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Workers Cheer Living Wage Victory in Austin

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Barbara DohertyConstruction workers and others in the Austin, Texas, area are celebrating a coalition victory this week after Travis County commissioners approved a first-ever economic development policy that includes a living wage requirement.

The policy requires contractors asking for tax incentives to move into the county to pay all employees at least $11 per hour. It’s a significant improvement over the prevailing construction hourly wage of $7.50.

On the same day the county provision passed, a subcommittee of the Austin City Council passed a similar policy, which will come to the full council in the coming months. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, both the city and county have been criticized about generous tax incentives offered in recent years to major companies such as Apple and Marriott.

Along with faith-based and student organizations, the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFSCME Local 1624, Education Austin (AFT) and Texas State Employees Union (TSEU)/CWA Local 6186 participated in the yearlong campaign spearheaded by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project (WDP). The 1,000-member WDP has worked for 10 years on wage theft and other workers’ rights issues.

Austin Interfaith and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) were among others that supported the campaign.

“Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay,” WDP organizer Greg Casar told a celebratory crowd after the county commissioners voted.

This post was originally posted on November 30, 2012 at AFL-CIO NOW. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Barbara Doherty: My dad drove a laundry delivery truck in San Francisco and I came to appreciate unions sitting in the waiting room at the Teamsters vision center there. More than 30 years ago, I joined the international SEIU publications staff (under the union’s legendary, feisty president, George Hardy). Living in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., over the years, I have contributed countless news and feature articles, as well as editing, to the publications and websites of unions in the public and private sectors and the construction trades.

Amendment to Thwart Airport Security Officers’ Bargaining Rights Defeated in Senate

Friday, February 25th, 2011

photo_4940On Tuesday, the Senate voted down a Republican-authored amendment to the FAA Authorization Act that would have eliminated the collective bargaining rights of baggage screeners at the Transportation Security Administration.

These workers, also known as TSOs, were granted limited collective bargaining rights on February 4 in a historic decision by TSA Administrator John Pistole, who was making good on a campaign promise by Barack Obama to allow bargaining rights for the nation’s 40,000 TSOs.

The amendment would have left intact the right of TSOs to belong to a union (12,000 TSOs are already exercising that right as dues-paying union members). However, the amendment would have outlawed collective bargaining, i.e., authorizing the union to negotiate on behalf of TSOs.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

The lead sponsor of the amendment was Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who argued that giving TSOs the right to bargain collectively could harm national security by limiting the agency’s flexibility. Perhaps he didn’t realize that under the terms of Pistole’s determination, a future TSO union would be barred from negotiating issues that directly affect national security.

Like all federal public sector unions, a TSO union would not be allowed to negotiate salaries. Pistole will not even allow the union to negotiate on basic issues like disciplinary standards.

On the eve of the vote, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) took to the floor of the Senate to urge his fellow legislators to defeat the amendment. The senator argued that TSOs should be granted collective bargaining rights as a matter of national security.

He noted that a recent ranking of “Best Places to Work” put the TSA in 220th place, out of 224 federal agencies and departments. Turnover and injury rates at TSA are among the highest in the federal government.

“Low morale and high turnover at a frontline security agency are a recipe for disaster,” Harkin said. “TSA determined that collective bargaining will address those problems and improve the Agency’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

Harkin challenged the assumption that unionization is incompatible with national security, noting that most federal security employees, including Border Patrol personnel, Immigration and Custom Officials, Capitol Police officers and Federal Protective Service Officers have collective bargaining rights.

Wicker argued that TSOs should be treated like the CIA and the FBI, which do not have collective bargaining rights. This despite what seems fairly obvious: The job of a TSO seems to have a lot more in common with that of customs officials in the same airport than with that of an FBI special agent or a CIA operative.

The defeat of the amendment eliminates a major hurdle to TSO collective bargaining. TSOs are scheduled to vote on representation starting on March 9.

The 4.0 Career Is Coming... Are You Ready?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Douglas LaBierEven in the midst of our economic disaster that’s hitting all but the wealthiest Americans, a transformation is continuing within people’s orientation to work. I call it the rise of the 4.0 career.

This growing shift concerns how men and women think about and pursue their careers. It also defines the features of organizations that they want to work for and commit to. This shift that I describe below transcends its most visible form: Generation X’s and, especially, Generation Y’s attitudes and behavior in the workplace. Those are part of a broader shift whose origins are within men and women at the younger end of the baby boomer spectrum.

I first encountered this while interviewing yuppies (remember them?) in the 1980s for my book “Modern Madness, about the emotional downside of career success. I often found that people would want to talk about a gnawing feeling of wanting something more “meaningful” from their work. They didn’t have quite the right language back then to express what that would look like other than feeling a gap between their personal values and the trade-offs they had to make to keep moving up in their careers and companies. The positive ideals of the 60s seemed to have trickled down into their yearnings, where they remained a kind of irritant.

