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union dues and don'ts


Greg A

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I have a dilemma. 3 of my favorite bands are playing a venue at which there is a labour dispute. Being a union man at my regular job, I will not cross a picket line to see the show. It's a crying shame, but I have to stick to my principles and I have seen all of these bands many times before, so I'll get over it.

The question I have is this: Are any of you bottom dwellers in a musicians' union and have you ever had to turn down a gig because of labour issues? I'm pretty sure some of the musicians to play at the above-mentioned show are AFM members, but I know that things get extremely complicated because the fans are quite often not sensitive to these issues and it doesn't seem fair to take it out on them by cancelling/rescheduling shows.

I realize this may be a divisive topic, but I just want to generate some informative, constructive feedback. I am not in a musicians' union now, but plan to be soon.

 

Gerrg

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I was in a union once. The dues eventually costed more than what I was getting paid so I had to quit. Of course, I was working at a grocery store at the time, but I feel what you're saying. I currently am not in good standing with unions of any kind, because you have to pay, even if you're not planning on striking, etc., anytime soon. I went away for a couple of months (was an approved leave of absence), and they took out $7 USD every week that I was gone, even though I wasn't getting paid!!!!! How ridiculous, right? So from then on I vowed never to be a union worker ever again. I personally think they are a bad idea, even before the incident mentioned before. Not to hurt your principles or anything, but I don't see why going to see a show would hurt them.
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Almost got let go on my first day of rehearsals for a local cable access television show. None of us in the shows house band were in the union, but one of the performers for the first show was head of a local musicians union. Sticky.

 

I think the owner of the studio and this performer were friends, and nothing became of it, but we had heard this gentleman did ask if were in the union. We were sweating for a bit.

 

I never have been in a union.

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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It's very sad that people actually are proud of never having been in a union.

 

Due to terrible legislation, non-union workers actually get raises because of the struggles of unions.

 

Thanks to Ronald Raygun and his union-busting agenda we ended up with "right to work" laws which were intended to weaken unions and succeeded. Remember when he hired "replacement workers" otherwise known as scabs to replace the airport traffic controllers?

 

Just think of how bad things would be if there were not unions. Do you really think employers would ever give anyone a raise?

 

Anti-union legislation has crippled the musician's union. You can't picket a club for not paying union wages or for labor disputes because due to the laws the club isn't considered the employer, the bandleader is.

 

And the backward philosophy of most musicians: "it's a gig, it's exposure, I'll play for nothing if I have to, I'll even pay to play if I have to," keeps us from using any kind of group power to get better wages.

 

What if no one would play a gig for $50? Clubs would have to pay more.

 

I would honor a picket line if I thought that the group picketing would honor a musicians' labor dispute.

 

If the hotel workers would stay off work when a hotel refused to pay union wages for musicians, we would have some serious power. But the anti-musician laws make it impossible for us to even ask them to.

 

Wally, it's about time for you to pipe up.

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Originally posted by JeremyC:

Just think of how bad things would be if there were not unions. Do you really think employers would ever give anyone a raise?

I never got raises when I worked for the union job. The job I'm at now, the manager asked me if I wanted a raise. I'm about to get another...all in one year. Unions are nothing but a big group of guys that sit around and complain about something they aren't going to get, while the 'scabs' come in and reap the benefits.

 

And I would play for hardly anything, it wouldn't bother me. Like you said, "It's exposure, man." That way, someone might come along and say "Hey, these are some hard working m-f'ers." and give us our big break. I'm not all that great, but hell, I'd play for next to nothing.

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I'm not a union man presently - but have been ,

in the 80's in the musicians union when I was playing with two bands and actually making some

money, and again a bit later in the Elect. workers union, I feel that when people are willing to play for next to nothing it is similar

to the offshore / foreign market willing to work a week for a few bowls of rice. I believe in the idea that holding out for quality costs a few bucks more.

Don't sell yourself or your Art short !

 

:rolleyes:

I'm Todbass62 on MySpace
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Hooray for Jeremyc!

I am a gainfully employed member of NABET/CWA

I have had plenty of non-union jobs...

