RSS

Workplace Issues Today

In its ongoing attempts to reduce discrimination and retaliation charge backlogs, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is considering changing its procedures for the processing of complaints by federal employees. The commission is currently circulating an informal paper in which it considers streamlining its federal sector process, by modifying it to more closely parallel its private sector process. Critics of the proposal claim that by eliminating in-depth EEOC investigations, it will put the considerable financial burden of establishing the evidence necessary for appealing initial decisions squarely on employees---depriving many lower-paid victims of the chance to receive a fair hearing.

See Changes May be in the Offing for Federal Discrimination Claims., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Jun 12 2002

The recent decision by the U.S. Department of Labor to post financial disclosure reports from hundreds of unions on its website, without posting the disclosure reports of employers, is being met with outrage from the American labor movement. Although the Labor Department defends the move as part of its ongoing attempts to increase transparency in labor relations---and insists that company records will be posted in the future---many unions feel that the failure to simultaneously post similar records of the money spent by businesses on anti-union campaigns is outright discrimination. Often referred to as LM?s, these labor-management records include data on union assets, officer salaries, expenses, political contribution, and spending on labor relations experts and organizations by businesses.

See Unions Decry Alleged Bias in Online Availability of Labor-Management Financial Records., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Jun 12 2002

After six months of putting pressure on company and government officials, an unlikely coalition of mostly non-union workers, organized labor and church groups has won over $29 million in additional severance pay for laid off Enron workers. Subject to a bankruptcy judge?s ruling, the agreement will pay up to $6,900 each to former Enron employees---some of whom lost as much as $24,400 each in severance pay when the corporation filed for bankruptcy. Although former employees are usually last in line to receive money owed them by bankrupt companies, Enron workers refused to give up without a fight and were given substantial financial and legal assistance by AFL-CIO officials outraged by the actions of the Enron Corporation?s management.

See Coalition Wins Additional Severance Pay for Enron Workers., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Jun 11 2002

While players and owners are still miles apart on a new contract for major league baseball, after several months of deadlocked negotiations management has come out with a new contract proposal with minor concessions on several points. The main sticking points between the previous proposals from the two sides were management?s calls for fifty percent straight-pool revenue sharing, a fifty percent luxury tax and a $100 commissioner?s discretionary fund---as opposed to the Players Association?s proposal including 22.5 percent targeted revenue sharing and no luxury tax. The owners? new proposal reduces the discretionary fund to $85 million, phases in the fifty percent payroll tax from a lower initial level, and according to both sides offers hope of more substantive movement towards an agreement.

See Progress Made in MLB Talks., LAURA PRICE-BROWN, Newsday, Jun 11 2002

New York City?s firefighters? union was quick to take notice of the new tentative contract agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (see yesterday?s WIT), and ask for similar terms in a contract for its members. The Uniform Firefighters Association decided not to take a tentative thirty-month contract agreement including two five percent raises to its members last year---asking for improved benefits and pay in light of the deaths of 343 firefighters in the World Trade Center attacks. Working without a contract for over eighteen months now, firefighters say that the city can use federal funds offered after the September 11 attacks to pay for improved raises---just as a state payment to NYC?s schools was earmarked for raises in the new teachers? contract.

See NYC Firefighters Look to Teachers? Contract, Ask for the Same., WILLIAM MURPHY, Newsday, Jun 11 2002

After nineteen months of working without a contract, members of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) have won a tentative contract with raises ranging from sixteen to twenty-two percent over the next thirty months (see yesterday’s WIT). Reached late yesterday, the agreement will be voted on by the UFT delegate assembly tomorrow, and, if passed, will proceed to a mail ballot vote by the UFT’s 80,000 teachers later his week. In addition to raises that will put pay for NYC’s teachers nearly on level with that in nearby cities, UFT negotiators avoided many work rule concessions sought by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, maintained majority control over non-classroom work assignments and reached a compromise leaving the use of a 100-minute per week increase in working schedules to school by school decisions.

See NYC Reaches Tentative Teacher Contract Agreement., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jun 10 2002

British public sector union Unison sent out strike vote ballots to its 800,000 members yesterday, predicting that a proposed July 17 one-day nationwide strike would be approved overwhelmingly. The Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and GMB general union are expected to ballot the combined 200,000 local government council workers they represent within the next two weeks on whether to join the July 17 strike. With the unions insisting on a six percent raise for their lowly paid members, and the local government employers’ association holding to their final offer of three percent, it looks as though a confrontation---disrupting education, road maintenance, housing benefit office, cemetery, parks, and social services---may be inevitable.

See Britain Faces National Strike by Local Public Sector Workers., KEVIN BROWN, Financial Times, Jun 10 2002

In a major victory for organized labor and working families, California moved one step closer to becoming the first state to offer paid family leave yesterday, when the State Senate passed legislation guaranteeing partially paid leave in a vote that split almost exactly along party lines. The bill guarantees up to twelve weeks of disability pay for workers who take time of to care for newborn infants or seriously ill immediate family members or domestic partners. The benefits would be paid out of the state disability insurance program, which---for the first time, under the bill---employers would have to contribute fifty percent of additional premium costs to.

See CA Senate Passes Paid Family Leave Bill., CARL INGRAM, Los Angeles Times, Jun 10 2002

In a 9-0 ruling today, the Supreme Court overturned a Ninth Circuit ruling that a contractor at an oil refinery had to allow an employee with a liver disease decide for himself whether to work in conditions that could aggravate his condition (see WIT for Feb. 26, 2002). The employee in the case was fired after a company physical for a higher paying job led to a diagnosis of chronic, active hepatitis C---leading him to file a discrimination suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Today?s decision continues what was already a six decision streak of cases, in which the current justices ruled against the employee in employment based ADA claims.

See Supreme Court Rules Against Worker in ADA Discrimination Case., The Associated Press, The New York Times, Jun 9 2002

A thirteen-week extension of unemployment benefits---passed by Congress in March to aid those affected by the September 11 attacks---will run out in the next two weeks for 100,300 New Yorkers. New York is unlikely to receive an additional automatic extension of a further thirteen-weeks, as it has not met the threshold level of unemployment recipients necessary to qualify. With the state?s share of last month?s federal $8 billion insurance fund payout already used up providing benefits, Albany politicians are scrambling to come up with a solution that takes care of New Yorkers without putting an overly excessive strain on the state?s already burdened budget.

See Clock Running Out on Unemployment Insurance Extension., LESLIE EATON, The New York Times, Jun 9 2002

With his bid to take greater control over New York City schools from the state and city now likely to succeed (see WIT?s for June 5, 2002 and May 13, 2002), Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that he is hopeful a contract settlement can be reached with the city?s teachers. Negotiators from both sides met for five hours yesterday at the United Federation of Teacher?s (UFT?s) headquarters, and?while a settlement was not reached?the results were promising enough that UFT President Randi Weingarten has asked that the counting of a membership-wide strike vote be delayed while meetings continue. A settlement is still sticking on the use of an agreed on twenty-minute extension of the school day, and on whether the city will live up to the wage raise recommended by a state fact-finding panel.

