Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who watches out for you?

Life is an uphill climb. Sometimes the path is well traveled, easy to follow. and most people have friends and relatives who have dropped hints and tips on how and what to do on such path.

Once you retire, once you drop out  of the rat race, you also drop out of the circle of friends who watched out for your interests.  Your colleagues knew what you did, what everyone did, how work progressed with your help, how everyone leaned on each other to be safe and to be productive.  You probably had a union that spoke to your bosses on behalf of all people working in that field.

You all looked out for each other.  Engineers, scientists, professors and longshoremen are all represented by a union board, people who study work conditions and protect the safety and the interests of the workers. 

If you are as old as I am, you probably started to work at a place that had no union.

I remember my first job, a teacher at a Catholic school staffed mostly by nuns, and very few lay folks like me.  We, the lay folks were known to be temporary. We would get married in a year of two, so everyone assumed, and then our husbands would watch out for us. 

No need to worry our pretty heads.

Women, especially, were seen as temporary workers, waiting to become mothers in residence.
If we complained, we were fired on the spot.  If we received unwanted attention for any reason the management deemed improper, we were fired.  If we remained quiet and submissive, we continued to work and be tolerated.

I remember well when the first union was formed in Los Angeles Unified School District. The District refused to negotiate and allow unions. We didn't want to strike. We needed our jobs.  Many older women didn't want to join the union. Too rowdy and rough, unprofessional, they thought.  If you do a good job, they kept saying, you will get a raise.

Women, especially, have found themselves discriminated, and held back.
Women should be worried if unions and legal contracts are exterminated.
Equal pay for equal work is still being discussed today.

There is a great deal of financial instability in our land at this time. And this time, we are thrashing the wrong people, the ones who had nothing to do with our instability.  We should be looking at the big corporations who have enjoyed a great deal of tax cuts and who have supported the election of people who will continue to fire at the foot soldiers, the workers in the field, those folks who have worked by the rule of law, who have not shared in the great wealth these corporations have set aside.


Ask yourself, who is watching out for you, the worker, the retiree, the senior who is on fixed income, on a pension that took a lifetime to earn?


NormalToEatPB said...

Isn't it amazing that even today women must stand up for themselves at work - I've been smacked on the butt, kissed and groped without provocation - and now, on the news, the biggestf lawsuit ever against wallmart due to discrimination against women. :(

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

So true, Rosaria! I remember the bad old days when I started working: the want ads that said "Help Wanted - Men" and "Help Wanted - Women" and all of the women's jobs were things like "Gal Friday." Women at the publishing company where I worked made only a fraction of what the men did, even though we had the same responsibilities. And I remember that the HR director would ask each new hire "What form of birth control do you use?" That was to ensure that you would be working at least a year before getting pregnant. I was shocked at the question, stammering that I was a virgin, not married, didn't even have a boyfriend at that point. Those of us just retired did, indeed, have some tough years. I worked full-time for 42 years and, the last 2 years, worked two part-time jobs in addition to my full-time job. I am aghast that lawmakers are going after hard-working teachers, firemen, etc. trying to take away their pensions to solve deficits or that congressmen are even thinking about making cuts to Social Security or Medicare after all these years we paid into the system!

JeannetteLS said...

I got my first "real" job in September, 1970. Two months into the job I found out I had been hired at $1500 less than the man who'd been hired a couple of months before I was. He was a Sociology major and was 22. I was an English major and 22. I was a writer and had art experience. He had neither. We were in charge of communications of various departments in a national insurance company. I was furious and when I went to my boss I was told, "You signed for it. And, besides, look at you. You'll be married and having kids. He's a man." When I went to personnel, they said there really was nothing I could do. And a couple of years ago, I did not get a job that was STRICTLY writing because they felt that I could not be on the job enough because of my disability. I pointed out that I had written for Stanford for TEN years from my home in CT, and this job was only ten miles from home. They hemmed and hawed. They had taken recommendations from me for sources of support and succeeded in GETTING support, but I still did not get the job. I found out it was given to a woman half my age, who'd had two years experience in a small nonprofit. Off the record? I'd been using my cane and had my hand in a sling for my interview and it made them nervous.

It took me 19 months to get disability. I have a friend in NJ who cannot even GET ANY insurance. Those of us who have struggled to find ways to take care of ourselves and pay our bills and taxes--I never even really MINDED paying taxes. It's the price of democracy and services.But now? I am terrified for my future and the futures of my friends. We are all close to sixty, long since left for younger models by our husbands, and have health issues that make work either impossible or far too exhausting and risky. Sorry. You struck a nerve. If unions are broken, my guess is they will rise with a vengeance within five years. In the meantime, a whole lot of us are going to be POURING through the cracks and there will be precious few to keep us from being killed in the fall. I'm lucky. I have the best friends on the planet--we are family to one another. But others are not so lucky.

