The Anatomy of a Union Buster

They want you divided, not united.

I can state with great confidence that most employers treat their employees like sh**, especially the large corporations. They will wring the maximum profit out of their workers, while giving the minimum amount of benefits. They will often consider these human beings expendable if they aren’t willing participants in their own exploitation.

The federal government is not much help, either. They can’t get their act together to raise the minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009. This means that 37.2 million Americans, according to the US Census Bureau, live in poverty. They also can’t seem to come together on Universal Health Care, which the majority of us want, even though this diabolical connection between employment and health care keeps us all chained to employers who can then treat us abominably.

This poor treatment by employers and neglect by our government is exactly why unions exist. It’s pure and simple. People deserve a living wage and conditions that don’t negatively impact their health, along with benefits that maintain and even enhance their lives, in exchange for their hard work.

Even as you read this, men and women in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska; and Memphis, Tennessee are on the picket line, 24 hours a day, in the rain and snow, and have been there since October 5, 2021. They’re not there for the fun of it. They’re demanding better pay, benefits and working conditions for all Kellogg’s employees.

According to this article in the Rolling Stone entitled, “Cereal Killers: How 80-Hour Weeks and a Caste System Pushed Kellogg’s Workers to Strike”, they had quite a few reasons to take that drastic step. First of all, Kellogg’s CEO Steve Cahillane makes 280 times more than his employees’ average salary, and cereal sales are booming during the pandemic. Despite this, the company is attempting to lower wages by 1/3 for new hires, and increase the cost of their health insurance by $300 a month. Employees can show you their time cards, which reflect 72 to 84 hour work weeks for months on end, and there is a horrible amount of pressure to get them not to take any time off at all.

When Kellogg suspected that a strike was looming on the horizon, they stopped hiring new workers, because they wanted fewer people to potentially show up on a picket line. Now that the strike is upon them, they are putting up strikebreakers at a hotel, and in addition to paying them at the old, non-reduced rate, they’re also giving them 75 dollars a day for meals. Some of these scabs are goofing off and getting into fights on the job. Meanwhile, Kellogg has cut off the health care coverage for the strikers, and they’re threatening to hire permanent replacement workers. Merry effing Christmas.

Union busters have a lot of practice in this country. I strongly urge you to visit the unionbustingplaybook.com to see the many tactics they use to stop strikes and/or prevent unions from getting a foothold in the first place. It’s positively diabolical.

Here are a few standard tricks:

Union busters will tell the employees that a union would ruin their “family” work environment, and make it impossible for them to communicate directly with workers. If it were a family environment, workers wouldn’t be trying to get a union in the first place. Companies might throw them a bone in the form of some sort of perk, simply to slow down the agitation, but once union talk dies down, they’ll withdraw it again. If they’re afraid enough to bribe their employees, then they know they have much more to lose with a union, and that means the workers will have much more to gain. Also, no union has ever prevented an employee from communicating with their boss. In fact, you don’t even have to get the union involved in your conversation unless you feel as though you need help and aren’t being treated fairly.

Companies will also get some employees to form anti-union committees which will circulate leaflets full of lies about unions, to get people to vote no. These companies will also hold meetings that you’re required to attend. They’ll either promise you things they have no intention of giving you, or they’ll try to scare you about your job security. They are also prone to shake things up right before a union vote, such as lying about the union at the last minute. They also get front-line supervisors to exert extreme pressure on you.

Employers will try to make you believe that unions lead to violence, and then they’ll use that as an excuse to hire a cadre of intimidating security guards. They’ll also tell you that unions can force you to strike, which is the exact opposite of the truth. Union members vote whether to strike or not. The whole point of a union is that you have a voice in what it does. The union is you. It isn’t the newest bully in your life. Union Busters want you divided, not united.

Busters will claim that you won’t be able to afford the union dues, and that unions only exist to take your money. In fact, if you are a member of a union in good standing, expect to get a lot of junk mail from an evil organization called the Freedom Foundation, which I’ve written about here and here. Their latest junk mail in my mailbox claims that I’d be able to buy a lot more Christmas presents if I opted out of paying Union dues. But the truth is that union employees routinely earn much more than non-union employees do, and have better benefits and working conditions. As far as I’m concerned, the union dues pay for themselves. I will always support my union even though union dues aren’t mandatory. They’ve saved my bacon more than once. I am a proud member of PROTEC Local #17.

