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The Deadliest Jobs

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yglesias_matthew_bioI tweeted earlier that the world would be a better place if more people had a more consistent view of the armed and un-armed forms of public sector workers. That prompted a rejoinder from at least some fans of the armed public sector that cops are running more risks than, say, librarians. This is true, but it’s worth keeping in mind that in the scheme of things (PDF) lots of jobs are more dangerous than being a policeman:

fatalities-1In terms of non-fatal injuries (PDF), police work is actually less dangerous than nursing:
injuries-1
Obviously, cops are doing a dangerous job. But it’s not the most dangerous job at there. So I think the point stands. Conservatives would do well to be a bit more skeptical of the activities of police, correctional, military, and intelligence bureaucracies and most liberals would do well to be a bit more skeptical of the activities of education and social service bureaucracies.
This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on November 12, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Matthew Yglesias is a Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Harvard University. His first book, Heads in the Sand, was published in May 2008 by Wiley. Matt has previously worked as an Associate Editor at The Atlantic, a Staff Writer at The American Prospect, and an Associate Editor at Talking Points Memo. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, The Washington Monthly, and other publications. Matthew has appeared on Fox News and MSNBC, and been a guest on many radio shows.

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Soldiers Fight for America, They Shouldn’t Have to Fight for a Job: The Internet and Tax Incentives Seek to Stem the Tide of Veteran Unemployment

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Last month, President Obama announced that the United States will complete a troop withdrawal from Iraq, bringing home 39,000 troops by year’s end. America’s heroes will be returning home to a stagnant economy, a persistent housing crisis, and declining wages. It is fair to say that America is facing an unemployment epidemic that will continue into the foreseeable future if there is not a concerted effort on the part of the government to incentivize job growth in the private sector.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, the national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. What’s more, service members who left the military in the last decade are unemployed at a rate of 12.1 percent, up drastically from a year ago when the rate was 10.2 percent. The number for post-9/11 veterans is even more staggering at 13.3%. The October jobs report was discouraging for recent service members who saw their situation worsen while the overall workforce saw a decline in their unemployment.

When soldiers returned from WWII they were welcomed with employment opportunities in industries that are now bleeding job loss. Those who did not seek a college education through the GI Bill could secure a good manufacturing job that would allow them to enter the middle-class.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, the picture is quite different in 2011, with 2.8 million American jobs lost in the last decade.  Roughly 70 percent of these came out of the manufacturing sector.

A USAToday article on the post 9/11 veteran unemployment crisis explains that many former soldiers worked in mining, construction, manufacturing, transportation, and utilities, all of which are industries that have been deeply affected by the recession.

In order to combat this pervasive unemployment, the Obama administration has taken action to incentivize the hiring of former service members including the “Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit” which will give businesses tax credits if they hire unemployed veterans. In a nod to the increasing role of social media in the labor market, the Labor Department has partnered with Facebook to provide job training and search resources to those looking for work. Other tools already exist to connect jobseekers and employers via LinkedIN, using referrals, and almost half of employers suggest they use social media sites to screen employees. What’s more, as recently as October 2010, 86% of job-seekers admitted to looking online during their job searches. Although the Facebook and Labor Department partnership is new, it is a positive step towards fully harnessing the potential of the Internet to help the unemployed find good jobs.

Efforts from the administration to spur veteran hiring are steps in the right direction, but they are not sufficient on their own. Obama acknowledged the importance of the private sector when he challenged American firms to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013.  Programs such as Helmets to Hardhats, established by the union construction industry to offer returning soldiers the opportunity to enter construction trade apprenticeship programs in an earn-while-you-learn environment, will hopefully make a dent in the sad trend of veteran unemployment.

A nuance often overlooked in the veteran re-employment conversation is employer resistance to veteran hiring.  A recent Raw Story article highlighted the resistance many veterans face, especially in the private sector where employers are accustomed to hiring through strict channels of discovery and rehearsed indicators of skill.  To combat this kind of prejudice, AT&T is launching two new online resources: a custom military skills translator which will enable servicemen and women to use their current Military Occupation Code or Military Occupation Specialty to find corresponding civilian career opportunities at AT&T, and the Careers4Vets program which connects interested veterans with mentors within AT&T.

