Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Verizon Factor, May Job Numbers & Toxic Donald

My local ACME in Hamilton, NJ
I'm feeling relieved this Friday night after a close call earlier this afternoon when I dropped my work cell phone while food shopping at my local ACME.

I was zipping through the aisles at a pretty quick pace as my plan was to grab a few essentials for the weekend since I have to work Saturday, and it looks like this Sunday is going to be a stormy washout weather-wise, so I probably won't want to go anywhere.

So I get back in the car with my groceries ready to run to the gym when a moment of panic overtook me.

I realized I didn't have my work cell phone; out of habit I always keep both of my cell phones in the exact same place at home, work or in the car so I know where to find them - so I knew I'd lost it.

I ran back into the store and carefully retraced my steps; no dice. I always use the self-checkout line and there's a pretty sharp kid who mans the self-checkout stations, so I gave him my business card and asked him to ring me if he found the phone.

Now it's less about the actual cell phone itself than all the data I have stored in it. I've carefully saved numbers and emails of the apartment tenants, township inspectors and vendors I deal with on a daily basis as an apartment leasing agent.

Plus I've got dozens of "Do Not Answer" numbers in my "DNA" file from the dozens of unsolicited sales and data-collection calls I get at work each day that I habitually screen - they keep calling, I keep screening, it's a thing we do like Road Runner and Wile Coyote in a never-ending cycle of chase-but-never-catch.

This time of year my work cell phone is indispensable during the busy rental season; when it's really busy and  I'm doing five things at once and two people are waiting in the office, it's critical to know who's calling at all times in order to prioritize.

Verizon workers during the recent 44-day strike
So I drove home, put the groceries away, got my personal cell phone and called Verizon customer service and after spending three minutes negotiating a touch-tone automatic menu, I finally got a nice woman on the line and I explained my problem and asked if they could possibly help me track the phone.

She puts me on hold for about three minutes then gets back on and suggests I access the Android Phone Manager through Google.

My work cell is a Galaxy S-4 that uses an Android operating system, so I could have done that myself, but, call me crazy, I figured a technology behemoth like Verizon would be able to walk me through a standard procedure for a lost cell phone, right?

No such luck. Seriously, I think she actually Googled my question while I was on hold. Now as some of you know I am a pro-labor guy, so I supported the striking Verizon workers during their six-week strike over job security and compensation; and it paid off as they did get significant concessions from Verizon.

The customer rep I spoke with was very nice as I said, but she seemed a bit befuddled by a relatively simple issue - so I'm guessing she was possibly a replacement worker handling a different job as a result of the strike; or she just wasn't part of the Verizon customer service "A-team" as a result of said-strike.

Over the past few weeks I've spoken with other tenants who've dealt with similar delays when dealing with Verizon; loosing the phone was my responsibility obviously, but today was my first experience dealing with Verizon customer service and I wasn't impressed.

The President discusses the April job report on May 6th
As you likely heard today, the Verizon strike also impacted the broader U.S. economy too as the sluggish May job numbers report released by the Department of Labor was a mixed bag that contributed to a lackluster end to the week for Wall Street.

As a CNN Money article reported, while the "official" unemployment rate dipped to 4.7%, the lowest it's been in nine years, the economy only created 38,000 new jobs.

And as multiple experts reported, those numbers reflect large numbers of people dropping out of active job searching.

Wages did grow 2.5% in May and that's good news for American workers, but relatively speaking that increase is a drop in the overall bucket as wages for most working and middle class folks have been stagnant for decades.

Speculators were quick to caution that the Fed may balk at raising interest rates, but the May job numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt as those lackluster numbers were also a reflection of the fact that those 36,000 striking Verizon workers were out of work for six weeks.

The creation of 38,000 new jobs was treated like something of a bummer today by mainstream media, but remember the last few months of George W. Bush's presidency when the economy was bleeding over 200,000 jobs a month?

I do, a gain of 38,000 jobs would have been a Godsend back then, so take Friday's news in stride.

