The week@work – Unemployment, economic mobility, parental leave, a tribute to #55 and anticipating Rio

The week@work included the first debate of the 2016 election season, the release of economic indicators and two American corporations announcing generous parental leave policies. This week also marks one year until those who work in sports will demonstrate their skills at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. And the NFL, in its wisdom, denied a Hall of Fame inductee’s daughter the opportunity to fulfill a father’s wish.

Once again, the week@work was about values: those we hold as a society and those organizations demonstrate not just in policies, but in action.

The June jobs numbers were released by the Labor Department on Thursday. Ben Casselman reported on the numbers behind the numbers in his article for ‘FiveThirtyEight’, ‘Don’t Forget The Workers The Recovery Is Leaving Behind’.

“U.S. employers added 215,000 jobs in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly jobs report on Friday. It was the third straight month of job growth above 200,000, and the 10th in the past year. Revisions to prior months’ data added another 14,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since before the recession.

Although the progress has been impressive, it has not been absolute. The headline unemployment rate is nearing a level most economists consider healthy — policymakers at the Federal Reserve consider a rate of between 5 percent and 5.2 percent “normal” over the long term — but the government’s official definition of unemployment leaves out people who have stopped looking for work or are stuck in part-time jobs. A broader underemployment rate, which includes both groups, stood at 10.4 percent in July, still well above its prerecession level.

It’s worth paying particular attention to a handful of groups that were hard-hit by the recession and continue to struggle in the recovery: African-Americans, young people, the less-educated and the long-term unemployed. The good news: All four groups are seeing some improvement, in some cases rapid improvement. But all of them have a long way to go before their employment could be considered healthy.”

In a related opinion piece, Nicholas Kristof posed the question, ‘U.S.A., Land of Limitations?

“Researchers have repeatedly found that in the United States, there is now less economic mobility than in Canada or much of Europe. A child born in the bottom quintile of incomes in the United States has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top quintile, according to a Pew study.

…more children in America live in poverty now (22 percent at last count) than at the start of the financial crisis in 2008 (18 percent). They grow up not in a “land of opportunity,” but in the kind of socially rigid hierarchies that our ancestors fled, the kind of society in which your outcome is largely determined by your beginning.”

The week@work story with the most press was the decision by Netflix, soon followed by an announcement from Microsoft, to offer extended parental leave.

Vauhini Vara writing in The New Yorker reports on ‘Why Parental Leave Remains a Privilege’.

“There are other reasons for policies like Netflix’s, besides the fight over talented workers. Gerry Ledford, a senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, pointed out that the companies that offer costly benefits, like long paid parental leaves, tend to be financially successful, with money available to spend on H.R. perks. Google and Facebook are highly profitable, and while Netflix is only barely profitable, investors don’t seem to mind; the company’s share price set a new record on the day that Netflix announced its updated parental-leave policy. A third factor—and perhaps the least known—has to do with Silicon Valley’s location in California, where all workers have access to some amount of paid leave for the first six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child; it’s easier for a company to justify generous parental leave when many of their employees were already taking time off anyway.”

This time next year we will all be cheering our respective nations as athletes compete at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. As NBC rolled out their initial commercials in anticipation of hours of broadcast time, two stories offered a preview of the competition.

The first was part of a series of videos produced by GoPro. Beach volleyball competitor and Olympic silver medalist April Ross narrates a four minute video describing her ‘life @work’ on the beach. For young women who aspire to elite competition, April’s perspective is a window on the dedication required to succeed. She shares her pride at winning silver but is motivated to take that “one step up on the podium” in Rio. Her best advice, “Don’t get caught up in other people’s expectations”.

And then there is the young woman who goes to work every day in the water. Katie Ledecky startled all in London in 2012, when she earned gold in the 800 meter freestyle. This week she won five gold medals at the World Championships. The New York Times reported on her achievement, becoming “the first to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition.”

“Ledecky capped off a history-making week on Saturday at Kazan Arena with another milestone. In the 800-meter freestyle, the event that launched Ledecky into the international spotlight at the 2012 London Olympics, she set her 10th world record of the past 24 months with a clocking of 8 minutes 7.39 seconds. The time was 3.61 seconds better than her 13-month-old mark.

Ledecky, 18, slapped the water three times — once for each individual world record she set at these world championships.”

Junior Seau was a football player. On Saturday he was inducted along with seven others into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The New York Times covered the ceremony and the story behind the story.

“In his 20-year N.F.L. career, Junior Seau established himself as one of the game’s greatest linebackers. He committed suicide in 2012 at age 43 and was subsequently found to have had a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated hits to the head. Before his death, Seau told his daughter Sydney that she should speak on his behalf if he made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Hall, citing a five-year-old policy of not letting others give full speeches for deceased inductees, did not allow Sydney to deliver her speech.”

Today, The New York Times printed Sydney’s complete remarks as the full page lead story of the sports section. Her words reflect the sincere love and respect of a daughter for a father and a desire to fulfill his wish. One wonders, one more time, about the disconnect at the NFL between stated and demonstrated values.

“The two words that exemplify my dad the most are “passion” and “love.” Everything he achieved, accomplished or set his mind to was done with both qualities. In every situation — whether it be practice, a game, a family barbecue, an impromptu ukulele song or just a run on the Oceanside Strand — he always gave you all of himself because to him, there was never any other option.”

“Being the first Polynesian and Samoan to make it into the Hall of Fame is such an accomplishment. He is proof that even a young boy from Oceanside can make his dreams a reality. All his success is a direct reflection of the Oceanside community and family that raised him and molded him into the man he became. Although he is the first Polynesian to make it into the Hall, I know he will not be the last.”

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