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I am originally from Texas. Austin to be exact which is why I fit in to my new home, Madison, Wisconsin, so well, I think. Many generations back, my family has been born and raised in Texas. I began my working life there and was employed until I left giving me over ten years of working experience in that state. I'm a cook by trade but have also worked as a barista, waitress, dishwasher, prep cook, landscaper, tiling contractor, every position at McDonald's, worked my way up to managing several shops and kitchens, and a few other jobs I'd rather pretend never existed. And I had no idea what a union was until 2010.

I probably don't need to point out that the majority of those jobs were in customer service. I've always had great pride in my strong work ethic. From my very first job, my bosses noticed my attention to detail and great need to do things exactly as they were supposed to be done. I can thank obsessive compulsive-disorder for a lot of that but it also just came naturally to me. I think I've been somewhat of an overachiever since I was a kid. So of all the jobs I have held, in 17 years, I've been fired once.

In 2010, my education on unions began. My husband and I agreed to accept his job offer in Madison and we were excited to settle down and expand our family. On our 6th day in our new home, we found out we were pregnant. Months later with a reasonably large belly, I watched the news and heard the people just blocks from our home occupy downtown as Act 10 was signed into law. I had to have my husband explain why so many of the reasons we had accepted this job were now null and void or damaged. Our insurance premiums and copays went up before we had even used them. We saw a pay cut only a few checks after he started and we weren't even union members. I won't even go on with all the cuts that came next.

"What's all this about Unions? Those things that the mobsters in the movies are always in charge of? What the hell is going on here?"
Seriously. Those were the thoughts going through my head and then coming out of my mouth in question form. That is how much of a blank slate my union knowledge was built on.

I know one thing a lot of people never want to hear is that people can be dumb, ignorant, and short sighted and sometimes you have to tell people what is best for them. "Whoa?!", you say? Yes. This is a belief that has contributed to the conclusion I have drawn about unions.

Seatbelts, auto insurance, health insurance, helmets, vaccinations. Those are all things that are not only good for the individual but in the long run, are good for the economy and our society. Investing in them up front not only saves money but also makes it possible to contribute more in the end. They cost money and they are required. I believe unions fall into this same category.

Throughout my learning about unions and so called "right to work" laws I have often had questions regarding their constitutionality. While learning about them, many questions arose that I often hear from anti-union folks, because they are reasonable questions to ask when learning or not having information on the subject past a certain point however, it only took a little more investigating and long term thinking to get my answers.

One very common question is: Why should someone be forced to pay union dues?
Complicated? As it turns out, not really. The answer is the same as why you should wear a helmet. Or have auto insurance. It protects you which, in the long run, protects society. As long as there are employers that will take advantage of their workers in order to make more of a profit, there will be a need for unions. No one is forced to join a union even though they benefit from the presence of one. You instantly benefit from the work unions have done to make your work environment one of true fairness. Do you get a 30 minute lunch break for every 8 hours of work? Whether you want to believe it or not, a union fought for you to have that along with holidays off and many other benefits many take for granted.

Unfortunately, I have never experienced the joy of automatically having holidays and weekends off. I've never received sick pay or had a retirement account. I never had anyone fight for me when I asked for a raise and got fired instead. I am, after all, from Texas.

Those who have these questions but never find an answer that progresses their thinking to side with unions tend to have the same problem in other areas. Understanding investment in infrastructure or the benefits of making sure your employees have health insurance or why clean energy is a good idea are just a few.
Frankly, I am very surprised more people are not quicker to acknowledge that our government is not a reliable advocate for working folks. Investing in a group whose sole purpose is to insure your working life actually supports your non-working life seems like like a no-brainer to me. Imagine if people that actually enjoyed working at Walmart could afford to work at Walmart. Imagine your cooks and waitresses not serving you your meal while they are sick.

With laws like the one being pushed through in Michigan right now, those who have yet to understand the benefits of unions are essentially hearing that the lemonade they have been enjoying and paying for is now freeeeee! You can have all the lemonade you want and you don't have to pay for it, unless you want to. But if you don't want to, no big deal because you can have it anyway.

That is not how you support a lemonade stand.

