Blog Archive - December 2012

Posted: December 12, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

I was listening to a radio program this morning that played an audio clip from Fox News.  A commentator went on and on about “union thugs” and what they are doing in Michigan.  Why are people who are trying to earn a good living and have security in the work place called thugs?  It’s a label, a rhetorical device used to simplify thinking and demonize an opponent.

What if we looked at rich billionaires as thugs?  Their goal is take rights away from working people and lower wages.  Right wing Michigan politics have been driven by the heads of two large corporations, Amway and Meijer.  To me, rich people that want to dominate poor people and working people are the real thugs.  They and their political puppets need to be called out and held accountable.  Enough with Fox News and its clichéd lies.

Posted: December 10, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Speaking today in Michigan, President Obama put himself on the side of labor in its conflict with Michigan’s governor and state legislature that is pushing through “right to work” legislation.  The President even said that such laws mean “you have the right to work for less money.”  Great words, golden words, but we have heard words from this president in the past.  What will he do?  Actions matter.

In his first four years, the President has done little to help labor.  He is currently said to be supporting a Pacific trade bill that would be as bad or worse than NAFTA.  He also champions education “reform,” which is a smoke screen for busting teacher unions and enabling corporations to profit from public education.  Labor supported Mr. Obama.  It is time for him and other Democrats to return the favor.  If they don’t, the elections of 2014 could be worse for the Democrats than 2010.

Posted: December 9, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature on things beyond the work world.]

A Shocking Death Remembered

Where were you when X, died.  Fill in the blank.  It started with John F. Kennedy.  Our most recent national shock wasn’t a person, but an event, 9-11.  Thirty two years ago I was at a bowling alley in Cleveland.  I was nineteen, a sophomore in college.  There was breaking news during Monday Night Football.  John Lennon had been shot and killed in New York City.  We stopped bowling for a few minutes and then went back to our games.  The football game too went on with occasional news reports sprinkled in.  John Lennon’s death didn’t change our culture as 9-11 did.  It did not even impact gun laws as the later assassination attempt on President Reagan did.  All the murder of John Lennon did was kill an artist who was making a fantastic comeback.  It left Yoko a widow with a young son, much like many mothers today who lose their husbands or boy friends to gun violence.  Our solace is that the gift of John Lennon lives on, and for that we can be very grateful.

Two of my favorite songs by John Lennon:

So This Is Christmas

Working Class Hero

Posted: December 7, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Michigan’s governor and Republican state legislature have followed the Wisconsin model in trying to make the state “right to work.”  They are fast-tracking legislature, ignoring large protests in the capital city Lansing.  Governor Snyder and his allies claim that they need this law to be competitive with Indiana, which has similar anti-union work rules.

As John Nichols points out in The Nation, if this anti-union action can happen in Michigan, where are workers safe?  Nichols quotes a union official who says that wages are $1,500 lower in right to work states.  Too many people have forgotten how unions led the way to better wages, benefits, and security.  Here in Chicago, our teachers union showed that a united group could win the day.  We’ll see what happens in Michigan now, and what happens in two years when the governor and legislature have to go before the people.  I don’t simply blame the politicians.  They were elected.  We who support union rights need to make a better case – and get to the polls.

Travis Waldron of Think Progress breaks down what is happening in Michigan and the consequences for working people.  Beyond the immediate set back, one positive I see is a new vitality in the labor movement.  Labor is fighting for its life.  The politicians are only doing the bidding of masters like the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch, rich men hungry for a few (billion) dollars more.  It may take a while, but labor will triumph, and the bigger winner will be democracy in America.

Posted: December 6, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

A client called me early this morning.  She was nearly in tears.  Her performance review was not what she expected, and she felt insulted and underappreciated.  The more we talked, the more I realized that her review had nothing to do with performance.  It was all about one thing: Pay.

