Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock), July 25, 2004 Sunday

Copyright 2004 Little Rock Newspapers, Inc.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock), July 25, 2004 Sunday
HEADLINE: COVER STORY Who moves next? When Tyson Foods purchased meatpacker IBP, it inherited entrenched unions and labor tensions.

Union negotiator Jim Brummond has just one question for Tyson Foods executives: "Why do we have to take pay cuts?"
Brummond is trying to seal a labor contract on behalf of 600 unionized employees at the Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Cherokee, Iowa. The negotiations are deadlocked.
Tyson is asking for compensation cuts and the union is seeking pay increases. Brummond says his last meeting with Tyson negotiators, on July 8, was brief, and he just brought one issue to the table.
"We were asking why they had to make these cuts. This plant makes good profits," said Brummond, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union local in Cherokee.
If Brummond's bargaining team didn't ask for more at the meeting, it is because negotiators are hardly optimistic about winning concessions from Tyson.
A strike possibility looms over the negotiations, he says.
"It's on everybody's mind. We're very hopeful that it won't come to that," Brummond said.
Tyson doesn't seem optimistic either.
On July 15, the company filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Brummond was "making information requests for the purpose of frustrating the bargaining process and avoiding [the union's] obligation to bargain in good faith."
Cherokee isn't the only town where Tyson and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union have clashed. In Jefferson, Wis., 470 unionized Tyson employees went on strike in February 2003. The union strike lasted 11 months, but members ultimately accepted a contract largely similar to the one they originally rejected.
The labor disputes can be traced back to Tyson's 2001 purchase of the meatpacking giant IBP Inc., which brought Tyson beef and pork operations and turned the Springdale-based poultry firm into the world's biggest meat company.
The purchase handed Tyson a group of meatpacking plants in Northern states with entrenched unions - and higher wages than the company's Southern operations. When Tyson has tried to cut benefits at some plants, the unions have fought back, saying the company will depress meatpacking wages nationwide. The impact from these disputes could reach far beyond towns like Jefferson and Cherokee. Tyson and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union say they are trying to narrow the compensation gap between Northern meatpackers and Southern poultry workers.
The union wants to keep meatpacking compensation steady in the North and raise poultry workers' wages in the South through heavier organizing, spokesman Greg Denier says Tyson wants to cut compensation packages at some meatpacking plants to bring them in line with the rest of the company, according to information from spokesman Ed Nicholson. Tyson Foods declined to allow the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to interview employees on the record for this article. Nicholson agreed to e-mail answers to the newspaper's questions.
Nicholson wrote that Tyson is not pushing down wages at meatpacking plants across the board. He cited three successful contract negotiations at former IBP plants that all included pay increases for employees.
Nicholson says labor negotiations are conducted on a plant-by-plant basis. When the company asks for wage freezes or pay cuts for new hires, it is because some plants pay more than other local companies, he says. "I've ... consistently stated that pay rates are determined by a number of factors not the least of which is prevalent local wage rates," Nicholson wrote.
That argument hasn't won over Brummond's union. Tyson is asking for an end to severance pay at the Cherokee plant, a freeze on wages for five years and decreased pay for new hires, among other compensation cuts "Even though they say it's based on individual plants, they come back with the argument that they want to remain competitive," Brummondsaid. "But we are competitive. This plant has lost money in one quarter of the last 39 years."
UNIONS, OLD AND NEW Labor unions are nothing new for Tyson Foods.
Before purchasing IBP, Tyson had 23 union contracts with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Tyson's Nicholson wrote.

While unions have existed for decades in Southern poultry plants, they represent a minority of employees and don't have the strength of Northern meatpacking unions, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
"I think that food processing [in the South] is an industry where there has been a great deal of union activity, but not a great deal of union success," Bronfenbrenner said.
Among many causes for this is simple geography.
After World War II, unions gained a stronger hold in the north because meatpacking plants were located near urban areas like Chicago, creating concentrated pools of workers, Bronfenbrenner says.
Poultry plants, on the other hand, are often located in rural towns where workers are more dispersed and harder to organize, she says.
With Tyson's purchase of IBP, the corporation straddles two regions with disparate wages.
On average, slaughterhouse workers were paid $8.74 an hour in seven Southern states where Tyson has a majority of its poultry operations, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data collected in May 2003, the most recent figures available. The states are Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee.
By contrast, slaughterhouse workers were paid an average of $10.63 an hour in four Northern states where Tyson now has operations, according to the same data set. Those states are Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics did not have complete information on Oklahoma, a Southern state, and two Northern states - Illinois and Maryland. These three states' figures were not included in the comparison averages.
The data accounts for poultry and beef plants in the different states.
A multitude of factors play into any state's wage rate, including the cost of living. But unionized workers in all occupations earn higher hourly pay in the states above, according to regional analysis done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The relative strength of unions also has an impact on slaughterhouse wages, Bronfenbrenner says.
"Wisconsin is a very different part of the country [than the South], but the work and the workers aren't that different," she said.
KEEPING THE FAITH It hasn't all been strikes and labor strife since Tyson bought IBP.
Between July 2002 and June of this year, Tyson ratified labor contracts with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union at four meatpacking plants formerly owned by IBP in Iowa, Oklahoma and Indiana, Nicholson wrote.
All of the contracts included wage increases of varying sizes, according to summaries provided by Nicholson. Two of the contracts raised pay by 50 cents an hour; the third gradually raised pay by a similar amount.
Denier, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union spokesman, agrees that the ratified contracts signal that Tyson and the union can work together. The union is trying to build a "a good-faith working relationship" with the company, Denier said.
Good faith stretched thin, however, when Tyson and the union tried to negotiate a labor contract for workers in Jefferson, Wis.
Tyson asked for a number of provisions the union rejected, including pay cuts for new employees and increased employee contributions for health insurance.
Nicholson cites the health-insurance costs as a major sticking point in the negotiations.
"Soaring health-care costs are affecting everyone," Nicholson wrote.
Citing figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nicholson noted that the average blue-collar worker pays $208 a month for health insurance.
Workers at the Jefferson plant pay $117 a month.
After failing to reach a contract agreement, workers in Jefferson went on strike in February 2003.
In the first months of the strike, the community at large showed strong support for the strikers, Jefferson Mayor Collin Stevens says. Grocery stores yanked Tyson products from their shelves. Citizens started a food pantry with donated food for striking workers. Rallies were held to raise money for the cause, says Stevens, a retired teacher who was once president of his local union.
But three months into the effort, things started to sour, Stevens says. Tyson hired replacement workers to keep the plant running. When those replacements and Tyson managers crossed the picket line, striking work- ers shouted profanities that were heard for blocks around, he says.
Tires were punctured with nails when cars drove near the plant.
"Nobody wins in a strike, I think," Stevens said. "There were some malicious things done. A lot of healing has to be done and we're in that phase right now."
In January, union members decided to go back to work even though they didn't win the contract they wanted. If they hadn't returned to work, the replacement workers could have voted to dissolve the union, says Ron Peterson, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union local in Jefferson.
"It's not like it was a mutual agreement - you just got bent to your knees, and you went back," Peterson said.
SOUTHERN ADVANTAGE While many people aren't happy with the outcome in Jefferson, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union spokesman Denier says the union will try to use publicity from the strike to fuel union-organizing efforts in Tyson poultry plants.
"I think a lot of Tyson poultry workers realize how underpaid they are," Denier said. "They look at wage rates at a plant in Wisconsin and say: `Hey, I do a lot of dangerous work, too. How come I'm not getting better wages?"
Nicholson dismisses that prospect.
"Poultry workers don't have counterparts in Wisconsin. We don't have any poultry plants there. The plant in Jefferson manufactures pepperoni," He wrote. "This has not been an issue."
Nicholson says Tyson employees are free to join any union. But the company doesn't support unions because they interfere with employee relations, he says. The same factors that limited union organizing in the South over the decades will still hinder them today, says Steve Striffler, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He has worked in a Tyson slaughterhouse and is writing a book about the poultry industry.
"From the union's perspective, they're working with fairly limited resources, and it's difficult to funnel your resources into areas where the results won't be great, even if you do win," Striffler said.
Along with the geographic factor limiting unions, there is a demographic factor, Striffler says. An influx of immigrant workers to the plants makes for a difficult work force to organize. Some might not speak English, and those working illegally might be afraid to make waves, he says.
Unions are also weakened in the South by "right-to-work" laws that make it illegal to force new hires to join the union, Striffler says. Arkansas is one of 22 "right-to-work" states.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has a presence at two Tyson plants in Arkansas, at Hope and Dardanelle.
"We're constantly trying to organize Tyson in the state of Arkansas," said Charles Lee, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union local in Little Rock.
The biggest obstacle to further organizing is Arkansas' rural economy, he says.
"For the most part, Tyson is located in areas that may have a lack of industry," Lee said. "A lot of employees are afraid of losing their jobs. Any job is better than no job at all. If we make an attempt to organize, the first thing the company will use is the fear of the plant closing."
Nicholson calls that accusation false. He says that threatening to close a plant would violate federal labor laws enforced by the National Labor Relations Board.
Nicholson writes in an email, "if there were real evidence of this, the unions would most certainly file an unfair labor practice charge" with the National Labor Relations Board. Lee says his local has changed organizing tactics over time.
"We try to organize from within," he said. "The old practice of handbilling plants out front, we don't do that as much." Instead, the union has turned to calling employees at home, Lee says, declining to elaborate on other strategies.

