Why Are Postal Workers Boycotting Staples?

Why Are Postal Workers Boycotting Staples? (The Nation)

“You might not consider your local post office to be a hotbed of political foment. But last Tuesday, the nation’s window clerks and other mail service staff assembled in Chicago to declare that, despite efforts in Washington to privatize and downsize the Postal Service, nothing would keep these workers from their appointed rounds.

Rallying with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) under the banner of ‘The US Mail is Not For Sale,’ post office workers marched to protest recent moves by the office superstore Staples. The chain is at the center of a highly controversial ‘public-private partnership’ deal to turn its store counters into quasi-post offices. At the APWU convention, the union amped up its call for a nationwide boycott of Staples to oppose plans to pilot the so-called ‘Retail Expansion Plan’ at eighty-two stores in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and potentially expand nationwide.

Following weeks of postal workers’ campaigning, with support from the AFL-CIO and numerous public and private service-worker unions, Staples has apparently pulled back and announced that the expansion plan would be ended and incorporated into the existing ‘Approved Shipper’ program, which more generally allows private retailers to market certain postal products. In an e-mail to The Nation, Staples states the company has ended the pilot for now, but ‘will continue to explore and test products and services that meet our customers’ needs.’

Calling the move a ‘ruse’—merely a name-change to deflect bad publicity—union leaders vowed to keep up the resistance. They remain wary of the potential expansion of the Approved Shipper program, seeing it as part of the USPS administration’s agenda of selling out postal infrastructure and union jobs to the Big Box retail industry.”

This is not just about post offices. This is about public vs. private, about two different ideas of how our government should work. The outcome of this particular battle about our nation’s post offices will be a good indicator of things to come. Fascinating read.

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person.

image courtesy of The Transgender at Work project

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person. (New Republic)

Ben Barres is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Barbara Barres until he was in his forties. For most of his career, he experienced bias, but didn’t give much weight to itseeing incidents as discrete events. (When he solved a tough math problem, for example, a professor said, “You must have had your boyfriend solve it.”) When he became Ben, however, he immediately noticed a difference in his everyday experience: “People who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. He was more carefully listened to and his authority less frequently questioned. He stopped being interrupted in meetings. At one conference, another scientist said, “Ben gave a great seminar todaybut then his work is so much better than his sister’s.” (The scientist didn’t know Ben and Barbara were the same person.) “This is why women are not breaking into academic jobs at any appreciable rate,” he wrote in response to Larry Summers’s famous gaffe implying women were less innately capable at the hard sciences. “Not childcare. Not family responsibilities,” he says. “I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.”

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What happens when the opposite transformation takes placewhen a man becomes a woman? Joan Roughgarden is a biologist at Stanford who lived and worked as Jonathan Roughgarden until her early fifties, and her experience was almost the mirror image of Barres’s. In her words, “men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise.” In an interview, Roughgarden also noted that if she questioned a mathematical idea, people assumed it was because she didn’t understand it. Other transwomen have found changes not only in perceptions of their ability, but also their personality. In Schilt’s work with transwomen for a forthcoming book, she found that behaviors transwomen had as men were now seen as off-putting. What was once “take-charge” was now “aggressive.” And they had to adapt; the transwomen quickly learned that “being the same way in the world would be detrimental to your career.”

Very powerful argument – I’m hopeful there will be more research on this topic. Gender discrimination, like racial discrimination, is such a subtle thing; it’s much harder to recognize in today’s politically correct society. 

Fuel and Food Are Quick, but the Fealty Is Forever [Feb 2013]

Fuel and Food Are Quick, but the Fealty Is Forever [Feb 2013]

“In Pennsylvania, two convenience chains stir tribal loyalties, a commitment as deep as bonds with the Philadelphia Phillies or Pittsburgh Pirates.

Don Longo, the editor of Convenience Store News, said Sheetz and Wawa were among a handful of regional chains in the country that he called ‘best in class.’ They operate convenience stores that update the old formula known as ‘Coke and smokes’ by offering self-serve soda fountains and cappuccino bars, friendly service and, especially, fresh sandwiches ordered on a touch screen.