See NYC Teachers, Mayor Resume Contract Negotiations., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jun 9 2002

After failing to reach an out of court settlement, Los Angeles County was found guilty in Superior Court yesterday of discriminating against its public safety officers in terms of pay and pension benefits. Black, Latino and Asian minorities make up eighty percent of the 500 member Office of Public Safety peace officer force---one of the only forces that does not receive pension benefits similar to those enjoyed by County police, firefighters and lifeguards. The public safety officers have argued that they are often confronted by violent psychiatric patients and gang members as they patrol hospitals, parks and other county properties, and are seeking over $100 million in raises, back pay and benefits.

See LA County Found Guilty of Bias in Peace Officer Compensation., HECTOR BECERRA, Los Angeles Times, Jun 6 2002

Officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) yesterday reached an agreement with members of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO), on a more inclusive bargaining unit for union representation elections. The agreement comes after the GEO held a one-day strike earlier this year, forcing the UIUC administration to resume negotiations halted after a ruling by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board established a bargaining unit with only 250 grad students (see WIT for March 14, 2002). If the Board agrees to the new bargaining unit, up to 3,000 of UIUC?s 5,000 graduate assistants will be eligible to vote to join a union next year.

See Latest Victory for U of I Grad Students., ROBERT BECKER, Chicago Tribune, Jun 6 2002

The United Auto Workers held its constitutional convention yesterday, officially swearing in former vice-president Ron Gettelfinger as the replacement for retiring president Stephen Yokich, and Elizabeth Bunn as the union?s first female secretary-treasurer (see WIT for Nov. 9, 2001). Mr. Gettelfinger already faces a major challenge in his new job, as the union begins its three-day convention on bargaining strategies for next year?s Big Three contract negotiations tomorrow. When the current four-year contract runs out next September, General Motors, Ford Motor and DaimlerChrysler are expected to seek layoffs to reduce overcapacity in production.

See UAW Swears in New President., Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Jun 6 2002

A study released today by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) shows nationwide bias in the proportion of girls in higher-paying, traditionally male-dominated high school vocational classes. In Maryland girls make up over ninety percent of students training for careers in cosmetology, child care and health-care with wages as low as a dollar or two above minimum wage, while boys make up just under ninety percent of those training for technology, construction and automotive careers which can pay over $30 an hour. Thirty years after the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments banned discrimination in schools, the finding that every state surveyed evinced the trend seen in Maryland, has led the NWLC to announce its intention to petition for formal investigations into possible Title IX violations in this matter.

See Survey Shows Bias in Vocational Training., a Washington Post Staff Writer, The Washington Post, Jun 5 2002

The U.S. State Department issued its second annual report on human smuggling yesterday, estimating that 4 million people are smuggled annually to labor in sweatshops, as household servants, or in the underground sex industry---50,000 women and children into the U.S. alone for sexual exploitation. The report evaluates the efforts made by individual countries to combat this industry which involves profits of $7 billion annually, and found that Greece, Russia and Saudi Arabia are countries which are not making substantial improvements. At the report?s release, Secretary of State Colin Powell committed the U.S. to following through on legislation passed by Congress that will permit economic sanctions against countries found not to be meeting or working towards minimum standards in next year?s report.

A recently released study by Britain?s Office for National Statistics found that in the past four years the number Britons working out of their homes increased by sixty-five percent to 2.2 million in 2001. Experts on working conditions and environments point to the increased popularity and use of e-mail, and workplaces where cubicles and open space replace individual offices, as major factors enabling telecommuting, and necessitating it for certain jobs, respectively. Although the report found that one in fourteen British workers telecommutes, and almost one in four could conceivably do so, organizational behavior and personnel experts point out that the necessity of human contact and face-to-face dealing often outweigh the efficiencies of avoiding long commutes

See Telecommuting Increases in Britain., DAVID TURNER, Financial Times, Jun 5 2002

Over 100,000 New York City teachers and students attended a rally today at which Hip-Hop Summit organizer Russell Simmons, and numerous top names in the hip-hop recording industry, joined with United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten to protest NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's treatment of the city's teachers and schools. Mr. Simmons and other speakers urged Mayor Bloomberg to stop holding out on a teachers contract in his attempt to gain complete power over NYC's schools from the City Council (see WIT for May 13, 2002), condemned the possibility of drastic budget cuts to the City's already under funded schools, and made it clear that "We're here to stand up for schools, teachers and kids." Among the celebrities who spoke out at the demonstration, urging students to fight for their right to an adequately funded school system and teaching staff and the future opportunities that a decent education open up, were L.L. Cool J, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Chuck D., Reverend Run, Erykah Badu, Big Tigger and Wyclef Jean.

See Hip-Hop Artists Join NYC Teachers at Massive Rally, Condemn Mayor., JOSH GETLIN, Los Angeles Times, Jun 4 2002

The nearly 6,000 Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) members at US Airways have offered to take an average pay cut of twenty-six percent for the next seven year and further cuts in benefits that would save the struggling airline a total of $328 million annually, the union announced yesterday. ALPA has also agreed to contract changes that would allow the company to more than double the number of small local jets it uses, and cross-link routes, connections, frequent flyer miles and tickets with other companies---measures which could yield as much as $500 million in new revenues annually. As the June 28 deadline to apply for federal loan guarantees for airlines approaches, US Air and ALPA continue to negotiate over the cuts in labor costs vital to securing the loan guarantees approved by Congress in the wake of 9/11.

See Pilots' Union Offers Concessions to US Air to Keep Company Flying., Reuters, The New York Times, Jun 4 2002

As the Washington Post celebrated its 125th anniversary today, the vast majority reporters, photographers and artists at the newspaper withheld their bylines as planned to protest management's latest contract offer (see WIT for May 31, 2002). The only signed article on the The Post's front page today was written by management, and the words "By a Washington Post Staff Writer" replaced well-known names throughout the paper as every foreign correspondent, National, Style, Sports and Metro writer withheld their name from their articles. The byline "strike" will continue tomorrow, as the members of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, Local 32035 of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America show their displeasure with company offers that have been characterized as union busting, and peanuts.

See Most Post Articles Anonymous as Staff Goes On Byline "Strike"., FRANK AHRENS, The Washington Post, Jun 4 2002

Following the breakdown of contract talks with the German construction firm federation this past weekend, German construction workers? union IG Bau has announced that it will hold a strike vote on June 15. The union has announced that if its 340,000 members grant authorization, the first strikes in the industry in over fifty years could begin as early as June 15 and would likely be focused in the Berlin and Frankfurt areas. At issue in the dispute are the union?s demands for a 4.5 percent raise and wage parity between employees in eastern and western Germany---demands which employers in Germany?s faltering construction industry have characterized as dangerous to strike over.

See German Construction Union Calls Strike Vote., HUGH WILLIAMSON, Financial Times, Jun 3 2002

Seeking to put average pay for its members on level with local pay scales---and regain losses in pay relative to non-supervisory employees in recent years---British mine supervisors trade union Nacods is planning to strike UK Coal a week from today. The announcement comes as the British government is debating whether to give further aid to the mining group, which lost over $38.5 million last year in spite of $30 million in state aid. Although UK Coal has claimed that eighty-five percent of its employees were willing to accept its two percent pay raise offer for the year, Nacods General Secretary Ian Parker has said that eighty-two percent of the union’s membership voted to hold a one-day strike and support further industrial action if necessary.

