Thursday, September 25, 2008

Have Northampton County Unions Become the Bad Guys?

"I'm a hamburger."

"What?"

"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.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

unions can protect workers or make the work environment terrible. Fair working conditions are a social justice issue but unions that abuse their power are violating the trust their members place in them.

Anonymous said...

bernie you should have been born a women for how much you bitch and moan about everyone elses business. Oh wait werent you caught dressing like one??

Anonymous said...

Unions are neither good nor bad. They are just there, with other economic factors such as taxes, cyclical tides, regulation, the weather.

Collective bargaining units are nonetheless vital to economic freedom. They generally exist where needed and go away where no longer needed. With the later, there is usually a painful lag. This seems to be the case in NorCo.

Public service unions when married to Democrat legislative majorities are a powerful force that usually gets everything it wants. This also seems to be the case, as demonstrated by last week's muscle flexing. NorCo's unionized employees have a sufficient number of friends on council to get them everything they want.

Bernie, I understand your frustration and support your position entirely. This is what it feels like to be an R in this county every day of the year.

Lions 1. Christians 0. Next case.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"bernie you should have been born a women for how much you bitch"

Your low opinion of women must justify the abuse heaped on Connie Sutton Falk.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of these employees always complaining about every little thing.
What is more irritating is this County Council which is pandering for votes. I hope you keep exposing these possers on Council for what they are, fakes.
Stoffa is doing reasonable things and we have McHale, Dertinger and McClure fishing for quick votes.
I guess one of them is fishing for Stoffa's job.
Three boobs who haven't got a chance if voters have brains.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Had council merely adopted the ordinance, I'd have no quarrel with what happened. People of good will can reach different conclusions, and I would expect council to follow the advice of their very able solicitor, who was just nominated for a judgeship today.

But the vindictive actions that followed were a disgrace. And the more I dig, the more disenchanted I become.

Anonymous said...

Thats the point. Council knows they can't force anyones resignation. Yhis was a big show for the Union.
In order to get votes they did a completely meaningless thing by attacking a person at a public meeting.
Do they really think voters think highly of them for such a mean spirited transparent move.
They collectively deserve a Turkey from the Express Times.

Anonymous said...

I am in favor of fairness regarding Connie, however, don't be so quick to judge when you don't know all the details. Connie has created her own demise. She came in here with a huge chip on her shoulder. We all were willing to give her a fair chance considering the alleged history of her past employment. She is quick to accuse without all the details and has the nerve to be arrogant about it. Look out if she has you on her hit list. She speaks down to everyone and fails to find out all the facts before making her decisions. What comes around goes around. It's a shame it had to come to her being humiliated at the meeting but this is how she has been treating some of the employees. Let this be a lesson for Connie, maybe she will improve her ways after experiencing this embarrassment and humiliation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

She could be all the things you say and would not deserve to be treated that way. The two groups who should be embarrassed most are ytour union and the Northampton County hangmen.

Incidentally, it's not your job to be giving Connie lessons.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, after reading some of your recent comments, I believe that Stoffa and Sutton-Falk should fire all of us pitiful Northampton County employees. The way you describe us we are all a bunch of worthless idiots anyway. The county will run just fine without us. Please do not judge us all by the actions of a select group.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's a fair enough criticism of me. I would ask that you speak out against theis "select group" and not allow them to shepherd you like sheep as they are currently doing.

You know I have always defended the Northampton County worker. I will defend them against excesses by an administration, but will also speak out when a union abuses its role, as the AFSCME unit representing residual unit workers has done.

Anonymous said...

The most cowardly thing County Council did was ask for Falk's resignation. She is just a member of the Stoffa Administration. She does not determine policy, Stoffa does.
If County Council had any spine they would have asked Stoffa to resign or give him a non-confidence vote or censor him.
They attacked a flunky because they are afraid that Stoffa would have laughed if they did it to him.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa the one without a spine capitulated to the Butt-kissing County Council and the Taxpayers lose. Just great.

What now BO? Stoffa has no bacbone and McHale and Co. have no ethics.

Why the hell bring it up and try to do it. If he and the goof Conklin give a hundred reasons why it was no big deal. Is there anyone who is competent around here?

Good God!

Anonymous said...

incidently its not your job to give connie lessons? why not were just all people here. she can use the advice last time i looked she wasnt jesus christ himself. u seem to think shes above the rest of us in yoour mind only.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"u seem to think shes above the rest of us in yoour mind only."

Last time I checked, she was the boss and you weren't. Get that through your head and quit acting like vindictive spoiled brats. You've lost my support. You've also lost the Express Times.

Anonymous said...

the boss of what thought that was stoffas job. you speak for the entire express times i thoght they were just to report the news ...are they biased? if thats the case why buy the paper then.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look, you've all made idiots out of yourselves. You've pissed off people who would otherwise be on your side. Don't compound things by opening your mouth and removing all doubt about your stupidity.

When I mentioned the ET, I mentioned the editorial condemnation in Friday's paper. I assume that you have heard of editorials.

Instead of pointing fingers everywhere else, it's time to look in a mirror. You can start by getting rid of the hacks who represent you.

Anonymous said...

AFTER GIVING THIS SOME THOUGHT IT OCCURED TO ME THAT WOULD ANY OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO APPUALED WHEN COUNCIL ASKED FOR CSF RESIGNATION OTHERWISE HAD A VOICE? IT APPEARS NO ONE WAS LISTENING TO THEM AND IF THEY WERE THEY DID'NT CARE.PEOPLE DON'T USUALLY REACT IN AN UNKIND WAY UNLESS THEY HAVE A REASON. I DON'T NO IF THAT MAKES THEM SPOILED BRATS. I THINK IT MAKES THEM ONLY HUMAN.FOR ALL ANYONE KNOWS THEY MAY FEEL THE SAME AS YOU DO REGARDING THE UNION BUT REMAIN HELPESS TO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.I DO KNOW THIS WHEN YOU ARE GIVEN RESPECT YOU GET IT.SEEMS TO EASY TO POINT FINGERS.SHE WASN'T ON TRIAL SHE WAS BEFORE COUNCIL THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.MAYBE EVERYONE SHOULD TRY TO GET ALONG THERE ARE FAR TO MANY OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS IN THIS WORLD TO WORRY ABOUT .DON'T YA THINK?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The due process clause, contained in both the US and Pa constitution, is extremely important to me. It's one of those little things that protect us from lynch mobs. That clause was violated.

Anonymous said...

ON THAT WE AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

For me bottom line was if you have a beef with any of Stoffa's crew get your goons on Council to go after the Executive not the employee.

I think what the County Council members did to a Cabinet member was disgusting.
I can see the disagreement on how policy is handeled , so be it we will see who is right.
But arranging an ambush for someone hired JUST LIKE YOU to do a job was spineless and the Council members who participated were worse.
I have seen and known some Cabinet members over the years and while I didn't agree with all they all impressed me as hard working and generally smart people.
I admit in HS that may be different.
I just think a Councilmember who will knife a Cabinet member in the back is capable of doing it to a union if there are votes somewhere else.
Honor and principle should not be for sale.

Bernie, I hope this act is not forgotten and all are reminded of this cowardly act.