Article 43


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pet Not-So-Funny Business

A while ago, to help PATCHES battle her CANCER - I bought a bottle of ES CLEAR.

What is ES Clear for Cat Cancer?

ES clear is a unique combination of specially-selected herbal extracts, painstakingly formulated by a leading naturopathic vet.

As a firm believer in the power of herbs and other healing alternatives - acupuncture, meditation, Reike, etc - I was excited to find this product.

The web page goes on to list the ingredients…

Burdock: Considered one of the best herbs to use as a nutritive liver tonic that helps clean the blood. High in calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine and riboflavin. It is used to treat flaky, oily or inflammatory skin disorders. It is also used in treating, arthritis, rheumatoid disorders, and inflammatory kidney and bladder disorders.

Sheep’s sorrel: Astringent qualities in treating hemorrhages of the stomach. Used in treatment of cancer and other degenerative diseases, good source of vitamins and minerals

Slippery elm: Used in treating the digestive tract as it serves as a soothing, protecting, and lubricating demulcent and a general astringent at the same time. Helps lubricate the digestive tract which in turn helps eliminate toxins and waste. The astringency of the herb lubricates and helps reduce inflammation in the throat, making swallowing easier, and soothing painful coughs.

Contains vitamins such as vitamin A, B complex, C, K, and high amounts of calcium, magnesium and sodium.

Turkey rhubarb: Increases salivary and gastric flow, improves appetite, supports the colon as a simple and safe purgative, builds and cleans the blood.

It doesn’t mention the other ingedient - ALCOHOL - found out after plunking $45 down, waiting for delivery in the mail, opening the box, and reading the label.

What kind of people would hide that fact, and mislead vulnerable pet owner’s emotions with worthless testimony:

I cannot thank you enough for the availability of your product and for extending Miss Boomer’s life.

What kind of foolish pet owner would risk getting his sick cat sicker, by feeding her this snake oil?

Why not give her a beer instead?  It’s made with HOPS you know.


My next CAT is going to be adopted. 

I’m planning to give a home to a stray that needs one.

PET RESCUE BY JUDY, run by A LOCAL IN THE COMMUNITY, seems a great place to find one. At first her website with lots and lots of dogs and cats reminded me of one of those missions staffed by volunteers with hearts much bigger than mine - until I read the terms for adoption that looks more like a business contract, that really turned me off:

I understand that Pet Rescue By Judy (PRBJ) obtains pets that are strays or from a third party and therefore all information regarding its age, health status and/or other issues is estimated and is not warranted by Pet Rescue By Judy. If I adopt a pet from PRBJ I agree to keep it as an indoor pet, treat it humanely and cater to its needs. I will not allow it to roam free or become a nuisance, nor to be used for experimental purposes. I will not sell, give away, destroyed or otherwise disposed of it without notifying and obtaining permission from PRBJ. I understand that the stated minimum adoption donation is not a reflection of the costs incurred by PRBJ for this specific pet and will be applied to the cost of rescuing of current and future PRBJ pets. If I adopt a pet from Pet Rescue By Judy, I agree to keep my contact information current on the PRBJ website so that I may be contacted should my pet become lost and returned to PRBJ. I certify that the information entered on this application is true. Enter your name and date:

Where are these people coming from with their unreasonable conditions, and demands to retain ownership?

My next of kin gets my cat after I die, she’s not going back to some animal orphanage.  If the curious cat wants to check out the back yard, so what? What if she’s suffering from some terrible, incurable disease, and the vet and I decide to humanely put her to sleep to end the pain? That’s our decision - and nobody else’s business.

What would PRBJ’s animal resue mission do? 

Get me arrested if I let the cat adopted from them loose in my back yard?

Would I need their approval to let my neighbor’s daughter watch her when I go on vacation?

Would they seek damages (demand money) for breach of contract if the poor cat suddenly and unexpectedly died before asking them for permission?

And when the cat finally does die, why does does PRBJ reserve the right to dictate how to deal with her remains?

It’s not funny. 

I can probably get a mail order RUSSIAN BRIDE easier than a cat at Judy’s.

So I’ll probably be passing up her foster home/adoption service.

