Workplace Issues Today
The pending measures include changes to: civil service management, recruitment, training and development; the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; rules for federal retirees; visibility of anti-discrimination and whistle-blower protection laws.
See Much proposed congressional legislation carrying over into the New Year could affect federal benefits and employment policies., Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, Dec 20 2001
The witness claims to have suffered career setbacks at the Orland Park police department because he is suspected of providing the plaintiff’s attorney with inside information. A permanent restraining order is being sought in District Court.
See Alleged retaliation against a witness in a sex harassment and bias suit has led to a temporary restraining order prohibiting a Chicago area police department from such actions., Stanley Ziemba, Chicago Tribune, Dec 19 2001
. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 to 19 million U. S. workers now telecommute. Baby Boomers are prevalent among the workers who choose this option, according to the International Telework Association and Council. U. S. companies are still struggling with this form of work. Among the concerns are questions about supervising the employees and about maintaining the employees’ connections with the organizational culture.
See The number of workers who telecommute continues to rise in the United States, The New York Times, Dec 19 2001
The charges were a result of a 21/2 year undercover investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. INS officials posed as Mexican middlemen in the operation. Tyson claims that the actions of its employees were isolated and did not reflect a corporate policy.
See Several managers at Tyson Foods have been charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U. S.., Kirstin Downey Grimsley, The Washington Post, Dec 19 2001
New immigration regulations, issued this week, require fluency in either English or French. In addition, a master's degree and several years of work experience will be necessary along with having a job or family in Canada at the outset in order to establish immigrant status. The rub is that these rules are retroactive and apply to thousands of immigrants currently waiting for their applications to be processed.
See Canada wants better-educated, more skilled immigrants., IAN GUNN, BBC News Online, Dec 18 2001
Highly paid headhunters are finding themselves without jobs. The economic cycle has caught up to the front line in the once lucrative talent wars. Just trying to find firms in need of workers has become an arduous task.
See Recruiters cannot find jobs for themselves, certainly not in recruiting., CARRIE JOHNSON, The Washington Post, Dec 18 2001
"?denied wages, harassed and subjected to inhumane treatment" are among claims made by workers in an El Monte factory for this women's clothing retailer. Lawsuit claims workers were fired for complaining about 11-hour work days, six days a week.
See Bebe Stores Inc. accused by garment factory workers of workplace crimes, Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, Dec 18 2001
In a study made public today, the Center for Women's Business Research revealed that in 2002 minority women will own over a third of all California businesses owned by women. This is well above the national average of twenty percent and reflects the fact that California has the largest total number of Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander female-owned firms of any state. The study predicts that the overall percentage of businesses owned by minority women nationwide will have grown by 6.8% from 1997 levels by the year 2002.
See Firms Owned by Minority Women Growing as a Percentage of Total Women-Owned Firms., KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS, Los Angeles Times, Dec 17 2001
As a growing number of companies adopt policies and benefits packages aimed at attracting and retaining workers with families, single employees are feeling increasingly marginalized. Oftentimes, employers tailor benefits such as health insurance and leave policies to the needs of workers with children or spouses---leaving single employees without children feeling that they are not valued. Many single workers complain that this problem is compounded by firms who go beyond failing to accommodate them, to exploiting them by forcing them to work holidays and overtime, in order to avoid hiring extra help when employees with families are on leave.
See Single Workers Exploited by Firms Eager to Attract Workers with Families., CAROL KLEIMAN, Chicago Tribune, Dec 17 2001
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced today that it will pay $6.8 million to settle thirteen lawsuits filed in eleven states by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suits stem from charges ranging from refusal to hire deaf workers in Arizona, sexual harassment of female employees in Alabama, and asking potential hires questions about disabilities on application forms---a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Multiple EEOC lawsuits charging age, sex, and race-based discrimination are still pending against Wal-Mart according to EEOC sources.
See Wal-Mart Settles Discrimination Lawsuits in Eleven States., Bloomberg News Staff, Los Angeles Times, Dec 17 2001
Long since decimated by lawsuits of former employees dead or dying as a result of exposure in mines or factories, the asbestos industry is once again at the center of multi-million dollar court cases. As suits by individuals only indirectly exposed to asbestos, and oftentimes not yet sick, trust funds established to help miners and processors dying of cancer and respiratory diseases have become severely overburdened. With most of the primary asbestos producing and handling companies already in bankruptcy, and the rest following, these new suits have focused on companies on the periphery of the asbestos problem---including auto-makers, oil refineries and railroads.
See Asbestos Lawsuits on the Rise., LISA GIRION, Los Angeles Times, Dec 16 2001
The California state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) announced yesterday that the Walt Disney Company paid over $900,000 in back-pay to 800 employees who made less than minimum wage assembling toys for a manufacturer under contract to Disney Stores. The Disney Company was cleared of all wrongdoing by the DLSE, and cooperated with the investigation from the beginning---pulling all the illegally produced items from their shelves and halting further orders. The contractor KTBA Inc., however, was found to have violated minimum-wage, overtime, industrial home-work and child-labor laws, paying workers $1.35 an hour to assemble pink tiaras and magic wands in their homes.
See Disney Pays Back Wages to Employees of Former Contractor., JAMES S. GRANELLI, Los Angeles Times, Dec 13 2001
A flight attendant at American Airlines brought suit against the company yesterday under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The allegations stem from fact that the company health plan reimburses male employees for Viagra prescriptions regardless of the type of insurance they choose, while forcing women to enroll in a company chosen HMO to receive infertility treatments, birth control, and pap smears. The plaintiff---who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April---is seeking permission to sue on behalf of all affected employees.
See American Airlines Sued for Discrimination in Benefits., DAVID ROSENZWEIG, Los Angeles Times, Dec 13 2001
Members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) employed at Pratt & Whitney's four Connecticut factories voted to accept an agreement reached by management and union negotiators this Tuesday (see WIT for Dec. 12, 2001). Some employees are upset at the union for accepting management's pre-strike offer of a four-dollar increase in the monthly pension allotment, rather than holding out on their original demand for an eight-dollar increase---one of the two issues that led to the strike. The union won their other major demand, however, for increased job-security for Connecticut employees, as well as concessions on reductions in retirement age, and increased 401(k) contributions.
See Agreement Reached by the IAM and Pratt & Whitney., The New York Times, The New York Times, Dec 13 2001
The White House is stepping up pressure on congressional leaders to come to an agreement on a financial stimulus plan that meets the approval of the president. With many of the details of a compromise proposal worked out, the main item of contention at this point is the president's continued insistence on further mid-high income bracket tax cuts---which some Democrats seem ready to accept in return for increased aid for those dealing with job loss. Democrats have already won concessions from the Bush administration on increasing the duration of unemployment benefits, funding an expansion of these benefits to part-time workers, and creating a tax credit open to all unemployed workers that would cover half the cost of any health insurance plan.
See Pressure Grows to Pass Compromise Economic Stimulus Plan., RICHARD W. STEVENSON, The New York Times, Dec 12 2001
With over six months left before their old contract expires, the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached an agreement yesterday on a new three-year contract. The two sides cited difficult negotiations between producers and the earlier this year, and a resulting slowdown in production drawn out by the September 11 attacks, as powerful motivating factors in the early completion of negotiations. The new contract---which mirrors the agreements reached with the writers' and actors' unions on financial matters---includes sweeteners for the directors of films that spawn sequels, uniform TV contracts regardless of recording format, and a guarantee by producers to meet with Hollywood unions to address the issue 'of runaway productions'(see WIT for December 5, 2001).
