For my white paper, I plan to focus on poverty in America with a specific lens on the working poor. Through examining statistics about the working poor and poverty in America in general, I hope to get a better understanding of what causes poverty. I want to examine the socioeconomic, demographic, and educational components that together are consistent among individuals who comprise the working poor. While I don’t necessarily expect to fully explain what causes poverty, I hope to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of factors which come into play.
This week we were asked to take a trip to the library to identify sources which would help us in our research for the White Paper. I found a book that was particular helpful with regards to my focus on the working poor. Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder by Jody Heymann is a book which discusses the stories of businesses which have taken and alternative approach to business and employee treatment. Heymann examines twelve companies from nine countries with workforces which range from as small as 27 to over 100,000. These businesses are very different from one another and serve a diverse range of customers. Despite the significant differences between the businesses, each company has proven to do well financially, successfully implement a strategy that places emphasis on high quality working conditions for low-level employees, and has developed a wide range of other employee centered policies which have made them desirable places to work. Their financial successes have balanced the needs of various parties including owners, shareholders, and all employees of the firm. Some of the firms included are Costco, American Apparel, and Xerox.
Heymann thoroughly examines each example and makes the clear argument that it is beneficial for companies to invest in all employees at all levels. She also draws clear links to data to prove that this practice can be profitable for the companies, despite the investment. She utilizes specific references to prove that the rewards gained from the additional workforce investment outweigh the costs. The section of the book which I read discussed the companies of American Apparel and Jenkins Brick. In this chapter, the values of incentive policies and appealing salary scales were noted. The explicit link between these types of policies and increases in employee motivation and productivity are made. Furthermore, the heightened lower-level salaries results in recruitment of the most dependable employees. This section of the book also described the case studies of Autoliv Australia and Isola. In these examples, policies involving flexible scheduling of time off and extended leave created a greater sense of loyalty amongst employees along with increased job satisfaction. Both companies determined that more generous policies surrounding sick leave and time to care for family was very important to their respective staffs. After the policies were implemented, the companies experienced lower turnover rates, fewer missed days of work, lower costs, and wrongful use of sick days. The conclusion was that such policies lead to greater employee loyalty and connection to the firm.
Now, you might be wondering how this book applies to my topic of poverty amongst the working poor. This topic is largely “Society” focused. In order to bring in “Government” and “Business” into the picture, I need to offer valuable suggestions to policy makers at the federal level in addition to upper level executives in business. This book directly addresses the “Business” piece. It offers effective solutions to companies which will result in more productivity. Meanwhile, the policies mentioned lead to a better quality of life for ALL employees, even those at the “bottom of the ladder.” Many of those individuals comprise the working poor in America. All in all it was a successful trip to the library!
I started to look through the books that were on display in the fiction section near the café seating area and Hit List immediately caught my attention. As I mentioned in my blog post about St. Louis, this book is a part of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series that I like to read. I am an avid fantasy reader and this book series is very interesting to me (especially if I want to visit St. Louis because of it). The Hit List, by Laurell K Hamilton, is the latest book of the series and is the one that I have not read yet. I haven’t read it yet since I like to wait for the books to come out of paperback in order to match my whole collection.
After reading the preview that was provided on the inside cover as well as leafing through a couple of chapters, I got a good understanding of what the novel was going to be about. Basically, the most dangerous and power vampire, the Mother of All Darkness (similar to the idea of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from Harry Potter), is escaping from a deep trance and is looking for a body to possess. She wants to possess someone that is not only a threat to her existence but is also very powerful so naturally she wants Anita Blake’s body. Anita Blake is the main character who is deeply involved in the supernatural world. She is also a necromancer as well as many other things. Anita Blake is called on a police case involving murders that have been occurring by some form of “monster”. She works with the police on many supernatural mysteries since she is a Federal Marshal. She is known to the supernatural world as “The Executioner” and Edward, who also called in on the case, is who known as “Death”. The case as it turns out is a trap by the Harlequin (they serve the Mother of All Darkness) to get close to Anita. Overall, this book is filled with violence, sex and action and looks like another thriller created by Hamilton. I am excited to get the chance to read it once the semester is over and I have some free time.