Originally posted to Wendi Kent on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight, In Support of Labor and Unions, Democracy Addicts, and Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (177+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arlandbaee, Cali Scribe, dewley notid, Flying Goat, Shippo1776, pollbuster, dsb, Glen The Plumber, Renee, JeffW, Prison4Bushco, Brahman Colorado, chuckvw, jan4insight, rosarugosa, Purple Priestess, luckydog, cosette, hopesprings, Simplify, petulans, badger, uciguy30, progressivevoice, flitedocnm, offgrid, wader, splashy, palantir, jakedog42, Chaddiwicker, blueoasis, Eileen B, radarlady, agincour, irate, DRo, exterris, Wisco Wherls, 84thProblem, theKgirls, Neon Mama, Deejay Lyn, AnnieJo, Sylv, janatallow, stlsophos, Habitat Vic, plankbob, Matilda, ruleoflaw, tobendaro, yoduuuh do or do not, MuskokaGord, rambler american, UnionMade, Oh Mary Oh, Naniboujou, shanesnana, Dobber, penguins4peace, gulfgal98, badscience, JayRaye, Ironic Chef, FloridaSNMOM, OhioNatureMom, MartyM, noise of rain, Giles Goat Boy, Mike08, StateofEuphoria, flowerfarmer, jasan, avsp, 3goldens, Texknight, buckstop, deviant24x, kideni, happy camper, melo, cassandracarolina, Words In Action, Azazello, ItsSimpleSimon, AgavePup, psnyder, poorbuster, RFK Lives, ChemBob, Noddy, LLPete, FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph, gloriana, FrY10cK, Thinking Fella, Rejoinder, hazzcon, la58, afox, Rashaverak, k88dad, David54, akze29, blueisland, molecularlevel, KVoimakas, la motocycliste, muddy boots, wbr, Box of Rain, Copp, Alma, liz dexic, Polly Syllabic, Bob Guyer, xynz, chrississippi, J M F, dotdash2u, RockyMtnLib, SilentBrook, Trendar, NBBooks, GreyHawk, boadicea, ca union goon, Haplogroup V, MKinTN, jediwashuu, Witgren, Luma, Darevsek, ogre, roses, melfunction, revsue, T100R, mkor7, newinfluence, MBishop1, soarbird, Massconfusion, elginblt, BeadLady, vulcangrrl, xaxnar, tikkun, redlum jak, bunsk, FindingMyVoice, D minor, Grabber by the Heel, cany, TheLawnRanger, WesEverest, tgypsy, Dirtandiron, lu3, Chi, CT yanqui, eeff, Jollie Ollie Orange, wavpeac, Fairlithe, Robynhood too, Bongobanger, 88kathy, notrouble, Tom Anderson, Sand Hill Crane, 6412093, Amber6541, Sunspots, monkeybrainpolitics, cheddar cheeks
  •  Tipped and rec'd (26+ / 0-)

    Great job (even if it wasn't union labor).


    "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

    by Cali Scribe on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:45:23 PM PST

  •  Solidarity Forever n/t (22+ / 0-)

    There is no such thing as an off year election. Every election effects each other. We need to work as hard in 2014 as we did in 2012.

    by pollbuster on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 09:54:01 PM PST

    •  In order to form a more perfect union (17+ / 0-)

      The reason the country was founded was to form a more perfect union. The reason we have fought our wars was to preserve that union; both from internal and external threats.

      Republicans seem to equate secession and threatening the country's unification with freedom as a state of being without limits and the right to rebel against authority as states rights in that context.

      I don't know who came up with the story about breaking twigs and then trying to break them after they were all bundled together, but I'm pretty sure it goes back to the mammoth hunters at least.

      Hunters band together to take down big game because it beats scavenging what's left after the lion finishes.

      Agricultural workers band together to dig irrigation ditches because they who control the water control the land. "If you can't dig that you can't eat this."

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 03:08:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Government not a reliable advocate (7+ / 0-)

      I too do not see our government as a reliable advocate for working people.

      Sad, because the rise and fall of our middle class in America pretty perfectly parallels the rise and fall of unions in America.

      But I understand we no longer have a governemnt that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Instead we have a government of by and for the wealthy interests.  And of course the wealthy interests that hire workers want to pay those workers less, to keep more for themselves.

      But the wealthy interests seem to not understand that a strong middle class is necessary to make America the great consumer market that it once was.  Wages and hours have been cut for American workers, and the American workers can no longer afford to buy all the things needed to keep business and the economy booming.  Hence, our stagnant economic state.

      "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

      by Hugh Jim Bissell on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:12:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The reason for that is the voting percentage. (6+ / 0-)

        Why should pols care when only 40% care enough to go vote?
        When you see higher voting percentiles, you see the will of the people more perfectly reflected in the vote, as in this last election.
        We also saw the enemies of the will of the people attempt to drive down the voting percentages.
        It's pretty clear to me.

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:15:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is key - the only way to offset the $$$$$$$ (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wbr, liz dexic

          is with engaged voters.  How far does the 1% have to go before people wake up and get involved?

          “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

          by ahumbleopinion on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:32:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The role of money (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SilentBrook, RockyMtnLib

          I agree that voting participation is low and that encourages complacency among our law-makers.

          But I invite you to consider the role of money in the thinking of our law-makers.  In order to get a stay in office, politicians need to raise a great deal of money for a successful campaign.  Wealthy and corporate interests have money to give.  And with that gift, the wealthy donor gets the ready ear of the law-maker: "hey, we think taxes for the wealthy should be lower", or "all those regulations are hurting our business"

          Who do you think the law-maker will pay attention to?  The voters who do not give out big financial gifts (and many of whom stay home at voting time), or the voters with large amounts of money to donate?  

          Our law-makers no longer represent "the people" because our law-makers understand that if they want to keep their jobs as representatives, they HAVE to represent the wealthy and corporate interests.  this requirement that our law-makers must solicit and receiving private financial gifts to hold public office is inherently corrupting.

          When you understand this dynamic, it becomes readily apparent why our law-makers keep voting for lower taxes in the face of budget deficits, why nothing is done about climate change, and why workers' bargaining rights are being whittled away.

          "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

          by Hugh Jim Bissell on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:06:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  We need to find a way for workers to join (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wbr, liz dexic, SilentBrook, mkor7, RockyMtnLib

      in solidarity without being officially in a union.  The battle is bigger than the relationship between an individual company and its workers.  The battle is the 1% and their political tools, the Republican Party vs the 99%.  

      As shown in MI, the 1% is ruthless in achieving their goals. No compromise, no bipartisanship, no consideration of workers' rights.  Fighting back via unions alone is not enough.

      “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

      by ahumbleopinion on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:30:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dear Wendi, this is my favorite (30+ / 0-)

    "Investing in a group whose sole purpose is to insure your working life actually supports your non-working life..."

    That's beautiful.

