Article 43

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Toxic Work World

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
NY Times
September 18, 2015

For many Americans, life has become all competition all the time. Workers across the socioeconomic spectrum, from hotel housekeepers to surgeons, have stories about toiling 12- to 16-hour days (often without overtime pay) and experiencing anxiety attacks and exhaustion. Public health experts have begun talking about stress as an epidemic.

The people who can compete and succeed in this culture are an ever-narrower slice of American society: largely young people who are healthy, and wealthy enough not to have to care for family members. An individual company can of course favor these individuals, as health insurers once did, and then pass them off to other businesses when they become parents or need to tend to their own parents. But this model of winning at all costs reinforces a distinctive American pathology of not making room for caregiving. The result: We hemorrhage talent and hollow out our society.

To begin with, we are losing women. America has unlocked the talent of its women in a way that few nations can match; girls are outpacing boys in high schools, universities and graduate schools and are now entering the work force at higher salaries. But the ranks of those women still thin significantly as they rise toward the top, from more than 50 percent at entry level to 10 to 20 percent in senior management. Far too many discover that what was once a manageable and enjoyable work-family balance can no longer be sustained regardless of ambition, confidence or even a partner who shares tasks equally.

Every family’s situation is different; some women may be able to handle with ease conditions that dont work for others. But many women who started out with all the ambition in the world find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs; they are shut out by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together. In her book “Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home,” the sociologist Pamela Stone calls this a “forced choice.” “Denial of requests to work part time, layoffs or relocations,” she writes, “will push even the most ambitious woman out of the work force.”

A young lawyer I know from Virginia was offered a general counsel position, which she determined she could take but only if she could work from home one day a week to be with her two children. Her employer refused. Still another woman wrote to me about her aspiration to an executive-level position and the predicament of doing so with a 2-year-old at home: The dilemma is in no way the result of having a toddler: After all, executive men seem to enjoy increased promotions with every additional offspring. It is the way work continues to be circumscribed as something that happens in an office, and/or between 8-6 that causes such conflict. “I haven"t yet been presented with a shred of reasonable justification for insisting my job requires me to be sitting in this fixed, 15 sq foot room, 20 miles from my home.”

The problem is even more acute for the 42 million women in America on the brink of poverty. Not showing up for work because a child has an ear infection, schools close for a snow day, or an elderly parent must go to the doctor puts their jobs at risk, and losing their jobs means that they can no longer care properly for their children - some 28 million and other relatives who depend on them. They are often suffering not only from too little flexibility but also too much, as many low-wage service jobs no longer have a guaranteed number of hours a week.

This looks like a “womens problem,” but its not. It’s a work problem the problem of an antiquated and broken system. When law firms and corporations lose talented women who reject lock-step career paths and question promotion systems that elevate quantity of hours worked over quality of the work itself, the problem is not with the women. When an abundance of overly rigid workplaces causes 42 million American citizens to live day to day in fear that just one single setback will prevent them from being able to care for their children, it’s not their problem, but ours.

The problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the “Mad Men” era, for “Leave It to Beaver” families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.

Irene Padavic, a Florida State sociologist, Robin J. Ely, a Harvard Business School professor, and Erin Reid from Boston Universitys Questrom School of Business were asked to conduct a detailed study of a midsize global consulting firm where top management thought they had a ғgender problem. The firm had a paucity of women at the highest levels ԗ just 10 percent of partners were women, compared with nearly 40 percent of junior associates.

After careful study, Professors Padavic, Ely and Reid found that an equal number of men and women had left the firm in the preceding three years, a simple fact that contradicted managements women, work and family story. Some of the men also left because of the long hours; others ғsuffered in silence or otherwise made do. The firmԒs key human resources problem was not gender, as management believed, but rather a culture of overwork.

The firms leadership resisted these findings. They didnҒt want to be told that they needed to overhaul their entire organizational philosophy or that they were overpromising to clients and overdelivering (for example, making hundred-slide PowerPoint presentations that the client couldnt even use). They wanted to be told that the firmҒs problem was work-family conflict for women, a narrative that would allow them to adopt a set of policies specifically aimed at helping women work part time, or be mentored, or join support networks. As Professors Padavic, Ely and Reid wryly concluded, their attitude required a rejection of evidence on the part of evidence-driven analysts.Ӕ

Bad work culture is everyones problem, for men just as much as for women. ItҒs a problem for working parents, not just working mothers. For working children who need time to take care of their own parents, not just working daughters. For anyone who does not have the luxury of a full-time lead parent or caregiver at home.