Mark Siegel, a company spokesmen, said, “For decades, we have aggressively recruited military talent from both enlisted and officer ranks. The technical skills and leadership experience gained in the military transfer well to our company and culture.” America, a country that has always been on the cutting edge of innovation and technology, should be emulating AT&T’s efforts to hire veterans.

Just as the post-WWII generation enjoyed the rewards of a booming economy and increased college enrollment, America should strive to create an era that is marked by widespread job growth in the technology sector. Deloitte predicts that next generation wireless broadband build out will create 371,000-771,000 jobs and GDP growth between $73 billion and $151 billion by 2016. Now more than ever, employment opportunities must be made available to brave veterans who are returning home in increasing numbers. It is simply not fair to expect our soldiers to fight for America, only to return home to fight for a job.

About the Author: Steve Cooper is the editor of We Party Patriots, a labor and political blog with a national focus. He educates union members on the benefits of social media, offering instruction on engaging on Facebook and Twitter. When not ruining his posture and finger muscles through endless computer use, Cooper is an avid chef and musician.


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A Modest Proposal for Veteran’s Day

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charlotte-fishmanWith Veteran’s Day fast upon us, the airwaves are awash in the rhetoric of appreciation for the sacrifice of military servicemen and women, but the Supreme Court seems not to have gotten the message.  On October 2, the Court denied review of an astonishingly cold-blooded Fifth Circuit decision holding that a federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against military service members does not protect them from harassment on the job.

In Carder v. Continental Airlines 636 F.3d 172 (2011), a cringe-inducing opinion worthy of a Doonesbury cartoon, the Fifth Circuit refused to allow a workplace harassment claim brought by Continental Airlines pilots who are members of the United States Armed Forces Reserves and the Air National Guard to go forward.  In a class action complaint that includes multiple violations of the Uniformed Services Employment, Reemployment and Rights Act [USERRA], the pilots alleged a continuous pattern of insult and derisive comments directed at their military service, excessive scrutiny of off-duty military activity, interference with military leave, threats of termination and denial of flight time affecting their retirement benefits.

Congress enacted USERRA for three purposes:  (1) to encourage noncareer service in the uniformed services; (2) to minimize disruption to the lives of servicemembers, employers, fellow employees and communities; and (3) to prohibit discrimination against employees because of their service.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that  fulfillment of  the third purpose is critical to success of the first.  To insure robust enforcement, Congress mandated that the statute be “broadly construed” for the benefit of service members.

USERRA prohibits discrimination using language that is similar, but not identical to Title VII of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VII prohibits discrimination with respect to the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, “ while USERRA prohibits discrimination with respect to “initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment.”   Congress defined “benefit of employment” as “any advantage, profit, privilege, gain, status, account, or interest” arising from the employment relationship.

From 1964 to the present, federal employment discrimination law has evolved and expanded in scope as Congress added new protected categories,  and the federal courts ruled that statutes prohibiting discrimination encompass harassment and hostile work environment claims.  In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 37 (1986) the Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment violates Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, and in Harris v. Forklift Systems 510 U.S. 17 (1993) the Court announced that  “hostile work environment” harassment also violates Title VII, provided the conduct  is “severe or pervasive” enough to create an abusive work environment.

In a perfect world, USERRA’s plain language and statutory purpose, coupled with Supreme Court precedent and common sense would have led the Fifth Circuit to afford military service members the same protection against harassment enjoyed by other protected groups. Instead, the Court unaccountably seized on Congress’ failure to use the magic words “terms, conditions, and privileges of employment” as proof that it intended USERRA to provide a “more circumscribed set of actionable rights.” Having convinced itself (in the absence of any data) that harassment of military service members is not a widespread social problem in need of a remedy, the Court dismissed the pilots’ hostile environment claims, leaving them to “suck it up.”

