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Workplace Issues Today

After suffering major drops in real wages in the 1990's due to a massive currency devaluation and soaring inflation, Mexican workers and their unions are calling for significant wage increases. This is occurring at a time when the downturn in U.S. demand for Mexican goods is aggravating a Mexican economy already in recession. Some economists fear that with increased union activity and demands for wage raises, companies that moved their production facilities to Mexico to exploit its low wages and lack of unionism will begin to consider relocating their operations elsewhere.

See In Mexico Labor Activities and Wages are Rising Even as the Economy Slumps., BRENDAN M. CASE, The Dallas Morning News, Sep 5 2001

Having stood by their employers through the lean years following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian workers are now demanding a fair share of growing profits. As companies respond to the rising economy by attempting such American business practices as wage, benefit, and employment reductions, employees are responding by forming independent unions and going on strike. In engaging in this grass-roots activism, workers are running into opposition not only from businesses, but also from the government, and the FNPR-the state-sanctioned union that is a holdover from the USSR.

See As Russia's Economy Picks up, so does Rank and File Activism., Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, Sep 5 2001

"Nobody is saying, 'I'm so poor, please help me.' . . . I have a swimming pool. I have nice shoes." -Singer Courtney Love in an address to a panel of California state legislators about the injustice of contracts that bind musicians to record labels for more than seven years

See Your Labor Quote of the Week, JENIFER WARREN, Los Angeles Times, Sep 5 2001

As Mexican President Vicente Fox tours the U.S. and meets with President Bush, it is not surprising that union members in Rust Belt cities continue to oppose free trade initiatives that eliminate high paid manufacturing jobs in the auto industry. However, opposition to free trade is growing in a more unusual quarter-Mexican Americans and Mexican migrant workers. Having come to the U.S. in search of better paying jobs, migrant farm workers are finding that their wages are being undercut as companies and agribusiness find it cheaper to relocate farming and processing operations to Mexico, than it is to pay Mexican migrants working in the U.S.

See Concerns About Free Trade Cut Across Ethnicity., MEGAN GARVEY, Los Angeles Times, Sep 4 2001

An EMS worker in Washington D.C. has filed a complaint alleging that she was encouraged by a superior to have an abortion because her pregnancy would not be covered by medical leave. Several other women have come forward and said that they also had abortions because they were told that they would lose their jobs if they did not. While looking into this matter, union officials found out about a letter sent to female Fire Department applicants warning them that they would not be hired if a pregnancy test administered as part of their physical came up positive. City official have announced that they are reconsidering the use of pregnancy tests in the physical.

See D.C. Emergency Services Under Fire for Alleged Discrimination., Andrew DeMillo, The Washington Post, Sep 4 2001

In the search for reduced labor costs, some companies are beginning to explore alternatives to laying off employees. In addition to such established cost-cutting practices as hiring freezes, firms are experimenting with non-traditional approaches like employee sharing, giving employees stipends to work for non-profit organizations, and allowing employees to take leaves of absence to work for other companies. Employers are testing these strategies in the hope that they will allow them to cut down on labor costs without losing loyal employees.

See Laying Off the Pink Slip., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Sep 4 2001

Ten buses daily travel the immigrant trails linking Mexicans to states such as Illinois, Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas. The U.S. and Mexican governments recognize that the immigrants constantly flow between the two countries. Mexican President Vicente Fox will meet with President Bush to continue their immigration discussion.

See Frequent immigration to be discussed., Teresa Puente, Chicago Tribune, Sep 3 2001

The Institutional Revolutionary Party previously subsidized the sugar industry until President Vicente Fox came into office last year. All the mills are at the brink of bankruptcy or beyond. As a result, Mexico's new government has taken over nearly half of the nation's mills to save the industry.

See Mexican farmers once again subsidized., TIM WEINER, The New York Times, Sep 3 2001

An uncertain job market has not changed the average US worker's willingness to change jobs. Corporate America has been trying to keep employees happy however more than a third of workers plan to leave their job within the next two years. The lack of loyalty is almost unchanged from the economic boom days of 1999.

See Workers willing to change jobs., Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, Sep 3 2001

With American unionization down to 13.5 percent, organized labor has spread to Latinos. Many are undocumented and have low-paying jobs. The AFL-CIO is currently moving to help Mexicans and Central Americans who have continued to cross the border in large numbers in search of jobs.

See Latinos increasingly organized., Stephen Franklin, Chicago Tribune, Sep 2 2001

Israel accused the Arabs of encouraging racial hatred and using the United Nations meeting for political ends. Diplomats are trying to find middle ground between Arab and Islamic states to have all Israeli action in the West Bank and Gaza Strip condemned.

See Racial accusations between Israel and Arabs., The New York Times, Reuters, Sep 2 2001

The number of corporate executive, managerial, and consultant jobs are falling. The high-tech bubble has burst. The situation is not improving because many are quietly commiserating with one another while others are simply keeping quiet and suffering.

See Number of upper level jobs on the decline., MICHAEL GRANBERRY, The Dallas Morning News, Sep 2 2001

The United States signed an international trade agreement to reduce farmer subsidies. Lawmakers trying to increase the subsidies are now halted because of these World Trade Organization limits. The budget problem created by the dwindling surplus could force lawmakers to find other items to cut to offset some payments in the farm bill.

See Farmer subsidies to be reduced., ELIZABETH BECKER, The New York Times, Aug 30 2001

Militants and squatters of the Ruling party in Zimbabwe are driving black farm hands and their families from their homes. Many are now living in the bush without food, shelter, or sanitation. The seizure program has left the remaining farm workers in fear of large-scale displacements.

