Saturday 27 September 2014

An Open Letter to the Job Creators and the Business Owners.

Dear Employer,

I am your Employee.  Thank you for this job.  I am the person who makes sure your custies come back tomorrow.  I smile.  I thank.  I say, "Come back soon!".
I am the FOREFRONT of your business.
I am WHO the customer sees, talks to, orders from, and pays.
WE are a team you and I.
Like a wheel with many spokes;  ALL spokes are needed.

Dear Business Owners,

I am your Customer and I am your Employee.

WE are the same people.

WE buy what you sell.

WE can only buy if WE have money to buy what you sell.

When WE don't get paid a decent wage, WE have no money to buy what you sell.

Build the economy .... raw raw raw!!!


Pay us a decent wage all around.
Pay your share of taxes.
Stop cutting our hours.
Stop sending us home early.
Stop finding loop-holes that benefit you and not WE.

Share the wealth if you want to build the economy.

Friday 19 September 2014

Make Way for Change Scotland ... the Vote is not the End.

"Maybe it's the trip up the mountain and not the view from the top.  Is it the learning and testing and not the graduation?  Is it the act of getting hurt and not the state of being healed that takes us to that other state of enlightenment known as true happiness?"

These are words I wrote a while ago in an online article titled "Compassion Alchemy".  And I ponder them again today in the aftermath of the Scottish Referendum vote.  Many titles you read will describe the whole thing as a failure.  They will say "the failed referendum vote" for years and years.

In the end, in the wee hours of the morning here in Ontario, the decision finally came in as a NO. This morning I watched as David Cameron, PM of Britain declared the vote a "clear result" to remain a United Kingdom.  The final vote was 55% to stay united;  45% to split.  In my humble opinion, 5% does not a clear pass make.  I mean, I remember getting 55% in grade 12 Mathematics and it did not feel like a clear result of me knowing anything about Math!  But a win is a win I guess.

The scenes on the tv were hard to watch, as I did want Scotland to know the feeling of being her own great and independent Country.  But my disappointment turned to interest as I watched the tears streaming from one young man's face.  He wiped them with his baseball cap before jamming it on his head backwards, and hugged his friend beside him.  This guy, who was likely all of 25 was exultant to the point of tears because his fellow countrymen and women voted to stay one United Kingdom with Britain and part of Ireland.  His tears changed my perspective.  They gave me a new colour to add to my palette.  That kind of pride~ however counter to my own view was enough to make me re-think my position.

I am a idealist to a fault.  When I think of my own Country's next Election and imagine the outcome being anywhere close to this voter turnout, my eyes well up.  It's odd really, since numbers have never evoked emotion in me, but these numbers are profound.  This referendum vote pulled 97% of the eligible voters out to polling booths to have their say.  Amazing!  That's almost 4.1 million people.  And they did it in one day.

Yet ... today is not the day after the wedding or the divorce.  I remember both of those days, talk about a let-down!  All of that preparation for nothing.  I couldn't help but read those thoughts in the eyes of the crushed YES campaigners on the CBC this morning.  But was all that work for naught? Or is it the campaigning and not the final vote that makes this all so inspiring and oh so relevant?

I remember the first time I had a far-away friend over to my small town.  I showed her the sites~ few as they are in wee Westport~ and with each site, I felt more and more pride growing.  Until that day, I had taken Foley Mountain for granted along with the magnificent view she holds.  Sometimes even the proudest of us need a reason to boast about our roots and the soil from which they grow.

For the past two years, YES campaigners have been working together, growing together, learning together and boasting about their Country's greatness together.  In words paraphrasing the statement of a great man named Victor Hugo, "nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come".  What time is that you ask? Surely not time for separation, as democracy has indeed spoken.  No, it's time to take back the word Pride and shake off all negative and derogatory connotations that religions and royalties have laced it with.  Pride is no longer sinful, pride is necessary!  Pride is the spark that lights the fire that demands respect and equality for all.  All the everybodies in every single country on our planet.

I've always been a proud Canadian, but the year we hosted the Winter Olympics really re-ignited that spark inside of me.  As I watch more recent Olympics, I've noticed that the Pride these Olympians feel is almost tangible, worn on their sleeves.  It is within that Pride that we will Unite in mutual respect for one another all across this planet.  So I eagerly await other referendums in other countries that will undoubtedly be instigated by this wonderful exercise in Democracy.

