Category Archives: Employment

Jessie Simmons: How a schoolteacher became an unsung hero of the civil rights movement

 By Valerie Hill-Jackson, Texas A&M University

Jessie Dean Gipson Simmons was full of optimism when she and her family moved from an apartment in a troubled area of Detroit to a new development in Inkster, Michigan in 1955.

With three children in tow, Jessie and her husband settled into a home on Colgate Street in a neighborhood known as “Brick City” – an idyllic enclave of single, working-class families with a shared community garden.

The plan was simple. Like many African Americans who left the South as part of the Great Migration, Jessie’s husband, Obadiah Sr., would find a stable factory job just outside of Detroit. Then Jessie would put to use the bachelor’s degree she had earned in upper elementary education from Grambling State University in the township of Taylor – just a few blocks from their new home.

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Jessie Dean Gipson Simmons, shown top center about age 37, c. 1961. [Clockwise: daughter Angela, sons Obadiah Jerone, Jr. and Carl, and husband Obadiah Jerone, Sr.; daughters Carolyn and Quendelyn are not pictured] Simmons family archives, Author provided

But the plan went awry. Jessie first applied for a teaching position with the Taylor school district in April 1958, but was denied. The same thing happened in March 1959. And a third time in May 1959. The repeated denials may have set back Jessie’s plans, but they also set her up to fight an important battle for justice for black educators at a time when many were being pushed out of the teaching profession.

I interviewed Jessie’s family as part of my ongoing research into the history of black women teachers from the Reconstruction Era to the 21st century.

Fighting back

The battle began when Jessie filed a grievance with the Michigan Fair Employment Practices Commission, or MFEPC, on Sept. 1, 1959. Jessie’s grievance detailed her conversation with the superintendent Orville Jones in March 1958, in which he told her “there would be vacancies in 1959.”

In August 1958, the Taylor Township Board of Education – the body overseeing the school district where Jessie wanted to teach – took up the matter of employing Negro teachers at a board meeting. The reason the item was placed on the agenda? The Superintendent at the time, Orville Jones, “felt that any handicap” – he deemed race as a handicap – “be pointed out to the board.”

The chair of the school board, Mr. Randall, stated applications were “considered in the order of the dates they were received.” Since the Taylor school board was now on record regarding its hiring practices for teachers, Jessie used that statement in her grievance.

Jessie’s decision to file a grievance would be a costly one for her family. The couple had planned on two steady incomes. In 1959, now a mother of five children, Jessie took a job as a waitress and a cook in a cafe to make ends meet. Her job drew scorn from family members in Louisiana who knew she was severely underemployed. And though her children didn’t know it at the time, Jessie and her husband “gave up meals so the children could eat,” according to Jessie’s oldest son, Obidiah Jr.

In 1960 the MFEPC held a public hearing for the grievance filed by Jessie and Mary Ruth Ross – a second black teacher who was also denied employment by the Taylor board of education. According to the Detroit Courier, Jessie and Mary “were passed over for employment in favor of white applicants who lacked degrees.” Records uncovered by the MFEPC found that 42 non-degreed teachers hired between 1957 through 1960 were all white and “had a maximum of 60 hours of college credits.” Jessie and Mary, on the other hand, were both degreed teachers with some credits toward a graduate degree.

How the Brown decision hurt black teachers

While the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision is often celebrated and considered a legal victory, many scholars believe it had a harmful effect on black teachers. In 1951, scholars writing in the Journal of Negro Education rightly warned that Brown “might conceivably” impact “Negro teachers”. Nationwide, school district leaders pushed back against Brown in two ways.

First, school leaders slow-walked the implementation of Brown – for many school districts as late as the mid-1980s. Second, black teachers across the country lost their once-secure teaching jobs by the tens of thousands after Brown when black schools closed and black children integrated into white schools. In the South, for example, the number of black teachers had soared to around 90,000 pre-Brown. But by 1965 nearly half had lost their jobs. A 1965 report from the National Education Association, a leading labor union for teachers, concluded school districts had “no place for Negroes” in the wake of Brown. School officials railed against Brown and refused to hire black teachers like Jessie, turning them into what sociologist Oliver Cox described as “martyrs to integration.”

My own research confirms that the forced exodus of black women from the teaching profession was ignited by Brown. Discrimination by school leaders fueled the demographic decline of black teachers and remains one of the leading factors for their under-representation in the profession today.

First ruling of its kind

At the eight-day public hearing, Jones admitted that “the hiring of Negro teachers would be something new and different and something we had not done before.” He stated he felt that the Negro teachers were “not up to par.” The hearing eventually revealed that applications for “Negroes” were kept in distinct folders – separated from the submissions of the white applicants.

After more than a year, the MFEPC issued a ruling in Jessie’s case. The decision got a brief mention from Jet Magazine on Dec. 1, 1960:

In the first ruling of its kind, the MFEPC ordered the Taylor Township School Board to hire Mrs. Mary Ruth Ross and Mrs. Jessie Simmons, two Negro teachers, and pay them back wages for the school years of 1959-60 and 1960-61. FEPC Commissioner Allan A. Zaun said the teachers were refused employment on the basis of race.

The attorney for the Taylor board of education, Harry F. Vellmure, threatened to challenge the ruling in court – all the way “to the Supreme Court if necessary,” according to the Detroit Courier. The board stuck to its position that Jessie and Mary were given full and fair consideration for teaching jobs and simply lost out to better qualified teachers.

As a result of noncompliance with the MFEPC’s order, Carl Levin, future U.S. senator and general counsel for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Taylor school district on Jessie’s and Mary’s behalf. Even though the matter did not reach higher courts, Vellmure filed several appeals that effectively slowed down the commission’s order for seven years.

