Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest day for retailers throughout the U.S. Some companies have even opened their doors on Thanksgiving to get an advantage over competitors. Who loses? Workers who often have to leave family meals and then have to work on days when their neighbors are getting the best deals.
REI, a co-op retailer for outdoor wear, is taking a very different approach. The company has decided to close on Black Friday and give its employees a paid day off. Rather than fight frenzied consumers at the mall, REI suggests that its employees should enjoy a day in the outdoors. REI is putting its people first, and it should be cheered for doing so.
USA Today reports that wages may be going up. The problem is that increases tend to be in certain professions and areas. Following an analysis by payroll processor ADP, the article claims that key trades are seeing pay increases between 3.8 and 7.2%. Interestingly the biggest pay increases have come in companies with 1,000 or more employees (5.9%). Smaller companies have offered lower raises: 500-999 employees (2.9%), 50-499 employees (2.5%), and 49 workers of less (2.9%). By region, the Midwest (4.4%) and West (4.4%) are earning more than those in the Northeast (3.0%) and South (2.6%). If these numbers are accurate, it's good news for workers in the right trade in the right area. Hopefully the good news will continue to grow and spread.
Huffington Post’s labor writer Dave Jamieson has written a compelling story on the death of a temporary worker at an Amazon distribution center in Virginia. In his long, detailed, fascinating article, Jamieson never simply blames Amazon or a subcontractor company for the employee’s death. Instead, he tells the story of a human being who went to work one day and did not come home. He takes us into a world of temporary workers and how they labor with little security and no benefits. I don’t want to try to summarize this article. Instead, I urge you to read it and consider the story of Jeff Lockhart, Jr., who died at age 29, leaving behind a wife and three children. Jamieson gave his work the subtitle, “What the Future of Low Wage Work Really Looks Like.” In those words, he challenges us (and Jeff Bezos): Even if this system is legal and makes good business sense – is it right?
One of the blogs I read daily is written by a real education reformer, Diane Ravitch. Today she cited an article in Huffington Post that describes a teacher shortage in Kansas and what caused it. Many conservatives and pseudo-education reformers (Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, Secretary Duncan) argue that education promote choice through charter schools. They point to unions as a cause of poor education outcomes.
What’s happening in Kansas tells a different story. Teacher pay in the state is low, hours are longer, and the legislature has made it easier to fire teachers. The result is exactly what any sane person would expect. Teachers are retiring as soon as they can. Others are changing careers, and college students are choosing majors other than Education. Schools will be forced to rely on substitutes to cover classes.
In the past, I’ve asked who will want to teach if the pay is low, there is no union protection, and working conditions are poor. Market forces work in career choices just as they do in purchasing. If teaching is a difficult and disrespected profession, fewer and fewer people will pursue careers as teachers. Kansas proves this point. I expect we’ll hear similar stories from other states very soon.
Over the past few months, I've noticed that some employers (5-10%) are asking for applicants to put specific information in cover letter. Usually the request is for the applicant to give specific reasons why she is a good fit for the company. Today, I found a requirement that demonstrates the importance of reading job postings carefully. A company recruiting a Data Analyst lists this requirement as it's last bullet in a job post: "High attention to detail - mention the Rolling Stones in your cover letter to display your skill." This request might seem silly, but it is simple test to see how well applicants follow directions and pay attention to detail. It's easy to mock such requests. But, if you want to apply for the job, you have to jump through the employer's hoops.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 321,000 new jobs were added in November, and it revised hiring figures for recent months to reflect increased job growth. According to Daily Kos, there are still many Americans who are out of work or only able to find part-time jobs. That’s the downside. The upside is that job growth is starting to lead to higher wages. If this trend continues, that will be the real game changer. While hiring has increased the last two years, salary has not been increasing. If you’ve been stuck at a job that has been giving you small raises or no raises, it’s time to start looking for a new job.
I’ve written about Detroit and its challenges before. I love the city and wish it the best. The business website 24/7 Wall Street reports that a poll of CFOs taken by Robert Half forecasts big job growth in the Motor City. The author cautions that the poll does not have national statistical validity, but it does indicate optimism in Detroit, Philadelphia, and several other large cities. My take away, as always, is that job growth in itself is not enough. We need good jobs that pay a living wage. Let’s hope good jobs and brighter days are coming to Detroit.
I like to use separate banks for my personal and business banking. I noticed something funny the other day: None of the employees at either bank were over 40. When I first opened my business account, the branch manager, teller manager, and several of the tellers were my age or older (I’m 52). Over the past three years, those employees are all gone. It’s the same story where I do my personal banking. The faces that I knew when first used the bank are all gone, replaced by much younger employees.
I frequently counsel clients that age discrimination is a reality we have to deal with. On a personal level, is still believe that to be the truth. We can’t move the clock back. However, as a customer, it’s offensive that a company gets rid of good employees because they can find a cheaper alternative. Customers are alienated when the people they’ve done business with disappear. It seems that the banks don’t care. Money first; people last. Too often that has become the model for business in America.
We all want security. In a time of high unemployment and job insecurity, many people look for careers that will be recession proof. Sadly, like the unicorn, such jobs do not exist. Even healthcare, which is clearly a growing field, churns jobs. My clients in this field have told stories of layoffs and reorganizations. Several hospitals in Chicago have reorganized departments and laid off staff. One of my clients survived a layoff. She had to take over a co-worker’s job and her staff had to take on the duties of other laid off workers. So much for recession proof jobs in healthcare. Rather than seeking a security that doesn’t exist, the best career strategy is to be prepared for any challenge or opportunity. Change happens. Make the most of it.
Think Progress reports disturbing news about college graduates and salary: Men are making more than women – even if they graduate with the same major. Overall, female new graduates are earning .82 to the dollar earned by their male classmates. The studies cited in the article point to clear discrimination against women. Feminists in the 1970s would say, “We’ve come a long way.” While that is true in many ways, when it comes to paying women fairly, America has a long way to go.
- 1 of 27
- next ›