Here’s where I’m looking now:


If you have an adult, declawed, fixed, litter trained, indoor, mellow cat, you can’t keep for some reason, and are in Central Florida - I may have a new home for her.


DeGeneres Doggie Drama Continues

ABC News
Oct. 17, 2007

A doggie drama that pits talk show host Ellen DeGeneres against an animal shelter is heating up as the shelter owner says she’s received death threats and is afraid for her safety.

The controversy began when DeGeneres adopted a pup named Iggy from Pasadena, Calif.,-based MUTTS AND MOMS animal shelter. But when the dog could not get along with DeGeneres’ cats, she gave the dog to her hairdresser’s 11- and 12-year-old daughters.

But the shelter stepped in and took the dog back, saying DeGeneres had signed an agreement that if she cold not keep the dog she would give it back to the shelter. In addition, the shelter says it has a policy of not giving puppies to families with children younger than 14.

DeGeneres, who is known for her rambunctious and spirited greetings at the beginning of her talk show, stunned her audience Tuesday when she broke down on air, sobbing as she begged the animal shelter to return the dog to her hairdresser.

“Today is a hard day for me. Today is bad. I am not capable of coming out and pretending to be funny & when things are going so terribly wrong right now,” DeGeneres said.

Then the bubbly comedian launched into an emotional monologue.

“I feel totally responsible for it and I’m so sorry,” she said on air. “I’m begging them to give that dog back to that family. I just want the family to have their dog. It’s not their fault. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have given the dog away. Just please give the dog back to those little girls.”

‘Can We Have Iggy?’

DeGeneres adopted Iggy from Mutts and Moms last month. She said that she spent $3,000 on the puppy to try to acclimate it to live with her cats.

But, DeGeneres said, “It was just too much energy and too rambunctious.”

DeGeneres said her hairdresser’s daughters, who already have a dog, wanted a puppy.

“They said, ‘We love Iggy. Can we have Iggy?’” DeGeneres said.

Weeks later, people from Mutts and Moms came to the family’s home claiming to be on an inspection, but instead they took Iggy back.

Police allowed Mutts and Moms to leave with Iggy because DeGeneres had technically violated her agreement with the agency.

“Well, I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can’t keep Iggy it goes back to the rescue organization,” DeGeneres said.

The girls, meanwhile, are heartbroken and want Iggy back.

Marina Batkis, the owner of Mutts and Moms, says she’s looking out for the best interests of the puppy.

“If Ellen wants to start her own rescue group then she can decide where the dogs go,” Batkis said. “Who is she to say who is a good home and whose not? And who is she to say where I should place my animals and how I should do this? I don’t tell her how to run her show.”

Batkis’ lawyer played a voice mail message for “Good Morning America” that he says is from a DeGeneres public relations representative.

The voice mail says: “We’re filing a legal case against you. We’re going to be contacting the media. This is not going to be good for your store or your organization.”

Batkis says that because of the way she’s been treated by DeGeneres, she absolutely has no intention of giving back the puppy.

In response, DeGeneres taped a message that will air later today on her show.

“This has become so insane. It’s not even, it’s just just the dog just needs to go to the family. It’s like the fight should & not be about anything,” she said. “It just needs to be in a good home. That’s all you’re supposed to do is put a dog in a loving home.”



Rescue group finds new home for Ellens dog
Mutts and Moms doesn’t believe hairdressers family is right for pooch.

October 17, 2007

Ellen DeGeneres’ doggy drama intensified when the agency that took the talk show host’s adopted dog back said they have found a new home for the canine.

Access Hollywood spoke with Keith A. Fink, the attorney for Mutts and Moms owner Maria Batkis, Wednesday morning and the attorney said that another home has been found for the dog although he was not able to say for certain that the dog has been physically given to the new owner yet.

He added that Batkis is distraught, under medication at her home, and that she cannot come out of her house. He says that both he and Batkis are getting numerous e-mail and phone threats, as well as death threats.

A publicist for DeGeneres, Kelly Bush, also allegedly took matters a step further by leaving what seemed like a threatening message for Mutts and Moms.

“Were filing a legal case against you. We’re going to be contacting the media. This is not going to be good for your store or your organization,” Bush said on the tape, which was first played by Good Morning America.

