Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Plain Dealer (Cleveland), August 30, 2004, Monday

Copyright 2004 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

August 30, 2004 Monday
Final Edition; All Editions


Elite schools not always worth the price;
There is a lot more to consider than just a collegiate brand name

BYLINE: Christopher Montgomery, Plain Dealer Reporter

After nearly two years of test- taking, soul-searching, college visits and prayers, your daughter just opened her acceptance letter from Dartmouth College.
It's fantastic news, but tempering your excitement is that Dartmouth information packet sitting on your desk. Or more to the point, the numbers it has inside. Tuition plus room and board comes out to nearly $38,000 a year, and the aid package is pretty slim. For four years, you're facing at least $150,000.
For many families, regardless of their fears, the college-selection process would end right there. With an Ivy League acceptance in hand, they would suck it up and do everything necessary, short of selling the family farm, to send the kid to Dartmouth. How in your right mind could you turn it down?
But let's say, for argument's sake, that she was also accepted at Miami University and offered a financial aid package that's just short of a full ride. There's also an offer from Hiram College, which, being a small private school, is still pricey, at $27,500 a year. But its financial aid office said it's eager to come up with a package that works for you.
With a set of options like that, you might want to hold off on a decision. There's no denying that Dartmouth and its elite ilk are venerable institutions, but economists can't agree on whether degrees from such schools are worth the price of admission. When it comes to finding the best college fit for your child and your finances, there's plenty more to consider than a school's brand name.
Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist, and Stacy Dale, a researcher at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, raised a few eyebrows in 2000 when they published a study concluding that degrees from prestigious, highly selective schools aren't necessarily passports to higher earnings.
Their findings, predictably, showed that graduates of such schools do earn more over the course of their careers. But the problem with that data, they said, is that students at highly selective schools - as measured by the average SAT score of enrollees - would earn more regardless of where they chose to attend for the same reasons they were admitted by the elite school.
Princeton students, in other words, have high earnings potential not because they're at Princeton, but because they're bright, ambitious and self-confident.
To correct this so-called "selection bias," Krueger and Dale examined students who were accepted by comparable colleges. A student who turned down a highly selective school to attend a moderately selective school, they found, wouldn't suffer any hit to her earnings.
In the final analysis, they found that where students apply is a better predictor of future income. (They called this the Steven Spielberg Effect, referring to the Hollywood giant who was rejected by both the USC and UCLA film schools.)
Krueger and Dale found that the only students who clearly benefited from attending highly selective schools were those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The point of all this is that there isn't a "one-size-fits-all model" for choosing a college, Krueger said in an e-mail.
"Parents and students should find the college that is best suited for them," Krueger wrote, "given the child's interests, talents, etc., the school's strengths, and the family's resources."
Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University, agreed that choosing a college should include more than just shooting for top-ranked schools. Some students want to go to large public universities, where they can enjoy big-time athletics; some are more comfortable at smaller schools in rural areas.
"There is no right choice," Ehrenberg said.
But he said that most studies, including his own, have found a positive correlation between a school's selectivity and future earnings.
For one, there are the powerful alumni networks at elite schools that help students land their first jobs. There are also the students themselves. Fraternizing with similarly talented and motivated classmates, the thinking goes, enhances your marketability.
"I joke with my students," Ehrenberg said, "that it's not me providing you with this great education, it's your contacts with other students."

