Workplace Issues Today
The International Association of Machinists indicated yesterday that it still plans to request that an impasse be declared in its current negotiations over a contract for 23,000 United Airlines ramp and public relations employees, when the two sides meet with the National Mediation Board this Thursday (see WIT for Feb. 26, 2002). Talks between IAM and United broke down three weeks ago due to disagreements over wages and benefits, and the two sides have not met since (see WIT for March 21, 2002). The IAM has indicated that the positions of its own and the company's negotiators are very close, and wants the government to allow a strike countdown to begin in the hopes that this will lead to a settlement as it did in the union's negotiations with United over a contract for machinists earlier this year (see WIT for Feb. 14, 2002).
See IAM Again Asks Government Not to Interfere., Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Apr 8 2002
Ben & Jerry's ice cream company co-founder Ben Cohen is taking on the oft-cited argument of the American garment industry that clothing manufacturers cannot afford to pay decent wages to their workers because of competition from companies in developing countries. Cohen borrowed $1.5 million from his own social venture fund to start the SweatX company which will pay its Union of Needletrade, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) organized workers $8.50 an hour plus health and other benefits, pension and profit-sharing. The company will focus on the upper end of the casual market with hemp and natural cotton fabrics with social awareness slogans, gearing their product towards students and college campuses in the hopes of tapping into anti-sweatshop sentiments.
See Ice Cream Activist Turns Attention to Garment Industry., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Apr 8 2002
When United Cerebral Palsy of New York holds its annual fundraising dinner this coming Monday, attendees will be greeted by picketing members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) who have been locked in negotiations with the organization for the past twenty months. United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) has a long history of anti-union animus, and it was not until the last two years that 600 of its education service and after-school program workers---many of whom make less than $20,000 a year, and some of whom make as little as $15,000 a year---were organized by the UFT. While the union and workers have so far decided not to strike because of the delicate nature of their position, in their growing frustration they decided to picket next week's fundraiser and have filed "bad faith" charges against the UCP with the National Labor Relations Board.
See Union to Picket Charity Event., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Apr 8 2002
In their annual study on government funding of education to be released today, the National Education Association finds that throughout the 1990's teachers' salaries across the country only rose 0.5 percent above inflation on average, and in many states fell behind inflation. Despite increased spending on education from 1990 to 2000, and an overwhelmingly strong economy, teachers in many states suffered losses in their real wages of up to fifteen percent. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that in the last decade, increases in the nominal pay of elementary school and high school teachers fell short of national averages for all full-time workers by two percent and seven percent, respectively.
See Study Finds Teachers Barely Keeping Ahead of Inflation., The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Apr 7 2002
A bill sponsored in the New York State Assembly by the Democrat chair of the Assembly's Labor Committee seeks to extend Workers' Compensation benefits to all those who worked at the World Trade Center site as rescuers or on clean-up and recovery crews. The bill---which is also supported by the Republican chair of the State Senate's Labor Committee---would extend the same benefits received by workers injured on the job, to WTC workers who suffer any ailments stemming from their work at ground zero. Unions are urging state legislators to support the bill despite some indications of opposition by insurance companies.
See NYS Legislature Considers Workers' Comp. for WTC Workers., The Associated Press, Newsday, Apr 7 2002
The British government's plans to implement European Union anti-discrimination laws by 2006 are running into heavy opposition from major business leaders, who claim that anti-age discrimination provisions will cause huge problems for businesses. The EU directive would likely require Britain to prohibit businesses from adopting mandatory retirement ages---something that the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) argues would cause massive staffing and workforce planning problems, and result in large increases in lawsuits by older workers. The CBI's opposition to curtailing the ability of companies to force older workers to retire is not shared by the British Chamber of Commerce which represents many small businesses that do not set mandatory retirement ages.
See Britain's Big Business Interests Oppose Anti-Discrimination Law., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and ROSEMARY BENNETT, Financial Times, Apr 7 2002
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to release a set of voluntary ergonomics guidelines today, that will be subject to public hearing and review by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on April 18. The guidelines represent the latest round in a fight between labor, worker rights, work safety and business groups, in which business won a major victory when mandatory regulations enacted late in 2000 were overturned after President Bush took office. Labor officials and pro-labor politicians are expressing extreme reservations about the impact that a voluntary system will have, and a bill that would require the development of enforceable regulations is currently being prepared.
See Ergonomics Guidelines to be Released Today., DIANE E. LEWIS, The Boston Globe, Apr 4 2002
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced yesterday that in a strike vote among CBS employees represented by the union, ninety-eighty percent of the workers voted to give the WGA negotiating team the power to call a strike after a contract extension expires at midnight tonight. The current contract between CBS and the WGA was to have expired on April 1, but the two sides agreed to extend the terms of the contract until Friday as negotiators continued to bargain over remaining areas of disagreement. CBS's demands for reductions in benefits, permission to use non-union writers, and a clause that would allow the media giant to withdraw from the contract if it underwent a merger, are among the remaining obstacles preventing an agreement according to the union.
See CBS May be Struck by Writers This Week., Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Apr 4 2002
The United Nurses Association of California/Union of Healthcare Professionals---an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees---has sued Tenet Healthcare Corporation for failing to maintain sufficient staffing levels. The union alleges that as a result understaffing at the corporation's hospitals nurses have not received lunches and paid breaks required under California labor laws, and is seeking class action status for the suit on behalf of up to 7,000 Southern California nurses. A spokesman for the corporation claimed that the suit was baseless, and suggested that the union is using the courts to leverage its position in negotiations under way at two of Tenet's hospitals.
See Nurses' Union Sues Hospital Company for Understaffing., Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, Apr 4 2002
A study released yesterday by the National Governors' Association and the American Public Human Services Association representing state welfare officials blasted President Bush's proposed welfare plans as unrealistic and fundamentally flawed. The bipartisan consensus of the governors and welfare officials in the thirty-eight states that weighed in on this report was that the president's plan would trap welfare recipients in low-paying workfare and community service work without helping them to enter the normal workforce and achieve self-sufficiency. The twenty-one Republican, fifteen Democrat and two independent governors cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data in characterizing as "unworkable" the Bush administration's plan to require seventy percent of welfare recipients in all states to put in workweeks five to six hours above the national average without increasing funding for affordable child care.
See Governors, Welfare Officials Criticize Bush's Welfare Proposals., ROBERT PEAR, The New York Times, Apr 3 2002
The U.S. Justice Department ruled yesterday that Attorney General John Ashcraft can grant state and local police the power to enforce immigration laws and deputize them as agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Most police departments have, in the past, opposed police involvement in combating civil violations of immigration statutes as discouraging immigrants from reporting crimes, and driving a wedge between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. Coming on the tail of the Supreme Court's decision to deny undocumented immigrants the rights and protections afforded by the National Labor Relations Act (see WIT for March 28, 2002), this ruling by the Justice Department is likely to further reduce the willingness and ability of documented and undocumented immigrants alike to seek redress from violations of their remaining labor, wage and safety rights.
See Justice Department Gives Go-Ahead for Police Enforcement of Immigration Laws., ERIC SCHMITT, The New York Times, Apr 3 2002
At a meeting being organized by Domestic Workers United (DWU), New York City Council members will hear testimony this Saturday from domestic workers---mainly immigrant women---about wage and employment abuses they have suffered at the hands of their employers. The recently formed coalition group is pushing for fundamental labor rights for nannies, maids and personnel care attendants, and is one of the driving forces behind a bill introduced in the City Council last week to require domestic worker employment agencies to inform employers of their responsibility to obey wage, overtime and other employment laws. Many of the workers that DWU seeks to protect are undocumented immigrants who are too afraid of being deported to complain when their rights are violated---even in cases as outrageous as that of a San Salvadoran woman who was locked in a basement every night by her employer.
