Workplace Issues Today
Nurses, medical technicians, and physical therapists ended a four day strike at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center as planned yesterday, with a rally outside the hospital and address workers? warning of more strikes to follow if management did not address workers? concerns in ongoing contract negotiations. Working since May 13 without a contract, members of Service Employees International Union Local 399 joined with community supporters at the rally to protest unsafe overstaffing and pay ranges lower than those at other nearby hospitals. Management was warned about the strike in advance by the union, and brought in replacement workers to maintain patient care---which, according to the union, deteriorated during the strike causing numerous complaints.
See At Hollywood Hospital Labor Unrest Continues Even as Walkout Ends., PATRICK J. McDONNELL, Los Angeles Times, May 27 2002
This past Sunday and Monday, Culinary Workers Union (CWU)---made up of Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165---reached contract agreements with the remaining two of the four largest hotel/casino companies on Vegas? main strip (see WIT for May 24, 2002). The agreements raise to 35,000 the number of CWU?s 47,000 members who have negotiated new contracts following an overwhelmingly affirmative strike vote on May 16 (see WIT for May 16, 2002), and before their current contracts expire on May 31. With five of the largest employers on the Strip having reached tentative agreements on five year contracts including raises of close to twenty-three percent, chances are high that the remaining 15 employers still in negotiations will settle without a citywide strike being called.
See Union, Two More Major Vegas Employers Reach Settlement., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, May 27 2002
President Nicole Notat of France?s moderate CFDT, the country?s largest private sector trade union federation, will step down this week after leading the federation for almost ten years. Ms. Notat?s deputy Francois Chyryque will succeed her as president of this union that has led the way in changing French labor relations in recent years---growing its membership by over thirty-six percent in the past fifteen years, even as overall union density in France has declined. Much of CFDT?s success can be attributed to its strong organizing campaigns in the rapidly growing service and high-tech sectors, while showing a willingness to work with the Medef employers? federation in order to achieve its goals.
See French Trade Union Leader to Retire., ROBERT GRAHAM, Financial Times, May 27 2002
Spain?s rival trade unions---Comisio-nes Oreras and the smaller Union General de Trabajadores---stood united yesterday in their call for a general strike coinciding with the European Union summit in Seville. Planned for June 20, the strike is a response to major new restrictions on unemployment benefits proposed by President Jose Maria Aznar, and would be the first instance of massive labor unrest in Spain in eight years. While President Aznar?s government insists that the current unemployment benefit system hurts the economy by preventing labor mobility, the unions claim that forty percent of the unemployed are already ineligible for unemployment insurance and have made it clear that they strongly oppose any economic policy that further infringes upon labor rights and protections.
See General Strike Planned for European Union Summit., LESLIE CRAWFORD, Financial Times, May 23 2002
Over the objections of organized labor, environmental groups and human rights advocates, the U.S. Senate voted sixty-six to thirty yesterday to approve an amended version of a trade bill that would give the president fast track trade agreement powers for the first time in eight years (see WIT for April 23, 2002). The bill was passed after provisions were added improving benefits for workers laid off as a result of increased trade (see WIT for May 17, 2002), and maintaining the Senate?s power to modify presidential trade agreements in order to preserve anti-dumping laws. Allow these amendments made passage of the bill possible, they have not mollified unions and other groups who argue that the bill still provides insufficient protection against child labor violations and pollution, and have angered businesses, conservative politicians and the Bush administration---which is currently indicating that it will veto any trade bill that includes the anti-dumping provision.
See Senate Passes Fast Track Trade Bill., Reuters, The New York Times, May 23 2002
Park Place Entertainment Corp., Aztar Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment Inc.---three major casino firms in Las Vegas---reached tentative contract agreements with the Culinary Workers Union yesterday. The settlements come one week after the 48,000 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees affiliated CWU voted overwhelmingly to give their elected leadership the power to call a strike if new contracts were not negotiated before their existing contracts expired on May 31. Although several major employers on Vegas? main strip have not yet reached settlements with the CWU, the likelihood of a major strike that could disrupt Vegas? recent economic recovery has been greatly reduced.
See CWU, Three Major Vegas Employers Reach Tentative Agreements., DOUG YOUNG, Los Angeles Times, May 23 2002
The California State Assembly Appropriations Committee approved a heavily amended version of a bill that would have required California public school districts to negotiate with teachers? union over textbook, curriculum and academic improvement program decisions (see WIT for Feb. 22, 2002). As amended, the bill keeps such decisions outside the scope of normal contract bargaining by establishing an alternative negotiations process involving academic partnerships between school boards and teachers? unions. While the California Teachers Association has praised the amendment as a reasonable compromise, opponents insist that the academic partnerships called for in the amended bill are just collective bargaining with a new name.
See CA Bill to Include Education Decisions in Collective Bargaining Heavily Amended., DUKE HELFAND, Los Angeles Times, May 22 2002
In response to what it claims is an attempt by Washington, D.C.?s Metro transit system to unilaterally change drug testing rules specified in their contract, the 7,000 member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 has announced its intention to bring a lawsuit if management does not agree to negotiate over the change. What makes this disagreement unusual, is that Metro has decided to eliminate random alcohol and drug testing of escalator and elevator mechanics, and the union is insisting that safety is critical enough in these jobs that pre-employment testing is not sufficient and random screening must be maintained. Local 689 has acknowledged that its position on the issue is unusual for a union, but has made it clear that it feels the testing is necessary to ensure the safety of the 600,000 passengers who have to ride an average of two escalators every time they get on or off a train.
See Union, Transit Authority in Strange Roles in Drug Testing Argument., LYNDSEY LAYTON, The Washington Post, May 22 2002
Members of Annapolis Professional Firefighters Local 1926 returned to the negotiating table with a new proposal last week, after walking out of stalled negotiations on May 1. With the city refusing to meet the firefighters? demand for the same raise offered to, and overwhelmingly accepted by, members of Annapolis? police union, members of Local 1926 are now seeking a higher cost-of-living-adjustment than that offered to police officers and four additional days off each year. The contract dispute has become increasingly political as City Council members rally behind the firefighters, while Mayor Ellen O. Moyer---whose election campaign was supported by the police union and opposed by the firefighters? union---continues to insist that a higher raise was more critical for the police department which has lost a large number of officers to neighboring areas in the past year.
See Annapolis Firefighters Propose New Wage Settlement in Stalled Talks., NELSON HERNANDEZ and MATTHEW MOSK, The Washington Post, May 22 2002
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters officially announced their endorsement of New York State Governor George E. Pataki?s reelection campaign yesterday. Teamsters international president James P. Hoffa spoke at the news conference held at a Manhattan Teamsters hall, lauding Mr. Pataki for his key support of anti-sweatshop and other pro-working family legislation. Mr. Hoffa voiced a clear message---inherent in the decision by the Teamsters and numerous other unions to endorse Mr. Pataki (see WIT?s for March 20, 2002 and Feb. 19, 2002)---that organized labor will not blindly give its support to any one political party, but will instead endorse candidates who prove their commitment to ?fight for the rights of working families.?
See Teamsters Endorse Pataki., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, Los Angeles Times, May 21 2002
Four months after declaring the largest debt default in history, Argentina has seen its peso drop seventy percent against the dollar and unemployment rise to twenty-three percent, in an economic crisis that is expected to deepen this year. Decent paying jobs with some measure of job security are a prize beyond the reach of the average person in this economy where over half of the jobs that are off the books---which is exactly the premise behind a new game show named ?Recursos Humanos? (?Human Resources? in Spanish). Every night two prescreened candidates take quizzes, are taped by hidden cameras during a one-day an unpaid on-the-job trial run, and reveal the tragedies and hardships in their personal lives, as they compete for a job with a one-year contract and full benefits---offered by business in return for the free publicity, and awarded by call-in voters across the country---with the winner getting six-months of free family medical coverage.
