Category Archives: Employment

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.