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Workplace Issues Today

In the upcoming New York State Gubernatorial elections, Republican incumbent George Pataki will enjoy an unusually high level of union support, with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association and the Teamsters all indicating that they will endorse him. While these unions have often supported Republicans in the past, traditionally Democratic unions such as the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union and the immensely powerful health care workers union District 1199 are also expected to endorse Pataki. The governor---who made many foes in the labor movement during his first two years in office---has, in recent years, implemented and supported many measures and laws that have benefited working people and their families, and won him the support, or at least neutrality, of many of the Democratic Party?s most powerful allies.

See Governor Pataki Woos Organized Labor with Impressive Results., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Feb 18 2002

The Supreme Court continues its deliberations in a case involving an illegal immigrant, hired under a false name, who was fired by a California plastics company for his involvement in a union organizing campaign, and is expected to issue an opinion this spring. The case, which stems from a 1998 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that the firing was an unfair labor practice and that the company had to rehire the employee and pay back pay plus interest, will have a huge impact on the ability of illegal immigrants to unionize. While the U.S. solicitor general?s office---arguing the case for the NLRB---has pointed to the necessity of maintaining labor rights protections for immigrants as a means of preventing companies from exploiting them as a source of cheap, expendable labor, in hearings last month several justices seemed to agree with the employer?s position that it should not have to pay for firing someone who could not legally work in the first place.

Negotiators for United Airlines (UAL) and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) reached a tentative agreement yesterday on a contract for United?s 13,000 aircraft mechanics only 36 hours before the union?s strike deadline---which has now been extended to March 7 to allow for a March 5 vote on the contract by the membership. The agreement was unanimously endorsed by the IAM?s negotiating team, and a statement by United CEO John Creighton indicated that the company had acquiesced to most of the union?s demands in order to move ahead with bargaining over short term concessions by unionized employees to help UAL through is current financial dilemma. In addition to the thirty-seven percent raise recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board (See WIT for Feb. 13, 2002), the five year contract increases retroactive pay by approximately thirty-percent, moves up the start date of retroactive payments, requires that United join the IAM in applying to the federal government for a release to strike in five years if negotiations for the next contract deadlock, and will not require the mechanics to automatically mirror short term concessions won from other unions at United.

See United, Mechanics Settle., LAURENCE ZUCKERMAN, The New York Times, Feb 18 2002

Debate is heating up over a draft directive of the European Commission, recently leaked to the press, which would guarantee temporary agency workers the same rights as their full-time coworkers. The proposed reforms would not only expand employment rights protections to cover temp workers, they would require employers to pay temps the same wages and benefits---including pensions, holidays, health insurance, interest-free loans, bonuses, and profit-sharing---as permanent employees engaged in similar jobs. Employers and business groups in Britain, which, with over one million workers employed in the temporary sector, has the most agency workers of any EU member state, have been especially vocal in their criticism of the proposed reforms.

See European Union Debates Equal Rights for Temps., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Feb 17 2002

With a strike deadline set for Wednesday (See WIT for Feb. 14, 2002), and ticket sales dropping as travelers switch to other airlines in order to avoid potential strike delays and cancellations, the International Association of Machinists has reported progress in its contract negotiations with United Airlines. In a message to its UAL membership on Saturday, the union said that since resuming negotiations at an undisclosed location on Friday it had addressed all outstanding issues with UAL?s bargaining team and that talks were proceeding in the right direction. While management will not comment on the negotiations themselves, they informed employees last week that they have retained a bankruptcy lawyer in preparation for the possibility of a strike---a move dismissed by the union as a bargaining trick.

See Distance between UAL and IAM?s Positions Decreasing Says Union., Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, Feb 17 2002

Over 100 drivers at a Long Island City based limousine service catering mainly Wall Street and midtown Manhattan businesses went out on strike on February 7, in the first ever strike in the New York City limo industry. The drivers called the strike against Prime Time Transportation Inc. for allegedly refusing to bargain in good faith with its 300 drivers, who often have to work twelve-hour days to make $25,000 a year and have no benefits. The company has responded by claiming that the drivers only recently asked to bargain, and were formerly classified as independent contractors---despite the fact that it has been two years since the union won a representation election and was certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

See NYC Limo Drivers Strike for the First Time., ROBERT POLNER, Newsday, Feb 17 2002

Formal bargaining between New York City and the 80,000 public school teachers represented by the United Federation of Teachers will start up again after almost a year of deadlock when UFT president and ILR graduate Randi Weingarten, city labor commissioner James Hanley, and members of the Board of Education meet today. Despite Governor Pataki?s promise of an extra $204 million in state funding for NYC school teacher salaries this year (See WIT for Jan. 24, 2002), and the willingness of the UFT to settle for that amount plus the nine percent raise other city unions have accepted, the teachers? demand for a double digit wage increase that will bring them closer to wage parity with suburban school districts will likely remain the primary sticking point in negotiations. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opposed to using the extra state funds for wage increases---despite his own desire to raise salaries in order to attract the certified teachers needed to bring the city into compliance with a state law that will go into effect at the beginning of the 2003-4 school year----as the extra funding would not be available in the future.

See NYC, UFT Resume Stalled Contract Negotiations., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Feb 14 2002

German Labor Minister Walter Reister has scheduled an emergency meeting today, at which the head of the Federal Labor Office will be called upon to defend his agency against allegations that it has overstated its job placement success rates. Long accused of being inefficient and overstaffed, the 90,000 employee, $44 billion a year office has taken much of the blame for the almost 4 million Germans currently unemployed. The latest charges against the beleaguered agency stem from a report by the federal audit office that has been corroborated by independent information brought to light by an agency whistleblower, and could provide the impetus for massive overhauls of the agency.

See Germany?s Federal Labor Office an Agency in Crisis., HAIG SIMONIAN, Financial Times, Feb 14 2002

Although repeat claims for unemployment insurance rose last week and remain high in general, new applications for unemployment insurance fell again last week according to the U.S. Labor Department---bringing the four-week rolling average for new claims to its lowest point in five months. In addition, a report issued by the U.S. Commerce Department shows that sales averaged across all distribution levels leveled out in December after decreases earlier in the fourth quarter of 2001. The overall implication of these financial indicators is that job-losses are slowing down, consumers are regaining confidence, and an economic turnaround is no longer relegated to the distant future.

See Latest Evidence that Recession is Receding., PERONET DESPEIGNES, Financial Times, Feb 14 2002

Radical labor leader Bob Crow, has won control of Britain?s powerful Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT)---whose 57,000 members are currently engaged in a pay dispute with several railroad companies---by almost a four to one margin over his nearest competitor. The victory of the Socialist Labour party member has deepened the concerns of the center-left Labour party currently in power with increasing union militancy, and raised fears that support for re-nationalization of Britain?s railroads will lead to further strike action in an industry that has already been brought almost to a halt twice this year by the current pay dispute.

See Left-wing Labor Leaders Gain Ground in British Unions., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Feb 13 2002

United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists, representing United?s airplane mechanics, announced yesterday that they will resume negotiations in order to prevent a strike at the end of next week, and have asked the president not to intervene so that the pressure of a looming strike threat will give them an incentive to settle. With Congress set to begin a ten-day recess tonight, and the White House declining at this time to ask Congress to extend the no-strike cooling off period that will expire on February 20, a failure by UAL and the IAM to end the bargaining impasse would result in a week-long strike before the government would be able to intervene to end it. The IAM has made it clear that they are willing to make temporary concessions in order to keep United solvent, but not until they have negotiated a base contract that puts them on a level with the rest of the industry in terms of wages and pensions.