See ?Recursos Humanos?: Human Resources . . . the Game Show., JOSHUA GOODMAN, The Christian Science Monitor, May 21 2002
At the release of its latest report in London yesterday, the Human Genetics Commission---a government advisory body---called for legislation prohibiting employers from using genetic testing and genetic information in making employment decisions. The Commission?s president, Helena Kennedy, pointed to a recent U.S. scandal in which the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway conducted DNA tests for predisposition to repetitive stress injuries on thirty-six workers without their permission. One of the primary motivations behind the Commission?s stance is the fact that such testing is still in its infancy and its predictive value and accuracy questionable.
See Commission Calls for Ban on Genetic Screening in the Workplace., CLIVE COOKSON, Financial Times, May 21 2002
Local 32B/32J of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has won reinstatement for eighteen of the twenty-two employees who clean and monitor female restrooms during Mets games. The restroom matrons were fired March 29---three days before the start of the season---and have been picketing home games in protest since then. Under the new agreement fourteen of the workers will be rehired full-time and another four will kept on to fill in during heavily attended games, and all rehired workers will receive a three percent raise.
See Shea Stadium Restroom Matrons Reinstated., PETE BOWLES, Newsday, May 20 2002
With time running out on a current five-year contract with UPS, the 230,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the company voted overwhelmingly yesterday to authorize a strike the day after their contract expires on July 31 if no settlement is reached. Labor experts say that a strike is unlikely to occur, as both sides took heavy losses in the fifteen-day strike---the first since the company started business eighty-six years ago---that led to the current contract. Among the major contract issues for the union members, only forty percent of whom are employed fulltime, is getting a contractual guarantee that UPS will convert 3,000 part-time jobs to full-time jobs in each year of the contract.
See Teamster Authorize UPS Strike., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 20 2002
With the economic downturn of the past year forcing Los Angeles County to make $355 million in budget cuts, a major disagreement is brewing between the county?s Board of Supervisors and public sector employees in the county. Twelve unions representing county workers have formed a coalition to oppose proposals for new building and fight for the money to be used to maintain existing services and jobs. The County Sheriff?s office has joined with the unions, alleging that the $50 million in proposed cuts to the Sheriff?s Department would force the closing of jails and four stations, and the elimination of hate crime and identity theft investigation programs.
See LA County Workers Protest Plans to Build During Budget Cuts., GARRETT THEROLF, Los Angeles Times, May 20 2002
Office cleaning contractors in Montgomery County, Tennessee are expected to begin negotiating first contracts with Local 82 of the Service Employees International Union this month. The agreement to negotiate comes after Local 82 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that cleaning companies Potomac Minute Maid and Service Solutions threatened employees to prevent them from organizing. The janitors---who make only $5.15 to $5.50 an hour---are looking to win health benefits, and a raise that would put them on par with the $7.70 an hour made by janitors in nearby Washington D.C.
See SEIU Takes Justice for Janitors Fight to New Ground., DANA HEDGPETH, The Washington Post, May 19 2002
With a tentative agreement reached in the all important state of Baden-Wurttemberg between German engineering and industrial union IG MEtall and the engineering employers? federation Gesamtmetall (see WIT for May 16, 2002), the remaining pieces of an industry wide agreement are falling into place. Yesterday, the union reached an agreement with employers in the Berlin and Brandenburg region where 1,500 workers went on strike last Friday at the same time a tentative agreement was being reached in Baden-Wurttemberg. As expected, the Berlin/Brandenburg agreement closely mirrors the Baden-Wurttemberg agreement---which will likely also serve as the basis for settlements in such states as Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt where the two sides have yet to come to an agreement.
See IG Metall Reaches Settlement in Berlin., Bloomberg News, May 19 2002
The number of first-time unemployment insurance claims defied expectations of a drop to 402,000 last week, instead rising from 416,000 to 418,000 and bringing overall unemployment levels to a nineteen-year high. Although the four-week moving average in new jobless claims---which averages out temporary fluctuations---declined for the third week in a row from 429,250 last week to 420,750, anything above 400,000 represents an excessively slack labor market. The rise in new unemployment claims, and the total 3.86 million workers currently on unemployment benefits, are indications that despite increases in production, the economy is still very weak and employers still extremely cautious.
See Unemployment Reaches Record High., Tribune News Services, Chicago Tribune, May 16 2002
In a continuing effort to tie presidential fast track powers on trade agreements to protections for workers who lose their jobs due to increased foreign competition, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday to add a two-year wage insurance program to the trade bill supported by the president and currently being hotly debated in the Senate. Although the compromise was condemned by some Republicans as an entitlement, many in both parties praised it as an important and necessary step in reaching an agreement on the overall legislation and its effects. The passage of the overall trade bill and the fast track trade powers it contains are still questionable, as some Senators are using a ?poison pill? amendment on temporary health insurance support for retired steelworkers in an effort to block what many argue is a bill that does not provide adequate protections for labor and environmental rights.
See Senate Adds Wage Insurance Package to Trade Bill., HELEN DEWAR, The Washington Post, May 16 2002
For the first time in almost twenty years, the U.S. may improve the labor rights standards that developing countries must meet to qualify for duty free trade. For twenty-five years, the U.S. has allowed approximately $16 billion in goods from developing countries that meet certain labor rights standards to enter the country without tariffs under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP). The U.S. Senate is expected to pass a revision of this legislation, that will require countries to prohibit discrimination in employment and occupational choices in order to benefit from the GSP.
See Stronger Stance by U.S. on Foreign Labor Rights May be in the Offing., EDWARD ALDEN, Financial Times, May 16 2002
Only one day after resuming contract negotiations that had stalled for over a month (see WIT for May 14, 2002), German engineering union IG Metall and employers in the state of Baden-Wurttemburg have reached a tentative agreement that will cover over 800,000 workers and bring an end to almost seven weeks of strikes in the region (see WIT for April 1, 2002). Covering over 800,000 workers, the eighteen-month contract provides for a four percent raise for the first year, a 3.1 percent raise for the following six months, and a once only payment of $110 for all workers this month. The Baden-Wurttemburg agreement will likely set the pattern for settlements between Metall and manufacturers in other regions throughout Germany---some of which have been experiencing warning strikes since March in a nationwide dispute over raises (see WIT for March 27, 2002).
See IG Metall, Key Employers Reach Tentative Agreement., DAVID McHUGH, Chicago Tribune, May 15 2002
The 48,000 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees affiliated Culinary Workers Union (CWU) will vote today on whether to set a citywide strike deadline for their contract negotiations with Las Vegas employers. Facing a May 31 expiration for their current five-year contracts with hotel and restaurant groups, CWU members plan to take their concerns over massive post-9/11 layoffs, high workloads and maintenance of their family health benefits to the street, as they begin a public awareness campaign this Friday. The risk posed by public labor disputes in a recovering local economy based on tourism, has put immense pressure for a settlement on both sides in this industry that has for well over a decade been a model of union organizing and labor cooperation.
See Vegas Workers to Hold Strike Vote., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, May 15 2002
Working without a contract since April 30, and with contract negotiations deadlocked, registered nurses (RN?s) at the University of California?s six hospitals reluctantly decided yesterday that they will hold a one day strike on May 29 if progress has not been made in talks before then. In preparation for the strike, the nurses? union will be contacting county health officials to set up plans for maintaining patient care, and has made it clear that it will support nurses? decisions to cross the picket line to deliver care to patients if there is an emergency. The UC RN?s---represented by the California Nurses Association---have informed the university that they may consider an open-ended strike if talks continue to remain deadlocked after the one-day strike.
