March 5, 2015
U of T and York Teaching Assistants on Strike: More Than a Labour Dispute
"Teaching Assistants at York University and the University of Toronto are on strike. At first glance these seem like classic labour disputes, but they are a warning of how fundamentally flawed the Canadian university system has become."
"Graduate students at U of T receive a minimum funding package of $15,000 a year. This amount hasn't increased since 2008, and it's well below the $19,307 poverty line for a single adult living in Toronto. After 12 months of negotiation the university hasn't budged -- it's still offering $15,000."
"Graduate students currently make $42.05 an hour but are limited to 205 hours a year. U of T has offered to pay $43.97 an hour but will cap the number of hours at 180 starting September 2017. So instead of making $8,965.06 graduate students will actually make $8,231.18 -- which is $733.88 less."
"What is surprising is how many media outlets are repeating without analysis U of T's claim that it's offering a raise. Again: U of T is offering a $733.88 pay cut."
"What's happening at U of T and York is symptomatic of a larger problem across Canada. Underpaid part-time staff teach a majority of undergraduates in Canada. For example, at U of T contract faculty and teaching assistants do 60 per cent of the teaching but make up 3.5 per cent of the budget. This is not an isolated problem. According to one study, the number of contract faculty in Ontario increased 87 per cent in between 2000 and 2014."
"Paying the people who do the majority of teaching a salary that is above the poverty line won't solve all the problems in academia, but it sure would be a good place to start".
The Globe and Mail, March 4, 2015: "Why U of T, York strikes are more than labour disputes," by Zane Schwartz
The Globe and Mail, March 5, 2015: "Academia has to stop eating its young," by Showey Yazdanian
CBC News, March 4, 2015: "CUPE strikes: Demonstrators cram into UofT's Munk School"
University of Toronto Education Workers [website]
University Labour Strife Underscores Cost of Tenured Academics
"Even as access has greatly expanded, Canadian universities say they can no longer afford to deliver higher education through tenured academics who may spend more than a third of their time engaged in research. Instead, most universities have decided that, to staff their classrooms at reasonable cost, they must turn, in varying degrees, to contract instructors and teaching-track faculty."
"CUPE 3903, the union representing York's striking workers, realizes the future will look nothing like the past. Research-intensive positions will be a privilege earned by a few professors. In the current dispute, the union is fighting to get multiyear contracts for sessional instructors who now have to reapply each year for their jobs."
"'Our members do 64 per cent of the teaching and make up 8 per cent of the university's budget,' said Faiz Ahmed, the chair of CUPE 3903."
"Ideally, the union would like the university to give sessional instructors priority for teaching-track jobs, which do not have tenure, but have more job security than contract positions."
The Globe and Mail, March 4, 2015: "University labour strife underscores cost of tenured academics," by Simona Chiose
How Much Compensation Should Graduate Students Get?
"At the heart of the University of Toronto strike is this question: How much compensation should graduate students receive?"
"Schools offer so-called 'funding packages' to grad students in an attempt to attract the best and brightest with an eye toward, eventually, filling faculty positions. At U of T, graduate students have their tuition covered plus a minimum of $15,000 for teaching work and stipends."
"The university has defended the package, saying it places great importance on teaching assistants. But Erin Black, chair of the union on strike, says it's not enough."
"Black argues that at a school with an international reputation and some of the highest tuition fees in Canada, more money should be going to graduate students -- who end up doing about one third of all teaching on campus."
"Part of the problem is a 'decoupling of training and hiring' at Canadian universities, noted University of Toronto Faculty Association president Scott Prudham."
"Black agrees, saying universities are encouraging more students to enter graduate studies and invest further in their education, but many who earn doctorates can't find tenure-track jobs, and, instead, end up as lower-paid sessional teachers."
"As the 'right' compensation figure for graduate students is up for debate, Ontario's student-to-faculty ratio is rising, noted Kate Lawson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations."
"It's now the highest in Canada, she said -- a sign that campuses across the province will increasingly have to struggle and find their own solution to the graduate student problem."
Metro News, March 3, 2015: "Bigger questions surround University of Toronto strike," by Rosemary Westwood
Austerity Strangles Ontario
"Toronto is in the midst of an unprecedented strike by over 10,000 Teaching Assistants at the University of Toronto and York University: the country's two largest universities."