See UAL, IAM Will Settle Things on Their Own., FRANK SWOBODA and KEITH L. ALEXANDER, The Washington Post, Feb 13 2002

With jury selection scheduled to take place this week in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the Ford Motor Company by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the company announced yesterday that it had reached a settlement to be finalized in the next ten days. The EEOC brought the case on behalf of three women formerly employed on Ford?s assembly lines, who were subjected to crude practical jokes involving various objects with sexual associations for almost three years while the management at their truck assembly plant ignored the problem. Ford has stated that it was satisfied with the settlement, and that the allegations did prompt serious action, but has not detailed those actions or acknowledged any wrongdoing in the matter.

See Last Minute Settlement in Ford Sex Harassment Suit., the Associated Press, Detroit Free Press, Feb 13 2002

Late yesterday, ninety percent of the 13,000 United Airlines (UAL) Mechanics represented by District Lodge 141-M of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) participated in a vote on a tentative contract agreement with sixty-eight percent of those voting rejecting the contract. The proposal of the Presidential Emergency Board, appointed over the union's objections by President Bush, was accepted by UAL on January 23 and would have provided wage increases of up to thirty-seven percent (See WIT for Jan. 23, 2002). The mechanics---who had sought retroactive pay and job security increases, and opposed proposed temporary wage concessions following the implementation of the raise---voted by eighty-six percent to authorize a strike as early as February 20, have said they will do everything possible to reach an agreement before then.

See UAL Mechanics Vote Down Contract, Authorize Strike., REUTERS, The New York Times, Feb 12 2002

Expressing the opinion that negotiating a long-term contract in the middle of what now seems likely to be a short recession was not desirable, the AT&T Corporation proposed an eighteen-month extension of a contract covering 27,900 unionized workers last week. The company announced today that the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) had turned down the proposal. Concerned about the loss of over 17,000 union jobs in the past five years, the CWA made a counterproposal that gave union workers greater job security---to which the company responded by announcing that it plans to begin negotiations in March.

See AT&T Workers Reject Contract Extension Terms., REUTERS, The New York Times, Feb 12 2002

With the outcome of the previous Screen Actors Guild national election and the decision to overturn them (See WIT for Jan. 28, 200), already the subject of heated debate, the start of new elections this week has aggravated the divide between the union's two warring camps. President Melissa Gilbert, victor of the overturned election, yesterday accused her opponent Valerie Harper of running a campaign based on personal attacks that have quickly deteriorated into name calling as the March 8 deadline for ballots approaches. Ms. Harper countered that the attacks are aimed at what she feels are Gilbert's unacceptable positions on central issues for the membership, and that her aggressive campaigning is a response to Gilbert's behavior in the previous election.

See Campaigning Bitter in Controversial SAG Reelection, JAMES BATES, Los Angeles Times, Feb 12 2002

In an unprecedented act of cooperation, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donahue jointly wrote a public letter published in today?s Washington Post. The letter called for bipartisanship and cooperation across the traditional battle lines between employers and employees, labor and management, and insurance companies and consumer groups, in finding a solution to the lack of universal health coverage in America. Not only are the 39 million-plus uninsured Americans two to four times as likely to experience a wide rage of medical problems and conditions as the insured, the more expensive treatments eventually necessitated by their acute conditions place a burden on the economy and society as a whole that could be avoided through early detection and treatment.

See Top Labor and Management Leaders Join in Call for Universal Health Coverage., THOMAS J. DONOHUE and JOHN J. SWEENEY, The Washington Post, Feb 11 2002

A year after ten members of the Los Angeles Police Department unhappy with their representation by the seventy-five year old Police Protective League approached officers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Teamsters are beginning a formalrepresentation campaign to decertify the League and take its place. The Teamsters---who now claim the support of 200 LAPD officers---began distributing pledge cards today to the 8,200 officers currently represented by the League. Having affiliated with the AFL-CIO as month ago in response to the Teamsters campaign, the League is planning to file a complaint against the AFL-CIO affiliated Teamsters under the federation?s anti-membership raiding regulations.

See Teamsters Look to Take Over Representation of the LAPD., NANCY CLEELAND and JILL LEOVY, Los Angeles Times, Feb 11 2002

Over 1,300 firefighters and other rescue workers have given legal notice that they may sue New York City for respiratory and cardiopulmonary conditions resulting from exposure to irritants, carcinogens and toxins while working at the World Trade Center site. The claims allege that the city is guilty of negligence and reckless endangerment for failing to provide the workers with adequate ventilation equipment to protect them from the substances in the smoke and dust of ground zero. The paper masks and infrequently changed ventilator cartridges that many workers say they were provided with would have been insufficient protection against silica dust, asbestos fibers, and chemical vapors they were exposed to, and would explain high incidences of irritant asthma, silicosis, asbestosis, pulmonary infection and decreased lung capacity.

See WTC Rescue Workers May Sue NYC for Negligence., JOHN J. GOLDMAN, Los Angeles Times, Feb 11 2002

The Bush administration wants major agencies to complete their plans for workforce restructuring, which the administration hopes will cut down on middle management and find opportunities for federal work to be turned over to the private sector. The Labor Department will eliminate 373 positions -- most of them in management, and the department will offer early retirement to qualified employees. A new job appraisal system and increased bonus pool will also be put into place.

Very few 401(k) cases have been tried or settled, but just the threat of litigation may change the terms surrounding company stock in 401(k) plans. Employees who own company stock in a 401(k) plan cannot individually join in shareholder class-action suits filed against their employer because they do not own shares directly. Instead, the shares are owned by the plan, which can join shareholder lawsuits. 401(k) participants can sue under certain provisions of ERISA laws, which oversee pension and other employee benefit plans.

See Legal liability is playing a role in companies changing 401(k) plan rules., Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 11 2002

A study recently released by Northeastern University?s Center for Labor Market Studies reveals that young workers are the group hardest hit in the post-September 11 economic downturn. The report shows that in 2001 over 1 million workers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four lost their jobs, and that in the months immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center young workers made up ninety-five percent of those who lost their jobs. Among the causes of this disproportionate impact, are the heavy drops in two of the largest sources of employment for high school students and recent graduates---the temporary work and retail sectors---and the failure of many dot-com and technology companies, which in recent years have employed a growing number of college students and graduates.

See New Study Shows Young Workers Taking the Brunt of Economic Downturn., CARRIE JOHNSON, The Washington Post, Feb 10 2002

In part of a growing national trend towards religious organization involvement in labor struggles, an interfaith group in Los Angeles has joined 240 members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 814 in their fight with a Los Angeles Airport hotel. When an investment firm purchased the former Wyndham Hotel in order to start a Radisson Hotel franchise, they fired all the employees and have refused to rehire the vast majority of the unionized workers---some of whom have worked at the hotel for thirty years. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), the religious group involved, was formed during the Los Angeles labor movement?s living wage campaign of the mid-1990s, and is one of sixty organizations in the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

See Religious Groups Get Involved in Labor Movement in LA and Across the Country., NANCY CLEELAND, Los Angeles Times, Feb 10 2002

Having brought about the resignation of members of Enron?s board of directors from their positions on two other companies? boards, the AFL-CIO is increasing its efforts to achieve the same result at the nineteen other companies with Enron directors on their boards. The AFL-CIO?s position has been bolstered by the release last week of the Powers Report, in which Enron?s own investigative committee found that the board of directors ?failed, . . . in its oversight duties.? One of the companies targeted in the campaign, Qualcomm, will vote tomorrow on whether to reappoint Qualcomm and Enron board of directors member Frank Savage.

