Archive for the ‘job discrimination’ Category

Human Trafficking

August 19th, 2011
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Although the Aloun Farms case has been dismissed, it raised the issue of human trafficking in Hawaii, which has been largely overlooked. In part, that's because victims are working in jobs that are removed from the public eye. Immigrants are lured here (allegedly) to toil in fields, do low-paying service jobs in hotels/restaurants or the garment industry, and forced into prostitution... or are they?

Even the Aloun case divided the Laotian community here. The Alou brothers, who immigrated from Laos, had many friends and supporters that saw them as being a success story -- the epitome of the American Dream. Others believed they were exploiting Thai workers for personal profit. All I know is farming is a tough business, and this particular problem has been going on for decades in the U.S. When I was a rookie reporter way back in 1979, I did a story about migrant workers in rural North Jersey, where I saw the barracks-style housing they lived in. They were mostly Hispanic. The farmers said it came down to simple economics: if Americans want to eat cheap, the farm owners had no choice but to hire the cheapest labor they could find.

Trafficking happens in other lines of work, including the sex trade. Last week, I interviewed three former prostitutes as part of a public awareness project I'm involved with. I'll be producing video segments and Public Service Announcement spots about human trafficking, and resources available to victims -- or for people who know possible victims, and want to help them get out of those situations. It's challenging though because as one of the women told us, some prostitutes are doing it by choice. She admitted that she wasn't totally naive when she was brought to Hawaii on a "vacation trip" by her pimp. When she tried to leave him, he held her over a lanai railing 20-some floors above the ground, then beat her severely.

What's amazing is how resilient these women are. Each had terrible, sickening stories about the fear they lived in. It makes you angry and sad that anyone can be so cruel. It made me ashamed to be a man. Yet another former streetwalker said a lot of johns didn't want sex -- they just wanted to talk to her. That's sad too... there's so many lonely people out there, who want any kind of human connection they can get. Even if they have to pay for it. I honestly don't know what the answer is to dealing with prostitution. But if a woman wants to get out of the business, then the law and society should do all it can to protect her from pimps.

I'll be working with the Pacific Gateway Center, along with four other non-profits and Communications Pacific, which will be handling the print materials part of the public awareness campaign. We're talking to professionals who deal with trafficking victims on a daily basis. But if you know someone who survived such a situation and would like to share their story, please contact me. We will maintain their anonymity if they prefer and can alter their voices/image so no one will recognize them on the videos. Although we have access to videos and photos from the federal agency that is overseeing this project, we believe the most effective stories we can share are from local survivors who can tell what happened in their native language. This will truly be a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic effort we're putting together.

You can email leads to me: richfigel@gmail.com

Or call me at 262-5073. All information will remain confidential. Also, if you have suggestions as to how to best raise awareness about trafficking and resources available to victims,  please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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For daily viewing times and other useful job-related links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo!

Golden Opportunities in Gray Market

March 3rd, 2011
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Mixed in with thirty-four spam-bot "comments" on my last post about the lamest Oscars broadcast ever, there was a question from an anonymous poster: "Why is this in Career Changers?" For someone who isn't familiar with my blog, it's a valid question. But spammers have gotten very cagey and now pay people to insert key words and vague queries into comments that trick blog moderators into "approving" them and posting the spammer's link, usually semi-hidden in the commenter's name or email address. When in doubt, if it looks like spam, reads like spam, smells like spam, I just delete it as spam.

Anyhow, for those who are new readers, I sometimes go off on tangents about the entertainment biz because I am a screenwriter and also produce a local television show for OC16, called Career Changers TV. Moreover, the movie and TV industry are vitally important to Hawaii since productions filmed in the islands create jobs, and help bolster tourism through international exposure on big and small screens. My screed against the Oscars was also meant to point out the glaring disparity between what Hollywood studio execs think will make money, and what changing demographics actually show is profitable: i.e., there's gold in those silver-gray haired audiences that hunger for intelligent movies, which don't involve comic book superheroes or infantile jokes about pudgy boy-men characters who somehow attract gorgeous women.

