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Workplace Issues Today

In a series of interpretations and guidelines issued by the White House and the Justice Department, President Bush and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft have attempted to weaken the strong corporate reform law the president was forced to sign a week ago (see WIT?s for July 30, and July 26, 2002). Democrats and Republicans alike in both houses of Congress have expressed outrage at guidelines sent to government prosecutors suggesting that the protections given to whistle-blowers, and the prosecution of individuals who shred documents or commit securities fraud, should all be limited. While the Bush Administration has defended the guidelines as mere clarifications and any implied limitations of the new anti-corporate fraud laws as unintentional, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee dismissed the possibility that so much language so strongly undermining the new laws could be due to mistakes alone.

See President Bush, Ashcroft Move to Undermine Corporate Reform Laws., JONATHAN WEISMAN, The Washington Post, Aug 6 2002

A new study has found that with more and more Americans? social lives increasingly revolve around the workplace, the number of couples who work together either in their own jointly run businesses or for the same employer is growing. Conducted by Cornell University's Employment and Family Careers Institute, the study also showed that despite the taboo against workplace romances in management and human resources circles, there are many benefits for co-working couples and their employers. In addition to more flexible schedules among co-working husbands and higher salaries among co-working wives, there are also less tangible but still very significant benefits such as greater commitment to employers and a more equal priority being given wives? careers.

See Study Shows More Couples Working Together, with Positive Results., JENNIFER LeCLAIRE and CHRISTINA McCARROLL, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 6 2002

After two years of holding back through tense and unproductive contract negotiations, bus and train supervisors at Los Angeles? Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday voted to authorize their union officials to call a strike if negotiations remain deadlocked. The main points of contention between the LA MTA and the 500 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME) Local 3634 are retroactive changes to benefits handling proposed by the union that management considers too expensive. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) representing 2,000 LA MTA mechanics has announced that it will honor Local 3634 picket lines in the event of a strike---adding significantly to the disruption such a strike would cause.

See LA MTA Workers Vote to Authorize Strike., KURT STREETER, Los Angeles Times, Aug 6 2002

In the past two months, as many as 100,000 documented and undocumented immigrants have lost their jobs due to attempts by the Social Security Administration to clean up inaccuracies in its record keeping (see WIT for June 4, 2002). Reports from around the country have confirmed the fears of immigrant advocacy groups that despite the SSA?s lack of enforcement powers and policy of not sharing information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, letters asking employers to clear up name and Social Security Number mismatches have led to immigrants quitting or being fired. With over 800,000 employers receiving letters about almost 7 million mismatches, immigrant advocacy and employer groups alike are arguing that the government should consider immigration amnesty programs.

See As Predicted, SSA Attempts at Records Corrections Cost Immigrants Jobs., MARY BETH SHERIDAN, The Washington Post, Aug 5 2002

The United Farm Workers (UFW) won a major legislative victory yesterday, as the California State Assembly passed a bill establishing binding arbitration for farm labor contract negotiations. Already passed by the State Senate (see WIT for July 8, 2002), the legislation now goes to Democratic Governor Gray Davis who has so far remained ambivalent on the bill as he attempts to maintain union support without alienating business groups in his bid for reelection. According to the UFW and its supporters in the California Legislature, binding arbitration would put an end to the stonewalling tactics of California growers that have led to a huge discrepancy between the number of unions elected and the number of contracts negotiated since California?s farm workers gained the right to organize in 1975.

See Farm Worker Arbitration Bill Passes CA Assembly., CARL INGRAM, Los Angeles Times, Aug 5 2002

Britain?s local government council workers? unions won a contract settlement last night that includes a general raise of 7.8 percent, and a 10.9 percent increase in the wages of the lowest paid among their ranks, by working hard to cultivate public support that has been lacking in previous negotiations. This was achieved by focusing on the plight of bottom-rung public workers and the discrepancies between male and female pay, and carefully targeting their work stoppages to cause the minimum disruption of services to the public and the maximum of headaches for local governments. These tactics were largely responsible for the raises far higher than the three percent that the local government employers? association long held to as its best offer (see WIT?s for June 11, and August 1, 2002), and the establishment of commission that will likely implement further raises for the lowest paid female employees of local governments.

See British Council Workers Win Contract Victory., DAVID TURNER, Financial Times, Aug 5 2002

After months of trying to prevent its undergraduate resident advisors from organizing (see WIT for Feb. 22, 2002), officials of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst yesterday announced that they will recognize United Auto Workers Local 2322 which earlier this year won a union representation election and was certified by the state labor board. Although UMass had long opposed unionization of student workers as a threat to academic traditions and focus---a position in which the university has been vocally supported, and joined, by officers at universities across the country---the university?s new chancellor has shown an openness to working with student-employee unions. The main forces behind the university?s abrupt reversal on the issue, however, were certification of Local 2322, the growing possibility of labor unrest from other unions in support of the RA?s, and the desire to secure RA cooperation and labor peace in the midst of budget related faculty shortages and unrest (see yesterday?s WIT).

See UMass Amherst Reverses Opposition to RA Unionization., PATRICK HEALY, The Boston Globe, Jul 31 2002

Plans by the Labour Party government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to increase fiscal and electoral stability by negotiating multi-year contracts with public sector unions (see yesterday?s WIT), will tomorrow be applied to the current contract negotiations for local government council workers. With only two weeks elapsed since the first nationwide local workers? strike in two decades (see WIT for July 17, 2002), Labour Party officials are eager to head off another such strike planned for August 14 and minimize the possibility of such a strike occurring before the next round of general elections. Whether or not the local government employers? association will be able to achieve these goals is very much in question, as the unions representing local council workers---some of whom make less than $7.80 an hour---have turned down a three-percent raise and continue to press their demands for more significant pay increases.

See Multi-Year Solution will be Attempted in Contract Negotiations for Local Public Workers., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, JIM KELLY and NICHOLAS TIMMINS, Financial Times, Jul 31 2002

Members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) remain out on strike for the seventh week in a row despite suggestions last week that their job security concerns had been met and a vote would be held on whether to return to work (see WIT for June 16, 2002). Despite a non-binding resolution by the New York City Council that essentially guarantees the job security of Local 100 members in the event Mayor Michael Bloomberg terminated city contracts with the three private bus lines that employ them (see WIT for July 29, 2002), however, officers held off on a vote in hopes of winning stronger guarantees. The TWU?s hand may be considerably strengthened in the coming week, as the mayor?s declaration of a state of emergency allowing commuter vans and livery cabs to operate along the struck Queens bus lines has met with a decidedly cool reception by the State Supreme Court Justice who will soon rule on the TWU?s objection to the declaration (see WIT for July 10, 2002).

Making use of the momentum generated by public outrage over a growing wave of corporate scandals that today forced President Bush to sign into law a corporate reform bill much stricter than he had hoped, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will today announce a new nationwide corporate reform campaign (see WIT for July 26, 2002). The AFL-CIO will step up its efforts to force companies to count stock options offered to executives as expenses, prohibit corporate executives from selling stock options while in office, pay workers their full severance packages regardless of bankruptcy proceedings, and use separate accounting firms for consulting. Having already done much to secure passage of the tough new laws ratified today, the sixty-six union, 13 million member strong labor federation will accomplish these new goals both through political lobbying and using the enormous amount of shareholder votes exercised by union pension funds totaling $5 trillion.

See AFL-CIO to Take On Expanded Role in the Push for Corporate Reform., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jul 29 2002

Following testimony by U.S. Office of Personnel Management Deputy Director Dan G. Blair before a House Appropriations subcommittee last month, Maryland?s Representative Steny Hoyer asked the deputy director to send him examples of federal employees? union membership jeopardizing national security. With legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security currently stalled in the Senate, in part by debates over the union rights and other protections that employees of the proposed new department would be allowed to retain (see WIT for July 10, 2002), Representative Hoyer recently made Mr. Blair?s written response public. Unable to provide a single example of union representation posing a security risk, the deputy director insisted that unionization was besides the point, and that the real issue was the proper balance between workers? rights and the government?s duty to protect citizens---begging the question of why non-conflicting principles require balancing.

With most of the major issues including compensation worked out, talks between the Lincoln Center and forty-two freelance musicians represented by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians broke down hours before last night?s opener to this summer?s thirty-one-concert Mostly Mozart Festival. The sticking point in the negotiations was the demand by planners that the festival?s music director be able to dismiss musicians without the approval of a peer review board required under previous contract. As time ran out last night, a federal mediator was called in an hour-and-a-half before the 5:30pm strike deadline set several weeks ago by the union, but was unable to keep the two sides at the table---leading to a strike by the musicians and the cancellation of the events at which they would have performed by Lincoln Center officials.