See Zimbabwe farm hands driven from their homes., ANGUS SHAW, Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, Aug 30 2001

American workers are increasingly worried about their employers as the economy continues to slow down. Workers express concerns about their jobs with little or no trust that employers will treat them fairly. Downsizing of the American workforce and the globalization of the economy have severely hurt their bond.

See Employers less trusted., Frank Swoboda, The Washington Post, Aug 30 2001

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents 16,000 TWA employees under American Airlines, TWA's new owner. The union claims that American Airlines is not keeping its promise to provide jobs for all TWA workers. IAM members will picket in airports across the country.

See TWA employees mislead in merge with American Airlines., The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press, Aug 29 2001

The members of the Writers Guild of America are planning to picket outside the Burbank studios of the cable network Nickelodeon. The union complains that network supervisors have been obstructing efforts to organize writers' animated shows. Guild leaders are seeking to extend union coverage to writers of all prime-time animation shows.

See Writers Guild of America to picket against Nickelodeon network., MEG JAMES, Los Angeles Times, Aug 29 2001

The former president of the ironworkers union, Jake West, has been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 in union funds. Federal prosecutors claim he used this money to cover costs of golf outings, dinner parties, vacations, liquor shipments and other personal expenses. West pleaded not guilty yesterday to embezzlement and other charges in a 49-count indictment.

See Former union president charged with embezzlement., Bill Miller, The Washington Post, Aug 29 2001

The Detroit Ford Motor Company will not give bonuses this year to 6,000 top executives and managers. The company profits have shrunk under pressure from declining sales and the Firestone tire recall. Foreign automakers have stepped up as Ford's market share has fallen.

See Ford cuts bonuses., The New York Times, Reuters, Aug 28 2001

The Mexican Zacatecas government developed a new employment plan. The project arranges temporary labor for US employers who have jobs open but cannot find Americans to take the positions at their pay rate. This program could be a way to let hundreds of thousands of Mexicans work temporarily in the United States.

See New temporary labor plan developed., JAMES F. SMITH, Los Angeles Times, Aug 28 2001

Indiana University previously offered a generous retirement plan to attract and retain faculty members. The program was not checked or financed for 30 years. Now the university faces $2 billion in payments to professors who no longer teach. It was eliminated in 1989 when officials recognized the high impending costs.

See University struggles to fund retirement program., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Aug 28 2001

Ron Carey was elected president of the Teamsters union in 1991. He is currently on trial for lying repeatedly to investigators who were looking into large union contributions during his re-election campaign. Mr. Carey has been indicted on seven counts, and conviction could mean a sentence of up to 35 years in prison.

See Ex-Teamster President on trial., STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times, Aug 27 2001

More people than ever before are choosing alternate work to better fit their daily schedules. They are independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency personnel and contract company workers. The reason for this flexibility is the desire of workers to balance both work and personal demands.

See Workers choose flexible work schedules., Carol Kleiman, Chicago Tribune, Aug 27 2001

The oil reserves in Saudi Arabia gave the country the impression that they would always be rich. Today, poverty is high because the gas dollar no longer stretches as far. The new baby boom generation has caused the kingdom to find ways to make the economy grow. It is working toward schools, health care and jobs.

See Saudi Arabia struggling with employment issues., Neil MacFarquhar, International Herald Tribune, The New York Times News Service, Aug 27 2001

America's national security interests are greatly affected by the steel industry. However, the American workers are not protected from cheaper foreign imports that have already led to the closing of at least 18 Steel plants. Bush launched an investigation into the impact foreign competition is having on the American industry.

See The steel industry is crucial., Bob Kemper, Chicago Tribune, Aug 26 2001

Officials from Volkswagen and Germany's IG Metall trade union worked to create 5,000 new jobs. They talked of more flexible rules in Germany's regulated labor market to increase production and cut costs. The program would give about 5,000 workers the same monthly pay as under the current contract but without a standard workweek or overtime pay.

See More flexible jobs in Germany., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Aug 26 2001

There has been a gain of two million new jobs in the United States over the past year. The diverse economy reflects that certain industries are still raising output even though others are falling. Hiring is increasing in mining firms, mortgage banks, health services, oil companies, insurance providers, and electric utilities. Although layoffs are still occurring, they are mostly centered in manufacturing and temporary services.

See American jobs are increasing., Ron Scherer, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 26 2001

A state employees union accused the California Department of Transportation of ignoring a fire hazard. The fire marshal recommended a staff reduction six weeks after the warning was given. In response, nearly 650 employees were immediately relocated last week. Officials have now acknowledged deficiencies in the building and are planning to build a new headquarters to be completed by 2004.

See Workers employed in a hazardous building., HUGO MARTIN, Los Angeles Times, Aug 23 2001

President Bush is working to legalize the labor of illegal immigrants in the United States. He hopes to have the plan established within the next month without amnesty. Suggestions are to grant 3 million illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States guest worker status and eventual legal residency.

See Citizenship for illegal immigrants., International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Aug 23 2001

Over a million Japanese workers lost their jobs in the last four months. The 5% unemployment rate is the highest it has been in over 50 years. More bankruptcy and a higher jobless rate are expected. The government is focusing on promoting education to lead the country out of such a recession, however the plan will not immediately help the weak economy and corporate restructuring.

