Gentle readers, I've been a Democrat a long time, even as our party has begun a slow slide towards corporatism that makes me want to smack the ever-living hell out of the dudes who keep sending me invites to $500-a-head Galas in support of candidates, as if anyone who works for a living can actually afford it.
As this country has continued its current path, mostly due to Republicans expressing their desire to grab the country by its ankles and drag it, screaming, back into the 1920s, I've encountered few things that have made my blood boil due to the implication of how completely batshit insane this country is becoming. Yesterday, however, I encountered a string of things that drove that home.
For me, this just kicked up my drive for social justice a few notches.
For a long time now, I, like a metric butt-load of other Americans, have lived in fairly dire circumstances. An engineer when the tech bubble imploded and every single tech firm worth its salt outsourced, I've struggled through things as best I could. Upwards mobility and the ability to improve one's station is virtually nonexistent these days, and most are acutely aware of this. I've documented extensively, as have other, more talented diarists. I also documented, extensively, the oft-ignored darker side of this, which is, in a nutshell, that as economic situations have worsened for people, rates of psychological illness, murder, and suicide have skyrocketed along with statistics like homelessness.
But I digress. As a transit worker in NY, I've had a bit of an interesting case. We unionized last year, but the plant's owner, a man who seems to be stuck in the mindset that brought us the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire, has been doing everything and then some in order to make things harder for his employees for having the gall to take him to task for his shit. Asking for things like Buses made after the 1990s, ones that have air conditioning, and a break room larger than a walk-in closet have been met with incredible resistance. Despite the Union securing better wages for us, he's done everything possible to mitigate and harm his own workers, especially at our yard, which he openly despises. In response to us earning more money, he subdivided our runs so that no one at our plant, save for the favored, can ever earn more than 22 or so hours a week, meaning that the bulk of us are pulling down less than we were the year previous, in spite of a nearly 15% wage increase. None of the other yards had their runs subdivided, so this seems specifically done to target us.
Yeah, huge dick that guy. If the bulk of us were working the same hours we were last year with better wages, the bulk of us would be pulling down close to double what we are now and we could, potentially, have a much brighter financial outlook.
This is, of course, following him spending over 9 million dollars on hiring the Crossroads Group, a legendary union-busting firm to help block the unionization effort. Naturally, he continues to meet with these Koch-affiliated bastards on a weekly basis to come up with new ways to fuck his employees weekly, but that's fodder for another diary and I'm getting off focus.
Suffice to say, a lot of us working at this company are in iffy financial straights, myself included. When one's earning more on last year's unemployment during the down-time of the season than they are working a full week in this one, it's a general sign that something, to quote Tone Loc, is not stirring the kool-aid. What this means, among other things, is that a lot of our employees are struggling to make ends meet whilst management at the same plant makes money hand-over-fist. What this means is that, increasingly, people working at my company are having to turn to the social safety net - and here in NY, finding that said net is completely defunct.
A fellow employee of mine, and a good friend, who for the sake of her protection, will be called "R", has a daughter and has been struggling to help make ends meet at this job. She has signed up for Medicaid and Food Stamps - only to be cut off on the latter and denied on the former.
Why? Because she earns too much.
At $10,000 or so a year. R, who has medical conditions a-plenty, a daughter who also needs medication, and has been struggling to maintain her vehicle and keep a roof over her head, is now increasingly financially desperate.
I wish I could say that she was alone in this, but increasingly, I've seen this first-hand and experienced it; I, likewise, was turned down for Medicaid and Food Stamps because my meager salary was, like that of R, deemed too high. At slightly higher than her salary due to veterancy (I've been here years). This immediately left me flabbergasted - this amount of money is hardly a livable wage. I know after food and utilities, it's a miracle if I have any money left at the end of the month - and due to my late mother, I'm currently in an owned home. So I'm not having to pay room and board, just food/gas/utilities and bills. I can flat-out say I'm not making ends meet, but even my situation is cozy compared to that of R.
And she's not the only one in that situation. A lot of people at my plant are suffering similarly. And as someone who, completely defiant in the face of Rand-logic, actually gives a shit about his co-workers (even the assholes, like that teabagger lady who appears to have, at least recently, stopped drinking the tea), I cannot let this stand. I've done what little I can do to keep R's spirits up, and the spirits of those like her at the plant. I've fought hard to keep the blame for the numerous setbacks the union has faced getting the plant owner to face up to his own contractual obligations (he's of the belief that he can delay perpetually, when he's gotten slapped by New York State multiple times for his violations of labor law in the past. Considering how badly one needs to fuck up in order to get ONE slap from New York State, this says a lot, does it not?), and is actively trying to horse-trade issues in order to get the union to back off, but it's not going to work: The union's faced down his shit dozens of times before.
But for the rest of us in the interim, financial situations are getting worse, with little sign of abatement. And I've yet one more reason to continue to help fight for the betterment of those of us at the bottom. As a great man once said: We will ultimately be judged upon how we treat the least of us.
Thanks for reading, people. Peace.