In making an assumption that service members are not subject to the “invidious” and “irrational” harassment experienced by traditionally disadvantaged minorities,  the Court utterly failed to take into account the realities of our post 9/11 world.  In recent years, “citizen soldiers” have had to endure lengthier and more frequent deployments than at any other time in our nation’s history.

The trigger for employer harassment is, ironically, the very thing that society professes to value most – a service member’s willingness to disrupt his or her career to serve the nation.  Deployments  not only create pain and suffering for service members and their families, they also disrupt work schedules and cause financial hardship for employers. The greater the disruption and expense, the greater the employer’s “rational” incentive to get rid of employees with military service obligations.

Without statutory protection against harassment, service members are at the mercy of supervisors who foment resentment among co-workers or engage in disciplinary harassment  in an attempt to avoid the “shared sacrifice” mandated by USERRA.  Since reservists are typically locked into multi-year enlistment contracts, separation from the military to avoid harassment is not an option.  In an economy in which jobs are scarce and unemployment high, quitting when the harassment becomes unendurable and suing for constructive discharge – the Court’s proposed “solution” – isn’t viable either.

Congress’ purpose would have been better served if the Supreme Court had summarily reversed the Fifth Circuit or agreed to hear the case and issue a definitive ruling that USERRA prohibits workplace harassment. Unfortunately, waiting for another case to wend its way to the Supreme Court can take years.  With tens of thousands of deployed servicemen and women poised to return by year’s end, Congressional action is needed to secure their right to a harassment-free workplace now.

Happily, there is something we can do. As every 8th grader knows, our democracy is protected by a system of checks and balances.  When the Supreme Court fails to protect important rights, citizens can petition Congress to fill the gap.  Why not honor Veteran’s Day by asking your Senator or Representative to amend USERRA to clarify that a harassment-free workplace is a “benefit” of employment?  As an expression of gratitude, it sure beats  “Thanks for your service, but it’s hell on our bottom line.”

About the Author: Charlotte Fishman is a San Francisco attorney, and Executive Director of Pick Up the Pace, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify and eliminate barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace.


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Poll: Ohio Voters are Likely to Penalize Politicians for Issue 2 support

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Laura ClawsonA few things jump out from the results of the AFL-CIO’s post-election poll in Ohio (conducted by Hart Research Associates).

  • Gov. John Kasich’s lousy polling isn’t just something people are telling pollsters without acting on—26 percent of people who voted for Kasich just a year ago reported voting against Issue 2, his signature legislation, Tuesday. Of that 26 percent, 62 percent currently disapprove of Kasich’s performance.
  • People really do favor collective bargaining rights; 66 percent said they support collective bargaining for public employees.
  • Opposition to Issue 2 has implications moving forward. About half of Ohio voters said they were less likely to vote for Mitt Romney (49 percent) or Rick Perry (51 percent) due to their support for Issue 2.
  • Similarly, looking to implications within the state, 60 percent said they opposed the legislature and Kasich trying to pass similar legislation again (presumably in a slightly more sneaky way), and 56 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a state legislator who did vote to pass similar legislation in the future.

So basically, the message Ohio voters sent on Tuesday was this: We like collective bargaining rights. Try to take them away, and we will notice and we will hold it against you. Really. No, really, you need to take us seriously on this one.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on November 9, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.


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Stop Looking For a Job, Start Looking for an Opportunity

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Darren HardyA lot of jobs that once were, aren’t coming back. Ever. To look for what isn’t there is a waste of time and an insult to your dignity.

If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed — radically. The traditional yellow brick road to success and financial security has imploded. The path to a high-paying job used to involve getting the highest academic degree you could obtain, along with specific technical job skills, to start climbing the ladder. Today, most of the ladders are decimated. If those jobs still exist, the needed knowledge and skills of those jobs have changed . . . and change again every day.