See Unemployment on the rise in Japan., David Ibison, Financial Times, Aug 23 2001

The United Automobile Workers union is looking to unionize a Nissan factory in Nashville, Tennessee. A majority of the factory production and maintenance workers have signed cards seeking a union to obtain a safer environment and more dignity. There has not been an election at a foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the United States in the last twelve years. If the union wins the vote it would be the first time the UAW has ever organized a foreign-owned assembly plant.

See The UAW looks to unionize a Nissan plant., Keith Bradsher, The New York Times, Aug 22 2001

New applications for United States jobless benefits rose 8,000 last week. This will combat the highest level of people remaining on aid in nine years. The number of unemployed rose since the economy was struggling after a recession. Although the economy may be stabilizing, the millions of continued claims for jobless benefits prove the economy will not support a burst of new job hiring.

See High unemployment rate aided by jobless benefits., The New York Times, Reuters, Aug 22 2001

The boom in Hispanic immigration has brought a sudden influx of day laborers to Los Angeles and Miami. Many citizens are growing frustrated by the numbers of idle people who sit on the street corners waiting for work in jobs such as landscaping or construction. However, nearly 2/3 of the residents in some of the towns are Hispanic immigrants themselves. The attitude of the two Hispanic groups is split between their similar identification and a distance felt toward those less integrated into American society.

See Hispanic immigrants on the rise impact American workers., Nurith C. Aizenman, The Washington Post, Aug 21 2001

AOL announced 1,700 layoffs due to the falling advertising market and weakened American economy. The layoffs will cut across the board including managers and employees at various levels including Web and technology development staff. Until about a month ago when key media divisions slowed, AOL executives boasted that the diversified revenue including cable, Internet, movie, and music would protect the newly merged company against the effects of the slowing economy.

See AOL Time Warner Inc. announces major layoffs., Alec Klein and Amy Joyce, The Washington Post, Aug 21 2001

With the collapse of the old state industries in China, private and foreign companies are settling in. Workers in these factories are laboring long hours under illegal conditions. Instability is high with protests, wildcat strikes and disputes over unpaid pensions, corruption, and intolerable hazards. Unions are strung by tight political control and are mandated to simply help the workers adjust to the changes being made. The government is looking to grow out of the problem as the benefits of the economy spread.

See Worker violations in China., ERIK ECKHOLM, The New York Times, Aug 21 2001

Over half a million Mexican workers have lost their jobs despite President Vicente Fox's promise of more jobs. A number of analysts claim that the unemployment is due to the two consecutive quarters of American stagnation. Mexico sells the majority of its exports to the United States, so an American slowdown results in Mexican layoffs and shutdowns. However, the rate of decline is slowing and many foresee this time to be the worst part of the cycle.

Recently, the West Coast blackouts have renewed the debate about the nation's energy policy and resulted in the planning of new coal-burning power plants. However, there is concern that there may be a labor shortage of mine workers. Former mine workers have taken other jobs and their children have moved out of coal mining areas to work in safer and more stable jobs. Union leaders welcome the comeback of the industry but they hope to address concerns about the working conditions.

See Illinois coal mining coming back after years of desolation., Flynn McRoberts, Chicago Tribune, Aug 20 2001

South Koreans typically work long hours six days a week. Therefore, the government is looking to implement a five-day workweek to improve the quality of life. The idea is to give the workers more free time to expand their creativity and implement new ideas in the workplace. Government, labor, and management representatives are currently debating the new legislation details. Many are expecting the work-obsessed culture to take time to adapt to the new idea of working fewer hours.

See Korean workers changing habits to fewer hours., Michael Baker, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 20 2001

The European arm of General Motors has agreed to work with labor representatives to implement a turnaround plan without forced layoffs or factory closures. The General Motors German unit Opel booked a record loss of $460 million in 2000, dragging GM Europe to an overall loss of $257 million. In an attempt to break their downward spiral and return to profit, General Motors announced the shedding of thousands of jobs and the closing of one of their 13 car plants last week. Component factories and other businesses are also to be sold or joined with outside suppliers. Details of the agreement between GM Europe's works council and the company are yet to be worked out.

See General Motors is looking to gain profit while continuing worker friendly policies., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Aug 19 2001

Postville, Iowa had traditionally thrived on the meatpacking industry. Over time, the labor pool shifted as the major meat processors lowered wages and accelerated production. Locals moved away to find other work, and immigrants were recruited to fill the gap. The town's population has doubled over the last ten years, with 69 percent of the workforce being foreign. This has enabled the meatpacking plants to stay in business, but it has been difficult to create communities with residents who do not plan to stay long-term and come from such different cultures.

See Meatpacking industry saved by immigrant labor., Noel C. Paul, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 19 2001

Despite an agreement arranged in a peace process in Koidu, Sierra Leone, between the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the government, the RUF are using the forced labor of children and young men to mine diamonds. UN officials claim that their presence in the country is to enforce a cease-fire and they are not going to help enforce the mining ban. They also claim that it would take away the only means of wealth the impoverished town has, and that the task would be both dangerous and difficult. International outrage is occurring as the rebels continually find ways to mine diamonds and illegally smuggle them out of the country.

The United Students Against Sweatshops, an organization of students and labor activists, successfully organized a boycott of Nike products to force a Korean-owned Kukdong factory in Mexico to improve working conditions. The Mexican workers drew attention in January when they staged a sit-down strike that ended when riot police ejected them from the plant. The student movement resulted in an investigation by Nike who convinced the factory owners to improve conditions, but the workers are still fighting for union representation.