See Supervisors to Strike at Troubled British Mining Company., MATTHEW JONES, Financial Times, Jun 3 2002

In a massive attempt to correct discrepancies in its files, the Social Security Administration is sending out almost seven times as many letters to employers this year informing them of mismatches between employees’ names and Social Security Numbers. The agency---which has no prosecutorial powers and is prohibited from sharing records with such agencies as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which do---is informing employers that many of the discrepancies may be the result of recent marriages and simple bookkeeping errors. Immigrant advocacy groups and industry organizations, however, are warning that the firmly worded letters are causing many employers to insist that implicated employees provide valid cards---an impossibility for the undocumented immigrants that many businesses rely on.

See Undocumented Immigrants Stand to Lose Jobs as SSA Seeks to Verify Records., OSCAR AVILA and STEPHEN FRANKLIN, Chicago Tribune, Jun 3 2002

A recent study of working women by Penn State labor economist Elizabeth Hill revealed an unexpected correlation between college education and working past retirement age. While Ms. Hill had suspected that for economic reasons high school-educated women would work later in life than college-educated women, it turns out that almost twice as many college-educated work past the age of seventy. The study also revealed that the driving force behind continued workforce participation beyond the age of retirement is the greater job flexibility available to women with higher-educations.

See Among Women, Higher Education Leads to Longer Workforce Participation., Monitor Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, Jun 2 2002

Irish pilots union Impact, and management at Irish government-owned airline Aer Lingus, agreed yesterday to listen to recommendations by Ireland's Labor Relations Commission in order to end a labor dispute that has many in Ireland?s important tourist industry warning about potential damage to the country?s economy. The Commission?s recommendations would require pilots to abide by most of the company?s post-9/11 financial survival plan, but would scale back the more intense flight schedule?required of pilots under the plan?that led to a one-day strike last Thursday (see WIT for May 30, 2002). Although Aer Lingus management accepted the Commission?s proposal later yesterday, Impact has not yet agreed to the recommendations and management has extended at least through Tuesday a grounding of all its aircraft initiated in response to the union?s one-day strike.

See Everything Still Up in the Air at Aer Lingus., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Jun 2 2002

The Recoding Artist Coalition, representing over 100 top names in the music industry filed a legal brief yesterday opposing a settlement with the managers of the health-care and pension fund for members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists union (AFTRA). The settlement would have provided only a few hundred dollars apiece to most of the 20,000 artists who feel that they have been cheated out of millions that the major record companies owed to the fund, but that the fund?s managers never collected on. AFTRA?which is a separate organization from the fund?has also opposed the settlement, and accused the health and retirement fund of failing to provide a fair deal to the artists.

See Musicians, Singers Oppose Settlement Offer in Benefits Case., CHUCK PHILIPS, Los Angeles Times, Jun 2 2002

Earlier this year, Los Angeles school officials announced that teachers at ten struggling school districts would be required to sign commitment forms and abide by a dress code that, among other provisions, made ties mandatory for all male teachers and pantyhose mandatory for all female teachers. Following a wave of teacher outrage and plans by United Teachers-Los Angeles to hold protests at affected schools today, LA Schools Superintendent Roy Romer announced yesterday that these controversial measures will not be implemented at seven of the ten schools. At this time it is unknown if protests will be held at the three schools where the District still intends to force teachers to abide by the new requirements.

See LA Teachers Outraged by ?Loyalty Oaths,? Dress Codes., DUKE HELFAND, Los Angeles Times, May 30 2002

Passed by the State Assembly last year but killed in the Labor Committee of the Republican controlled State Senate, a $1.60 an hour increase in New York State?s minimum wage may be a very real possibility this year. The legislation---which would put NYS?s minimum wage on par with the $6.70 and $6.75 an hour state minimum wages in Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively---has already passed the Assembly and the Senate Labor Committee this year, and is being sponsored in the State Senate by Republican Nicholas A. Spano. The combination of vigorous lobbying by the Working Families Party and state and local unions, and Republicans? election-year efforts to gain labor votes, may be enough to overcome the massive efforts by business lobbyists to defeat the bill in the State Senate.

See Higher Minimum Wage a Possibility for NYS., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 30 2002

For the first time in almost fifteen years, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild is asking Washington Post employees to voluntarily exercise their right to withhold their names from their articles, photographs and drawings. The byline “strike” is scheduled for June 5 and 6 and is meant to draw public attention to stalled contract negotiations---a goal which recently retired twenty-two year Post employee Frank Swoboda said will certainly be achieved by the tactic. The 1,400 members of the Guild who work at the Post have been without a contract since May 18 and have already held three informational pickets to protest management’s demands for contract concessions that could severely weaken the union’s finances and membership base

See Washington Post Writers to Hold Byline “Strike.”, FRANK AHRENS, The Washington Post, May 30 2002

The California Assembly passed legislation yesterday that, if passed by the state senate as written and approved by Governor Gray Davis, will offer tax cuts to smaller movie and television productions as an incentive to remain in California. The fifteen percent credit against state wage taxes is an attempt to stem the outflow of productions to Canada that cost California 18,000 film and television industry jobs---twelve percent of the employment in these industries statewide---last year alone. The proposed credit applies to productions with at least half of production in state and wage costs between $200,000 and $10 million, and is California?s answer to the lower labor costs and government subsidies that have caused many small scale productions to move to Canada in recent years (see WIT for Dec. 5, 2002).

See California Assembly Takes Action to Prevent Runaway Productions., MIGUEL BUSTILLO and CARL INGRAM, Los Angeles Times, May 29 2002

California State officials who took over the Watts Health Foundation last year in response to the organization?s mismanagement and growing financial crisis, are now facing a potential labor relations crisis at the managed health-care company. 200 nurses, clinical assistants and clericals at the Foundation?s five clinics went out on a three-day strike yesterday, protesting a new contract proposal that would require the health care workers to make co-payments for their own medical care. State regulators insist that the concessions are necessary to save the 96,000 subscriber HMO which is currently struggling under a debt load of almost $60 million.

See Health-Care Workers Strike to Maintain Benefits., CLAIRE LUNA, Los Angeles Times, May 29 2002

Suffering from a sharp drop off in business caused by increased competition in recent years and compounded in the past months by the post-9/11 drop in air travel, Ireland?s state owned air line Aer Lingus has recently laid off almost one third of its workers and cut many of its routes. The company has also attempted to implement a recovery plan including new flight schedules that cut recovery time for pilots between flights---resulting in pilots trade union Impact calling a one-day partial strike for today following the suspension of seven of its members who refused to fly under the new schedule. In response, the company has cancelled all of its flights to four major US airports at least through the weekend---a move condemned by the pilots as a crisis purely of the airline?s own making.

Nurses, medical technicians, and physical therapists ended a four day strike at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center as planned yesterday, with a rally outside the hospital and address workers? warning of more strikes to follow if management did not address workers? concerns in ongoing contract negotiations. Working since May 13 without a contract, members of Service Employees International Union Local 399 joined with community supporters at the rally to protest unsafe overstaffing and pay ranges lower than those at other nearby hospitals. Management was warned about the strike in advance by the union, and brought in replacement workers to maintain patient care---which, according to the union, deteriorated during the strike causing numerous complaints.