However in an interview with the New York Post’s Page Six, Bush denied making any threats.

“If Ellen’s object was to destroy my client to get her way she has done that,” Fink told Access. “My client is destroyed.”

Under the Mutts and Moms contract agreement (section 3H discusses the NO RIGHT TO TRANSFER), which Access obtained a copy of, anyone accepting a dog agrees to NOT give or sell ADOPTEE to another person, company, organization, medical research, pound or animal shelter, or, If ADOPTER fails to abide by the terms of this clause, ADOPTER will pay all costs, including any legal fees incurred, required to secure the return of ADOPTEE to RESCUE and will, in addition, be required to pay liquidated damages in the amount of $500.

The dog adopted by DeGeneres and later given to her hairstylist’s family in violation of an animal rescue agency’s rules will not be going back to the family, a spokesman said, amid threats of violence against the agency.

DeGeneres made a tearful plea on her talk show that aired Tuesday for the owners of the Mutts and Moms agency to give Iggy, a Brussels Griffon mix terrier, back to her hairstylist’s family.

The dog was removed from the hairstylist’s home on Sunday. The owners of Mutts and Moms claimed that DeGeneres violated the adoption agreement by not informing them that she was giving the dog away.

“She (Marina) is not going to give them the dog,” said Fink, who is not legally representing the owners but is authorized to speak on their behalf.

“She doesn’t think this is the type of family that should have the dog. She is adamant that she is not going to be bullied around by the Ellen DeGenereses of the world ... They are using their power, position and wealth to try to get what it is they want.”

DeGeneres’ attorney, Kevin Yorn, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Fink said DeGeneres’ partner, actress Portia de Rossi, signed the agreement. DeGeneres originally said on her show that she (DeGeneres) had signed it.

Bush confirmed De Rossi had signed the agreement, although DeGeneres’ name also was listed.

“She (Ellen) was wrong by not reading the agreement,” Bush told the AP in a phone interview. “She thought she was doing a good thing. She’s notorious for rescuing animals and finding them good homes. She found the dog a wonderful, wonderful home.”

Fink asserted that DeGeneres and De Rossi had breached the agreement.

“If you adopt a dog and you no longer want the dog, you can’t unilaterally decide who you want to give the dog to,” he said. “She’s trying to tell a story to make herself look good.”

As a result of the ensuing publicity, Fink said Batkis and Chekroun had received voice- and e-mail threats of death and arson, and their Paws Boutique store in Pasadena was besieged by media Tuesday, disrupting business. The women handle the volunteer, nonprofit Mutts and Moms rescue agency out of the store.

“It’s very upsetting to hear that someone is getting those kind of calls,” Bush said. “Ellen just wants the dog reunited with the family.”

DeGeneres had said her hairdresser’s daughters, ages 11 and 12, had bonded with Iggy and were heartbroken when the dog was taken away.

Fink said Moms and Mutts has a rule that families with children under 14 are not allowed to adopt small dogs.

“It’s for the protection of the dog,” he said.

DeGeneres said on her Tuesday show that she spent $3,000 having the dog neutered and trained to be with her cats, but Iggy did not mix well with the cats so she gave him away.

“She got rid of the dog not because it didn’t get along with the cats,” Fink said. “She didn’t like the dog.”

Not true, according to Bush.

“She loved the dog,” the publicist said.

Four-month-old Iggy was trained by Zack Grey at his UrbanTales pet store in Los Angeles.

“Ellen and Portia followed the process every single day,” he said. “It just didn’t work. It had nothing to do with not loving the puppy.”


Posted by Elvis on 08/10/08 •
Section Personal
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Five Questions


Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism.
- Anthony de Mello

About 30 years ago in psychology class, I wrote a paper about SELFISHNESS.  In it I mused that everything we do - may be rooted in the sin of being human called “narcissistic selfishness.”

Even the mother who selflessly risks her life and saves her child from getting run over from a bus, may do it for a number of not-so-altruistic reasons.

About 20 years ago I met a lady that taught me what love is, and wound up eating a lot of the stuff mentioned in my paper.


