One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for January 2018

Underemployment In the Gig Economy

leave a comment »

As many readers of this blog know, I am currently attempting to balance freelance work and caring for my sick mother. One of the trickier aspects is finding work, but many people cite the current “gig economy” as being advantageous to people like me. However, like many others, my work situation would technically be qualified as “underemployment.”

Unlike unemployment, underemployment is defined as employment of highly skilled workers in low paying jobs, workers who are highly skilled but working in low skill jobs and part-time workers who would prefer to be full time. (For many workers in the gig economy, this is a consistent fact of life). According to a recent Forbes article on underemployment, a narrow focus on unemployment numbers and the perceived shame of being underemployed contribute to a lack of conversation. In fact, very few people are willing to come out and admit that they’re underemployed and frustrated, especially since studies are showing that low-paying jobs can be more detrimental to mental health than unemployment. There’s huge shame around being employed in a job that does not require your full skill set, and nobody wants to talk about it…until now.

Hi, my name is Gordon. I live in Chicago. And like many other people, I’m underemployed.


Let’s put this in perspective: about a year and a half ago, I had three freelance projects that were keeping me going. Losing one major one meant crowdfunding to cover personal expenses. When my mother got sick, I decided to move in with her at the end of my apartment lease. During that time, I had two small projects: one of which ended on great terms, and my current work consists of writing blog and web content for a specific industry. This work is for an agency that…well, it discusses how its employees are “rock stars” and “ninjas.” It’s sorely underpaying (think “content mill” levels) and trying to meet deadlines and maintain a consistent job search is rather tricky.

And some of you will be saying, “Looking for a job is a full-time job.” Well, add the day-by-day things that need to be done with Mom (including helping her up and down stairs for doctor’s appointments), that becomes even trickier. Although I manage to consistently apply for positions (both freelance and full time), performing due diligence – researching the company, assembling my resume and LinkedIn profile – takes a large amount of time. And as a caregiver, I also need to practice adequate self-care, like sleep and rest. Although my time management skills have improved, trying to find more gainful employment – even as part of the “gig economy” is still a challenge.


“But Gordon, “Why not consider job retraining in a field that’s hiring?” Several years ago, I received an Integrated Marketing Communications certificate from DePaul Kellstadt thanks to a WIA grant. Although I did experience a bump in employment, it has – for the moment – fizzled out. Plus, there’s some evidence that matching retrained employees to positions can be a challenge. (Especially since there’s a paradox – when applying for a freelance position as part of the “gig economy”, I am asked why I’m not working full time; when applying to a full-time job, I am asked why I want to leave consulting. Go figure).

And of course, there’s the ever popular, “You should be grateful you have a job…some people work three jobs to put food on the table.

And you’ve just proven my point.

We treat employment as a reward rather than a necessary activity. Working in the gig economy means doing two things: the work that pays the bills and the administrative work (accounting, networking, etc) that gets the work that pays the bills. Asking someone with my professional skills to “settle” for a low-paying job – and then shaming someone while they are actively seeking work – devalues the individual. We’re already struggling to move beyond work, to rebuild our lives…and unfortunately, the emphasis is placed too much on companies and businesses that are hiring. Even the idea of “building a small business” also entails a certain investment of time and effort, which many individuals experiencing underemployment simply do not have.

Last week, I remarked how I have learned much about friendship and community living through these turbulent times; unfortunately, there’s a corollary that comes with experiencing underemployment in the gig economy. That corollary is that many in our community still believe that there’s “something wrong” with someone who cannot simply move out of a rough situation and that employment isn’t a right, but a privilege.

And I hope that sharing my own experience, at the very least, softens that.

Please feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments below or via our Facebook page. In addition, if you wish to reach out to me personally, please do so via my contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

January 22, 2018 at 3:42 pm

How Donald Trump Taught Me The Power of Friendship and Community

leave a comment »

donald-trumpNo, it’s not a wacky ironic statement typical of a Gen X-er like me. Despite this blog’s focus on technology and social change, I will state for the record: Donald Trump, in his political activities, has taught me the power of friendship.

Maybe it all started just a year ago when I was deciding to move into Mom’s place while she was sick. Back then, I needed help…and ended up crowdfunding for financial support. When the time came to move, several friends came out…and they weren’t the friends I was expecting. I’m not complaining, mind you, and quite honestly, I am grateful for the help. But it seemed…odd, in a weird way.

But as I transitioned into my new life, I began noticing that many friends who were Trump supporters…never saw the dichotomy between railing against “snowflakes” (for example) and offering their “thoughts and prayers” in support of Mom. In fact, many of my Trump-supporting friends and colleagues offered the typical mantra of “We’re tired of carrying your lame ass.”

(NOTE: – I was looking for full time and freelance work. Two freelance assignments ended, and the one that remained qualified me as being “underemployed.” I’m not complaining; I’m making a statement of fact). IMG_20150627_095742224

But what began happening on the other end is that I found myself growing closer to other friends…and taking more personal risks. Nothing major or life changing, mind you, but small changes that were more than just casual hi-how-are-you conversation. For example, an impromptu meeting with an old colleague resulted in more personal revelations about difficult issues we were enduring. Helping another friend move fostered stronger bonds with someone who was once merely a “professional colleague.” And most recently, I realized that my opinion of another colleague has changed in recent months from disinterest to shared principles and values.

