Today we are posting three articles related to work hours. In May, the Washington Posts’s “Wonkblog” argued that the next frontier of workplace legislation was “over when you work, not how much you make.” Their post provides some excellent context for the articles included in our panel. Our articles cover a wide range of topics. Naomi Gerstel and Dan Clawson’s lead article details the ways scheduling can impact workers in a variety of ways. Kyla Walters and Joya Misra describe the constraints placed on workers in the retail industry, and Brian Halpin details the use of last minute scheduling in a restaurant kitchen. Enjoy!
Julie’s post raises some interesting points about what it means to be a professional athlete of any stripe. Another recent incident, this time in Major League Baseball (MLB), serves as both a teachable moment and an segue into a broader debate about parental leave and what it means to be a “good employee.”
Daniel Murphy, an infielder for the New York Mets, was recently at the center of a very public debate over taking parental leave while in the midst of a season. Major League Baseball has a pretty long season – players typically report to Spring Training sometime in February, the regular season runs from April (or the very end of March depending on the year) until September, with post-season play taking place in October. This means that players typically have a narrow window for off-season activities. Younger players may play in Winter Leagues in either Arizona, the Caribbean, or in Australia while older players spend the off season getting surgical repairs and readying themselves physically for another grueling season, which features 162 regular season games. Players therefore do not get an enormous amount of time off, and they have a lot of baseball work to do during the typical “off” season as well as pressure to make up for family time lost to the long season.
The regional arm of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled last week that Northwestern University’s scholarship football players have the right to unionize. This is only the first step for the players, who will likely face an appeal from the University to the NLRB’s full board in Washington, D.C. If the initial ruling passes muster with the NLRB, it can also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, so there is a long road ahead for this case that has exposed quite publicly the tensions within big-ticket college athletics. The crux of the case is this – do scholarship athletes qualify as employees of the University?
Over the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a widely read piece asking where the public intellectual has gone. For those of you who may have missed the editorial, Kristof argues that the culture of PhD programs and the tenure process have forced the academy inward, celebrating dense prose published in little-read, high-priced journals. He notes that academics have been slow to embrace blogging and the use of social media platforms. Kristof also argues the research academics produce has far fewer consequences or conclusions for policy and the public than it has in the past, meaning that the “public intellectual” is a dying breed.
Almost immediately, the various public intellectuals that Kristof couldn’t find took to their blogs and Twitter accounts with gusto, reminding him and us that there are indeed many academics that have made a point of sharing their work on public platforms. Perhaps my favorite response comes from a guest post at Tenured Radical. The writer argues that, as a public university professor, she works as a “public intellectual” every day of the week. Kristof has re-tweeted many of the critiques, creating a running dialogue about his piece on his Twitter feed.
Our first birthday is coming up on Sunday, and while most of you no doubt have it dutifully marked on your calendars, we thought a little reminder might be nice. It has been a fantastic year for us, and we hope you have enjoyed reading our posts as much as we have enjoyed writing them.
As the big day approaches, we wanted to let you know that there are some exciting changes in store for the blog. In the next few days, we’ll be rolling many of those changes out. The blog is getting a new name – “Work in Progress”. We’re told that the section we are affiliated with in the American Sociological Association, the Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, used to have a newsletter of that name. We happen to think that the name captures our evolving scope and size perfectly.
To go along with the new name, we’re also moving the blog to a new home on the web and giving it a bit of a visual makeover. We’ll be keeping our Twitter and Facebook pages updated with the changes, and those of you who follow us through email will also be getting updates once the transition happens.
As part of this process, we’re also launching a separate website for the Organization, Occupations, and Work Section. This will allow our members to stay updated with section news and announcements while allowing us to keep the blog to focused on commentary and analysis.
In the meantime, we thought we’d look back with our trusty analytics tools and put together a list of our greatest hits from the year. Based on page views, our three most popular posts were:
- They are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebook for free by guest contributor Chris Land
- Sociologist of Work Teresa Sullivan Ousted – Campus in Uproar at Firing of Popular President by editor Steven Vallas
- Even in Female Dominated Jobs, Some Men Still Maintain Advantages by editor Adia Harvey Wingfield
Chris’s post was part of our panel on Facebook as work, and Adia’s post was part of our panel on the gender wage gap. While we’re hard at work this weekend getting ready for our birthday party and blog relaunch, we hope you check out our readers’ favorite posts from the last year and maybe some of your own as well!
Religion is not territory we’ve covered in any real detail here on our blog. The Democratic Party Platform, however, has raised an interesting intersection between work and religion that deserves some attention. Last week, the Democratic Party opted to alter the language of its 2012 Party Platform to remove the word “God” (though they have since reinstated the language). This created an immediate stir among Democrats and Republicans, and elicited an highly critical response from Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (his comments on the removal of “God” are at the beginning of the video). What this debate reveals is the particular way in which the Democratic platform describes, in the same breath, individual labor, and religion.
An emerging critique of U.S. President Barak Obama’s record is the idea that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. A quick caveat – it seems that Republicans are speaking primarily to “average”, i.e. middle class, Americans here. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for the Vice Presidency, has forcefully adopted this critique of Obama, suggesting that his record should be judged based on whether Obama’s policies have improved the lives of Americans. In a campaign stop on September 3rd, Ryan went as far as to suggest that Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, much derided by the right, seems like the “good ‘ole days” compared to Obama’s:
This reference is more than just a slant at President Carter. It is a reference to then candidate Reagan’s campaign against Carter in 1980, when he famously asked Americans whether they were better off or not than they were when Carter began his term.
What these arguments miss, however, are the fundamental changes these so-called “average” Americans have experienced over a much longer period.