See At Hollywood Hospital Labor Unrest Continues Even as Walkout Ends., PATRICK J. McDONNELL, Los Angeles Times, May 27 2002

This past Sunday and Monday, Culinary Workers Union (CWU)---made up of Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165---reached contract agreements with the remaining two of the four largest hotel/casino companies on Vegas? main strip (see WIT for May 24, 2002). The agreements raise to 35,000 the number of CWU?s 47,000 members who have negotiated new contracts following an overwhelmingly affirmative strike vote on May 16 (see WIT for May 16, 2002), and before their current contracts expire on May 31. With five of the largest employers on the Strip having reached tentative agreements on five year contracts including raises of close to twenty-three percent, chances are high that the remaining 15 employers still in negotiations will settle without a citywide strike being called.

See Union, Two More Major Vegas Employers Reach Settlement., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, May 27 2002

President Nicole Notat of France?s moderate CFDT, the country?s largest private sector trade union federation, will step down this week after leading the federation for almost ten years. Ms. Notat?s deputy Francois Chyryque will succeed her as president of this union that has led the way in changing French labor relations in recent years---growing its membership by over thirty-six percent in the past fifteen years, even as overall union density in France has declined. Much of CFDT?s success can be attributed to its strong organizing campaigns in the rapidly growing service and high-tech sectors, while showing a willingness to work with the Medef employers? federation in order to achieve its goals.

See French Trade Union Leader to Retire., ROBERT GRAHAM, Financial Times, May 27 2002

Spain?s rival trade unions---Comisio-nes Oreras and the smaller Union General de Trabajadores---stood united yesterday in their call for a general strike coinciding with the European Union summit in Seville. Planned for June 20, the strike is a response to major new restrictions on unemployment benefits proposed by President Jose Maria Aznar, and would be the first instance of massive labor unrest in Spain in eight years. While President Aznar?s government insists that the current unemployment benefit system hurts the economy by preventing labor mobility, the unions claim that forty percent of the unemployed are already ineligible for unemployment insurance and have made it clear that they strongly oppose any economic policy that further infringes upon labor rights and protections.

See General Strike Planned for European Union Summit., LESLIE CRAWFORD, Financial Times, May 23 2002

Over the objections of organized labor, environmental groups and human rights advocates, the U.S. Senate voted sixty-six to thirty yesterday to approve an amended version of a trade bill that would give the president fast track trade agreement powers for the first time in eight years (see WIT for April 23, 2002). The bill was passed after provisions were added improving benefits for workers laid off as a result of increased trade (see WIT for May 17, 2002), and maintaining the Senate?s power to modify presidential trade agreements in order to preserve anti-dumping laws. Allow these amendments made passage of the bill possible, they have not mollified unions and other groups who argue that the bill still provides insufficient protection against child labor violations and pollution, and have angered businesses, conservative politicians and the Bush administration---which is currently indicating that it will veto any trade bill that includes the anti-dumping provision.

See Senate Passes Fast Track Trade Bill., Reuters, The New York Times, May 23 2002

Park Place Entertainment Corp., Aztar Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment Inc.---three major casino firms in Las Vegas---reached tentative contract agreements with the Culinary Workers Union yesterday. The settlements come one week after the 48,000 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees affiliated CWU voted overwhelmingly to give their elected leadership the power to call a strike if new contracts were not negotiated before their existing contracts expired on May 31. Although several major employers on Vegas? main strip have not yet reached settlements with the CWU, the likelihood of a major strike that could disrupt Vegas? recent economic recovery has been greatly reduced.

See CWU, Three Major Vegas Employers Reach Tentative Agreements., DOUG YOUNG, Los Angeles Times, May 23 2002

The California State Assembly Appropriations Committee approved a heavily amended version of a bill that would have required California public school districts to negotiate with teachers? union over textbook, curriculum and academic improvement program decisions (see WIT for Feb. 22, 2002). As amended, the bill keeps such decisions outside the scope of normal contract bargaining by establishing an alternative negotiations process involving academic partnerships between school boards and teachers? unions. While the California Teachers Association has praised the amendment as a reasonable compromise, opponents insist that the academic partnerships called for in the amended bill are just collective bargaining with a new name.

In response to what it claims is an attempt by Washington, D.C.?s Metro transit system to unilaterally change drug testing rules specified in their contract, the 7,000 member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 has announced its intention to bring a lawsuit if management does not agree to negotiate over the change. What makes this disagreement unusual, is that Metro has decided to eliminate random alcohol and drug testing of escalator and elevator mechanics, and the union is insisting that safety is critical enough in these jobs that pre-employment testing is not sufficient and random screening must be maintained. Local 689 has acknowledged that its position on the issue is unusual for a union, but has made it clear that it feels the testing is necessary to ensure the safety of the 600,000 passengers who have to ride an average of two escalators every time they get on or off a train.

See Union, Transit Authority in Strange Roles in Drug Testing Argument., LYNDSEY LAYTON, The Washington Post, May 22 2002

Members of Annapolis Professional Firefighters Local 1926 returned to the negotiating table with a new proposal last week, after walking out of stalled negotiations on May 1. With the city refusing to meet the firefighters? demand for the same raise offered to, and overwhelmingly accepted by, members of Annapolis? police union, members of Local 1926 are now seeking a higher cost-of-living-adjustment than that offered to police officers and four additional days off each year. The contract dispute has become increasingly political as City Council members rally behind the firefighters, while Mayor Ellen O. Moyer---whose election campaign was supported by the police union and opposed by the firefighters? union---continues to insist that a higher raise was more critical for the police department which has lost a large number of officers to neighboring areas in the past year.

See Annapolis Firefighters Propose New Wage Settlement in Stalled Talks., NELSON HERNANDEZ and MATTHEW MOSK, The Washington Post, May 22 2002

Four months after declaring the largest debt default in history, Argentina has seen its peso drop seventy percent against the dollar and unemployment rise to twenty-three percent, in an economic crisis that is expected to deepen this year. Decent paying jobs with some measure of job security are a prize beyond the reach of the average person in this economy where over half of the jobs that are off the books---which is exactly the premise behind a new game show named ?Recursos Humanos? (?Human Resources? in Spanish). Every night two prescreened candidates take quizzes, are taped by hidden cameras during a one-day an unpaid on-the-job trial run, and reveal the tragedies and hardships in their personal lives, as they compete for a job with a one-year contract and full benefits---offered by business in return for the free publicity, and awarded by call-in voters across the country---with the winner getting six-months of free family medical coverage.

See ?Recursos Humanos?: Human Resources . . . the Game Show., JOSHUA GOODMAN, The Christian Science Monitor, May 21 2002

At the release of its latest report in London yesterday, the Human Genetics Commission---a government advisory body---called for legislation prohibiting employers from using genetic testing and genetic information in making employment decisions. The Commission?s president, Helena Kennedy, pointed to a recent U.S. scandal in which the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway conducted DNA tests for predisposition to repetitive stress injuries on thirty-six workers without their permission. One of the primary motivations behind the Commission?s stance is the fact that such testing is still in its infancy and its predictive value and accuracy questionable.

