Today’s News & Commentary—November 20, 2019
Last month, Major League Baseball proposed reducing the number of minor league teams by 25%. NBC Sports reports that these cuts are in response to increasing public pressure to improve pay and conditions for players, who, since last year, have been classified under the Fair Labor Standards Act as seasonal workers not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. By reducing the number of minor league teams and players, the MLB could improve pay for individual players without increasing overall costs. While the MLB wouldn’t lose money, over 1,000 minor league players would lose their jobs, and many baseball fans would lose the ability to watch live games.
The New York Times reports on a worker revolt at Rev.com, a company that pays contractors to transcribe audio files uploaded by its customers. Earlier this month, the company cut the amount it paid its transcribers by a third. Li Zilles, a Rev transcriber in Seattle who already qualified for food stamps under the previous pay rate, posted on Twitter that the new pay rate would bring the average transcriber’s wage to $4.50 per hour. Their (Zilles is gender nonbinary) post prompted an outpouring of support from fellow transcribers, and from users of the company, including journalists willing to spread word of the wage cut. New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb has announced that he will no longer use Rev to transcribe his interviews, and a spokeswoman for the Times has said that the paper is “currently reviewing our use of the vendor.” While other gig workers have organized (see Deanna’s post on the recent strike by Instacart couriers), the Rev protest is a rare instance of organizing by cloudworkers, who lack the visibility and physical presence of couriers and rideshare drivers, and have found it difficult to connect and organize.
Older employees, according to the Wall Street Journal, are increasingly hiding their age in fear that they will be discriminated against by their superiors and colleagues. A recent study by the Urban Institute confirms that fear, finding that 56% of U.S. workers 50 or older are pushed out of jobs before they plan to retire, and that only one in 10 who find new work earn as much as they did before being pushed out. Ruth Finkelstein, director of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, describes older employees as being “in the closet today in much the same way gay employees used to be.” That secrecy, according to Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard who studies aging, takes a psychological toll on older workers, and can cause them to lose confidence and withdraw, which, in turn, can result in their being overlooked and excluded by bosses and co-workers. As the workforce grows older—employees in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are the only age group whose labor-force participation rates are growing—that may change. In the meantime, supporters of older workers are calling for a campaign to raise consciousness about age in the workplace.