See Lincoln Center Cancels Twenty Concerts after Musicians Call Strike., JESSE McKINLEY, The New York Times, Jul 29 2002

Although workers are allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to take up to twelve weeks off to take care of newly born or adopted child, or a sick family member without the risk of losing their job, many are unable to take advantage of this right because they cannot afford the twelve-week loss of income. A bill that has already passed the State Senate and now goes before the State Assembly, seeks to change this situation in California---using a split tax on employers and employees to guarantee workers sixty-five percent of their pay, up to $728 a week, while taking FMLA leave. The bill is strongly supported by workers? rights advocates and unions who point out that almost all developed countries besides the U.S. have paid family leave laws, and that the measure would only cost employers $17 per an employee annually---a claim disputed by business groups who cite a figure of $100 and strongly oppose the measure.

See Paid Family Leave Bill Goes to California Assembly., MIGUEL BUSTILLO, Los Angeles Times, Jul 28 2002

Searching for a source of cheap seasonal labor, employers in the hotel, pool-management and other seasonal industries are increasingly turning to teenagers from Europe and other countries---encouraging them to obtain cultural exchange visas to come and work in the U.S. Likely reinforced by post-September 11 restrictions on the flow of both documented and undocumented immigration, this trend has produced a growing number of cases in which students arrive hoping to spend the summer earning money to pay for their college education, only to find that they have been tricked. Guarantees of employment for the entire summer often evaporate after a few weeks, free company-provided housing ends up being charged for and crowded beyond legal occupancy limits, and promised free transportation never materializes---resulting in many such teenagers barely breaking even after traveling expenses and sometimes losing money.

See Employers Exploiting Teenage Workers on Cultural Exchange Visas., LEEF SMITH, The Washington Post, Jul 28 2002

The 1,500 members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 on strike at Jamaica Buses, the Queens Surface Corporation and Triboro Coach Corporation, are expected to vote this week on whether to return to work following the adoption of a resolution supporting job security by forty-two of the New York City Council?s fifty-one members. Although the resolution is non-binding, the strong majority support ensures that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be unable to turn the routes over to the Metropolitan Transport Authority---a long stated political goal---or put them out to bid with other private contractors, without providing job security for Local 100 members. Local 100?s contract with the three city-subsidized companies expired at the end of 2001, and members have been on strike for a month-and-a-half over health benefits and job security (see WIT?s for June 17 and 18, and July 10 and 16, 2002).

See End to Queens Bus Strike in Sight., BOBBY CUZA, Newsday, Jul 28 2002

Due to a massive influx of qualified teaching applicants to New York City schools, Schools Chancellor Harold Levy has suspended requirements that under performing schools be given the first opportunity to hire certified teachers regardless of where applicants applied. Ironically, Mr. Levy has largely attributed the wave of 4,300 applicants hired this summer---ninety percent of whom are fully certified, and 100 percent of whom will be certified within the coming year---to the victory of the city?s teachers in a hard fought battle for salaries closer to those in nearby suburban school districts. Although careful to point out that New York City teacher salaries still trail behind those in surrounding areas, United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has reiterated what the union had argued throughout the nineteen months the teachers worked without a contract while fighting for the increases: better pay for teachers leads to better educations for children.

With a strike deadline set for August 31 when its current contract expires with thirty Chicago-area hotels, and the owners refusing to begin negotiations over a new contract for the 7,000 union workers until August 5, Local 1 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union (HERE) began setting up strike headquarters yesterday. Workers at the hotels have set a target of $18.15 an hour and free family health insurance---the terms under which unionized room attendants in New York City work---and have made it clear that they are willing to engage in the first strike in the local?s 110 year history in order to win decent wages and benefits. According to the union hotel workers in Chicago make only $8.83 an hour on average, and most cannot afford the family health coverage which costs $85 per month---a bleak picture that is disputed by the Hotel Employer Labor Relations Association representing almost all Chicago-area hotels.

See Chicago Hotel Workers Send Clear Message to Employers., STEPHEN FRANKLIN, Chicago Tribune, Jul 24 2002

By a 261 to 166 vote, the Republican controlled House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to prohibit the use of arbitrary quotas, goals and targets for outsourcing public services to private contractors, to the 2003 Treasury Department, Postal Service and government operations spending bill which later passed 308 to 121. With a similar amendment likely to be approved in the Senate, the House votes may well bring an end to President Bush?s ?competitive sourcing? initiative---a system many lawmakers feel encourages agencies to cut federal jobs without regard to savings or service levels in order to meet quotas set by the Bush administration. The larger spending bill to which the amendment was made also includes a 4.1 percent pay increase for federal employees that lawmakers feel reflects the increased dangers they face in the war on terrorism, and that the president opposes in favor of an increase of only 2.6 percent (see WIT for June 27, 2002).

See House Approves Amendment Opposed by Bush, to Spending Bill Bush Objects To., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Jul 24 2002

A one-paragraph amendment to the U.S. House of Representative?s Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill, seeking to commit to law an already existing practice of the IRS, is occasioning a major political battle pitting the American Association of Retired Persons and the Pension Rights Center against the powerful ERISA Industry Council and the 125 companies it represents. The IRS practice at the center of this lobbying storm is the assumption of a five-percent per year rate of return---as opposed to the seven to ten-percent preferred by employers---on pension investments in defined-benefit pension plans when companies apply to convert these plans to cash-balance pension plans. When converting from defined-benefit plans in which workers are guaranteed a set amount when they retire, to cash-balance plans which are more like 401(k)?s, assuming a higher rate of return than the market reasonably supports allows companies to skirt a federal law prohibiting them from decreasing the value of pensions during conversions.

See Political Battle Brewing Over Legislation to Protect Pension Plans., KATHY M. KRISTOF, Los Angeles Times, Jul 23 2002

In the middle of negotiations with several major unions, and trying to squeeze additional concessions to the tune of $250 million from public workers, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg?s recent comments about the possibility of layoffs are sounding a lot like scare tactics to many in fiscal and labor circles. The city is still negotiating a contract with its largest public sector union, District Council 37 (DC 37) to replace the contract which expired almost a month ago, and a contract for the city?s police officers is currently being decided on by a state panel---an approach being taken for the first time by the officers? union in hopes of a more favorable settlement. While Mayor Bloomberg has skirted around the issue of layoffs in interviews, City Council Members, union officials, social service advocates, community watchdog groups and the Working Families Party have all decried the possibility of harmful cuts in public services.

See Mayor Using Threat of Layoffs to Extract Concessions Say Unions, Fiscal Experts., MICHAEL COOPER, The New York Times, Jul 23 2002

Fast food giant McDonald?s yesterday agreed to pay workers at its four restaurants at Los Angeles International Airport the city?s ?living wage? of $7.99 an hour with benefits or $9.24 without benefits, and to abide by the airport?s contractor responsibility code. Although the vendor contracts for the four franchises predated the ?living wage? and responsibility code---thus exempting them from the new regulations---allegations of unsafe working conditions and management intimidation of workers at the restaurants have made McDonald?s sensitive to its labor issues image at LAX. With the Los Angeles City Council's Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee urging a delay in granting a requested three-year extension of McDonald?s vendor contracts at LAX pending the successful inclusion of the ?living wage? and responsibility code in its current contract, McDonald?s is hoping to be in compliance by September 1.

See McDonald?s to Pay LAX Workers ?Living Wage?., JENNIFER OLDHAM, Los Angeles Times, Jul 23 2002

In a speech to a major Latino group in Florida yesterday, Richard Gephardt, leader of the Democratic minority in the U.S. House of Representatives, announced yesterday that in the next two weeks Democrats will be introducing legislation that will combine guest worker programs with earned amnesty for undocumented immigrants. By granting permanent legal resident status to undocumented immigrants---and their spouses and children---who have resided and worked in the U.S. for a given period of time and paid state and federal taxes, earned amnesty would allow such immigrants to apply for citizenship five years after successfully applying for amnesty. This will be the third major push for combined earned amnesty/guest worker legislation in the past year, with President Bush?s initiative abandoned following heavy opposition from conservative Republicans and the impetus generated for such legislation by Mexican President Vicente Fox derailed by the terrorist attacks of September 11.

See Democrats Seek to Put Immigrant Labor Issues Back on the National Agenda., RONALD BROWNSTEIN, Los Angeles Times, Jul 22 2002

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder will today meet for the last time with his government?s Hartz Commission before that group releases its final report on battling high unemployment and increasing labor market flexibility in mid-August (see WIT for July 2, 2002). Initially caught off guard by their loss of leadership on unemployment issues to the center-left governing coalition, Germany?s center-right has recently responded by endorsing the recommendations being considered by the commission, urging further measures and accusing the center-left of attempting to dilute the commission?s final report. Chancellor Schroder?s government and union officials have denied these accusations---pointing out that the commission was formed by Mr. Schroder in the first place, and that unions endorsed the commission?s work soon after its initial recommendations were leaked to the press.