See Coalition Fights for Workplace Justice for Domestic Workers., LYNDA RICHARDSON, The New York Times, Apr 3 2002
In the latest example of a recently developed legal tactic for bringing private causes of action against employers who intentionally hire undocumented immigrants in order to lower their labor costs, several former employees of Tyson Foods Inc. filed suit against their former employer under federal anti-racketeering laws yesterday. The workers allege that Tyson Foods conspired to smuggle undocumented workers into its plants in order to lower labor costs---a charge also leveled against Tyson Foods by the U.S. Justice Department in a criminal case filed last year (see WIT for Jan. 25, 2002). The recent reinstatement of a similar case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has supported such suits for treble damages brought under a 1996 extension of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization act to human smuggling cases.
See Former Employees Sue Tyson Foods., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Apr 2 2002
Under intense pressure from some community members to close down a job center used by day laborers, the Costa Mesa Town Council voted to raise fees for workers and begin charging employers---but will continue to operate the center. Critics of the center claim that the hiring hall draws poor and out of city workers, and encourages undocumented immigration and the illegal hiring of undocumented workers. The center---which provides legal services to workers who are cheated out of wages, and is widely considered to be one of the best run centers in the county---will increase its one time only five dollar fee to a yearly charge of ten dollars for city residents and fifteen dollars for non-residents.
See California Job Center Remains Open, Raises Fees., H. G. REZA, Los Angeles Times, Apr 2 2002
Still working without a contract (see WIT for Feb. 15, 2002), and with negotiations with New York City once again stalled, members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) are calling for the first city-wide teachers strike in thirty years. UFT officials have indicated that with much of the membership feeling that at this point a strike may be the only way to achieve a just contract, a strike vote could be held as early as this month. Despite heavy penalties for striking public-sector workers under state and city laws, the UFT plans to picket schools on April 15th and has promised a strike vote if a Public Employment Relations Board fact-finding report expected later this month does not bring the union and the city closer to a settlement.
See Strike Possible in NYC Schools., NICK CHILES, Newsday, Apr 1 2002
In an unsigned unanimous decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed as improvidently granted, a case brought by approximately 120 former employees of the Florida Power Corporation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ( see WIT for March 21, 2002). The workers were seeking to extend the approval given by the Supreme Court to "disparate impact" claims brought under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to cases brought under the 1967 ADEA. ILR professor Michael Gold pointed out that, in light of ideological leanings indicated by recent rulings by the Supreme Court on labor issues, the dismissal of the case may be in the best interests of older workers in general---leading him to believe that pro-labor, pro-worker justices made an effort to have the case dismissed rather than see a ruling adverse to worker interests.
See Supreme Court Drops ADEA Case., The Associated Press, Newsday, Apr 1 2002
Power company workers in South ended their five week old strike protesting the impending privatization of the publicly owned utility and further privatization of Korea's railway and gas utilities earlier today (see WIT for March 26, 2002). While the workers have secured promises form the government that workers will not be fired for striking---and have been offered in increased job security and shorter work weeks---the government plans to continue with privatization, and is insisting on its right to fire union leaders for what the government considers an illegal strike. The preliminary agreement is extremely vague on many points, and union leaders have made it clear that if these ambiguities are not ironed out more strikes are possible.
See Five Week Strike Ends in Korea., ANDREW WARD, Financial Times, Apr 1 2002
With no settlement on wage raises yet in sight in negotiations over a general contract for its 2.7 million members, Germany's largest trade union carried through on its plans to expand warning strikes into western areas of the country today (see WIT for March 27, 2002). With economists predicting a recovery this year from the economic slump Germany has experienced in recent years, the auto, electronics, and metal workers union is hoping to recoup losses in members' real wages last year due to inflation. Economists and politicians are concerned, however, that a significant raise for IG Metall workers could jeopardize this recovery, as well as the reelection prospects of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder---as could a protracted full-scale strike.
See IG Metall Takes Strikes Nationwide., The Associated Press, The New York Times, Mar 31 2002
85,000 laid-off and retired former employees of the LTV Steel Company, and their dependants, lost their health insurance coverage today as an order by a federal bankruptcy judge allowing both their former employer and the buyer of its closed plants to avoid continuing the benefits went into effect today. This loss of coverage is a major blow to the steelworkers---many of whom have severe health problems from years spent in the mills, and some of whom will also see drastic cuts in their pensions---and brings to well over 100,000 the number of former steelworkers who have lost benefits due to steel corporation bankruptcies in the past two years. The United Steel Workers of America has vowed to fight for federal government protection of the health benefits of the approximately 600,000 steel industry retirees and dependents.
See Former LTV Steelworkers Lose Health Benefits, Pensions., STEPHEN FRANKLIN, Chicago Tribune, Mar 31 2002
A report issued yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor revealed a significant decrease in minimum wage and time and a-half overtime violations by New York City garment factories during the period from 1999 to 2001. Among the sixty-seven companies investigated, minimum wage compliance increased by ten percent to ninety-three percent compliance, and overtime pay compliance increased twenty percent to sixty-two percent compliance. The head of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division was quick to point out that although the improvements represented a significant change in an industry notorious for its sweatshops and labor and wage law violations, much improvement is still needed.
See Pay Violations Decrease in NYC Garment Industry., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Mar 28 2002
In a move largely considered window dressing even by members of his own administration, Illinois Governor George Ryan offered to forgo raises for himself and his cabinet if state employees would agree to give up the raise they won in their last contract negotiations (see WIT's for March 15, 2002 and March 27, 2002). The executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees has pointed out that with an annual salary of $150,000 the governor can easily afford to do without his 3.8% raise---unlike some state employees who support families on as little as $25,000 a year. In addition to giving up their 3.75 % raise, Governor Ryan wants state employees to take an unpaid one-day leave and agree to the privatization of a number of public services.
See Illinois Governor Offers to Forgo Raise., CHRISTI PARSONS, Chicago Tribune, Mar 28 2002
A New York City limousine corporation has agreed to a $108,000 settlement with its former drivers for back wages that it denied them following its post-September 11 closing. Although it continued to collect payments from customers for runs completed prior to its dissolution, the company claimed it could not afford to pay the drivers for these runs---until an investigation and threatened lawsuit by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer convinced the company's owners to settle. The agreement could have a major impact on New York State's taxi and limousine industry, as until now livery drivers have often been treated as independent contractors---not as employees entitled to back pay awards and other protections under wage laws.
See NYC Limo Company Forced to Make Good on Back Pay., KATIA HETTER, Newsday, Mar 28 2002
In a shattering defeat for organized labor, immigrant rights groups, and undocumented workers throughout the country, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that undocumented immigrants fired for union activities are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act (see WIT for Feb. 19, 2002). Writing for the majority in the bitterly divided five-four decision in Hoffman Plastic v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 00-1595, Chief Justice William Rehnquist found that the defendant company was not liable for back pay---which along with reinstatement is the usual remedy for firing a worker based on union activity---because the fired worker was an undocumented immigrant who got the job using false identification. The four dissenting justices, along with labor and immigrant rights leaders, have condemned the majority ruling in the case as allowing employers to higher undocumented immigrant workers for extremely low wages and fire them if they attempted to organize---a tactic which depresses wages for all workers.
See Supreme Court Strips Undocumented Immigrants of Labor Law Protections., DAVID G. SAVAGE and NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Mar 27 2002
A study published in this month's edition of the American Journal of Public Health reveals that 1.36 million health care workers in the country have jobs that do not provide them with health insurance---an increase of eighty-nine percent in the past 4 years. According to the study, the decrease in the availability of health coverage for health care workers is symptomatic of an overall decline in the quality and conditions of available employment across the health care industry. The authors of the study attribute the decline to the increasing prevalence of private-sector health care jobs, and to a decline in union membership.
