Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Paycheck Party Pledge

I, the undersigned politician, hereby agree to do everything in my power to help pass the Minimum Laws of the paycheck-earning majority who elected me.

I promise to support and fight for the passage of the Minimum Vacation Law, which will guarantee without exception or modification the right of every paycheck earning person to thirty days of paid vacation a year after the first year of employment and for every year thereafter until the termination of their employment. These days will be in addition to the standard holidays already paid for.

I promise to support and fight for the passage of the Minimum Severance Pay Law, which will provide every paycheck earning person the right to be paid one month's salary, based on the highest monthly salary earned, for every year the employee has worked, upon termination of their employment, either voluntary or not.

More to come...

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Minimum Vacation Law

Aanyone who works gets 30 paid vacation days a year, plus holidays. Could save the travel industry in one fell swoop and reduce unemployment drastically. Not to mention reducing the tremendous amount of stress we all suffer from.

Mexicans have guaranteed vacations. The Europeans have 30 days a year - that's five weeks, people. The Japanese have tons of vacation guaranteed by law a year. Everybody in the world has a law that says if you work, you get so much vacation a year. But what about us, the Americans, the proud and patriotic citizens of the greatest country in the world? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Forget about it.

It's not that lots of people aren't grudgingly given a couple of weeks of vacation a year if they dare to keep it. Many of us who have decent jobs probably think it's a law that we get vacation days. There is no law, only custom, and a particularly stale and outdated custom, if you think about it. We need 30 days of vacation a year for everyone who gets a paycheck in this country who works a full work week, currently meaning 40 hours.

I can hear the bosses and their little buddies screaming already. There is nobody who can whine and moan like a boss faced with the prospect of treating their wageslaves halfway decently. What scares them the most is how many of us there are and how few of them there are. We can out-vote them without even trying, even if only half of us go to the polls and half of them votes for the bosses, hoping for some kind of recognition from the boss for their loyalty. The lowest kind, these boss buddies. They're so stupid they don't even realize it's supposed to be a secret ballot so your boss will never know which way you vote!

The funny thing about the minimum vacation law is that there isn't anyone in the working majority who will ever completely hate the idea when you mention it to them. Of all the ideas I've had to make the world a better place and improve the economy, this is the one that everyone gets immediately. Try it out on anyone who works for a living and you will get a smile right away. Five weeks of vacation a year plus holidays? Oh, only if! They might hate the whole idea of being a wage slave, but they'll love the idea of all that vacation no matter how much they like sucking up to any boss who happens by.

The most puzzling thing about this universally-beloved concept - 30 days of vacation a year for everyone who works guaranteed by law - is why no ambitious politician has ever seized upon the notion to get elected. It must be because the bosses have them so hypnotized by all the huge campaign contributions they fling at them that they can't even conceive of doing anything good for us. If it doesn't make a huge pile of money for the bosses with only the scraps and tiny pinches of taxes for the vast majority of us they can't even imagine any need for it.

We have to rid ourselves of the illusion that any politician, right or left wing, centrist or populist, smart or stupid, has any idea of serving the working majority in any way. But if any politician gets up on the national stage and dares to promise us our guaranteed five weeks of vacation a year, I'll hold my nose and vote for him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Minimum Sick Leave Law

While we do have a pretty decent Family Leave act that offers a tiny bit of protection to working mothers, allowing them a couple of weeks off if they have a baby, it isn’t really a humane amount of time and it doesn’t even bother including normal sickness at all. How many people do you know who show up to your office, sick as a dog, blowing their snot all over the place and coughing into the coffee pot, because they can’t afford to miss work because they’re sick? And we all know what happens next. The rest of us all get the same miserable cold and the whole business suffers. It’s counterproductive and inhumane. And the piles of used tissues are gross.

Since the bosses will only give some of us some sick days, we need a law to make sure that we all get sick days to protect ourselves from infectious diseases entering the workplace from those who don’t have them. We need sick days because everybody needs a day off every now and then. We need them just from the stress of dealing these modern jobs that involve computers crashing, software upgrading, and technology always advancing. The stress of technology needs to be addressed by sick days for anyone who has to deal with a stupid computer ruining his life. And why? so that the IT department can protect their jobs by driving us crazy and then swooping in to save us from the problems they created in their obsession with constantly changing technology.

With a guaranteed amount of sick days for every member of the paycheck party you will be able to go buy a burger without worrying that the guy who flipped it for you might give you a disease. And they should accumulate year after year to reward the healthy and to give us plenty of days for those inevitable medical emergencies that tend to arise in our later years.