See United Students Against Sweatshops organize a successful boycott., John Burnett, NPR Online, Aug 16 2001

In an attempt to reduce the growing unemployment level, the Chinese government has decided to eliminate the labor permit system, known as hukou. The system allocates each Chinese citizen to a home district and is tied to their welfare benefits, medical treatment, and housing. The system has been breaking down in recent years as rural Chinese migrated to cities in seek of employment.

Members of Teamsters Local 890 have settled a long-running and often violent strike at the Basic Vegetable Products plant in King City, California. The strike began in July 1999 after the company asked for a three-year wage freeze. ConAgra bought the plant in November and began new contract negotiations.

See Teamsters settle two year old strike at California vegetable plant., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Aug 16 2001

Overseas work has become a way of life for Filipinos, the government estimates up to 10 percent of the country's 75 million people are overseas. The migrant workers provide an important source of income for the poor nation, sending almost $6 billion home last year. The social costs of this migration are great; children orphaned by parents working overseas, separated families, and the loss of well-educated Filipinos. The migrants also face difficult working conditions, long hours, low pay, and for many women, sexual harassment.

See Filipinos pay the social costs to meet the demand for foreign workers., Thomas Fuller, International Herald Tribune, Aug 15 2001

The economic downturn is resulting in a higher unemployment rate for older workers. The Department of Labor reported that the number of unemployed workers age 55 and older increased 23% from last year. Older workers worry they are hitting the 'silver ceiling', when experience and age is a liability rather than an asset.

See The baby boomer generation faces the 'silver ceiling' barrier., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Aug 15 2001

A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows that the poverty rate for families headed by single, working women stayed the same from 1995 to 1999, despite a booming economy. During the same period, the poverty rate for all families decreased from 13% to 10.6%. Critics argue that the welfare-to-work program is not helping families and that changes need to be made to reward people who work by providing more support services. Supporters argue that a reduction in poverty was not the goal of welfare reform, but instead it was to cut the welfare roles, which it has done.

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) has gathered enough worker signatures to force a union vote at the Nissan factory in Smyrna, Tennessee. If they are successful, it will be the first foreign-owned assembly plant the UAW has organized. The vote is considered crucial for the UAW whose power has been decreased by the spread of non-unionized plants in the South.

See Important vote on unionization to take place at Nissan factory in Tennessee., Keith Bradsher, The New York Times, Aug 14 2001

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report on Tuesday that showed workplace deaths falling by 2% last year. The report also showed an increase in the fatal injuries among Hispanic workers, this was caused in part by a 24% increase in deaths in construction. The number of job-related homicides increased but was still 37% lower than the all time high reported in 1994.

See Bureau of Labor Statistics releases report on workplace deaths., REUTERS, The New York Times, Aug 14 2001

A study published Tuesday in the American Sociological Review found that highly paid, black male professionals on average earn 72 cents for every $1 white male professionals earn. When the same study examined wages in blue-collar jobs the pay gap between white and black males disappeared. Researchers also found that the wage gap in public-sector jobs was less than that of the private-sector.

See Study shows black male professionals earn less than white counterparts., Quynh-Giang Tran, Chicago Tribune, Aug 14 2001

As President Bush decides on the issue of guest worker programs and legalization for illegal immigrants the issue of immigration is becoming a hot topic again. It is uncertain if the slowing economy and layoffs will affect the generally positive view most Americans adopted towards immigration in the last decade. The positive view is shared by labor unions, like the AFL-CIO, as new immigrants have helped to offset dwindling membership numbers.

See Immigration debate heats up., Howard LaFranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 13 2001

A committee of federal judges has recommended that monitoring of computers in the judicial branch be continued, but that notice of the monitoring be given to all employees first. The committee convened after a group of federal judges in the Ninth Circuit disabled the monitoring program because they felt it was an illegal invasion of privacy. The Judicial Conference of the United States, a body headed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, will vote on the recommendations on September 11. Employers are watching the vote carefully as the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue and the vote may influence future federal decisions.

See Judicial committee advocates computer monitoring with notification., Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times, Aug 13 2001

A federal judge has ruled that the State of Maryland can negotiate agreements with labor unions for the construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The negotiations have been on hold since February when President Bush issued an executive order banning special labor agreements, which require contractors to follow union-negotiated accords in federal construction projects. It is likely the federal government will seek an appeal of the judge’s ruling.

See Bush’s executive order banning project labor agreements is challenged., Michael D. Shear, The Washington Post, Aug 13 2001

More than half of the U.S. air traffic controllers will retire within the decade as they meet the mandatory retirement age of 56. Most of today’s air traffic controllers were hired after President Ronald Reagan decertified and fired members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) during a strike twenty-years ago. The union that replaced PATCO, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), disagrees with the FAA on the number of controllers that will be needed by 2010 and the ability of the FAA to fill those positions.

See Reagan and PATCO: Still feeling the effects., Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune, Aug 12 2001

A worker owned, all female sewing cooperative called a maquila, is emerging as a viable alternative to sweatshops for U.S. clothing manufacturers. The Nueva Vida Women’s Maquila Cooperative is the first of its kind in Nicaragua. The worker-owners earn a wage well above the legal minimum and avoid the labor abuses long associated with sweatshops. The Cooperative plans on expanding their numbers to gain free trade status and attract more foreign companies.

See All female sewing cooperative emerging as a viable alternative to sweatshops., Catherine Elton, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 12 2001

Thirty years ago the UK passed the Equal Pay Act, which legislated equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. Despite the passage of the Act, today there is still a large gender pay gap and the government has launched an inquiry to suggest solutions to fix the inequality. Critics want to strengthen the law to reduce the amount of time it takes to settle pay inequity cases and unions have recommended implementing pay audits.

