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Labor lockout report: Why stop at replacement refs?

Why not replace, say, your teenagers, or the people of Greece?

September 30, 2012|By Robert Zaretsky
  • The NFL referees are back on the field, but the lockout strategy lives on.
The NFL referees are back on the field, but the lockout strategy lives on. (Illustration by Wes Bausmith…)

The National Football League referees are back on the field, replacing their replacements from the Lingerie League. But the lockout strategy lives on. A number of towns and institutions across the country — indeed, the globe — are using the NFL owners as their guide, convinced that the bottom line is the bottom line. Here is a selection of lockout dispatches from hither and yon.

Replacement children

On the eve of the new school year, the parents of Encino declared a lockout of their children. Ventura Boulevard was jammed with family vans festooned with bumper stickers: "Heck, No, To Chuck E. Cheese We Won't Go!" and "What if They Gave a Piano Recital and No One Came?" Parents, with dazed but quiescent replacement kids in tow, happily explained their action to reporters. "It was a couple of Tuesdays ago, as I was pulling out of a Chick-fil-A and my twins began flinging fries at one another, that I had an epiphany," related Doralene Polaski. "I warned them: 'One fry more and you're out of here'; they thought I was kidding. Imagine my joy when I realized I wasn't!" Her husband, Deane, arm around his wife: "Our friends all think a lockout is a fabulous idea. What better way to make the kids understand that we're not ATMs? We think of it like a timeout, but way bigger." The new kids, whose temporary allowances dwarf their earnings at Somali refugee camps, would say through translators only that they hoped the lockout would last through the winter.

Replacement U.S. legislators

When they returned to Washington after summer recess, our nation's legislators had the surprise of their lives. Responding to a Gallup/USA Today poll — which found that Americans compare their elected officials unfavorably to embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad — the Capitol's security force decided to act. Citing a clear and present danger to the republic, the police locked out representatives and senators, replacing them with 535 freshly recruited preschool teachers. During the first day of the new Congress, observers were stunned to find that the newly minted legislators, all wearing name tags punctuated with smiley faces, were taking turns serving in the Senate and House. "Oh, a couple of days a month as senator is more than enough for me," Piper Dawling, a preschool teacher from Mendocito, declared. In the cloakroom, former teachers shared doughnuts and coffee, "used their words" and started every talking point with "please." What are the greatest challenges facing our nation's newest legislators? One early childhood specialist whispered, "Well, there are a few hard-line Montessori types." But, she added, "I'm sure they will learn to make good choices."

Replacement Greeks

"Where do they find all of these tires?" wondered a European Union emissary as he stood at a smoldering barricade after the latest anti-austerity protests in Athens. The question will soon be academic following the EU's decision to impose a lockout on the entire Greek population. "Several million people might seem like a lot to replace," said the bureaucrat, "but when you set that number against the bigger picture — Stalin's population transfers, say — it is definitely manageable." Wiping his forehead with an Acropolis souvenir scarf, he added: "We're in negotiations right now with several governments, all of whom tell us their citizens would be happy to fill in for the Greeks. You know, slapping whitewash on island houses, manning the souvlaki stands, dancing on tables when need be." Asked how long the lockout might last, the bureaucrat shrugged: "How many tires have they got left?"

Replacement humanities professors

The trustees of the California State University system, dissatisfied with the recent deal struck with faculty — "No pay cut? Puh-leese! That might as well be a pay raise," sniffed one disgruntled trustee — has locked out the entire liberal arts faculty. Student tweets are trending positive. The replacement teachers, though inexperienced, are eager. Suddenly thrust into the seminar "Queers and Queens in Shakespearean Tragedy," Loreen MacAvoy seems unfazed. Citing 20-plus years as a volunteer reader at area hospices, MacAvoy doubted her undergraduates were that different an audience. "As Will was fond of saying, 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever!' " At a group study session at a Northridge Hooters, students enrolled in one of the many new online courses, "From Barbarella to Buffy: Female Empowerment in American Pop Culture," were busy comparing notes between rounds of Buds. "Books are so yesterday," belched one student.

Robert Zaretsky, a history professor at the University of Houston, is at work on a book about Albert Camus.

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