Source: Wikimedia Commons
On a bitterly cold day, Josh, like many other teenagers, traveled many miles to get to the coffee shop, where he works part-time. Despite experiencing car troubles, nearly having a car accident, and spending hours in heavy traffic, he arrived at the coffee shop only to do a double shift, carry heavy loads of garbage in the cold, and deal with a hectic day of selling hot beverages to demanding customers.
Even though his school was in session, he chose to come to work instead of going to class at the local college, where he is getting his degree in theater and humanities. When I asked him why he chose his work over his studies, he told me they need him here: “Nobody notices when I am not [in class].” Unlike at school, they notice him at work. He feels needed—like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day.
Josh, like many other teenagers, works “part-time” while still in school, but do not be fooled by what he calls part-time work. “Part-time” sounds like a few hours of work scattered throughout the week, but he was at the coffee shop every day of the past week. Even on the days when he was not scheduled to work, he stopped by to hang out with his friends. He did not just stand idly by; he also helped the friends who were working.
A new study published by researchers at North Carolina State University tackles the challenge of shopping for, preparing and sharing healthful family meals. In “The Joy of Cooking?,” Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott and Joslyn Brenton describe women in particular as struggling to enact cultural ideals associated with home-cooked meals. Expensive ingredients, time pressures and picky eaters seem to conspire against them, with poor, working-class and middle-class mothers all feeling the pinch.
The study’s findings were hotly debated in recent weeks, with coverage and commentary in outlets such as Slate, PBS and The New York Times focusing almost exclusively on values and priorities. Some praised the study for questioning the idealization of burdensome family dinners. Others called for increased commitment to home-cooked family meals, citing the rewards of time spent together and noting how easy and rewarding meal preparation can be.
Because the debate’s participants have primarily viewed the issues through lenses of family and food rather than work, very little of the debate has broached the root causes of families’ mealtime struggles: deteriorating employment opportunities, stagnant wages, and changing expectations of workers. Read More
We are posting a two-part panel today on part-time and irregular work schedules in the United States, with WIP regular contributors Christine Williams and Martha Crowley responding to a recent New York Times article by WIP favorite Steven Greenhouse.
Based on her qualitative research on low-wage service work, Christine discusses how irregular work schedules operate as a mechanism to reproduce gender and racial inequality in the workplace.
Martha discusses recent efforts of women’s and labor groups to introduce legislation allowing workers to have more predictable schedules if desired. She cites evidence that irregular schedules are particularly damaging to low-wage workers and that more stable work schedules would benefit workers and employers.
by Julie A. Kmec, Lindsey T. O’Connor, and Scott Schieman
President Obama’s State of the Union address last month recognized that working women—and men—should not face hardship for taking care of their family responsibilities.Recent research by sociologists,Julie A. Kmec, Lindsey Trimble O’Connor and Scott Schieman suggests that workplaces have a long way to go before realizing the President’s message. In new research, they find that working mothers perceive penalties—like feeling ignored and that they are given the worst tasks—when they adjust their work schedules after having children. They suggest that policies and practices that challenge societal assumptions about ideal work are a good starting place in attempts to realize President Obama’s call to give working parents a “break.”
I’ve been using a lot of air quotes in my classroom discussions, and I’m finding it a bit troubling. Not just because the quotes date me to the late 1990s, but also because they are inadequate stand-ins for something that needs to be said. Those gestures you make by your ears that slip out with little warning, shooting up from your hip mid-sentence as if to add irony, complexity, and intrigue. Women’s and men’s “choices” in work. Women’s and men’s “choices” in family.
I have noticed there is little overlap between scholars studying organizations, occupations, and work and those studying environmental sociology. Then I fortuitously received a paper in my email in-box from my WSU colleague, Gene Rosa, his graduate student Kyle Knight, and their collaborator, sociological economist Juliet Schor (the paper wasn’t intended for me, but an email address error landed it in my in-box!). I read the paper with interest and think OOW members can benefit from knowing about it so we can build collaborations with environmental scholars and add more substance to the argument about the need for employers to redefine and redesign work. Read More