School Bus Drivers and Matrons Likely to Strike in NYC

January 14, 2013

School bus drivers and matrons in New York City are likely to go on strike this Wednesday, according to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

The union wants an Employee Protection Provision (EPP) included in any new contract bid the city accepts from private bus companies. This would protect some of the members with most seniority (the highest paid and most likely to be laid off). It basically says that employees are not guaranteed a position if a new company takes over and can be laid off, but if a position becomes available the new company has to pick from laid off workers, those with seniority to be picked first. The provision has been in bus contacts since the 1960s. It was taken out in the 70s which resulted in a strike. It was put back in in 1979.

The city & DOE’s position is that EPPs are illegal so their hands are tied.

The city failed to properly fight a lawsuit levelled against them & the union by private companies regarding the Employee Protection Provision. However, that ruling was ONLY for companies who provide service to preK students. The city also asked Gov. Cuomo to veto a bill they had previously supported that would allow those bussing preK students to be provided with the same provision. For the Mayor and the DOE to place blame solely on the union AND to claim that all EPPs are illegal is inaccurate and irresponsible.

Bus drivers and matrons are right to be concerned about their job security. According to a study by the Government Accountability Office(pdf), the number of long-term unemployed people age 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began. More than a third of unemployed older workers have been out of work for more than a year, and 55 percent have been unempoyed for more than six months, up from 23 percent in 2007. One person interviewed by the GAO said employers encouraged them to screen out workers over 40. These middle class workers stand to lose their pay checks, their health insurance, their pensions…with little hope of finding employment elsewhere.

Most important, though, are the students who will be affected. Who do you want your kid driven to school by: the person who gets barely above minimum wage, little to no healthcare coverage, and has less experience? OR someone experienced who has built a relationship with students, is secure in their finances, and has paid sick leave? 152,000 students will be affected one way or another. Many of those kids have special needs. Do we really want to jeopardize the jobs of experienced workers, who put the safety of our kids first, just to save a few bucks? Well, judging from the Mayor’s and DOE’s track records…unionbusting is their ONLY concern.

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My Hero

December 31, 2012

Lil Blue and I were having an intense discussion recently (translation: I was arguing with an 11 year old). He insisted he is going to be a super hero when he gets older. I figured he’s 11, so it’s time to talk about the difference between real heros and fictional ones.

After he realized that I wasn’t just being a mean mommy who wants to crush his dreams, he asked me who my heros are. After thinking for a minute, I decided he’s old enough for me to give him specific answers rather than the usual “firefighters-doctors-teachers” answer I usually give.

I told him my first hero is my mother. Of course, Lil Blue thought it was because she took care of me and all that. But I told him no, that’s not why. It’s because she never gives up. Despite all the hardships life has thrown at her, she found the courage to pursue happiness. I’ve seen her unhappy, but i’ve never seen her wallow in self pity. “You pick yourself up and keep going,” that’s how she raised us, and she leads by example. That’s why my mom is my hero.

Next on the list are Sister and Brother Blue, because they know, as I do, how to survive in this sometimes craptastic life. The secret for us is laughter. They’re able to find humor in the littlest things. Sometimes people find it inappropriate, but it really isn’t. It’s a coping mechanism. And they are able to make others see the funny side of things. That’s a valuable asset for a friend to have.

Last, but never least, is Mr. Blue Collar. Lil Blue looked at me like I had 4 heads when I told him that. I explained that his father wakes up every morning and goes to a job he hates just to provide us with food and shelter. And even though he hates the place he works, he does an excellent job. He doesn’t let his current career situation stop him from pursuing other opportunities that will make life better for all of us. He doesn’t let his past or the fact that his childhood was crappy stand in the way of him being a good partner and father. Instead of using it as an excuse, he uses it as an example of who he doesn’t want to be. He stands up for what’s right no matter what, even if it means defending a person he can’t stand. And, despite his gruff exterior and having had to live through a very tough childhood, he is one of the kindest people I have ever known.

I told Lil Blue that the people I admire most are the ones who are able to make the best of shitty situations. The ones who stand up for what’s right for everyone, not just themselves. That, to me, is heroic.

I hope you all have a great new year. I won’t say I wish you no struggles, because it’s unrealistic. I will say I wish your struggles to be small enough for you to bear. And I promise you that, though it might only be in spirit, I will always try to bear some of your burdens with you.


Read The BQ Brew!

December 5, 2012

My very awesome friend Manny Jalonschi is kicking ass and taking names! Well…not physically because he’s non-violent and a pacifist, but with WORDS!

He’s started his own online publication, The BQ Brew. I’ll let him explain why he decided to take on such an important project:

As a kid, I constantly traveled between the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. In fact I grew up in Ridgewood, a border community right between Brooklyn and Queens, amidst mamaliga, dancehall, salsa, botanicas, croatian bakeries and pick up basketball games where most of the people on the court didn’t speak english as a first language. Like millions of other New Yorkers in the East Boroughs I’ve seen our stories, our perspectives, the flavors of our life, put on the backburner, our culture treated as “less-than” and too often our people treated as “second-class New Yorkers.”