As the lawsuit dragged on, Jessie became an elementary school teacher with the Sumpter School District in 1961. By 1965, she left Sumpter for the Romulus Community School District. According to Jessie’s children, they would continue in the Taylor school district and were known as the kids “whose mother filed the lawsuit against the school district.”

In 1967, after seven years of fighting the Taylor school district in local court, Jessie and Mary prevailed. They were awarded two years back pay and teaching positions. Saddled by hurt feelings after a long fight with the Taylor school district, Jessie declined the offer and continued teaching in Romulus.

The Simmons moved into a larger, newly constructed home on Lehigh Avenue. Jessie gave birth to her sixth child, Kimberly, one month before moving in. Although the new home was only two blocks south of their old home on Colgate Avenue, Jessie’s four surviving children recall that their lifestyle improved and their childhood was now defined by two eras: “before lawsuit life and after lawsuit life.” And by 1968, Jessie earned a master’s degree in education from Eastern Michigan University.

Unsung civil rights hero

At her retirement in 1986, Jessie’s former students recalled that she was an effective teacher of 30 years who was known as a disciplinarian with a profound sense of commitment to the children of Romulus.

Jessie’s story is a reminder that the civil rights movement did not push society to a better version of itself with a singular, vast wave toward freedom. Rather, it was fashioned by little ripples of courage with one person, one schoolteacher, at a time.The Conversation


The Loss of Black Women Teachers.

Valerie Hill-Jackson, Clinical Professor of Educator Preparation and Director, Educator Preparation and School Partnerships, Texas A&M University


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

What is public service loan forgiveness? And how do I qualify to get it?

Robert Kelchen, Seton Hall University

The first group of borrowers who tried to get Public Service Loan Forgiveness – a George W. Bush-era program meant to provide relief to those who went into socially valuable but poorly paid public service jobs, such as teachers and social workers – mostly ran into a brick wall.

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Public Service Loan Forgiveness can be difficult to get if you don’t know the rules. Rawpixel.com/www.shutterstock.com

Of the 28,000 public servants who applied for Public Service Loan Forgiveness earlier this year, only 96 were approved. Many were denied in large part due to government contractors being less than helpful when it came to telling borrowers about Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Some of these borrowers will end up getting part of their loans forgiven, but will have to make more payments than they expected.

With Democrats having regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2018 midterm elections, the Department of Education will likely face greater pressure for providing better information to borrowers, as it was told to do recently by the Government Accountability Office.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program forgives loans for students who made 10 years of loan payments while they worked in public service jobs. Without this loan forgiveness plan, many of these borrowers would have been paying off their student loans for 20 to 25 years.

Borrowers must follow a complex set of rules in order to be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. As a professor who studies federal financial aid policies, I explain these rules below so that up to 1 million borrowers who have expressed interest in the program can have a better shot at receiving forgiveness.

free money for college

What counts as public service?

In general, working for a government agency – such as teaching in a public school or a nonprofit organization that is not partisan in nature – counts as public service for the purposes of the program. For some types of jobs, this means that borrowers need to choose their employers carefully. Teaching at a for-profit school, even if the job is similar to teaching at a public school, would not qualify someone for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Borrowers must also work at least 30 hours per week in order to qualify.

What types of loans and payment plans qualify?

Only Federal Direct Loans automatically qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Borrowers with other types of federal loans must consolidate their loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan before any payments count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The failure to consolidate is perhaps the most common reason why borrowers who applied for forgiveness have been rejected, although Congress did provide US$350 million to help some borrowers who were in an ineligible loan program qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

In order to receive Public Service Loan Forgiveness, borrowers must also be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, which ties payments to a percentage of a borrower’s income. The default repayment option is not income-driven and consists of 10 years of fixed monthly payments, but these fixed payments are much higher than income-driven payments. The bottom line is it’s not enough to just make 10 years of payments. You have to make those payments through an income-driven repayment plan to get Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Parent PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans have fewer repayment plan options than Direct Loans made to students, so borrowers must enroll in an approved income-driven repayment plan for that type of loan. Borrowers must make 120 months of payments, which do not need to be consecutive, while enrolled in the correct payment plan to receive forgiveness.

How can borrowers track their progress?

First of all, keep every piece of information possible regarding your student loan. Pay stubs, correspondence with student loan servicers and contact information for prior employers can all help support a borrower’s case for qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Unfortunately, borrowers have had a hard time getting accurate information from loan servicers and the Department of Education about how to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office told the Department of Education earlier this year to improve its communication with servicers and borrowers, so this process should – at least in theory – get better going forward.

Borrowers should also fill out the Department of Education’s Employment Certification Form each year, as the Department of Education will respond with information on the number of payments made that will qualify toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This form should also be filed with the Department of Education each time a borrower starts a new job to make sure that position also qualifies for loan forgiveness.

Can new borrowers still access Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Yes. Although congressional Republicans proposed eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness for new borrowers, the changes have not been approved by Congress. Current borrowers would not be affected under any of the current policy proposals. However, it would be a good idea for borrowers to fill out an Employment Certification Form as soon as possible just in case Congress changes its mind.

Are there other affordable payment options available?

Yes. The federal government offers a number of income-driven repayment options that limit monthly payments to between 10 and 20 percent of “discretionary income.” The federal government determines “discretionary income” as anything you earn that is above 150 percent of the poverty line, which would translate to an annual salary of about $18,000 for a single adult. So if you earn $25,000 a year, your monthly payments would be limited to somewhere between $700 and $1400 per year, or about $58 and $116 per month.

These plans are not as generous as Public Service Loan Forgiveness because payments must be made for between 20 and 25 years – instead of 10 years under Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Also, any forgiven balance under income-driven repayment options is subject to income taxes, whereas balances forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness are not taxed.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Minority job applicants with ‘strong racial identities’ may encounter less pay and lower odds of getting hired

George B. Cunningham, Texas A&M University

Race-based discrimination is common in the hiring process.

