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Work Week: A Special News Report About Life On the Job _ And Trends Taking Shape There

September 26, 1995

WAGES FOR HOUSEWORK? Governments will measure value of unpaid work.

The platform ratified at the United Nations’ conference on women calls on countries to value women’s unwaged work in national accounting systems. Work such as child care, driving and meal preparation would be kept track of in newly created national satellite accounts, separate from Gross National Product calculations.

Women contribute about $11 trillion in unpaid or underpaid work to the global economy, the U.N. Development Programme estimates. Some governments worry that detailed measurements could lead to wages for housework, but it more likely would result in improving women’s inheritance rights, divorce settlements and Social Security benefits. Nordic countries have used their measurements so far to promote paternity leave legislation.

The value of U.S. housework is about $1.5 billion, the Fund for the Feminist Majority says.

TEACHERS’ STRIKES nearly vanish this school year.

School strikes are at an all-time low, with only seven reported so far this year, the National Education Association says. That is down from an all-time high of 247 strikes in the 1979-80 academic year. The drop is partially due to low inflation, when fewer strikes typically occur, says John Dunlop, with the NEA.

``Our expectations are down, which makes it easier to resolve impasses,″ says David Helfman, with the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The attacks on the quality of public education also may contribute to the reluctance to strike, union officials say, since neither teachers nor school boards want to waste their time with internal battles. Recent changes in collective-bargaining laws have made a difference, too, such as mandatory strike penalties approved in Michigan last year.

COFFEE, TEA OR WORK. Gourmet coffee comes to the office.

Forget the water cooler. Machines that make cappuccino, espresso and latte are starting to appear in office kitchens and cafeterias. Employers lease the $10,000 restaurant-quality machines, paying vendors about 40 cents for each automatically brewed cup.

``This makes sense when you think people who are getting paid a lot of money are taking half an hour twice a day to get an espresso,″ says Michael Semler, president of Almost Heaven Coffee Co., where such service is the fastest growing part of the business. R.R. Donnelly Financial in Arlington, Va., uses the machines to serve ``crabby customers needing a quality product,″ says Laurie Boden, a sales coordinator. Machines also are a hit at Helene Curtis in Chicago and the World Bank in Washington, where workers consume 100 cups a day.

Office workers drink about 19 billion cups of coffee a year, according to World Coffee & Tea magazine.

BRRRRRRRR. Viacom’s first volunteer day leaves its CEO in the cold. Frank Biondi, Viacom’s CEO and president, got locked in a soup-kitchen freezer he was cleaning out last week at Lamb’s Manhattan Church of the Nazarene. ``Hello! Hello!″ Mr. Biondi and his communications chief started yelling, after a cook accidentally turned out the lights and shut the door of the 17-foot-long freezer. The chilly incident lasted only a few minutes, until colleagues noticed Mr. Biondi was missing from a photo session.

DAILY GRIND: Bob Waters, a Grayline tour guide in Washington for seven years, never gets bored showing the city to his customers. ``I like to share what I know with them,″ says Mr. Waters, who makes $30,000 a year. Among the weirdest questions: ``Where are the slums of the city located? Where are all the drugs?″

WORK VS. PLAY. Americans consider their jobs less important than do workers in many other countries, according to a 40-nation survey by Roper Starch Worldwide. Only 39 percent of Americans surveyed rated work more important than leisure, compared with 72 percent in Brazil, 67 percent in the Philippines and 61 percent in Saudi Arabia.

SECRETARIES’ ROLES CHANGE with downsizing and computer revolution.

Gone are the days of taking shorthand and typing letters. With computers on nearly every executive’s desk, secretaries’ tasks have moved to managerial. Due to downsizing, 71 percent of secretaries now perform duties previously performed by management, says the Administrative Development Institute in Holland, Mich.

``The work has changed totally,″ says Billie Willey, a secretary at Union Pacific Corp. for 14 years, who now proofreads her boss’s typing, creates spreadsheets on the computer and pays the bills. Many secretaries do research on the Internet, purchase large-scale office technology, and even give presentations at business meetings. They typically work for more than one boss, too, since companies now let only the highest executives have a private secretary.

Among the most unusual secretarial tasks, according to the Secretary magazine: snooping on staff members; acting as a decoy in a police sting; and retrieving a boss’s undershorts rinsed out and left at a hotel.

CHECKOFFS: Seventeen Americans are killed in the workplace on a typical day, the National Safety Council says. . . . A U.N. report says married women who are employed and have children under 15 carry the heaviest work burden of any group _ about 11 hours a day.

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