Archive for January, 2023

What percentage of American workers are unionized?

January 24, 2023

Place your bet before reading on…

Some interesting numbers from the most recent BLS “Union Members Summary”:

> The union membership rate — the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions — was 10.1% in 2022

That’s down slightly  from the 10.3% in 2021 … but half the 20.1% rate in 1983 — the first year where comparable union data was collected and reported


> In 2022, 30% of the 14.3 million union members lived in just two states: California (2.6 million) and New York (1.7 million).


> The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.1%) is more than five times higher than the 6% rate for private-sector workers.


> The highest unionization rates in 2022 were 34.6% in “protective service occupations (think: police & fire) and 33.7% in education (think: public school teachers)


> Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings 18% higher than nonunion workers ($1,216 to $1,029).

But, those wage differentials are largely attributable to the concentration of union workers in high cost-of-living states (i.e. CA, NY and NJ).


For the record, I pegged the unionization rate way high at 20% to 25%.

How did you do?


The UK’s “new normal” in healthcare…

January 19, 2023

“Private pay” to the (partial) rescue.

Recently, a friend’s family member — a UK citizen, living in London — needed open heart surgery.

Rather than waiting in the months (or years) long National Health Service queue, he understandably opted to “private pay” for surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in London.

As the Cleveland Clinic – London promotes on it’s web site:

Some medical issues just can’t wait, especially when they’re affecting your quality of life.

At Cleveland Clinic London, you have the freedom to self-pay or pay through private medical insurance or a sponsorship.

This gives you access to prompt care when you need it the most.

With that case top-of-mind, a WSJ Editorial caught my eye: Britain’s National Health Service Meltdown.

Here’s an excerpt from the editorial…


The Situation:

The UK is in the midst of another winter of healthcare misery.

The National Health Service’s winter crisis has become an annual tradition, but this year’s troubles for the free-at-point-of-service system are significantly worse.

The “new normal” winter wave of flu, Covid and other respiratory ailments is swamping hospitals and doctors’ offices already coping with a backlog of patients awaiting tests and treatments deferred by Covid lockdowns.

Waiting times for ambulances for the most serious calls are getting longer, with the average response time — targeted at 7 minutes — reaching over 10 minutes.

Once patients reach the emergency room, 35% now face waits above four hours between a decision to admit and transfer to an appropriate bed for treatment, the worst performance since 2010.

Some 7.2 million non-emergency patients are waiting prescribed treatment to start.

Of those, over 40% (2.9 million) have been waiting more than 18 weeks.

The NHS considers itself a success if it starts treatment within that four-month window.

By some estimates, NHS delays may be contributing to the 1,000 weekly excess deaths in recent weeks —deaths above the normal average level.


The (partial) remedy

One sign of the severity of this year’s crisis is the rise of private and semi-private healthcare.

An increasing number of Britons who can afford it buy private health insurance, which generally requires them to use the NHS for routine matters but lets them skip queues for specialist care, physical therapy and the like.

Some NHS hospitals are even offering patients the option to pay out-of-pocket for diagnostics or treatments to skip NHS queues.

Some NHS hospitals with record waiting lists are promoting “quick and easy” private healthcare services at their own hospitals, offering patients the chance to jump year-long queues … for an additional private pay fee.

For example, the Guardian cites the case of a woman who was told that she’d have to wait two years for surgery via the NHS or can see the same surgeon in the same hospital and be treated in two weeks for £1,200.

Hospitals are offering hip replacements from £10,000, cataract surgery for £2,200 and hernia repairs for £2,500. MRI scans are offered for between £300 and £400.

One lady who paid £350 for an MRI scan reported that “There were posters on the walls stating times for the return of results: three days for private, three weeks for NHS.”


The WSJ’s conclusion

“The U.S. suffers a chronic problem of healthcare financing but not of health-care delivery.

Britain shows that with single-payer you end up with both.”

I agree with the latter conclusion, but based on some recent experiences, I’m not so sure that I agree with the latter.

These days, almost everybody I know (myself included) is  now or has recently been sick.

And, with only a few exceptions, most have been frustrated by the long leads required to see their primary care doctor … or, god forbid, specialists.


More to come on that subject…

Need a chuckle?

January 17, 2023

Good news: Darwin is alive and well!

Maybe true, maybe not.

Don’t quibble, just laugh…

[San Jose Mercury News]:
An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend’s windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.


[Kalamazoo Gazette]:
James Burns, 34, (a mechanic) of Alamo, MI, was killed as he was trying to repair what police describe as a “farm-type truck.”

Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise.

Burns’ clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns “wrapped in the drive shaft.”


[Hickory Daily Record]:
Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, NC.

Awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson 38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.


[UPI, Toronto]:
Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death.

A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the buildings windows to visiting law students.

Hoy previously has conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports.

Peter Lawson, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was “one of the best and brightest” members of the 200-man association.

A person has to wonder what the dimmer members of this law firm are like.


[The News of the Weird]:
Michael Anderson Godwin had spent several years awaiting South Carolina’s electric chair on a murder conviction before having his sentence reduced to life in prison.

While sitting on a metal toilet in his cell attempting to fix his small TV set, he bit into a wire and was electrocuted.


[The Indianapolis Star]:
A Dunkirk, IN man, using a cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzleloader, was killed Monday night when the weapon discharged in his face, sheriff’s investigators said.

