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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Who Has the Highest Standard of Living?

It’s no news that Europeans get more vacation time than we do, but it’s still startling to see the difference on a graph (above). Note that Austrians get a mandated 22 days vacation plus 13 paid fixed-day holidays. They also get vacation-time bonuses, as do Belgians, Danes, Greeks and Swedes. By contrast, 23 percent of Americans, especially low-paid workers, get neither paid vacation nor paid fixed-date holidays—a “vacation gap” that’s a dreary concomitant of our income gap.

And, according to Center for Economics and Policy Research, which gathered this data, “The sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays—16 in total—offered in the private sector in the United States would not meet even the minimum requirements by law in 19 other rich countries analyzed here.”

Should Your Boss Follow You on Facebook?

Among the hot issues on the labor-management front: Should a company be able to demand passwords to workers’ social media sites as a condition of employment?
Employers say they want to know if employees are badmouthing the company, tweeting, for example, “Don’t know how much longer I can go on hyping this sorry product!” Workers say they have a right to put what they like on the sites on their own time.
Massachusetts state rep Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (D-Springfield) has filed a bill, H1707,  making it illegal for employers to “require, request, suggest, or cause an employee or applicant to disclose a user name, password or any other means for access, or provide access through a user name or password, to a personal social media account or service,” or add the employer to the list of contacts on an account (the legislation would not apply to professional media sites provided by the employer).
The Massachusetts bill is now in the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. Vermont and seven other states have already passed similar legislation this year, and legislation is under consideration in 36 states.

Your Fantasies in Chalk

If it’s your dream to create an artwork in chalk on a sidewalk in Northampton, you need to know that the fourth annual Northampton Chalk Art Festival is coming around again. The Northampton Center for the Arts is putting out its annual call for artists who want to fill a concrete space on Main Street with imagery and color; participants will be selected based on applications (available at Guild Art Center or by e-mailing the Center at and putting Chalk Art in the subject line). The Center wants to see a sketch of your proposed drawing, and supporting materials documenting your experience in any medium.
The date of the festival is Sept. 6; the deadline for applications is August 23. All participants receive a stipend of $100. Creators of the three best artworks, as selected by a panel of judges, will take home prizes of $250, $150 and $100. Chalk will be provided, but artists may also bring their own.  For more information, call the Center at 413) 584-7327  or go to

Worth Quoting

“Keene is a beautiful place. It’s gorgeous, and it’s safe, and we love it here. We just don’t want to live in the kind of place where there’s an armored personnel carrier parked outside of City Hall. … It’s just not who we are.”

Keene, N.H. resident Dorrie O’Meara, quoted in Radley Balko’s new book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (Public Affairs). In 2012, the city purchased a Bearcat, an eight-ton armored vehicle, using a $285,933 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The previous year, Balko reports, DHS awarded $2 billion in anti-terrorism grants, enabling such unlikely communities as Keene to buy military-grade equipment for their police departments.

By the Numbers


The percentage of UMass Amherst’s food purchases that will be certified “real” food by 2020. UMass recently became the largest university in the nation to take the Real Food Challenge, which aims to increase the amount of local, responsibly and humanely produced food on college campuses. For information on the UMass effort, follow the Facebook group UMass Student Food Advocacy.




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