"You are what you eat."
That was the way Michael talked. It got him fired.
He's one of the colorful characters I met in my very first real job at J.T. Baker Chemical Company. I worked there for about two years in the lab as a college senior and while waiting to go to law school.
Michael was a hard worker, but an undeniable oddball. For one thing, he always pissed in a beaker and actually kept a notebook where he could make his observations.
Was he nutz? No. He never forgot a birthday. That's my fail safe cRaZy test. Nut jobs are so into themselves they forget birthdays all the time. Anniversaries, too.
I always forget birthdays.
If Mike knew he was getting to someone, he'd really turn on the cRaZy schtick, especially with the suits. They were freaked out by his long hair alone. The bigger the boss, the more outrageous he'd get. When he'd see them coming, he'd walk by in his crisp lab coat, talking to a beaker full of piss. They were convinced he intended to blow the place to Kingdom Come, even though the only person among us who actually ever blew up the lab was me.
That's a story for another day.
Now that I'm an old fart, I can see that Mike probably went too far. But he was hilarious while he lasted.
When we first began hearing rumors that the suits intended to dump Mike, we confronted them. They denied it up and down, lying through their teeth. One lonely midnight shift when Mike had off, a group of us stole into the personnel office and began looking through Michael's files. One of us was an ex-Marine fresh from 'Nam. He loved slinking around in the dark. "Cat's eyes," he bragged. A few years later, he was lying in a pool of blood, a victim of Martin Appel's D-Day massacre in Bath.
That's a story for another day, too.
When we found Mike's file, we learned they really did plan to fire him. And the bastards did it, too.
Michael took it in stride. "You are what you eat. I'm a scrambled egg today" is the last thing I ever heard him say.
The rest of us decided we needed a union. I filed all the papers. Others did the talking. Days after the union was certified, I was finally off to law school, lost touch and never learned the rest of the story. But that incident convinced me unions are necessary to help save jobs and make sure workers are treated fairly, especially the odd ones.
Historically, Northampton County has been largely union free. The pay sucked, but the benefits were great. It was a happy place. Everybody knew everybody.
The county's first Republican council started screwing things up, taking benefits away here and increasing co-pays there. But when Democratic County Exec Glenn Reibman decided to freeze wages and slash the workforce, county workers did what I did when working at J.T. Baker.
Now, there are eleven unions.
I thought that was a good thing, and it probably is for some of the unions. But instead of protecting workers, they have been hurt.
You couldn't find a nicer guy than Sam Senneca, a Deputy Sheriff about 18' tall who spent most of his time in the bullpen. The ladies all adored him.
A union forced him out.
The same is true of Joe McPeake, a gentleman and former police officer who spent most of his time searching people who entered the building.
A union forced him out, too.
Both of these class acts are still working for the county, and that's thanks largely to county exec John Stoffa, who found them a spot at the Governor Wolf building.
Last Thursday night, the union initiated a putsch against another county worker, Connie Falk Sutton, engineering a motion through friendly council members to demand that she resign. She was afforded neither notice nor opportunity to be heard, a blatant due process violation.
The person who told her to ignore county council? John Stoffa.
What I've seen, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, are unions that try to sweep human beings away. Sometimes in embarrassing ways. I've also seen is a county exec who has looked out for these people.
I've also been told things. Union hotshot Lorraine Parry, the Robespierre of Northampton County, is the person behind the failed execution of Northampton County's Director of Human Resources. But if what I've been told by one county worker is right, she still has a "hit list" with a few other names.
Is one of them yours?
I confronted her after work on Monday, as she ran out of the building at exactly 4:29 PM, cancer stick in hand.
"Are you proud of what you've done, Lorraine?"
She scampered away, looking for a rock. Or a group of sixty green T-shirts. Maybe she should file an unfair labor practice against me.
Northampton County's union for row office workers has hurt people, not helped them. It took unreasonable positions during contract negotiations, delaying a contract well beyond what was reasonable. The pay raises granted were no greater than what the county had been offering all along. Health benefits are lower than what the count was willing to provide. Now, union dues are exacted from a work force unable to afford those payments. Aside from the green T-shirts, it has been useless.
Bad unions can be decertified. If thirty per cent of a bargaining unit sign a petition seeking a decertification election, for any reason, the NLRB is bound to schedule an election. Here's a sample form.
If any of you would like to rid yourselves of a group that has no interest in protecting workers, let me know. I can generate the form and will even hold onto it so it does not disappear like it did the last time.
Yeah, I know about that, too.