  •  Said it all: (23+ / 0-)
    As long as there are employers that will take advantage of their workers in order to make more of a profit, there will be a need for unions.
    Will there ever be a time when employers don't try and take advantage of workers?  

    I believe many employers don't, right now.

    But history has shown that greed is too strong a temptation for most companies.  They try and cut corners.  And that means underpaying & overworking labor, often in unsafe conditions.

    "The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion." - Bodhidharma

    by hopesprings on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 10:47:29 PM PST

    •  As long as Wall Street can trash a company's (6+ / 0-)

      stock price for not meeting its "profit target", the greed will only get worse.  As long as vampire capitalists can get obscenely rich by harvesting the value from healthy companies, the greed will only get worse.  

      Most companies and most rich people are honorable and try to do the right thing, but it only takes a few to skew the system toward greed and destruction and even the best are pressured to compromise their principles when Wall Street threatens.

      “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

      by ahumbleopinion on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:37:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great Post (10+ / 0-)

    Your point about government not being an advocate for working folks is exactly what is going on in MI and WI. The tide has turned from government doing something FOR working people to government doing something AGAINST working people.

    Give peace a chance get up and dance... Alvin Lee/Ten Years After

    by Blue Collar on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 11:28:42 PM PST

  •  So great it has to be mandatory (1+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    liz dexic
    Hidden by:

    I don't understand this mentality. If union membership is so beneficial to the workers who are represented, why aren't they lining up to join?

    If someone has the option to join a union, but declines, it is because they do not feel that the benefits received by virtue of their membership outweigh the costs. Thus, any law that requires them to join anyway is harmful to them.

    •  Actually, they don't understand (15+ / 0-)

      That's why they decline. Just as people often don't understand the need for, say, car insurance, up until they have a need for it. People gripe all the time about having to have it, but when they get in an accident at least they don't have to pay for the other person's damages.

      Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 12:15:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No (15+ / 0-)

      They are just cheap ass Welfare Queens. I've worked with assholes like them. They enjoy the pay raises and paid holidays and pensions and healthcare without having to pay for them, and then gloat about not paying. There are really people out there who don't give a shit about fairness. They are greedy takers and they are mostly radical republicans. Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. When they get fired, guess who has to fight for them?

      If liberals really hate America, we'd vote republican.

    •  It's not necessarily "mandatory" at all. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teharper428, 3goldens, psnyder, liz dexic

      It depends on the local laws. In many states, it's entirely up to the individual to join the union or not in a unionized workplace.

      I've worked for several places with unions, and never once was is mandatory to join and/or pay union dues.

      •  Those are right to work states (7+ / 0-)

        To my understanding that is all that RTW means.

        The freeloader issue is a really good point. Why are unions required to represent individuals who are not members? It seems like it should be legal for the union to tell non payers to shove it. In fact, this would make the value of unions crystal clear, because you could tell in hard numbers and benefits what the advantages were of membership.

        •  it's to sow dissention among the shop. duhhh. (0+ / 0-)

          like you "don't understand."


          •  The questioner had a legitimate question (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            liz dexic

            that started a legitimate dialogue. Your HR is completely inappropriate, as is your very personal sarcasm towards ScottDog. You should remove your HR. Your comment above is actually more HRable than ScottDog's first comment.

            The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

            by psnyder on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:29:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  disagree. scottdog has a comment history that is (0+ / 0-)

              consistently antithetical to the stated mission of this site: to elect more & better d's -- which, according to the rules & regs, is a hr'able offense.

              the rules are not mine, they are the site owner's.  if you have a problem with that, i suggest you take it up with markos.

              i stand by my comment(s) & my rating.  

        •  I appreciate your commentary (7+ / 0-)

          and questions. To answer your first question: "Why aren't people lining up to join?"
          All you have to do is read the last paragraph I wrote. If you received free health insurance, why would you voluntarily pay for it? People aren't lining up because they are being told they don't have to in order to benefit. They are walking into a work environment that has already benefitted from the work unions have done to make it better.

          And to your second inquiry regarding unions only supporting union members: This would be a convenient option however you can not single employees out when improving the quality of their factory or work environment. Everyone is going to benefit. The improvements are made to the environment as a whole. You can not exclude one person or several from a company's policy of overtime just as you cannot give one employee a holiday and not the rest.

          •  These are completely fair points (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It almost seems like you can divide the benefits gained from union membership into tangible and intangible benefits.

            Tangible benefits would be things like higher pay, pensions and retirement, health plans, vacation days, representation with management, etc. These are things that can be easily quantified and negotiated for. I don't see what the problem would be in contracting separately with union and non-union employees for these sorts of benefits. Something like, if you're in the union you get this much additional pay, these extra vacation days and so on because they were negotiated for you, and if you're not in the union you don't get those but you don't have to pay dues. Except, of course, that that's illegal. One possible workaround might be to offer a lot of these benefits directly through the union without involving the company at all (and to my knowledge this is already frequently done).

            Intangible benefits would be the benefits to the workplace as a whole from union activities. Things like having a reasonable work week, a safe working environment, and the knowledge that complaints will be addressed. This is where the "free rider" problem comes in, and I do see the point that non-union members receive these benefits without paying for them.

            I wonder, though, how many of these intangibles are already addressed by existing legislation and regulations. Is the presence of a union at a particular company the reason that company has good intangible benefits, or is it the fact that unions have fought for those things nationwide for the last century and they've become accepted practices at all companies?

