What Price for Work? The Karachi Factory Fire

 

Yesterday a fire in a Lahore factory claimed the lives of at least 25 young workers who tried in vain to escape through windows that were barred.  In another Pakistani city today at least 300 died in a fire at a Karachi garment factory.  Trapped by bars on the windows and a bottleneck of panicked workers at the one exit to the building, many phoned their loved ones before the fire and toxic smoke overtook them.  The back stairs exit leading to the roof was locked.  Faulty generators are blamed as possible catalysts, but our own Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire may hint at another catalyst altogether – greed.

I found the timing of these tragedies especially meaningful due to the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent approval of a Bargaining Rights amendment for our November ballot.  As a firm middle-of-the-road moderate I buck the system of reviewing media that supports my beliefs because experience has taught me that I am often misinformed and always biased.   My fact-finding missions are frustrating, but that is another topic for another post.  One of the constants I count on is factual history and we know the when, why, and who of the Triangle fire in New York City on March 25, 1911.  146 women perished in that factory because most of the exits were locked by the owners to prevent theft and the one fire escape collapsed.  Many of the women jumped to their deaths.  There was no need for bars on the windows of the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch building.   The Ladies Garment Worker’s Union was born from the Triangle factory tragedy and I credit the women that perished with the realization of worker’s rights, safety standards, and organized labor.  They did not die in vain.  Now the voters in Michigan are being asked to trust that these rights are secure and freely given by the generous owners of the corporations we work for.  Recent history indicates otherwise as does personal experience.  In a bottom-line work world can we afford to not learn from our history?

Although Pakistan is a world away, globalization connects us, as does our need to work to live.  We mainly affect our own communities with our votes, but we affect the world with our dollars.  My stomach turned when I read that more workplace tragedies happen at this time of year as third-world factories increase production for Christmas.

As always: take what you want and leave the rest behind.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Birth Control Debate Attempts to Hit Men Where it Hurts

In a bid to show ‘em how it feels State Representative Yasmin Neal has proposed an amendment to Georgia’s anti-abortion law that would ban vasectomies unless necessary to prevent serious injury to a man’s organs or death.  Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman soon followed suit with a similar bill that also limits where a vasectomy can legally be performed to surgical centers and hospitals.  Both Representatives cited the fairness of legislating men’s bodies in the same fashion that predominantly male government bodies have attempted to legislate women’s reproductive health choices.

While women across the country are cheering for these bills, I see a couple of errors in this blatant strategy to encourage empathy in our male counterparts.  If you have not yet fully realized the inherent differences in women’s and men’s decision-making processes, I suggest Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus as a primer.  While many women are furious about recent debates over what a woman should be allowed to do with her body and affordable access to all birth control options, men will focus on one thing only- an attempt to mess with their genitals.  I call it “dick-sensitivity”.  When a man’s genitals become part of an equation, he loses the ability to think multidimensionally.  Last night I spoke briefly to my husband of writing a post on a proposed vasectomy ban.  He immediately covered his groin and started saying, “nanananana” to drown out my words.  Admittedly, I would greatly enjoy a video of the Georgia General Assembly when they debate Representative Neal’s proposed ban.  The looks on male lawmaker’s faces during such a conversation have great entertainment potential.

The second error in the bid to equally share government control over reproductive rights is thinking that men will fight for their right to a vasectomy.  Think about it.

On the heels of FDA recommendations that men be tested for underlying causes of erectile dysfunction, Virginia state Senator Janet Howell introduced a bill last month that would require a man to get a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before receiving a prescription for a drug such as Viagra.  Ohio state Senator Nina Turner has also proposed a similar bill stating that she is equally concerned with men’s health and believe they have the right to be fully informed of the risks associated with erectile dysfunction medications.

While I appreciate the clever maneuverings of our female politicians as entertaining, I am skeptical that such tactics will do more than add to explosively divisive rhetoric.  There are some things that need not be debated because they fall under our 4th amendment rights, and some things that are serious enough to fight head-on with a resounding “No!”  I would prefer female lawmaker’s efforts be strongly straight forward in their fight for women’s reproductive and healthcare rights.

