More Piffles

My grand-uncle, A. C. Laforge, once wrote a newspaper column in Los Angeles (pre-WW2) called Pillars of Piffles. Today it’s my Piffle column.

Piffle 1

The Supreme Court decided that “closely held” (meaning family owned) corporations can opt out of providing contraceptive coverage for women who are covered by its health insurance because that is against the owners’ religious beliefs. I never realized that a corporation held religious beliefs. A corporation limits an investor’s liability to what he or she has invested in the corporation. A corporation’s liabilities do not devolve on the owners but the investor’s religious beliefs are attributed to the corporation?

Piffle 2

The just took its first step in eliminating agency fees for labor unions. Agency fees cover union expenses incurred in negotiating and enforcing contracts for those covered by the contract but not belonging to the union.

“”It’s not fair; I don’t believe in unions; I shouldn’t be forced to pay dues (you aren’t paying dues, but leave that be for today).

Let’s make believe that you’re a public school teacher in California a year into the “Great Recession” and there are no unions. Your school district’s income has just gone down ten percent (or, if you know the actual amount insert it instead). The district can do one or more of the following: re-negotiate all of the individual employee contracts; cut the number of school days; cut the number of employees; cut health insurance; cut everyone’s salary (or a combination of these). Let us examine these options.

1) Re-negotiate individual employee contracts. You really believe that school districts that employ a thousand or more teachers, administrators, counselors  and classified people are going to do this for everyone? Or, maybe, you think cuts will happen to others but not you because you are special? Uh-hu, get real it isn’t going to happen that way.

2) Cut the number of school days. Lessens the amount of time students have to learn. If we did this we’d be doing a disservice to students and to society. We can’t cut the number of days. (And, if we cut the number of days, parents would get mad at us for increasing the number of days they’d have to find and pay for child care.)

3) Cut the number of employees. We could do this. It reduces salary and health benefit costs. It may raise class sizes but only by a few in each class. (If you teach middle school English or Math in Orange, you’ve just gone from forty to forty-four students in each of your six classes and added twenty-four student contacts every day.)

4) Cut health insurance. Look at the actual cost to the school district of your health insurance, not just what you currently have taken out of your paycheck. Now see what it looks like if your total compensation is cut ten percent. Yes, both your union and district can tell you what those numbers are. Every year Santa Ana USD sends its teachers a summary showing exactly what their total compensation , or if you will, their total cost to the district is. Once you include the total cost of things like health benefits and STRS payments it becomes quite a bit more than just what you see in your paycheck. (And, yes, your union’s bargaining team has to consider all of these monies when it negotiates your contract.)

5) Cut everyone’s pay twelve percent. Quite fair, everyone shares equally. . . . twelve percent? Yeah, twelve percent. Eighty percent of your district’s revenue goes to personnel costs; the other twenty percent goes to books, paper, janitorial supplies, etc. (Oh, you want to cut those too and have your pay cut only ten percent. OK, be prepared to go to Office Depot or Staples for the paper or toner or whiteboard markers you need for your room.)

Think about it.Breakfast 2

Piffle 3

Went to fix breakfast this morning and cat happened.Breakfast 1 Smoke was feeling lonely. In and out between my legs in the kitchen – again and again. I like you Smoke but, please, wait until I’m sitting down; I don’t need to fall in the kitchen.Breakfast 3