Cornell's Bronfenbrenner says labor tension in states like Wisconsin could actually have a bigger impact on Arkansas than local efforts.
"The only way the union is going to be able to succeed ... is by doing a really national campaign which puts pressure on the company in many ways: their profits, their prestige, their public relations," she said.

Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, July 19, 2004

Copyright 2004 Manisses Communications Group, Inc. 
Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, July 19, 2004
SECTION: No. 27, Vol. 16; Pg. 1; ISSN: 1042-1394
HEADLINE: Despite protests from researchers, NIAAA discontinues online research database; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) discontinued its comprehensive online resource database, despite past year efforts by alcohol researchers, librarians and other constituents to persuade officials to reconsider their decision.
 However, officials from Cornell University have contacted NIAAA about the possibility of maintaining and continuing the database.
 The Alcohol and Alcohol Problems Science Database, commonly referred to as ETOH, will be retained as an archival source with links to other databases, journals and websites on alcohol research and related topics, according to NIAAA.
 ETOH contains more than 130,000 records and is valued for its multidisciplinary coverage of the universe of alcohol research. The ETOH database is available free to the public and is relied on by researchers, policymakers and advocates in the alcohol field worldwide, many of whom refer to the database as "one-stop shopping."
 NIAAA discontinued updating ETOH because of what it considered a duplication of effort. The ETOH database was last updated in December 2003. The decision to discontinue ETOH prompted an outcry from alcohol researchers, many of whom have written letters urging NIAAA to reconsider (see ADAW, Jan. 19).
 The ETOH database "is there for archival purposes," Diane Miller, chief of the Communications and Public Liaison branch at NIAAA, told ADAW. "It's just not being updated anymore. The overriding reason for the discontinuation was duplication of effort. Costs certainly came into it, but it was not the deciding factor."
 An internal review of the ETOH database revealed that many of the entries included in the monthly ETOH updates are redundant with materials in other databases, including the National Library of Medicine's PubMed, the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), PsychoINFO, and the Institute for Science Information, said Miller.
 A subcommittee of the National Advisory Council of NIAAA reviewed the internal study and recommended to NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. that ETOH remain on the NIAAA website as an archival, searchable database and that instead of updating ETOH, NIAAA link users to relevant information via a new ETOH web page, said Miller.
 The new site, http://, has two main sections: one section provides links to current materials through PubMed, pre-programmed PubMed search strategies that generate alcohol-related citations from all relevant fields, NCADI's database, other alcohol and drug databases and websites, and scientific journals.
 The second section provides links to the ETOH archival database, which includes information from 1972 through December 2003, the ETOH Search Guide, basic and advanced searches, and the AOD (Alcohol and other Drug) Thesaurus. The new website became available in time for the RSA (Research Society on Alcoholism) meeting in June, during which time NIAAA demonstrated the site, said Miller.
 According to Miller, officials at the Smithers Institute at the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University have contacted NIAAA about maintaining ETOH. "They are exploring the possibility of continuing ETOH, partially or entirely," said Miller. "No decision has been made yet. They're doing a feasibility study."
 Researchers disappointed
 The executive director of the international association Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists (SALIS), told ADAW that researchers and librarians had hoped to persuade the NIAAA to reconsider its decision to discontinue the ETOH database.
 Andrea L. Mitchell said representatives from SALIS had attended an NIAAA Advisory Council Meeting in May to participate in an informed discussion of ETOH's future. During that meeting, they had been informed that a decision to replace ETOH with a web page--a compilation of links to general academic and other databases which index alcohol literature--had been confirmed a week earlier.
 "We wanted ETOH to stay alive [but] it was a done deal," said Mitchell. "We're not happy with the decision NIAAA made to cut the database. We were hoping they would reconsider."
 Mitchell said researchers and librarians had conducted a campaign to keep the ETOH database running by sending letters to NIAAA officials protesting the decision. Mitchell said letters of concern regarding the NIAAA's decision had been sent to 300 constituents via e-mail. Also, more than 50 letters had been sent to Ting-Kai Li, said Mitchell. Editors in the field had also written letters to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, said Mitchell.
 Letters about ETOH as an important resource to researchers had also been sent to Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R.-Fla.), chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Housed Energy and Commerce Committee, said Mitchell.
 SALIS released a position paper and another document regarding ETOH's value and economic implications of its discontinuation. Both papers had been prepared for the NIAAA's advisory board meetings held earlier this year.
 In the position paper outlining the value of the ETOH database, SALIS said ETOH "is a unique and irreplaceable resource in the alcohol field and exemplifies the premier status of NIAAA as a world center of alcohol research. ETOH ensures a solid knowledge base for policymaking, prevention and treatment planning, and dissemination of research results."
 While acknowledging that the document about the economic impact of ETOH was prepared with limited access to budget information and other data, SALIS said the annual cost of producing ETOH ($ 0.4 million) is less than 0.1 percent of the total NIAAA budget of $ 430 million.
 Miller said she was disappointed SALIS and other constituents had no input into NIAAA's decision. "We had requested the evaluation on which they based their decision," said Mitchell. "To this day we never received it."
 Although the ETOH site will provide other links for alcohol researchers, Mitchell remains adamant that the database is not an adequate substitute. "There is no comparison between PubMed and ETOH," said Mitchell. "If ETOH goes down, it will be a big headache for those of us on the frontline [of research]. It means going to all these other databases. PubMed indexing isn't as good."
 If you know the article and title of a publication, it would not be difficult to search PubMed, said Mitchell. However, with "subject searching, you've got a problem," said Mitchell. "They're not as good as ETOH [which] has all the terminology in the field. Other databases all have their own terminology. It's a real pain."
 Miller added, "With ETOH, researching is so much easier. You're more likely to connect to a closer hit." Some of the different databases are proprietary, said Mitchell. When you click on to the databases in some countries, they're going to ask for your password, she noted.
 "We're always hoping that NIAAA changes its mind," said Mitchell. "We would love it if NIAAA, looking at how many responses they received, would say, 'Maybe we ought to think about this.'"

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Daily Record (Baltimore, MD) July 16, 2004 Friday

