Blog Archive - March 2014
In today's Chicago Sun-Times, a reader named Ted Schwartz from Brookfield wrote: "Who will benefit when they raise the minimum wage? The state and federal governments. They will collect more in taxes when the raise goes in."
By such logic, we should not have a minimum wage. The only thing worse than Mr. Schwartz's logic are his facts. Low wage worker pay little or no income tax to the state and federal government. However, they do pay more in sales taxes because they will be able to buy more, which is good for low wage workers and for the economy as a whole. I don't know why people like Mr. Schwartz are so bitter that they want to begrudge the least among us. My problem is more with billionaires and corporations who have written the tax code for their benefit. A raise in the minimum wage will be good for everyone, including the companies who will pay higher wages, because they will have more business. The idea is to bring more money into the economy, not to take it out.
Run a big bank. Buzzfeed reports that James Gorman, head of Morgan Stanley, has been given an 85% pay increase, upping his income to $18 million. To put things in perspective, Gorman is credited with turning the company around, and he still makes less than Goldman Sach’s chief Lloyd Blankfein, whose annual compensation is $23 million. Still, in a time when most Americans consider a 3% annual raise to be normal, an 85% pay increase sounds like some people play a different game. That’s because they do. Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Send them to a great MBA program that feeds investment banks. It seems that’s the only way to get ahead in 21st century America.
One of the biggest challenges facing working people is wage cuts. For many sales people, most of their annual income is based on commissions. I met with a client today whom I’ve known for more than 10 years. He has always exceeded sales quota. In his current role he is both a manager and a sales representative. To save money, his employer is changing compensation. The current rate for commissions is 4.5% of sales. As of July that rate will be cut to 3.2%. When he took the job six years ago, the commission was 6.5%. This is not the first time his commissions have been cut.
When my client confronted his boss about the situation, the boss told him that the company was increasing his account base and that he could make as much or even more if he worked harder. These words were a deep insult to my client. In his time with the company, he has always exceeded sales goals and often has been ranked #1 in his region. Now he’s being asked to do more just to keep pace. Instead, he’s doing the smart thing: Looking for a new employer who will treat him fairly.
Writing in Huffington Post, Robert Reich explores the power billionaires like the Koch brothers and the Ricketts family, former owners of TD Ameritrade, current owners of a team I root for, the Chicago Cubs. Reich lays out the different ways these super rich families have used their wealth to influence politics. While Reich cites a Democratic billionaire and middle-of-the-road Michael Bloomberg as non-Republican super PAC bosses, most of the action is conservative. And it is anti-worker.
Rather than look at this as a conservative/liberal issue, it would be better to think about the growing influence of neoliberal ideology, which unites people like Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his former boss, Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner. Neoliberals believe that the public sector is always superior to the private. They also hate unions the way Joe McCarthy hated communists. These groups control the money, which means they control the media, which – as McLuhan taught – is the “message.” Most Americans distrust unions because they have heard the same propaganda for over 30 years. It’s gotten so bad that 35% of Americans are against raising the minimum wage. I wonder what percent would agree with reversal of the 13th Amendment?
Steve Masiello is talented, young basketball coach. He took his Manhattan team to the NCAA tourney and nearly beat powerhouse Louisville in the first round. Despite the loss, he was set to make a big career move in accepting a position as coach of South Florida University when a self-inflicted disaster struck. A background screen discovered that Masiello does have the bachelor’s degree that is listed on his resume. This fabrication will not only cost him the opportunity to move to South Florida, but his old job as well. Manhattan requires its coaches to have a degree.
Some might say that Masiello’s record speaks for itself, but many employers view a resume as a standard for honesty. If Masiello had stated that he nearly completed the degree or completed all but XX hours, he might have negotiated a different solution to his problem.
Lying on a resume is a time bomb. Any manager or co-worker could use that information against you at any time in your employment. Always cast yourself in the best light and sell your achievements, but never do so by stating something that another person can prove to be false. The price of lying on a resume can be very high.
I recently met a prospective client who had significant managerial experience. He was frustrated because he had applied to several jobs and never received a call back. I asked to see a sample of the type of jobs he was applying to. In almost every case, they were entry level or had nothing to do with the managerial experience that was presented on his resume.
This client’s experience is typical of one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make. If you aim low in the kind of job you apply to, but keep your resume focused on higher level experience or skill, don’t expect a call back. Most employers will consider you to be overqualified and will expect you to jump to a new job at the higher level as soon as one becomes available. Applying in this way will become frustrating, and soon you will think no one will want to hire you.
What’s the answer? Apply at the level that fits your skills. Show employers why you can fill the role that is open. If you decide to “down shift” and attempt to get a lower position, write your resume so the employer can see how you can fill the role that is open. I would still expect most employers to see you as overqualified, but at least you will be showing them your qualifications to fill the open role. My advice in most cases is to play to your strengths. Don’t look down.
According to a recent poll, most Americans are opposed to paying college athletes. In a similar spirit many working people are opposed to unions because they have to pay dues, or they are conservatives who oppose unions because that's what conservatives do. In both of these examples, workers are working against themselves. If paying college athletes is wrong, why is it correct to pay their coaches million dollar contracts? If unions aren't a good thing, why do large businesses join together in the national chamber of commerce and professionals like lawyers and doctors unite in the ABA and the AMA. Too many American workers have bought the sound bytes pushed out by those who want to exploit them. Nothing will change until working people start to understand the interests that they share.
Common Dreams has posted an article by the great labor writer Michelle Chen, who examines the growing practice of “on call” work schedules. In this labor model, the employee works only when the employer offers hours. There is no set schedule. As Chen notes, there are several disadvantages to this model: no set schedule, getting sent home early, being called in the same day to work, and having no control over free time since you can only work when it is available. This model is becoming more common in retail stores and restaurants, industries where the minimum wage or tip wages are often the norm.
Chen ends her article: “While it purports to optimize workplace efficiency, the Just-in-Time system exploits work-time as a commodity. A just schedule takes into account the true value of a worker’s time, on and off the clock, and it’s the only way to truly ensure a fair day’s pay.” True words. But in a world where so many working people have bought into the argument that business is always right, I’m afraid that on call schedules are going to be just one line on a long and growing list of workplace concerns that workers are going to have to fight to change.
In recent months several clients have asked me what they should do when an interviewer asks to be “walked” through a resume. There are two ways to address this request. The worst strategy is to start with your current job and go backward. This takes you away from recent experience or education that qualifies you for the position you are seeking. It is better to move from least recent to most recent experiences. The strongest type of response would not end with your current job or most recent degree. Instead, you would show how you are prepared to do the job you are interviewing for. Walk the interviewer into a place where she will want to offer you a job.
Think Progress reports that some businesses are asking their customers to do something very odd: Stop tipping wait staff. Instead, these moral businesses are pricing their food and drink in a way that lets them offer living wages and benefits, which is a common practice in other countries. The article also notes that under the current tip based system, the poverty rate for restaurant employees is three times higher than other workers. If the average tip is 20% and the restaurant raised its price by that amount, we could be confident that hard working people are being properly compensated. Anyone who thinks that paying such a small amount is unfair has another option: Cook your own meals.