See Commission Calls for Ban on Genetic Screening in the Workplace., CLIVE COOKSON, Financial Times, May 21 2002

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters officially announced their endorsement of New York State Governor George E. Pataki?s reelection campaign yesterday. Teamsters international president James P. Hoffa spoke at the news conference held at a Manhattan Teamsters hall, lauding Mr. Pataki for his key support of anti-sweatshop and other pro-working family legislation. Mr. Hoffa voiced a clear message---inherent in the decision by the Teamsters and numerous other unions to endorse Mr. Pataki (see WIT?s for March 20, 2002 and Feb. 19, 2002)---that organized labor will not blindly give its support to any one political party, but will instead endorse candidates who prove their commitment to ?fight for the rights of working families.?

See Teamsters Endorse Pataki., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, Los Angeles Times, May 21 2002

With time running out on a current five-year contract with UPS, the 230,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the company voted overwhelmingly yesterday to authorize a strike the day after their contract expires on July 31 if no settlement is reached. Labor experts say that a strike is unlikely to occur, as both sides took heavy losses in the fifteen-day strike---the first since the company started business eighty-six years ago---that led to the current contract. Among the major contract issues for the union members, only forty percent of whom are employed fulltime, is getting a contractual guarantee that UPS will convert 3,000 part-time jobs to full-time jobs in each year of the contract.

See Teamster Authorize UPS Strike., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 20 2002

With the economic downturn of the past year forcing Los Angeles County to make $355 million in budget cuts, a major disagreement is brewing between the county?s Board of Supervisors and public sector employees in the county. Twelve unions representing county workers have formed a coalition to oppose proposals for new building and fight for the money to be used to maintain existing services and jobs. The County Sheriff?s office has joined with the unions, alleging that the $50 million in proposed cuts to the Sheriff?s Department would force the closing of jails and four stations, and the elimination of hate crime and identity theft investigation programs.

See LA County Workers Protest Plans to Build During Budget Cuts., GARRETT THEROLF, Los Angeles Times, May 20 2002

Local 32B/32J of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has won reinstatement for eighteen of the twenty-two employees who clean and monitor female restrooms during Mets games. The restroom matrons were fired March 29---three days before the start of the season---and have been picketing home games in protest since then. Under the new agreement fourteen of the workers will be rehired full-time and another four will kept on to fill in during heavily attended games, and all rehired workers will receive a three percent raise.

See Shea Stadium Restroom Matrons Reinstated., PETE BOWLES, Newsday, May 20 2002

Office cleaning contractors in Montgomery County, Tennessee are expected to begin negotiating first contracts with Local 82 of the Service Employees International Union this month. The agreement to negotiate comes after Local 82 filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that cleaning companies Potomac Minute Maid and Service Solutions threatened employees to prevent them from organizing. The janitors---who make only $5.15 to $5.50 an hour---are looking to win health benefits, and a raise that would put them on par with the $7.70 an hour made by janitors in nearby Washington D.C.

See SEIU Takes Justice for Janitors Fight to New Ground., DANA HEDGPETH, The Washington Post, May 19 2002

With a tentative agreement reached in the all important state of Baden-Wurttemberg between German engineering and industrial union IG MEtall and the engineering employers? federation Gesamtmetall (see WIT for May 16, 2002), the remaining pieces of an industry wide agreement are falling into place. Yesterday, the union reached an agreement with employers in the Berlin and Brandenburg region where 1,500 workers went on strike last Friday at the same time a tentative agreement was being reached in Baden-Wurttemberg. As expected, the Berlin/Brandenburg agreement closely mirrors the Baden-Wurttemberg agreement---which will likely also serve as the basis for settlements in such states as Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt where the two sides have yet to come to an agreement.

See IG Metall Reaches Settlement in Berlin., Bloomberg News, May 19 2002

The number of first-time unemployment insurance claims defied expectations of a drop to 402,000 last week, instead rising from 416,000 to 418,000 and bringing overall unemployment levels to a nineteen-year high. Although the four-week moving average in new jobless claims---which averages out temporary fluctuations---declined for the third week in a row from 429,250 last week to 420,750, anything above 400,000 represents an excessively slack labor market. The rise in new unemployment claims, and the total 3.86 million workers currently on unemployment benefits, are indications that despite increases in production, the economy is still very weak and employers still extremely cautious.

See Unemployment Reaches Record High., Tribune News Services, Chicago Tribune, May 16 2002

In a continuing effort to tie presidential fast track powers on trade agreements to protections for workers who lose their jobs due to increased foreign competition, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday to add a two-year wage insurance program to the trade bill supported by the president and currently being hotly debated in the Senate. Although the compromise was condemned by some Republicans as an entitlement, many in both parties praised it as an important and necessary step in reaching an agreement on the overall legislation and its effects. The passage of the overall trade bill and the fast track trade powers it contains are still questionable, as some Senators are using a ?poison pill? amendment on temporary health insurance support for retired steelworkers in an effort to block what many argue is a bill that does not provide adequate protections for labor and environmental rights.

See Senate Adds Wage Insurance Package to Trade Bill., HELEN DEWAR, The Washington Post, May 16 2002

For the first time in almost twenty years, the U.S. may improve the labor rights standards that developing countries must meet to qualify for duty free trade. For twenty-five years, the U.S. has allowed approximately $16 billion in goods from developing countries that meet certain labor rights standards to enter the country without tariffs under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP). The U.S. Senate is expected to pass a revision of this legislation, that will require countries to prohibit discrimination in employment and occupational choices in order to benefit from the GSP.

See Stronger Stance by U.S. on Foreign Labor Rights May be in the Offing., EDWARD ALDEN, Financial Times, May 16 2002

Only one day after resuming contract negotiations that had stalled for over a month (see WIT for May 14, 2002), German engineering union IG Metall and employers in the state of Baden-Wurttemburg have reached a tentative agreement that will cover over 800,000 workers and bring an end to almost seven weeks of strikes in the region (see WIT for April 1, 2002). Covering over 800,000 workers, the eighteen-month contract provides for a four percent raise for the first year, a 3.1 percent raise for the following six months, and a once only payment of $110 for all workers this month. The Baden-Wurttemburg agreement will likely set the pattern for settlements between Metall and manufacturers in other regions throughout Germany---some of which have been experiencing warning strikes since March in a nationwide dispute over raises (see WIT for March 27, 2002).

See IG Metall, Key Employers Reach Tentative Agreement., DAVID McHUGH, Chicago Tribune, May 15 2002

The 48,000 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees affiliated Culinary Workers Union (CWU) will vote today on whether to set a citywide strike deadline for their contract negotiations with Las Vegas employers. Facing a May 31 expiration for their current five-year contracts with hotel and restaurant groups, CWU members plan to take their concerns over massive post-9/11 layoffs, high workloads and maintenance of their family health benefits to the street, as they begin a public awareness campaign this Friday. The risk posed by public labor disputes in a recovering local economy based on tourism, has put immense pressure for a settlement on both sides in this industry that has for well over a decade been a model of union organizing and labor cooperation.

See Vegas Workers to Hold Strike Vote., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, May 15 2002

Working without a contract since April 30, and with contract negotiations deadlocked, registered nurses (RN?s) at the University of California?s six hospitals reluctantly decided yesterday that they will hold a one day strike on May 29 if progress has not been made in talks before then. In preparation for the strike, the nurses? union will be contacting county health officials to set up plans for maintaining patient care, and has made it clear that it will support nurses? decisions to cross the picket line to deliver care to patients if there is an emergency. The UC RN?s---represented by the California Nurses Association---have informed the university that they may consider an open-ended strike if talks continue to remain deadlocked after the one-day strike.

