What happens when a random conversation with a “man on the street” turns into a thought-provoking podcast interview? Listen as Linda interviews Jonathan George, a union worker from Wisconsin who was willing to share his thoughts in this very spontaneous interview. He speaks from the heart and discusses issues that matter to him, his family, and his job. He dispels some potential myths about union voters, shares a very personal story, and sets an example for one way we can all become better educated as voters.
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Linda J. Hansen: Thank you for joining us today. The episode today is a little unusual. Today I felt really led to just do a man on the street interview. I wanted to find someone who I didn’t know, who I had no relationship whatsoever with, but just strike up a conversation and see their thoughts on policy and economics. Issues of the day. It was really great to run into a very nice gentleman named Jonathan George. Jonathan is a union worker. I will let him tell you about his job. He is also a devoted husband and father and he’s got a great story that I think will be of interest to all the listeners and I’d love to have him share his evolution in terms of his own political thinking and how he decided he needed to be involved in making a difference by voting with an educated vote. By paying attention to issues and really thinking through all the issues of the day and listening to the news with more than just the headlines in his mind. So, with that I welcome you Jonathan, and thank you for this random interview. I hope and I know that it will be a blessing to our listeners. So welcome Jonathan.
Jonathan George: Thanks for having me.
Linda: Tell our listeners what you do for a living.
Jonathan: I am a union steam fitter/pipeline welder.
Linda: And how long have you been doing that?
Jonathan: This is my 24th year.
Linda: That is fantastic. Now normally people tend to think that union workers tend to always vote a certain way, they tend to be more liberal, whatever. How has that affected you and your thinking?
Jonathan: I think that is true, that the thought is that all union people think and vote the same way. But in my experience, anyway, that is not true. There are a lot of union workers that are hunters and fishermen, and outdoorsmen, and there is a great divide between a lot of them. A lot of times in the union management they are very to the left. They are very much into the organized labor and that part of it. However, when it gets to the actual workers there is a diverse group of people. Their belief systems aren’t all the same. They are not all about organized labor. They have a lot of things that pull them different ways.
Linda: Exactly. You mentioned those that hunt, they may be very concerned about 2nd amendment rights. You mentioned people who fish, I am sure they are concerned about environment. There are all these things that people care about that do not always fit in the same box of all voting the same way. It is like I have often said that you cannot just message to Soccer Mom’s because all Soccer Moms are different. All NASCAR dad’s are different. People of a certain color, we can’t judge people based on these outward things. Everyone has different motivations and desires and interests that propel their thoughts on issues. What are the issues that are most important to you as a voter?
Jonathan: As a voter by far that most important thing is abortion. Prolife policies are very important to me. I am adopted, so for me I could not ever cross that line in any way. And so, as a voter if you are not 100% prolife it is a non-starter in my life. It doesn’t matter if I am a union employee and I am a believer, so then as a believer there is no crossing that line. Life just obviously, there are hundreds of reasons why, but in the Bible it says life starts at conception so that is the way I have to vote.
Linda: Well, that is really great. I love your story about being adopted and you said your siblings are adopted as well.
Jonathan: Right, my brother and my sister are both adopted.
Linda: It’s a wonderful story so if anyone is listening out there and you find yourself in a difficult situation. Maybe you find yourself or someone you know are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and you are not sure about what to do, please reach out to your prolife pregnancy care center. There are many organizations available and people are there, regardless of what people tell you. People are there to help you and support you and it is always great to hear these stories. I have another friend who actually his mother was on the table ready to get an abortion and she just changed her mind at the last minute. I think of how long I have known him and what a blessing he has been to my life and what it would be like if he wasn’t there. So, your life is an example of how important it is. So, wherever your mother is we say thank you. But also, to all the moms out there who unselfishly gave life even when it was difficult, we thank you for whoever you are and if you do know someone please make sure they know that help is available and that great things can come from that life that is not a mistake. That is really a great story. Thank you. Beyond prolife, what other issues matter to you, let’s say to your industry?