The Daily Record (Baltimore, MD) July 16, 2004 Friday
Copyright 2004 Dolan Media Newswires  
The Daily Record (Baltimore, MD)  July 16, 2004 Friday
 HEADLINE: USF Red Star closes down after union strike
BYLINE: Kathleen Johnston Jarboe
BODY:An April e-mail that Teamsters Union members claim to have intercepted from USF Red Star management outlined how strongly the company wanted to avoid more union organizing."We currently have several non-union offices at USF Red Star and it is imperative that they stay non-union," the communication from the trucking company said.It was addressed to a distribution list of Red Star terminal and operations managers.Sandwiched in between company policies on the July 4 holiday and how to properly discipline employees, it then advised on how to avoid unionization.Just a month later, Red Star managers had occasion to use that advice. Whether what followed was good business, union-busting or both will be debated as the situation continues to unfold.But some employers have started to use the event as a tool to thwart labor organizing. And experts say it is an example of how union and employer match ups have become uneven after decades of labor law changes strengthened companies' hands.Company management followed the recommended procedures when 15 office workers in Philadelphia tried to organize a month later. Union officials said at least 10 had signed cards declaring their wishes to join the labor group.But the e-mail told managers how to respond. It capitalized words throughout the note for emphasis."DO NOT handle, touch, peruse or even look at the cards. To do so may in the eyes of the [National Labor Relations Board] be an admission of recognition thereby making a conducted vote by the NLRB a moot point," the e-mail said.It was better to wait for a formal election and to contact higher management "IMMEDIATELY," the e-mail said. USF Corp., the Chicago-based parent of Red Star, did not return calls for comment for this story.But with worries Red Star would harass office workers about joining before the union elections, the Philadelphia local went on strike on Friday, May 21. Teamsters at the other 26 Red Star locations throughout the Northeast joined the picket line.Then the company answered with a tactic not in their e-mailed play book. It shut down.The move affected more than 2,000 Red Star workers -- about 1,400 were Teamsters. In Baltimore, nearly 200 employees lost jobs, including about 155 workers represented by Local Union No. 557.DevastatingTeamster officials have called the move devastating. Questions about paying bills and losing pensions replaced sympathetic picket signs at Red Star.Then the shutdown rippled past Red Star's northeastern trucking routes."From the moment Red Star closed, [USF] used it in our Dugan effort," said Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell. The labor group had been holding elections to represent sister trucking company USF Dugan since the start of the year.Caldwell said the message to Dugan employees in company meetings had been, "Don't let what happened at Red Star happen here at Dugan."The thinly disguised threat was too strong. The union canceled a representation vote scheduled for May 28 at the Dugan facility in Little Rock, Ark."[The closing] absolutely just scared these guys to death. It changed the whole the election -- the whole feeling of the vote," said Todd Roetzel, the secretary-treasurer of the Little Rock local.Plant closings and threats of closings have a devastating effect on unionization, according to a Cornell University researcher.While businesses often threaten to close but rarely follow through, "when they do follow through the newspaper articles [about the shutdown] will then be used by employers in campaigns all over the country to make it seem like it is bigger than it is," said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell.When companies threaten to close, win rates for signing new groups into a union drops from 51 percent to 33 percent, according to Bronfenbrenner."It's part of their arsenal of anti-union tactics," she said.While labor law prohibits companies from threatening to close in response to labor organization at their facilities, Bronfenbrenner said companies are clever at finding ways to skirt that rule."The threats are very pervasive," she said.Tactics in Little RockRoetzel said USF Dugan managers used group meetings and one-on-one sessions to dissuade truckers in Little Rock from joining. He said managers began accompanying drivers on their routes overtly to monitor their adherence to company policies. But he said they also carried a second message."All day long these managers will just hammer these employees [about joining]," Roetzel said.Still the union expected the May vote to be a slam dunk. About 75 percent of the 40 employees in Little Rock had signed cards indicating their desire to join in the beginning of the year.The Red Star shutdown changed the landscape.USF Dugan wasn't the only business to take advantage of Red Star's closure. Just three days later, the president of transportation company PJAX Inc. sent a letter to all employees with similar warnings."The Red Star closing further illustrates that the union takes a no prisoners kamikaze approach to labor relations with their contracted companies. There is no regard to the individuals " as the union further destroys their membership base. To the many PJAX employees who have been stopped en route by Red Star drivers selling the perceived virtues of belonging to the union, ask them how they like their jobs now," the letter said.The message took direct aim at employees considering unionization, Teamsters officials said. The labor group had been trying to organize its first group of workers at the Pittsburgh-based trucking company in recent months.Industry experts say the ability of companies to use such veiled threats has handicapped the growth of unions.Union membership declined from 35 percent of the work force in 1945 to just 12.9 percent last year. Economic forces caused much of the shift. The number of jobs in the largely un-unionized service sector skyrocketed during that period.Still a labor professor at Wayne State University said labor laws haven't helped.It's like going to a wrestling match with one competitor's arm tied behind his back, said labor professor Michael H. Belzer.The victimRed Star cast itself as the victim in the dispute. It said the one-day strike caused 20 percent of its customers to divert shipments."In today's economy and economic environment, just-in-time inventory is the norm, not the exception," said USF chief executive Dick DiStasio in a conference call the morning after the company said it would close."I am very disappointed to announce that Red Star suffered a loss of customers and revenue that put the company in an indefensible position regarding their future viability," he continued.Yet he stammered over an analyst question about why the company chose to close instead of adding a handful of its employees to union ranks."All you had to do to avert the strike was to recognize the union there, correct? Would that have -- wouldn't they have had to call it off after that?" the analyst asked."No. I mean -- our process is to go through the NLRB process," DiStasio said.USF's Red Star division was hemorrhaging long before the walkout. It lost $6.7 million in 2002, and revenue declined last year though it eked out a small profit after selling some property, according to financial statements."I believe the closure of Red Star had as much to do with the company's mounting losses over the last three years and their meager profit margins prior to that as it did with the strike action," said Jason Seidl, an analyst with Avondale Partners LLC in Philadelphia."I have no doubt the action with the Teamsters did seriously impact the company's revenue base; however, if the same action was taken at USF Holland with the same customer degradation, USF wouldn't have closed USF Holland," Seidl added.Weeks after Red Star closed, USF said it would fill some of the service gaps by expanding its most profitable trucking division, USF Holland, into eight of the terminals Red Star once used, including Baltimore.Teamster officials expect the move to return about 500 Northeastern trucking jobs to union rosters in September at about 85 percent of their previous pay.Belzer said if USF had wanted to hit the union harder, it would have brought in a sister company with a smaller union work force than Holland.Nearly all of Holland's workers are union members.Still "they may use this to their advantage to try to stop organizing," Belzer said.Teamster officials said the company already has.What next?From the start, the company used the strike to blame the labor group for its poor financial performance, Teamster officials said."USF has been running a vicious anti-union campaign," said Teamsters' Caldwell. "A company doesn't make that kind of a decision based on a one-day work operation. They clearly had plans to shut down operations and used this as an excuse to do this."Caldwell said the union was considering what legal steps it will take against the sudden closure.But behind the official Teamsters' statements concerning the Red Star move, another trucking analyst formed a different conclusion."It is our sense that the threat of a retaliatory Teamster action is growing less probable as the Teamster management is fearful of potentially losing further jobs like what happened at Red Star," wrote analyst Edward Wolfe in a June 24 Bear, Stearns & Co. report.For now the Baltimore USF Red Star trucking terminal on Route 1 stands idle just feet from an exit onto Interstate 195. The sprawling tan building is a reminder itself of what happened. Local union officials said morale was very low.The white-and-orange trailers are lined up to the terminal's docks. But there is no one to load them, and no goods to haul.Mark Garey was walking the picket line at the Baltimore terminal on May 23 when the company's decision came down. By then the company had nearly completed locking up its facilities.Garey recalled two Red Star managers approached the picketers. "I hope you're happy that you put us out of business," Garey, the secretary-treasurer for Local 557, remembered them saying.The announcement dumbfounded union members."I was angry. I just couldn't believe they shut the doors like that," Garey said. "They couldn't even grasp it," he said about the five union members there that night.Union officials said some members are worried about their retirement accounts and about how they will pay bills. Those with less than five years at the company would lose any pension monies earned.Garey admits the move could hurt future organizing attempts as the Teamsters seek more representation nationwide throughout USF."I believe it would dampen the upcoming campaign. But if they could see the union isn't the one that put them out of business "," he said.The union just gave the company an opening, and Red Star took it, Garey said.

National Public Radio (NPR) July 16, 2004 Friday

National Public Radio (NPR) July 16, 2004 Friday
Copyright 2004 National Public Radio (R). All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information, please contact NPR's Permissions Coordinator at (202) 513-2000.  National Public Radio (NPR)
SHOW: Day to Day (4:00 PM ET) - NPR  July 16, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: National Labor Relations Board rules that graduate students do not have the right to unionize
MADELEINE BRAND, host:I'm Madeleine Brand in Los Angeles, and this is DAY TO DAY.Graduate students do not have the right to unionize. That from the National Labor Relations Board. Four years ago, the board said grad students could form unions. So here to discuss this reversal is Tess Vigeland. She joins us from the "Marketplace" newsroom in Los Angeles. Tess, did the NLRB just simply change its mind?
TESS VIGELAND reporting:Yeah, pretty much, Madeleine. But there's a fairly transparent reason for this. In 2000, when the original ruling was issued, the board was made up of two Democrats and one Republican. There were two empty seats at the time. Now the board has three Republicans appointed by President Bush and two Democrats.The original ruling, which was unanimous, by the way, involved 1,500 graduate students at New York University. They had petitioned to be able to unionize because, in essence, they said they worked just like any other employee, whether as teaching assistants or researchers. They were paid and, therefore, they should have the option to organize. This case that overturned that ruling involved about 450 grad students at Brown who wanted to join the UAW.
BRAND: And so what's been the reaction from grad students? I imagine they're not too pleased.
VIGELAND: Oh, not too pleased at all. They're actually were some that were able to unionize over the last four years. The biggest one was at NYU. The university went ahead and recognized the union, and it bargained a first contract with them. The universities themselves today, including NYU and Brown, have said they're very gratified by this reversal.On the other hand, I talked with Kate Bronfenbrenner, who's the director of labor education research at Cornell. She says teaching assistants there are gravely disappointed.
Ms. KATE BRONFENBRENNER (Director of Labor Education Research, Cornell University): The decision four years ago represented a recognition of the evolution of the nature of the work that graduate students do, that graduate students now do the work of the university. They teach classes; they do research. This is how they earn their living while they go to school. With this decision, basically they end up being, you know, what you consider slave labor.
VIGELAND: At Cornell, the grad students actually didn't get enough votes to form or join a union.
BRAND: Those are private universities you talked about.
BRAND: What about public universities? Do they have different rules?
VIGELAND: They do. Because government employees--federal, state and local--they aren't covered by the National Labor Relations Board. The definition of employee is different, and the rules on unionizing are basically made state by state. For example, in New York, the SUNY College system there, here in California, the UC system, teaching assistants and researchers can organize. But in several other states, they are not allowed to. And, again, they are not subject to the NLRB.And today in the "Marketplace" newsroom, we're looking into the intersection of ink and commerce; the big business of tattoos.
BRAND: Tess Vigeland, of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace," joins us regularly at this time for discussions about money and business. And "Marketplace" is produced by American Public Media.Thanks, Tess.
VIGELAND: Thank you, Madeleine.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Buffalo News (New York) July 15, 2004 Thursday

