There’s Us, Them, And Then There’s The Other

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A picture of a Grand River Transit bus taken by Calvin So and posted on Flickr. If the union strikes, the transit system will indeed be “Out Of Service”, with the poor, seniors, physically challenged, and infirm being the most affected..

Final Update: Local 4304 has accepted the second contract in a ratification vote. No strike for three years, but the discussion about the GRT being declared an essential service needs to be held. The poor have mobility rights that need to be protected.

Update: After two counteroffer bargaining sessions, Local 4304 have voted to strike Monday April 3rd, 2017. I will not be able to go on interviews, do any temp work or Kijiji and Craiglist style gigs, but I will still go to the library to perform my job search. I just need to walk to get there. For those of you living in the Region Of Waterloo area, please sign my petition to make it an essential service: https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-declare-grand-river-transit-an-essential-service

WARNING: LANGUAGE

My decision not to learn to drive came from several reasons.

The first reason was because I was born in and lived most of my life in Toronto. Toronto has a very large transit system that can get you nearly anywhere within the city. I know I sometimes rag on it, but you can’t beat unlimited transit  for the cost of a monthly transit pass.

I’ve also seen how some of you drive from the safety of my bus seat. Some of you should NOT be driving at all and instead use public transit. Seriously.

Finally, driving is expensive. I know you car owners out there love your comfy heated seats, preset  radio stations, and your personal space to sing and fart in, but you’ll agree with me that it’s not cheap. Tally the total cost of driving — driving lessons (admittedly a one time deal), purchasing the vehicle, gas, insurance, general maintenance after a few thousand clicks, the odd repair, tire changing and storage, emission tests, and oh yeah, that sticker you have to put on your plates — and it’s a big bite out of the budget even if you are working full-time. If you are working part-time or not at all, it’s either THE budget or a non-starter. If you cannot afford it,  you either take transit, bicycle, or walk.

I know that my decision not to learn to drive has hurt me, even before I ended up in the sorry hell I’m in now with no full time work, very little money and a future in doubt. I couldn’t go to the cottage or anywhere else with my friends or family if it was outside the city. I instead had to take a taxi, a intercity bus, or a train.

Then there were the transit strikes. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Before the TTC was declared an essential service (where the union could not strike), strikes were a pain in the ass. When I was working full-time, I had to take a taxi to work during a strike. Since my employer was not going to pay for the taxi (obviously), I charged the rides to my credit card and dealt with the charges after the strike was over. It was a headache, but I had a job that paid very well. I couldn’t imagine how those less fortunate than I managed during a strike….at least until now.

I’m no longer in Toronto. I now live in Kitchener where the Grand River Transit system is NOT an essential service and Unifor Local 4304 has threatened to walk March 19th at midnight if their union demands are not met. If they strike, it is a massive hit for me for several reasons.

I go to the Kitchener Public Library to use the WiFi and computers to conduct a job search six days a week. A transit strike does not dismiss my obligation to return to financial self reliance and sustainability that can only come from a job search but I don’t have Internet where I live: I can’t afford it. I could use a coffee shop WiFi but I’m sure they won’t let me stay there for too long even if I do buy something. I also go to the library for books, CDs, DVDs, and to meet with my social worker to discuss my unemployment and housing issues. I could walk to the library but it would take me over half-an-hour to get there on foot, and, oh yes,  it’s winter as of this blog post. Having the union go on strike and shutting down transit would make accessing these services difficult, especially on days where the weather is bad.

With public transit, I also have the option to shop around and get a good deal for food — an absolute necessity when you are in my income bracket. If transit is stopped, not only will my choices be savagely cut, the amount of what I can carry — since I’m reduced to walking instead of riding a bus — will be impacted as well.

My biggest worry is how will I be able to do temp work and gigs on Kijiji and Craigslist during the strike. I’m scheduled to do inventory work at the end of March in Cambridge, which is too far to walk to. If the strike runs long enough, I’ll have to tell my contacts there I can’t work.  Not working means no wage. No wage means no money for food, dental, and other basic needs.

It’s not just about me though. What about those less fortunate than I who are physically challenged or blind? What about seniors? What about those who need to get to their appointments for dialysis, cancer treatment, or physiotherapy? Do we really think there’s going to be enough taxis to cover the slack? Is it fair to ask those same people to pony up money for the taxis — which they do not have — just because a union wants more money and the continuation of comfortable working conditions and benefit? Perks those in the private sector do not have due to downsizing and doing more with less in this Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery?

