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Workplace Issues Today

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

According to a 10 month investigation by Newsday, New York has the nation’s highest rate of immigrant deaths in the workplace. The investigation found that government agencies fail to satisfactorily investigate immigrant deaths, enforce laws prohibiting the hire of illegal immigrants, and provide timely compensation for victims and families. Foreign-born workers account for three out of every 10 work related deaths.

See New York has highest rate of immigrant work related deaths., San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press, Jul 22 2001

Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest HMO’s, endorsed a union proposal to increase nurse-staffing levels yesterday. Kaiser’s move, however, has led the United Nurses Assns. Of California to believe that the company wants to use the less broadly skilled licensed vocational nurses in place of registered nurses to do work that requires register nurse’s experience. The action pits the United Nurses Assns. Of California against the Service Employees International Union, which represents many licensed vocational nurses.

See HMO backs union plan to increase nurse-staffing levels., Charles Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, Jul 19 2001

The commission appointed by President Bush to develop a social security plan in accordance with his campaign promise claims that by 2016 payroll tax revenues for social security will fall short of benefit payments. The commission will develop detailed recommendations for the private accounts in the summer and the fall. Democrats dismissed the report, claiming that the commission overstated the threat to social security and ignored the drawbacks of private accounts.

See Panel argues that Social Security reform must include investment in stocks and bonds., Richard W. Stevenson, The New York Times, Jul 19 2001

Government offices, factories, public transportation and schools were closed in Argentina yesterday as workers in three major unions went on strike. The unions are upset with $1.5 billion budget cuts that would cut government salaries and pensions for those receiving more than $300 per month. President Fernando De la Rua and Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo say the spending cuts are Argentina’s last chance to avoid economic catastrophe.

See Workers in Argentina strike over government salary and pension cuts., Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times, Jul 19 2001

Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda addressed delegates yesterday at the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union convention. The foreign minister highlighted Mexico’s growing alliance with U.S. labor on the issue of immigration reform and insisted that any guest worker program be linked to amnesty for illegal workers. Unions in the U.S. have been organizing the growing immigrant labor force but face difficulty organizing illegal immigrants who are often reluctant to join.

See Mexico and U.S. Labor find common ground on immigration reform., Nancy Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, Jul 18 2001

Teenagers are feeling the effects of the economic slowdown this summer as they scramble unsuccessfully to find employment. The unemployment rate for teenagers has increased 2.2 percent since June 2000 compared to an increase of .5 percent for all workers. The main benefit of summer employment for teenagers is having more money to spend or save for college but an added benefit may be a reduction in criminal behavior by keeping teenagers busy.

See Teenagers feel effects of economic slowdown., Alan B. Krueger, The New York Times, Jul 18 2001

A study to be released next Monday by techies dot-com, one of the country’s leading Internet hubs for IT workers and employers, reveals that the average national salaries in eight of the most popular tech professions dropped 6 percent from January to June. According to Cynthia Morgan, executive producer and vice president for content at techies dot-com, salaries for employees in tech-related management roles had the largest drop. Some suspect that the reason for the drop is a growing supply of tech workers, indicating that employers will have more choice and control over technology hires.

See Study indicates that average tech salaries decreased., Porter Anderson, CNN, Jul 18 2001

The House Appropriations Committee voted to overturn President Bush’s proposal to eliminate contraceptive coverage for federal employees yesterday. Bush’s proposal, which would have eliminated insurance coverage for five types of birth control, was praised by social conservatives who believe that the government should not take part in making contraceptives available, especially those that induce abortion. However, women’s groups and lawmakers from both parties argued that the provision would not cost the government anything and would, in effect, reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among federal employees.

A recent case where a female casino employee was fired for refusing to wear make-up on the job is part of the newest test to see how far companies can go in mandating employee appearances. The employee claimed that being forced to wear mascara, lipstick, blush and face powder on the job was humiliating, and also a case of gender discrimination. In court, however, employers usually have the right to hold their employees up to standards held by societal norms, which is especially true for cases in the entertainment industry.

John Wilhelm, the President of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, called for better coordination between local labor organizations to gain leverage in an industry that is increasingly characterized by a few multinational corporations. The union is one of the most active in union organizing, but membership and union density, the share of the workforce represented by a union, has dropped significantly in the past three decades. Wilhelm hopes to work cooperatively with employers by offering work force training programs and partnering with business groups on key issues.

See H.E.R.E. President calls for better local union coordination, Nancy Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, Jul 17 2001

At a forum yesterday, labor leaders, industry officials and the Labor Department met to discuss workplace safety rules. The debate, which seems to be the first big fight between Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and organized labor, centered on repetitive motion injuries—the most common injury in the American workplace. Industry executives and labor leaders argued whether there was substantial scientific proof of ergonomic injuries to justify new mandatory regulations.

See Labor, Business and Government hold forum on workplace ergonomic regulations., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jul 16 2001

Amtrak will conduct a 15 percent reduction in the management workforce and may need to cut train service and engage in further workforce cuts to meet its December 2002 deadline to break even on operations. In addition, the company has hired a consulting firm to advise top management on restructuring and redesign issues. Ironically, the passenger train has been more popular than ever, but expenses are increasing faster than revenue, funding from Congress has barely been sufficient, and capital funding has been unable to raise enough money for necessary infrastructure repairs.

See Amtrak will cut 15 percent of management workforce to close budget gap., Don Phillips, The Washington Post, Jul 16 2001

Pressure from Bush’s conservative base has prompted the President to back away from granting “automatic” amnesty to more than 3 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States. While such a move would boost Bush’s support among Latino voters and would be the biggest change in immigration policy in 15 years, conservatives are afraid of encouraging a continued flow of illegal workers across the southern border. Despite the setback, President Bush is still considering a multi-stage process that would confer legal status and possibly eventual citizenship to these workers, and a high level task force headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft may recommend the creation of a new “temporary guest worker program.”