            This might be a big part of the reason for the decline of unions. They still do a good job of fighting for tangible benefits, but on the intangible side, most of the big battles have already been won. If someone looks at the benefits a union can provide, and decides that they don't make sense financially, there really isn't much of a point in joining. Hence the desire for right-to-work.

            •  "most of the big battles have already been won." (9+ / 0-)

              Except if Republicans have their way, they won't stay "won".

              “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

              by ahumbleopinion on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:40:48 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  I live and work in FL, an "RTW" state. Wages here (0+ / 0-)

              suck, along with working conditions, and both are getting steadily worse. Because the mass of Big Bidness is so much greater, with a Red Lectroid Legislature and for decades a Red Lectroid governator. He is a REAL "ScottDog," no half-measures about it.

              Your restatement of what "right to work" means does not begin to capture the "if you want to eat, you'll take whatever you are offered" mentality of the Kochists who propound RTW as something "fair."

              Some union leaderships have gone off into their own form of highly privileged LaLaLand, gotten in bed with the Kleptocratic Capitalists, and sought special favors not for the general welfare but for their own tax scams and pension thievery. It's the nature of the human beast to be corrupt if the opportunity allows. That's no reason to denigrate and discard the gathering together of people who just want to do an honest day's work for a living wage and a chance to down tools and rest for a few years before they die.

              Do you have a plain, simple statement of your position on unions as good, bad, or indifferent?

              "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

              by jm214 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:52:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  More on tangibles (0+ / 0-)

            In my experience, companies very often do single out employees for benefits. I don't work in a unionized company, so I don't know if unions change this, but in my company, employees are forbidden from discussing pay and benefits with each other. There is a standard amount of vacation time offered, but it is frequently increased as an incentive for new hires. There are also raises based on performance and such.

            What I'm getting at is that differential treatment between employees exists and is quantifiable. There are a ton of illegitimate reasons for doing this--gender, age, etc.--but I could see union membership as a legitimate one. You can ask your company for benefits, but they won't give them to you because you don't have the strength of a union negotiating on your behalf. If you get fired, don't expect the union to come save you.

            At any rate, I am completely against requiring unions to represent people who do not pay dues. That isn't fair on any level.

        •  Right to Work = Right to Freeload (4+ / 0-)

          In a so-called Right to Work state, a union is required to represent an individual, even if said individual is not a dues-paying member of the union. In a Right to Work (for Less) state, it is illegal for the union to tell non-payers to shove it. Do you understand now?

          In Michigan's case, the current system is that individuals have a choice of whether to join a union if their place of employment has a union. If they join the union and pay dues, they get all the benefits that being a member of a union offers. If they choose not to join the union, they don't pay the dues, and they don't get all the benefits. No one is forced to join a union.

          The term "right to work" is poisonous marketing, but it's effective and has been for decades, since so many people believe it means what you think it does.

          "I kept the faith and I kept voting Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand For theirs is a land with a wall around it And mine is a faith in my fellow man." -- Billy Bragg

          by kideni on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:38:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  For a better idea what RTW means (0+ / 0-)

          What “Right to Work” Would Mean for Michigan
          Roland Zullo, Research Scientist Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations University of Michigan

        •  Because the "right to work" laws require them (0+ / 0-)

          to. That's the whole point of them, otherwise unions could tell non-members to stick it where the sun don't shine.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:00:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My understanding is that membership is never (9+ / 0-)

        mandatory, even in a closed shop, but that a non-member who nevertheless chooses to work in a union shop and thereby enjoys the benefits negotiated by the union is required to pay his/her percentage of the costs of the negotiations that produced those benefits. That is a small transaction fee calculated by dividing the actual costs by the number of benefiting workers; it is not union dues. That small transaction fee is the mandatory, i.e., non-free-rider, paycheck deduction; it is does not confer union membership.

        Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Like Wendi Kent, I've never worked in a unionized profession.

        The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

        by psnyder on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:25:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  or they are afraid of retaliation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Citizen

      "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

      by thankgodforairamerica on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 02:16:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  so, you "don't understand," hmmm . . . (0+ / 0-)

      could this be the reason?


      •  didn't post link correctly. sorry. the point is, (0+ / 0-)

        scottdog is an admitted conservative who believes in austerity, blah, blah, blah.

        why s/he is allowed to post rw talking points like this on this site for as long as s/he has, is perplexing.

        hr'd for rw talking points trolling.

        •  Well, I replied seriously to scottdog because (5+ / 0-)

          I know a lot of otherwise kindly and liberal-thinking people who have the same misunderstandings and blind spots when it comes to unions.

          •  I agree (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wbr, SilentBrook, MKinTN, VClib

            and I don't typically indulge those who have come so far and still do not see however, his questions are common and incredibly easy to answer and yes, even posed by liberals.

            When an idea makes no sense, you must point out that it is a dead end. They will likely ignore you and continue to believe but according to studies, making a someone think through and then explain their position is more effective than simply shooting them down.
            If they cannot make sense of it in the end, they are more likely to consider other options.

          •  Ditto, that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The HR is inappropriate. ScottDog asked a legitimate question, whatever he may have said elsewhere and regardless of whether or not he's a conservative. It's a question that's worth answering. That's how we learn.

            The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

            by psnyder on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:32:43 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  so, scottdog's admission to being a conservative & (0+ / 0-)

              espousing the rw ideology of austerity economics as her/his preference in dealing with our current situation is not legitimate grounds for hr'ing???

              according to this site's rules & regs it is.

              if one wants to debate the merits -- or lack of -- the rw's pov, there are plenty of rw sites where commenters like scottdog & those dkos members who wish to engage her/his kind can do so without polluting this one -- & that's from markos, not me, so take it up with him if you don't like it.