Union busters will also claim that they don’t have to abide by a union contract, but if that were the case, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to prevent a union, would they? That’s what you have to keep reminding yourself. If they didn’t know they had a lot to lose, they wouldn’t be putting so much effort into their misinformation campaign.

For the first time in decades, thanks to the COVID-driven labor shortage, we all have a chance to stand in our own power and make employers treat us with respect. Support unions. Because no employer really has your best interests at heart. We are cogs in their machine. They’re all about the greed.

If you’d like to support the Kellogg strikers, boycott Kellogg products., but don’t stop there. Two of the locals, the ones in Michigan and Pennsylvania, have a gofundme account going. Click on the state links and join me in keeping them fed, housed, clothed and healthy while they stand their ground.

Union strong!

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Tribes without Federal Recognition

Federal recognition would cost us money, and we can’t have that, now, can we?

When you attend just about any event of significance in the Seattle area, the moderator will often start off by saying, “We would like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish people.”

According to the Duwamish Tribe website, doing so is a sign of respect and a way of honoring the indigenous people. In that light, I appreciate that that acknowledgement is so often proffered here (I never heard anything similar in the 40 years I lived in Florida), but it also makes me squirm, because I can imagine a whole unspoken paragraph that ought to go with it. To wit:

“Here we all are, enjoying this event that is taking place on land that we stole from the Duwamish people. Not that we have any intentions of returning it to them. Not that they have been allowed to benefit from the profits that we have made since we stole the land. Not that we are giving them any of the proceeds that we earn from this event. In fact, the Duwamish people do not even constitute a federally recognized tribe, so they don’t get any federal support whatsoever, despite the fact that they’ve been here for thousands of years, because that would cost us money, and for heaven’s sake, we can’t have that, now, can we?”

It’s just not right. Federally recognized tribes, in theory, receive benefits similar to what states and local governments do, according to this page from the Department of the Interior. For example, they get assistance with education, social services, law enforcement, courts, real estate services, agriculture and range management, and resource protection. They are also provided with health services in the form of hospitals and clinics, and have access to established programs that specialize in maternal and child health, mental health, substance abuse, home health care, and nutrition. Recognized tribes are also provided with disaster assistance and COVID vaccines. There are currently 574 recognized tribes in the US, 231 of which are located in Alaska.

But there are also at least 360 tribes with no recognition whatsoever, according to this Wikipedia page. And that doesn’t even count the tribes that are recognized by states but not the federal government, or tribes that were previously recognized by the federal government but then terminated. Termination can be caused by having no more known living tribe members (which is understandable), but it was also caused by a federal policy that was in place from the mid-1940’s to the mid 1960’s, in a nefarious effort to stop supporting these tribes financially.

Lack of recognition causes a whole host of problems, such as having to travel to the nearest recognized tribe to get your COVID shots instead of having them available in your community, or not having any FEMA assistance after a hurricane that wipes out your entire community, which is what happened to the Houma Tribe in Louisiana during Hurricane Ida. (Please join me in helping them here.)

We are a greedy and selfish nation, so we make it extremely hard for tribes to get recognition. If it happens at all, it can take decades, and it comes at a great legal expense. And how does one provide proof of one’s existence when most tribes had no written history before the advent of the European invasion?

The fact is, we know what we did to these people. We need to not only acknowledge it, but also do something about it. We broke international law when we just moved on in and slaughtered them with impunity and took everything and then left the survivors destitute and dying. America is one of the worst perpetrators of genocide in the world. A mature nation would take responsibility for its actions. It’s time we did so.

This doesn’t even come close to being a comprehensive list.

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Happy International Workers’ Day

Power to the people.

Please look around you. Every single thing you have, from the clothes on your back to the food that you eat, to the very roof over your head, exists because of labor. We survive because of the blood, sweat, and tears that are put into everything that humans rely on. Never forget that.

