Archive for the ‘DISemployment’ Category

Taking Advantage of Lousy Economy, Employer Charges $10 Application Fee for Temp Job   2 comments

Following my recent experience completing nine days of unpaid training and passing a series of nerve-wracking tests only to be told that the company wasn’t going to hire anyone after all, I thought I was beyond being surprised by the ways in which employers will take advantage of workers’ desperation in this rotten economy. Then I came across this ad:
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Drug Testing Is Only for the Little People   1 comment

When you read a lot of Help Wanted ads, you begin to notice certain patterns. One thing I’ve noticed is how common drug testing has become–for hourly jobs. In fact, if the employer is a midsized to large company, mandatory drug screening is now the norm for hourly workers. But not for most salaried employees. And the higher up you go, the less likely it is that you’ll encounter a drug testing requirement.

I was wondering why that might be. Are people who make very little money really more likely to spend that money on illegal drugs than people with plenty of discretionary income? That doesn’t seem likely. I admit, the constant stress and fear of not being able to pay your bills can make escape from reality a tempting proposition. Except, of course, that drugs tend to cost money, and it takes a hell of a lot more than a low wage job to finance a drug habit.

Maybe it’s just that employers, like many middle/upper class folks, have a rather low opinion of low income people. Poor people are lazy and have no work ethic. That’s why they’re poor, you see. Plus, they lie, steal, cheat, and they’re probably druggies too!*

It’s also possible, of course, that employers would love to drug test all those professional and managerial types as well, but they’re afraid people with options wouldn’t stand for that kind of privacy invasion. So they focus their ought-to-be-unconstitutional drug screening efforts on people who have few options. My partner and I strongly object to drug testing, but will that keep us from applying for a job that requires it? Sadly, no. Because we desperately need the work.
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Freelance Nation: How Protections for American Workers Are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant   2 comments

Once upon a time you could be fairly certain that investing the time, money, and effort required to earn a four-year degree would allow you to land a good job with medical/dental/vision benefits, a retirement plan, and paid vacation time. In the event of a bad break, you could count on being covered by worker’s comp and unemployment insurance. While you may never get rich, you’d be comfortable, with no trouble financing a new car or qualifying for a mortgage. In fact, go back far enough and this type of security and lifestyle was even available to many people without a college degree.

Those days are increasingly behind us.

While big companies have spent the last 2-3 decades offshoring jobs to countries with low labor costs and few worker and environmental protections, businesses of all sizes are in on the latest trend to impoverish American workers and strip them of protections. What am I talking about? The rise of freelance nation.

Companies have figured out that in a labor market where demand for jobs far outstrips their supply, there’s no need to put workers on the payroll when it’s so much cheaper to just hire them as independent contractors. Pay only for the work you need, and then it’s adios, baby.
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More Evidence that the Real Economy Is Getting Worse Instead of Better   2 comments

Whenever I leave my little corner of the web and venture over to one of the big Democratic cheerleading sites, I’m told that we’re in the middle of a slow but steady economic recovery. Strange, I think to myself, because it sure doesn’t look that way from where I’m sitting.

Until the beginning of this year, my partner and I were at least getting by. Our freelance business wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but we were able to cover the basics. This year, however, virtually every one of our repeat clients has disappeared. Since two-thirds of our clients are repeat business, this is huge. And replacing them with new clients has proven extremely difficult. Not only are there far fewer projects to go around, but the small businesses we serve have become increasingly price-conscious, frequently expecting freelancers to work for next to nothing. If they hire anyone at all, that is. A substantial percentage of projects is simply canceled.

This is why we’ve been desperate to find full-time employment. Every day we comb the newspapers’ Help Wanted sections and the online job boards, and every day we notice how few jobs are available. So I wasn’t surprised to find the following statistic on the website of one of the large job aggregators:

In our area, there’s been a 49% drop in job postings compared to last year.
Nationwide, there’s been a 32% decline.

Source: Indeed.com (a site that aggregates job postings from newspapers, job sites, associations, and company career pages)

So much for that recovery, huh?
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The Latest in Corporate Contempt for Workers   2 comments

You’re not going to believe this. Then again, maybe you will.

