In what some are hoping will become a trend among Fortune 500 firms, PepsiCo, which owns the Pepsi, Frito-Lay and Tropicana brands, recently visited the University of Pennsylvania to recruit students with both physical and mental disabilities, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The dinner and formal presentation, sponsored by PepsiCo, was facilitated by the New York-based organization, Morris Street Partners (MSP), whose mission is to increase the number of persons with diabilties in the corporate workplace. The firm also has established a similar project with Merrill Lynch.
Active on five campuses, MSP helps companies tap talented candidates by hosting what seems like standard on-campus recruitment events, and yet are exclusively tailored to students with disabilities. Rich Donovan, who has cerebral palsy and founded MSP says, “MSP basically aims to bring students with disabilities individuals into the market economy—this is something that hasn’t been attempted before in a meaningful way.”
PepsiCo’s director of executive staffing, John Delpino, heard about Morris Street Partners through a PepsiCo executive who has a disability.
PepsiCo officials acknowledge that workers with disabilities are a “very important population and we decided to go after it,” Delpino said. He finds that those students who’ve taken advantage of the opportunities MSP has created are singing the company’s praises.
“We hope it will take hold on more college campuses, as well as in the business world,” she said. Gutowksi, a University of Pennsylvania student, who does marketing for the company on campus began working at MSP after attending one of their recruitment sessions last semester with Merrill Lynch.
“It is not about being nice, it is about being smart,” said Susan Lang, the CEO of Morris Street Partners. Though a nonprofit, MSP approaches its work from a business model, and has plans to expand its efforts to more campuses in the near future.
Workers with Disabilities: Talent for a Winning Team!” is the U.S. Department of Labor’s theme for the October 2007 National Disability Employment Awareness Month. “It captures the heart of the current administration’s New Freedom Initiative, which asserts that Americans with disabilities are an underutilized reservoir of ambition, talent and skill, ready to make great contributions in the workplace,” said Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Her department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) seeks to increase public awareness of the contributions and skills that American workers with disabilities have to offer.
“America’s employers benefit when they provide work opportunities for Americans with disabilities,” said Roy Grizzard, assistant secretary of labor for ODEP. “A winning team will include people with disabilities.” ODEP’s 3,500 One-Stop Career Centers nationwide help build a bridge across conventional barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.
Also, collaborating with sister Labor Department agencies—the Employment and Training Administration and the Civil Rights Center–ODEP has developed a disability checklist to assist with implementation of Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act at the local level.
AN OFFICER BUT NOT A GENTLEMAN
A camera phone snapped a photograph of a Maricopa County Sheriff’s patrol car parked in an accessible space in a Cave Creek, AZ, parking lot while Jennifer Longdon, a wheelchair-user and disability advocate, had to utilize a neighboring spot. Ironically, Longdon was there to deliver a speech about accommodating people with disabilities. After confronting the perpetrating officer she received the following explanations: “It was only 15 minutes” and “the deputy was conducting official business.” Would these excuses have been sufficient to help an ordinary citizen avoid the upwards of $300 fine for such a violation?
Longdon is a volunteer, peer mentor and advocate with Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, which offers and promotes programs designed to empower people with disabilities. The organization also motivates people to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects a broader number of people than officials initially thought. The State Department has found that U.S. diplomats return from Iraq with the same debilitating, stress-related symptoms that have afflicted many U.S. troops, prompting the State Department to order a mental-health survey of 1,400 employees who have completed assignments there, according to USA Today.
The surveys, to be completed anonymously, are intended to determine how many returning diplomats and civilian employees are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other problems as a result of exposure to a war zone. The department was prodded to act by the American Foreign Service Association, which reported that some diplomats had difficulty adjusting after leaving. Said Larry Brown, State Department director of medical services, “The department will use the survey results to decide whether it needs to change the way it prepares employees for assignments in Iraq, as well as to address any mental health problems they experience after returning.”
The war has placed deep strains on many of the 56,000 people who work around the world for the State Department, the publication went on to report. Some diplomats return home from the war with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Others say resources are being drained from posts elsewhere to cover the growing costs in Iraq, and that State Department employees have been reluctant to complain, because of a culture that emphasizes stoicism, concern about losing security clearances if they seek counseling and fears that they will be considered disloyal.
Gulf War vets suffer from real neurological illness, studies have suggested. Veterans of the first Gulf War who developed numerous health complaints have areas of the brain that are measurably smaller than those of healthier vets, according to a study presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston. “The results of the U.S. government-funded study are preliminary but provide some of the first hard evidence that veterans from the 1990-1991 conflict are suffering from a real neurological illness,” according to HealthDay. Lead study researcher Roberta White of Boston University School of Public Health said, “Right now, for Gulf War veterans, there is a discounting of any physical basis for what might be wrong with them. But this brain imaging research suggests that there is a clear neurological basis for their complaints.” Dr. Daniel Clauw, professor of medicine and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, called the findings “intriguing,” but stated, “they do not prove that veterans of the first Gulf War were harmed by wartime chemical exposure.”
NOT THE SAME OLD SONG
Capitol and Virgin Record’s parent company, the EMI Capitol Music Group is joining forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to reduce its environmental footprint by lowering the amount of resources consumed in its product packaging, as well as in its daily business practices. They pledged to shift to recycled materials whenever possible, and to reduce the amount of heat-trapping, global warming emissions within their operations.
To celebrate the initiative, EMI hosted a ‘carbon neutral’ Grammy party last spring, in which all emissions linked to the event were offset through the purchase of clean, renewable energy. To reduce the party’s “carbon footprint,” the company worked with Native Energy, a Native American-owned energy company which helps build Native American, farmer-owned and communitybased renewable energy projects.
“We are all empowered and compelled to be agents of positive change towards the healing of the planet,” said Jeff Kempler, who is Capitol Music Group’s COO. “What EMI did with its Grammy party is just one small measure, but an important step. We and many of our artists are dedicated to harnessing the power of music to inform and inspire people and companies everywhere to take appropriate steps to improve their environmental practices.”
Since 1970 the NRDC, a nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists, has dedicated itself to protecting public health and the environment. It works to restore the integrity of the elements that sustain life—air, land and water—and to defend endangered natural places. Moreover, it seeks to establish sustainability and good stewardship of the Earth.
In its daily practices, EMI is moving towards packaging all CDs and DVDs in materials made from post-consumer, recycled fibers, while avoiding paper made from trees harvested from any endangered forest. The company pledges not to buy paper that uses toxic mercury, or that is manufactured from timber clear-cut from the Cumberland Plateau—a unique endangered ecological habitat—that ranks among the most endangered natural places in the Americas. (The pulp and paper industry is the third greatest industrial emitter of global heating pollution, and its contribution to that serious problem is projected to double in the next 15 years).
“Endangered habitats and global warming are two of the biggest challenges we face. There are tremendous opportunities today for companies to improve their environmental stewardship and performance. We’re working to help Capitol Music Group point the way,” said NRDC Senior Scientist Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. “It is especially exciting to protect the very places in America that gave birth to blues, country and rock and roll music.”