See DGA Contract Agreement Reached., JAMES BATES, Los Angeles Times, Dec 12 2001
Despite Congress' passage in 1967 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act---enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 1979, some experts feel that age discrimination is becoming an increasing problem as more senior workers seek to reenter the workforce. A study on unemployed mature workers actively seeking employment conducted in 2000 by a Massachusetts State commission, underscored the difficulties faced by senior workers. As perceived increases in health insurance costs are a major reason behind employers' reluctance to hire senior workers, lowering the age requirements to qualify for Medicare coverage has been floated as a potential way to combat age discrimination.
See Age Discrimination an Increasing Problem., DAVIS BUSHNELL, The Boston Globe, Dec 12 2001
In a series of class-action cases brought against major corporations in recent years, courts have awarded thousands in back pay to salaried employees improperly classified as exempt from time-and-a-half overtime pay. The cases---which hinge on the distinction in the Fair Labor Standards Act between exempt and non-exempt employees---have revealed major discrepancies between supposedly exempt job titles and actual job duties. Although often assumed to be synonymous with 'salaried' and 'hourly worker,' the distinction between the exempt and non-exempt classifications is far subtler---focusing on detailed job descriptions.
See Exempt/Non-exempt Classifications Come Under Fire., EVE TAHMINCIOGLU, The New York Times, Dec 11 2001
At a hearing held yesterday, the chairperson of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported a 150% increase in complaints filed in the past three months by Arab American, Muslims and Sikhs, over the same period a year ago. Arab and Muslim groups testified at the hearing that these numbers understate the job discrimination being experience---with many victims of discrimination afraid to go to a government agency at a time when the FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Services are investigating and arresting people with middle-eastern origins. An encouraging trend that came out during the meeting was the extremely low number of incidents reported at the many companies that communicated clear anti-harassment and discrimination policies to their employees in the wake of the attacks.
See EEOC Reports Increased Workplace Discrimination Following September 11 Attacks., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Dec 11 2001
Negotiators for the jet engine manufacturer made a new offer to the International Association of Machinists last night, which the union is expected to comment on publicly this morning. The 5,000 IAM members employed at Pratt & Whitney's Connecticut facilities have been out on strike since contract negotiations broke down at the beginning of last week. Bargaining resumed this past Saturday as the company was forced to reassign 2,300 salaried employees to fill in for the striking workers in order to keep its factories operational.
See New Contract Offer from Pratt & Whitney., Associated Press, The New York Times, Dec 11 2001
Still without a contract, the Middletown teachers' union last Friday called off the week old strike that led to the imprisonment of 230 of its members 1,000 (See WIT for Dec. 4, 2001). Although all strikers have been released from jail, and teacher and guidance counselor attendance has returned to normal rates, the animosity between the union members and the board of education that many feel was the underlying reason for the strike, has only increased. A mediator has been appointed by the courts to assist in these difficult negotiations that have caused at least one teacher to resign, and have intensified divisions in this community that has now experienced two unsuccessful educator strikes in the past three years.
See Strike Ends, Bitterness Continues., ROBERT HANLEY, The New York Times, Dec 10 2001
The New York Archdiocese and the union representing 3,200 teachers at the 235 schools affiliated with the archdiocese have reached a contract settlement providing for an eleven percent raise. While the union gave up its opposition to a planned switch to a more restrictive health care provider, it won a concession from management to keep teacher health insurance payments at the current level---due in part, some believe, to sick-outs by union members at several schools (See WIT for Dec. 5, 2001). The Lay Faculty Association---which represents teachers at the ten high schools owned by the archdioceses, and is in the second week of a strike at nine of those schools (See WIT for Nov. 29, 2001)---has indicated a willingness to settle on terms similar to those won by the FCT.
See NY Archdiocese and Federation of Catholic Teachers Reach Tentative Agreement., ABBY GOODNOUGH, The New York Times, Dec 10 2001
In a mixed victory for teachers' unions and their allies, negotiators for the House and Senate are likely to approve a compromise education bill today. The proposed legislation will incorporate increased federal funding for education, and provide protection for teachers against the growing problem of parent lawsuits, but will also require all states to implement standardized testing for all students grades three through eight---which many educators view as detrimental (See WIT for Oct. 24, 2001). The decision on the highly controversial issue of school vouchers is characteristic of the overall bill: a federal voucher program will not be implemented, but under-performing districts will be forced to subsidize private tutoring for students.
See Compromise Federal Education Bill Close to Passage., NICK ANDERSON, Los Angeles Times, Dec 10 2001
Part-time faculty members at the College of DuPage have taken the historic step of joining a union---citing pay disparities with full-time professors as the main reason. While the administration has defended these differences in pay on the basis of different responsibilities outside the classroom, adjuncts have said that the duties of full and part-time faculty are not significantly different. With some members of the College of DuPage Adjuncts Association making only slightly more than minimum wage, both sides agree that the focus of next spring's negotiations is likely to be on salaries.
See Adjuncts Vote for Union at Chicago-area Community College., LeANN SPENCER, Chicago Tribune, Dec 6 2001
The House of Representatives approved legislation giving the president fast track powers on trade agreements by a single vote yesterday. The legislation---which, if approved by the Senate, will force Congress to vote either yes or no after limited debate, on trade agreements reached by the executive branch---has been strongly opposed by unions and environmental groups as posing a risk to U.S. labor and environmental regulations. Passage of the bill was secured only after Republicans passed a bill extending unemployment insurance, and promised $20 billion in economic stimulus legislation.
See House Gives President Fast Track Power., JULIET EILPERIN, The Washington Post, Dec 6 2001
The Polaroid Corporation, which declared bankruptcy and filed for Chapter 11 protection earlier this fall, is seeking permission to pay bonuses of up to twice their base pay to top managers. This petition to a U.S. Bankruptcy court comes at a time when the company has already laid off over a third of its workforce and is preparing to sell off most of its assets. The company has defended the guaranteed bonuses as a common practice, necessary to keep executives from jumping ship in the middle of a crisis.
See Bankrupt Company Fires Worker, Wants to Give Bonuses to Top Executives., Tribune news services, Chicago Tribune, Dec 6 2001
In a move that seemed more appropriate to a die-hard pro-labor Democrat, republican Governor George Pataki signed legislation authorizing card check recognition of unions in New York State and followed with a pro-labor speech---all on live video feed to the AFL-CIO convention in as Vegas. Although the new law will apply only to employees not covered by the NLRA, it will allow those workers form unions as soon as they receive the signatures of a majority of employees at any given company---thereby avoiding drawn out elections in which employers often defeat organizing drives. While some question Mr. Pataki's motives in approving pro-labor legislation with a difficult reelection campaign not far in the future, for now labor leaders are not looking this gift horse in the mouth.
See Pataki Signs Card Check Legislation., JUAN GONZALEZ, New York Daily News, Dec 5 2001
After three attempts and a lengthy debate, a living-wage law passed only two months ago in Hempstead, New York was repealed by a party line vote this Tuesday. Republican members of the town board defended their actions, claiming that the law---which established a minimum wage of $9 an hour with health insurance, or $10.25 an hour without---would scare away small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Several people who spoke at the board meeting, however, indicated that living-wage laws are unlikely to drive away businesses, and that the decision was all about politics.
See Setback for a Living Wage on Long Island., SID CASSESE, Newsday, Dec 5 2001
The International Association of Machinists announced yesterday that it has scheduled a strike vote for December 13 if the 15,000 mechanics and other employees it represents at United Airlines are still without a contract at that time. Negotiations for the mechanics---who have been without a contract for two years, and have not had a raise since 1994---were interrupted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, and the resulting turmoil in the airline industry. President Bush has announced that if the two sides have not reached an agreement by the end of the thirty-day cooling off period on December 21, he will extend the ban on strikes by the maximum of sixty-days, to avoid travel problems during the holiday season.