See Many Health Care Workers Not Receiving Health Care Coverage Themselves., JULIE APPLEBY, USA Today, Mar 27 2002
California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante has teamed up with the United Farm Workers in an attempt to increase awareness among UFW members of pension benefits they may be eligible for. Started over thirty years ago by UFW founder Cesar Chavez, the Juan de la Cruz Farm Workers Pension Plan covers all UFW members who meet the minimum employment requirements---regardless of immigration/citizenship status. Despite large Spanish language education campaigns in both the U.S. and Mexico, the difficulty in tracking migrant farm workers has resulted in up to 2,000 eligible workers not taking advantage of the pensions they are entitled to---a problem that union officials hope will be remedied by television advertisements featuring Mr. Bustamante.
See UFW, CA Lieutenant Governor Seek to Publicize Farm Worker Pension., BETH SHUSTER, Los Angeles Times, Mar 27 2002
Germany’s largest trade union IG Metall began holding short part-day warning strikes throughout eastern Germany on Monday, making good on its promise last week to engage in preliminary industrial action if progress was not made in industry-wide contract negotiations (see WIT for March 19, 2002). The union has indicated that it will continue to hold warning strikes in eastern regions throughout the week, and will begin holding warning strikes in western Germany when an injunction against strikes in the area ends this Friday. Despite the union’s insistence on a 6.5 percent raise to offset losses in real wages due to inflation last year, some experts feel that Metall would be willing to compromise on across the board raises if businesses meet its demand to end pay discrepancies between wage-workers and salaried employees who perform equivalent jobs.
See IG Metall Holds Warning Strikes., TONY BARBER, Financial Times, Mar 26 2002
The Illinois State Government began mailing out approximately one hundred layoff notices to state prison guards this Monday, in the first wave of a 1,000-employee cut in the state workforce that will have a major impact on prisons and Department of Health Services facilities. The firings follow through on an announcement by Governor George Ryan two weeks ago, that if the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees did not allow the terms of their current contract to be renegotiated, he would be forced to terminate public sector workers to reduce spending. The union is sticking to its position that with Governor Ryan already proposing a budget to take effect in July that will call for the elimination of over 3,500 state workers, it will not be pressured into making concessions on wages and benefits in return for 1,000 jobs that will be lost regardless of concessions.
See Illinois Governor Begins Layoffs., CHRISTI PARSONS, Chicago Tribune, Mar 26 2002
Britain’s Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation has announced a settlement with part-time workers, represented by banking unit Unifi, who were denied pension rights by the company. The deal represents the first major settlement in a suit brought under a ruling last year by the House of Lords---complying with an earlier ruling by the European Court of Justice---that grants part-time workers backdated pension rights equivalent to those of their full-time coworkers. The settlement could apply to as many as 3,500 former and current employees and cost the banking corporation over $35 million, and will have a huge impact on the approximately 60,000 similar claims that have been brought under the Lords’ ruling.
See HSBC Settles in Major Part-time Worker Benefits Case., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Mar 26 2002
In a major victory for organized labor, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit ruled eleven to zero yesterday that fees paid by non-union employees at unionized workplaces in states without “right to work” laws, can be used to fund organizing. In reaching this decision, the court was swayed by research, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, which shows that increased unionization due to organizing within an industry leads to improved wages, benefits and conditions for all union represented workers in that industry. With unions spending as much as fifty percent of their funds on organizing, and the AFL-CIO leadership under President John Sweeney putting an ever increasing emphasis on organizing to reverse labor’s decline in past decades, this ruling could have a significant impact on U.S. labor relations.
See U.S. Court of Appeals Okays Use of Non-Member Fees for Organizing., HENRY WEINSTEIN, Los Angeles Times, Mar 25 2002
With a historic first strike in twenty years by London area teachers not a week past (see WIT for March 15, 2002), Britain’s three teachers’ unions have made it clear that they are ready to engage in nationwide strikes if the government does not agree to meaningful regulation of teacher workloads in the current round of contract negotiations. The country’s three teachers’ unions are showing a new militancy---and continuing to present the united front instrumental in achieving a review of the teachers’ contract last year---in their demand for limits on teaching hours, duties and total working hours. In addition to the possibility of industrial action and even a merger by the teachers’ unions, the government is also faced with the growing likelihood that headteachers and school governors will refuse to administer a new performance pay system which they claim is too severely under-funded to be implemented.
See British Government Faces United Front over Teachers’ Issues., JIM KELLY, Financial Times, Mar 25 2002
The strike over privatization plans entered its fifth week at the state owned Korea Electric Power Corporation yesterday, passing the deadline set by management for all workers to return to their jobs or be fired. The government corporation has announced that it will begin processing the terminations of the thousands of workers who remained on strike to protest the planned privatization of Korea’s electric, gas and railroad utilities. Far from calming the unrest Korea has experienced in recent months (see WIT for Feb. 25, 2002), the announcement drew a response from a union spokesman that the government’s actions will have major repercussions when Korea hosts the World Cup this summer.
See Industrial Conflict Over Privatization Escalates in South Korea., ANDREW WARD, Financial Times, Mar 25 2002
Despite the low wages they are often paid, Mexican immigrants to the U.S. send $9.3 billion in monthly money orders to Mexico each year, providing the country with its third largest source of national income. It is estimated that the output of the 23 million Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. equals over seventy-five percent of the output of individuals living in Mexico, and remittances from immigrants living in the U.S. exceed government budgets throughout much of rural Mexico. In a move that has already benefited economies on both sides of the border, the Mexican government has begun providing identification cards to immigrants in recent months that many U.S. based banks have agreed to accept for the purposes of establishing accounts---resulting in an influx of $50 million to banks in California alone since the accounts were made available.
See Mexican Immigrants Generate Billions for Mexico, U.S., GINGER THOMPSON, The New York Times, Mar 24 2002
In another sign of the growing split over privatization and deregulation between Tony Blair’s “new” Labour Party and Britain’s unions, the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has vowed to take whatever action are necessary to protect its members---including ending financial support for the Labour Party. The sources of this dispute are a planned restructuring at British postal company Consignia that is expected to result in massive layoffs, and the government’s plan to deregulate the postal industry. Despite laws forbidding it from striking over political issues, the CWU will also likely hold a fifteen-minute strike this week in order to maintain the authorization granted for more drastic industrial action by a strike vote among postal workers.
See British Postal Workers’ Union Prepares for Fight Over Job Security., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and SARAH LAITNER, Financial Times, Mar 24 2002
Earlier this month the European Union Employment Ministers’ Council adopted an Information and Consultation Directive, which will eventually require all companies with over fifty employees in any member state to form and negotiate with works councils. Already common throughout much of continental Europe, works councils will be required at all companies above the minimum staffing levels within the decade---representing a drastic change for countries such as Britain that are unfamiliar with this form of industrial democracy. Regardless of whether they recognize unions, employers will be required to meet minimum standards of transparency, cooperation and openness with meaningful works councils or a council system outlined in the EU directive will be imposed on them.
See New EU Regulations Will Require Works Councils., FRASER YOUNSON, Financial Times, Mar 24 2002
Huge protests involving workers from approximately twenty different factories in the industrial city of Liaoyang have been quieted by pressure from the Chinese Government. The protests were triggered by the widespread corruption and massive layoffs experienced under the transition to capitalism (see WIT’s for Jan 21, 2002 and March 19, 2002), and involved tens of thousands of workers. The weeklong protests were quashed by what has become a common carrot and stick strategy of arresting strike leaders and placating the remaining workers with a combination of partial paybacks and promises of future assistance.
See Chinese Government Succeeds in Discouraging Strikers., JOHN POMFRET, The Washington Post, Mar 21 2002
Reversing its previous position on the matter, the Burmese government has decided to grant the United Nations’ International Labor Organization agency the right to begin permanently monitoring the use of forced labor in the country. Although Burma’s military government officially banned the use of forced labor two years ago, an ILO investigation last year revealed that laborers are still conscripted for government projects and forced to supply soldiers with food. Having refused the allow the ILO to set up a permanent branch office until now, the Burmese Government is promising to cooperate with an agency representative who will be assigned by June of this year.