See Bush steps back from amnesty proposal granting legal status to illegal Mexican workers., Edwin Chen and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, Jul 16 2001

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that Hispanics die at a higher rate from workplace related injuries than other workers. Job safety officials say that Hispanics, who are often unskilled and are here illegally, are over-represented in the most dangerous and most undesirable jobs in America because of discriminatory hiring, illegal status and language barriers. In addition, some Hispanics receive less job and safety training than American-born workers because they do not speak English well.

See Rate of on-the-job deaths for all Hispanics is 20% higher than for whites or blacks., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jul 15 2001

According to a recent study, the annual cost of child care exceeds the annual tuition at a public university in almost every community in the United States. The cost of child care is especially burdensome for young middle-income families who do not enjoy tax credits available to the upper-income bracket and earn too much to qualify for state subsidies. Some argue that the United States should adopt a publicly funded system for early childhood care or universal preschool for young children, while others favor tax cuts to allow parents to decide how to spend their money.

Unicru Inc., an electronic recruiting company, has developed a product that uses neural networks to allow retailers to attract hourly employees online and through interview kiosks, combining typical application data and a personality assessment test. The neural network acts like a human brain, imitating human reasoning by searching for relationships and reaching conclusions. Specifically, the system looks for characteristics in applicants that match the characteristics of successful employees.

See Firm develops Artificial Intelligence product to identify steady workers., Jeff Meredith, Chicago Tribune, Jul 15 2001

In efforts that seem far removed from its home base back in the United States, the AFL-CIO is organizing factory workers in Cambodia. The U.S. labor organization hopes to use Cambodia as the test case to establish a minimum set of labor standards in other developing countries. Critics of the AFL-CIO’s efforts claim that the union is merely trying to prevent the loss of American jobs by imposing regulations on factories in foreign countries.

See AFL-CIO organizes in Cambodia., Wayne Arnold, International Herald Tribune, The New York Times News Service, Jul 12 2001

Shoemakers in Mexico fear for their jobs as China’s admission into the World Trade Organization looms near. China’s admission into the WTO would allow China freer access to world markets and force countries such as Mexico to remove trade barriers that aim to protect domestic manufacturers from low-cost Chinese products. Vicente Fox, Mexico’s President, vows to save the shoe industry in his country by postponing the removal of protective tariffs.

See Shoemakers in Mexico are afraid of losing jobs when China enters WTO., Chris Kraul and Evelyn Iritanis, Los Angeles Times, Jul 12 2001

According to figures released yesterday, a greater percentage of African American women own their own business than any other minority group. About 38% of African American-owned firms had female owners, compared to 28% for Latinos, 27% for American Indians/ Alaska Natives and 27% for Asian and Pacific Islanders. Some speculate that the high percentage of black female entrepreneurs is related to the “matriarchal nature of many black families.”

A report released by the State Department today criticizes 23 countries for not taking sufficient steps to stop the transportation of workers across country borders to work in sweatshops, construction sites, brothels and fields. The report comes as a response to legislation approved in October that calls for economic sanctions against countries who fail to take steps to stop human trafficking and protect its victims. The countries included on the State Department’s list include several countries with close ties to the United States, most notably, Israel, Greece, Turkey and South Korea.

See State Department releases report criticizing human trafficking., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jul 11 2001

The Bush administration is currently considering legislation that would allow federal employees to keep frequent-flier miles accrued on business travel for personal use. The legislation would reverse rules established in the 1980’s that barred federal employees from keeping frequent-flier miles on the basis that air miles earned by employees belong to the government. Proponents of the legislation under consideration claim that the added perk would boost worker morale and make work for the government more attractive while skeptics say that it does not solve the real underlying problem of inadequate pay for senior managers.

Claims for state unemployment insurance hit a nine-year high last week according to reports from the Labor Department today. To deal with the changing economic climate, companies have cut production and laid off workers but the economic slowdown has been particularly hard on manufacturers and automobile makers who are struggling with decreased consumer demand. Economists hope that fed cuts and tax refunds will help spur economic growth later this year.

See Jobless claims reach nine-year high., Jeannine Aversa, Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, Jul 11 2001

The Bush administration announced that it is no longer considering a regulation permitting religious charities to discriminate against homosexuals after Democratic Senate leaders warned that such an action would endanger Bush’s “faith-based” initiative. Yesterday, an internal Salvation Army document revealed that the Bush administration would protect religious-based charities from local discrimination laws in return for the Salvation Army’s support for the administration’s “faith-based” initiative. The controversial development may further weaken Bush’s proposal to provide government funds to religious-based charities, an initiative that already faces constitutional concerns in Congress.

See Bush no longer considering regulation allowing discrimination of gays., Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, Jul 10 2001

In California, a class action lawsuit against Farmers Insurance Exchange awarded 2,400 insurance adjusters what is believed to be the biggest award of its type. The plaintiffs argued and successfully persuaded the Alameda County Superior Court that the adjusters were entitled to overtime pay because they exercised very little discretion and thus should have been classified as nonexempt workers. Labor employment experts predict that the size of the award will prompt more white-collar exempt workers to sue for overtime pay and encourage California employers to review their pay practices.