Doesn’t this smack just a teeny bit of greed through extortion of the poor?

Disputes between management and the unions have been around longer than I have. It’s an old story that has been told countless times, usually coloured by the portrayal of either the union or the management as “the good guy”.

The story  is not so binary in nature, however. Yes, there is an “us”, there is a “them”, but there’s also the “other”… those in the middle of the dispute who lose when caught in the crossfire yet gain nothing when it’s over. That part of the story has never been told because very little people know about it. Unless, of course, you happen to be someone like myself who consider transit as essential.

I really feel it’s time for all transit systems to become an essential service, not just the TTC and certainly Grand River Transit. Transit is a vital lifeline for those less fortunate in our society, and they should no longer be used as bargaining chips in labour negotiations.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Teach A Man To Fish….

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You just need to know how to score big like this guy. This image was originally posted to Flickr by melaniae.trapani at http://flickr.com/photos/100404555@N07/9531441073. It was reviewed on 17 August 2013 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0. I found this on WikiCommons and respect the rights and ownership of the image.

*LANGUAGE ALERT*

Oxfam Canada released a report at the top of January that not only decries a widening gap between the rich and poor, it also blames the rich for the increase. As a result, they should be taxed more to pay for social programs that help those like myself who are unable to take care of themselves in terms of financial stability.

As someone who can’t find work, who has been homeless in the past, and who cannot financially fend for himself — a member of the community  Oxfam Canada says is under siege by the mean ol’ rich folk  — I’d like to say the people who released that report have fucking rocks for brains.

In a majority of reports released through reliable sources, the upper class in fact do pay the most taxes. More than the middle class and more than the poor. Yes, it’s true they don’t pay as MUCH as they used to, but you can thank global trade acts for that. All one needs to do is to relocate a company’s manufacturing base to a country with a lower tax rate and Bob’s your wealthy uncle.  It’s business and while it takes a steaming dump on the local employment market, it’s a smart move.

It is for this same reason why increasing the level of taxation on the rich would a dumb move. Businesses thrive in a low-tax economy and flee a high tax one. That’s why the high hydro rates here in Ontario have prompted many enterprises to relocate. Tax the rich more to pay for social programs to address this imagined slight on the unfortunate and they will leave, taking the jobs and services with them.

When that happens, social programs will see their income source dry up like a lake on a hot summer day. Unemployment, homelessness and poverty rates  will skyrocket as a result.

The issue isn’t is what the rich have but what the poor haven’t. They don’t have employment opportunities. They don’t have affordable housing and post-secondary education. They don’t have a social support network that works at all to help them either start their own business or pair up with someone who will hire them. They don’t have people who understand the problem enough empathise and assist, but plenty of people who regard them an inconvenient blight, and BLAME them for something that’s not their fault.

Don’t steal the fish from the rich to feed the poor. Help those like myself fetch our own fish. All we need is the rod, bait, and a nice lake full of salmon. Give us the tools to make our own opportunities, and we’ll forge our own road back to financial self-reliance and self-sustainability.

Thanks for reading!

David.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

I’ve been stuck on a topic to write about for a while. I guess after over five years of writing about my past homelessness and current chronic unemployment situation, your well runs dry. Don’t worry, I’m sure I will come up with something.

I created a comic on the Pixton site, as part of a contest for what I would like to have for Christmas. While I admit my chances of winning are pretty slim — we have a lot of very talented individuals on Pixton — I gave it a go. It was shortly after I published that comic that I in fact had something to put here as well, so here is the comic I posted, along with the link to the original copy.

Thanks for viewing, and Merry Christmas.

David.

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Just What The Doctor Ordered?

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GP’s waiting room in France, taken by Migmoug on 1 October 2014, 17:37:19 and obtained through Wikimedia Commons.

This was originally written on Minds.com but since it pertained to my situation, I’m repeating it here with minor alterations.

Ask anyone their opinion about the size of government and you’ll get a spectrum of opinion so wide you’ll need Star Trek’s warp drive to traverse it within a lifetime.

On the left, you’ll hear arguments — even the well-thought-out ones — of how important it is for government to play a part in our lives. On the right, you’ll hear about the minimalist government model — which focuses primarily on tasks such as trade, national defence, and law — that keeps its collective nose out of business and individual determination.  Such diversity of opinion is a good sign of a healthy democracy but it does lead to heated debates.