See Burmese Government Opens Doors to ILO., FRANCES WILLIAMS, Financial Times, Mar 21 2002
Less than a month after a strike threat convinced the management of the London Underground to agree to the pay demands of Britain’s Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT), the public transportation system is again facing possible strike action. This latest dispute stems from the alleged violation by management of job security provisions in the existing contract. The recently elected left-wing leader of the union, Bob Crow (see WIT for Feb. 14, 2002), has accused the Underground’s management of weakening “jobs for life” guarantees designed to protect workers in a planned partial privatization of the transportation system.
See Labor Disputes Continue on Britain’s Rail Lines., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and JULIETTE JOWIT, Financial Times, Mar 21 2002
Following up its success in organizing and negotiating a first contract for graduate students working as teaching or research assistants at New York University, the United Auto Workers yesterday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to organize the university’s adjunct professors. The American Federation of Teachers---which has represented clerical and technical staff at NYU for over twenty years---announced yesterday that they would be filing such a petition today. While there may be disagreement over which union to join, with average pay of only $2,500 per a course and no chance of gaining tenure many of the 3,000 to 4,500 adjuncts at NYU are eager achieve greater voice and protections through unionization.
See AFT, UAW Seek to Represent NYU Adjuncts., The New York Times, The New York Times, Mar 20 2002
Contract negotiations for United Airlines’ 23,000 ramp and public-relations workers came to a halt yesterday when the company floated proposals that the chief negotiator and president of the workers’ union characterized as less than industry leading (see WIT for Feb. 26, 2002). The union---District 141 of the International Association of Machinists---has asked government mediators involved to declare the talks at impasse and begin the thirty-day countdown required before a strike can be held. United has indicated that it considers the offer it currently has on the table to be industry leading, and will oppose the formal declaration of an impasse and the initiation of the pre-strike cooling off period as it feels that negotiations are not yet hopelessly deadlocked.
See Talks Between United and IAM Fall Through., SUSAN CHANDLER, Chicago Tribune, Mar 20 2002
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a class action lawsuit brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by 117 workers laid off in the mid-1990s in what they allege was a discriminatory corporate restructuring. The case hinges on whether the concept of “disparate impact” used in race and sex discrimination cases can be applied to age discrimination cases such as the instant one---in which over seventy percent of the workers eliminated were over the age of 40. Plaintiffs in a “disparate impact” discrimination case, unlike those in a “disparate treatment” discrimination case, need only show that an employer’s actions had an unequal affect on employees of different genders, races or religions, without proving that the employer had a discriminatory intent.
See Supreme Court to Decide Legitimacy of “Disparate Impact” Claims Under ADEA., LINDA GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Mar 20 2002
In a five to four decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Labor Department’s practice of granting misinformed and uninformed employees twelve additional weeks of leave in order to penalize employers who fail to make Family and Medical Leave Act regulations clear, is unsupported by federal law. The penalty is part of a 1995 Labor Department regulation requiring employers to inform their employees in writing that company-authorized leave can be counted against the twelve weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the FMLA. While the five majority justices struck down the penalty, they left the notice requirement intact and indicated that other means of enforcement may be acceptable.
See Supreme Court Eliminates FMLA Penalty., CHARLES LANE, The Washington Post, Mar 19 2002
President Dennis Rivera of District 1199/Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced yesterday at a press conference with Governor George Pataki that the union will support Mr. Pataki in the upcoming gubernatorial elections. The announcement fulfilled expectations that New York’s Health and Human Services Union---the largest health care workers’ union in the state---would back Pataki following the governor’s efforts to secure raises and other legislation favorable to the state’s health care workers (see WIT for Feb. 19, 2002). SEIU is considered by many to be the most politically influential union in New York, and has historically been closely identified with the state’s Democratic Party---making its backing of Mr. Pataki a major blow for Democratic challengers H. Carl McCall and Andrew M. Cuomo.
See Health Care Workers’ Union to Support Pataki., ADAM NAGOURNEY, The New York Times, Mar 19 2002
Overturning an earlier High Court ruling, a British Court of Appeal decided yesterday to uphold a judgment of the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) that the Committee need only decided whether proposed bargaining units are appropriate---not whether they are the most suitable. The use of an “appropriate unit” standard, as opposed to a “most suitable” standard, parallels language in the U.S. National Labor Relations Act and decisions by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board---the U.S. equivalent of the CAC. The suit was brought by the Transport and General Workers Union and lawyers for the CAC, and represents a major victory for Britain’s unions, as it allows them greater flexibility to propose bargaining units based on the extent of worker support rather than mirroring the management structure of a business.
See British Unions Win Fight Over Bargaining Unit Determinations., NIKKI TAIT, Financial Times, Mar 19 2002
Having rejected an offer from employers of a two percent raise per year for the next two years, German industrial trade union IG Metall has announced that it will begin holding brief warning strikes next week. With 2.8 million members, IG Metall is the country’s largest industrial trade union and its contracts usually set the pattern for collective bargaining settlements throughout Germany. The union is calling for a 6.5 percent increase in wages, pointing to the fact that the 2.1 percent increase negotiated in 2000 fell short of Germany’s annual inflation rate for 2001---leading to a decline in real wages for its members.
See IG Metall Set to Strike., TONY BARBER, Financial Times, Mar 18 2002
Worker advocates are raising concerns that many residents of New York City and State are unaware of, or uncertain about their eligibility for, the thirteen-week unemployment benefits extension passed by Congress. Although the New York State Department of Labor is attempting to publicize the extended benefits, most of the department’s publications and services are in English and Spanish. Many of the 35.5 percent of NYC residents who are from other countries speak neither of these languages, and are unable to get information on the extension or apply for it without the help of bilingual friends or family members. In response to this dilemma, one local officer of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) has suggested that the Labor Department work with unions and other community groups to solve this problem.
See Many Confused About Unemployment Extension., PATRICIA KITCHEN, Newsday, Mar 18 2002
Continuing allegations of mismanagement and exploitation arising from China’s transition to capitalism and the dismantling of cradle-to-grave job security (see WIT for Jan. 21, 2002) are leading to a wave of labor protests that are likely to increase as more industries are transitioned to capitalism under World Trade Organization regulations. In what are being called the largest labor demonstrations since the Communist Party’s rise to power in 1949, up to 30,000 or more workers laid off at the Daqing Oilfield have protested in front of the complex every weekday since March 1st. Told that the corporation was facing bankruptcy, and pressured into accepting severance packages that will leave them in poverty, the workers---who were once praised as national heroes---began protesting when the company announced that it would drastically cut back their already meager benefits.
See Growing Labor Unrest in China., ERIK ECKHOLM, The New York Times, Mar 18 2002
The longest nurses’ strike in Long Island history ended yesterday, as 450 members of the New York State Nurses' Association went back to work at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center. The nurses struck the center for 111 days when negotiations with a new management group deadlocked over staffing levels and health insurance (see WIT for Nov. 27, 2001). Under the new three-year contract, the nurses will receive fifteen to nineteen percent raises, health retirement benefits, and the minimum staffing level and mandatory overtime regulations that many of the nurses felt was the central issue.
See Medical Center, Nurses Settle on Long Island., ERIK HOLM, Newsday, Mar 17 2002
Despite a law prohibiting correctional officers from striking, Britain’s 34,000 member Prison Officers’ Association has indicated that its members are pressing the union to engage in labor actions in a bitter dispute over pay. The newly elected leftwing chairman of the union has indicated that widespread anger over proposed changes in pay and conditions may lead the union to use human rights laws to challenge the legality of the law prohibiting prison guards from striking. The union is already challenging an injunction preventing prison guards from leaving their workplace on lunch breaks, issued in response to growing unrest with plans to reduce the use of overtime---which many officers rely on for much of their pay.
