Category Archives: Perspectives

History, belief systems and more

GMT Worldwide

GMT Worldwide

I recently heard an argument for using GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) as the clock time in all time zones, thus eliminating the zones. At first blush my reaction was: “This guy must be crazy”. However, his view has percolated in my meager brain for a while and I have started to come around to this way of thinking. Once I got past my traditional hang-ups like Lunch has to be at noon, dinner at 6 pm, work starts at 8 am and prime time TV starts at 7pm.

I am in the Central time zone and we are 6 hours behind GMT when both are on Standard time. The new time would mean that Lunch is now at 6 am, dinner at noon, work starts at 2 am and prime time TV now starts at 1 pm. The actual amount of day and night hors would not change. In terms of coordinating schedules in a Global Economy I can see a tremendous advantage to the change. What it would amount to is a temporary emotional discomfort leading to a new paradigm.

Food for thought?

Labor Unions

Labor Unions

In the early days of my business career, I despised labor unions. One of my first management positions was heading up the first personal department (AKA Human Resources) for a small company. I was hired as a one-man effort to thwart an organizing attempt by the local Teamsters. Fortunately for my career prospects, we were able to stave off the union effort and the vote failed. I understood the original need for unions and agreed that companies had not treated their employees fairly. However, this was the 70’s and we were much more enlightened managers and were perfectly capable of taking care of our workers without the assistance of a third party.

That was my view early on and I believe it was valid given the very narrow focus of my responsibilities. Today I hope that my view has broadened. I still feel that it is management’s responsibility to provide for workers, but over time I am convinced that we have let the working man down. The earlier post on income distribution illustrates my view. The benefits of our country’s increased per capita GDP over the last 40 years have almost entirely accrued to the country’s wealthiest families. At the same time union participation has declined.  In 1945, union membership reached a peak of 33.4 percent of the U.S. workforce but steadily declined to a low of 10.7 percent in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The membership numbers for the top 10 labor unions are self-reported, and unless specifically noted, the unions are headquartered in Washington, D.C.

A list of the current functioning unions follows:                                                                           

National Education Association:                                                                                                               With more than 3 million members, the NEA represents classroom teachers, education support professionals, higher education staff and faculty, retired teachers and students training to become education professionals. Founded in 1857, the NEA merged with the American Teachers Association in 1966.

Service Employees International Union:                                                                                                  The SEIU has nearly 1.9 million members in more than 100 occupations in the U.S., including janitors, security workers, superintendents, maintenance workers, local and state government employees, bus drivers and child-care providers. Founded by janitorial workers in 1921, the SEIU is now the largest-membership union in the U.S. that represents the property services, public services and health-care industries.

American Federation of Teachers:                                                                          The AFT was founded in Chicago in 1916, and now has more than 1.5 million members, including pre-K through grade 12 teachers, early childhood educators, paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel, higher education faculty and staff, government employees and other education professionals.                                                                              International Brotherhood of Teamsters:                                                       In 1903, two unions merged to form the Teamsters, one of the most recognized unions in the U.S. It has 1.4 million members in 21 industrial divisions, including airlines, bakery and laundry, brewery and soft drinks, building material and construction, entertainment and passenger transportation.                                                                                                                        American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees:                                            With an estimated 1.3 million members, the AFSCME is the biggest public services employee union in the U.S., representing corrections officers, childcare providers, sanitation workers, EMTs and nurses. The union was founded in 1932 by a group of state employees in Madison, Wisconsin.                                                                                                                                  United Food and Commercial Workers International Union:           The UFCW was founded in 1979 and has grown to 1.3 million members in occupations such as food-processing workers, drugstore workers, poultry processing plant workers, packinghouse employees and grocery store workers.                                                                                     United Steelworkers:                                                                                                  The USW was founded in 1942 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh. It has more than 1.2 million members in the steel, aluminum and metalworking industry, and also represents chemical plant workers, pharmacy workers, rubber workers and construction workers.                     The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America:  This union is more commonly referred to as the United Auto Workers and has more than 400,000 active members, and more than 580,000 retired members in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The UAW, which was founded in 1935 and is headquartered in Detroit, represents autoworkers, health-care workers, academic student employees, postdoctoral scholars and workers in the casino gambling industry.   International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers:  Founded in 1888 by a group of Atlanta-based machinists, the IAM is headquartered in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and has 720,000 members. The union represents automotive repair workers, city employees, truck assemblers, fabrication workers and aerospace workers.      