My own opinion on the size of government, particularly where Canada’s social safety net is concerned, is that there’s certainly a lot of budget fat to trim. My favourite rant topic is subsidized provincial health care which first of all is NOT free: it’s paid for through paycheque deductions. Ontario’s government-run health care system, OHIP,  costs $51.8 billion Cdn or 39% of the provincial budget of $134 billion Cdn  (Feb 2016 report).

I personally find the system wanting. I waited six weeks to get a specialist to remove a mole on my back plus an additional 2 weeks to wait for the results (lucky for me the mole was non-cancerous). Some parts of the system like vision and dental care are not covered (unless you are an immigrant).  Having a mobian cyst on my left eye removed would have cost me over $200 because it’s classified as COSMETIC SURGERY (and they don’t accept cash!) so I said hell with that that and used a homeopathic solution I found on Google that worked. Disclaimer: that was a judgement call on my part. See a licensed medical professional first before trying anything like that.

Ontario’s health care system delivers one lousy ROI. I mean, if we are throwing that much money in a system that still makes you wait for a long time and does not cover everything, there is definitely waste somewhere.

Having said this, I also believe having a subsidized health care system is VERY important, as I found out on October 16th, 2016.

What happened to me was totally out of the blue. I was wrapping up a stay at Tim Horton’s after reading comments about a blog post I wrote on Minds.com on poverty and homelessness. I took note of the time and realized I was due at my mother’s place to help her with the dusting and vacuuming. I took the bus to my mother’s apartment and rode the elevator to her floor. I was about 15 to 20 steps to her suite door when suddenly the simple concept of walking, maintaining balance and fumbling for my keys to open her door became a feat as difficult as designing the CN Tower. Everything became VERY hard to do. My brain was sending signals to my body that were not translating into action and I began to panic while seemingly locked in mid-stride.

I managed to regain enough control  to reason (idiotically) that if I simply went back down the elevator to the first floor and try the attempt again, it will work. You know, like how a plane retries a runway landing when the wind is too strong.  So back to the first floor I go, struggling with fear and bewilderment at how difficult things have become and found the second attempt even harder than the first. On the third try I actually did make it to the door but at this point I’m having a hell of a time breathing, my heart is hammering  in my chest and I’m sweating  a waterfall. I can’t hold on to my keys so I drop them, nearly fall over while trying to pick them up, and made my way back to the elevator to try yet again. Inside the elevator I’m pounding the wall with my fists while screaming like a banshee. Just as I almost roll out of the elevator,  a man walks up to me and asks if I’m okay. From the look on his face, it’s clear things are not okay and I feebly squeak out a “take me to the hospital”.

Once I get to the hospital ER, I’m soaked in sweat and I let the man do the talking. He tells the contact there what happened but he reported my left arm was twitching. I did not recall that happening but I had enough going on with me to probably miss that detail. After what seemed like a lengthy wait (I’m not sure of the actual wait time) I’m taken into a room, asked to grip the ER nurse’s hand with first my left and then my right hand, balance on either leg and confirm my vision was clear.  When asked, I told her this never happened to me before and I am not taking any medication.

A CT was taken of my head and I was told to wait some more in another room. By then I’ve been in the ER for a little over three hours and I’ve calmed down enough.  A doctor comes in with a clipboard and what looks like my CT clipped to it. He asks me (once again) to grip his hand with first my left and then my right hand, balance on either foot, and recall what happened to me and how I felt. He said he could not see anything physiologically wrong but arranges an appointment with a neurologist who will review my CT the hospital will send.

Nearly a week passes and I’m at my appointment with the neurologist who has my CT enhanced in a way to appear more blue and lighter. He points out a teeny tiny spot in an area bordering the frontal and parietal lobe about the size of a period in this sentence and not too deep in the brain. Because it’s so small, he cannot determine for sure if it was a micro-hemorrhage that would have been measured in red blood cell counts, an abscess, or something as harmless as inert protein matter which rarely happens yet is normal development. Having said this, he assured me I’m fine, that it’s not brain plague or a tumour, He concludes that it could have been was an anxiety attack, triggered by a sensory flash like light refraction off my glasses, or I burned out from stress over not finding stable housing and employment. Having been given a clean bill of health, I contacted my mother to apologize for not showing up and to explain what happened.

So why did I share this with you? Because had there been no universally accessible affordable health care system in Canada, I would have been — how should I put this…

UP

THE

CREEK 

I would have had to pay for being treated in ER, seeing a nurse, seeing two doctors and getting a CT scan done. As a person of no fixed address suffering from lack of full-time employment, there was no way I could have paid for that.

