American author James A. Michener once claimed: “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” Of course, Mr. Michener was more than a good writer, having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
This idea of writer as rewriter is something many journalists have contemplated in their careers as they write and tell other people’s stories.
Columnists too, I suspect.
But sometimes, inspiration can be in short supply. Or just as often the problem can be an abundance of matters vying for attention: news, politics, bad public policy decisions, injustice.
In times like these, I have discovered a solution. Ask your Facebook friends.
As I have found more than once, social media friends are full of wonderful ideas, opinions and thought-provoking analysis.
They are cheeky, funny, engaged and smart.
They have a love-hate relationship with politics.
To all those social media friends who helped write this column this week, thanks for sharing your thoughts, opinions and irreverent musings. Mostly thanks for the conversation. Here’s the rewrite.
Employment insurance, political appointments, de-funding advocacy, eroding collective rights and finding the silver lining were just some of the topics included in the social media conversation.
The Harper government’s Budget 2012 changes to employment insurance, which came into effective in January, have people confused and fearful.
Designed to force people into low-paid jobs, to commute long distances any time of the day or night to a job that doesn’t have to match one’s skills had many pointing out the flaws of such a plan.
Policies like this one will have a downward pressure on the wages of all working people as well as productivity. (Yes, I have a few labour market experts as friends.)
The so-called EI reforms ignore the realities of the country’s diverse labour market and economy and will hurt businesses with non-
standard operating years, cutting into their local labour supply. (This was my two cents.)
Some friends raised the issue
of the growing attack on collective rights by Conservative politicians, including the federal Conservatives and Ontario’s Tim Hudak.
They point out that the weakening of workers’ collective rights will erode many of the gains made by unions for all working people as well as make it that much tougher to push for new gains. Many improvements won at the collective bargaining table have raised the bar for all workers.
Unions have been, and continue to be, extremely important in fighting for a social safety net and enhanced rights, and for things like employment insurance, public pensions, minimum workplace rights, equal pay, same-sex benefits and health and safety laws.
Mr. Hudak is proposing a “work-for-less” law similar to those in place in some U.S. states where workers can opt out of paying union dues, even though they benefit from the union’s collective bargaining. It’s a law that will condone freeloading, but is ultimately designed to weaken unions, depress wages, erode working conditions and quell dissent.
The appointment of yet another older and privileged man to the position of lieutenant-governor for the province raised the dander of some friends.
A federal government that is coming down hard on the unemployed while the elite continue to receive plum appointments was a little too rich for some friends to swallow.
The case of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy — who has been accused of abusing the privileges attached to one of those plum jobs, while Conservative politicians vilify the unemployed for being “bad guys” — was not lost in the social media conservation.
Senator Duffy is claiming a housing allowance for Ottawa, but in order to qualify for that he must prove that he is a resident of Prince Edward Island, the province he represents in the Senate.
According to news reports this week, Senator Duffy was not on that province’s voter’s list and not considered a resident based on the rules for property owners.
Yet, he listed Cavendish, P.E.I as his primary residence, claiming over $42,000 since September 2010 in expenses for living in the Ottawa region.
At the same time, the minister responsible for employment insurance, Diane Finley, spent last week demonizing the unemployed and ordering Service Canada employees to meet fraud penalty quotas, whether there is fraud or not.
One Facebook friend raised the loss of provincial funding to a long-established organization that advocates for people with disabilities and how this fits, or doesn’t fit, with the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s inclusion strategy. A contradiction, one might conclude.
Still in the midst of the bad news, there was, as one friend pointed out, a spot of justice.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board dismissed a complaint by the St. John’s Airport Authority accusing the union representing striking workers of failure to bargain in good faith.
The board, in a decision that read like a first-year university lesson in labour relations, told the employer and their lawyer (something they should have clearly understood) that there is a big difference between a failure to bargain in good faith and “hard bargaining.”
The decision noted that the duty to bargain in good faith does not “require one party to agree to every demand made by the other. … While the parties are clearly engaged in hard bargaining there is no evidence that the union is not bargaining in good faith.”
And in the middle of a discussion about double-dipping and what many see as a system that continues to reward political buddies, a newly married Facebook friend had this to say: “Anything happen that made you happy? Sometimes everyone gets used to us firing out the negative stuff, but could there be a silver lining anywhere?”
Silver linings? I am thinking social media conversations with friends who have glorious, critical and bold points of view.
And there you have it: the
news from my Facebook friends. Rewritten.
Lana Payne is president of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her column returns Feb. 23.