In short, I started this paper because there’s no longform critical analysis newspaper that tackles the issues unique to the East Boroughs as a whole. We’re a distinct entity of about 4.7 million New Yorkers between Brooklyn and Queens, and our perspectives either get lost in micro-local reporting or subsumed to in the reporting cycle emanating from Manhattan-centric media. There’s dozens of wonderful blogs, and a handful of truly excellent local weeklies and alternative papers, but we lack our own “drill-down” newspapers that get deep enough to make that micro-macro connection with the trends, stories and people that evolve and drive our two boroughs forward.

I KNOW! How great does that sound? I can honestly say I would read this even if I wasn’t friends with Manny. And not just because he’s letting me contribute (shameless self promotion, FTW). The information and analysis has been phenomenal so far, as is the quality of the writers – with the exception of my amateur ass of course.

So, to recap, reasons you should read The BQ Brew:
1- it seeks to provide quality, in depth analysis of issues unique to Brooklyn and Queens as a whole,
2- Manny has a passion for quality journalism that is evident in all of work, this included,
3- he’s letting me contribute :D,
4- I think the Brew will capture the different flavors of our B/Q culture and communities, and
5- because I SAID you should, and really isn’t that all the reason you need?


Sister Blue Deserves Secular Sainthood

December 3, 2012

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I believe I’ve mentioned before that my twin, Sister Blue, moved to Florida a number of years ago. Lately she’s been calling or texting me a few times a week. Is it because she misses me so terribly? Nope. It’s to share with me the nuggets of pure genius that her coworkers share with her on a daily basis.

Even if you don’t watch the news and only glance at the headlines on the front pages of newspapers, you’ll still know that Floridians are the sanest, smartest people around. So it should come as no surprise to you that Sister Blue’s coworkers CLEARLY deserve to be considered for membership to Mensa.

Here are some examples of the brilliance:
•Is the National Anthem the same as the ‘Star Spangled Banner’?
•What’s the difference between USA & America?
•Ventriliquism is like when they move that thing in their throat it’s like an alien. You know, a UFO.
•I love this weather. It’s cold but the air is…you know…wet.
•Where’s GunPoint?
Sister Blue: what do you mean?
They’re saying everyone’s being held up at GunPoint. Where is that?

Someone contact the MacArthur Foundation because these people deserve ALL the genius grants!

Sister Blue would like you to know that when she suggests her coworkers google their very important questions, they inform her that one cannot trust the information one finds on the internet. She’d also like to answer the question she knows is foremost in your minds: yes, her coworkers are avid Fox’News’ viewers.


Positivity is Hard Work

November 5, 2012

Don’t worry, my lovelies. Our Blue Collar family is safe. I didn’t get flooded or lose power. I won’t lie, though. The water came a little too close for comfort. But we were lucky. Other parts of my area…well. I’m sure you’ve heard.

I couldn’t be sad while Lil Blue was home because I didn’t want to alarm him. I wanted him to know that when something like this happens, you mobilize. How do you help when you have so little? Well, there’s always something you don’t need that you can give. A can of soup, a hat, a warm sweater, an extra bar of soap. He gave some small toys and books. I’ve been trying to get info out on my personal fb page, and on twitter. Now that Lil Blue is back in school i’ll be finding ways to volunteer.

I want to be sad. But it is immobilizing. Negativity in times like this is wasteful.

My cousins used to take me to Rockaway Beach when I was younger. The beach I remember is gone gone gone.

I have to tell you guys that the amount of regular people getting together and helping is awe-inspiring. Seeing people use social media to spread info, watching neighborhoods come together to help each other and others… It brings tears to my eyes.

I never got a chance to go to the Jersey Shore. No Point Pleasant or Cape May. It’ll never be how it was and i’ll never have seen it. Never is such a heavy word.

At the end of this post i’ll put up links to different organizations you can check out if you want to help. Right now I have to give a special shout out to Occupy. They immediately organized relief efforts in ALL of the affected areas. They’re giving help directly to people, providing everything they can. From hot meals to cleaning products to clothes and more. There are number of other orgs doing similar work, but I haven’t seen anything as massive as Occupy Sandy Relief. I can’t wait to find a place near me where I can join their efforts. Thank you, Occupy. People power is beautiful.

People were trapped in their homes. People died. From Cuba to the northern US, people saw the water rise and heard the wind scream and knew it was coming for them. How do you flee the wrath of Nature?

