Article 43

 

Telecom Underclass

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Book: Down and Out in the New Economy

image: Down And Out in the New Economy

Homeless and Unemployed in an Economy We’re Supposed to Think Is Liberating
In Ilana Gershon’s new book ”DOWN AND OUT IN THE NEW ECONOMY,” the employer power dynamic is called into question.

By Ilana Gershon
University of Chicago Press
April 27, 2017

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Dont Find) Work Today by Ilana Gershon (University of Chicago Press, April 2017):

Chris, an independent contractor in his midfifties, knows a lot about what it means to deal with an unstable job market, especially during those moments when you are between gigs and don’t know when you are going to get the next one. There was a period in 2012 where he hadn’t had a contracting job for a while, and he had no idea how he was going to pay his rent. He realized he might be able to make his rent for another month, but if he didn’t get a job soon, he might be homeless. He decided that he needed to get his body ready for this very likely possibility. I started to sleep on the floor a few hours each night, as long as I could take it, so I could get used to sleeping on a sidewalk or on the dirt. That’s how bad it looked. It just seemed hopeless, Chris said. Out of the blue, a staffing agency based in India contacted him and offered him a contract in the Midwest, giving him enough money to make it through this bad patch. But this stark moment, in which he saw homelessness around the corner, is part and parcel of the downside of careers made up of temporary jobs. Chris responded to this possibility in the way that you are supposed to if you are constantly enhancing yourself. He began to train his body for living on the streets, realizing that he needed to learn how to sleep without a bed. He was determined to be flexible and to adapt to potential new circumstances. Seeing the self as a bundle of skills, in practice, means that for some people enhancing your skills involves training yourself to survive being homeless. This too is a logical outcome of our contemporary employment model.

I have studied how people are responding to this new way of thinking about work and what it means to be a worker. In the United States, people are moving away from thinking that when they enter into an employment contract, they are metaphorically renting their capacities to an employer for a bounded period of time. Many people are no longer using a notion of the self-as-rented-property as an underlying metaphor and are starting to think of themselves as though they are a business, although not everyone likes this new metaphor or accepts all its implications. When you switch to thinking about the employment contract as a business-to-business relationship, much changes - how you present yourself as a desirable employee, what it means to be a good employer, what your relationships with your coworkers should be like, the relationship between a job and a career, and how you prepare yourself for the future.

The self-as-business metaphor makes a virtue of flexibility as well as the practical ways people might respond in their daily lives to conditions of instability and insecurity. As Gina Neff points out in Venture Labor, the model encourages people to embrace risk as a positive, even sought-out, element of how they individually should craft a career. Each time you switch jobs, you risk. You don’t know the amount of time you will have at a job before having to find a new one, and you risk how lucky you will be at getting that job and the next job. And with every job transition, you risk the salary that you might make. If there is a gap between jobs, then some people will find that they no longer experience a reliable, steady, upward trajectory in their salaries as they navigate the contemporary job market. Yet this is what you are now supposed to embrace as liberating.

Chris’s experiences cycling between employment and increasing periods of unemployment was a familiar story for me. I interviewed so many people in their late forties to early sixties who had a few permanent jobs early in their careers. But as companies increasingly focused on having a more transient workforce, these white-collar workers found their career trajectories veering from what they first thought their working life would look like. They thought that they might climb the organizational ladder in one or maybe even three companies over the course of their lifetime. Instead, they found that at some point in their mid to late forties, they started having shorter and shorter stints at different companies. The jobs, some would say, would last as long as a project. And as they grew older, the gaps between permanent jobs could start growing longer and longer. They struggled to make do, often using up their savings or selling their homes as they hoped to get the next job. Some started to find consulting jobs in order to make ends meet before landing the hoped-for permanent job, and then found themselves trapped on the consulting trackliving only in the gig economy. True, not everyone felt like contracting was plan B, the option they had to take because of bad luck. In their book about contractors, Steve Barley and Gideon Kunda talk about the people they interviewed who actively chose this life. I met these people too, but they weren’t the majority of the job seekers I interviewed. Because I was studying people looking for a wide range of types of jobs, instead of studying people who already had good relationships with staffing agencies that provided consultants, I tended to meet people who felt their bad luck had backed them into becoming permanent freelancers. These were people who encountered the self-as-business metaphor as a relatively new model, one they felt they actively had to learn in order to survive in today’s workplace, as opposed to the younger people I interviewed, many of whom had grown up with the self-as-business model as their primary way to understand employment.

When you think of the employment contract in a new way, you often have to revisit what counts as moral behavior, since older frameworks offer substantively different answers to questions of moral business practice. People have to decide what it means for a company to behave well under this new framework. Consider the self-as-business model. What does a good company do to help its workers enhance themselves as allied businesses? What are the limits in what a company should do? What counts as exploitation under this new model? Can businesses do things that count as exploitation or bad practices now that might not have been considered problems earlier, or not considered problems for the same reasons (and thus are regulated or resolved differently)? Businesses are certainly deeply concerned that workersҒ actions both at work and outside of work could threaten the companys brand, a new worry - but this is the tip of the iceberg. And the moral behavior of companies isnt the only issue. Can workers exploit the companies they align with now or behave badly toward them in new ways?

Yet while these two metaphors - the self-as-property and the self-as-business - encourage people to think about employment in different ways, there are still similarities in how the metaphors ask people to think about getting hired. In both cases, the metaphors are focusing on market choices and asking people to operate by a market logic. Deciding whether to rent your capacities is a slightly different question than deciding whether to enter into a business alliance with someone, but in both instances you are expected to make a decision based on the costs and benefits involved in the decision. In addition, both metaphorical contracts presume that people enter into these contracts as equals, and yet this equality doesn’t last in practice once you are hired. In most jobs, the moment you are hired, you are in a hierarchical relationship; you are taking orders from a boss. Some aspects of working have changed because of this shift in frameworks, but many aspects have stayed the same.

Avoiding Corporate Nostalgia

I talked to people who were thoughtfully ambivalent about this transition in the metaphors underlying employment. They didn’t like their current insecurity, but they pointed out that earlier workplaces weren’t ideal either. Before, people often felt trapped in jobs they disliked and confronted with office politics that were alienating and demoralizing. Like many people today, they dealt with companies in which they were constantly encountering sexism and racism. Not everyone had equal opportunities to move into the jobs they wanted or to be promoted or acknowledged for the work that they did well.

However, as anthropologist Karen Ho points out, when you have a corporate ladder that excludes certain groups of people, you also have a structure that you can potentially reform so that these groups will in the future have equal opportunities. When you have no corporate ladder, when all you have is the uncertainty of moving between companies or between freelance jobs - you no longer have a clear structure to target if you want to make a workplace a fairer environment. If there is more gender equality in the US workplace these days than there was thirty years ago, it is in part because corporate structures were stable enough and reformers stayed at companies long enough that specific business practices could be effectively targeted and reformed. Part of what has changed about workplaces today is that there has been a transformation in the kinds of solutions available to solve workplace problems.

I see what people said to me about their preference for the kinds of guarantees and rights people used to have at work as a form of critique, not a form of nostalgia. People didn’t necessarily want to return to the way things used to be. When people talked to me nostalgically about how workplaces used to function, it was often because they valued the protections they used to be able to rely on and a system they knew well enough to be able to imagine how to change it for the better.