See Deadline Set on Strike Vote in UAL Negotiations., Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Dec 5 2001
The Supreme Court began hearings yesterday on the issue of whether the Americans with Disabilities Act supersedes non-discriminatory seniority systems. The central question, is whether the ADA clause requiring employers to be reasonably accommodating of disabled employees, means that employers must assign disabled employees to jobs which their disabilities do not conflict with---even if another worker is entitled to that position by virtue of seniority. While the lawyer for the employee in this case has argued that the ADA's "undue hardship" exception does not apply to seniority systems and the affects on other employees of overriding this system, many courts have held the opposite to be true.
See Supreme Court Hears Opening Arguments in Seniority/Disability Case., CHARLES LANE, The Washington Post, Dec 4 2001
With teachers at nine of the ten catholic high schools owned by the Archdiocese of New York still out on strike amid stalled contract negotiations, teachers at the over 200 schools affiliated with, but not owned by the archdiocese, have announced that they too are prepared to strike. Members of the Federation of Catholic Teachers---which represents the 3,600 teachers at catholic schools affiliated with the archdiocese---have already engaged in sick-outs this week, and their president has announced that a strike may be announced as early as today. Negotiations between the FCT and the archdiocese broke down over management's plan to switch to a less comprehensive provider for the teachers' health insurance plan.
See More NY Catholic School Teachers Ready to Go On Strike., YILU ZHAO, The New York Times, Dec 4 2001
In an attempt to keep acting jobs from becoming the latest victim of foreign competition, film-industry unions filed a petition this Tuesday with the U.S. Commerce Department that seeks fines for films taking advantage of Canadian subsidies. The petition---which is opposed by the Directors Guild of America---is controversial even within the Film and Television Action Committee and the Screen Actors Guild, which are the leading forces behind the petition. The petition calls for penalties equal to the amount saved, to be assessed against all films subsidized by the Canadian government, before they can be released in the U.S.
See Actors Attempt to Prevent Northwards Job Migration., MEGAN GARVEY, Los Angeles Times, Dec 4 2001
The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari yesterday in a case brought by 117 former employees against the Florida Power Corp., alleging that they were fired because of their age. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether suits can be brought under the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act for employer actions that disproportionately affect older workers even if no intentional bias is apparent. While disparate impact cases have been widely successful in cases involving racial discrimination, five of the eight federal circuit courts that have ruled on such cases brought under the ADEA have held that that act does not protect against disparate impact.
See Supreme Court to Examine 'Disparate Impact' Claims Under ADEA., GLEN ELSASSER and JUDY PERES, Chicago Tribune, Dec 3 2001
Baseball fans and arbitration fans alike will be following the news in days to come, as arbitration hearings on the legality Major League Baseball's planned elimination of two teams commence today. The players union filed a grievance in early November charging that the owners' unilateral decision to fold two franchises is a violation of the contract which expired after this year's World Series, and must be part of negotiations for the new contract. Former National Labor Relations Board Chairman and baseball arbitrator William Gould believes that the proposed contraction---which would strongly affect the market for free agents---is not in keeping with a decade long history of arbitrators' rulings protecting free agency, and will be deemed in violation of the contract.
See Baseball's Arbitrator Will Hear the First Arguments in Contraction Case Today., DAVE SHEININ, The Washington Post, Dec 3 2001
Four members of the Middletown teachers' union in New Jersey have been jailed, and two others subjected to fines of $50 a day, for refusing to obey a court order to desist from striking and return to work. The imprisonment of their colleagues---the first strike related imprisonment of New Jersey teachers in 23 years---seems to have only strengthened the resolve of the remaining 1000 teachers and secretaries who went who went out on strike last Thursday after contract negotiations with the school board broke down. Negotiations faltered when the local school board called for an increase of over 300% in teachers' yearly health insurance payments, and turned down a union counteroffer that would have led to less hardships for teachers.
See Teachers Jailed in N.J. for Striking to Maintain Affordable Health Insurance., ROBERT HANLEY, The New York Times, Dec 3 2001
Still losing money, and desperate to cut costs, United Airlines announced yesterday that it is going to be asking all of its employees to make concessions to help the company survive the post-September 11 slump in air traffic. The announcement came at a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service meeting with the International Association of Machinists, with whom the airline is currently negotiating over a contract. United's IAM represented employees---who have not seen a raise since 1994---are seeking wages that would put them on an equal footing with other employees, but United says that it cannot afford the twenty-one percent raise that this would entail.
See United Seeks Concessions., LAURENCE ZUCKERMAN, The New York Times, Nov 29 2001
This Thursday a California State Court of Appeals dismissed an attempt by the state Department of Health Services to defend itself from an employee's sexual harassment suit on the grounds that it either did not know about, or took action to correct, the harassment she endured from her supervisor. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that employers can avoid liability under federal sexual harassment laws by showing that they were not made unaware of the harassment or sought to solve the problem, the California court ruled that employers do not have this protection under state laws. While some feel that it is unfair to impose liability in cases where employees did not report the harassment, the lawyer for the plaintiff points out that oftentimes employees do not use internal channels in cases involving their supervisors for fear of losing their jobs.
See California Court Rules that Employers are Defenseless in Discrimination by Supervisor Cases., LISA GIRION, Los Angeles Times, Nov 29 2001
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed the latest in a string of sexual harassment suits on behalf of female farm workers in California. According to a United Farm Workers spokesman, incidents of this type---in which employees of Coastal Valley Management, Inc. were allegedly harassed by company supervisors including the former human resources director---are all too common and often unreported. So far there is no word as to whether the EEOC has filed this suit under California discrimination laws in addition to Title VII, and will be affected by yesterday's decision by the California State Court of Appeals (see above WIT abstract).
See EEOC Files Charges in Harassment of Female Farm Workers., RONALD D. WHITE, Los Angeles Times, Nov 29 2001
Over 400 teaching assistants walked out of their jobs yesterday, and will be staying out today, to protest the refusal of the chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign to recognize them as a bargaining unit. The job action---necessitated say the TA's by the unresponsiveness of the chancellor to less disruptive tactics---has received a mixed response from undergraduates. While many students are upset about the timing of the strike, coming two weeks before final exams, others are supportive of the TA's who they agree are underpaid.
See TA's Go On Strike at University of Illinois, Demand Right to Unionize., STEPHANIE BANCHERO,, Chicago Tribune, Nov 28 2001
Twelve AT&T employees filed discrimination complaints with the EEOC yesterday, joining approximately forty other employees who have already filed complaints, and an additional hundred that plan to. The complaints allege a wide array of abuses ranging from sexual harassment, to failure to accommodate disabled employees, to discrimination against blacks in promotion decisions, to age and national origin based discrimination. While an AT&T spokesperson has reaffirmed the company's belief in diversity, employees in many job categories, nine states, and multiple authority levels insist that discrimination is a pervasive problem at the company.
See AT&T Accused of Multiple EEOC Violations., REED ABELSON, The New York Times, Nov 28 2001
Teachers at the ten catholic high schools owned by the Archdiocese of New York announced yesterday that with no agreement yet reached over pay raises, a strike may take place today. Having voted a week beforehand to go out on strike on September 11 (see WIT for September 11, 2001), the teachers represented by the Lay Faculty Association called the strike off following the terrorist attacks and postponed until yesterday the decision on whether to go out on strike. The teachers---many of whom have to work second jobs to get by even after years of service---are asking for a fifteen percent raise, while the archdiocese has only offered eight percent.