See Insurance workers win large award in overtime lawsuit., Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, Jul 10 2001

The dot-com boom that went bust is propelling former dot-com employees to change jobs, companies and even to leave the industry altogether. Some are relying on their previous training and returning to banks and law firms while others, who joined dot-com startups right out of college, are left with fewer options. Employees are noticing a change in the dot-com industry—the once fun, kickback culture of dot-com companies is disappearing and work for an Internet company has lost its glamour.

See Workers leave the dot-com industry., Susan Stellin, The New York Times, Jul 10 2001

Ford Motor Co. informed its employees today that it would be changing its evaluation system, which has been the target of at least six lawsuits alleging age discrimination. The implementation of Ford’s vision to diversify its management ranks involved positive evaluations and bonuses to supervisors who successfully hired and promoted diverse candidates. The lawsuits attacking the evaluation system claimed that the system involved quotas, weeded out older white males, and replaced them with females and minorities.

See Ford announces it will change its employee performance reviews., Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, Jul 9 2001

An internal Salvation Army document reveals that the Bush Administration is working with the Salvation Army to make it easier for government funded religious groups to discriminate in the hiring of gay people. In return, the Salvation Army will help promote Bush’s “faith-based” social services initiative, which will channel government funds to religious charities. The administration’s attempt to establish such regulations permitting discrimination comes in the wake of an increasing number of local jurisdictions adopting laws prohibiting religious groups from discriminating against gays in hiring, job promotion and benefits.

See Bush helps Salvation Army in discriminating against gays., Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, Jul 9 2001

A fire that closed the giant Con Agra beef processing plant in Garden City, Kansas last Christmas has left many of the 2,300 workers with little hope as the company continues to debate whether to reopen the plant. The economic slowdown and rising unemployment exacerbates the situation for these workers, who live in a sparsely populated area with few job opportunities. Many of the former workers have had difficulty finding jobs elsewhere but are also reluctant to move for the sake of their children’s education.

See Desperate workers in Kansas wait the reopening of meat plant destroyed by fire., John W. Fountain, The New York Times, Jul 9 2001

A company’s profitable financial opportunity regarding the carcinogenic asbestos chemical brings into question what a company should do when it is aware that a product may not be safe but lacks scientific proof that the product is dangerous. Thirty years ago when the fireproofing spray asbestos was identified as a cancer-causing agent, most companies stopped using it in offices, schools and hotels, but W.R. Grace announced that it had an asbestos free spray and cashed in by spraying it in buildings across the country. Unfortunately, the spray indeed had small amounts of asbestos, which the company knew about, but did not reveal.

In a growing business trend, many large Western companies including General Electric, British Airways, American Express and Amazon.com are moving their service centers to India, where labor can be 70 percent cheaper. Customer service calls are channeled 8,000 miles away through fast fiber-optic cables to a company representative trained to speak with an American or British accent. The companies praise the native Indian workers who are well educated, polite, and speak excellent English but labor activists and intellectuals brand this new globalization trend a white-collar sweatshop and warn that it is a step towards wiping out native culture.

See Service centers move to India, but customers are unaware., Beth Duff-Brown, Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, Jul 8 2001

For the first time since the 401(k) retirement savings plan was created 20 years ago, the average 401(k) account lost money last year, and data indicates that the decline has continued into the current year. The plan has become popular because its existence largely coincided with the economic boom. The recent news that 401(k) accounts are losing money for the first time, however, exposes the problem that many employees do not know how to invest their money and casts doubt on President Bush’s plan to allow Americans to manage a portion of their Social Security benefits.

See 401(k) Accounts lose money for the first time., Danny Hakim, The New York Times, Jul 8 2001

If the union wins, it will be the first time that a Japanese owned auto plant in North America has been unionized, with the exception of factories that began as joint ventures with American-based companies. The company has been recognized for its successful participatory management practices, and the union vote is viewed as a challenge to that system.

These workers have transformed the culture of California communities and have broken through the stereotype of poorly paid immigrants with children struggling to succeed in crowded schools. No other ethnic group in Silicon Valley has grown so quickly, with the population tripling in the last decade.

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants criticized airlines for failing to properly train crews to deal with air rage or to support employees who become victims. The Justice Department and the Federal Aviation Administration have been criticized for rarely enforcing laws against air rage perpetrators. The flight attendants' union blames rising tensions among passengers due to overbooking, crowded planes and frequent delays. Others claim that rude airline workers are responsible for some air rage incidents.

An economic slowdown doesn’t mean that companies aren’t hiring—they’re still looking for the best employees in the job market. To attract the best workers, employers are engaging in a practice that emerged a few years ago known as “employer branding,” a technique aimed at employee recruitment and retention. “Employer branding” involves identifying and marketing a company’s corporate culture and subsequently weaving the themes throughout help-wanted advertising, print ads, in-house communications, benefit packages, broadcast ads and transit advertising.

In the past, day laborers would congregate outside in the fiery heat of summer or the frigid cold of winter, but increasingly, cities are taking a friendlier approach to dealing with these workers, most of whom are illegal immigrants. Cities such as Houston and Austin in Texas and Silver Spring in Maryland are creating and maintaining Worker Centers, complete with air conditioning and English classes, to serve as a place where employers can meet day laborers. Critics say the Worker Centers encourage illegal immigration and bring down wages for skilled US workers while supporters praise the cities’ willingness to deal with the situation in a realist and humane way.

See Cities create Worker Centers to accommodate day laborers., Kris Axtman, The Christian Science Monitor, Jul 4 2001

More employers are moving towards pay-for-performance pay schemes, but skeptics warn that compensating workers based on performance goals may hurt worker morale and productivity. A recent study at the University of Illinois found that linking pay to performance is associated with lower productivity and higher injury rates, and others say that such pay schemes fuel competition rather than inspire cooperation. Compensation experts defend pay-for-performance but acknowledge that it can be counter-effective if implemented improperly.