See German Chancellor Meets with Labor Market Commission., HAIG SIMONIAN, Financial Times, Jul 22 2002

Responding to yesterday?s Los Angeles Times article suggesting that the Major League Baseball Players Association was considering setting a September 16 deadline for their contract negotiations with management (see yesterday?s WIT), Association executive director Donald Fehr today sent a memo to players informing them that the article was incorrect. While union officials and player representatives have acknowledged that a strike date may eventually need to be set, Fehr made it clear that no date has yet been chosen and no decision made on whether a strike date will even be necessary. Fehr continues to meet with players from all thirty major league teams---yesterday it was the Cincinnati Reds---and negotiations with the owners will resume on Wednesday with sessions also scheduled on Thursday and Friday.

See Reports of Tentative MLB Strike Date Inaccurate., LAURA PRICE-BROWN, Newsday, Jul 22 2002

With $260 billion in annual trade hanging in the balance, contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) ground to a halt last night. The two sides traded blame for the deadlocked negotiations, each accusing the other of ignoring significant efforts at compromise over major issues including job security and implementation of new technology (see WIT for July 18, 2002). Although no new talks are planned currently, the PMA and ILWU have agreed to the twenty-second one-day extension to the expired contract and continue to play down the possibility of a strike or lockout.

See Pacific Coast Port Contract Talks Deadlock., The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Jul 21 2002

Faced with a growing debt burden, and too short on funds to assist the Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties in upcoming parliamentary elections, Britain?s Labour Party will tomorrow begin deliberations on whether to raise membership fees. Rather than cast off the business friendly brand of ?New Labour? politics that brought on the financial problems (see WIT?s for June 26, July 8 and July 11, 2002), the party is considering yet another step away from its working class roots---asking businesses for retail discounts to party members in order to mitigate fee increases and stave off membership declines. The examination of funding alternatives follows the victory this weekend of leftwing union activist Derek Simpson over longtime Tony Blair supporter Sir Ken Jackson in elections to the co-leadership of Britain?s second largest union, and major Labour Party donor, Amicus.

Despite earlier indications that no decision on a strike date would be made until union Executive Director Donald Fehr finished discussing labor issues in person with all teams at the end of the month (see WIT for July 9, 2002), the Major League Baseball Players Association are already considering a September 16 strike date. Setting such a late deadline for negotiations will allow players to collect all but the last of their season paychecks, while still depriving owners of the large revenues generated by games during the run up to the post-season. Mindful of the important role that baseball played in the social healing process following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,the Players Association also wanted to wait at least until after the one year memorial of those attacks had passed before striking.

See MLB Players? Association Considering Mid-September Strike Date., ROSS NEWHAN and JASON REID, Los Angeles Times, Jul 21 2002

During its sessions this week, the National Commission on the Public Service confronted the issue of pay for federal employees. Several highly placed federal officials testified, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Constance A. Morella (R-Md.). Federal employees urged the Commission to address pay reform, including developing a "pay sharing system" to encourage productivity and excellent performance. Sessions also included discussion of the large number of retirements projected for the next few years and the outsourcing of federal work to the private sector.

See National Commission hears testimony on federal pay issues., Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, Jul 18 2002

Following a one day strike Wednesday by over 750,000 municipal employees, British unions again accused Tony Blair’s Labor Party of abandoning their leftist views in a move to the center aimed at courting big business. Blair’s administration denies the growing rift between the Labor Party and the Unions, which have traditionally been strong supporters. Analysts warn that the Union unrest could be signs of more serious actions to come.

See Strikes widen rift between Labor Party and Prime Minster Blair., Associated Press, The New York Times, Jul 18 2002

The commissioner of Major League Baseball is suing the umpires union over a dispute with the union president and the way games have been called this year. This action follows on the heals of a suit brought against the commissioner and his office by the union charging they violated the Federal racketeering act. The piling of litigation stems from a lawsuit filed to prevent the World Umpires Association from having an arbitrator hear a grievance over discipline the union president received. The union claims the grievance was based on baseball’s use of technology to evaluate members performance during games.

See Major League Baseball battles with Umpires Union., Murray Chass, The New York Times, Jul 18 2002

In a report released yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau found that between 1975 and 1999 education levels have exerted an ever-growing influence on income differentials---one which has probably continued during the recent economic decline, as downturns usually have a greater negative impact on workers with lower levels of education. As a result of these increasing returns on education, the average lifetime earnings of high school graduates are now twenty-percent greater than those of individuals who never graduate high school, the earnings of college graduates 110 percent greater, and the earnings of individuals with doctoral and professional degrees 240 percent and 340 percent greater, respectively. The census data also shows that while the benefits of education are as significant for minorities as they are for Caucasian workers, the effect of education on women?s income levels is not as large as its effect on men?s incomes, and overall earnings gaps linked to race and gender have not narrowed appreciably at most educational levels.

See Education?s Impact on Income Greater Than Ever., D?VERA COHN, The Washington Post, Jul 17 2002

With its members now in their third week of working under day-by-day extensions of an expired contract (see WIT for June 27, 2002), the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Tuesday offered to accept the Pacific Maritime Association?s calls for new technology in return for increased union coverage of dockworkers (see WIT for May 13, 2002). Although the proposal eliminates approximately 630 job opportunities at current cargo levels, the ILWU expects that increased shipping volume will make temporary any decrease in the amount of work available to members---who are dispatched to jobs on a rotating basis. In return for the claimed $100 million annual savings in labor costs to the PMA, the union is demanding that any newly created jobs and several job categories that are currently contracted out be put under the union contract.

See ILWU Offers PMA Compromise on Technology., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Jul 17 2002

One month after members of Britain?s air traffic controllers union, Prospect, voted overwhelmingly to reject a two-year contract offer including a six-percent raise, the union has reached a tentative settlement with Britain?s National Air Traffic Services (NATS). The crux of the potential agreement lies in the union?s acceptance and encouragement of voluntary overtime by members in return for a ten-percent raise over the next two years. If members vote to accept the proposal in the coming month---as the union leadership is encouraging them to do---it will diffuse the growing potential for a strike and ease the major staffing problems NATS is currently experiencing.

Responding to a rising tide of corporate scandals, the U.S. Senate yesterday passed a landmark management and accounting reform bill by the same 97-0 margin that it passed an amendment adding strict criminal penalties for corporate executives to that bill last Wednesday (see WIT for July 11, 2002). Although the failure of amendments requiring companies to record corporate stock options like any other expense have left loopholes for accounting fraud according to some senators, the Senate bill remains much stricter than a reform bill passed by the House of Representatives in April and supported by the president. As the Republican Speaker of the House has refused to put the Senate bill to a House vote, the legislation will now go to negotiation---where many predict that pressure from the yesterday’s unanimous vote will lead to compromise legislation closely resembling that passed by the Senate.

See Unanimous Vote for Corporate Reform Bill in the Senate., RICHARD SIMON and RONALD BROWNSTEIN, Los Angeles Times, Jul 15 2002

In an example of the democratic nature of union decision-making---or of poor timing, depending on your viewpoint---several hundred striking Queens transit workers walked out of a meeting of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 this past Sunday over a proposed settlement with the three city-subsidized bus companies they work for. Reached after Queens Borough President Helen Marshall talked New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg into offering to loan the bus lines $2 million to meet the health care demands of the striking workers (see WIT for June 18, 2002), the settlement foundered on concerns over workers’ job security when contracts between the city and the companies come up for renewal. Local President Roger Toussaint has indicated disapproval of the Local member and national TWU officer who triggered the walkout by calling for an independent union and accusing Toussaint of selling out, and insists that after a month on strike the membership has the right to a formal vote on the proposed settlement.

See Queens Bus Line Workers Split Over Latest Offer., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jul 15 2002

In a chain of events all too similar to the Enron scandal, employees of World Com have seen their 401(k) pension plans take an enormous hit as the company stock in which many of them were heavily invested has dropped from sixteen dollars to twelve cents. Brought down by revelations that it overstated its corporate profits by almost $4 billion, WorldCom has been accused by employees of encouraging them to use their pension plans to buy company stock and discouraging sell-offs even as the company’s officers were trying to conceal the company’s accounting fraud. Although WorldCom did not prohibit employees from selling company stock as Enron did, a lawyer representing both Enron and WorldCom employees has said that a smoking gun similar to the Enron company videos encouraging employees to buy their employers’ stock, may yet be found in the WorldCom case.

