Monday, April 18, 2011

Musings: More for Less

The dogs and I went out walking beneath the moon, which was bold and bright, though on the wane, riding the magic carpet of a wispy cloud and heading down fast, becoming more golden with each passing minute, just an arm’s length from the clear, flat summit of Waialeale. The east was a sullen gray blob with smoldering eyes, crowned by Venus valiantly holding forth in a pale sky.

Behind the clouds were nearly all the other planets: Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars, lined up like planes awaiting take off on a runway, converging for what A Darker View describes as “this year’s great planetary conjunction.” The AstroViewer site can also help you figure what you’re seeing as the planets exchange partners in their month-long dance above the horizon.

I’ve been seeing a disturbing trend that began in the recession and seems to be lingering, even as we enter the so-called recovery. I'm talking about the practice of people working harder for less money. Or some people, anyway. As USA Today reported for the year 2010:

The median amount that CEOs actually took home — which includes salary and cash bonuses, as well as stock and options awarded in previous years that vested or were cashed in — was $8.6 million. That’s the most CEOs have pulled down since the median of $9.2 million in 2007, according to GovernanceMetrics’ analysis of S&P 500 companies.

It seems the median pay for CEOs of large corporations in the U.S. increased 27 percent last year, while pay raises for all workers in private industry averaged just 2.1 percent and unemployment held steady at 8.8 percent. Meanwhile, firms are spending their hefty profits — 47 percent last year for companies in the S&P 500 — not on workers and their wages, but mergers, which tend to result in more layoffs.

In doing some research this past week, I noticed that the “work harder for less” formula is also playing out in the Islands, with the state Department of Economic Development, Business and Tourism predicting:

The state’s visitor count is expected to exceed the 2007 peak level of 7.6 million by 2013, but the wage and salary job count may take longer to recover to its peak of 631,000 jobs in 2007.

Are folks employed by the visitor industry going to have to hustle harder to serve the growing number of guests, or are more visitors staying in places that don't require a wage-earner to tend them?

A report on the national Housing Predictor website pretty much nailed it when it noted:

[A] larger picture of a society in transition is taking place in the Islands, where tourism and second home vacation sales and rentals are the cornerstone of the economy.

Yes, the two do seem to go together, kinda like ham and cheese. Which is why I take always take hits when this blog gores those sacred cows.

So let me say mahalo to the readers who submitted supportive comments last week, especially the person who described my writing as “luminous.” Wow. Your kind words really mean a lot when I check comments during my busy day, especially because, as one reader noted:

Amazing how many people read this blog for the sake of dissing you...get a life. Its like they stalk you just to attack your writings.

Yeah, it is kinda weird. But hey, so long as at least some of you find value in this blog, I'll keep writing!


Andrew Cooper said...

"Amazing how many people read this blog for the sake of dissing you...get a life..."

I think, or at least I hope, there are more of us who read your blog because of your point of view, because there is reality in what you write.

Anonymous said...

Joan I am in total support of your take on tourism. I worked in the industry for over 25 years quitting in disgust over the grueling hours, night, weekend and holiday work and the instability of the industry itself i.e. hurricanes Iwa & Iniki, economic downturns, soaring fuel prices that impact the cost of airline tickets, natural disasters elsewhere like the Japan tsunami. This inadvertently results in layoffs and less hours of work. So we have hotel workers working multiple jobs to barely make ends meet. My husband finds himself in this situation right now. Only there are few other jobs out there.

The proliferation of tvrs has impacted hotel occupancy and our current inventory of rooms aren't being filled. Why on earth would we continue to allow more hotels to be developed when we can't even fill what we already have?

The bigger reason for my distaste of the industry is the continued rape of the land and disenfranchisement of kanaka from the 'aina. Offshore owners who have no concept of community and will hire workers from Texas when local construction workers are hurting for work. So much for the promise of "jobs" that these companies use to win approval of their projects. Auwe no ho'i!!

Anonymous said...

Another case of unions killing the golden goose

Anonymous said...

Killing the golden goose for whom? Off island corporations that take most of the profits out of state? Unions have their place. If not for them hotel workers would be making piss-ass wages w/ little to no benefits. Rank and file deserve to earn a decent living for these service jobs especially since the local community is impacted in many negative ways by the commodification of Hawaii and because our government officials are too short-sighted to diversify our economy.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see temporary vacation rentals take away from the hotels that are currently seeing only 60% occupancy. The hotel workers need the jobs which TVR's don't support. In any case, we should diversify our economy so we're less dependent on tourism. The rich tourists are moving to Kauai and Hawaii and raising the price of housing! We need to support Ag too! Aloha.

Anonymous said...

TO: April 18, 2011 12:09 PM

This also falls to the Planning Commission when they attach conditions (demanded by the public) that local people be employed. But even still as you will notice with places like COstco and HomeDespot, they fill the plane with their imported stateside workers.
Evidently these stateside corps donʻt have that much faith or trust in the local persons of the lands they encroach.
Itʻs the Planning Commission - again.
Thanks Joan.

Anonymous said...

How dare you diss the philanthropists who provide so much to the island. So we lose access and public shorelines. It's all worth it when you see the happy faces of the tourists staying in these luxurious rentals as they gaze out the picture window upon the now private beach.

Anonymous said...

keep on writing girlfriend!
haters keep on hating while the world turns. u da bestest! keep it up : )

Anonymous said...

they fill the plane with their imported stateside workers.

Good luck enforing those concepts. Corps will always hire the brightest at the lowest cost. We can't compete.
Stay in school and pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Some of us diss you because we love your writing ability and your commitment to the community, but have seen you turning oh so negative during the past two years or so. You have increasingly turned to judgeing and dissing peoples motives, intent and character rather than focusing on their actions.

Just because someone chooses a path that you do not agree with does not make them a bad person. Just cause someone is wealthy or famous and perhaps does not "get it" with regards to local values,does not make them evil and deserving of ridicule and denigration.

I encourage you to look for the good in people and believe perhaps that they and most people, have goodness in their heart. They may need education as to Kauai ways, history and culture and they may make choices you/me/we do not agree with, and when they do so they should be called on it for what it is. But the discussion should be on the facts, content and impacts of the decision and not on personal condemnation, ridicule and sarcasm thinking that we/you know what is in the persons mind and heart.

Joan Conrow said...

I encourage you to look for the good in people and believe perhaps that they and most people, have goodness in their heart.

Anyone who feels compelled to offer me this advice knows nothing about me - or what's in my heart and mind.

Anonymous said...

"when they attach conditions (demanded by the public) that local people be employed"

which is illegal, but go on.

Anonymous said...

"Planning Commission when they attach conditions (demanded by the public) that local people be employed."

-because the courts have said a condition like that is illegal?

Anonymous said...

I can gather from your writings that you have a good heart and care deeply about people, animals, the beauty of nature and our community. You write about issues that move you and like it or not much of what is happening here and elsewhere isn't so positive. Yet I still appreciate your writing about it. We can stick our heads in the sand or be real about what's going on. How else do we affect change unless we acknowledge the negative? Your writings are thought provoking, inspirational and informative. Its one of my favorite daily reads.