See Labor Takes on Enron Directors., MATTHEW JONES and SHEILA MCNULTY, Financial Times, Feb 10 2002

New York City agreed to pay approximately $500,000 to a police captain this Tuesday in order to settle a retaliation suit brought by the officer under the anti-discrimination language of Title VII, according to a statement by the captain’s lawyer yesterday. The suit stems from a 1997 scandal that revealed a serious problem with high level responses to harassment charges in the police department, and that has already cost the city almost $2 million. The case involved an attempt by high-ranking police officials to force the plaintiff and his commanding officer---deputy commissioner of equal employment opportunity---to rewrite a report charging several department officials with violations of Title VII, and subsequent retaliation against them when they refused to do so.

See NYC Settles EEOC Suit with Police Captain., WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, The New York Times, Feb 7 2002

Only one day after the U.S. Senate voted to extend unemployment benefits by thirteen weeks (see yesterday’s WIT), the California State Senate’s Labor Committee voted to approve a proposal by Governor Gray Davis to retroactively apply increases in unemployment benefits that took affect on January 1, back to September 11. The new legislation was proposed after Governor Davis and the State Legislature realized that a $220 increase in weekly benefit maximums passed last summer would not apply to workers laid off as a result of September 11. Business lobbyists and associations have opposed the legislation---which must still make it through the Appropriations Committee and pass both houses by a two-thirds margin---as an insupportable strain on the state’s unemployment funds.

See California Moves Towards Extension of Unemployment Benefits., CARL INGRAM, Los Angeles Times, Feb 7 2002

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn filed a 137-count indictment against over two dozen members of Local 1 of the International Union of Elevator Constructors yesterday, on the basis of investigations by the police, FBI, IRS and U.S. Department of Labor. The charges the creation of no-show jobs by union officers for themselves and their families resulting in some members billing for as much as thirty-three working hours in a single day---as well as money laundering and other related racketeering charges. The lawyer hired by the local to investigate the charges has emphasized that the union will take strong actions against any individuals guilty of these alleged exploitations of both construction companies and the unions own 2000 hard-working members.

See Members of NYC Elevator Workers Union Brought up on Racketeering Charges., WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, The New York Times, Feb 7 2002

In a sign that opposition to President Bush?s recent executive order prohibiting over 1000 workers in the Justice Department from organizing has spread beyond unions, eight members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the president yesterday opposing the decision. In their letter, Representatives Hoyer (D-Md.), Conyers (D-Mich.), Davis (D-Ill.), Moran (D-Va.), Morella (R-Md.), Smith (R-N.J.), Wynn (D-Md.) and Norton (D-D.C.) argue that the president?s use of national security concerns and the fight against terrorism as excuses for denying federal employees union protection ?cheapens the very things we are trying to protect? in the war on terrorism. The executive order affects employees---mainly secretarial---of the U.S. attorney?s offices, the Justice Department?s Criminal Division, the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol, the National Drug Intelligence Center and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.

See Opposition to Anti-Union Executive Order Grows., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Feb 6 2002

The final chapter in the debates over an economic stimulus bill was closed yesterday when two competing packages died in a Senate deadlock. Disagreeing from the outset as to whether economic aid should focus on tax cuts or increased spending, Republicans and Democrats were quick to assign blame to each other for the inability to pass a compromise measure. Immediately after the defeat of the two broader measures, the Senate approved a thirteen-week extension of unemployment benefits for individuals whose benefits ran out on or after the week of September 11---leaving Republican leaders in he House surprised and unsure how to respond.

A study released today by the University of Illinois at Chicago indicates that the common belief that illegal immigrants are paid far less than other groups may be inaccurate. The report shows that illegal immigrants in Chicago make on average only two dollars less than the nine-dollar median wage of legal immigrants, and that their unemployment rates are only 0.2 % higher. More significant among the Chicago-area illegal immigrants surveyed, was the common occurrence of exploitation through non-payment of wages---which their lack of occupational choices and fear of deportation make them easy targets for.

Although the president?s federal budget for 2003 will maintain current levels of retirement and health benefits for federal employees, their unions and Congress members are questioning the intention of proposed accounting changes. Under the current system, cost of living allowances (COLAs) and health benefits for retirees are paid from central funds that are guaranteed and not subject to budget appropriations. The Bush administration?s proposal to consolidate all benefits of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) under the control of the various federal agencies that employ federal workers have been condemned by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and some elected officials as a possible attempt to subvert the guarantees of the CSRS by putting them within the realm of Congressional appropriations debates.

See President?s Motives in Proposing Changes to Federal Bookkeeping Questioned., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Feb 5 2002

In response to the rising tide of labor unrest among part-time and untenured professors on college campuses across the country, the Illinois Board of Higher Education announced on Tuesday the results of a study claiming that most adjunct faculty members are content with the status quo. Full and part-time faculty members and their unions criticized the report as a self-serving attempt by the Board to bolster their positions on such issues as full to part-time faculty ratios, adjuncts? unions, and pay and benefit issues, that is short on data and long on unsupported assertions. The current push for improvements in the working conditions of part-time faculty hit home for the Board when adjuncts at the College of DuPage voted to unionize this past December, following massive rallies by educators? unions on campuses across the country in the last week of October (see WIT?s for December 7, 2001 and October 30, 2001).

See Study Attempts to Quell Adjunct Unrest., ROBERT BECKER, Chicago Tribune, Feb 5 2002

In a major move to stem the rising tide of work-related stress claims (see WIT for October 22, 2001), the British appeal court ruled yesterday in favor of employer defendants in three separate cases---overturning lower court decisions in favor of the employee plaintiffs. The court established new guidelines in such cases, including ?normal? job pressures, forseeability, and ?willing employee? defenses that form a threshold employees will now have to pass in order to mount successful cases. The National Union of Teachers---which represents the employees in two of the cases---although still entertaining the possibility of an appeal, has voiced a belief that the decisions are, for the most part, fair.

See British Courts Move to Restrict Workplace Stress Suits., NIKKI TAIT, Financial Times, Feb 5 2002

In an article for the Monthly Labor Review, associate professor Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University draws on Department of labor surveys for 2000 in pointing towards a growing usage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. This research has shown an increasing number of workers using the twelve-weeks unpaid leave guaranteed to employees of companies with 50 or more employees, along with a decrease in the number of workers who were unable to take this leave despite experiencing a birth, adoption or illness in their families. Two surprising trends that came out of the figures Ms. Waldfogel looked at were the fact that over sixty-five percent of businesses covered by the FMLA have reported no negative effects as a result of complying with the act, and the fact that many of those making use of the FMLA for births and adoptions are men.