See The UK launches inquiry into pay gap., Marcia Hughes, BBC News Online, Aug 12 2001

Organized labor spoke out against a temporary work program for Mexican immigrants proposed by the Bush Administration. The union coalition advocates legalization for millions of immigrant workers now living in the U.S. illegally. The Bush administration is considering granting guest-worker status and eventually legal residency to the Mexican workers. The workers represent potential new voters for Bush and new members for organized labor. The opportunity to increase union membership has prompted the AFL-CIO to reverse is long held stance that immigrant workers are a threat to American jobs.

See Union coalition speaks out against Mexican temporary work program., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Aug 10 2001

U.S. workers are still enjoying steady pay gains despite the slowing economy. Workers salary and wage gains have increased 7.3 percent compared with the same period last year. Employers report budgeting future pay increases at just over 4 percent, but acknowledge that if the slowing economy continues that percentage may fall.

See Slowing economy has not been reflected in employee pay raises., The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press, Aug 10 2001

The Netherlands economic success has caused a shortage of workers in almost every industry. The Dutch unemployment rate is only 2% in comparison with the rest of Europe, which struggles with high unemployment. The shortage has caused some creative recruiting strategies and is forcing the Dutch to change their immigration policy to allow more immigrant workers into the country.

See Netherlands suffering from chronic shortage of workers., Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune, Aug 10 2001

The tenor of the recruitment industry has changed over the past year as firms went from the battle to win the talent war to surviving the hiring freezes and layoffs caused by a slowing economy. Many recruiters are using this time to focus on improving their industry and have joined with others in the field to discuss strategy. The industry is moving away from the effort to attract job seekers and returning to the basics of analyzing companies hiring needs.

See Slowdown for recruiters leads to new ideas to improve the industry., Crayton Harrison, The Dallas Morning News, Aug 8 2001

Judges in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have joined the growing number of workers revolting against employer computer monitoring by disabling the software installed to detect the downloading of material deemed improper by their employer. Leonidas Ralph Mecham, who is in charge of the Administrative Offices of the Courts, had the software installed after a study showed that as much as 7% of the network traffic was not work related. It is an interesting twist, as these judges are facing the same issue in the courtroom -- employers’ rights versus employees’ privacy protections in the electronic workplace.

See Judges join other workers in concerns over employer computer monitoring., Neil A. Lewis, New York Times Service, International Herald Tribune, Aug 8 2001

The National Administration Office, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, organized a daylong forum for migrant Washington apple workers to air their grievances. The forum was in response to a 1988 complaint filed by four Mexican unions against the Washington apple industry, which alleged violations of health and safety and labor rights. Migrant workers testified to the abuse they suffered which included not being paid, unsafe working and living conditions, and retaliation by employers when they tried to organize. Even though the federal laws are applicable despite immigration status, undocumented workers rarely complain to authorities because employers threaten deportation.

See NAFTA gives Washington apple workers international forum to tell of abuse., Associated Press, News From A.P., The New York Times, Aug 8 2001

Discouraged with the progress made in improving workers conditions in factories around the world, labor unions have joined together with religious groups and others to form a new coalition dedicated to the fight against sweatshops. The coalition’s campaign began with a protest march in Manhattan followed by demonstrations in front of apparel stores in SoHo. Spokespeople for the apparel companies objected to being singled out and stated that they are careful in their selection of socially responsible suppliers.

See A new coalition unites to fight against overseas sweatshops., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Aug 7 2001

The Labor Department reported that US labor productivity rose in the three months prior to June, despite signs of continuing economic downturn. The increase in productivity was unexpected; normally productivity is reduced during economic downturns as companies’ reduction of their workforce lags behind their output. The rise in productivity is a sign that companies were quick to layoff workers as the economic downturn deepened. The increasingly weak manufacturing sector is expected to contribute to another drop in the short-term interest rate when the Federal Reserve meets on August 21.

See Worker productivity rises despite economic downturn., Gerard Baker and Mary Chung, Financial Times, Aug 7 2001

The use of training programs that use computers to educate employees about issues such as sexual harassment and other forms of illegal discrimination is increasing. Computer programs provide a welcome alternative to the old style lecture by using interesting interactive characters and pop quizzes that require attention to the material. The flexibility the new programs provide eliminate the need to coordinate large meetings and employees can use the programs from their desks or at home, which is a plus for large multinational companies.

See Elearning: More than just training – a new way to protect against lawsuits., Jonathan D. Glater, The New York Times, Aug 7 2001

A New York Times survey of the 12 highest-grossing law firms in the United States indicates that only five percent of new partners are minority lawyers, if not fewer. More than ten years ago, elite law schools began admitting more diverse classes with the intention of creating a more diverse workforce of lawyers. The survey found, however, that while there are more minority lawyers at top law firms, a disappointingly low number of them have made partner.

See At top law firms, few minorities make partner., Jonathan D. Glater, The New York Times, Aug 6 2001

Until the 1980’s, layoffs hit blue-collar workers the hardest, leaving white-collar workers relatively unscathed. For the past decade, however, white-collar workers have been just as likely if not more likely to lose their jobs than blue-collar workers. The change is due in part to a shift in employment from the manufacturing sector to the service sector as well as a blurring distinction between blue and white-collar workers.

