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May 21, 2008

Oil Related Files

Video Real Oil Crisis from Catalyst - Australia

Oil Shockwave Simulation Report

Parecon Video

Against Neoliberalism: A Vision of the Future by Michael Albert. 10/2006.

YouTube location

May 13, 2008

Monsanto Article

Class, I have updated the link to the Monsanto article. You can find it HERE.

May 12, 2008

Inequalities in the Work Force

Excellent example of paper 1 by Marcella Zavala.

I'm on my way to school and as I'm walking out my building I take notice of the group of janitors that regularly clean my apartment complex. There are four total standing outside the building smoking a cigarette. One person is a black male; another is a black female, one that would seem to be at first glance, a lesbian, and lastly an older white female. It's just a short walk to where the PCC shuttle meets, but on my way there I pass a main bus stop, where it is brought to my attention again that the majority of the people waiting for the bus are the minorities. When I finally get to the shuttle stop I board the next arriving shuttle to find my bus driver is a Native American male. Eventually, I get to school, sit down and listen to my white female professor lecture the class. At 3:50 pm class gets out and by this time I'm starved, so the cafeteria is my next stop and here I observe the different cafeteria workers and once again Hispanics and Asian Americans are taking the lead role. It would be easy to tell ourselves that everyone picks the job they want or maybe even going as far to think, " at least that person has a job,".

It is my belief that to have a functionalist take on the working economy is to be ignorant. Of course the American minorities don't choose to have low wages, no benefits, only several unpaid sick days, and no hope in ever advancing. Most people would also think that sweat shops are a foreign thing. Well unfortunately this in not the case. There are several around the United States, including New York City. This is not the case with the conflict theory. This theory takes a look at the class and race, and how they equally affecting each other. Conflict theory also takes note that the higher paying jobs are dominated by middles-class, older, white men (Anderson and Taylor, 2008:486) and without failing to mention that it might just be the fact that this particular group makes the job worth more. With all these situations at hand I would like to strengthen my focus on the inequalities in the work force for women, beings how I am a woman in the work force.

The most obvious of the inequalities women face are the lower wages due to gender, and sexual harassment. From my first hand experience I can attest to both of these issues. Most surveys reveal that of all the employed women as many as one half experience sexual harassment (Anderson and Taylor, 2008; 503). Sexual harassment is divided into two different groups, one called Quid Pro Quo which means the exchange of sexual favors in order to get a high grade or better position. The second being a hostile working environment this meant any unwanted sexual attention that persisted into a routine at work. Most of the time women are hesitant to report incidences because they feel they won't be taken seriously, especially women of color. Often time there is also a language barrier that makes it more difficult for women to stake their problem. Typically you find more sexual harassment cases in work environments where there is a high male to female ratio. Sexual harassment can be interpreted several different ways. One, is males once more trying to stake their dominance in a place they once dominated, men may or may not be aware of this. Secondly, men might try to make women feel comfortable in the work environment by showing them affection or attention. This gets misinterpreted as unwanted sexual attention. Thirdly, it is a subconscious response to unfair treatment in the work place. Whatever the reason is, women of all color should not be subject to these situations.

All around the world, in countries such as India and China, women are put in far worse conditions. For example, women in India are often forced to have children by their dominating husband and then left with no resources to care for them. A usual employee at a sweat shop is a woman of color. In some parts of Africa women's unemployment rates are as high as 26% , even worse a majority of Africa's countries can not provide statistics about women's employment, because frequently the work women to do isn't recognized by official statistics (Anderson and Taylor, 2008; 492). In these third world countries unemployment is high and there are few jobs women can take. Most of these jobs are provided by corporations who know they can get away with giving ridiculous wages.

What are the causes behind women having lower wages than men? It isn't uncommon for women to have a more difficult time in being taken seriously. Between each sex there are stereotypes. An example being, men are leaders, hunters, and providers; women are nurturing, emotional, and housekeepers. With this being the grounds for first assumptions made about someone based on their sex you can see why women might have a harder time advancing or even getting the opportunity to prove their individual strengths.

In closing I would like to propose a thought about increasing minimum wage for all women. For America this would put most families closer to earning the national cost of living, but would that help our economy. We are the consumerism nation. Would earning more money just send Americans on a shopping spree only to further our nation's consumption rate? What abut raising wages for women in countries where they are subject to pennies a day? Higher wages might mean for them an education for their kids, food on the table every day, or medicine. So, whose wages should we be fighting for? Just a thought.

1. Anderson and Taylor. 2008. General Sociology: Social Change and the Social Institutions. Thomson Wadsworth, Inc.:Ohio

May 6, 2008

Links to articles of interest

These are links to articles that were mentioned in class, and articles related to issues mentioned in class.

UN: Biofuel Production 'Criminal Path' to Global Food Crisis

Multinationals Make Billions In Profit Out of Growing Global Food Crisis

Food price rises are "mass murder": U.N. envoy

Major Arctic sea ice melt is expected this summer

No let up in India farm suicides

Oxygen-poor ocean zones are growing

May 5, 2008

American jobs and wages

Excellent sample of paper 1 by Marina Johnson

From the very beginning of America it was a grand dream to live in the land of opportunity. 400 years ago people came to escape from oppression. As the years passed, more and more people came from far and wide looking for that "American Dream." It was thought by some that in America the streets were paved with gold. Anybody, no matter their race, age, or sex, could come to America and find work, become successful, buy a home, and save for retirement. What happened to that dream? What happened to America?