Once sick days worked much like the paycheck party is proposing here. If you ask your parents, or someone who works at a place that hasn’t quite switched over to the new, more efficient way of everyone working all the time no matter what, they will tell you. Of course, they’ll also tell you how afraid they are to actually take a sick day, too.

Many of us will wonder how on earth the poor bosses will cope if half of us are home in bed watching re-runs and soaps whenever we have a cold. Obviously, the bosses will have to staff up, which is always a sweet place to be if you’re in the paycheck party, because staffing up means salaries go up, too. All of the ideas of the paycheck party should be about figuring out how to make the bosses’ lives more difficult for them. Believe me, they can afford to hire the best minds in our country to figure out a way to cope with this, but in the end, it’s all going to boil down to one simple fact: They’re going to have to make less money and spend a lot more or else they will have nothing. And that will never happen. The bosses will never quit making money off us, no matter how hard we can make it for them, or else they’ll have no way to make money at all. Because he bosses would be strictly worthless as members of the paycheck party.

The Minimum Pension Law

Everybody who works for a living is also approaching a point where they will have to retire. If any of the paycheck party ideas influence the politicians and get us some relief from the crushing burden of boss greed, our jobs will get marginally better. And with a minimum wage anyone can live on, switching jobs will be far easier than ever before, since you can always choose to do something you love, since it will pay enough to provide for a normal life. But we will still long for retirement as we sit in our cheap office chairs drinking burnt coffee and wishing our backs would stop aching and our feet stop hurting. Even the power of the paycheck party will never be so complete that we will be able to lay down on the jobs and do nothing.

The 401k plan is something the bosses dreamed up for enriching themselves at our expense while pretending to give us a benefit. They thought of it because they love indulging in their favorite pastime, of gambling on the stock market, and they probably thought we’d like it too. So it became the preferred benefit offered in place of the pensions that they once offered our fathers. A pension is a guaranteed, inflation-adjusted salary for life that entails no work at all on our part other than cashing the checks. A 401k is an opportunity for us to put money in the stock market for our bosses to use to boost CEO and Board of Director’s salaries to ever-greater heights. And it either sinks into nothingness without a trace, or else we have to manage it, by trying to out-guess the stock market, which is the biggest racket the bosses ever dreamed up and completely unfair to the little guy, namely us. You might be able to win at it, but it will take a lot of work. And a lot of luck.

So it seems that our fathers were much smarter than we seem to be about getting their fair share of the value of the companies they helped grow and prosper their entire working lives. The 401k plan, for the information of those of us in the paycheck party who don’t have one, is a kind of a mutual fund or saving account that isn’t protected by any kind of guarantee at all. Most of them, it is true, offer some kind of semi-guaranteed savings account or money market account as part of the range of confusing options they offer, but they come with pages and pages of carefully-worded disclaimers so complicated and incomprehensible that any chance of them actually meaning anything in a court of law is probably a matter of who has the most expensive lawyers and the money to continue arguing it, which means, as usual, you, the normal paycheck party person, will totally get screwed if you dare to enforce it if the managers of the 401k so choose.

Here’s another chance for you to understand the power of the idea of the paycheck party, if we are able to spread it far and wide and get it into the hearts and minds of all of us who work for a living: looking at anything from the standpoint of how it will benefit the bosses will always reveal how they are screwing us if you don’t pay any attention to the endless stream of lies they have their public relations geniuses spin for them. Take, for example, the reaction of the paycheck party and most of the tiny segments of the American people to the recent escalation of the 401k scam to include our Social Security benefits. Everybody totally hated the idea of allowing them to make Social Security a little bit like a 401k, because we all know that the stock market is a big casino with the wheels all rigged to benefit the bosses and all their little buddies. The payouts can be nice when and if they happen, sure, but so are the payouts in the casinos. but that doesn’t mean anyone thinks it’s a good idea to bet the goddamned farm on the caprices of chance, either.

So it’s a safe bet that most of us already have a certain bias against the 401k plan, even as we anxiously watch it grow, far too slowly for most of us, hoping against hope that we will be able to actually cash out with enough money to live on when we reach retirement age. The 401k plan,like any other form of gambling, can consume us with stressful worrying. It can fool us into bad decisions, and give us sleepless nights and distract us from anything pleasant and dignified about working as we watch our worth sink and inch upward and sink again. Lots of us can laugh about it now, because we are young, but anyone getting within a decade or so of retiring isn’t laughing much at all.