See Catholic High School Teachers Warn that a Rescheduled Strike is Imminent., YILU ZHAO, The New York Times, Nov 28 2001
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday put the top back on the can of worms it opened this March when it granted certiorari in the case of Adarand Constructors v. Mineta (see WIT for November 7, 2001). In an unsigned opinion, the justices dismissed the case---in which the plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of an affirmative action program no longer in effect in the plaintiff's state of business---as "improvidently granted." The Supreme Court is unlikely to gain much of a reprieve from affirmative action issues, however, as plenty of affirmative action cases without the inherent flaws of the Adarand case are currently before lower courts.
See Supreme Court Dismisses Muddled Affirmative Action Case., LINDA GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Nov 27 2001
The Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced earlier this week the department will be setting up a program to determine what services could be outsourced to private contractors. This action is seen as partial fulfillment of President Bush's campaign promise to subject federal services and jobs to competition from the private sector in order to cut down on costs. The American Federation of Government Employees has questioned Norton's insistence that cost-cutting and increases in performance are the sole motivations in the decision, and point out that the department does not have in place accurate methods for tracking either decreases in costs or increases in performance.
See Bush Administration Pushes for Privatization of Many Department of Interior Services., Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, Nov 27 2001
Britain's current Labour government is facing the opposition not only of the Trades Union Congress in its latest push to narrow the jurisdiction of its workplace dispute tribunal system, but also that of some of its own members. Labour Party backbenchers insist that the legislation in question---which would establish a three stage grievance procedure leading up to tribunal hearings---is one more in a string of bills that are weighting the tribunal system against workers. In an interesting twist, Conservative MP's have recently come out against the modifications specified in the bill as overly costly to businesses and detrimental to competition.
See British Unions Battle Proposed Reductions in the Use of Workplace Tribunes., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS and ROSEMARY BENNETT, Financial Times, Nov 27 2001
The business-cycle dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research announced yesterday what most of us already knew---that the economy is in recession. What has caught many by surprise, however, is the committee's position that the recession actually began in March, and was only exacerbated by the September 11 attacks and their aftermath. Many analysts feel that the NBER's report---which shows many indicators of economic health remaining strong despite the overall slowdown---indicates that the recession is unlikely to last beyond the second quarter of 2002.
See America is 'Officially' in Recession., PETER G. GOSSELIN, Los Angeles Times, Nov 26 2001
With the year not yet ended, 2001 has already set a record for bankruptcies of publicly traded companies---so far surpassing the previous record of 176 for all of 2000 by forty-eight. Former employees who rely heavily on pension plans for medical coverage and income have been particularly hard hit, as many of these companies have cut back drastically on retiree benefits. While core pension plans are insured up to $40,704 a year per employee by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, health and other insurance, as well as severance packages and supplemental benefits, are not covered.
See Retirees Feel Impact of Bankruptcies., ADAM GELLER, Chicago Tribune, Nov 26 2001
Members of the New York State Nurses Association struck a Long Island hospital yesterday when last-minute negotiations over staffing levels and health insurance fell through. The nurses feel that Catholic Health Services---which bought the failing hospital about two years ago---has failed to live up to the promises made when the union agreed to an unfavorable contract in return for keeping the hospital open. Management has insisted that it has been unable to increase staffing levels due to a nationwide shortage of nurses, but the union maintains that dangerously low staffing levels and mandatory overtime at the hospital are solely the result of working conditions that make it impossible to retain a sufficient staff.
See Nurses Strike Long Island Hospital, Cite Understaffing as Primary Reason., BARBARA J. DURKIN, Newsday, Nov 26 2001
Recent data have shown that the downturn in the economy and the corresponding decrease in demand in the labor market following the September 11 attacks have had a disproportionate effect on blacks. In addition to unemployment levels consistently double that of whites, blacks are often the first to be laid off and the last to be rehired in economic downturns, and experience greater increases in joblessness. Community leaders and economic researchers attribute these disparities to blacks' unequal access to educational opportunities, their resulting concentration in low-paying, low-security jobs, and direct discrimination in hiring.
See Discrimination Seen in Layoffs and Rehiring., LEE ROMNEY and KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS, Los Angeles Times, Nov 25 2001
Following the September 11 attacks, employers in all industries---especially Fortune 100 firms---have become increasingly concerned with who works for them. The resulting boom in background checks has been made economically and logistically feasible by the online posting of nationwide databases compiling such information as former and current addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, marriages and divorces, professional licenses, real estate holdings, and financial and criminal records. Many feel that these public access and private fee-based records are a morally and legally questionable invasion of privacy, and will only make it easier for terrorists and other criminals to engage in identity theft.
See Technological Advances Enable Massive Increases in Background Screening., LISA GUERNSEY, Chicago Tribune, Nov 25 2001
With the economy officially in recession and millions on the unemployment lists, the welfares system established by President Clinton in 1996 will receive a trial by fire in the months to come. Far from bringing about the massive increases in poverty and destitution predicted by critics, the implementation of the reforms---which established five year lifetime limits on welfare eligibility---was followed by record lows in overall poverty levels, as well as poverty levels among blacks, Hispanics, and children. Much of the gains were likely linked to the strong economy, however, and with many single-mothers and other welfare recipients coming up on their five year limits in the middle of a vastly changed economy, some analysts fear increasing hardship for those least able to bear it.
See America's Reformed Welfare System Faces its First Economic Downturn., NICHOLAS TIMMINS, Financial Times, Nov 25 2001
The number of foreign-born workers with specialized technical skills allowed entry into the U. S. was increased to 195,000 in October 2000. At about the same time, Internet companies were closing shop and cutting jobs. Many U.S. born tech workers are claiming that companies are giving preference to the H-1B workers when filling the diminished number of jobs. The U. S. workers claim that H-1B workers are working for less money, although the visa program supposedly has safeguards to protect salary levels of tech workers. One problem cited is the ineffective policing capabilities of the INS.
See The H-1B visa program may need re-examining in the wake of the dot.com slowdown., JUBE SHIVER Jr., Los Angeles Times, Nov 20 2001
However employers prevail in 93% of the trial court cases and 84% of the time at the appellate level according to a study by Ruth Colker of Ohio State University. Workers with both physical and mental impairments are often subjected to cruelty from their co-workers and an atmosphere where management allows this behavior. Two cases currently in the court system are against Bally Total Fitness and Olive Garden.
See Disability-based harassment is now the fourth leading complaint according to EEOC figures., Reed Abelson, International Herald Tribune, Nov 20 2001
Some companies are seeing increases as high as 300 percent in their liability insurance bills. Part of the problem, according to an insurance industry spokesman is the “absolute liability” assessed to the employer in the event of a workplace accident. Under New York State labor laws, employers are not able to defend themselves, as they are in other states, by offering evidence of the injured employee’s culpable conduct. Defenders of the law say it increases workplace safety. Builders must carry liability insurance and consumers can expect that the increased costs will be passed on to them.
See New York's "Safe Place To Work" standards in addition to insurance industry losses resulting from the World Trade Center collapse are causing skyrocketing insurance rates for New York contractors., Christian Murray Christian Murray Christian Murray Christian Murray, Newsday, Nov 20 2001
It is suggested that many companies have been slow to respond to issues surrounding harassment of disabled employees at work, with many training dollars being devoted to racial and sexual harassment. Lawsuits under the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act have been proven difficult to win, and many disabled employees are hesitant to sue employers for fear of losing their jobs.