See British Prison Guards Threaten Industrial Action., JAMES BLITZ, Financial Times, Mar 17 2002
Stirred by the government’s refusal to address cost of living issues, teachers went on strike for the first time in thirty years across the Greater London area yesterday demanding that the government increase allowances for teachers in the capital. The strike shutdown 2,000 schools in whole or in part and directly impacted over 250,000 students as thousands of members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) walked off the job---many of them marching on Parliament to press their demands. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Secretary of Education Estelle Morris have taken a hard line towards the teachers, but the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association have joined the NUT in suggesting that refusal to address teachers’ concerns may result in additional industrial action. Stirred by the government’s refusal to address cost of living issues, teachers went on strike for the first time in thirty years across the Greater London area yesterday demanding that the government increase allowances for teachers in the capital. The strike shutdown 2,000 schools in whole or in part and directly impacted over 250,000 students as thousands of members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) walked off the job---many of them marching on Parliament to press their demands. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Secretary of Education Estelle Morris have taken a hard line towards the teachers, but the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association have joined the NUT in suggesting that refusal to address teachers’ concerns may result in additional industrial action.
See Teachers’ Strike Rocks London., JIM KELLY, Financial Times, Mar 14 2002
In a move that has solidified opposition among Italy’s labor movement, the center-right government of Italian President Silvio Berlusconi yesterday reached a binding decision to implement labor market legislation that will severely weaken Italy’s job-security laws. The response of Italy’s trade unions was swift, with moderate trade unions Cisl and Uil---the second and third largest in Italy---joining Italy’s more radical largest trade union Cgil in promising a nationwide general strike. Cisl and Uil had declined to join in Cgil’s call for a strike until the government decided to break off negotiations with labor leaders, and committed itself to increasing labor market flexibility without providing funding to establish safety nets for those laid off as a result.
See Italian Government Faces Nationwide Strike., JAMES BLITZ, Financial Times, Mar 14 2002
In response to a major budget problem, Governor George Ryan of Illinois informed the leaders of the state?s largest public sector union this week that refusal to give up a contract-guaranteed raise later this year will lead to the layoff of 1,000 employees. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)---which represents the 45,000 government workers who are set to receive the raise--has replied that it will not allow the governor to make its members foot the bill for the state?s problems. AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer has made it clear that the while the union is willing to discuss alternative plans, it will not allow Ryan to use the threat of layoffs to extract concessions on raises that its membership deserves.
See Illinois? Public Employees Face Off with Governor., CHRISTI PARSONS and ADAM KOVAC, Chicago Tribune, Mar 14 2002
With Lockheed Martin and its employees already embroiled in a major labor dispute, the aerospace industry may experience even more labor unrest as the clock runs down on the Boeing Company’s contracts with its employees. The International Association of Machinists (IAM)---which represents 22,700 workers at Boeing, and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)---which represents 24,000 workers at Boeing, have both struck the company in recent negotiations and have contracts that expire later this year. With Boeing’s weak financial position likely to make it reluctant to take a strike, however, neither union yet sees the need to strike arising in the upcoming negotiations.
See More Unrest a Possibility in Aerospace Industry., Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Mar 13 2002
In a major victory for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a daylong occupation of the administration building yesterday has led to a new compromise offer by the administration. Formed in 1994, the GEO won an Illinois State Court of Appeals decision in 2000 protecting the right of graduate employees to bargain collectively---but experienced a major setback when the Illinois Labor Board sided with the university and excluded ninety-five percent of the 5,000 workers the GEO wants to represent from a proposed bargaining unit. The university administration had refused to negotiate a contract for a larger unit since then (see WIT for Nov. 29, 2001), deadlocking negotiations until yesterday?s labor action convinced them to seek a compromise.
See Graduate Employee Protest at UIUC Leads to Reopening of Negotiations., MEG McSHERRY BRESLIN, Chicago Tribune, Mar 13 2002
In a 145-page study of forty cities with living wage laws---scheduled to be released today by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California---outspoken minimum wage increase opponent David Neumark concludes that living wage laws are in fact reducing poverty. Since 1994 when Baltimore adopted the first living wage law, approximately 80 living wage laws have been passed by cities and counties across the country (see WIT for May 25, 2001)---almost always over extreme opposition by business and employer groups (see WIT for Dec. 06, 2001). While conservatives and business groups are already questioning the study Neumark has asserted that although he is not convinced that living wage laws are necessarily the best way to reduce poverty, they do help the poor and there is no scientific basis for opposing them.
See Conservative Economist Reluctantly Admits that Living Wage Laws Work., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Mar 13 2002
The House Budget Committee will meet today to work out a plan for federal spending in the year 2003, with much of the discussion likely to focus on the inequality in the raises President Bush has proposed for civilian and military employees. The Bush administration has continued to argue that the almost thirty-five percent difference in raises for military and civilian personnel is justified by current military operations in Afghanistan. Many member of Congress, however, have argued that in light of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, and subsequent anthrax attacks, past efforts to keep military and civilian raises on par should be continued.
See House Budget Committee Confronts Raise Parity Issue., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Mar 12 2002
Presidential elections for Local 420 of the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)---the largest union representing employees at New York City’s public hospitals--- resulted in a surprise win for challenger Carmen Charles yesterday. Former president James Butler was widely expected to win reelection, as the president of almost thirty years exercised considerable influence over voting procedures for the 7,500 member union. President Charles attributed her upset victory to what she feels is dissatisfaction among the membership with increasing dues, Mr. Butler’s large salary, and massive job cuts at city hospitals that affected many of the union’s members.
See Election Upset in NYC Hospital Workers’ Union., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Mar 12 2002
In a highly controversial move, the Norwegian government announced a plan last week requiring public and semi-public companies to ensure that forty percent of the members on their boards of directors are women. Made public the day before International Women’s Day, the new law gives affected companies a year to comply voluntarily with the quota or risk enforcement involving sanctions that will be specified in the coming year following discussions with business and labor groups. The plan, which has come under fire from at least one far-right political party, also requires that at least forty percent of board members of public and semi-public companies are men.
See Norway to Combat Sex Discrimination with Quotas., ALISTER DOYLE, Chicago Tribune, Mar 12 2002
In a decision signed Friday and distributed yesterday to the lawyers involved, a federal judge for the Southern District of New York threw out the sexual and racial harassment charges brought against New York City by five women in its Work Experience Program (WEP). Judge Richard Conway Casey pointed to the facts that WEP workers receive very low compensation and no health or pension benefits in agreeing with the city's argument that WEP workers are not legally employees of the city and cannot sue for on the job harassment. The women in the case---who were required to work for city agencies including the Parks and Sanitation Departments in exchange for their welfare benefits as part of the WEP program---complained of such acts as the placing of racist cartoons and a noose on one of their desks.
See Judge Rules that Workfare Participants Cannot Bring Harassment Charges., THOMAS J. LUECK, The New York Times, Mar 11 2002
Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, representing low-paid tomato pickers in Florida, on a nation-wide caravan protesting at Taco Bell stores drove their point home yesterday with a rally outside Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, California. 500 local supporters of the Immokalee movement's Taco Bell boycott met the farm workers at the start of a two-mile march from a local park to the protest in order to help raise awareness of what they feel is Taco Bell's responsibility to push for improvements in the low wages and poor working conditions of the workers who supply its tomatoes. Taco Bell met with the workers but continues to insist that because it buys its tomatoes through a broker firm that buys from several tomato packing companies---including the Six L Packing Company that employs the workers---they have no responsibility to become involved. [Members of the ILR School may be familiar with this issue from the activities of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA) on behalf of the Immokalee Workers, and can contact Tomer Malchi at email@example.com for more information.]
See Tomato Pickers Protest Outside Taco Bell Headquarters., JERRY HICKS and MARC BALLON, Los Angeles Times, Mar 11 2002
Labor/management disputes continued to rock the airline industry this weekend, as talks between the Air Line Pilots Association and US Airways collapsed over job-security issues. The president of the ALPA's US Airways unit has said that the union made multiple concessions to the company on the issue of increasing the use of small regional jets, but called off talks when they found out that management negotiators were not even authorized to address job-security issues. The union was willing to allow the company to increase the use of cheaper regional jets from seventy to 315, but wants job protection for 287 pilots with twelve-plus years of experience that the company currently plans to furlough.