I've seen a lot of 'Help Wanted' signs around, and yesterday at my local bar I was talking with my friend Jeff who works for Bristol Myers-Squibb here in New Jersey, he'd just come a farewell party for a co-worker who took an offer from another pharmaceutical company.

He told me his department has lost a few people in the past couple months to other bio-tech, computer or other pharmaceutical companies that actively recruited them.

Those are signs of a healthy economy.

According to a recent article in the Burlington Free Press, the state of Vermont has gained 4,000 new jobs this year and the unemployment rate statewide is at 3.2 % - the lowest since May 2001.

Now I'm no economist, but June job numbers should pick up with the expected increases in hiring in construction that come with warmer weather and longer days, and various jobs related to retail summer hiring around the nation should pick up too.

And of course those 36,000 Verizon workers should be back on the job too - so maybe the next time I call Verizon customer service, I'll get someone a little more knowledgeable on the phone.

The good thing is I called ACME an hour later and they found my work cell phone, which I'm looking at now with a mixture of fond affection and profound relief as I type these words.

Working on a busy summer Saturday is tough enough, but having my work cell phone will make it go a lot smoother - so kudos to the employees of the ACME on route 33 in Hamilton, New Jersey.

The GOP convention might not be so rockin'
Speaking of kudos to large corporations, technology giants HP, Inc. and Microsoft are just two of the companies to announce that they will not be giving any sponsorship dollars to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year due in large part to concerns over associating their brands with the overt racism, misogyny and divisive xenophobia of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump may have sealed the Republican nomination for 2016, but a growing list of companies and organizations with national reputations have made moves to disassociate their brands with The Donald's hate-mongering; Coca-Cola also announced they would be cutting their sponsorship of the RNC event to a relatively low $75,000.

The activist group Color of Change is credited with an ongoing petition campaign to pressure companies like HP, Google, Xerox, CISCO, AT&T and Adobe to pull their financial sponsorship from the RNC event where Trump will most likely be crowned as the Republican presidential candidate.

It's not just companies scared of the toxic affect Trump might have on the perception of their products and services who are distancing themselves from him (as Joe Pesci's character remarked in Martin Scorcese's film 'Casino', "Always the dollars, always the dollars...").

As David Graham reported in an article in The Atlantic, Republican establishment figures like the Bush family and Mitt Romney have made clear they won't be supporting Trump's candidacy in the fall.

But a politically-odd mixture of both mainstream conservatives (Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Paul Ryan) and more right-wing extremist has-beens (Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal) will be reluctantly backing The Donald this fall - even if they hold their noses while they do it.

As the New York Times reported Thursday, there a number of Republican Senators facing re-election campaigns who are finding an array of excuses to not attend the coronation of Donald Trump in Cleveland so as to avoid being seen supporting him - Hell, Ohio's Republican Governor John Kasich has indicated he may not even go - and the convention is in his own state.

Matt Taibbi
Anyway if you happen to find yourself stuck indoors this weekend with some time to read, do yourself a favor and check out Matt Taibbi's latest piece in Rolling Stone, entitled 'R.I.P. GOP', in which he lays out how Trump is killing the Republican party.

He eloquently eviscerates Republicans themselves for setting the stage for Trump's ascendency to the GOP candidacy for 2016 by turning the party into a political organization designed to serve the needs of billionaire corporatistas who fanned the flames of fictional issues ('American Exceptionalism'??) to rile up conservative voters into electing politicians who, in Taibbi's words:

"...went off to Washington and year after year did absolutely squat for their constituents. They were excellent at securing corporate tax holidays and tax cuts for the rich, but they almost never returned to voter country with jobs in hand. Instead, they brought an ever-increasing list of villains responsible for the lack of work: communists, bra-burning feminists, black "race hustlers", climate-change activists, Muslims, Hollywood, horned owls..."

The toxic Trump chicken has indeed come home to roost for the Republican party, and they've only got themselves to blame.

Anyway, click the link above and read the Taibbi piece when you can, it's late and I've got to be up early Saturday for work, but I will go to bed thankful for having found my work cell phone, and for not having a degree from Trump University on my wall.

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