Here’s FIVE QUESTIONS to ponder from Ex Christians :

1. If a mother sacrifices her life for her children, is that love?

2. If a man finds a mate who has all of the physical and intellectual characteristics that he desires, is that love?

3. Since we as humans have obeyed nature and multiplied to the extent that we are poisoning this planet in an effort to try to feed everybody and give them a Ford or Toyota, isn’t it enough for me in my retirement years, and with my limited income, to just trust that the problems of starvation, diseases, warfare, pollution, will take care of themselves, just like they always have, by millions of people dying, and becoming fertilizer?

4. As I have become totally convinced that all religions are manmade (And pretty silly and ridiculous at that), is there something wrong with me for not having a “God Hole” in my psyche anymore, and for feeling more normal, and less apprehensive than I have ever felt since childhood?

5. Is there something wrong with me because I don’t want to hurt anyone, steal anything, or lie about anything, and for me to just want to be as happy here on earth as I can possibly be, using whatever talents I possess, as long as I, obey the law, don’t jeopardize the health and welfare of anyone else on purpose?


The Helpers High

By James Baraz, Shoshana Alexander
University of Berkeley

February 1, 2010

By the time I (James) reached my junior year in college, I was deeply disillusioned by the world I saw around me. I had grown up believing in Superman, in “truth, justice, and the American Way,” but this was the 1960s. The assassination of President Kennedy three years earlier had put an end to Camelot, for me and for many in my generation. The deaths of innocent people in Vietnam had shattered my belief in the benevolence of U.S. foreign policy. And here in the Land of the Free, thousands were struggling for basic civil rights.

Majoring in psychology, which I thought would be an exploration of what makes humans tick, turned out to mean listening to dry academic lectures about the behavior of rats in mazes. I wondered what learning standard deviations in statistics had to do with anything in my life. In philosophy, Camus and Sartre began to make a lot of sense and were swiftly leading me toward my very own existential crisis. I ended up deciding that life had no meaning at all and must be the bad joke of some Higher Intelligence with a bizarre sense of humor.

I became more and more depressed. For several months I steered every conversation toward my gloomy perspective. Friends began to keep their distance, not wanting to be brought down by their brooding philosophical companion. The counterculture was increasingly attractive and offered some hopeԗ peace, love, and the Beatlesbut inside I still couldnגt find anything that made life seem worth living.

Then one day while eating my lunch in the Queens College cafeteria, something happened that steered me in a new direction. As I sat there alone, under my dark cloud, I started looking around at the crowd of people in the room, some talking earnestly together, some wandering around looking a bit lost. Instead of falling into my usual habits of comparing myself to them, or thinking about how isolated I felt from everyone, I began to just look at them as they were going about their business. Suddenly they all seemed to me to be basically decent human beings simply trying their best to find their way in the world. It was like the shifting of a kaleidoscope into a whole different configuration, and from that perspective,

I understood that all they wanted was to be happyand it seemed to me they all had that right.

I don’t know why, but in that instant a philosophical insight occurred to me. The one thing that could give life meaning for anyone would be to bring happiness to others. That would be a noble endeavor in an ignoble world. I felt a momentary rise of something inside as that little beam of light broke through my perpetual cloud. I left the cafeteria with a bounce in my step that had been missing for a long time.

Those thoughts followed me around over the next few weeks, and the rightness of them kept growing. Somewhere inside I think I knew that if I could help others find happiness, I would actually be happier myselfthat would be a big leap for the cynic Iגd become.

Since that day in the cafeteria, Ive seen that insight confirmed time and time again - both by scientific research and through my own experiences teaching “Awakening Joy,” the live and online course I developed seven years ago. Of course, although some people do find happiness and contentment for themselves, we don’t have to look very hard to see there’s suffering in the world all around us. But rather than shielding ourselves from this all-pervasive reality, I’ve learned that responding to it with compassion and caring action leads to an even deeper level of well-being and a joyful, fulfilled life.

Selfish altruism

When we’re motivated by a true spirit of generosity, we benefit as much as those on the receiving end. Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello says it this way: “Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism.” I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others. In the same vein, the Dalai Lama playfully speaks of working to benefit others as “selfish altruism.”

But don’t just take their words for it: Research in neuroscience and psychology has offered scientific evidence that helping others brings happiness to yourself. Consider:

According to the measures the “Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey,” overseen by researchers from Harvard University, those who gave contributions of time or money were 42 percent more likely to be happy than those who didnt give.

