It's teacher hunting season!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judge Helps Bloomberg Score Big Hit vs. Working Mothers




Sometimes the blockbuster stories come in the summertime, when the subjects of the stories are spared the full exposure that they might get in December.

A federal judge has issued a decision in favor of New York City Mayor's Bloomberg L.P., a decision that is wincing in its harsh language. The language is further disconcerting in that it underlines how much the mayor, the legal system and our economic system (I dare not say society, since I would hope that people would not brazenly hold such sentiments) hold working mothers in contempt. Additionally, the judge supports companies' expectations that workers work far in excess of a forty hour week. (In a strange irony, this sickeningly insensitive judge is a woman.)

Toward the start of Mayor Bloomberg's term, employees of his Bloomberg L.P. charged that he was not in any way accommodating to women employees that needed time to care for their children. One employee charged that Bloomberg said, "Kill it," advising the employee-mother to abort her pregnancy. (For those that wonder about this quote, Google it. I have included a link to a Guardian (UK) 2001 article on the matter., Ed Vulliamy, May 20, 2001, "Is Michael Bloomberg the new Citizen Kane?" An excerpt is tucked below.) Just remind people, this is a privately held company, further indicating that the company's policies stem from the boss.

Judge Loretta A. Presko issued a decision that rejected the women plaintiffs' claim that Bloomberg L.P. discriminated against mothers and mothers-to-be.
Some legal decisions go down in the history books as glimmering testimonies to the law working for justice. Others, such as the Dred Scott decision, as noxious and inhumane, a disgrace to the principals of law. Presko's decision and her language fall into the latter category.

As Elissa Gootman in "The New York Times" reported, in "Bloomberg Discrimination-Suit Ruling Renews Work-Life Debate,"
“The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance,’ ” she wrote, in a decision issued on Wednesday.

Sonia Ossorio, executive director of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women properly said,
“She hardly hides her contempt for women with kids who have ambition and want top-paying jobs,” Ms. Ossorio said. “If you read her comments, she says that basically if a workplace culture is work 24/7, then they have a right to have that type of culture.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said,
“It feels like a throwback to the era when women were forced to choose between work and family — an era that I had hoped we had graduated from[.]”

Now to the "kill it" quote, as cited in the UK Guardian:
After her doctor told Sekiko Garrison she was pregnant, in 1995, the top sales executive with a major finance company went to inform her boss of the good news. 'Kill it,' he reportedly said. Ms Garrison, aghast, asked him to repeat himself. 'Kill it,' he repeated.

These words, as readers of New York's press now know only too well, were alleged to be those of Michael Bloomberg - the mogul of the markets whose name is synonymous with Wall Street and who now wants to be the next Mayor of the Big Apple . . . .

Look to the stories in "The Village Voice" in 2001, "Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot: Testimony of Would-Be Mayor Bares Indifference to Harassment, Misinformation on Rape," and in New York magazine in 2009 for further discussion of the context of this quote, and the employee in question. Here is a Village Voice archived link to an excerpt of Bloomberg's 1998 deposition on the matter.

A twisted insistence on a round-the-clock work culture
The idea that people should devote nearly all their waking hours to the job is obscene. Unfortunately, corporate heads are now assuming that this is as things should be.

Jack Welch, a figurehead influential to Bloomberg said, (here quoted from the same Thursday Times posting): “there are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” As the Times noted, Judge Preska echoed these words in her decision, to support her/ the mayor's position: “In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences.”

As a sad reflection of how some women executives have endorsed this kind of thinking, Kathryn Wylde of a "business coalition" of which Bloomberg L.P. is a part, said, “I am among the first generation of ‘liberated’ women professionals who took for granted we would have to sacrifice personal time and family life to achieve our professional goals. Younger women tend to assume ‘equality in the workplace,’ along with the notion that they can and should ‘have it all.’ I don’t think that is possible for men or women, and certainly not in the competitive environment of New York City.”

Who should have it all, dear executive, the corporation or the working person?


Back to our question of who should have it all, should the principals have it all from their employees, or may the latter "have a life"?
The principals, apparently, in the following example expect the former concept:
A new blog, "NYC ATR" has a contribution from a job applicant that was subjected to numerous illegal questions from a potential supervisor (principal) regarding her status as a mother: "The Interview II, in which My Kids Become a Concern
by Life in Limbo, August 19, 2011

Note how a common thread running through the account is the principal's expectation for the teacher to work far beyond an eight-hour day.

The first signs of trouble from the principal:
Her [the principal's] entire demeanor changed as soon as I said, “per-session.” She said, “Now you know in these times that budgets are tight. I heard you say that you would do this per-session, but I am wondering if you would still be as enthusiastic about this if we could not pay you.” I went on to explain that I already do this activity after school and on weekends and that I am paid when I do. I told her that volunteering my time instead of being paid would impact my availability as I would be hesitant to give up a paying gig only to replace it with an unpaid one--this would be the equivalent of taking a pay cut. Her face froze at that point, and the temperature in the a/c-free room dropped by at least 20 degrees.

The principal in the clincher, reflecting thinking that is thoroughly reflective of the employee as wage-slave to the enterprise that Welch/Bloomberg envision:
“As the parent of young children, I have to ask if your parenting responsibilities and child care situation would prevent you from being able to fully devote yourself to doing whatever it takes to move this school forward.”

Bloomberg has his stamp throughout the institution of the Department of Education L.P. Through his Leadership Academy he has groomed principals to expect superhuman performances from teachers. This interview reflects the sexist and inhumane expectations of principals that are in tandem with the mayor's expectations at Bloomberg L.P.

And people wonder why we want unions? Sekiko Garrison, the target of Bloomberg's alleged "Kill it" instructions, is an example of why corporate professionals need to shed their disdain for unions and seek unionization themselves.

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