The CBC had a journalist asking Brits what they thought of the NO decision.  One girl said she really wasn't sure what she'd wake up to this morning.  But she was very relieved with the decision.  She says,

"We heart Scotland."

This is the view from Foley Mountain, Westport, Ontario, Canada ... my home town.

"It's not heaven ... but you can see heaven from there."~author unknown

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Financial Disparity Does Not VOID Your Consumer Rights!

I worked with a lady yesterday who has Cirrhosis of the liver from factory work in her younger years where she was never told to wear gloves.  It was a chemical plant of some kind.  I didn't really ask too many questions as I had just met her five hours earlier.  But she reminded me a lot of my mum, as she sat on a step-stool while her daughter, the other employee did some paperwork.  Her legs were crossed and she was sorta leaning forward on her crossed leg rubbing her cold fingers.  This looked just like mum did this past Xmas.  Sure enough, Marg too has Reynaulds.  A condition where the blood vessels in the fingers restrict and spasm in the cold.  Not fun at all.  Mum says her fingers have gotten almost completely black.

Anyhoo, back to the liver.  So since we were already talking Shingles vaccine and Magnesium for the Reynauld's, I asked her if she got any compensation for the factory work.

"Can't." is all she said.
"Oh?" I said.
"Because I worked at two different factories, I can't know which one it happened at."
"Shiiiiit." was all I could get out.  Of course, the wheels were turning.  What I wanted to say was, "if you had enough money you could get compensated."  But my filter kept it back.

This blog post is dedicated to Phil Edmonston, the well-known author of that either criticized or loved series, "The Lemon-aid Book".  I worked at Hyundai way back when and Phil spoke highly of us at the time.  Phil gave many a used car buyer the edge at knowing what to look for and what to look out for.  But he also gave the customer something else, something almost intangible and immeasurable:  CONFIDENCE in a shark tank of hungry salespeople who are not only pressured to pressure, but have their own bills to pay and mouths to feed.  It is well known that many a woman has gotten swindled in their car dealings ... sometimes by other women!  "It's a dog-eat-dog world" was a saying well describing the used car business.  As an aside, word-of-mouth is still the best advertising and this goes doubly when it comes to car salespeople. There are many good ones out there.  But they are often overshadowed by the bad.

Last year, Phil wrote one of his last books.  This one more of a broad guide to give the customer even more confidence in this world of hungry sharks.  It is called, "The Art of Complaining".  It's now on my list.

"Hello ... my name is Dianna ... and I am a chronic complainer."

And soon I'll read a book that will help me do it more effectively.  My complaining can be venting and often an effort to shine the light on a certain issue.  But raising awareness is only effective when change can be attained.  My skills must be honed.

There.  Now, I've always kinda loved and bowed to the knowledge that 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease'. In my opinion that cute little saying is overflowing with relevance that all of our youth could benefit from, not to mention all of the rest of society.  No one other than maybe Sookie Stackhouse is going to read your mind and give you what you require.  You must voice it.  Enter this book, otherwise titled "Canada's Consumer Action Guide".  It will apparently tell you how to squeak, when to squeak, to whom to squeak for best results, and at what volume said squeaking is most favorably received.  Phil offers sample letters to emulate or outright alter to suit your needs.  And as he stated today in the CBC interview that motivated this post, you can read it for free at your local Library.

In typical CBC radio fashion, the show went very quickly to the meaty parts of the subject:  real-life circumstances.  The telephone line was afire at the CBC.  What was the gist of the calls?  So many everyday citizens like you and I, getting screwed over by businesses both big and small.  So many emails sent and never replied to.  So many "no's".  Too many no's.  But here's the thing about no's.  And this is from me, not necessarily Mr. Edmonston.  When it comes to sales, it's very much a "fake it till ya make it" kind of deal where gullible people are not safe.  I worked in the car business.  There are some real scam artists out there. My first experience in the car business was at such a place.  Oh that was such a slap in my face of reality.