Many people I spoke to were very unhappy with the contemporary workplace’s increasing instability. They worried a great deal about making it financially through the longer and longer dry spells of unemployment between jobs. I talked to a man who was doing reasonably well that year as a consultant, and he began reflecting on what the future would hold for his children. He didn’t want them to follow in his footsteps and become a computer programmer, because too many people like him were contingent workers. He wanted them to have their own families and reasoned: “If everybody thinks they can be laid-off in two weeks, how would they feel confident enough to be a parent and know that they’e got twenty-one years of consistent investment?”

It is not that the people I spoke to necessarily wanted older forms of work. What many wanted was stability. No matter how many times people are told to embrace being flexible, to embrace risk, in practice many of the people I spoke to did not actually want to live with the downsides of this riskier life. The United States does not have enough safety nets in place to protect you during the moments when life doesnt work out. Because you are supposed to be looking for a new job regularly over the course of a lifetime, the opportunities when you might become dramatically downwardly mobile increase. There are more possible moments in which you have to enhance your skills at surviving on much less money or even living rough.

Changing Notions of What Counts as a Good Employment Relationship

When people are thought of as businesses, significant aspects of the employment relationship change. The genre repertoire you use to get a job alters to reflect this understanding as you use resumes, interview answers, and other genres to represent yourself as a bundle of business solutions that can address the hiring company’s market-specific temporary needs. Networking has changed what it means to manage your social relationships so that you can stay employed has shifted. Some people I met are now arguing that you treat the companies you are considering joining in the same way you would treat any other business investment: in terms of the financial and career risk involved in being allied with this company.

It is not just that you evaluate jobs differently when you know that your job is temporary - deciding you can put up with some kinds of inconveniences but not others. Instead, you see the job as a short-term investment of time and labor, and the job had better pay off - perhaps by providing you with new skills, new networks, or a new way of framing your work experiences that makes you potentially more desirable for the next job. What if this new framework allows workers to have new expectations of their employers, or can safeguard workers’ interests in new ways? If you have this perspective, what are the new kinds of demands that employees could potentially make of employers?

For Tom, this new vision of self-as-business was definitely guiding how he was judging the ways companies treated him and what was appropriate behavior. I first contacted Tom because I heard through the grapevine that he refused to use LinkedIn. I was curious, as I had been doing research for seven months by that point and only came across one other person who was not using LinkedIn (and has since rejoined). We talked about his refusal, and he explained to me that LinkedIn didn’t seem to offer enough in return for his data. He clearly saw himself in an exchange relationship with LinkedIn, providing data for it to use and in return having access to the platform. Fair enough, I thought: as far as I can tell, the data scientists at LinkedIn and Facebook whom I have met see the exchange relationship in similar ways. Yet Tom decided that what LinkedIn offered wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t worth providing the company with his personal data. So I asked him about various other sites that he might use in which the exchange might be more equitable, and he lit up talking about these other sites. For Tom, because he saw himself as a business, and viewed his data as part of his assets, he was ready to see LinkedIn as offering a bad business arrangement, one he didn’t want to accept. The self-as-business framework allowed him to see the use of certain platforms as instances of participating in business alliances. Some alliances he was willing to enter into, but not all.

This wasn’t his only encounter with a potentially exploitative business arrangement. He typically worked as an independent contractor, and a company asked him to come in for a job interview. When he got there, his interviewer explained that the position was a sweat equity job - Tom wouldn’t get a salary, but rather he would get equity in the company in exchange for his labor. “Okay” he replied. “So what is your business model?” His interviewer was surprised and discomforted to be asked this. He refused to answer; employees don’t need to know the details of the company’s business model, he said. Tom felt that this was wrong; because he was being asked to be an investor in the company - admittedly with his labor instead of with money, he felt should be given the same financial details that any other investor in a company would expect before signing on. It sounded to me like Tomגs interviewer was caught between two models: wanting the possible labor arrangements now available but unwilling to adjust whom he told what. The interviewer was not willing to follow through on the implications of this new model of employment, and as a result, Tom wasnt willing to take the job. This is one way in which the self-as-business model offers a new way to talk about what counts as exploitation and as inappropriate behavior - behavior that might not have been an issue decades ago, or would have been a problem for different reasons (perhaps because a couple of decades ago, few people found sweat equity an acceptable arrangement).

But this new model also opens up the possibility that companies can have obligations to their employees that they did not have in the same way before. Since companies often dont offer stable employment, they now provide a temporary venue for people to express their passion and to enhance themselves. Can this look like an obligation that businesses have to their workers? Perhaps - businesses could take seriously what it means to provide workers with the opportunities to enhance themselves. Michael Feher argues that if people are now supposed to see themselves as human capital, there should be a renewed focus on what good investment in people looks like - regardless of whether workers stay at a single company.

SHOULD COMPANIES now help provide TRAINING for an employee’s next job? Throughout the twentieth century, companies understood that they had to provide their workers training in order for them to do their job at the company to their best of their ability. Internal training made sense both for the company’s immediate interests and for the company’s ability to retain a supply of properly trained workers over the life of the company. Now that jobs are so temporary, who is responsible for training workers is a bit more up in the air. Yet some companies are beginning to offer support for workers to train, not for the benefit of the company, but so that workers can pursue their passion, should they discover that working at that company is not their passion. Amazon, for example, in 2012 began to provide training for employees who potentially want radically different jobs. Jeff Bezo’s explained in his 2014 letter to shareholders: We pre-pay 95% of tuition for our employees to take courses for in-demand fields, such as airplane mechanic or nursing, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. The goal is to enable “choice.” It makes sense for a company to support its workers learning skills for a completely different career only under the contemporary perspective that people are businesses following their passions in temporary alliances with companies.

This model of self-as-business might give workers some new language to protest business practices that keep them from enhancing themselves or entering into as many business alliances as they would like. For example, just-in-time scheduling in practice is currently preventing retail workers from getting enough hours so that they can earn as much as they would like to in a week. This type of scheduling means that workers only find out that week how many hours they are working and when. They cant expect to have certain hours reliably free, and they need to be available whenever their employer would like them to work. Marc Doussard has found that good workers are rewarded with more hours at work. While white-collar workers might get better pay in end-of-the-year bonuses for seeming passionate, retail workers get more hours in the week. If workers make special requests to have certain hours, Doussard discovered, their managers will often punish them in response, by either giving them fewer hours to work or only assigning them to shifts they find undesirable. In practice, this means that workers have trouble holding two jobs or taking classes to improve themselves, as unpredictable shifts will inevitably conflict with each other or class times. Predictable work hours, in short, are essential for being able to plan for the future - either to make sure you are working enough hours in the week to support yourself or to educate yourself for other types of jobs. Since companies are now insisting that people imagine themselves as businesses, what would happen if workers protested when companies dont allow them to “invest in themselves” or when they are thwarted from having as many business partnerships (that is, jobs) as possible? Perhaps employees should now be able to criticize and change employers’ practices when they are prevented from being the best businesses they can be because of their employers workplace strategies.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/04/17 •
Section Bad Moon Rising • Section Revelations • Section American Solidarity • Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy • Section Microsoft And Windows • Section Job Hunt • Section News • Section Telecom Underclass • Section Dying America
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Temp Nation

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Temp Worker Nation—If You Do Get Hired, It Might Not Be for Long
Writers and warehouse workers, janitors and business consultants, truck drivers and graphic designers--all are part of the new “precariat,” and they have no social safety net.

