Devastating Group Dynamics

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For mobbing victims, the huge disappointment is that the choice a bystander is most likely to make is the choice to not get involved and do nothing. From the perspective of the mobbing victim that choice represents betrayal. The mobbing victim is likely to think that coworkers will come to his or her aid and defense. That they usually do not is devastating to the victim, who valued his or her relationships with coworkers and who no longer feels able to trust them. From the perspective of the bystanders, trying to keep their distance is about fear and self-preservation. Bystanders do not want to have happen to them what happened to their mobbed coworker. The fear and avoidance of the social exclusion at the heart of workplace mobbing is deeply ingrained if not primal.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

Poverty Premium: Rent to Own

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In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to low-income borrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.

And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.

“We’ve always talked about the benefits and costs,” she said on the drive home. “Because with a family you can’t just say, ‘I want this, I’m going to get it.’ But growing up having the chair, the recliner, the love seat, the couch and everything, you just get used to the normal stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to break from the normal stuff and get to reality.”

Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa, Washington Post, Chico Harlan, 10/2014.

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Then in the fall of 2001, Motta discovered Rent-A-Center. Situated in mostly poor neighborhoods, this chain’s 2,600 stores offer big-ticket items like furniture and electronics to millions of people with no credit. Hiking up prices and charging exorbitant interest, using a scheme critics have called “pay now, pay later,” the company racks up sales in the billions and is a key player in what one market research firm calls “the poverty market.”

But the story didn’t end there. Monthly bills continued to arrive, late fees stacked up, and “incomplete” payments were rejected. Rent-A-Center employees routinely called her at home, says Motta, and even came by in person to pressure her to pay. After two years, Motta had paid Rent-A-Center almost $2,000. “I was giving and giving and it was never done,” she recalled. “I told them to take their sofa.” The company would not comment on her case.

Darnley Stewart, an attorney who is leading a New York class-action suit against the company, finds this outrageous. “Rent-A-Center explicitly targets poor, largely minority neighborhoods and has no qualms about selling a cheap television for $700 to people who can’t afford it,” she says. Stewart’s suit, which is awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court, alleges that Rent-A-Center engaged in deceptive and fraudulent business practices by misrepresenting the actual costs of its merchandise and coercing customers with a “high-pressure sales scheme.”

In the face of steady complaints, Rent-A-Center argues that it is offering a service to an otherwise excluded demographic, and that its mission is simply to “improve the lives of our customers.” But others, like attorney Darnley Stewart, are not even mildly persuaded: “I don’t think you are doing the poor a favor by gouging them.”

Pay Now, Pay Later, Mother Jones, Anya Schiffrin, May/June 2005

Poverty Premium Research (Harvard Business Review)

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Multinationals that failed to take these realities into account saw their best-laid business plans go bust. P&G’s PUR sachets were envisioned as a low-priced competitor to bottled water; in reality, though, poor households are used to boiling their tap water or drinking it untreated. Grameen Danone’s real competition among rural populations wasn’t expensive store-bought yogurt—it was homemade yogurt that consumers produced for a fraction of the cost.

In places where poor consumers benefit from lower prices, they often incur other costs. For example, the informal economy fails to ensure safe working conditions and reasonable wages, product quality controls, or taxes for the state. The brunt of these externalities is borne by the poor, as workers, consumers, and beneficiaries of government funds. Such places may have a “poverty premium” that multinationals could help eliminate, but that premium does not take the form of higher prices.

The Problem with the “Poverty Premium,” Harvard Business Review, Ethan Kay and Woody Lewenstein, April 2013

Ethan Kay gave a Ted Talk about creating cookstoves for poverty survivors.

Homeless Photo Contest

Homeless To Participate In Photo Contest – http://wp.me/p5DwgX-1jP

I like the idea but they really need to pay participants more than just a $10 gift card and a backpack of toiletries. They are producing the photographs that will be the center of a huge fundraising campaign, standard freelancing rates…or at least minimum wage…should apply.

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Photographers will have seven days to tell their story through photographs before returning the camera to a drop-off location.  They will receive a t-shirt with ‘photographer’ emblazoned on the back, a $10 gift card for food and a backpack of toiletries for their participation in the project.

A team of community judges will then select the top 20 photos that will be displayed at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre from June 29-August 20.  Visitors will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite photo with a donation.

Homeless To Participate In Photo Contest, St. Louis News, April 11, 2017; written by Jill Enders

UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015

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Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a)the person holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is held in slavery or servitude, or
(b)the person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

(2)In subsection (1) the references to holding a person in slavery or servitude or requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour are to be construed in accordance with Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention.