Trying to relate Hit List to something that we discussed in class was very difficult. However, in my attempt to make some kind of connection I made a really big stretch and related it to Walzer’s complex equality. If you view the Mother of All Darkness as a company and the other people as social goods, then the Mother of All Darkness would dominate. She is attempting to control and exploit the social goods in a way that would create a monopoly. This would not create equality according to Walzer as he argues that there should be a reduction of dominance. Therefore, he would not approve of the Mother of All Darkness’s actions.
I know this is a mighty big stretch but it was the only thing that I could really think of to relate the Hit List to something we discussed in class. On another note, I encourage anyone that is interested in starting this addicting series. My boyfriend started reading them this winter and can’t seem to put them down!
Onslaught of Green
Consumers are finding it more and more challenging to differentiate goods and services that are advertised as environmentally friendly. According to a 2010 study by TerraChoice, an independent testing and certification organization, there are 73% more green products on the market today than in 2009.1They also revealed that roughly 95% of green products are being greenwashed to some degree (based on their seven sins of greenwashing).1 While this study focused on home and family products, the purchasing power of greenwashing is evident across many industries. Greenwashing can be defined as the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.2 Additionally, Wikipedia defines green washing as a term describing the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote the perception that an organization’s policies or products are environmentally friendly.3,4 While most organizations do not outright greenwash, any exaggerated behavior is inappropriate: greenwashing is “an extremely serious matter…it is insidious, eroding consumer trust, contaminating the credibility of all sustainability-related marketing and hence inhibiting progress toward a sustainable economy,” stated in a report by Ogilvy & Mather, a huge advertising firm.5 The Federal Trade Commission does provide guidelines for environmental marketing claims, but these are not enforceable.6,7 It has been the responsibility of corporations to not jump on the green public image bandwagon, spend resources on environmentally sound practices, and inform the public about the truthful environmental impacts of buying and using their products.
A helpful document for corporations is Ogilvy’s guide on brand management: “From Greenwash to Great: A Practical Guide to Great Green Marketing (without the Greenwash).” The guide presents a framework that speaks to an honest green story starting from inside the company, not from a marketing idea that is created and spun for consumers.8 A company that has started in an honest place is Levi Strauss & Co. The company was founded in San Francisco, California in 1853 and created the very first pair of blue jeans in 1873.9 The Levi’s brand has become one of the most widely recognized brands, positioned as the original and authentic jeans brand. It’s merchandising and marketing seeks to reflect the brand’s core attributes: original, definitive, honest, confident, and youthful. It is obvious the company is proud of its history and heritage: “People have worn our products during the seminal moments of social change over the past 150 years.”10 The company has a long lineage of corporate social responsibility: shorter work weeks were implemented to mitigate the massive lay-offs happening during the Great Depression; factories were racially integrated prior to the Civil Rights Act; was one of the first companies to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as remaining committed to the pandemic; established a set of Global Sourcing and Operating Guidelines; and joined the Federal Labor Association (FLA) efforts to improve working conditions around the globe.11,12,13 According to Ogilvy’s brand management guide, environmental improvements and benefits need to be measurable, verified and significant to the product’s real footprint.14 Beyond their corporate social responsibility, Levi’s is considered a pioneer in sustainability, making efforts to minimize their environmental footprint in all levels of their operations. Continue reading
Social media and social networking sites are becoming more and more popular in today’s world as a means of communication and marketing. The most used social media site that has emerged is Facebook which is used by all groups of society. Approximately 45% of employers (who the exact employers are is inaccessible due to confidentiality issues) are using Facebook as a means for screening potential job applicants (Rosen). Employers have recently started asking candidates for their username and passwords as part of the job hiring process (Castillo). If candidates say no, they are immediately eliminated from the job pool which is detrimental in a time when unemployment rates are relatively high. The process of employers viewing candidate’s profiles and now even requesting their user name and password has brought up ethical and legal questions concerning privacy rights. While employers “believe they have the right to obtain as much information as possible about applicants” by using social networking sites, many others feel it is an invasion of privacy (Byrnside, 458). The legality of the issue is being explored in the courts but the ethics of the employer is still in question. By utilizing Robert Nozick’s Entitlement Theory to understand the ethical issues that stem from this dilemma, I feel as though the employers are not entitled to access candidate’s Facebook profiles. Continue reading
For the second paper in our class, I will be focusing on the ethics surrounding false advertising. This issue is concerned with the rights of others compared to the rights of freedom of speech. In deciding how to go about pursuing such a topic, I thought it would be valuable to perform a cited reference search on Robert Nozick’s Entitlement Theory essay. This article discusses justice and inequality based on entitlement, thus I thought there may be some intriguing essays that reference his work using an entitlement perspective to discuss the ethics of advertising.
