Deeper digging needed on employment statistics

Letters to the Editor
Published December 10, 2006

Better off, in many ways, than he found it Dec. 4

Florida's unemployment rate may be 3.1 percent. How about additional data, such as unemployment among professionals, rampant underemployment, unemployment among workers older than 50 and unemployment among teenagers?

What percent of families have the opposite problem - the need to work two jobs to pay the bills?

You also reported that Florida's per-capita income increased from almost $26,000 to $33,219. I am concerned about the "overuse" of averages, especially with respect to income. These numbers need to be segmented into higher-income, average-income and low-income strata. I almost guarantee that, despite the lofty statistic, two of the three segments are not well off financially. Or, as I stated above, they need to work two jobs to make ends meet. That, plus the unprecedented gains by the wealthy, yield a rise in per-capita income.

Under Jeb (and brother George), the financial class differences in American have been magnified, not diminished.

Bruce Hadburg, Palm Harbor

Marks of bias Nov. 30

Little interest in hiring baby boomers for living wages

I read with interest the article about age discrimination. My husband and I have been coming down here on and off for the past nine years, because this is the area where he can earn a good living. I am 52 and he is 58. Last year, we thought that we were going to be staying home and being employed at home in the extreme northern part of Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

In brief, there are next to no jobs at home and, incidentally, an aged population. The young people leave and come to places like Florida where there are jobs. My guy landed a very good job for the area as the manager of a department in a big-box store. He is a government retiree, so we do have a pension coming in, and lots of savings we can touch once he turns 60, plus another pension that starts when he is 60. So we needed jobs to augment our monthly income.

I was told by Wisconsin Job Service employees, and I read in various publications and online, that the job market was poised to love the baby boomer worker. They were really going to need our expertise and skills acquired by a lifetime of living and learning and working out there in Job Land.

What a crock. I applied for many jobs throughout Wisconsin. I applied for jobs locally, I registered at the temp agency in town and I even put my name on the Odd Jobs list to do snow shoveling and temp elder care. I got nothing. Nada. Not a call or a nibble. Nobody wanted a fit, educated and experienced woman with her own health insurance and pensions.

I finally was offered a job through a job fair for a call center that I was overqualified for. This firm has a poor reputation locally for employee dissatisfaction and high turnover. I was going to be paid $8 per hour with no benefits, except a few days off, and the job would top out at $10 per hour after a few years.

Luckily the job down here turned out and we came down. This time, we are staying until we are very close to the time when the other pension begins. It is obvious that because of our age we are not employable at jobs other than those that don't pay a living wage, regardless of our good health, our job experience and having health insurance and pensions. The people I feel sorry for are acquaintances and family members who are our age, but not as healthy, and who have to work miserable service industry jobs just to pay for food and heat.

Robyn Cardy, Tampa

Not working, not looking, letter Nov. 26

Hey, Florida employers, sunshine isn't enough pay

Congratulations to Joann Lori and Gerald Gerula for their great response. My husband and I couldn't agree with them more. We are in the exact same situation.

Having relocated here from the northern Virginia area and having worked in Washington, D.C., you can imagine our frustration, too. Not only are the wages less, but the benefits are awful. Florida employers had better wake up and realize we are in the year 2006, not 1976! At first I thought it was our ages (mid 50s), but our son and daughter-in-law, both with high-level degrees, are frustrated. Folks who relocate to Florida and want to continue their professional careers had better think twice. And the state's employers should wake up and realize it takes more than "sunshine" to maintain a decent standard of living here!

Signed, "Sorry we came to Florida"

Lynn Ford, New Port Richey


Studies project a paved Florida Dec. 7

Water is a bigger problem than overdevelopment

As frightening as the prospect of out-of-control development is for the future of Florida, at least as envisioned by the 1000 Friends of Florida, one wonders whether the Friends, whoever they may be, have really got a handle on what the future holds in store for Florida by the year 2060.

As anyone who has seen the disturbing movie An Inconvenient Truth can attest, there may be greater dangers to Florida by 2060 than the "tidal wave of growth" cited by Charles Pattison, executive director of 1000 Friends.

We may see a tidal wave, but it won't be growth. It will be water. At the increasing rate the ice packs of Greenland and Antarctica are melting, and consequently raising sea level, much of the area shown on the map of Florida as being buried by rampant development in Florida in 2060 may be under water at that time.

If the ice melts in Greenland, it represents a 20-foot rise in sea level. And if the ice locked in Antarctica melts, it represents another 20 feet. So where does that leave Florida? Forty feet of sea level rise will not leave much of Florida dry. Even if all the ice does not melt completely by 2060, a small percentage of the melt will represent a sea level rise high enough to irrevocably change the shape of our coastline.