Buffalo News (New York) July 15, 2004 Thursday, FINAL EDITION
Copyright 2004 The Buffalo News  
Buffalo News (New York)  July 15, 2004 Thursday, FINAL EDITION
BODY:How do you get companies to come to Buffalo?Ask them.Better yet, get thousands of people to ask.That's the approach a group of local people -- some who have moved here and grown to appreciate what the area has to offer -- is taking as it embarks on a grass-roots campaign to ask companies to consider the Buffalo Niagara region when deciding on places for relocation or expansion. Enclosed with a letter would be a list of Buffalo-area names and signatures -- tens of thousands of them, if possible -- obtained through a Web site and public outreach in the next couple of months.Simple? That's the idea.Can it help? Who knows.But the "We Believe in Buffalo Niagara" campaign is intriguing enough that it has gained support from some strong organizations, including the Kaleida and Catholic health systems, the Buffalo Medical Group, the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, some local unions and a couple of colleges, for starters."The grass roots is where there's still belief that something can happen," said Lou Jean Fleron, one of the campaign members and director of economic-development initiatives for Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. "It's the kind of passion and optimism we see missing from leadership, and that's what frustrates people."Discouraged by the region's decades-long doldrums, organizers pitch the campaign as a community effort with involvement from a broad spectrum of Western New York organizations. The effort, though, is actually the brainchild of Dr. Akram S. Talhouk, a surgeon who moved from Long Island to the Buffalo area in 2002. He was smitten with the region -- the warmth of its people, its culture, its beauty -- but also saw the bad economy, the job losses, the population decline, and wondered how the community could help the region bounce back.'They'll rally around'The concept: Send a positive, nonpolitical letter from the Buffalo-area community to several hundred companies with the potential for expansion."Be part of the 'coming back' of Buffalo Niagara," the letter reads. "There is no question in our minds, Buffalo Niagara will regain its standing among the greatest of U.S. regions. The question is, will you and your company be a part of our success story?"Talhouk, whose specialty is general surgery and critical care, got the usual brushoffs and nonresponses as he tried to get the community on board.But the idea resonated with plenty of people, such as John Tobia, district manager for the 11 Home Depot stores in the Buffalo area. Tobia was transferred to Buffalo from Flushing, Queens, six years ago and recently told his vice president that this is where he wants to be for the rest of his career."Give the people something to rally around, and they'll rally around it," Tobia said of the campaign. "We're not asking for any money, just 'if you believe in Buffalo, sign here.' "Organizers are optimistic about the outcome.If the campaign gets attention from even one or two companies, or helps put pressure on elected officials to take more action, it will have achieved its goal. Or even if it simply mobilizes a community to work together for the region.Promoting the Web siteWith thousands of economic-development agencies and Chambers of Commerce out there vying for the same business, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise hopes to meet with organizers to help make sure letters end up in the right hands, said Thomas A. Kucharski, president of the private-public regional marketing campaign.But Kucharski likes the enthusiasm. "Anytime the community wants to get involved, I think it's great," he said.Other participating organizations include: Tops and Wegmans supermarkets; the AFL-CIO; the Buffalo Teachers Federation; Houghton, Trocaire and Erie Community colleges; the Coalition for Economic Justice; Forever Elmwood; the Burchfield-Penney Art Center; Affluere Financial Services; Elmwood Franklin School; and Frederick Law Olmsted academies 56 and 64.Now the group is looking for more backers and volunteers while spreading the word about its Web site: group wants to start collecting signatures in earnest by the end of summer, in hopes of sending out letters by fall.The beauty of the campaign is that it gives residents a sense they can do something to help, said Helen Kalota of Local 1168, Communications Workers of America."I think we all have an optimism that things can change here despite the political and economic obstacles," Kalota said. "But everybody always expects someone else to do it or someone else to start it. People are just waiting."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

National Public Radio (NPR) July 13, 2004 Tuesday

National Public Radio (NPR) July 13, 2004 Tuesday

Copyright 2004 National Public Radio (R). All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information, please contact NPR's Permissions Coordinator at (202) 513-2000.
National Public Radio (NPR)
SHOW: Talk of the Nation (3:00 PM ET) - NPR
July 13, 2004 Tuesday
HEADLINE: Rising cost of college tuition

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan.

As high school kids and their parents begin thinking about college, they have to consider a number of factors: Is it the right fit academically? Is it the right size, in the right location and, perhaps most importantly, does it have the right price tag? For more and more families, tuition is a deciding factor in where the kids will go to college, because the cost of a college education keeps increasing astronomically. A recent report from The College Board shows that during the last school year, the average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose 14 percent to nearly $4,700 on average. At four-year private colleges, where costs are already higher, the prices rose 6 percent to an average of nearly $20,000. A lot of educators, government officials, parents and students are asking why tuition costs keep spiraling upward and if anything can be done to curb the trend.

[Shortened to focus on Prof. Eherenberg]

Joining us now is Ronald Ehrenberg, professor of economics and director of the Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University. He's he author of "Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much." Professor Ehrenberg joins us from studios on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York.
Welcome to the program.

Professor RONALD EHRENBERG (Cornell University): Thank you, Lynn.

Prof. EHRENBERG: I think you've been listening to our conversation with Professor Vedder. First of all, what's your take on some of what you've heard?

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, I think one unfortunate thing in Professor Vedder's presentation is that he doesn't distinguish between what's going on in private higher education and in public higher education. Public higher education in the United States has been hemorrhaging. The share of state budgets going to public higher education has declined over the last 30 years. State expenditures per full-time or equivalent student have risen at rates barely higher than the rate of inflation. And the increases have not been sufficient to account for increases in things such as faculty salaries. And faculty salaries in public higher education have fallen relative to faculty salaries in private higher education. If you went back to 1980, the average faculty member at a public university earned about 90 percent of what the average faculty member at a private university earns. Today, the number is down near 77 percent. So the publics are having a great deal of difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality faculty.

These very, very difficult--you say, 'Well, expenditures have gone up at the rate of inflation. Why isn't that enough?' There've been tremendous costs that the publics and the privates have had to take on. Part of the reason for the costs comes from government itself. And here I agree with his analysis that there is room for less government regulation of the universities. But much of the increased administrative costs at my university is due to all of the money that we spend on environmental issues, on health and safety issues, on equal employment opportunity, on federal contract compliance, on auditing and reporting requirements. These universities have to come up with the money to completely wire their campus and capital construction costs, and the public universities don't have the access to as many private donors as the private universities have. And then over the last 20 years, the public universities have gotten involved in development and fund-raising, and you have to spend money and hire people in order to raise money.

NEARY: What about...

Prof. EHRENBERG: So, yes...

NEARY: What about this whole question of productivity that Professor Vedder raised?

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, the productivity issue is very interesting because we seem to be using a measure of the number of students that you can turn out per faculty member as a measure of productivity and we're not talking at all about the quality of product. You asked Professor Vedder what his teaching load is; I currently am teaching one course per semester because of some external funding I have. But in the one course that I'm teaching, I have 75 students and they all write group research papers and they meet with me regularly in my office. I have a number of other students doing research with me as part of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. And because of these experiences, many of these students are going on to PhD study. So I think one important thing that gets lost in the debate over productivity is the college experience for students, and what they expect today is very, very different than what it was 20 or 30 years ago.