"Only blocks away from the University of Toronto picket lines, the Liberal government in Queen's Park has been waging a war against the Ontario Public Service (OPS), represented by OPSEU, raising the prospect of the first OPS strike since 2002."
rankandfile.ca, March 4, 2015: "Austerity Strangles Ontario: the TA strikes in context," by David Bush and Doug Nesbitt
Alberta: Home to Canada's Largest Gender Wage Gap
"Alberta's change to a flat-rate income tax in 2001 helped create the largest wage gap between men and women in Canada, according to a new report on gender wage and economic parity."
"The report, The Alberta Disadvantage: Gender Taxation and Income Inequality, was written by Queens University law professor Kathleen Lahey. She said the wage difference in Alberta was wider than she expected. 'It's a shocking 42 percent,' said Lahey, who noted the gap is 'much, much less in other provinces.'"
"As of 2011, women in Alberta were paid, on average, 63 per cent of a man's income. In Ontario, the study showed women fared better, earning about 74 per cent of a man's wage."
The report makes "fourteen recommendations that deal primarily with the tax structure. Among the recommendations:
· reject new consumption taxes;
· establish a pay equity commission with specific targets;
· create more subsidized child-care and elder-care programs."
CBC News, March 5, 2015: "Alberta has nation's biggest wage gap for women, report says"
University of Alberta & The Parkland Institute, March 4, 2015: "The Alberta Disadvantage: Gender Taxation and Income Inequality, by Kathleen Lahey
Answering Your Wage Gap Questions
Yes, women really do make less than men, and no, it's not because they work less hours, have babies, lack university education, or take on lower paying jobs. Yes, it can get worst, and yes it is a thing.
"The wage gap is a thing. It exists. It isn't pretty. It is the face of discrimination. It isn't going to go away if we close our eyes and hold our breath and count to one hundred and swear we didn't do it."
"The first step is for employers to ask the question: are we paying men and women the same amount for the same work? You can't correct a mistake if you don't know you are making it. More transparency in pay has a demonstrated effect on closing the wage gap. Because, you know, the ladies get restless when they realize they're getting paid less than the guy next to them. Actually everyone does. (Check out the lady monkeys.)"
"Support wage-setting institutions: unionization and collective bargaining narrow the gender wage gap. Every time."
"Support your provincial pay equity commissioner."
"Celebrate equal pay day."
"Don't let it go."
rabble.ca, February 27, 2015: "All your wage gap questions answered," by Kate MacIntruff
The Opportunity Equation
"United Way Toronto's new report, The Opportunity Equation, looks at rising income inequality in Toronto and its impact on access to opportunity. Research shows the gap between those who are doing well financially, and those who are not, has grown faster here than in other major Canadian cities. The report highlights tangible solutions including partnerships for youth success, community benefits and tools to promote quality jobs. It also calls on multiple partners across the city -- including government, private sector, labour and community groups -- to work together to mitigate the impact of income inequality in Toronto."
United Way Toronto, February 2015: "The Opportunity Equation: Building opportunity in the face of growing income inequality"
In a new series, The Toronto Star profiles four people affected by rising precarious employment in the Greater Toronto Area. Follow the links below to read their stories.
The faces of inequality:
Harvard Economist Jan W. Rivkin: Why the Gap Between Worker Pay and Productivity Is So Problematic
"One of the most frustrating parts of the sluggish recovery has been paltry wage gains for most workers. The stock market may be booming, corporate profits increasing, and home values rising, but middle and lower-class workers often don't truly feel the benefit of such improvements unless wages rise."
Jan W. Rivkin, an economist and senior-associate dean for research at Harvard Business School:
"We need a movement toward cross-sector collaboration for rebuilding the commons and for sharing prosperity. We're seeing multiple examples of businesses that have realized that it's in their interest to make sure that their workers are well educated, are skilled, that their supply networks are healthy, that the infrastructure in the cities where they operate is strong."
"Investing in the commons should not be a substitute for raising wages, but wages are determined in a competitive market. It's impossible, for a company to justify paying an employee more if that employee hasn't been appropriately productive for the company. I think that business leaders just need to recognize that companies can't thrive for long if their communities are struggling."
