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Simpler times 

Ive always favored the simple life: dandelion chains tipping roguishly over sun-warmed hair; a barn full of cows; the sweet smell of hay after early spring showers; happy, contented workers who don’t gripe when they don’t get promised raises or don’t file lawsuits accusing their boss of sexually discriminating against them.

You know, the simple life.

It’s nature and workers who have the same employee rights as the cows in your barn. That way, if you hit a particularly rough winter, you have a choice between tossing Bessie or your prized accountant Cal on the grill—or, in the case of the San Miguel Community Services District, tossing whichever employee happens to look juiciest onto the grill. If General Manager Rene Salas is to be believed, that may be the best bet in terms of shoring up the CSD’s accounts. Of course, if you favor the employees’ account of things (and who would? In this scenario they’re all livestock) Salas is using the budget as an excuse to put a damper on the fact that CSD employees are trying to unionize.

Now, San Miguel is little more than the contents of a Kleenex after a particularly boisterous sneeze—not that the residents are snots or anything, there just aren’t many of them. But you have to give the community of 1,500 people credit for raising a dust-up worthy of a city 20 times its size, which is a nice way of saying their drama per capita is astronomically high.

Consider a hypothetical guy named Cal. He represents a San Miguel CSD employee, but you can also picture him as a mild-eyed brown Swiss cow to carry the pastoral metaphor. He was promised a raise last December. It’s been a while since he last had a raise, and the cost of living perpetually increases, of course. Also, Cal’s milk production has been stellar. Good job, Cal, and just ignore the anatomically incorrect implications of this increasingly disturbing metaphor.

In the spirit of looking out for his long-term interests—how many good years does a milking cow have?—Cal and the other cows petitioned the San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association to join the union. Not long after, Salas cried “fiscal emergency,” which will essentially prevent Cal from receiving raises for the next three years, as well as take back the raise he was already promised.

Salas is swearing up and down that he’s not retaliating against the CSD employees for attempting to join the union, but the timing of this alleged fiscal emergency smells sour. My advice to Cal and the other cows is to trust farmer Salas to look after your best interests. He’s probably going to try to get as much work out of you as possible before shipping you off to the slaughterhouse, but, well, that’s the relationship between employer and employee—er, farmer and livestock.

Cows don’t need unions. They’re perfectly content to work in the fields their entire life before being carved into T-bones when their teats have run dry.

Then there’s the sweet little village of Arroyo Grande, where roosters strut along a picturesque creek … and Chief of Police Steve Annabali is the subject of lawsuits from three officers. Given that the people who filed the lawsuits won’t talk because their lawyers advised them not to, and that the city of Arroyo Grande claims it can’t legally discuss personnel matters—unless it’s to publicly disparage the people who filed the complaints—the task of figuring out what actually happened is nigh impossible.

From the shroud of secrecy and silence, Annabali emerges heroically to point the finger elsewhere. Those other sexual discrimination lawsuits filed while he was working in Breckenridge, Colo.?

“They were all sexist before I got there,” he says (I may have paraphrased). “And thank the gods they had me to clean up their act.”

Praise be Annibali! Hallelujah! There’s absolutely no more to the story, I guess.

Except for a few little tidbits I can’t wrap my head around.

Annabali hired John Hough for his Arroyo Grande department; Hough was named in one of the Breckenridge lawsuits that was settled out of court. Annabali argues that he stumbled into a boys’ club there, which he had nothing to do with, of course. But he brought one of the boys along with him. And lo and behold, Hough’s name once again wound up in a lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination.

That’s what scientists might call a pattern. But what do they know? They wear glasses!

Clearly, Annabali was just sticking up for the underdog. Hough seems to be the victim of wily female cops, not women who want and expect to be treated as equals on the job. And everybody knows we live in a litigious culture, so it makes sense that the Arroyo Grande Police Department has been inundated with lawsuits over the course of the last year.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the Arroyo Grande Police Department has seen an unusual flurry of lawsuits with a common thread of allegations. But you fail to understand that the people who filed those lawsuits are all just trying to besmirch the fine name of Arroyo Grande and score some scratch while they’re at it. I know this because the fine people who manage that city and its police department told me so.

Hmm, that still doesn’t sit well. I mean, if these types of accusations against a police department were normal, you wouldn’t be reading about them. Instead, I’d be yapping about some other moron who was discriminating against women or engaging in anti-union behavior.

You know, like Rush Limbaugh.

If Shredder was a cow, it’d be a Jersey Shore cow. Moo at


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