See UC Nurses Announce Strike., Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, May 15 2002
Workers in Saipan?s garment industry won two major victories yesterday in U.S. District Court Judge for Saipan---an island in the U.S. territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the site of much dispute over labor laws and practices in the past year. One ruling, in a suit against forty-eight clothing manufacturers and thirteen major retailers including Gap Inc., J.C. Penny Co. and Target Corp., carried through on an earlier ruling (see WIT for Oct. 18, 2001), and allows workers in the various factories to sue as one class based on the similarity of their experiences. The second ruling upheld the validity of a settlement by nineteen other retailers including Tommy Hilfiger Corp. and Liz Claiborne Inc., in which workers won $8.7 million and independent monitoring of compliance with strict labor codes on the island.
See Saipan Workers Win Major Court Victories., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, May 14 2002
The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) won yesterday what could be the largest back pay sum awarded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) since the agency was created by the Wagner Act sixty-seven years ago. The administrative law judge (ALJ) in the case decided that company Kaiser Aluminum had committed unfair labor practices during a twenty-month strike that began in September of 1998, and was followed by company demands for what the ALJ considered unreasonable concessions from the union. Kaiser, which locked out the striking workers after they agreed to return and has since filed for bankruptcy, plans to appeal the ruling to the full board of the NLRB.
See Steelworkers Win Lockout Case against Kaiser., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 14 2002
As the Major League Baseball season enters full swing, players---concerned about the very real possibility of an off-season lockout after this year?s World Series---are beginning to discuss setting a strike deadline for negotiations early this August. Although both sides in the talks are downplaying the likelihood of a strike, it was an August 12 strike date and deadlocked negotiations that led to the early end of the 1994 season and the first cancellation of the World Series in ninety years. If the players finish out the season without striking and without a new contract, management would be able to declare an impasse and implement contract and salary changes like its proposed profit sharing and payroll tax plans without approval by the players? union.
See As MLB Settlement Remains Out of Reach, Players Consider Strike Date., MURRAY CHASS, May 14 2002
Members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) employed by Manhattan based nonprofit health insurer Group Health Inc. (GHI) ratified a new contract agreement yesterday, ending a twenty-six-day strike. The main point of contention in the negotiations was GHI?s insistence that employees begin paying for part of their health insurance---a break from past contracts that the company argued was necessitated by the rising cost of health care. Under the new four-year contract, new hires will have to make co-payments for doctors? visits and prescription drugs and payments towards dependant coverage less than those originally demanded by management, current employees will never have to pay for their health insurance, and all employees will receive a raise of over seventeen percent.
See Nonprofit Health Insurer, Employees Settle Contract., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 13 2002
Executive director Thomas Hollister of the Compton Education Association (CEA) criticized the Compton Unified School District?s state appointed trustee, Randolph E. Ward, for pressing the district?s negotiators to drop a cost-of-living adjustment from a contract proposal passed by the school board. The CEA---whose 1,700 members have been working without a contract for almost a year , and are seeking a five percent raise---alleges that Mr. Ward told district negotiators not to offer a two percent cost-of-living adjustment that the school board had passed along with a two percent raise. Although the state returned day-to-day control of the district to the school board in December after six years of direct supervision, Mr. Ward retains final say over the district?s financial decisions.
See State Appointed Trustee?s Actions Anger Teachers in Compton, CA., JOE MATHEWS, Los Angeles Times, May 13 2002
German engineering union IG Metall and engineering employers? federation Gesamtmetall announced yesterday that industry-wide contract negotiations, which have been stalled for almost a month now, will resume tomorrow in the state of Baden-Wurttemburg. One day rolling strikes by 100,000 Metall members last week at over eighty companies in this region---which often leads the way in settlements on engineering industry contracts---spread to Berlin and the state of Brandenburg yesterday. With German Chancellor Gerhard Schorder pushing hard for a quick settlement that meets workers? expectations without jeopardizing Germany?s nascent economic recovery, Gesamtmetall has agreed to continue talks regardless of continuing work stoppages.
See IG Metal Strikes Continue but Negotiations Resume., HUGH WILLIAMSON, Financial Times, May 13 2002
As the rise of US-style market capitalism and foreign companies continues to replace state-run enterprises and weaken labor law protections and workers? rights standards in China, it is often the most vulnerable who end up paying for the economic transition. An example, as outrageous as it is becoming commonplace, is that of nineteen year-old Li Chunmei. One of tens of millions of young workers from poor families in China?s interior, who are drawn to the myriad private sub-contractor and sub-sub-contractor companies springing up in China?s coastal regions, Li Chunmei worked for the Bainan Toy Factory---a sub-contractor of Kaiming Industries---manufacturing stuffed animals and other children?s toys for sale mainly in the U.S. Working sixteen-hour days seven days a week in a factory where the air was full of fibers and the temperature often reached as high as ninety degrees, Li Chunmei returned to her company dorm coughing and hungry, and with her legs aching from standing and running all day. One night her roommates woke to find her in the bathroom coughing up blood, bleeding from her nose and mouth and moaning quietly. She died before an ambulance arrived.
See Young Girl Worked to Death by Toy Manufacturing Company., Philip P. Pan, The Washington Post, May 12 2002
NYC Mayor Backs Away from Teachers Contract.
In a taped interview aired yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he does not expect to reach a contract settlement with NYC?s teachers until the State Legislature passes its budget and makes a decision on his bid to take direct control of City schools. Bloomberg?s attempts to link a contract for NYC?s teachers to his attempt to take over the school system, has drawn sharp criticism from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Although the city and the teachers? union agreed to follow the guidelines of a state fact-finding committee last month (see WIT for April 19, 2002), negotiations have once again stalled and the teachers---who have been working without a contract for over a year and a half---began strike authorization procedures last week (see WIT for May 8, 2002).
See NYC Mayor Backs Away from Teachers Contract., MICHAEL COOPER, The New York Times, May 12 2002
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union began contract talks today with shipping companies represented by the Pacific Maritime Association at such West Coast ports as Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two busiest in the nation. Major retailers and manufacturers including Gap Inc., Nike Inc. and Best Buy Co. will be keeping a close eye on the negotiations covering 10,000 dock workers and over $300 billion in trade, as a slowdown like that experienced when negotiations ran past deadline in 1999 would cost the companies billions. Major issues in the negotiations are likely to be the Association?s push to automate certain jobs, and the union?s goals of maintaining benefits and improving pensions while extending the job descriptions covered by the contract.
See Dock Workers, West Coast Carriers Begin Talks., Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, May 12 2002
Increases in prescription drug prices are cited as a major contributing factor as well as cutting back on benefits, which included drug coverage, by Medicare health maintenance organizations. Many medium-sized companies are no longer offering retiree health care coverage to new employees, and small companies rarely pay these benefits.
See Company liabilities for retiree health care costs are rising rapidly, and many large employers are cutting back on retired worker health care benefits., MILT FREUDENHEIM, The New York Times, May 9 2002
The company had failed to pay the workers for time spent putting on and removing clothes and protective gear, which Labor Department officials claim to be part of work-related safety procedures. Perdue believed this activity should be considered part of employees’ personal time. The Labor Department has now sued Tyson Foods for similar wage and hour violations.
See In one of the largest settlements ever reached by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Administration, Perdue Farms will distribute $10 million to 25,000 former and current poultry workers., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, May 9 2002
Officials from the California Nurses Association say they will give 10 days notice before walking off of the job. Issues such as merit pay vs. pay for years of service, mandatory overtime, and nurse/patient ratios are among those being discussed in negotiations.
See In a strike authorization vote, 95% of voting nurses supported a strike against the University of California’s six hospitals if contract negotiations continue to fail., CHARLES ORNSTEIN, Los Angeles Times, May 9 2002
Physicians for Responsible Negotiation, the AMA sponsored union, will no longer receive funding through the parent organization. Citing "future operations projections," the American Medical Association has not been impressed with the ability of the union to bring in sufficient membership and dues. The union continues to lose money. The money could be reinstated at a meeting in June in Chicago. Other sources of funding may be sought as well.