See WorldCom Employees Hit Hard by Stock Collapse., JULIE EARLE, Financial Times, Jul 15 2002

On Friday, Major League Baseball’s arbitrator Shyam Das requested and received a two-week extension from management and the players’ union on his decision in the dispute over the MLB’s attempts to unilaterally eliminate two teams before baseball’s next season. The dispute stems from a November 6, 2001 vote by the owners to contract the league by disbanding the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins, and the union’s contention that this violated the contract---now expired---between the two parties. Although both sides have insisted that the extension will not delay bargaining over a new contract, a decision that the owners must negotiate the contraction with the players would add a hotly contested issue to the bargaining process.

See MLB Contraction Decision Postponed by Arbitrator.., HAL BODLEY, USA Today, Jul 14 2002

In an incredible David and Goliath story, 600 unarmed Nigerian women snuck into ChevronTexaco's Escravos oil terminal last Monday, taking hostage 700 workers---many of whom are foreigners, including Americans---and bringing to a halt the vast majority of the company’s Nigerian oil production. The wives, mothers and grandmothers released 200 of the employees yesterday as a sign of good faith, but have threatened to bare themselves in an extremely powerful traditional shaming ritual of the remaining hostages should they try to escape. The women are demanding that ChevronTexaco offer jobs to their male relatives and use some of the enormous profits reaped from Nigerian oil production to help the economically and environmentally devastated villages surrounding the oil terminal.

See Unarmed Nigerian Women Hold ChevronTexaco Hostage., The Associated Press, Newsday, Jul 14 2002

In the six seasons since its formation, the Women’s National Basketball Association has remained largely free of the labor-management strife often seen in other professional sports, and earned a reputation for high spirits and cooperation. But with players’ salaries averaging only $47,000---or $58,000 depending on whether you ask the Players Association or the WNBA management---and taking up less than fifteen percent of revenues as opposed to as much as four times that amount for the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL, labor-management cooperation may fall apart when the current players’ contract runs out on September 15. Frustrated not only by low pay, but also by restrictions on marketing contracts, salaries that seem to be locked in by initial contracts and disregard experience, and a prohibition on free agency, the players feel that they have done their best for the league and should not suffer for its continuing financial problems.

See Strike a Possibility for WNBA., JASON BUTLER, Newsday, Jul 14 2002

In the latest chapter of the WorldCom scandal, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington D.C. agreed yesterday to hold an expedited hearing on Tuesday to answer a request to bar WorldCom from conditioning severance package offers on a waiver of the right to sue. Filed yesterday by attorneys representing WorldCom employees, the request was precipitated by the corporation’s offer of severance pay and paid health insurance to laid off employees who agree not to sue the company or its officers regardless of any wrongdoing that may be discovered in the future. While severance packages in excess of legal and contractual requirements may be conditioned on such waivers, the complete immunity for any actions that might be revealed by a major fraud investigation just getting under way make the WorldCom offer objectionable according to the employees’ lawyer.

See WorldCom Seeking Immunity from Lawsuits in Return for Severance Pay., ELIZABETH DOUGLASS and LISA GIRION, Los Angeles Times, Jul 11 2002

With the stock market investments on which they are based faltering, the pension plans of many major U.S. companies including Ford, GM, SBC Communications, most steel producers and all airlines except Southwest, are under funded according to analysts. The problem is being compounded by corporations’ use of unrealistic investment growth assumptions to delay using profits, reserves or loans to shore up the failing pension funds. As a result, pension plans at some of these corporations are short by as much as $9 billion of the amount needed to meet their future obligations---a potential crisis which companies continue to address by further increasing their predicted rates of return on investments even as actual rates of return continue to fall.

In a special summer session, the Ontario provincial legislature yesterday passed a back-to-work bill ending a strike by Toronto City workers in its third week and requiring city and union leaders to take the matter to binding arbitration before a neutral to be recommended by the parties and chosen by the provincial government. Triggered by city proposals to privatize municipal services, the strike was both a protest against privatization and an attempt to win greater job security for workers whose jobs are privatized (see WIT for July 5, 2002). While unions are expected to call the strike off, city employees are far from satisfied with the outcome and removal of the garbage piled up throughout Toronto may take significantly longer than the ten days predicted by Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman.

See Ontario Legislates Striking Toronto Employees Back to Work., CLIFFORD KRAUSS, The New York Times, Jul 11 2002

By a landslide 97-0 vote, the U.S. Senate yesterday passed an amendment adding strict punishments for corporate executives who destroy subpoenaed evidence and documents or commit securities fraud that destroys people’s finances, to anti-corporate fraud legislation. Realizing the consequences of publicly opposing anti-corruption reforms in the current political climate, even the staunchest of business allies have done little more than accuse Democratic politicians of hypocrisy and taking advantage of widespread suspicion of corporations to further their election campaigns. Likely to be voted on in the coming week, the overall legislation is significantly tougher than a corresponding House bill and may force the president to choose between business-lobby supporters and a general public outraged by the recent string of accounting scandals at such corporations as Enron and WorldCom

According to Roger Lyons, president of Britain’s largest manufacturing union Amicus, proposals to eliminate benefits for surviving spouses and discontinue inflation adjustments would gut pensions rather than saving them. Contained in a report written by the former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), and commissioned by the current Labour Party government, the proposals have also drawn criticism from charity organizations over the affect they will have on the elderly. While the report’s author has defended the proposals as a way of preventing further pension plan terminations similar to the one causing labor unrest at several Welsh steel plants (see WIT for July 5, 2002), Mr. Lyons attributes the move away from such plans to an attempt by British employers to exploit legal loopholes to shift risks to their employees.

With the annual conventions of Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) and his own Labour Party just around the corner, British Prime minister Tony Blair’s attempts to avoid an all out revolt by the party’s union backbone while hewing to his business-friendly “New Labour” line, are growing increasingly strained. His government’s offer of a review of employment laws---intended to regain the approval of unionists outraged by his anti-workers’ rights stance---having been met with indignation from business groups and calls for actions not words from the labor movement (see WIT for July 8, 2002), Mr. Blair has once again struck a balance seemingly dictated by politics rather than principles. Union protections will possibly be increased and two reviews of workers’ rights will take place, but the reviews will lead to consultation instead of legislative action and greater rights and protections for individual workers will not be forthcoming.

See Blair Continues Attempts to Straddle Labor/Business Fence., JEAN EAGLESHAM, Financial Times, Jul 10 2002

Tired of being paid as low as $2,500 per semester-long course and receiving no health insurance or pension---and seeking more paid office time and greater access to electronic communications in order to be better able to help their students---a majority of adjunct professors at New York University voted in favor of union representation last month. However, faced with a decision between the United Auto Workers who earlier this year organized NYU's graduate assistants (see WIT for March 21, 2002), and the American Federation of Teachers who have long represented NYU's clerical and technical staff, no union won a majority of the ballots cast. The results of the necessary runoff election were announced by the National Labor Relations Board yesterday, with the UAW winning and becoming the exclusive bargaining representative of NYU's adjuncts.

See UAW Beats Out AFT to Represent NYU Adjuncts., KAREN W. ARENSON, The New York Times, Jul 9 2002

A sixty-eight word clause buried in the president's thirty-four-page Department of Homeland Security bill is generating much concern among federal employees, their unions and political allies, and is fast shaping up to be the subject of a major battle over the intersection of workers' rights and managerial flexibility. The sentence that is causing this controversy would allow the secretary of homeland security to ignore the civil service protections afford federal employees---including collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures and whistle-blower protections---in the interests of departmental flexibility and fitness. While the president and his allies have defended the provision as a necessary part of doing everything possible to ensure national security, representatives of federal employees say that this is just one more anti-union move by the same anti-union president who banned unions in much of the Justice Department earlier this year (see WIT for Feb. 7, 2002).

See Unions, Democrats Concerned by Clause in Homeland Security Legislation., ELLEN NAKASHIMA and BILL MILLER, The Washington Post, Jul 9 2002

On strike for over three weeks now at three privately owned Queens, NY bus lines subsidized by New York City (see WIT for June 18, 2002), members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) picketed outside Queens Borough Hall and at major bus stops in order to bring their plight to the attention of the general public. Representatives of the TWU will also be in court this morning filing a challenge to the citywide state of emergency declared by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that allows livery cabs and dollar vans to operate along the bus routes. The TWU has accused Mayor Bloomberg of deliberately breaking his promise to extend the same improved health insurance received by NYC transit workers to its members, in order to precipitate the strike so that he will have an excuse to proceed with his long stated goal of bringing the three bus lines under direct city control.