There are situations where elite schools clearly aren't a smart choice. Syracuse University economist Dan Black said that for students intent on pursuing careers with modest income potential, say education or social work, higher tuition costs simply aren't worth it.
That underscores the importance of factoring majors and potential careers into the decision process. If it's a choice between a well-respected program at Ohio State University that's tailored to your child's interests, Black said, and a high-priced private school that doesn't have a similar program, Ohio State is probably your best bet.
The bottom line, Black said, is that if "you get a motivated student and send him to a place that's maybe not Princeton, he's going to take advantage of everything that place has to offer and do just fine."
Loren Pope, a former education editor for The New York Times, is a major advocate of looking beyond the typical shortlist of prestigious colleges. One of his books, "Colleges That Change Lives," profiles 40 small, private, liberal arts schools that emphasize teaching (over research) and character development. Ohio schools that made the list are Denison University, Hiram, Antioch College, College of Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Pope said those kinds of schools help students to become better critical thinkers and promote value systems that are absent at more selective institutions. Beyond that, he said, a degree from a Yale or a Stanford simply doesn't have the heft it used to.
"Sixty or 70 years ago, we had an establishment society, an old-boy network where you got everything through connections," Pope said. "But now competence trumps connections. The old-boy network is becoming obsolete."
After you graduate, Pope said, "it's your own center of gravity that matters, not where you went to school."
Pope's books are standard fare in the offices of many high school guidance counselors. But Eileen Blattner, chair of Shaker Heights High School's guidance department, said the schools Pope champions are appropriate for only certain students, those who may want more individual attention or aren't willing to jump into the hyper-competitive environment at an elite school.
"But for a kid who already has that confidence, I just don't see it," Blattner said.
Another counselor, Gene Thomas at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, said students should take a long, hard look at the schools on Pope's list. One major perk, he said, is that small private schools are often more willing to come up with financial aid packages that substantially bring down the cost of attendance.
Thomas said a number of Western Reserve students have turned down elite colleges in favor of less-selective schools.
One was Nathan Mealy, a 2002 graduate who was accepted at Amherst College and Williams College, and was being recruited to play football at Yale.
Mealy, of Hudson, also made a visit to Wheaton College, a small Christian school outside of Chicago (and one of Pope's picks), "to appease" his mother. Once there, he was hooked - by the friendliness of the students and faculty, and by the inclusion of faith in Wheaton's curriculum.
"It was like a giant breath of fresh air," Mealy said.
Now a junior political science major at Wheaton, Mealy is a decathalete on the school's track team and is vying for a starter's job at wide receiver on the football team. When he graduates in 2006, he said he'd like to go to law school - at Yale.
That gets to something that most economists agree on, that the pedigree of the graduate school you attend is much more important than where you spent your undergraduate years.
Western Reserve's Thomas said students who know they want to pursue a post-graduate degree are smart to consider less-expensive undergraduate options.
"If your ultimate goal is bigger than a four-year plan, then it might be worthwhile to bank some money," he said. "You've got to do what's best for your long-term interests."
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: cmontgomery@plaind.com, 216-999-4059
Did you know?
The federal financial aid formula used by most colleges requires students to contribute 35 percent of their own assets annually for their education. Parents, by comparison, are required to put in 5.64 percent of their qualifying assets each year.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education

PR Newswire, August 30, 2004, Monday

Copyright 2004 PR Newswire Association, Inc.
PR Newswire

August 30, 2004, Monday



Labor Day Weekend Pickets to Demand Danish Government Curb Worker Rights Abuses;
American Trade Unions Cite Violations by Danish Steamship Giant of UN Labor Codes


On Friday September 3, 2004 as the Labor Day weekend begins, Teamsters and Dockworkers will picket the Danish Embassy in Washington DC and at twenty-two Danish Consulates from Alaska to Puerto Rico.
Citing what Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa calls "an outrageous record of threatening, intimidating and terminating port truck drivers in the United States and the Third World" the labor unions will demand that the Danish Government call on the Copenhagen-based Maersk Sealand steamship company to honor the labor conventions adopted by the UN's International Labor Organization (ILO). "Maersk treats their Danish workers with respect," Hoffa states. "They should use the same labor relations standard in the other countries where they do business."
At the conclusion of the picketing, union leaders will meet with Danish Embassy and Consulate officials and leave them with a copy of the ILO Convention on Labor Rights and a study by Lance Compa, an expert in international labor rights who teaches labor law at Cornell University.
Demonstrations will take place in Anchorage, AK; Washington, DC; Boston, MA; New York, NY; Baltimore, MD; Norfolk, VA; Charleston, SC; Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, FL; New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX; San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI, Cleveland, OH; Atlanta, GA; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For exact locations and times of the picket activity and for a copy of the Compa report on Maersk's labor rights abuses, write to port@teamster.org.
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

CONTACT: Galen Munroe of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, +1-202-624-6911

Thursday, August 26, 2004

HRfocus, September 2004

Copyright 2004 IOMA

September 2004


HEADLINE: Conquering the Strategy vs. Financial Business Challenge

The push/pull between strategic
and financial goals is intensifying for all organizations. HR's role in balancing these interests and adding value was the theme of this year's SOTA/P (State of the Art and Practices) report by the Human Resource Planning Society (HRPS; www.hrps. org).
Preliminary results from the report were presented at the HRPS annual meeting in Phoenix by Patrick Wright (pmw6@cornell.edu) and Scott Snell (scott.snell@cornell.edu), both professors at Cornell University and leaders of its Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