See FMLA Use on the Rise., CAROL KLEIMAN, Chicago Tribune, Feb 4 2002

In what is likely to be one of the most overlooked developments of the year but also one of the most significant---not only for the field of work and employment issues but also for the economy and the population at large, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is adopting a new Consumer Price Index that for the first time will take into account substitution of goods across categories. The CPI is a calculation of the average amount of money spent by the average family on a range of over 200 common products and services, which serves as the main indicator of inflation and the basis for determining interest rates, tax brackets, Social Security, veterans' and most other Federal benefits. In the past the BLS has ignored the tendency of individuals and families to substitute cheaper categories of products for products whose prices rise (for example: eating more vegetables and less steak when beef prices go up). It was not until 1999 that the Bureau began to take into account substitution within categories (for example: buying generic brand batteries when prices of the name brands go up). The Bureau's decision has met with mixed opinions, ranging from concern that it will cause large decreases in benefits and pensions, to approval that it will correct flaws and reduce over-estimation, to assertions that the entire system is faulty and that there is no objective criteria by which to determine whether the new system will be any "better" than the old one. Whether the change is for better or worse, it will have a far-reaching relevance---as a change of even a few percentage points in the CPI can reverberate in gains or losses of ten of thousands of dollars for working people and retirees.

See CPI to be Adjusted., SOLOMON, Chicago Tribune, Feb 4 2002

In a decision closely distinguished from an opinion handed down by the Supreme Court last year, the National Labor Relations Board ruled last Thursday that twenty doctors employed by the Occupational Health Centers of New Jersey could form a union. This decision reopens slightly the door to organization attempts by the American Medical Association's union Physicians for Responsible Negotiations that were all but closed off by the Supreme Court's ruling that health care workers responsible for the supervision of other health care workers do not have the right to unionize. Occupational Health Centers has announced its intention to appeal the NLRB's decision, stating that it wants to clear up the propriety of doctor unionization at its facilities.

See NLRB Allows Doctors to Unionize., BRUCE JAPSEN, Chicago Tribune, Feb 4 2002

Flight crews and the unions representing them are increasingly accusing airlines of subjecting them to more searches than other airport personnel and even passengers. In addition to allegations of unfair targeting of flight crews, the Association of Flight Attendants has complained to airline and government officials that its members---especially females---are being groped and fondled by screeners. In what the Air Line Pilots Association is claiming are acts of retaliation against employees who question the validity of cosmetic security measures, several pilots have been arrested or subjected to psychological evaluations for pointing out the ridiculousness of patting them down for guns and checking their shoes for explosives when they could simply crash their planes.

See Pilots, Flight Attendants Allege Bias in Screening., GLEN JOHNSON, The Boston Globe, Feb 3 2002

Last night Monster.com and HotJobs.com continued their 4-year old practice of competing for business through expensive Super Bowl advertisements, in an employment environment in which employers and employees have become increasingly comfortable with online job posting and searching. Since the industry first surfaced in the 1990's, online recruiting has matured from a market characterized by hordes of small competitors struggling to survive, to a market in which the two dominant companies battle for market share while holding off a pack of new start-ups. Along the way, many of the smaller companies have folded or been absorbed by larger competitors---leading to increased Federal Trade Commission scrutiny of the industry leaders, and customers have developed more realistic expectations than the initial assumptions of guaranteed jobs.

See Online Job Posting Goes Mainstream., CARRIE JOHNSON, The Washington Post, Feb 3 2002

Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia has once again made Fortune Magazine's list of the 100 best companies to work for in America, moving up seventeen places from last year's ratings to its current position in forty-first place. The Ventura, California based company has been in the top 100 since 1998 when Fortune first published the rankings---which are determined primarily by anonymous employee surveys. Among the policies and benefits that contribute to Patagonia's outstanding employee relations, are its on-site child care, two months paid leave for mothers and fathers of newborns, relaxed workplace, and uncompromising commitment to the environment.

See Clothing Maker Gets High Marks from Employees., FRED ALVAREZ, Los Angeles Times, Feb 3 2002

New York and Texas state officials announced yesterday that their unemployment insurance funds will run out in the next few weeks unless they receive over $1.5 billion in loans that they are requesting from the federal government. While the federal government will almost certainly come to the states' aid---as it did with other states in the mid-1970's, early 80's, and early 90's---it will likely follow the practice adopted in the early 80's of charging the current interest rate of 6.3 percent on the loans. Many experts feel that the uncommon policy in Texas and New York of lowering unemployment taxes during times of prosperity, rather than building up financial reserves, is directly responsible for the current dilemma which may force the states to finally adopt more responsible practices.

See States Seek Unemployment Bailout., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Jan 31 2002

Following the recommendation of a committee formed in response to the three-week occupation of the president's office by student protestors last spring, Harvard University has agreed to raise the wage of their lowest paid workers to a "living wage" level. The new policy calls for the renegotiation of the current collective bargaining agreements with the unions representing hundreds of security guards, groundskeepers, parking attendants, housekeeping staff, dining service workers, and other low wage workers, to meet or exceed the $10.50 an hour considered by the city of Cambridge to be a "living wage." The parity wage and benefits policy adopted from the committee will also require outside contractors hired by the university--- found responsible by the committee for depressing wages at the university---to provide their workers with pay and benefits equivalent to those received by unionized Harvard employees.

See Harvard to Pay "Living Wage.", PAMELA FERDINAND, The Washington Post, Jan 31 2002

A three judge panel of the New Jersey Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the Pepsi Bottling Group is guilty of failing to pay over 500 truck drivers for overtime for the past decade. The closely worded ruling upheld charges originally brought by the New Jersey Department of Labor in 1995 that Pepsi was not exempt from paying overtime to drivers who were usually began work at 6 a.m. and often spent twelve hours a day on their delivery routes. Liable for the back wages it owes and up to $100 million in penalties in the New Jersey case, the company is currently confronted with a similar lawsuit in California.

See Pepsi Found Guilty of Wage Violations., GREG WINTER, The New York Times, Jan 31 2002

Over seventy percent of teachers at a Catholic elementary school in Brooklyn voted to join the Federation of Catholic Teachers (FCT) last week, becoming the first elementary school in the Diocese of Brooklyn to unionize. The push for union representation began following a management decision to raise health care rates last fall, after which teachers began contacting the FCT in large numbers seeking help in gaining a greater voice. The FCT---which recently won a contract providing for 11 percent raises and no increase in health insurance contributions at 235 schools in the New York Archdiocese (See WIT for Dec. 11, 2001)---has collected enough signatures to hold representation votes at two other schools in Brooklyn, and is running campaigns at over ten other schools.

See Catholic Teachers in Brooklyn Organize., PETE BOWLES, Newsday, Jan 30 2002

Despite the fact that the economy is still in recession and unemployment continues to remain at high levels as compared to the pre-September 11 job market, President Bush is planning to decrease grants for job training programs. White House officials confirmed budgetary evidence that the administration intends to cut training for young adults and laid off workers---the two groups most affected by recent increases in the unemployment rate---but defended the plans as an effort at "streamlining" federal job training programs. The U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter the White House this week, criticizing plans to reduce grants for young adult job training from $225 million to $45 million as a painful blow to poor communities and depressed inner-city areas.

