Of course, the headline to this post is a joke. But the recent demonization of school crossing guards by the Press-Republican is no joke.
Recently Plattsburgh’s mayor raised a stink about school crossing guards collecting unemployment during the summer. These guards work in difficult conditions, sometimes dealing with aggressive drivers while trying to keep students safe. They’re out there twenty hours a week, tolerating the cold or the heat, snow or rain, earning a staggering $10 or less an hour.
A turgid Press-Republican asshat weighed in on the issue with an editorial entitled “Unemployment undeserved” [Friday, June 8,2007; page A4]. While acknowledging that the crossing guards are “worth every penny,” the unsigned editorial makes this claim:
“Undoubtedly, somewhere along the line, a smart crossing guard divined a loophole by which the group of individuals could exploit an unsuspecting system.”
My god – the crossing guards are working for Osama bin Laden!
The asshat who wrote the editorial is obviously an upper middle-class boob who has never worked a “real job” for too long. With his present employment, he just plops down in a fat, comfy chair and then slings half-baked verbiage with his computer, safely ensconced in his climate-controlled office. The only crisis he has to face during his workday is how to adjust his cursor’s blink rate.
I’ve worked real jobs, especially as a seasonal laborer for NY State. In the fall I would be laid off. I did collect unemployment during the winter months because that’s how the system worked. I didn’t “divine” a way to cheat the taxpayers. School crossing guards are probably classified as seasonal employees.
The Press-Republican – and, I’m afraid, the mayor – have made a mistake by going after the have-nots. I haven’t seen a crossing guard driving to work in a brand new Cadillac.
I used to live in a low-rent dump when I first moved to Plattsburgh. One of my neighbors was a crossing guard. His apartment was a hole in the wall, just enough room for a bed, a refrigerator and a bathroom with a cramped shower stall.
He was out of work for a while, needing an operation. With his health situation he probably could have collected disability. Instead, when he felt better, he returned to crossing guard duty, riding his banged-up, rusty old bike to work (weather permitting).
If someone like him collects unemployment for three months, that doesn’t bother me.
What bothers me is a small-town newspaper hack demonizing such a man. A man who got paid a lot less for his real service to the community. A man who did more work in twenty hours than some bourgeois twit PR editor does in two weeks.
I’d like to see the lofty PR editor get out of his protective bubble and rub elbows with the common man. Maybe he would realize what a struggle it is for too many people striving to exist on minimum wages.
(Gee, am I demonizing a Press-Republican employee? Oops.)
If the city of Plattsburgh doesn’t want crossing guards to collect unemployment, then it should employ them year-round, providing the steady income needed by these low-wage workers.
In the meantime, I want the Press-Republican to prove that a “smart crossing guard” evilly “divined” a way to cheat the system. Go out and find that person. Show me the evidence. Or retract your near libelous bullshit.