Remember the job I was telling you about? Nine days of unpaid training and the need to pass a bunch of proficiency tests, after which we were to start a part-time, no-benefits contract job for $9.50 an hour? Today I received a notice congratulating me on passing the final test. Unfortunately, the notice then went on to inform me that the project has been canceled. Just like that. There will be no jobs for anyone. No reason was given.

I’m still reeling from the news. While it may not sound like much, in our current situation, this job was like a lifeline. True, it was a contract job, but the contract period was to be extended indefinitely, and we’re desperate for any kind of steady income. Also, while the pay was low and the hours limited, there was a clear path to advancement, which would have meant better pay and more hours in the future. Most of all, we have no other source of income right now. None. Which is why I worked my ass off during the training period, even spending precious time away from my critically ill Balou because I really, really needed this job to work out.

The job was scheduled to start today. When I didn’t hear from my supervisor yesterday, I was a bit worried that maybe I hadn’t done as well as I thought on the final test, but it never occurred to me that the whole project had been canceled. That there might not be any work at the end of the training period even after passing all the proficiency tests with flying colors (which, it turns out, I did) was never even mentioned as a possibility.
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Dear Dick   Leave a comment

As if you needed any more evidence that congressional Democrats are completely out of touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to represent, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is close to Obama and frequently thought to be signaling the President’s positions on issues, announced yesterday that massive deficit reduction is “the challenge of our generation,” urging fellow Democrats as well as Republicans to “seize [the] moment” by supporting a truly “historic” package that would, without question, include deep cuts to social safety net programs. Because what we really need in this country is even more desperate people who are unable to make ends meet.

If Dick Durbin thinks debt reduction is the preeminent challenge we’re facing, all I can figure is that he must be living in some alternate universe. Which I guess he is. Durbin and the rest of the millionaires’ club in the Senate are so far removed from the lives of the people they were elected to represent that they might as well be from another dimension. The deficit that so concerns Durbin and the DC establishment barely even registers as a concern for the people in my community. Indeed, the only reason it registers at all is the ruling class’ relentless propaganda campaign.

Let me tell you, Dick, what people in my California community are concerned about. Our county’s official unemployment rate is 14.7%, but the real unemployment rate in our neck of the woods is at least 10-12 percentage points higher. Sometimes a whole week goes by without a single “help wanted” ad appearing in the local paper (not counting “make thousands stuffing envelopes from home” schemes and the like). Jobs are so scarce and people are so desperate for work that a supermarket putting up a Help Wanted sign for three no-benefits, minimum wage positions received hundreds of applications in a matter of hours.

While at least one in four are unemployed, many more are underemployed or stuck in low wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover the basics. The lack of discretionary income in the area has devastated small businesses. The barbershop that used to cut my partner’s hair, the Mexican restaurant we occasionally stopped by for takeout before our car broke down and we couldn’t afford to get it fixed, the two Internet cafés we visited a couple of times per month to escape the unbearable slowness of our dialup connection–they’ve all closed their doors. So have countless other businesses during the last few years. You can’t run a business without customers, and most people in our area have no money to spend.
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The Economy’s Real Confidence Problem   Leave a comment

I haven’t blogged much during the past few months because I’ve been super busy with work. The joys of freelancing are such that you can go for weeks with so little work that you’re unable to pay your bills and have nightmares about being evicted, when, suddenly, several clients want to hire you at once, and of course they all need you to get started yesterday. Since you don’t know when the next paying gig is coming your way, you don’t dare tell any of them that it’ll be a couple of weeks before you can get started on their project lest they hire someone else, so you end up putting in 12 hour days, 7 days a week.

As jobs are increasingly outsourced or replaced with temporary contract work, more Americans will find themselves in our shoes. That’s bad for workers, but it’s also bad for the overall economy. Aside from the lack of pensions, 401Ks, and health care benefits, people who aren’t confident they’ll have much income next month won’t be spending much money this month. They certainly won’t be making any big purchases. You may have had a good month or two, but since you can’t be confident that you’ll continue to get work, you save every dollar you don’t absolutely need to spend.

Of course it’s not just contract workers who lack confidence. With a lousy economy and sky high unemployment figures, those fortunate enough to have a full-time job that pays a living wage realize just how precarious their position is. If you are laid off, it could take a very long time to find a new job. Better save that discretionary income in case your job makes tracks to China or India.
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