Having said that, it’s disheartening to realize that the average American worker is treated horribly, so I can’t even imagine the dismal conditions overseas. It is common knowledge that someone making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in this country is automatically in poverty, and 2/3rds of those people are women. Many workers have no health insurance and no other benefits to speak of. They also have no job security, and are increasingly expected to put their health and safety at risk to heighten production and profits for the corporations.

Why such harsh conditions? Because as of 2020, only 6.2 percent of private sector workers in America are in unions. And the labor movement did receive a harsh blow when Amazon managed to lie to, intimidate, and bully its workers in Bessemer, Alabama, into voting against adopting a union. The fact that they put so much effort into their disinformation campaign shows you how afraid of unions they are.

Why on earth would anyone vote against a union? Because their employers have treated them so wonderfully up to this point? See above. Because of fear of job loss? That’s illegal, and you have more power than you think. Employers are NOTHING without employees. The whole point of unionizing is that you can speak to management with one huge, powerful voice, and for the first time, they’ll have to listen.

And they will listen. Don’t believe me? You’re already benefiting from unions even if you’ve never joined one yourself. Thanks to unions, we have weekends, breaks at work, lunch, what benefits we do have, social security, minimum wage (no matter how dismal, it could be even worse), 8 hour work days, overtime, child labor laws, a 40 hour work week, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, pensions, OSHA, wrongful termination laws, whistleblower protection laws, sexual harassment laws, Americans with Disabilities Act, public education, and no more sweatshops.

None of the things mentioned in that last paragraph came about out of the goodness of employers’ hearts. All of us benefit from the existence of unions. Think of that the next time you’re tailgating outside a football stadium.

The only legitimate complaints I hear about unions are that you are expected to pay union dues, that they pit labor against management, and that it’s hard to get rid of the dead wood, the slackers, in a unionized organization. I’ll address all of these in turn, because you deserve to know the truth.

With regard to the dues, believe me when I say they pay for themselves in no time. Like I said, we all have the benefits mentioned above, and union workers are paid so much better, and have such better benefits, that it’s all worth it. In fact, they get paid more than 27 percent more, on the average. I make even more than that. My non-union bridgetender brothers and sisters in Florida make 11 dollars an hour if they’re lucky. I make 33 dollars an hour here in Seattle, and can expect a raise pretty much every year. That says a lot.

Labor vs. Management? Don’t be fooled. You have always been pitted against management. Their sole purpose in life is to maximize profits, even if it means grinding you into the dirt. That’s why unions were created in the first place. At least with a union, the fight is a lot more fair, and out in the open.

I will admit that the dead wood issue is a problem. No system is perfect. There are a certain percentage of slackers and people who make your life miserable in just about any organization, union or no union. And I have to say that the union has saved my bacon more than once, so if I have to put up with some dead wood in exchange for phenomenal job security myself, I’ll take it. You do you, as the saying goes. I’ll continue to take pride in my work.

Anyway, happy May Day, and here’s hoping that you have a job that you love that pays you a living wage, dear reader! Power to the people. Union strong.

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The Upside to Face Masks

Have you gotten your annual winter cold?

Yeah, face masks fog up your glasses and make it a tiny bit harder to breathe. Yeah, some fools think they violate their rights, or that they send some form of political message. (Such as, “I care about your life?” Beats me.) Yes, it’s a pain when you forget to wear one and have to go back to your car or house to get it. And I haven’t seen the bottom half of the faces of my friends in so long I’ve forgotten how they look. But I’m beginning to realize that there are quite a few upsides to face masks.

For example, it suddenly occurred to me today that I haven’t gotten my annual nasty winter cold. I’ve come to resign myself to it every year, but so far, knock on wood, I’ve gotten off scot free. No complaints here! (And I haven’t had the flu in decades because I get the vaccine every year.) I may have to wear masks every Autumn and Winter from here on out.

I’ve discovered other benefits as well. Masks keep your face warm when it’s cold outside. I’ve also been using one to hide an unsightly pimple on my nose for the past week. Bonus points! And I can stick my tongue out at people I don’t like and get away with it. It’s very satisfying.