As the Fourteenth International AIDS Conference swung into high gear yesterday in Barcelona, Spain, the director of the World Health Organization?s HIV/AIDS department announced that several sub-Saharan African countries stand to lose over twenty-five percent of their workforces to AIDS by 2020. Seven such countries already have HIV infection rates of close to that number among their working-age populations, and without access to anti-retroviral drugs it is only a matter of time before these people will become unable to work due to the onset of full blown AIDS. Many countries are already feeling the burden of this workforce drain on their economic development and national infrastructures---in Kenya seventy-five percent of deaths among police officers are due to AIDS, and in Swaziland 13,000 teachers will be lost to AIDS in the next seventeen years.

A disputed union election for registered nurses (RN’s) at Antelope Valley Hospital is receiving a lot of attention, with the state Public Employment Relations Board stepping in to file a complaint against the hospital board, and nine state legislators writing to the hospital board to point out practices not conducive to a well-run hospital. The dispute stems from an attempt by Antelope Valley nurses to elect the California Nurses Association (CNA) as their collective bargaining agent in order to address what they feel are serious problems with patient care caused by dangerously low staffing levels. Although a majority of the nurses voted for union representation according to CNA officials, the hospital claims that there are seventy-eight RN’s at the hospital that the union has not taken into account, and refuses to acknowledge votes that continue to come in favoring union representation.

See Union Recognition Campaign in Lancaster, CA Draws Statewide Attention., RICHARD FAUSSET, Los Angeles Times, Jul 8 2002

In a five-hour executive board meeting yesterday, the Major League Baseball Players Association decided not to set a definite strike date in their ongoing contract negotiations with the owners association, instead giving Executive Director Donald Fehr the power to set a date if talks remain deadlocked. Mr. Fehr has indicated that setting a strike date will likely be held off at least until after the end of the month, and that if an agreement can be reached on the amount of revenue sharing between teams, the method of revenue sharing and other major issues will likely be resolved without a strike. While many are hopeful that yesterday’s decision indicates the real possibility of a settlement without a strike, the fact that a strike date was also not set at the Players Association Convention in 1994---the year the World Series was cancelled because of a strike---has not escaped those familiar with the game.

See Players Union Does Not Set Strike Date, but Gives Fehr Power to Do So., ROSS NEWHAN, Los Angeles Times, Jul 8 2002

Twenty-seven years after the California Legislature passed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act---extending to California?s farm workers many of the protections available to non-agricultural workers under the National Labor Relations Act---California is once again on the verge of making labor relations history. Having passed the State Senate in May, a bill that would require binding arbitration in deadlocked farm labor contract negotiations is likely to pass the State Assembly before the end of the month as it is already cosponsored by just under fifty percent of Assembly members. Strongly supported by the United Farm Workers, the bill would allow growers and farm-workers at unionized fields three months of negotiations to reach contracts on their own and another month in mandatory non-binding mediation, before allowing either side to petition the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board for binding third party arbitration.

Already at odds over the privatization of public services (see WIT for June 26, 2002), British Prime Minister Tony Blair?s ?New Labour? Party and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) are now facing off over Mr. Blair?s opposition to new European Union (EU) workers? rights laws. According to some TUC officials, workers? rights laws have become a bigger issue for unions than the prime minister?s push for privatization of many key utilities, and Mr. Blair can expect anything from an earful to a major fight in the months leading up to the TUC?s annual conference in September. In an apparent attempt to mollify Britain?s workers, the Labour Party has called for a review of employment laws to begin in the coming week---resulting in a scramble by business groups to get the first word in before the TUC submits a list of legislative demands.

See In Britain, Unions Oppose Labour Party Stance on Workers? Rights., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and BEN HALL, Financial Times, Jul 7 2002

In a further blow to the already troubled relationship between Britain?s Labour Party and the British labor movement, members of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) have taken industrial action at steel plants owned by a Labour Party member of Britain?s upper legislative body, the House of Lords. Starting yesterday, 200 ISTC members began working to rule at two steel plants in Wales in response to the decision by owner Lord Paul of Marylebone to terminate their pension plans and switch to a plan that offers less security to workers. The workers at the two plants plan to begin one-day strikes next Wednesday, and workers at a third plant intend to hold a vote on whether to join in the industrial action---despite claims by Lord Paul that the two sides are working towards a compromise.

See British Steel Workers Begin Work-to-Rule at Plant Owned by Labor Peer., SHEILA JONES, Financial Times, Jul 4 2002

In what has become the largest strike by city employees in Canadian history, 15,000 indoor employees of the City of Toronto yesterday joined outdoor city employees who have been on strike for more than a week over failed job security negotiations. Among the workers now on strike in an effort to reduce the probationary period for obtaining tenure from ten years to six years, are swimming pool attendants, day care center workers, animal shelter employees, sanitation workers and public health inspectors. Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman appears to have taken a hard-line approach to the strike, encouraging the Ontario provincial legislature to pass legislation forcing city employees back to work, and using the possibility of such a measure to pressure workers to end the strike.

As the pressure to gain admission to a top college increasingly dominates children?s lives at an ever younger age, more and more junior high and high school students are spending their summers doing internships and taking advanced placement and college courses in order to strengthen their college applications. As a result, the US Labor Department reports that the percentage of sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds starting jobs this summer will likely hit its lowest level in the fifty-four years that statistics on US workforce participation rates have been kept---while well over twice as many in that age group will enroll in academic programs as did a decade ago. This trend has many parents and teachers concerned that teenagers are not being giving the chance to develop emotional and social maturity, financial responsibility, and to just be kids.

See Many Increasingly Worried as Teens Trade Summer Jobs and Summer Fun for Resume Building., MARY WILTENBURG, The Christian Science Monitor, Jul 4 2002

According to a recent study by an international managerial and executive job placement firm, the number of laid off managers and executives under the age of forty who start their own businesses increased 36 percent in the first quarter of 2002. The large jump in entrepreneurial undertakings has been attributed to several factors---including the huge increase in the incomes of married couples over the past decade, and the corresponding increase in the personal savings couples have available to finance a new business. Other factors cited include the increased willingness of venture capital firms to fund non-technology start ups in the wake of the dot-com collapse, and a shifting of personal priorities and life goals following the September 11 attacks.

See Entrepreneurs on the Increase., AMY JOYCE, The Washington Post, Jul 3 2002

Fearing the possibility of a strike date being at the Major League Baseball players? union executive board convention next Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig has lifted the threat of a $1 million fine on club owners for speaking to the press about ongoing contract negotiations. Several owners quickly made use of the decision, attempting to enlist public support to management?s side by accusing the players? union of stalling negotiations and standing in the way of necessary change. Union members and officials are still undecided about the best course of action to take, with some advocating setting a strike date during this season, others urging a post-season strike date, and some suggesting holding off until next season and trying to negotiate an agreement with the owners not to unilaterally implement any off-season rules changes.

See As Union Convention Nears, Selig Allows Owners to Talk to the Press., MURRAY CHASS, The New York Times, Jul 3 2002

Long known for an amicable relationship with its workers and their unions, Southwest Airlines is beginning to experience some of the labor unrest that has long been a feature at its rivals. While Southwest employees benefit from a pension based profit sharing plan under which some of the higher paid pilots are set to receive millions when they retire, during their employment most Southwest workers make thirty to seventy percent less than their counterparts at other airlines. In light of Southwest?s strong financial performance even as other airlines have experienced major losses, several unions are pushing for raises on a level with those won by unions at other airlines.

See Labor Relations Rocky at Southwest Airlines., MICHELINE MAYNARD, The New York Times, Jul 3 2002

After being prohibited from wearing the head scarf required by her religion, a female Muslim deputy sheriff recently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the Cook County, Illinois sheriff?s office alleging that her rights under the First Amendment and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had been violated. The sheriff?s department has defended its decision on the grounds that granting exceptions to a department policy against wearing non-uniform clothing while on duty would open the door to further such requests and would jeopardize the department?s discipline and public perceptions of equality before the law. Confronted with its past practice of allowing officers of other religions to wear religious clothing on duty, the department responded yesterday by revoking the police powers of an Orthodox Jewish deputy who refused to remove the skull-cap his supervisors had permitted and encouraged him to wear for the past two years.

Taking the position that workers must be able to exercise their union rights free from employer coercion, a European Union Court yesterday ruled that employers cannot use pay or benefits to encourage employees to waive their right to bargain collectively. The ruling overturns an earlier decision by the British House of Lords, and stems from a case in which a member of the National Union of Journalists was offered a 4.5 percent raise to drop out of a union contract---and, after refusing, was consistently given raises lower than coworkers who accepted the offer. The decision raises the possibility that British labor and employment law may have to be reformed to meet EU workers? rights standards.