As HR responds to the demand that it become a business force, HR professionals must ensure that their organizations' values and ethics remain strong, Wright said.
"Being business driven doesn't make HR order-takers. We need to be leaders and guardians of the organization's values, people, and institutions," he noted. HR professionals can add value by helping their organizations to "live" the values they espouse.
To assess the changes in the strategic versus financial struggles that organizations are undergoing, the preparation for this year's SOTA/P report involved gathering information from global working groups of line and HR executives. The researchers looked beyond HR to the businesses themselves to learn about trends that are affecting both businesses and HR practices.
Although each business had a unique story, Wright noted certain thematic similarities in the quest to create value. The areas include globalization, technology, transparency, legislation, transactions, consumers-and commoditization. This last factor, which was mentioned by many types of businesses, is driving strategic decisions. Organizations are taking various and sometimes multiple approaches in response to commoditization, such as:
* Differentiating themselves in the marketplace. Take IBM:To differentiate itself, it now offers integrated solutions.
* Remaining in the market and driving down costs. IBM is also an example here: It still sells PCs. Outsourcing is another response to the commoditization of goods and services.
* Moving to higher-value industries. Again, IBM has taken this path. It has acquired PricewaterhouseCoopers, an accounting and consulting firm that offers higher value to the corporate lineup.
* Opting for sustainable development-or establishing a position in a market that will evolve over time.
The research discovered differ-
ences between the approaches taken by U.S. organizations and those of other nations when it comes to managing the tensions between shareholders and stakeholders. In the U.S., shareholders' goals drive value, but European countries also look to communities, employees, and organizations as society members, considering their interests in addition to those of shareholders.
In a changing environment where mere survival is the goal of so many organizations, the research sought to answer the question, how can HR deliver value now?

Snell explained that after a first round of meetings with participants in the SOTA/P groups to identify which strategies and capabilities are important in business now, the researchers sought to identify HR's role in developing those that surfaced. Among the participants, 20 organizations agreed to identify best practices in some detail. Most of these organizations are Fortune 200 companies.
The organizations were asked about their HR strategies, including the companies' capabilities and strategic drivers, how they develop the strategic process, and what metrics they use to tell if the strategies are working. The researchers discovered "a bit of a disconnect" about metrics.
Snell noted that many of the metrics being used relate to people issues, some to HR functions. Other business issues-e.g., customer centricity and product development-were missing.
There also seemed to be some crossover between business and people issues. For example: Asked to identify business issues, some organizations included "people" issues, such as retention, demographics, and employee value, on their lists.
The companies described two approaches to developing HR strategies:
1. The "inside-out" approach. This is the typical approach, where HR identifies what it does and adds value to the business by doing it.
2. The "outside-in" approach. Snell considers this the better way. It involves HR starting from the business, rather than from HR. A good example at one participating company: HR people are considered business leaders first, in HR second.
This approach also identifies business skills first and then turns to skills needed in the workforce and how to build HR to drive this.
Line executives' involvement in HR is key to whether organizations took the inside-out or outside-in approach to HR strategy. In a quarter of the companies studied, line executives are a part of the HR strategy team.
Implications of the findings include:
* Outcomes in HR strategy are better when line managers are involved in the strategic process.
* HR metrics that align with the business rather than with HR alone bring better outcomes.
* HR strategy-driving performance metrics should take an outside-in approach and look at the business first.
* The process should be flexible. Snell warned that some issues thought to be business issues are really about people. And "If you think all business issues are people issues, you may be missing something."

Keeping sight of an organization's values, and not just its ethics, has never been more important. Wright noted that the companies with the highest income growth over a 10-year period are run by their founders rather than by family or professional managers. One reason may be that the founders have the long-term vision for which they set criteria and make decisions.
A good example of this is Johnson & Johnson, whose credo lists four bases of responsibility:
1. The medical community and patients/users.
2. Employees.
3. Communities.
4. The stockholders, who should get a fair return on their investment.
He emphasized that stockholders come last in this list. The company clearly lives its values set forth in the credo, illustrated most dramatically by its recall of Tylenol from store shelves in the wake of the poisoning scare of some years ago. In that situation, Wright noted, the company knew exactly what to do by following its credo, which instructed it to protect consumers first.
Promoting such strong values is a role that HR can play, although it may have a hard time influencing corporate decisionmaking in a commoditized world.
HR can take a balanced approach to decisionmaking in considering and incorporating these four interrelated perspectives:
1. Strategic. This perspective builds the company and delivers value, but may fail to consider financial discipline.
2. Ethical. This perspective embraces doing the right thing; its weakness involves the short-term costs.
3. Legal. This perspective keeps the organization from violating the law. Risk avoidance, which can hurt value creation, is the potential weakness here.
4. Financial. This perspective maximizes shareholder wealth at the cost of being short-sighted and formulaic.
Obviously, at times one perspective will have to take precedence over another, and this may bring tension and conflict to the organization.
HR can balance and consider the tradeoffs involved in the various approaches. A good place to start: Ask how various values affect decisionmaking at your company. Where should HR be in the process?
The answers will differ by organization, but a thoughtful presentation and participation in your organization's business strategy will help to enhance and expand HR's business value.

United Press International, August 25, 2004, Wednesday

Copyright 2004 U.P.I.
United Press International

August 25, 2004 Wednesday

Is college tuition money well spent?