See Evidence shows pay-for-performance programs may not be effective., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Jul 4 2001

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of the U.S. labor force has increased from 34.6 years to 39.2 years from the early 1980’s to 2000, and will reach 41 years by 2008. The graying of America’s labor force is spawning a growing sensitivity to age discrimination in the workplace, and legislation such as the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 is allowing workers access to age-specific data on employees who are laid off by employers. Older workers, upon examining the data, conclude that they are the targets of job cuts and the victims of age discrimination.

See As job cuts abound, older workers allege age discrimination., Adam Geller, USA Today, The Associated Press, Jul 2 2001

Globalization, mergers and acquisitions and the Internet have created a new demand for “competitive intelligence,” a euphemism for corporate information gathering or more boldly, corporate spying. Competitive intelligence involves gathering and analyzing information from various sources, including “the Internet, court documents, patent filings, conversations with rival salespeople or engineers.” Defenders of competitive intelligence say that the information is used to avoid partnering with firms who may have engaged in questionable activity and that a code of ethics guides the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, but skeptics argue that the interpretation of what is ethical and what isn’t can vary greatly.

See Sophisticated corporate spying used by firms to gain an edge over competitors., Craig Savoye, The Christian Science Monitor, Jul 2 2001

Just as downtown Chicago expects a large crowd for the annual Independence Day fireworks show tonight, taxi cab drivers of the Chicago Professional Taxicab Drivers Association went on strike. The taxi drivers are upset over several issues, but they are primarily displeased with the “one call a day program,” which requires them to pick up “at least one fare each shift in an underserved area of the city.” In addition, the Association’s President has been involved in a campaign against the city’s ordinance that requires cab drivers to pick up anyone who hails a cab and to drive them wherever they ask to go. The ordinance attempts to address the problem of race discrimination, which occurs when cab drivers refuse to pick up minorities and to service certain neighborhoods.

Many of the reports on the Shenzhen region in China criticize work conditions, but the story behind the special economic zone near the border of Hong Kong is more complicated. The city of Shenzhen was once a fishing village, but after 22 years it has been transformed into a vibrant commercial area with 22,050 factories, plants and projects, all fueled by $20 billion in foreign investment. The city demographics are striking—six out of seven people are migrants, mostly single and in their 20’s—and although illegal overtime has become a common occurrence, the young workers don’t complain because more work means more money, and more money means that they are closer to fulfilling their dreams.

After spending their whole lives working, America’s 76 million Baby Boomers are asking themselves what they should do now. Some are considering switching to jobs that they will find more enjoyable, even if it will mean taking a pay cut, while others are looking forward to early retirement. Experts warn, however, that many people underestimate the costs of retirement, most notably the effect of inflation, and overestimate their ability to earn enough money to fund their retirement years.

See Baby Boomers examine their options as they head towards retirement age., Amy Baldwin, USA Today, The Associated Press, Jul 1 2001

If profits per partner is the measure by which others judge law firms, then decreasing the number of equity partners is one way firms can make themselves look better. In a trend that experts say will likely continue due to businesses’ cut back on legal services, law firms are demoting equity partners who once earned a share of the net income by putting them back on salaries. Critics warn that this practice of creating a two-tier partner hierarchy—equity and salaried partners—hurts the culture of the firm by creating a sub class of lawyers.

Director Steven Spielberg skipped press tours for his new film, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” so that he could finish his current project, “Minority Report,” before a possible walkout. The contract deadline for Hollywood actors is Sunday at 12:01 am, and if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fail to reach an agreement with the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a strike may result. The actor unions’ main concerns include “increasing residual payments for shows rebroadcast on cable and in foreign markets, higher initial pay for screen work and assurances that studios will limit the number of productions filmed outside the United States.”

Negotiations between American Airlines and its flight attendants are far from coming to a close. Sources indicate that they are more than $500 million apart, with both parties still divided over issues such as pay raises, profit sharing, retirement and medical benefits, scheduling and crew rests. The flight attendants had threatened to strike on Saturday until President Bush stepped in earlier this week to halt such a move, but the imposition of a Presidential Emergency Board may only delay the strike to a later date.

In an effort to scale back costs, Hewlett-Packard Co. is asking its employees, including its Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, to either take a pay cut or use up accrued vacation days. In accordance with company tradition, the company request is voluntary—employees may decide to take a lower pay cut or give up fewer vacation days, according to the company spokesman. Other ways the company is looking to cut costs include asking employees to turn in company cars and instituting tighter cell phone and travel policies.

See Hewlett-Packard asks employees to pitch in during difficult economic times., Nicole Volpe, The Washington Post, Reuters, Jun 28 2001

As the dust from the dot-com Internet boom begins to clear, service providers are ready to usher in the new business trend in town. Now that the Internet start-up ventures have collapsed, lawyers, accountants and consultants are turning to the biotechnology industry where companies have shown profits, where the federal government has increased funding for research, and where a market for medicine will be ripe as baby boomers grow older. To meet the biotech industry’s prospective stars, service providers are attending and sponsoring local biotech functions where they can make crucial business connections.

See Service providers rush to attract biotech companies., Terence Chea, The Washington Post, Jun 27 2001

After Ford announced that it would replace 13 million Firestone tires due to safety concerns, Firestone responded by blaming Ford and one of its models, the Ford Explorer, for playing a crucial role in causing 174 deaths in numerous accidents over the past few years. Firestone’s defense, however, has not stopped a significant drop in the demand for Firestone tires. As a result of this lack of demand, Firestone officials say, the company will close one of its biggest tire factories employing 1,500 employees, most of who are union workers.