              •  Where in the post you HR'd is scottdog (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                VClib, UnionMade

                "espousing the rw ideology of austerity economics as her/his preference in dealing with our current situation"?

                In this thread, Scottdog's posts do raise questions that may well be considered trollerific, but if we have solid answers (as several posters have given here), then all Scottdog has done is help us to espouse the strength of our support for unions. That seems to me more laudable than lamentable, even if that wasn't Scottdog's intent.

                If our enemies do so much of the heavy lifting for us, should not our best response to them be, "Please, proceed," rather than "Shut up!"?

                A winning campaign? You didn't build that...

                by SilentBrook on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:55:42 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  and, again, i repeat: take it up with markos. (0+ / 0-)

                  it's his site.  his rules.

                  •  Site rules also say... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    not to drag grudges from one diary to another. You can HR Scottdog's austerity comments 8 ways to Sunday, but a question very much in keeping with the subject of this diary is right on point.

                    Furthermore, think about Scottdog and his motivations for posting as he does here on Kos: he thinks his "ideas" are superior to ours and he wants to show off and get validation by muting us with an unanswerable question that shows the "weakness" of our positions.

                    It is likely that in this kind of showing off that he's invited a few friends along via social media to see how much better than us he is. If we just HR him every time he posts, that is a demonstration to his lackies that we can't answer his charges, and it validates him by giving him the mute response he craves.

                    On the other side, when we answer and refute his nonesense, we can convince people that our positions are well-founded and well stated. We get to claim our own voices, which empowers us. We may even pick up the occasional low-info type who Scottdog invited to watch over to our side. That is full of win.

                    A winning campaign? You didn't build that...

                    by SilentBrook on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 01:48:41 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  your argument is bogus on two counts: (0+ / 0-)

                      1) i wasn't dragging any grugdes from one diary to another.  i wasn't even involved in the diary thread i (unsuccessfully) linked to.  when i first read her/his comment in this thread, i checked her/his profile/comment history to see how recently s/he joined & did s/he have a discernable record of derogatory/baiting comments -- which s/he did.  i attempted to post a link to a particularly abusive one & hr'd her/him for the current diary comment, citing comment history as being consistent with what i perceived as trollish behavior.


                      2) scottdog's questioning why unions weren't being swamped with workers seeking membership was a different verse of the same song mich gov rick snyder was singing just the other day when he said unions would have to justify their existence vis a vis the quality of the "product" they were trying to sell to potential members, & that's what the rtw law was all about.

                      sounds like rw talking points to me.

                      dkos policy is comments that are rw talking points are hr'able -- no matter how much you enjoy debating with the poster.  you can disagree with that 8 ways to sunday, but it is what it is.

              •  Nobody said that trolling RW talking points (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                is not appropriate for an HR.

                But I'll give this a try. Even if he has a history of posting RW comments, it doesn't follow that he has no legitimate questions which, as others have already pointed out, are also asked by plenty of people who are otherwise solid liberals or progressives but may just have a blind spot here.

                I, like you, don't want this to become a place where RWers can come and crash the party. But I also don't want this to be a place where people may be afraid to ask the wrong question lest they be accused of being a RW troll.

                liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

                by RockyMtnLib on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:01:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  unionmade -- & that is your perogative, just as it (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is mine to hr her/him, & i feel i am justified in doing so.  

            s/he has violated site rules (more than once, too) & does not further dkos' mission to elect more & better d's -- at least, that's what a reasonable person can conclude from her/his comment history.

            your attempt to educate scottdog in the error of her/his thinking is commendable, but i'm cynical as to its ultimate efficacy.

    •  You ask why they're not lining up to join. (28+ / 0-)

      Because union protections have been in place for so long that new workers don't realize the union won those protections in the first place.

      Because it doesn't occur to new workers that without the union these protections would disappear.

      Because new workers don't know just how bad working conditions were before unions.

      Because there are workers who believe they can successfully demand sufficient protections/wages for themselves, individually. And to heck with anybody who can't.

      Because many workers don't realize that even the minimum benefits of non-union jobs (bathroom breaks--heck! bathrooms!, safety equipment, pay scales) don't sink to worse levels because of unions. (That's why the garment industry moved to Asia instead of staying in the right-to-work American South--because  unions in one part of the US lift boats in other areas.)  

      Because workers don't realize that even off-the-job benefits they take for granted--like Social Security, or public libraries--are still around in large part because unions help elect governments that preserve these benefits.

      Because workers don't realize that unions are a formidable lobby, working for workers' interests in Washington. And dues pay for that, at a cost of pennies a year to each unionized worker.

      Because the same selfish streak that infects employers also infects many workers. "If I can get more money/benefits, I deserve it--let the other guy get the same thing, if he can."  

      Because the plutocrats need to distract workers from the plutocrats' own villainy--and the union is the perfect distraction. After all, unions look a lot like plutocrats, because they tend to accumulate money and power. Workers easily forget that, unlike with plutocrats, union money and power belongs to everybody in the union.

      Because union leaders are human, and like all humans can be warped by power. So corruption can occur, and corruption makes bigger headlines than the everyday good the unions do.

      Because the "unions have outlived their usefulness" meme has become so much a part of common parlance that many people accept it as true.

    •  Why was this downrated? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      psnyder, SilentBrook

      I see nothing in it that warrants it.