Gregory David Pryor, 19,  was cleaning a 54-caliber muzzle-loader that had not been firing properly.

He was using the lighter to look into the barrel when the gunpowder ignited.


And the winner is …



The worst business jargon…

January 10, 2023

What’s your pick?

Citing the obvious …

“Business jargon is so ubiquitous and most everyone is guilty of using it, yet it’s also pretty widely disliked.”

As a public service, a couple of Fast Company editors “whittled an extensive lexicon of bad office jargon down to 16 widely used terms and phrases.”

Pick your favorite from their Top 16 list:

  1. Alignment
  2. Bandwidth
  3. Blue sky (ideas)
  4. Boots on the ground
  5. Circle back
  6. Disrupt
  7. Double click (on an idea)
  8. Empower
  9. Growth hacking
  10. Leverage
  11. Low hanging fruit
  12. Move the needle
  13. Synergy
  14. Take it offline
  15. Think outside the box
  16. Thought leadership


To pick the worst of the worst, the East Company editors opined:

    • Some terms like “thought leader” and “empower” struck a more irritating nerve with us because we see them overused in pitches.
    • Others like “boots on the ground,” “double click,” and “growth hacking” aren’t ones that we have personally encountered in our daily office life, they are annoying for their connotations and sound.
    • Some like “circle back” and “move the needle” may be tired and overused, but serve as a useful and concise way to convey meaning.
    • Others, like “synergy” and “disrupt” have been used so much they feel dated and meaningless.

Their winner: the oldie, but not goody: SYNERGY … the prospects of  growing businesses and cutting costs by combining organizations.  Too often,, those benefits are “pie in the sky” and aren’t realized.

Oops, did I just add more jargon to the list?


P.S. I’d also add to the list “reimagine” and “root causes” .. to me, these terms connote “don’t expect anything to actually happen”.

What would you add to the list?

The courses are too damned hard!

January 6, 2023

So says 87% of college students.

To get a better understanding of how students perceive the difficulty of  their courses and to determine how students respond to being enrolled in a challenging class, surveyed 1,000 current 4-year college students.

Here’s what they found:

> 87% of college students say some or many professors make classes too difficult.

> Specifically, 13% said none of their course were too difficult, 21% said one course was too difficult, 54% a few courses were too difficult, 13% said that most or all of there courses were unnecessarily difficult.

> Math and Science are the courses that are most frequently cited as unnecessarily difficult.


And, how are students responding to the curricular challenges that they encounter?

> 17% dropped a class they thought was too difficult.

> 69% of students say they respond (to difficult courses) by asking a professor or classmate for help or by studying more

> To that end,  64% say they put ‘a lot’ of effort into their classes …

> But, of the 64% who say they put in a lot of effort, 1/3  admit that they spend less than 5 hours a week studying and on homework … said differently, that’s about an hour per weekday

Cheating, blame shifting and grousing are flavors de jour:

> 31% have cheated in order to get a better grade

> About 1 in 10 students filed a formal complaint that at least one course or professor is too hard

> 2/3s  say the professor should be forced to make a class easier

> 38% of students have asked a professor to change their grade

> Nearly half (47%) of college students want to throw out the traditional grading system and replace it with a pass/fail grading system.

Here’s the kicker: despite their “challenges” at the undergrad level…

> 81% say it’s likely they’ll pursue a graduate degree; 25% in business, 14% computer science, and 13% medicine.

As if grad school is going to be a cake walk…


Update: If the earth is warming why isn’t Baltimore?

January 3, 2023

With the December data in, the plot thickens….

Today, let’s update the analysis that I’ve been reporting …

Like much of the U.S., the Baltimore area (where I live) endured an apparent heatwave this summer.

It was hot enough that, even I, momentarily thought: “Maybe the earth really is warming.”

Then, I started looking harder at my monthly electricity bills from BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric).

Besides usage info, BGE reports the average monthly temperature, for the current and prior years (the red boxes below).

We previously reported in the past couple of months that year-to-date temperatures in the Baltimore area have been a couple of degrees colder than those in the prior couple of years.

Well, I just got my December bill and guess what.

Average temperatures in the Baltimore area in December were 9 degrees COLDER than last year.


The average December temperature in Baltimore this year was 36 degrees …  9 degrees COLDER than last year’s 45 degrees.


So, for the full year 2022, average temperatures in Baltimore were 2.4 degrees colder than they were in 2021 … and 3.1 degrees colder than than they were in 2020.


Note that 8 of the 12 average monthly temperatures were colder in 2022 than they were in 2020 … the other 4 months were tied.

Only 2 months in 2022 (February and November) were hotter in 2022 than they were in 2021 … 10 of 12 months were colder.



For the record: My electricity usage only increased by 1% from 2021 to 2022 … but my total electrical bill went up by 13.4% …. thanks to a roughly 12% increase in electricity prices.

Thanks, Joe.

The best New Year’s Eve “Ball Drop” … GUARANTEED

January 1, 2023

From the HomaFiles archives…

Last year, one of the teachers at Holy Trinity School (where 2 of my grandkids go) became an internet star.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick (aka. Ms. Fitz), became a viral internet sensation by sinking a full court shot … on the school’s playground … in front of her cheering students.

ESPN “re-purposed” the video clip for New Year’s Eve.

Totally AWESOME! Well worth watching…


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