Sunday, July 17, 2005

Americare outrage

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

(Above) Richard Schlesinger (center), whose wife is from the Beaumont Americare office, voices his anger at the situation outside the Americare office in Pinehurst on Friday, July 15, 2005. The home health care company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the company bounced payroll checks totaling about $140,000 for its 762 employees.

Former Americare employees gather outside the company's office in Pinehurst on Friday to collect back pay.

This situation is both an example of the good and bad parts of this job. It's good when PJs can show the damage inflicted on the working people by inconsiderate business owners (putting it mildly). It motivates the community to do some house cleaning and rally to help their neighbors.

It's bad when we must go into situations where people are already injured and we can't immediately help. The harm has already been inflicted upon these workers. I could only document their pain. However, their anguish should be seen by other workers at other companies. It should give them (as well as investors) reason to pay close attention to the management of a business and take appropriate actions before it gets to this point.

Of the people waiting to get back pay, most understood the PJ's role and were helpful. Others were simply angry at the employer and verbally lashed out at everyone: the former employer, the police and the media (me). I understood they were in pain and needed to vent, but it's difficult to take the brunt of their anger when we're trying to help.

I covered a candlelight vigil in Dallas after a known gang member was shot dead by a police officer. Because of the situation, I was the sole "outsider" at the event. It was not only unpleasant, it was also dangerous because I was on my own (the police couldn't be there). I wasn't terribly concerned because of my background, but I could see where it might shake up some PJs without military or martial arts backgrounds.

One of my co-workers called this week the trifecta. Each PJ on staff was screamed at, verbally threatened or generally abused by folks who had nowhere else to vent on three different assignments. It's rough, but it's part of the job and part of society. We must show the pain to help prevent it from happening again. Now the question remains, how do we prevent it from happening again?

PJs can only show the problem and pieces of the solution. It's up to the community to repair the problems and heal from the wounds. It's our job to show them how well they're doing.

Enough for now,


Bryon Houlgrave said...

It must be open week on PJs across the nation. Earlier this week I was threatened, scorned and flipped off ... all in the span of fifteen minutes.

Most of them don't know exactly WHY we're there, but it's still easy to get upset. It's tough to refrain from returning fire after someone threatens to smash your several-thousand-dollar camera rig.

Marie said...

Glad you got your job done--well and safely I might add. I just got back from an assignment--at the local public swimming pool--where the lifeguards thought that they were the special forces. They physically surrounded me (even after showing them my press id) and would not allow me to take photos. I quckly extracted myself from the situation and called the Park and Rec director (an acquaintance) and asked her to tell them to let me pass. She did. But gee-whiz folks--I'm a 43 year old lady.

~John said...

It's good to see you still were able to get some good shots even with the abuse. I spent two weeks in Antigua for a photojournalism seminar through Ithaca College, and I had a run in with an over eager police officer. luckily its been a while since I have been yelled at!

thanks for all the useful info, I have been reading this blog for a long time! Keep it up! (you give hope to us youngin's, even if its gonna cost me $20,000 to start :) )

Mark M. Hancock said...

It's strange when people are deliberately targeting PJs. I don't know what has changed in recent years, but it isn't good.
With "official" types, I've learned to get their names and look like I'm leaving. I'll try a different route if I can, or make a quick call if they are the only gatekeeper. If you mention "prior restraint" to an educated supervisor, barriers are normally removed.