So we need a nice Minimum Pension Plan law that gives every single member of the paycheck party a guaranteed pension that they can take from job to job without any particular dependence on any one company going under. Think of it like Social Security, except the bosses pay into it instead of us, as a way of rewarding us for doing all their work for them while they were out playing golf with their CEO buddies. And the bosses can’t touch this money, they can’t claim it as their own asset, they don’t get to do anything with it but pay into it, just like Social Security is for the rest of us. The monkey business that bosses got to do with their pension funds in the past is all we need to know to clinch this important part of the law. If a bunch of bosses get together and run your company into the ground, they won’t be ale to drain the pension fund while they’re doing it. Not any more.

The Minimum Healthcare Law

Here’s an area where the bosses have taken the easiest way out and screwed us over for decades now. Because of the system the bosses invented and fostered, the health care system in this country has turned into a huge costly mistake that can only be corrected if the bosses are forced to deal with it out of their own pocketbooks, instead of our paychecks.

The bosses have created a monster in the health care insurance industry, haven’t they? And because their fellow bosses run the health care industry in the usual rapacious, scorched-earth, profits-before-everything manner, it only stands to reason that they gouge businesses for every thin dime they chisel out of them, right? That’s the beauty of the market. The holy, wonderful free market our bosses all worship. The theories we all blindly believe about the free market are all about making or growing things and selling them to each other, though. These theories don’t ever mention Granny laying in a hospital bed sucking money through a hundred tubes while we all choke through our tears and tell the hospital we will pay anything, any price they ask, just for five more hours of Granny’s time on earth. Adam Smith never even mentions this.

There are thousands of idiotic theories about how to fix this mess. Most of them have to do with the same old tired liberal idea of the government paying for everything. As the paycheck part well knows, the government pays for everything with tax money. The tax money is largely comprised of the portion of our salaries that the bosses say is ours but that they gave to the government instead of to us. Whether that withheld money actually belongs to us or not is a matter of custom and semantics, true, but either way, it is the height of inefficiency to take it from the bosses just to pay for things the bosses could easily pay for directly, and far more cheaply.

What would work more directly would be to have a minimum health care law for every member of the paycheck party? What would make it work would to ensure that everyone who works gets the same benefits, from the CEO to the lawn staff. All of the exclusions, restrictions, coverage limits and everything else would apply equally to all workers. Gat a cold? Need to go to the doctor? Get a part time job for a few weeks and go to the doctor.

Everybody who works for a living should get health care from the bosses. How they pay for it is really not our concern. The politicians and the bosses will figure something out, since they love to get together and make simple things complicated. But the issue is clear: If you work, you get free health care and drugs, and no money is taken from your paycheck to pay for it. In order to prevent the bosses from destroying the quality of our health care in their insatiable need to make everything cheaper, the law has to include parity and prohibit excluding any doctor, drug prescription, procedure or service that is available.

The bosses will be forced to solve the problem they created; they will need to figure out how to make health care more cost efficient without ruining it. The four hundred dollar plastic tube that cost thirty five cents to make will become a laughable memento of a forgotten age of health care insanity. And it won’t cost the paycheck party a dime.

Liberal College Professor Cecil B. Bloatbudget begs to disagree with the paycheck party on this issue.

“As a card-carrying member of the Eastern Liberal Elite, I must beg to differ with the unwashed masses of the paycheck party on this point. Obviously the only way to solve the health care problem is to dissolve all the insurance companies, throw the hundreds of thousands of people who work for them into the streets to starve, and make the government provide free health care for everyone who is too lazy to work.

“It will never work to make the bosses pay for all of this. The minute the bosses find out that we intend to make them pay for it, they shall close all of their businesses and move to South America to sulk in self-imposed exile.

“Then we will all be forced to make the government pay for all the health care of all the jobless ex-paycheck party enthusiasts out there.

“I have prepared this simple chart to show you how scientific and indisputable my projections are. Two of my most attractive graduate students stayed up all night doing it, because none of us have ever worked a real job in our lives but we do know how to put the paycheck party in their place. Why did you know the whole thing was thought up by a high school drop out? It’s really quite absurd!”

The Minimum Severance Pay Law

At the opposite end of the economic ladder we have another set of problems that we need to deal with. The old fashioned ways of looking at paycheck party problems focusses so much on the poor and the helpless that it completely ignores the rather obvious truth that most of us make much more than some teeny tiny salary. Most of us in the paycheck party have decent jobs in cubicles shuffling papers from one pile to the other or answering endless streams of SUPER URGENT!! emails about not using the stamp machine for personal business.

