Shocking Picture of What Life Will Look Like When You Can’t Afford to Retire

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

Will you be ready for the life of a nomad, permanently in search of temporary work?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
August 25, 2014

In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America’s vocabulary: “Elderly migrant worker.” She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these “Okies” of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can’t hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.

Since the financial crisis ripped the security out from under millions of people, the bulk of our politicians, including President Obama, actually tried to reduce, rather than increase, Social Security. The absence of pensions, along with the inadequacy of 401(k)s, skyrocketing healthcare and job insecurity and unemployment, are sending more and more people scrambling to figure out a way to keep body and soul together. Even grandparents are joining the ranks of those for whom life has become a game of Survivor. In an email interview, I asked Bruder about this alarming trend and what it means for the country, now and in the future.

Lynn Parramore: In your recent article in Harper’s, you describe a trend of downwardly mobile elderly folks traveling the country in RVs in search of temporary and seasonal work. How many people are we talking about? How fast has this trend been emerging?

Jessica Bruder: Though no one keeps an official tally of how many older Americans are doing this kind of work, their ranks appear to be growing rapidly in the wake of the housing bust and market crashes.

Amazon first hired a handful of migrant full-time RVers in 2008 through a program the company later named “CamperForce.” As of 2014, it had expanded to employ some 2,000 workers, according to a recruiter I met in Quartzsite, Arizona. The American Crystal Sugar Company taps the same labor pool each fall to staff its annual sugar beet harvest, and their recruitment numbers are up, too. This year, they’re hoping to recruit 600 ” workampers,” up from 450 the year before.

LP: What’s the gender breakdown among these traveling workers? What kinds of work are men and women doing?

JB: I was impressed by how many older, single women I met among the working nomads, from a tarot reader living in a former convict labor van she’d transformed into a roving gypsy boudoir, to an ex-medical technician who managed to fit her whole life—along with a Shih-Tzu, a lovebird and a loquacious African Grey parrot—into a 10.5-foot Carson Kalispell sport trailer.

The gender breakdown was roughly even. Employers don’t discriminate when doling out hard or dirty work, whether it’s scrubbing campsite toilets or walking 15 miles a day on a concrete warehouse floor to pack Amazon’s holiday orders.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

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Michfest Has a Few Demands Of Its Own

From The Advocate: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/19/michfest-has-few-demands-its-own

With another festival come and gone, Michfest founder and organizer Lisa Vogel laid out a list of ‘demands’ she’d like her critics to meet.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
August 19 2014

Yesterday, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival organizer Lisa Vogel issued a statement about the festival — which just wrapped up its 39th year — and the ongoing controversy around its “intention” that the festival cater solely to “Womyn Born Womyn.”

In the weeks before this year’s festival, a number of high-profile LGBT advocacy groups — including Equality Michigan, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and National Center for Lesbian Rights — called on the festival to put an end to the “Womyn Born Womyn” intention.

Vogel’s statement, emailed to supporters Monday with the subject line, “We Have a Few Demands of Our Own,” lays out five requests organizers would like to see the festival’s critics follow. Asking critics to “Get your facts straight,” Vogel delves into the semantics of the word “transphobic.”

“We do not fear their presence among us, a false claim repeatedly made,” Vogel writes. “What we resist — and what we will never stop fighting — is the continued erasure and disrespect for the specific experience of being born and living as female in a patriarchal, misogynist world.” Later, she adds, “It is not the inclusion of trans womyn at Festival that we resist; it is the erasure of the specificity of female experience in the discussion of about the space itself that stifles progress in this conversation.”

Her second bulletpoint is an ask that critics “acknowledge the validity of autonomous, female-defined space.” Here Vogel clarifies that straight and bisexual women are welcome at the festival, so long as they understand the the festival is centered around “a community defined by lesbian culture.” Later, she refers to the event’s focus as being “on the experience of those born female, who’ve lived their lives subjected to oppression based on the sole fact of their being female.” Although it doesn’t explicitly mention trans women, this statement rests on the premise that trans women have not always been female, and therefore cannot share an understanding and experience of womanhood with cisgender (nontrans) women.

Later in that section, Vogel laments efforts of organizations like the New York Abortion Access Fund to employ language inclusive of trans men and non-binary individuals assigned female at birth who may carry and bear children, arguing that this type of push is “pressure for erasure of a specifically female reality,” highlighting discomfort with “unofficial Michfest anthem,” “Pussy Manifesto.”

Vogel’s third request asks critics to “acknowledge that Michfest creates spaces that do not exist elsewhere.” In this section, Vogel highlights the welcoming, familial experiences offered by the festival to those for whom it is intended. Perhaps unintentionally, highlighting the uniqueness of the festival’s existence also highlights how it is also one of the only remaining women’s music festivals at which trans women are told they are not particularly welcome.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/19/michfest-has-few-demands-its-own

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