Entries in "politics"

June 11, 2007

let 2008 be the summer when unpaid FMLA ends

I just came across a post I made a little over a year ago, which I rather grandiosely entitled "let this be the century when sexism ends." Similarly, I hope that next summer, the 15th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act, will be the summer when we see the act revised so that all working Americans are protected from job loss if they need to take time off because of temporary health issues, or to care for others with health issues. Why are so few Americans protected by this important act? Read this poignant first-person reporting by Margaret Lowry to learn the basics.

In 2004, California implemented a statewide improved version of the FMLA, which provides partially paid leave for the first six weeks of a medical or family leave of absence from work. The California Family Medical Leave Research Project at UCLA has documented some of the benefits of this expansion of protection, although the scholars are troubled at how few workers are aware of their new rights. The report also documents the high number of workers who needed to take a leave before the new CA law went into effect, and were unable to do so, because of the financial consequences of taking even a short unpaid leave.

In December, the Department of Labor issued a request for comments on the FMLA, and received many responses. The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave presents many arguments in favor of strengthening the law. Some businesses argue that the law is already too broadly applied, and ask the government to support limitations on who can be approved for leave -- see this article in the San Antonio Express-News online.

Sherrod Brown serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. I certainly hope that he has some interns at work on analyzing the comments received at the Department of Labor. It would be wonderful to see a well-reasoned revision to the original 1993 FMLA act introduced in congress in the coming months. Perhaps before its 15th birthday arrives, the act could be given the gift of meaningful power to help all workers who need to take leave for serious health issues or to care for others dealing with serious health issues.

December 30, 2006

where will you be on January 4, 2007?

The president of NOW invites us to witness the swearing-in ceremony for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and lays out an agenda for the next session of Congress. I have not followed NOW for a while, and I'm impressed that the agenda is not narrowly focused on Roe vs. Wade... it really is targetted to better the lives of women in America, in equitable ways.

Will you be watching Pelosi's swearing in? What are your hopes for the next session of Congress?

September 03, 2006

employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?

Equal rights for women have come a long way in the United States, since the Declaration of Independence over 240 years ago. Even in the 86 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution, inequities between men and women have narrowed. No longer are women expected to quit their jobs when they marry, or when they become pregnant. Between 1960 and 1999, the percentage of of working mothers with infants had risen from 27 percent to almost 60 percent. And yet, huge inequities between mothers and other workers, and among women of different backgrounds still exist.

In an effort to draw attention to such inequities, last year WorldWIT initiated the Breastfeeding at Work Week, which highlights actions employers can take to level the playing field for mothers and others in the workforce, and encourage new mothers to continue breastfeeding their infants after they return to work. Since I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, and for supporting working women in equitable ways, I am writing this blog entry as my first effort to honor Breastfeeding at Work Week for 2006.

Perhaps you have read about some of the challenges that mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding face, when they return to work. Recently, Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times about the differences between new mothers in white collar and working class jobs in terms of their access to support for pumping breastmilk at work. Kantor noted that "federal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job", despite the efforts of Congressional Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has repeatedly introduced legislation which would create such a protection.

Why wouldn't Congress want to protect a woman's health after childbirth, and specify that new mothers who return to the workplace must be protected from harrassment? Read on for some historical background, and some predictions for the future.

Continue reading "employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?"

September 01, 2006

food for thought

NB: This blog entry was redistributed with permission in the CoolCleveland eNewsletter, also available online.

Yesterday I attended Convocation, drawn by the promise of ritual and the prospect of hearing Michael Ruhlman, author of Case's Common Reading for this year, speak. He wrote The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection more than 5 years ago, and so I hoped that his speech would go beyond the book into more elaborated thinking about what it takes to become an expert in one's chosen field. He did not disappoint.

He addressed head-on a criticism he has probably heard many times about his writing on cooking: Isn't it frivolous to write about fancy food in a time when there is so much serious stuff happening in world politics? His answer started with this assertion:

"Great cooking, in the end, has such power because it allows us to connect with our past, our future, and all of humanity, if we let it. I believe that America's insatiable appetite for food and cooking know-how is really the beginning of a spiritual quest for the bigger things: a search for meaning, order and beauty in an apparently chaotic and alienating universe."

President Eastwood looked quite comfortable listening to Ruhlman's speech up until that point, but when Ruhlman made his next main point, suggesting that sharing what he learned about master chefs brought into relief how all of America has become a culture of mediocrity, the President started to look a little nervous...

Continue reading "food for thought"

April 29, 2006

tonight, far away...

... children will walk to the center of a city in fear, seeking security amidst war.

Tonight, in downtown Cleveland at the Free Stamp, an estimated 250 people will gather to draw attention to the injustice of a war in Africa and to ask the world's superpower to take an active role in peacemaking.

I will not be able to participate in the Global Night Commute to recognize the Invisible Children of Uganda, at least not by staying the whole night. I cannot bring myself to tell this story to my 5-year-old daughter, and I want to spend the night with her. She would not understand why I want to go camping without her. I hope that someone who reads this message will be inspired to attend in my place.

Here's the story:

An estimated 20,000-50,000 children in Northern Uganda have been abducted and forced into service as child soldiers.

1.7 million people have been forcibly displaced.

Americans tonight will band together to demand that our government do its part to put an end to the longest-running war in Africa, and one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

No child should be forced to hide in the center of a city at night to avoid kidnapping and forced conscription.

I heard about this from one of my former students, who is now living in Taiwan. Around the world, over 50,000 people are signed up to recognize the children of Uganda tonight. If you read about this event in the paper on Sunday, please remember that you heard about it here first... and if you *don't* read about it in the paper on Sunday, ask your editor why not!

