So What CAN We Do?

A lot of people have asked, both online and in person, what we can do about the impasse.  As more and more people — excluding, apparently, most of our legislators — are beginning to realize that this doesn’t just affect state employees, the outrage is building.  I’ve mentioned a lot of suggestions before, but they bear repeating.

First and foremost, DO NOT STOP GOING TO WORK.  As I have said many, many times before, this is unconditionally the worst possible thing you can do.  Do not organize office-wide sick days, do not fail to show up, do not take paid time off without following your agency’s proper procedure … put simply, do everything in your power to continue going to work and doing your job.  If the day comes where you can no longer afford to put gas in your car or pay for day care or some other equally immovable barrier, then communicate quickly and honestly with your supervisor.  Yes, this is brutally unfair.  I know.  But if you stop going to work, or if you show up and refuse to do your job, you whittle away at our case for getting paid and may face disciplinary action.  And since this is a group effort, if your coworkers are organizing a group sick day or anything of the sort, please talk some sense into them.  We are all in this together.

CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS AND GOVERNOR. Project Vote Smart is a very simple way to find your elected officials.  Simply type in your ZIP code and up pops their contact information.  Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know how your state government works; most people reading this probably don’t.  It doesn’t matter — you have valid questions, you are a taxpayer, and you are entitled to answers.  Be polite, but firm.  They work for you — not the other way around.  I dislike scripted calls, so here are some suggestions:

  • Why hasn’t the budget been passed?  Why are you months behind schedule?
  • Now that Pennsylvania has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying its employees on time, how will you explain to your constituents that as taxpayers, they will now have to pay massive liquidated damages because of your inability to pass a budget?
  • Do you think I’m going to forget this when elections roll around?
  • Are you taking the weekend off?  Why?

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL MEDIA. An unfortunate fact of reality is that most media outlets will only run stories that impact a large number of their viewers.  While TV stations, radio stations, and print publications around Central PA are reporting on the impasse daily, other outlets further from the capitol are giving us three sentences on page B-5.  Contact your local TV station, radio station, and newspaper to ask them when they’ll be reporting on the budget next.  And be nice — they are not the enemy.  With only so much time in a newscast or space in the newspaper, they simply can’t cover stories that don’t have a big impact.  So explain to them — calmly — why this affects everybody in Pennsylvania.  And do it again the next day.

RE-EVALUATE YOUR FINANCES. You’re right; this step shouldn’t be necessary.  But for most of us, every penny is going to matter.  If you buy all your groceries at Wegman’s, it’s time to hit up Giant and Karns, or even Amelia’s and Aldi. Buy generic everything.  Cell phones are a necessity for most of us these days, so make sure you’re getting your state employee monthly discount (18% on Verizon Wireless, 15% on Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T).  There’s a ton of excellent real-world financial advice at Where Are You Now, a local site run by local tweeps @aaronaiken and @lindsay_faith.

SHARE YOUR MISERY. Well, okay — TRY to be optimistic about it (hey, I said “try”).  See what your coworkers are doing.  Maybe somebody’s brother’s cousin’s sister works at Dish Network, and they’re willing to quietly bump accounts into a “collections bypass” status.  Hell, maybe somebody’s got a recipe for making lasagna out of Ramen noodles (if so, please let me know via the contact link above)!

DO NOT BLAME THE GOVERNOR. At least, not solely.  Remember that the legislators are just as much at fault as Governor Rendell.  And while it is true that technically the legislature hasn’t yet presented a bill for Rendell to sign, and thus his impact on the budget has been minimal, that’s exactly the point.  Love him or hate him, he has considerable political clout within Pennsylvaina; he could make the legislature grow wings and fly away if he was so inclined.

Coincidentally, that seems to be what a lot of voters are planning for 2010 and 2012.

7 thoughts on “So What CAN We Do?”

  1. “If the day comes where you can no longer afford to put gas in your car or pay for day care or some other equally immovable barrier, then communicate quickly and honestly with your supervisor.”

    In a meeting yesterday, I asked our Executive Director, in front of about 50 co-workers, on what procedures we should follow when the 70% of our paychecks runs out this weekend, and we can’t afford to come to work next week. She got very aggressive(I guess I offended her). Then basically said situations will be dealt with on an individual basis.