The reality is aging Baby Boomers are having a major impact on the economy. Nationally, they spend a trillion dollars a year. In Hawaii, one out of every seven people is over the age of 65 -- and many of them are literally sitting on land or in condos worth half a million or more, thanks to appreciation of property values over the last two or three decades. Yet they seem to get short shrift from many businesses and marketing professionals. That may be starting to change though.

For example, locally we have a relatively new publication called Generations Magazine, published by Percy Ihara -- who happens to specialize in reverse mortgages, which is a way for land-rich seniors to tap the built-up equity in their homes in order to cover rising expenses related largely to aging. If you or someone in your family is 60 or older, I highly recommend you check it out. The magazine has a good mix of articles that reflect the needs and desires of the senior market... everything from pragmatic advice on taxes and health care, to features on places like Las Vegas and Rumours night club in Honolulu. (When I moved to Hawaii in 1985, back in my drinking days I was known to have danced on a table or two during their "Big Chill" music theme nights.)

Although we weren't able to squeeze Percy's segment into the March CCTV show, which premiers tonight at 8:30 PM, I posted it on our website and YouTube Channel. The reason we didn't have room is we have special features on the Wilhelmina modeling open call that was held at Windward Mall last month, and I didn't want to cut any of that stuff out. Even if you have no interest in being a model, there's some great lessons on how to land your dream job in Roman Young's story towards the end of the episode. Plus, you might recognize some of the faces who tried out. And it wasn't just your typical tall, thin young girls they were looking for. In fact, Wilhelmina Hawaii managing director Ryan Brown was really excited about a grandmother who walked in and said he thinks they could get her modeling work right away.

So you never know. Maybe you weren't cut out to be a model or published novelist when you were younger. But hang around long enough, keep learning and pursuing your real passions, and you just might be a late bloomer like the 73-year-old writer who won an Oscar for THE KING'S SPEECH screenplay this past weekend. (BTW, that was meant for the anonymous commenter, spam-bot or not, who questioned why I wrote about the Academy Awards -- it's called subtext.)

To view the Generations Magazine video and find info on CCTV air times, please visit our website or YouTube Channel.

You can also learn more about Percy's magazine and reverser mortgage services by going to www.Generations808.com or emailing him at percy@generations808.com.

Ageism at Work (and Play)

October 18th, 2010
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Getting old stinks. I'm 54 and that's ancient for screenwriters in the movie biz. Someone once said that Hollywood is the only place where experience is considered a negative. But I'm starting to think it's not just the entertainment industry that looks askance at middle-aged people. While age discrimination is supposed to be illegal, it seems fairly obvious that many companies are shunning older job applicants.

The New York Times ran this depressing headline not long ago: "For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again" ... sigh. Yet at the same time, many senior citizens have no choice but to keep working after seeing their pension funds and investments go down the tubes at the end of the Bush era when the Dow sunk below the 8,000 mark.

Another article in U.S. News & World Report likens the attitude towards older workers as being similar to how women were viewed 40 years ago. Back then, females weren't considered to be physically or mentally up to the challenges of jobs typically done by men. Now it's gray-haired folks who face that kind of discrimination... but isn't there a certain amount of truth to old-age stereotypes?

Take me, for example. I can do basic computer and social media stuff. However, I'm not into texting, don't know how to send photos with my cell phone (and don't care to) and have given up on following new music/fashion/youth trends for the most part. On the other hand, I've probably read more and seen or done a lot more things than my younger screenwriting competition, who primarily seem to get their life "experience" from mediocre TV shows and comic book movies they watch. Snarky dialogue is in; thoughtful conversation is an idiom of the past.