I utilized Google Scholar to perform a cited reference search on Nozick’s essay and over 10,000 articles were found. Performing a search within these results for “false advertising,” I discovered 18 articles that cited Nozick’s Entitlement Theory and discussed false advertising. Immediately, I found one article titled “Advertisements, stereotypes, and freedom of expression” that appeared to be exactly what I would want for my topic. Unfortunately, this article could not be obtained with Bucknell’s privileges, so I went back to the results and found another article entitled “The Value of Rights” that also focused on my aforementioned topic. Continue reading
Last week during Spring Break 2012, I was lucky to visit the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. I am working on an interdisciplinary project with a group of Mechanical Engineers to help bring affordable eye care to rural regions of developing countries. Essentially, our goal is to establish a sustainable business in Guatemala (our first stop) that can provide affordable eye care to those who currently can’t afford the high prices. Our business would not conduct surgery but rather focus on diagnostics and prescriptions. Our colleagues in Mechanical Engineering are helping to provide the tools necessary to make diagnoses at an affordable price.
After visiting Lake Atitlan, I was struck by the strong indigenous culture and physical beauty of the region. Lake Atitlan has become one of Guatemala’s top tourist destinations. It is located in the department of Solola in the Guatemalan highlands. The lake is immediately surrounded by volcanoes and mountains which makes travel to the lake a bit more challenging. The three volcanoes which circle the lake are San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan. The lake itself was formed about 85,000 years ago as a result of a huge volcanic eruption which created a depression in the landscape. That depression filled with water and became the freshwater lake that we know today. There are several villages that border the lake. I was able to stop in five of them during my stay: San Pedro, Santiago, Panajachel, Solola, and San Juan. Panajachel is the most touristy of the lake villages and has about 14,000 residents. Despite the commercialization, Mayan culture and traditions remain a strong influence in the other towns around the lake.
I want to revisit Guatemala because I feel that I have a lot more to learn. More time in the Lake Atitlan region would be beneficial; however, there is a lot more to see. Cities like Antigua would add to my understanding of the culture. In addition, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see any Mayan ruins. Cities with the ruins, Tikal and Yaxha, are on the other side of the country. Also, our team only spent one day in Guatemala City, visiting hospitals and universities. Additional time in the capital to visit with politicians, lawyers, and micro-finance initiatives would be incredible.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching trashy, reality TV. One of my favorite shows is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo. Over winter break I got to catch up on the season and even got my dad into it! The show’s cast involves elite housewives in Beverly Hills who are in the same circle of friends. They all have very strong personalities and therefore there is a lot of drama that occurs on the show. The six major housewives include Taylor Armstrong, Lisa Vanderpump, Kyle Richards, Kim Richards, Camille Grammer, and Adrienne Maloof as well as one of their common “friends” Brandi Glanville.