See UC Nurses Announce Strike., Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, May 15 2002

Workers in Saipan?s garment industry won two major victories yesterday in U.S. District Court Judge for Saipan---an island in the U.S. territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the site of much dispute over labor laws and practices in the past year. One ruling, in a suit against forty-eight clothing manufacturers and thirteen major retailers including Gap Inc., J.C. Penny Co. and Target Corp., carried through on an earlier ruling (see WIT for Oct. 18, 2001), and allows workers in the various factories to sue as one class based on the similarity of their experiences. The second ruling upheld the validity of a settlement by nineteen other retailers including Tommy Hilfiger Corp. and Liz Claiborne Inc., in which workers won $8.7 million and independent monitoring of compliance with strict labor codes on the island.

See Saipan Workers Win Major Court Victories., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, May 14 2002

The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) won yesterday what could be the largest back pay sum awarded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) since the agency was created by the Wagner Act sixty-seven years ago. The administrative law judge (ALJ) in the case decided that company Kaiser Aluminum had committed unfair labor practices during a twenty-month strike that began in September of 1998, and was followed by company demands for what the ALJ considered unreasonable concessions from the union. Kaiser, which locked out the striking workers after they agreed to return and has since filed for bankruptcy, plans to appeal the ruling to the full board of the NLRB.

See Steelworkers Win Lockout Case against Kaiser., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 14 2002

As the Major League Baseball season enters full swing, players---concerned about the very real possibility of an off-season lockout after this year?s World Series---are beginning to discuss setting a strike deadline for negotiations early this August. Although both sides in the talks are downplaying the likelihood of a strike, it was an August 12 strike date and deadlocked negotiations that led to the early end of the 1994 season and the first cancellation of the World Series in ninety years. If the players finish out the season without striking and without a new contract, management would be able to declare an impasse and implement contract and salary changes like its proposed profit sharing and payroll tax plans without approval by the players? union.

German engineering union IG Metall and engineering employers? federation Gesamtmetall announced yesterday that industry-wide contract negotiations, which have been stalled for almost a month now, will resume tomorrow in the state of Baden-Wurttemburg. One day rolling strikes by 100,000 Metall members last week at over eighty companies in this region---which often leads the way in settlements on engineering industry contracts---spread to Berlin and the state of Brandenburg yesterday. With German Chancellor Gerhard Schorder pushing hard for a quick settlement that meets workers? expectations without jeopardizing Germany?s nascent economic recovery, Gesamtmetall has agreed to continue talks regardless of continuing work stoppages.

See IG Metal Strikes Continue but Negotiations Resume., HUGH WILLIAMSON, Financial Times, May 13 2002

Members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) employed by Manhattan based nonprofit health insurer Group Health Inc. (GHI) ratified a new contract agreement yesterday, ending a twenty-six-day strike. The main point of contention in the negotiations was GHI?s insistence that employees begin paying for part of their health insurance---a break from past contracts that the company argued was necessitated by the rising cost of health care. Under the new four-year contract, new hires will have to make co-payments for doctors? visits and prescription drugs and payments towards dependant coverage less than those originally demanded by management, current employees will never have to pay for their health insurance, and all employees will receive a raise of over seventeen percent.

See Nonprofit Health Insurer, Employees Settle Contract., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, May 13 2002

Executive director Thomas Hollister of the Compton Education Association (CEA) criticized the Compton Unified School District?s state appointed trustee, Randolph E. Ward, for pressing the district?s negotiators to drop a cost-of-living adjustment from a contract proposal passed by the school board. The CEA---whose 1,700 members have been working without a contract for almost a year , and are seeking a five percent raise---alleges that Mr. Ward told district negotiators not to offer a two percent cost-of-living adjustment that the school board had passed along with a two percent raise. Although the state returned day-to-day control of the district to the school board in December after six years of direct supervision, Mr. Ward retains final say over the district?s financial decisions.

See State Appointed Trustee?s Actions Anger Teachers in Compton, CA., JOE MATHEWS, Los Angeles Times, May 13 2002

As the rise of US-style market capitalism and foreign companies continues to replace state-run enterprises and weaken labor law protections and workers? rights standards in China, it is often the most vulnerable who end up paying for the economic transition. An example, as outrageous as it is becoming commonplace, is that of nineteen year-old Li Chunmei. One of tens of millions of young workers from poor families in China?s interior, who are drawn to the myriad private sub-contractor and sub-sub-contractor companies springing up in China?s coastal regions, Li Chunmei worked for the Bainan Toy Factory---a sub-contractor of Kaiming Industries---manufacturing stuffed animals and other children?s toys for sale mainly in the U.S. Working sixteen-hour days seven days a week in a factory where the air was full of fibers and the temperature often reached as high as ninety degrees, Li Chunmei returned to her company dorm coughing and hungry, and with her legs aching from standing and running all day. One night her roommates woke to find her in the bathroom coughing up blood, bleeding from her nose and mouth and moaning quietly. She died before an ambulance arrived.

See Young Girl Worked to Death by Toy Manufacturing Company., Philip P. Pan, The Washington Post, May 12 2002

NYC Mayor Backs Away from Teachers Contract.

In a taped interview aired yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he does not expect to reach a contract settlement with NYC?s teachers until the State Legislature passes its budget and makes a decision on his bid to take direct control of City schools. Bloomberg?s attempts to link a contract for NYC?s teachers to his attempt to take over the school system, has drawn sharp criticism from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Although the city and the teachers? union agreed to follow the guidelines of a state fact-finding committee last month (see WIT for April 19, 2002), negotiations have once again stalled and the teachers---who have been working without a contract for over a year and a half---began strike authorization procedures last week (see WIT for May 8, 2002).

See NYC Mayor Backs Away from Teachers Contract., MICHAEL COOPER, The New York Times, May 12 2002

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union began contract talks today with shipping companies represented by the Pacific Maritime Association at such West Coast ports as Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two busiest in the nation. Major retailers and manufacturers including Gap Inc., Nike Inc. and Best Buy Co. will be keeping a close eye on the negotiations covering 10,000 dock workers and over $300 billion in trade, as a slowdown like that experienced when negotiations ran past deadline in 1999 would cost the companies billions. Major issues in the negotiations are likely to be the Association?s push to automate certain jobs, and the union?s goals of maintaining benefits and improving pensions while extending the job descriptions covered by the contract.

See Dock Workers, West Coast Carriers Begin Talks., Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, May 12 2002

Increases in prescription drug prices are cited as a major contributing factor as well as cutting back on benefits, which included drug coverage, by Medicare health maintenance organizations. Many medium-sized companies are no longer offering retiree health care coverage to new employees, and small companies rarely pay these benefits.

The company had failed to pay the workers for time spent putting on and removing clothes and protective gear, which Labor Department officials claim to be part of work-related safety procedures. Perdue believed this activity should be considered part of employees’ personal time. The Labor Department has now sued Tyson Foods for similar wage and hour violations.

Officials from the California Nurses Association say they will give 10 days notice before walking off of the job. Issues such as merit pay vs. pay for years of service, mandatory overtime, and nurse/patient ratios are among those being discussed in negotiations.