Psychologists have identified a typical state of euphoria reported by those engaged in charitable activity. They call it HELPER’S HIGH, and its based on the theory that giving produces endorphins in the brain that provide a mild version of a morphine high.

Research at the National Institutes of Health showed that the same area of the brain that is activated in response to food or sex (namely, pleasure) lit up when the participants in the study thought about giving money to a charity.

At Emory University a study revealed that helping others lit up the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure.

Though the benefits we get from compassion are clearly rooted in our biology, there are also ways we can systematically deepen our compassion through formal practices. As a meditation teacher, I haven’t been surprised to learn that modern neuroscience research suggests that focused meditation is one of the most direct ways to activate and strengthen those areas in the brain that increase empathy.

In his laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson has done extensive research on the effect of compassion meditation on the brains of student volunteers who had done the practice for one week, as well as Buddhist monks who had done thousands of hours of such meditation. In this particular kind of practice, the meditator becomes completely focused on experiencing loving-kindness and compassion for all beings. In her book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, Sharon Begley reports the results of the functional MRI brain scans Davidson took of participants in one of his investigations:

During the generation of pure compassion, the brains of all the subjects, both adept meditators and novices, showed activity in regions responsible for monitoring ones emotions, planning movements, and positive emotions such as happiness. Regions that keep track of what is “self” and what is “other” became quieter, as if, during compassion meditation, the subjects . . . opened their minds and hearts to others.

I’ve seen Davidsons research corroborated by the experiences of students of mine. One of those students, Stephanie, told me how meditation changed her perspective. “Instead of getting so caught up in What about me? you do a little more of What about you? and that changes everything,” she said. But she also found that this shift didn’t make her neglect her own needs or collapse into anothers pain. Instead, she has discovered,

When you tune in to another’s suffering and send out compassionate thoughts to them, rather than draining you, it actually fills you up with more energy. You seem to clear out the confusion of your small mind and replace it with something much more vast and vibrant. Under all the chatter in your mind, theres a basic goodness you touch thatҒs deeper and more profound. When you let down the fear, you get filled up with that basic goodness and sweetness of your caring heart.

Compassionate action

But compassion practice doesn’t have to be limited to formal meditation. Throughout your day, whenever you see someone having a hard time, you can tap in to that place of caring inside you and send out thoughts of compassion. Or you can take bigger steps, sometimes when you least expect to.

Consider the story of Spring. By the time she was thirteen, Spring was well on her way to trouble. With her father out of the picture, things were hard at home and school wasn’t much better. One day she was caught stealing. It was her good fortune that she was only ordered to do community service. Her mother sent her to volunteer at a local church that is well- known for its generous and successful social service programs. There Spring found herself in a new world, in more ways than one. She was serving meals to the homeless, side-by-side with former addicts and prostitutes who were now clean and sober. To her surprise, she says, “I felt all this love, and it was beautiful.”

The very first lunch she served to the destitute and homeless turned out to be a transformative experience for her. “I went to the refrigerator and saw packs and packs of hot dogs, stacks and stacks of bread that looked really old, and these giant cans of pork and beans,” she says. “I remember thinking, This is lunch?”

It was a cold day and Spring started wondering if anyone would show up. In fact, when it came time to serve, she looked out the door and there were hundreds of people in a line that seemed endless. As they came through the line, “I noticed that everyone looked so sad,” says Spring. “They all had their heads down.” At first the cook told her to give each person two hot dogs, two pieces of bread, and two scoops of beans. After a while as people kept arriving and the line still went on as far as could be seen, the cook announced, “One hot dog, one piece of bread, one scoop of beans.”

“I started to feel a sense of desperation as people kept coming through, holding their kids, with tattered clothes, hair uncombed, and hoping for some food. Before long the cook came out again and said, ‘Half a hot dog, half a piece of bread.’ And then we ran out of food, and there were still more people in line.”

Spring watched for a long time as people drifted away, still hungry. Later, after shed helped clean up, she went outside and sat down on the curb in front of the church.

“I started sobbing, thinking This is not right. What struck me most of all was how much I cared. I cared about all these people I didn’t even know. I cared about the kids. I cared that they didn’t get food, that it was cold, and where would they would go? I just sobbed and sobbed. I’d never felt like that before.”

