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Football and Family

4:18 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

I’m a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, but I have to hand it to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who was determined to be with his wife when she delivered their fourth child, even if it meant missing Sunday’s game against the Texans.

Tillman told the press on Wednesday, “At the end of the day, (family is) all you have. This game is important to me, but after what we went through with my middle child, to me football will always be second or third in my life. That was a great lesson learned to teach me that when I’m done playing football my family will still always be there for me.”  The player’s second child was born with a serious heart condition.

Some fans were outraged. But Tilman’s coach and teammates were fully supportive.

“It’s family first,” Bears Coach Lovie Smith said to The Chicago Sun Times. “If there is something you feel like you need to do for your family always do that. How we look at it is like an injury. If a player can’t go, it’s next guy up. We’ll keep going.”

Interestingly, several sports commentators echoed this sentiment. Rodney Harrison, now one of the hosts on Football Night in America, described a similar position he took when he played for the New England Patriots.  Asked what his coach, Bill Belichick had to say, Harrison replied, “Belichick didn’t say anything. Had he said anything, I would’ve said I don’t care how important the game is. Even if it’s the Super Bowl, I’m going to be there when my baby is born. It was understood. I was going to be there for my kids.”

Co-host Tony Dungy, former coach for the Indianapolis Colts, agreed. “My policy was, ‘always be with your wife. Your wife is much more important than any football game.’”

Chicago lost Sunday’s game, even with Tillman playing. The baby thoughtfully decided to wait until Monday to be born – a fact Tillman tweeted earlier in the week:  “@mikeandmike god, family, football… Baby is coming Monday don’t worry I’ll be there Sunday.”

But the NFL and the country gained from this discussion and the strong stand of these athletes.

Fighting Gender Inequality in the Restaurant Industry

3:42 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

Name a country where large numbers of women legally earn less than minimum wage and have to drag themselves to work sick or risk losing their job.

To all the places that come to mind, add the United States of America.

The workers in question are employed in one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in our economy: the restaurant industry.  And while revenues have been increasing even during the economic downturn, now amounting to $635 billion a year, the federal minimum wage for servers is $2.13 an hour and 90 percent of employees have no paid sick time.  More than 7 in 10 of the workers affected are female.

The problems for women in these jobs are being highlighted in a report released today, 2/13 – a date that matches the industry’s artificially low minimum wage. “Tipped Over the Edge” was prepared by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, a smart and strategic group started ten years ago among Windows on the World employees who were not working when the World Trade Centers collapsed to improve the rights and livelihoods of restaurant workers in New York and across the country. ROC partnered on the release with a dozen groups, including Family Values @ Work.

Many people think of tipped workers walking out the door each night with pockets filled with cash. In reality, servers — the largest group among all tipped workers — experience almost three times the poverty rate of the workforce as a whole, according to the ROC report. Like child care workers who can’t afford child care and health care workers who are uninsured, our nation has large numbers of servers who have trouble putting food on the table – nearly twice as many rely on food stamps as the rate of the general population.

As the report points out, the restaurant industry is one of the only sectors in which predominately male positions have a different minimum wage than predominately female position: “In many sectors, lower wages for women are often a product of discriminatory employer practices but in the restaurant industry, lower wages for women are also set by law.”  The law in question is the tipped minimum wage.

National Restaurant Association Takes Credit for Inequality

How did this happen? Lobbyists for the National Restaurant Association – the same folks who are pouring money into attempts to defeat paid sick days initiatives – worked behind the scenes to convince the House Committee on Education and Workforce to exclude tipped workers from the bill increasing the minimum wage. We know this because the NRA bragged about it in their trade publication, which reported that “at the behest of the NRA,” the committee gave “industry trade groups much of what they wanted.” Read the rest of this entry →

Contagion: Not Just a Movie

12:59 pm in Uncategorized by EllenBravo

What’s most frightening about the movie Contagion is that it’s NOT science fiction.

Flu epidemics are real, and they can spread quickly – especially in the United States, where 44 million people without paid sick days are forced to choose between their financial security and their health when they get sick.  During the recent H1N1 outbreak, seven million people caught the flu from their co-workers who came to their jobs when they were ill.

Who are the people who work sick?

They’re workers like Tasha, a grocery store cashier and single mom in Seattle, whose upper respiratory infection lasted three weeks because she couldn’t stay home to recover. “I cannot afford to lose a day’s pay,” Tasha says. “So if I have to choose between going to work sick and having money to keep the lights on and food in my fridge, then I have to go to work sick.”

Or Terry, a school bus driver in Massachusetts, who has no choice but to drive that bus if she’s sick.  When her son, who has a chronic, life-threatening illness, stays home from school, Terry cannot afford to be there to care for him either.

Tasha and Terry are among the five workers depicted in the web short, Contagion: Not Just a Movie. All of them have had to work sick. All are active in the fight for paid sick days.

Read the rest of this entry →