Keep your politics out of my sex

Even George Orwell could not have predicted the current level of absurdity surrounding women’s health in general and birth control pills specifically.  What chicanery are the men that run this country up to that they are seriously debating accessibility to birth control in the year of Our Lord 2012?  I feel as though I’ve stepped through a looking glass and been transported to a long-ago era before Margaret Sanger sought funding from Planned Parenthood to research a progesterone pill that would stop ovulation in the early 1900’s.  This is not an issue of religious freedom or morality, but one of politics and diversion by both political parties.

First corsets made a comeback and 4-inch stilettos returned to torture the next generation. Then in 2009 U.S. District Judge Edward Korman not only questioned the White House’s interest in the FDA’s decision-making process regarding  whether Plan B should be made available to women of all ages without a prescription, but rebuked the FDA for departing from its usual procedures.  Korman wrote that the FDA’s lack of good faith was evidenced by, “repeated and unreasonable pressure emanating from the White House.”  The federal court ordered that Plan B be made available over the counter to those 17 and older while the FDA continued its research, all of which turned out to be a huge waste of resources when Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health, overruled the FDA’s conclusion that Plan B is safe for all ages citing concerns for parental rights and eleven-year-olds who may not understand the packaging.  I find it utterly ridiculous that the current administration believes they can ever appease social conservatives by claiming to have such concerns.  If a parent considers it their right to know about their daughter’s sex life, then it is their job to build a trusting relationship.  Tell a teenager that it is a Washington mandate and see how far that gets you.  The Department of Health and Human Services has never before said to hell with science, never before trumped the FDA, but then politics has never paid so well, either.  Perhaps HHS’s efforts would be better spent educating a country with the highest teen pregnancy rate among any developed country.

To be perfectly clear, Rick Santorum did not say he is against birth control.  What he said is that the Supreme Court was wrong to say that states cannot outlaw contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965, YES, 196frickin’5).  1.5 million women in the United States, including me, take birth control pills for health concerns other than pregnancy prevention, but why would the average male politician be well-versed in women’s health?  Mr. Santorum also stated that sex has been deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.  And your point, Mr. Santorum?  With infidelity’s wild ride through political bedrooms, I am hardly looking to you for relationship advice or spiritual counseling.  My money is on hypocrisy.

The cherry on top of the movement to turn back time is the “religious freedom” debate regarding insurance coverage for no-cost contraception.  When I went to pick up the birth control pill that my doctor thought would work best for hormonal changes I was told that my insurance company wouldn’t cover it, just as my daughter was told about the name-brand pill her doctor prescribed as birth control.  Because I cannot afford $110 per month for those pills, we are trying a generic that might work, but certainly not as well.  These costly limitations on prescription contraception coverage were addressed in the health care reform bill that was passed in 2009.  Now, if I go to work for a religious hospital or university I am not entitled to coverage of that cost, nor is my daughter.  In my case it means night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings.  For my daughter, who was married last summer and is watching her college investment pay off with a burgeoning career, it is her future and her children’s future.  The religious exemption may be extended to ANY employer that has religious issues with contraception coverage.  Religious freedom or money? Are women so threatening with our equal share of the job market, number of seats in university lecture halls, and longer life spans that the power structure has resorted to a paternal barefoot and pregnant strategy?  I may seem paranoid, but how does automated packaging of 1 million birth control packages go awry?  See…that’s the type of thinking that results from taking the cheapest pill instead of the right one.

5th Dimension Job Hunt Update

The 37th revision of my résumé combined with a smooth and confident demeanor gleaned from a multitude of prescreening phone calls finally hooked an interview invitation.  I’m exaggerating my coolness, but if I think about how suave I’m not,  I may never have the nerve to squeak out interview answers.

When I lost my job six months ago I knew the job market was competitively fierce.  I can read.  But, knowing and understanding to the depth I do now are different and worlds apart.  My belief that perseverance can overcome any obstacle was wavering and The Maker and I were having some serious discussions after six months with no interview offers.  And then, in typical fashion, He threw me a bone.  Someone was finally intrigued enough to want to examine me for defects in person.