For some, work continues at cocktail parties and social events, making business etiquette an important means to making connections and satisfying clients. Ann Marie Sabath, founder of At Ease, teaches etiquette to companies and firms such as General Electric, Deloitte & Touch and Proskauer Rose. She advises that in a time when many people are losing their jobs, it might do well to polish more than a resume.

The United Farm Workers and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the two largest farm worker unions, sued the Labor Department for failing to raise the wages of 30,000 temporary foreign workers. The requirement that the Labor Department raise wage rates for the group of workers migrating mostly from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is intended to prevent employers from replacing domestic farm workers with temporary foreign workers. The Labor Department claims it acts legally as long as the Labor Secretary announces the new wage rates before the end of the calendar year, but unions claim that delaying the announcement undermines the purpose of the requirement—to help workers during the year.

See Farm Worker Unions sue Labor Department for not raising wages of foreign workers., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jun 26 2001

Companies are finding that business email is slowing network performance and increasingly taking up more employee work time. A poll by market researcher Gartner indicates that workers spend an average of 49 minutes a day on e-mail, which is 30% to 35% more than they did a year ago. Companies such as Intel, IBM and Computer Associates are not discouraging the use of email, rather they are encouraging the efficient use of email by offering classes on e-mail management, increasing the use of instant messaging, and placing files on internal networks where information can be accessed by many employees.

See E-mail consumes work time and slows down company networks., Jon Swartz, USA Today, Jun 26 2001

General Motors, the world’s largest automaker, sealed a deal with Avtovaz, Russia’s largest domestic car manufacturer, to build cars in Russia. The two automobile companies will build a new assembly line 400 miles east of Moscow and plan to release a sports utility vehicle in September 2002. While GM’s move may be a signal that Western firms are ready to invest in Russia just three years after its financial crisis, skeptics warn that similar global ventures in the past had failed because of the lack of demand for the type of car at the expected price.

See GM teams up with Russian car manufacturer to build cars in Russia., Peter Baker, The Washington Post, Jun 26 2001

Divorced women in their 60’s are finding that they cannot retire because they have insufficient funds. Retirement is generally financially easier for men, who qualify for larger pensions because they work through their adult lives, whereas women take time off to raise children. The increasing number of unmarried-divorced women complicates the social security debate—specifically, a proposal to raise the age requirement for full Social Security benefits.

See Women find they must work past retirement., Louis Uchitelle, The New York Times, Jun 25 2001

Karen Stephenson, a former professor at UCLA and a Harvard graduate with a degree in anthropology, delves into the informal networks that really govern organizations. She and her New York based company, Netform International Inc., use mathematical models and graphical analyses to identify the de facto power holders as well as workers with underutilized potential. Her clients span a diverse range from Hewlett-Packard to the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Pentagon.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 7-2 decision that a group of newspaper and magazine publishers couldn’t infringe on the copyrights of freelance writers by publishing their articles in electronic databases without consent. In her majority opinion, Justice Ginsburg reasoned that calling up individual articles on a computer divorces it from its original context, and therefore does not constitute a re-printable “revision” under the Copyright Act of 1976. While the National Writers Union, the lead plaintiff, is pleased with the decision, the chairman of the New York Times Company regrets that the company will have to remove “significant portions from its electronic historical archive.”

New federal studies reveal that thousands more workers than expected at federal plants, private manufacturers and universities may have been exposed to radiation risks associated with uranium. The radioactive elements, linked to the U.S. nuclear weapons program, increase the odds of developing cancer and other ailments. The finding may place another burden on a new federal program to compensate sick nuclear weapons workers.

Democrats and Republicans will soon debate whether a worker has the right to sue an employer when the worker has been wrongfully denied medical care. Democrats argue that employers should be held liable if they play a role in making medical decisions while Republicans claim that holding employers liable would only drive up the cost of health insurance and thus force companies to drop healthcare coverage. Currently, patients in federally regulated health plans can sue if they are denied healthcare but they can only recover the cost of treatment, not damages caused by the denial.

The United Mine Workers used to be the most powerful union in the country, guided by union President John L. Lewis with a peak membership of more than 700,000. Today, membership has fallen to 30,000 due to environmental regulations, union officials say. However, with President Bush’s coal-friendly energy plan, most notably Bush’s call to build 1,300 power plants and the rejection of the Kyoto agreement on global warming, the UMW now sees a new opportunity to revive unionization in the industry.

See United Mine Workers see new opportunity under Bush policies., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jun 24 2001

For months, the e-mail system containing confidential financial data, passwords and employees’ personal information at Wilshire Associates Inc. was open to public perusal due to the technical oversight of company officials. Security experts commenting on the breach point out the challenges businesses face in providing convenience and access to networks and databases without sacrificing company security. The breach comes in the wake of several hacker instances including the downloading of personal medical files from a university hospital computer and the vandalizing of government Web sites.

The International Labor Organization will adopt a code of conduct barring the discrimination of people with AIDS in the workplace. The I.L.O. policy urges governments, employers and workers’ organizations to turn several of the policy’s provisions into law. AIDS virus experts say that it is important to deal with the disease in the workplace for economic, medical and social reasons.

See International Labor Organization will adopt policy to protect workers with H.I.V., Barbara Crossette, The New York Times, Jun 21 2001

Although corporate spending on technology has decreased for the first time in a decade, the outsourcing market is strong. The economic slowdown is pushing companies to run more efficiently, which may in turn be causing the boost for service businesses. Industry experts, however, point out that the outsourcing market is crowded, causing firms to vigorously compete for contracts.