March 27, 2006

paid parental leave -- could it happen in Ohio?

So, while I was coping with the spring coughing crud at the end of last week (yes, I will call the doctor today), many who write about work-life issues in the blogosphere were commenting on the paid parental leave movement, which has hopped from California to New Jersey. Rebel Dad argues that we should do what we can to get behind this movement, following the lead of the playground revolution chronicled by Miriam Pescowitz.

How can it be healthy for only 20 percent of US families to be able to welcome a new baby to the family without worrying about who will pay the bills? It just can't. We need to level the playing field, so that every new child gets parents who can spend time bonding without fear of the consequences in their paychecks.

This doesn't have to be a really expensive program. The California program costs an average worker only $46 per year, and probably produces tenfold the savings over the following several years, in terms of decreased rates of child abuse, better child and parental health, etc.

The movement is already afoot in two other places: Massachusetts and Washington state. (I won't even mention the much more generous benefits in Canada, Sweden, etc.)

February 13, 2006

how the media enforces two party politics

So today, the Plain Dealer published its first major story about candidates for Governor and Senate, just about 10 weeks before the primaries. Only, they didn't list all the candidates. Compare with this list.

No, the PeeDee used a headline about "Candidates for Ohio Governor", but then the subheadings include only "Major Republicans" and "Major Democratics" (and is that a typo, or what? don't we usually say Democrats?) Note that Republicans are listed first, and then Democrats, and neither candidate list is in alphabetical order. Bias? What bias?

The effect of excluding other candidates, like Weatherhead emeritus Bill Pierce, the Libertarian candidate, is to reinforce the notion any disaffected citizen might have that there are no realistic alternatives to the two major parties. It is based on the erroneous assumption that newspapers don't influence elections -- they only report on them. But if they report on them in biased ways, then they certainly do influence voters!

So, if you want to get a picture of the whole field of candidates, don't count on the PeeDee. Check out Meet the Bloggers, instead!

February 10, 2006

if a psychiatrist can run a university...

... then perhaps a psychologist can run the state of Ohio. (The psychiatrist to whom I refer of course is Case's own Ed Hundert.)

I will listen to the Meet the Bloggers interviews with the candidates before the primary in May, or at least skim the transcripts, so that I can cast an informed vote... but I do find it amusing that a reporter at the Cinncinnati Enquirer was able to find this angle on analyzing Strickland's declared campaign donations. Kudos to Andrew Welsh-Huggins. I wonder what other interesting patterns might be discovered in the candidates' donor records?

What does it say about me that I found it vaguely reassuring to learn that Ted Strickland has an advanced degree in counseling psychology?

Postscript: If you still don't understand why I'm upset about warrantless wiretapping, here's a really clear explanation of how the NSA is probably eavesdropping on US citizens who have made overseas calls to numbers they suspect are affiliated with terrorists.

January 09, 2006

the need for comprehensive immigration reform

The first half of 90.3 at 9 this morning was focused on the contested deportation of Manuel Bartsch. Cindy Deutchman-Ruiz hosted (I really like how she is shaping up as a radio reporter!) and her guest was David Leopold, Manuel's lawyer.

One caller expressed the point of view that our existing laws need to be enforced, and visitors to the United States who act as if they should be entitled to relocate here permanently are just being uppity. (I know this isn't an accurate paraphrase, but his point of view was so different from my own that it's hard for me to find reasonable words to summarize his view.)

I called in to ask a question about whether any kind of amnesty has been considered for young people with problems in their immigration status who have been in US educational systems for a specific period of time. The response of the lawyer was that Congress has been unwilling to take actions in support of immigration reform in the post-911 climate, and if we want our government representatives to be more bold, we need to write to them and encourage them to support comprehensive immigration reform.

I guess I'll be investigating these issues in more detail and writing to the Ohio Senators and to my Representative, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.

December 15, 2005

the political nuances of headline writing and story placement

I find it interesting that it was an Australian newspaper that lead with the headline 30,000 civilians dead: Bush, while most US papers seem to have used a headline more in keeping with the scripted Presidential message from Bush's speech in Philadelphia; see, for example, the Reuters story, entitled Bush says Iraq democracy turning point in Mideast.

My husband attended a Plain Dealer page 1 meeting earlier this week, and he wrote about all the questions that observing the process raised for him. I'm particularly interested in the judgement calls that are made by newspaper editors about covering political issues. The metro editor rejected the suggestion that an article about the senatorial candidate visiting northeast Ohio this week might merit a page-one placement, with the comment that "at this point the only people who really care about what candidates have to say are the political junkies". He indicated that they don't normally step up the political coverage until about six weeks before a primary or an election.

This bothers me. It strikes me as the same kind of argument that a professor coasting toward retirement might make in favor of giving only multiple-choice exams in introductory level courses. Making choices like that in pedagogy is catering to the bottom end of the class -- avoiding a more challenging exam because it would make it much harder to give all As and Bs.

I believe that newspapers should not be making decisions about which political issues to cover based on which headlines they think will attract two quarters more into their own pockets. The Plain Dealer has a responsibility to get citizens engaged in the political process, which is hard to do if you can't even read about who the candidates for Senator are until mid-March. I suspect that this policy also favors incumbents, who might be assessed as doing something more "newsworthy" as part of their legislative responsibilities and thus get press coverage earlier than the 6-week window which is apparently the PD's practice.

If said editor had pointed out that the PD had published an article about supporters of the senatorial candidate only days beforehand, I would have been much, much more pleased with his reasoning.