Students who return to the University of Virginia this fall will pay 10.7 percent more than last year to attend classes on its tree-shaded colonial campus, according to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. But faculty and administration nationwide are split over whether tuition hikes that have outstripped inflation for decades are an operational necessity or a result of waste.
"Universities are largely not-for-profit institutions. Therefore there are few incentives to cut costs -- there are very few forces at work to offer instruction at lower prices than before, cut administrative overhead or bureaucracy," said Richard Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and author of "Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much."
In fact, high tuitions can actually make a college "brand" more attractive to prospective students, according to James Twitchell, a professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida and author of the forthcoming "Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld."
"It's like a Prada handbag -- the more that is charged and the greater the perceived scarcity, the more valuable the commodity," Twitchell told United Press International. "It's become in a way a kind of consumerist mentality ... so it makes absolutely no difference what they charge."
But colleges pin higher fees on factors out of their control: increased healthcare costs, federal regulations such as Title IX that require extra staff and bloat expenses, advances in information technology that necessitate expensive updates, and decreased state appropriations.
Public colleges posted an average 14.1-percent tuition increase in 2003 over the previous year, the highest rate of increase for such institutions in at least 30 years, according to the College Board.
These increases are a product of state funding cuts and may be reversed in a sunnier economic climate, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, a lobbying group that represents colleges.
During the economic boom of the 1990s, "We saw many states like California cut tuition for seven years in a row," he said.
According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, private-college tuition for the 2004-2005 school year increased at a more modest 6 percent over last year, which is close to the 10-year average of 5.5 percent a year.
According to Ronald Ehrenberg, a professor of economics at Cornell University and author of "Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much," competition driven by rankings like those in U.S. News and World Report are a reason for high spending.
"One of the variables that go into the rankings is how much they spend per student, which is an incentive not to cut costs," Ehrenberg said.

"Very often we're spending on what are called competitive amenities -- on such things as climbing rocks or a huge Jacuzzi," Twitchell said, calling competition for rankings "fierce and mindless."
But Ehrenberg said that colleges have no choice but to cater to students' desires.
"If there was a demand by students for a more vanilla type of environment with the resources focused solely on what you call pure education, then there would be some competitors who would try to adopt that," he said.
Ehrenberg also said that pressure on college presidents to keep alumni donations flowing and faculty cooperative is a disincentive against budget cuts for many programs, both athletic and academic.
A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year would have withheld federal aid from colleges that raised tuition at more than double the rate of inflation for three years. Although the bill was eventually dropped, it reflected widespread concern that rising costs might keep low-income students out of college.
Financial aid will probably not make up the difference. Hartle said that the maximum grant given to an individual under the Pell Grant (the most important form of federal financial aid) has not increased enough to keep up with inflation, even as overall funding for the grant has increased.
"Is financial aid enough the way we're currently doing it? Probably not," he said.
Colleges have found some ways to cut costs. An NASULGC statement included a laundry list of cost-saving measures enacted by its members. The University of Virginia, for example, saved almost $2.9 million by burning coal instead of natural gas in its main heating plant.
But opinion is still divided on how to tackle the problem.
Ehrenberg suggests more need-based financial aid to ensure accessibility and more state funding instead of cost cutting.
"If people felt that public higher education was high quality, there would be less of a mad rush to private institutions," he said. Larger budgets for public institutions would decrease competition (and lower prices) across the board.
According to Hartle, the only way to cut costs significantly is to let go of faculty. Personnel costs form the greatest proportion of college expenditures, and "the largest number of college personnel are involved in teaching," he said.
"We're seeing more adjunct professors, experiments with alternatives to tenure," Hartle said.
But Vedder disagrees. "There is a rare university where you can't eliminate 20 to 30 percent of the non-instructional staff and the quality of instruction won't be affected," Vedder told UPI.
It seems unlikely that a plan of action will be agreed on soon.
"I think we have some people who want to find a simple explanation to a very complicated problem," Hartle said. "But colleges and universities are very complicated institutions."

NPR "All Things Considered", August 19, 2004, Thursday

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: All Things Considered (8:00 PM ET) - NPR