See Negotiations between US Airways and the ALPA Deadlock., Times News Service, Mar 11 2002
A Sikh ex-traffic policeman and members of New York City?s Sikh community are pressing the city to change a police guideline that they feel unfairly discriminates against members of their religion. The controversy started when the traffic policeman was told during his training last year that he would have to shave his beard and stop wearing a turban---actions which would violate Sikh religious tenets---and was later fired while a hearing on the matter was pending. The traffic policeman wants the NYPD to follow the example of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by creating a regulation turban for uniformed Sikhs and allowing them to keep their beards.
See NYPD Comes Under Fire for Allegedly Discriminatory Regulation., SEAN GARDINER, Newsday, Mar 10 2002
Having approved $55 million in bonuses to 550 managers only two days before it became the largest U.S. corporation to go bankrupt, the Enron Corporation is now seeking permission to pay further bonuses to top executives. A company spokesperson has announced that Enron may petition the court overseeing its bankruptcy proceedings as early as today for approval of what is known as a retention bonus package (see WIT for Dec. 7, 2001). This announcement comes three weeks before a hearing scheduled to address the issue of severance pay for Enron?s laid off workers, who received initial severance payments of only $4,500.
See Enron Seeks to Pay Further Bonuses to Executives., THOMAS S. MULLIGAN, Chicago Tribune, Mar 10 2002
Contract ratification votes at three Lockheed Martin Corporation plants yielded very different results yesterday, as workers at the company?s two California plants accepted the contract while workers at the Marietta, Georgia plant rejected the proposed contract and voted to strike by overwhelming majorities. The three-year contract included raises in the first two years, a ratification bonus and a new eye-care plan paid by the company, but failed to address the job-security concerns of the Marietta workers who have seen employment at the plant drop over sixty percent in the past decade despite the company?s success. The company announced that it had made its best and final offer, and International Association of Machinists represented workers at the Georgia plant prepared to begin picketing around midnight last night.
See Employees at Lockheed Plant Strike Over Job Security., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Mar 10 2002
Today marks the graduation of an unlikely class of University of California at Los Angeles students, as twenty-six low-wage immigrant workers identified as potential leaders by the unions representing them finished up a one week seminar at the school?s Labor Center. The seminar for Spanish-speaking union members recognized for their grassroots efforts gave a brief background in labor history and focused on workplace strategies for organizing, mobilizing and bargaining. Similar training sessions are planned for Asian immigrant, African American, homosexual, and female workers who show promise as leaders in the labor movement, and like the session for Hispanic workers will be funded through the state sponsored Institute for Labor and Employment while each union makes up the wages of the members they send.
See First Union Leader Class of UCLA Graduates Today., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Mar 7 2002
A little over a week ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was counseling extreme caution in what he felt could be a slow turn around that was just starting to pick up following the economic downturn in the second half of 2001. Speaking before Congress yesterday, however, Mr. Greenspan cited new data in announcing that, while caution is still necessary and the increases in spending by businesses and consumers are still unknown quantities, the recession is over and a post-recession expansion already well begun. Among the encouraging economic indicators are an unexpectedly high growth rate this quarter, massive productivity gains at the end of 2001, an increase in retail sales last month that was the largest in two years, and a drop in first time applications for unemployment insurance over the past four weeks to the lowest level in almost a year.
See Recession Over, Economy Expanding Says Greenspan., JOHN M. BERRY, The Washington Post, Mar 7 2002
The Screen Actors Guild recently announced that raising health care costs will force the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans to raise costs and drop a large number of participants---a major blow to the vast majority of low-paid members who live infrequent role to infrequent role. Although as much as three-quarters of the union?s membership does not currently make enough to make the minimum annual income required to qualify for SAG?s health benefits plans, many members count on eventually meeting the requirements. That goal will be even harder to achieve with the annual income requirement being increased by thirty-two percent for even the lowest coverage plan.
See Many SAG Members to Lose Crucial Health Care Benefits., RONALD D. WHITE, Los Angeles Times, Mar 7 2002
The Bush administration released a welfare plan last week that emphasized work requirements. Some, including Bush's staff members, believed the plan would pay welfare workers below the minimum wage and that they would not receive the same protections as other workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of health and human services, said that the administration is committed to guaranteeing that welfare recipients receive the minimum wage and that reports to the contrary were due to a misinterpretation of the plan.
See Misinterpretation led to reports that Bush favored reducing the minimum wage for welfare workers., Robin Toner, The New York Times, Mar 6 2002
President Bush will unveil a plan to make corporate chief executives more accountable during a speech at the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. The president's plan is focused on providing better information to investors, making corporate officers accountable and developing a stronger audit system. CEO's would be required to return salaries and bonuses if fraud was later found on corporate financial statements. Some securities-law experts have criticized the proposal saying they are extreme and an overreaction to Enron.
See Bush proposes to make CEO's vouch personally for their companies' finances., Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post, Mar 6 2002
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad has condemned factories in Indonesia who supply sportswear manufacturers Nike and Adidas for extremely poor treatment of their employees. The report says that employees live in extreme poverty and work in dangerous conditions. This report was a follow-up to an investigation two years ago that criticized the two companies for buying goods from factories who violated the human rights of their employees. Oxfam concluded that not much had changed since the initial investigation. Adidas denied the claims and insisted that conditions had improved.
See Sweatshop Scandal for Nike and Adidas., Richard Galpin, BBC News Online, Mar 6 2002
Last night, the 13,000 members of the United chapter of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted by 59 percent to ratify a new contract. Many analysts had predicted a strike would force United into bankruptcy. It is unclear if United will have the financial resources to meet the terms of the new contract and they may end up asking the Union to give back some of the gains they just won.
See Last minute agreement averts strike at United Airlines., Kenneth N. Gilpin, The New York Times, Mar 5 2002
His administration argues that supervised work experience for welfare recipients are not real jobs and therefore the protections of the Fair Labor Standard Act, which sets the national minimum wage, do not apply. Public Employee Unions and advocates for the poor strongly oppose the proposed change in federal policy.
See Bush supports a change in federal policy that would allow states to place welfare recipients in jobs that pay less than the minimum wage., Compiled from Tribune News Services, Chicago Tribune, Mar 5 2002
A survey by Pearl Meyer & Partners found that total compensation in 2001 for chief executives was down 4% from 2000. The average compensation was $10.46 million for the 50 companies they surveyed, who have average sales of $28 billion. Analysts hope that the idea of pay for performance is becoming a reality and credit the recession, war on terrorism and the collapse of Enron for the change.
See For the first time since 1993, corporate chief executives compensation is down., David Leonhardt, The New York Times, Mar 5 2002
The unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year-olds reached 9.7% in January 2002, compared with a national jobless rate of 5.6%. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers expect to hire 20% fewer new college graduates. In a response to the current economic climate, a desire for work-life balance, and a growing distrust of Corporate America, self-employment is becoming an attractive alternative to a difficult job search.
See Younger workers are looking to start their own businesses or work for themselves., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Mar 4 2002
Offensive material includes pornographic pictures, web site addresses and e-mails. In an effort to combat misuse of company computers, spot checks will be conducted and violations of the policy will be considered as serious disciplinary offenses.
The President has decided to impose tariffs of up to 30% on imported steel, with exemptions for NAFTA countries and some developing countries. Industry officials and unions were hoping for a 40% across-the-board tariff. Also concerned with the tariffs for different reasons are steel-consuming industries that were enjoying low steel prices.
See Labor unions and steel industry officials may be disappointed with the limited tariff plan being offered by President Bush., Mike Allen and Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post, Mar 4 2002
Experts have found that the poor economy and terrorist attacks have led people to reevaluate the priorities in their lives. Some have turned to helping others or returning to school as an alternative to the high-pressure jobs they held in the dot.com world. A report released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project examined the effect of technology and on-line work.
