Sarah Jaffe of In These Times reports on an effort in Minnesota to fine companies that pay wages so low that employees have to be on state aid. Take Action Minnesota is promoting what it call the “bad business fee,” a fine for each employee who is working while on some form of federal or state support. Jaffe cites a study that claims Walmart employees receive $6.2 billion per year in some form of assistance. That’s $6 billion the American taxpayer is paying to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer – corporate welfare. Jaffe gives several other compelling examples, and I urge you to read her article.
As progressive radio host Thom Hartmann is fond of saying, a business that can’t pay its employees a living wage shouldn’t be in business. People who work for a living shouldn’t have to rely on services that are meant for the poor or unemployed. If we want to promote the work ethic and the dignity of work, we should be as will to say that all workers deserve a living wage. America needs a raise.
Yes magazine explores the ways people work together to enhance the common good. It reports that there is good news out of New York City, where the City Council has appropriate $1.2 million to support worker-owned cooperatives. Though the fund is small and is predicted to create fewer than 250 jobs, it helps set a model for other cities. In 2013, Yes outlined the ways worker-owned and other co-ops are changing the economy. In a time when Wall Street is booming and large corporations are merging, it’s refreshing to see that some people are building an alternative economy, one where workers can have some say in how a business is run. If you’re looking to start a business, see if co-ops are legal in your state. They might be a good way to have a successful business in which all workers will “take ownership.”
I was listening to Thom Hartmann’s talk show a couple of days ago and heard some frightening news. Since 2008, 800,000 Americans have fallen out of the middle class. Hartmann added to this woeful statistic recent discoveries about McDonald’s and Walmart. McDonald’s gives its workers advice on how to limit their diets and how to access social services. Similarly, Walmart was called out for holding a food drive for its low wage employees. In both cases, taxes of the middle class are a type of corporate welfare because they keep employees of Walmart and McDonald’s sheltered, fed, and medically secure. Hartmann looks at these trends and sees one outcome: the death of the middle class.
As reported in Daily Kos, camera-loving senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has introduced a national right to work [for less] bill. The real purpose of this bill, like the ones passed at the state level, is to gut unions. Paul claims that closed shop rules hurt workers' freedom by making them pay dues to unions that negotiate their contracts and protect their rights. However, isn't any individual free to work in any non-union [lower paid] position she wishes? Paul says every worker deserves “freedom of association” by which he means freedom not to join a union. His concern is not the individual, unless that person is a CEO of a large corporation.
The real problem is that Paul and other servants of corporate wealth have worked for decades to gut the “freedom of association” that enables workers join in a union. Laws have been passed that make organizing more and more difficult. Large corporations and small companies intimidate organizers and pay off other workers to bash unions. The corporate megaphones of conservative talk radio and Fox News have turned “union” into a dirty word for many American who can’t think critically and are ignorant of history.
When union membership was highest, so were wages of the working and middle classes. As union membership has fallen over the last three decades, so have wages. Maybe Senator Paul has confused poverty with freedom. The American people need to wake up and stop listening to lies that only serve to make the rich richer.
Writing in Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders asks some important questions about the “soul of America.” There is nothing bipartisan about Senator Sanders. He comes from the left and makes no attempt to hide his views. At the same time, the problems he discusses, especially the growing problem of inequality, should concern every America. Sanders asks us to consider how corporations earning big profits and paying less than ever before into the tax base. He also reminds us that American-based companies receive tax breaks for taking jobs out of the U.S. These are real problems, and Sanders is a patriot for putting them forward as national priorities. I urge you to read his essay.
If you feel down about your career or if you know someone who feels that way, take heart from some people who were counted out and still made a name for themselves.
I’m reading the Thom Hartmann Reader, a collection of the radio talk show host writings. Hartmann notes that Thomas Edison had difficulty in school as a child. His teachers thought he couldn’t learn. Edison’s mother taught him at home, and his achievements speak for themselves.
Whatever you think of him (and I’m not a fan), George W. Bush has to be given credit for his accomplishments. He won two elections and made decisions that will affect this country for years to come. Many on the left call him an idiot. His record would make him a very successful idiot.
To give one final example, consider Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all time was cut from his junior high team. Jordan didn’t quit, and he made those who doubted him eat their words.
It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking or focus on an insult by a supervisor or co-worker. It’s also deadly to finding a new job or moving forward in a career. The doubters will always be out there. Your job is to prove that they are wrong.
We've heard about the "job creators," the wealthy who should not have to pay taxes. Radio host Thom Hartmann put a different spin on this concept by referring to workers as "Wealth Creators." Hartmann said the real problem with our economy is that since the 1980s more and more of wealth created by working people in the form of increased productivity has gone to the wealthy, not working class or middle class people who would spend it.