For example, racial minorities are less likely than whites to receive a callback when they apply for a job. There are also wide earning gaps, with African-Americans and Latinos earning a fraction of what whites and Asians do.

File 20180910 123119 fejnia.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Research has shown African-Americans get fewer job callbacks than whites. astarot/Shutterstock.com\

Yet despite laws that aim to reduce employment discrimination and improve attitudes toward diversity, these patterns have not changed for decades.

When analyzing these problems, researchers and others tend to focus on how the experiences of racial minorities compare with those of whites. Often missing is whether there are differences among individuals of the same racial group in terms of how they experience bias.

That is where my new study, which focuses on perceptions of others’ racial identities, comes in.

Perceived identities

People have more than one identity, such as being a mom, a Muslim, an athlete, a scientist and so on.

Just as we commonly think about the importance of each of our identities to who we are – such as being a dad or very religious – we make the same assessments of other people. That is, we evaluate other people’s identities to understand which ones are most fundamental to who they are.

And it turns out, the conclusions we come to about each other’s “perceived identities” can have a big effect on how we interact with them.

As a researcher who has spent the last 19 years examining diversity and inclusion, I was interested in how perceptions of identity affected a racial minority’s prospects as a job applicant. More specifically, I wanted to know if the perception that an applicant has a strong racial identity affected her ability to get a job and how much she’d get paid.

Presumed identity

Past research has shown that our inferences about others’ personal identities can influence how we interact with them.

In some cases, people might talk about how their identity is important to them, or how it reflects a critical part of who they are as a person. In other cases, we make assessments based on cues. For example, we might think someone strongly identifies as Latino when they are members of a Latino student organization. Or, we might infer a weak identity among people who engage in actions that are seemingly contrary to the interests of their group.

For example, psychologists Cheryl Kaiser and Jennifer Pratt-Hyatt found found that whites interact more positively with racial minorities they believe weakly identify with their race – and more negatively with those with stronger racial identifies. Specifically, whites expressed more desire to be their friends and offer favorable ratings of their personality.

Studies show whites are more likely to become friends with racial minorities they perceive as weakly identifying with their race. MinDof/Shutterstock.com

Presumed identity and work

Drawing on their work, Astin Vick, a former student of mine, and I examined whether African-American women’s and Latinas’ presumed racial identity affect their job ratings.

Using an online data collection platform, we asked 238 white people who indicated that they currently or previously worked in the fitness industry to review the application of someone applying to be a club manager. They were told to review a job description, a hiring directive from the club owner, a summary of each applicant’s relevant background and a picture.

All applicants had the same experience, work history and education. The pictures were used to indicate an applicant’s race. Most importantly, we varied each applicant’s relevant affiliations and community service to suggest whether she had a strong identification to her racial group or a weak one.

For example, membership in the Latino Fitness Instructors Association or volunteering for former President Barack Obama’s campaign would signal a strong identification to an applicant’s Latina or black racial group. Belonging to the neutral-sounding Intercollegiate Athletics Coaches Association or volunteering for Obama’s opponent in the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, would signal a weak one.

The participants then filled in a questionnaire to measure their perceptions of the applicant they reviewed, including work attributes such as “untested” or “expert,” hiring recommendation and suggested salary.

Our results showed that most people did in fact use cues from the application file to form views of the applicant’s racial identity, which in turn informed their hiring and salary recommendations. Essentially, as we expected, applicants perceived as identifying strongly with their racial group were less likely to be recommended for a job. And, when they were, received lower suggested salaries – on average US$2,000 less – than those signaling weak associations.

The story does not end there, though, since we also knew each participant’s gender. And we found that men showed a slightly different pattern than the one described above.

Men recommended roughly the same salaries for African-American women and Latinas who identified weakly with their racial groups. But for those with strong perceived identifies, they penalized Latinas far more than African-Americans. That is, they recommended the club pay Latinas with a strong racial identify about $5,000 less than African-Americans.

These small changes can add up over time. Over a 15-year tenure with a company, that difference results in $96,489 difference in inflation-adjusted earnings.

The impact

Our study illustrates several key points.

First, though racial minorities, as a collective, face bias in employment, there is considerable within group variability. An applicant’s specific race matters, as does her or his presumed racial identity.

Second, raters use cues on a resume to infer a job applicant’s racial identity. They then use this information in their decision-making. Aware of this pattern, some job seekers remove race-related activities on their resumes, what Sonia Kang, an associate professor of organizational behavior, refers to as racial whitening.

Finally, research has shown that diversity in the workplace leads to greater organizational performance and employee well-being. As such, employers would be wise to be on the lookout for biases like the one we found that are likely to lead to less diverse workforces and take steps to overcome them when hiring new workers.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

St. Louis Arch A Symbol of “Negro Removal”?

On July 3, 2018, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated St. Louis Gateway Arch grounds was held. The history of the Arch is rooted in exclusion and racist policy. Black businesses were evicted to make room for the Arch and blacks were denied employment opportunities during the Arch construction. 53 years later, blacks were not represented in the ribbon cutting ceremony although the City of St. Louis has a majority black population.

 Officials and National Parks Service staff cut the ribbon to the new Gateway Arch visitor center and museum Tuesday.

The photo above is symbolic of how black people are constantly being removed for the benefit of others. The City of St. Louis removed blacks from the riverfront, sections of downtown including the Mill Creek Valley to build Pruitt Igoe.

Mill Creek Valley looking northwest towards Grand, St. Louis, MO.