(3)In determining whether a person is being held in slavery or servitude or required to perform forced or compulsory labour, regard may be had to all the circumstances.

(4)For example, regard may be had—
(a)to any of the person’s personal circumstances (such as the person being a child, the person’s family relationships, and any mental or physical illness) which may make the person more vulnerable than other persons;
(b)to any work or services provided by the person, including work or services provided in circumstances which constitute exploitation within section 3(3) to (6).

(5)The consent of a person (whether an adult or a child) to any of the acts alleged to constitute holding the person in slavery or servitude, or requiring the person to perform forced or compulsory labour, does not preclude a determination that the person is being held in slavery or servitude, or required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Human trafficking

(1)A person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (“V”) with a view to V being exploited.

(2)It is irrelevant whether V consents to the travel (whether V is an adult or a child).

UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015

The issue of protection for overseas domestic workers was a frustrating one. The draft Bill was silent on the plight of hundreds of workers enslaved in households in the UK. But, following sustained pressure and hands-on advocacy in which Anti-Slavery supported Kalayaan and others, a historic vote was taken in the House of Lords which brought back domestic workers’ right to leave an abusive employer. Unfortunately, the government remained deaf to our arguments and passed its own amendment requiring domestic workers to receive a positive decision from the National Referral Mechanism confirming they have been trafficked before allowing them to change employers. It is a bad decision that will deter domestic workers who face abuse and exploitation from coming forward to the authorities. On the other hand, it is a major achievement in itself that the Act now contains a specific provision on overseas domestic workers which is a gateway to getting better protection for this vulnerable group of workers in future. The fight on that issue continues.

Another momentous shift in the Government’s position was the introduction of the requirement for large companies to annually report on efforts to identify and address modern slavery in their supply chains. We worked with a coalition of NGOs, business and investors to persuade the Government that mandatory, rather than voluntary, disclosure in relation to company supply chains is the way forward.

It is a shame then that a loophole has been identified which allows companies hide their supply chains overseas as long as the goods they produce don’t end up in Britain. This, for example, means letting off the hook companies building sites for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Finally, a major shortcoming in the Act is the lack of an extraterritoriality of slavery offence. This means that a British citizen could abuse someone overseas and not be held to account back in UK.

Big step in the right direction but deficiencies leave us – and victims of modern slavery – wholly unsatisfied“, AntiSlavery.org, by Klara Skrivankova

Admiration List: Ani DiFranco

I have been a fan of Ani DiFranco‘s life story since 1992. I was working in radio as a copy writer and part-time (weekend) DJ when I stumbled across a magazine/catalog of up-and-coming artists. It consisted of artist photographs, a brief categorical description of music style (e.g.: folk, R&B, rock, etc.) and a short biography. The magazine targeted station employees in charge of selecting music, with the objective of enticing the decision maker to listen to a sample and consider adding the featured musicians to the playlist. It probably came with a CD or cassette tape (cassettes were still regularly used back then), but I only saw the magazine.

The magazine is important because the biography is what attracted me to this artist. She not only writes and performs her own music, she also runs her own recording studio and is known for refusing to take potentially lucrative contracts that go against her political/ethical beliefs. In short, she defied the music industry’s standard operating procedures – and won!

I did not get the opportunity to hear her music until about 8 years later. 

Frankly, while I admire her skills as a lyricist and include a few of her songs in my private list of top-50-favorites, it was never the music that earned my admiration – it’s her actions as a small business owner, an activist and a person.

I would welcome the opportunity to hear her play live in concert but I would LOVE to hear her talk about her journey as a small business owner and an activist.

Evaluating a Favorite Fiction List

What does a favorites list say about a specific individual?

When a college recruiter, potential employer, first date or an acquaintance inquires about a favorite book, they are usually trying to get a sense of who the other person is on a more personal level.

I love the discussions that can develop out of this sort of question. I also remain extremely cautious about using the list itself as proof of personality, ethics or beliefs.

Beware! You have entered the land of dangerous assumptions.

There is no ‘should’ in a favorites list. It doesn’t matter what a person’s inner circle or society as a whole thinks; each person chooses according to their own private, gut reaction. The books placed on that very special shelf within my house are not the same as the books proudly displayed on the favorites shelf in your house. Every list is different. Every. Single. One.

It is impossible to evaluate an individual, based on a list of books, titles without knowing why those titles were selected.