See According to preliminary figures from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), disability-based harassment claims are on the rise., REED ABELSON, The New York Times, Nov 19 2001
The demand has been spurred by increased spending on technology, military programs and data security for federal agencies since September 11th. Security clearance approvals can be obtained when an employer or a federal agency sponsors the potential employee and a sometimes lengthy investigation is completed, so if an applicant already has the approval it is highly valued. The companies are receiving thousands of electronic resumes from laid-off dot-com and telecommunications employees, and they are often being screened for the words “security” and “clearance”.
See In an atmosphere of layoffs, there is a surge in demand for employees who possess security clearance to view government materials., Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post, Nov 19 2001
A company would need to provide an explanation of the business reasons against flexible work if a request is rejected, and binding mediation and arbitration services would be available if the case cannot be resolved in the workplace. About 3.8 million mothers and fathers would be eligible, and officials hope to see a huge savings in recruitment costs as just one benefit of the new policy, which would go into effect in April 2003.
See A five-month taskforce examining work and parents in the United Kingdom has recommended a policy that requires employers to "seriously consider" requests for flexible working arrangements from parents with children under the age of six., Rosemary Bennett and Christopher Adams, Financial Times, Nov 19 2001
Employees of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have donated millions to aid their companies since September 11th. American has received nearly $2,000,000 from its employees at all levels including the CEO. Southwest workers are giving $1.3 million this month and next. Most donations are in the form of voluntary salary cuts to help the companies make their way through the temporary downturn in the Airline Industry.
See Airline employees give salaries/service to aid their firms., Terry Maxon, The Dallas Morning News, Nov 18 2001
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) came to an agreement with the Networks late Friday night that is expected to mirror one signed in July covering television actors in prime-time shows. This agreement with the Networks covers performers in other areas of television including soap operas, game shows, sports programs, talk shows, syndicated programs, announcers, etc.
See AFTRA agrees to new three-year contract with TV Networks., James Bates, Los Angeles Times, Nov 18 2001
A survey by Manpower Inc. of 16,000 American businesses shows that 16 percent plan to add jobs and 16 percent will reduce jobs. This compares with last year's 27 percent adding and 10 percent reducing. The figures from the survey are similar to those found in the recessions of 1982 and 1991.
See New jobs added at same rate as those cut back according to survey., Associated Press, The Washington Post, Nov 18 2001
Although half of the 348,000 votes cast in the election for the next president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters remain to be counted, incumbent James P. Hoffa claimed victory yesterday based on his two to one margin in the counted ballots. Members of challenger Tom Leedham's campaign attribute Hoffa's success to recognition, money, and political influence stemming from his incumbency. Hoffa plans to focus on increasing the union's political clout, negotiating a solid contract with the United Parcel Service, and mending the split between the Carey and Hoffa camps that have battled for control of the union over the past decade.
See Hoffa Apparent Victor in Teamsters' Presidential Election., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Nov 15 2001
A lawsuit alleging that health care company Johnson & Johnson has been knowingly discriminating against black and Hispanic employees for the past five years, was filed yesterday in a U.S. District Court. Although twenty-nine percent of Johnson & Johnson employees are minorities, the plaintiffs---who are represented by Cyrus Mehri, the lawyer who won $175 million plus settlements in similar cases against Texaco and Coca-Cola---argue that minorities are routinely hired at lower starting salaries, given smaller raises, and promoted less frequently, than equally or less qualified whites. The root of the problem, as outlined in the suit, is a closed system for filling top positions dominated by Johnson & Johnson's fifteen member board and twelve member executive committee---which combined have only one minority member.
See Johnson & Johnson Sued for Discrimination., MELODY PETERSEN, The New York Times, Nov 15 2001
In a victory for House Democrats and the Senate, Congress passed a compromise air-safety bill today calling for the federalization of all 28,000 baggage screeners currently employed by private security companies. The bill---which Bush has praised and intends to sign on Monday---calls for all baggage screeners to come under the supervision of the Department of Transportation within the next year, and remain under federal control for at least three years. At the end of the three year period, airports that have rigorously followed the safety regulations of the DOT will be allowed to contract with private airport security companies.
See Airport Baggage Screeners to be Federalized., Associated Press, USA Today, Nov 15 2001
As the increasing pace and intensity of urban and working life have led to large increases mental health problems in highly developed countries, how to deal with employees experiencing these problems has become a major workplace issue. A recent survey by a mental health charity suggests that many British companies attach strong stigmas to mental and emotional problems, and deal with these issues through firings and forced resignations. With twenty to twenty-five percent of the British and American populations experiencing some form of mental illness a year---and those in top business positions experiencing twice that rate of problems---it is becoming increasingly clear that companies which implement EAP's and other assistance strategies will have an advantage in the recruitment and retention of valuable human resources.
See Mental Health Problems an Increasingly Important Issue in the Workplace., STEPHEN OVERELL, Financial Times, Nov 14 2001
Responding to the highjackings of four planes in the terrorist attacks of September 11, United Airlines announced yesterday that it will be putting stun guns in safes on all of its airplanes. The stun guns---which will be placed in cockpits and accessed using electronic codes---are part of a larger effort to improve airplane safety that will also include self-defense training for flight attendants. While the Air Line Pilots Association has said that stun guns are not a solution in and of themselves, it supports United's decision to become the first airline to install non-lethal weapons as an important first step.
See United Airlines to Arm Pilots., Associated Press, The Dallas Morning News, Nov 14 2001
In a major victory for the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled last Thursday that per-session pay must be included in the calculation of public school teachers' pensions. In recent years the New York City Board of Education has increasingly relied on after-school and summer school sessions outside of teachers' normal salaries, for which teachers are paid at an hourly rate of $33. Last year New York City teachers performed $232 million worth of per-session work for the School Board---double that spent only two years earlier.
See State Court Increases Teachers' Pensions., ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, The New York Times, Nov 13 2001
In an effort to appease a jittery public and avoid adding further impetus to the possible outflow of businesses in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Manhattan's real estate industry and Service Employees International Union Local 32B-32J reached a preliminary three-year contract agreement yesterday. The agreement, coming almost two months before the current contract expires, breaks with a long tradition of notifications to tenants of discontinued service as janitor's threaten and often go out on strikes every three years right after Christmas. The building managers group---which conceded a 9.5% raise over the life of the contract, as well as large increases in medical benefits, without its usual insistence on increased workloads---cited the importance of focusing on security rather than work stoppages, as the main motivating factor in the agreement which has been praised by the director of the ILR School's New York City campus as "a good example of labor-management cooperation."
See Manhattan Janitors' Union and Building Managers Reach Tentative Agreement., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Nov 13 2001
With 25,000 hospitality and tourist industry workers out of work in the D.C. area---4,500 of them members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 25---the local president and his twenty-six staff members have been overwhelmed by pleas for assistance. Having exhausted all available funds, the union has been seeking donations of food and money while at the same time calling hundreds of the most at risk members every day to make sure they are not in danger of running out of food or defaulting on bills or loans. His staff working full time to support out of work members, and dues payments severely curtailed by the drop in employed membership, Local 25 President John Boardman is concerned about the union's readiness for upcoming negotiations with new food service contractors at several major government buildings.
See Union Takes on New Role as Crisis Center, Food Pantry., DANA HEDGPETH, The Washington Post, Nov 12 2001
As Major League Baseball and the players' union continue to fight over the proposed buyout of two franchises, many in the baseball and labor relations industries are weighing the chances of the two sides. Although many feel that the union's past successes in contractual disagreements may give them a slight edge, employers usually have the power to make decisions about the opening and closing of facilities. Professor Richard Hurd of Cornell University's ILR School was quoted in a recent New York Times article, as saying that whether or not a union can prevent a shutdown "depends on their power and whether they have negotiated limits to a company's ability to downsize."