By Steven Wishnia
AlterNet
August 20, 2012

Almost one-third of American workers now do some kind of freelance workand they lack almost every kind of economic security that permanent full-time workers have traditionally had. 

Though exact figures are impossible to find, many experts and labor organizers estimate that about 30 percent of U.S. workers are “contingent.” That means they don’t have a permanent job. They work as freelancers, temporary workers, on contract, or on call, or their employers define them (often illegally) as “independent contractors.”

Their ranks include writers and warehouse workers, janitors and business consultants, truck drivers and graphic designersand their number is rising. Richard Greenwald, a sociologist of work and professor at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, estimates that their share of the U.S. workforce has increased by close to half in the last ten years. In July, Staffing Industry Analysts reported that the average share of contingent workers at companies it surveyed had gone up by one-third since 2009, to 16 percent. Last year, a different survey found that contingent workers averaged 22 percent of the workers at 200 large companies.

These workers are often called the ”PRECARIAT," a combination of “precarious” and ”PROLETARIAT” because the traditional social safety nets for workers don’t cover them. They have no job security as they hustle from one gig to the next, and they often don’t know where their next job is coming from or when it will come. They very rarely get paid sick days or vacation. They don’t get paid extra for working overtime. They are usually not eligible for unemployment benefits. They generally have to pay both the worker’s and the employers share of Social Security taxes. They have to pay for their own health insurance, and Obamacare won’t change that. (Beginning in 2014, people will be able to buy private insurance at group rates, and lower-income and working-class people will get some subsidies to help them pay for it.)

They have few options if an employer cheats them out of their pay. If they are independent contractors, they do not have the right to form a labor union.

INSTABILITY is going to be with us,” says Sara Horowitz, head of the New York-based Freelancers Union. “The truth is that we’re in a period of decline for workers.”

The New Way We Work

Who are freelancers and contingent workers? The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has not done an official study since 2005, when it estimated that they were 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. workforce. If their income is reported on a 1099 tax form instead of on a W-2 form with deductions, its monthly payroll surveys won’t count them as having jobs. Its household surveys will count them as employed, but don’t ask about their job arrangements.

Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal codirector of the National Employment Law Project in New York, counts “everyone whos not a W-2 employee,” including people paid on 1099s, franchisees, and people paid in cash, such as construction day laborers, as a contingent worker. Richard Greenwald arrived at his estimates by counting sole-proprietorship businesses and people who listed more income on 1099s than on W-2s.

“The number has risen significantly in the last 15 years,” Greenwald says, “and the pace has increased since the Great Recession began, with many new jobs permatemps.” This trend affects workers at all income levels, but the fastest-growing sector is college graduates in “creative” fields. In the last few years, book publishers and advertising agencies have outsourced their graphic designers, HIRING THEM BACK AS FREELANCERS WITH NO BENEFITS. Many publishers now hire editors on a per-manuscriptbasis.

As the industry or technology tweaks, it often does so in a way that’s freelance or nonunion, says Justin Molito, director of organizing with the Writers’ Guild of America East. For example, writers on HBO’s scripted shows are unionized, but those on basic cable and reality TV shows aren’t.

Greenwald distinguishes between workers who chose freelancing and those who were “shoved into it.” The most successful freelancers, he says, are information-technology, management, and finance consultants. They have a specific skill and steady clients, and think of themselves as entrepreneurs. “Many white-collar freelancers make middle-class incomes, $45,000 to $50,000 a year,” he says, “but they have to pay for the office supplies, health insurance, and taxes that would normally be covered by an employer, and they have no security.”

This is not just a recession-induced thing, he says. It reflects a long-term change in the economy. Since the 1980s, managements philosophy has evolved to “look at work as projects.” Instead of keeping workers on staff to perform all tasks needed, they outsource them or hire consultants.

“This gives companies tremendous flexibility without any risk,” Greenwald says. “Flexibility means they don’t have to keep people on the payroll during slack periods, pay them when theyre sick, pay for their health insurance, or obey workplace regulations.” This, he says, has ”shifted all the risks that large institutions used to have onto the backs of individuals.”

“It’s a great business model, but as a social model, it doesn’t work,” he explains. Essentially, it means that the world of work is becoming more like the music business, in which a handful of superstars get rich and a minority of professionals have steady work with benefits, but most workers have to scuffle for intermittent, low-paying gigs, and hard work and talent are worthless without marketing skills, clout, and charisma. “The bar to get in is low, but the ability to make a living is harder and harder,” he says.

“The overall social change might be as big as the shift from farm to factory,” Greenwald says. “I don’t think that many freelancers have thought of this as a permanent way of life. It seems to be a shift back to 19th-century artisanal culture.”

The Casual Working Class

Though the traditional image of a freelancer is a middle-class professional like a magazine writer or computer consultant, this shift affects a huge number of blue-collar workers too, especially in the fast-growing fields of warehousing, delivery, and home health care. Many of these workers are now either temps or defined as independent contractors.

“Often relying on the use of temporary and staffing agencies, OUTSOURCING IN THESE INDUSTRIES HAS ALSO RESULTED IN COMPARATIVELY LOWER WAGES FOR WORK SIMILAR TO THE JOBS PREVIOUSLY PERFORMED IN-HOUSE,” the National Employment Law Project reported in “Chain of Greed,” a study of Walmart warehouses released in June.

At the Nissan AUTO FACTORY in Canton, Mississippi, more than 20 percent of the 4,400 workers are temps, according to the Labor Notes monthly newsletter. The company says it plans to hire 1,000 new workers this year, but all will be temporary. The temps start at $12 an hour, below what permanent workers earn, and workers say no temp has ever been permanently hired at the plant. Even at Fords Detroit-area plants, the classic bastion of union industrial labor, local activist Dianne Feeley, a retired United Auto Workers member, says a significant percentage of workers are temps or contract workers.

“A huge problem,” says Catherine Ruckelshaus, “is employers illegally defining workers as independent contractors. Some employers are asking workers to form LLCs [limited liability companies, a form of business that combines features of a corporation and a partnership] before a construction drywall job.”

FedEx Ground, for example, defines its 15,000 drivers as independent contractors, even though they drive company-assigned routes and must drive vans with the FedEx logo and color scheme.

“There are millions of Americans classified as independent contractors by the companies they work for, but effectively working as employees,” American Rights at Work, a Washington-based labor-rights nonprofit, said in a 2007 report on FedEx Ground. “These workers suffer the worst of both worlds: they toil without the protections and benefits of employees, yet are without the control over their work that true independent contractors enjoy.”

The legal definition, Ruckelshaus says, is whether the person is running an independent business - are they investing their own money, and can they pass on increased costs? The Internal Revenue Services general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the person hiring them has ғthe right to control or direct only the result of the work, while the worker decides “the means and methods “of accomplishing the result.

