WASHINGTON — Thursday, April 23rd, President Barack Obama spoke like the grassroots organizer of his Chicago days. Full-disclosure, I attended the OFA Spring Summit, 2015, as an OFA Fellow. I had no idea that Obama’s plan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was getting criticism from some in his own party. But I treat this news with skepticism, not cynicism.
I ask: Are our elected officials knowledgeable about trade, the Pacific Rim, and globalization? What kind of knowledge do they posess? Do our colleges and universities produce enough scholarship on these topics? How do institutions of higher learning characterize scholars in non-traditional disciplines who are interested in the topics of globalization and trade?
Finally, how realistic is it that we, as a nation, can debate global trade initiatives when we have yet to reconcile the atrocities of historic and systemic labor exploitation?
My call-to-action is for wealthy benefactors of worker exploitation under NAFTA to simply acknowledge how they benefited, then act to ensure that workers receive a just and fair return.
Next, workers must have a voice in this new trade deal, the TPP.
Differences of opinion on international trade initiatives are meaningless when there has not been a full public disclosure of the implications of past trade agreements. Finally, workers, collectively, must come to an understanding regarding their role in negotiating their own future.
This week, people who care about the working conditions of the women and men who make our clothes commemorate the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster with grassroots creativity. How? By asking everyone to consider this question: “Who Made My Clothes?”
Over the course of one year, global ethical fashion activists with .orgs have sprung into action by launching digital hashtag campaigns on the topic of poor labor standards in the garment manufacturing industry.
For example, fashionrevolution.org launched a stunning Twitter campaign (#FashRev) with the Who Made My Clothes? theme. Organizers ask that everyone wear their clothes inside out to call attention to poor working conditions. The end goal is greater transparency and improved conditions throughout the garment manufacturing process, from supply chain through distribution.
I would like to see greater attention paid to this cause. For my part, I will do my best to learn as much as I can about new initiatives created by the Obama administration regarding Pacific trade.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently launched a Twitter Q & A about apprenticeship as a means to help people attain jobs. I like that our labor department is taking an active stance when it comes to re-thinking how people obtain jobs. Now, I hope the department will also consider contingent faculty working at colleges and universities as apprentices who could matriculate to full-time status. One main benefit of transitioning contingent, or adjunct faculty to full-time faculty is benefits. A full-time worker usually is guaranteed health benefits and a retirement savings plan. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge benefit, it is not clear that it benefits those who work less-than-half-time, and who are adjuncts. University administrators, faculty, students, and their parents, too, would do well to consider the quality of health care that is available to adjunct professors.
It is not clear to me how universities or colleges factor in the health of their contingent faculty labor pool. I know recently when I needed a doctor, I visited several only to discover that they were not included in my insurance plan. The closest doctor I was able to find who could see me was booked until the Spring, but I needed a doctor right then. If there is a doctor shortage, then I hope colleges and universities produce more doctors and medical personnel, perhaps through apprenticeship systems, at least so that there are more doctors available.
It would be great if every Urgent Care facility, public or private, would accept all forms of insurance. I wonder if those part-time, or less-than-part-time faculty giving it their all in the classroom and outside the classroom worry that their health might be at risk?
Law-makers, education administrators, and pundits could be contributing to a renaissance of caring by improving the quality of life of those who selflessly share knowledge with others. Society needs to prioritize the health of teachers.
On a personal note, preparing for two classes this Winter has been exciting because of the emphasis placed on the themes of the course. At the same time, my own body, with its will to do what it wants, reminds me of the importance of balance. Raw vocal chords, exhausted eyes, are side effects of teaching — and represent a willful commitment to learning and teaching. Reflecting on how my body feels after teaching a challenging class reminds me that health-care coverage is a quality of life issue, and for many, a matter of life and death.
The health care debate is a gendered issue. I wonder whether gender gets enough attention when it comes to healthcare, gender, and contingent labor. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has wonderful statistics on the kinds of work women do and the pay discrepancies by job and gender. I look forward to learning more about labor and the quality of health care that women may access through their employer and through health plans that are designed to get everyone access to care. Now that we have the access, what is the quality of care, and how easy is that care to obtain? For example, is there easily obtainable access to health care at one’s school, one’s job, and/or near where one buys groceries or lives?
We should care enough to ask these questions. Caring is kind and caring for workers, even kinder.
Originally posted on Tutoring Now:
Should President Obama create a college/university rating system? In the past, he has stated that his administration is developing such a plan. This plan to rate colleges and universities could coincide with his executive order to make two years of community college free “for those willing to work for it“.
I think such a proposal seems like a good idea. Many who want to attend college, find it financially challenging. Yet, traditionally, it is thought that by attaining a college degree, one can also increase one’s chances of earning more over one’s life-time.
What remains to be seen is how easily colleges and universities can adapt to such a progressive proposal as two cost-free years of community college.