See Physicians' Union Funds Withdrawn By AMA, Bruce Japsen, Chicago Tribune, May 8 2002
Despite a jobless rate higher than 20 percent and more than 60,000 wage earners losing jobs each month with some 8,000 people slipping below the poverty line daily, more than 400 soup kitchens have started spontaneously. Volunteers are flocking to charity groups such as the Solidarity Network. While these efforts are extraordinary, the crisis mounts in terms of human suffering. People lacking basic food and minerals are beginning to appear. Most volunteers are from the classic middle class who prospered in recent years. They now feel they need to give back.
See Argentina's Economic Crisis Sees Volunteerism Surface, Colin Barraclough, The Christian Science Monitor, May 8 2002
Eight persons with Alzheimers or complicated medical histories will be the first persons implanted with scannable ID chips. "Who gets to decide who gets chipped?" asked Marc Rostenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "...its an easier way to manage someone, like putting a leash on a pet." While this is a needed experiment for a controlled set of circumstances, it is unsettling for privacy advocates. The VeriChip produced by Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. is sure to raise long-term ethical questions. Brazil and Mexico are expressing interest from government and commercial enterprises. Where there are threats of kidnapping, there is already a market.
See Chips To Be Implanted To Allow Scanning Of Humans For Identification, David Streitfeld, Los Angeles Times, May 8 2002
An audit by the Labor Department?s inspector general revealed underpayments totaling 17 million dollars per year by 13 out of 60 companies studied. The underpayments seem to occur when employers incorrectly calculate benefits for departing workers. Cash-balance plans distribute retirement earnings evenly throughout an employee?s career, instead of figuring benefits using length of service and final pay, as with traditional plans.
See Study shows cash-balance pension plans may be underpaying participants., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, May 7 2002
According to the union?s rules, this is the first of several steps that must precede a strike. The union?s 100,000 active members will next have the opportunity to vote on strike authorization. Eighteen months have passed since the union?s last contract expired and one month has passed since a state fact-finding panel made recommendations for new contract provisions.
See In a 1,640 to 8 vote, delegates of the United Federation of Teachers, representing New York City teachers, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike., Abby Goodnough, The New York Times, May 7 2002
Wanting to work in careers that help people, rearranging priorities with more focus on friends and family, trying to get away from workplace stress, and trying to travel less are all reasons cited for professional transformations since September 11th.
See September 11th has prompted many Americans to make profound shifts in their work priorities and aspirations., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, May 7 2002
The state?s supreme court will hear the case of Dan Esberg, who is suing his employer, Union Oil Company, for denying him access to company benefits allowing him to pursue his Master?s degree. According to Esberg, a supervisor said he was too old for that kind of investment, but the company says there were other factors in its decision. A California appeals court ruled that Esberg was not entitled to equal benefits. The case points out a loophole in California law. The state?s anti-discrimination laws protect older workers from dismissal, but does not guarantee them equal treatment when it comes to benefits. Older workers are protected by federal law, but most workers choose state courts to sue in because the awards can be larger and jurys' decisions are not required to be unanimous. If the lower court?s decision stands, the legislature will need to address the issue.
See A California court will decide if state law extends protections for older workers to include equal access to benefits., Harriet Chiang, San Francisco Chronicle, May 6 2002
Workers are demanding a 4-6.5% increase in wages, but companies are saying that kind of increase will force them to relocate. The strikes are called for by IG Metall, the union that represents 2.7 million factory workers. Yesterday’s strikes were against Mercedes and Porsche plants, but the labor action will encompass several other companies in a series of one-day strikes. Industry-wide actions are rare in Germany. The country has enjoyed peaceful labor relations and a strong labor movement. Recently, however, companies are opting out of the industry-wide collective bargaining umbrella. They say the wage negotiation structure is too rigid.
See Industry-wide auto strikes in Germany begun this week result from a deterioration of labor-management relations in that country., Edmund L. Andrews, The New York Times, May 6 2002
The union recently voted to increase dues and up its line of credit. Its contract with UPS, negotiated after a 15-day strike in 1997, expires on July 31. UPS head, Mike Eskew, admitted he was concerned about the labor situation in an address to an Atlanta Rotary Club.
See Teamster build-up of war chest could mean another UPS strike on the way., Barbara Durr, Financial Times, May 6 2002
IG Metall union, Germany's biggest industrial union with 2.7 million members nationwide, launched the first of a series of one-day strikes today. The strikes follow fifteen months of negotiations that hinged on the unions request for a raise of at least 4%, with employers offering 3.3. Analysts warn the strikes could slow the European economic recovery, but some unionists are calling for more traditional, long-term strikes.
See Germany's largest union begins flexible strikes after negotiations break down., Associated Press, The New York Times, May 5 2002
A survey by the Information Technology Association of America has found that the number of US technology workers fell 5% last year, a loss of 530,000 jobs. Analysts disagree on prospects for next year, with some predicting a flat to stable job market and others predicting that employers will make up for the lost jobs as firms begin to purchase more computers and software that require support staff. A separate study, by Information Week magazine, also found that salaries for technology workers fell 11% last year.
See Surveys find job losses and salary decreases for US technology workers., Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post, May 5 2002
During World War II many Mexican workers, known as braceros, signed contracts with American companies to work on farms and railroads. The workers claim they had wages withheld and were never repaid as their contracts stipulated; the amount could reach $500 million. The U.S. and Mexican governments do not recognize the claim, but the workers have gained support from Latino civil rights groups and labor unions.
See Braceros seek back pay for WWII contributions., Oscar Avila, Chicago Tribune, May 5 2002
In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court found that the first amendment does not protect Nike from accusations of fraud for claiming that its overseas workers are paid adequate wages and that its working conditions are safe. The decision has implications for determining when businesses can be held accountable for false statements made in commercial speech as compared to political speech which, under the first amendment, would give businesses protection from even false statements.
See First Amendement does not protect Nike from making false claims about their overseas workers., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, May 2 2002
The unemployment rate reached 6% in April, its highest point in almost eight years. Despite signs of economic growth, analysts expect the unemployment rate to continue to increase until next year, when economic recovery will translate into increased hiring by firms.
See Despite signs of economic recovery, unemployment rate hits 6%., John M. Berry, The Washington Post, May 2 2002
A controversial new study by the public interest group Public Citizen indicates that costs of mandatory arbitration are underestimated relative to using the court system. In addition, the rule of law is threatened by this new corporate maneuver. Increasingly, consumers and employees find it impossible to vindicate their rights.
See Mandatory Arbitration May Cost More Than Using Courts, Caroline E. Mayer, The Washington Post, May 1 2002
Treatment of the poor and the states' freedom to set their own course are issues polarizing Congress over a new Welfare Bill. In addition, issues of real long-term costs and values are surfacing in how best to meet the needs of children and their families while attempting to reduce the number of welfare recipients.
See Child-Care, A Key Welfare Legislation Issue, Creates "Catch 22" Situation for Low-Income Mothers, Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times, May 1 2002
By paying commissions, in the form of bonuses, on revenues earned from clients brought in raises questions about the independence of services provided by Deloitte & Touche. Recent efforts to approach staff and management of rival firms with bonuses, offers of doubling salaries, and more, including at least one instance of paying top recruits 6 percent of revenues earned from new clients brought from former firms has eyebrows raised in the industry.
See Recruitment Of Senior Staff In Russia To Work For Deloitte & Touche Uses Questionable Bonuses, Andrew Jack, Financial Times, May 1 2002
The chancellor spoke to thousands of trade unionists in Leipzig, eastern Germany. He highlighted the progress his government has made for working people since 1998. He did not comment on the strikes in the engineering industry that are expected to begin next week. Citing concern over the possible economic impact of strikes, Schroder's stance in recent weeks has been to call for a wage settlement. Speaking at a rally in Berlin, Klaus Zwickel of IG Metall said that strikes would actually help with Germany's economic recovery. Acording to the DGB national trade union federation, approximately 500,000 people participated in labour movement rallies on Wednesday.
