Striking adjuncts

If adjuncts want more workplace rights, they have to take them. As Inside HigherEd reports, “That message was echoed throughout a discussion on non-tenure-track faculty rights here Monday at the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, or COCAL, conference. It’s being held this week at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.

“The biennial gathering draws participants from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and adjunct activist panelists from all three countries advocated striking as a real and valid means of achieving short- and long-term goals.

“Unless and until faculty, including part-time faculty, hit the streets and occupy the classrooms,” said Stanley Aronowitz, a tenured professor of sociology and urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center, “there won’t be any change of substance.”imgres-1

“Aronowitz, who has worked as an adjunct professor several times throughout his career, said this idea applied even in those states where collective bargaining or strikes among public employees is prohibited by law. Faculty members at Nassau Community College who went on strike last year over protracted contract negotiations paid hefty fines for violating New York State’s Taylor Law, for example. (Under the law, the union was permitted to engage in collective bargaining, but not to strike.) But Aronowitz and other activists said that striking is a fundamental right that should be ensured by the First Amendment; without the right to strike, he said, collective bargaining too often becomes “collective begging.”Participants here responded to Aronowitz’s remarks on strikes with strong applause.

“Maria Teresa Lechuga, a Ph.D. candidate in pedagogy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, added: “We need to stop asking for permission to organize ourselves.” Panelists said that striking is always a “last resort,” to be exercised only when adjunct faculty members and administrators can’t otherwise reach common ground. But in order to ensure public support when and if the time to strike comes, advocates said, adjuncts need to nurture relationships with other kinds of workers, along with parents and students.Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, said adjuncts shouldn’t be afraid to bring up their working conditions with their students. She said such conversations are part of students’ “civic education” — an essential part of their studies. Continue reading “Striking adjuncts”

Workforce at 36-year low

The percentage of American civilians 16 or older who do not have a job and are not actively seeking one remained at a 36-year high in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.imgres

In December, April, and now May, the labor force participation rate has been 62.8 percent. That means that 37.2 percent were not participating in the labor force during those months.

Before December, the last time the labor force participation rate sunk as low as 62.8 percent was February 1978, when it was also 62.8 percent. At that time, Jimmy Carter was president.

In April, the number of those not in the labor force hit a record high of 92,018,000. In May, that number declined by 9,000 to 92,009,000. Yet, the participation rate remained the same from April to May at 62.8 percent.

The labor force, according to BLS, is that part of the civilian noninstitutional population that either has a job or has actively sought one in the last four weeks. The civilian noninstitutional population consists of people 16 or older, who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home, or mental hospital.

In May, according to BLS, the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, hit 247,622,000. Of those, 155,613,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one. Continue reading “Workforce at 36-year low”

Art, money, and labor

There are few modern relationships as fraught as the one between art and money. Are they mortal enemies, secret lovers or perfect soul mates? Is the bond between them a source of pride or shame, a marriage of convenience or something tawdrier?

As the New York Times reports, “The way we habitually think and talk about these matters betrays a deep and venerable ambivalence. On one hand, art is imagined to exist in a realm of value that lies beyond and beneath mere economic considerations. The old phrase “starving artist” gesturesimgres toward an image that is both romantic and pathetic, of a person too pure, and also just too impractical, to make it in the world. When that person ceases to starve, he or she can always be labeled a sellout. You’re not supposed to be in it for the money.

“On the other hand, money is now an important measure — maybe the supreme measure — of artistic accomplishment. Box office grosses have long since become part of the everyday language of cinephilia, as moviegoers absorb the conventional wisdom, once confined mainly to accountants and trade papers, about which movies are breaking out, breaking even or falling short. Multimillion-dollar sales of paintings by hot new or revered old artists are front-page news. To be a mainstream rapper is to have sold a lot of recordings on which you boast about how much money you have made selling your recordings.