See White-collar workers feel the effects of economic downturn., David R. Francis, The Christian Science Monitor, Aug 6 2001

Similar to the “hoteling” concept used in the accounting and advertising industries, Compaq Computer Corp. has implemented what it calls the “El Segundo model” for 230 of its employees. The “El Segundo” office is a workplace where the typical worker has no permanent desk—the sales and customer-service staff instead work from home, only occasionally touching base with the office. The office is equipped with wireless communication technology and “follow me” software allows employees to use their own phone numbers, no matter where they happen to be.

See Some Compaq employees report to the office only occasionally., Morris Newman, Los Angeles Times, Aug 6 2001

The Immigration and Naturalization Services’ use of employer sanctions to deter illegal immigrant workers has failed in practice, prompting the INS to reevaluate its immigration strategies. The INS has quietly slashed its work site enforcement by as much as 97% over the past two years. Employer sanctions have been ineffective because of “a booming market in phony documents, the needs of employers to fill their job openings, widespread resistance to the creation of a national identification card … and politics.”

See Employer sanctions fail to deter illegal immigrants., Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times, Aug 5 2001

The same flexible American labor market that wooed foreign firms to create jobs for American workers is now the target of job cuts. For the past decade, economists, politicians and business executives have praised the flexibility of American labor laws for facilitating job creation in the economic boom, but the current global economic slowdown calls for job cuts, and the strict labor laws in Europe and Japan that protect workers’ jobs are forcing companies to turn to the American labor force for cuts. Determining the full effect on the United States, however, is difficult because many companies are reluctant to release geographic breakdowns of their layoffs.

See Due to flexible U.S. labor laws, foreign firms cut U.S. jobs first., Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post, Aug 5 2001

Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the country is undergoing a transformation in language and employment. The figures indicate a growing number of foreign-born Americans and a growing share of people who speak little or no English. The number of families whose mothers work but the fathers do not has increased 70 percent since the last decade, and technology has enabled an increasing number of people to work at home—an under-estimated 4 million total.

See Census reveals that broad social and economic forces are shaping the country., D’Vera Cohn and Sarah Cohen, The Washington Post, Aug 5 2001

In at least its third discrimination lawsuit, a Mitsubishi plant in Illinois is accused of discriminating against five older, non-Japanese managers who were fired in 1999. Previously, the plant settled discrimination lawsuits with 250 African American and Latino workers for allowing racial harassment and a hostile environment and another discrimination lawsuit involving 300 women claiming sexual harassment at work. Although some say the recurring discrimination suits may be due to the Japanese company’s unfamiliarity with the law, others point to other Japanese companies, such as Toyota, who have been effective with their U.S. labor force.

See Mitsubishi plant accused of age and racial discrimination., Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, Aug 2 2001

The minimum wage has historically been a contentious issue, but the Economic Policy Institute estimates that only 9% of American workers earn the federal minimum wage—putting the relevancy of the minimum wage in question. One explanation may be that states have the ability to mandate higher minimum wages within the state, thus alleviating the pressure of the federal government to do so. Other explanations may include the reduced stature of labor unions, the cooling of inflation, and tight labor markets.

See Many employers pay more than the minimum wage., Russ Wiles, USA Today, Aug 2 2001

Quietly but surely, President Bush is easing enforcement of many government rules. The Department of Labor’s shift from prosecuting workplace violations to helping employers avoid violations in the first place is one such example. According to Administration officials, Bush engages in “scrupulous cost-benefit analysis” when making decisions regarding regulation.

See Quiet revolution: Under President Bush, regulatory rollback has a major impact., John Harwood and Kathy Chen, San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 2 2001

Wireless Internet may be the next technological advance to revolutionize the workplace, but it will have to pass one of its first social challenges—being a distraction to workers in meetings. Etiquette experts and senior executives are pointing out that many attendants of technology conferences and internal office meetings tune out speakers because they are surfing the web or sending e-mail. Some say that wireless Internet improves efficiency and allows workers to “multi-task,” but many companies say that it is impossible for people to pay attention to a speaker when they have access to a constant stream of incoming e-mail.

See Wireless Internet both a convenience and annoyance., Rachel Konrad, The New York Times, Aug 1 2001

An increasing number of Taiwanese men are traveling to China in search of work and abandoning their wives and children to start a new family on the mainland. The trend has caused anguish and emptiness for abandoned Taiwanese families, and may even surmount to a social epidemic. For single mothers, finding work in Taiwan can be difficult, especially due to the weak economy and high child-care costs.

See Taiwan’s second-wife phenomenon causes social epidemic., Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times, Aug 1 2001

Wal-Mart recently terminated an arrangement it had with a non-profit group to hire mentally disabled workers, citing a corporate policy against using outside employment agencies. The arrangement, typically called an “enclave” arrangement, provided Wal-Mart with workers and a job coach to help the mentally disabled perform their jobs effectively. While Wal-Mart claims it has offered interviews for direct employment to the workers whose jobs were terminated, the company is facing growing criticism of its treatment of disabled workers.

See Arrangement to hire disabled workers at Wal-Mart is terminated., Sarah Schafer and Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post, Aug 1 2001

Workplace experts say that as the economy continues to slow and layoffs continue, it is important that companies take preventative action against ex-worker retaliation. According to an annual survey of Fortune 1000 companies by a Chicago security firm, theft of company property and breaches in the company’s computer network are the two most common acts of revenge. From a different perspective, the companies currently dismissing employees are generally younger and more inexperienced than companies involved in the layoffs of the early 1990’s, thus suggesting that the mishandling of layoffs may have caused ex-employees to be unnecessarily bitter.