NEARY: And what about the idea of cutting non-educational programs, athletics, for example?

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, I'm not going to be a defender of large athletic programs. And I'm at the university which is in one of the few conferences that have no athletic scholarships. But what students expect at a university and what universities have to do to attract students has gone up. And many public universities are finding that they need, or they believe they need, large athletic programs to make their campuses more attractive to students, and also to build the type of alumni loyalty, which many of the privates already have, that leads to increased private support in the future.

NEARY: Professor Vedder, there's something I wanted to talk to you about a little bit further, and then ask you, Professor Ehrenberg, to respond to it. And that is your argument eventually sort of goes to privatizing colleges and universities, state colleges and universities. I wonder if you could just explain a little bit more about that idea.

Prof. VEDDER: Well, I'm not sure--I don't think it's even politically feasible to truly, fully privatize American universities at any time in the immediate future, and I'm not sure that I'm advocating it. But I raise the question in my book 'Why do we have public support of the universities when universities are an investment for the individual attending school and in most cases--not all cases, but in most cases brings about a very significant increase in their income from what they otherwise would receive?' College graduates earn close to, say, just rough it out, double what high school graduates do on average, and so it's a pretty good investment going to college. That's one reason why the demand for a higher education has gone up so much.

Well, we've always assumed that there were a lot of external benefits to universities. Professor Ehrenberg, in his book, makes the point that universities promote economic development. Well, my own research shows--and I started out believing this myself. But when I start looking at the relationships between what we spend using public-sector funds anyway on universities and what we get in terms of growth in income per person or what have you, we don't get those strong, positive relationships and we don't see that states that spend lots more money on public universities get significantly higher rates of educational participation, another goal that higher education--public support of higher education has.

So I ask the question maybe it's time to disengage somewhat from supporting universities. And, indeed, that is what is happening, as Professor Ehrenberg indicates, at the state and local governmental level. They are reducing support relative certainly to their total budgets and, in some cases, relative to the number of students they have. So we're moving away from that. And I'm suggesting, 'Well, maybe what we ought to be doing is giving more of the money directly to students'--which we already do, to some extent, and particularly to the lower-income students--'and largely disengage from education and, ultimately, have state universities move closer to private status.' Of course, they don't have the endowments and so forth that the Cornells of the world have, and so there are some problems with this. But at least I think it's an idea that is worth giving serious thought to.

NEARY: Professor Ehrenberg.

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, the growth of public higher education in the United States--which started actually at the turn of the 20th century--was a great democratization-type move, which took higher education which had historically been the venue just of the elites and opened it up the rest of society. And my concern is that over the last 30 years, we have not narrowed educational differentials by socioeconomic class. And the public higher education institutions have a unique responsibility to serve all members of our society, which the privates, although they should be doing that, do not always do.

And the other point I would make is that we have shifted over the last 10 or 15 years from thinking about higher education as a public good to thinking about higher education only in terms of the economic return to the people undertaking it. And if you accept the latter view--which is the view that Professor Vedder is putting forth--then certainly the standard economic argument is, 'Well, just break down capital constraints and provide subsidies to individuals and that's all you need to know.' But I would sort of point out that the public higher education and the whole land-grant university system was developed with the notion that public higher education institutions have a unique responsibility to the rest of society in that they prove to serve a social purpose.

NEARY: All right. I want to get a call in here now. Deb in Greensboro, North Carolina. Hi, Deb. Go ahead.

DEB (Caller): Hi. I'm calling as a former adjunct part-time instructor at three colleges--one private, one public and one community college, and I just wanted to comment that if you're talking the money away from the schools--the government money--what ends up happening is you have a whole bunch of people like me with no insurance, no benefits. We work out of our car or--I had a bike. I couldn't even afford a car. And the students suffer. They don't get the education they want. I ran into--I ended up going into the high school because I wanted to be able to have vacation, and if I got sick I wanted to be able to see a doctor. When I ran into one of my former college students, he said, 'Oh, yeah, we have a new athletic field, we have a new gym and I can't get the classes I need.' And that's not--he honestly said that to me because I asked him what was going on. I'm not kind of saying it to push--I mean, I am saying it to push my point, but the fact of the matter is he said it; I didn't ask him.

NEARY: All right, Deb. I wanted to read an e-mail just to support what you said. Somebody wrote in something very similar and I'd like to hear our guests reply. 'I work at a college and I see what they are spending money on. Most of it is, A, to enable new learning technologies, and, B, do what students, parents and alumni want, like athletics and student life. But in the library, which is the academic heart of most colleges, costs of journals, databases and basic data--that is, all information--have double-digit inflation every year. Over time, this is one reason college costs go up.' So I'd like to hear you comment on that first, Professor Vedder. And thanks for your call, Deb.

DEB: OK. I'll take it off.

Prof. VEDDER: Those are both interesting comments, and I don't disagree with either one. Indeed, the comment from Deb about her situation working at three different colleges points out another interesting thing. In the attempt to cut costs, a lot of universities are increasing the amount of non-tenure-track, sort of adjunct faculty that are paid relatively modest amounts, have relatively little job security and so forth. Other--my sense, and this is partly just my intuitive sense more than based on factual information, is that there's a sort of an academic underclass of faculty that move from university to university. At the same time we are at the other end of the spectrum finding ourselves paying very large amounts for sort of superstar faculty, particularly at the better private universities.

NEARY: And we actually have not discussed your take on tenure, either, which is one of your cost-cutting proposals.

Prof. VEDDER: Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm not necessarily in favor of abolishing tenure, but I do think it does impose some costs on society. So anyway, you've got a huge disparity. I suspect a growing disparity and I don't know if Professor Ehrenberg agrees and knows more about this--between the haves and the have-nots within the academic community.

NEARY: That's interesting. Let's take another call now from John, and he's calling from Idaho. Hi, John.

JOHN (Caller): Hello.

NEARY: Hi. Go ahead.

JOHN: I go to the Albertson College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, and recently we actually lowered our tuition to about 13 grand a year, which cut our tuition in about half.

NEARY: How'd you do it?

JOHN: Well, what happened was that we had increased our sticker price just a few years earlier because of the perception of prestige, to make it look like we were more prestigious because everyone was asking us, 'Why is your college so cheap? Why is it so cheap to go there?' so you must not be as good as these other schools. And what--but then what we did is we increased our price and people said, 'Oh, you are as good as those other schools,' now is the perception, but we can't afford to go there anymore. So we just recently decreased it back down to the actual price. When we had the price up higher, only about three people actually ever paid the full price.

NEARY: What do you mean by that?

JOHN: I mean that the actual sticker price that the college was saying--there was a press release they released after they switched the price back down and they switched it for those students, too, but at the time when our cost was about twice as much, only three students at the school were actually paying that price. Everyone else was actually paying very equivalent to what we've now lowered it to. But the problem was there was perception from students who would say, 'Well, I can't go to your school because it's too expensive,' but it really wasn't.

NEARY: All right. That's an interesting comment, John. Thanks so much for your call.

And I want to remind everyone that you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Professor Ehrenberg, what's your reaction to that?

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, can I return first to the previous caller who talked about the growth of part-time faculty?

NEARY: Sure.

Prof. EHRENBERG: I think that Professor Vedder's point there was exactly correct, and the growth of part-time faculty and non-tenure-track faculty, which is being done in an attempt to hold costs down, my own research has shown that this leads to adverse outcomes for undergraduate students, and it reduces graduation rates exactly for some of the reasons that the caller mentioned. The other thing, of course, that is happening is that because of the poor treatment of adjunct faculty, there now is a growing movement in this country for unionization and collective bargaining for adjuncts, and as that occurs, the cost advantage from using them will go down and universities will have to figure out other ways to hold their costs down.

NEARY: All right. And to the point of the last caller, and either one of you can respond to this--perhaps Professor Vedder. I mean, it's a curious call in the sense that they just simply raised the tuition to be competitive and then dropped it back down again. I don't know how common that is, but it seems to--it raises the question of, first of all, how much competition plays into this whole question of rising tuition costs.

Prof. EHRENBERG: Well, if I could just answer that because...

NEARY: Go ahead, Professor Ehrenberg.

Prof. EHRENBERG: ...I've been doing research on this. Colleges and universities fool around with what they call enrollment management or pricing consultants, and some institutions have found that when they reduce their price--their posted price to students--they can succeed in increasing revenue as opposed to using the strategy of setting a high posted price but give large tuition discounts to many students. And that's what the caller described that happened at his institution.