These are the greatest times of opportunity we have seen in human history — but only if you know how to seize them. To succeed you need to change with the way the world is working now. If you are unemployed, underemployed, or want to take control of your financial future, here are seven strategies to thrive in the new world.

1. Adapt to the new reality.

Over the last decade we have witnessed the death rattle of an era gone by. The corporate structure and monolithic systems of the industrial age have begun to crumble. We are returning to the way we started — as entrepreneurs. When America was founded, the majority of people had their own business, farm, market or trade. People used their skillsets and hobbies to make a living as entrepreneurs. Then the industrial age flipped the ratio and most people became employed by new systems of repetitive labor and mass production.  Technology recently wired all of us directly to each other, destroying heavily controlled and highly valued distribution channels, giving every entrepreneur immediate and direct access to a global marketplace of opportunity, right from their fingertips . . . or laptop. This means competition doesn’t just come from the business down the street, but also from every basement or second bedroom of every home in every city or suburb in every country of the world. You better become a continual learner and constantly improve your special skills.

2. Stop looking for a job and start looking for an opportunity.

Take the skills you have as an employee and turn those into a contract services business. You have an expertise, knowledge and experience in something that’s unique to you. Your skillset might be so unique you don’t even recognize it as personal expertise. What is your experience, knowledge or unique gifts? Ask a good friend, colleague or former employer to tell you. Once you discover your specialization, hire your expertise out, offer it to multiple businesses and entrepreneurs who need what you can deliver. More companies are hiring consultants and contractors for specific projects, specialized skills and services. Bartering services on the Internet are booming — sites like SwapASkil.comUExchange.comTradeAway.com and SwapThing.com.

3. What do you have?

What goods do you have that others might want? What goods do you have easy access to that most do not? What goods can you make that people would want? Answer one or more of those questions and take it to market through eBay or an automated Amazon.com store. You also can write about your area of skill or expertise. You can create a how-to information book and sell it through ClickBank, create a podcast or video blog series and distribute it through iTunes or other distributions channels. Follow through on a great idea. There are probably thousands of people who want to know what you know or how to do what you do. Plus, it has never been cheaper to build, outfit and market your business than it is today. Vendors are flexible and partnerships are open.

4. Who do you know?

If you want to calculate your potential for increased wealth, don’t look at your current bank balance, cars or property inventory. Look at the inventory of your high caliber relationships. With the Industrial Age over, we are now in the Relationship Age. Unequivocally, the relationships you build will be your No. 1 asset in these expanding and fast-changing times. Your ability to network is the skill you want to hone, practice and master. Your ability to get to, connect with and establish relationships with important and purposeful people will be your gateway to any goal, destination or aspiration you have.

5. What problem can you solve?

The economic downturn has created a ton of new problems that need solving. Problems are food and oxygen for entrepreneurialism. Those who create solutions to our new problems will become the beneficiaries of these times. Remember, 90 percent of entrepreneurs started out at the bottom, broke or with little capital or savings. Today they are among the world’s wealthiest.

6. Return to self-reliance and self-responsibility.

You make your choices; then your choices make you. Everything in your life exists because you made a choice about something. Choices are at the root of your results. Don’t choose at all and you’ve made the choice to be the passive receiver of whatever comes your way. Most people think they take responsibility for their lives, but many people operate in the world of blaming, finger pointing and expecting someone else — or the government — to solve their problems. You can’t count on anyone else for your success but you.

7. Take control of your future!

Separate from everyone else by developing the mindset, habits, actions and persistence it’s going to take for personal accountability and control of your future. Your soft skills can give you the leading edge. With the mind-blowing velocity of change and throng of competition, the skills needed for success today are less about academic, industrial, or technical training and more about soft skills — emotional intelligence, adaptability,  resiliency, relationship-building, accountability, productivity and leadership skills.

There are no secrets, shortcuts or quick fixes to success. It takes hard work, personal responsibility and positive choices. You already know all the information you need to succeed. You just need a new plan of action. Now is the time.