The Mill Creek area was supposedly blighted, however, my father, who will be 90 later this year, told me many of the residents of Mill Creek were homeowners who took pride in their homes and kept them up. When I saw pictures of Mill Creek Valley, it looked very similar to the Soulard and Lafayette square neighborhoods.  

Mill Creek Valley family on moving Day

In 1959, demolition of the neighborhood began, displacing over 20,000 residents, 95% of whom were black. Keep in mind, during this time the federal government was still actively redlining and withholding funds to improve black neighborhoods. Of the $120 billion worth of new housing subsidized by the government between 1934 and 1962, less than 2 percent went to nonwhite families.

Former Mayor Raymond Tucker (at right) and then-civic leader and bond issue chairman Sidney Maestre look out over an area of Mill Creek Valley slated for clearance in 1956.

The Interstate highways wiped out many predominantly black neighborhoods and turned them into surface parking and highways or isolated them contributing to their failure. Even the Cookie Thornton shooting was related to black removal. Most recently, the false promises of Paul McKee and the NGA project resulted in the further displacement of black families and neighborhoods all under the guise of urban renewal. James Baldwin pointed out in a 1963 interview that, "urban renewal..means negro removal". 

People of African descent have played a large role in St. Louis since the city’s founding in 1764. Downtown St. Louis was a center of black cultural, economic, political, and legal achievements that have shaped not only the city but the nation as well. Early census figures show blacks, both free and slave, lived in St. Louis from its earliest days under French and Spanish colonial rule. By the 1820 census, 10,000 slaves lived in Missouri, about one-fifth of the state’s population, however only 347 "free colored persons" lived in Missouri. That same year, the Missouri Compromise admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state. Evidence of black life in downtown St. Louis has been erased from the City's landscape and memory. See: "African Americans in Downtown St. Louis". 

In 1935 St. Louis approved a bond issue for a project commemorating Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and to clear an area of empty, “blighted” warehouses. A study by the Post-Dispatch at the time of the 1935 vote found the riverfront wasn’t a derelict district that needed to be cleared. The paper found 290 active businesses and a 2% vacancy rate on 37 blocks that would become the Arch.

The St. Louis riverfront, looking northeast from the Old Courthouse in 1895. This area now contains the Gateway Arch. The buildings shown here were prized by many historic preservationists, who objected to the demolition of unique cast-iron structures

As Tony Messenger pointed out in his article, "Krewson's deputy mayor calls all-white Arch photo a 'symptom' of St. Louis' racial divide": In 1939, the city of St. Louis began clearing 486 buildings from the area near its riverfront. Most housed businesses owned and run by black St. Louisans. About 5,000 jobs were lost. 

Westward Expansion

Let's not forget the original motivation for the St. Louis Arch. It was built to honor St. Louis' role in westward expansion, a time when Manifest Destiny was used to push Native Americans and Mexicans out of their lands. It is estimated 10 million+ Native Americans were living on land that is now the United States when European explorers first arrived in the 15th century. It is estimated that over nine million Native Americans were killed after European settlers arrived.

"Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian."  

As the United States expanded westward, violent conflicts over territory multiplied. In 1784, one British traveler noted:

“White Americans have the most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians; and nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children.”

After the American Revolution, many Native American lives were already lost to disease and displacement. In 1830, the federal Indian Removal Act called for the removal of the ‘Five Civilized Tribes’ – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. 

Between 1830 and 1838, federal officials working on behalf of white cotton growers forced nearly 100,000 Indians out of their homeland. The dangerous journey from the southern states to “Indian Territory” in current Oklahoma is referred to as the Trail of Tears. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans had been removed from their homelands, thereby opening 25 million acres for predominantly European settlement.

Ferguson should have acted as a wake-up call to the entire St. Louis region. This year will mark the fourth anniversary of Michael Brown's death, but the City of St. Louis and the greater St. Louis region are either in denial or indifferent about its exclusionary institutionalized racist and oppressive nature. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly stated, “a riot is the language of the unheard".

Considering the history of what the St. Louis Arch commemorates and the history of its construction, the lack of diversity in the ribbon cutting symbolized St. Louis' culture of racism. It's time to start listening to the unheard!

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’

Robert A. Sedler, Wayne State University

Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state could require nonmembers of a public employee union to pay an “agency fee,” otherwise known as costs of collective bargaining, for their representation by the union.

The union could not use any part of the agency fee to advance ideological purposes unrelated to the union’s primary function of collective bargaining.

At that time, the court took the view that this requirement did not violate the First Amendment’s “right of silence” of nonunion members who didn’t want to pay the fee. The “right of silence” is the guarantee that people cannot be forced to be associated with an idea they do not believe.

On Tuesday, June 26, in Janus v. American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, the court overruled that decision.

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Plaintiff Mark Janus, right, leaves the the Supreme Court Wednesday. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The court held that when it came to public employee unions, all collective bargaining involved ideological and public policy considerations. For government workers, the court said, issues like salaries, pensions and benefits are inherently political. And some employees may not agree with the union’s position on those matters.

For example, if a teacher’s union sought higher wages and benefits for its members, this might result in higher taxes for residents of the school district. And if that position was shared by certain union members, the union would be, effectively, putting words they didn’t believe in in their mouth. So the court said that compelling objecting employees to pay an agency fee violated their First Amendment right of silence.

Labor unions fought bitterly against Janus. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Although the court is reluctant to overrule prior decisions, the court majority, consisting of the four conservative justices plus Justice Kennedy, found that requiring objecting public employees to pay an agency fee was inconsistent with standard First Amendment principles.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan blasted the decision in her dissent, writing that “The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance — including over the role of public-sector unions.”

The majority also decided that agency fees were not justified by the union’s claim that they were necessary to avoid “free riders,” who would get the benefit of the union’s collective bargaining services without paying for them.

