Friday, January 06, 2012 11:36 AM
It’s always a little heart-wrenching when an expectant mother loses her job. Being in the “pregnant and fired” position myself, I can attest that my news has elicited a lot of handwringing from family and friends. (Okay, so “fired” is an exaggeration. I’m just laid off, along with all my Utne Reader colleagues as we watch our beloved magazine close down its Minneapolis office and move south to company headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, come March.) Fortunately, it’s nothing personal. Bad economy, decreased profits, budget cuts, the usual. The Utne president didn’t fire me for requesting maternity leave (as happened to a Canadian army reservist), for having a growing baby bump (as happened to a server at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club), or for using artificial insemination (as happened to an employee at Holy Family and St. Lawrence Catholic schools in Cincinnati). Nor did he badger me to get an abortion (as happened to a worker at Cookie’s Deli in New York). These are real-world examples of ways in which expectant mothers are mistreated in the workplace, even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant. These are all also real-world examples of women fighting back—suing their employers and bringing the cases to the media.
It’s inconvenient to spend 9 months growing a tiny person inside you. Between the swelling belly, the morning sickness that can make it difficult to perform your job, early complications that can make work dangerous altogether, needing a few months off after the child is born to attend to its constant needs, and needing a more flexible schedule in the months and years to come as you deal with daycare and school and illnesses—it’s a real zinger for you and your employer. But just like our society recognizes that military reservists need regular time off to attend to important duties without jeopardizing their job, we recognize that mothers-to-be need similar flexibility and time to attend to their valued duties. For more information on how to protect yourself and your children, visit the group MomsRising, a nonprofit devoted to building a more family-friendly America.
Source: CANOE, New York Post, Care2, NineMSN
Image by mahalie, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:53 AM
Anyone who has waited tables or cooked in a restaurant kitchen knows the backbreaking work, the questionable conditions, and the meager rewards. Now, it’s easy to find the restaurants that treat their employees right with the 2012 National Diners’ Guide, presented by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). The guide outlines the pay and benefits of 186 of the country’s most popular eateries, from fast food to fine dining.
Before you look at the guide to see where your favorite establishment stands, check out some of the reasons why the ROC says the ethical treatment of restaurant workers is vital:
With a federal minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped workers and $7.25 for non-tipped workers, the median wage for restaurant workers is $8.90, just below the poverty line for a family of three. This means that more than half of all restaurant workers nationwide earn less than the federal poverty line.
90 percent of the more than 4,300 restaurant workers surveyed by the Restaurant Opportunities Center report not having paid sick leave, and two-thirds report cooking, preparing, and serving food while sick, making sick leave for restaurant workers not only a worker rights issue but a pressing concern in public health!
Women, immigrants, and people of color hold lower-paying positions in the industry, and do not have many opportunities to move up the ladder. Among the 4,300 workers surveyed, we found a $4 wage gap between white workers and workers of color, and 73 percent reported not receiving regular promotions on the job.
Jaeah Lee at Mother Jones has distilled the ROC’s guide into an excellent Zagat-like reference for diners. (See, at a glance, that Starbucks’ employees don’t get paid sick days, but Chipotle’s do.) And, also on MoJo, Utne Reader visionary Tom Philpott takes a moment to look on the bright side of the report, pointing out that the “ROC isn’t just dishing up the restaurant industry’s dark secrets. It’s also working with restaurant owners across the country to come up with fair labor standards.”
For me, waiting tables at the Tic Toc Supper Club at the end of my teenage years was a crash-course in a range of adult matters: wine bottles are harder to open with a tableful of people watching; wearing a skirt gets you better tips; and the boss will rarely give you more than the bare minimum of what is required by law. Thanks to the ROC, restaurants just might be encouraged to give that bare minimum a boost.
Sources: Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Mother Jones
Image by rbnlsn, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 07, 2011 2:47 PM
I came to Minneapolis
after college, I took an internship at the book publisher Milkweed Editions
while working a paying job as a proofreader for personal ads. (That’s right.
SWMs ISO SWFs need editors, too.) Milkweed gave me a weekly stipend that
covered my lunches and bus fare, but nothing else. It didn’t matter. The
internship paid me in other ways, from experience, to friendship, to a
fortitude that helped me see a future beyond the hundreds of ads for
walks on the beach and candlelight dinners I read every week.
valuable are unpaid internships? In The
Oxford American, Emily Witt critiques Ross Perlin’s book Intern
Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy and
writes about her move from New York to Arkansas to be an unpaid
intern at The Oxford American. She
[I]n my nine months in Little
Rock I had some of the most fun I have ever had. A careerist
in my position would have stayed in New
York, would have smiled and combed her hair and made
herself cheerfully obedient, would have pleasantly harassed people until she
got a job, would have been plucky and assertive and enthusiastic and all the
things I was not. I have since become that person, more or less. But back then
I instead went South, gained twenty pounds, got drunk most nights, and made
some very good friends.
now an established reporter at the New
York Observer, continues:
At some point, one wants something that looks like a job, and
the way in is often an unpaid internship. Today I revel in the luxury of paid
employment: the biweekly paychecks deposited to my bank account, the automatic
withholding of taxes, the certainty of a fixed address, the health insurance,
even the routine of my alarm clock and daily commute, the florescent lights
over my cubicle, my desk phone, my business cards—all the usual symbols of
drudgery. Those who can’t do, intern; but it’s also true…that an internship
gives one both an appreciation for the importance of proficiency in the many
banal and thankless aspects of work, and the confidence to insist that such
commitment deserves to be rewarded in kind.