It is horrible to think that by 2060 Florida will be as overdeveloped as badly as you say. Far worse will be Florida's troubles if we do not address the dangers represented by global warming. And soon.

Tyler Carder, Largo


Higher risk buys lower premium Dec. 7

Let homeowners assign their own value to contents

Your article did not address what types of coverage will be considered by lawmakers that homeowners could decline in order to lower their property insurance rates. One option should include "contents" of the residence.

This type of insurance produces a windfall for the insurance companies. It is based on a percentage of the value assigned to the residence, producing an amount of coverage that far exceeds what most homeowners have in value of contents.

Homeowners should be allowed to put their own dollar figure on their contents, as renters do, or should be allowed to reject "contents" coverage.

M. Diane Hodson, St. Petersburg


Need a lawyer? Good luck Dec. 3

Lawyers are willing to take cases, if clients are willing to pay

I disagree with your assessment regarding the availability of employment law lawyers. Perhaps I can offer you a different perspective.

There are several firms that practice employment law and actively litigate these cases, including ours. The problem is not a lack of employment law attorney availability. The problem is that potential clients often refuse to pay for legal representation or expertise. Many even refuse to pay for an initial consult. Then they complain that no lawyer is willing to help. What they mean is that few firms are willing to work on complex and difficult cases without getting paid, at least something, up front.

On a more positive note, you are probably aware that the Legislature's attempt to usurp the new Florida minimum wage law recently has been declared unconstitutional. (See Throw vs. Republic Enterprises.) This is relevant to anybody who toils at the minimum wage as well as any employer who pays minimum wages. It's an important decision with statewide implications, and it was a battle fought out between two local Pinellas County law firms.

W. John Gadd, Clearwater

Partner, Mazaheri Gadd, P.A.


Not all labor cases have merit

Just got my new Tampa Yellow Pages from Verizon. I noted over 20 lawyers or firms listed under employment or labor law who advertise that they represent employees. So lawyers are out there in Tampa seeking these claims.

I represent employers exclusively in labor and employment matters and I frequently refer potential plaintiffs to local lawyers who represent employees. Sometimes those plaintiffs' lawyers take these cases. More times than not, they do not. But after practicing law in Tampa for 25-plus years, my experience is that we have a fine plaintiffs' employment and labor bar. Those good lawyers take good cases.

Keep in mind, everybody is in some protected employment class, including white men, who may suffer reverse discrimination. Losing your job does not mean you have a valid claim. All facts are not created equal. Not everybody can prove a valid claim. Good lawyers should know the difference. Maybe that is why five lawyers rejected this claim?

John Robinson, Tampa

Secretary/treasurer, Fowler White Boggs Banker P.A.


Bush deserves a generous 'incomplete'

Well, for the first time in eons I pretty much disagree with what you are saying about (Gov. Jeb) Bush's stewardship. Creating jobs: Here in Hillsborough County and Tampa, we have lost thousands of relatively good-paying jobs that have gone overseas, from call centers to construction work. Skilled construction workers have been replaced by unskilled Mexican trainees, paid barely enough to survive, and only then if they live in groups of five or 10. Wal-Mart has thousands of employees in or near the Tampa Bay area that are carried as part-time workers, and you and I as taxpayers are paying their medical costs. The same can be said for the hundreds of thousands of low-paying service jobs supposedly created that offer minimum wage and no medical benefits. Well, they do, but it's at the emergency room which, again, you and I as taxpayers pay for. This same scenario is repeated all over Florida. I suggest that for the average tax-paying, home-owning Floridian, this isn't progress but a huge step backward.

FCAT is a sham. That is all the teachers teach. We should be ashamed turning out soon-to-be adults with no knowledge of geography, history, political science, etc. We still rank in the lowest percentile in attendance, graduates, proficiency and anything else. This is progress?

It serves us well to remember that our out-of-control property taxes and insurance increases occurred under Bush's watch. The board he set up to study this, under Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, is composed of insurance executives. You and I know it is a farce. It is worth noting that in Hillsborough County, the huge increase in property taxes and property revenue occurred under Republicans. You are right in that the wealthy got huge tax breaks under Bush while middle- and lower-class citizens saw their property taxes increase sometimes fivefold. Bush simply passed the costs on down to the counties so he could brag about tax reduction. How phony, but you know that.

You are being far too kind to Bush. So I give him a grade of Incomplete. I'm being kind, because he deserves an F.

Frank Soder, Sun City Center