NEARY: OK. Let's see if we can get one more call in here. Craig in Greensboro, North Carolina. Go ahead, Craig.

CRAIG (Caller): Hi. Love the show. Yeah, I saw a report maybe a year ago talking about that some colleges were trying to cut costs by limiting contact time with students, whether it was shortening the school year or shortening the number of days or hours that the kids met with professors per class. I'm wondering what the panel thinks about that, and I'll take my message off the air.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much, Craig. Professor Vedder, is that getting to some of what you're suggesting or not?

Prof. VEDDER: Well, I haven't heard much talk about that. There is, of course, a great growth in online instruction, both through the formal processes through traditional universities and also through these for-profit providers which are growing exponentially as we speak. So there is a view that the costs of higher education are largely labor costs, and if we can lower those costs we can do better. But I--as a professor myself, and I've read what Professor Ehrenberg has said, and I think we probably largely would agree, there's a lot of students whose lives have been impacted by the personal contact that they have with individual faculty. And one raises some issues relating to quality if one starts dramatically cutting the class contact with faculty in an attempt to cut costs. There is a dilemma there. I'm not saying that some of it can't be done, but it's certainly not a totally costless thing in terms of qualitative issues as well.

NEARY: Well, all this is great food for thought, and I thank both of you for joining us today for this discussion. Richard Vedder is professor of economics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Ronald Ehrenberg, professor of economics and director of the Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca.

When we come back from a short break, we take up one of the most serious political issues of the campaign: hair.

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Buffalo News (New York) July 11, 2004

Buffalo News (New York) July 11, 2004 Sunday, FINAL EDITION
Copyright 2004 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)
July 11, 2004 Sunday, FINAL EDITION
Business people/ Hires, Promotions & Honors

/ Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations awarded the Buffalo Labor Studies Certificate to graduates Irene Bailey, Bruce Colucci, Robert Hellwitz, Kay McClamb, James Minter, Jeffrey Peterson, Daniel Power, Kevin Schrader, Gladys Simmons-Beckham and Denise Szymura at its 31st commencement ceremony recently at the Hearthstone Manor in Depew. Also, the school awarded the Advanced Labor Studies Certificate to Denise Szymura and James Lakeman.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Financial Times (London, England) July 9, 2004 Friday

Copyright 2004 The Financial Times Limited
Financial Times (London, England)
July 9, 2004 Friday
London Edition 1
HEADLINE: US service industry labour unions merge

Delegates from two large US labour unions voted yesterday to merge, in a move that highlights strategic alliances among unions, especially those representing growing numbers of service industry workers.

At a joint convention in Chicago, HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union, and Unite, the clothing, textile and laundry union, merged to form Unite Here, which represents 440,000 active members and more than 400,000 retired people.

"This merger substantially increases our ability to fight for the rights of our members and the tens of thousands of new members that we will represent in the future," said John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here.

The merger will be signed today. John Edwards, the newly chosen running mate of the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, will address the convention tomorrow. Mr Edwards is known as a champion of the working and middle classes.

Manufacturing jobs were the core of the US labour industry 50 years ago. However, as more manufacturing jobs are transferred overseas, the US economy is shifting toward service industries. According to forecasts published this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seven of the 10 occupations with the greatest growth through 2012 will be in low-wage, service fields.

"There wouldn't be as much attention on service if the manufacturing jobs had stayed," says Cletus Daniel, professor of labour history at Cornell University. While most other unions have been losing numbers, the Service Employees International Union has grown rapidly and is now the largest union in the US. SEIU, which represents hospital orderlies and nursing home workers among others, has doubled in size to 1.6m members since 1996 through aggressive organising.

Both Here and Unite are part of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a federation of 61 national and international labour unions that represents 13m members. But critics have said the unions within the AFL-CIO are too disparate and fragmented to effectively mobilise.

"The thought is that there are too many small unions in the US," says Nelson Lichtenstein, professor of labour history at University of California Santa Barbara. "If a union wants to show it can have an impact on the character of a job, it has to have a certain level of density."

Unite's origins lie with representing textile manufacturers and seamstresses, but as those jobs have left North America, the union has focused more on retail and distribution.

Linda Chavez, author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics, says more powerful unions in the textile industry threaten to make the US uncompetitive in world markets.

"When you've got unions breathing down your neck on one hand and cheap imports on the other, companies are stuck in the middle," says Ms Chavez. "They're being hit on both sides."

Chicago Tribune July 7, 2004 Wednesday

Copyright 2004 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune
July 7, 2004 Wednesday
Chicago Final Edition
HEADLINE: Unions seek strength in merger; Garment, hotel workers to vote on combination
BYLINE: By Stephen Franklin, Tribune staff reporter.

When Cristina Vazquez started out on the floor of a Los Angeles garment factory there were few immigrants like her in union jobs, and garment industry jobs were everywhere.

Twenty years later, garment industry jobs are few and vanishing, while the Ecuadorian-born Vazquez is a top-ranking union leader, and her union is eager to become the voice for immigrants.

"Immigrants are the ones who've been making the changes in Los Angeles. They are re-energizing the labor movement in Los Angeles," said Vazquez, a regional manager for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

As delegates from her union gather in Chicago this week to vote on a proposed merger with the hotel workers union, there is much talk about the combined power and matching philosophies of unions made up largely of women, minorities and immigrants.

Leaders of the 180,000-member textile union and the 260,000-member Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees expect 1,500 union delegates on Thursday to approve the merger and then stage a celebratory march up Michigan Avenue afterwards.

Their new union faces a heap of challenges ranging from garment and textile companies devastated by imports, to hotels suffering from slumping tourism, to companies determined to stay union free.

"We can't just treat things like they were the same," said Wilfredo Larancuent, who heads UNITE's laundry-worker division in the New York area.

With over 40,000 laundry workers, many signed up in recent years, the union has its eyes on the 150,000-worker industry nationwide, said Larancuent, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who worked his way up in the union's ranks.

Martin Malin, a labor law professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, who describes the two unions as among labor's most innovative, said of the new union: "I am watching it very carefully.

"It is really clear that the 1950s and 1960s paradigm is not very successful in the 21st Century and organized labor has to figure out how to adapt," he said.

Labor's share of the workforce dropped to 12.9 percent last year, a low not seen since the late 1930s.

Officials from the two unions say they realize what they are up against.

In the new union, known as UNITE HERE, Bruce Raynor, who has been president of UNITE, will be general president. John Wilhelm, who has headed HERE, will serve as president with responsibility over the union's hospitality industry.

As the two point out, both of their unions spend about half of their budgets on organizing new members, a figure that puts them well ahead of most other unions.

UNITE, which has much deeper pockets than HERE, also boasts the largest staff among U.S. unions that is devoted to battling companies on organizing drives and contract issues.

The two also joined three other union leaders last year in creating a loose coalition called the New Unity Partnership. Their goal, they said at the time, was to shake up organized labor with new ideas, which they have done.

Mergers add power

One of their ideas is that unions should organize according to industries, and not grab whatever workers they can. Another is that unions need to merge to coordinate their powers.

Rick Hurd, a Cornell University labor expert, says that they are living up to their word by merging their unions. "What they are trying to do is set an example," he added. "I think it is a bit of a questionable match in industries, but it makes a perfect fit in terms of philosophy, the style of organizing and the targeted industries," he said.

Wilhelm defends the move as "the ideal marriage."

Both unions, he said, have large numbers of immigrant workers and have championed their cause in recent years. And both unions, he said, can rely on their manpower and geographic sprawl as they organize more members.

Besides the usual suspects--hotels, restaurants and garment-makers, the new union's organizing targets are likely to be industrial laundries, the apparel industry--going from sales to manufacturing, giant food-service providers, and the booming casino industry.

While the hotel workers represent about 50 percent of the employees in hotels in the nation's major cities, they only account for 10 percent of all hotel workers across the U.S., Wilhelm said.

When the tourism industry fell into a deep swoon after the Sept. 11 terrorism attack, up to half of the hotel workers' members were out of work. Many have since returned, but the union is still down by at least 10 percent of its membership, said Wilhelm.

Solid finances help

One advantage for Wilhelm's union is that UNITE, which also owns the New York-based Amalgamated Bank, is in much better financial health.

"Our finances are just fine if we just want to keep going and grow slowly. But if we want to organize on a very large scale then our finances aren't sufficient," Wilhelm said.

Such financial resources may soon come in handy in the Los Angeles area, where the hotel workers have run into rough bargaining.

