Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picketing Wall Street

       At the end of my last post I briefly mentioned walking away from a $60,000 a year job to pursue a life more balanced with nature and outside of the corporate system we see collapsing before us. 
       My career in the telecommunications started as a telephone operator, assisting customers with phone numbers (Directory Assistance).  I started my career in 1978, which was then the only utility company under American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) and was favorably called the Bell System.  The good ole days when work ethic meant something and obedient servants did what was expected in lieu of a decent paycheck ($156 dollars a week if I remember right). 
       As a Directory Assistance Operator, these were the days when one had to ask to be excused to use the restroom in between breaks that were of course allowed (we’re talking the late 70’s, it wasn’t that bad), the days when perfect attendance was expected and not rewarded.  I was blessed to have a good union job that would allow me the right to retire after 30 years with a good pension.  Ah, welcome to the Age of Entitlement, and thirty years to the day I retired but not with a pension as I wondered if it would be around as long as I would.  I opted another way out, one that I could use my money when I wanted to…well not without the penalties and the taxes.
       Being raised a “union girl” and remembering the UAW strikes that my Dad went through, I soon became involved with the union and worked for a short time as a steward in the lowest paid position as operator.  Among the many things I walked the line for during the strike of 1988, were the company demands of a “team award” in place of our COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that allowed those already making more money to make even more while us operators who were the so called “ambassadors” of the company lost equal ground for sustaining ourselves. 
       I remember asking our president why we would give up our COLA when a loaf of bread costs the same for all of us?  His wage increase was already at least 4-5 times as much as what us operators were about to get, (if my memory is correct our raise was 3-5 cents an hour).  And to this day I’ll never forget his response, “we’re more valuable to the company”.  Perhaps there was truth in this, but as I climbed the ladder of success, I saw for myself the real value in all employees.
       I remember writing a letter to the bargaining agents (some women) and having members sign it (which was mostly everyone in the department).  Our voice as the ambassadors of the company needed to be heard.
       Well a long time ago that was, and the outcome was not to our liking as the COLA was eliminated and we proud members of the union accepted the grains left over from the bread.  We’ve come a long way in this circus of “bread and crumbs” (love Dmitry Orlov).
       Or have we?  Now that the rain is falling though bursts of sunshine light up the sky, I’ve had the opportunity to sit at my wheel and spin, something that is near and dear to me.  Most times I’m in the moment feeling the fleece pass through my fingers and watching the twist gently pull towards a bobbin that fills quickly waiting to be plied into a yarn that eventually gets worked into a sweater.  Work it is, but not without reward.  I even get to pee without asking.          
       Today I was spinning and couldn’t clear my mind about “the movement” occupying Wall Street.  I couldn’t help to hear on my National Propaganda Radio station that the CWA (no it’s not the Cattlemen’s Workers of America) was behind the youthful group of protesters who have degrees with no jobs.

     I won’t bore you with my 30-year history but I will say this, I worked my ass off (mentally more than anything else) learning all that I needed to learn to end my career with the highest paid craft position.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not intelligent, but I will admit to having some common sense and being raised by “union folk” meant something to me and I paid attention to detail.
       Though still proudly a retiree and member of the union, I question who these corporate elites are working for.  All of them, are they sleeping in the same bed?  Have the lines become closer or even crossed? 
       The days of walking the picket line in a “right to work state”, (AZ) as well as here in Oregon, are now over for me though I would do the same today if I was working, but only because it’s the lesser of the two evils not because I believe.  Much like that of the Democrats and the Republicans, I wonder if the sheets even get changed between meetings, or if they’re fondly in each other’s dreams?
       As I sit waiting to the day when I am responsible enough to touch my own money without penalty, I have to wonder who is using it now?  How much are “they” allowed to loan out and make on “my money” because the powers to be claim me irresponsible to do it on my own?  How is it for a couple who have lived more like the Cleavers (although with reverse positions) where one of us was home to raise our children with the same work ethic, where we lived mostly on one income and were still giving eggs to the mission and money to charity, who now own their home and property, are not considered to be responsible enough to manage their own retirement, and who says? 
       If I were to join a movement I would be asking some tough questions.  I wouldn’t be counting on my occupying the streets thinking “they” will become accountable.
       As the working class (still) we not only have to walk the line but also walk the talk.  I don’t believe change can happen in the streets until we feel the desire to change in our hearts the way we live everyday.  


  1. Found this article and wanted to share it with you. You are not journeying alone.
    I hope it is another layer of insight and courage on the work you are doing. Your partners are out there. They just need to catch up with your knowledge which is deep and long.
    I send you all my best!

  2. Thanks for the article Zoe, it is good to know that there are others that are resisting the status quo. Your encouragement is always welcomed.