Even though she was used to seeing homeless people in her neighborhood, being face-to-face with so many in such need had a profound effect on her. Spring says she was changed after that. “Something deep within me was affected by it all.”

What Spring went through was a deep encounter with suffering that is a kind of initiation onto the path of compassionate action. Keeping your heart open in the face of suffering is not easy. We often want to run away from such pain. I think even that impulse proves the point that we care. We feel the suffering of others, and it is often painful because we dont know what to do. Sometimes what we encounter can be so overwhelming that remaining present with it can seem impossible. But when you can’t close your eyes anymore to the pain, and you recognize how deeply you care, that is the awakening of the compassionate heart.

Thich Nhat Hahn, Buddhist teacher and activist, makes the point that “compassion does not stop with letting our hearts feel the suffering of others. Compassion is a verb,” he stresses. Compassion and action go hand-in-hand.

Indeed, in those same MRI scans of monks meditating on compassion, neuroscience researcher Richard Davidson discovered that the areas of the brain responsible for planning action also lit up. In Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, Sharon Begley quotes Davidson reporting his results to the Dalai Lama:

This was a novel and unexpected finding . . . There’s no physical activity; they’re [the meditating monks are] sitting still. One interpretation of this is that it may reflect the generation of a disposition to act in the face of suffering. It gives real meaning to the phrase moved by compassion.

Not only are we wired for compassion, we appear to be wired for compassionate action. When we see suffering and feel compassion, it is natural to want to do something in response.

Spring, now in her twenties, is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based meditation practices to youth and communities of color at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California, which she cofounded and where she teaches. She has also taught yoga and meditation to young people in juvenile hall. Having once been a troubled teen herself, she understands the experiences of those who end up there, and she can respond without judgment and without distancing herself from their suffering. The need and pain she saw that day serving lunch to the homeless and destitute opened her to the rich rewards of compassionate action.

Calling all Bodhisattvas

Buddhist teachings use a term that encompasses all these qualities of compassion and altruism: Bodhisattva. This ancient Sanskrit word means a being who is headed for enlightenment, and specifically refers to those who aspire to that lofty goal for the purpose of liberating all beings from suffering.

The idea of liberating all beings from suffering sounds like a stretch. But working to benefit others is something any of us can do. So I like to call those inspired by this vision of relieving suffering and increasing happiness Bodhisattvas-in-Training. They do the best they can, and in the process learn how rewarding and beneficial it is to express their caring heart.

When we become Bodhisattvas-in-Training, we set ourselves on a path toward a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. A young friend of mine named Aline is living proof. She has been engaged in environmental protection and community development in countries like Senegal, Peru, Romania, and Ukraine. Yet despite all her work, she still witnesses heartbreaking destruction. In Siberia, 60 percent of the logging in the formerly pristine region where I lived is illegal,Ӕ she told me. I would see trucks and trucks of logs going to China. It was really painful.Ӕ

Yet no matter how many challenges Aline has faced in her work around the world, she says shell continue doing this kind of service for the rest of her life.

I think itҒs a very human thing to want to serve. It feeds something in the soul. If people look honestly, living their values counts more than money. If youre not aligned with your values it eats at you. When you are, something in you grows and comes alive. Each one of us has our own hidden purpose inside, and needs to uncover it and give it wings. Service is one of the things that gets us in touch with that most natural and true part of ourselves.

As Richard Davidson’s neuroscientific research on compassion meditation suggests, the natural response to seeing someone in distress is the impulse to help. We care about the suffering of others. And we feel good when that suffering is relieved. Whether were involved in compassionate action ourselves, witnessing heroic actions in a movie, or reading about noble actions, a caring response to the suffering of others lifts us up. As Aline puts it, knowing that she’s making a positive difference in peoples lives is “one of the best feelings Ive ever known.”

Suffering is inevitable. But James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander argue that responding to pain with compassion, care, and generosity is key to a joyful life.


Posted by Elvis on 08/10/08 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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2007 Union Membership Data

In 2007, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 311,000 to 15.7 million, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 

Union members accounted for 12.1 percent of employed wage and salary workers, essentially unchanged from 12.0 percent in 2006.  In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.  Some highlights from the 2007 data are:

- Workers in the public sector had a union membership rate nearly five times that of private sector employees.

