I’m My Own Scab

by Thomas Hine, September 15, 2011

The leaders of the biggest, baddest and toughest union anywhere around have told its workers to go ahead, take a walkout. Walk away from your desks and offices and trucks and yards for half a day, and that will show Mendocino County we mean business, you betcha!

So the workers get in line, heads down, and move slowly through the passageways out into the street, making faint mooing noises as they herd up. They are handed signs and told to wave them. A car horn honks.

County officials, two miles away, clink tall glasses filled with ice and an unknown beverage. They smile and wink at one another. More than a week ago one of the administrators totaled up the savings from each county worker taking half a day off, and realized the only thing better for the county budget was if the workers took two half-days off. Three would be even better. Six hundred would be incredibly sweet!

What does any reasonable, thoughtful person think half a day away from a job will accomplish? Let’s analyze:

• Instead of working eight hours today, you’ll work four.

• Tomorrow, when you come back to work, you’ll do 12 hours work instead of eight, in order to make up for the four hours you missed yesterday.

• You won’t get paid for those four hours you worked on the day after you were supposed to work them. To clarify: You will work the hours, accomplish the tasks, but instead of getting paid, you won’t. You will have replaced yourself in the workforce with someone who does your job for free, and her name is you.

Oh, you’re showing the County now!

And when do the union officials, the SEIUers themselves, take off work for four hours without pay? And when do the union officials dock their future pay by 15% in solidarity with the people they represent and in exchange for the hundreds of thousands of dollars those county workers put in the union’s cash box every year?

Perhaps the idea is to make some show of unity among the workers. Perhaps it’s to give the Board of Supervisors a taste of what’s to come if worker demands aren’t met. Well, good luck. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

The only reason county officials or the Board might take notice is if local citizens were outraged at the loss of services.

So let’s try to imagine a scenario where common citizens are stunned and shocked and mumbling incoherently amongst themselves about the sudden lack of county employees available to carry out all the vital tasks that people here in Mendocino County need done.

How will the average person cope with the idea the Elections Department cannot be visited — not by anyone! — all next week? What will people around here do when they discover the Assessor’s Office is dark and the door is locked? Pandemonium? Widespread panic and outrage and a march on the Board of Supervisors?

Uhh, I don’t think so.

As long as the cops are working and the streets are open I think the average person will get along just fine, even if the vacant lot behind the old hospital hasn’t been mowed this week.

And I think the common everyday resident of this county will somehow find a way to continue to enjoy life — albeit in a diminished, diluted form — without the Social Services Building teeming with busy social workers and counselors and supervisors and case managers and managing supervisors and supervising case workers hurrying all about the building accomplishing their important duties.

What local SEIU officials have demanded of its members is to carry out a stupid ploy that can’t possibly provide benefits to those workers. SEIU demands concessions from county workers that the SEIU people would never agree to in their own jobs.

Thomas Hine is a Ukiah resident and longtime county employee; he has been paying dues to SEIU for nigh on 20 years.

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