So now we’re mostly what they used to call white collar workers, and we make pretty good money. Not as much as we need maybe, but enough to make us instinctively reject the very idea of being in the same category as those dumb loafers way down the corporate ladder who actually use their hands to do things instead of their mouses. We have nice cars and houses and loans and credit cards and payments to make and mouths to feed and bills to pay and deadlines to meet and all of this is dependent on the hopeful assumption that our bosses know what they are doing, recognize our worth, and would really hate to not have our invaluable asses on the payroll.

Ha! Yeah, right! Maybe back in the 1980s. But by now we’ve all seen the layoffs, the restructurings, the reorgs, the mass firings, the axe falling on the deserving and on the undeserving with little or no regard for the wholesale damage it does to your life, your career, your family, your credit, your mortgage, and to the economy as a whole. You think you’re safe, and then you reach forty and the game changes, whether you know it or not. Between the ages of forty and fifty you can fire as many employees as you like with little or no repercussions. You’re not so old they can be afraid you’ll sue for age discrimination and you are old enough that your benefits package and salary is getting ridiculously fat. The safest people in this category are the ones who survived a layoff already and have been recently rehired, usually at a much smaller salary and with no accrued benefits, because these people can be easily laid off for decades to come because of ‘seniority.’ A seniority, that thanks to the paradoxical nature of youth being valued over age because it is cheaper, is less than that of people twenty years younger than you.

And who of us, having lived through this hellish nightmare, or known someone who has, actually has had anything more than the most minimal assistance getting through it from the very ones responsible for it; our bosses? While at the same time, we see bosses in the news every day being fired, or quitting and collecting enormous golden parachutes of obscene wealth and unending pensions in the millions of dollars.

A Minimum Severance Pay law would be great for all of us. It’s got to be available for anyone who quits, gets fired, or laid off, just like the CEOs and other top bosses when they quit, get fired or get laid off - which is when they sell or reorganize the businesses they lead. It’s got to reflect the healthy conviction of everyone who works for a living that they have contributed to the growth of the company and that their jobs are worth something, too, dammit.

A good basis for a Minimum Severance pay package would be to at least match what the hated Europeans get when they quit their jobs - a month’s pay for every single year you worked, based on the highest month’s pay to date. Before you start reflexively thinking that the bosses could never afford to pay all that, remember who has all the money in this country. The bosses will be screaming this from the rooftops for you if this Law ever gets mentioned by some brave politician.

Well, yes, I could imagine that if the bosses continue to treat the paycheck party like their own captive menagerie of wage slaves and interchangeable machine parts instead of human beings with lives, families, and DIGNITY, this could run them into some pretty drastic expenses. But this book is not about preaching sympathy and pity for the richest and most arrogant members of society, our bosses and all their little buddies. Oh, no. This book is about waking us all up to realize that we all deserve the basic dignity in the workplace our superiors expect and get.

If you keep a guy around for twenty years because he’s really good at what he does, you would think twice before firing him in his forties if you had to shell out twenty months of pay if you did. The longer you work anywhere, the less likely you’ll get fired, instead of the being more likely, as it is now. And harassing people into quitting will go quickly out of style, too. If you’ve ever been harassed into quitting, it is probably one of the most traumatic and psychologically devastating things you will ever endure, especially if you try to tough it out to the bitter end and then they fire you outright. I shudder to think of how many people have had their souls shattered by this barbaric boss technique.

The Minimum Severance Pay Law is one that would be more beneficial for the higher-paid members of the paycheck party than anyone else. The idea is one that can only come from a full understanding that even though we all have our little prejudices against the lower wage earners; or against the seemingly endless ranks of managers that go all the way up to the top in any business; that we are still all in the paycheck party. The error of thinking that you are a boss just because you manage underlings has got to go. Sure, they call you a boss, but as long as you have a boss above you you’re really a manager, not a boss. And managers are a very important and large part of the paycheck party.

When the whole paycheck party movement was nothing but a little in joke among me and my coworkers around the office, I had a few crude pages with some of these ideas on my website in the 1990s. My website was a crude, unsophisticated collection of pages back then, just like almost any personal website a hobbyist would put together just to see if you could.

Even though I never lifted a finger to publicize my website or submitted it to any of the search engines, still, year after year, I would get a handful of piteous whiny letters from top managers in corporations asking me - me! a high school drop out with a funny idea he called the paycheck party that happened to include an simple proposal for a Minimum Severance Pay Law - to advise them as to their rights in the case of being fired from their high-paying jobs in upper management.

They would tell me they had endured great hardships, worked like dogs, sacrificed their families, their lives, their very life’s blood, and suddenly, Poof! out of nowhere there’s a new boss, a reorg, a buyout, or any of the hundreds of other things that can cause the axe to fall on upper management in any modern boss-centric corporation. And now they had nothing.