See Ex-workers retaliate with computers and the Internet, Employers vigilant., Eve Tahmincioglu, The New York Times, Jul 31 2001

Recent census figures indicate that the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is a record 6 to 9 million, and along with the increase in the illegal immigrant population, benefits for the immigrants are also increasing. Some states and communities reason that unequal treatment of illegal immigrants posses too great a threat to public order and safety, so they have eased requirements for obtaining a driver’s license and allowed illegal immigrants to qualify for cheaper college tuition. Proponents of such actions are afraid of having unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road and argue that society is hurt when teenagers drop out of school due to financial difficulty, but opponents say that such measures only reward law-breakers.

See In a reversed trend, benefits for illegal immigrants grow., Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post, Jul 31 2001

A proposal by Representative Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia to create a “Digital Tech Corps” exchange program between government and industry won broad support at a House hearing yesterday. The legislation addresses concerns that government will have a severe shortage of high-tech professionals, pressures for more e-government services and better protection of federal databases. Under the proposal, company technology employees and government technology managers would swap positions after a certain period of time, allowing company employees to learn federal procedures and meet key officials and government technology managers to learn how to improve services and business practices for the government.

Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations faculty member Lance Compa argues that labor rights belong in trade agreements.

See Faculty Feature:, Lance Compa, The Washington Post, Jul 31 2001

Early studies of three welfare-to-work programs indicate that adolescents belonging to families involved in welfare-to-work programs have lower academic achievement and more behavioral problems than children of other welfare families. The 1996 federal welfare overhaul was expected to have a positive impact on adolescents since it was hypothesized that adolescents would view their working parent as a role model. Instead, the preliminary studies give rise to concerns that adolescents are taking on adult roles and that working parents have less time to monitor their children.

See Surprising welfare-to-work studies show negative effect on adolescents., Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, Jul 30 2001

According to one company who allows employees to “buy” and “sell” up to four vacation days a year, only 14% of U.S. businesses offer this unusual benefit. The program, called the Time Off Program, puts employees in charge of managing their traditional vacation time, floating holidays and sick leaves by allowing them to “buy” additional days off without pay or “sell” unused vacation days for pay. The program emerged from a survey conducted by the company to assess work/ life benefits and requests by employees to increase work flexibility.

See Company benefit allows employees to trade time for money., Carol Kleiman, Chicago Tribune, Jul 30 2001

The American Bar Association is considering modifications and updates of its code of ethics for the first time in 20 years, including changes to rules governing client secrecy. If approved, the proposed changes in the code of ethics would allow lawyers to disclose client information if doing so would prevent fraud, injury or death. Proponents of the changes say that the rule may allow corporate lawyers to warn others on issues involving tobacco, asbestos or defective tires.

See Changes to lawyers’ code of ethics stirs debate., William Glaberson, The New York Times, Jul 30 2001

Caring for aging relatives or spouses can be emotionally and physically taxing on workers but many companies have no policies in place to assist their care-giving employees. The assistance is becoming increasingly important as the population ages—the National Council on Aging estimates that by 2040, 40% of the workforce may be caring for older parents. Companies may not be providing support simply because they are unaware of how many workers are caregivers—the Human Resource Institute and Boomerang, a private company, conducted a survey of 150 large employers and found that most companies don’t have accurate data on the number of caregivers among their employees.

Urban police departments are suffering a “personnel crisis” as officers leave for higher paying jobs in suburban departments or private businesses and grow weary of public and news media criticism regarding police brutality and racial profiling. Statistics show that the number of applicants for the police examination, the first step to becoming a police officer, has dropped while many have noticed that officers are declining promotion to higher ranks to avoid working nights and weekends and to keep overtime pay. As a partial solution, some police departments are switching to rotation work schedules, but skeptics say it undermines the goals of the job.

See City police departments nationwide face personnel crisis., Fox Butterfield, The New York Times, Jul 29 2001

Despite the relatively low unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in June, job seekers are having a difficult time finding employment, and recent events suggest that the worst is yet to come. Sales of automobiles, homes and retail goods have sustained the economy, but further job losses could lead to a drop in consumer spending. The job market varies across regions, industries and skill levels—with the telecommunications, technology and manufacturing sectors and their corresponding regions faring the worst.

See Unemployed have difficulty finding jobs., Philip Andrew Klein, The Washington Post, Jul 29 2001

The organizational tools of the Internet have changed how employees interact with each other, and in uncertain times, the Internet has allowed former employees to form a series of informal networks. Former employees are using web-sites and regular gatherings as a forum for continuing their discussions, some to further career opportunities and others merely to socialize. Alongside professional development and frivolous discussion, however, are complaints that expose the weaknesses or former employers.

See Ex-workers form networks through the world-wide-web., Abigail Klingbeil, USA Today, Jul 26 2001

Judge James M. Rosenbaum, chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, says that the new “legal principle” that allows employers to conduct unrestricted searches on workers’ computers should be reexamined. Employers say that carte blanche employer searches are necessary to detect and stop productivity losses, prevent a hostile work environment, and protect trade secrets. Judge Rosenbaum, however, argues that just as a company cannot visit an employee’s home and search all documents written with a company pen, employers should not possess unrestricted power to search company computers.

See Judge says computer privacy at work should be reexamined., Carl S. Kaplan, The New York Times, Jul 26 2001

Zhang Jiacheng, a young entrepreneur, has privatized the entire village of Tongshui in China’s poor, Guizhou province. The village will be the home of Zhang’s new Chinese-medicine business, the farmers will become company employees, and the fields will become company property. The unprecedented move raises legal questions in a country where the Communist Party is still in control, but Zhang justifies his business by promising economic prosperity through tourism and the production of medicinal Chinese herbs.