I quit a salaried position with a "prestige"

company to come back to my "union job"

Better benefits, better pension (yeah, remember

those?) better wage/hour deal!

Before you badmouth unions remember:

The 40 hour workweek

Time and a half after 40 hours

Sicktime, leaves, a defined lunchtime,

night differential to name a few, are all

the result of the labor movement! They did not

exist before organized labor and are fading away

in the twilight of the union age.

The genius of Reagan was that he got the average

man to resent his neighbor who had a "union job"

and was "getting more"...instead of wondering why

HE didn't have a better deal from HIS emloyer!

Hate unions? Enjoy your split shift,less than

40 hour week(so you don't get bennies)job at

Walmart. And keep voting down those unions!

if it ain't broke don't fix it...

unless you need the overtime.

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Jeremy and Groucho are right on in their statements. For the record I am a union president for AFM Local 153 in San Jose. I'm also president of the Professional Musicians of California, our state conference and California State Legislative Director for the AFM and for a number of years have been on the executive board of the South Bay Labor Council. As for the situation starting this thread I would have to know more about the labor dispute. Jeremy is correct about club owners not being employers and labor law does not permit secondary strikes or boycotts. Just yesterday I flew to LA for a hearing on the accounting practices of the record industry. The five major labels were well represented and the recording artists there included Don Henley, Glen Fry, Rueben Blades, Tom Waite, Clint Black and Richardson from the Backstreet Boys. The AFM and AFTRA are working with the Recording Artists Coalition to try and turn around some of the ways the industry has conducted business for a long time. Unions do many things but one must realize that the concept of the union is about member participation. It's not just about plopping your money down and sitting back and waiting for things to happen. It takes involvement and a commitment and yes take a stand when necessary. Jeremy is also right on about musicians sticking together that's why there are minimum scales set by each local that should take into consideration what the going rate should be in a particular market. Again these are things that are set by the membership of a local union. I was at a ballet negotiation meeting for the musicians and got in pretty late tonight and have to squeeze in a little practice time but will chime in more on this thread as it goes along.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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i guess it all depends on the union.

 

my only union experience was not positive. i was working for a reputable, now defunct, woodworking supply company to pay for my addiction to d'addarios. it was a closed shop, so i had to join the union. during the school year i worked thursdays (the only day they had evening hours) and saturdays. the unioun did not recognize part time workers so i had to pay full dues and i did not recive benefits. they didn't even have the curtesy to respond when i wasn't iddued a proper respirator when working with volatile chemicals. one week i had to take a saturday off to take the s.a.t. that was the week that union dues were taken from my check. the owner assured me that he would cover the rest of my dues out of pocket rather than take them out of my next check as the dues were more than i earned that week. i still have the check for $0.00 (non-negotiable), in fact i had it framed. did meet the union reps once, they were wearing armani.

 

on the other hand, my neighbor is a teamster. i'm a freelance contractor. guess which one of us owns a flat screen t.v.?

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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I feel sorry for you all who are proud to be union members. You are a part of an organization who uses strong-arm tactics to ensure your jobs and demand more money on occasion. If there's a threat of losing your position in the city orchestra, or feel you aren't getting paid enough, you call in big brother, the Union. Pathetic.

 

Why do you think the vast majority of playable venues AREN'T union? Because they want to avoid the legal wrangling of prima donna musicians and entertainers whose sole purpose is to entertain. Period.

 

So from a business owners view, here come these union jerks, demanding more of my money, when I can get the same caliber and level of talent for cheaper. I promise you, if the tables were reversed and you owned a business, you'd be siging a different tune about unions. You do the math as to figuring why most playable venues won't bow down to this elitist bunch of players.

 

The only good thing I saw to come out of this might be a pension, but I imagine it's rather lacking. You'd do better by tightening your belt, lower your lifestyle a bit, and save the money.

 

I do think for the most part, the union will give you benefits if you steadily work union gigs, but quickly fall down if you don't. Other than Broadway, heavy 'show' venues, or major studios, when was the last time you played in a club that was union?