Many business people like to think of it as a game not unlike Poker.  Many car dealership salespeople do too.  It can be a funny mindset that effectively sets the customer apart from them, by making it a game.  Add bonuses and increased commissions and their feet don't even fit in your shoes anymore.  They don't wear shoes at all.  Not all of them of course, but far too many and because capitalism and the sacred bottom line dominate our society, this is all accepted as normal.  It's effed up to be real.  Many will wait you out.  They won't return calls, and will disappear if you show up at the business.  Cowardly really.  A consumer and a business should be a partnership of equal amicability.  Hiding from one another will never result in anything equal.

In typical Phil Edmonston fashion, the life-lessons and the take-homes began quickly.  I jotted them down on my Liberal donation letter while we were driving and listening.  Here goes:

Emails:  Always to the Department of or with the subject line:  "Legal Affairs" stressing all of the safety implications of your situation.

"Soft No's":  Phil says that the first NO that you get should always be considered a "soft no" and one that can be changed.  In situations where there are contracts such as warranties, service agreements, or any contractual agreements, stress the significance of this.  One caller's story had apparently just been publicized earlier in the week about his woes with a car dealership.

Back up your claim:  Phil stresses that no matter the industry or the business, having the product inspected by a professional in that field holds much more water than your mere claim.  Professionalism is respected, and most of the time is backed by a license that the holder would never risk.

Small Claims Courts:  Very popular these days, Lawyer NOT required, awards up to $30k.

"Good Will Warranty":  When dealing with car dealerships, remember that they usually have what you can refer to as a "Good Will Warranty".  I personally know this from the other side of the desk as a Lot Pack, which is how the GW Warranty is paid with.  A lot pack is a certain percentage or amount of every used vehicle sale that goes into an account to pay for any repairs that occur outside when warranties have expired.  So, the money is there. And don't ever believe that you pushing for fair treatment will affect your salesperson's commission.  That is outright against the law and stating such, shows that you're not a push-over.

I think that many businesses and companies rely on the fact that many of us don't want or thrive in confrontational situations.  For some of us, perhaps a 'no' allows us to move on and purchase something new. The more and more people I meet, the more I realize how little we know.  We don't realize how many consumer rights we really have, maybe because we're made to believe we don't have them.  We don't know that our MP's are here to help advise us in certain situations.  Many companies will not put out any funds unless they are pressured or outright mandated to do so, so putting in the effort can get you treated fairly.

So I hope to buy the book tomorrow.... stay tuned for a more in-depth blog post.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Deeper Thoughts From Behind the Bar . . . . .

Something in my personal life made me look up my Province's minimum wage laws again the other day.  The General Minimum wage in Ontario jumped 75 cents in June pushing it up to $11 per hour.

"How awesome is that?" I was heard saying numerous times to numerous people.  For me, it was a "power to the people" moment in my own lifetime.  I expect to see many of these to be honest.  The shift is in progress. Dominoes are already falling.  I think of a great great writer and his words and I hereby challenge them.  I say that 2014-15 is the year that will truly be described as follows:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." ~Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities".

Ponder those words for a bit.  Do you keep up with world news the way I do?  There are some very interesting correlations there don't you think?  Without a doubt, possibly the best of times, and unfortunately also quite possibly the worst of times.  But I will live to see it and if you're reading this you likely will too. Smile.  This is a good thing.  

So back to the bar and the minimum wage thing and the power and the people.  I serve alcohol.  That is my job, I am a tender of the bar.  I paid to take a course to be given the right to be this thing, this friend, this light at the end of a long-ass work day.  I always wanted to tend bar in Scotland.  Man ... those Scots know about havin' a bevvy after work.  For many it's a daily ritual.  I experienced this in 2005 when I visited Scotland.  For months after coming home I tried to find a way to go back there to work for a year.  Of course I may have had a very stark surprise if my dream had come true back then.

You see in Europe, Bar Tenders get paid more than they do here in North America.  Now I'm not sure if that's because they're serving an addictive, mind-altering substance or because the habit of Tipping isn't so common there.  I've always wondered if that has an effect on the economy.  I mean, if we here in Canada didn't Tip as much or as often as we do, would our Economy be better because we'd have more money for material things?  Who knows.  That's a great social study that needs to be done in my opinion.