The Atlantic, February 25, 2015: "Why the Gap Between Worker Pay and Productivity Is So Problematic," by Gillian B. White
In Praise of Meaningless Work: Mindfulness Mantras and Corporate Control
"The world of management has discovered the human soul. Each new dawn brings with it another survey, article, or TED Talk emphasizing the need to restore meaning to work."
"Generations of employees have felt this emptiness, of course, but only recently has it become a matter of pressing concern for management types. This is not necessarily because the purposelessness and futility that defines life in an American office is killing their employees' souls. It's more that the malaise may also be keeping those same workers from attaining the utmost productivity."
"The research backing this abounds, but the most resonant contribution came in the form of Gallup's much-cited, 2013 State of the American Workplace report, which found that companies whose employees are comparatively more engaged generate 147 percent higher earnings per share. Workers who are emotionally invested in their work also tend to be less motivated by earthlier enticements, such as pay, vacations, flextime, and good hours."
"Perhaps it's not meaning we want but relief, and we just lack the words to give voice to the dreaded heresy: This is too much work. I don't want to do this anymore. (Where is our twenty-first-century Bartleby?) We may mock the French -- and now, the Germans, apparently -- and hold obnoxious dinner-table competitions boasting about how many hours we put in, how little we sleep -- but I would kill ten men for a four-day workweek, and I'll bet most of you would, too."
New Republic, March 2015: "In Praise of Meaningless Work: Mindfulness mantras are the latest tool of corporate control," by Joe Keohane
"In OB research, however, voice is not viewed as it is in ER as a mechanism to provide collective representation of employee interests. Rather, it is seen as an expression of the desire and choice of individual workers to communicate information and ideas to management for the benefit of the organization. This article offers a critique of the OB conception of voice, and in particular highlights the limitations of its view of voice as a pro-social behaviour. We argue that the OB conception of voice is at best partial because its definition of voice as an activity that benefits the organization leaves no room for considering voice as a means of challenging management, or indeed simply as being a vehicle for employee self-determination."
British Journal of Industrial Relations, January 13, 2015: "Pro-Social or Pro-Management? A Critique of the Conception of Employee Voice as a Pro-Social Behaviour within Organizational Behaviour," by M. Barry and A. Wilkson
Older Workers on the Rise?
Things seem to be finally looking up for older workers.
"The latest data show the unemployment rate for those over age 55 stands at just 4.1%, compared with 5.7% for the total population and a steep 18.8% for teens. The ranks of the long-term unemployed, which ballooned during the recession as mature workers lost their jobs, are coming down. Age-discrimination charges have fallen for six consecutive years. And now, as the job market lurches back to life, more companies are wooing the silver set with formal retraining programs."
"AARP and others have long argued that older workers are reliable, flexible, experienced and possess valuable institutional knowledge. Increasingly, employers seem to want these traits. This spring, the global bank Barclays will expand its apprenticeship program and begin looking at candidates past age 50."
And there are "a growing number of organizations -- the National Institutes of Health, Stanley Consultants, and Michelin North America, among many others -- [who] embrace a seasoned workforce and have programs designed to attract and keep workers past 50. Companies with internship programs for older workers include PwC, Regeneron, Harvard Business School, MetLife and McKinsey."
Money, March 2, 2015: "The Suddenly Hot Job Market for Workers Over 50," by Dan Kadlec
AOL Jobs, March 3, 2015: "Job Market for Workers 50 and Older Heats Up," by Erik Sherman
While the job market may be getting hotter for older workers, the fire isn't burning equally.
In 2013, women aged 55 to 64 and over earned only 78.8% of what men in the same age group earned. The gap is even larger for women aged 65 and over.
Additionally, "[m]edian weekly earnings for full-time workers ages 55 years and older vary substantially by race and ethnicity. Hispanic women ages 55 years and older had the lowest median weekly earnings at $600 per week; White women had the highest median weekly earnings at $808 per week. Women in each of the largest race and ethnic groups earned less than men of the same race and ethnicity. White men had the highest median weekly earnings ($1,100). The gender earnings ratio for White women and White men is 74 percent; for Black women and White men, 64 percent; and for Hispanic women and White men 55 percent."