Anonymous said...

I just made a comment--and Blogger lost it!

This post hits home. My ex-sister-in-law (my recently deceased brother's ex-wife, both never remarried) is being discriminated against in her social work job in Michigan. But, she just called. She's 62. She's going to retire and move to Harrisonburg to be near me and my daughter, and her oldest daughter. And she'll apply for social security on my brother's record. There are some happy endings some time. But you're right. Women have it rough still. They have to keep fighting!

Grandmother said...

Memories are short. Who remembers discrimination in all its forms and how they were reversed? It's unions that got us weekends and vacations (and no questions about birth control!). Who watches out for us? Employers don't have a great record in that regard.

Brian Miller said...

discrimination in many ways is much more subtle these days, targeting those that feel they have no voice...great rosaria...

Joani said...

U did hit a nerve. I had this happen to me a few times. I was working in the medical records department of a hospital and the head of that department had left and while I did have my accredited record technician certificate, and had applied for the position, another female who was friendly with one of the docs on staff got the position. Suffice istosay, I walked and I walked on that day. Another time was working for Mayo when I couldn't get on the list to transcribe medical records from home while others with less time were getting to go home, one day I walked from that too. Another time, while working for radiation therapy organization, for some reason the head honcho decided she didn't like me and I was on her "list." Consequently, I walked from that one too. I wasn't going to take it and I always found something else and I did learn that if U wanted something, U had to get it when U were going in cuz U would not get it once U got there. Some of these pensions that they R arguing about R just ridiculous. There is a school district in Arizona who will be shutting 2+ schools, firing teachers and etc., while the head person retired one day and will return the next day with a new deal. To me, that is just wrong, WRONG, wrong. There R so many people out there who R qualified for this position who may not have had a job for a year or two and yet here they R giving it to this man who will be double dipping. I know of another lady who is still working and past 65 and is collecting SS, pension from a hospital, and her husband is on SS, collecting from a pension, and recently walked away from his Fed job. Now, tell me where they need the money while there R others out there with kids who do not have enough food to feed them or money to cloth them, take them to the doctor....etc. etc.
Sorry. Hit a nerve.
Have a great day.
I will be quitting my job in December.
Oh, and the friend part....I have a couple of groups of different friends, classmates and previous workmates....but, I'm the youngest of all of these. Where does that leave me? And, I have no choice.

Rob-bear said...

It is so interesting to read, not only your writing, but the comments from others. Yes, things are difficult and getting more so. I have enough gut senses of things in North America that I can see the possibility of real class warfare in the future. When the ordinary people being trashed finally say, "Blood enough, already."

I've always been pretty fortunate that I had the right "goods" in the location in the right time. I've been offered jobs I never wanted, and never took. The fact that I'm male and white-skinned may have something to do with that. But I also worked very hard — certainly harder than I wanted to — to keep my jobs. (A lot of unpaid overtime.)

I've always been a builder of community. I have a few good friends that I see regularly, others that I see or talk to from time to time. We've all "got each others' backs." That's just who we are. I feel deeply and genuinely sorry for those who do not have such community, informal as it is.

Monkey Man said...

That's perspective.

janis said...

bravo Rosaria
very thought provoking and great comments.
As a wife to a UAW International Representative, and as an unemployed displaced worker (as I am called) I think you hit this right on target.

Eva Gallant said...

A very true and thought-provoking post!

Retired English Teacher said...

You hit the nail on the head with this post.

I too remember the days when we only dreamed of equal pay for equal work. I was working for IRS in the mid '60s when I became pregnant with my first child. I lost the job I had been hired for a few months before because I became pregnant. The supervisor said he needed someone for his assistant that he could count on. His exact words were, "You didn't tell me you were going to go and get PG when I interviewed you."

Now, after working for over 40 years as a teacher and administrator, my husband's pension is at risk. I also retired as a teacher, but I didn't put in as many years as he did.

We do need to ask ourselves who is looking out for us.

Robyn said...

A brilliant thought provoking post and in someways not much has changed at all.

funny my word verification is

ds said...

My mother was able to work practically to the day I was born, but several years later (mid-60's), my aunt was asked to leave her job as soon as it was discovered that she was pregnant (yes, she was married). And twenty-plus years after that, I was nudged out of a job for the same reason.
The more things change, the more they remain the same...

Cloudia said...