© 2011 Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success

About the Author: Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success, has been a leader in the personal development industry for sixteen years, having led two personal development-based television networks, producing and launching more than a thousand television shows, live events, products, and programs with many of the world’s top experts.

As an entrepreneur, Darren was earning a six-figure income by age eighteen, more than a million dollars a year by age twenty-four, and owned a company producing $50 million a year in revenue by age twenty-seven. He has mentored thousands of entrepreneurs, advised many large corporations, and serves on the board of several companies and nonprofit organizations.

Now, as publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine, Darren interviews leading experts on human performance and achievement, as well as many of today’s top CEOs, revolutionary entrepreneurs, superstar athletes, entertainers, and Olympic champions, to uncover and share the secrets behind their extraordinary success.

Darren is a popular keynote speaker and appears regularly on national radio and television shows for CNBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX. Darren lives in San Diego, California.

For more information please visit http://www.thecompoundeffect.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.


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Aim, Shoot, You’re Fired

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krischsuit2Last May, Jeremy Hoven, a pharmacist in a Michigan Walgreens was working in the rear of the store when an armed robber jumped his counter and pointed a gun at him. In response, Mr. Hoven pulled out his own gun and fired at the robber, driving him and his accomplice away, while saving himself, and all those around him. Mr. Hoven’s actions, which can be viewed here, may have been heroic, but shortly after the robbery, Walgreens fired him for bringing a gun to work and violating the store’s non-escalation policy. Mr. Hoven sued Walgreens in Berrien County Circuit Court, claiming wrongful termination in violation of his constitutional and statutory right to self-defense. Walgreens claimed in response that it had a legitimate business reason for terminating Mr. Hoven, arguing that there is no “right to carry or discharge a concealed weapon” on workplace premises, and that store employees are trained not to confront crime suspects. Over the past month, the case has been removed to the Federal District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Walgreens’ decision to terminate Mr. Hoven has infuriated the public, as well as the media, which were strong on opinion but weak in analyzing whether Mr. Hoven would win his lawsuit. That’s where LASIS comes in.

While LASIS is sympathetic to Mr. Hoven, and thankful that he was not physically harmed, we do not believe his argument of self-defense will succeed in a court of law. Michigan is an employment at will state, a state where an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. And while it is true that Michigan courts and the Sixth Circuit recognize an employment at will termination exception if the firing is contrary to public policy, unfortunately, for Mr. Hoven, his termination was not. In fact, Michigan’s concealed weapons law explicitly states that an employer can prohibit an employee from carrying a concealed weapon in the course of employment.

Even if the Michigan concealed weapons law did not exist, a court cannot stretch public policy to include Mr. Hoven’s conduct, or else employers will be left in a serious quandary. If employers were told that in some circumstances employees could bring guns to work, under the Sixth Circuit’s theory of respondeat superior, employers in Michigan would then be liable for any action, accidental or purposeful, involving the use of that gun on the employers’ premises. Yet if employers do not permit guns at work, and a violent crime were committed on site, the employer could be held liable for any injuries.

In 1947, the Supreme Court, in Lillie v. Thompson, recognized a duty for employers to protect employees from criminal acts of third parties when the danger is foreseeable. In his lawsuit, Mr. Hoven could have argued that Walgreens was negligent because it breached a duty to protect its employees from foreseeable criminal acts of third parties. Because this was not the first time this very Walgreens was the victim of an armed robbery; On December 5, 2007, while Mr. Hoven was working the night shift, Walgreens was held up at gunpoint. A court could reasonably find that a future robbery was foreseeable, and that Walgreens should have taken protective action by, for example, installing bulletproof glass near all cash registers. On the other hand, a 1996 Sixth Circuit case ruled that an armed robbery that left one employee dead was not foreseeable because, among other things, nearly 15 months had passed since the previous armed robbery.