Disputes over long hair may have been a contentious issue in the 1960’s, but today the debate shifts to body piercing. Three Ameritech line workers were told to remove jewelry or face the consequence of losing their jobs. The workers, who are now temporarily suspended, claim that the piercing is a fashion statement and a declaration of individual freedom while the company claims the jewelry is a serious safety hazard.

See Body piercing: individual freedom or worker safety hazard?, Jon Van, Chicago Tribune, Jun 20 2001

The five-year contract sealed yesterday between pilots and Delta Air Lines makes Delta pilots the highest paid in the industry. Pilots flying on Delta’s main line will receive wage increases from 24 percent to 39 percent. The deal comes in the wake of negotiations at Comair Inc. and American airlines, as well as President Bush’s recent vow to intervene and stop strikes if negotiations fail.

See Agreement at Delta Airlines makes pilots the highest paid in the industry., Frank Swoboda, The Washington Post, Jun 20 2001

A study by a Harvard Medical School researcher reports that children under 18 years of age in the United States who hold part-time jobs are at some risk of toxic exposure while on the job. The researcher recommends that parents play a more active role in ensuring the safety of their child in the workplace and that the government carefully monitor adolescent occupational injuries. The study analyzed more than 300,000 reports of occupational toxic exposure to teens between 1993-1997.

Socialism continues to strangle the economic performance of state-owned firms in China. As one firm, the Chongqing Iron and Steel Group, nearly emerged from decades of poor performance, the city government forced the firm to buy another poor performing steel mill. The slow pace of reform may be due to Communist leaders’ persistent belief in public ownership, the Communist Party’s belief that a successful firm is one that employs many people (not necessarily one that makes the most profit), and finally, firms’ disincentive to invest in research and development because they must demonstrate short-term results to the government.

See Socialism still pervades China’s firms., John Pomfret, The New York Times, Jun 19 2001

Labor leaders, company executives and government officials attended the 21st Century Workforce Summit to discuss the future of the workplace. At the conference, President Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stressed education as the key to achieving a competitive workforce. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao emphasized the need to focus on the skills gap within the workforce, the demographic changes of the workforce and the future of the workplace.

To encourage workers to venture abroad, companies once offered generous expatriate packages that included perks such as private school for their children, annual trips home, cars and drivers, pension plans, and high-rent-district living quarters. Today, in response to the global economic standstill, multinational companies are moving to contain the costs of overseas workers by sending fewer workers abroad, scaling back expatriates’ salaries and benefits, and replacing them with “lo-pats,” workers who are willing to make a sacrifice to work and live in a specific country. Some justify the changes by saying that things have changed since the 1950’s—traveling, which was seen as a hardship, is now seen as more of an opportunity.

See Multinational companies send fewer workers abroad., Sherwood Ross, USA Today, Reuters, Jun 19 2001

Zhou Litai is believed to be the only worker injury lawyer in mainland China, a country that has one of the worst worker-safety records in the world. Based in the bustling province of Shenzhen, Zhou takes on clients who have flocked to the area from all over the country in search of jobs. China has laws that entitle injured workers to compensation but employers largely ignore them.

See Lawyer seeks to ensure workers’ compensation in China., Paul Wiseman, USA Today, Jun 18 2001

Boeing Co. has decided to move its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, but only 40 percent of its eligible workforce will transfer. The company had anticipated that 60 to 80 percent of its employees would relocate. Relocation experts say the disappointing figure is partially due to the dual-income situation of some families and a growing concern about lifestyle issues, which comes at the expense of traditional company loyalty.

See Boeing’s move to Chicago attracts fewer employees than expected., John Schmeltzer and Rob Kaiser, Chicago Tribune, Jun 18 2001

In West Virginia and Kentucky, the heart of coal mining in America, companies are claiming the rebound of the coal industry has reopened job opportunities but they are finding a shortage of willing and able Appalachian miners. A proposal, which has yet to be approved by state and federal mining officials, seeks to import miners from Ukraine to fill the mining positions. While industry officials praise the ‘work ethic’ of Ukrainian mine workers, local miners are more skeptical.

See Proposal to import Ukrainian mine workers receives mixed reviews., Francis X. Clines, The New York Times, Jun 18 2001

Leo Gerard, the president of the United Steelworkers of America, played a large role in persuading the Bush administration to stray from its free-trade position by investigating the effects of imports on the American steel industry. The investigation could lead to tariffs that would reduce steel imports and protect steel jobs. Critics charge Gerard with promoting protectionism and the Bush administration for bending towards Gerard to increase re-election chances.

See Leo Gerard-- The man behind U.S. steel protection., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jun 17 2001

Estimated at 750,000, these seniors travel across the country in RV’s to seasonal jobs with guest ranches, theme parks, traveling fair contractors, private campgrounds, public parks and tour operators. Employers appreciate these migrant senior employees because they bring with them work experience, stability, commitment, and a strong work ethic. In return, the traveling seniors receive a small pay, free or low cost RV hook up, and a chance to see the country.

See New migrant workforce consists of adventurous seniors who seek to redefine retirement., Sara Terry, The Christian Science Monitor, Jun 17 2001

The shift from a state planned economy to a market economy has brought workplace conflict into the limelight as workers increasingly sue to protect their rights. China’s 1994 Labor Law provides guarantees of union representation and social benefits, but often the workers rights are simply ignored by employers. Workers in China hope that pursuing their cause through the legal system will serve as a wake-up call to companies.

