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

March 14, 1995

GLASS CEILING is a heavy barrier for minorities, blocking them from top jobs.

So says the first federal Glass Ceiling Commission report out Thursday. It says blacks face the most barriers to promotion up the corporate ladder. Asians often are typecast into technical jobs, while Hispanics are written off as ``uneducated″ new immigrants. The report focuses on minorities’ woes, a shift from earlier emphasis on women. Prior commission discussions looked at the ceiling as largely ``a white woman’s issue,″ says commissioner Alphonso Brown. ``The tone has changed.″

The report could become fodder for both sides of the affirmative-action war. Called ``Good for Business,″ the report argues that promotion of minorities and women should be employer-driven. Still, Labor Secretary Robert Reich, commission chairman, says ``serious barriers″ exist: 97 percent of senior managers of 1,500 of the country’s biggest companies are white; about the same percentage are male.

Black men express the most frustration on chances for advancement. Says one: ``I’ll sooner see a pig fly. It’s not going to happen.″

DIAL 911: Stressed care givers get help for compassion fatigue.

Firefighters, nurses, teachers, social workers and others learn to avoid hazards of on-the-job caring in new programs. Chronic-care nurse Margaret Page tells a packed Memphis mental-health meeting on compassion fatigue how the smells of death haunt her. The State University of New York at Buffalo holds a similar seminar this June; it nixed an earlier 4 1/2-hour one because overworked nurses found it too long.

The Self-Realization Healing Centre teaches a course for London hospital and social-service workers on the Science of Life in Caring Work at a 17th-century farmhouse retreat in Somerset, England. Workers say keeping confidentialities keeps them from talking about problems at home. At a Baltimore session, chaplain Jim Larson buoys AIDS-care workers with his hope that ``the song never goes out of your soul.″

JUNIOR PROFS: Teaching assistants turn up the heat on college campuses.

Yale graduate students threaten to strike in April if the university doesn’t allow a union election. They say they do the majority of undergraduate teaching but get ripped off with $9,380 annual salaries, much less than counterparts earn at rival Ivy League schools. ``It’s cheap labor,″ says organizer Corey Robin. The effort is part of growing agitation by TAs, who have unionized on about a dozen campuses.

TAs at the University of California at San Diego, Santa Cruz and Berkeley will vote this month on walking off their jobs to win union recognition. UCLA grad students already OK a strike by a 92 percent margin. A University of Oregon union battles to curb workloads for TAs who teach more hours than contracts allow.

Florida State University TAs in Tallahassee rally to unionize against ``slave wages,″ student Anne Holt says.

CARING TILL IT HURTS. A Service Employees International Union report concludes nursing-home work is one of the most dangerous jobs, worse than working in a coal mine, a steel mill, a warehouse or a paper mill. The report, out tomorrow, says nursing-home workers get injured at a rate of about 17 percent a year, more than twice the rate of private-sector workers.

DAILY GRIND: In a women’s restroom at Philadelphia’s CoreStates Spectrum arena, Rita Salvano, 53, yells into a bullhorn, ``You! Stall eight!″ prodding a concertgoer to an open stall. As stalls to her left empty out, she yells: ``Right side! The left side is winning!″ Spectrum officials nickname Ms. Salvano, who wears an auburn bouffant hairdo, ``Queen of Porcelain.″ Her salary is secret but an official says part-time security staff like her get $5 to $10 an hour.

WAITRESS, there’s a discrimination suit in my soup. Men got an overwhelming number of the job offers for waiting tables at high-priced Philadelphia restaurants, in new research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. Women got offers to be waitresses at lower-priced eateries.

HOLD THE PHONE: Office workers plug into headsets.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Gunther calls headsets ``the greatest invention since chicken soup,″ though he admits looking ``like the Madonna Material Girl.″ Back pain and clumsy phone juggling convert others, moving headsets into offices. Producer David Geffen walked into cohort Steven Spielberg’s office wearing a neck brace and arm sling because of pains from phone deal making; he now uses a headset.

Eileen DeVries, a Merrill Lynch vice president in Grand Rapids, Mich., holds a thumb over her mouthpiece so callers won’t hear her eat lunch. Hours of customer calls drove Denver salesman Joe Baca to headsets: ``I can see the day when handsets will be a thing of the past.″

Colleagues mocked First Chicago trader Gretchen Grad. ``They’d say, `Hey, are you clearing flights over O’Hare?‴ says Ms. Grad, who just ditched her headset.

CHECKOFFS: Here’s a job perk: The Maury Povich Show gives free show tickets, special seating and free refreshments to flight attendants on layovers in New York. ... Employees at Constan Car Wash and Jiffy Lube in Atlanta work some of their busiest days on Wednesdays, when women get discounts on their official Ladies’ Day.

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