I never thought, this time last year, that I’d have a favorite mask or an obscene collection of masks, but I do. How quickly fashions change. How quickly priorities change.

Of course, the primary upside to face masks is their ability to protect those around you from this deadly pandemic. That alone should be all the reason one needs to wear one. Personally, I’ll move heaven and earth to avoid killing people, but that’s just me.

No, this isn’t me. Just some random pic from the internet, but I like her attitude!

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Because Unions

I saw the recent raise in my paycheck and I felt sick.

I saw the recent raise in my paycheck and I felt sick to my stomach. Not sick because I was disappointed at the amount of the raise. No. Sick with relief. For the first time in my life, I’m financially stable. The stress relief that accompanied that realization was leaving me a little nauseated.

You see, for most of my life, I lived in Florida, a “Right to Work” state. I can count the number of raises I have received in that state on one hand. And I had worked there for nearly 40 years. Benefits were paltry at best. I could be fired for any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever. I was unappreciated, unsupported, and I never felt safe. My pay never kept up with the cost of living. I often woke up in a cold sweat, wondering how I’d pay the bills, or what would happen if I became too sick to work. If they needed me to work a 16 hour double shift, I had no choice but to do so. I had no recourse when an injustice was visited upon me. When I was exposed to lead paint and the accompanying toxic fumes, my boss told me (I swear to God), “Just drink milk and you’ll be fine.” The future was very dark.

Now I’m working in the state of Washington, for the City of Seattle, and I’m protected by a union. I get raises. I have health insurance and disability and dental and vision and sick leave, and if the stuff hits the fan, the union will send a representative to sit in on any subsequent meetings. I cannot work more than 12 hours a day, and I am allowed to say no if I only want to work a regular 8 hour shift instead. Can you imagine? I can say no. Such a little word, but it means so much to me.

It’s the same exact bridgetending job that I had in Florida, but I make three times as much money. Do you have any idea how much that means to me and to my life? I eat better food. I don’t suffer from stress-related maladies. I don’t wake up in a cold sweat. I can relax and enjoy my loved ones. I have a reliable car. I don’t live in a ghetto. The future is bright.

Thanks to union-busting federal legislation, I’m no longer required to pay union dues. But I do, and I always will. My union has saved my bacon on multiple occasions.

If you honestly think that your employer will treat you decently without a union having your back, good luck with that. I’ve been on both sides of that situation, and I know for certain that unions, the institutions that gave us the 40 hour work week and did away with child labor, are the only ones who are truly on the side of the 99 percent. They need our support. They are a gift. That gift should never be taken for granted.

Thank you, PTE Local 17, and all the unions out there that still exist, for all that you do. You have given me quality of life. I’m told I’m good with words, but I find myself at a loss to adequately explain how much that means to me.

Union staff have stressful jobs, holding back the tide of inequity, but what they do really, truly matters and won’t be forgotten. Please join me in staying union strong.

Unions

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Unexpected Cherries

I love it when things fall into place.

I know someone who has been unhappy for quite some time. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She never even tried. She just assumed that this was the natural state of things; the cards she had been dealt, as it were.

And then she sold her house and moved elsewhere. And now she’s completely different. Rather than being isolated, she interacts with people. She also gets to see the most amazing things from her balcony. Parades. Fireworks. Choirs.

You might say she’s gotten her groove back. And it’s beautiful to see. She’s excited about life again. All’s right with the world.

The funny thing is, she didn’t make this move in an effort to find happiness per se. That result was just the unexpected cherry on top of the sundae. Isn’t that great?

I love it when things fall into place. I love it even more when that outcome is unplanned. May you have many unexpected cherries in your life, dear reader.

Cherry

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You Just Got A Lot Less Free

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled against you, me, and everyone else in the Janus vs AFSCME case. Now, everyone in the public sector, regardless of the state in which he or she resides, is in a “right to work” state.

Basically, it means that people in union jobs in the public sector no longer are required to pay union dues, and yet they will get the benefit of union services. That sounds great unless you scratch the surface. If fewer of us pay union dues, the unions will spend more time financially struggling, and less time protecting workers.