The scam’s advantage for employers is that they don’t have to pay minimum wage or overtime, Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment taxes, or workers’ compensation. The result, the American Rights at Work report said, is that FedEx drivers not only make less money than those at UPS, who are permanent workers with a union; they also have to pay for gas and maintenance for their vans. Many lease vans from a company-approved supplier, Ruckelshaus says.

Some employers define even janitors and home health-care aides as franchisees,Ӕ she continues. For example, an office buildings management might hire a cleaning-services subcontractor, which will then have its workers buy the job of cleaning one section of the building in exchange for a piece of the companyҒs fee.

Coverall, a Florida-based cleaning-services company, calls its more than 9,000 workers franchisees,Ӕ and its more than 90 regional offices are support centers.Ӕ In Boston, says Ruckelshaus, these franchisees might have to pay the company as much as $10,000 to claim a job, recouping that investment from their wages. If they dont have the money, they can borrow it from a company-recommended lender. In some cases, she says, they have had to work the first month on spec, getting paid for it only if the Coverall boss approves them for the job. They also have to buy cleaning equipment and supplies from the company. But Coverall makes the deals for the jobs, so the workers canҒt raise their rates or ask the client for work on their own.

In home health care, a field with 3 million workers, mostly women, that is one of the fastest-growing job categories in the U.S. economy, for-profit agencies are calling themselves registriesӔ of independent contractors. They do this, says Ruckelshaus, even though they hire the workers, train them, assign them to jobs, and set rates. It means they dont have to pay minimum wage or overtime.

“Theres no enforcement,"she says. “It becomes part of the structure of these jobs.”

Warehouse and shipping work is a major area of abuse. Walmart and Amazon outsource their massive warehouse and shipping operations to subcontractors, who then use temporary agencies to hire workers. Workers often dont even know who their actual employer is, says Ruckelshaus.

“They pit these little subcontractors against each other,” says Erin Johansson, research director of American Rights at Work. “To compete and win a contract, youve got to pay your workers minimal wages.”

In this system, according to the “Chain of Greed” report, workers are paid piecework, according to the number of containers or trucks they finish unloading on a shift, instead of an hourly wage. They dont get paid for anything else they do on the job. The result is “rampant minimum wage and overtime violations,” the report said. Workers also have to unload dangerously stacked piles of boxes, some of which weigh up to 200 pounds, says Johansson.

Walmart insists on ever-lower costs, so “workers are the ones getting squeezed and chiseled,” says Ruckelshaus. “This relationship is hurting low-wage women and those at the bottom of the supply chains, and the big corporations aren’t being held accountable for low wages and poor conditions.”

Another issue is that freelancers have almost no recourse if an employer cheats them. State wage-theft laws do not cover freelancers. If a client stiffs them, its considered a business dispute, so their only recourse is to sue in small-claims court. That can take months and multiple court appearances, and even if you win your case, collecting the debt is not guaranteed.

The Freelancers Union says 77 percent of its 180,000 members have had trouble collecting money they’re owed. Earlier this year, it lobbied for New York to enact a law that would let stiffed freelancers file wage-theft complaints with the state Department of Labor. But in New York’s gerrymandered legislature, the measure wound up as a one-house bill: It passed in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, but never reached the floor in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“If you have 30 percent of the workforce being exploited, that lowers standards for everybody,” says Johansson.

What Can Be Done?

Traditional union organizing is notoriously difficult with contingent workers. Organized labors strongest power over employers is workersԒ ability to go on strike and stop production. If freelancers try that on their own, the employer will simply hire someone else. That they have neither a common location nor a collective workforce are also barriers to organizing collectively.

The Writers Guild of America, a union of TV and movie screenwriters, has successfully organized freelancers, winning elections and creating collective-bargaining agreements at studios. In July, it won company-paid health benefits, paid vacation, and a minimum salary for writers at two New York reality-show studios. But its 4,000 members’ status is much closer to permanent workers than most freelancers are. “They usually work on long-term contracts, typically three or four years, and have professional relationships and solidarity among themselves,” says Justin Molito.

“This is a long-term movement to aid those who’ve fallen through the cracks,” Molito says. “As other industries become more freelance, the LABOR MOVEMENT HAS TO DEVELOP STRATEGIES to create organizations that provide protections and make improvements. Those strategies include “building a long-term movement, raising standards across the board, trying to organize an entire industry.”

The Freelancers Unions Horowitz has largely abandoned the traditional union model, to the point where the organization might be more accurately described as a service and lobbying group than a labor union. Permanent workers are losing security and benefits, she says, so why should freelancers expect them?

“I exist in reality,” she says. “The first step is to admit that some things changed.”

Instead, she touts what she calls the “new mutualism,” freelancers banding together on the principles of affinity and solidarity, such as networking and organizing cooperatives to buy food and health insurance. (The group sells nonprofit health insurance to 23,000 members in New York, and plans to expand that to New Jersey and Oregon in 2014, when the Obamacare insurance exchanges open.)

But how is any of that going to help get freelancers paid sick days? “Good luck with that,” she answers.

“Organized freelancers will be able to make the freelance economy work even better,” she explains in an e-mail, “by influencing the freelance labor market, by continuing to improve the laws that affect freelancers (i.e., passing legislation to give freelancers recourse when they are stiffed) and by continuing to give freelancers opportunities to work together.” On the other hand, she says “the Freelancers Union will not be able on its own to reverse larger economic trends like declining wages in the media industry.”

“Workers should speak out about abuses,” says Johansson. The bad publicity created by shining a light on working conditions for large companies such as Walmart and Amazon might help hold them accountable for HOW SUBCONTRACTORS and their workers ARE TREATED.

Legally, she says, “just enforcing the law” against MISCLASSIFICATION would help. In June, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the 350 taxi drivers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport had been wrongly classified as independent contractors. Their employer, which has an exclusive contract for taxi service at the airport, is appealing the decision.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have introduced bills to tighten the definition of an independent contractor.

Still, trying to improve conditions for freelancers and contingent workers is difficult in an economic system that has been vampirizing workers rights and incomes for a generation.

“The social contract that was part of American society for many years is dead,” says Greenwald. “We need to have a serious conversation about who’s winning and who’s not winning.”

“The cutthroats can survive in this new world,” he says, “but the rest of society is suffering.”

SOURCE

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Americas hidden unemployment crisis
Temp workers easily cast aside but have little safety net

By John Gress
Bloomberg

Craig Berry, who has been unemployed for 10 months, signs up for temporary work at a Manpower temporary agency in Chicago on Feb. 5.

Over the past decade, U.S. businesses increasingly have relied on contract workers as a way to keep a lid on health care and retirement benefit costs and to give them more flexibility to adjust payrolls as conditions change. Now, with the American economy flashing code red, companies from Wall Street to Silicon Valley are casting off temporary workers and freelancers left and right, typically without any severance pay.

While the ability to shed contingent workers helps protect corporate profits, economists say it’s a net negative for the economy. That’s because while companies may save on labor costs, they aren’t likely to use those savings to boost investment with the economy so weak, preferring instead to rebuild their balance sheets.

Meanwhile, the people who lose their jobs will be forced to cut spending drastically, particularly because many of them earn below-average pay and thus have little savings to fall back on. The overall result is a decrease in demand, further depressing the economy. Says Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, president of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.: “Clearly there is a macroeconomic impact. It begs the question of what our social safety net is all about.”

