Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Part(y)-Time, U.S.A.!

I'm not always the sharpest dart hitting the board when it comes to labor laws. Yesterday, I got it all worked up in my head how I was going to write about how Universal Health Care would improve the quality of education in the U.S. My main point was the false assumption that educational institutions rely heavily on part-time employees because once you make people full-time, you have to give them health insurance.
And that's why it's in an employer's best financial interests to keep a bevy of part-time employees in their Rolodex. In fact, I thought that was true for all businesses. Turns out, that's not true. It may be true in some states, but not in Illinois.

It's hard to find data on this. Go ahead and take a peek at the Departments of Labor for the U.S. and for Illinois. I couldn't find anything that says full-time employees must receive even a minimum of health insurance. All I could find is that what distinguishes a part-timer from a full-timer is entirely up to the employer! You can work 40 hours a week or more and still be considered part-time.

There are a whole bunch of variables on what an employer can or will offer for health insurance and it usually boils down to what they are willing to pay to keep you happy. That's why a lot of people are willing to leave jobs they love for suckier jobs with better health plans. Usually, employers begrudgingly offer health insurance if it helps them keep their employees from jumping ship or trying to unionize.

I think I still have a case for my theory, but I've never had such a tough time gathering information on-line. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

I have two part-time jobs as a teacher - one at a private institution and one that has to follow state regulations on education - and it kind of pisses me off.
I love both my jobs. Absolutely head-over-heels in love with them. I want to marry them in a more-than-one-wife Mormon kind of way. I tout their benefits to anyone and everyone. I'm proud of the work I do. I feel like I make a difference at these jobs, but I can't survive on their income - my girlfriend will attest to that! I'm fine when both are in swing at the same time, but that's the problem with part-time jobs. I only get paid when I work. No vacation days, no sick days, no health insurance, no 401k. And, in my case, no guarantee on the number of classes.

Now, at one of the places, to be fair, there is a union for part-time employees. It ensures us decent wage increases and a few other perks, like a sick day or two, tuition remission, and a 10% discount at Target (on-line only)and $2 off at The Hair Cuttery, but that's about it.

A class can be cancelled at the last minute at either place and the income I planned on for the next few months is gone. Poof! At both places, 80-90% of the faculty is made up of part-time teachers. At one of the places, it looks like they are about to hire more teachers. They take on five to ten new teachers every year anyway as part of a training program, so this is even on top of that.

And this got me thinking... why?

Why not have fewer people work full-time and keep the quality of the education - or whatever the product is - high? Surely, it's easier to ensure the quality if there's only a dozen people on the same page than trying to get sixty or more keeping the bar high. And won't that dozen be happier making a living at what they love more than anything?

Maybe business is that good? Are we going to be overloading our classrooms and going to have to start teaching in the park?

Nope. That's not it. Must be another reason.

I know, it's still about saving money!!!

I can think of two reasons to load up on part-timers in any business.

1) New hires work at a lower wage. More experienced teachers making more per hour end up working less.

2) If a smaller group of people are working more hours - enough to build a decent living on - then guess what? The bastards are going to want more! They'll want superfluous things like health insurance, weekly salaries and vacation days. And they will have more leverage to get it because they're the only ones we've got! Did I hear someone whisper "union"? Yikes! Fire them all! Call Manpower! See if they have any improv teachers!

It's not just where I work. This is happening all over. It's been happening in the restaurant industry since the first burger got flipped (read Fast Food Nation). It all boils down to how much you care about what you are selling. If you care little and people are still buying it, nothing's going to change. If you care, then it's time to invest in people. Nurture the ones you have and watch the quality grow.

Universal Health Care would help education and all employers because it would take off the pressure and expense to deliver something that should be our human right.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Kim Jong-Il's favorite magician injured herself while performing which stunt?"

33% answered The Sharp Blades of Destiny Illusion.

55% answered The Spinning Rabbits of Fire and Self-Reliance Illusion, but I think that was more an expressed desire to see spinning bunnies ablaze.

Everyone wisely avoided The Spoiled Child with Nuclear Weapons Illusion.

The correct answer is The Spike Illusion in the Face of Death.

According to the AFP, Japanese magician Princess Tenko, who often performs for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il at his request,
was supposed to escape from a box on the moment it was spiked with 10 fake swords, but instead they trapped her inside. She broke her right cheek and a few ribs.

In an interview earlier this year, Tenko said she spoke about entertainment with Kim, whose regime has tense relations with Japan.

"He seemed to have thought I was American and he praised me for my success in the US despite being Japanese," Tenko said.

Here she is floating, blissfully thinking about Kim Jong-Il.