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Are local unions stifling volunteer efforts for the city and Lodi Unified?

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Posted: Sunday, May 3, 2009 10:00 pm

Volunteering is a wonderful thing. When done right, it is a win-win for all involved.

The volunteers feel good about what they have done and those receiving the help receive the benefit. When done wrong, one or both parties leave feeling that it could have been better. This is a story about a bit of win-win, and bit of could have and should have been better.

A little over a week ago I participated in a Comcast Cares Day event at George Washington School here in Lodi. If you know anything about George Washington, it is an older school in town but not the oldest. It is like most schools in Lodi in that it needs some TLC. So, when this event was announced, my son, who attends Washington, asked if we could help and I was happy to do so.

The Comcast Cares Day is a day when Comcast employees, their families and other volunteers work to make something in the community better. On this day, there were only two schools in San Joaquin County selected, so George Washington was lucky.

For George Washington there were probably 200 people. Comcast brought paint, painting supplies, plants, trees, ground cover, tools, food and drinks.

The day started with a "thank you" here and a proclamation there by people who didn't even dip a paintbrush, but that was to be expected. After those niceties were done, it was time to get to work. We were split into three groups - cleaning, painting and gardening. Nothing too extreme, but all very helpful. I went with the painting group.

As part of the painting group, our projects were to paint handrails, update a mural in the cafeteria and put yellow paint on poles around campus. That's it. No striping for parking and no walls in or out except for the mural. Easy stuff right? Well, not so fast, my friends.

We were not long into the work before another work group had to be formed - one to clean paint drips. What? I mean we are talking drips here not spills or dumped cans. Why?

Well, I soon learned from someone with Lodi Unified School District management that the union painters, employed by the LUSD, would not be happy and would probably raise an issue if there were drips. After all, the LUSD does employ painters. As I get it, the union wants to do the painting and if someone else does it then maybe they won't have a job. The key word there is maybe.

What the union doesn't understand is that there is more than enough work in the LUSD for all their painters, gardeners, plumbers and general maintenance workers as well as all the volunteers they can find.

What the union also doesn't understand is that we could have all gone home on that Saturday morning and the painting, cleaning and gardening would not have been done, because the LUSD doesn't have the money to get it done.

You see, there is a gap between what the LUSD can do and what needs to be done, and your unions WILL NOT fill the gap. The volunteers can help fill the gap but your unions won't. How many of the union members were at Washington on that Saturday? If you were there, volunteering your time, let me know and I will use part of this column to thank you.

If you think this is a LUSD problem alone, it isn't. The city of Lodi has the same problem. When groups want to help, it is resisted.

I also believe that this is not a management problem at LUSD or with the city. I lay the blame squarely on the unions and their job-protectionist attitudes. If those unions cared about the LUSD or Lodi, they would embrace the volunteers and work with them to make things better.

I want to end this by thanking Art Hand and Mitch Slater with LUSD for doing what they could to make sure Washington got some help. I especially want to thank Comcast and their employees and their families. If it ever seemed that people didn't want your yellow paint or your help, I am sorry, because we wanted that yellow paint and the blue paint and every drop that came with it.

Thank you for coming to George Washington and helping!

John Johnson, CFA, is a Lodi-based business appraiser. Contact him at john@johnejohnson.com or 369-1451.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 2:39 pm on Wed, May 6, 2009.


    Funny, my husband's LUSD classroom was just recently painted by those union painters, and they didn't clean up their drips. And they seem to paint the easy parts, and left the really bad parts unpainted and not really water sealed.

  • posted at 4:34 pm on Tue, May 5, 2009.


    Hey check this out did a search on unions clean Lodi and look what i found, that wasnt hard at all!http://www.afscme57.org/Local/146/Lodi/LodiCleanUp.html

  • posted at 4:31 pm on Tue, May 5, 2009.


    I remember last year the City of Lodi street crew unions came out on a weekend and cleaned blocks of dirty alley's with their own trucks and tools and not a mention of it in the LNS guess you were busy that day but the mayor Mounce made it. We all know the truth.

  • posted at 9:42 am on Tue, May 5, 2009.


    Just a quick second-hand story about how ridiculous the control is that the UAW holds over the automakers:A manager at a U.S. automaker noticed that quite a few lineworkers were not returning to their positions from breaks. The manager searched the facility for these employees and finally found them all in line next to a boxcar. After further investigation, he discovered that one of the female employees was in the boxcar prostituting herself to her fellow male co-workers.The manager wanted to fire this woman and reprimand the employees who took part, but because of the Union's contract and their challenges, he was ultimately only able to suspend her briefly (less than a week) with pay and could not discipline the other workers.So, she was not working AND she and others were breaking the law while on the job, yet suffered almost no consequences because of the UAW.I'm sure many of their own members were furious over this action and knew it would ultimately have a negative impact on the Union as a whole and reflect poorly on the workers who did work hard.

  • posted at 9:31 am on Tue, May 5, 2009.


    Unions are great in theory and saved lives and livlihoods for millions when the movement began.Now, it is simply a political organization that uses its members and their money for personal objectives. They "brainwash" their members with propaganda and fear (just like a recent presidential administration) to further agendas that don't have the long-term benefit of their members in mind.Just look at the UAW. It was great for its members when it started, but (until a month ago) sought to drain every penny and advantage it could out of the employing company, never once looking at what they could do to keep it financially strong and comnpetitive so its members could have jobs for decades.I would never want to destroy unions, but it is time some common sense was applied to restricting their power for the betterment of their members and our taxpayers.

  • posted at 4:03 am on Tue, May 5, 2009.


    People are always getting their hackles up over no bid contracts by the government. So why do the cash strapped school districts required to hire union labor at union wages? Why cant they just go with a local independent contractor who submits a low bid? I mean, come on now, painting isn't exactly rocket science. Most of us have done it by kindergarten.

  • posted at 4:13 am on Mon, May 4, 2009.


    Just ask the Lodi High Baseball Boosters the problems they had in with things with the District HQ in setting up the new diamond near Lodi Ave. Good job John, your point is well made and I agree 110%.

  • posted at 4:01 am on Mon, May 4, 2009.


    I had a similar problem several years ago when a group of us wanted to volunteer to take care of the baseball fields at one of the parks. We'd be stepping on too many toes.


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