Why should you care? Trust me, I lived in Florida, a “right to work” state, for decades. For the past 4 years, I’ve been in Washington, a collective bargaining state, and the differences were blatantly obvious.

For starters, I am now earning 3 times as much for doing the exact same job. In Florida I was barely making more than minimum wage, and had no benefits to speak of. Here in Washington, I get holiday pay and sick leave and have medical and dental and vision insurance. I have retirement. In other words, I can survive.

In Florida, when we were exposed to lead paint, our supervisor told us to drink more milk. That was supposed to take care of lead poisoning. Here, our health and safety is so focused on, it’s the opposite extreme, meaning I have to wear a hard hat every time I step out on the sidewalk. But at least I won’t be hit by a low flying plane!

In Florida, I could be fired for no reason at all, and it happened to people all the time. In Washington, even the people who should get fired almost never do. But at least you can sleep at night, knowing you’ll have a job tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong: They still try to screw you over in Washington State. They just don’t succeed as often. Thanks to unions. And that’s something to hold on to. But now, that’s gone. Greedy people will stop paying their union dues. (I’ll keep paying. They’ve saved my bacon too many times to stop supporting them now.) Without our support, the unions will get stretched thinner and thinner until they break.

And that’s what the conservatives are counting on. You elected them. Now look at what is going to happen to you. The statistics in the image below are all too true. And the crazy thing is, even if you aren’t in a union job, these statistics trickle down to you as well.

Okay, I’m not explaining this well. (I tend to be less coherent when I’m upset.) Check out this video and you’ll understand. It’s 3:35, so only a few minutes of your time to realize just how screwed this conservative-packed supreme court just made you.

Welcome to our new reality. Think about that next time you enter the voting booth. And happy 4th of July.

#UnionStrong #FreedomToJoin

RTW-Is-Wrong

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Earthing

One of the best things about the advent of spring is that I find more and more opportunities to walk barefoot. I love the feeling of grass under my feet and sand between my toes. I love feeling connected to the planet, especially after long months of raw, bitter, wet, isolating cold.

In particular, I love the grass out west. It’s soft and smooth, like the grass of my Connecticut childhood. In the South, one is forced to live with St. Augustine grass, which is actually lumpy and painful to walk on. That, and you have to watch out for fire ants and snakes and scorpions and hostile plant life. It’s not the same experience at all. (But I do miss walking on Southern beaches! Warm sand, not painful rocks!)

But walking barefoot, or “earthing”, is now being scientifically studied. It comes as no surprise to me that people are discovering that there are actual health benefits to the practice. I know I feel calmer and happier and much more centered when I’m barefoot.

According to this article, scientists are discovering that earthing improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and increases antioxidants. It has something to do with having direct contact with the electrons that the planet produces. It also reduces stress, regulates glucose and heartbeat, and increases immunity. According to this article, walking barefoot also helps loosen tense muscles, relieves headaches, reduces menstrual cramps, and boosts energy levels.

Whether or not these studies stand up to further investigation, I just know, instinctively, that I feel better when I can feel the earth beneath my feet. After all, we evolved to live upon it. Our very existence depends on it. We are meant to be connected to it. I find it sad that our idea of “progress” is removing us more and more from the natural world.

So get out there and wiggle your toes!

Barefoot-walking

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Give Yourself a Raise

Recently I got a raise at work, and I was thrilled. You have to understand. For 14 years I worked in a non-union job, and we got a one dollar raise every 6 years, which, needless to say, did not keep pace with the cost of living. And we’d have to fight to get that. We also got 3000 dollars’ worth of health coverage a year, which barely covered prescriptions for most of us. Now I’m working the same job on the other side of the country and we have a union and I’m earning three times as much, with a benefit package that moves me to tears whenever I contemplate it.

Let’s face it, if employers actually cared about their workers, there’d be no need for unions. Assuming The Man is going to behave honorably without union oversight is pure fantasy. Without unions there would still be sweat shops, child labor, and 80 hour work weeks.

I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I just kind of fell into this good fortune. I did nothing special to deserve it. I was just in the right place at the right time. I am no more worthy than you are. I wish I could sign up every single person on the planet, but that’s not within my power.

