Pat Wood finds himself in a bizarre position: as of the last negotiation, Pat is being forced to argue against his very own principles, having to stand up against himself at the negotiation table, Pat must argue that what the lawyers tell him matters more than what he himself believes.

Let's examine: for the entirety of the negotiation process, the callers have been asking for just cause language to be a cornerstone of the contract. It doesn't seem like an unreasonable thing to ask, the demand being that callers will only be disciplined or discharged if there is just and sufficient reason. For months, Pat's argument against such language has been that it is unnecessary because the Fund is committed to applying all policies in a fair and consistent manner across the board. While the historical record does much to show that the Fund has not, in fact, always applied policies fairly and consistently, so long as the core philosophy is to apply policy in a fair and consistent manner violations of that principle should be noted and corrected.

Given the historical record, a mere verbal assurance that the Fund is committed to fair and consistent application of policy is only worth so much, and so, as part of what the callers believed to be a rather risky attempt at compromise, we offered to put Pat's own words in the contract in place of the just cause language. From our perspective, this was a big reach: just cause has a rich history of legal precedent, and is standardized, boilerplate language for union contracts. However, in the hopes of resolving many of the issues that have been so difficult to come to a middle ground on, we figured that if nothing else, Pat would be unable to refuse to put his own oft-repeated mantra into the contract, especially if it meant that the drawn out fight on just cause, to say nothing of the battle on ultimatum and a grievance procedure, would come to an end.

Alas, Pat made the mistake of talking to the Fund's lawyers before accepting the deal. They informed him that the Fund believes that 'fair and consistent' is legally equivalent to just cause, despite the lack of legal precedent. Pat dutifully informed us that this equivalence means that the Fund must politely refuse our offer, as they demand whole heartily that the T.O.P. remain an at-will employer.

It's right about here that the cognitive dissonance in Pat Woods' brain reached a buzz that could be heard outside the negotiating room: Pat believes that the Fund is fair and consistent, and so does not need to agree to just cause. Pat believes that being fair and consistent is right and good and is what the Fund should do, even if it has slipped up in the past. The lawyers tell pat that fair and consistent is the same thing as just cause, and is therefore anathema to the principles of the Fund and can in no way be inserted into the contract. So if Pat believes in fairness and consistency, then Pat believes in just cause, but Pat must do what the lawyers tell him, so he must tell us that his position is to hold the line against fairness and consistency, the very principles that Pat had been using to argue against just cause. But if fairness and consistency is the same thing as just cause, then Pat was arguing that he believes that the Fund should operate by the principles of just cause and that they've always meant to.

Will his brain explode? Will he stand up for what he believes in and take a stand against the lawyers? Does Pat secretly dream of joining the caller's union? Only time will tell, but one thing is clear, if Pat can't stand up for his own principles, then the national director of the T.O.P. has no more say in how things operate than anyone below him, he is a hollow corporate drone operated by lawyers hidden away in an undisclosed location. How he sleeps at night is anybody's question.

I work for the Fund for the Public Interest’s Telephone Outreach Project. I sit on the phone all day. We had chairs that were ergonomic and filthy. They were ergonomic though. My then boss, made a big deal about how our office equipment was going to be updated.  He said that we would be sitting at brand new folding tables instead of the sloping old folding tables. Of course we could expect to be sitting in front of the vintage monochrome CRT monitors that we had decorated with marker and paint and collages. The fund wouldn’t spring for energy efficient monitors. Then we could at least adjust them. We sometimes use it as a matter of fact when we are calling people for funding.  Chelsea used to joke “there is a hole in my chair because I care”.   We found ourselves stunned when we saw the new space, in the basement of an office building. Just a little stunned because the walls are grey and our monitors were scrubbed clean. There are no windows. There is literally no room behind me where I sit. I can still see the look on the director’s face, as he tells us about the great new chairs. It was clear that would be no doodling on the monitors, the room was to stay “clean”, clean and pretty, more professional. The chairs are chrome and they don’t swivel, adjust or roll. The only thing you can do with the chair is push it in or pull it out.  Everyone sits at the same level, whether you are 6 feet tall or 5 feet tall. They are metal frames with molded Masonite for the seat and back rest. Everyone sits on the same stiff contour whether they are bony, round or toned. It has been suggested that sciatica, lower back pain and shoulder pain result from these chairs. I hate my chair. Hate it. I can bring a pillow to sit on but I am already too high for my work station. I cannot look at my screen without slumping over.  I can get a note from a physician and bring in my own chair, or use one of the ergonomic ones in the office. We were told the chairs were selected in lieu of roller chairs because they didn’t want to ruin the carpet. Which isn’t very nice to begin with and there have clearly been roller chairs in the past on that carpet. One can see the tracks left by the past tenants. The way we are packed into that space I assume it has little to do with the carpet and more to do with the square footage of the office. It would be so easy to be hemmed in if there was a fire in the office. There is one way in and it is very hard to walk in the office when it is full.  The worst part of the whole issue is that our directors think it is ok to sit in non-ergonomic “conference” style chairs for hours at a time. The lack of care for our wellbeing is the worst part. It is a non-issue to them.