See Chinese workers turn to courts to protect their rights., Elisabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune, Jun 17 2001

Comair and the striking pilots of the Air Line Pilots Association reached a tentative agreement after 81 days of strike, a cut back of 37 aircrafts, and a reduction of 400 pilot positions. Sources say that both union and management were pressured to moderate their demands in fear that an extended strike would dissolve the airline company. Unions and other airlines followed the strike closely to see how the Bush administration would deal with the labor dispute.

See Comair and Pilots reach agreement., Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, Jun 14 2001

Data released yesterday from the New York State Department of Labor shows that while employers are still creating jobs, the rate of hire has decreased significantly. In New York City in May, the number of new jobs rose by 6,700, much less than the average monthly increase of 21,400 earlier this year. Construction, bars and restaurants are showing strong job growth but the manufacturing industry, especially predominant in Western New York, has had a significant decrease.

See Labor Department data shows a slowdown in job growth in New York City., Leslie Eaton, The New York Times, Jun 14 2001

A report from the Federal Reserve announced that factories, mines and utilities in the United States operated in May at their slowest production capacity in more than 17 years. The report highlights the plight of the manufacturing sector in the U.S., a sector that has been hit particularly hard during the economic slowdown. The situation of the manufacturing industry puts pressure on Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to allow the dollar to weaken, making U.S. products cheaper abroad.

See Federal Reserve reports slowest production capacity since 1983., The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 14 2001

The Human Rights Watch will release a report that details the abuses of workers who attained special visas to work for diplomats in Washington and New York City. The workers, who came to the United States to escape poverty in their home country, have cited unusually long hours, below minimum wage pay and sexual assaults as complaints against their employers. The Report urges the U.S. government to protect these workers and compel employers to abide by labor laws.

See Report documents abuse of foreign workers in the U.S. by diplomats., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jun 13 2001

In China, the Communist party built prison camps on two principles: first, forced labor would turn inmates into productive citizens and second, the profits from the inmates’ work in factories and farms would fund the prison operations. With the advent of market reforms in China, however, the prison camps are forced to compete with businesses for customers and resources. The result has been deficits for prison camps, whose inferior products fare poorly in the market economy, but also deteriorating conditions for inmates who suffer from the lack of prison funding.

See Prison laborers in China bear the cost of market reform., Philip P. Pan, The Washington Post, Jun 13 2001

The recent L.A. mayoral election has shown that Latinos are finding a place in the Democratic Party—and it is not necessarily due to the GOP’s stance on the immigration issue. Many Latinos, concerned with family health care, public education, a living wage and job protections, are moving into the working class and joining labor unions. The Republican rhetoric promising “less government” may be distancing working Latinos from the Republican Party.

See Latinos join labor movement and Democratic Party., George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, Jun 13 2001

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Seattle-based Bartell Drug Co. must include contraceptives in its health insurance plan. The judge, by reasoning that failure to provide contraceptive coverage was discriminatory against women, sided with women’s groups that have argued that such coverage is a fundamental health issue. Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advised that, to be in accordance with anti-discrimination laws, contraception coverage should be included along with blood-pressure medicine and anti-impotence drugs.

See Federal judge rules that health insurance must cover contraceptives., Sarah Schafer, The Washington Post, Jun 12 2001

As the downturn in the economy continues, more people are leaving their casual wear at home and reverting back to formal wear at work. Some managers now consider the dress-down style, once highly popular during the peak of dot-com success, a sign of laziness and carelessness. Some believe that formal wear helps improve job security by conveying an impressionable appearance to customers and employers.

See As economy sours, workers return to formal wear., Amie Parnes, The New York Times, Jun 12 2001

Protests over new labor laws broke out at the capital and in three cities in Indonesia as President Abdurrahman Wahid brought in a new economic team to improve his relations with the International Monetary Fund and to garner support before his impeachment later in August. Workers are protesting new labor laws that make it easier for employers to fire employees. The recent protests are among a series of labor disputes that were unleashed after the repressive dictator Suharto was forced from office in 1998.

See Workers protest labor laws in Indonesia., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 12 2001

Latino Immigrants who came to the United States in search of work are seeing their jobs shift to Mexico as companies move in search of cheaper labor. The Latinos, especially those in low-skilled industries and border communities, are the most vulnerable to the job losses brought about by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trade experts warn that the failure to assist displaced workers may result in a backlash against the Bush administration’s future attempts to extend NAFTA.

See Latinos hurt as companies move to Mexico in search of cheap labor., Evelyn Iritani, Los Angeles Times, Jun 11 2001

Arbitration is supposed to provide an efficient, inexpensive and less adversarial method of resolving disputes in the workplace but concerns arise as more companies adopt mandatory arbitration to avoid jury trials. One the one hand, critics of mandatory arbitration fear that the cost of arbitration is passed on to workers and that arbitrators may be biased towards employers. On the other hand, defenders of arbitration say that fairness standards are followed and that not having to hire a lawyer may actually encourage workers to bring their case forward.

See Mandatory arbitration sparks debate over fairness., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Jun 11 2001

Workers at Korean Air and Asiana Airlines joined a broader strike including the metal and chemical industries demanding higher wages and better conditions. The government declared the strike, which bypassed mandatory arbitration, as illegal and the company Korean Air has sued for criminal punishment of strike leaders. Twelve hospital unions vow to join the strike Wednesday.

See Airline workers join strike in South Korea., USA Today, The Associated Press, Jun 11 2001

Korean firms are providing much needed jobs and revenues for workers in Russia but the employment is provided under questionable conditions. Formally, Russian workers enjoy employment protections dating back to Soviet times, but due to the pressing economic situation of both the country and the industry, factories are able to follow a loose interpretation of the rules. Examples of Korean businesses’ labor practices in the region include punishing workers by making them stand by a wall and prohibiting them from sitting on the job.