The union wants a two-year contract so it can line up the expiration dates among its contracts in the nation's major cities. That way the union would be able to exert power nationally, rather than having to bargain city by city.

But the Los Angeles-area hotel owners have balked, saying they want a five-year contract.

As union delegates on Tuesday scurried about at the Sheraton Hotel, where Janja Subasic earns $10.75 an hour as a second-shift turn-down attendant, she acknowledged that she wasn't aware that her union was about to take a historic step.

But the 40-year-old, who arrived in the U.S. eight years ago as a refugee from Bosnia, said she knows that there is a Bosnian speaker at the union hall to call for help, and whenever she has a problem on the job somebody from the union's Local 1 shows up.

"I have friends in other hotels and the pay is OK, but they don't have rights," she said.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

USA TODAY, July 7, 2004

USA TODAY, July 7, 2004
Copyright 2004 Gannett Company, Inc.
USA TODAYJuly 7, 2004, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION
HEADLINE: Inmates vs. outsourcing
BYLINE: Jon Swartz

ONTARIO, Ore. -- David Day has a bounce in his step and a glint in his eye unexpected in someone who makes nearly 400 telemarketing calls a day for less than $200 a month. That's because he has a coveted job where few exist: behind bars.

Day, 43, is one of 85 inmates who arrange business meetings from a call center at the Snake River Correctional Institution, a state penitentiary in this onion- and potato-producing town not far from the Idaho line. "I'm grateful for the opportunity. Many of us end up here because we didn't have jobs and lacked communications skills," he says on a recent morning, ponytail cascading down his state-issued denims.

If not for consulting firm Perry Johnson's aversion to moving jobs offshore, Day, who was convicted of assault, and his cellmates wouldn't be working.

About a dozen states -- Oregon, Arizona, California and Iowa, among others -- have call centers in state and federal prisons, underscoring a push to employ inmates in telemarketing jobs that might otherwise go to low-wage countries such as India and the Philippines. Arizona prisoners make business calls, as do inmates in Oklahoma. A call center for the DMV is run out of an all-female prison in Oregon. Other companies are keeping manufacturing jobs in the USA. More than 150 inmates in a Virginia federal prison build car parts for Delco Remy International. Previously, some of those jobs were overseas.

At least 2,000 inmates nationwide work in call centers, and that number is rising as companies seek cheap labor without incurring the wrath of politicians and unions. At the same time, prison populations are ballooning, offering U.S. companies another way to slash costs.

"Prisons are prime candidates for low-skill jobs," says Sasha Costanza-Chock, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who last year completed a thesis on call centers at U.S. prisons.

Market conditions seem to favor prisons. After declining for years, call-center jobs in the USA increased several hundred, to about 360,000, last year. At the same time, more white-collar jobs are going offshore than researchers originally thought. About 830,000 U.S. service-sector jobs, from telemarketers to software engineers, will move abroad by the end of 2005, up 41% from previous predictions, says Forrester Research.

About 3.5% of the 2.1 million prisoners in the USA produced goods and services worth an estimated $1.5 billion in 2002.

But the convicted workforce elicits as much dread as interest. Companies flinch at the prospect of a public-relations backlash should news leak out that they employ hardened criminals. Union representatives, meanwhile, call the hiring of prisoners a flagrant violation of minimum-wage laws and unfair competition to free workers.

"Quite literally, they're taking advantage of a captive audience," says Tony Daley, research economist for the Communications Workers of America, which represents 700,000 people nationwide.

A short commute

Tucked away in a corner of Oregon's largest prison, the call center looks like any other, except for the nearby guard stations, razor-wire fences and prison yard.

No more than a football-field-length away, employees commute from their "homes," or cells. The 40-hour workweek is Monday through Friday. A typical workday starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Stellar work earns a half-day on Friday. The pay isn't great -- $120 to $185 a month -- but for 80 Snake River inmates, it's their first job and a diversion from life in this medium-security prison of 2,900.

"It's a real job: I've learned how to use a computer, make sales pitches and relate to people in the business world," says Willie Wade, 30, who is serving time for robbery. Convicts work for two companies in the Oregon facility. Day and about 60 others pitch Perry Johnson consulting services to American businesses. A group of 20 inmates, including Wade, work for Timlin Industries, an Oregon company that sells promotional items to small businesses.

The center opened last year after a yearlong push by the Oregon Department of Corrections to recruit businesses that would otherwise move offshore. The program reduces by 24% recidivism, the frequency in which released prisoners violate the law and wind up back in jail, and teaches prisoners to work together.

"Guys are sharing business tips rather than talking about their next fix or who to knock off next," says Rob Killgore, administrator of Oregon Corrections Enterprises, a semi-independent state agency that recruits for-profit business to prisons.

"When done properly, it is a vital and important service," says Kara Gotsch, public policy coordinator of the ACLU's National Prison Project. The temptation of call centers behind bars:

* Keeping jobs in the USA. Although inexpensive facilities and English-speaking workers beckon abroad, U.S. companies are unnerved by political backlash.

Consider consulting firm Perry Johnson. It considered moving jobs to India but instead opted for Snake River. "They wanted to keep jobs in the U.S., not take them away," says Ronna Newton, manager at International Marketing Resources, which set up the call center and has fielded calls from other interested companies.

"We're trying to save jobs from going overseas but without hurting the unions," says Philip Glover, president of the National Council of Prison Locals.

But Gordon Lafer, a University of Oregon political science professor, says companies view inmates as an opportunity to skirt the offshore controversy and still save money. "That's as disingenuous as farming jobs overseas," he says.

Besides prisons, companies are relocating call centers and other back-office operations to small towns such as St. Marys, Ga., and Nacogdoches, Texas, where real estate and labor are cheap.

* The costs of call centers. It's hard to retain call-center workers because the job can be demanding, labor experts say. Tethered to a phone up to 10 hours a day, answering hundreds of calls, workers are subjected to peeved callers and dreary work conditions. That has led to dizzying turnover rates of 33% -- nearly 10 times the average for other jobs, says Mercer Human Resource Consulting. High turnover has become such a thorny issue for the 7 million-worker industry that Comcast and Comerica have spruced up work spaces and offer specialized training to keep workers, Mercer says.

And it is costly to replace workers. Most companies spend $6,000 to $7,000 to recruit and train each worker, says Jon Anton, a professor at Purdue University's Department of Consumer Sciences.

An official for an Oklahoma-based sales company said if not for its 24-person call center at a state prison, it would have shut down operations or moved jobs to China because of costs. Inmates earn 11 cents to 36 cents an hour, says the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

So far, only six of the 85 inmates in Oregon have quit since the center opened in October, says Mike Reagan, who oversees call-center operations at Snake River. Inmates must have at least a year remaining on their sentences to qualify.

* Qualified workers. There are more inmates -- 2.1 million in mid-2003, compared with 1.6 million in 1995 -- because of an influx of convictions for non-violent crimes and longer sentences, says the Justice Policy Institute. As prison populations swell, so has the number of potential qualified workers.

"There isn't as much of a stigma to using prison labor," says Rosemary Batt, a professor at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. "We're sending jobs overseas when there are plenty of qualified people in prison. Why not pay people a wage to rehabilitate them?"

Timlin Industries approached the prison when it became too difficult to find workers in tiny Lakeview, Ore. "Boy, do these guys work hard," says Tim Klosse, who owns Timlin. His crew has performed so well, Timlin recently opened a manufacturing facility in Lakeview to handle an influx of orders.

Grunt work

Prisons and call centers are nothing new. Best Western phone reservations were logged by female inmates in Arizona in the 1980s and early 1990s before they were replaced by technology. TWA discontinued a phone-reservations program that employed inmates in California in the late 1990s, before the airline went out of business. All got flak for using prison labor. That's not lost on companies considering using inmates instead of exporting jobs. "There is a calculated risk," Killgore admits.

They fear a repeat of the public-relations fiasco that ensnared Dell last year, when it was disclosed that Dell employed prisoners for computer-recycling jobs since late 2002. Dell canceled its contract with Unicor, a branch of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, after an environmental group in California criticized Unicor for improper disposal of toxic waste and unsafe conditions. Dell spokesman Bryant Hilton said moving the jobs to California, Texas and Tennessee was a business decision.

Or worse, executives shudder at the prospects of inmates sharing the personal information of customers with fellow prisoners, as some did in Utah in 2000. That program was scrapped.

Yet advances in technology and common sense have resolved those concerns today, Killgore and others say. At Snake River prison, phone numbers are generated by computer and calls are recorded. Inmates talk to businesses, not consumers. And prisoners convicted of identification theft aren't eligible for jobs.