      This head movie makes my eyes rain.

      by The Lone Apple on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:57:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sadly, I have to agree. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Panurge, thejeff, mkor7, RockyMtnLib
      If someone has the option to join a union, but declines, it is because they do not feel that the benefits received by virtue of their membership outweigh the costs. Thus, any law that requires them to join anyway is harmful to them.
      The current union model of glorified trade guilds and center-left political lobbies has failed their missions.  Unions, for the most part, have been riding the glories of the past, reducing themselves to glorified trade guilds and center-left political lobbies that consistently play into the hands of their political and economic enemies.

      From what I understand, the Red Scare exiled the socialist and anarchist elements, removing most of the militant, proactive and energetic leadership. The Taft-Hartley act severely limited any remaining leverage unions had. The elimination of secondary strikes, imposed by the Sherman Act, makes it virtually impossible to challenge horizontally integrated businesses.

      Unions, first need to grow their ranks and supply the members and dues to fight an ever-growing corporate plutocracy. Perhaps, unions should return to representing broad categories of workers, regardless of industry. Members equal money and bodies.
      Once again, unions should be flexible and easy to join with minimum bureaucracy. Creating or managing a small union shouldn't require anything more than a web site, a PayPal account and a labor attorney on retainer.

      Unions should challenge Congress for the right to organize and strike anywhere, at any time and in any industry. In other words the Sherman Act must should be modified and the Taft-Hartley Act be annulled.  A corporation doesn't authorization to perform executive actions in their interest and Unions shouldn't need authorization either. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

      The desired result is a union that is muscular and flexible, fully capable of subverting anti-union tactics. If existing union members can quietly enter a workplace in sufficient numbers, and wage a strike once sufficient numbers, the entire  'Right To Work' concept can be turned on its head.

      Finally, unions need to either get better PR or become more militant. Some strike situations call for dressing the part and look sharp. Other strike situations call for massive civil disobedience. Throwing on a shirt and shuffling in line is neither going convince many union skeptic workers to take them seriously enough to join.

    •  Well, yes. (0+ / 0-)

      If you stand aside and accept any benefits acquired by the action of the union-- wage increases, work condition improvements, fringes, and then do not pay your share of the costs,  you will indeed benefit-- even more than the union people.  Anything that causes you to share the cost is harmful to you.

      Conversely, each person who fails to share the cost, either increases the cost for the group members, undercuts the strength of numbers, and boosts the power of the corporation against the workers.

      There are two main issues.

        Is the freeloader conscientious, or merely opportunistic?  
        And whose side is he on.

  •  Thank you for the beautiful reality check, Wendi! (10+ / 0-)

    I was in the same boat as you when shit hit the fan in Wisconsin in February 2011 in that I wasn't overly familiar with the wide-ranging benefits of unions in modern day society.  I knew that my teachers, many of whom their leadership and inspiration had molded who I was as a person over 17 1/2 years of Wisconsin public schooling, were proud union members and that was about it.  I quickly received a crash course in the reality of what their fight, and the fight of all public workers and the labor movement in general, meant to my progressive belief system that I hold so dear.  As the story goes, the rest was history. :)  

    Thank you for laying out the questions you faced in such a revealing way and putting your experiences out there for the world to see.  

    Solidarity, Sister!!

  •  This is so helpful. (11+ / 0-)

    I can remember years ago, during a Democratic primary, taking one look at Joe Biden and thinking, "He looks like one of those boring blue-collar union guys.  Ugh."

    Because nobody ever really explained to me how they work or what good they do.  I, like you, thought unions were gangs of uneducated dopes who were bossed around by the Mafia.  The "union thug" meme made sense to me.

    My parents were in civil-service unions, but as far as I knew they were insurance companies and pension administrators.  Nothing to get worked up about.

    Something has to be done to put a human face on the unions, and make the benefits clear to folks like you (and me), who work in jobs and companies where all you hear is the negative.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 03:36:03 AM PST

  •  Two words for anti-union workers and (15+ / 0-)

    freeloaders: wage theft.

    I worked for a company in Florida that shorted me $10,000 in compensation before I quit. Other people I know who work in Florida, a big-time "right to work" state with few unions, tell me their paychecks constantly come up short, and without someone there to advocate for them, there's nothing they can do.

    In many parts of the country, wage theft has become rampant. If you're a victim, there's no one out there to defend you unless you belong to a union or live in a state with strong (and enforced) wage theft laws. And when you quit (or get fired for asking for the promised compensation, as happened to my successor in the position), you can't ask the thief for a recommendation, so what do you do then?

  •  Thanks, Wendi. Our labor creates their wealth. n/t (8+ / 0-)

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:14:05 AM PST

  •  It's about dignity.... (11+ / 0-)

    I'm sure every union contract has some clause in it that is purely dealing with dignity.  For instance, in 2000, the clerical union at Illinois State University (AFSCME Local 3236) included the following clause:

    The phrase “performs other duties as assigned” on the position Class Specifications shall be interpreted as “performs other duties as required or assigned which are reasonably within the scope of the duties in this job classification.”
    That section entitled, Other Duties As Assigned, was put in because prior to the clause, clerical were told to clean breakrooms or conduct a supervisor's personal business such as errands or even babysitting.  
    We are professionals, not someone's mother, in the workplace.  
  •  anti union sentiments hide racist envy (10+ / 0-)