August 19, 2004 Thursday

Workers who don't get paid overtime



Americans spend more time on the job than workers in any other industrialized country. Most who put in more than 40 hours per week are supposed to be paid overtime, time and a half. But as NPR's Kathleen Schalch reports, many who are entitled to overtime don't see it in their paychecks.
It's hard to know exactly how many employers and employees violate the law. But Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute says unpaid overtime is a problem that's big and getting bigger.
Mr. ROSS EISENBREY (Economic Policy Institute): It's safe to say that one in 10 businesses at least is violating the law. Some of the surveys indicate that as many as 30 percent of workers are working off the clock.
SCHALCH: Eisenbrey's data comes, in part, from the Labor Department, where he served during the Clinton administration. He says investigators uncovered violations nearly everywhere. The garment industry was the worst.
Mr. EISENBREY: They found nearly 100 percent non-compliance. Every employer that they went to was violating the law. And then there were violations on the order of three-quarters or more of nursing homes, poultry plants--it really is across the board in American industry.
SCHALCH: Why did this happen? One reason is ignorance. Eisenbrey says many workers, including college graduates, are confused about the law.
Mr. EISENBREY: Even if you're salary, if you're not doing managerial duties or professional duties, as defined in the act, you're entitled to overtime. I think very few people understand that.
SCHALCH: Then there are the workers who know their rights but choose not to exercise them. Newspaper reporter Rick Tokey(ph) falls into this category. He worked unpaid overtime for years, even though he was the president of his union and knew he didn't have to.
Mr. RICK TOKEY: I negotiated the contract. It had provisions in it, and every single week I would violate those provisions because it didn't matter to me.
SCHALCH: But there is another group of workers who don't like working off the clock but feel they have no other choice. Steven White used to work for Comcast. He says he and other line technicians often have too much to do in a day, but they can get into trouble for claiming overtime.
Mr. STEVEN WHITE: What most of the guys do is they'll just grab a hot dog and they'll eat it in between jobs, you know, going to job to job. They won't take their breaks or their lunch hour because they don't want to fall behind.
SCHALCH: White says he took his breaks and put in for overtime. This past spring he lost his job. Comcast will not comment on White's termination but says it complies fully with the law. White hopes to fight back by encouraging workers to unionize. But increasingly disgruntled employees are winding up in court. Complaints filed with the Labor Department have surged. Back-pay awards jumped 30 percent last year.
In the past decade the volume of private lawsuits has doubled. And many cases involve thousands of employees, according to Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.
Ms. KATE BRONFENBRENNER (Cornell University): Just taking Wal-Mart alone, there have been 39 state and federal lawsuits in a total of 30 states charging Wal-Mart with doctoring time sheets, forcing workers to work through their meal breaks, forcing them to take unpaid overtime.
SCHALCH: Attorney Shane Youtz represents 83 workers who won a lawsuit against Wal-Mart in Oregon.
Mr. SHANE YOUTZ (Attorney): They'd get to the end of their shift and they'd say, 'I didn't finish my work,' and their manager would say, 'Well, you need to finish this work before you can leave the store.' And they'd say, 'Well, I'm supposed to punch out.' And the managers would say, 'Well, go punch out.' Employees found out the only way to avoid discipline was to punch out and complete their work off the clock.
SCHALCH: Spokesmen for Wal-Mart counter that only a fraction of the 15,000 employees in Oregon solicited as plaintiffs actually came forward. They say that shows that unpaid overtime is rare and a violation of corporate policy. But plaintiffs' attorney Shane Youtz says managers at Wal-Mart and other retailers also face relentless pressure to cut labor costs.
Mr. YOUTZ: The store managers are then faced with this sort of Hobson's choice of, 'Either I go over the labor budget and lose my position as a store manager, or I don't go over the labor budget and I force people to work off the clock.'
SCHALCH: Increasingly managers themselves are suing, claiming their employers are holding down labor costs by forcing them to step in as substitutes for hourly employees. Until recently Drew Pooters managed a Family Dollar Store. He says he and other supervisors spent much of their time unloading trucks, stocking shelves and so on.
Mr. DREW POOTERS (Former Family Dollar Store Manager): Everything and anything, including picking up the slack for workers whose hours you've just been ordered to cut.
SCHALCH: Pooters says he sometimes put in 100 hours per week, twice the number he was paid for.
Mr. POOTERS: I remember sometimes getting out of there as late as 2 or 3:00 in the morning, cleaning up after multiple waves of customers and then turning right around and coming back at 7:00 in the morning to open up at 8. And even at one point my own wife, who had not seen me in two weeks because I was going back home late at night, getting up and leaving before she was getting up, finally came down with my daughter saying, 'Remember these people? You used to live with them.'
SCHALCH: Dollar General denies any wrongdoing, but Pooters and other managers involved in lawsuits say they're entitled to overtime despite being managers because the law groups workers not according to title but according to the kinds of duties they perform. Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University says these so-called misclassification complaints are now common.
Ms. BRONFENBRENNER: There have been numerous companies that have been found guilty of this, companies such as RadioShack, Big Lots, Bank of America, Miller beer, Farmers Insurance, where they put people in titles such as sales manager and denied them overtime, and the workers complained to the Labor Department, and these companies were found guilty of falsely denying these workers overtime.
SCHALCH: The punishment can be stiff. Employers may be liable for back-pay and damages. But Labor Department investigators receive thousands more complaints than they can handle. And labor lawyer Shane Youtz says many employees shun litigation because they're afraid of losing their jobs.
Mr. YOUTZ: The law doesn't have enough heat to deter companies who can work a lot of people off the clock, make a lot of money from doing that and then defend the occasional wage-an-hour suit.
SCHALCH: Business groups strenuously disagree. They contend that the law has plenty of teeth and bites lots of employers who don't deserve it. They say the problem is that employers often don't realize they're breaking the law because the rules that are supposed to guide them are vague and open to different interpretations. The Bush administration agrees. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.
Secretary ELAINE CHAO (Labor Department): As the world of work has changed, these regulations have remained mostly frozen in time. They describe jobs that no longer exist and use tests that no longer make any sense. They were difficult and sometimes almost impossible to interpret and also enforce. This confusion has created a legal nightmare.
SCHALCH: Chao says the Bush administration's new rules on overtime will prevent wasteful litigation by helping settle the question of who's eligible for overtime and who's not. She says millions of workers will benefit. Critics charge that millions more will lose out. A new study commissioned by the AFL-CIO predicts the fraction of the work force that's not entitled to overtime pay could climb from 15 percent to as much as 40 percent. Majorities in both the House and Senate have attempted to block the rule change, but the Bush administration has managed to keep it on track. It's scheduled to take effect August 23rd. Kathleen Schalch, NPR News, Washington.