Indeed, said the court, the alleged “free riders” would be employees who were compelled to take a ride that they did not want. And above all, public employee unions did not need agency fees in order to effectively perform their role of representing the members of the bargaining unit.

The court noted that today public-sector union membership has surpassed union membership in the private sector. They said that public-sector unions effectively represent both federal employees without any agency fees and public employees in “right to work” states, where agency fees are prohibited.

The result in Janus extends strong protection to the First Amendment right of silence. It continues a trend over the last decade by which the court, sometimes divided and sometimes not, has expanded First Amendment rights, often at the behest of ideological conservatives.

The ConversationIn the United States, we give more constitutional protection to First Amendment rights than is provided by other democratic nations and international human rights norms. Janus is another example of this protection.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Robert A. Sedler, Distinguished Professor of Law, Wayne State University

Black employees in the service industry pay an emotional tax at work

By Alicia Grandey

The arrests of two black men who were waiting for a friend at a Starbucks in Philadelphia have raised questions about how race determines how customers are treated.

But does race also affect how the employees are treated within the service industry?

Prior research shows that black workers in people-oriented occupations – health care, service and sales – are rated lower by customers and supervisors than are white workers, even when their performance is objectively the same. Because of this, black workers have a harder time obtaining competitive raises or promotions. But it is unclear why or what workers can do about it.

In the U.S. workforce, blacks are disproportionately represented in low-paying service jobs like cashiers, call center employees and food service workers compared to higher-status jobs. So this issue has serious implications for the financial and professional lives of a large segment of black workers.

Race impacts perception of performance

Friendliness is key to performing well in the service industry. My colleagues Lawrence Houston III, Derek R. Avery and I found that negative stereotypes about blacks – that they are unfriendly, hostile or rude – explain lower performance evaluations of black service providers compared to white service providers.

We found that in order for the performance of black service providers to be rated equivalent to whites, blacks had to amplify and fake positive emotions to override those negative racial stereotypes. In other words, to be seen as good as white employees, black employees need to perform more “emotional labor,” a concept introduced by sociologist Arlie Hochschild.

Perhaps just like the two men at Starbucks, black service employees are assumed to have hostile intentions unless they put in extra effort to put forth a smile and show they are not a threat.

Across three studies

We drew these conclusions from a series of studies we conducted over several years.

In our first study, we asked a representative sample of people for their impressions of an employee described as holding an emotional labor job, a hotel desk clerk. They saw a photo of either a black or white person with a neutral expression, but otherwise the same job qualifications. Regardless of the respondents’ own race, education or income, they saw the black employee as less friendly and more hostile than the white employee.

In the second study, people watched a video of either a black or a white sales clerk ringing up sales in a home goods shop. They saw the clerk acting either warm and friendly or just polite. In all videos the sales clerk was efficient and knowledgeable.

When viewers saw the employee performing less emotional labor – just being polite and efficient – the black employee was rated as less friendly and a worse performer than the white employee. In contrast, after watching the friendly condition, the viewers rated the black and white employees similarly.

In short, just being polite was not enough for the black employee; putting on a big smile was necessary to get the same performance ratings as the white employee.

Both of the above studies were experiments. In a third study, we surveyed actual service employees and their supervisors.

Again, we found that supervisors rated black grocery store clerks as worse performers than white clerks, which could not be explained by job experience or motivation. Yet, black clerks who reported amplifying and faking their positive emotions when interacting with customers – more emotional labor – saw the racial disparity in the performance evaluations disappear.

Notably, white clerks were rated highly regardless of the frequency of their emotional labor. For black clerks to be rated as highly as the white clerks, they had to more consistently exaggerate their smile in customer interactions.

High cost of ‘service with a smile’

All service employees must sometimes put on a fake smile when having an off day, and sometimes they might let the mask slip. Our research shows that white employees who do less emotional labor can still be viewed positively, but black employees are not given the benefit of the doubt. Black employees constantly “fake it to make it” in service jobs.

Being a black service provider requires routinely putting forth more emotional effort – a bigger smile, a more enthusiastic tone of voice, maintained across time and customers – to be evaluated similarly to a white co-worker. If a black employee gets tired of faking that smile, there is a resulting decline in performance evaluation. This also means fewer opportunities for promotions, raises and career advancement.

The ConversationThough putting on a smile might seem like a small price to pay to get ahead at work, research shows that keeping up a friendly façade is a path to job burnout, a state of complete exhaustion linked to a desire to quit and health issues. Recognizing this situation is a first step to improving conditions for black employees and customers alike.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation.

Alicia Grandey, Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Future of unions in balance as Trump prepares to reshape national labor board

By Nicole Hallett – Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Last October, employees of the Elderwood Nursing Home in Grand Island, New York, voted to unionize after years of dealing with short staffing, stagnant wages and problems with management. Six months later, the company has yet to come to the bargaining table, claiming that there are unresolved legal questions about whether licensed practical nurses can be part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Yale University graduate students have sought to form a union for more than a decade. AP Photo/Bob Child

Yale University has recently come under criticism for making a similar decision. Despite a February vote to unionize by graduate students in eight departments, Yale has so far resisted calls to begin the bargaining process. Instead, it has appealed the decision to certify the election and is refusing to bargain until the appeal is decided.

Elderwood and Yale could hardly be more different. Yale is a world-class Ivy League bastion of higher education. Elderwood is a medium-sized elder care company that operates nursing home facilities in New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Yet both have made the strategic decision to not recognize the right of their employees to unionize. Why?

My research on the decline of the labor movement suggests a reason: Employers are counting on a changing of the guard at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB is about to go under new management. AP Photo/Jon Elswick

Republicans take control

The NLRB is the administrative agency that is tasked with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, the federal statute that gives employees the right to unionize and collectively bargain. The NLRB consists of five members who are appointed to five-year terms by the president upon the advice and consent of the Senate.

