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70,000 Pan-Handlers Announce Strike
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UBAGET, CA - "We're tired of being ignored, we're tired of being invisible. We want what anyone wants, and if we don't get it, we are going to carry out this strike and we're prepared to see it out indefinitely." Those were the strong words of Connie "Squirrel" Polen, the defacto spokesperson for the loosely-organized Pan-Handlers of California. The press release issued by Polen says that the group "will remain visible in the community, however they will neither solicit nor accept any donations. In addition, services that were previously provided for free or a nominal donation such as car-windshield washing and package carrying will be discontinued."

"Well, that's a good thing. Isn't it?" responded Emma Grupp, a 65-year-old resident of Ubaget. "You never ask for help, they just sort of bundle away your bags, haul them a block or so, then stand there with their hand out. If you don't give, they kick dirt at you. You're saying they intend to stop it?"

Emma's response was representative of the members of the community we spoke to. If anything, it seems that the "strike" would bring relief to these residents.

"They say that now," answered Polen, "but wait until they want to give somebody a dollar and there's no hat to drop it in. Wait until their windshield needs a good spit-shine and no one comes up to help. When they carry their own bundles, I think they'll see the light."

The group intends to carry out the strike until the city recognizes pan-handling as a legitimate business, allowing them to combine the administrative work for many members into one central function. "We're looking at outsourcing most of the tax and benefits work," said Polen. "We've spoken to a near-shore firm, and they have pointed out some off-shore opportunities we could leverage. But we need the city's backing, first."

"Poppycock," said Hal, who not only wouldn't give his last name but claims not to have one. "Like Cher," he said, "all us superstars go by one name." When told about the looming strike, he responded, "First I've heard of it. Come Monday morning, if you got a dollar more'n' you know what to do with, I'll be happy to help you out." He added, "That Squirrel is always into something. Last winter she tried to get everybody to take a cruise. A Cruise!"
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