Jonathan: Well our industry, I am a pipeline welder, so the expansion obviously of pipelines is important to us. It is important to everyone right. You want cheaper energy, more reliable energy. That helps bring some of the inner city people up, more expensive energy helps keep some of the less prosperous people down so I think it’s important obviously, especially here in Wisconsin you need cheaper energy. And the more you regulate it and tie our hands as we do the work, the more expensive it’s going to be. So, we do need to vote that way also to make it easier to put the pipes in to make it safer.
Linda: To those of us who heat our homes every winter we thank you. To people listening what type of training goes into working with the pipelines because being someone who can lay pipe and do it safely so we have less chance of explosions, or accidents, workplace incidents, we appreciate those of you who have taken the time to learn that trade well.
Jonathan: There is a lot of good regulation that does help educate. There is hundreds of hours of classroom that all of the guys have to take. Guys and gals, and then continuing education and operator qualifications and things of that nature. A lot of those are good. The policies that wouldn’t be as good is when it gets over burdensome where sometimes it can be so safe, that you are not actually being productive. There needs to be some kind of balance.
Linda: Balance enough to provide safety and a good policy that promotes growth but not so much that it inhibits growth. For the listeners, one of the lessons that I have my Break Room Economics course is “I Hate Being Micro Managed” and it is really about how we all hate being micro managed whether we are a young child and mom and dad are looking over our shoulder every 30 seconds or whether we are at the work place and we’ve got someone looking over our shoulder or micromanaging our work. Or whether we are an employer who is being micromanaged by government regulations that just stifle growth and do not allow for expansion or job creation. There is such an important balance. You know you talked about being a father, it is just like raising kids in a sense that you have to have enough rules to provide for their safety but you have to allow growth or have enough freedom to grow. That is the same with businesses. I think energy policy is something that affects us all. I have had some other episodes on that so it is great to see someone who is really on the ground floor (literally) in terms of bring that energy to our homes. So, thank you for your work. You also are concerned about school choice issues. Tell me some more about that.
Jonathan: Well, school choice is really important because we don’t have a money problem in the school systems here in Wisconsin, at least as far as I am aware. Schooling is one of the most expensive things that we spend our tax money on, so as we are spending more and more money, like MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) is spending millions of dollars educating and the quality of education that is coming out of MPS is not as good. Even though dollar per student is much higher than the other counties in the state. So that would tell me it is not a money problem, it tells me that it might be a cultural problem. And if it is a cultural problem, maybe we should be teaching things that bring back the nuclear family, maybe get some of the kids out of MPS or out of the failing schools and get them in to Charter Schools or other schools that aren’t failing. Make some competition between schools. If we really care about the under privileged we would do everything we can to help them. And if a tool is to help them get out and into other or better performing schools, I think we should do that.
Linda: You bring up a good point that we have a system that has not led to people really getting great educations. I actually think that during Coronavirus, a lot parents are waking up to the fact that maybe they need to be more involved in their children’s educations. I know your family and mine, we have homeschooled. Like you mentioned there are like you mentioned Charter Schools and Choice schools. There are so many options available to parents but we need to kind of change the way we look at educations in our country and how our tax dollars are spent. Right now, the tax dollars go towards the district but there are a lot of people advocating for now, especially where schools aren’t teaching, that the money stays with the parents. I am all for saying “let’s give the parents tax credits, not just a voucher.” Why send it to the government to have the government send it back? That seems senseless to me. I would say, let the parents keep it as a tax credit and then they can choose what to do with their children in terms of their education. Yes, there should be standards, and let’s have a well-educated society, but the way we have done it so far is not always working for everyone. Now I know too with Prosperity 101™ I am always trying to not only just educate everyone and give reasons for people to think through things on their own but also to encourage employers to educate their employees about these issues and how they affect their jobs. So, some of these issues you mentiond energy policy, your employers, do they talk to you about policy at all or voting? A lot of people go to the voting booth and don’t realize that they might be voting for people who will vote them right out of a job.