 

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:                                                                   
With 675,000 members in the utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing and railroad industries, the IBEW has been active since it was founded in St. Louis in 1891.
Most of these unions also belong to the AFL/CIO consortium of unions which numbers over 12 million.
The above does not include the 2nd largest and arguably the most powerful union in our country. Federal Civil Servants number in excess of 2.8 million and are by far the best-compensated workers. Their total compensation exceeds their private sector counterparts by over 70%. I would concede that private-sector wages are too low by as much as 30 – 40%. I would also argue that civil service compensation exceeded market value by about the same amount. Details on the comparison of civil service compensation are contained in a prior post for several years ago and are still available at this site.

My view on unions is still that they should not be necessary. However, without enlightened management practices or stricter federal labor rules they have the potential to add social value.

The Good Fight

The Good Fight

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor says he will commute the sentence of a woman convicted more than three decades ago of fatally shooting her husband, who had physically abused her. Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday announced his intent to make Willie Mae Harris immediately eligible for parole. Harris was convicted in 1985 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband. Harris admitted to shooting her husband, but has said it was an accident related to self-defense.

Harris is legally blind, and the state Parole Board has recommended she receive clemency several times over the years. Charged with first-degree murder of her husband and offered a plea deal – 20 years – out in 13 for good behavior, Willie refused to admit to a crime she did not commit – a position she maintains today even after serving 34 years behind bars.

Mike Masterson, an award-winning journalist and friend has been a vocal activist for the release of Willie Mae Harris and his efforts have finally been rewarded. Portions of a recent Masterson column follow:

Undrea “Gem” Jones, a Dance To Be Free program instructor and returning citizen from the women’s McPherson/Hawkins incarceration units, recently wrote on social media that inmate Willie Mae Harris deserves clemency.

Here’s Jones’ poignant message: “I know the beautiful woman personally and I watched her go blind, heard her cries for help from medical officials when she still had sight in both her eyes. This went on for at least 12 years.

“Then it was myself and other inmates who took care of her necessities such as feeding her and guiding her to the bathroom and shower. It was a constant struggle with the Department of Corrections to get her anything to assist her. Yet this woman never lost her hope and she kept pressing on.

“What justice will be gained by letting Miss Willie Harris die in prison?”

The personable Jones asks a valid question. I’ve raised a voice on Miss Willie’s behalf, for one reason: It is clearly the merciful, decent and compassionate thing to do for a 72-year-old grandmother whose conviction (much like that of former inmate Belynda Goff of Green Forest) was riddled with inadequacies and uncalled witnesses. Plus, she has served more than enough time while suffering terrible personal agony behind bars.

This gentle lady insists, even all these years later, that she sincerely loved her late husband despite the enormous abuses he continually inflicted on her, and never intended to kill him during a heated argument in bed at their home in Bradley in 1985.

I can’t imagine life behind bars for years, losing sight, then having to rely on the compassion of other inmates simply to work through every day. I also can’t believe a man with the demonstrated integrity and empathy of our governor would continue to insist she remain in such a place until she dies.

While on the subject, I also wanted to share a copy of a letter to our governor dated Jan. 29. It was written on Willie’s behalf by financier John Logan of Blytheville. His sentiments likely express those of many Arkansas citizens.

“I read the article by Mike Masterson and was compelled to write you. I am appealing to you to grant her mercy and grant her clemency. She is one of the ones that’s fallen through the cracks of our system and needs help.

“The Parole Board has recommended five times that she be released from prison, and five times she was denied by Governor Huckabee and Governor Beebe. After hearing everything about her and the good she has done for others in prison, I feel that it is our duty to help this poor woman.

“Shakespeare wrote:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

“Please have mercy on Willie Mae Harris and grant her clemency. You will be blessed and the people of Arkansas will be too.”

Well said, John Logan, and thanks for reminding us that the Bard realized the divine nature of mercy.

This particular quote was enough to send me on a bit of research to see what other thoughtful folks over time have had to say about the nature of mercy. Here’s a bit of what I discovered that applies to all our lives together.

Abraham Lincoln, during a conversation with former colleague Joseph Gillespie in 1864, is reported to have said: “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

This is not the only cause that Mike has taken on that has yielded positive results. Kudos go out to him, keep on fighting the good fight.

————v————

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master’s journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 02/11/2020