Wages in America have steadily declined for the majority of workers. The chances of getting in on the ground floor and working your way up in a company have disappeared. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are getting deeper into debt every year. The middle class is quickly disappearing.

There was a time when a man could walk into a company, get an apprenticeship and work his way up to the top. Corporations held strong to company loyalty and rewarded their employees with secure pensions. The middle class became strong and America was prospering; change was soon to come. Corporations now hold no value in their employees. Men and women are quickly losing their jobs to cheaper labor overseas. Unable to find jobs of equal value many Americans are taking jobs beneath their previous earning ability, now having to get by with the two-income household that is so common today.

Forty years ago a family could get by easily on one income. They could buy a home and build a savings. They could send their kids to college and take a vacation every year. Today may appear to be much like yesteryear, however there is a big change. Now, these families must rely on two incomes; now, these families don't have a savings account; now, these families will send their kids to college on loans and create even more debt just to maintain the same lifestyle of a generation ago.

Minimum wage jobs have become impossible to get by on. Rent goes up, gas goes up, food goes up but minimum wage stays the same. The opportunity for advancement in a minimum wage job is little to none. A hard working, non-college educated, American in 1940 could easily find a low skill job and make it on minimum wage. Jobs were abundant after the war. One could work as a receptionist; in manufacturing; at a call center "help desk"; or even as a Midwestern farmer. Now, thanks to globalization and invention, the receptionist is no longer needed, we have automated machines to answer the phones; manufacturing jobs are still abundant, in China; the call center has been moved to India, and if you want to farm you better buy a ticket to Equator.

In 1940 most jobs offered the possibility to buy a house, not anymore; even if you
have a better than minimum wage job, good luck. My husband, John, works at a union job. When he started his job in 1989 he was paid five times the minimum wage. Today that same job only pays maybe three times today's minimum wage. Had we not already done so fifteen years ago, the dream of buying a home would be lost to us today. Since 1993, when we bought our home, John's pay has risen only a few dollars an hour, yet the value of our home has tripled. With the cost of living in America, today we would not be able to afford the house we presently live in.

For those not fortunate enough to go to college or to get a union job, the chances of them buying a home are slim to none. Yet, our parents from just one a generation before us can't understand why we struggle, why we have debt. They seem to be in the mind set that if we all worked harder and saved more then we would all have the opportunity to be homeowners. This older generation may live in the home they paid $45,000 for and have mortgage payments lower than some of today's car payments.

Those who determine the wages of "the little people" don't have any idea what it would be like to live on minimum wage in America. In 1973 CEO's of large corporations earned 35 times as much than the average worker, today CEO's earn 200 times as much (McKibben, p.103). The wage gap is getting so large it is literally eliminating the middle class all together.

Modernization Theory sees people as poor because they have poor work habits, engage in poor time management, are not willing to defer gratification, and do no save or take advantage of educational opportunities. It is the thought of Modernization Theory that people and countries are poor because they have poor attitudes and poor institutions (Anderson/Tayor, p.252). This thought process serves as a great injustice to all the hard working people in the world.

As described above, wages in America are becoming impossible to get by on. Even the very hardest of workers struggle. Opportunities for betterment are not available to all people. As these people continue to struggle opportunities for their children to go to college and break the cycle are even less. Globally many people work long hard hours for little pay, immensely less than that of America's minimum wage. These people are not poor because they do not work hard. They are not poor because they can't "save" their pay. They are poor because they are exploited by the corporations that use the labor force of poorer counties in order to create a larger bottom line for themselves.

Of course we cannot over look the wage gap between men and women. For centuries men have been the predominant work force and women were considered the homemakers. Now that families need two incomes to survive women have entered the work force. Men are usually in charge and feel women are of less value and in turn pay them less than they pay men for the same job. This happens for many reasons. One might be that when a woman is hired it is thought that she is not looking for a true career. It is thought that she is only working for spending money, or she will soon get pregnant and will leave the job. Male employers sometimes feel that even if a woman were to return to work after pregnancy she is still not a serious employee because of the time she missed and is now behind in skills, or she will not be reliable when she may have to take time off if her child gets sick.

I once held job for a wholesale travel agency. It was forbidden for anybody to talk about wages. This company did not have a starting wage and then incremental raises, they would randomly choose your pay according to your experience (or so they said). Of course everybody broke the rules and spoke of their wage differences. One man who was recently hired had no travel experience or computer skills, yet he earned more than all the women there, even the women who have been working for this company for many years. When this injustice was brought forward, the management concluded that since he was a man, and needed to support his family, he needed to earn more. This was such an outdated way of thinking. Many of the women working for this company were single moms who needed to support their families. Yet the stereotypes continue.

It is difficult to see how things became so askew. It is sad to see it spreading beyond America and around the entire globe. With globalization as it is today the rich will keep getting richer and the poor will keep getting poorer. It almost appears as a circle of life. We lived the good life for a while; we lived the American dream, now we are circling back to medieval times, back to the times of oppression with the separation of royalty and peasants. With all the years of civilization and invention, we have only managed to create this divide on a much larger, worldwide scale than it was those 400 years ago.

Works Cited

McKibben, Bill, Deep Economy. New York: Times Books, 2007.

Andersen, Margaret, and Howard Taylor. General Sociology: Social Change and Social Institutions. Portland: PCC P, 2008.