By Seana Sperling
Good old Idaho, the "Right to Work" state. You have a right to work, for minimal pay, no benefits and no security. Having recently moved from Seattle to Boise, I learned first-hand what "Right to Work" means to the worker.
My third day back I headed over to The Boise Weekly. Because of my newspaper experience the guy doing the interview offered me the position within the hour, however, the position was $7.50 per hour and no benefits. The duties weren't very interesting and there seemed to be little promise of getting back to the writing and editing department. Since I didn't sound overly enthused, the offer was retracted. Well, I didn't want to work there anyway.
A couple of friends suggested I go to Boise State University and apply for an Adjunct Faculty position since I also have teaching experience. I spoke with one staffer and she told me that they couldn't offer me more than about six hours per week, one night class and a couple morning classes, but it was possible that I could go to a couple of other departments to get more hours. The University has some restrictions for Adjunct Faculty and they can't exceed 19 hours a week. In this way they can avoid offering benefits. The University needs to save up for that new turf. What would we do without football?
Since Clinton implemented new standards for health care insurance, individual states came under new legislation that required all businesses and state agencies to offer health care benefits to their full time staff. If the worker is part time, under 20 hours, then benefits aren't required. So, no Viagra for you. Even the ACLU of Idaho doesn't offer benefits to its one, half-time employee.
There were several listings for interesting State and Federal positions on various websites. I filled out all the necessary paperwork for each position only to receive notices that a hiring freeze had been implemented. Although Bush is encouraging spending during this economic crisis, he has initiated a hiring freeze in Government agencies and state agencies are following suit. No irony here. I really do think that raise Congress gave itself was essential. How could a congressman possibly continue to drive around that old beater-Mercedes?
I then turned from the miserly hands of the state to the those of the city. I began to substitute teach and found that substitutes are paid only $65.00 per day and receive no benefits. After overcoming my shock at the low wages, I began verbalizing my frustrations with friends. I was told that some restaurants pay their waitstaff or any tipped staff, as low as $3.25 per hour. (Be sure and tip your server at least 15%. They are taxed on their gross food sales.) Also, several of my friends lacked benefits even though they'd been with the same company for several years.
The excuse I kept hearing for the low wages was that the living expenses were much lower in Boise than in a large metropolitan area like Seattle. Wrong-o! Although rent in Boise is substantially lower than Seattle, utilities and other living expenses are higher. For example, when I notified Qwest of my transfer, the Portland-based customer service representative was very surprised at how much more expensive service was in Idaho than in Seattle or Portland. In Seattle, the basic cost of my phone service was approximately $12.00 per month, making my over-all bill, including caller ID, $25.00. In Boise, I'm paying $17.80 for the basic, raising my bill to $32.00 and even the caller ID cost is higher. I suppose I'm paying extra for living in the city that never sleeps, during the hours of 6:00AM to 6:00PM that is.
My last utility bill in Seattle was roughly $34.00 for four weeks October/November. My December bill in Boise was $108.28. When I called Idaho Power, they said that energy in Idaho is more expensive, because we are absorbing the cost of the energy crisis from Y2K. Last summer, people in Seattle instantly protested the rate hikes from the utilities and the rates were lowered in a couple of months. Idaho needs to stand upright for a change because we are being screwed by the utilities and by our senators. The overall economic health of this region is suffering and things like monopolies on utilities and legislation like "Right to Work" is creating a state of silent paupers.
I remember when the "Right to Work" issue was being debated in the 80's. Because of the misleading title, "Right to Work" many people were confused (as they were when another moniker for developing a Nuclear Power Reactor facility in Idaho was named NPR). This semantic control of the populace does have significant impact. It also reveals the propaganda rampant in our political system. Uninformed people are voting for things because of deceptive titles, not having any idea about the consequences. They trusted a system that has long been corrupt, our government.
Many argued that "Right to Work" would stimulate the economy by bringing new corporations to the state. What they didn't mention is why the corporations would come. It's the same reason why big companies like Johnson Controls and others have fled the states and are setting up shop in countries with a low wage base. What does Right to Work mean to the worker? It means you have no rights.
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - email@example.com
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.