See Bush Seeks to Cut Job Training Funds., The New York Times News Service, The Dallas Morning News, Jan 30 2002

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will reveal the outcome of a campaign by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) to organize 19,000 flight attendants at Delta Airlines. The organization vote---the largest in over three decades---is the result of a major battle that has been waged by the AFA since the mid 1990's, and has resulted in hundreds of charges of unfair labor practices engaged in by the least unionized of the major airlines. Delta defeated an organizing drive by ramp workers in 2000, and the successful unionization of its flight attendants would represent a major victory for organized labor.

See Results from Delta Unionization Vote to be Announced Tomorrow., LAURENCE ZUCKERMAN, The New York Times, Jan 30 2002

In a major victory for graduate student employees, New York University and United Auto Workers Local 2110 representing research and teaching assistants at the university have negotiated the first ever contract between a private university and graduate assistants. The four year contract---which covers the over 1000 graduate students who work over twenty hours a week---provides for an increase of almost forty percent in stipends retroactive to last semester, overtime pay for hours worked beyond the basic twenty, and full healthcare coverage phased in by next year. The NYU agreement comes as graduate students at Columbia, Brown, and other private universities are attempting to unionize, and will likely set the standard for bargaining at other universities.

See NYU and Grad Students Reach Contract Agreement., KAREN W. ARENSON and STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Jan 29 2002

Despite the fact that the majority of Internet users are women, and that women spend as much time using as men using computers, women still make up less than twenty percent of computer science (CS) graduates. In a presentation of research for the upcoming book "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing" yesterday, the two authors revealed important new insights into the origins of this discrepancy gained by interviewing over 100 male and female CS students at Carnegie Melon University from1994 to 1999. Their study indicates that most universities' focus on the narrow technical aspects of the field in CS classes tends to discourage female students who often have a greater interest in user interfacing and the application of technology than male students---who are more likely to be interested in the technology for its own sake.

See New Research Examines Roots of Gender Inequalities in Computer Industry., PIA SARKAR, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan 29 2002

Figures released by the Japanese government yesterday, show that in December unemployment rates a new post-WWII high for the fourth month in a row. December also saw applicants outnumber job openings by two to one at employment run by the government. Data on unemployment confirms the overall picture of the continuing deterioration of the Japanese economy painted by statistics on declines in manufacturing and increases in corporate bankruptcies.

See Japan's Jobless Rate at New High., BAYAN RAHMAN, Financial Times, Jan 29 2002

In a class action lawsuit filed yesterday, over 400 former Enron workers are calling for company officers, the Andersen accounting firm, and the company that administered their retirement plan be held financially responsible for the loss of their retirement savings. The suit, which alleges in part that the retirement plan's administrators are guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty, is the first class action filed by Enron employees. The Severed Enron Employees Coalition---which filed the suit on behalf of the 400 workers and claims to represent over 4,000 others---is seeking to represent all former employees in the federal bankruptcy proceedings in New York.

See Class Action Filed in Enron Scandal., ROSANNA RUIZhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/01/29/BU204794.DTL&type=business, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan 28 2002

In a sign that the departure of major financial firms from New York City predicted in the wake of September 11 may still become a reality, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Goldman Sachs and Co. are planning to shift personnel to new offices outside of the city. Morgan Stanley announced yesterday that it is in the initial stages of purchasing Texaco's old headquarters in Westchester County, and Goldman Sachs plans to have shifted the trading and research sections of its equities division to a new facility in Jersey City by 2004. While the two firms have given assurances that they will maintain a presence in NYC, they both cited a desire to reduce their concentration in lower Manhattan as a motivation in their decisions to add new offices.

See Two Major Financial Firms Look Beyond Manhattan., SUSAN HARRIGAN, Newsday, Jan 28 2002

espite the greater lip service given to personnel issues and human resources, a recent study by the U.S. Society for Human Research Managers (SHRM) shows that most companies continue to consider their HR departments to be of little importance. Former U.S. SHRM chair, and head of HR at Yahoo, Libby Sartain noted that the study also revealed that many HR people have a similarly low opinion of their own departments. Despite the high value placed on HR directors by a few corporate officers like former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, some in the HR field feel that practitioners must become more business oriented in order to move beyond the dim view most businesspeople have taken of HR since its emergence.

See HR Still Not Taken Seriously Say Those in the Field., MICHAEL SKAPINKER, Financial Times, Jan 28 2002

Officials with the Dallas Morning News Charities' twenty-two poverty relief agencies recently reported that over eighty-nine percent of individuals who seek assistance are currently working, and that the majority of the remaining applicants are between jobs. Among the leading factors which force tens of thousands of Dallas-area workers to rely on charity to make ends meet every year, charity workers cited low wages and the lack of affordable transportation and childcare. Public charity officials place much of the blame for the continuing extreme poverty of many working families on the failure of the Dallas City Council to pass a proposal early last year that would have increased financial benefits for companies that offer their workers a living wage.

See Working Poor Outnumber the Unemployed at Dallas Relief Agencies., KENDALL ANDERSON, The Dallas Morning News, Jan 27 2002

The decision of a five-member elections committee to overturn last November's Screen Actors Guild (SAG) presidential elections earlier this month and schedule a new election starting on February 11th, has led to increasing cries that election rules are being violated. Supporters of the November election's winner, Melissa Gilbert, are accusing the elections committee of exceeding their power in an attempt to get her defeated opponent Valerie Harper into office. The turmoil created by the decision to hold new elections is part of a running power struggle between activist supporters of Gilbert's predecessor William Daniels---who led SAG on a six-month strike in 2000, and moderates who feel that the strike was a mistake.

See Actors Union Roiled by Election Dispute., JAMES BATES, Los Angeles Times, Jan 27 2002

Tyson Foods---the largest poultry processing company in the world, and a major packager of beef and pork products as well---pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges brought by the U.S. Justice Department that the corporation smuggled illegal immigrants into the country to work in company plants. Two company executives and four former managers have been fingerprinted and photographed by federal marshals in connection with the case, in which 36 in violations of immigration laws are alleged at 15 factories. Tyson officials have contested the accuracy of the indictment, which is the result of a three-year sting operation carried out by government agents.

See Poultry Producer Denies Immigration Law Violations., CHRISTOPHER BOWE, Financial Times, Jan 24 2002

A class action sexual harassment case filed against the Dial Corporation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1999 is making its way through the courts, and could become the largest since the high-profile case involving hundreds of women at Mitsubishi Inc.'s Normal, Illinois factory that resulted in a $44 million settlement. Over 100 current and former female employees have given depositions, and are prepared to testify, that they were subjected to years of extreme harassment by coworkers and supervisors with the full knowledge of the highest levels of management. While Dial has attempted to downplay the seriousness of the problems in its factories and offices, a federal judge found last August that preliminary testimonies and evidence suggest that Dial permitted an intolerable work environment to exist.

See Dial Faced with Class Action Lawsuit., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Jan 24 2002

A new category of immigration visas, designated as "T-visas," was approved by U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft yesterday for illegal immigrants---and their immediate family members---smuggled into the country and forced to work as domestic servants, farm laborers, or prostitutes. The Immigration and Naturalization Service will grant 5,000 of these visas a year to victims of human-trafficking who would suffer "extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm" if forced to return to their countries of origin. It is estimated that each year 50,000 individuals become victims of human-trafficking rings supplying forced labor to U.S. employers, many of them women and children.