And your previous one described ME!
After 19 years living on a boat with all the concerns you mentioned, and no room for ball gowns, I am looking to sell this steel boat and move ashore...yep.

friends resonate at a distance...

Aloha to you
from Honolulu!

Comfort Spiral



erin said...

turbulent times. and to think, each decade we've come out of they have been turbulent times. i suppose then we should really acknowledge those rare times of quiet.

makes me realize it is only the few people near me who grant me any kind of net. and i should reach out to them more often. always having to realign myself. perhaps countries need to too.


becky said...

A most thought-provoking post, Rosaria...I know about working for a corporation...while the word was always "teamwork," we all knew it was every man for was shocking to watch the layoffs, see my colleagues go down tier by tier. And to see the big boys watch the bottom line while they treated themselves to big bonuses.

I'm not bitter, though. I had a great time while things were good. When they went bad, I escaped to the world of freelancing :)...working for myself. Or not working at all. My choice.

the walking man said...

If I hadn't started looking out twenty five years ago it would be a much harder row to hoe right now that much I know.

Arkansas Patti said...

Being an old codger, I have felt all the stings from salary to sexual discrimination and like "Normal"-- I have spent a lot of time fending off gropings of men who felt totally entitled to my body. Never had opportunity to belong to a union but managed to benefit from their struggles regardless. We still have a long way to go.
Excellent post.

fiftyodd said...

It's been the same in South AFrica. When I started teaching here, women earned a lot less than men and I couldn't get a permanent post either as a married woman or as a non-south African. This changed later and equality was achieved. However, since 1994, things have gone downhill - all we read in our newspapers is about our corrupt politicians, jobs and contracts for friends and a police force that demands bribes for negligable traffic offences.

Phoenix said...

This post is so right on, Rosaria. Even now, in 2011, women still only earn 75% of what men earn. SO frustrating! And if women aren't at the forefront, looking out for their own rights... we certainly can't expect men to do it.

We are quickly building another Third World Country here in the States - the rich get richer and more powerful, the poor get poorer and less represented. Such inequality topples governments and brings nations to their knees (as we are witnessing in quite a few countries around the world right now.) I pray that the U.S. does not let it come to that with us.

Sightings said...

As a man, my experiences have been different -- sometimes rewarding, but occasionally unfair and even at times humiliating. It was a bumpy ride, and I'm glad I'm now retired.

Anyway, I found it enlightening to read about your experiences. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

If the repubicans have their way, women will once again become second class citizens, with no rights at all. Terrific post, Rosaria.

online memorials said...

Great post, so living. I think you're quite right, life actually is a uphill climb.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

You are so right about the solidarity of the workplace, Rosaria. I so miss that. Even though I'm still working, when you do some here, some there, you don't have that. I miss the everyday gossip, too. Who is looking out for me? That's easy - my dog!

Donna said...

No one watches out for us, Rosaria. You have to watch out for yourself and make smart decisions. Well, as smart as you can with all the outside influences and discriminations.

Rob-bear said...

I was saddened by Donna's post. It show us how far down the road away from community we have come.

The Beatles had it right; "We get by with a little help from our friends."

Maggie May said...

When you give up the last of the work & decide to retire (as my husband has recently done through ill health) it can be very lonely and if YOU can't get to other people, THEY don'y usually come to you.
Sad really. We take so much for granted when we are all hale & hearty.

Women have always had to struggle in the workplace and if they have young children it is a constant battle.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Rob-bear said...

Maggie May, you're right.

What I've found is that meeting people half way often works best. As in meeting in the local coffee shop (or pub). And if I can't walk or drive, my friend will come and pick me up, or my will will drive me.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Rob-bear said...

Perhaps I should end with, "my wife will drive me."

Sounds better.

NitWit1 said...

I graduated in 1960 as a pharmacist in a then-dominated male field. I took verbal abuse from both male and female, like I somehow had inferior knowledge. I should blog about it, but some of it is not fit to print:situations in which I found myself.

Interestingly today, the field is either 50/50 in gender and headed toward the female gender in majority, if not already there.

Monica said...

How true your words are and how sad that women must continue today to fight for our rightful and equal place in society.
Found you from the A-Z Challenge, looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, with maybe a little bit of stress thrown in!! I’m now following you on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog!

Banjo Steve said...

Fine post, for sure (says the retired teacher after almost 40 years of the classroom).

Your paragraph about corporations hit the nail on the head. There is some really canny manipulation of attitudes being done by The Powers That Be (I'm not a conspiracy maven, but some corporate coordinating is surely at work). The war on the middle class is going quite well, with workers badmouthing and blaming fellow workers, while the Big Boys watch from their fine box seats of the American Arena. Argh!