City Of Madison Work Crew Refused To Work Efficiently

Also, read my blog post Grading City Employees.

A large terrace tree, directly next to the driveway of a city park,  was cut down by the City Of Madison this spring.  Over the course of the months since the tree was removed several storms had come through the area and small type limbs had been gathered from the park, and neighboring homes, to make a convenient pile for pick-up by the city.  In the isthmus area, where cars are always using street parking, having such a clear visual location for such debris is a smart idea.  In fact, over the many years, the spot alongside the tree has been the place for park limbs for pick-up from the volunteers who do that task.

Several weeks ago I had taken about six limbs off the large pile, as it was getting too big, and placed them directly on the opposite side of the park driveway.

This morning a work crew came to remove the tree stump and at the same time removed the large mound of debris that was topping it.  That debris was placed into a city truck for removal. Once that was all done, I asked a city employee working a large front loader if I could just place the rest of the limbs in the small pile into his bucket that could then be put onto the city truck for removal.

“I can not do that”.  He added the pile can sit there for six months as it is not hurting anything.

I was told that the pile needed to be picked up by a separate truck crew, at some future date, who was assigned such work.  I explained that the limbs had been on the original pile over the tree stump and had they remained he would have taken them.   Yes, he said, it would all have been removed as that was needed to remove the root.

I was just literally a few yards from the limbs to be picked up, and the front loader was just a few yards from the simple branch limbs.   I was not asking the city worker to expend any energy whatsoever as I would toss the limbs for him–all I asked was for him to then dump that front loader into the back of the city truck–also parked just a few yards from the pile of limbs.

And he refused.

I am truly confounded by the shortage of reason and logic this morning from a work crew that had sunshine on their side, a nice soft lake breeze, and even a Packer victory to smile about from the day before.   And I was the one who was going to lift the light branches!

I noticed that the crew took a coffee break and walked about the area, no doubt rubbing their pant legs on the end of the limbs of the pile that still awaits being picked up.

I have always been supportive of public employees.  My dad worked for the county, my brother for decades with the state, my nephew has worked for many years at the UW, a brother-in-law was a postmaster.  I worked in the state assembly.  I am not one to be harsh with those who work for us.

But today was off-the-chart as a city employee demonstrated purposeful arrogance and willful disregard for the obvious easy solution that presented itself.   This is why the rank-and-file citizen has a sour connotation for those who are paid by taxpayers.   That is sad as there are many, such as myself, who still fight and urge for fairness and political settlements that work in favor of public employees and their unions.

Today it does make one wonder……..

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Worker Rights In Hollywood–Olivia de Havilland And Labor Day


As we celebrate Labor Day I felt the story of Olivia de Havilland’s Hollywood studio system fight was an interesting way to underscore what the day is about.  Many recall the film legend as Melanie Wilkes from the classic Gone With The Wind.  But her legal challenge to the studio system is even more remarkable.

Back at Warner Bros., though, De Havilland found herself consigned to the same old arm-candy roles. She began taking suspensions without pay to avoid the parts she regarded as unacceptable. When a loan to Paramount for “Hold Back the Dawn” brought her another Oscar nomination, she began counting the months until her contract with Warner Bros. would be up.

Under California’s studio-friendly labor statute, employers were entitled to hold individuals to personal services contracts for up to seven years; De Havilland’s contract was set to end in mid-1943. But when the time came, she was shocked to discover that she still wasn’t free. All of the months of suspension without pay that she had accumulated would be tacked on to the end of her original contract period. In other words, De Havilland owed the studio a full seven years of active labor, however long that might take.

The enforceability of such “tack on” terms had never been addressed by the courts and no actor had risked making a legal challenge, although powerful stars like Cagney and Davis were able to negotiate modifications in their contracts. Now, 27-year-old De Havilland decided to fight back. She hired attorney Martin Gang to seek a judicial declaration that the “tack on” provision of the suspension clause was invalid under California law. Despite the very real possibility of wrecking her acting future by taking on the system, she persevered. In late 1944, an appellate court victory freed her — and the rest of the studios’ contract actors — from Hollywood’s version of indentured servitude.

De Havilland immediately proved the value of her freedom by taking roles in three great films: “To Each His Own,” “The Snake Pit” and “The Heiress.” The result was three Oscar nominations, two Academy Awards and a New York Film Critics Circle Award.

Stand For Trump (With No Lunch) Or No Pay

Wow.  Does this say all we need to know about the real support level for Orange Mussolini?


Trump’s large union crowd at Shell was given the option of not showing up — and not getting paid,” by Anya Litvak: “The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.

Your attendance is not mandatory,’ said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid. ‘NO SCAN, NO PAY,’ a supervisor for that contractor wrote.

That company and scores of other contractors on site and their labor employees all have their own contracts with Shell. Several said the contracts stipulate that to get paid, workers must be onsite. Those who decided not to come to the site for the event would have an excused but non-paid absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.

Madison City Workers Shine


I am fully aware of the attitude many people have towards public employees.  Which is why I take a few minutes to post the following about some of Madison workers who made for a genuine smile over the past few days.

