The way major U.S. companies provide for retiring workers has been shifting for about three decades, with more dropping traditional pensions every year. The first full generation of workers to retire since this turn offers a sobering preview of a labor force more and more dependent on their own savings for retirement.
Years ago, Coomer and his co-workers at the Tulsa plant of McDonnell-Douglas, the famed airplane maker, were enrolled in the company pension, but in 1994, with an eye toward cutting retirement costs, the company closed the plant. Now, The Washington Post found in a review of those 998 workers, that even though most of them found new jobs, they could never replace their lost pension benefits and many are facing financial struggle in their old age: One in seven has in their retirement years filed for bankruptcy, faced liens for delinquent bills, or both, according to public records.
In today’s hair-trigger, hyperreactive social media landscape, where a tweet can set off a cascade of outrage and prompt calls for a book’s cancellation, children’s book authors and publishers are taking precautions to identify potential pitfalls in a novel’s premise or execution. Many are turning to sensitivity readers, who provide feedback on issues like race, religion, gender, sexuality, chronic illness and physical disabilities. The role that readers play in shaping children’s books has become a flash point in a fractious debate about diversity, cultural appropriation and representation, with some arguing that the reliance on sensitivity readers amounts to censorship.
Behind the scenes, these readers are having a profound impact on children’s literature, reshaping stories in big and small ways before they reach impressionable young audiences. Like fact checkers or copy editors, sensitivity readers can provide a quality-control backstop to avoid embarrassing mistakes, but they specialize in the more fraught and subjective realm of guarding against potentially offensive portrayals of minority groups, in everything from picture books to science fiction and fantasy novels.
I don’t remember how the news reached us, in our rust-belt town in Indiana, that boys were being hired, at ninety-five cents an hour—minimum wage, we were informed, as though no additional lure were required—to trim Christmas trees in neighboring Ohio. We answered the call like birds summoned south in September. Loaded into flatbed trucks in the morning darkness, we were driven across the nearby border, under an ugly green arch that identified our town, absurdly, as the “Gateway to the East,” and on to Brookville. We weren’t exactly migrant workers crossing the Rio Grande. And yet, for half the year, Indiana was in a different time zone than Ohio, cussedly refusing (just as our county rejected fluorinated water as a Commie plot) to join the rest of the East in Daylight Savings Time. “If God wanted us to have more daylight,” according to a letter in the local Palladium-Item, “He would have given it to us.”