Even knowing this, I wanted to go there to tend bar.  I was convinced that my personality and genuine kind nature would intrigue my custies to fill that Tip cup~ that is if I were allowed to put one out.  In 2005, Bar tenders in Scotland were making the equivalent of $12 per hour here.  That was 9 years ago.  Almost a decade.

So what is the Tipping wage here?  Well as I learned last summer upon calling our awesome employment standards hotline, they don't wanna talk tips.  They don't care about tips and they DO NOT consider tips to be a part of your wage.  So I remember this convo, and it was like Groundhog Day the movie in a telephone call.  It was a vicious circle of really good training and word-control.  It went something like this:

Me:  Just so I understand, the reason the Liquor Serving wage is less is because I make tips?
ES:  No ma'am, Tips are not part of your wage.
Me:  So, why is it that I make less?
ES:  Because you serve alcohol.
Me:  And ...if tips aren't wages then why do I make less?  (I was sooooo sure I could get her to say ‘because you get TIPS’)
ES:  That's what Liquor serving wage is ma'am.
Me:  But WHY do I make less to serve alcohol?
ES:  Because that's the new Liquor serving wage.

I think she may have been a Surrogate ... y'know ... a ro-bot. :-)

So here I am again ... asking the same question.  Why do I get paid less money to serve an addictive, mind-altering substance than I would if I served Hamburgers? Or Tobacco? Or Gasoline?  I don't need a Smart Serve Certificate to sell French fries though I'd make $1.45 more per hour.  And too many French Fries don't make you belligerent. That's right peeps ... the new Liquor Serving wage in Ontario is still under $10 though if I give you one too many drinks, you can sue me for everything I'm worth.  And then you can sue the bar I work at who will then fire me, and likely try to sue me too.

Tell me Canada, do we have a DUI problem?  According to statistics, humans in general have an issue with Alcohol.  Do you think societal respect and remuneration of those who serve alcohol has anything to do with this problem?  Honestly, when the gauntlet that measures your blood-alcohol level comes down, everything changes.  The Bar Tender who was your buddy, is now a dink and a buzz-kill, and thinks you're drunk.  Would people stop thinking we're jerks simply because we ask who is the Designated Driver if society in general knew we had a license to do what we do?  I almost attained a license to cut hair too.  Sheesh ... I'd make a lot more per hour if I had completed that apprenticeship!!  Damn you hindsight and your stupid 20/20 !!

I know that in the scope of things, minimum wage laws aren't big news right now.  And if I sat down with my Provincial MP Sophie Kiwala to talk about this, she'd think I was out-to-lunch.  But it will eventually come down to this, this tiny micro view of one group~and others like it~of integral spokes in the workforce wheel. Eventually we will see that if we want all the everybodies to take part in growing the economy, we may have to start paying them more than this meager minimum wage.  Studies have been done, and minimum wages are Engineering poverty.  Also, little loopholes where businesses are allowed to pay new hires less than minimum wage this year, for positions that paid minimum wage last year, should be ceased.  Gas is more expensive this year than last, as is food, clothing, meds, my rent alone is going up $60 this year.  Progress means that each year a certain job should make a wee bit more.  I mean, if you profit, then you should in my opinion be mandated to give raises.

Funny .... my oldest sis gets confused by me.  She has said to me, "I don't understand you Di, you seem so anti-Government, and yet you say things like this, which calls for more Government oversight."

I say, "Exactly!  I'm not anti-Government, I'm anti CORRUPT Government!  I'm anti Government who is anti the people!  There's a difference!!  Instead of oversight to ensure we've paid all our dues, attained all of our licenses, and paid all of our taxes, we need Government who wants to help the general public.  Take taxes from the corporations and Banks who are posting killer profits every single quarter!"

It's simply a very slippery slope. I fear the day when Donut and Coffee shops can start serving alcohol. I bet they're trying every thing they can right now to get Liquor Licensed. They'd save themselves $1.45 an hour per employee. Chaaaa-ching!!!

In my opinion we all need more Government oversight to ensure that we're being treated fairly at work, in life, health, in going out to dinner or a drink or a movie!  For instance, if there is no more "Tipping Wage" in Canada, and a person is a waiter in an UNLICENSED establishment, how much are they getting paid per hour??

This Enquiring mind wants to know.  But ... I don't wanna have to call the bot again :-)  So if you find out, let me know k?