See Some technology workers who were laid off during the recession reevaluate their priorities and search for ways to find purpose in their lives., Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post, Mar 3 2002
Canadian women have increased their share of all jobs to 46.2 percent in 2001 compared to under 44 percent at the end of the 80s. Some of these gains reflect the effects of a recession in the early 90s when men accounted for 95 percent of the laid-off workers, but women continued to make gains even when the economy recovered and their male counterparts went back to work. Job growth for women occured in a broad range of occupations, including the blue-collar jobs typically held by men.
See Working women have gained ground in Canadian labour market., Bruce Little, The Globe and Mail, Mar 3 2002
The Department of Justice found that a hotel supervisor improperly suspended an employee during a check of proof of residency documents. The employee had a green card with an expired date, even though he was still a permanent legal resident. The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union is attempting to organize workers at the hotel and said that this type of improper document checking is a common way to intimate workers during a union drive. The hotel responded that the complexity and nuances of immigration law caused the mistake and that they felt the judgment against them was fair.
See Improper checking of an employee’s immigration status leads to a fine and an internal review of Loews Hotels employment form policy., Nancy Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, Mar 3 2002
Negotiations broke down today betweens Britain?s local governments and three public sector unions representing over a million government workers in such critical areas as social services and sanitation. The Transport and General Workers? Union (TGWU), Unison, and Britain's General Union, the GMB, have advised their members to reject the governments? offer of a three percent raise they claim would do little for Britain?s lowest paid public employees. If the proposal is rejected, it will lead to a vote on nationwide industrial action and, possibly, to the first general strike Britain has seen in over twenty years.
See Britain Faces Public Sector General Strike., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Feb 28 2002
Working with major U.S. airlines, the federal government has developed new guidelines for appropriate training, tactics, and equipment to be used by flight attendants and airplane pilots in the event of attempted highjackings. American Airlines has already announced that in accordance with the limits established by the guidelines, it will offer optional self-defense training to supplement the federally mandated training that crew members must now receive. American will also be issuing plastic flex cuffs and restraining tape to its flight attendants, and United Airlines has received permission to install Taser stun guns in the cockpits of all of its airplanes.
See Guidelines Issued for Flight Crew Training and Tactics., JON HILKEVITCH, Chicago Tribune, Feb 28 2002
Data released today indicates that the Internal Revenue Service increased its audits of workers below the poverty line by almost fifty percent last year. Among individuals applying for the earned-income tax credit, the working poor were the target of over thirty five percent more audits than all other groups combined. Last year also saw a thirty-three percent decrease to a record low in audits of companies worth over $10 million, and a decrease of over twenty percent to a record low in audits of individuals making over $100,000---the group most able to cheat on their taxes.
See IRS Gets Tough on the Poor., DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, The New York Times, Feb 28 2002
During a meeting of the employment, safety and training subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Health Committee yesterday, worker after immigrant worker testified regarding the outrageous conditions and treatment they suffered at the hands of their employers. Testimony was also heard from Labor Department officials and union officers, who gave evidence of the disproportionate number of injuries, diseases and fatalities that immigrant workers confront in the workplace. A human face was giving to these statistics by such stories as that of a New York sweatshop laborer---forced to work fourteen hours a day until she was injured on the job and fired---who asked the Senators to ban forced overtime.
See Senate Subcommittee Hearing Highlights Widespread Abuse of Immigrant Workers., The Associated Press, Newsday, Feb 27 2002
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont, in its ruling today that the 2nd Circuit and several other lower courts have been incorrectly applying too harsh a standard to the filing of discrimination complaints under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The errant courts had been requiring job discrimination plaintiffs to meet a burden of proof the Supreme Court intended to apply only once a case had made its way to court, to an initial stage of the process at which this burden is almost impossible to meet?effectively blocking workers from ever bringing their cases to trial. The opinion, written by Justice Thomas and argued for by Solicitor General Theodore Olson of the Bush Administration, firmly reestablishes the ?notice pleading? standard?which requires only that a worker make a clear claim of discrimination in order to force an employer to turn over evidence that could prove the worker?s claim.
See Supreme Court Overturns 2nd Circuit Ruling, Reopens Access to CRA., LINDA GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Feb 26 2002
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced yesterday that, pending a final vote in May, the labor organization plans to increase the monthly political activities fee paid by members of affiliated unions from 6.5 cents to 7.5 cents this July while at the same time discontinuing efforts to raise voluntary contributions from affiliated unions. One of several measures coming out of the AFL-CIO executive council meeting in New Orleans, the proposed changeover will raise $3.5 million in extra funds and is part of a larger plan to raise $35 million for use in advertising and vote-mobilization efforts before November elections. Other initiatives coming out of the meeting include a further shift of resources to organizing and lobbying efforts and a new focus on issues over party affiliation that is worrying many Democrats and encouraging some Republicans to make a greater effort to appeal to the interests of the labor movement and working families.
See AFL-CIO to Increase Mandatory Political Contributions, Decrease Fundraising., SUE KIRCHHOFF, The Boston Globe, Feb 26 2002
Preliminary approval was granted by a U.S. District Court on Monday to a proposed settlement in a federal lawsuit brought against Verizon Communications by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement will make good on the service credits lost by women who took maternity or newborn leave at Verizon or any of its predecessors before these corporations began granting the same service credits for maternity leave that they did for military and sick leave. One of the largest maternity settlements in the EEOC?s history, Monday?s proposal will apply to women in thirteen states and could cost the company over $10 million in seniority, incentives and other benefits tied to the service credits.
See Verizon to Settle with EEOC over Maternity Suit., PRADNYA JOSHI, Newsday, Feb 26 2002
This Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving a Chevron oil refinery worker who was found to have hepatitis C, and was subsequently fired by the company because of the potential hazards to his health posed by chemicals at the plant. The worker brought a lawsuit against Chevron Corp. for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the plant posed no greater risk to him than to other workers, and that he was being treated unfairly because of his condition. Business groups have criticized the Ninth Circuit?s prior ruling in favor of the worker as a catch-22 that forces employers to open themselves up to lawsuits by injured workers they knew were not fit for a job, or face a lawsuit under the ADA.
See Supreme Court Hears Arguments in ADA Health Risks Case., DAVID G. SAVAGE, Los Angeles Times, Feb 25 2002
With a tentative agreement already reached over a new contract for United?s 13,000 aircraft mechanics (See WIT for Feb. 19, 2002), United Airlines (UAL) and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) will return to the bargaining table tomorrow to attempt to negotiate a contract for 23,000 ramp and public-relations workers. With the mechanics? contract likely to set the tone for this round of negotiations, United CEO Jack Creighton is hoping that an agreement will be reached soon so that concession bargaining can begin with all of United?s unions on an equal footing---possibly as early as March 25. United?s chances at winning givebacks from all of its workers have already come under question, with the announcement by the Association of Flight Attendants that it does not intend to ask its 20,000 members at United to make wage concessions.
See United Still Entangled in Negotiations., JOHN SCHMELTZER, Chicago Tribune, Feb 25 2002
Employers and various trade groups are organizing a massive lobbying effort aimed at preventing the more than a dozen proposals for restriction of varying degrees of severity on the way that companies administer the more than $2 trillion in their employees? 401(k) pension plans. While differing in details, most of the proposals limit the percentage of their savings that employees can be required to invest in their own company?s stock, the total percentage of they can invest in their own company?s stock, and the length of time employees can be required to hold on to company stock granted under retirement plans. The coalition of employers and pension plan providers claims that such reforms will destroy their attempts to use 401(k) plans to increase employee loyalty, reduce corporate taxes, and increase the stability of stock prices---all goals the national pension system was never meant to accomplish.