The Ashevill Citizent-Times, August 16, 2004, Monday

Copyright 2004 Multimedia Publishing of North Carolina
All Rights Reserved
The Asheville Citizen-Times

August 16, 2004 Monday Final Edition


More employers hiring workers to reflect their diverse clientele


More employers hiring workers to reflect their diverse clientele
By Angie Newsome
ASHEVILLE -- The smell of leather filled the air as hundreds of cowboy boots sat on shelves next to about 400 saddles waiting for both the budding and the weathered wrangler or cowpoke.
On a recent Tuesday, Maria Reves, for the first time, learned Jackson's Western Store's landscape. Her first day working at the store -- long a landmark of Asheville's Patton Avenue --was filled with memorizing just where to show customers the Stetson cowboy hats or the perfect pair of blue jeans.
Reves is the second bilingual salesperson hired to help the store's growing group of Spanish-speaking customers, said Charles Jackson, store president.
Started in 1938, the third and fourth generations of Jacksons operate the business. While much has changed in the business since then, population changes are near the top of the list.
Now, close to 10 percent of the store's customers, Jackson said, are members of the Hispanic community.
"I'm looking for it to be better," Jackson said, "since I've got her now."
Looking in the mirror
As the face of Western North Carolina changes, so does demand for work forces to reflect the community. Customers want to see people like themselves, Jackson said. Locally, businesses are trying to diversify their work forces. It's part of doing business, advocates and businesses leaders said.
The fastest-growing ethnic group in North Carolina, the Hispanic community grew by almost 400 percent between 1990 and 2000, giving North Carolina the fastest-growing Hispanic population in the country.
Knowing Spanish -- or having someone on staff who does -- is a must, Jackson said, for the retail business owner who wants to last.
"It (learning Spanish) is down the road," he said. "Not for me, but for my son for sure."
Leaders decide to work to diversify work forces for many reasons. While some are rooted in ethical beliefs, not all are altruistic.
As consumer power shifts to minorities, leaders know that making sure those customers feel comfortable -- enough to spend their dollars -- becomes more of a priority.
There are a lot of dollars at stake.
Between 1990 and 2002, Hispanic buying power in North Carolina grew 912 percent, faster than in any other state. From 1990 to 1999, African-American buying power grew by 83 percent to more than $24 billion, according to a study from the University of Georgia. In 1999, the Hispanic community contributed more than $2.3 billion in purchases in North Carolina.
Locally, businesses like Jackson's join others from health care to manufacturing that are striving to diversify their work forces.
Mission Hospitals formed a diversity committee in 1998 to help with efforts, including internships and scholarships for minority students. Mountain Area Health Education Center has strategic plans targeting diversity efforts and focused recruitment efforts. Wachovia Bank holds regular workplace training on diversity issues with employees. And local facilities of international companies such as Sonopress and Volvo Construction Equipment, North America, also have international staffs that add to their multicultural work forces.
Work left to do
But there are still strides to be made.
Nationally, decades of work have seen boardrooms -- once the traditional stomping ground of only power-suited older white men -- make small strides in bringing women and people of color through the "glass ceiling."
While women make up nearly 47 percent of the nation's labor force, the Business Women's Network said, women hold 13.6 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. The number of seats held by women of color increased from 2.5 percent in 1999 to 3 percent in 2003.
Within the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area, minorities hold 4.4 percent of official and management positions and 5.4 percent of professional jobs, according to a 2002 survey of larger employers by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
But building a diverse work force is just like any other element of running a good business, economists and local advocates said.
"Discrimination is actually considered an inefficiency," said Andrew Houtenville, senior research associate with the Program on Employment and Disability at Cornell University.
For example, he said, when employers don't hire people with disabilities because of preconceptions about productivity, "then you're not making very good decisions on behalf of your stockholders."