Flashing forward 25 years, those people are now today’s midlife baby boomers. Their earlier irritation has bloomed into consciously expressed attitudes and behavior that have filtered down into the younger generations, where they’ve continued to evolve. Today, they’re reshaping how people think about and pursue their careers within today’s era of interconnection, constant networking and unpredictable change.

I’ll oversimplify for the sake of highlighting an evolution of people’s career orientations:

Career Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0… And The Emerging 4.0

The 1.0 career describes doing whatever kind of work enables you to survive. It’s what people do when they’re in situations of extreme hardship, political upheaval, or within socioeconomic conditions that limit their opportunity and choices. That probably describes the situation for the masses of people throughout most of history. And of course it exists today, especially among those who have been hardest hit by the current recession. In these situations, your criterion for “success” is being able to earn enough of a living to survive — pay your bills and support your family. The conflicts that people experience within the 1.0 career often include the impact of working conditions, discrimination and limited opportunities for getting onto a career path that can lead to something better.

Version 2.0 emerged with the political and economic environments that supported the emergence of the modern “career.” That is, work within increasingly large, bureaucratic organizations that developed from about the late 1800s into the early 20th century. Those organizations required layers of management and administration — white-collar jobs, within bureaucracies. Your career could advance along a defined path, and it was available to people who were able to gain a foothold within it. That path was often facilitated by educational opportunities and/or social class advantages people brought with them.

The 2.0 career is what most people define as “careerism:” Pursuing more power, authority, money and position within an organization. It’s all about performing — doing whatever gets you those external rewards. Our career culture begins conditioning many of us that way in childhood, as Madeline Levine described in her book, “The Price of Privilege.” It probably even contributes to the widespread experience of ADD.

Over time, you become set up for conflicts between performing to get those rewards on the one hand, and your internal desire to achieve something of deeper value, on the other. The 2.0 career still predominates within today’s career culture. It’s where you find the conditions that generate, for example, work-life conflict, boredom, workplace bullying, hostile management practices, and subtle racial and gender barriers to moving up.

The TV show “Madmen” highlights much of the experiences of the 2.0 career, and it predominated until harbingers of the 3.0 career began to appear during the last 20 years. The 3.0 career reflects a desire to find more personal meaning and sense of purpose through work. That’s what I began to find among members of the baby boomer generation when I interviewed them in their younger years.

The 3.0 careerist struggles for more balance between work and personal life, and is less willing than the 2.0 careerist to stick with an unfulfilling job, or settle for one when job-hunting. Conflicts within the 3.0 orientation are visible, for example, in the pushback against the longer hours companies increasingly pressure people into. Or, in rebellion against being available 24/7, even while on a vacation. Also, an increasing number of people say that moving up is a downer for them. For example, a Families and Work Institute report found that promotions are being turned down by workers in the thick of their careers. Workers used to be eager to take on more responsibility, and now they aren’t as much.

A woman in her 40s expressed that theme, saying, “Simply put, I want more fun in my life.” She added that there was “too much disconnect” between her duties as Chief Operation Officer — including managing her staff and dealing with the other people on the senior management team — and what she described as the “neglected me, this person hiding inside the roles I have to perform every day.” She said, “I’m going to do something different at this point, no matter what kind of adjustments I have to make.”

The 3.0 careerists do not want their professional lives to be the enemy of their talents or interests outside work. They want less fragmentation and more integration among the different parts of their lives. More than just having a successful career, they want their careers to serve and support a successful personal life.

That latter point distinguishes the 3.0 from the emerging 4.0 career. The former is more self-development-focused. In contrast, the 4.0 careerist wants more than sufficient work-life balance and personal meaning. To be sure, those remain important. But the 4.0 career is more focused on having impact on something larger than oneself.

In essence, the 4.0 careerist is motivated by a sense of service to and connection with the larger human community through the product or service he or she contributes to. The vehicle for this is the opportunity for continuous new learning and creative growth, through which you use your talents and capacities for having a positive impact on human lives, through your work.

This is the future. You’re likely to be feeling the pull towards the 4.0 career. And even if you’re not, you need to know how to work with those who are. For example, the most savvy men and women already know that today’s workplace requires a high level of collaboration with very diverse people. You need to align your talents and skills with common objectives, whether a product or service. That means diminishing your ego, learning to “forget yourself” in the service of teamwork towards that larger purpose, while also constantly looking for opportunities for learning, growth and having impact.

From the 4.0 perspective, you move through self-interest, not into it. You’re tuned in to the larger picture, in which you’re one player, while finding ways to make a positive contribution to the service or product. It includes being aware of how you’re perceived by others, and scanning for ways to be collaborative rather than self-promoting at others’ expense. As a CEO recently commented, “the definition of success is the company, not an individual.”

Consistent with the above themes, the 4.0 careerist wants to work for a company that practices and values positive leadership, transparency, informality, collaboration, high ethical standards, innovation… and is also a fun place to work. They want companies that promote and value diversity and an equitable reward system for achievement. Within them, people work hard but also have fun.

