Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Great Car Caper: Canada's Bailout Propositions

Ok. I have one more, this is a story about unions and bad jobs. I've belonged to a union. In college I had an excellent unionized part time job, it was one of the best I had going through school. The union kept my hours steady and my pay above $10 an hour. I could call in sick without fear. People were reasonably happy. There was a health and safety committee.

I've also worked a lot of jobs that should have been unionized. In high school, at an abusive grocery store who cut hours from 35 per week to five without notice when it suited them and who refused to provide appropriate safety equipment. I had chemical burns on my arms, it only changed when a coworker nearly blinded herself with the chemicals. The hour cuts would leave the women in my department with children and bills beyond our high school realm no option but to find a new job. I've cleaned hotel rooms, contracting the Norwalk virus and projectile vomiting green and running dangerously close to not being able to pay rent for taking sick days. I've worked a midnight to six shift for $6.50 an hour on casual with an hours notice when I could get the work, dealing with bodily fluids I never want to think about again. For admitting I wasn't religious to the Bible-loving owners of a coffee shop, I worked every Sunday starting at 6:00 am with my Muslim coworker for minimum wage (I guess they missed the "servants" part of that commandment). This is just the start.

So when I write this, it's not as some rich kid. When we have a "name your worst job ever" competition, I can blow a lot of the people out of the water about six times over.

Unions as they stand are a disaster. They don't really protect those who need protection and they plant unreasonable demands upon establishment that go far beyond the realm contemplated by legislation. I know people who work directly for the unions, I know people who work in the factories, and I know people who will lose their livelihoods when GM goes under - we're talking family members. As sympathetic as I am to someone about to lose job security who has no feasible Plan B, I still say no bailouts.

There comes a point where you pay for your choices. The unions supporting this should pay for their choices to create campaigns of stupidity, using the tools of solidarity to advance mediocrity. The people who work for auto factories made a choice, too, supporting unreasonable demands made these companies unsustainable. The CFOs and CEOs of the auto companies made choices. They made a product that wasn't profitable and drew huge salaries to do it, congratulating themselves for mediocrity. Yet I guarantee, from conversations with people I know, no one is willing to suggest maybe they themselves have failed.

North America has a sickness where no one is willing to be responsible for autonomy even though it's the value we champion above all else. I've made poor choices and I learn from them and live with them, I certainly don't go and ask someone to fix them for me or request someone else sacrifice so I can continue to make bad choices. I already gladly pay for many things I will probably never collect on, in fact things I hope I never need. I will fund your social services, a health care system, quality public education, unemployment, public pensions and even welfare. I will fund these things knowing they will be abused to some degree. I pay for these things because I know that autonomy has it's bounds and that my whiteness and my passport give me so many advantages, and because I recognize luck is as much a part of my life as hard work. I believe in leveling the playing field how and when we can.

I don't believe in the auto makers; the people who genuinely need support can collect it through the established social systems - not some odd social capitalist hybrid where no one has yet gotten up and said "it's my fault and I am sorry."


In other news, the new iPod shuffle blows my mind and I want one so, so bad. Damn you Apple for your justifiable price range, free shipping and innovative design right around tax time...

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