- Education, training, and library occupations had the highest unioniz- ation rate among all occupations, at 37.2 percent, followed closely by protective service occupations at 35.2 percent.

- Among demographic groups, the union membership rate was highest for black men and lowest for Hispanic women.

- Wage and salary workers ages 45 to 54 (15.7 percent) and ages 55 to 64 (16.1 percent) were more likely to be union members than were workers ages 16 to 24 (4.8 percent).

Membership by Industry and Occupation

The union membership rate for public sector workers (35.9 percent) was substantially higher than for private industry workers (7.5 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 41.8 percent.  This group includes many workers in several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.  Private sector industries with high unionization rates include transportation and utilities (22.1 percent), telecommunications (19.7 per- cent), and construction (13.9 percent).  In 2007, unionization rates were relatively low in agriculture and related industries (1.5 percent) and in financial activities (2.0 percent).  (See table 3.)

Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupations (37.2 percent) and protective service occupations (35.2 percent) had the highest unionization rates in 2007.  Farming, fishing, and forestry occupa- tions (2.7 percent) and sales and related occupations (3.3 percent) had the lowest unionization rates.  (See table 3.)

Demographic Characteristics of Union Members

In 2007, the union membership rate was higher for men (13.0 percent) than for women (11.1 percent).  (See table 1.) The gap between their rates has narrowed considerably since 1983, when the rate for men was about 10 per- centage points higher than the rate for women. The rates for both men and women declined between 1983 and 2007, but the rate for men declined much more rapidly.

Black workers were more likely to be union members (14.3 percent) than were whites (11.8 percent), Asians (10.9 percent), or Hispanics (9.8 percent). Within these major groups, black men had the highest union membership rate (15.8 percent) while Hispanic women had the lowest rate (9.6 percent).

Among age groups, union membership rates were highest among workers 55 to 64 years old (16.1 percent) and 45 to 54 years old (15.7 percent).  The low- est union membership rates occurred among those ages 16 to 24 (4.8 percent). Full-time workers were about twice as likely as part-time workers to be union members, 13.2 compared with 6.5 percent.

Union Representation of Nonmembers

About 1.6 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union on their main job in 2007, while not being union members themselves.  (See table 1.) Slightly more than half of these workers were employed in government.  (See table 3.)


In 2007, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $863 while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $663. The difference reflects a variety of influences in addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agree- ment, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, firm size, or geographic region.  (For a discussion of the problem of differentiating between the influence of unioniz- ation status and the influence of other worker characteristics on employee earnings, see “Measuring union-nonunion earnings differences,” Monthly Labor Review, June 1990.)

Union Membership by State

In 2007, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 12.1 percent, while 20 states had higher rates. All states in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions reported union member- ship rates above the national average and all states in the East South Central and West South Central divisions had rates below it.  Union membership rates were down from those of 2006 in 27 states, up in 20 states, and unchanged in 3 states and the District of Columbia.  (See table 5.)

Among the five states reporting union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2007, North Carolina posted the lowest rate (3.0 percent).  The next low- est rates were recorded in Virginia (3.7 percent), South Carolina (4.1 per- cent), Georgia (4.4 percent), and Texas (4.7 percent).  Four states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2007--New York (25.2 percent), Alaska (23.8 percent), Hawaii (23.4 percent), and Washington (20.2 percent).

The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.5 million) and New York (2.1 million).  Nearly half (7.8 million) of the 15.7 million union members in the U.S. lived in 6 states (California, 2.5 million; New York, 2.1 million; Illinois, 0.8 million; Michigan, 0.8 million; Pennsylvania, 0.8 million; and New Jersey, 0.7 million) though these states accounted for only about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.

State union membership levels depend on both the employment level and union membership rate.  Texas had less than one-quarter as many union mem- bers as New York despite having over 1.7 million more wage and salary employ- ees.  Similarly, Tennessee and Hawaii had comparable numbers of union members even though Tennessees wage and salary employment level was more than four and one-half times that of Hawaii.


Posted by Elvis on 08/10/08 •
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