Workplace Issues Today

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

. 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.

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.

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

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 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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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 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.

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.

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”.

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.

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

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

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

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 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

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

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