Saturday, February 25, 2006

Workers' Rights

Being a progressively mined guy, I have this silly, antiquated notion of workers' rights. Now, I know what you're thinking.

"Workers' rights, bah! Those damn pinko commies. Don't they know their history? Marxism failed."

Slow down. I'm not going to sit here and rail about the abomination of capitalism while praising the glory and insight of dear sweet Karl Marx as we dirty liberals do according to the fanatical ravings of Ann Coulter. Be that as it may, corporations have a responsibility to both society and their employees. In this country, any entrepreneur or corporation has the express right to pursue wealth. However, when that entity's pursuit of wealth begins to detrimentally effect its workers or the world in which we live, the excess of the entrepreneur/corporation must be check for the good of us all. For example, when Wal-Mart violates child labor laws or provides its work force with poor health care, the state files suit or legislates that Wal-mart must improve its workers' rights. Now, I'm not writing this post to complain about Wal-Mart (although, I certainly have plenty of issues with that place).

Today's displeasure is directed at one of my employers (while taking this year off before graduate school I am working in two restaurants--as an aside, a living wage is a whole other issue). As I mentioned in my last post, I have been sick for the past several days. Last night, I went to work despite having received antibiotics and a codeine cough syrup from my doctor that morning--what can I say, I'm a dedicated employee. I probably should have called in sick yesterday but didn't want to hear the manager complain. Frankly, the management is not very receptive to hearing about sick employees, and I can understand their dismay. In a college town, where unreliable employees call in "sick" so that they can attend a party or study for an exam, why not be a little skeptical?

However, I am not an unreliable student employee. I am an honest person and hard worker. I received an oustanding employee review and have never been reprimanded. Furthermore, in the seven months that I've worked at this establishment I have never called in sick. To be completely honest, a few weeks ago I broke my glasses--without which I cannot see--and missed two hours of a shift while scrambling to find an optometrist appointment that morning. I didn't think it unreasonable to miss a shift due to blindness, however management disagreed.

As of last night, I felt crummy, but still intended to show up for my 3:00 shift today. When I awoke at 11:30 am (I got home from work at midnight last night, so I went to bed late), I could barely speak. My voice was--and remains--so hoarse that I physically could not have waited tables tonight. If you have ever seen American Splendor, I sound like Harvey Pekar. When I contacted the restaurant at noon, the manager was annoyed that I had not called earlier. She explained that there was a party of 50 coming in tonight and that she needed enough servers to cover it. After apologizing for circumstances outside my control (which infuriated my lovely girlfriend), she told me call other employees to pick up my shift.

Is this the greatest travesty to befall mankind? No. Are there places in the world where an employee would give anything for the opportunities that I have and the fairness with which I am accorded? Of course. But in the United States, employers are supposed to treat their workers fairly. At least they always claim to do so.

What really irks me is that when an honest, responsible employee calls in for a legitimate sick day (the manager could hear my hoarse voice), he deserves the benefit of the doubt and maybe even a "get well soon." If I called in sick all the time, then it's permissible not to trust me, but when I call in sick for the first time ever with an awful cold that was exacerbated by working the night before, cut me some freakin' slack.


Pennacchio in Town

Just a heads up: Chuck Pennacchio will be in State College today. Anyone who is free at 4:00 pm should stop by Webster's to hear him speak. He is an excellent speaker (as I mentioned earlier) and what do you have to lose? Maybe your skeptical about him or don't really care about primary elections, but how many times have we all talked about how much we hate Bush and fear the direction in which the country is headed? Well, stop complaining and start doing something to empower the opposition! Give Pennacchio a listen and you won't be disappointed.

Pennacchio will also be walking around town with a group of local Democrats (headed by Dr. Durrenberger) around 11:30 . His schedule according to Durrenberger is as follows:

The route will be this:

a. Kashmir T-Shirts
b. New China Town Restaurant
c. Indian Pavallion
d. Sunshine Imports
e. Websters [sic]
f. Ben and Jerries [sic]
g. Winding up at Schlow Library

12:30 Meet with CCC and discuss state-wide plans.
4:00 Event at Webster's.

Tentative-go to acoustic brew concert at Center for Welbeing at Lemont. Stay tuned on that one. But the rest is set. So we need your help to join the entourage after the breakfast and to come to the meeting at the Library. We need you to help turn folks out for the Webster's event at 4 too.

Unfortunately, I have to work and cannot attend the Webster's event, but I urge you all to check it out.

P.S. Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I have been sick and preoccupied.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chuck Pennacchio: A Voice of Conscience

"In me you will have a voice of conscience. I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting!" --Chuck Pennacchio

On Friday, I had the good fortune to hear Chuck Pennacchio speak in State College. About 100 people showed up to standing room only at the local municipal building--a pleasant turnout. Despite arriving expecting to hear what I wanted to hear, Pennacchio was really, really good. While Pennacchio spoke, I was struck by his passionate desire to change the status quo: to navigate around corruption and self-interest and vigorously preserve our civil liberties--much like Al Gore did recently (highlights, full speech). At first glance, he appeared mild mannered, and slightly resembled Steve Carell. While Pennacchio displayed an earnest, personal need to protect our constitution. He spoke out against the Bush administration's quest for absolute power and the crumbling wall separating church and state. Most importantly, Pennacchio stressed the need for people to engage in politics, lest we lose our power. To retain our fundamental rights against authoritarian government, we must be active citizens. This very much reminded me of Chomsky's point in Imperial Ambitions that no one can change society by attending one peace rally then returning to his couch full of good intentions. Social change requires perpertual action. Pennacchio quoted Jefferson to bring home the point that every generation much fight anew for our democracy.

He contrasted himself with Casey at great length (see my earlier post), but also identified himself as a principled individual with thoughts of his own. Pennacchio is running a publicly funded campaign and unlike Casey who has received large sums of money from the establishment, corporations, lawyers, and PACs that also fund Santorum, Pennacchio is not beholden to their interests. He stressed that Casey's support of Alito was a tipping point for many Pennsylvanians--that people become disillusioned with Casey when they find out that he mimics Santorum on so many critical social issues. According to a recent Zogby poll, when people hear Pennacchio's positions alongside Casey's and Santorum's, Pennacchio wins the hypothetical election. This is of critical importance, because it shows that Casey is ahead because of name recognition. If Ed Rendell and Harry Reid had not dubbed Casey as the man to beat Santorum--indeed, if the people are allowed to decide--Pennacchio suddenly shifts from non-viable candidate to Senator.