Falling through the cracks

Consider Lauren Bender, a 47-year-old Manhattan resident who for the past eight years has worked on and off developing investment tools for Charles Schwab. That work supplied about 90 percent of Bender’s income, which she says kept her “very well compensated.” But starting last summer, Schwab pulled the plug on the three projects she was planning to complete, and her income from the brokerage firm has dried up.

Bender is looking for other work so she can meet her monthly mortgage payments of about $3,400 for an apartment she bought two years ago. As a self-employed contractor, Bender is not eligible for unemployment. “It’s scary,” she says. “I’m at risk of falling right through the cracks.” Schwab confirms that it has cut contract workers as part of a broader drive to lower operating expenses by 7 percent to 8 percent this year.

Estimates vary widely on just how big this shadow segment of the U.S. workforce is at this point. The Government Accountability Office, which uses a broad definition for contingent workers, thinks the figure is about 31 percent of the labor force, although other estimates come in far lower than that, depending on how the term is defined. What’s indisputable is that amid the current brutal economic environment, many companies are pulling out the hatchet.

Back in January, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar said it had cut 8,000 contract and agency workers since late 2008. That figure represented 40 percent of a total staff reduction of 20,000. “It has been part of our long-term strategy to have a flexible workforce by design,” says Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan. “It has better helped us manage our overall employment levels.” In late April the company is expected to disclose additional layoffs involving contractors.

Unreliable figures

The same trend is under way in Japan and France, both home to stringent anti-layoff laws. French carmaker Renault, for instance, in December said it would let go of some 1,800 contractors at a design center outside Paris.

Here in the U.S., the cutbacks of temporary workers mean the labor market is in much worse shape than the headline 8.5 percent jobless figure for March would suggest. Throw in part-timers who would like to work more and unemployed workers who have given up their job search, and you come up with a jobless rate closer to 15.6 percent, according to one measure buried in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Employment Situation report.

“The numbers are astounding,” says Beth Shulman, an analyst with the Russell Sage Foundation, a New York-based social science research group. “These workers, often at the lower end of the pay scale, are losing hours, income, and benefits. That only worsens the recession.”

In some instances, those temporary workers lucky enough to keep their positions are suffering pay cuts. In January, software giant Microsoft announced layoffs of 5,000 staff members and some contractors who work for employment agencies on its projects. Then by early March many remaining contractors learned they would receive a 10 percent pay cut. Lou Gellos, a spokesman for Microsoft, says the cuts in agency rates are part of “healthy belt-tightening to weather the [economic] storm and come out on the other side.”

Marcarthur Baralla, a Brooklyn videographer, hopes to survive, too. He had been making about $3,000 per month filming corporate conferences for New York-based Wall Street Webcasting. In mid-December the company told him it could no longer use his services. Baralla is now waiting tables. “I’m finding some video work, but clients don’t want to pay as much - or not at all in some cases,” says Baralla. Such is the plight of a contingent worker in this Great Recession.

SOURCE

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Darden Restaurants Tests Hiring Of More Part-Time Employees To Avoid Obamacare Costs

By Candice Choi and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
Huffington Post
October 9, 2012

The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants is putting more workers on part-time status in a TEST aimed at limiting costs from President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Darden Restaurants Inc. declined to give details but said the test is only in four markets across the country. The move entails boosting the number of workers on part-time status, meaning they work less than 30 hours a week.

Under the new health care law, companies with 50 or more workers could be hit with fines if they do not provide basic coverage for full-time workers and their dependents. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, those penalties and requirements could significantly boost labor costs for some companies, particularly in low-wage industries such as retail and hospitality, where most jobs don’t come with health benefits.

Darden, which operates more than 2,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, employs about 180,000 people. The company says about 75 percent of its employees are currently part-timers.

Bob McAdam, who heads government affairs and community relations for Darden, said the company is still learning from the tests, which was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

“We’re not at a point where we have results,” he said. McAdam also noted that Darden is not alone in looking at ways to keep labor costs in check, with companies across the industry prepping for the new regulations to take effect.

In fact, Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Statistics, noted that follow-up legislation might be needed to ensure that companies do not shift more workers to part-time status to avoid providing coverage.

“There’s not a company in those industries that aren’t looking at this,” Keckley said.

This summer, for example, McDonald’s Corp. Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen noted in a conference call with investors that the hamburger chain was looking at the many factors that will impact health care costs, including its number of full-time employees.

Nationally, 60 percent of companies offer health benefits, but the figure varies depending on the size of the company. Nearly all companies with 200 or more workers offer benefits, compared with 48 percent for companies with 3-9 workers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even beyond health care costs, however, Darden has made cutting labor costs a priority in recent years as sales growth has stalled at its flagship chains. In the most recent fiscal quarter, the company’s restaurant labor costs were 31 percent of sales. That’s down from 33 percent three years ago.

The reduction was driven by several factors. Given the challenging job market, Darden has been able to offer lower pay rates to new hires, as well as cut bonuses for general managers as sales have stagnated. Servers at Red Lobster now handle four tables at a time, instead of three.

And last year, the company also put workers on a “tip sharing” program, meaning waiters and waitresses share their tips with other employees such as busboys and bartenders. That allows Darden to pay more workers a far lower “tip credit wage” of $2.13, rather than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Starting next year, the company will change the way it offers health insurance to full-time employees, to keep costs more predictable. Instead of offering one insurance plan for all 45,000 employees, it will give workers a contribution toward buying coverage and then send them to an online health insurance exchange where they can chose from five medical, four dental and three vision plans.

More employers are looking at this concept, known as defined contribution health insurance, as a way to stabilize health insurance costs.

Darden said it decided to do it because a survey indicated that employees wanted more options.

SOURCE

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ObamaCare redefines full time job as 30 hours a week!

By Chuck Norton
Political Arena
October 24, 2012

That will fix that pesky unemployment number!

This is pathetic.

From CNS NEWS:

A little-known section in the Obamacare health reform law defines “full-time” work as averaging only 30 hours per week, a definition that will affect some employers who utilize part-time workers to trim the cost of complying with the Obamacare rule that says businesses with 50 or more workers must provide health insurance or pay a fine.

The term full-time employee means, with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week, section 1513 of THE LAW reads.  (Scroll down to section 4, paragraph A.)

That section, known as the employer mandate, requires any business with 50 or more full-time employees to provide at least the minimum level of government-defined health coverage to those employees.

In other words, a business must provide insurance if it has 50 or more employees working an average of just 30 hours per week, which is 10 hours per week fewer than the traditional 40-hour work week.

If an employer has 50 or more full-time employees and does not offer health insurance, it must pay a penalty per employee for each month it does not offer coverage.

The obscure provision recently reemerged in REGULATIONS IUSSUED BY THE IRS for how employers must account for which workers are full-time and which ones are not.

Under these standards, published in September, employers can choose a look-back period of between 3 and 12 months to measure if an employee has worked an average of 30 hours per week.

If an employee has worked 30 hours per week during this time, the person would count as a full-time employee for at least the next six months, regardless of how much they work, thus preventing employers from cutting hours to avoid the mandate.

In other words, an employer calculates the hours an employee works during at least a three-month period, determining if they employee has worked 30 hours or more per week on average.