Physicians for Responsible Negotiation, the AMA sponsored union, will no longer receive funding through the parent organization. Citing "future operations projections," the American Medical Association has not been impressed with the ability of the union to bring in sufficient membership and dues. The union continues to lose money. The money could be reinstated at a meeting in June in Chicago. Other sources of funding may be sought as well.

See Physicians' Union Funds Withdrawn By AMA, Bruce Japsen, Chicago Tribune, May 8 2002

Despite a jobless rate higher than 20 percent and more than 60,000 wage earners losing jobs each month with some 8,000 people slipping below the poverty line daily, more than 400 soup kitchens have started spontaneously. Volunteers are flocking to charity groups such as the Solidarity Network. While these efforts are extraordinary, the crisis mounts in terms of human suffering. People lacking basic food and minerals are beginning to appear. Most volunteers are from the classic middle class who prospered in recent years. They now feel they need to give back.

See Argentina's Economic Crisis Sees Volunteerism Surface, Colin Barraclough, The Christian Science Monitor, May 8 2002

Eight persons with Alzheimers or complicated medical histories will be the first persons implanted with scannable ID chips. "Who gets to decide who gets chipped?" asked Marc Rostenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "...its an easier way to manage someone, like putting a leash on a pet." While this is a needed experiment for a controlled set of circumstances, it is unsettling for privacy advocates. The VeriChip produced by Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. is sure to raise long-term ethical questions. Brazil and Mexico are expressing interest from government and commercial enterprises. Where there are threats of kidnapping, there is already a market.

See Chips To Be Implanted To Allow Scanning Of Humans For Identification, David Streitfeld, Los Angeles Times, May 8 2002

An audit by the Labor Department?s inspector general revealed underpayments totaling 17 million dollars per year by 13 out of 60 companies studied. The underpayments seem to occur when employers incorrectly calculate benefits for departing workers. Cash-balance plans distribute retirement earnings evenly throughout an employee?s career, instead of figuring benefits using length of service and final pay, as with traditional plans.

See Study shows cash-balance pension plans may be underpaying participants., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, May 7 2002

According to the union?s rules, this is the first of several steps that must precede a strike. The union?s 100,000 active members will next have the opportunity to vote on strike authorization. Eighteen months have passed since the union?s last contract expired and one month has passed since a state fact-finding panel made recommendations for new contract provisions.

Wanting to work in careers that help people, rearranging priorities with more focus on friends and family, trying to get away from workplace stress, and trying to travel less are all reasons cited for professional transformations since September 11th.

Workers are demanding a 4-6.5% increase in wages, but companies are saying that kind of increase will force them to relocate. The strikes are called for by IG Metall, the union that represents 2.7 million factory workers. Yesterday’s strikes were against Mercedes and Porsche plants, but the labor action will encompass several other companies in a series of one-day strikes. Industry-wide actions are rare in Germany. The country has enjoyed peaceful labor relations and a strong labor movement. Recently, however, companies are opting out of the industry-wide collective bargaining umbrella. They say the wage negotiation structure is too rigid.

The union recently voted to increase dues and up its line of credit. Its contract with UPS, negotiated after a 15-day strike in 1997, expires on July 31. UPS head, Mike Eskew, admitted he was concerned about the labor situation in an address to an Atlanta Rotary Club.

The state?s supreme court will hear the case of Dan Esberg, who is suing his employer, Union Oil Company, for denying him access to company benefits allowing him to pursue his Master?s degree. According to Esberg, a supervisor said he was too old for that kind of investment, but the company says there were other factors in its decision. A California appeals court ruled that Esberg was not entitled to equal benefits. The case points out a loophole in California law. The state?s anti-discrimination laws protect older workers from dismissal, but does not guarantee them equal treatment when it comes to benefits. Older workers are protected by federal law, but most workers choose state courts to sue in because the awards can be larger and jurys' decisions are not required to be unanimous. If the lower court?s decision stands, the legislature will need to address the issue.

A survey by the Information Technology Association of America has found that the number of US technology workers fell 5% last year, a loss of 530,000 jobs. Analysts disagree on prospects for next year, with some predicting a flat to stable job market and others predicting that employers will make up for the lost jobs as firms begin to purchase more computers and software that require support staff. A separate study, by Information Week magazine, also found that salaries for technology workers fell 11% last year.

See Surveys find job losses and salary decreases for US technology workers., Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post, May 5 2002

During World War II many Mexican workers, known as braceros, signed contracts with American companies to work on farms and railroads. The workers claim they had wages withheld and were never repaid as their contracts stipulated; the amount could reach $500 million. The U.S. and Mexican governments do not recognize the claim, but the workers have gained support from Latino civil rights groups and labor unions.

See Braceros seek back pay for WWII contributions., Oscar Avila, Chicago Tribune, May 5 2002

IG Metall union, Germany's biggest industrial union with 2.7 million members nationwide, launched the first of a series of one-day strikes today. The strikes follow fifteen months of negotiations that hinged on the unions request for a raise of at least 4%, with employers offering 3.3. Analysts warn the strikes could slow the European economic recovery, but some unionists are calling for more traditional, long-term strikes.

See Germany's largest union begins flexible strikes after negotiations break down., Associated Press, The New York Times, May 5 2002

In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court found that the first amendment does not protect Nike from accusations of fraud for claiming that its overseas workers are paid adequate wages and that its working conditions are safe. The decision has implications for determining when businesses can be held accountable for false statements made in commercial speech as compared to political speech which, under the first amendment, would give businesses protection from even false statements.

The unemployment rate reached 6% in April, its highest point in almost eight years. Despite signs of economic growth, analysts expect the unemployment rate to continue to increase until next year, when economic recovery will translate into increased hiring by firms.

See Despite signs of economic recovery, unemployment rate hits 6%., John M. Berry, The Washington Post, May 2 2002

A controversial new study by the public interest group Public Citizen indicates that costs of mandatory arbitration are underestimated relative to using the court system. In addition, the rule of law is threatened by this new corporate maneuver. Increasingly, consumers and employees find it impossible to vindicate their rights.

See Mandatory Arbitration May Cost More Than Using Courts, Caroline E. Mayer, The Washington Post, May 1 2002

Treatment of the poor and the states' freedom to set their own course are issues polarizing Congress over a new Welfare Bill. In addition, issues of real long-term costs and values are surfacing in how best to meet the needs of children and their families while attempting to reduce the number of welfare recipients.

By paying commissions, in the form of bonuses, on revenues earned from clients brought in raises questions about the independence of services provided by Deloitte & Touche. Recent efforts to approach staff and management of rival firms with bonuses, offers of doubling salaries, and more, including at least one instance of paying top recruits 6 percent of revenues earned from new clients brought from former firms has eyebrows raised in the industry.

The chancellor spoke to thousands of trade unionists in Leipzig, eastern Germany. He highlighted the progress his government has made for working people since 1998. He did not comment on the strikes in the engineering industry that are expected to begin next week. Citing concern over the possible economic impact of strikes, Schroder's stance in recent weeks has been to call for a wage settlement. Speaking at a rally in Berlin, Klaus Zwickel of IG Metall said that strikes would actually help with Germany's economic recovery. Acording to the DGB national trade union federation, approximately 500,000 people participated in labour movement rallies on Wednesday.