See Big Business, Small Business Join in Opposition to 401(k) Pension Reforms., WARREN VIETH, Chicago Tribune, Feb 25 2002
Barring an eleventh hour agreement with the national government over privatizations negotiations, tens of thousands of South Korean public sector workers are expected go on strike across the country today. The general strike has been called by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions in response to the government?s continuing privatization of South Korea?s public services in spite of widespread opposition and charges by union leader that the government is ignoring the will of the people. The government has responded by threatening union leaders with arrest and preparing to use almost 10,000 police to ensure that strikebreakers will be able to cross picket lines---while insisting that privatization is in the country?s best interests.
See South Korean Unions to go on Nationwide Strike., ANDREW WARD, Financial Times, Feb 24 2002
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) reached a tentative settlement in negotiations that will modify an agreement in perpetuity that has stood unchanged since 1939, and will itself expire in 2005. The proposed agreement will allow talent agencies to except up to twenty percent of their investment capital from independent production companies and advertising firms---prohibited by the 1939 agreement as a source of potential conflicts of interest---while continuing the ban on investment in talent agencies by movie studios and television networks, their parent companies, an parent companies? subsidiaries. The new agreement is part of a planned partnership between the union and talent agencies that would see talent agencies taking a larger role in ensuring protection of actors? incomes and preventing runaway productions (See WIT for Dec. 5, 2002).
See Actors Union Reaches Tentative Landmark Agreement with Talent Agents., MEG JAMES, Los Angeles Times, Feb 24 2002
The conflict over a resolution prohibiting members of the International Association of Fire Fighters from serving in volunteer companies---passed unanimously last summer by the international executive board---is heating up in the Washington DC area. President of local 1619 Tom McEachin began a push for greater enforcement of the resolution last month by mailing letters to career firefighters in DC, Virginia and Maryland, who have been volunteering at stations staffed partly by volunteers and partly by paid firefighters, informing them that they are violating union rules. Passed in order to increase reliance on paid full-time firefighters, the resolution will, if enforced, affect the approximately seventy percent of career firefighter nationwide who also volunteer, and may result in litigation on the grounds that it discriminates based on union membership.
See Career Firefighters May be Forced to Choose Between Volunteering and Union., JAMIE STOCKWELL, The Washington Post, Feb 24 2002
Following a ruling by the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission that the 365 undergraduate resident advisors at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst are in fact workers, a union representation vote has been scheduled for next month to officially authorize the United Auto Workers (UAW) as their exclusive bargaining representative. The ruling resulted after the university administration---which bitterly opposes the unionization of its RA?s---responded to a petition submitted by the United Auto Workers on behalf of seventy-five percent of the advisors by claiming that RA?s are students, not employees, and that it did not have to recognize the union. The RA?s initially approached the UAW because of its success in organizing and representing graduate assistants at the college, and because of a bureaucratic system that they feel treats them like employees while not paying them fairly for their time-consuming, tiring, and sometimes dangerous job.
See Unionization Drive Continues for RA?s at UMass Amherst., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Feb 21 2002
In an effort to gain a greater decision-making role for their members in the education that they provide, The California Teachers Association (CTA)---California?s largest teachers? union---is supporting legislation currently before the California State Assembly that would give teachers the right to negotiate matters beyond narrow terms and conditions of work issues. Introduced by a former school board member and a former CTA leader who were also both schoolteachers before being elected state assemblypersons, the bill would require school districts to negotiate with teachers over curricula, textbook choice, academic programs and student performance improvement proposals. The legislation has come under heavy fire from superintendents throughout the California public school system as posing a threat to student achievement, but supporters of the bill have dismissed this criticism as nothing more than a reaction to a perceived loss of power.
See California Teachers Seek a Greater Voice in the Educational System., DUKE HELFAND, Los Angeles Times, Feb 21 2002
In response to the insistence of Italy?s center-right government on pushing legislation through parliament that would suspend the protections afforded under Article 18 of Italy's Workers' Statute, Italy?s largest trade union Cgil called for a general strike on April 5 yesterday. The legislation---which is part of a larger labor market reform plan that would also establish job exchanges and reemployment support---would remove some of the job protection language that protects Italian workers from casual firings. The announcement of the nationwide strike by the leader of the 5.4 million member union is the first in eight years, and has so far not been supported by Italy?s more moderate second and third largest unions despite their opposition to the legislation.
See Italian Trade Union Calls for General Strike., JAMES BLITZ, Financial Times, Feb 21 2002
Seeking to take advantage of controversy generated by the tense contract negotiations between United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) will once again attempt to win representation of United?s 13,000 aircraft mechanics away from the IAM. The organization campaign---which will be the third such effort by the AMFA in the past three years---is planned to begin in May or June and will culminate in the circulation of membership cards in August. The tentative agreement reached by United and the IAM on Tuesday has already come under fire from those mechanics at United who are AMFA members, despite the fact that it places United?s mechanics at the head of the industry with terms superior to those won by the AMFA at Northwest Airlines.
See Challenge to IAM at United., GEORGE RAINE, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 20 2002
American Express Financial Advisors has agreed to pay almost 4,000 women a combined sum of $31 million dollars to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination in job assignments, career development and pay. The proposed settlement---which has been hailed by the lawyer for the plaintiffs as a major step in the right direction---was the subject of a hearing before a U.S. District Judge in Washington D.C. this Tuesday. In addition to the monetary awards, American Express has also agreed to implement changes to ensure a fair distribution of work and promotions, as well as an improved grievance handling procedure.
See Settlement in Widespread Sex Discrimination Case., JONATHAN D. GLATER, The New York Times, Feb 20 2002
The Allied Pilots Association (APA) went to U.S. District Court yesterday, hoping to get its proposed plan for merging the seniority list of American Airlines? Pilots with that of Trans World Airlines (TWA)---which American acquired last April. The APA, which represents American?s pilots, has proposed a merged seniority list that puts the highest ranked TWA pilot below approximately 2,500 of their own members who have all worked fewer years. The much larger Air Line Pilots Association, representing the pilots at TWA, has called the proposed list and abomination and is expected to contest the APA?s court filing.
See Airline Buyout Leads to Dispute over Seniority., TERRY MAXON, The Dallas Morning News, Feb 20 2002
With almost 3 million people over the age of thirty-five enrolled in colleges across the country this year, and more and more workers making mid-life career changes, a growing number of forty-somethings are applying for entry level positions---a trend which has accelerated in the economic turmoil of the past months. This has led to an increasing incidence of complaints of age discrimination in hiring, as employers, unsure how to deal with these non-traditional applicants, decide not to hire them because they do not fit the pattern of young entry-level employees willing to work long hours for low pay. Typical of these complaints are those filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination---made public earlier this month---regarding The Atlantic Monthly?s rejection of two applicants, aged forty-one and fifty-four, for an internship program intended to target young college students.
See Older Workers Starting from the Bottom Face Challenges., ANAND VAISHNAV, The Boston Globe, Feb 19 2002
An extensive study conducted by Professor Phyllis Moen of the Department of Human Development at Cornell University has found that traditional distinctions between the working and retirement phases of people?s working lives have become extremely muddled. Now, a smaller survey of working couples in their sixties and older, has revealed that this may be due in large part to cross-gender differences in career development timelines leading to disagreements between spouses over when to retire. Among the generation currently approaching retirement age, most of the men have worked continuously since completing their education, and are ready to retire---while many of the women took time off to raise children and are only now hitting the prime of their working life.
See Increasing Number of Couples Disagree Over Decision to Leave Workforce., BARBARA CAIN, The Christian Science Monitor, Feb 19 2002
In strike votes to be announced today and tomorrow, the 57,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union and those of the smaller Aslef train drivers? union are expected to approve a two day work stoppage which could shut down London?s subway system. This latest in a series of industrial actions is being taken in response to a continuing pay dispute with the London Underground---which is in the midst of planning for a proposed partial privatization opposed by the unions. The Transport Salaried Staffs Association which represents station staff is also planning a two day strike over pay disputes against the already privatized Arriva Trains Northern.
See More Rail Strikes Likely in Britain., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and JULIETTE JOWIT, Financial Times, Feb 19 2002