See In a traditional labour movement May Day rally on Wednesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder urged trade union members to support his Social Democrats in September's federal elections., Hugh Williamson, Financial Times, Apr 30 2002
The panel has been meeting for more than a year to establish fairer and more intelligent policies for determining who should do what federal work. Critics of the decision, including Panel member Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 650,000 federal workers, said the report was unfair. They argued that ?best value? is highly subjective and ill defined, and that the report completely ignored accountability.
See The Commercial Activities Panel, a congressionally mandated group of government officials, outside experts, union members and contractors, recommended yesterday that the federal government award service contracts based on ?best value? rather than the lowest bid, angering union representatives of federal employees vying against the private sector for those jobs, Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, Apr 30 2002
The high court ruled yesterday in US Airways v. Barnett that disabled employees are not necessarily entitled to accommodation when that accommodation means transferring them to jobs that more senior, non-disabled employees want. The 5-4 decision did allow for some overriding of company seniority systems in favor of accommodation when seniority is a considered, but not a controlling factor in hiring decisions. The decision does not address cases where there are collective bargaining agreements.
See Supreme Court rules that company seniority systems can override reasonable accommodation rights for the disabled., Charles Lane, The Washington Post, Apr 29 2002
The NLRB regional director had paved the way for the TAs and RAs to vote on representation by the United Auto Workers in a decision last February. Columbia administrators decided to appeal the decision to the full board. The union vote was held, but the ballots have been impounded. The walkout by about 200 graduate assistants joined by other UAW employees affected instruction throughout the university, but particularly freshman level courses that are often taught by graduate assistants.
See Grad students at Columbia walked off the job yesterday in protest of the university?s decision to appeal an NLRB decision allowing them to unionize., Yilu Zhao, The New York Times, Apr 29 2002
The strikers have clerical, maintenance, and library jobs with the university. Wage increases are demanded.
See 400 1199/S.E.I.U. workers at Yeshiva University have begun a strike., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Apr 29 2002
The argument is that the company needs key employees in order to have a chance at returning to profitability. However, some stakeholders, in particularly laid-off employees and creditors, question the advisability of rewarding the very leadership that might have caused the financial problems in the first place.
See ?Stay? bonuses during bankruptcies and reorganizations are used to keep employees from jumping ship., Sabrina Jones, The Washington Post, Apr 29 2002
SAG contract requirements include items such as contributions by producers to the union’s health and pension fund, minimum guaranteed pay rates, residual payments when work is a rerun, and safety and health provisions. SAG estimates that 1,500 of its actors work in foreign productions each year and there is a growing trend to shoot film and TV shows outside of the United States. Producers complain that the union is exceeding the reach of its contract without negotiating at the bargaining table.
See The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is asking members of its union to refuse parts in foreign productions if they are not offered a SAG contract., James Bates, Los Angeles Times, Apr 28 2002
Critics charge that the new rule would hurt employers’ ability to attract and retain workers with these popular plans, especially in the competitive high-tech industry. The IRS is claiming that the stock incentive programs are compensation, while critics claim they are actually benefits, with no income being gained until one sells the stock. A congressional tax committee estimates that the change would result in the IRS collecting an additional $23 billion over the next decade.
See A new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule, set to take effect Jan 1, 2003, would impose payroll taxes on incentive stock options and employee stock purchase plans (ESPP)., Alorie Gilbert, CNET News.com, The New York Times, Apr 28 2002
According to Amicus, Britain’s largest manufacturing union, three complaints about inadequate implementation of the directive were upheld: employer enforcement of workers’ rights to breaks and holidays; measurement of time voluntarily worked above normal working time, and the exclusion of night-shift overtime hours from the count towards normal hours. The Confederation of British Industry claims that the government has correctly balanced worker needs with the need for company flexibility.
See Legal proceedings started over Britain's implementation of the European Commission’s working time directive, which limits the working week to 48 hours., Michael Mann, Financial Times, Apr 28 2002
The Service Employees International Union and Catholic Healthcare West will today announce the settlement of a first contract that will cover 9,000 workers at twenty hospitals run by California?s largest non-profit hospital system. The contract is the culmination of several years of hard fought organizing and often heated negotiating, and an important breakthrough in recent efforts by health care unions to organize private sector hospitals and health service providers in California. Among the contract provisions won by the employees are a ten percent annual increase in pay and benefits for each of the contract?s two years, health insurance fully paid for by the employer, and the creation of union/management committees to address the understaffing problems that were one of the biggest issues in the organizing drive and negotiations.
See Major Victory for SEIU in California Healthcare Industry., DON LEE, Los Angeles Times, Apr 25 2002
A settlement was announced yesterday in a case involving a customer service employee at Virgin Airline?s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) terminal, whose requests for time off to observe the Sabbath were denied and resulted in his being forced to resign. The terms of the settlement apply to all similar employees at Virgin?s JFK terminal, and include a requirement that the company make all possible scheduling accommodations for employees? religious requirements. The case was prosecuted by the office of New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, which settled a similar case involving an Orthodox Jewish applicant who was turned down for a food equipment repair technician position with the Hobart Corporation because his religion prevents him from working Saturdays
See Airline Settles with NY Attorney General?s Office in Discrimination Suit., ROBIN POGREBIN, The New York Times, Apr 25 2002
After over two years of negotiating, United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists have reached a tentative settlement on a new contract for the 23,000 customer service, ramp and security workers at United represented by the IAM. Union members will vote sometime in the next two weeks on weather to accept the fifty-one month contract, which includes benefits improvement and the first raises in eight years for the workers, that will put their wages well above those of similar workers at other airlines. United CEO Jack Creighton characterized the agreement as critical in order to move ahead with negotiations on concessions and other plans to stabilize the airline?s dismal finances.
See United, IAM Reach Tentative Agreement., KEITH L. ALEXANDER, The Washington Post, Apr 25 2002
A bill extending workplace anti-discrimination protections to gays was adopted by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions yesterday, and could pass the Senate at large as soon as this year. Defeated 50 to 49 in 1996, the legislation would ban discrimination in hiring, firing, wages, and other terms and conditions of employment by public and private employers, and is expected to pass despite opposition from many Republicans. Within the next three weeks the Senate will also begin consideration of a bill---previously passed by the Senate in 2000, but defeated in the House---which would make hate crimes against gays a federal crime carrying the possibility of life imprisonment.
See Senate Moves to Protect Gays On and Off the Job., ADAM CLYMER, The New York Times, Apr 24 2002
In the eight years since the 1996 Welfare Reform Act ended welfare as it had been known by placing a new emphasis on shifting welfare recipients to workfare, states have succeeded in cutting welfare rolls by huge margins---by two-thirds in seven Midwest states. While many politicians have hailed these changes as eliminating dependence and helping individuals to become productive members of the workforce, a study released yesterday shows that many of those moved off the welfare rolls have ended up trapped in jobs with poverty-level wages. Among the alarming statistics brought to light by the study are the following: forty-nine percent of former welfare recipients in Michigan who are working full time are below the federal poverty line; the average income of all former recipients in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota is below the federal poverty line; fifty percent of the former recipients in several states cannot afford food, rent or utilities; and, one in ten individuals shifted off the welfare rolls into the labor market have lost their homes.
See Shrinking Welfare Rolls Creating More Working Poor., JODI WILGOREN, The New York Times, Apr 24 2002
The Ms. Foundation for Women---original organizer of Take Our Daughters to Work Day---announced today, on the tenth anniversary of the event?s founding, that next year it will encourage parents to bring their sons to work as well. Although many parents and employers have already re-christened the event Bring Your Child to Work Day, the Ms. Foundation?s announcement is significant in that it expands the days? focus to include career/family balance issue and the difficult choices that women in particular are forced to make in this area. The event was originally intended to boost the aspirations and career goals of girls in their pre- to early teen years, when they are particularly to decreased self-esteem and academic performance.