“In the popular imagination, artists tend to exist either at the pinnacle of fame and luxury or in the depths of penury and obscurity — rarely in the middle, where most of the rest of us toil and dream. They are subject to admiration, envy, resentment and contempt, but it is odd how seldom their efforts are understood as work. Yes, it’s taken for granted that creating is hard, but also that it’s somehow fundamentally unserious. Schoolchildren may be encouraged (at least rhetorically) to pursue their passions and cultivate their talents, but as they grow up, they are warned away from artistic careers. This attitude, always an annoyance, is becoming a danger to the health of creativity itself. It may seem strange to say so, since we live at a time of cultural abundance and flowering amateurism, when the tools of creativity seem to be available to anyone with a laptop. But the elevation of the amateur over the professional trivializes artistic accomplishment and helps to undermine the already precarious living standards that artists have been able to enjoy. Continue reading “Art, money, and labor”

What professors do

Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.

It’s a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here’s what he discovered.

All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:images

Professors, then, worked 51 hours during the official workweek and then, in addition, put in ten hours over the weekend.

What were they doing those days?  Research, teaching, and service are the three pillars of an academic workload and they dominated professors’ time.  They used weekends, in particular, to catch up on the first two.  The suspension of the business of the university over the weekend gave them a chance to do the other two big parts of their job. Continue reading “What professors do”

The internship treadmill

Like other 20-somethings seeking a career foothold, Andrew Lang, a graduate of Penn State, took an internship at an upstart Beverly Hills production company at age 29 as a way of breaking into movie production. It didn’t pay, but he hoped the exposure would open doors.

“When that internship proved to be a dead end, Mr. Lang went to work at a

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 second production company, again as an unpaid intern, reports the New York Times “When that went nowhere, he left for another, doing whatever was asked, like delivering bottles of wine to 27 offices before Christmas. But that company, too, could not afford to hire him, even part time.

“A year later, Mr. Lang is on his fourth internship, this time for a company that produces reality TV shows. While this internship at least pays him (he makes $10 an hour, with few perks), Mr. Lang feels no closer to a real job and worries about being an intern forever. “No one hires interns,” said Mr. Lang, who sees himself as part of a “revolving class of people” who can’t break free of the intern cycle. “Is this any way to live?”

“The intern glass ceiling isn’t limited to Hollywood. Tenneh Ogbemudia, 23, who aspires to be a record executive, has had four internships at various New York media companies, including Source magazine and Universal Music Group.

“In any given month, I’d say I apply to at least 300 full-time jobs,” she said, noting these attempts were to no avail. “On the other hand, I can apply to one or two internship positions a month and get a call back from both.”Call them members of the permanent intern underclass: educated members of the millennial generation who are locked out of the traditional career ladder and are having to settle for two, three and sometimes more internships after graduating college, all with no end in sight. Like an army of worker ants, they are a subculture with a distinct identity, banding together in Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups and, lately, creating their own blogs, YouTube channels, networking groups and even a magazine that captures life inside the so-called Intern Nation. It is a young, rudderless community that is still trying to define itself. “I’m just wondering at what point how many internships is too many,” said Lea, who received a master’s degree from Parsons, the New School for Design two years ago and aspires to work as a magazine art director. (She was allowed to use only her first name to avoid jeopardizing a current job application.) So far, her résumé has been limited to three internships — planning events for teenagers at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, compiling news clippings for a public relations agency in New York, and being the “fetch-the-coffee girl” at an art gallery.While feeling trapped inside what she calls a “never-ending intern life,” Lea satisfies her creative impulses by editing a food and drinks column at a lifestyle blog, selling coral fan necklaces on Etsy, and starting a charity to teach children about “responsible” street art. She wonders if she should surrender to a fourth internship or settle for an office job outside her chosen field. Continue reading “The internship treadmill”

Walmart strike widens

Wal-Mart workers and supporters launched protests in at least 15 cities Thursday, urging the world’s largest retailer provide higher wages, better jobs and the right to unionize.

OUR Wal-Mart, a coalition including Wal-Mart workers, community organizers and the United Food & Commercial Workers organized day-long protests, urging Wal-Mart to pay full-time wages of $25,000 a year, or $12 an hour, reports USA today.

“It says many of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million associates are part-time employees averaging just $8.80 an hour.

