Friday, October 27, 2006

Someone Stole My Coffee!

So, I stumble into RLM, actually a bit earlier than normal. I ordered a non-fat double latte with an extra shot, and went 5 steps away from the coffee stand to open up the office and put up my lunch. R.H. and I exchanged a few words, and I went back to the stand to get my caffeine fix -- but it's not there!

Kristin looked at the counter, looked at me -- said, "It was right there! -- Hey, did someone take a double non-fat latte with an extra shot? Hey you, over there at the condiment table!" This poor guy turned around and said, "I just had a small regular coffee."

Kristin said she'd replace the drink as soon as she finished the one she was making. A moment later she shouted out, "Double Caramel Decaf Soy Latte! Double Caramel Decaf Soy Latte!" but no one came to the counter to claim it.

Am I a bad person for having a bit of schadenfreude that someone who is perhaps lactose intolerant and an avoider of caffeine was walking around all sick and jittery that day?

Monday, October 02, 2006

We Didn't Get Arrested (On the Barricade)

(click on the title above for some information about Accenture)

The Texas State Employee's Union General Assembly started this Friday by surprising Accenture with 150 or so protesters wearing our new red General Assembly shirts. Most of us didn't know where we were going until a few moments before the buses were to be boarded, right at rush hour on Friday afternoon. We were told our destination along with directions to "get out of the bus and on to the sidewalk as fast as you can, because the buses are on private property."

I was one of the marshals which means, instead of getting a badge and a gun, I got a an armband, a bull horn, and a list of chants as well as a big poster to carry.

I'm sure I looked pretty funny trying to negotiate the march line with all of that -- the bullhorn they gave me required the use of two hands and it didn't work, I stupidly took my shoulder bag, the armband kept falling down my arm, I couldn't read the print on the list of chants, so I had to fumble with my reading glasses -- and the chain that keeps the glasses around my neck kept getting tangled up with my delegate lanyard and badge as well as the poster hanging around my neck -- all that while yelling "They say privatize -- WE SAY ORGANIZE! Finally, one of the other marshals said that he would try to fix the bullhorn (sadly he couldn't), but at least I had one less thing to deal with. (I just read this to SRI, and he said, "Obviously, you needed to get organized, Susan!")

One of our instructions before we left was that if anyone were to approach us to ask who was in charge, we were to say -- at this time I piped up, "The guy in the red shirt!" (we were all wearing red shirts) -- but the correct answer was, "I don't know."

We weren't bothered by any of the Accenture building security, although up to 30 employees from the building came out and watched us. Accenture is at one of the busiest corners in Austin -- IH 35 and Ben White. We marched back in front of the building for half an hour or so and then walked back to the buses. We had to walk past WalMart to get there, and they actually had their security there watching us.

And what is Accenture, and why would we want to protest?

Here is some information about from TSEU:

"Privatization is a boondoggle that has already wasted millions of Texas taxpayers' dollars. Bermuda-based Accenture LLP has already pocketed nearly $100 million on a $1 billion contract, and what Texas gets is the call center disaster. DeLoitte charged us millions for the TIERS system that still does not work. Convergys has collected millions of dollars to run a high-tech, on-line Human Resources system that has produced chaos in five state agencies.

Based on this history of success, privateers have targeted Child Protective Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, state universities, and many other state services."

Accenture is also the company responsible for the voter purge in Florida before the 2000 presidential elections (in which felons were to be purged from the voter rolls, but many who weren't felons were also cut from the rolls.) Accenture also put the wrong number for applicants for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to fax completed forms and documentation -- instead of going to the Accenture offices in Austin, the faxes were ending up in a warehouse in Seattle, totally confounding the workers there. More info here:

One of the women on the bus to the rally said that she had tried to call (the outsourced) payroll services for her unit. (I'm not quite sure if this is Accenture or Convergys -- another outsource provider.) Someone answered the phone from another office. "Is this payroll?" "No, this is Human Resources" (or some other non-payroll unit.) "But I asked to be connected to payroll." "Yes, but there is a 30 - 40 minute wait to get through to payroll, so they are routing the calls to other offices." "Can you help me with a payroll issue?" "No." "May I please speak to your supervisor?" Interestingly, I just read an article that said that the abandonment rate for this agency had gone down -- well, yeah, duh, if you route the calls to the wrong place so that it doesn't look like people are hanging up . . .

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In Memoriam (Texas State Employees Union Members)

I'll have another post or two on the General Assembly of the Texas State Employees Union with in a day or so, but this is something I wanted to put up right away.

A few years ago I was walking to a far away parking garage after dark -- the security guard informed me that I am encouraged to call the campus police for an escort whenever I had to walk in the dark on campus.

Two weeks ago, a student in extreme distress came to my office late in the day. He said that after he'd left my office the day before, someone named Marcus, and a couple of other people named Marcus started following him. I asked him how he knew that they were Marcus -- "Because they called me." The conversation disintegrated from there. When another student came to the office to add a class, I was able to contact my supervisor who notified the police. The police got there very quickly, but the distressed student was already gone. They found him a little later, and were able to get him to where he could get the assistance he needed.

On August 9, 2006, two of my fellow union members were kidnapped from the on-campus parking lot of the Lubbock State School. A week or so later, the decapitated body of one of the women, Kay Harrelson) was found (although it is unclear as to the cause of the dismemberment -- it may have been due to animals.) The other woman, Kay Merimon, has not been found.

TSEU has called for restoration of discontinued security services on the campus and for additional steps to protect the security of staff and residents.

I'll never take our security staff and UTPD for granted again; however, the Texas legislature seems intent on slashing government services.

BTW, Ann Richards was a TSEU member, so she was on the list of deceased members.


Since I posted this, I discovered that the two women actually disappeared at lunch and they have a suspect under investigation -- it's some guy who works at that school. He didn't return to work after lunch, and he called in sick the next day. He lied about when he left -- he was caught on his apartment complex's security camera at lunchtime when he said he didn't get home until much later, and he said he was alone, but the camera showed someone else in his car.