For a man who is extremely divisive and dysfunctional, Donald Trump reminds me of the overall power of community. You know, that C word that the GOP Administration and other followers of Ayn Rand consider profane? It’s the idea that collectively, we have a responsibility towards one another. It’s the belief that not only can we not do it alone, but that selfishness is a corrosive value, eating away at our individual – and common – humanity. It’s the belief that we not only have inherent value, but that value only comes through relating to others.

0902172009_burst01And thanks to Donald Trump, I’ve had a greater opportunity to build and strengthen my friendships. Not just through common values – after all, thanks to Donald Trump I attended my first vigil – but also with my past. My tendency has been either to privately romanticize my “golden age” in St. Louis (which I have to admit, in another context, such a golden age never existed) or bemoan the fact that “nobody understands me” and feel like I must live like a hermit, with my head held down in shame…

But when I hold my head down, I can’t look around and see the people who care about me.

Ubuntu-Powered Toughbook - Net Neutrality

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

It’s one of the reasons why we build our communities, our networks…because we understand that it’s through our relationships that we grow. I’m fortunate enough that I have like-minded people on my side, whether they’re creative people, socially-minded individuals, or professionals looking to make a difference. It means allies when fighting the kind of mentality that Donald Trump promotes, whether it is support for racism and white supremacy, economic injustice, and suppression of free speech. (Thanks to the support from old and new friends…yes, Net Neutrality is the hill I’m willing to die on because I honestly believe it’s not just a free speech issue but it’s also about digital access, human rights, and social justice).

Would I have learned these lessons on Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? Possibly…but Donald Trump’s activities are driving conversation and activity. And I’m grateful (and slightly sickened) to admit that Donald Trump is teaching me some powerful lessons in friendship and community.

Your thoughts? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or join the conversation via our Facebook group (all comments are moderated). If you wish to contact me privately, e-mail me via my website.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

January 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Community, Politics

Tagged with , ,

Net Neutrality Next Steps

leave a comment »

Ubuntu-Powered Toughbook - Net Neutrality

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Net Neutrality is one of the key issues driving conversation – and activism – in early 2018. (For an overview of the issues involved, check out this recent radio appearance). Thanks to two recent forums on Net Neutrality – one held this past Tuesday at Center on Halsted; the other driving Netsquared Chicago’s February meeting, there are plenty of options and opportunities for Chicago citizens to get motivated, get active, and ensure a free Internet for all. (NOTE – I’m a former Netsquared Chicago organizer, so yes, I have some bias). Net Neutrality is no longer just a business issue but touches on a wide range of issues from free speech to digital excellence, digital access, and social justice.

And this blog has gone on record in stating that digital access and digital excellence are basic human rights.

Because the FCC’s actions have been clearly driven more by ideology than public concern. Amidst questions about the validity about various public comments (various identities were “borrowed”, including Barrack Obama, Patty Duke, and one of my friends), the FCC has repealed the Open Internet Order of 2015 and pushing the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which would effectively perform several tasks, including:

  • Reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from telecommunication services to Information providing services, meaning that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate them;
  • Eliminates the 2015 Open Internet Order and weakens disclosure requirements, and
  • Pre-empts state and local efforts to regulate ISPs and ensure Net Neutrality

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Although there are efforts to stop this through the Congressional Review Act (the same mechanism that Republican leaders used to remove broadband privacy protections), this can’t be accomplished alone. Although states like California, Washington, and Illinois (currently in process) are assembling legislation, there is no easy way to resolve this situation. After all, digital access is as much a part of our business, social, and civic infrastructure as roads, bridges, and several more “visible” signs of progress. In Chicago, there are still many communities where the primary source of online access is the library. (There’s a good reason why the Chicago Public Library’s “Internet to Go” hotspot program is centered on several key neighborhoods). But the work still needs to be done…so what can we do?

I thought you would never ask…

  • Keep monitoring the news and learn what’s happening – Net neutrality is a very complicated issue because of its implications for business, economics, and free speech. Knowing the issues involved and tracking them is the best first step in fighting for net neutrality.
  • No candidate, legislator, or other government officials should proceed unless they are asked about their position on net neutrality– With 2018 midterm elections and an Illinois gubernatorial race on the horizon, this is the most important; it means doing it in public and getting it on the record. And yes, I consider the gubernatorial candidates fair game, although I doubt Governor Bruce Rauner will respond since I’ve reached out to him twice with no response.
  • Thank your state’s attorney general for joining in lawsuits against net neutrality – many states (including Illinois) have joined in filing lawsuits against current policies that remove net neutrality; this is one strategy for ensuring that our digital freedoms are protected, and Attorney Generals serve as the primary consumer protection office; they deserve your support and thanks.
  • Find a Way to Stay Active – whether you get involved in contacting your legislators through Battle for the Internet, volunteer/advocate for a local organization, or join a local protest, get your hands dirty and get in the game, because this isn’t a battle fought from behind a keyboard.

    If you think that net neutrality is an issue that isn’t worth worrying about, let me place it in a context you might understand: Chicago Now has a wide variety of blogs focused on a diverse range of voices in the Chicago area. One of Chicago Now’s strengths is that it gives those voices equal footing and access. Net neutrality would impact your ability to, say, read about being a property owner, or learn about comedy, or even read about the Cubs.

    Net neutrality affects us all. And no, we’re not going to keep quiet about it.

    What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments about net neutrality down below. or join the conversation via our Facebook group. If you wish to contact me privately or arrange a media appearance, please do so either via LinkedIn or my personal contact page.

    And as always, thanks for reading!

    Written by gordondym

    January 11, 2018 at 12:56 pm