I had been so focused on the interview invitation benchmark that I now felt like a prepubescent boy shown a big set of boobs for the first time.  I was quite excited, but ignorant of what was expected in a 5th dimension job interview.  Was, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” still a standard query?  I have always hated that one because I want to answer, “Oh, writing my second novel (the one I got a huge advance for) in a secluded Irish cottage by the shore”, but instead I feel I must offer up the standard, “Working in a position like the one I’m interviewing for at a company as great as this one.”  My research assistant, Google, helped me compile a list of interview questions that make the “where do you see yourself” query seem elementary, and I mean public-school elementary.  My daughter is much more hip to the interview scene so I tapped into her wisdom, much of which consisted of warnings about talking too much and having specific work product examples at the ready.  My husband’s advice was to replace my usual meandering anecdotes with examples of professional wins.  If I did not practice this foreign language, I knew I’d leave a prospective employer entertained, but unsure of my qualifications.  If enough people say you have hay in your teeth…maybe I do talk too much.

In a concerted effort to create succinct and relevant answers to questions such as, “Tell me about a conflict you had at work and how you handled it”, I spent two full days composing more acceptable answers than, “I just accepted that she was a bitch and ignored her”.  Then I practiced what I hoped were appropriate answers out loud until the “ums” were gone.

On the day of the interview I followed my kid’s advice to think of the interview as good practice.  Remembering that this professional, well-adjusted woman who now advises me on professional matters used to eat ants lends to the whole 5th dimension surreal experience.  Considering that my interviewer was not much older than my kid made her somewhat less intimidating, despite her high-anxiety persona.  Or perhaps that was just the pregnancy hormones.  I understand that after being out of work for six months I am beholden to feel grateful for ANY prospective job, but  guess what?  I don’t.  I have over 20 years left to work and I’m tired already.  So when she told me, “it’s crazy here every minute of every day; everything is always changing”, I probably visibly cringed.  It’s why I have never been chosen to sit on a jury, and may be why I did not hit the next benchmark – a second group interview.

It was good practice, but she did not ask most of the questions I prepared for.  During another phone interview last week I was asked specifically how my past experience could be transferred to this retailer, not exactly what one thinks of as a prescreen question.  But thanks to the previous week’s interview, I was prepared.  Now I wait.  If I make it past the first interview, then there’s a group interview with the Vice-President.  Welcome to The 5th Dimension.  It seems I’ll be here for a while.

 

Duct tape discipline?

I assumed newly patterned duct tape was intended for art projects, but it seems some parents, teachers, and caregivers are using it as a time-out option.  To be perfectly clear, I do not find the act of duct taping a toddler to a wall or taping close a teenager’s constantly running mouth facetious.  It is yet another example of how any immature imbecile can have kids and prove themselves worthy of my immature name calling by posting Facebook pics of duct taped-kid handiwork.  The absurdity is what makes me laugh, just like when I watch the dumb criminals show on TV.  Teachers and daycare workers who are trained and paid to curb child behavior must have lost some of their minds to believe kids deserve to be duct taped.  I imagine all those perspectives change dramatically when the police show up to let them know in crystal-clear fashion that they do not see the humor, nor find it justifiable.  In 2011 parents received 30 to 36 months in jail for duct taping their kids and last week a daycare worker in Kentucky was charged with first degree child abuse and is facing up to ten years for taping a toddler to the floor during nap time.  Toddlers are chocked full of energy and curiosity and they lack impulse control, traits that they will also exhibit as teenagers when it’s even harder to assert one’s authority over the independent hellions.  I do not often judge other parents.  I had my turn and made hundreds of mistakes.  I defended the Mom who admitted to drinking wine the night that her baby was stolen from her home because Moms get blamed for everything.  It isn’t as if she was breast-feeding.  Wine and parenting are frequent partners, Continue reading

Final Goodbyes

Although how we say goodbye to the dead has evolved and varies from culture to culture, the need is as old as time, as is the belief that there is an afterlife.  Even Neanderthals placed flowers in the hands of the dead before they sealed the bodies in caves 300,000 years ago.  Memories rush in, clouded by love and grief, and although it is past too late, we appreciate them more when they are out of our reach forever.  Honoring the ones we’ve lost cauterizes our wound, and we accept that the ceremony is for us, the living.  It sets us on the path to healing, our cries resembling a release valve on an overflowing well of hurt.  Living there for a few hours reminds us that death is the great equalizer and for a time we hold our living loves closer, sometimes afraid of the randomness of death, oftentimes aware of how brief even a long life is.