But theres good news. Men are also beginning to ask for and take paternity leave and to take lead parent roles. According to a continuing study by the Families and Work Institute, only a third of employed millennial men think that couples should take on traditional gender roles. Some tech companies warring for talent are also beginning to compete by offering longer paternity leaves, which will hardly affect the average American workplace, but is a sign of changing cultural attitudes.

EVEN if men and women join forces to demand changes in the workplace, though, we cannot do this alone, as individuals trying to make our lives work and as workers and bosses trying to make room for care. Some other company can always keep prices down by demanding more, burning out its employees and casting them aside when they are done. To be fully competitive as a country, we are going to have to emulate other industrialized countries and build an infrastructure of care. We used to have one; it was called women at home. But with 57 percent of those women in the labor force, that infrastructure has crumbled and itҒs not coming back.

To support care just as we support competition, we will need some combination of the following: high-quality and affordable child care and elder care; paid family and medical leave for women and men; a right to request part-time or flexible work; investment in early education comparable to our investment in elementary and secondary education; comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers; higher wages and training for paid caregivers; community support structures to allow elders to live at home longer; and reform of elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of a digital rather than an agricultural economy.

These proposals are not so far-fetched as they may seem. President Obama put forward proposals to expand access to affordable, high-quality child care in his 2016 budget. Hillary Rodham Clinton has made providing a foundation for working families, including child care, one of the central aspects of her campaign. One of the few states that offers paid family leave (workers pay the cost out of a small increase in their payroll tax) is New Jersey, under the Republican governor Chris Christie.

Republican senators have sponsored a bill that would allow employers to offer employees paid leave hours instead of overtime pay; some polls show that a majority of women who vote Republican support paid family leave. Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, is co-leader of a bipartisan caucus across both the Senate and the House devoted to assisting family caregivers. She follows in the footsteps of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, who successfully sponsored legislation to allow homemakers to contribute to retirement accounts the same way that salaried workers can. And as the baby boom becomes an elder boom, we can expect a whole new constituency for care, on both sides of the aisle.

Change in our individual workplaces and in our broader politics also depends on culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige. If we really valued care, we would not regard time out for caregiving for your children, parents, spouse, sibling or any other member of your extended or constructed family - as a black hole on a resume. We would see it as engaging in a socially, personally and professionally valuable activity. We would see men who lean out for care as role models just as much as women who lean in for work. We would think managing kids matters as much as managing money.

Impossible, right? Yet I grew up in a society where my mother set out little vases of cigarettes on the table at dinner parties, where blacks and whites had to use different bathrooms, and in which almost everyone claimed to be heterosexual. That seems a lifetime ago, but I驒m not so old. Our world has changed over the past 50 years, vastly for the better from the point of view of African-Americans, the L.G.B.T. community and families who lost loved ones to lung cancer. Given the magnitude of that change, think about how much we can still do.

We can, all of us, stand up for care. Until we do, men and women will never be equal; not while both are responsible for providing cash but only women are responsible for providing care. And though individual Americans might win out in our current system, America as a whole will never be as competitive as it ought to be. If we do not act, over time our families and communities, the foundation of our flourishing, will wither.

The womens movement has brought many of us the right to compete on equal terms; it’s time for all of us to claim an equal right to care.

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Posted by Elvis on 09/20/16 •
Section General Reading
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cant Find A Qualified US Worker Redux 7

habib.jpg

Insourcing: American Lose Jobs to H-1B Visa Workers

By Judy Frankel,
Founder and CEO, Write Independent
July 26, 2016

Disney characters sing lofty messages about finding your true self, developing your special talent and becoming successful doing what you love. Their stories never say: study to become a highly-skilled Information Technician, work hard for years at Disney, train your foreign replacement, and don’t forget to leave your benefits at the door when it slaps you on the back.

Since October of 2014, Disney aggressively used “guest workers” for low-wage staffing to replace American workers. The H-1B, a 3-year work visa, allows foreigners to enter the country for specific jobs. Originally, H-1B visas were structured to bring in highly skilled, uniquely talented individuals if the American labor pool ran dry. But since 1990, employers have been abusing the visa program to reduce payroll and maximize profits.

Gary Beach, of the Wall Street Journal said the H-1B visa “was intended to complement, not replace American workers. It’s gotten out of hand.”

Americans are losing jobs to foreigners and training their replacements.

Disney laid off 850 American workers, some of whom were given 90 days to train their replacements with the THREAT OF LOOSING THEIR SEVERANCE PAY if they didn’t stay to the end. “We all felt humiliated when the foreign workers sat next to us and watched everything that we did,” WROTE ONE DISNEY EMPLOYEE going through the experience. The training sessions prove that the H-1B workers don’t hold special skills that American workers lack. “If our own pool of IT professionals were so incompetent, then why would companies like Disney have us train our replacements and spend months teaching them?” wrote the displaced worker.