“The Wal-Mart protests – which follow last week’s broader, widespread strikes among fast-food industry workers seeking $15 an hour wages from fast food chains – were scheduled for Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Orlando, Minneapolis and Washington D.C., where Wal-Mart is threatening to cut expansion if it’s required to pay a city mandated “living wage” of at least $12.50 an hour.

“At least three current or former Wal-Mart employees were arrested in New York City Thursday morning for disorderly conduct as they attempted to deliver a petition to the office of Wal-Mart director Chris Williams. The independent board member is CEO of New York-based investment bank Williams Capital Management Trust. About three dozen protesters, some wearing green shirts with OUR Wal-Mart stenciled on them, participated in the rally.

“Protesters also planned to rally outside of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s San Francisco apartment building. Mayer was appointed to Wal-Mart’s board of directors in 2012. Wal-Mart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said the protests were having little impact on its 4,600 U.S. stores. Continue reading “Walmart strike widens”

American’s have least vacation

One thing many working people in American don’t know that they don’t know is how poor our social benefits are compare with those enjoyed by workers in other countries, reports Sociological Images.imgres

“No doubt one reason is the general media blackout about worker experiences in other countries.  A case in point: vacation benefits.

“The Center for Economic and Policy Research recently completed a study of vacation benefits in advanced capitalist economies.  Here is what the authors found:

The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirements of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offers none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer at least six paid holidays per year.”

More at: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/07/27/the-unknown-world-2/

Happy Mother’s Day?

With Mother’s day approaching a number of analysts have calculated the equivalent compensation for a individual doing comparable work. As Huffington Post reports: “A mother’s hypothetical pay fell for the second year in a row, dragged down by stagnating wages in the United States, according to insurance information website Insure.com.

“A mom in 2013 was worth $59,862 per year, down from $60,182 in 2012 and $61,436 in 2011, Insure.com said, calculating the salary based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
This was the third year Insure.com released its data just ahead of Mother’s Day.

“By another measure, the “mom salary” rose slightly this year after experiencing a big dip in 2012.
The career website Salary.com, basing its pay figures from businesses employing 25 people or fewer, showed a stay-at-home mom was worth $113,586 in 2013 versus $112,962 and $115,432 in 2011. The domestic work of a mother who has another job was valued at $67,435. “The hypothetical mom salary stagnated as U.S. wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent of GDP in 2012. For many workers, wages have been stagnant for the past decade, according to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.  Continue reading “Happy Mother’s Day?”

Looking for work with a disability

Five years after starting to keep track of whether people with disabilities are working, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found fewer people with disabilities in the labor force even as the population has grown, reports the Pittsbugh Gazetteimages-1

“In June 2008 when the bureau started to keep track of the disabled population’s relationship to the labor force, there were 27.3 million people who were disabled and 21.7 percent of them were either working or looking for a job.As of March, that number had grown to 28.9 million, but their participation rate in the labor force had fallen to 18 percent.

“During the same time period, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the labor force has risen from 9.3 percent to 13 percent. The trends for people with disabilities mirrors the larger population, in which the unemployment rate rose from 5.6 percent in June 2008 to 7.4 percent in March (without seasonal adjustment) while the labor force participation rate has fallen from 72.6 percent to 68.7 percent. “In this market when there are so many people looking for work, people with disabilities have to outshine everybody else,” said Eric Smith, associate director of the Center for Accessible Technologies in Berkeley, Calif. Continue reading “Looking for work with a disability”

Australia cracks down on modern-day slavery

Australia is to introduce tough penalties, including jail sentences of up to 25 years, to confront what it says is a growing trade in sex slaves, reports The Guardian.imgres-3

“The crackdown follows increasing evidence of young Asian women being brought to Australia and forced into sex slavery in Sydney’s red light King’s Cross district and other state capitals. Continue reading “Australia cracks down on modern-day slavery”

Rising unemployment among the disabled

Following the news last week that American unemployment ticked up to 7.9 percent came another, more sobering, statistic.

The unemployment rate among Americans with disabilities increased significantly in January, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday, reports DisabilityScoop.

“Statistics indicate that the jobless rate jumped to 13.7 percent last month for people with disabilities, a steep rise over the 11.7 percent unemployment rate reported for the final month of 2012.