See EU Court Prohibits Employers? Carrot and Stick Union Avoidance Tactics., NIKKI TAIT and JEAN EAGLESHAM, Financial Times, Jul 2 2002

Since 1988 federal tax has been imposed on employers for the amount of their employees? incomes derived from tips---a substantial source of government revenue that, until now, the Internal Revenue Service has had much difficulty collecting. THe problems with determining the amount that waiters and others receive in cash tips was greatly simplified for the IRS last month, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled six to three in United States vs. Fior D'Italia that the IRS can use credit card tip averages to estimate the cash tips at restaurants. This could have a massive impact on the restaurant industry and the American dining experience, as undeclared tips are often a vital component of the financial survival of small restaurants, the income of low paid restaurant workers, and of the influence that diners have over the quality of the service they receive.

See IRS Can Estimate Cash Tips and Tax on that Basis., AMITY SHALES, Chicago Tribune, Jul 2 2002

Faced with high energy prices, the lack of local banks large enough to underwrite serious industrial development and expansion on a large scale, and a nationwide decline in the importance attributed to manufacturing, California?s manufacturing sector is struggling. Although most of California?s manufacturers have only ten employees and few have more than 1,000, in Los Angeles alone they employ over 600,000 workers---putting LA on par with the leader in US manufacturing employment, Chicago. The LA County Economic Development Corporation?s chief economist, Jack Kyser, argues that if politicians do not place a greater emphasis on vocational training and aid to manufacturing, California will witness increasing income polarization and class friction as high paying blue-collar jobs disappear.

See LA Business Leader Makes Social Case for Supporting CA Manufacturing Sector., CHRISTOPHER PARKES, Financial Times, Jul 1 2002

A Suffolk County law requiring all private employers who receive county funding or contracts worth $50,000 or more to pay their employs at least $9 an hour with benefits or $10,25 an hour without benefits, went into effect yesterday. Passed last year, the legislation is expected to benefit day care and home health care workers---often among the lowest paid workers in the county---in particular, according to sponsor and Democratic Legislator David Bishop. Suffolk County has created a fund to assist nonprofit organizations that meet stringent requirements on the maximum incomes of upper-level managers and can prove that the ?living wage? will be a significant burden, and can grant exemptions for such organizations on a case-by-case yearly basis.

See ?Living Wage? Goes into Effect in Suffolk County, NY., VALERIE BURGHER, Newsday, Jul 1 2002

Despite losing a 5-2 City Council vote in March, the Ventura, CA Living Wage Coalition is not giving up on its efforts to pass a city ordinance requiring all businesses with city contracts to pay their workers at least $9 an hour. Members of the organization will hold a candlelight vigil outside tonight?s City Council meeting before formally announcing their intention to lead a petition drive to get the signatures of fifteen percent of the city?s registered voters in time to put the living wage issue on the fall 2003 ballot. Similar to many of the coalitions that have successfully campaigned for local living wages across the country, the Coalition draws on a diverse group of members ranging from union members and community activists to college students and local church leaders.

See Push for Local Living Wage Continues in Ventura, CA., TIMOTHY HUGHES, Los Angeles Times, Jun 30 2002

As employers seek to squeeze ever more productivity out of employees, workers are increasingly being forced to work uncompensated overtime---leading to a wave of lawsuits and Labor Department investigations over Fair Labor Standards Act violations. Wal-Mart, the world?s largest retailer, is currently the subject of a lawsuit alleging that it forces employees to work before punching in and after punching out, oftentimes for up to three hours. White-collar workers---like those who recently settled an FLSA violations case with Starbucks---are also experiencing the pressure to work more without being paid more, finding themselves required to work overtime on non-managerial tasks while being denied the time-and-a-half overtime pay that employers are required to pay non-managerial employees.

See Push for Productivity Leading to FLSA Overtime Violations., FAY HANSEN, The Christian Science Monitor, Jun 30 2002

A recent string of multi-million dollar settlements by and lawsuit awards against British companies and subsidiaries is only the most visible part of persistent on the job discrimination according to some workplace experts. Discrimination and employment law practitioners have warned that this could become a much larger problem for employers over the next four years as new European Union laws prohibiting harassment, sexual harassment, and religious, sexual orientation and age discrimination in the workplace are added to existing British anti-discrimination laws. Although the new laws will also make employers responsible for proactively monitoring and encouraging equal treatment of workers, it seems likely that many will continue to ignore equity issues until faced with a lawsuit.

See Businesses in Britain Unprepared for EU Anti-Discrimination Laws., ALISON MAITLAND, Financial Times, Jun 30 2002

In a statement echoed at numerous joint rallies up and down the West Coast yesterday, the presidents of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced to a cheering crowd in the Port of Oakland that the two unions will join forces to make shipping ports solidly union. While both the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) plan to continue talks after their existing West Coast contract expires in four days and are seeking to avoid strikes or lockouts (see yesterday?s WIT), the Teamsters have agreed not to cross ILWU picket lines in the event that there is a work stoppage. In return, the ILWU will assist the Teamsters? efforts to unionize port truckers who are currently paid on a piece-rate system instead of on an hourly wage rate.

See Teamsters, Dockworkers form Alliance., LOUIS SAHAGUN, Los Angeles Times, Jun 27 2002

In a rare demonstration that sensible labor law reform is not only possible but can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time, Illinois Governor George Ryan yesterday signed legislation to make a well-regulated exception to state child labor laws for young umpires who work for summer youth baseball leagues. The new law resolves a conflict first raised less than three months ago when an anonymous call led to a State Labor Department audit of the Darien Youth Club baseball league for paying teenagers under the age of fourteen to umpire and referee games. Under the new law, youth leagues will be allowed to pay twelve and thirteen-year old umps to work up to ten hours a week provided they obtain the proper employment certificate, the umps have a parent or guardian present at the games they are calling, and other regulations protecting the umps physical and educational welfare are met.

See Speedy Resolution to Child Labor Law Dilemma., CHRISTI PARSONS and TED GREGORY, Chicago Tribune, Jun 27 2002

One week after his strong victory over the more moderate incumbent president of the British Air Line Pilots? Association, 747 pilot John Frohnsdorff is taking a hard stand against British Airways? (BA?s) attempts to lay off BALPA members while continuing to cut wages for the second year in a row. Frohnsdorff---who made it clear before elections that, if victorious, he would step down as soon as a replacement was found---has told airlines that the union will not allow them to use September 11 as an excuse to lay pilots off and extract concessions from those who remain. Already trailing many of their American and German counterparts by up to twenty percent in pay due to concessions made last year, pilots at BA are in no mood to go along with management?s plans to cut pay further and lay off almost a quarter of its employees.

See New Leader of British Pilots Takes Stand against Concessions., MARK ODELL, Financial Times, Jun 27 2002

Challenging the 2.6 percent raise for federal employees and civilian Department of Defense employees called for by the President, the Treasury, Postal Service and general government subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee yesterday recommended a 4.1 percent increase for these workers. The bipartisan amendment to the President?s budget easily passed the Republican controlled subcommittee and will likely be approved by the full Appropriations Committee and both branches of Congress. Democratic supporters of the amendment have argued that in light of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and subsequent anthrax attacks, federal employees are ?on the front lines of the war on terrorism here at home" and deserve the same raise the President recommended for enlisted men and women.

See Subcommittee Recommends Federal Employee Raise Equal to Enlisted Raise., DAN MORGAN, The Washington Post, Jun 26 2002

As the New York State legislative session winds down, the State Assembly today passed a bill that prohibits private employers receiving state contracts or grants from using that money to oppose union organizing campaigns. The bill has been strongly supported by unions and labor activists---especially in the health care sector where a major organizing push is under way---and has been agreed to by the State Senate and Governor Pataki. Business groups have decried the bill as a record keeping nightmare and an infringement on their First Amendment Rights, but unions have pointed out that state money should not be going to finance employers? anti-union agendas.

See NYS Assembly Bans Use of State Funds for Union Busting by Private Companies., SHAILA K. DEWAN, The New York Times, Jun 26 2002

One month after contract talks began, and with only five days left before existing contracts expire, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and West Coast shipping companies are no closer to a settlement than when they started. The two sides have not reached agreement on any of the major issues, and have yet to begin talks on the implementation of new technology and layoffs---the issues viewed as the most likely to deadlock the negotiations. As the two sides broke their month-old agreement to keep the negotiations process confidential earlier this week, accusing each other of having violated the pact first, retailers increased their stockpiling efforts in preparation for a potential strike during the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

See Negotiations between Shipping Lines and Dockworkers Going Nowhere Fast., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Jun 26 2002

On Monday, President Bush signed into law a bill making any life insurance beneficiary of a firefighter or police officer eligible to receive a $250,000 federal death benefit for public safety officers who die in the line of duty. Prior to the passage of the law---which is retroactive to September 11, 2001---only spouses and children were eligible to receive the benefit. The White House has described the ratification as an attempt to respect the wishes of many of the unmarried individuals who died in the September 11 attacks, but has drawn both praise from gay rights groups and criticism from conservatives for the fact that same-sex domestic partners are among those eligible to receive the benefit under the new law.