United States Department of Labour, Women's Bureau, February 2015: "Issue Brief: Older Women Workers and Economic Security" (8 pages, PDF)
What Millennials Really Want
"There's a famous quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald: 'The rich are different from you and me.' For a generation of older managers, a similar sentiment could apply to their understanding of Millennials in the workforce. They're just somehow different. They want different things, they're motivated by different incentives, they have different values. To paraphrase the great Mr. Fitzgerald, 'The Millennials are different from you and me.' Which poses distinct management challenges."
According to a new study, "Millennials want, and do well, with feedback -- and, comparatively speaking, lots of it. 'They crave -- and respond to -- a good, positive coach, who can make all the difference in their success,' [Karie] Willyerd writes. 'Millennials told us they want more feedback from their managers... Most Millennials want feedback at least monthly, whereas non-Millennials are comfortable with feedback less often. Overall, Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees.'"
Additionally, "Millennials look to their direct manager (as do most employees) as their 'number one source of development.' Only 46%, however, felt that their managers provided the development feedback they were looking for."
Forbes, March 1, 2014: "Study Shows Secret To Managing Millennials Can Be Summed Up In One Word," by Victor Lipman
Harvard Business Review, February 27, 2015: "Millennials Want to Be Coached at Work," by Karie Willyerd
Elance-oDesk & Millennial Branding, October 2014: "The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce"
Millennials Coming of Age
"One of the largest generations in history is about to move into its prime spending years. Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come."
Goldman Sachs presents their findings on what matters most to Millennials.
Goldman Sachs, March 2015: "Millennials Coming of Age"
Bentley University, November 11, 2014: "PreparedU: The Millennial Mind Goes to Work"
Finally Out of Trouble, But Now Out of Work
"The share of American men with criminal records -- particularly black men -- grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll."
"The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men â€¦ it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society."
The New York Times, February 28, 2015: "Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work," by Binyamin Appelbaum
"A regular government jobs program for formerly incarcerated people could play a valuable role in maintaining public areas and infrastructure while assisting the transition from the prison to the community."
"Better yet, extending the program to provide real jobs to those who are about to be released would help them build a nest-egg to transition back into society."
"People who have been incarcerated -- mostly minority men with low-incomes and little schooling -- continue to pay a price long after they have left prison. They often enter prison with close to nothing and return to society with little money to get established after incarceration."
"Compounding the problem, they also face significant barriers to finding employment upon release."
The Atlantic, March 1, 2015: "Shoveling a Path Out of Prison," by Bruce Western and Linda Forman Naval
An Embedded Photographer Empowers the Poor
"'When photographers visit a country like Bangladesh we don't bother to ask permission from the people we want to photograph,' Mr. Uddin said. 'We have the power, with thousands of dollars of gear, nice clothes and a good education, and we think we have every right to photograph."
"Mr. Uddin not only asked permission to photograph poor people. He also moved in with several families and later had them help select the images that he would exhibit in their neighborhoods."
"'Usually when we photograph poor people, they're never allowed to see how we photograph them,' he said. 'They had never seen a photo exhibit -- here I bring the gallery to them.'"
"Afterward many people stopped to talk with Jarina as she stood nearby"
"'Before this, nobody wanted to talk to us,' Jarina said. 'But now people want to talk with us about the conditions of our lives.'"
The New York Times, February 24, 2015: "An Embedded Photographer Empowers the Poor," by James Estrin
Book of the Week
Small Business and the City: Transformative Potential of Small-Scale Entrepreneurship, by Rafael Gomez, Andre Isakov, and Matt Semanksy. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2015. 290 p. ISBN 9781442612099 (pbk.)
From the publisher: "In Small Business and the City, Rafael Gomez, Andre Isakov, and Matt Semansky highlight the power of small-scale entrepreneurship to transform local neighbourhoods and the cities they inhabit. Studying the factors which enable small businesses to survive and thrive, they highlight the success of a Canadian concept which has spread worldwide: the Business Improvement Area (BIA). BIAs allow small-scale entrepreneurs to pool their resources with like-minded businesses, becoming sources of urban rejuvenation, magnets for human talent, and incubators for local innovation in cities around the globe. Small Business and the City also analyses the policies necessary to support this urban vitality, describing how cities can encourage and support locally owned independent businesses. An inspiring account of the dynamism of urban life, Small Business and the City introduces a new 'main street agenda' for the twenty-first century city."
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