Right now, there are two vacancies on the board that President Donald Trump will fill. Once the Senate confirms President Trump’s nominees, Republicans will control the board for the first time since 2007.

The background of the three candidates reportedly under consideration suggests that the board will in fact be much friendlier to business interests under the Trump administration. One of the potential nominees, Doug Seaton, has made a career of being a “union-buster,” the term used to describe a consultant brought in by employers to beat a unionization campaign. Another, William Emanuel, is a partner at Littler Mendelson, one of the largest and most successful anti-labor law firms in the country. Less is known about the third potential candidate, Marvin Kaplan, but his history as a Republican staffer suggests he may also represent employers’ interests.

Many observers assume that this new board will overturn many Obama-era precedents that favored unions. These precedents include questions such as how to define bargaining units, at issue at both Yale and Elderwood.

But the new board could go even further and roll back pro-union decisions dating back decades. This could be devastating to already weakened unions. With private sector union membership hovering at a dismal 6.4 percent – down from about 17 percent in 1983 – nothing short of the end of the labor movement could be at stake.

How politics intruded on the NLRB

The composition of the NLRB is important because most claims regarding the right to organize and collectively bargain are decided by the agency.

Unlike other employment statutes, such as Title VII and the Fair Labor Standards Act, individuals and unions cannot file claims in federal court and instead must participate in the administrative process set up by the National Labor Relations Act. While aggrieved parties can appeal board rulings to federal appeals courts, judges grant a high degree of deference to NLRB decisions.

In other words, three board members – a bare majority of the board – have an enormous ability to influence and shape American labor policy.

Given the amount of power these three individuals can wield, it is no wonder that the NLRB has become highly politicized in the decades since its creation in the 1930s. Ironically, the board was originally established as a way to try to insulate labor policy from political influences.

The drafters of the labor act believed that the federal courts were hostile to labor rights and would chip away at the protections in a way that would be bad for unions. Instead, the board has become a political battlefield for the two parties who hold very different views about labor policy.

This politicization came to a head during the Obama administration, when it became impossible to confirm anyone to serve on the NLRB. In response, Obama appointed several members using his recess appointment power, which allows the president to avoid Senate confirmation of nominees when Congress is in recess.

Employers challenged the move, and the Supreme Court eventually invalidated the recess appointments as executive overreach in NLRB v. Noel Canning. After the decision, Obama and the Senate finally agreed on five members that were confirmed. This new board, with a Democratic majority, then decided many of the precedents that employers hope the new members will overturn.

Flaws in the National Labor Relations Act

So what will happen if Elderwood and Yale bet wrong and lose their appeals in front of the new Republican-controlled board?

In all likelihood, not much. The board process is long and cumbersome. It often takes years from the filing of a charge for failure to bargain to the board’s decision. In the meantime, employers hope that unions will have turnover in their membership, become disorganized and lose support.

Moreover, the penalties available under the National Labor Relations Act are weak. If an employer is found to have violated the act, the board can issue a “cease-and-desist” letter and require the employer to post a notice promising not to engage in further violations. These penalties hardly encourage employers to comply with their obligations, especially when they have so much to gain from obstructing attempts to unionize and collectively bargain.

If the labor movement is to survive, the National Labor Relations Act needs to be reformed to fix these problems. Instead, a few years of a Republican-controlled NLRB could be organized labor’s death knell.


Republished with permission under license by The Conversation.

Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America

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The divide is in the data. American Community Survey (ACS) 2011-2015 5 year estimates, Table S1810, CC BY

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. The Conversation

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

Contrary to common assumptions, substantial shares of the poor are employed. Approximately 45 percent of poor, prime-age (25-54) householders worked at least part of 2015 in rural and urban areas alike.

The link between work and poverty was different in the past. In the early 1980s, the share of the rural poor that was employed exceeded that in urban areas by more than 15 percent. Since then, more and more poor people in rural areas are also unemployed – a trend consistent with other patterns documented below.

That said, rural workers continue to benefit less from work than their urban counterparts. In 2015, 9.8 percent of rural, prime-age working householders were poor, compared with 6.8 percent of their urban counterparts. Nearly a third of the rural working poor faced extreme levels of deprivation, with family incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line, or approximately US$12,000 for a family of four.

Large shares of the rural workforce also live in economically precarious circumstances just above the poverty line. Nearly one in five rural working householders lived in families with incomes less than 150 percent of the poverty line. That’s nearly five percentage points more than among urban workers (13.5 percent).

According to recent research, rural-urban gaps in working poverty cannot be explained by rural workers’ levels of education, industry of employment or other similar factors that might affect earnings. Rural poverty – at least among workers – cannot be fully explained by the characteristics of the rural population. That means reducing rural poverty will require attention to the structure of rural economies and communities.

Brian Thiede, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University


2. Most new jobs aren’t in rural areas

It’s easy to see why many rural Americans believe the recession never ended: For them, it hasn’t.

Rural communities still haven’t recovered the jobs they lost in the recession. Census data show that the rural job market is smaller now – 4.26 percent smaller, to be exact – than it was in 2008. In these data are shuttered coal mines on the edges of rural towns and boarded-up gas stations on rural main streets. In these data are the angers, fears and frustrations of much of rural America.

This isn’t a new trend. Mechanization, environmental regulations and increased global competition have been slowly whittling away at resource extraction economies and driving jobs from rural communities for most of the 20th century. But the fact that what they’re experiencing now is simply the cold consequences of history likely brings little comfort to rural people. If anything, it only adds to their fear that what they once had is gone and it’s never coming back.