Like most of us who have had cushy top-level jobs in this country, they had never once questioned their assumption that because they were one of the bosses’ best buddies, inside men, that they were automatically entitled to severance pay if something like this happened. When you lose your job through no fault of your own, you are guaranteed severance pay, right? It’s not like I’m a burger-flipper in some greasy spoon, right?

What are the laws regarding severance pay, they’d all ask me. What are my rights in a situation like this? What can I do? I’ve got a huge house, a bigger mortgage, kids in private school, college coming up, my investments are in the tank, where’s my severance pay? I gotta eat until that next sweet corporate job comes along. Unemployment insurance won’t even cover the dog walking bills at my house. What am I gonna do?

There’s only one thing you can do. Ask every politician you can think of what they’re going to do to support the Minimum Severance Pay Law. Because you’ll be back in the saddle again some day, only this time you’ll be hoping against hope that it doesn’t blow up on you again. Stop voting for politicians because you think they’re conservative or liberal. A politician is only interested in getting what’s coming to him and getting re elected over and over again until he’s going out on the floor of the House in a walker with three nurses pumping fluids and gases into his corpse-like frame. A politican can pretend he’s liberal, or pretend he’s conservative, but really he’s only in it to win elections. And in order to win elections he has to have a majority of the votes of us, the paycheck party.

Bosses fear only one thing. The law.

Oh, they fear competition, and the economy, and the market, and each other, too. But the law keeps them in line. They are certainly not afraid of the paycheck party. Not yet. Not for a long while to come, either. But every boss who gets wind of the presumptuous and uppity ideas of the paycheck party actually being bandied about, even in an offhand way, will feel a slight twinge of alarm. Some of them will call for action, and get their little buddies lined up for the counter-offensive right away. Any threat to their money will get their hysterical attention in a heartbeat. Others will laugh their contemptuous little laugh, shake their heads, and turn their backs on the whole deal. Paycheck party! Nothing but a bunch of petty wage slaves out there thinking they can change the world!

But if you get a couple of Senators or even a half dozen Congressmen calling for some laws out on the floors of their houses; right in front of the C-Span cameras, God and everybody; and the contempt will turn to outrage. The little sneer will turn into the nasty, naked, venal scowl of privilege thwarted.

“I bought and paid for that politician! I contributed tons of money, and had my team of lawyers and lobbyists fudge every law on the books to fill his pockets with my money!” The boss will howl aloud, puffing on his big fat cigar while frightened secretaries and cowering yes-men vice presidents scamper around trying to find cover from the wrath of a boss. “Get me that snake on the phone!”

At the capitol building, the public servant is sitting back in his comfy throne taking it easy while his staff runs around doing all his thinking and all of his work for him.

“There’s another angry boss on line four, Senator!” chirps his lovely young aide from the antechamber.

“Which one is it this time?” he asks, considering ignoring him completely.

“Oh, this one’s a real big spender. Boss Pigg! Head of Wageslaves, Inc!”

“Oh, him I should at least talk to. I owe him that much.”

“Senator, what’s this I hear about you going pro-paycheck party? Have you lost your mind?”

“Well, boss, I truly appreciate all of the support you have shown in the past and will continue to do anything I can to create a healthy business environment, but I have to be elected in order to help you, as you well know. Did you see the midterm polls? The public is electing anyone and anybody who stands up and gives a little lip service to this whole paycheck party movement. And I cannot ignore it, no sir. I am, and always have been, a man of the people, beholden to the will of the people, especially with this wildcat fellow running against me trying to build a case that I am against the paycheck party every time he opens his mouth!”

And so it will go, as the politicians and the bosses realize that elections can be fudged a little this way or that way as long as the country is divided right down the middle, but true democracy will rear its ugly head at the first sight of an idea that actually benefits the vast majority of people who work for a living.

That’s when the fight will really begin. Because when you’re talking about Federal Law, you’re talking real control over the bosses. And when you want Federal Laws, you’re talking about the President, Congress and the Senate. And when you’re talking about who put these bozos in these offices, you’re talking about the paycheck party. And it’s really just that simple, and we all know it. Not that it’s easy. But over the course of our lifetimes, we can enact a complete about-face away from government run for the convenience of the bosses who buy influence with campaign funds, to government that has some real respect, for if not fear of, the wrath of a paycheck party scorned.

It’s got to be done with laws. Real laws, simple laws. Laws that are written so that any school kid can understand them. Clear laws that have no wiggle room, no loopholes, no equivocations. Laws like the Federal Minimum Wage Law.