The panel has been meeting for more than a year to establish fairer and more intelligent policies for determining who should do what federal work. Critics of the decision, including Panel member Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 650,000 federal workers, said the report was unfair. They argued that ?best value? is highly subjective and ill defined, and that the report completely ignored accountability.

The high court ruled yesterday in US Airways v. Barnett that disabled employees are not necessarily entitled to accommodation when that accommodation means transferring them to jobs that more senior, non-disabled employees want. The 5-4 decision did allow for some overriding of company seniority systems in favor of accommodation when seniority is a considered, but not a controlling factor in hiring decisions. The decision does not address cases where there are collective bargaining agreements.

The NLRB regional director had paved the way for the TAs and RAs to vote on representation by the United Auto Workers in a decision last February. Columbia administrators decided to appeal the decision to the full board. The union vote was held, but the ballots have been impounded. The walkout by about 200 graduate assistants joined by other UAW employees affected instruction throughout the university, but particularly freshman level courses that are often taught by graduate assistants.

The strikers have clerical, maintenance, and library jobs with the university. Wage increases are demanded.

See 400 1199/S.E.I.U. workers at Yeshiva University have begun a strike., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Apr 29 2002

The argument is that the company needs key employees in order to have a chance at returning to profitability. However, some stakeholders, in particularly laid-off employees and creditors, question the advisability of rewarding the very leadership that might have caused the financial problems in the first place.

According to Amicus, Britain’s largest manufacturing union, three complaints about inadequate implementation of the directive were upheld: employer enforcement of workers’ rights to breaks and holidays; measurement of time voluntarily worked above normal working time, and the exclusion of night-shift overtime hours from the count towards normal hours. The Confederation of British Industry claims that the government has correctly balanced worker needs with the need for company flexibility.

SAG contract requirements include items such as contributions by producers to the union’s health and pension fund, minimum guaranteed pay rates, residual payments when work is a rerun, and safety and health provisions. SAG estimates that 1,500 of its actors work in foreign productions each year and there is a growing trend to shoot film and TV shows outside of the United States. Producers complain that the union is exceeding the reach of its contract without negotiating at the bargaining table.

Critics charge that the new rule would hurt employers’ ability to attract and retain workers with these popular plans, especially in the competitive high-tech industry. The IRS is claiming that the stock incentive programs are compensation, while critics claim they are actually benefits, with no income being gained until one sells the stock. A congressional tax committee estimates that the change would result in the IRS collecting an additional $23 billion over the next decade.

The Service Employees International Union and Catholic Healthcare West will today announce the settlement of a first contract that will cover 9,000 workers at twenty hospitals run by California?s largest non-profit hospital system. The contract is the culmination of several years of hard fought organizing and often heated negotiating, and an important breakthrough in recent efforts by health care unions to organize private sector hospitals and health service providers in California. Among the contract provisions won by the employees are a ten percent annual increase in pay and benefits for each of the contract?s two years, health insurance fully paid for by the employer, and the creation of union/management committees to address the understaffing problems that were one of the biggest issues in the organizing drive and negotiations.

See Major Victory for SEIU in California Healthcare Industry., DON LEE, Los Angeles Times, Apr 25 2002

A settlement was announced yesterday in a case involving a customer service employee at Virgin Airline?s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) terminal, whose requests for time off to observe the Sabbath were denied and resulted in his being forced to resign. The terms of the settlement apply to all similar employees at Virgin?s JFK terminal, and include a requirement that the company make all possible scheduling accommodations for employees? religious requirements. The case was prosecuted by the office of New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, which settled a similar case involving an Orthodox Jewish applicant who was turned down for a food equipment repair technician position with the Hobart Corporation because his religion prevents him from working Saturdays

See Airline Settles with NY Attorney General?s Office in Discrimination Suit., ROBIN POGREBIN, The New York Times, Apr 25 2002

After over two years of negotiating, United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists have reached a tentative settlement on a new contract for the 23,000 customer service, ramp and security workers at United represented by the IAM. Union members will vote sometime in the next two weeks on weather to accept the fifty-one month contract, which includes benefits improvement and the first raises in eight years for the workers, that will put their wages well above those of similar workers at other airlines. United CEO Jack Creighton characterized the agreement as critical in order to move ahead with negotiations on concessions and other plans to stabilize the airline?s dismal finances.

See United, IAM Reach Tentative Agreement., KEITH L. ALEXANDER, The Washington Post, Apr 25 2002

A bill extending workplace anti-discrimination protections to gays was adopted by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions yesterday, and could pass the Senate at large as soon as this year. Defeated 50 to 49 in 1996, the legislation would ban discrimination in hiring, firing, wages, and other terms and conditions of employment by public and private employers, and is expected to pass despite opposition from many Republicans. Within the next three weeks the Senate will also begin consideration of a bill---previously passed by the Senate in 2000, but defeated in the House---which would make hate crimes against gays a federal crime carrying the possibility of life imprisonment.

See Senate Moves to Protect Gays On and Off the Job., ADAM CLYMER, The New York Times, Apr 24 2002

In the eight years since the 1996 Welfare Reform Act ended welfare as it had been known by placing a new emphasis on shifting welfare recipients to workfare, states have succeeded in cutting welfare rolls by huge margins---by two-thirds in seven Midwest states. While many politicians have hailed these changes as eliminating dependence and helping individuals to become productive members of the workforce, a study released yesterday shows that many of those moved off the welfare rolls have ended up trapped in jobs with poverty-level wages. Among the alarming statistics brought to light by the study are the following: forty-nine percent of former welfare recipients in Michigan who are working full time are below the federal poverty line; the average income of all former recipients in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota is below the federal poverty line; fifty percent of the former recipients in several states cannot afford food, rent or utilities; and, one in ten individuals shifted off the welfare rolls into the labor market have lost their homes.

See Shrinking Welfare Rolls Creating More Working Poor., JODI WILGOREN, The New York Times, Apr 24 2002

The Ms. Foundation for Women---original organizer of Take Our Daughters to Work Day---announced today, on the tenth anniversary of the event?s founding, that next year it will encourage parents to bring their sons to work as well. Although many parents and employers have already re-christened the event Bring Your Child to Work Day, the Ms. Foundation?s announcement is significant in that it expands the days? focus to include career/family balance issue and the difficult choices that women in particular are forced to make in this area. The event was originally intended to boost the aspirations and career goals of girls in their pre- to early teen years, when they are particularly to decreased self-esteem and academic performance.

See Women?s Rights Organization Extends Events to Sons., SUSAN LEVINE, The Washington Post, Apr 24 2002

A 'living wage' bill currently under consideration by the New York City Council is eliciting criticism from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg?s office as a threat to the city?s recovering economy. Labor unions and their supporters have argued that the bill---which would require private companies that receive city contracts or subsidies to pay their workers at least $8.10 an hour plus benefits, or $9.60 an hour without benefits---would cost the city government significantly less than the mayor and business interests allege, and would stimulate the economy. With over forty members of the City Council supporting the bill, and the mayor?s office indicating that it would not be ?unreasonable? to expect a veto if the bill was passed, the issue is set to become one of the first major confrontations between Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council.

See NYC Mayor Opposes 'Living Wage' Bill., DIANE CARDWELL, The New York Times, Apr 23 2002