If the employee meets the 30-hour threshold, they are counted as full-time for at least six months. If the employer has at least 50 such employees, he must provide them with health insurance or pay a fine.

The IRS regulations do not apply to seasonal or temporary workers, only to regular employees.

SOURCE

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Disposable Workers: Why Throwaway Employees are Bad Policy

Naked Capitalism
February 18, 2013

The media increasingly appears to define the state of the economy based on corporate bottom lines and the experience of the upper echelon, reflected in the way it glosses over the anxiety and distress outside the top 1% of the population. The fact that this disconnect isnt a figment of our imagination was confirmed by a recent study by Edmund Saez that reported that 121% OF THE INCOME GAINS FROM 2003 to 2011 went to the top 1%, meaning they pulled further ahead while everyone else (in aggregate) became worse off. The big cause is the state of the labor market. And that isn’t just a product of the global crisis but also of a long-term restructuring of the RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES.

One of the pet ideas of neoliberalism is to encourage labor market flexibility which is code for letting companies fire employees on a whim. The problem is that a quick to hire, quick to fire posture is not a terribly sound idea. It takes a lot of time and effort to HIRE AND TRAIN PEOPLE (yes, Virginia, even a skilled employee needs to learn the quirks of how his employer likes things done), so firing people casually means a loss of this investment. Export powerhouse Germany has not been competitively impaired by ITS RESTRICTIONS ON TERMINATING EMPLOYEES. But while some businesses actually believe the HR trope that employees are our most important asset, most, to adopt an image from ROBERT OAK AT THE ECONOMIC POPULIST, treat them as disposables.

McKinsey took note of this development in the early 2000s, when a study they commissioned from Yankelovich determined that new college graduates could expect to have 11 jobs by the age of 38. HOW CAN YOU PLAN any spending, much the less sensibly commit to buying a house or raising a family, with that much income uncertainty? Multiply that across most of the economy and no wonder this expansion is so sluggish.

A recent report by Mark Szeltner, Carl Van Horn, and Cliff Zukin of the Heldrich Center at Rutgers, DIMINISHED LIVES AND FUTURES: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era, shows how far this trend has gone in the downturn.

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The media reports tended to play up this chart, which gives a sense of how pervasive job loss is, without hammering on the data: 23% of the respondents in their survey had lost a job. Of 18 to 34 year olds, it was 28%. And that;s before you consider the high level of unemployment among college graduates, as in how many have trouble getting hired after they graduate. And remember, traditionally, new graduates are seen as prime targets for hiring, since they are comparatively cheap and high energy. But they are apparently no longer such a great bargain now that everyone is scrambling for work. In addition, 20% of the survey respondents who did have a job were working part time, and the survey did not ascertain how many of them were underemployed.

As unemployment statistics suggest, it is also hard to get a job once you’ve lost one. Of those who were terminated, only 35% found new work in six months. 22% said they could not get hired.

And even the ones who did find employment typically had to settle for less to get a paycheck again. The chart below shows that almost half described their current job as a step down from the one they held before their recession-related layoff. And even more took a reduction in pay.

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The one-two punch of no income while looking for a job and (in the overwhelming majority of cases) landing a worse to more or less the same status/pay level of employment has serious financial consequences

temp-nation-graph2.png

Look at that chart closely. People are draining their retirement accounts, neglecting medical care, and relying on food stamps to get by. Yet we read much more about how the economy (read the bottom lines of public companies) is getting better, while the desperate state of the un and underemployed shows up in anecdotes decorating the occasional story on those topics alone, and is underplayed when the media ventures out to see how the remnants of the middle class are doing.

Significant majorities expected that it would either take a long time for a return to normalcy or that the old way would never come back on a host of issues: college affordability, seniors not needing to work to supplement income, employees feeling secure in their jobs, lower unemployment, ability to find work commensurate with ones skill levels.

While this report has gotten media coverage, most mainstream sources have tended to focus on one aspect, perhaps because the totality is too much of a downer. I strongly encourage you read the ENTIRE REPORT [local copy], since it will provides some badly-needed insight into conditions on the unemployment line.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 02/18/13 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Telecom Underclass • Section Dying America
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Article 43 Turns Eight

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America as the land of opportunity has passed into history.
- Return of the Robber Barons - August 2007

Her part-time position pays $250-$350 a week - a far cry from the $72,000 a year she made as a loan processor, but Jones says she is quick to pick up extra shifts when she can to help make ends meet. She has never stopped looking for a full-time job.  “At this point I will take anything,” Jones said.
- Under Employed and Under The Radar - October 2008

Despite trillions of dollars spent on “shovel-ready” jobs, the jobs are conspicuous by their absence.
- Why Everyone Suffers When Job Seekers Give Up - July, 2010

For 90 percent of American workers, incomes have stagnated or fallen for the past three decades.
- All Work And No Pay - July 2011

It doesn’t have to be like this. No external dynamic is keeping unemployment at more than 8 percent and consigning a generation of young workers to an economy in which risk is plentiful and opportunities scarce. It is only a failure of political will - and an almost universal embrace of conservative voodoo economics that is keeping us mired in this dark economic moment.
- End This Depression Now, Paul Krugman - May 2012

Now I can say I’m working, but can’t say Im paying the bills, or feeling any inkling of security, or hopeful about a better tomorrow.  The new job simply slows down the bleeding of my retirement savings to meet expenses.  And I’m still keenly aware, and deeply afraid, that one catastrophic illness is all it takes to face devastating financial ruin. The gen-y younger adults that got hired with me said they-re getting good pay and medical benefits.
- The Beaten Baby Boomer - August 2012

If you demonize a people long enough, they will become the demons you’ve made them out to be.
- Ahmed Said - September 2012

Cinderella Revisited

Article 43 turned eight on September 4.  And I started another DISPOSABLE temp job about a month before that.

Just when I thought the SCREWING OF THE PROFESSIONAL AMERICAN WORKER couldn’t get any worse - it did.
.
Since our first post - the middle-class has been CRUSHED, while the POOR and unemployed BABY BOOMERS have been OUTCAST by GOVERNMENT and SOCIETY - with NO END IN SIGHT.

People like me are SYMBOLS OF THE SYSTEM - layed off from good jobs and promising careers in CORPORATE AMERICA - now revolving from one low paid temp job to another - for less money than we made twenty years ago - A TREND that’s been going on for so long, it’s HARD TO SEE IT CHANGING.

I’m nearly CONVINCED that long-term UNEMPLOYMENT OR UNDEREMPLOYMENT is my future, and that I’m going to loose the house, wind up in the street, and die penniless and alone.  Five million other jobless middle-aged Americans may be thinking THE SAME.

WHO WOULD EVER IMAGINE the AMERICAN DREAM would become a NIGHTMARE.

Pep talks like “Take one day at a time” are things we’re forced to hear our incere and ignorant FRIENDS tell us, while hoping our LUCK changes.

The psychological impact of CORPORATE DOWNSIZING and PROLONGED downward social mobility MOVING FROM middle-class, to living year after year as a disposable temp - with it’s PSYCHOLOGICAL, EMOTIONAL, and FINANCIAL stresses - isn’t fully UNDERSTOOD, ACKNOWLEDGED, or APPRECIATED.