So many staff spoke Hindi during their training period that a departing employee remarked, “I really felt like a foreigner in that building.”

Disney calls the practice “knowledge transfer” whereby IT professionals chart the step-by-step processes of the job, audiotaping conversations and recording their computer screens. “We were then astonished as everything that we did on our job was documented and read right back to us for further critiquing.” By the end of the 90 days, new workers had an instruction manual to which they could refer after the Americans left.

Employers Have Reasons to Abuse Foreign Guest Visas

Carly Fiorina is legend for REPLACING AMERICAN WORKERS WITH LOW WAGE VISA WORKERS at Hewlett-Packard. Employers aren’t required to pay minimum wages, don’t have to offer benefits, and social security taxes are waived for five years, reducing costs by 17 to 21.5% of their total salaries, saving employers billions of dollars annually. High tech giants Google, Xerox, and Facebook have taken advantage of H-1B workers.

Corporations such as Toys ‘R Us, Xerox, Molina Medical, Pfizer, and Microsoft used H-1B “guest” workers to reduce their payroll costs. Utility company Southern California Edison laid off 500 employees, warning SCE workers to train their replacements in 90 days or they wouldn’t receive severance.

The Numbers of Replaced American Workers are Staggering

In 2015, the number of visas issued to all immigrants crossing the borders legally was almost 11 million, according to statistics collected at FOREIGN SERVICE POSTS.

Supposedly, the government has set a cap of 85,000 new H-1B’s each year for the entire country. But many workers come in using other types of visas such as:

OPT: Optional Practical Training
F-1: student
B-1: business
J-1: exchange visitor
CPT: (Curricular Practical Training) interns who are recruited later
Q: Special Disney-invented visa for workers who are “authentic to the Epcot experience”

Workers then switch to an H-1B. Switches are not recorded as part of the 85,000 cap and there are no checks and balances in place to reign in visa clearances.

The Department of State, who issues worker visas, reports figures for all 16 different types of work-eligible visas, showing that 70 million have been issued since 2007.

When the Government Accountability Office studied the H-1B visa program in 2011, they reported reasons why the numbers of guest workers are impossible to track:

The total number of H-1B workers in the U.S. at any one time--and information about the length of their stay--is unknown, because (1) data systems among the various agencies that process such individuals are not linked so individuals cannot be readily tracked, and (2) H-1B workers are not assigned a unique identifier that would allow for tracking them over time--particularly if and when their visa status changes.

The AFL-CIO reported in 2009 that as many as 25% of imported workers have fraudulent visas. Today, this translates to as many as 17.5 million foreign employees gaming the system.

9-11 Terrorists Arrived Here With Worker Visas

Scariest of all, the visa worker program is poorly administered. Homeland Security doesn’t screen applicants at the airport, so visa holders gain entry at airports, making a wall at the border obsolete.

“The main, legitimate criticism right now—which is one we would level as well—is that the accountability mechanisms are not fully integrated and not seamless,” says Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council.

When the Government Accountability Office reviewed the H-1B program in 2011, they wrote “a recent Department of Homeland Security study reported that 21 percent of the H-1B petitions they examined involved fraud or technical violations.”

Potential Terrorists in Key Positions

In March, 2006, David Huber, a worker who was replaced at ComEd in Chicago, testified in front of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, “Two of the three individuals who replaced me were from China. As part of my job, I had access to all the data communication switches that control the electrical grid for the Chicago area. Anyone with this access could shut down the entire telecom operations for the power company and possibly the power grid itself. It is very likely that my replacements will return to China, taking with them detailed knowledge about the inner workings of our electrical grid system. After the recent controversy over our ports, I can’t believe that Congress thinks this is a good idea.”

Corporations with Record Profits Cut American Jobs

Disney posted $7.5 billion in profit in fiscal year 2014, a month after major layoffs in October 2014. The company continued to lay more Americans off until 850 lost their jobs from Orlando, Florida to Anaheim, California.

Is this replacement of American workers for unskilled foreign workers a matter of greed? Or is it simply a global shift in workers in a flattened world?

Ron Hira, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Howard University and author of Outsourcing America: What’s Behind our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs, says it’s shifting corporate goals. The stakeholders of companies used to include workers, the community, and the nation. Now the focus is on shareholder value and increasing profits. “Much of the compensation of 46 million dollars that Bob Iger [CEO of Disney] received is from stock,” Hira said, explaining how management benefits from stock performance. “At some point, you have to ask the question, when are these CEOs and the shareholders going to be satiated? When are they going to share some of those profits and prosperity with the workers who have created that value? I think the answer is: never.”