What distresses me most though, is much of this Youth worship stems from aging Baby Boomers themselves, who put such a high premium on maintaining the illusion of a Never Never Land where none of us grow old -- in spirit at least, if not in body. Signs of denial are all over Facebook: the pages and pages of photos taken during high school, college or post-college days when nearly everyone played in a band or hung out with one. A college friend of mine, who was in one of the first all-girl punk rock groups in the 70s just played a reunion gig in NYC. I jokingly noted on her Facebook page that it sounded like it could be a funny sit-com premise: aging punk rock girl band goes on tour -- sponsored by Centrum Silver, Depends, and AARP. Her band mates were not amused. (She later sent me a link to a real group named "Grumpy Old Punks," which does songs in that vein.)

To make matters worse, you have shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance that suggest younger is better when it comes to talent search competitions. Really? How in the world can a 16-year-old sing about meaningful relationships and what it's like to REALLY suffer or struggle, when parents have been sheltering them all their lives? Yes, they may have the vocal chops or lithe bodies that perform amazing athletic stunts. But when I listen to an old Solomon Burke blues number or watch Clapton and Bonnie Raitt on stage, those performers can convey more emotion with a single small gesture than the most talented teenager using every inch of their body or lungs.

And while I'm on my Grumpy Old Writer rant, I have one more thing to add: I love Ellen DeGeneres because she's done so much for gay rights simply by being honest about herself and showing straight people that gays aren't a threat to hetero society. Plus, she's funny without being mean or scatological. But she's gotten sucked into the Youth worship cult too, and regularly brings on stage precocious kids that she or her staff "discovered" on YouTube videos. They sing! They dance! They're so darn cute! Fine... except she's also cashing in on them by launching her own record label to promote these kiddie entertainers. Meanwhile, I know of many musicians and artists, who are talented and have worked a lot harder for their entire lives, and they will never get a shot on Ellen's show because they're "too old." That's a shame too, because young people are missing out on some great stories about life and enduring when times get tough. Instead, you'll see those same kids crying on TV when they get cut from American Idol, saying their life is over at the age of 19 because they haven't become famous yet.

As I told one of my more "mature" friends the other day, I'm grateful to be getting old. It sure beats the alternative.

Today's relevant links:

NY Times article on older workers struggling to find jobs.

U.S. News & World Report piece on the Senior Movement... um, no, not the Depends kind.

Grumpy Old Punks website and Facebook. One of their songs is called, "Anarchy in the Prostrate." Ouch.

If you haven't seen the latest Halloween edition of Career Changers TV on OC16, please visit our website for daily viewing times! We also have a special deal for employers to post job listings on Hawaii Jobs On Demand... enter promo code "CareerChangersTV10" and get 10 percent off the fee!

Vegas, Weddings and HB 444

July 7th, 2010
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I intended to blog about my Fourth of July weekend trip to Las Vegas, and observations related to jobs and things Hawaii can learn (or avoid) from that city. But after hearing about Gov. Lingle's decision to allow legalized discrimination against a group of people based on their sexual orientation, I felt someone should directly address the whole "marriage is sacrosanct" nonsense.

If marriage is so important, then why did Lingle get a divorce? I was raised as a Catholic, and in that church, divorce isn't allowed. If "traditional" marriage is so sacred, why aren't the Red Shirts protesting against Vegas wedding chapels where ministers dressed as Elvis perform ceremonies for drunken couples who get hitched on the spur of the moment? What about those reality TV shows like THE BACHELOR that turn this "holy" event into a silly dating game?

If Gov. Lingle feels it's her duty to regulate marriage between men and women, why doesn't she impose waiting limits and committee reviews to make sure those couples will uphold the "sacrosanct" clause she and Mufi refer to? Let's be honest: The only real threat to traditional marriages is adultery and divorce. Yet neither Lingle or Duke Aiona will talk about that simple truth.

One reason Las Vegas continues to flourish and remains so popular among Hawaii residents is that the people in Nevada don't try to legislate morality. Meanwhile, Lingle's veto of HB 444 sends a message to the world at large that gays are not welcome here. That's just a boneheaded economic decision, which will hurt Hawaii in the long run. It's more negative publicity that we don't need.