Let’s take it one step further. What would have happened if I didn’t get that clean bill of health? What if I required medication? Surgery? Radiation and chemotherapy? I shudder at the thought of what I would be on the hook for, and the idea that health care would only be for those who could pay for it.

Look, I get it that government is wasteful with our tax dollars. A few specific politicians need a smack upside the head in order to make them understand it’s OUR goddamn money (*whack* “Just Him” Trudeau).  We have every right to demand transparency in the government services our tax dollars pay for.

Let’s not forget everyone has a right to get better from an illness and to heal from an injury, though. Healthy people means a healthy society and a healthy economy.

Thanks for reading!

David.

The Ties That Unbind

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My mood after reading yet another berating Email from “Riley” and the last bit of correspondence I’ll ever accept from that person again.

Over a week ago I had to go to the ER because of a medical issue.  (I’m okay, but I’ll talk more about that in the next blog post). This prevented me from seeing my mother to help dust and vacuum, but now I had to explain to her and someone who I will call “Riley” why I did not show up as scheduled.

Because I cannot afford a phone, I could not call anyone until after I got to the nearest WiFi hotspot and fire up Skype. This finally happened after a stay of nearly 4 hours.

I felt it was best to explain the truth to my mother to ensure she did not think I forgot or played hooky, yet at the same time reassure her I was fine and apologise for what happened.

Riley was a different story. Riley and I have been at odds since my unemployment situation began and I suspect Riley believes I’m lazy and not looking for work. We argued about the cell phone being cancelled because it was inconvenient for Riley to use Email who insisted that I simply had to continue it, money or no, as this text message showed.

Text Example

Some of our Email arguments got to the point where I had to put Riley on block for a week, two weeks, or longer. I was just tired of the abuse and being treated like I was the one causing all the trouble.

I explained to Riley what happened. Not one note of concern or worry. Just a directive not to tell my mother that I was in ER. Well, okay, how else was I going to explain not showing up, least of all without calling? Lie? Absolutely not! My mother is my medical contact on all my correspondence in case something happens to me. On top of that, she can smell a lying son before he got off the bus to see her. I was going to tell the truth and that’s exactly what I did.

Once Riley found out, I received the following Email, and it was a slap in the face.

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No recognition that what happened to me could have been cancer, a stroke, or Alzheimer Disease. No inquiry of how I was doing or what the results were from the CT scan I had done. It was all about Riley and how David was once again making everyone’s life a hassle for — wait for it — being unemployed and homeless.

I was horrified by the response sent from Riley’s no-doubt expensive iPhone. Cold. Brutally insensitive. Not something you would say to a brother and it was the last straw for me. I may be down and out but I’m not going to be treated this way any more. Not even by family.

I replied back to that Email that I was going to stop having my mail sent to Riley’s house over the next few months and Riley won’t have to be ashamed of me any more.

Pardon my language, but go to hell, Riley. I deserve much better than being treated so badly to the point I want to apply for a C-14.

Thanks for reading.

David.

UPDATE November 20th, 2016: Riley posted a comment to this blog post, which in itself is not a surprise. The surprise was that Riley did it using a full real name.

When I wrote this blog post, it was to showcase what homelessness and unemployment does to society, in specific how it tears families apart and it is no secret it has done irreparable damage to mine. Having said this, I chose never to reveal the name of the person or people when I bring things like this up for two reasons. The first was that Riley is a public person with a very visible profile that intersects with those from all aspects of the Region of Waterloo. The last thing I want to see happen is someone doing a Google search on Riley’s name and seeing a public catfight on a blog that could damage the reputation Riley has with these people I mentioned. The second is that I don’t want this blog to be turned into the public catfight I mentioned before. This is not an attack blog. This is a blog about me and my struggles with part-time homelessness and unemployment that I hope will educate you about the Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery we now live in.

Riley has the right to post a reply with the true name in the clear on another blog, or make response videos on YouTube where I have my now-discontinued “David Needs A Job” series. It’s just not going to happen here.

I originally had a reply made here but I have decided not to carry out that action. I also believe that it’s high time to have a conversation with my entire family about the way they are handling my unemployment and lack of stable housing. If we cannot find a common ground to work from without bickering and fighting, then I believe we both should go our separate ways in life.

 

Such A Creep, Revisited.

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An applicant for a Red Lobster dish washing position must ensure customers have a clean plate to eat off of, and be Tim The Toolman as well! (image from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_and_Decker_FS1300CS_loaded.jpg?uselang=en-gb

Before I begin, I just received a notification from WordPress that I’ve been a member for five years. I want to take a moment to thank the people of WordPress for offering a free, stable and well-designed platform to allow me to publicly promote my job search which has been running for longer than that.