Do you have any idea how many jobs I applied for this year, just to be deemed “overqualified” and denied?

A lot.

If a guy with 20 years experience applied for an entry level job at my company, I’d take him in a heartbeat and consider myself lucky.  But these days overqualified REALLY MEANS too old. A bad thing.  Us DISCARDED AND DEMORALIZED folks OVER 40 gotta live with that.

Then there’s the labor pool.  With hundreds of DESPERATE and VULNERABLE unemployed people applying for one job - big business employers GOT THE UPPER HAND.

Managers that are smart enough to value the SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE OF US OLDER WORKERS - take advantage of our desperation.  HR departments call it “being competitive”, but let’s call it what it is - EXPLOITATIVE.

After submitting at least a hundred jobs a month the past six months, all I got was about a dozen interviews - and finally accepted - out of desperation - a temp job whose salary is insulting.

Seven years ago temp agencies CONTRACTED me out as a day laborer to their customers. Now a customer just hired me as a low paid, disposable TEMP. That cuts out the middle man, and still leaves people like me with a TINY PAYCHECK, no SICK LEAVE, no vacation, NO CHRISTMAS OFF, no MEDICAL or HEALTH insurance, no DENTAL coverage, no benefits, no hope, and no future.

SEVEN YEARS AGO as a contracted Sprint engineer for a staffing company, I had to deal with this:

FEUDALISM and SERFDOM at Telecom companies.

The thick divider between temps (often called contractors) and employees is clearly illustrated by listening to conversations between workers.

Overheard at the water cooler in engineering:

Mary to Betsy (they work for the company) - My husband and I are going to Hawaii for vacation next week.

Bill to Steve (they work for a staffing company doing the same job as Mary and Betsy) - A collection agency called me twice this weekend demanding $500 a month for my wifes hospital bill last year.  The most I can afford is $50.  The guy threatened me.  I said I’m sorry and hung up.

Donnie to Frank (work for company) - I got a 5% raise and $5,000 bonus this year.  Ill be new car shopping this weekend!

Eddie to James (work for staffing company doing the same job as Donnie and Frank) - We’ve been working at this telco two years as temps with no benefits, medical insurance or paid time off.  When is the exploitation of labor in this country going to turn around?  By the way, what time is it?  My watch battery died last month, I cant afford to replace it.

The boss’ email to everyone - The company will give all employess three paid days off for Hurricane Wilma. Contractors (ie: contracted employess of staffing agencies) will not get paid if they dont come in.

Last week at my new, month old job, I listened to the boss talk about her new car, then was asked to join my non-temp workmates for lunch Friday at a restaurant. 

As a COUNTER OF PENNIES - I brown bag lunch and eat at my desk to save money, so they all went out - but me.

DejaVu all over again.

Flaunting the FLSA

This EXEMPT + TEMP worker’s compensation = no paid time off - including official company holidays, no benefits, and work overtime for free. 

In Florida - if one works for LESS THAN 90 DAYS at a company - that time may not even qualify for UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE.

After not getting paid for involuntarily taking off the LABOR DAY holiday - I’m expected to stay late other nights - UNPAID - until all work is done.  Can you spell CINDERELLA?  If you thought there’s LAWS against that - YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT

How do you think it feels to be DESPERATE enough to accept a position as an EXEMPT employee, working for a company that’s possibly breaking THE LAW by prefacing the position with the meaningless word temp, while ignoring the FAIR LABOR STANDARS ACT (see chapter 541.602)?

Now tell me how bad China’s labor laws are.

Shattered Spirit

How does one spend day after day, month after month, year after year, without having a mental or emotional breakdown - being USED like this - stepped on like a doormat, treated like a slave, and fearful of the future? 

If I were a BETTING GUY, I’d say a REVOLUTION by the WORKING CLASS may not be NOT TOO FAR AWAY.

PEOPLE can only take so much.

Us professional, jobless baby boomers need to ORGANIZE into a COLLECTIVE, and speak loudly in a single voice.

Not just for ourselves.

For workers everywhere.

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Census: Middle class shrinks to an all-time low

By Carol Morello
Washington Post
September 12, 2012

The vise on the middle class tightened last year, driving down its share of the income pie as the number of Americans in poverty leveled off and the most affluent households saw their portion grow, new census data released Wednesday showed.

Income inequality increased by 1.6 percent, the Census Bureau said in its annual report on poverty, income and health insurance. This was the biggest one-year increase in almost two decades and suggested that a trend in place since the late 1970s was picking up steam.

As a snapshot of a nation recovering from one of its worst recessions ever, the census report had both shadows and highlights. Median household income declined $777, to $50,054 before taxes. But the poverty rate, which many experts had predicted would rise to rates unseen in nearly half a century, inched down a hair to 15 percent, a decline of about 100,000 people. And fewer Americans were without health insurance, largely because of a provision in the 2010 health-care law allowing young adults to stay on their parents policies.

The new census statistics, coming out just two months before the presidential election, should fuel the ongoing debate over the shrinking middle class, income inequality and a gnawing fear that for many, the American dream is receding out of reach. This week, the Pew Research Center said a third of Americans now identify themselves as lower class or lower-middle class, up from a quarter four years ago. Among young adults, the percentage who see themselves as occupying the bottom of the heap is even higher.

For many economists, the most TROUBLING statistics were those on income INEQUALITY underscoring the middle-class squeeze.

The 60 percent of households earning between roughly $20,000 and $101,000 collectively earned 46.6 of all income, a 1.5 percent drop. In 1990, they shared over 50 percent of income.

In contrast, the census data show, the top fifth rose 1.6 percent in 2011 after several years of decline during the recession. The biggest gains went to the top 5 percent, who earn more than $186,000; their share of income jumped almost 5 percent in a single year.

Scholars said the disparate numbers underscore the many prisms through which different groups of people view the anemic economic recovery.

“It explains the disconnect between the numbers saying there’s slow improvement and job growth, and the way people feel, because they haven’t recovered,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-director of Measure of America at the Social Science Research Council. “Its partly because the recovery has mostly been felt at the top.”

Tim Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said the working class, whose pay tops out about $62,000, are bearing the brunt of the income squeeze.

“Their pay rate has gone down, the number of hours that everyone in the house works has gone down, their homes have lost value,” he said. “These ARE THE PEOPLE really ravaged by the recession.”

The political reaction to the census data was immediate.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 09/13/12 •
Section Telecom Underclass • Section About Article 43 • Section Personal
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Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Beaten Baby Boomer

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Employers know that these individuals are in dire need and will often offer less to them because of their situation. The unemployed could be particularly vulnerable to distinct hiring discriminatory practices, as the reward for their human capital will depend on the subjective and discretionary evaluation made by the prospective employer who is typically, in a superior bargaining position.
- Mavromaras & Rudolph

My former employer wrote today that beginning next month COBRA (medical insurance) cost will increase to $705/single, or $1557/family - monthly (that’s $8,500 - $19,000 yearly) while my TEA PARTY FRIENDS continue TO HATE OBAMACARE and cheer to destroy American JOB CREATION. The REST OF US either sit by idly IN DENIAL or are STARTING TO AWAKEN while THE MIDDLE CLASS CONTINUES IT’S SLOW DEATH.