See ILR Professor Weighs in on Baseball's Contraction Battle., RICHARD SANDOMIR, The New York Times, Nov 12 2001
A U.S. Appeals court in Washington upheld a National labor Relations Board decision granting non-unionized employees the right to bring a co-worker sympathetic to their cause to all disciplinary meetings, and holding a Cleveland employer's refusal to allow an employee to do this an unfair labor practice. While right of unionized employees have had the right to have a union representative or shop steward present at all disciplinary hearings since 1975, the NLRB has reversed its stance several times on whether non-union employees have a similar right---ruling most recently in 1985 that they do not. Although the AFL-CIO and such management groups as the Labor Policy Association filed briefs in this case and had strong opinions either for or against the ruling, some academics feel that the ruling will not have a major impact.
See U.S. Federal Appeals Court Extends "Weingarten Rights" to Non-Union Employees., ADAM GELLER, Los Angeles Times, Nov 11 2001
At a childcare facility in Arlington County, a recent decision by supervisors forbidding bilingual aides from speaking Spanish to parents or each other unless a supervisor and a translator are present has infuriated both the aides---some of whom have been fired or disciplined in other manners due to their continued use of Spanish, and the parents who rely on the aides as a means of communicating with the school. School officials have defended their actions on the grounds that several employees sent a letter to their supervisor last summer complaining that certain staff members had been speaking to students in an inappropriate manner. The conflict brings up a complex area of Equal Employment Opportunity law in which it has been held that English-only regulations are illegal absent proof of the necessity of such a regulation---with what constitutes "necessity" being a very grey area.
See Policy on Bilingual Communications Angers Aides, Parents., EMILY WAX, The Washington Post, Nov 11 2001
A high profile Boston fund-raiser of the Democratic National Committee is turning into a battleground between members of the Service Employees International union Local 285, the wealthy businessman who owns the nursing home at which they are employed and his wife who is cosponsoring the fundraiser. At issue is the fact that the owner of the nursing home---who who along with his wife contributed heavily to the DNC and was a guest of former president Clinton---has opposed the unionization of his workers who are paid only $7-$8 an hour and do not get medical benefits. Although the DNC intends to run the event as planned, the Massachusetts Democratic Party has withdrawn its support, and several Democratic congressman have already stated that they will not cross the union's picket line.
See SEIU Local to Picket Democratic Fundraiser., FRANK PHILLIPS, The Boston Globe, Nov 11 2001
In the past, gearing up for the holiday season has caused no small amount of headaches for human resources personnel concerned with the amount and apportionment of bonuses, and whether the office's annual Christmas party was a form of religious discrimination---now they are worrying whether that white powder on the lobby floor is really snow and if latex gloves make appropriate stocking stuffers. In the wake of the attacks on September 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed, human resources managers have taken on expanded roles in the areas of crisis management and employee counseling. One of the most difficult aspects of this new role, is figuring out ways to plan escape routes, develop personnel tracking systems, and increasing background checks, while at the same time calming employees' fear and preventing anxiety and demoralization that could lead to decreasing productivity.
See HR Managers and Departments Confronted with New Responsibilities., PATRICIA KITCHEN, Newsday, Nov 8 2001
Ron Gettelfinger, a vice president of the United Auto Workers since 1998, was chosen yesterday to run for the union's presidency by the 18 member caucus composed of high ranking officials that effectively elects the UAW's top officers. The caucus also made the historic move of giving its approval to vice president Elizabeth Bunn for the position of secretary-treasurer---which will make her the highest ranking female in the union's history. Among the top concerns of the two officers elect will be reversing the UAW's massive decline in membership caused largely by the union's inability to organize workers in foreign-owned U.S. auto plants.
See Gettelfinger Given Go-Ahead., Tribune News Services, Chicago Tribune, Nov 8 2001
The battle over Major League Baseball's planned contraction continued today, as management representatives met with union leaders to attempt to sell them on plans for dealing with the players whose teams will be eliminated. The union has already filed a grievance with baseball's permanent arbitrator alleging that the owners have violated almost every rule and contract in the sport. Although some players think that the contraction is necessary, the overall feeling is that---aside from the legality of its actions---management insulted the players and the union by its lack of openeness and failure to consult with them.
See Major League Battle Continues., MURRAY CHASS, The New York Times, Nov 8 2001
Figures released yesterday by the Labor Department show that in spite of the U.S. economy's slide into what many now acknowledge is a recession, productivity rose in the third quarter of 2001. This increase is due to U.S. companies' widespread use of layoffs and work schedule reductions following the terrorist acts of the past months---leading to a decrease in work hours which outpaced a decrease in output by over 250%. Although the Federal Reserve believes that the U.S. economy has experienced a real growth in productivity in recent years, and expects this growth to continue in the long term, it cautions that short term trends may not be as positive.
See Productivity Rises in Third Quarter Due to Cost Cutting., PERONET DESPEIGNES, Financial Times, Nov 7 2001
A U.S. District Court Judge handed the Bush Administration an embarrassing defeat yesterday, holding that the president's executive order prohibiting project labor agreements (PLA's) in projects funded in whole or in part by the federal government was a violation of the NLRA and the Constitution. PLA's are agreements reached by unions and---usually government---employers that set up binding contracts protecting the rights of the workers employed by contractors, while leaving the choice of contractors up to the employer and the hiring of union and/or non-union labor up to the chosen contractor. The judge in this case ruled that PLA's, which have been used extensively on federally funded projects in the past, are a protected economic weapon, and that it was entirely legal for the Maryland state government to enforce such an agreement covering the construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
See Judge Overturns Executive Order Banning Project Labor Agreements., BILL MILLER and KATHERINE SHAVER, The Washington Post, Nov 7 2001
The Boston Club, an organization of female professionals and businesspeople, released a report today showing that although college-educated women have been instrumental in the growth of the family incomes of Massachusetts' working couples over the past two decades, they are still extremely underrepresented on corporate boards. Despite gains in education, pay and rank, women today make up only nine percent of the board members of the state's top 100 firms---2.7% less than the national average among Fortune 500 companies. Minority board members are even less common, and hold only five percent of corporate board chairs in Massachusetts based companies.
See Female and Minority Board Members Very Uncommon in Massachusetts., DIANE E. LEWIS, The Boston Globe, Nov 7 2001
A Democratic proposal that would have given firefighters, police, and emergency services personnel nationwide the right to unionize and bargain collectively with their public sector employers was defeated yesterday by four votes. The measure---sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and the top-ranked democratic and republican senators on the Senate Labor Committee---would have overturned public sector labor laws in twenty-two or twenty-seven states, according to the president of the International Association of Firefighters and Republican senators, respectively. The IAF condemned Republicans for raising the spectre of police and fire strikes in the middle of terrorist attacks in order to defeat the measure, saying that such claims were inexcusable in light of the recent loss of hundreds of firefighters who died responding to the attacks on September 11.
See Nationwide Collective Bargaining Rights Proposal for Police, Fire, and Emergency Workers Defeated., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Nov 6 2001
Having granted certiorari in a case charging that a Transportation Department policy aimed at assisting women and minorities is in fact reverse discrimination, U.S. Supreme Court justices are at a loss as to how, and even whether, to proceed. The policy in question offers incentives to construction companies owned by women or minorities who feel that they have in the past been victims of a long-standing bias in favor of white, male contractors. The solicitor general of the U.S. and several justices, feel that because this program no longer operates in the complainant's home state, the complainant---who in 1995 won a Supreme Court case that found unconstitutional a previous DOT program---no longer has a case.