See New Visa System to Address Human-Trafficking., The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Jan 24 2002

Governor Pataki's recent proposal to allow the New York City Board of Education to borrow $204 million which the state will repay in order to make up money that the state owes the board of ed., may lead to a new contract for New York City's teachers. Education officials indicated yesterday that the money may be earmarked for providing raises for the 80,000 NYC teachers---represented by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)---who are paid far less than their counterparts in nearby suburban areas and have been without a contract since November 2000. Although the deadlocked negotiations have not yet resumed, Mayor Mike Bloomberg met with ILR graduate and UFT President Randi Weingarten last week to informally discuss education issues.

See NYC Teachers May See a New Contract Soon., ABBY GOODNOUGH, The New York Times, Jan 23 2002

Democrats are expected to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives today, aimed at changing the 1996 welfare law---under which a five-year cap is placed on monetary assistance to families and states receive welfare funds in a lump sum that is not linked to unemployment levels---into a weapon against poverty. Under the new proposal, funding for childcare assistance for low-income families would double over the next five years, and states that reduce child-poverty would receive $150 million a year bonuses. The proposal also calls for extending the basic structure of the 1996 law for another five years after it expires at the end of September, and would not count any month during which a welfare recipient had earnings from a paid job against the five-year limit on cash payments.

See Democrats Seek to Update 1996 Welfare Law to Fight Poverty., ROBERT PEAR, The New York Times, Jan 23 2002

A report released by the General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress shows that in the ten industries employing the greatest percentage of women, women still make up only twelve percent of corporate officers and that between 1995 and 2000 the salaries of female managers decreased significantly relative to those of male managers. The study revealed that while female managers made gains in education, medicine, and public administration, they lost heavily in the entertainment and communications industries. Lack of accommodation for women who have children seems a likely cause of these increases in income disparity, as the report indicates that mothers in management positions fair the worst---making only sixty-six percent of what managers who are fathers make---and that the disparities begin to surface around the age of thirty-three and accelerate with increasing age.

See Pay Discrimination Among Managers Increasing According to New Study., ELIZABETH BECKER, The New York Times, Jan 23 2002

Following an emergency meeting of the board of directors' labor committee, United Airlines (UAL) has announced that it is willing to give its International Association of Machinists (IAM) represented mechanics the almost forty-seven percent increase over three years called for by the Presidential Emergency Board. The IAM will submit the proposal to its membership, but it is still unclear whether the mechanics---who were looking for a retroactive fifty-four percent raise---will accept the non-retroactive raise that has been offered. If a settlement is reached, it could clear the way for negotiations with the company's ramp and customer service agents---which were halted last fall due to the deadlock over the mechanics' contract, and for UAL to proceed with its requests for givebacks from all of its unions in order to keep the airline in business.

See Settlement May Be in Sight for Mechanics, United., JOHN SCHMELTZER, Chicago Tribune, Jan 22 2002

For the second time in the past week, teachers in the capital of Iran protested yesterday with the approval of their union---the first such protest since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The teachers---who demonstrated in front of the parliament building and then marched through streets despite a police ban---went so far as to criticize the Iranian Government, including the reformists led by president Mohammed Khatami. The teachers charge that they are the lowest paid government employees and have the poorest health, housing and welfare benefits, and are demanding a twenty-five percent raise and improved benefits.

See Iranian Teachers Take to the Streets., NAZILA FATHI, The New York Times, Jan 22 2002

With wide support from nurses' unions and consumer advocate groups, Governor Gray Davis of California proposed restrictions on the number of patients assigned to nurses in hospitals yesterday, in response to growing concerns about hospital staffing levels, quality of patient care, and patient injuries resulting from shortcomings in these areas. If Davis' requirements survive public hearings and state Department of Health Services revisions, California will become the first state to adopt such regulations. While hospital and HMO groups have voiced concerns over rising costs and recruiting problems that may result, they have so far been cautious about criticizing the proposed regulations.

See California Considers Hospital Staffing Requirements., SHARON BERNSTEIN, Los Angeles Times, Jan 22 2002

After eight years of appeals and retrials, a U.S. District judge ruled last week that no further court action is possible in a class-action harassment suit against the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. As a result, the payout of $9.6 million distributed between approximately 130 current and former female employees of the department could begin as early as the next two weeks. The female employees who brought the suit---many of whom quit their jobs or ended up on workers' compensation for severe depression and anxiety as a result of their harassment---suffered verbal abuse, grabbing and other physical harassment, and even coerced intercourse that in some cases resulted in pregnancies.

See Harassment Lawsuit Against D.C. Corrections Comes to a Close., SERGE F. KOVALESKI, The Washington Post, Jan 21 2002

In a major turnaround from what is accepted corporate policy, many British firms---including those in information technology industries---are hiring older workers and realizing increased savings and profits as a result. While firms in high-tech industries have traditionally seen senior employees as less able to keep up with rapidly changing industries, in the current tech-worker shortage they are finding that the considerable experience of such workers actually reduces the training and gear up time they need. These firms are will likely have a major competitive advantage over the majority of British and European companies who still give preference to younger workers, when anti-age discrimination legislation goes into effect throughout the European Union in 2006.

See British Firms Buck Conventional Corporate Wisdom, Hire Older Workers., ALISON MAITLAND, Financial Times, Jan 21 2002

The Kmart Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today after one of its main distributors halted shipments in response to a missed payment. The collapse of the third largest retailer in the U.S.---worth over $17 billion---is the largest bankruptcy in the history of the retail industry. Having negotiated a $2 billion loan from several major banks, Kmart has announced that it will keep its 2,100-plus stores open throughout its financial reorganization and hopes to be able to end its Chapter 11 status as soon as 2003.

See Retail Giant Files for Bankruptcy., DINA ElBOGHDADY, The Washington Post, Jan 21 2002

As the Chinese government continues to transition to a more capitalistic economy, workers who were guaranteed economic security in return for a lifetime of work are being increasingly left out in the cold. In what has become a disturbingly common occurrence in China, workers are forced to buy worthless stock, which they are forbidden to resell, in the debt-ridden companies that employ them. The local government officials and managers---who exaggerate the worth of the stock in order to encourage employees to invest more of their life-savings---maintain a controlling interest and oftentimes make immense profits on false bankruptcy filings that devastate their employees. No link between these Chinese government officials and high-ranking Enron officials has been reported.

See Chinese Workers Exploited in Transition to Capitalism., PHILIP P. PAN, The Washington Post, Jan 20 2002

A grim pattern has appeared in job fairs for laid-off technology workers over the past months, as a once tight job market collapsed with the dot com start-ups that powered it. Thousands of workers wait on huge lines just to get in the door, where they compete for a handful of jobs offered by a few federal defense contractors who all tell them the same thing---no citizenship, no security clearance, no dice. The rare few who get interviews are accepting massive pay cuts, happy to get any job they can in a market that is now heavily dominated by sellers.

See Tech-Industry Job Fairs Have an Air of Desperation., CARRIE JOHNSON, The Washington Post, Jan 20 2002

A Presidential Emergency Board has extended a strike prohibition in the deadlocked negotiations between United Airlines (UAL) and its International Association of Machinists (IAM) represented mechanics. President Bush formed the board on December 20 citing concern about the effect a strike in the two-year-old contract dispute could have on the industry and the national economy. UAL wants all employees to take pay cuts to help the company through its current financial problems, but the mechanics---who agreed to massive cuts in the mid-1990's to help the company and never received promised raises---have pointed to their well-below industry level wages in refusing to take such cuts.