Last Tuesday I called about a tree on a terrace across the street from where I live.  For many years the large tree had been losing branches during summer storms and winter blasts.  Twice since we moved into our home lightening has hit the tree.    Each year it looked weaker and sadder.   This spring only a smattering of leaves popped out on the branches.

Within 18 hours of my calling a city worker assessed the tree, painted a yellow dot on it’s trunk, and told us it would shortly be cut down.  I truly thought it would be a fall cutting.

But today when a large truck with a cherry picker (basket) arrived at the intersection in question I had to look twice.  Once the chainsaws started I had to snap a few photos.   I was truly delighted at the speed with which the city took action on a tree what could have fallen on cars, power lines, or bikers.

It took the team about 90 minutes to cut the tree down, and then a separate crew to swoop in with two trucks and claw lift to cart the whole array of branches and trunk away.

I have long applauded the work done by city employees.  I have, over time, given most of my praise to the snow plow drivers who do their best when the weather is giving us its worst.  Today, however, I just had to post this as a way to blunt some of the criticism that too often is aimed at the ones who do their upmost to make sure the city is at its best.

Thanks to all those who took care of a tree which needed to be cut down for reasons of safety.



NFL Anthem Policy Still Causing Obvious Rancor

While I would not kneel during the playing of the national anthem, I do defend the rights of others to make a personal First Amendment statement if they to chose to do so.  I can not see how a logical argument can be made to the contrary.

No one should be surprised that Donald Trump has used the issue in the past to insert himself into a matter that he needs in order to deter people from looking at truly important issues that need more inspection.  No one should be taken aback that come next week–when the he NFL’s first exhibition game takes place–that his orange head and fleshy face will be on every television screen ranting about the matter.

It took two years for National Football League team owners to devise an answer to the supercharged questions raised by players kneeling in protest during the national anthem.  But that awful solution–thankfully–fell apart.  The league and the NFL Players Association  (those damn unions!!–ha ha)  are now attempting again to come up with clear rules about what players can and can’t do during the playing of the anthem—and what the consequences of breaking those rules would be.

Trump had threatened to remove “massive tax breaks” from the 32 NFL teams unless they were to “fire” players who protested during the U.S. national anthem.   That was such an unconstitutional over-reach that after saying it once someone surely pulled him aside at the taco bar and informed him that when a government employee uses the threat of legal sanctions to chill free speech it then runs counter to oh—what shall we say——-THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

In 1943 a landmark Supreme Court case, West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette made it clear that public institutions like schools cannot force students to stand for the pledge and they cannot punish students if they refuse. It’s about freedom of speech.  While it is clear that NFL franchises are mostly private companies, and not government institutions, it is also clear that many stadiums are funded by taxpayers.  A player who has a desire and right to express his First Amendment rights could argue the game is not strictly a private enterprise.

For now the back-and-forth are in meetings with team owners and the player’s union.  The union has stated they would challenge any aspect of the policy that didn’t adhere to the collective bargaining agreement.   The union–since the protests began in 2016–has stated it would oppose any rule that prevented its players from peacefully drawing attention to social injustice.  As it should be.

But we all know who will needlessly step into the controversy come Thursday when the games begin. But given Trump’s unhealthy look shouldn’t he just turn off the games and go for a brisk walk on the back nine with a celery stick.   He might even find his last shred of decency which must be among the greens.  Keep looking.

Win For Teachers Union In West Virginia

This is what many were hoping for this past week.  We were hoping because teachers with better pay matter to this nation.

A teachers’ strike that ground public schools to a halt across West Virginia is set to end on Thursday, a week after it began, Gov. James C. Justice and teachers’ union representatives said Tuesday. They announced a deal that signaled a win for unions in a reddening state, even though some lawmakers and even the teachers themselves expressed doubts it would ultimately work.

Mr. Justice, a Republican, said that he had promised the state’s teachers and other school employees a 5 percent raise and that he would create a task force to address the problem of rising insurance costs for public employees, a key issue in the strike.

Words We Should Hear More Often

I have nothing but good words to say about the union crews working the local street construction project in the Jennifer Street area of Madison.  Today I overheard a supervisor among the crew say, “You guys did legendary work today.”

It was a long day where an unexpected find underground altered the original plans and more muscle was needed than planned.

It was hot and humid and this crew worked straight on since shortly after 7 A.M. and yet there was time for a nice word to the guys who were in the deep hole much of the day.   To me that says a great deal about the quality of the workers who are in our neighborhood this summer.   I was really pleased to have witnessed that moment.

We should have more words of this type for workers all over the country.

Union Victory At Supreme Court Due To Vacancy

There was a much needed victory at the Supreme Court today.  Due to the tie vote the court handed a win to labor unions in a high-profile dispute over their ability to collect union fees.

Today the justices divided 4-4 in a case that considered whether public employees represented by a union can be required to pay ‘fair share’ fees covering collective bargaining costs even if they are not members. The split vote leaves in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the practice.

It may not be the best way to secure a win, but after the partisan hell that working men and women have had to endure I say we smile and applaud.

Make no mistake about this matter.  Had Justice Scalia lived organized labor would have taken it on the chin in an almost certain 5-4 ruling that would have overturned a practice in place for nearly 40 years.

Hatred for the unions among conservatives will have to wait for another case to make it to the high bench.