A New Chapter for St Joe’s

(Factoids of the week: The busiest airport on the  planet is no longer O’Hare, it’s DUBAI.  And those cute little “baby carrots” at the market are actually big honkin’ carrots that have been carved by machinery down to their cute little “baby” shapes. )

But there’s also good news. More than 200 service employees  of St Joseph Hospital will now be represented by a union, the National Union of Health Care Workers. For the region’s flagship care provider, this is an excellent opportunity to retool their personnel policies. Of course, now they’ll have help.

Everyone who has had dealings with St Joe’s, and that includes most of us, has noticed how superior the staff is to the structure under which they must work. The staff, especially the nurses, are fabulous,  the hierarchy, not so much. An increased union presence is the best thing that could happen to St Joe’s.  Employees who can bargain collectively without having to beg management for each incremental improvement will, after the dust settles, be better able to provide excellent care. When management is forced to pay more, the  usual approach is to empower the employees and streamline procedures. Everybody wins.

Some of you who don’t know me may wonder how a person who is pro-business can also be pro-labor. Believe me, it’s easy. During my years at the NLRB I saw time and again the benefits of unionization. The employees can speak up without fear of retaliation and management gets to deal with a single Union rep instead of hundreds of disgruntled employees. It’s a win-win. There are many people in the County who are fearful and ignorant of unions since the demise of Big Lumber. With the nurses’ victory in 2001 plus this new bargaining unit, and the growing national revulsion toward minimum-wage jobs that do not provide a living, perhaps the tide is starting to turn.  We can only hope.

 

USPS and CCCU- last update, hopefully

Those who waded through the saga described in my last post will recall that 1) I was advised by CCCU to close my checking account because I lost some checks  2) I opened a new account but after a month the new checks hadn’t come 3) CCCU contacted the Deluxe (check) company and was told that the checks must have been lost in the mail 4) CCCU closed THAT checking account and opened a new one for me and 5) I had to contact all 14 of the utilities, credit cards etc that I have payments deducted for to advise them that the payments would now come from a THIRD checking account.

I imagine you can guess what happened next. The day after I finished all the letters, calls and visits changing the account number for the second time (North Valley Bank insisted on an original letter) , the checks showed up for the second  account, now closed. According to the package, the checks were mailed from Lancaster, CA on March 13. It took FIVE WEEKS AND ONE DAY  for a small package to arrive here from Lancaster.  In the meantime I had tried to research the lost-mail stats fro the USPS and found- not surprisingly- that there are no clear figures. The consensus seems to be that the loss rate is between 2% and 5% for the USPS and a QUICK survey of what’s available on the loss rate of UPS and Fed Ex seems to indicate that customer satisfaction is far higher with UPS than with Fed Ex but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  A graph published by Fed Ex gives their loss rate as .55% for what that’s worth. 

I was curious to know how long it would take me to hear from CCCU since the very helpful and talented staff there are skilled at calming customers and I really wanted someone from management to give Deluxe a reality check on their delivery times.  This morning a nice person named Jolene (“like the Dolly Parton song”) called and we agreed that if this NEXT order of checks doesn’t get here in two weeks, I should call her and she will call Deluxe. I’ll settle for that. I will also mention that the envelope in which Deluxe mails its checks ( with the box flattened but you’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that the “Important Documents Enclosed” are checks) in a plastic envelope that says “tamper-proof” but which can easily be cut open so should really read ‘tamper-evident”.

I hope this is the end of it.  

I will add just  one thing more. Of all the entities I have had to deal with during this mess, the EASIEST one was Suddenlink, the WORST one was PG&E. Happy Spring!

Is This Good Customer Service? You Be The Judge.

I have had most of my money in Coast Central Credit Union since I moved back here in ’93. At one time I had my mortgage with them too. Mostly they have been okay, okay enough that I stayed with them.  Today I am madder than the proverbial wet hen, and here’s why.

Over the weekend of March 8 I lost my checkbook. I rarely write checks and believe me I won’t be carrying that checkbook again without a specific purpose but in any event , it turned up missing and you know what happens when you report that to a bank. They tell you: Close the account so the villains out there can’t use your checks. We did so and I obediently opened a new account with Coast Central and they gave me a few checks to use until I got the new box. Meanwhile I had to notify EVERY ONE of the 14 parties I had authorized to take payments/debits about the new account number. I called or visited North Valley Bank, HCSD, PG&E, Suddenlink, State Farm, PayPal, three credit cards, Recology etc etc etc. It took a week.

Then I waited for my new checks. I had to go to CCCU and have some checks printed up  so I could pay Fullerton’s for my tax return. As of yesterday,  I was waiting a month for the new checks that were promised in two weeks. Finally I went over there and pressed the issue. The nice lady in New Accounts called the check company who told her the checks were LOST IN THE MAIL.  Who the hell mails blank checks through the USPS? Well, Coast Central does.  And it’s your tough luck if they don’t make it.  The nice lady was sympathetic but I HAD TO OPEN A THIRD CHECKING ACCOUNT, and I am in the middle of the second round of notifications to PG& E etc etc.  In an effort to stave off further disaster I told them to hold the checks at the CU and I would come pick them up. Again it seems to fall to me to be proactive.   