See Questionable Korean labor practices in Russia draw attention., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 10 2001

A new federally funded program will strive to fill over 425,000 vacant technology positions across the United States. A grant was awarded to the Computing Technology Industry Association by the U.S. Department of Labor to develop the program. Completion of the program will provide entry-level technical certifications.

See Labor Department awards grant to develop technical qualifications program., Christine Tatum, Chicago Tribune, Jun 10 2001

Amid the recent headline news announcing layoffs in the slow economy, employers should make sure their workers are happy, workplace experts and consultants say. Recruiting and training costs as well as an increase in the number of nationwide jobs make worker retention an important issue. While some firms may take a more formal approach to ensuring a happy workforce with work/life programs, there are low cost methods as well, including casual dress and job titles.

See Experts say that retaining top workers is not easy despite the mounting layoffs., Sara Terry, The Christian Science Monitor, Jun 10 2001

Low-level managers who have been classified as exempt from overtime pay are sparking a series of class-action lawsuits against corporations. In what has been called “white-collar sweatshops,” managers claim they have been misclassified because they spend more time completing rote activities than actually managing businesses, and have therefore been wrongfully denied overtime pay. Businesses fear that these multimillion-dollar suits may put companies out of business.

See Managers sue in class-action suits to obtain overtime pay., Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, Jun 7 2001

Small law firms have found a way to compete with larger law firms by creating alliances and pooling their resources together. The networks, facilitated by technology, allow lawyers to refer clients to other firms across the country and around the world where jurisdictions differ. The alliances, lawyers say, are a good alternative to mergers because they are less costly and avoid the problem of conflict of interest that may arise when firms merge.

See Law firms form alliances to compete against their larger counterparts., Jonathan D. Glater, The New York Times, Jun 7 2001

In a first step to making 425,000 government jobs eligible for private contracting, President Bush has ordered 40,000 federal workers to compete for their jobs with the private sector. While the initiative is an attempt to make the civil service more responsive and efficient through competition, critics such as federal employee unions and Democratic lawmakers fear that it will lead to outsourcing, and as a result, decreased institutional knowledge and long term effectiveness. The Bush administration says that establishing competition in the workplace is a top priority that the President will continue to pursue.

See Bush takes first step in opening federal jobs to competition., Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, Jun 7 2001

Claims for state unemployment insurance climbed to its highest level since 1992. The 13,000 increase in unemployment insurance claims indicate that workers are having difficulty holding onto their jobs in the midst of a slowing economy. The job uncertainty has caused Americans to be more cautious in their spending.

See Unemployment insurance claims jump by 13,000., The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 6 2001

Following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits supervising nurses and other health-care workers from joining labor unions, the American Medical Association announced yesterday that it would withdraw its plans to spur organizing efforts at private hospitals. Two years ago, the National Labor Relations Board paved the way for residents at private hospitals to bargain collectively and the AMA took the unprecedented step of establishing a union to address the problems caused by an emerging managed-care system. The AMA’s recent decision to back off its unionizing efforts is seen as a setback for the labor movement.

See American Medical Association holds off on organizing efforts., Bruce Japsen, Chicago Tribune, Jun 6 2001

One of the fastest growing workforces in America is found in federal and state prisons. About 1.3 million inmates have jobs, recording $1.7 billion in product sales in 1999. Prison labor is opposed by human rights advocates who claim that it is a form of exploitation and labor officials who claim that it takes jobs away from law-abiding citizens.

See Companies provide controversial employment for inmates., Edward Wong, International Herald Tribune, Jun 6 2001

Experts say that contractual agreements such as “non-compete agreements” or “restrictive covenants” are increasingly used by corporate America to address the problem of lost profits due to employee defections. The contractual agreements, often a condition of employment, prevent employees from accepting jobs with competitors located within a certain geographical distance for a reasonable period of time. The non-compete agreements, once limited to high-level senior managers, are now even imposed on line workers in industrial shops.

See Restrictive Covenants extend beyond top management to guard trade secrets., Kathy Fieweger, Chicago Tribune, Jun 5 2001

A government-appointed anticorruption panel ruled yesterday that Lawrence Brennan, head of the Teamsters union in Michigan, was not guilty of using $30,000 in members’ dues for his re-election campaign. The panel reviewed the case after it declared a Teamsters’ internal investigation of the accusations inadequate. If Brennan had been convicted, he would have been expelled from the union.

See Panel Clears Teamster President of Embezzlement Charges., Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Jun 5 2001

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it would seek a ruling from the International Trade Commission in order to establish quotas limiting the amount of foreign steel imports. Deviating from an overall free-trade stance, the administration claims that a flood of foreign steel imports has been threatening the U.S. steel industry and its workers. Recently, the U.S. steel industry has been suffering from bankruptcies, job losses, and low steel prices.

See Bush moves to limit steel imports., Paul Blustein, The Washington Post, Jun 5 2001

Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that employers who discriminate may be responsible for paying an employee's future salary as well as past damages. The unanimous decision clarifies the 1991 Civil Rights Act and provides for unlimited 'front pay', compensation paid until the aggrieved employee can find a similar job to the one they left due to discrimination. Judges will decide the appropriate amount for future 'front pay' settlements under the high court's ruling.

See Supreme Court decision paves way for larger job bias settlements., David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times, Jun 4 2001

Some firms are offering bonuses and several months salary to newly hired employees who have had their job offers revoked due to the slow economy. In addition, some firms are offering job search assistance to those people whose contracts they have rescinded. These employer initiatives, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, strive to maintain a good reputation with students.

See Companies pay new hires not to show up., Stephanie Armour, USA Today, Jun 4 2001