But here's what really angers me. When we got off the plane in Vegas and took a shuttle to our hotel with other Hawaii folks, there was a young local guy yakking on his cell about going to a stag party (yay, traditional marriage!). His friend wasn't going to be there, so this juvenile idiot keeps saying, "That's so gay, dude!" As if the ultimate insult was to be gay. Wonder where he got that notion-- from one of the churches where they preach that being homosexual is a lifestyle choice? Or did he pick it up from the anti-"Rainbow" UH sports fans on message boards where they have macho sounding "Warrior" nicknames? Lingle's veto will be hailed as a win for her homophobic supporters and encourage more gay-bashing.

But anti-gay crusaders should consider this irony: their straight sons and daughters are hanging out in places like Waikiki and Vegas, where girls dress like streetwalkers in skintight dresses and guys casually brag about "hooking up" with as many chicks as possible. Perhaps, the Red Shirts should start waving signs in front of those night clubs too for sinful behavior.

All gay couples are asking for is to be allowed to have the same civil rights as monogamous heterosexual couples like my wife and I have. I'm not surprised people in more progressive cities and countries view Hawaii as a banana republic. This was a political decision by Lingle, pure and simple. There is nothing complicated about understanding that discrimination is discrimination. Call her veto what it really is: a failure of leadership.

Next post: More thoughts on Vegas and whether some forms of gambling can help Hawaii stay competitive with destinations that have lots to offer visitors.

Speaking of travel, here's the link for Charley Memminger's YouTube clip of a segment he did for the current Career Changers show (viewing times are on our CCTV website).

Are Leaders Born or Made?

May 12th, 2010
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Lately, I've been thinking a lot about leadership -- more precisely, the lack of it. In government. In the business world. In movements initiated by people who are fed up with one thing or the other. If an alien landed on earth and said, "Take me to your leader," who would that be?

Ever since we began work on the Career Changers TV show for OC16, I've been saving articles and columns related to managing people and businesses. There are some very smart executives and consultants who offer great advice, mostly gained from personal experience or learned from older mentors. The irony is age and experience have practically become negatives in many companies, where cutting costs often means targeting older employees. Younger workers are cheaper hires and get less benefits such as fewer vacation days. And they usually won't question their bosses, even when they should.

However, I wonder if ageism is costing companies more in the long run. I keep hearing business horror stories about younger employees who seem careless or indifferent about their jobs, and wind up making mistakes that an older, more experienced person probably wouldn't have made. More importantly, younger people are less likely to show initiative and take charge in situations that require leadership.

But can leadership qualities be taught or instilled in workers? Or is it something you develop on your own? Back when I was in my mid-20s, I was a marketing assistant at one of the largest business seminars companies in the country. They offered all kinds of courses on management skills and motivating employees. They were also one of the most poorly run companies I've ever seen, and had to file for bankruptcy. Apparently, the top execs there didn't practice what they preached.

In any event, what prompted this blog topic was a Twitter post by Jana Eggers, who I began following after reading her NY Times Corner Office interview. The other day she tweeted she was wearing one of her company's custom-message t-shirts that was inspired by an earlier NYT Corner Office interview... which she linked to and I read. You should read it too if you want some good insights on managing people in different cultures.

Below, I'm also including a link to a NYT book review for The Art of Choosing, which is about decision-making. When you get right down to it, good leaders and managers are better at solving problems and giving clear directions. There's a methodology to making good choices.

What say you? Are you a leader or a follower?

NY Times Corner Office interview link, Managing Globally, and Locally.

Jana Eggers Twitter link - She often shares insights and links related to running businesses and staying motivated. Here's her own NYT interview, which I mentioned in a prior blog post.

"Indecision-Making" review of book that says more choice actually leads to less satisfaction and less happiness.

Don't forget to tune into the latest Career Changers TV show! Scroll down the the CCTV website page for our daily viewing schedule.