Sheetz is the slightly smaller chain, with 226 stores in Pennsylvania and a total of 435 in the region. Wawa has 216 in-state stores and 607 over all, as far south as Tampa, Fla., and north to Parsippany, N.J.

There are clear differences. Sheetz has neon colors, pumps loud country music and is overly fond of the alliterative use of its name in products. It sells Sheetz Shweetz, a CinnaShmonster and Shmuffins. Near its corporate headquarters in Altoona, it offers employees a Shwellness Center.

To Sheetz’s country mouse, Wawa is a more suburban creature. Its décor features muted browns and blonds, and a central island of healthy food includes diced mangoes and apple slices.”

This gem of an article was so amusing, I couldn’t help but share. A perfect metaphor for class and culture in the United States.

Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed

Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed

“While Mr. [Vincent] Zandri celebrates Amazon as the best thing to happen to storytellers since the invention of movable type, many other writers are denouncing what they see as its bullying tendencies and an inclination toward monopoly.

From household names to deeply obscure scribblers, authors are inflamed this summer, perhaps more deeply divided than at any point in nearly a half-century. Back then, it was the question of being a hawk or dove on Vietnam. Now it is not a war but an Internet retailer and its unparalleled grip on the cultural machinery that is provoking fierce controversy.

At first, those in the publishing business considered Amazon a cute toy (you could see a book’s exact sales ranking!) and a useful counterweight to Barnes & Noble and Borders, chains willing to throw their weight around. Now Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble is weak and Amazon owns the publishing platform of the digital era.”

Excellent breakdown of the Amazon controversy. Why should you care? Because Stephen Colbert said so. Seriously, though – Amazon is a giant, and we should know who we’re buying cheap e-books from. (Not to mention every other household item; I’ll admit to buying bulk toilet paper, toothpaste & shaving cream, too.)

Interested in learning more? Fresh Air did a great interview with Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store, entitled One-Stop Shop: Jeff Bezos Wants You To Buy ‘Everything’ On Amazon. 

Businesses welcome deaf as university turns 150

Businesses welcome deaf as university turns 150

“When Steve Walker was a student at Gallaudet University in the 1980s, he says, the school for the deaf and hard of hearing was a very different place than it is today. …Students were advised not to venture outside the campus, because most people in the surrounding neighborhood didn’t speak sign language. [They] didn’t feel welcome in the outside community, and struggled to communicate in restaurants where they couldn’t understand the servers. As the school celebrates its 150th anniversary, Walker says that has changed.

These days, the northeast Washington neighborhood around the school, including the upscale Union Market food hall next to the campus and the bars and restaurants of nearby H Street, accommodates the deaf community. Walker works at the school as a sign language interpreter for students who are both blind and deaf. He uses what’s called tactile interpreting, in which a student will hold his hands as he signs to understand him.

Walker says what is happening in the area around Gallaudet is a serious change in cultural sensitivity.”

This is why diversity and multiculturalism are so, so important to good business practices. If you ignore the needs of your client base, soon enough you won’t have any clients.

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of watching the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our men’s team continues to gain respect internationally. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Landon Donovan has achieved. It is commendable. But every time he sits there, silently allowing that phrase to be rattled off — “all-time leading U.S. goal scorer” — without pointing out that he is the all-time leading men’s goal scorer, it does take away from what Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm have achieved — total world domination.

In sports like tennis and gymnastics, where the U.S. women clearly outstrip their male counterparts, no one talks about the men’s statistics without that clarifier. Why is soccer different? Why are almost all other sports different? Why do people consistently claim that Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in college basketball when he is still 115 wins behind Pat Summit, with a significantly lower win percentage (his .763 to her .841)? How hard would it be to simply slip the word “men’s” into the conversation, if nothing else, in the interest of accuracy?

Really great feminist analysis. What I love most about this article is how she ties the coverage of the World Cup to the corporate world, to politics, and to other sporting events. Her writing is very straightforward and easy to understand; the parallels she’s drawing are clear.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

“…Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

This is your must-read article for the week. I don’t care if you don’t read anything else today; read this. Read this, and let it sink in.

Because the pitchforks are coming.

(Seriously. READ IT.)