The days of public displays of the dead are waning, thank God, replaced by memorial services and “celebrations of life”.  We turn to God, even if it is the only time we do so, for comfort and hope that our loved ones live on.  You may shy away from reading this, grief being among the hardest emotions and certainly one we want to avoid.  It is also common ground for every person that was ever born.  January is to me what April was to T.S. Elliot.  Time dulls the edges, but I hold tight to my deepest grief because it is all I have left of my son.  It is mine and this public declaration is unusual to say the least.  I know death makes people uncomfortable and talk of it is to be avoided, especially when we are years away from a tragedy.  One of the changes I’ve experienced in this decade is that I am becoming increasingly transparent and immune to other’s expectations.

We attended a memorial service last week for Dale, an uncommon character and dear friend of my parents’.  I was moved when the preacher said that Dale loved to tease, or as his wife Sue put it, “agitate”.  It seems more respectful to remember him as he was.  Dale’s agitation came with rewards, however, such as his outlandish stories about inventing the computer, the internet, and a multitude of other modern conveniences.  He was a Navy Seal deep diver (for real) when decompression was unheard of and his heart paid the price.  Only Dale would consider his chainsaw as a remedy for the dozens of  situations he employed it for.  He made us laugh and was an overly generous man.  We received a thank-you card from his wife yesterday that asked us to remember our good times with Dale.  We will.

When the phone rings

I feel like a teenager waiting by the phone for a boy to call after a friend told him I thought he was cute and slipped him my number.  Just like the boys in high school, there are few jobs that I share a mutual attraction with, but once in a great while there is one that shines brighter than the others, one that has the potential to fit into my life perfectly.  After six months of unemployment some may think I should be enthused about any job prospect, just as some boys thought an average-looking flat-chested girl should be thrilled that anyone asked her out.  Unemployment has done it’s best to chip away at my self-esteem and confidence, but when I review my work history and recommendation letters I am reminded that a lack of responses is not indicative of my worth, but of the competitive job market.  Despite such disinterest from most of my potential employers, it goes against my nature to accept that I cannot have that unique best-fit-for-me job.

So when the phone rings and caller id announces that company, the one I want to work for most, I let it ring a couple of times while I try to collect myself.  And invariably, just as when the cute boy finally called, my voice cracks when I answer despite my attempt to sound cool.  The last thing I want is to sound desperate or overly excited, even though I am.  I want to convey enough competence and likability to generate an interview invitation, yet still be authentic enough that they are not surprised later when I talk too much or propose different processes for meeting goals.  I have had my fill of “who does she think she is” managers who believe the only good ideas are theirs or introduce something I proposed as an innovative approach they just thought of.  That is not to say that I expect to avoid those inherent managerial traits, just that I would like to work for a team-oriented company that is not as hierarchical as my last employer.  A girl can dream.

The first phone call is a prescreening and so far I have not warranted a second call inviting me to get dolled-up for a date, I mean an interview.  Yesterday’s prescreen phone call went exceptionally well after my high-pitched “hello”.  I did not stumble or hesitate when asked how much I want to be paid and if I can work flexible hours and the human resource manager sounded enthused despite my unwillingness to work for free any hours between 24/7.  Now I wait for the second call, the invitation.  Not having received such a call yet, I am unsure if I can be as cool as I was during the prescreen, but if they are truly seeking a cool employee I am probably not the best fit anyway.  On the other hand, if they are looking for a somewhat dorky, not very hip, but always professional human resource assistant, I’m the gal.