See Women?s Rights Organization Extends Events to Sons., SUSAN LEVINE, The Washington Post, Apr 24 2002
A 'living wage' bill currently under consideration by the New York City Council is eliciting criticism from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg?s office as a threat to the city?s recovering economy. Labor unions and their supporters have argued that the bill---which would require private companies that receive city contracts or subsidies to pay their workers at least $8.10 an hour plus benefits, or $9.60 an hour without benefits---would cost the city government significantly less than the mayor and business interests allege, and would stimulate the economy. With over forty members of the City Council supporting the bill, and the mayor?s office indicating that it would not be ?unreasonable? to expect a veto if the bill was passed, the issue is set to become one of the first major confrontations between Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council.
See NYC Mayor Opposes 'Living Wage' Bill., DIANE CARDWELL, The New York Times, Apr 23 2002
Despite its leading position in Europe?s economy, Germany still trails behind other European countries when it comes to female participation in the labor force and advancement to management positions. Perceptions that women are unfit for the board room, are perpetuated, and reinforced by social institutions and government policies that in many ways penalize two income households. This labor market that employs fewer women than France, Great Britain and Scandinavia, and in which less than four percent of women reach top executive positions, is coming under increasing fire not only from women?s rights advocates, but from business and management circles as well.
See Gender Equality Lags Behind Times in German Business., NORA FITZGERALD, Chicago Tribune, Apr 23 2002
In Rosemead and Santa Fe Springs, California Project Avanzando---advancing in Spanish---is preparing recent immigrants to take the General Educational Degree (GED) Exams and helping them to escape lives defined by unsteady employment and poverty wages. The program offers its students free transportation, child care and college counseling to encourage them to take three to five months worth of high school classes, after which they take the GED exam. Project Avanzando has graduated forty-two students since it first started in January 2001---a third of whom have gone on to community college---and is one of only a few such programs in Southern California.
See Education Program Quietly Creating Change., MILTON CARRERO GALARZA, Los Angeles Times, Apr 23 2002
Klaus Zwickel, president of Germany?s 2.8 million member IG Metall union, announced today that---with contract talks deadlocked and no settlement on raises in sight---the union?s leadership will likely hold a strike vote in the coming weeks and encourage members to authorize long-term industrial action. Negotiations with Germany?s industrial employers broke down last Friday with employers offering a 3.3 percent increase, up from an earlier offer of 2.5 percent, and the union insisting that in order to offset losses in real wages caused by inflation last year, its members needed a raise of around four percent, down from an initial demand of 6.5 percent (see WIT for March 19, 2001). The union has been engaging in rolling warning strikes across the country for the past five weeks (see WIT?s for March 27 and April 1, 2001), but if the union goes on the extended strike that M. Zwickel has said is a forgone conclusion, it will be the first major industrial action in Germany in seven years.
See Extended Strike a Distinct Possibility in Germany., Reuters, Detroit Free Press, Apr 22 2002
In the latest departure from the practices of former CEO Jacques Nasser taken by the Ford Motor Company under new CEO, and great-grandson of the company?s founder, William Clay Ford Jr. (see WIT for Oct. 31, 2001), the company is changing the name of a manager evaluation system that has already been the subject of several major substantive changes. The Performance Management Program (PMP), as the system was known, had originally established an evaluation process leading to A,B and C ratings, with a requirement that at least ten percent of managers be assigned the lowest rating. The PMP had resulted in class action discrimination lawsuits against the company by older, white workers who felt that under they received a disproportionate number of C ratings as compared to women and minorities.
See Ford Drops Controversial Evaluation System., ED GARSTEN, Detroit Free Press, Apr 22 2002
The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on a bill that would---for the first time in 8 years---give the president the power to negotiate trade agreements with other countries that will be subject only to approval or rejection as a whole by the Senate. Labor and environmental groups have lobbied intensely to preserve the Senate?s ability to reject, accept or modify individual lines of foreign trade treaties as a vital defense against treaties that do not provide for adequate protection of the environment and labor rights. Much of the Bush Administration?s foreign trade policy to date has been tempered by a desire to appease such groups and their political allies, in an attempt to secure passage of the trade agreement fast track bill.
See Senate to Begin Debate on Fast Track Legislation., EDWARD ALDEN, Apr 22 2002
Last Friday, the membership of the Screen Actors Guild voted down what would have been a historic agreement with the Association of Talent Agents in a vote that showed the deep divided within the union over the issues involved (see WIT for Feb. 25, 2002). The agreement called for the end of a sixty-three year old ban on outside investment in talent agencies---intended to prevent the conflicts of interest that would arise if talent agencies were partially or wholly owned by companies that they contracted with for advertisements---in exchange for support of the union?s efforts to end runaway productions (see WITs for Dec. 5 and 12, 2001). Although the failure to reach an agreement means that there is a potential for a major showdown between the two sides, talent agencies have indicated that while they are not interested in signing a new agreement on the old terms, for the time being they will adhere to the now expired agreement.
See SAG Membership Votes Down Tentative Agreement with ATA., JAMES BATES, Los Angeles Times, Apr 21 2002
Less than a month has elapsed since the Supreme Court ruled five to four in Hoffman Plastics v. NLRB that the labor rights guaranteed to workers by the National Labor Relations Act do not extend to undocumented immigrants (see WIT for Feb. 28, 2002), but employers are already taking advantage of this ruling in ways that further undercut the rights of such workers. Labor leaders and immigrant advocacy groups alike have been stunned by the speed with which employers have moved to broadly interpret the ruling---which eliminated penalties for employer retaliation against undocumented immigrants? union activities, but left other workplace rights intact---to declare open season on a wide range of rights. Examples of this dangerous trend include: meat processing companies in Kentucky and Nebraska asking for the immigration papers of workers filing a sexual harassment complaint and a workers? compensation claim for a thirty-foot fall, respectively; a California jewelry manufacturer using a workers? compensation hearing to determine the immigration status of an employee and then firing her; a Manhattan meat market warning employees not to picket the store for failing to pay minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
See Recent Ruling On Immigrant Labor Rights Already Having Major Impact., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Apr 21 2002
Despite initially strong support in the wake of the Enron scandal, a proposal for a twenty percent maximum limit on employee 401(k) investment in their employers? stock has been abandoned due to its failure to garner the support expected from organized labor. The measure was intended to protect the large numbers of workers who have only vague and seriously flawed understandings of 401(k) plans from attempts by employers to convince employees to bolster failing company stock with their retirement savings. Ironically, union officials have attributed their inability to support the measure, to rank-and-file opposition stemming from a misunderstanding of the role 401(k)s play in their post-retirement income.
See 401(k) Reform Limited by Public Misperceptions., PETER G. GOSSELIN, Los Angeles Times, Apr 21 2002
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President, and ILR alumni, Randi Weingarten announced yesterday that an agreement between the union representing New York City?s 80,000 teachers and the Board of Education could be in the offing. Despite continued pressure for concessions from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Harold Levy---who are locked in a dispute over control of NYC?s schools---the last round of negotiations saw an improved tone and an agreement by the city and the union to adopt the basic provisions of a recent fact-finding report (see WIT for April 10, 2002). Although she is optimistic that an agreement can be reached before a May 8 strike vote scheduled this past Wednesday, Ms. Weingarten made it clear that the strike will still be held if the two sides have not settled by that time on such remaining issues as the uses of a $56 million recruitment fund and of an agreed upon 20 minute increase in teachers? workdays.