 

So for the few of you who are formidable established players in the 'in' circle of union venues, that's great. For the vast majority of us, we will keep playing the gigs while you sit and fret about 'em.

 

...just my opinion:)

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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Originally posted by fig:

I feel sorry for you all who are proud to be union members. You are a part of an organization who uses strong-arm tactics to ensure your jobs and demand more money on occasion. If there's a threat of losing your position in the city orchestra, or feel you aren't getting paid enough, you call in big brother, the Union. Pathetic.

 

Why do you think the vast majority of playable venues AREN'T union? Because they want to avoid the legal wrangling of prima donna musicians and entertainers whose sole purpose is to entertain. Period.

 

So from a business owners view, here come these union jerks, demanding more of my money, when I can get the same caliber and level of talent for cheaper. I promise you, if the tables were reversed and you owned a business, you'd be siging a different tune about unions. You do the math as to figuring why most playable venues won't bow down to this elitist bunch of players.

 

The only good thing I saw to come out of this might be a pension, but I imagine it's rather lacking. You'd do better by tightening your belt, lower your lifestyle a bit, and save the money.

 

I do think for the most part, the union will give you benefits if you steadily work union gigs, but quickly fall down if you don't. Other than Broadway, heavy 'show' venues, or major studios, when was the last time you played in a club that was union?

 

So for the few of you who are formidable established players in the 'in' circle of union venues, that's great. For the vast majority of us, we will keep playing the gigs while you sit and fret about 'em.

 

...just my opinion:)

okay. first let me point out that i am generally not a union guy. but that was an extrememly ignorant remark. i can only assume that you do not make your living as a musician. as for venues that aren't union, you get bands playing there, not musicians.

 

people that support families with their instruments need a union. i have far too often see "businessmen" far more concerned with the bottom line than with either the quality of the product or the welfare of the people making it. you only need to check back to some earlier posts to see how these club owning "businessmen" treat their performers.

 

if you think unions aren't worth it then why don't you spend some time living on tips?

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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Originally posted by Wally Malone:

You don't see union clubs due to labor law.

Hey Wally,

 

Can you explain that a little further, please? What does labor law say that affects the non-existence of "union" clubs?

 

Thanks, man.

 

--sweets

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Originally posted by sweet_loop:

Originally posted by Wally Malone:

You don't see union clubs due to labor law.

Hey Wally,

 

Can you explain that a little further, please? What does labor law say that affects the non-existence of "union" clubs?

 

Thanks, man.

 

--sweets

In the construction trades a pre-hire agreement can be made by an employer with a union that sets all the parameters for those who get employed by that employer. Clubs and restaurants are exempt from this part of labor laws which are in the Taft-Hartley amendments. They are not considered an employer. In most cases the band leader is actually considered the employer. In order to strike, boycott or picket a business they must be an employer. Since clubs and restaurants are not the employer that would make any action secondary and therefore illegal. In organizing drives undertaken by unions there is a card signing done by the employees that states they recognize the union to bargain collectively for them. All this isn't to say that a club or restaurant owner couldn't enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the union, it just says they don't have to recognize the union. This part of the Taft-Hartley Amendment only deals with the entertainment unions, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union by law can do card signing to enable them to bargain with the employer.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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I feel sorry for you all who are proud to be union members. You are a part of an organization who uses strong-arm tactics to ensure your jobs and demand more money on occasion. If there's a threat of losing your position in the city orchestra, or feel you aren't getting paid enough, you call in big brother, the Union. Pathetic.
fig, I'm sorry but this rant of yours ignores the well-documented history of how horribly workers can were treated in this capitalist society before unions existed. It also trivializes the extraordinary amount of hard work that goes into trying to make a living playing an instrument.

 

I'm sick and tired of the chest-thumping "pure, unchecked capitalism is the greatest regulator!" attitude going on lately, because it simply isn't true. Enron's probably the greatest public example of this. We are a social animal. Humans derive strength from our ineraction with each other as a GROUP. John Nash changed the way we look at our economy by showing with MATH that people ultimately benefit more when they make decisions based upon their own needs AND the needs of their peers.

