Wandering Eye: Rethinking overtime, 'concerts should end at 11 p.m.,' and more

Legalized wage theft is set to get more difficult next month, according to this New York Times op-ed by Fran Sussner Rodgers. The Department of Labor is expected to raise the salary threshold for which overtime pay is mandatory. The current threshold is $23,660 per year. If you make more than that, you can be classified as a "professional" and must work for free after 40 hours. She says the new threshold will be something like double that. It was last raised in 1975, when 60 percent of workers fell under that $23,660 cap. Now, less than 8 percent do, she writes. We all know this, of course (especially journalists), so the fact that most workers are getting screwed isn't news. Sussner Rodgers has a different take, though: She points out that this over-40-it's-free ethic makes for sloppy management: "When everything over 40 hours is free to the employer, the temptation to demand more is almost irresistible. But for most employees, the ones exempt from overtime rules, their managers have little incentive to look for ways to use their time more efficiently." This makes for frustrated employees and more inefficiency. It goes a long way toward explaining why Americans work more hours than workers in any other civilized nation, yet our productivity-per-hour sags. "This summer's change in overtime rules can be an opening round in a long-overdue examination of how our finite time is used and compensated," she writes. "It's also very likely that workplaces will, by necessity, become more efficient and well managed as companies strive to avoid paying overtime." Yes to that. But since the change has not happened yet, it seems too hopeful to assume it's really a done deal. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

There's a lot of garbage in the art world, literally and figuratively, and we're not just talking about this $10,000 public sculpture/bench that a maintenance worker mistook for trash and threw away. No, no, the real garbage is how it's all centered around artists "perfecting" a certain kind of work that becomes easily commoditized (but majorly dull), and gallerists and collectors scooping it up and flipping it for higher profit. At a certain point it doesn't seem to matter what the work looks like, or what it says, or what it could potentially do for the world; all that matters is who made it, and how hot they are right now. One big player in all of this is the New York-based real estate mogul Aby Rosen, aptly described by Charlotte Burns for the Art Newspaper as "a Germanic, art-collecting putti with obscenely blue eyes and the kind of outspoken confidence that comes from a lifetime spent hustling to accumulate wealth." In this story we see how art can be used for evil—in his case, it helps him sell expensive apartments in New York. "At some point they forget where the hell they are, and they're looking at a lamp rather than the square footage—you've got to play it up," Rosen says. Near the end of her profile, Burns discusses Rosen's work for the New York Council for the Arts, for which he serves as a chair: "Rosen sees the agency as 'a venture capitalist—bring capital to the arts, to the writers, to the puppeteers, the small venues. Let them elevate themselves.'" An idea that, on its own, doesn't seem like the worst thing—artists gotta get paid too—but when we circle back to his other statements, such as "Commerce is in. . . If real estate is booming, art is booming," it all starts to remind us again of that unfortunate recent WaPo article which claims that, in particular, the Station North Arts and Entertainment District can "save" Baltimore with its "vibrancy." (Rebekah Kirkman)

 

In a piece titled "Concerts Should End at 11 p.m.," Gawker writer Kelly Conaboy makes the case that, well, concerts should end at 11 p.m. First, let's take a moment to note Conaboy is lucky she doesn't have to regularly experience "Baltimore Time," which is like a reverse wormhole in space-time, a longer path instead of a shortcut, with sets scheduled to start at 11 p.m. somehow going off closer to 12:30 in the morning. Anyway, Conaboy makes the case that people who need to work in the morning and those who have a tendency toward staying out and partying can benefit from an 11 p.m. cutoff. "When a concert ends at 11 P.M., you get home at a reasonable hour. You’re able to enjoy more than enough time in front of a band playing music, and then you’re able to go to sleep to rest your body for tomorrow. Or, if you want, you’re able to go somewhere and do something else. Grab a drink at a bar? Sure, it’s only 11 P.M after all. Take a leisurely stroll home with your date and enjoy the cool night air? Man, you’ve got to enjoy life and it’s only 11 P.M.—sure, let’s do it." To wit, we were able to dash down to Pier Six after putting the paper to bed to catch a few songs from John Fogerty's set. He finished around 11 and, just as Conaboy suggests, we were able to go out for a drink. Proof that it works! Come on y'all, this should happen. (Brandon Weigel)

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