In a sign that Prime Minister Tony Blair?s New Labour cannot continue to engage in wide scale privatization of public services without seriously jeopardizing support among its core constituency, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) yesterday announced a massive cut in donations to the Labour Party. Outraged by the government?s transportation and labor policies, members at the RMT?s annual conference voted to decrease their contributions to the Labour Party by over ninety percent, and to switch individual financial backing from many leading Labour officials to their left-wing opponents. Faced with the loss off 30,000 post office jobs due to a government restructuring plan, many within the Communication Workers Union are pushing for similar cuts in their contributions to the Labour Party when the CWU conference is held tomorrow.

See British Labour Party Losing Union Financial Support., DAN ROBERTS and SARAH LAITNER, Financial Times, Jun 25 2002

Following the serious injury of three striking workers at a Navistar truck manufacturing plant in Ontario when a company van carrying strikebreakers attempted to force its way through a picket line, the Canadian Auto Workers has raised the possibility of a province-wide general strike by its member. Members at other factories would be sent to the Navistar plant to reinforce the picket lines and prevent any further attempts at strike-breaking. The company---which is seeking $14 million in pay and benefit concessions---announced yesterday that it will not use replacement workers today but will attempt to operate the plant with managers and office staff.

See CAW Responds to Strike-Breaking Attempts at Navistar., Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Jun 25 2002

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday granted an application by the State of Nevada for review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, upholding the applicability of the Family Medical Leave Act to states and state agencies in their capacity as employers. The case stems from the alleged illegal firing in 1997 of a Nevada Department of Human Resources employee for exercising his right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA to take care of his seriously ill wife. Nevada state officials have pursued a states? rights defense, arguing that the sovereign immunity granted to states under the Eleventh Amendment protects Nevada from being sued for violation of the FMLA.

See Supreme Court Takes Up Nevada Challenge to FMLA., DAVID G. SAVAGE, Los Angeles Times, Jun 24 2002

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that a nineteen-year old state anti-discrimination law only protects workers over forty from age based discrimination in hiring, firing, and demotion, and not in working conditions and job benefits. In their decision the justices pointed out that while the law does prohibit discrimination against other groups in working conditions and job benefits, a prohibition against age discrimination in such areas is conspicuously absent. The decision leaves older workers in California protected only by the far less favorable federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and has prompted Democrats in the California State Assembly to introduce legislation that would extend full state age-discrimination protection to workers over forty.

Responding to allegations by a U.S. citizen formerly employed by technology company Sun Microsystems, the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the company?s personnel practices to determine if it discriminatorily favors foreign workers with H1-B visas discriminates over U.S. citizens. The allegations are based on the fact that Sun has continued to apply for H1-B technology visas for foreign workers even as it laid off several thousand workers. The company insists that the visas it applied for are for current staff who are entitled to the same anti-discrimination protections as citizens under U.S. law, and has accused the former employee of wanting them to discriminatorily give him preference based on his citizenship.

See Justice Department Investigates Alleged Anti U.S. Citizen Bias at Sun Microsystems., BENJAMIN PIMENTEL, San Francisco Chronicle, Jun 24 2002

In what was the last of approximately fifty rallies held across the country in the past five months, over 3,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters employed by the United Parcel Service rallied outside a union meeting hall in Nassau County, NY yesterday. With only one week left in the contract reached between UPS and the Teamsters after a fifteen-day strike in 1997, the rallies---and a recent increase in the Teamsters strike fund---are a clear message to UPS that the union is ready to strike if a new contract agreement is not reached. The main areas of disagreement in the negotiations are management?s proposal to replace raises with profit-sharing, and the union?s push for UPS to offer full-time employment to a substantial number of the fifty-nine percent of Teamsters members currently working part-time for the company.

See Teamsters Rally as UPS Contract Deadline Approaches., TAMI LUHBY, Newsday, Jun 23 2002

Faced with increasing labor shortages as legal immigrants move out of agricultural employment, farmers have joined with the United Farm Workers (UFW) and civil rights groups to push for legislation that would make it easier for gainfully employed undocumented immigrants and guest workers to gain citizenship. An assortment of competing bills containing various versions of such a policy were introduced in both houses of Congress last year, and were near the top of the Bush administration?s immigration agenda until the September 11 terrorist attacks changed the focus of immigration policy from labor supply problems to security concerns. Through the Million Voices for Legalization campaign, growers, unions and community activists have been lobbying for renewed attention to such legislation, and hope to send one million postcards calling for such legislation to the president this fall.

See Labor-Management Coalition Seeks Legalization Procedure for Undocumenteds., FRED ALVAREZ, Los Angeles Times, Jun 23 2002

Starting on October 1, Chile will become the first country to hand most of its unemployment insurance coverage over to a private system, citing the success of its privatized pension system which twenty years ago was likewise the first of its kind. Under the new system---open to all workers, and mandatory for those entering the workforce or switching jobs after the system takes effect---workers will pay contribute0.6 percent of their wages, matched by an additional 2.4 percent from their employers. The government will contribute $12 million annually for workers who do not make enough to cover their benefits and will regulate the securities the private system can invest in, but will remain otherwise uninvolved in the fund which will pay workers forty percent of their wages for five months if they are laid-off, fired or quit their job.

See Chile to Privatize Unemployment Insurance., LARRY ROHTER, The New York Times, Jun 23 2002

A joint venture by the Oregon Public Broadcasting company and the British Broadcasting Company is giving workers the chance to watch their bosses walk a mile, make that a week, in their shoes---in six half-hour episodes over the next five weeks. In its back-to-back episode premiere tonight, ?Back to the Floor? will show a week of the director of New York?s Central Park reporting to work at 6:45am to confront the crack vials, six tons of trash, and back-breaking work that her employees deal with everyday. Also featured tonight will be the director of Burger King?s British operation, who spills drinks, fumbles the cash register, and forgets to smile and ask customers if they want to super-size---but still gets preferential treatment according to at least one minimum wage worker on the same shift.

See Reality TV Comes to the Workplace., JOSH FRIEDMAN, Los Angeles Times, Jun 20 2002

Responding to the Los Angeles Unified School District?s unilateral decision to increase class sizes---in some cases to over forty-one students per classroom---United Teachers-Los Angeles filed an unfair labor practices charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board on Tuesday. While the District has claimed that provisions regarding state funding cuts give them the power to increase class sizes, and that most classes will still be within contractual limits, the union has argued that the decision endangers students? educational opportunities and teachers? safety in classes for emotionally disturbed students. Barring a court injunction sought by the teachers? union, the two-student per class increase will go into effect in most fourth to twelfth-grade classes in year-round schools next month, and in regular academic calendar schools this fall.

See Citing Risk to Selves, Students, LA Teachers Fight Increased Class Sizes., DUKE HELFAND and SOLOMON MOORE, Los Angeles Times, Jun 20 2002

In what may be the first charges brought under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, the U.S. attorney for Buffalo, New York indicted six farm contractors on Wednesday of running a forced labor camp outside of Buffalo. The indictment alleges that the contractors charged forty Mexican workers $1,000 each to drive them from Arizona to New York in overcrowded, unventilated vans last summer. Upon arrival the workers were forced into overcrowded rooms, threatened with physical violence, and forced to work to pay off the money the contractors claimed they owed them, until ten of the workers escaped and contacted Farmworker Legal Services of New York.

See Six NY Farm Contractors Charged under Human Trafficking Law., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jun 20 2002

The American Medical Association yesterday announced that it will continue funding its union affiliate Physicians for Responsible Negotiation (PRN), reversing a board decision reached earlier this year not to fund the union which has so far not brought in enough members or dues to offset its expenses (see WIT for May 9, 2002). The AMA board changed tack following a unanimous vote earlier yesterday by its 552-member House of Delegates, supporting the immediate resumption of loans without which the PRN could have collapsed as early as next month. The delegates defended the thee-year old union as vitally important in the fight against doctors? growing loss of control over patient care decisions to HMO?s.

See AMA to Resume Funding of Doctors? Union., BRUCE JAPSEN, Chicago Tribune, Jun 19 2002

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a discrimination lawsuit against the New York City Parks and Recreation Department yesterday, accusing the department of systematically discriminating against black and Hispanic workers in promotions. The suit parallels a class-action suit initiated early last year by current and former Parks Department employees, and alleges that for the past seven years the department has failed to provide an open and unbiased promotion system---instead seeking out white employees without giving fair consideration to minorities. According to the suit, the department?s practice of hiring high-performing college graduates directly into upper management positions contributed to the advancement of younger white workers over more experienced black and Latino workers who have worked their way up though the department?s ranks.