“Multiple factors appear to have contributed to the growth in

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individuals with disabilities without jobs in January. Not only were there more without jobs, but the number of people seeking work also grew, according to Labor Department data. Continue reading “Rising unemployment among the disabled”

Robots stole my life

“The robots are coming! Word is they want your job, your life and probably your little dog, too.” This is how a piece by Catherine Rampell begins in yesterday’s New York Times. This is hardly a new worry, as the piece continues to discuss:

“Robots have once again gripped the nation’s imagination, stoking fears of displaced jobs and perhaps even a displaced human race. An alarmist segment on “60 Minutes’ was only the most vivid of a recent series of pieces in respected magazines and newsoutlets warning about widespread worker displacement.Professors at Cambridge University and a co-founder of Skype

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are creating a newCenter for the Study of Existential Risk, which would research a ‘Terminator’-like scenario in which supercomputers rise up and destroy their human overlords, presumably plotting the whole caper in zeros and ones.

“In New York alone, there are four plays running this month with themes of cybernetics run amok. One is a revival of ‘R.U.R.,’ a 1920 Czech play that was the granddaddy of the cybernetic revolt genre and that originated the current meaning of the word “robot.” Continue reading “Robots stole my life”

Apple stops using teen labor in China

imgres-2Apple said a Chinese labor agent forged documents on behalf of underage workers as the world’s most-valuable technology company seeks to improve conditions at suppliers making iPhones, iPads and Macs. Bloomberg News reports that

“The electronics company also stopped doing business with a manufacturer that employed 74 people younger than 16 who used the faked papers, according to its annual Supplier Responsibility Report released today. The recruiter was reported to provincial authorities, fined and had its license suspended. ‘Underage labor is a subject no company wants to be associated with, so as a result I don’t believe it gets the attention it deserves, and as a result it doesn’t get fixed like it should,’ Jeff Williams, Cupertino, California-based Apple’s senior vice president of operations, said in an interview. Continue reading “Apple stops using teen labor in China”

Why “right to work” means anti-union

“Right to work” laws argue that they insure workers the “freedom” to sell their labor, without interference from meddling entities like, for instance, labor unions.

This week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed such a law. As Slate, further explains, conservatives “have been pressing for so-called “right to work” laws across the Midwest. Major labor groups almost uniformly oppose these bills, so why do we call them “right to work” laws?

Because they allow you to work through a strike. Commentator and lexicographer William Safire chronicled the origins of the phrase “right to work” in his Political Dictionary. A 1912 Bernard Partridge cartoon depicted an employer telling a striking worker, “I can’t make you Continue reading “Why “right to work” means anti-union”

Unions confront child labor in Latin America

Child labor remains a vexing problem throughout the world. But labor unions in some nations are stepping up efforts to change things, as reported in today’s edition of The Guardian in a story entitled “Bolivia’s child workers unite to end exploitation.” As the story begins:

“Shining shoes, mining and herding animals among the many jobs done by an estimated 750,000 children between five and 17.Rodrigo Medrano Calle is a Bolivian labour leader who meets and lobbies top government officials for his constituency’s rights. That’s not surprising in a country Continue reading “Unions confront child labor in Latin America”

Immigrant numbers shifting in tech

There are signs that immigrants’ influence in the U.S. tech industry may be plateauing, as reported in a recent study by AnnaLee Saxenian of Berkeley and Vivek Wadhwa of Duke. Slate reports that the researchers found “that 43.9 percent of Silicon Valley startups launched in the past seven years had at least one key founder who was an immigrant. That’s a big number, but it’s a drop from 2005, when 52.4 percent of startups were immigrant-founded.

“The composition of immigrants in the Valley has shifted a bit, too. In Saxenian and Wadhwa’s ranking of countries that produced the most U.S.-based techies, Taiwan fell from fourth to 23rd. (The reasons for that drop—and the decline of immigrant-founders across the board—can be attributed in part to U.S. visa issues and burgeoning opportunities abroad.) At the same time, though, some tech insiders have seen Latin American-born entrepreneurs, a previously invisible cohort, begin to make their presence known in Silicon Valley. Continue reading “Immigrant numbers shifting in tech”