The fact that I have been out of full time work for so long is galling but not surprising when I have to deal with job openings like this that ask for the most unreasonable qualifications.  This is not an example of an exceptionally rare case. This is quite common. Throughout my time on WordPress I have posted 5 such examples, my “favourite” being the warehouse position one where you are required to know how to play a musical instrument.  I’ve heard of whistling while you work, but strumming while you strive? Preposterous.

Positions like this are the result of credential creep and downsizing, a point I’ve raised many times during my stay on WordPress over the last five years. When I hear employers bitch and moan about how hard it is to find the right person for the job, I want to tell them to look at their hiring requirements and ask themselves, “is this asking too much?”. In most cases, it is. In the linked advertisement, while most people can wash dishes, not everyone can safely handle a power tool, nor are able to lift 50 pounds on a regular basis due to a past work injury, are physically challenged, or simply put not built to lift 50 pounds on a regular basis.

Look, I believe employers have the right to set whatever requirements they want for hiring. It’s their business and their right. If that’s the path they want to take, though, they can’t claim a position of authority to condemn those who do not live up to such unrealistic demands. Not everyone is Superman (errr and Superwoman) but there’s a lot of Clark Kent types out there who are honest, ethical and hard working. How about giving them a chance to at least make sure customers have a clean plate to eat off of, and worry about the shelves and counters some other time?

Thanks for reading!

David.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

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A megaphone in a yellow icon symbolizing hype; changed due to image standardization. Source: Wikicommons library

I come across a lot of these during my job search. It’s not surprising I get these often since the algorithms for determining valid Email addresses are approaching Skynet proficiency:


SUBJECT: Job opening.

FROM: HR MANAGER (email omitted)

Hello,

Looking for a job? We have an opening for a Coordinator in your area.

Salary: up to 50$/hour

RESPONSIBILITIES

– Support customers;

– Manage payments;

– Organization of fiscal documents.

QUALIFICATIONS

– Excellent computer skills and proficient in excel, word, outlook, and access;

– Excellent communication skills both verbal and written;

– Excellent interpersonal skills and a collaborative management style;

– Ability to look at situations from several points of view.

We have a trial period, so you can decide if this job is a good fit for you or not.

APPLY NOW: (Email omitted)

Regards,

(contact details omitted)


I spotted several suspicious points in the Email:

#1: The wage is shown in the offer. Even with an out-of-the-blue job offer like this, it’s bad form to mention details about the wage or salary.

#2: The wage is $50/hour. For a coordinator position.

Assuming the following is true at the time of writing this post:

  1. The rate is  in US dollars.
  2. My last full time job was in I.T. and I earned $60,000 a year (Canadian dollars) including overtime for project work. One Canadian dollar is worth $0.76 US which means my annual salary was $45,600 US.
  3. Because that job gave me paid holidays, and using the website convertunits.com to convert from an annual salary to an hourly rate, I earned an equivalant of $21.84/hour. US. Yes, I got benefits but that does not change the formula that much since it was only 80% coverage and the most I used my benefits for was for dental work.

this would mean I would earn double the hourly rate I used to get, for less work. Either my last employer paid me poorly (which is debateable), or this hourly wage in the offer is bogus (which is extremely likely if not an exaggeration).

There’s also that “up to” part that implies it can be variable. You know, like a sales commission would be variable.

#3: Word, Excel, and Access are not capitalized. That is a big red flag for me. Most individuals I know would capitalize, and it’s a stunning lack of business professionalism if a company referred to Excel as  “excel”: the former is a product name and the latter is a verb.

#4: Job description is very vague. Support customers doing what? Answering customer service inquiries? Handling complaints? Being a strong shoulder to support them while they are putting on their shoes?

#5: The name of the company is very close to that of a very well known financial firm. Yes, I did omit the name but trust me, it’s very close.

#6: The offer states that there is a trial period to see if the job is a good fit for me. A trial period in itself is not suspicious. New hires always go through a trial period but it’s at the employer’s benefit, not the employee’s. To let the employee decide if it is a fit implies it might be a job the person will neither benefit nor enjoy doing.

#7: The opening is supposed to be in my area (which could be either Toronto or Kitchener) yet the head office is in INDIA with no mention of branch office addresses anywhere else. Just a telephone number.

This sounds like a gig where you run your own business using your own personal space and resources.

Sorry, not interested.

Thanks for reading!

David.