Welcome to Livelyhood

Do Alien's Watch TV?Will DurstEverytime I watch TV, I worry. I'll sit in that phosphorescent eerie glow and muse about these microwave emissions being bombarded into outerspace. Now suppose intelligent life is out there, which admittedly is a leap since we have yet to prove intelligent life even exists in Washington, D.C, doesn't this mean the aliens' first glimpse of our culture is going to be our television programming? Well, hell, no wonder we haven't been contacted yet. They're freakin' scared out of their little alien wits of us. Would you approach a society that worships angst ridden doctors, corrupt lawyers and various subgenuses of surly private detectives? You know. Fat detectives. Bald detectives. Blonde buxom bikini clad detectives. Old lady detectives. Detectives with birds. Detectives who wear shorts. Detectives with lots of guns. Detectives with big guns. Detectives with lots of big guns. We're probably known around the universe as the noisy obnoxious blue planet with the expanding hole in its roof that shoots tiny projectiles into each other and are probably blamed for bringing down the property values in this part of the solar system. That's right. Guns don't kill people, it's those darn bullets that puts the holes in them that all the blood leaks out of too quick. All because of television. I think the proof that there is intelligent life in the universe is that they haven't chosen to contact us. We need a progressive judge to issue a restraining order to keep WB and UPN networks from ruining our universal image, and we need it quick.The reason they call television the idiot box is because that's how anyone who doesn't wear a suit or a badge is portrayed on it. The rest of us are mere loveable dorks lacking the mental or physical dexterity to manipulate forks during meals without ending up with a face looking like the red zone turf after a Niners-Packers game. Nerds, goofs, victims and dweebs. Maybe it's just that meeting a mortgage and balancing a checkbook doesn't make for good theater. I don't know; maybe the dog breath network executives don't think that we'd be interested in watching or listening to ourselves. Obviously they aren't. I do know that I'm sick and tired of having normal people represented by Hollywood as nothing more than brain dead bigoted bloaty globs of cellulite incapable of communicating through anything more complicated than a rude series of grunts and belches. Boy, they sure seem to cater to us when they want our money. "Heartbeat of America," my butt.So how 'bout some more stories of normal people on tv? Funny you should ask. That's what "Livelyhood" is all about. They call me Captain Segue. It's a new series on PBS with an extremely limited target demographic. Just that small sliver of America that either works for a living or knows someone who does. In the four quarterly episodes of "Livelyhood", starting with the premiere show called "Shift Change" airing this November (check local listings), we travel across the country talking to people who are experiencing the thick end of a free market economy. We mirror the telecommunication changes we've been through by meeting Annlee Russo who's been working as a suburban Chicago telephone operator for 55 years. "When I retire, everybody in the state of Illinois will move up one seniority slot". We find out the number one employer in America is Manpower Inc., a temp agency, and profile Alex, a Boston temp who explains the high points and horrors of non-permanent work. With the emphasis on the latter. There's a good guy corporate CEO, and no, that isn't an oxymoron. Hal Rosenbluth found a way to send offshore jobs to North Dakota and still cover his bottom line. Ron Healy is trying to convince Indiana factories to work their employees 30 hours a week and pay them for 40. I go down into a coal mine and see how work has changed there, then shoot off to Hawaii and take a hard glance at what has happened to all folks who used to work on the departed sugar plantations. It's a show that tries to reflect the state of work in the USA with a dash of whimsy and a minumum of pointy headed talking suits.Please watch: our motive is nothing less than a last ditch effort to save the Planet Earth. Those aliens might be less inclined to think of humans as a threat if they see us in our natural state. Clothed, but natural. Think of it as "Baywatch" without the silicone and sand.Visit www.livelyhood.org or check with your local listings to find out when Livelyhood is airing in your town.***Welcome to the Two-Tiered WorkforceSara HorowitzThe UPS strike this past summer focused the nation's attention on the problems of part-time workers. That strike was settled with significant advances for the workers. But most part-timers in America are not so lucky. In fact, 92 percent of all part-timers are not unionized, 88 percent don't receive pension benefits, and 85 percent don't have health insurance.These part-timers are only a small part of a growing trend in the American workforce. We have entered a new era, characterized by a two-tiered workforce. The first tier is composes of full-time jobs with benefits. These jobs are protected by the New Deal safety net designed in the 1930s to provide security by ensuring widespread health insurance and pensions to a workforce badly shaken by the Depression.Second-tier workers, in contrast, make up the large pool of people who move from job to job, often work less than full-time, and rarely collect benefits. The second tier is the fastest growing sector of the workforce -- they already make up 30 percent of it. Of this number, over 18 percent are part-timers, and another 10 percent are independent contractors and temp workers, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This summer, we saw the Teamsters fight to protect their members from being bumped from the-first tier to the second-tier. But today, no one is fighting for the vast majority of non-unionized part-timers.Today's employers are seeking flexible work arrangements, which means bigger increases for the second-tier. In fact, the temporary staffing industry has surged by 400 percent in the last 15 years. For workers, this new flexibility has become a euphemism for low-wage jobs without security or benefits. For second-tier workers flexibility means working from project to project and job to job, sometimes out of their own homes. They are temps, consultants, independent contractors, part-timers, freelancers, and self-employed. Members of the second-tier have gained flexibility. But they now must face increased costs for benefits and taxes. The new workforce of the 1990s is working with employment and tax laws that were designed to protect the workers of the 1930s. These laws and regulations need to be updated to reflect the new ways people are working g. Independent contractors are not protected by sex, race, age, or disability discrimination laws and have no right to unionize. The pay double Social Security taxes. Some might argue nostalgically for a simple expansion of the New Deal safety net, but the solutions of the 1930s will not automatically fit the challenges of the 1990s.The real answer is to squarely meet the challenges and needs of a new flexible, mobile workforce. Solutions will only be found by focusing on employment policies that are in sync with the new realities of work. This must include a truly portable system of benefits that are tied to the worker, not the employer. An end to the double taxation of independent contractors. And coverage of anti-discrimination and labor laws for all workers regardless of classification.To make these solutions a reality, we need to expand the public policy debate to include the members of the new workforce. The majority of the new workforce stands alone. Without an organized constituency, this workforce will continue to be left out of the democratic process. And America's workforce will continue careening into this new era of two-tiered work without adequate mechanisms in place to give workers the tools they need to meet the challenges of the future. Sara Horowitz is Executive Director of Working Today, a national nonprofit organization representing America's new workforce.


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