See U.S. Supreme Court Unsure How to Handle Affirmative Action Case., Associated Press, The Dallas Morning News, Nov 6 2001
In moving to bring about compliance with European Union requirement that fixed-term workers be given the same rights as permanent employees, the British Government has become entangled in a heated debate. While business leaders are vehemently opposed to the added costs this initiative will impose, trade unions insist that the government has not gone far enough and is illegally excluding many of those fixed-term employees who are most open to exploitation. Although the Trades Union Congress objects to the legislation's suspected use of definitions of fixed-term workers that would exclude non-permanent teachers, adjunct faculty, and nurses, they strongly support the requirement that fixed-term workers receive compensation equivalent to those of permanent employees.
See British Government to Reveal New Employees' Rights Legislation Tomorrow., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Nov 6 2001
Responding to demands from employers in the computer and engineering sectors, Congress last year raised the limit on H1-B visas---six-year work/immigration permits for foreign workers with the equivalent of bachelor's degrees---to 195,000 annually through 2003. While last year saw 30,00 applications filed after the 115,000 cap then in effect had been reached, the number of H1-B's requested for 2001 fell short of the limit by almost 32,000/ The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, however, emphasize that there is still a strong demand for tech-workers---and many U.S> born tech-workers continue to argue for reduced limits.
See Demand for Tech-worker Visas Drops., CARRIE JOHNSON, The Washington Post, Nov 5 2001
Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will hear opening arguments from the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Company, and one of its former employees, in a case that could determine the coverage of repetitive stress injuries under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case originated in a 1999 suit charging that the Toyota corporation fired an assembly line worker in violation of the ADA when she refused to perform an assigned task that she claimed was re-injuring a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome caused by a previous position on the assembly line. Toyota---along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Bush Administration---argue that conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome are injuries not disabilities, and that the term "disabilities" in the ADA should be narrowly interpreted to apply only to conditions that completely prevent an individual from performing a task.
See U.S. Supreme Court to Decide if ADA Applies to Repetitive Stress Injuries., GAYLORD SHAW, Newsday, Nov 5 2001
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11 and their enormous impact on the airline industry, more professionals have been looking to telecommuting as a way to cut down on time spent commuting and traveling, and spend more time with their families. While some have welcomed this change as allowing them to take a more active role in their children's lives, many have found that they end up spending no additional time with their children and that their job and parenting responsibilities conflict more often than with traditional work structures. A recent study by the Families and Work Institute has shown that establishing firm boundaries between work and home life is necessary if the pitfalls of telecommuting are to be avoided, and the benefits realized.
See Telecommuting Not Always a Positive., CAROL KLEIMAN, Chicago Tribune, Nov 5 2001
While most economists agree that the U.S. is heading into a recession, the duration and severity of that recession, as well as the timing and strength of the following recovery, are questions that are still up for debate. The key issue on which this debate is turning is whether underlying structural weaknesses exist which remain unaffected by the fiscal and monetary policies undertaken by the president, Congress, and the Federal Reserve. Realistic predictions taking into account the influence of both September 11 and trends existing before the terrorist attacks, indicate a fourth quarter worse than the third quarter for 2001, unemployment peaking around six percent in early 2002, and a recovery in spring of 2002 that will see a return to growth in the GDP but not to the phenomenal profit margins of the late 1990's.
See Economic Prospects., NICHOLAS SARGEN, Financial Times, Nov 4 2001
Following a massive protest in which five police officers were injured when firefighters came up against police barricades, the presidents of both the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have been charged with trespassing on the World Trade Center disaster site. The presidents of the UFA and UFOA, as well as the presidents of the EMS workers and fire dispatchers unions, have condemned this latest turn of events in the growing fight over Mayor Giuliani's decision to severely limit the number of firefighters and police officers at the disaster site as a political move aimed at weakening opposition to the planned changes. The mayor and the NYC fire commissioner have defended these changes, pointing out that they are necessary to keep fire and police services at safe levels in the city, and to protect rescue workers from the heavy equipment increasingly being used in what is now a cleanup effort.
See residents of NYC Firefighters and Officers Unions Arrested., ROBERT D. McFADDEN, The New York Times, Nov 4 2001
Recent studies have added to the growing body of evidence supporting the increased use of such employee ownership plans as stock options and profit sharing at all levels of the corporate hierarchy. Despite "line-of-sight" and "free-rider" arguments to the contrary, stock options and profit sharing have been shown to have positive effects on sales, employee recruitment and retention, shareholder returns, and productivity. These studies have also highlighted the importance of an overall firm culture supportive of employee involvement in decision making, to maximizing the benefits of employ ownership.
See Studies Support Use of Employee Ownership Plans., MARTIN CONYON and RICHARD FREEMAN, Financial Times, Nov 4 2001
With contract negotiations stalled since May in a ten-month fight over benefits and pay, President Glen Kitzmann of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association has said that a strike, although possibly illegal, may be the only option left open to his membership if a contract is not concluded sometime in the near future. The acrimonious debate---which has involved critical ad campaigns and promises of upsets in county supervisor elections---stems from the county’s rejection of the union’s demands for a guarantee that their raises will mirror those in surrounding areas, and for the extension of improved retirement benefits for future employees to current employees. Although county officials have accused Kitzmann of being overly combative in running the ads and making the negotiations an election issue, the union’s membership---many of whom feel that they are being exploited by the local government---have repeatedly supported Kitzmann’s actions and recently reelected him unopposed.
See Police Strike a Possibility in California’s Ventura County., CATHERINE SAILLANT, Los Angeles Times, Oct 31 2001
In President Bush’s war on terrorism, it is becoming increasingly evident that the vast majority of the American’s on the front line will not be special forces soldiers who knew what they were getting into, but rather postal workers, secretaries, janitors, nurses, security guards, flight attendants, and employees of courier services. Untrained and unequipped to deal with the threats of suicide highjackers and bio-terrorism, these individuals work in low profile jobs that often earn them little respect and less than a living wage. Although many of these workers are pushing for increased pay to compensate them for the new hazards they face, with job markets loose and the economy in a slowdown many more are faced with the decision to continue risking their lives for low pay or join the ranks of the unemployed.
See Low Paid Workers Suddenly Find Themselves in High Risk Jobs., KIRSTIN DOWNEY GRIMSLEY, The Washington Post, Oct 31 2001
With thousands of cases of violence against Britain’s Benefits Agency employees already reported every year, the government’s decision to remove protective barriers between employees and patrons has infuriated the employees’ union officers. The government has proposed an increase in security guards, swift and severe punishment of anyone who assaults a Benefits Agency staff member, the installation of closed circuit televisions, and the possibility of pop-up barriers---but insists that the fixed barriers need to come down to make services more accessible to marginalized groups. The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents the 50,000 employees who will be affected, took a strike vote earlier this week, and many workers have already walked out.
See 50,000 Public Employees may Strike in Britain., CHRISTOPHER ADAMS, Financial Times, Oct 31 2001
William Clay Ford Jr., great-grandson of Henry Ford and the first member of the family to assume direct leadership of the Ford Motor Company since Henry Ford II, announced yesterday that he would be taking over as CEO from Jacques Nasser amidst the cheers and applause of employees. Despite the likelihood that Ford and his new COO will engage in plant closings and massive layoffs early next year, workers and their union representatives are confident in their new CEO's concern for employees---pointing to his actions following the 1999 explosion at the Rouge facility as evidence. The removal of former CEO Jacques Nasser as been attributed in large part to his poor relations with employees, stemming from a lack of respect and trust caused by Nasser's poor business decisions and failure to consult with union officials before making these decisions.
