• Grab bag

    It’s been a long time since I listened to music at work for a steady length of time. At my last office jobs – 20 years ago – I’d pop one CD after another into my PC and bang on my keyboard like a data-entry demon. Three years into this job, I feel established enough to revisit the habit. The lists below represent two and a half hours of shuffle play. As an Apple Music subscriber, I’ve been rebuilding out my library. Some of these are deeply personal; the algorithm seems to get it. This is a very “me” set list.

    • Belly, “Starryeyed”
    • Once A Pawn, “Subtle”
    • Autolux, “Turnstile Blues”
    • UUVVWWZ, “Neolaño”
    • Lucy Dacus, “Green Eyes, Red Face”
    • Lucy Dacus, “Home Again”
    • Mercy Rule, “Sky”
    • See Through Dresses, “Johnny”
    • Beyoncé, “DAUGHTER”
    • Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Salmon Stinta”
    • Hand Habits, “No Difference”
    • Hand Habits, “are you serious?”
    • Better Oblivion Community Center, “Forest Lawn”
    • UUVVWWZ, “No Apart”
    • Lucy Dacus, “Thumbs”
    • Belly, “Untitled and Unsung”
    • RM, “seoul” (produced by HONNE)
    • Julien Baker, “Shadowboxing”
    • Hand Habits, “Just to Hear You” (featuring Perfume Genius)
    • Lala Lala and Finom, “Photo Photo”
    • Kill County, “All That Remains”
    • Adrianne Lenker, “Candleflame”
    • Big Thief, “Magic Dealer”
    • The Mynabirds, “Disarm”
    • Big Thief, “Contact”
    • Mercy Rule, “Rules”
    • The Mynabirds, “Karma Debt”
    • Belly, “Stars Align”
    • Mon Laferte, “Autopoética”
    • CLOSENESS, “Personality Therapy”
    • Linda Martell, “Old Letter Song” (Remastered 2022)
    • Lucy Dacus, “Strange Torpedo”
    • Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Treeline”
    • Mon Laferte, “Levítico 20:9”
    • Black Belt Eagle Scout, “My Blood Runs Through This Land”
    • boygenius, “Cool About It”
    • Saving Fiona, “Think Fast” (Must-see student project video at the link.)

  • Lobby hobby

    Yesterday and today, I attended the Nebraska State AFL-CIO annual legislative conference as a delegate from my union. Representatives from several unions were in attendance, and the diversity of policy concerns was staggering. In the current political moment, this was to be expected – even so, there was a lot to absorb.

    On Tuesday we met at the local firefighters’ hall, where my own union holds its monthly area meetings. It’s a sweet venue that I’ll forever associate with free pizza and other craft service. A parade of speakers made presentations on union concerns, industry trends, technological developments, and downstream effects on labor and workers.

    Today was oriented towards a little light lobbying; breakfast, a few morning speakers (all state senators this time), the delegation being recognized by the Unicameral in the legislative chamber, then meeting with lawmakers to discuss policy or, more generally, show union colors and try to get a read on [un]friendly stances towards labor.

    My own senator is on our side, so I stood back while board members from my union felt out those legislators who might be less supportive of our goals, or openly hostile towards labor concerns. I chatted with a few other senators’ staff members, and ultimately a good time was had by all. (One energetically labor-friendly lawmaker called this conference his “favorite day of the year.” It was easy to see that he meant it.)

    I completely burned myself out socially; a good night’s hard sleep will be splendid. I’m sure more thoughts about this conference – and coming ones – will spool out over the coming weeks. It’s possible I’ll have more to say about this or that. Meanwhile, please enjoy a picture of the dragonfly mosaic from our state capitol rotunda.

  • Bargaining, not begging

    Remote work is not a new thing. It certainly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, during which remote work became a topic of consideration at the national level, and the job industry as a whole was rightly shaken into its widespread adoption for the sake of public health, bottom lines, the economy, society as a whole – take your pick.

    I began government work in November 2020. For years before then, the state had remote work policies and agreements in place to allow for hybrid office schedules or 100% remote work. Each department was given latitude to establish its own policy, and my impression is that there was little standardization or uniform application of these policies across divisions. Nebraska law only dictates that each administrative department to be “open for the transaction of business” from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m on Monday through Friday; it does not define specific conditions for meeting the requirement. During my six-month probationary period, while I was ineligible for remote work, I reported daily to our ghost town of a central office.

    At this point I should mention that remote work is not addressed in the labor contract covering an overwhelming majority of state employees. Normally this would make it a subject of mandatory bargaining between the employees’ union and the state.

    A couple weeks before Thanksgiving last year, the governor issued an executive order to compel state employees – excuse me, public servants – to return to the office and, with some precise exceptions, keep a schedule of Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The order is rooted, in part, in the legislative requirement for open hours.

    And then there was this:

    WHEREAS, The COVID-19 pandemic is over, and the people of Nebraska expect their elected leaders to restore Nebraska’s public servant workforce to the posture it was in prior to the pandemic.

    Executive Order No. 23-17
    Bringing Nebraska’s Public Servant Workforce Back to the Office

    It’s obvious bullshit meant to undermine one of the main reasons for expanding remote work capabilities (which the state did, as quickly as only government can, from 2021–2023). Anyway, you’ll have your own thoughts about the pandemic. Meanwhile, the governor had set a hard date for returning to the office.

    In December, after the state denied its demands for immediate bargaining, the labor union took legal action before the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR): a prohibited practice petition to address the executive order, and a motion for temporary relief to halt implementation of the order until the question of bargaining was settled.

    On the last business day of 2023, the CIR sided with the union and granted its motion for temporary relief, thereby halting the executive order.

    On the first business day of 2024, individual state agencies moved to revoke existing remote work agreements under a policy doctrine of “at any time, for any reason, with or without cause,” ordering employees to return to the office by mid-January.

    One person invoked their “individual authority as head of the department.” This would fly under normal circumstances, because the remote work policies and agreements are written to be entirely at the discretion of departmental leadership. But because this amounted to a direct violation of the CIR order, the union filed suit in District Court; the state responded by pleading ignorance of some specifics in the CIR order. (My thought: multiple variations on shit flinging, to see what might stick.)

    A clarification from the Commission said that yes, the halt order includes application of remote work policies, meaning the status of agreements must remain unchanged from what they were prior to the executive order. People must be allowed to continue working their still-existing hybrid or 100% remote schedules.

    The state has given an impression of relaxing its return-to-office demands until the original prohibited practice petition is heard. But the union went forward with its request for the District Court to hold the state in contempt for violating the CIR order. Closing briefs were due by January 26. A ruling is expected “shortly thereafter.”

    I just wanted to get a concise – no, really – timeline down to organize my thoughts. Maybe we’ll have Popcorn Day at the office every day until the ruling comes down.

    P.S. — All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.