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Democrats’ bill to fight sexual harassment, explained

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The #MeToo movement may have toppled producer Harvey Weinstein and other men accused of sexual misconduct from their positions of power, but according to caterer Venorica Tucker, it hasn’t put a stop to the harassment many servers and bartenders deal with every day.

“Sometimes there’s a little pinch; sometimes there’s just little comments or brushing up against you,” said Tucker, who works in catering at the US House of Representatives and is an advocate with the group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “Sometimes they will indicate that they might tip you better if you’re a little friendlier.”

“You would think that people wouldn’t be bold enough to still play that card, but they do,” Tucker told Vox.

Since the #MeToo movement gained public attention in 2017, sexual misconduct allegations against high-profile men have made headlines around the world. But for food servers and other workers harassed or assaulted by people who aren’t famous and under circumstances that make it difficult or impossible to report, it’s not clear whether much has changed.

On Tuesday, Democrats in Congress will introduce legislation aimed at helping those workers. Called the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (BE HEARD) in the Workplace Act, it would close loopholes in federal discrimination law that leave many domestic workers without legal protections from sexual harassment. It would authorize grants for low-income workers to help them seek legal recourse if they are harassed. And, crucially for food service workers like Tucker, it would eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, which many say makes servers vulnerable to harassment by customers.

“Some women did and do still think that in order to make the extra tip, they have to ignore unwanted touches and unwanted comments,” Tucker said, “and we shouldn’t have to.”

The legislation could face an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Senate. But it’s an example of a larger move toward systemic changes that would go beyond deposing a few big-name men, and help the many workers in America whose harassment never makes the news.

The BE HEARD Act would end the tipped minimum wage, and more

The BE HEARD Act, introduced in the House and Senate on Tuesday by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), and co-sponsors, follows a report compiled by staff of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions last December. The authors of the report interviewed a number of workers like Gilda, a domestic worker who was raped by a male client, and June, a home care worker whose client groped and propositioned her. The reports’ authors argued that current law fails such workers and offered a number of recommendations that would help protect them, many of which are reflected in the legislation.

“When we started work on the Be HEARD Act, we’d heard a lot about abuses of power in Hollywood and in Congress,” Murray said in prepared remarks provided to Vox. “What we wanted to do was shine a spotlight on workers who weren’t in those headlines.”

The provisions of the BE HEARD Act include:

  • Eliminating the tipped minimum wage. The federal minimum wage for many servers and other tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour, and they rely on gratuities from customers to make up the difference. (If a worker does not earn the equivalent of the minimum wage in tips, federal law requires employers to make up the difference, a system that advocates argue makes tipped workers vulnerable to wage theft.)

For some, that can mean enduring harassment in order to pay their bills. That’s why restaurant workers and their advocates have long called for eliminating the tipped minimum wage, making the full federal minimum wage apply to all workers, regardless of whether they make money in tips.

  • Extends harassment protections to workers at small businesses, independent contractors, and more. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender — and sexual harassment is considered a form of gender discrimination. But as Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell has reported, employers with fewer than 15 workers are exempt, which means more than 12 million workers — many of them nannies, home health care aides, or workers on family farms — don’t have access to the same protections as other workers.

The BE HEARD Act would close that loophole. It would also extend federal discrimination protections to apply to independent contractors, a change that could help workers in the entertainment industry, many of whom work on a contract basis. The report tells the story of Angela, who provides beauty services to actors and models on a freelance basis. Angela says her former agent repeatedly called her racist and misogynist slurs and, when she complained, punished her by canceling bookings. If Angela, a contract worker, had been protected by federal law, she could have brought a harassment claim against her agent, the report notes.

The legislation also includes language clarifying that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under the Civil Rights Act, a move that could help protect LGBTQ workers.

  • Bans mandatory arbitration clauses. When they’re hired, many Americans are now forced to sign clauses promising that if they have a dispute with the company, they’ll take it up in private arbitration — a process that has no judge or jury, and under which workers are less likely to win. About half of non-unionized workers in America are subject to such clauses, as Fernández Campbell and Alvin Chang reported at Vox last year, and they make it harder for workers to hold employers accountable for sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. The BE HEARD Act would ban mandatory arbitration clauses, as well as barring certain kinds of nondisclosure agreements, which some employers have used to keep employees from speaking out about sexual harassment.
  • Creates a grant program to provide legal assistance to low-income workers. The legal right to bring a harassment claim doesn’t help much if a worker can’t afford to hire a lawyer. According to the report, low-income families seek legal help for only about 19 percent of employment-related legal issues. The BE HEARD Act would set up a program to help low-income workers pay for lawyers and other resources they may need when dealing with sexual harassment cases.

The legislation includes a number of other provisions, including setting aside money for a nationwide survey on the prevalence of harassment. As the report notes, though there are a number of federal efforts to track sexual violence around the country, “no similar data collection about the prevalence of workplace harassment or workers’ experiences facing this type of discrimination exists.”

The legislation faces an uncertain future — but some parts have attracted Republican support

Some of the ideas in the BE HEARD Act have attracted bipartisan support recently. Republicans held a committee hearing last week on the issue of mandatory arbitration, with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and others expressing concern about the use of arbitration clauses. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House and Senate have joined with Democrats to introduce legislation barring employers from forcing employees to sign nondisclosure agreements.

That legislation has yet to pass, however. And the BE HEARD Act may face a difficult road in the Republican-controlled Senate. In particular, Republicans in Congress have generally opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, some worker advocates point out that with any anti-harassment legislation, enforcement is critical. The BE HEARD Act “represents a critical step in the right direction for the country, redressing loopholes in existing legislation regarding who has access to justice in the workplace,” the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group that has worked to fight harassment of farmworkers, told Vox in a statement. But “it is critical that this new legislation be coupled with a clear enforcement strategy for the agencies responsible for ensuring that the new laws on the books are translated into new practices on the ground.”

Still, supporters of the legislation are hopeful it will remind Americans that sexual harassment remains a part of many workers’ everyday lives, even in the era of #MeToo.

“If we can get people to recognize that this is a very serious thing,” Tucker said, “hopefully they’ll understand that these are things that are not impossible to correct.”

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[Read] How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Free

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Full E-book How to Research Trends: Move Beyond Trendwatching to Kickstart Innovation For Kindle
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Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later

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In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.

There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.

From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.

That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.

The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.

Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.

Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.

Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.

All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.

But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.

Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”

He continued:

“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”

Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.

https://twitter.com/esirof/status/1075426983104917504

“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.

Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.

One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.

Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.

“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.

Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”

Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.

“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”

But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.

Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.

“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”

It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.

Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”

“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”

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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It

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When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”

A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.

Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.

Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.

A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.

Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.

The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.

7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.

“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”

Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.

The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”

In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.

“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”

Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.

People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?

His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.

Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.

For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.

We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?

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