In 2001, the Sixth Circuit ruled on a case that again may have bearing on Mr. Hoven’s situation, holding that a negligence claim could not be proven without a showing of injury or loss caused by the employer’s negligence. Regrettably, Mr. Hoven cannot show that Walgreens caused his injury or loss because Mr. Hoven didn’t lose his job due to the employer’s negligence; rather he lost his job because he brought a gun to work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has become increasingly involved in matters of workplace violence. Mr. Hoven could have reported Walgreens to OSHA for violating the Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace for its employees. If found in violation of the Clause, Walgreens would have faced a significant fine, but Mr. Hoven would still be unemployed.

This blog originally appeared in Legal As She is Spoke, a project of the Law and Journalism track at New York Law School, on October 10, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: David M. Krisch (3L) is a New York Law School Government Fellow, and an Executive Board Member of the Dispute Resolution Team. David is a graduate of Penn State University, where he majored in Labor Employment Relations. David has interned with two labor and employment law firms, as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Office of Commissioner Ishimaru, in Washington D.C.


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Economy Adds 80,000 Jobs, Jobless Rate Drops to 9%

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Image: Mike HallThe U.S. economy added just 80,000 jobs in October and the nation’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 9 percent, down from September’s 9.1 percent, according to the latest figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The nation’s economy needs 130,00-150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with the influx of new workers.

The report comes a day after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work rebuilding the nation’s crumbling highways, bridges and roads and just a few weeks after they killed legislation that would have put  400,000 teachers and first responders back to work  or allowed them to stayon the job.

Jobs for state and local public employees contunue to fall with 24,000 losing their jobs last month.

Some 14 million workers remain unemployed, but a total of some 26 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. The number of long-term jobless (more than 27 weeks) was 5.9 million or 42.4 percent of the total jobless.

Yesterday, legislation was introduced to reauthorize federal unemployment insurance programs for 2012. Nearly two million out-of-work Americans will be cut off from federal unemployment insurance in January alone, unless Congress renews the programs before they expire on December 31, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).  More than six million U.S. workers could face premature cut-off over the course of 2012.

Click here for the full BLS report.

This blog post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now Blog on November 4, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. He carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He’s also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold blood plasma, and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.


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D.C. Council Finally Acts to Help D.C. Residents Get Good Jobs

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Calvin Bio PhotoI have been unemployed since 2008, despite my constant efforts to find a job. This Tuesday, the D.C Council finally passed a bill that will make it easier for DC residents like me to get hired. Even before this bill was passed, city contractors were supposed to employ D.C. residents for at least 51% of their new hiring on city contracts. However, according to a report by the D.C. Employment Justice Center and other local organizations, the old “First Source” law was weak and not well enforced and not enough was done to connect the unemployed with jobs on city contracts. The new law, which passed its first vote yesterday, will address this problem by making city contractors more accountable for hitting the hiring targets. It will also create a workforce intermediary to connect workers with jobs, following in the footsteps of San Francisco’s City Build program and Boston’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust to create career pathways for unemployed D.C. residents.

One of the most important parts of the bill for me personally is the help it gives to employers who hire people who have been unemployed for a long time or who face special obstacles in finding a job. People like me.

You see, I have a criminal record. At first, I did not understand why I could not get work. When I finally got to see a copy of my decades old criminal record, I finally understood why no one would hire me. Looking at the record, I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t hire me.”

As a kid, I was attracted to the fast life. I was fascinated by the young guys driving Cadillacs, going to dances with alligator shoes, getting girls and so as an adolescent, I went wild. I didn’t have to go that route. I had good parents. I had a job. I wouldn’t tell my friends I had a job, but I would go out at night and then go to work the next morning. My lifestyle caught up with me when I was arrested in 1973. I was innocent of the particular crime charged, but at the time I was involved in drugs and petty crime. I served three and a half years in prison and six and a half on parole.

My life really changed while I was incarcerated. I got my GED, took college classes and eventually got married. I have been a law-abiding citizen now for more than 20 years, but my conviction is a red flag to any potential employer. They write me off before I have a chance to get my foot in the door. The truth is I spent three and half years in prison, but I am really serving a life sentence.