 

Unions are here to ensure that workers don't get taken advantage of by employers...and while they certainly don't work perfectly (my girlfriend could write a book on the theatre-usher's union out here...), I think the alternative is far worse. Would you prefer to play music for a livable wage, or a non-livable one?

 

If given the opportunity, 90% of all employers would spend as little as possible on their employees. Why do you think so many large American companies have their mailing addresses in Bermuda and go outside of the US for their labor?

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Unfortunately, many businesses in right-to-work states often abuse their employees with few benefits and low pay. On the other hand, unions have consistantly championed the mediocre and hurt many union memebers, some of the ways mentioned in previous posts. The comments on part-time workers being paid less than their union dues and receiving no bene's is only one of many problems with unions.

 

The sad fact is that neither has the workers best interests at heart. They see the labor base as a group or subgroups, but rarely give a damn about individuals. When the system breaks down, they make excuses, protect their business (Yes, the union is a business.), and the people falling through the cracks be damned.

 

I applaud the constructive successes of unions in the past, but it's obvious to many that a new model of labor representation is neccessary. Whether this can be accomplished I don't know. I just see the old model has long been dominated by unfair rules, corruption, and a lack of caring for the real needs of the membership.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

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I'm gonna chime in on this one...

 

I don't currently make any money plying music, but I am part of the Teamsters as an employee of UPS. I also worked at UPS in Utah (a right to work state) and was not part of the union. Overall, I had a great experiance there; nobody cared much about the goings on of the Labor movement and worked hard we got our checks and we were happy. When I moved to California and transferred my job I had to become part of the teamsters. What struck me first was the lax work ethic that I saw common to all the employees at my new worksite which I attributed the the security of the union. And I was a little irked at the initiation fee and dues that would shrink my check to a fraction of its former glory. However, my new workplace is MUCH safer than my previous site (1 injury in 9 months compared to about 2 per month at the previous facility), my wages are better, and my insurance and pension cover just about everything (my Father and father-in-law both make 80,000+ a year in white collar jobs and still have no dental coverage). I still miss the more earnest, friendly environment (it may be a nessecity, but I find unions a bit adversarial) of the non-union site, but I understand that I am much better taken care of and safer than I was before. I can only assume that groups like the A.F.M. have the same goals in mind (protecting Musician's financial and physical welfare) so I support them and may one day be a member.

 

Just my humble offerings to the tribunal....

Official Member of the Low Down Younguns Society
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unions. when i belonged to the laborers union it appeared to exist for the benefit of a handful of senior members who were more than happy to sell us low seniority guys down the river at contract time by the simple device of the company offering a signing bonus to the negotiating committee (composed exclusively of the elite members) at contract time. this would always contain a two-tier system in which the senior guys got the goodies while the new guys served a 6-month probationary period during which they could be let go at a whim and a new bunch brought in every 5 months and 29 days. i have also worked as a white collar supervisor in both union and non-union plants in the explosives industry, in which case i much preferred to supervise union workers because most of the stuff that caused strife was in black and white and helped cover my ass. a supervisor in a non-union plant will be dropped like the last sandbag in the balloon at the first hint of "union talk" among the troops. if i ever have to work in a factory again the ideal position would be direct labor at a non-union plant that calls for elections often enough to make the company run anti union campaigns that would buy me off til the next election. as for music, is there really much overlap between the plum gigs the old boys get and the scraps the rest of us fight over? i'll bet that there is a de facto two-tier system in the industry. note that i live next door to "bloody williamson" county in deep southern illinois, the scene of some of the deadliest coal mining riots of the era; a cursory reading of local history is guaranteed to make one a union sympathizer, which i am. can my coffee house afford to pay union wages? not even close.
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Points to ponder:

 

I absolutely agree with those who point out that without unions, employers have taken advantage of employees.

 

I also agree that quite often, union workers use that collective power inappropriately, to give less work to the employee than is truly fair.

 

In music, as far as I know, there are few correlations with Teamsters, UAW and so on.

 

For example, as Wally pointed out, the working in a club doesn't mean that the club is the employer; the band leader is. The club hires an act. In that scenario, the collective employees strike against one of their own, the band leader.