See Settlement in Sight for NYC Teacher., ABBY GOODNOUGH, The New York Times, Apr 18 2002
The Bush Administration?s proposed voluntary ergonomics standards came under intense criticism from Democratic committee members yesterday, at a public hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today (see WIT for April 5, 2002). Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao?s attempts to counter concerns about the voluntary standards by promising that her department would use lawsuits against uncooperative employers, backfired when Democrats cited an article by current Labor Department Eugene Scalia condemning such lawsuits. Democrats on the Committee also pointed to the standards? restriction to the nursing home industry, and cuts in occupational health and safety training and enforcement, in further condemning the Bush Administration on its approach to both repetitive stress injuries and workplace hazards in general.
See Democrats Question Sincerity Voluntary Ergonomics Rules, STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Apr 18 2002
Labor relations at United Airlines are once again on the rocks as talks over a new contract for the 30,000 ramp and customer service employees represented by the International Association of Machinists drag on (see WIT for April 9, 2002). New CEO Jack Creighton had hoped to settle all outstanding contract negotiations by March 25, and begin bargaining over wage-concessions with all the unions at United on an equal footing. Despite the IAM?s initial praise for the new CEO (see WIT for Oct. 29, 2001), and the successful negotiation of a contract for United?s mechanics (see WIT for Feb. 19, 2002), Creighton and the president of IAM District 141 have fallen back into the name-calling and accusations that preceded the ouster of Creighton?s predecessor (see WIT for Oct. 25, 2001).
See United CEO Critical of IAM., JOHN SCHMELTZER, Chicago Tribune, Apr 18 2002
Dozens of black employees joined unions and environmental groups outside Coca-Cola's annual shareholder meeting in New York City today, to protest what they assert is the corporation's continuing race-discrimination. Despite Coca-Cola's recent establishment of a company-wide diversity committee and other diversity management practices, some employees claim that the company is doing more to improve its public image than it is to end bias within the organization. Coca-Cola paid $192.5 million to settle a class-action racial discrimination suit in 2000, but seventeen individual suits are still pending against the company---brought by employees who insist that the company's allegedly racist practices must be made public through the courts.
See Minority Employees Picket Coca-Cola Stock Meeting., BEN WHITE, The Washington Post, Apr 17 2002
Britain's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) plans to end a nationwide no strike agreement dating from a nine-week walkout in 1977-78, and begin engaging in massive industrial actions if the government fails to address wage issues. Union officials assert that the agreement---which was once the pride of the FBU and the envy of other workers---is outdated and has caused firefighter' wages to fall to an unacceptable level. The FBU is calling for a one-time ten percent raise this year to bring their members' wages up to par, and a new automatic raise system to replace the old system that provides for automatic annual wage increases mirroring those achieved by the top twenty-five percent of male industrial workers.
See In Britain, Firefighters End No-Strike Accord., KEVIN MAGUIRE, Guardian Unlimited (UK), Apr 17 2002
Unions in New York City were less than enthusiastic yesterday following the release of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget for the coming year, and his calls for union cooperation in cutting costs. District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees---the largest union in NYC with 125,000 members, and a trend setter for many smaller unions---will be submitting its proposals for a new budget to Mayor Bloomberg in the coming weeks, and officially had no comment. Several candidates for the presidencies of the Sergeants Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association, meanwhile, were vocal in their criticism of Bloomberg's proposed cuts in funding for the Police and Fire Departments.
See NYC Unions Cautious in Appraisal of Bloomberg Budget., WILLIAM MURPHY, Newsday, Apr 17 2002
Over 13 million Italian workers followed through on a general strike promised by the country's three largest trade unions, staying out from work yesterday and shutting down major factories and transportation throughout Italy. 2 million of the striking workers took to the streets, marching and demonstrating against President Berlusconi's proposed loosening of job security laws in what was Italy's first full-day national strike in twenty years. Both sides remain publicly adamant in their positions---with the unions arguing that the legislation is the first step towards eliminating Italy's long-standing just-cause dismissal laws, and Mr. Berlusconi insisting that the change is needed to stimulate the economy---impending municipal election may mean that a deal is in the offing.
See In Italy, Unions Carry Through with Strike, Shutdown Industry and Travel., MELINDA HENNEBERGER, The New York Times, Apr 16 2002
A study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that for the year 2000, women engaged in part-time work made fifteen cents more an hour than their male counterparts. This gap is largely due to the fact that many female part-timers are women who already have established careers and switch from full to part-time work in order to take care of children---as opposed to male part-timers who are more likely to be starting off in their careers and have less experience and earning power. Both the higher pay-rates for part-time female workers revealed by this study, and the fact that women make on average twenty-four cents less an hour than men, can be linked to the greater tendency among working mothers, as opposed to working fathers, to seek part-time employment while their children are growing up.
See In Part-time Jobs, Women are Higher Paid., Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, Apr 16 2002
India became the latest country to experience massive labor unrest yesterday, when close to 10 million public-sector workers went on strike to protest the government's plans to continue the privatization of many of India's publicly owned companies and firms. The strike was lead by unions at government-owned banks, railways and factories, and resembled recent anti-privatization strikes by Britain's railway unions and utility, manufacturing and transportation unions in South Korea. With India's 23-party coalition government increasingly hesitant to engage in unpopular economic policy revisions, the public-sector unions are likely hoping that increased pressure will prevent further privatizations like that of India's government-owned international telephone utility earlier this year.
See Privatization Plans Lead to Nationwide Strike in India., EDWARD LUCE, Financial Times, Apr 16 2002
In a charge filed with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), the National Labor Relations Board Professional Association (NLRBPA) has complained that the NLRB is engaging in bad faith bargaining---an unfair labor practice of the type that the Board is supposed to prevent in the private sector. This is the second unfair labor practice charge filed in slightly over a year with the federal sector labor body by the union representing 160 non-managerial lawyers at the NLRB. The NLRBPA alleges that the NLRB has employed surface and regressive bargaining tactics in ongoing negotiations over non-wage issues, and in addition to filing the charges plans to hold a rally outside NLRB headquarters tomorrow.
See NLRB Accused of Unfair Labor Practices by its Employees., EDWARD WALSH, The Washington Post, Apr 15 2002
Thousands of United Federation of Teachers members and NYC parents picketed as planned yesterday to remind New York City officials, and the community at large, that they have been working without a contract for almost a year and a half now (see WIT for April 2, 2002). Billed as an "informational picket," the action also served as an indicator of parents' support for the teachers, and of possible strike action to come if the city does not take action on a fact-finding report that both sides have praised as the basis for a possible settlement (see WIT for April 12, 2002). The impact of the massive show of determination was immediately evidenced by Mayor Bloomberg's announcement yesterday that he is willing to make use of $204 million earmarked by Governor Pataki for raising teachers' salaries in NYC---reversing his earlier position that he did not want to use this one time only source of funding for recurring costs (see WIT for March 15, 2002).
See NYC Teachers Picket., NICK CHILES and JESSICA KOWAL, Newsday, Apr 15 2002
In a struggle that mirrors the one currently dominating the political landscape in England, trade unions in Scotland are locked in an increasingly bitter debate with the Scottish Government over private finance initiatives (PFI's) and the two-tiered workforces they create. At a meeting yesterday with delegates and officials from Scotland's public sector unions, Scottish Prime Minister Jack McConnell's pledges to address organized labor's privatization concerns were met with polite acknowledgement from some but outright derision from others. Meanwhile, the announcement by GMB officials that their union would not support the Labour Party in next year's elections, because of that party's continued support for PFI's and failure to adequately address the erosion of wages and benefits experienced by privatized workers, was met with immense approval.