Why can’t they shave a few cents off Dean Christensen’s million-dollar salary and FED EX the checks? Boom! NO more “lost in the mail”.  I’ve really been thinking about Coast Central and how it really has been getting a free ride by  by being active in the community, as they shoud be.  Makes me think I should drop in on a board meeting or start a user’s group or something. Anybody with me?  

Jerry’s on Top; Padilla coming to town.

Jerry Brown’s job approval rating has climbed to a new high for his third term in the Governor’s office. (Some of you may not have been born yet during his first two terms.) The Field Poll dated April 9 shows 59 % of registered voters approve of his job perfomance. Of likely voters, Field showed 57% planning to vote for Brown, 17% for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, 3% for Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, and 2% for businessman Neil Kashkari. Looks like Jerry’s got a lock.

If anybody can be said to have benefitted from the disgraceful antics of about-to-be-ex-Sen. Leland Yee, it would be his competition for the Secretary of State position (Leland was planning to run). Sen. Alex Padilla is currently the front-runner.The Field poll has a good analysis of that race here. And if you want to meet the Sen. Padilla up close and personal, the Humboldt Democrats are holding a meet ‘n’ greet with refreshments (RESERVATIONS REQUIRED) on Wednesday, April 16 at noon at the Labor Temple, 840 E Street, Eureka. Make your reservations at the HCDCC website by clicking on the “Meet N’ Greet” poster.  This may well fill up, so don’t delay. Maybe some of Alex’ good luck will rub off on you.

Have a great weekend! 

 

Newest Economic Index Shows Leap in Manufacturing

Dr. Eschker and his hardworking crew at HSU have added another dimension to their Humboldt Economic Index; a specific tracking of the manufacturing sector.  That sector, which will likely generate the sought-after high-paying jobs so badly needed to stabilize our Humboldt economy, increased its index by over 30% in the past year. This is huge and shows a very positive development even though not associated with an increase in employment. Enjoy the Index here and many thanks to those who worked  on it and the sponsors.

Have You Been Yelped?

Everybody loves Yelp, right? Yet there has been negative press about the San Francisco -based company and its methods. On April 3, the LA Times carried a piece by David Lazarus headlined “Yelp’s tactics feel “nefarious” and “fishy” , even if they’re legal.”

How did things get this bad? The theory has been put forth that because Yelp was founded in 2004 and has yet to make a profit, the stockholders are restive and the pressure is on to squeeze very possible dollar out of the company. An Alhambra jeweler who cancelled his Yelp ad reported that the Yelp salesperson advised him that now his competitors’ ads would appear alongside his  but that for $75 per month “she could make those ads go away”.

Along with extortion over ad placement Yelp has also been accused of demanding payment to remove malicious reviews and being less than cooperative in addressing false claims. You can get a basic Yelp listing for $75 a month but you have no say in what is posted next to your ad. Could be your competitor. If you want to banish the competitor from view, you’re looking at $300 a month in the major markets. It was San Francisco attorney Antone Johnson who described Yelp’s conduct as being  nefarious etc. “It doesn’t pass the smell test, ” he says “But I don’t see a statute that they’re actually violating.”

Yelp has been hauled into court for its practices but so far the courts have held that Yelp is shielded by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects a website’s right to determine its own content. Sounds like a noble aim  but it’s doubtful that protecting practices like Yelp’s was what the enactors intended. 

I have been told by a couple of local merchants that Yelp is playing the same game up here. Have any of you done business with them? We’d love to hear your story.

(Note: I could not secure a link to the Lazarus story, nor, apparently could the Sac Bee.  It’s in the April 3 LA Times.)

“The Best of the North Coast” Redux

It’s that time of year again.  I just now noticed that the Times-Standard always posts it’s “Best” list on April Fool’s Day. Good move.

This year’s list didn’t have any major gaffes like last years (darn) which proclaimed the STILL unfinished Holiday Inn on Broadway in Eureka as one of the winners.  There were a few surprises. Porter Street BBQ won over Humboldt Smoke House, which surprised me, and I thought the Banana Hut was an excellent choice for Best Business Lunch- good food and you can walk to it from anywhere downtown. I don’t agree that Ramone’s is the best bakery although they’re certainly among the most expensive. I’m a Cherry Blossom fan, myself.

Hole-in-the-Wall, the Hunan in Henderson Center, Brick & Fire, and Bob’s Footlong’s (Fortuna) all got their props. Happy Donuts, next to the new VA office, won for Best Donuts, but they really should have won for “Best Cheap Lunch”.  They have a platter with three spring rolls with dipping sauce for $4.99 and if you don’t like cilantro you can call the night before and they’ll make you a cilantro-less version and set it aside for you. The donuts are pretty good, too.

I DO find it hard to believe that Shamus T Bone’s steaks beat out the AA’s. That will bear investigating.

But the prize for “Most Ironic” choice is The Works as favorite source for CD’s/Records/Tapes.  The beloved store has lost much of its business since the move to larger quarters on “C” Street and is in a precarious situation. So go down there and BUY something if you want your favorite to survive. Support ALL our local  businesses with your wallets, not just your admiration. Admiration don’t pay the bills.

No foolin’. 

The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”