Summary: One astonishing aspect of the structural changes reshaping America is how fiercely we work to avoid seeing them. Such as the transformation of employment. Breaking unions was the first and essential step. Now comes the larger changes: shifting jobs from full time with benefits and job security into temporary, insecure, part-time, no-benefits — at lower wages.
Here we see four snapshots of this structural change in the power relationships of employers and workers — as people become increasingly desperate for opportunities. We close our eyes to these changes, since seeing the 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old would upset the even tenor of our lives.
“To get the man’s soul and give nothing in return -– that is what really gladdens Satan’s heart.”
— C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)
- Cheerleaders mistreated for profit
- Internships: opportunities for the affluent
- Entry level positions for lawyers
- For More Information
(1) Cheerleaders mistreated for profit
Cheerleaders for professional sports teams pay much of their own expenses, work long hours, and earn a pittance — all in the service of fabulously profitable sports businesses.
“The Cheerleaders Rise Up: NFL cheerleaders are putting down their pom-poms and demanding a better deal“, Amanda Hess, Slate, 23 April 2014 — Excerpt:
In 2014, the cheerleaders revolted.
This January, rookie NFL cheerleader Lacy T. kicked things off when she filed a class action lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, alleging that the team fails to pay its Raiderettes minimum wage, withholds their pay until the end of the season, imposes illegal fines for minor infractions (like gaining 5 pounds), and forces cheerleaders to pay their own business expenses (everything from false eyelashes to monthly salon visits).
Within a month, Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Alexa Brenneman had filed a similar suit against her team, claiming that the Ben-Gals are paid just $2.85 an hour for their work on the sidelines.
And Tuesday, five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders filed suit against their own team, alleging that the Buffalo Jills were required to perform unpaid work for the team for about 20 hours a week. Unpaid activities included: submitting to a weekly “jiggle test” (where cheer coaches “scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks”); parading around casinos in bikinis “for the gratification of the predominantly male crowd”; and offering themselves up as prizes at a golf tournament, where they were required to sit on men’s laps on the golf carts, submerge themselves in a dunk tank, and perform backflips for tips (which they did not receive). The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders take home just $105 to $1,800 for an entire season on the job.
… When I reported on the long hours and low pay of the Washington, D.C. football team’s cheerleaders in 2011, nobody seemed too upset about the fact that the cheerleaders made just $75 a game while working for a team that brings in $76 million a year … The contrast between the NFL commissioner’s $44 million annual salary and the Buffalo Jill who brings in just $105 is too rich to ignore …
(2) Internships: opportunities for the affluent
ProPublica is conducting an investigation into the growing employment category of interships: unpaid workers, often without legal protections. They fall into two categories — easily exploited, and gateways for children of the well-connected and affluent to the fast-track. See their articles here.
The number of internships in the United States has ballooned over the past few decades. But oversight and legal protection for interns hasn’t kept up. We’re investigating companies that may be violating labor laws by employing unpaid workers, schools’ role in the issue and how it’s affecting American workers.
Articles about the internship scam:
- “Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships“, New York Times, 5 May 2012
- “The unpaid internship racket“, Timothy Noah, MSNBC, 20 June 2013
For more information see Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy by Ross Perlin (2012):
Millions of young people — and increasingly some not-so-young people — now work as interns. They famously shuttle coffee in a thousand magazine offices, legislative backrooms, and Hollywood studios, but they also deliver aid in Afghanistan, map the human genome, and pick up garbage. Intern Nation is the first exposé of the exploitative world of internships. In this witty, astonishing, and serious investigative work, Ross Perlin profiles fellow interns, talks to academics and professionals about what unleashed this phenomenon, and explains why the intern boom is perverting workplace practices around the world.
(3) Entry level positions for lawyers
Law is the first of the major professions to undergo the transformation of joining New America. Stars get rich, the lower tier barely makes a middle class living — and it offers far less social mobility than in the post-WW2 era. But a characteristic of New America is that no matter how bad the deal given masses, our elites find ways to make it worse. Here’s an example.
Look at the increases in median annual tuition at ABA-accredited schools (in 2011 dollars, per Paul Campos):
- Private: $39,915
- Public: $20,076
After paying all that money (often borrowed) graduates face a tough job market. As seen in the deal offered by this attractive entry-level job, albeit with demanding requirements. They ask much, and give nothing. It’s New America’s introduction to New America.
Perhaps this is an outlier, an employer unusually bold in their willingness to shaft workers. No, it’s not. From the LinkUp Job Search Engine:
For More Information
Posts about our new class system:
- The new American economy: concentrating business power to suit an unequal society, 27 April 2012
- One graph that says much about America, and our future: the growth in jobs vs. food stamp use, 6 February 2013
- Public employee unions – an anvil chained to the Democratic Party, 15 February 2013
- Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 May 2013 — They are smart, organized, and have planned how to win.
- On this Labor Day, let’s remember what unions have done for America, 2 September 201
- Back to the future in New America: our new class structure, 27 November 2013
Posts about about the fake STEM crisis (jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math):
- Do we have a shortage of workers, or just cheap employers? Part one of two., 8 May 2012
- Do we have a shortage of workers, or just cheap employers? Part two of two., 9 May 2012
- The shortage of STEM workers: another bogus crisis crafted to benefit the 1%, 28 February 2014