Thursday, November 18, 2004

Questions, Granny @ Work

  1. Both Riggs and her informants emphasize heavily personal factors that create difficulty in the labor market—training, workplace changes outstripping competencies, outlook, etc. Even "ageism," when cited, is assumed to be a personal onus on the part of young managers. How can we inject structural factors (the cost of pensions and health care being two obvious ones) into this discourse?

  2. Was there a point to the movie chapter other than "Hollywood stereotypes old people"? (Yeah, them and everybody else besides.) I seem not to have gotten it, if there's a point there to get.

  3. A lot of the attitudes toward job-searching and workplaces that Riggs recounts don't seem to me to be specific to elders; I know plenty of people who externalize job difficulties and shove technical work off on others, for instance. How many of Riggs's findings are really specific to the aging population, as opposed to the job market as a whole?

And a bonus question, because my second one was pretty lame: How many of Riggs's findings are due to generational cohort effects rather than effects of aging per se? Do we expect the X and Y Generations to age the same way the Boomers are doing?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

granny @ work questions

1. Although Riggs mentions the digital divide and the importance of continued training for older workers, I never quite got a handle on what kind of baseline she was using to define technology competency - sometimes it seemed as simple as the ability to use the Internet, sometimes it seemed to require a more complex set of skills. What defines technology competency, skill, or a closing of the digital divide?

2. Something I hear fairly often from people in graduate programs (either leading to jobs in academia or librarianship) are optimistic opinions about the future of the job market, since many Matures and Boomers will be retiring in the next five to ten years. According to Riggs' research, it sounds like this is a myth. Additionally, because of downsizing and budget cuts, some vacant positions are either not being filled or are being restructured to involve reduced hours and benefits. What are some ways that organizations in general, and universities and libraries in particular, can balance the interests of older workers who have invested loyalty, time, and creativity with an organization and younger workers, who want to get their foot in the door and begin their careers? Is there enough work to go around?

3. Through the reflections of older individuals who have enrolled in continuing education technology programs and classes, Riggs shows the benefits of this kind of learning. What are the limitations? What is the optimal setting and curriculum for information literacy and technology training?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Questioning Unity

1. Where might Benner and Lucore place teachers' unions in all of this? Drawing from Dorothea's comments, I wonder if this field is too feminized to merit consideration.

2. I suspect that we could all curse Wal-Mart and like entities all day. My question is, at what growth point does a company become a target for unionization? Is it always necessary? Do employers have a right to control the work conditions within their own company (and set wages, etc.)?

3. In his brief list of professional associations, Benner left out the ALA (est. at the same time as the AMA). How do librarians fit into this idea of professional associations and guilds? Is the association path the best one? Might a guild be more useful? What does your association do for you?!?


1. Could unions and/or guilds be more effective organizing around changing federal legislation rather than organizing workers?

2. When Brenner discusses guilds and union history, in relation to the technology sector, he seems to imply that individuals are becoming increasingly responsible for self-promotion and justification of their importance in the workplace. Is this unique to the technology sector and why?

3. How can the rights of low-waged workers be established when consumers are unwilling to sacrifice individual access to low priced products, even when it means supporting corporations like Wal-Mart, also the largest private employer in America?

for 15 November

1. Benner talks about the history of professional associations and how "high-status" professions like medicine have been able to organize to maintain status by limiting "the supply of skills and knowledge." Evelyn Geller has identified librarianship as a "semi-profession," while Benner recognizes IT workers as semi-professional in that their expertise gives them an advantage in the labor market but not quite the skills monopoly enjoyed by physicians. Do librarians have a skills or knowledge advantage in the labor market, and if so, how can they translate that into greater employability, and by extension, more control in the workplace?

2. What do we know or think we know collectively about the history of the Teamsters' Union, and how does that play into a reading of Lucore's article? (The changing image of the Teamsters is key to Geoghegan's (corrected spelling) book "Which side are you on?" which I will try to bring to class.) Does that history and/or image deter workers hovering on the margins of professionalism from even thinking of forming or joining unions?

3. a. Tax "reform" strategist Grover Norquist recently said that the New Deal alliance of Washington bureaucrats and "union bosses" will never again be in charge, after the Bush reelection. Combine that perception of the nature of "Big Labor" power with the missionary zeal of the Wal-Mart anti-union crusade, which seems to be tinged with more fervor than mere loyalty to the fortunes of the Walton family: how did Labor, which has at its core a class-based agenda for social justice, even in the old anti-socialist AFL, get labelled as the number one enemy, even though all workers including management have benefitted from reforms it has advocated?

b. Do pre-capitalist attitudes about work condition our collective perception of class in the US? Consider the concept of "economic rights" as opposed to that of the "ownership society."