Keep that in mind: Workers = Wealth Creators!
[On Sundays, this blog explores different perspectives on work in “Sabbath.”]
Listening, Talking, and Exploring
We were a Twitter society long before the first tweet was posted. Newspaper articles and TV news stories have grown shorter, and they are written in language for a lower and lower grade level. We read headlines instead of stories. The spin is much easier to understand than a story with multiple levels of meaning.
Thank God (or Al Gore) for the Internet. It is possible to access great interviews and lectures that entertainment TV will not touch. Some might ask, “What about PBS?” The focus of PBS is corporate and mainstream. To replace Bill Moyers with an insider like Jon Meachem is a big bow to conventional wisdom. Similarly, Charlie Rose is a great interviewer, but his guests are the same crowd saying the same things. The one exception on PBS is Tavis Smiley. Anyone who thinks that Tavis only talks about race would be sadly mistaken. Sometimes he talks too much about Tavis, but that is a small flaw in an otherwise wonderful exchange of ideas.
We in Chicago were lucky for many years to have had Studs Terkel talking with artists and authors on WFMT. Some of those interviews are available through the Chicago History Museum. What I always enjoyed about Studs was the enthusiasm he brought to any topic. Like a great teacher, he drew his listeners into new ways of thinking, something we have too little of today.
On the political side, Jon Stewart and Thom Hartmann interview guests in very different ways. Stewart is first and foremost a comedian. But, like Shakespeare’s fools, he often makes his strongest critical points through a joke, often a non-verbal gesture. At the same time, even when he disagrees with a guest, Stewart is very respectful and gives all of his guests time to make their point. The website often includes longer versions of interviews on the Daily Show. Thom Hartmann is more cerebral and more set in his politics. His series Conversations with Great Minds would not win praise from conservatives. However, it is a great resources for those of us who find Barack Obama and most Democratic leaders too conservative for our tastes.
My favorite website for smart talk is TED, a collection of presentations by leading scholars, scientists, business leaders, and politicians. I know nothing about cricket, but I once watched a 30 minute lecture on cricket and marketing. It was fascinating. Unlike the cooler than cool network newsreaders (What do they anchor?), TED presenters are knowledgeable about their subjects, and they speak with a passion and humor that is totally lacking in the mainstream media. TED invites its viewers to think, not just pick one side of a simplistic argument.
Great speakers and interviewers transfer their ideas and curiosity to an audience. They bring a commitment that is often personal. When people say our education system is failing, they should look at Jon Stewart or TED. Find a teacher that makes people want to learn. They’re out there – just a mouse click away.
I ran into my postal carrier yesterday. It was an all too common day this spring – wet and cold. I made a joke about the weather, and he laughed and said it comes with the job. When I asked if he is ever bothered by weather being too hot or cold. He said, “No.” What bothers him? Working in the office, politics, and being stuck inside.
Everyone of us has a favorite working environment. Some people like an office where they interact constantly with other people. They like daily contact and being in the same place. Others like to work alone with little or no human contact. They like to be moving and outside. These people would be great postal carrier, UPS drivers, or delivery truck drivers.
The talk show host and author Thom Hartmann divides such personalities into the categories of hunters and farmers. Farmers work in the same place. They like routine and follow directions. Hunters like movement. They tend to work alone or in small groups. A hunter who takes a job meant for a farmer will be miserable. For example, someone who should be working in outside sales will not be happy working in an office. Conversely, a person who hates travel and doesn’t have the “killer instinct” will not be successful in sales.
Think back on your career. Assess what you activities you like to perform and the environment in which you like to work. Put yourself in a place where you will be successful and happy. That’s the real definition of career management.
“There is no guarantee that there will be a job tomorrow if you are working today. So, if we understand this ahead of time, it may change how we respond when that happens. Then we won’t feel so surprised, as if we are singled out. We understand that the loss of a job has many factors; the result of many causes and conditions. We will understand that, in many cases, it many even have roots in global economic issues. This way, we won’t become so upset by taking it personally, or looking around us for someone to blame for our problems.”
Job loss has many causes, especially in a time when many companies are cutting costs. Rather than look backward and ask a question that has no answer, we are better off when we accept uncertainty and know that there are no guarantees. According to Senator Bernie Sanders who appeared on Thom Hartmann’s show, 42,000 factories closed in the U.S. over the last decade, add to that, the jobs lost because of the “mortgage meltdown,” and we have a mess. There will be no fast solution to our current Job Depression (Workers are hurting; Wall Street is booming.). We need to understand the situation and keep things in perspective. It’s not our fault. Even so, we have to live with the problem and do our best to continue to manage our careers. Listening to the wisdom of the Dalai Lama makes it a little easier.
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