    I'm not a union person or even a fan of unions per se, but I at least try to factor benefits against costs. The cost of union workers is higher prices for goods, the benefit is that more money goes into general circulation rather than into the pockets and savings accounts of the already wealthy.
    But, its the racial aspect of unions, with their models for hiring from all races, and genders, that disturbs the GOP. Go down to your local Dept of Motor Vehicles, look at the people working there. They look like a real composite of the neighborhoods they service. No body likes to deal with changing registration or new licenses, but everyone benefits from the good paying jobs provided to the economy and society benefits from excellent records and accountability.
    Still, I believe its the racial aspect of providing good jobs to minority sectors of our society that the entrenched caucasian power mongers find most annoying. Personally, I find unions have afforded more opportunity to minorities than even civil rights legislation, which mostly created laws without fangs in far too many areas.
    The ease with which the right has been able to savage the idea of unions is a commentary about propaganda and the willingness of far too many of my fellow Americans to behave like their rights are being attacked when in fact they are the ones attacking and destroying the rights of others less fortunate and often more deserving than themselves.

    •  The costs (4+ / 0-)

      of higher union wages, benefits and working conditions wouldn't be a problem if 1) every company in every industry had to provide them (i.e., compete on equal footing) and 2) every country had to do likewise or face stiff tariffs.

      The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

      by Words In Action on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:26:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I feel really strongly that the law (0+ / 0-)

        in place in Germany should be adopted here.

        That is, all companies with a certain number of employees must fill at least half of the board of directors with rank-and-file employees.

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:33:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You are very correct (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wbr, SilentBrook, MKinTN, JohnB47

      and I really wanted to expand on that but chose not to. The number one goal of attacking unions is to weaken the top contributor to the party that stands up to them.

      Unions have ALWAYS backed civil rights. Unions are behind racial equality, gender equality, and a strong middle class, all of which threatens the ideal way of life for most conservatives. They want to "put us back in our place"s and groups that encourage strength in numbers and equality must be destroyed in order for them to stay on top.

  •  We also don't respect labor. We think we do, (9+ / 0-)

    but we don't. We respect money. It is different.

  •  added "Labor" to your tags (3+ / 0-)

    Tipped and recommended

    "They are an entire cruise ship of evil clowns, these current Republicans"...concernedamerican

    by Giles Goat Boy on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 05:33:39 AM PST

  •  What we have here is a failure to communicate... (11+ / 0-)

    Workers who opt not to pay the union dues have heard the management message that "all unions do is take the dues out of your paycheck." I have no doubt that some long established unions and their shops have lost sight of the hard work that went into organizing the union, getting the higher wages and good contracts that can support a both a better life for the workers and the union. This should not be allowed to happen today, the technology for communication and dissemination of information is so much better than in the past. Working as a union organizer while doing my job at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been a challenge I won't forget. The union busting tactics of the executives, filing NLRB affidavits, getting worked harder than ever, have only made me stronger and more determined. And should we succeed and get the hospital to stand down and allow a free and fair vote to organize, the hard work will not be done, for the initial contract will have to be negotiated. I'm looking forward to making history here in Western PA - which was truly the birthplace of the union movement in this country. History that is no longer taught in the schools.

  •  You don't know what you got til its gone (5+ / 0-)

    and that is what the rich and powerful want.  I cannot understand what makes these people able to convince the masses that being poor is cool.    We tolerate their sorry asses because we think that we may have the opportunity to be one of them.  That cannot happen without a strong union workforce to be able to buy the stuff that is being built and created.  

  •  Frankly, if the functions of unions were (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kideni, wbr, SilentBrook, RockyMtnLib

    rigorously undertaken and enforced by the government, we wouldn't need unions.

    Personally, I believe EVERYONE should automatically belong to a union. (I also believe that the government ought to provide that service.)

    The fact of the matter is, if all private enterprises had to follow the same rules, rules which were uniformly enforced across the country, then the higher costs of higher minimum and middle class wages, healthcare, etc., would fall equally to every business and they could all compete on a level playing field. The way it is now, the employees and the businesses, especially the small ones, that try to do right by them get screwed.

    The model should be providing living wages, benefits and safe, non-abusive working conditions without penalizing those companies who willingly provide them. Make them the law of the land, and enforce those laws, dammit!

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:14:27 AM PST

    •  Yes, I've always thought that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action

      great diary & comment! Thanks

      ...inspiration moves me brightly

      by wbr on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:31:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The way to enforce is with (0+ / 0-)

      frequent, random, unannounced audits. That way we still keep the bedrock legal principle of innocent until proven guilty since enforcement agencies would have the onus of collecting evidence that a company is involved in shenanigans. On the other hand with this in place employers would never know when a customer, potential employee, or whoever is actually a government official that's watching them so, in that sense, they would feel like they have to regularly prove they are not abusing people.

      This may not prevent all mistreatment of employees and the general public, but if a regime like this were in place with a few employers being caught, punished severely (with significant jail time) and made examples, I think most employers would think twice before thinking about engaging in human husbandry.

      liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

      by RockyMtnLib on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:03:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Globalization provides cover for these efforts (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kideni, wbr, SilentBrook, RockyMtnLib

    to kill unions, employee rights and employment law in general.

    If all countries had to compete on a level playing field of wages, benefits and working conditions or face stiff tariffs, then the "global competition" argument would die.

    The same approach should be applied to environmental degradation. Companies and countries should not be competing on the basis of the willingness of local officials to destroy the environment.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 06:33:54 AM PST

  •  The reason you join a union... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wbr, SilentBrook because the majority voted for it. It's a concept called direct democracy. That's a purer form of democracy than the watered-down version that we have in these here United States.