Check out the rest of Witt’s review and rumination here,
and tell us about your experiences as a poor, unpaid intern in the comments
section below. (We appreciate your reminiscences, but, alas, we can’t pay you
for those either.)
Image by _foam, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 20, 2011 11:22 AM
On the heels of Utne’s Work Package in our latest issue, Boston Review has a forum on the possibilities for full employment in today’s economy.
Who says that wind power needs to come from turbines? Introducing: fibro-wind arrays.
In what may be the most important piece of news this week, Paul the Psychic Octopus’ soccer-predicting legacy will not be forgotten.
From Guernica: Detroitism: What does “ruin porn” tell us about the motor city?
A visual number crunching of the state of modern-day marriage. There’s nothing like graphs and pretty pictures to get the point across.
The New Republic’s art critic on the state of photojournalism.
Monday, June 08, 2009 2:09 PM
Busy executives don’t have time to fire all the employees they need to in the midst of this financial crisis, and human resources departments can be expensive. Writing for McSweeney’s, Marco Kaye came up with the idea of a Netflix-style service called Netloss, where execs can send pink slips automatically through the mail. Managers create a queue of all their employees, and Netloss will fire them automatically. No late fees, and no need for a messy talks. There’s even a program that can suggest other employees to fire based on your firing habits and preferences.
The service sounds like a great idea, but it lacks that personal touch that only a trained HR professional can provide. In an episode of This American Life, Ira Glass sat down with someone who has fired more than 1,500 people. He never uses the term “fired” in fact. Instead, people are “exited” or “part of that downsizing” or there is simply “a parting of the ways.”
, licensed under
Sources: McSweeney’s, This American Life
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 3:07 PM
The promises of the Obama administration, coupled with increasing social and economic pressure, have thrown a bright spotlight on green-minded business. One new site is taking advantage of that attention and connecting green employers and their potential employees is the Green Buildings Jobs search engine. The job listings stretch across the United States and Canada and include positions for engineers, designers, and architects. Its interface is just like that of other job search engines, a user-friendly site where job seekers can post resumes and search for jobs based on industry or location.
For information on how to green your current job, this article at Planet Green has you covered.
(Thanks, Good Clean Tech.)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 12:47 PM
Many families are shrinking their demands on the American Dream as job prospects dry up. As one woman told Minnesota Women’s Press, a little stability is all she’s seeking. “My new American Dream,” writes Joan Riederer, who has subsisted on temp work for two years while applying for more than 300 positions, “is to have a job with benefits.” Her modest demands come four years into her family’s financial struggles, which started with her husband being laid off after 24 years at an IT consulting company. Mr. Riederer moved to New York, hoping a new job there would support his wife and daughter in Minnesota until he could return. They’re still waiting. In the meantime, the family meets twice a year, “maybe less now that airfares are rising,” writes Joan. Because they still have one IRA—they cashed in the others to cover expenses—the family does not qualify for subsidized healthcare. “I have spent thousands of dollars over the past year alone for medical and dental care,” writes Joan.
“I feel my years slipping away and I have so much I still want to do,” she writes. “I fear there are many more people with this same story—the one the president doesn’t tell in his employment figures.”
Joan is right that many Americans are struggling to find permanent work. And for those with less financial security than the Riederers, times are, unsurprisingly, even tougher. Today’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports a 27 percent increase from 2007 in homeless families seeking help from Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located. “People who work with the homeless say the increase is driven by people losing their jobs, foreclosures on apartment buildings that displace renters, and the effects of welfare reform that has recipients reaching the end of their 60-month lifetime limit on cash assistance,” writes the Star Tribune. In these circumstances, the poor may be pitted against struggling members of the middle class, according to the Star Tribune, people much like the Riederers: “When foreclosed apartments put poor people on the street and they begin looking for a new apartment, they may find themselves competing with people who once owned homes.”
For more on this topic, see “Reimagining the American Dream” in the May/June Utne Reader.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 5:31 PM
In recent decades, the labor movement has declined in both membership and influence. Some don’t see this as a problem. Among those who do, proposed solutions vary. Here’s an idea of how to save the unions that you may not have heard: Labor needs to get in touch with its religious, and specifically Catholic, roots.
Thomas C. Kohler, who teaches labor and employment law at Boston College Law School, makes this case in the Fall 2007 issue of Boston College Magazine. Kohler traces the close relationship between the church and the labor movement through history, arguing that the overlap was no mere coincidence of location and status—the two institutions in fact share several core values related to the dignity of people, the power of community, and the nature of work. Kohler calls for “a new conversation between the law and religion about the character of work and its impact on the individual who performs it.”
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