Making good decisions and working toward building a diverse work force, said Jackie Hallum, director of health careers and diversity management at MAHEC, takes a conscious effort, a good plan and an investment. Building diversity takes commitment from the top.
"A strategic plan drives the process," she said. "It gives you a map, a deliberate and conscious map instead of happenstance. It's a deliberate and conscious effort and not a sidebar."
Diversity as a part of business
And diversity doesn't automatically mean a quota system, as some critics allege, said William Mance, vice president for human resources at Mission Hospitals. Mance said that instead of focusing on numbers Mission wants to focus on creating a workplace that retains good employees once they are recruited.
Economics, education and recruitment all play a part, he said. So do stereotypes and demographics.
"The challenge is the perception of Western North Carolina," he said, one that the region is not ethnically or racially diverse, making the likelihood of discrimination higher.
"In Western North Carolina, we may have to look at diversity in a total mirror rather than focusing on racial or ethnic diversity," added Don Locke, director of the Asheville Graduate Center of UNC Asheville.
While diversity means more than ethnic and racial differences to include differences in everything from religion to sexual orientation, customers still may be looking to find people who look -- and speak -- like them.
"I think it's very important that someone can understand what you want," Jackson's newest employee, Maria Reves, said. And, she said, working in a place that accepts everyone is important to her, too.Contact Newsome at 232-5856 or ANewsome@CITIZEN-TIMES.com.

PR Newswire, August 16, 2004, Monday

Copyright 2004 PR Newswire Association, Inc.
PR Newswire

August 16, 2004, Monday



Epstein Becker & Green Expands National ADA Practice Group;
Attorneys Anticipate Major Changes in Department of Justice ADA Accessibility Standards, Impacting Industries Across the Board


Law firm Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. (EBG) today announced it is expanding and enhancing its National Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Practice Group with the welcome addition of several prominent attorneys. The National ADA Practice Group, part of the firm's Labor and Employment Practice, is headed by Frank Morris and Minh Vu in Washington, D.C., and David Simon in New York.
"We are ramping up to help clients deal with new accessibility guidelines issued by the Access Board this summer which the Department of Justice will soon make into law," said Minh Vu, partner at EBG in the Labor and Employment practice. "These new guidelines will impact every business in America that opens its doors to the public, employers, state and local governments, as well as anyone involved in the construction or alteration of commercial facilities. Restaurants, retailers, healthcare facilities, gyms, hotels, apartment buildings, theaters, golf courses, and educational institutions are but a few of the entities that will be affected. Disability and accessibility laws affect the way buildings are constructed to the way business is conducted all across America."
Frank Morris, partner at EBG, is spearheading the expanded National ADA Practice Group in Washington, DC, where he heads the Labor and Employment practice for the firm. Mr. Morris has presented programs on the ADA to over half the nation's federal judges at judicial conferences, and litigated key Title I and III claims. An adjunct professor of law since 1984 at George Washington University Law School's National Law Center, and faculty member of the Cornell University of New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations EEO Studies Program, Mr. Morris is also a frequent lecturer on equal employment, disabilities law, affirmative action, family and medical leave and labor relations.
Minh Vu is a litigator with special experience in handling discrimination matters in employment, housing, public accommodations and lending. She was Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice prior to joining EBG. Ms. Vu represented the Department of Justice on the Access Board, which issued the new accessibility guidelines and also oversaw the Department's enforcement of the ADA, Title VII, the Fair Housing Act, and the Equal Opportunity Credit Act.
David Simon will head the National ADA Practice Group in EBG's New York office. Formerly general counsel and secretary of FOJP Service Corporation, an insurance, risk management and claims/litigation services company, Mr. Simon was also Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC when the ADA was first enacted. In this capacity, David directed all employment discrimination suits brought by the DOJ, oversaw the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and was intimately involved in negotiating the Civil Rights Act of 1991, as well as with the drafting of the original ADA regulations promulgated by the DOJ. His employment litigations included significant claims of discrimination based on race, gender, religion and disability. At the request of the Attorney General, David also worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to revise its hiring procedures.
"Our National ADA Practice Group seeks to help clients grappling with long term planning and design issues, such as in the construction or restoration of commercial or public facilities, as well as companies or organizations trying to comply with the changing workplace, regulatory environment and the resulting economic adjustments," said David Simon.
"Thanks to our team of highly qualified, experienced attorneys, our ability to help businesses and other entities understand and respond to the new requirements of the ADA is unmatched," commented Frank Morris. "Our approach is a proactive one which reduces litigation exposure and makes an entity's products and services available to a broader market."
EBG attorneys assist those with public accommodations responsibilities, (e.g., retail, lodging, sports and entertainment, educational and medical facilities), employers and local governments with cutting-edge advice and seamless coverage through an interdisciplinary approach to disability-related issues, providing counsel for business decisions to limit potential liability and provide effective defense of administrative and judicial actions by enforcement agencies, advocacy groups and individuals.
About Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.
Founded in 1973, EBG is a general practice law firm with more than 370 attorneys practicing in twelve offices throughout the U.S. -- Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, San Francisco, Stamford, and Washington, D.C. -- and affiliations worldwide. The firm's size, diversity, and global affiliations allow its attorneys to address the needs of both small entrepreneurial ventures and large multinational corporations on a worldwide basis.
SOURCE Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.