  •  Good diary. I think unions are looking at a (4+ / 0-)

    rebirth. I think that is why the gop/1% is making this last ditch effort. (The fact that Mi did it with a lame duck session is a metaphor for the whole phenomenon. )

    However, I think unions can regain power even beyond the bounds of their membership by finding common cause with small business in right to work states.
    It's all about restoring the middle class, and that is the rising tide that really will lift all boats.
    Unions need to look outside their boundaries, and expand their organizing efforts. At the same time, they need to join with single-proprietor contractors (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, esp.) to expand clean energy like small scale solar, and a national response to climate change, (for example). Infrastructure, also.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:11:29 AM PST

  •  . (11+ / 0-)

    having never worked within a union but have worked with union people, I have seen first hand what a difference it makes on a personal level. For a year and a half we were working on a big project involving some travel, the union folks had 3 shifts with the option to work overtime with time and a half pay.
    The non-union people were the company I worked with, most of them had a 2nd shift but we worked 12 hour shifts.  There was no backup for performing my particular job so I worked all shifts... not constrained to the time clock but to getting the tasks done I was needed to do.  I worked anywhere from 12 hour days to as much as a 26 hour day (yep a day and 2 hours straight) with the average being 75 to 96 hour work weeks with lots of sleep deprivation .  Did this for a year and a half.
    I only got paid straight time, couldn't take time off and if I got sick too fucking bad.  So I worked sick or risked losing my wonderful non-union job.  I earned a pretty decent wage but it was about the same as the most senior union people earned with straight time.  I could have paid off most of my house had I gotten any overtime but noooo, we can't have that.
    One of our other non-union slaves got pneumonia and it took him out for almost 2 months but he had 'backup' and the pace of activity has slowed considerably.  I got a serious eye infection twice from chemical exposure and had 2 surgeries but was only 'out' for a week each time so it was 'covered', had it been longer I'd been unemployed when I was 'better'.
    This is what you get when you have no worker protections.  And this was in a non RTW state.  I worked in RTW states for 11 years and could write a chapter about it.  The short version is when I left a RTW state my pay doubled in 2 years.  
    The people who slam union workers which only make up 7% of the working population, either A.  are shills for corporations and in some position that is very secure and pays decent livable wages with benefits  B.  Don't know anything about worker protections, why they are important, and are likely < 35 years of age and likely don't have a family.  Much of criticism of unions has come out of media outlets and has been repeated so often as to make your head spin (like free trade is good for you, and the non-stop 911 thing mentioned every 5 minutes for 8 years straight) that they have successfully brainwashed large numbers of people.

    "By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise." -Adolf Hitler

    Oh did I mention hitler went after trade unions too?  We're living in dangerous times.  Like Mark Twain said history doesn't repeat itself but it sure is rhyming.

    "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance." -James Madison

    by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:17:16 AM PST

  •  Thank you Wendi (5+ / 0-)

    I also live in Texas, and am also employed in a non-union profession. In addition, I am a lot older than you. For most of my life I associated unions with things like requiring coal shovelers on steam trains. It has only been since I started to attend Netroots conventions that I have started to develop a more nuanced understanding of unions. I won't say I totally get it yet, although it is perfectly clear that Republicans want to neuter the political clout of unions. I think there are many people like myself and like Wendi who may be liberals, but who are starting from a position of ignorance about unions. We need simpler, better language for talking to folks like me.

  •  Quick note: public sector isn't that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wbr, SilentBrook, Tom Anderson, Amber6541

    if you are working for a private company that's private sector.  Working for government in some capacity is public sector work.  It isn't whether you are dealing with the public, it's whether you are working to benefit the public.

    Great diary though!

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:49:04 AM PST

  •  There's a reason (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkor7, Tom Anderson

    ..for Orwellian names like "Right to Work" being incorporated in the anti-union movement.

    Shaping an opinion before it has been completely formed is much easier.

    The dire straits facing America are not due poor people having too much money

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:04:51 AM PST

  •  What,s the deal with unions anyway (0+ / 0-)

    Great post!

  •  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkor7, MBishop1, Tom Anderson, Amber6541

    Anyone who enjoys their 40-hour work week with two day weekend and doesn't appreciate unions simply hasn't been paying attention.

  •  Doing union orientations for new hires (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MBishop1, Amber6541

    in a right to work for less state. The new hires are eager to join if they think they won't get the benefits and raises otherwise. Then they find out the state requires the union to represent everyone and everyone gets the negotiated raises and benefits and they don't have to pay the union costs. So you have to ask them to think about the future and you know how people are.

  •  Occupy the Country Clubs!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tom Anderson, Amber6541

    If it's OK for folks to get the benefits of union membership without paying union dues, then it follows that it's OK for those same folks to get the benefits of country club membership without paying dues. In fact, if the GOP is to be believed, hordes of non-dues-paying members showing up on their golf courses will actually inspire country clubs to provide BETTER service to those non-dues-paying members. So let's all show up at the nearest country club and demand the benefits of membership without the corresponding burden of dues. Apparently this is legal.

    Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

    by vulcangrrl on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 11:48:27 AM PST

  •  Corporations are persons but collective bargaining (0+ / 0-)

    Corporations are persons but collective bargaining is crazy...

    Love Me, I'm a Liberal!

    by simplesiemon on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:24:11 PM PST

  •  As long as employees are an expense (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tom Anderson, Amber6541

    unions will be needed.

    Hey, GOP - Get In, Sit Down, Shut up, & Hang On!

    by 88kathy on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:07:04 PM PST

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