A BANK started CHARGING $15/month maintenance fee to keep an account alive, while all it gets is $0.03/month interest.  So much for encouraging people to save. I’ll stick the money under the bed where IT’LL PROBABLY BE SAFER.

As with all phone calls to business these day, a recorded announcement at the bank’s 800 number stated, “This call will be RECORDED." As usual I asked the agent, “Who’ll be recording this conversation, who’ll have access to the the recording, where it will be stored, and for how long?” She didn’t know.  As always I asked, “Please shut it off.” As usual the reply was “I can’t,” so I gave tons of PERONALLY IDENTIFYABLE INFORMATION like my BIRTH DATE and social security number - to a recording that MAY BE STORED with no safeguards anywhere on the planet, or given away to anyone, anywhere - possibly the crook standing at the nearest street corner - without my knowledge or consent.

After SEARCHING FOR MONTHS - I landed a new job that takes advantage of my EXPERIENCE and computer skills. Getting it meant passing two phone screenings, and face to face interviews with six different department heads. I waited in anticipation of a bright, new career - until getting the the official compensation offer from the company’s HR department. It was pretty INSULTING and EXPLOITIVE. The job is a TEMP (big letdown) doing SYSADMIN WORK at MUCH LESS THAN MEDIAN SALARY, exempt from overtime (another big letdown), and carries no benefits whatsoever - no paid time off - no sick leave, no medical insurance, no paid holidays - no nothing - and involves a COMPREHENSIVE and long BACKGROUND CHECK. I tried to bargain for a better deal, but the company wouldn’t budge. I almost said, “No thanks,” then friends REMINDED ME of HOW BAD the JOBS SITUATION is, and how many DESPERATE PEOPLE would kill for any offer.  They’re right. I gave in and took it.

Now I can say I’m working, but CAN’T SAY I’m paying the bills, or FEELING ANY INKLING OF SECURITY, or HOPEFUL about a BETTER TOMORROW.  The new temp job simply slows down the BLEEDING of my retirement savings to meet expenses for as long as it lasts.  And I’m still keenly aware, and deeply afraid, that ONE CATASTROPHIC ILLNESS is all it takes to face devastating financial ruin. The GEN-Y younger adults that got hired with me said they’re getting good pay and medical benefits.

In a short time it’ll be over.

EIGHT YEARS AGO staffing agencies set me up with temp jobs that carried no benefits, security, longevity or hope.  It took over a year to dig myself out of that hole, and land a real job. The employment situation may be getting worse for workers, cause now it looks like businesses are cutting out the middleman and hiring highly-skilled professionals as temps on their own.  And anyone DESPERATE enough for work - like the over FIVE MILLION distraught LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED today - would be hard pressed not to take ONE OF THESE disposable DAY LABORER jobs.

People that complain the baby BOOMERS are MILKING society - AREN’T BEING FAIR. Those of us UNEMPLOYED, who AREN’T enjoying PENSIONS are being COMPLETELY and UTTERLY discriminated against, and IGNORED by society, with only a LITTLE HOPE in sight.

Probably the worst thing for NON-RELIGIOUS PEOPLE WHOSE SPIRITS HAVE BEEN BROKEN from prolonged unemployment/underemployment (or any other tragedy) - is not getting the peace and comfort religious folks get from PRAYING.  Two friends that hit bottom turned to Jesus their savior - and SEEM TO BE much happier living in the world of faith that GOD WILL FIX EVERYTHING.

I live IN A WORLD of REALITIES, as beautiful and ugly as they are.

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How does Baby Boomers affect society today?

About now mostly all Baby BOOMERS are in their sixties. Baby Boomers have now had their children and they children have produce grand children and some are great grand parents. They are expected to spend the final years of their lives living in of their family home. In other situations they are more or less expected to walk out into the wilderness to die alone. So with a choice like that it is no wonder the the retirement Communities are so popular.

So what is it like being a Baby Boomer, in today’s society? Unless they have saved enough money to live their lives, then I see this side of the B/B happy and enjoying their lives. But what about the rest of them? It is sad to say that they are getting a raw deal by the goverments that are in power. B/B are getting a raw deal in today’s unenlightened western society. Lets use, How about Bleck.? The B/B spend a lifetime working, paying taxes, playing be the rules. And what about that investment that you have saved up for, by now it should start paying you out dividends, but what happens you are turfed out banished, and in most cases you are exiled to geriatric ghettos for the grey. Suddenly, no one wants to listen to Baby Boomers. Their years of experience mean nothing. Our opinons do not count. What most of the Baby Boomers feel today is that they have been sentenced to an almost ghost-like existence on the sidelines os a society that thinks nothing of milking you for ever last cent you have got. No doubt about it - the Baby Boomers are getting a raw deal.

The SOURCE comes from many B/B who chat to me about this problem.

Posted by Elvis on 08/04/12 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Telecom Underclass • Section Personal
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rising Of The Telecom Underclass Part 11

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Tents Return As Occupy Atlanta Protests AT&T Layoffs

By Teresa Albano
Peoples World
February 15, 2012

AT&T CEO RANDALL STEPHENSON received $27 million last year and the telecommunications giant saw its revenues soar to $126.7 billion.

Yet, last month the Fortune 500 corporation announced hundreds of layoffs as part of their “business changes” with 740 union workers, in the southern region alone, FACING PINK SLIPS in an economy that has a record number of families in poverty, jobless and in foreclosure.

Inspired by the Occupy movement and protests by Verizon workers, union members in Atlanta REFUSED TO TAKE THE LAYOFFS SITTING DOWN. They sent the company a letter giving them until Feb. 13 to rollback the lay-offs.

Protesters from Occupy Atlanta, various unions, Jobs with Justice and other groups showed up at AT&T headquarters in Atlanta to hear the company’s answer. Twelve protesters staged a sit in afterwards and were arrested.

Tents now line the sidewalk outside the corporate giant’s building. Protesters vow to stay until the company rescinds the layoffs.

Listed as the second most profitable company in the world by CNNMoney, AT&T is attempting to win public opinion by saying the laid off workers have a “guaranteed job offer” - IF QUALIFIED - in its unionized wireless division.

However, protesters say the job offers come with less pay and benefits.

Communications Workers of America Local 3204 President Walter Andrews said the jobs offered would mean substantial financial sacrifice for the workers.

“They make less wages, their benefits are awful the working conditions are deplorable,” Andrews said.

“Yes, you have a job offer, but your PAY IS CUT OVER HALF AND YOUR BENEFITS ARE CUT IN HALF and you have NO MORE PENSION.”

Protester Matt Magnuson told the media people have to hold corporations like AT&T accountable.

“To tell these 740 workers that we’re going to fire you, but we’ll hire you at half the pay with no benefits, those are your options, you can either have no job or you can have a job at half the pay with no benefits in this current situation, and no one’s there to tell the corporations that that’s not OK,” he said.

OCCUPY ATLANTA said the fight at AT&T is part of the occupy movement’s mission.

“We are out here for love of our fellow persons, the 99%. We are here to keep good jobs for the people,” according to a statement on the website.

“At a time when unemployment is at a record high in the state of Georgia, we can’t afford to lose one more job.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 02/25/12 •
Section Telecom Underclass
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