 

Now, in an professional orchestra, that has real power, since those musicians are hired by an organization...and like atheletes, the talent pool is smaller than the demand.

 

But I don't see how musician's unions could give "choice gigs" to the favored few...I'm not sure many folks who hire musicians make thier first call to a union.

 

In a band, the entire group develops its "product" independent of any employer...in industry, the the employer develops it's product.

 

For that reason, quality control in music is not the responsibility of the employer, but the employee.

 

So the musicians union functions to tell the person who hires the band, "These guys have already done the work it takes to get good; pay them what they are worth."

 

For me, I am an independent contractor; I play with a given degree of skill (like a carpenter), and someone who wants me must pay me and provide a working environment that I can live with, or they won't get me next time...that makes me, like an independent contractor, a "union of one."

 

I can only do this because I do not depend on gigging for my primary income. I know many musicians who play as their only job; and they scare up gigs. In slow months, they have to "take anything" to put food on the table. In most cases, they are not union members; Texas is a "right to work" state...so, as Wally said, club owners hire bands without union consultation.

 

And the problem is, if you bring a union contract to a club owner, there are dozens of bands who won't...

 

...and there will always be. If the legislature passed a law forcing clubs to become "closed shops" how would that impact the growth of music?

 

It seems to me that young people would make bands still, but without the promise of some kind of financial reward, facing the prospect of "breaking in," would they work as hard?

 

It's a tough decision; do I join a union to protect me or do I join a union to, in a sense, save the jobs of all fellow musicians?

 

Of course, all of this talk leaves out the biggest question; in the original post. Does Gerrg go to hear the bands he loves? After all, the bands took the gig...in that sense, they have made the choice for Gerrg...("we don't care 'bout no stinking stagehands; we got ours") and the venue owner happily rakes in the dough.

 

At what point does artistic expression transcend the business end of music? Do we have a need to play, to "get our message out?" Do we have a need to listen, to "get their message in?"

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Thanks for all your input. Some very good discussion going on here. I had no doubt there would be union supporters and non-supporters weighing in. There tends not to be much middle ground. I will continue to support unions and encourage others to do so.

Someone mentioned that unions are membership driven and that is absolutely right. I will stress to anyone who ever is part of a union to get directly involved with the goings on of that organization. Being on the executive of my local has been a real eye opener as far as seeing where the need for unions still exists and the reasons for all the fine print in the contract.

To those who feel like they have gotten nothing out of unions or gotten the shaft from your union in some way, the best thing you can do is get more involved. Read the contract, read the bylaws of your local and go to the meetings and use your voice.

I believe in the general principle of solidarity, so its doubtful that I'll ignore the labour dispute in question and cross the picket line to attend the show unless some information comes forth to indicate that its not a cause worth supporting. Ultimately, I need the support of my local if I don't want to be a member in poor standing.

The musicians union is an interesting animal because of the types of working relationships that exist in the industry. I will definitely delve further into that as I pursue membership.

 

Thanks again for all of your comments,

 

Gerrg

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Gerrg, being as the AFM covers both the U.S. and Canada I've become friends with a good number of Canadians. I've spent a lot of time at our Conventions with Canadians and in fact was made an honorary Canadian a few years back after spending an evening on the town in Las Vegas as the only American partying with a large group of Canadians.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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Wally Malone is the best example of how to fix any problems with the union. Join the union, become active, be an officer, change the union.

 

The San Jose local where Wally is an officer is the most responsive to the needs of the working musician of any local I have seen.

 

Thanks Wally!

 

And to all of you who complain about "fat cats", have you looked at the owners and managers of the businesses you work for? Is there a reason why the Walton family (of Wal-Mart) are 4 of the richest people in the world that might be connected to fact that Wal-Mart hires all non-union labor and pays no benefits. The average employee only lasts two years there.

 

And doesn't the average CEO make 400 times the amount of the average worker?

 

Have you ever played in a club where the club owner drove a worse car than you?

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i don't think unions in general are a bad thing. and i definitely think that large chain stores take advantage of their employees.