“Staffing" Companies Find Cheap Labor

For CEO’s, cheap labor is just a phone call away. They call themselves consulting, staffing, or employment companies. But those who are fighting against the industry call them “body shops.” International (HCL Global Systems, Tata Consultancy Services, Satyam, Infosys, Accenture, Cognizant) and domestic (IBM) outfits facilitate the process of replacing Americans with foreign workers. Six of the largest firms are based in India. An attorney at VisaPro will teach human resource personnel how to use H-1B visas to cut costs with foreign nationals.

Cognizant Technology Solutions, Inc. boldly states, “We have an active recruitment program in India” in their informational materials. Some staffing companies entice foreign nationals with high figures, but when they arrive, they make as little as $25,000 per year. Once in America where the cost of living is comparably expensive, living conditions are poor.

Complaints are rarely filed against the staffing companies, since the workers often fear reprisals and removal from the country. Investigations into wrongdoings take years, and require an indictment by a grand jury before the Department of Justice will confirm or deny allegations.

How did abuse of the guest worker program start?

Follow the Money Around Washington

Before 1990, the visa program made it difficult for employers to hire guest workers. They had to explain why they needed a candidate with specialized skills, what training the specialist had that Americans don’t have, and they screened the applicant.

Then Microsoft went to Washington. Ostensibly to hide the trail of money, an organization named Business Software Alliance (BSA) acted as cover while lobbyists greased wheels in Congress. Microsoft spent more than $20 million during the critical years 1998-2000 to tweak H-1B legislation, such as giving students on an F-1 visa the ability to work.

High tech firms and the staffing agencies who help job seekers come to the U.S. are still getting around the 85,000 workers-per-year cap through a “H1B cap-exempt” workaround. Companies lobby for loosened visa legislation, then abuse the loopholes they created.

In Washington, two laws created exemptions from the cap (then set at 65,000 H-1B visas per year). The first was disingenuously titled “The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000”. One of the biggest funders of visa-friendly bills is the Information Technology Industry Council. Their member companies, some of the biggest names in the industry, hire, recruit, train, place, and/or subcontract foreigners. The following are just a snapshot of some of the bills making it easier to replace Americans with foreign nationals:

S.2045 The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000. Allowed more non-immigrant visas (H-1B’s) for years 1999 through 2003, and made those who were already granted visas exempt from being counted toward the cap.

HR. 4227 Amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the cap on H-1B visas for 2000.

HR. 4444 (1986) Repeals the visa application fingerprint requirement and certain related provisions. Repeals existing requirements that immigrant visa applicants submit supporting documentation in duplicate and that consular officers retain duplicates of all issued immigrant visas.

In the works:
HR. 2758 Allows non-agricultural immigrants a permanent exception to the annual limit.

These changes have already hurt Americans. “Statutory changes made to the H-1B program have, in combination and in effect, increased the pool of H-1B workers beyond the cap and lowered the bar for eligibility,” reported the Government Accountability Office in a 2011 study of the guest worker program.

Presidential Candidates Need to Weigh In

Unless Hillary Clinton states otherwise, she supports importing more foreign workers to replace and fire competent U.S. workers. In 2011, as Secretary of State, she assisted the U.S. Embassy in India by authorizing them to break federal law and accept every visa in excess of 60,000 to replace American workers. According to James Otto, labor rights attorney, Clinton also spent more than 40 million taxpayer dollars to educate foreigners and import them.

Developer Donald Trump hires illegal aliens for his construction jobs. Trump hired 200 undocumented Polish workers to demolish the building that made way for Trump Tower in Manhattan. According a Reuters review of U.S. Department of Labor statistics, Trump sought to hire 1,100 foreign workers on the visa program. Much as he maligns Mexicans, if he wants cheap labor, he may use undocumented workers to build his wall.

What can be done to improve the worker visa program?

Hira said, “You have to have policies in place that give workers at least a fair shake. When you’re bringing in guest workers, you’re really creating unfair intervention in the labor market, unfair competition for those workers.” He suggests raising the wage floor for guest workers, so that employers have to pay a premium for their specialized skills, following the spirit of the guest worker visa program.

Otto also suggests the law automatically recognize that all guest workers are employees of the U.S. corporation who hires them in addition to the staffing company. This creates a paper trail of how many foreign born workers are used by each corporation. A statute created by the state or federal government would thus give authorities the ability to track numbers. In addition, every H-1B applicant should be required to provide certified college transcripts that must then be verified by their agency or employer.