A survey by a nonprofit research and advisory organization in New York of seven major securities firms reports that women are dissatisfied with the progress of efforts to help women advance in the industry. While most of the respondents affirmed that they were engaging in challenging work and received generous compensation, they also indicated that it was difficult for women to get ahead, and in many cases, they work in an environment where crude or sexist remarks are tolerated. Moreover, the survey also suggests that women in the securities industry make many personal sacrifices due to the difficulty of balancing family and work life.

Recent high profile killings of teachers have prompted the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, to offer a $150,000 benefit to the families of teachers who are slain on the job. The new benefit, which is free to NEA members, allows victim’s families to collect three times more than if the teacher were killed in an accident. A spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers says that while its members have not requested such a benefit, the AFT would consider a similar homicide benefit for its own members.

See Teacher’s union will offer homicide benefit to members., Greg Toppo, Chicago Tribune, Jul 25 2001

A Bush administration proposal to grant amnesty to more than a million illegal Mexican immigrants has stirred controversy among millions of other non-Mexican immigrants. Under the proposal, some illegal Mexican immigrants would be granted legal residency if they lived and worked for a certain period of time and future immigrants would be able to attain legal residency through a guest-worker program. Minority groups are protesting the special treatment Mexicans are receiving due to Mexico’s proximity to the United States and Bush’s hopes to "score a foreign-policy triumph" with Mexican President, Vicente Fox.

Fast Food Nation, a best-seller by investigative reporter Eric Schlosser, has raised questions about how meat packers treat their employees. Schlosser reports that nearly one-quarter of the 150,000 meatpacking workers suffered a job-related injury or illness and that many employers discourage documentation of injuries, falsify data, and rush injured workers back to their jobs to reduce lost workdays. Meatpacking companies as well as other critics of Schlosser’s work denounce the findings as sensational, pointing out that the author fails to mention the industry’s low fatality rate and a steadily improving relationship between employers and workers.

See Book brands meatpacking “The Most Dangerous Job in America.”, Sherwood Ross, USA Today, Reuters, Jul 24 2001

Community groups from cities such as Chicago and New York will meet in Los Angeles on Thursday for the first national conference of day laborers to discuss organizing the estimated 2 million day laborers in the United States. Due to the illegal status and informal work contract of many day laborers, the workers are subject to the whims of their employers. Day laborers hope to establish a national day laborers union to set wage standards, provide health care, offer job training and assist with immigration issues, but they walk a fine line by heightening their visibility, potentially drawing the attention of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

See Day laborers will meet Thursday to discuss national day laborers union., Stephen Manning, The Washington Post, Jul 24 2001

For the 10% of the nation’s households who don’t have bank accounts, a prepaid card released by Visa USA and four major banks can replace the traditional paycheck. According to Visa’s product manager, employers can “deposit” employee checks onto the cards and employees, in turn, can use the card to withdraw cash at ATM’s, pay for purchases at stores and pay certain bills. The card is expected to reduce costs for employers, who save money by not having to produce and distribute paychecks, and may save money for workers, depending on cash checker and banking fees.

See New plastic card can replace traditional paycheck., Liz Pulliam Weston, Los Angeles Times, Jul 24 2001

A study to be released today by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, says that despite the boom, many families in America are struggling to meet expenses. The study calculated a “basic family budget” for various regions across the country and determined, for example, that in the District of Columbia, a two-child family needed $49,218 a year to meet basic expenses, which is far above the $17,463 poverty line determined by the U.S. Census Bureau. One of the authors of the study say that rising housing and child care costs have put many working class families in a situation in which it is difficult to enjoy a “decent standard of living.”

See Study finds many working class families struggling., Sara Kehaulani Goo, The Washington Post, Jul 23 2001

During wartime, the government focused on the U.S. mold-making industry to ensure the nation’s security, but after three decades of relative peace, the special attention has waned, leaving moldmakers to struggle on their own. High U.S. labor costs, the recent economic downturn and especially the strong dollar have shifted mold-makers’ work overseas to Asia, Canada and Europe. In an effort to stay competitive, many mold builders have invested in costly high-speed machinery, and some go as far as declaring the decline in U.S. moldmaking a national security problem, although others debate the legitimacy of the latter claim.

See U.S. moldmakers struggle to stay competitive amidst a strong dollar., Melita Marie Garza, Chicago Tribune, Jul 23 2001

Stockbrokers in India went on a one-day strike today to protest market regulator’s efforts to force stockbrokers to settle trades on the same day they are made. The market regulator banned the practice of badla, which allowed customers to postpone stock payments to allow them time to borrow money from brokers, but critics say the system allowed big traders to manipulate stock prices without risking their own money. The regulator’s changes are a part of a series of reforms to tame the volatile stock markets, which have recently “driven investors to bankruptcy and suicide.”

See Brokers in India strike over market reform., Saritha Rai, The New York Times, Jul 23 2001

In America’s Corn Belt, detasseling is a rite of passage for teens, providing summer employment and extra money for clothes, music, cars and college. In the 1940’s, farmers discovered that hybrids could offer large corn yields, and consequently, needed machines to remove most of the tassels and teens to pick up where the machines left off. Detasseling has become such a strong tradition that a proposed ban to prevent anyone under 14 from working in Nebraska’s corn fields has been blocked on the grounds that the ban would have drastically decreased the labor pool and would have deprived young people of work.

See Corn detasseling is a tradition in Nebraska., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jul 22 2001