Nor is it likely that the slight increase in rural jobs since 2013 brings much comfort. As the resource extraction economy continues to shrink, most of the new jobs in rural areas are being created in the service sector. So Appalachian coal miners and Northwest loggers are now stocking shelves at the local Walmart.

The identity of rural communities used to be rooted in work. The signs at the entrances of their towns welcomed visitors to coal country or timber country. Towns named their high school mascots after the work that sustained them, like the Jordan Beetpickers in Utah or the Camas Papermakers in Washington. It used to be that, when someone first arrived at these towns, they knew what people did and that they were proud to do it.

That’s not so clear anymore. How do you communicate your communal identity when the work once at the center of that identity is gone, and calling the local high school football team the “Walmart Greeters” simply doesn’t have the same ring to it?

Looking at rural jobs data, is it so hard to understand why many rural people are nostalgic for the past and fearful for the future?

Steven Beda, Instructor of History, University of Oregon


3. Disabilities are more common in rural areas

Disability matters in rural America. Data from the American Community Survey, an annual government poll, reveal that disability is more prevalent in rural counties than their urban counterparts.

The rate of disability increases from 11.8 percent in the most urban metropolitan counties to 15.6 percent in smaller micropolitan areas and 17.7 percent in the most rural, or noncore, counties.

While rural-urban differences in disability have been analyzed previously, researchers have had little opportunity to further explore this disparity, as updated data on rural disability were unavailable until recently. Fortunately, the census released updated new county-level disability estimates in 2014, ending a 14-year knowledge gap.

The release of these estimates has also allowed us to build a picture of geographic variations in disability across the nation. Disability rates vary significantly across the U.S. Although the national trend of higher disability rates in rural counties persists at the regional and even divisional level, it is clear that disability in rural America is not homogeneous. Rates of rural disability range from around 15 percent in the Great Plains to 21 percent in the central South.

 

 

 

 

 

Data reveal notable differences between rural and urban America. American Community Survey (ACS) 2011-2015 5 year estimates, Table S1810, CC BY

A variety of factors may be behind these regional and rural differences, including differences in demographics, economic patterns, health and service access and state disability policies.

While this survey provides a glimpse into the national prevalence of disability and reveals a persistent rural-urban disparity, it is important to note its limitations. Disability is the result of an interaction between an individual and his or her environment. Therefore, these data do not directly measure disability, as they measure only physical function and do not consider environmental factors such as inaccessible housing.

Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers, Project Directors at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana; Christiane von Reichert, Professor of Geography, University of Montana


4. Rural areas are surprisingly entrepreneurial

The United States’ continuing economic dominance is perhaps most attributable to the very smallest elements of its economy: its entrepreneurial start-ups. Nearly 700,000 new job-creating businesses open each year. That’s almost 2,000 every day, each helping to create new market niches in the global economy.

Most people mistakenly believe these pioneering establishments occur in overwhelmingly in metropolitan areas, such as in the now-mythic start-up culture of Silicon Valley.

Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is in fact nonmetropolitan counties that have higher rates of self-employed business proprietors than their metropolitan counterparts.

Furthermore, the more rural the county, the higher its level of entrepreneurship. Some of these counties have a farming legacy – perhaps the most entrepreneurial of occupations – but farmers represent less than one-sixth of business owners in nonmetro areas. Even for nonfarm enterprises, rural entrepreneurship rates are higher.

The reality is that rural areas have to be entrepreneurial, as industries with concentrations of wage and salary jobs are necessarily scarce.

Start-up businesses have notoriously difficult survival prospects. So it is perhaps even more surprising that relatively isolated nonmetropolitan businesses are on average more resilient than their metro cousins, despite the considerable economic advantages of urban areas, which boast a denser networks of workers, suppliers and markets. The resilience of rural start-ups is perhaps due to more cautious business practices in areas with few alternative employment options.

This resilience is also remarkably persistent over time, consistently being at least on par with metro start-ups, and regularly having survival rates up to 10 percentage points higher than in metro areas over 1990-2007.

Stephan Weiler, Professor of Economics, Colorado State University; Tessa Conroy and Steve Deller, Professors of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Thiede, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, Research Associate, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Professor of Economics, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, Instructor of History, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, Economic Development Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison


This article republished with permission under license from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Now hiring black police officers

On July 11, 2016, during a press conference, Dallas police chief, David Brown, stated, "were hiring" … "get off that protest line and put an application in and we will help you resolve some of the problems you're protesting about.

Since Chief Brown's "we're hiring" announcement, the Dallas Police Department has seen an increase in job applications of 344 percent. I argued with a relative that job applications would not only increase, but a lot of African-Americans would apply for the job. So far I've been proven right on the increase, now I'm waiting to see who has applied.

Discrimination in Police Hiring

Throughout the Ferguson Protest, we kept hearing the reason Ferguson had an almost all white police force was because few black officers applied for the low paying positions. The first time that explaination was given, I laughed and sarcastically stated, things must have really changed in this country, white people now take the low paying jobs that black people don't want. 

Police departments are mostly white by design. Testing, education, criminal histories, psych exams and various other techiques are used to weed out black police recruits. Behaviors have been criminalized in black communities which ensures large numbers of black people are prevented from becoming police officers. For example, the heroin addiction that affecting white communities won't prevent addicted teens from becoming police officers later in life because their addiction will be labled an illness rather than a crime. Many black drug users were labled felons for small quantities of drugs, preventing them from becoming officers. Just look at some of the headlines below from recent newspaper articles.

U.S. Sues Texas City Over Discriminatory Police Hiring Practices

Chicago to pay $3 million to settle police hiring discrimination lawsuit

Pittsburgh settles police hiring discrimination suit for nearly $1M

Eugene, Oregon settles with U.S. over police hiring discrimination

Black Police Applicant Frustrated by Opaque Hiring Process

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual salary for patrol officers was $58,320 in 2015. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $96,110, while the bottom 10 percent made $33,430.