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My Favorites List

As an example, here is a selection of titles from my own favorites list (roughly in order according to publication date):

Just glancing over this list, what jumps out at you? When this list is evaluated without discussion, the following details are usually the center of focus…

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Common literary cannons utilized by most universities:

  • Women’s literature: 3
  • Multi-cultural literature: 3
  • Native American literature: 1
  • African American literature: 1
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction: 1
  • LGBT literature: 1
  • Pulitzer prize winners: 1
  • Not recognized by academic circles: 2

The authors:

  • 5 women
  • 2 Men
  • 4 Americans

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    • 1 African American
    • 1 Native American
    • 2 White
  • 1 Czechoslovakian
  • 2 British

While this numeric evaluation is interesting and easy to identify, it is most important to remember that it has little to nothing to do with the process of selecting a favorite.

Favorites Selection Process

To understand the selection process we must examine an individual’s primary categories. For example, my definitions are as follows (links are to my in-progress book lists on GoodReads.com):

Favorite: Any combination of the following:

    • Highly memorable books that provide a strong positive feeling.
    • Books that are re-read or referenced regularly.
    • A person can’t imagine life without a copy of that text.
    • Useful to the point of being necessary for day-to-day living.

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  • Impact: Titles that significantly changed perspective or left a strong impression.
  • Enjoy: Fun to read. Highly forgettable pulp fiction that is perfect for a few hours of mindless relaxation.
  • Enjoy Plus: Somewhere between Enjoy and Favorite.

My definition of Favorite allows for the inclusion of any genre of text, not just novels. This is important to know because, under these circumstances, the question “what is your favorite book” could be answered with a cookbook, auto-maintenance manual, reference manual or anything else that happens to be particularly useful at that moment.

Reasons Behind Fiction Selections

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Because favorite novels are so intimately personal, the only possible way to truly understand the ‘meaning’ provided by a favorites list is by delving into the reasons why the individual made those selections.

In my case, every one of the novels in my list has one or more female characters who defy society’s norms to carve out a self-determined life for herself.

Sometimes the life-path resulted in catastrophe (e.g.: Wuthering Heights)  and other times it provided the best possible outcome a character could have hoped for (e.g.: Their Eyes Were Watching God). In some cases she was sexually free and aggressively confident (e.g.: Rubyfruit Jungle) and in others she was a virgin who refused to give in to peer pressure (e.g.: Voices of Dragons).

They are warriors (e.g.: Lord of The Rings), cautiously defiant and politically subversive teenagers (e.g.: Truckstop Rainbows) and strong young women who choose to live according to traditions and culture of their people (e.g.: The Ancient Child).

Whatever the circumstances, dangers or personal objectives, every one of these stories describes at least one woman who took life head-on and blazed a trail of her own making. This is a specific scenario that I am drawn to on a deep level, so the titles are placed on my favorites list.

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Properly Using a Favorites List

If you ask a potential employee, new friend or long-standing acquaintance for their favorite books list, remember that the list is the beginning of the conversation and not the end of the analysis.

Freedom Dividend

The freedom Dividend is an extremely important concept. When people are freed from slavery – or extreme poverty – the entire community is transformed for the better.

Kevin Bales, an internationally recognized expert on modern slavery and freeing people from slavery explains the concept here:

A longer explanation is provided by Michael Shelton on FreeTheSlaves.net (PDF) which includes the following:

In helping to build sustainable freedom for survivors of slavery, we see that in addition to personal liberation, there is a significant Freedom Dividend – a range of social and economic improvements that occur with the removal of individuals and groups from slavery. This freedom dividend is seen in a number of dimensions, including:

  • educational participation in girls and boys,
  • increased family incomes and payment of wages,
  • initiation of family asset formation
  • improved access to health services,
  • improved status and greater safety from violence of women and girls
  • increased political participation,
  • reduced corruption at the local level in terms of access to legal justice and in delivery of social and development services (such as access to water).

In addition, because former slaves are able to participate alongside other citizens in using public services and in local economic activity, there are improvements in social integration.

These benefits are most directly experienced by the former slaves, and they also directly affect the families of returning trafficking survivors. It is also believed (though not so far rigorously tested) that increased incomes and more efficient work practices of people coming out of slavery lead to a general upward spiral in local economic activity (including the incomes of those families who were NOT held in slavery). Also, to the extent that groups of people coming out of slavery achieve changes in government behavior, improvements in rule of law, and reduction of violence against women, this benefits a wider group of citizens.