The 4.0 career is visible in the pull men and women report towards wanting to contribute to the common good — whether it’s through the value and usefulness of a product or service. That theme links the 4.0 career with the emerging new business model focused on creating sustainable enterprises and the “triple bottom line” — financial, social and environmental measures of success. It combines financial success with contributing to social needs and problems. This is “social entrepreneurialism” — the movement towards creating successful businesses that also contribute to the solution of social problems. In effect, the 4.0 careerist thinks of work as a vehicle for change and influence upon the larger human community.

A Broad Movement

I mentioned above that Generations X and Y embody many of the characteristics of the 4.0 career. I’ll describe their contributions to this evolution in a future post. But it’s clearly a broad movement transcending generations.

For example, a survey of 8,000 workers across all age groups and occupations by Concours Group found that the most productive, energized workers gravitate towards companies that provide opportunities for ongoing learning, growth and creative challenge. They want their work to have a positive impact on something more meaningful than just the narrower rewards of money, position, or power. And, they want the service or product they work on to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Regarding older workers, the New Face of Work Survey conducted by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures found similar trends among older baby boomers. It reports that half of that group say they’re looking to shift their careers in a direction that would provide more service to others.

And, a 2007 survey by MonsterTRAK found that 80 percent of those surveyed said they want a job that has a positive impact on the environment. And 92 percent said they would choose working for a “green” company. Other research shows employees working at companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are the most satisfied. They stay at their jobs longer and are more content with senior management then their peers at companies with lackluster CSR programs, according to a survey conducted by Kenexa Research Institute.

How The 4.0 Careerist Thinks And Behaves

Here are some ways to assess yourself and your work environment in relation to the 4.0 careerist. Do you find:

  • Ways to contribute something positive to people’s lives, whether through the product or service, regardless of your status within the company.
  • Opportunities for new learning, continued growth and expanding your skills and competencies.
  • A positive, fun work environment that makes you look forward to going to work.
  • A safe and nontoxic office environment and building, including sufficient natural light, and green equipment and furniture.
  • Open communication and feedback, up and down.
  • A team-oriented, innovative and challenging work culture.
  • Employee recognition and reward programs that are fairly applied.
  • Positive, supportive leadership and management practices, including corporate citizenship, ethics, transparency and corporate responsibility practices.
  • Commitment to diversity in hiring and promotion of employees, including differences of gender, racial/ethnic group, and sexual orientation.
  • Support for workers’ well-being, through wellness programs, exercise, stress management, flextime and other programs, not surface gestures like free coffee and soda.

This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

About The Author: Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychotherapist, is Director of the Center for Progressive Development, in Washington, D.C. You may contact him at dlabier@CenterProgressive.org

The Annoying Part About Innovation

Monday, September 21st, 2009

One of the most important innovations of all time—the tin can—was first patented in 1810 by a British merchant named Peter Durand.
 
What’s so important about the tin can? It dramatically extended the reach of the British fleet, providing its sailors access to well-preserved food which allowed them to go on much longer voyages.
 
Which leads to an important question—what year was the can opener first patented?
 
The answer is in the next paragraph, but I’m going to stall a bit for dramatic effect. I’d really like for you to guess before you look at the answer. Come on, it’ll be fun.
 
Ezra Warner, an American, got the patent in—drum roll please—1858. For almost fifty years, if you wanted to open a can, you had to hit it with a chisel and hammer and spew most of the contents on the wall or floor. Or you could try a hack-saw and get lots of little shards of metal in your food.
 
If you read most books and articles on innovation, it makes the process seem so logical, structured and orderly. Obstacles come up and they are overcome. The correct decisions are magnified and the mistakes minimized. So the entire process of innovation is sanitized, homogenized and glorified.
 
This is dangerous because it gives a false sense of security to organizations that they can actually “manage” a process of innovation. And nothing could be further from the truth. Like an unruly pet or teenager, innovation is often survived—not managed.
 
Take Viagra. It redefined the entire field of male enhancement products when it was first discovered and has generated huge profits. But the drug was discovered almost by accident when a certain side effect started to rise in male patients recovering from heart attacks.
 
The other problem with innovation is that we all spend a lot of time studying things that worked. I maintain that we can often learn far more from things that didn’t. For every Starbucks or 747, we can learn a valuable lesson or two. But we can learn even more from the New Cokes and the Enrons and the other colossal failures of our time. Unfortunately most of us tend to be success junkies and we don’t have the patience to sort through the tales of woe from a bunch of losers.
 
But there is something even more annoying about innovation. As interesting as it is to read about the innovations of others, the most valuable stories about innovation are from within your own organization. That’s right. If you really want to understand why innovation is such a struggle, do some digging to find the last few attempts at innovation in your organization.
 
If your experience is like mine, you’ll discover that your organization has its own immune system that seeks out innovation and kills it. Corporate policies, management and profit targets are just three of the villains.
 
However, if you are grounded in the reality of what, and who, has been successful in your organization, you’ll dramatically increase the odds of success as you embark on your voyage of innovation. Hopefully this article will help to provide sustenance for you to maintain a can-do attitude when the journey gets bumpy, as it undoubtedly will.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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