    To me, it sounds like they have no plan. And if you have no time to use, you will be facing disciplinary action. I’ve been warning them since the beginning of June that was is happening now was going to happen. Still, they fail to acknowledge how big the situation is. Financially and medically. People can’t afford their copays to get their “anti-stress” meds. =(

    Stay strong peeps!

  2. This is the second time someone has commented about a union official getting aggressive or defensive on the subject. I can’t speak for what they might be thinking, but here’s my logic.

    I’ll do a blog post on this in the coming days, but basically the idea is that you want to make clear that you’ve done everything you can to get to work. Give yourself enough ammunition now so that if you are unable to come to work later, and if you later face disciplinary action, you can have a chance of defending yourself. I know it’s unfair, frustrating, and painful, but we all must — MUST — take the high road. We must bend over backwards (twice), stand on our head, and recite the alphabet backwards while the state illegally refuses to pay us. Only after we’ve exhausted every single available option can we even begin to consider not coming to work. And even then, it’s imperative that you use as much paid time off (as per your agency’s guidelines) as you can, and that you communicate your situation quickly and openly with your supervisor.

    I’m sure that a lot of people are going to be in that boat if the impasse doesn’t pass. The unions will have their hands full representing employees in disciplinary hearings if the state does go after those who were forced to refrain from attending work. The best thing you can do right now is be a model employee.

    None of us should be here in the first place. The state is in the wrong. The fact that we even need to consider this possibility is beyond asinine. But the only option we have is to take this one day at a time, and right now we need to focus on contacting our legislators.

  3. I thank you for your level-headedness and also because you have helped many throughout this process.

    I just want to clarify I was not referring to a union official. ED, as in

    worker
    supervisor
    manager
    executive director.

  4. To make this perfectly clear, Floor9, if you read JO(S)E’s post, you’ll note that he says “Executive Director” not “Union Official” The executive director is usually the director of an entire division, like the Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety.

  5. Oh – whoops. In any case, nobody should be getting frustrated or defensive AGAINST us. We’re all getting paid from the same source, so I can’t imagine why any higher-ups would be getting defensive.

  6. We were pulled into an emergency staff meeting on Thursday afternoon. Our District Administrator told us she had been on a conference call with Harrisburg and the ED. The results?
    -shifts cannot be adjusted. Say you can carpool with someone who works 8-4 but you work 7:30 to 3:30. You cannot adjust your schedule.
    -there is no money for transpasses. The bus/train fare is on you. There will be no assistance from DPW.
    -you may not bring your children to work.
    -tardy is still being counted.
    -DPW workers who live in our region may apply at our office even if they don’t live in our district. Workers who live in Philly must apply there.
    -Interviews for FS applications must be done on your own time.

    As far as FS interviews go – there is a policy that states we do NOT have to have a face to face interview with a client if it will be a hardship for the client. If you apply for FS I urge you to do 2 things
    – send ALL you info in with your application. Many CAOs are giving priority to State Employee applications.
    – if you get a notice for a face to face interview, call the worker ASAP and claim it is a hardship to come in. Request a telephone interview instead.

    What is needed with a food stamp app?
    -birth certificates/passports for the entire household
    -SS cards for the entire household
    -photo ID for all household members over 16
    -Lease/mortgage statement
    -most recent heating bill/receipt for oil or kerosene (if you don’t pay heat then an electric or phone bill will do)
    -July paystubs for all working individuals
    -proof that any child over 16 is in school
    -most recent bank statements
    -proof of any resources such as a second home, life insurance, stocks, bonds, Christmas clubs, etc…

    NOTE: that any natural or adopted child living in your home under the age of 22 is mandatory for your food stamp budget. Their income (if any) is also counted.
    NOTE: that for MOST food stamp cases resources are not counted when calculating benefits but they ARE counted when calculating eligibility for emergency (expedited) food stamps.
    NOTE: that depending on your situation and your CAO, you may be asked to provide additional information.
    NOTE: that you may request that your EBT (Electronic Benefits Card) be mailed to you. This can take 5 to 10 business days AFTER benefits are authorized.

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