See Scottish Government, Unions Locked in Privatization Dispute., The Herald (UK), Apr 15 2002
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America have reached a tentative 18 month contract with AT&T covering 27,900 workers whose current four-year contracts will expire May 12. The IBEW and CWA had rejected AT&T's request to extend the current contract for 18 months, citing massive layoffs in recent years and the existing contract's lack of job-security guarantees and (see WIT for Feb. 13, 2002). The new contract keeps the shortened period that the company wanted due to poor sales, but includes a six percent raise, a $250 bonus, an eight percent increase in pensions, and an agreement by the company to pay 5.5 percent on cash in workers' retirement accounts, without raising health insurance payments by workers or tapping pension funds for severance pay.
See AT&T, IBEW, CWA Reach Tentative Settlement., Bloomberg News, The New York Times, Apr 14 2002
With over seven months having passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, recent reports show that heightened security measures adopted or predicted in the immediate wake of the attacks have not become fixtures of the American workplace. The predicted massive exodus from skyscrapers and other high profile office spaces failed to materialize, business travelers report that flights seem as crowded as ever, and the vast majority of employers have not stepped up background checks of employees. A recent poll by USA Today, CNN and Gallup showed that only fifty percent of Americans feel that another attack is likely to occur---down thirty percent from October.
See Workplaces Returning to Normal as Post-9/11 Fears Relax., STEPHANIE ARMOUR, USA Today, Apr 14 2002
In a story reminiscent of the Enron scandal, auto parts manufacturer DCT Inc. went bankrupt on February 7, bouncing 400 employees' paychecks, leaving them with no health insurance, $700,000 in unpaid medical bills to be accounted for, and unable to access their 401k pension plans. The U.S. Department of Labor recently contacted the lawyers working for the trustee appointed by the bankruptcy courts to find out if DCT misused employees' health insurance payments to pay off other debts. A former manager who had access to DCT's financial information has, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the company did indeed illegally divert insurance premium payments from employees' paychecks for other purposes---causing doctors and hospitals to come after laid off workers for large medical bills.
See Department of Labor Asking Questions in Bankruptcy Case., JEFFREY MCCRACKEN, Detroit Free Press, Apr 14 2002
Despite the numerous hazards presented by the maze of sharp twisted metal, precariously balanced rubble, easily collapsed voids and burning jet fuel at the World Trade Center site, there have been no life-threatening injuries to any of the workers involved in the massive cleanup effort. With most of the work at the site done, federal records reveal that out of the 1,500 workers who put in a total of approximately 3 million hours of labor removing 1.5 million tons of debris, only thirty-five workers were seriously injured. While these reports do not include long term health problems that may result from exposure to chemicals and other health hazards at Ground Zero, the low number of serious injuries puts the cleanup effort far below the average injury rate of the demolition industry.
See Injury Record for Ground Zero Cleanup Impressive., ERIC LIPTON, The New York Times, Apr 11 2002
A report released yesterday by the Mexican Government shows a continuing decline in Mexican industrial production---down 1.8 percent from last February---with border regions bearing the brunt of the decreases in productivity and employment. A central part of the Mexican economy, manufacturing has now gone over a year without a period of major growth and has seen a 4.3 percent fall in employment since 2001, with over 240,000 jobs lost in the duty-free maquiladora factory sector that was one of the driving forces behind the Mexican economy. The fact that other economic indicators have shown positive trends in past months has led some to believe that the downturn in manufacturing is less a function of the worldwide economic slowdown last year, than a result of manufacturers leaving Mexico in search of ever cheaper sources of labor.
See Mexican Manufacturing Not Sharing In U.S. Recovery., GRAHAM GORI, The New York Times, Apr 11 2002
A Farmingdale, New York company was found guilty of multiple labor and wage law violations by a U.S. District Court last month, and has been ordered to pay its workers almost $120,000 in back wages and the same amount in damages. The charges were brought by the U.S. Labor Department based on a 1997 investigation of the practices of the Vidtape company between 1995 and 1996. The investigation revealed that the company's owners had paid sixty-seven mostly Indian and Central American immigrant workers below minimum wage, did not pay them the required time-and-a-half for the twenty to thirty hours of weekly overtime they routinely worked, destroyed payroll records, and violated child labor laws.
See NY Videotape Manufacturer Found in Violation of Labor Laws., CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN, Newsday, Apr 11 2002
Mexican migrant workers who participated in the bracero programs run by the U.S. in the 1940's, 50's and 60's protested outside the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles yesterday with their families, demanding the back wages that they claim are owed to them. Braceroproa Alliance---a group representing the WWII-era guest workers---embarked on a "caravan" of protests last month in Washington State that is winding its way towards Mexico City and a planned lobbying of the Mexican Congress. The organization and the former guest workers claim that the Mexican Government owes the braceros up to $1 billion worth of ten percent deduction from the braceros' wages, which were supposed to be paid back to the workers when they returned to Mexico.
See WWII Guest Workers Protest., GARIOT LOUIMA, Los Angeles Times, Apr 10 2002
The normally uneventful process of electing an alumnus of Yale University to the university's top governing board, the Yale corporation, has become a hot political topic on the campus and among alumni as Yale's clerical and custodial unions have taken a stake in the elections. The two unions have donate a combined $60,000 to Minister W. David Lee---a Yale alumnus who grew up in a housing project in the New Haven area, and is conducting an aggressive campaign as a candidate who will give a greater voice to Yale's workers, students, and members of the New Haven community. Lee's campaign has raised some concern among university officials that transforming the usually routine elections into a politicized event will deprive alumni of the voice in university affairs that the process was designed to give them, and will cause the Yale corporation to become a forum for the discordant relations between Yale and its workers.
See Unions Get Involved in Yale Alumni Election., KAREN W. ARENSON, The New York Times, Apr 10 2002
The one million members of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation joined the mot powerful private industry association in Venezuela Yesterday, in vowing that a two day-old general strike will indefinitely. The strike started six weeks ago when Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez replaced his own appointee's to the board of directors of the country's state oil company in a move that is largely seen as political cronyism. The state oil company has long seen itself as a meritocracy immune to politics, and directors and workers responded to the new appointments by joining forces first in opposing the change, and now in a call for the replacement of President Chavez.
See Massive Strikes Roil Venezuela., PATRICE M. JONES, Chicago Tribune, Apr 10 2002
Members of United Teachers-Los Angeles (UT-LA) elected union vice-president John Perez to the presidency yesterday, defeating the more moderate Becki Robinson---also a vice-president in the union---by a margin of just under one percent. The choice may have a significant impact on currently ongoing contract negotiations between the UT-LA and the City of Los Angeles if a settlement is not reached before President-elect Perez takes office on July 1. The 47,000 member UT-LA is asking for a five percent raise for LA teachers this year, but the city is balking at the cost of such a raise as it is already facing a budget deficit.
See LA Teachers Elect More Militant of Two Candidates for President., DUKE HELFAND, Los Angeles Times, Apr 9 2002
General Motors has reached an agreement with the union representing workers at South Korea's Daewoo Corporation. The 13,000 workers currently employed by Daewoo will not be laid off when GM takes over the bankrupt company, and 300 workers laid off last year will be rehired. The deal will likely allow GM to complete negotiations with Daewoo's creditors that had been stalled due to protests by South Korea's powerful unions (see WIT for Oct. 25, 2001).
See GM Will Not Lay Off Daewoo Workers., DON KIRK, The New York Times, Apr 9 2002
A fact-finding panel appointed by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board released its report yesterday on its recommendations for a settlement in the 16 month old contract negotiations between New York City and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) (see WIT for April 2, 2002). The proposal calls for a fifteen percent raise in pay over twenty-seven months, a twenty minute increase in the working day for NYC teachers, and the formation of a committee to look into possible solutions to the bitter disputes between the city and teachers over merit pay. Both sides have indicated that the report represents a reasonable foundation for a settlement of the deadlocked negotiations, but UFT officials are still concerned that attempts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to abolish the Board of Education and assume direct control over the city's schools may interfere with bargaining.
See Fact-Finding Panel Releases Recommendations for NYC Teachers Contract., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Apr 9 2002