All throughout our country, there are millions of people who have paid their debt to society and who want to work, but very few employers are willing to hire us. At the age of 60, I have been through a diverse range of jobs and have a long list of qualifications that reflect this: commercial driver, telecommunications work, foreman and fleet manager at a tire company, and construction worker for the Department of Transportation. Yet I have been out of work for three years. I have applied for over 43 jobs and have been turned down for all of them. Right now, my only income comes from Social Security. It feels degrading to me because I am used to supporting myself. Beyond that, even with Social Security, I cannot even meet my basic needs.

I refuse to give up though. I am in the process of finishing my Associates Degree at Catholic University to become a certified addiction counselor. I want to help people avoid taking the route in life that I have. It is my lifelong dream to help educate and counsel ex-offenders so that they too can be solid citizens.

This First Source bill is a significant way to improve the lives of people who, like me, wish to be productive and responsible members of society, yet have their hopes constantly squashed by the lack of good jobs and by discriminatory hiring practices. This law gives me hope.

About the Author: Calvin Moore is a member of Workers Advocating for Greater Equality (“WAGE”), a project of the D.C. Employment Justice Center (www.dcejc.org).


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Restaurant Association, Big Bucks Donors Defeat Denver-Sick Days Measure for Low-Wage Workers

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adele_stan_140x140Advocates for working families in Denver had hoped to pass a measure in local elections that would have mandated paid sick leave for low-wage workers, but on Tuesday the measure was defeated by Denver voters, who were inundated with advertisements against the measure known as Initiative 300. Opposed by the National Restaurant Association and several local Chambers of Commerce, proponents of the family-friendly measure found themselves outspent by almost two-to-one.

On the Family Values @Work Web site, Executive Director Ellen Bravo writes:

Deep-pocketed may have defeated Initiative 300 in Denver, but they can’t stop the momentum for paid sick days around the country.

We salute the broad coalition in Denver, made up of 160 grassroots groups and business owners, who made visible the incredible need in their city for allowing workers to earn paid sick days. Thanks to the hard work of this coalition, the people of Denver have begun to make themselves heard.

Their voices will be magnified by groups across the country who will continue to add to the wins our movement has already achieved.

Read more on Initiative 300 here.

The blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now blog on November 2, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Adele Stan is a journalist and lifelong member of the labor movement, reports on a timely forum on inequality and jobs at Georgetown University today.


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You’ve Got Great Experience, Sir, But You’re Too Old

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Jaclyn-Tyndorf-photo-265x300In these turbulent economic times, securing employment can be a steep and uphill battle for job hunters, who are up against scores of other candidates all vying for the same position. Common sense dictates that those with the most amount of relevant experience should be at the top the list for consideration. And as federal law dictates, race, gender and age should be of no consideration at all for jobs in which race, gender and age don’t matter.

Sometimes, of course, these considerations do come into play.  A man isn’t going to get a modeling job to frolic on a beach in a bikini for the 2012 edition of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. A white woman won’t likely be hired to serve as president of an Association for Asian-American males…And then there’s age.  If the applicant for a job has great experience but the job involves manual labor, can age be taken into consideration?

Consider the case of two male electricians, both experienced in their trade. Upon applying for a “journeyman lineman” position their union and before meeting their would-be employer, they were both told, off the bat, that they were just too darn old.

A collective bargaining agreement requires Western Energy Services of Durango, Inc.(WESODI) to follow a union referral process for hiring. In August 2009, when the telecommunications and power line construction company had an available lineman position, it contacted a local union for the name of the next available member with the required skill sets. Eric Camron, then 72, was next in line.

After being told by his union about the job, Mr. Camron went to his local union office where a WESODI employee asked to speak to him on the phone. Mr. Camron was told that the job was “go, go go”, and that he would have difficulty keeping pace with the younger workers. WESODI hired a 24 year-old with less experience, instead.

One month later, the same thing happened to Dennis Thomas, then, 61, and for the same reason. A 28 year-old was hired for that position, again with less experience.

Messrs. Camron and Dennis are suing in New Mexico federal court. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant on grounds including age, and it is representing the two electricians.