I’m allowing myself this post & a few hours of these dark thoughts. I need to feel what I feel and move forward. These thoughts are selfish. If I let them linger too long they’ll keep me from being useful. And there’s nothing worse to me than someone who can help others but won’t because of their own obstructive negativity.

http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

Brooklyn Community Foundation

Recovers.org

Occupy Sandy Relief NJ

Amazon registry where you can have supplies shipped to NJ

Amazon registry where you have supplies shipped to Brooklyn, NY

Red Hook Initiative

Donate blood in NJ

Donate blood in NY

Cuba Education Tours has info on how Americans and Canadians can help Cuba recover from the hurricane

Direct Relief is doing great work in Haiti, where there’s a fight to stop the spread of cholera

You can also donate to the Red Cross if you want. These other orgs are giving directly to victims though, so that’s why I linked to them. There are so many more places and orgs that are helping. Please, if you know of any feel free to let me know in comments.

Hug your family. Call your parents/grandparents/guardians. Text your best friends. Give your pet a special treat. Look up at the sky, take a deep breath, and smile. You’re alive, and i’m so happy about it.


Tell Me About It, STUD

October 28, 2012

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By now i’m sure you’ve all heard about FRANKENSTORM!!! There are 3 things about this storm that are more catastrophic than the actual weather.

1. I get Sandy from Grease stuck in my head EVERY GODDAMN TIME I listen to the news. I love that movie, but that song makes me want to stick a qtip all the way in my ears. Fuck that song.

2. It makes our Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speak Spanish. Here’s what he sounded like last year for Hurricane Irene. I’d admire him for trying if a) Spanish speaking people actually understood wtf he’s saying, and b) if I didn’t know for a fact that he has a number of Spanish speaking people on his staff.

3. Sandy’s supposed to hit shore tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is my birthday. I didn’t make any plans, but still. Wtf, nature?! Last year, you made it snow on my bday. But that wasn’t enough for you, was it? Noooo. You gotta be all dramatic an’ shit. Gotta go and mix a hurricane and a winter storm together. What’s next? A tornado? Alien landings? A Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, & Tooth Fairy sex tape scandal?! Enough is ENOUGH, Nature!

(Dedicated to all my fellow east coast peeps who have to deal with this crap. Stay safe and try to find the humor in all this. Also, stock up on le booze 😉 )


Americans For Prosperity Has Gas… Vouchers

October 25, 2012

Flatulence jokes! They’re always appropriate.

This morning I heard about a gas voucher promotion in New Jersey. The first 150 customers to get to a certain gas station in NJ would get vouchers that would allow them to pay only $1.84 a gallon for gas. Then, to my surprise, the crappy morning “news” show actually reported who was funding the promotion. It was Americans For Prosperity, a group that was founded and is largely funded by the Koch family.

That’s right. The same group that is known for being so full of truthiness (SARCASM) is treating you to lower gas prices out of the kindness of their hearts… PSYCH! They want to remind you of how much gas was when Obama got elected in 2008. They want to convince you that it’s all the government’s fault that gas prices are ridiculous.

They say the reason why gas prices are too damn high is because of Obama and fancy parties (WARNING: right-wing site). If ::ominous music:: BIG GOVERNMENT would stop wasting money, lower taxes on gas, and stop overregulating the gas & oil companies we’d get better prices at the pump. DUH!

The problem is that the aforementioned flatulence is coming out of the mouth of AFP. The truth is, the US President has very little control over gas prices.

But while the notion that the government could somehow control gasoline prices is appealing, the reality is that the price you pay is set daily, sometimes hourly, by market forces around the world.

Wall Street speculators, who AFP believes should not be regulated, are mostly to blame for the pain at the pumps. If we wanted to alleviate the problem, we’d have to regulate Wall St.. But AFP says that’s bad because BIG GOVERNMENT restricting the free market is bad. So, basically, they’re kind of full of shit on this point.

AFP is also kind of full of shit (half full, cuz i’m an optimist) on the whole $1.84 a gallon in 2008 thing. While gas prices did drop considerably at the end of 2008, they peaked at over $4 a gallon earlier in that year. So AFP, was that W. Bush’s fault? Why didn’t he lower the price if he could? Yeah…no. Gas prices dropped because of a little thing called a global recession. Blaming any president doesn’t make much sense.

What does makes sense is why AFP cares about gas prices, once we step back and FOLLOW THE MONEY. Koch Industries, owned by the Koch family, claims that it shouldn’t be considered a “Big Oil” company because it’s business interests are so diverse & it isn’t the biggest oil company. ThinkProgress lit a match to conquer the stench of that big fat lie earlier this year. Not only does Koch Industries own oil refineries, they are one of the largest oil and gas lobbyists in Washington. And and AND, they’re participating in that shady stock market speculating shit that’s ACTUALLY contributing to the high gas prices!! SHOCKING!

Koch Industries, through Americans For Prosperity, is trying to distract from the fact that they are DIRECTLY to blame for high gas prices. Not regulations. Not BIG GOVERNMENT.

People may ask why I care about this. I don’t own a car (PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 4 LYF!!!). I care because oil & gas prices affect the prices of just about everything else we need. I’m not saying don’t take advantage of the AFP gas voucher thing. That’s ridiculous and unrealistic. I’m saying be aware and don’t let the crumbs they throw at you influence your political/socioeconomic views.

In short, FOLLOW THE MONEY!