See Workers Welcome Ford as New CEO., JOHN GALLAGHER, Detroit Free Press, Oct 30 2001
Fearing famine and U.S. air raids, and desperate for a source of income, many impoverished Afghan parents are sending their five-to-twelve year old sons and daughters to work as indentured servants in Pakistan's prison-like carpet and brick factories. With the price of smuggling their entire family into Pakistan far beyond the means of most Afghan parents, and no jobs available for adults in Pakistan's high unemployment labor-market, young boys and girls are forced to be the sole support for up to a dozen family members. The children---whose small fingers enable them to work as carpet weavers---are regularly underfed, tattooed with their work station numbers, and forced to work and live ten to a cell the size of a small cattle-stall under conditions that cause many to go blind and develop lung and skin diseases by the age of twelve.
See Child Labor Abuses in Pakistan., ULI SCHMETZER, Chicago Tribune, Oct 30 2001
Although relations between native Germans and the country's 2.4 million Turkish guest workers have been anything but smooth in the decade following Germany's reunification, Turkish business leaders in Germany voiced their concerns yesterday that last month's terrorist attacks in the U.S. have caused increased xenophobia. Largely concentrated in ethnic neighborhoods, Turks have been easy targets for many East German youths who turned to growing right-wing, racist, and neo-Nazi groups as the guaranteed financial security of the former-DDR was dismantled and the promises of jobs created by a new capitalist economy never materialized. Since the September 11 high-jackings in the U.S., Turkish retailers have experienced a dramatic decline in sales that some feel cannot be attributed solely to the overall slowdown the German economy is experiencing.
See Aftermath of September 11 Causes Concern among Germany's Guest Workers., HAIG SIMONIAN, Financial Times, Oct 30 2001
Responding to the conditions described as "intellectual sweatshops" that the part-time professors who make up an increasing percentage of college and university faculties work under, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Professors, and other faculty and education groups plan to stage demonstrations at campuses across the country this week. A recent report by the Department of Education revealed that fifty-three percent of colleges and universities do not provide benefits to adjunct faculty---who between 1987 and 1998 have increased by ten percent as a proportion of faculty members nationwide. A study made public by the AFT this week found that eighty percent of part-time faculty members do not receive health or retirement benefits, and that seventy-two percent of them make less than $20,000 a year.
See Adjunct Faculty Protest Throughout the U.S. and Canada., MARY BETH MARKLEIN, USA Today, Oct 29 2001
Following the death of 343 firefighters in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the Uniformed Firefighters Association is pushing for a larger raise than the twelve percent over two and a half years promised in the current New York City contract offer. But with four NYC uniformed workers' unions having already approved similar offers, the city's history of pattern bargaining---in which the first city-wide public-sector union to accept a contract offer in essence accepts it for all city employees unions---as well as infighting over the UFA's leadership, or lack thereof according to some, make it unlikely that firefighters will be able to negotiate a significantly improved offer. Given the UFA's poor track record in binding arbitration, it is doubtful whether the union would have any better chance at achieving a larger raise by declaring an impasse than it would at the bargaining table.
See NYC Firefighters Union Holds Out for Better Contract., WILLIAM MURPHY, Newsday, Oct 29 2001
In California, one teachers union's stand against a statewide testing based bonus system similar to those recently condemned in a study commissioned by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and other teachers unions (see October 24, 2001 WIT), is causing the very dissension the union had hoped to avoid. The system, which is tied to student performance on the Stanford 9 achievement test, provides for a distribution of bonuses relative to current pay if the school board and teachers union at a winning school have not negotiated an alternative agreement. While most California teachers unions have followed the advice of the California Teachers Association to negotiate the distribution of the bonus money in spite of moral objections to the system, the United Teachers- Los Angeles passed a resolution prohibiting itself from negotiating testing related bonuses---a decision which has led to conflict, as many newer teachers who worked hard to make sure their students passed feel that others are profiting from their hard work.
See Testing Based Bonus System Causes Conflict in LA Teachers Union., MARTHA GROVES and DUKE HELFAND, Los Angeles Times, Oct 29 2001
Following a demand for his resignation by the president of UAL's largest union (see October 25, 2001 WIT), James Goodwin has resigned as chairman of UAL's board of directors. Although initially supported by the International Association of Machinists and the Air Line Pilots Association---which both have seats on United's board of directors and together represent a majority of its employees---Goodwin had lost the approval of the unions even before the leaking of the letter that was the immediate cause of his resignation. While the IAM and ALPA have so far been unanimous in their praise for Goodwin's successor, United has a reputation for cycling through chairmen who slip in the delicate balancing act required of CEO's of employee owned companies.
See United Airlines' CEO Resigns in the Face of Union Pressure., CHRIS WOODYARD, MARILYN ADAMS and JAYNE O'DONNELL, USA Today, Oct 28 2001
Following the discovery of traces of anthrax at the U.S. Postal Service's Morgan Center facility, postal workers are staying home by the hundreds and their union is expected to sue the city today to close down the facility. In response to the union's allegations, the U.S. Deputy Postmaster has declared the center safe---saying that the amount of anthrax found was not enough to infect workers, and that the affected machines have been cordoned off in accordance with recommendations by medical personnel. Despite the distribution of gloves, masks and antibiotics, however, union officials are not taking any chances, and are demanding that the Morgan Center Facility be closed for more thorough testing and cleaning.
See Postal Union to Take NYC to Court over Anthrax., Associated Press, Newsday, Oct 28 2001
A holdover from post-World War II Soviet Union influences, the Austrian Trade Union Federation not only created an umbrella labor organization which today represents over 1.4 million workers, it also led to over half a century of labor peace. The victory of a center-right government coalition in February 2000, however, brought to an end thirty years of cooperation between Socialist Party-led governments and the AFTU---and possibly an era of labor relations that saw productivity undisturbed by major industrial actions as well. With the enactment of a host of reforms injurious to workers, eighty-eight percent of union members responding in a recent vote supported a strike if negotiations with the government fall through.
See Austria's Slumbering Labor Giant May Soon Awaken., KERRY SKYRING, Financial Times, Oct 28 2001
Following a massive sixteen-car wreck at the EA Sports 500 last Sunday, many of the most famous names in NASCAR racing delivered an ultimatum to NASCAR's top officers---reform the dangerous, made-for-show rules that caused the crash, or lose the drivers who make car-racing the enormously profitable industry it is. The rules in question are the "aero-package" and the mandated use of restrictor plates that many believe led to the death of Dale Earnhardt earlier this year only minutes after railing against these rules to his pit crew. The only two previous times in NASCAR's history when drivers have engaged in collective activity, management used scabs, lockouts and threats of physical violence to force drivers back into a system where management makes all the rules, pay and equipment decisions, and the drivers take all the risks.
See Unsafe Conditions Strain Labor Relations in the "NASCAR Family"., ED HINTON, Chicago Tribune, Oct 25 2001
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released its figures yesterday for the twelve-month increase in the Employment Cost Index---a number based on nationwide wages and salaries and used to compute the average raise for civil service employees. While the rules for determining civil service pay seem relatively straight forward, the elimination of a disputed cost of living formula has caused the system to breakdown in recent years. Lobbying by interest groups, budgetary disputes between the legislative and executive branches, and the overall state of the economy---along with a recent initiative to give civil service workers a larger raise corresponding to that given to military personnel---will all play a role in how the ECI is used to determine federal salaries for 2003.
See BLS Releases Figures to be used in 2003 Federal Salary Computations., STEPHEN BARR, The Washington Post, Oct 25 2001