The men want WESODI to stop discriminatory employment practices and to pay them back pay and money damages. While The Durango Herald discussed the men’s lawsuit, the paper didn’t discuss the requirements of proving a case of age discrimination, and whether our electricians will be able to meet these requirements. LASIS will.  

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits an employer from discriminating against a job applicant or employee based on his age. This Act protects people who are at least 40 years old, and applies to employers with at least 20 employees.  The Act covers hiring, firing, benefits, and promotion.

Per the 1973 Supreme Court case McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, age discrimination claims are analyzed according to a three-part process. In hiring and promotion cases, the first part requires that a plaintiff have evidence that is more likely than not to prove that he was: (1) within the protected age group of the Act; (2) qualified for the position; (3) negatively affected by the employer’s decision; and (4) passed over for a younger person who was hired for the position.

After a plaintiff meets that requirement, the burden shifts to the employer to show a nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring or promoting the plaintiff.

If this burden is met, the plaintiff can keep his case alive by showing the employer was motivated by a discriminatory reason or that age was at least an influential factor in the employer’s decision to hire a younger candidate. Then it’s up to the jury to decide if the employer discriminated illegally based on age.

In a 2010 District of Columbia district court case, a 55 year-old plumber who wasn’t hired for a particular job sued a company for age discrimination, alleging that the CEO had expressed concerns about whether he could physically perform the job responsibilities. The CEO hired another candidate whom he later said he chose because he was familiar with the other candidate’s work. The court held that because the person ultimately hired for the position was only five years younger than the plaintiff, age was likely not the deciding factor, and the plaintiff lost.

In a 1993 District of Columbia district court case, the court stated that at times, demonstrating a substantial difference between the age of the person hired or promoted and the age of the person who didn’t get the job or was fired may sometimes be enough to point to age discrimination. In that case, the plaintiff was passed over for promotion in favor of someone 17 years younger, which the court found sufficient to suggest that age played a role in the employer’s decision.

In the case of our journeymen electricians, the men may have established a solid age discrimination case. Both men were members of a protected group (potential employees over the age of 40) and sufficiently qualified for the positions… and were passed over for candidates more than 20 years their junior.

As a result, the company will have to show that it had other reasons for not hiring the men. An employer in a Texas district court case was found to be acting lawfully when it wouldn’t hire pilots over 60 to fly its corporate planes. This decision was based on the company’s reliance on a federal agency’s rule prohibiting pilots from flying commercial planes after 60 due to safety concerns.

WESODI CEO Kenny Robinson told The Durango Herald that the company doesn’t “discriminate for any reason and especially not for age. It’s very common for well over 40 percent of our workforce to be in the protected age group.”

That’s nice.  It doesn’t affect this case.  WESODI needs to show that reasons other than age factored into its not hiring these two electricians.

It will have a difficult time doing so.

The young men hired for the jobs had far less experience than both Mr. Camron and Mr. Thomas, and both plaintiffs allege that a WESODI employee told them on the phone that they were too old.

I called WESODI and learned that generally, WESODI journeyman linemen generally work in all types of weather, both above and below ground, installing and removing transformers, digging, and putting conductors in the trenches.  Some jobs involve climbing poles.

We do not have detailed information about the physical demands of the WESODI jobs that Mr. Camron and Mr. Thomas applied for, or about the physical fitness of either of the plaintiffs.  But unless the company can provide a legitimate reason for not hiring Mr. Camron and Mr. Thomas, the court will probably pull the plug on WESODI’s practices.

This blog originally appeared in Legal as She Spoke, a project of the Law and Journalism track at New York Law School, on October 28, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jaclyn Tyndorf is a (2L) majored in Broadcast Journalism at Syracuse University. She is active at New York Law School, and is a member of the Media Law & Policy Center, the Institute for Information Law and Policy, and the Program in Law & Journalism. Jaclyn spends her free time exploring the neighborhoods of New York City and enjoys attending New York Jets games.


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