Jonathan: I think that does happen to a degree. I don’t know that my employer necessarily talks that way. For sure being in a labor union they are always sending mailers out. And it is always one sided, and me as a steam fitter I think it is kind of, this will probably get me in trouble but, they are going to vote pro labor, but they are not going to vote pro pipeline which is where my work is. So, I find that hard when the right side of the isle is pro energy and the left side of the isle is pro labor. That can be a real conflict of interest, in my line of work anyway.
Linda: A lot of people say Liberals like jobs, they just don’t like employers. And I always tell people, “Have you ever had a job from a poor person?” You need to build wealth; you need to be able to create jobs with these companies and things so you need the growth. It is interesting, you mentioned with unions, and I don’t want to make is sound like a 100% blanket statement or anything like that. We realize there is a lot of diversity out there and we applaud that, but a lot of times there are people talking about these liberal issues or issues that would be against your job but there is not people talking for it. So, I would just encourage employers out there and employees too, if there are issues that are important to your job, please speak up and talk about it and let people know that this matters to your job. I think it would be really important. If you could give three reasons, this is kind of on the spot, but a few reasons, whatever you can think of about why it is really important to for employers to talk about these issues with their employees and their families. What would you say, what comes to mind first?
Jonathan: You always want a highly skilled work force and the union is very good at it. I am… a lot of my colleagues are very good at what we do. We are very safe; they promote that they push that. My employer will also do that. They also encourage the safest workforce you can have. So, you need some oversight and some government oversight is good and that is fine. It is when it gets over burdensome where the companies can’t make the money to support a living wage for everybody, that is when you have the problem. That would be one thing that I would say, that there has to be some balance. As Americans you want to have the best workforce that you can possibly have. Then you have to train them and sometimes unions have the corner on the market or a very good way of doing it that we are paying people to learn. That goes against academia where you are paying to learn and when you are done with your liberal arts degree, good luck with that because you are going to have a hard time finding a job. And you start out, for most people, you start out in the hole. Employers could educate their employees by letting them know that you don’t necessarily have to have a four or six year degree to be very successful in the real world. And vice versa, as you are in the work force you need as much education as you can get. Specialized education is very important, have a niche, go for it, be the very best at what you are doing. I think that employers sometimes just hire somebody. They are just trying to get somebody with a heartbeat (let’s get them in here) and employers don’t always find out what the employee’s dreams are and goals are. If you knew what the employee’s goals are and dreams are then you could fit them into a spot that would work best for them and best for you.
Linda: And their gifts and abilities too. I always say that it is important for employers to put square pegs in square holes and not put square pegs in round holes. Just a little plug for something totally different, and they have no idea that I am even saying this, Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, Rebecca Kleefisch, our former Lieutenant Governor is their spokesperson, and they do a little video program called Money Jobs. They just feature sometimes these people that are in apprenticeships like you mentioned that you can get a job in the trades, that is really amazing. All of these things that you are talking about, this education and things, these are important for employers to help their employees not only do their job well but to provide for their families and be productive members of society. I do want to make sure that our listeners know, anybody that listens to you know that we aren’t advocating that employers to tell people who to vote for but how to think through the issues that affect their own job and their own kitchen table, their own family before they go to the voting booth. You mentioned some things that are very important to you. The prolife, you are adopted, you care deeply about that issue. School choice you mentioned, we talked about energy policy because it affects your job every single day. These are all things you are going to be thinking about when you go to the voting booth. I applaud you for being an educated voter and I thank you for taking the time for this interview, which was very random. So, for everyone who passes me on the street you might find out that I might just pull out my phone and interview you randomly because I love hearing what people think. Also learning about all the different jobs, policy matters, it matters who is elected, ideas have consequences and when we go to vote we should make sure to pay attention to all of that. One other thing about Jonathan is when we first were talking he showed me his copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence that he keeps as a pocket copy. So, I recommend that every citizen please brush up on it an know your right and the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. So thank you Jonathan. Do you have anything else to say to our listeners before we close.
Jonathan: No, thanks to you Linda. I appreciate it and God Bless America.
Linda: Absolutely. God Bless America. Thank you and thank you to our listeners for joining us for Prosperity 101, Breakroom Economics™ Podcast.
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