What you Need To Know

Opinions expressed in my articles are my own, and opinions in the articles and comments section written by others are strictly those of the author or commenter and not me.

Please be civil, it adds nothing to the conversation to engage in name-calling.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When Are Women Going to Get Equal Rights?

There has been a small stirring in the latest news cycles - mostly as a result of the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act just passed by Congress. While this goes some distance toward reversing that horrid decision by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter vs Goodyear, I don't think it goes far enough. The statute of limitations is 2 years now - but that presumes that women in the workplace can actually find out that they are being discriminated against.

Anyone who has worked for a living for a medium to large-sized corporation knows that there is intense pressure and sometimes even punitive measures in place that prevent or strongly discourage workers from discussing their wages with their peers. The employers are certainly not forthcoming with information of this nature. So exactly how is the woman supposed to find out? In Lily's case - a co-worker gave her a tip - but did so anonymously for fear of retribution. Millions of women are not so lucky (if you can call her that). But at least with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, at least you may have a chance at recovering some of those lost wages. That's far better than the current situation.

Women have actually lost ground on the pay issue under the Bush misrule. In 2000, women were up to 79 cents per dollar of mens wages. Women are now at 76 cents. This is a bit harder to address because of the built-in differences in wages between traditional 'womens' work and 'mens' work. While women and men are making strides in breaking down the barriers and performing well in occupations that used to be reserved for their opposite gender, the workplace is far from equal. We need a real examination of the value of the job itself - taking into account levels of responsibility, educational requirements, and the like. My favorite example is that my non-high-school graduate father and GED-holding husband were both truck drivers. They were responsible for a large motor vehicle, and loads of commodities that sometimes were worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They were responsible for watching out for hundreds of idiot car drivers, and getting their loads to the destination when their bosses had promised. Their wages ran around $12-14 per hour (calculated since they both got paid by the mile plus loading and unloading time).

My mother, who had a Masters of Science in Nursing, and was in charge of the largest hospital in our state but one, was making at the same time, $8 per hour. It is hard to quantify how much the two levels of responsibility are between a big truck driver and an advanced-degree nurse, but I believe that they are at least equivalent. And therein lies the rub. Truck drivers are mostly men. Nurses are mostly women. That seems to be the only substantive difference that explains the disparity in their pay. So when are we going to have this discussion?

And finally, unions. Unions are getting a really bad rap from the right-wing at the present time. They are being blamed for everything that is wrong with the economy and are being tarred with the complete culpability for business failures (outside of the banking and finance industry) when it is actually the failure of the credit markets that is to blame.

A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that joining a union raises a woman's wages as much as one year of college courses does, and gives a woman better chance of having health insurance than earning a four-year degree does. In fact, women in unions earn an average of 11.2 percent more than their counterparts not in unions.

Such studies demonstrate why it's so critical that Congress prioritizes passing the Employee Free Choice Act! The EFCA is not a repeal of democratic principles, and does NOT get rid of secret ballots. If the workers want to have an election in addition to the card-check, they still can. Currently though, card-check exists but must be followed with an election. The corporations use the time between a majority card-check-off to threaten and intimidate workers and in some cases have even closed stores or plants to prevent unionization. The availability of the card-check to validate a union allows workers to avoid this. It also increases penalties for verified threats and intimidation tactics used by these corporations.

So if you have a minute or two, make a phone call, send a FAX, or write a letter to your Congresscritter and urge passage of the EFCA, and any other pay equity legislation currently pending before your State or the Federal legislature. Women work just as hard (in a lot of cases, harder!) than men - and we all deserve equal pay and benefits. It is not about a new hat any more. There are too many women who are the sole support of themselves and their children, and too many families where two wage-earners are a necessity, not a choice.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Evil Reborn?

Like all citizens of the world, I am watching the events unfolding in Gaza with the Israeli bombing, strafing and soon to come ground invasion. The history of this area has been one heartache after another of tit-for-tat killings. But recently, the word genocide has begun creeping into the dialogue.

There are several problems. First, any criticism of what the STATE of Israel, that is, its government, is immediately denounced as anti-Semitism. This is a problem because it is being used as a cover, and a justification for whatever bad acts the government decides to do. And there are many. Israel has not lived up to any of the conditions set up in Oslo, Rekyavik, Taba, the Roadmap, or a large number of US resolutions - all of which call for it to withdraw to the 1967 borders, and stop building settlements in areas outside that line.

Second, The Palestinians insistence on the 'right of return'. Regardless of how one feels about the formation of the State of Israel and the movement of millions of Palestinians to refugee camps back in the 1940s, the facts on the ground are here and now. The populations of both groups have continued to grow, and the areas controlled by both have not. There is pressure on both sides to find room for new inhabitants. The fact is that most of the Palestinians alive today were always residents of the 'refugee' camps that are now cities within the West Bank and Gaza. In return for this concession on the part of the Palestinians, Israel MUST allow and/or provide access to water. In this desert region, water is more important than oil. It is a vital necessity of life and must not be restricted or interfered with.

There are other issues, the fence, the status of Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank, the Hamas/Fatah internecine conflict, the list goes on and on.

But now to my point. The world has basically agreed by consensus that certain leaders, including Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and others, have committed horrendous crimes against their own people and others. The death tolls in each instance are in the millions and simply staggering in the wanton disrespect for human life. So let's look at the leadership in Israel and Gaza and see if there are any comparisons.

There has been much argument among the MSM whether Israel's response to Hamas' rocket attacks is disproportionate. There has almost been unanimous condemnation by the governments around the world of Hamas, claiming that they started this and they are getting a well-deserved pounding, after all, Israel has a right to defend itself.

While I am not defending suicide bombers and rocket attacks by the Palestinians, we do need some perspective on this issue.

Here's a little story (h/t to several commenters at FDL and C&L and Salon for some of the imagery):

Suppose that the people of Rhode Island elected a Grand Dragon of the KKK for their governor. Then let's suppose that the governor of Massachusetts, who is a black man(absolutely no offense or anything intended to the current governor), announced that he would not recognize the government of Rhode Island because it is now being run by a terrorist organization. And the government of Massachusetts began the process of erecting a huge concrete 'fence' around the entire state of Rhode Island. Of course, he didn't stay on the borders, but ran the fence around some prime pieces of real estate that Massachusetts really wanted to get away from Rhode Island in the first place. Then the government of Massachusetts imposed a blockade and refused to let in any food, fuel, medicine and other stuff for the people of Rhode Island. It gets so bad that the people there are eating grass because there is no other food. Now let this situation go on for over a year. Finally, the people of Rhode Island say enough, and begin building rockets which they lob over the fence towards the cities of Massachusetts. Of course the Governor of Massachusetts screams that he needs to defend his State and launches an aerial bombardment, including bombing any vehicle that is moving, any person who happens to be walking on the street, all the police and fire stations, all the city halls and state capitol, and the houses of any government officials it can find (or not). The home-made rockets didn't kill very many people. But hundreds are now dead and thousands injured in Rhode Island.

Here is where the evil comes in. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been asked when they will allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Her reply: There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, so there is no need for any humanitarian intervention.

Evil reborn? Whaddya think? I'm just sayin'.