Ironically, market conditions overseas could return to the U.S. call-center jobs that drifted offshore, says Naren Patni, CEO of Patni Computer Systems, India's sixth-largest software company and a pioneer in outsourcing.

"Costs and turnover for low-skill jobs will increase in India," Patni says. "Who wants to be stuck in a telemarketing job, working odd hours to fit the U.S. time zones, if higher-paying jobs in product development come over? That may force U.S. companies to move call centers, maybe to jails."

Katey Grabenhorst, 42, is eternally grateful one particular call-center job was available at an Oregon prison. She started working for the DMV while imprisoned and remains an employee out of jail.

The job "brought self-esteem, order, skills and a stable income to my life," says Grabenhorst, who served nearly five years for attempted murder. "If this program wasn't available, I would have probably ended up back in prison."

"People can debate the value of prison labor, but I'm living proof it works," she says.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) July 4, 2004

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) July 4, 2004 Sunday Final Edition

Copyright 2004 Post-Standard, All Rights Reserved.
The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
July 4, 2004 Sunday Final Edition

BYLINE: By Rebecca James Staff writer

In one of the more solidly Democratic states in the country, it is Republicans who are the more politically engaged, according to a Cornell University poll.

New York's Republicans are more likely than its Democrats to write letters to the editor, call radio talk shows, volunteer for campaigns and tell their friends how to vote.

Taking the political pulse of the state was a primary goal of the Survey Research Institute, which is housed at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, when it sampled the state this spring. The annual survey, in its second year, added more questions this year aimed at discovering the nature of New Yorkers' political participation.

The survey began by asking voters to identify themselves by political party and political orientation. While twice as many New Yorkers identify themselves as Democrat than as Republican, the split by political orientation is nearly even: 36 percent claim to be liberal, 33 percent moderate and 31 percent conservative.

The results showed that all New Yorkers report levels of political engagement considerably higher than the national average, said Cornell's Dietram Scheufele,, an assistant professor of communication who specializes in mass media and public opinion.

Here's a twist: In New York, the people who match and sometimes surpass Republicans in political action are those who identify themselves as liberals.

"It's hard to tell if that's a fluke of this particular year because of Bush and Iraq," said Jeff Stonecash, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Stonecash is also a veteran pollster for local candidates and media organizations.

It is typical that people who identify themselves as moderates feel less strongly about issues and get less involved than either liberals or conservatives, Scheufele said.

While people nationwide who do not belong to one of the major parties typically are less active in politics, that doesn't seem to be the case in New York. Those in New York who are independent or identify with minor parties often matched or exceeded the involvement of Democrats, according to the poll results.

Independents, who are considered the swing vote, reported high levels of skepticism about state government this year, at levels higher than Democrats. The issues independents selected as most important for the presidential race matched the Republicans more closely.

The higher levels of Republican participation are consistent nationally. Republicans tend to be in higher socioeconomic classes than Democrats, Scheufele said. People with more resources, of both time and money, usually participate more in politics, Scheufele said.

Cherl Heary, chair of Cayuga County's Republican Party, said she agrees that Republicans are willing volunteers: "I have not had any trouble getting volunteers to help with mailings or phone banks."

The chair of Onondaga County's Democratic Party, Robert Romeo, doesn't take issue with that political reality.

"Republicans are more activist," he said. "That is true.

"I think that's because their (Republican) political stances are so simplistic," Romeo said. "It's easier to feel stronger and you're more able to work in that direction, than when you see an issue is complicated and there may be some gray areas and some value to both positions."

Nationally, the country is about evenly split between the Republican and Democratic parties; Gallup polls show each claims about 45 percent of Americans. New York is one of seven states where Democrats more significantly outnumber Republicans.

While New York is not considered a battleground state in the presidential election, and likely to go for John Kerry, New Yorkers' high levels of political participation may have been nurtured by grass-roots activism spurred by Howard Dean's and Ralph Nader's organizations, Scheufele said.

It takes grass-roots efforts to increase Democratic turnout and energize the party's major constituents, including young people and minorities, while Republican turnout remains steadier whatever the year, Scheufele said. Participation depends on people who are already active in churches, civic organizations and other social networks, he said.

"The more you volunteer in a civic association, the more likely you are to participate yourself, because you constantly get recruited," Scheufele said.

Democrats and Republicans disagreed on what was the most important issue in the 2004 campaign. However, this may be an election year where major issues - such as the economy, health care and education - are not on people's radar, Scheufele said.

Most New Yorkers said the candidate's integrity and honesty was their primary concern. It scored so high because it was at the top of the list for Republicans. Democrats said the economy was most important, with integrity a close second. Twice as many Republicans picked integrity instead of the economy as the top issue.

Republicans can be expected to consider the economy a less important issue and to give both the state and federal economy better marks because Republicans are at the helm, Stonecash said.

"In severe recessions, it's not upper income groups that get hurt, although their stock portfolios may go down," he said.

The Empire survey does not characterize Upstate Republicans versus Downstate Republicans, but Heary said that local Republicans definitely still think the economy, while getting better, still needs a boost.

"I am a little surprised at the economy issue," she said. "Republicans that I talk to are very concerned about the economy."

New York State Empire State Poll 2004

What: The second annual poll of state residents on social, economic, political and workplace trends. It is done by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations Survey Research Institute at Cornell University.

When: The poll was conducted between Feb. 3 and April 21.

Who: Surveyors questioned 820 state residents.

Details: The survey had a 24 percent response rate. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Workforce Management July 1, 2004, Thursday

Workforce Management July 1, 2004, Thursday
Copyright 2004 Crain Communications Inc.  
Workforce Management July 1, 2004, Thursday
HEADLINE: Coke's new CEO focuses on workers; Human resources will report to him. E. Neville Isdell believes in the power of "good old-fashioned pep rallies"
BYLINE: Laila Karamally
People are the newest priority at troubled Coca-Cola. Announcing changes to address low morale and high turnover, incoming chairman and chief executive officer E. Neville Isdell says the focus comes from an awareness that skilled and motivated employees are the key to realizing strategic goals.
Isdell is taking over the helm at Coke amidst well-publicized boardroom politics and employee lawsuits, stemming in part from a six-year leadership vacuum. ''The idea used to be that if you worked for Coke, you have Coca-Cola syrup in your veins,'' says Mark Pendergrast, author of the book For God, Country and Coca-Cola, which has sold over 100,000 copies since its publication in 2000. ''This pride and arrogance is lost. Coke is no longer an icon but a stepping-stone to other careers.''
Isdell says he is assuming direct oversight of Coke's 49,000 employees and that human resources will report to him instead of to the general counsel, as it had previously. The new reporting system is common at companies that view human resources as a strategic partner, says Francis Luisi, a principal with Charleston Partners, an executive search firm in Rumson, New Jersey. Luisi cites as examples Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, IBM, General Electric and Home Depot.
Isdell also named Cynthia McCague, a 52-year-old human resources veteran, as Coke's new human resources director. McCague spent part of her 26-year tenure working for Isdell at a Coke facility in Athens, Greece. Her predecessor, Coretha Rushing, an African-American, was appointed after Coke settled a race-discrimination lawsuit in 2000 for $192.5 million. Rushing resigned in February.
"Rushing has put in place an impressive diversity program which, if institutionalized, will last beyond her departure,'' says Patrick Wright, professor of human resources studies at Cornell University. ''Diversity today is less about gender and race and increasingly about dealing with culture, language and religion. In a company with a global workforce, someone with global experience will have one leg up.''
Coke produces 1 in 10 nonalcoholic drinks sold and achieved sales of $21 billion last year, 70 percent of which originated outside the United States. This is a 7.6 percent increase over 2002 sales of $19.5 billion. ''Coke's strong financial results will buy Isdell time to spend the first six months just listening,'' says Alan Johnson, a compensation specialist with Johnson and Associates in New York. ''Employees and investors are looking for change, and Isdell needs to acknowledge that mistakes were made and he's here to fix things.''
Coke watchers are confident that Isdell, who is credited with turning Coke's fortunes around at a failing plant in the Philippines and also leading the company charge in Eastern Europe and Russia, has the listening and leadership skills to put people management back on track. Pendergrast describes the 6-foot-5-inch Irishman as energetic and charismatic. ''He believes in good old-fashioned pep rallies and has used unconventional methods like military-style drills to boost morale,'' Pendergrast says. ''He understands the corporate culture and will mobilize a strong management team to bring the spark and life back into Coke.''