See Presidential Panel Extends Cooling Off Period., JOHN SCHMELTZER, Chicago Tribune, Jan 20 2002

The union estimates that about 25% of the nation's 28,000 baggage screeners are not citizens. There is discussion by lawmakers and government officials about possible compromises which could both prevent immigrants from losing their jobs and insure airport security.

More than one in four blacks say they have personally been discriminated against, compared with 6 percent of whites. The survey also deals with issues such as actions by employers in response to discrimination charges, minority representation in companies, and whether success in the workplace changes feelings about discrimination.

16.28 million wage and salary workers were members of union in 2001, while 16.26 million were members in 2000. Increases in union membership were offset by layoffs in union jobs. Government employees continued to have higher unionization rates than private industry employees.

Three groups of women employees are suing Boeing in federal courts alleging discrimination. The women claim that they were denied promotions and equal pay because of their gender. Court filings also include charges of verbal harassment and use of sexually explicit language by male co-workers. Boeing is reviewing the lawsuits; a spokesperson said that Boeing is committed to equal opportunity and would not tolerate discrimination.

See Women employees sue Boeing alleging gender discrimination., Tribune News Service, Chicago Tribune, Jan 16 2002

Thousands of government employees are expected to lose their jobs in British Columbia on Thursday. The Government claims it needs to cut over 11,500 jobs in the next few years to balance the budget by 2004-05. The President of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union says the cuts are devastating to rural populations and a threat to safety and justice.

See Thousands of Public Servants to be laid off in British Columbia., Kim Lunman, The Globe and Mail, Jan 16 2002

Labor unions in Nigeria began a general strike today to protest higher fuel prices. Rioters burned tires and blocked streets. The President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, declared the strike illegal and warned the Government would use force. Nigeria has some of the lowest gas and fuel prices in the world, but most of its population is desperately poor. The Government contends the increase is necessary to stabilize prices, but the Unions claim that the low prices are the only Government benefit that most of the population enjoys from Nigeria’s oil production.

See Nigeria erupts into riots as labor unions call for a general strike., ASSOCIATED Press, The New York Times, Jan 16 2002

In EEOC v. Waffle House, 99-1823, an employee, Eric Scott Baker, was fired for having a seizure on the job. Mr. Baker took his complaint to the EEOC, rather than to arbitration. The agency argued that it had made no agreement to arbitrate disputes with this employer, and that by taking the matter to court, it would help other workers. In a 6-3 decision, the high court agreed. Critics of the decision are concerned about its effect on arbitration programs, but proponents point to the tiny number of cases that the EEOC agrees to take on as proof that this decision will have little consequence for ADR in the workplace. Read the decision at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/opinions.html.

The practice, which has been used effectively in Europe, forces employees to work fewer hours, thereby opening jobs for the unemployed. Japanese labor officials are visiting Germany to learn how to implement work-sharing, but the debate concerning these programs continues in Japan.

Many techies earned enough during the boom to allow them the freedom to pursue more personally rewarding work. Others are simply shell-shocked from their recent career experiences, and need a less crazy environment. Inquiries to the Peace Corps rose 38% from 2000 to 2001. Some high tech firms are encouraging their employees to pursue volunteer work. Cisco, for instance, pays its laid-off employees 1/3 of their previous salaries and allows them to keep other employee benefits, if they volunteer at a non-profit for a year.

The Chairman of Enron, Kenneth L. Lay was warned about how the corporate giant might “implode in a wave of accounting scandals.” Sharon Watkins, who revealed her identity as the whistle-blowing memo writer, declined comment, preferring to let the seven page memo speak for itself. Enron’s attorney, Robert Bennet, was perturbed with the disclosure of the memo by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Some details of the memo are discussed.

See Whistleblower warned Enron about imploding in a wave of accounting scandals., David S. Hilzenrath and Peter Behr, The Washington Post, Jan 14 2002

Three bodies have been recovered a week after the collapse of the Bibapama 2 coltan mine. As many as 36 others are still buried. Coltan is a mineral used in mobile phone manufacturing. Jules Ngala Ngoma, a journalist, told BBS News Online that traders who were selling food and other supplies to the miners were among the victims of the tragedy that followed heavy rains. Desperate for money that comes from mining coltan, used to make pinhead capacitors for regulating voltage and energy storage in mobile phones, miners continue work in hazardous conditions. 80% of the world’s coltan reservers are in DR Congo. Control of coltan is one reason for the three-year conflict led by rebels. Some in Europe have started a “No blood on my cell-phone” campaign aimed to stop the purchase of phones that incorporate coltan.

Enter or exit your cubicle and a name plaque automatically indicates whether you are in or out. Your ID card has a chip embedded to adjust your office temperature the way you always like it. Know who has been looking for you when you log onto your computer. Not interested, press a button to indicate that you continue to be busy. These are but a few of the examples of BlueSpace, a product collaboration between IBM and Steelcase introduced today. Hoping to make office furniture dynamic rather than inanimate, the one-size-fits-all cubicle will come to an end. Full of “gee whiz” features, this is a prototype of what will be a commercial version next year.

See High tech cubicle by IBM and Steelcase may resolve future workplace frustrations., Claudia H Deutsch, The New York Times, Jan 14 2002

Corporate executives are opting for the same blind-trust arrangements that have been favored for years by politicians. The blind-trust arrangements guard against conflicts of interest by having the funds administered by a third party who cuts off most personal communications with the client. Blind-trusts are the opposite of traditional corporate inside information that can lead to executives buying and selling stock in their own companies. The blind-trust may indemnify corporate insiders by establishing a legal defense to insider trading.

See Corporate executives turn to blind-trusts, Eric Schellhorn, The Christian Science Monitor, Jan 13 2002

Family grocery store owner, Amador Anchondo-Rascon, pleaded guilty to supplying Tyson Foods with illegal immigrant workers. Described as a perfect go-between, the Hispanic grocer supplied counterfeit working documents and helped farmers and plant managers recruit the low wage workers. The indictment against Mr. Anchondo-Rascon included conversations with Tyson officials and an undercover agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In exchange for a reduction in the charges against him, Mr. Anchondo-Rascon is cooperating with prosecutors in their case against Tyson.

Since 1997, the European Union (EU) has been objecting to US tax breaks for exporters claiming that they are illegal export subsidies. The World Trade Organization is expected to rule today that the breaks are illegal. This will be the fourth time the WTO has ruled against the US, each time the US has appealed. The ruling would allow the EU to impose retaliatory trade sanctions on US imports.

See WTO expected to rule US tax breaks are illegal., BBC, BBC News Online, Jan 13 2002

Citing several steps taken by the union to ensure financial integrity, the government is withdrawing a federal monitor placed at the union in 1997 after federal officials found that aides to Ron Carey had misused money in his re-election campaign. Still in existence is a consent decree that the union signed with federal prosecutors in 1989, allowing intensive supervision by government investigators to prevent corruption.

President Bush announced that he has ordered his economic team to "come up with recommendations how to reform the system to make sure that people are not exposed to losing their life savings as a result of bankruptcy, for example." Senators Barbara Boxer and Jon Corzine have introduced legislation that would limit the amount of company stock in 401(k) plans, allow employees to freely sell their company shares and provide workers with more information about investment diversification. Many employer groups are concerned that if enacted these proposals might discourage employers from offering 401(k) plans or prevent companies from making matching contributions.