If you can unionize, do so. But as much as it breaks my heart to say this, most people reading this are probably going to be screwed at work. The only thing I can tell you is that there is more than one way to get a raise. If you wait for your employer to do it you may wait forever. Here are a few other ways to raise yourselves up:

  • Find something that you love doing outside of work and do it just for the pure joy of it. You might also consider thinking of ways to make money by doing it, but that’s definitely not required.

  • Volunteer. This will give you a great deal of satisfaction. Call it a karma raise. And though your efforts you may meet people and make contacts that will translate into a future job, or make like-minded friends. You can never have too many of those.

  • Be ever mindful that the best things in life don’t cost a penny. Love. Friendship. Learning. Beauty. Reach out for those things. Embrace them.

  • Vote! Make your opinion count! Be heard!

  • Whenever possible, do as much as you can to lift up the people around you. Acknowledge their efforts. Give compliments. Be generous. That abundance will come back to you. On the other hand, turf-guarding, selfishness and subjugation will drag you down as well.

  • No one can treat you as well as you can treat yourself. But are you doing that? Being kind to yourself, pampering yourself? Our culture may frown upon it, but it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. Make it a habit.

  • Speak your truth. Embrace your uniqueness. Maintain your integrity. Do what feels right to you. All these things will make you a more authentic, happy individual, and when you live that happiness, good things will come your way. No one can take that away from you.

  • Explore your spirituality to it’s natural (for you) conclusion. Therein lies peace.

  • Exercise. Do yoga. Walk in the world. Actively play.

Do something to give yourself a raise every day. It’s every bit as important to you as food. Think of it as feeding your spirit. The Man isn’t in charge of your well-being. You are.

Alicia
This is my friend Alicia. Beautiful in mind, body and spirit. And also the best yoga instructor on the face of the earth! (Photo used with permission.)

I Love You, Honey

I was sitting in the back yard the other day, watching the dogs play and enjoying the sun, when a bee landed on my hand. In my younger days this would probably have freaked me out. I don’t want to get stung. Who does?

But now I’m a lot calmer and more logical. I wasn’t threatening this bee in any way, so she wasn’t going to give up her life by stinging me. In fact, I’m sure I was but a brief stop as she went about her busy schedule. And sure enough, after a thorough inspection of my cuticles, she flew away.

I recently read Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey by Holley Bishop. It gave me a great deal of insight into our buzzing neighbors, and it also made me run out and order a sample pack of various types of honey from Smiley Honey, the apiary she writes about in the book. I have to say their wildflower honey is the best honey I’ve ever tasted in my life. It’s like sweet golden sun-kissed flowers on your tongue.

The book talks about the long history of the relationship between humans and bees, and also how dependent we are upon their pollination skills. If we lose the bees, we will lose a huge amount of the food that we take for granted, and that’s a scary prospect because we are killing them off with our chemicals and our twisted interventions in the natural world.

It has long been on my bucket list to keep a beehive. After reading so much about it, I’m more determined than ever. People have been doing it for centuries. If I’m ever a homeowner again, I plan to do just that.

The book also talked about the fact that honey has benefits that refined sugar does not provide. A quick google search will tell you that if you compare the same amount of honey to sugar, you will find it has fewer calories, 25 times as much potassium, 6 times as much calcium, fewer carbs, and also provides you with things that sugar does not, such as some fiber, protein, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium. I’m definitely going to do my best to use honey as my main sweetener from now on.

It also discussed the many benefits of bee pollen. These benefits are more controversial, but many consider it a superfood that increases your vitality, reduces cravings, strengthens the blood, prevents infectious diseases and allergies, and even prevents cancer. So I went to my local health food store and got some in bulk, and have started taking it, a spoonful each morning. It kind of tastes like sweet dirt.

Be advised that I’m not a doctor, and you should probably consult with one before adding bee pollen to your diet as some people have experienced side effects. Having said that, just in this short period of time that I’ve been consuming honey and bee pollen, I have noticed a great improvement in my breathing and energy levels, and have had less lower back pain (probably due to the potassium in the honey). Coincidence? Honestly, I have no idea. But I’ll take it!

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