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sound overly enthused, the offer was retracted.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
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.