Tourism and airline industries will be hit the hardest but a wide range of industries will be affected. The study used economic models to extrapolate employment losses based on economic trends in 315 cities prior to September 11th.

The Labor Department announced that 395,000 new claims for unemployment benefits were filed last week, down 58,000 from the week before. The reduction of claims may be a sign that the labor market is stabilizing following the mass layoffs after September 11. Economists predict the recession will end by summer and that jobless rates should stabilize around 7 percent by that time. When it meets late this month, the Federal Reserve is expected to reduce rates again by a quarter point to guarantee the economic recovery.

See The New Year brought a drop in number of new claims for unemployment., Associated Press, The New York Times, Jan 9 2002

A new study shows a dramatic increase in the number of people being treated for depression in the United States over the last decade. The study also shows a shift in treatment to a reliance on drug therapy as compared to traditional psychotherapy. The increased numbers being treated is most likely not from an increase in depression, but from a number of factors including a reduction in the stigma attached to mental health problems, the rise of managed-care insurance, and marketing campaigns by drug manufacturers.

No significant changes in immigration policy have resulted from the September 11 attacks. Critics of the policy had hoped for a complete overhaul that would reduce the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S., but Congress has not moved to change the current policy. The political tactic of capitalizing on the fear of immigration has largely disappeared over the last decade as changing demographics have changed the face of politics. However, a plan to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants from Mexico has been set aside and it is likely that Congress will make some changes to the immigration policy when they reconvene in January.

See September 11 attacks have not resulted in a crackdown on immigration., Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, Jan 9 2002

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the court ruled that a former assembly line worker did not have a basis for suing due to her repetitive motion injuries. The court ruled that disability cannot be defined solely by one's ability to perform certain tasks at work. "Whether someone is disabled also must depend on the ease with which they perform "activities that are of central importance to most people's daily lives," wrote justice Sandra Day O'Connor for the court. "If Congress intended everyone with a physical impairment that precluded the performance of some isolated, unimportant or particularly difficult manual task to qualify as disabled, the number of disabled Americans would surely have been much higher," the court wrote. The ruling does not preclude protection under the ADA for anyone with carpal tunnel or similar partial disabilities, but lawyers point out that making these claims will be tougher.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the biggest U.S. public pension, was sued for an injunction Tuesday due to the State of California's proposed delay of a $1.3 billion payment to CalPERS. The California Association of Professional Scientists, which filed the suit in a Sacramento court, complained it had not been given proper notification about the State's plan to borrow money to help with the estimated $12 billion budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. Union president Thomas Napoli accused Governor Gray Davis and the CalPERS board of robbing the employee pension plans to help with the deficit.

See A California labor group sues CalPERS over a deal with state government., Jabulani Leffall, Financial Times, Jan 8 2002

This week, the nation's two largest automakers are expected to confirm that at least 15,000 jobs will be eliminated. GM plans to offer buyouts to approximately 15,000 white-collar workers and Ford will cut upwards of 10,000 jobs as a part of its restructuring effort. Both companies cite factors such as the current recession, the weakness of the Japanese yen and the high price of sales incentives as motivations for the cuts. The pending announcement of the job losses comes during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

See General Motors and Ford will announce thousands of job cuts., Danny Hakim, The New York Times, Jan 8 2002

Coming on the heels of a general company-wide layoff program that envisions reducing staff by 48,500 from the 150,000 that existed in August 2000, 20 percent of 600 executives will be cut as well. Executive officer numbers remained constant while sales dropped more than 20 percent. Motorola was considered "top heavy" compared to its competitors. It is hoped that as a result of the cuts, Motorola will be more agile and responsive as a firm. Ed Breen, who became president and chief operating officer on January 1, takes responsibility for the action.

See Motorola to layoff 20 percent of its executives., Rob Kaiser, Chicago Tribune, Jan 7 2002

A potential merger, that could result in the creation of the world's largest memory chipmaker, has Korean unions unsettled. Analysts predict that Micron would reduce current over-capacity through factory shutdowns. This is thought to be one of the incentives for the Micron interest in Hynix. Hynix has $6bn of debts and needs to be rescued.

10 percent or about 50,000 white-collar workers is the number that GM hopes to reduce by offering early-retirement incentives. Select employees who are 50 and older have major early-retirement incentives in a package that takes effect April 1.

See GM's white-collar workforce targeted with early retirement offers., Associated Press, The Washington Post, Jan 7 2002

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has overturned an earlier court ruling holding that Delta Air Lines could be potentially liable under sexual harassment law for a rape that occurred when two flight attendants were off duty in a hotel room. The ruling is significant because it expands the definition of work environment under sexual harassment law. The Court found that because Delta had rented rooms at the hotel, provided transportation to the hotel, and expected workers to stay there during their layover it was part of their work environment. The Court also found that Delta was potentially liable for maintaining a hostile work environment because of two previous complaints against the alleged rapist that it had not responded to. Delta has filed an appeal, arguing in part that it was a "dangerous and unprecedented expansion of sexual harassment law," and could negatively affect companies that have employees who travel.

See Definition of workplace expanded by federal court., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jan 6 2002

Senate Democrats support a tax credit for companies who hire new employees, or give current employees raises or increases in work hours. The proposal, made by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, is based on an increase in Social Security payroll taxes. Companies paying more in 2002 would receive a refund equaling the 6.2 percent in payroll taxes that businesses pay for each of their workers above the 2001 limit. Democrats maintain the credit would create jobs without increasing the budget deficit. Critics charge the one-year tax credit is a temporary fix and may result in workers being laid off the following year. They also claim it would not help small businesses that pay regular income taxes, not corporate taxes.

See Senate Democrats supporting worker tax credit., Associated Press, Jan 6 2002

Two recent verdicts set important legal precedents in the cases of employees who are fired for criticizing their employer on line. In one case, the company won a $775,000 jury verdict in an Internet defamation and harassment lawsuit against former employees. The company claimed two former workers acted with malice in placing a large number of postings on message boards accusing the company of being homophobic and of discriminating against pregnant women. The former workers argued that it is a free speech issue. In another case, a California court ruled against a former Intel employee who was fired after sending emails criticizing Intel to thousands of co-workers. Intel argued that it was not a matter of free speech, but that the emails were equivalent to spam and amounted to trespassing. Civil libertarians fear that the decisions will be used by other companies to single out individuals and may be used to prevent organizing between former and current workers.

Following the indictment of Tyson Foods Inc. on charges of illegal immigrant smuggling, there are fears of a major disruption of the food industry if there is a similar crackdown nationwide. Foreign-born workers have become a vital part of the American food and agriculture system, and 40% of farm laborers, for example, are estimated to be illegal immigrants.

The board will review the dispute between the United Airlines and the International Association of Machinists and recommend terms for a settlement. If no agreement is reached after 60 days, Congress could impose a settlement in order to prevent a walkout, effectively denying the right of union members to vote on the contract.

Hanigan Consulting Group, a human-relations consulting firm in New York encourages mangers to tell employees how sorry they feel about firing them. Other workplace specialists believe that traditionally unemotional layoffs are easier for everyone and avoid managers’ words seeming insincere.