In the episode, Uninvited of season 2, a lot of drama unfolded at Kyle’s annual White Party. The party is held at Kyle’s house and includes all white decor and the guests have a dress code of white. All of the housewives were invited but of course there was bound to be an issue between at least two of the housewives. Camille, who was already at the party, didn’t feel comfortable with Taylor’s husband, Russell, coming to the party. Camille had repeated some of things that Taylor had told her about her abusive relationship with Russell. Continue reading
I am supremely interested in the manner psychology affects the way that we construe situations and events. In this realm, my primary area of interest is social psychology, a part of psychology that causes more problems in the business-world than solutions. Social psychology focuses on the psychological impacts that a group has on one individual. Within this domain, there are many phenomena that contribute to the material that we cover, but I will focus on a couple core theories that directly relate to our cases thus far. These phenomena are obedience, groupthink, and deindividuation.
A psychological concept that is relevant to Enron’s demise is obedience. Obedience is represented by one’s willingness to disobey his or her personal values when in the presence of an authority figure asking him or her to do so. Such a phenomenon occurs even when there will be no repercussion to the individual if he or she does not comply with the authority’s demands. Stanley Milgram portrayed this concept in action by performing a study in which a subject was asked to shock a confederate of the experiment whenever this confederate answered a question incorrectly. The machine that the subjects used to shock the confederate counted up in 15 volt increments to 450 volts, past where the label above the voltages indicate a “Danger: Severe Shock” sign. As the confederate continuously got answers wrong, the subject was told to punish him incrementally by doling out higher, more dangerous shocks. Despite the labels above the voltage, cries from the confederate, and the subject’s own inhibitions, twenty-six out of forty subjects continued with the experiment until the highest shock was given to the confederate. Such an example shows the extent to which an authority figure controls underlings, regardless of their respective values and beliefs. This experiment is shown below: Continue reading
After reading Bob Sutton’s blog “Work Matters,” I have fully seen the applicability and usage of developing one’s own blog. Sutton utilizes his blog not only to keep an account of his research and insights, but also to utilize readers as a source that Sutton is able to consequently work off of—not much different than our structure. Despite the intrigue in Sutton’s many different posts, I decided to focus on his post, “Taking The Path of Most Resistance: The Virtues,” in which Sutton relates the findings of successful school reforms to everyday success.
Sutton discusses how, in 1993, the Casey foundation discovered that successful school reform is only brought to fruition by taking the path of most resistance. Although this may seem counterintuitive, deciding to take the more difficult path toward lasting change seems to outperform taking the shortcut every time. It has been proven that substantial change cannot be done without difficulty, or else the former status quo is bound to re-establish itself. One can only bring about lasting change by taking a long-term oriented approach, working daily to achieve this end, and overcoming the numerous obstacles that would otherwise prohibit success.
In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on business ethics, many interesting points are raised on how to define, explain, and apply the concept of business ethics. Our class has already spent a considerable amount of time trying to define ethics and how they fit into our society, our government, and our businesses, and I suspect that those discussions were only the tip of the iceberg. So I was not surprised to find the article awash with conflicting definitions and views, which were both fascinating and frustrating to read about. Continue reading
Charles Wright Mills, 1916-1962
C. Wright Mills was born in Texas to a white-collar insurance broker and a housewife. His childhood consisted of moving around a lot within Texas, causing him to grow up with many intimate friendships. After grade school, Mills anticipated an engineering career and enrolled in Texas A&M. One year later he transferred to the University of Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in philosophy, and went on to receive his PhD. Mills became a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and later, one of the most controversial figures in American social science. Continue reading
C. Wright Mills rode a motorcycle. He was a sociologist at Columbia U. Some people may think he does not fit into a management or business class since he was more well known for describing the way the elites in US society wielded power. He did not believe in value-free social science (in contrast to many sociologists of the day and now). A book list is here.
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