to take information from other people's experiences, there would be no such thing as learning.
My combative friend not only didn't believe that there was such a thing as a "goatsucker", he didn't believe that anyone could ever have written about such a thing or that I'd ever read anything in a book about it, because he himself had not done so, and would never do so. He really just didn't care. Inexplicably, I did care. I cared about something that might never have any practical value to me in my whole life, and that really bothered him somehow.
That was the other thing I learned: there are many people who will look right at the squadron of nighthawks, soaring, circling, diving after insects with impossible finesse, the harsh music of their cries filling up the summer twilight, and they literally will not see them. They will only see "birds".
We need to feel compassion for such people. We also need to protect ourselves and the natural world from them, because they are very dangerous.
I know, owls don't drink. They just look hung over because they were photographed in the morning and they ought to be in bed.
That's their story, anyway.
|Wednesday, August 25th, 2010|
|No Excuse for Tom Emmer
Why has Tom Emmer (MN State Rep from Delano, Republican candidate for Governor) missed so many votes in the MN House of Representatives?
Help him think of new excuses:http://www.missedvotes.com/excuse.html
My excuse: "Abducted by extraterrestrials. They gave him some great tips on how to balance the state budget. Unfortunately, he's keeping them secret." Current Mood: amused
|Saturday, August 21st, 2010|
Those of you coming to Phoenix and Grenacia's game night: you are welcome to come in and visit the parrot (Garuda) and turtle (Erin).
I recommend supervising small people and not letting anyone stick their fingers in the turtle's tank or the parrot's cage. They are both friendly but they can play a bit rough sometimes.
Garuda should not come out of his cage unless Grenacia is there to supervise.
I may be around for a little while at the beginning, maybe not. My schedule is quite different from theirs and I don't have the day off.
|Friday, August 20th, 2010|
|Thursday, August 19th, 2010|
|Target Ain't People so why should it be...
Normally I have mixed feelings about invading a workplace like this. The workers are just trying to get through their day. But if you're going to do it, by all means make it fun.
|Tuesday, August 10th, 2010|
I probably won't stay up long enough to see the final results. Margaret's in the lead but it's going to be close.
Dayton's percentage is inching upward as the returns from outside the metro area come in, but those votes may not be enough to carry the state.
Entenza is just over 18% at the present count. I'd expected a better return for him, with his celebrity endorsements, celebrity running mate and millions spent on the campaign. His poor showing at the DFL convention probably didn't help.
|Monday, August 9th, 2010|
|Please vote tomorrow
Primary elections are tomorrow. For the love of all that is good, please get out and vote for your candidates of choice (and hopefully FOR choice). Only about 1 in 10 of your fellow voters will bother to do so, so your vote will actually count more than it will in the general election.
I support Margaret Anderson Kelliher for Governor of Minnesota. Margaret was my high school classmate. It's hard to do justice to her with words, but just let me say that if we have to have government at all, we could not possibly have enough people like her in it, and we need to elect those people.
I actually didn't see too much of Margaret in high school, except if I was lucky enough to share a class with her. Nobody saw much of her, unless they were involved in drama or speech. She was too busy working. Margaret did not hang out at the mall. While I was spending my scarce resources on records by The Cure and trying to master Space Invaders and Battlezone, Margaret was mucking out dairy stalls and going over spreadsheets, trying to help keep the family dairy farm from going under.
It's as if she didn't have time to be a teenager. She was like an Athena, who sprang full-grown out of her father's head with a spear in her hand. She was already fighting in those days, first of all fighting for her family's home and livelihood, and I don't think she's ever stopped fighting since then.
I won't say anything bad about the other candidates running in the DFL primary. Nobody really knows what's going to happen tomorrow, and either one of the other top guys would be miles ahead of the Republican candidate. But I think Margaret has qualities that neither of them will ever have.
The worst anyone can say about her is that her campaign has not been that exciting. She's a Swedish farm girl from southern Minnesota: the only kind of drama she has much time for is the kind that happens on a stage.
I'm thinking of doing the Midnight Madness lit drop tonight, anyone want to go? Margaret will speak at 9:30pm at the CWA union hall at 3521 East Lake Street. Then everyone will hit the streets to put flyers under people's windshield wipers. It's a great easy way to help the campaign.
Edit: Athena carries a spear, of course, not a sword. And here I thought I was a fan of Mary Renault's
|Friday, August 6th, 2010|
|Robert Aitken Roshi
"Everything just as it is,
as it is, as is.
Flowers in bloom.
Nothing to add."
Robert Baker Aitken, poet, peace activist, environmentalist and Zen priest, died yesterday at the age of 93. He began studying Buddhism under interesting circumstances, while he was held in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
He was someone I knew about mainly because his works were quoted by others, but a person whose life spread its effect very widely, like a butterfly whose beating wings might cause a great storm on the other side of the world.
"Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me."
As you know very well, "I'm sorry you felt hurt when I did that" is not the same thing as "I'm sorry I did that". One of those statements is an apology, and the other is not.
|Monday, July 12th, 2010|
|Sunday, June 20th, 2010|
I was sitting in a Buddhist temple when the tornadoes came through Thursday night. Khenpo-la showed up a little bit late: I wonder if he had been doing something for our safety. We sat down, meditated, and received teachings on the Seven Line Prayer as the wind howled outside.
There was a long chain of storms stretching across much of the state, destroying most of the town of Wadena and killing three people, but most of Minneapolis slipped through one of the gaps.
In other news, I thought I'd moved out of neighborhoods where dead bodies showed up regularly:( Read more...Collapse )
|Friday, June 18th, 2010|
|Bad dreams of academe
How many of you still have the dream where it's the last day of the term, and you realize you haven't turned in several papers, or actually gone to class in weeks. No one is in their office, and then you realize you're late for the final exam, and you're in your underwear...?
Occasionally I think I should have gone to grad school. It's much worse in the fall. Too many years of school put a seasonal rhythm into your body that can make you feel like something is wrong if it's fall and you're not starting something new.
Then I read something like this
and I snap out of it, fast. I love McSweeney's Open Letters.