Given half a chance, many African-Americans would jump at the chance to earn that type of salary. If you are young and black and are thinking about becoming a police officer, apply, we need you. 

Apply to become a St. Louis Police Officer. BI-WEEKLY RATE OF PAY $1,539.00, Police Officer (Trainees) shall receive the bi-weekly Trainee rate of $1,539 upon appointment and serve in a working test (probationary) period. Upon successful completion of their working test period, training period at the Police Academy and being granted permanent status, a Police Officer (Trainee) shall be eligible for promotion to the rank of Police Probationary Officer at an annual salary of $43,424.

The hiring process is a long one and may be designed to weed certain people out. Seek out a black police officer, talk to them about the job and let them know you're interest so they can help mentor you through the process. 

If you have a criminal record, see if you're eligible for Expungement, if so have your records expunged before applying. Good luck!

Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay

An article written in response to recent flooding, "Low-wage workers deserve disaster pay",  made me think about my brother-in-law, Brian Collins, who was killed the day before his 23rd birthday in 1990 because he went to work during emergency conditions.

On December 27, 1990 there was a major winter storm that pretty much shut down the St. Louis area. The police and other officials explained that conditions were extremely dangerous and urged people to not drive and stay at home. There was a call over the radio and television, however, for hospital and other emergency workers to find a way to make it to work, because they were needed.

I had just married my wife in June 1990 and I was visiting my mother-in-law's home when my brother-in-law asked for a ride to work. I explained that the road conditions were terrible and that I had barely made it there and how I wasn't planning on leaving to go home until the storm let up.

He mentioned that he heard the call for hospital workers to try to make it to work. I tried to convince him not to go and explained that they were talking about doctors, nurses and other critical hospital personnel. He replied that he might be needed and decided to go to work.  He reasoned that support staff was just as critical to hospital operations as doctors and nurses.

He caught the bus to work, but I told him if the storm let up, I would pick him up when he got off. Later that night, my sister-in-law phone my mother-in-law. The hospital called because Brian had been shot and they wanted family members at the hospital.

I drove my wife and mother-in-law to the hospital and road conditions were still pretty bad. When we arrived, my sister-in-law and her husband were already there. My sister-in-law was in tears and stated that I think he's dead, because they won't let us see him.

A few minutes later, someone came and explained that Brian had been shot in the back of his head, had died and asked my mother-in-law if she would be willing to donate his organs.  Needless to say, we were all devastated. Brian was kept on life support to keep his organs viable and my mother-in-law after a brief family discussion agreed to organ donation.

My brother-in-law, Brian Collins had been a minister from a very young age and worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He had previously been a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital, however, Brian viewed himself as working for a different department for the same employer since Mallinckrodt was a part of Barnes. However, when it came to Brian's insurance coverage, Mallincrodt and Barnes didn't see it that way.

Mallincrodt said since he was a new employee, even though he had completed all of his required insurance paperwork to properly transfer his insurance coverage. He had not been with Mallincrodt long enough for his life insurance to pay out. Even though he had been at Barnes long enough, Barnes said since he now worked for Mallincrodt, he no longer was covered by Barnes.

I couldn't believe that Barnes and Mallincrodt were standing on a technicality for an employee who answered an emergency call to action.

I felt guilty about Brian's death for a long time. I should have made a stronger argument for him to stay home. I should have taken him to work that day. Did he not call me and catch the bus because he didn't want to bother me? Did he think I wouldn't pick him up? Those and many other thoughts haunted me for years.

I loved Brian as my own brother and the world was robbed of a magnificent human being and humanitarian and future pastor. My oldest son's middle name is Brian and ironically, he is a young minister.

So when I came across the article arguing for disaster pay for low-income employees, I couldn't agree more. The article specifically mentioned health care workers,  "who are often considered essential employees and who may be required to stay and work extra shifts during a disaster."

Because Barnes and Mallincrodt wouldn't honor Brian's insurance, my mother-in-law had to rely on donations to bury her youngest son and the family's suffering was increased because of their actions.

When a person risks their life to help or protect others, they should not be abandoned or forced to bear additional burdens on their own.

Post Dispatch Article, December 29, 1990

Man Fatally Shot On Way Home From Work; Motive Unknown

By Kim Bell ; and Margaret Gillerman

Police had no suspects or motive Friday in the fatal shooting of a man walking home from work Thursday night.

Brian Collins , who would have been 23 years old Friday, was shot in the back of the head and in the neck about 9 p.m. His body was found in a vacant lot on Lillian Avenue about six blocks from his home.

''He had his Walkman tape in his ear, so when they shot him, I don't think he heard a thing,'' said his mother, Ruby Collins. Lt. Steve Jacobsmeyer said Collins ''could have been a victim in a street robbery.''

Collins had worked for about a week as a film librarian at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University Medical Center. He previously was a dispatcher at Barnes Hospital.
''He was a good kid,'' Jacobsmeyer said.

Relatives believe Collins had taken a bus from work to Lillian and Kingshighway, then decided to walk the rest of the way instead of waiting in the snow for another bus. ''Lillian is a drug-infested area, and I told him to be careful: 'You should not walk home,' ''
Ruby Collins said. ''I always told him to call if he needed a ride.''

Relatives said that Collins almost had stayed home from work Thursday because of the bad weather. He changed his mind when he heard an announcement on television urging hospital workers to try to make it in.

''Everybody at Barnes his former employer loved my son,'' his mother said. ''They said he was so joyful and kept a smile on his face.''

The funeral for Collins will be at 7 p.m. Sunday at New Jerusalem Temple Church of God, 8204 Page Avenue in Vinita Park. Collins was a volunteer minister at the church.