 

by the same token, how many rabidly pro-union people do you think would be happy about having to pay 300% more for paper towels because a high school dropout has to earn $17.68 an hour plus medical/dental/optical to stock shelves at walmart? sure we can all think the executives are jerks for mistreating their employees, but the second prices go up because somebody does the "right thing" we freak.

 

unions definitely serve a purpose. they are a god thing and responsible for this country not degrading into a psuedo-police state where we are all endentured to our employers and die by age 27. however there are a number of corrupt unions and a lot of union behavior that i don't approve of. tell me, what harm can come of posting a sign on a union job site informing members that the political donations that come out of their checks are OPTIONAL. it's not saying it's illegal, or telling them to opt out. i find it unethical not to notify your members that this is optional when they might not agree with where the money is going. (this was an issue in the 2000 presidential campaign)

 

aaaaaanyway, there is no need to get into a big philosophical debate. in short, unions do very good things and are important to the american way of life. in my opinion, some unions also do very bad things which are a burden, and sometimes a mild threat to a democracy.

 

lest anyone here think i favor the rollerball system of government, i do list the musicians union in the "good" column.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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not a pseudo police state? are we speaking of the same country? the one in which a president that most people didn't vote for is doing his best to drag us into a war most of us don't want to protect the oil money of his friends who are already making millions (halliburton's $300 million contract for a new jail in guantanamo). not a pseudo police state my lily white ass. sorry about the hijack.
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Originally posted by earljam:

not a pseudo police state? are we speaking of the same country? the one in which a president that most people didn't vote for is doing his best to drag us into a war most of us don't want to protect the oil money of his friends who are already making millions (halliburton's $300 million contract for a new jail in guantanamo). not a pseudo police state my lily white ass. sorry about the hijack.

i see. where would you prefer to be? if can think of somewhere better i suggest you try life there.
Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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gee whiz bastid that is truly profound- if you don't like what is being shoved down your throat go somewhere else. maybe one of the police states trained and armed by the CIA? here's a news flash from an honorably discharged vet: because a person detests his govenments excuse for a foreign policy doesn't mean he doesn't love his country. your previous statement is a near quote of the kind i used to hear, often from hard hat union boys, during viet nam, which was also about oil. of course young george was never in any danger of having to go, as were very few of those who today are most eager to place someone else in harms way. take your suggestion and stick it where the sun don't shine because that kind of attitude is what brings these nitwits into power in the first place. notice i didn't say elected. sheesh!
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so as a former vet you'ld rather have your pay cut and be sent somewhere where we don't belong just to have your gear fall apart on your back while the people you've been sent to "help" throw rocks at you because they don't want you there?

 

let me add this. don't misunderstand me, i have the utmost respect for you. i would never want to serve somewhere where i'm getting shot at. i'd love to continue this dialog with you as you obviously have first hand experience and therefore a valid opinion (which is refreshing), but i doubt this is the forum. feel free to email me at hauwitzer@yahoo.com

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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"i see. where would you prefer to be? if can think of somewhere better i suggest you try life there."

 

Canada, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Japan, and the Netherlands.

 

There are alot of places that treat Democracy with more respect that we do.

 

And though I usually like the replies of certain Bastids, that is the weakest reply to someone voicing real concerns about politics.

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Okay, Okay, Okay....settle down for a minute.

 

I like Jeremy's reply above concerning Wally and the union...

 

"join the union, get active, become an officer, change the union."

 

You guys are right that the presidential election was problematic. And every man in that office is not going to get everything right. And we should not trust these guys lock, stock and barrel...their ideas must withstand scrutiny and criticism. (Personally, I'm grateful Al Gore wasn't waffling the September 11 situation.)

 

Sniping at our government doesn't work...it's just too massive. It is important to raise legitimate concerns...and every forum you can find is fair game (forum in the broad sense.)

 

And work for change. Earl, I trust you've written every congressman/woman expressing your concern? Bastid, nice recovery for the initial hurtful remark. Is an apology in order?

 

Sheesh...I feel like a grade school teacher...wait...I am a grade school teacher.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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