Lawsuits

In the meantime, 18 former Disney employees filed a lawsuit, hoping to shed light on the problem of insourcing, a topic that isn’t getting much press.

“The F-1, foreign student, used to be a non-working visa,” says Otto, the attorney representing replaced Disney and Molina Healthcare workers in Southern California, “but because of change of the rules, the employer doesn’t have to pay them minimum wage, and the foreign student doesn’t have to pay any taxes.” After 6 months as an F-1, the student can take a job in the U.S. and then change immigration status to an H-1B. “A foreign worker can take a non-specialty job, displacing one American worker, and then after 12 months, and without any experience, change status before he graduates to an H-1B, where he displaces yet a second American worker who is highly skilled.”

“There is no doubt that the imported guest workers are not the best or the brightest,” said Otto. “I’d like to ask (Presidential candidate) Trump, what difference will it make to build a wall when so-called American companies are hiring illegals by the truckload through the H-1B workaround?”

Foreign Workers Left Stranded

If a company is done with an employee, guest workers often find themselves stranded in the U.S. without a job. After five years as an H-1B, employers are required to start paying social security, so the worker becomes less attractive. When the job is over, so is the visa, making them into illegals. Their staffing company may hold their paperwork hostage, forcing them to pay thousands of dollars to seek legitimacy.

Meanwhile, American IT workers and others are left stranded without jobs.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 09/17/16 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Ultimate Selishness Or Not?

suicide is always an option

There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide

By Katie Hurley
Author, The Happy Kid Handbook
August 14, 2014

I am a survivor of suicide.

I don’t talk about it a lot these days, as I’ve reached the point where it feels like a lifetime ago. Healing was a long and grief-stricken process. There were times when I felt very alone in my grief and there were times when I felt lost and confused. The trouble with suicide is that no one knows what to say. No one knows how to react. So they smile and wave and attempt distraction… but they never ever say the word. The survivors, it seems, are often left to survive on their own.

I experienced endless waves of emotion in the days, weeks, months and even years following the loss of my father. The “what ifs” kept me up at night, causing me to float through each day in a state of perpetual exhaustion. What if I had answered the phone that night? Would the sound of my voice have changed his mind? Would he have done it at a later date, anyway? Survivor’s guilt, indeed.

Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I sat perfectly still watching the waves crash down on Main Beach, hoping for a sign of some kind that he had reached a better place. Sometimes, I silently scolded myself for not seeing the warning signs. Sometimes, I bargained with God or anyone else who might be in charge up there. Bring him back to us. Please, just bring him back. Sometimes I felt angry. Why us? Why me? Why him?

Yes, I experienced a range of emotions before making peace with the loss. But one thought that never ever (not even for one second) crossed my mind was this ill-informed opinion that suicide is selfish. Suicide is a lot of things, but selfish isn’t one of them.

SUICIDE IS A DECISION made out of DESPERATION, HOPELESSNESS, ISOLATION and LONELINESS. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.

People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It’s selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They’re not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they don’t know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.

Until you’ve stared down that level of depression, until you’ve lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness… you don’t get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won’t help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.

As the world mourns the loss of Robin Williams, people everywhere are left feeling helpless and confused. HOW COULD someone who appeared so happy in actuality be so very depressed? The truth is that many, many people face the very same struggle each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And some will hang on for dear life. Most won’t be able to ask for the help that they need to overcome their mental illness.

You can help.

Know the warning signs for suicide. 50-75% of people who attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention. Listen when people talk. Make eye contact. Convey empathy. And for the love of people everywhere, put down that ridiculous not-so-SmartPhone and be human.

Check in on friends struggling with depression. Even if they don’t answer the phone or come to the door, make an effort to let them know that you are there. Friendship isn’t about saving lost souls; friendship is about listening and being present.

Reach out to survivors of suicide. Practice using the words “suicide” and “depression” so that they roll off the tongue as easily as “unicorns” and “bubble gum.” Listen as they tell their stories. Hold their hands. Be kind with their hearts. And hug them every single time.

Encourage help. Learn about the resources in your area so that you can help friends and loved ones in need. Don’t be afraid to check in over and over again. Don’t be afraid to convey your concern. One human connection can make a big difference in the life of someone struggling with mental illness and/or survivor’s guilt.

30,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year. 750,000 people attempt suicide. It’s time to raise awareness, increase empathy and kindness, and bring those numbers down.

It’s time to talk about suicide and depression.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 09/07/16 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Personal
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