See NYC Parks Department Sued for Discrimination., BENJAMIN WEISER and LYDIA POLGREEN, The New York Times, Jun 19 2002

For the third time in the past two years, air traffic controllers in France walked out yesterday over proposals to form a consolidated air traffic authority for the European Union?s fifteen member states. They were joined for the first time by controllers in fellow member states Greece, Portugal, Italy and Hungary, shutting down over 7,700 flights and affecting tens of thousands of passengers. While air traffic controllers? unions claim that the move to a centralized authority will cause layoffs and privatization that will decrease safety, the European Commission insists that the consolidation is meant only to bring order to Europe?s fragmented airways and is not a prelude to privatization.

See Air Traffic Controllers Shut Down Europe?s Skies., PAMELA SAMPSON, The Washington Post, Jun 19 2002

Members of Service Employees International Union, Local 399 employed at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center began their second four-day strike in three weeks yesterday (see WIT for May 28, 2002). Nurses, therapists and technicians, some of whom have been working at the hospital for over two decades, cited dangerously low staffing levels as the primary factor in their decision to strike. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the hospital?s suspension of seventeen nurses who called in sick the day before last month?s four-day strike.

See Nurses, Others Strike Hollywood Hospital Again Over Staffing Levels., NERISSA PACIO, Los Angeles Times, Jun 18 2002

Spain?s trade unions will hold the country?s first nationwide general strike in eight years tomorrow on the eve of the European Union summit in Seville, and have announced their intention to ignore President Jose Maria Aznar?s minimum services decree. President Aznar---whose proposed restrictions of unemployment eligibility have occasioned the strike (see WIT for May 24, 2002)---has ordered that forty percent of domestic flights and twenty-five percent of train and bus routes remain in operation on the day of the strike. Although polls indicate that only thirty-three percent of Spanish workers will participate in the strike, a majority of Spaniards surveyed indicated their support for the strike and the unions are refusing to willingly comply with the president?s order and intend to go to the Spanish Supreme Court if necessary.

Life insurance policies taken out on rank-and-file workers by their employers---often without the knowledge of workers or their families---are causing growing outrage among American workers. This corporate-owned life insurance, or COLI, is unrelated to life insurance plans included in benefits packages for workers and their families, and is used as a source of non-taxable revenue. While many employers defend the practice as a means of funding retirement benefits, abuses have led to the introduction in Congress of a bill that would require disclosure of this practice to affected workers, and plans for legislation encompassing stricter regulations.

See Controversy Surrounds Corporate-Owned Life Insurance., ADAM GELLER, Chicago Tribune, Jun 17 2002

Home Depot, the second largest retailer in the U.S., recently informed all of its stores not to do business with government agencies in order to avoid affirmative-action reporting standards that apply to all companies with more than fifty employees and over $50,000 in sales to government agencies annually. Despite the Department of Defense?s seemingly significant reliance on Home Depot as a supplier, company officials have insisted that the policy is not new, but rather an existing one that is reiterated regularly in order to ensure that all new managers and employees are aware of it. A spokesperson for the company---which paid $65 million to settle a discrimination suit five years ago, and is currently facing another suit---does not have the administrative capacity to report on the racial and gender demographics of its workforce.

Members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) carried through today on their threat to strike three private Queens bus companies for the third time this year (see yesterday?s WIT), insisting that they will not return to work until they have a contract. The Union has accused New York City officials of reneging on an agreement to increase employer contributions to its members? health-insurance by the same 19.8 percent over two years as city employees. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to insist that the negotiations are a private matter between the employers and the union---despite the fact that he must give final approval to any contract entered into by the three city-subsidized companies.

See Queens Bus Line Workers Strike., BOBBY CUZA, Newsday, Jun 17 2002

After two days of bringing production to a grinding halt at five major automotive assembly plants, a United Auto Workers strike against four Johnson Controls auto-parts factories has yielded a major labor victory in an industry that has declined from fifty to twenty-five percent union density in the past three decades (see WIT for June 14, 2002). A tentative settlement was reached Friday morning after thirty-six hours of high-level, non-stop bargaining, and was ratified by union member at all four struck plants later that afternoon. The settlement includes four-year contracts with raises, signing bonuses, and company paid health, dental, vision care, and retirement plans at the three plants where the union had already won recognition, recognition of the union at the fourth striking plant, and company neutrality at twenty-six other plants the UAW is trying to organize.

See UAW Strike at Auto-Parts Supplier Successful., JOHN GALLAGHER, Detroit Free Press, Jun 16 2002

Several thousand members of German construction union IG Bau will go out on strike at worksites in Berlin and Hamburg today, after the union?s 340,000 members voted by an overwhelming 98.63 percent this Saturday to strike over pay and other issues (see WIT for June 4, 2002). Bau officials have made it clear that members are ready for a drawn out fight, and that this first strike in the post-WWII era will be expanded throughout the entire country in the coming week if a contract agreement is not reached. With the union calling for an immediate 4.5 percent raise, and the construction employers offering three percent in September and an additional one-time payment amounting to another 1.7 percent, the main obstacle to an agreement seems to be the refusal of employers to bring industry wages in eastern Germany up to western levels.

See German Construction Workers to Strike Today., Reuters, The New York Times, Jun 16 2002

116,000 commuters may once again be left scrambling for alternate means of transportation, as drivers represented by Transport Workers Union Local 100 prepare to go on strike at Jamaica Buses, Triboro Coach and the Queens Surface Corporation for the third time this year at midnight tonight. One-day and two-day strikes by drivers at the three private bus companies earlier this year failed to produce a contract settlement on such issues as pensions, wages and job security, and a TWU official has said that this strike will be much longer. The New York City Department of Transportation has announced that if the strike does occur, the city will allow livery cabs and dollar vans to pick up passengers along the struck bus routes as it did during the previous strikes.

See TWU Plans to Strike Queens Bus Lines for Third Time., ELISSA GOOTMAN, The New York Times, Jun 16 2002

In a direct showdown with the Boston Government, three large recycling companies bidding on the city?s recycling contract are refusing to obey a 1998 city ordinance requiring all city contractors to pay their workers a living wage. As the three multi-million dollar companies are the only ones bidding on the contract, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is facing a tough decision between allowing the city?s recycling program to lapse when the current contract runs out, and issuing a waiver that would allow the contractors to pay their workers less than the $10.25 ?living wage.? Supporters of the living wage law are arguing against a waiver as an invitation to future violations of the law, as are members of Recycling Action---who insist that companies must not be allowed to force governments to choose between equally important social policies.

See Boston Faced with ?Living Wage? Dilemma., SARAH SCHWEITZER, The Boston Globe, Jun 13 2002

Despite United Airlines CEO John Creighton Jr.?s Wednesday claim that unions and management at United have made significant progress towards an agreement on wage concessions as part of a recovery plan, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) announced yesterday that it does not see concessions as necessary. IAM officials have made it clear that while they will meet with management if so requested, they will not recommend participation in the recovery plan to their 36,000 members at United. The secretary-treasurer of the flight attendants? union at United has made similar statements, and even disputes Mr. Creighton?s statement on Wednesday that all unions at United had been giving proposals on concessions---none of which bodes well for United?s possible application for federal loan guarantees.

See At UAL, Disagreement over Necessity, Progress of Concession Talks., EDWARD WONG, The New York Times, Jun 13 2002

Alleging unfair labor practices and anti-union activities, workers at four of auto-parts maker Johnson Controls? factories---some of whom have been trying to negotiate a first contract for almost two years---went on strike on strike this Wednesday. Because most car manufacturers have cut back on inventories in order to decrease overhead and storage costs, the 700 person strike was able to shut down production at two DaimlerChrysler plants and two GM plants within twenty-four hours. Pressure mounted as the strike continued yesterday, with analysts predicting significant decreases in earnings on Johnson Controls stock, and major losses in earnings on GM stock.

In a ruling released this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) upheld an earlier decision by an administrative law judge that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is guilty of retaliating against one of its own employees for filing discrimination charges, and ordered reinstatement, backpay and damages. The EEOC found that the Civil Rights Commission had demoted its staff solicitor Emma Monroig in retaliation for her 1995 filing of an EEOC complaint alleging anti-Hispanic bias within the Commission. This is the ninth EEOC complaint filed in recent times by employees of the against the Civil Rights Commission---which is now claiming that it has since eliminated Ms. Monroig?s position and does not have the funds to pay the $150,000 awarded her by the EEOC.

See Civil Rights Commission Guilty of Retaliation against EEOC Claimant., DARRYL FEARS, The Washington Post, Jun 12 2002