My client is in line to receive a big raise and year-end bonus. Over the last year she has taken on greater responsibility and has a measurable record of success.  In 10 categories ratings, she is equal to or has improved on the previous year’s rating.  Even so, her overall rating is flat and her potential rating does not indicate someone who is seen as a future leader.  In other words, this is not a person the company thinks they should be paying.

Along with the review, my client sent several emails she received from her supervisor that recognize specific achievements over the last year.  I asked if she had received any negative email. There were none.  All correspondence was positive.  It’s no wonder my client was upset.  Next week her company will announce bonuses and raises.  My guess is that she will be more upset by that news.

What can she do if he compensation is not what she expects?  One option is to try to negotiate with her manager.  I don’t think that will be successful.  Her performance review sets up the manager’s response.  Her other option is to use the next couple of weeks to tune up her resume and start a new job search.  She should give her manager and co-worker no hint that she’s looking for an employer who will appreciate her work – and reward it.

Don’t let an unfair performance review get you down, especially if it seems like its an excuse to keep from giving you a raise.  Get mad – and focused.  If you are skilled, you can find an employer who needs you and will treat you fairly.  The first step is to give yourself credit and start looking for an employer who will do the same.

Posted: December 5, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

I know nothing about Dave Brubeck’s politics.  His music is a different story.  Few jazz artists have been as influential as Brubeck, who died today at age 91.  Most famous for the song and album Take Five¸ Brubeck played concerts into his late 80s.  His music covered bases from jazz classics to eastern rhythms to church music.  Though Brubeck is gone, his artistic works will last as long as people listen to good music.

Here is a video of Brubeck and his quartet – the genius on saxophone is Paul Desmond – playing Take Five in 1966.

Posted: December 4, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Common Dreams has reposted an article by Michelle Chen who compares the protest methods of food workers to those once used by the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), direct action.  While these workers lack the “protection” of a mainstream union, they can take action and change quickly to outmaneuver their corporate foes.  Some of the protest methods have included education about sustainability and good eating habits.

Will we soon see a day when McDonald’s workers are unionized and well paid?  Probably not.  But the action these workers are taking will hopefully wake us some consumers and force them to understand they only cheat themselves by asking low wage workers to make cheap fast food.  Some workers will hopefully improve their pay and how they are treated.  However, until consumers wake up and support low wage workers, big corporations will do what they do best:  Keep wages low.

Postscript:  A report has come out that consumers have had a negative reaction to Papa John’s threat to cut workers’ health coverage.  Maybe consumers are waking up.


Posted: December 4, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

A cover letter should introduce your resume.  It should be clear and concise without going into the kind of detail used in the resume.  At the same time, it should give employers a little meat to chew on.  One way I do this is to include a sentence that highlights skills that will interest the employer.

Here are a few examples followed by the kind of job sought in parenthesis.

My duties have included maintaining schedules/calendars, travel arrangements, correspondence, and meeting planning.  (Executive Assistant)

My duties included vendor management, negotiation, inventory control, and coordination of delivery and special orders. (Purchasing)

My duties have included store operations, event sales, recruiting, and training.  (Retail Manager)

My duties have included all aspects of classroom instruction as well as extracurricular activities that encourage academic and personal development. (Teacher)

These are just a few examples of how a set of skills can be packaged in one sentence.  Using this kind of sentence is one way you can keep you cover letter specific and concise.

Posted: December 3, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress reports on the ups and downs of the U.S. economy.  What’s up?  Corporate profits.  What’s down?  Workers’ wages.  A graph embedded in the article tracks the growth of wages and profits in a way that shows how much workers have lost over many years.  Wages slope down for every year since 2000.  Corporate profits went up between 2000 and 2008, took  a big dip, and now they’re back higher than ever.

How could big business be doing better?  Wealthy Americans have also enjoyed increased benefits, especially through the tax code.  We need to ask those who benefit most from common things like roads, schools, and the military to pay for their upkeep.  Workers can’t afford it.  Look at the chart.