CONTACT: Suzy Ginsburg, +1-713-721-4774, or cell, +1-713-907-0386, or suzy@gcomworks.com , for Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.

Washington Post, August 14, 2004, Saturday

Copyright 2004 The Washington Post

The Washington Post

August 14, 2004 Saturday
Final Edition

SECTION: Financial; E01

US Airways Management Frustrated With Unions

BYLINE: Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post Staff Writer

US Airways Group Inc. chief executive Bruce R. Lakefield blasted labor unions yesterday for "wasting time" in talks to agree to a new round of pay cuts as the company begins a countdown to a second bankruptcy filing and possible liquidation.
One day after a report about the company's dire financial condition became public, Lakefield used the opportunity to express his frustration with the pace of negotiations in a voice mail broadcast to all employees. The company is seeking $1.5 billion in cuts, including $800 million in savings from its labor unions. The airline's pilots said they would accelerate talks to reach their $295 million piece of the cuts, but other unions have not agreed to begin talks with the company.
US Airways shares fell 56 cents, or 22 percent, yesterday to close at $1.98.
"People are trying to tell me that the pace of this negotiation is typical in the airline business and that I shouldn't get frustrated," Lakefield told employees. "As a newcomer to the industry, however, I can tell you I think it's silly we are wasting so much time when we could be working together to fight off the competition."
A report prepared by consultants to the pilots union in July but obtained by news media on Thursday said the company will "fail in the immediately foreseeable future" and predicted 180 to 270 days left of operation if it does not drastically reduce costs. The report, by Glanzer & Co., predicted that US Airways would file for bankruptcy by Sept. 15 without a new labor agreement.
Officials at unions representing the company's pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and gate agents did not return requests for comment yesterday. The Association of Flight Attendants posted its counteroffer to the company on its Web site Thursday evening.
Lakefield's comments left little doubt that the airline and its unions remain far apart. The union representing mechanics will not meet with the company until Aug. 31, he said. After meeting with the pilots union this week, Lakefield said he "remain[s] astounded" that some employees believe he has developed a scheme that will allow the company's biggest investor, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, to benefit financially from a new bankruptcy filing.
He also sounded annoyed by what he said were continuing questions by union leaders and employees about why the company could not guarantee profit-sharing benefits if the company files for Chapter 11. "The answer is pretty simple," he said in his message yesterday. "If we file for Chapter 11 protection, nothing, and I repeat, nothing can be guaranteed -- especially a profit-sharing plan."
The apparent suspicion that labor leaders and employees have toward US Airways' management is typical for the airline industry these days -- particularly for older carriers in financial trouble, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University. Employees at major carriers like American, United and Delta have been asked for numerous pay cuts in the past several years while executives who can't turn around the companies have resigned with multimillion-dollar pay packages.
"This is an employer coming into a situation where workers have been burned over and over again," Bronfenbrenner said. "They have good reason to be leery, to tread carefully and to make sure they don't agree to give concessions. For all they know, the problems are being exaggerated in part."

Business Week Online, August 12, 2004, Thursday

Copyright 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Business Week Online

August 12, 2004 Thursday


A Wal-Mart with a Union Label?;
Employees in a Canadian store have won the right to organize. It's one more headache for the giant retailer

BYLINE: Amy Tsao

Labor unions scored a significant but largely symbolic victory Aug. 3, when a Wal-Mart (WMT) store in Canada became the first in North America to win the right to unionize. Company founder Sam Walton likely wouldn't have been pleased. Then again, he may not have known that his original discount store in Rogers, Ark., would grow into a 4,800-store global behemoth that sets an entire industry's standards for wages and worker treatment.

What happened in Canada "shows that when workers' rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work," says Joseph Hansen, president of United Food & Commercial Workers International (UFCW), which secured the right to represent Wal-Mart workers at the store.

On Wall Street, the view is quite different. Analysts are already keeping close watch over a variety of labor-related Wal-Mart issues -- including alleged immigrant workers, sex discrimination, health-care coverage, and low wages. Federal investigators are looking into whether it knowingly encouraged the hiring of illegal immigrants through a cleaning contractor. The megachain also is the subject of a class-action suit filed by current and former female Wal-Mart workers, who accuse it of denying them access to promotions. In early August, the University of California at Berkeley released a study that concluded Wal-Mart's wage and health-care practices cost the state of California millions of dollars in hidden costs.

"ONE LITTLE CRACK." Unionization at Wal-Mart, were it to gather momentum, would ripple through all of retailing, Bernstein Research's retailing analyst Colin McGranahan noted in a recent report. "Any substantial progress at [unionizing] Wal-Mart could have a 'contagious' effect," on the sector, writes McGranahan. Adds Emme Kozloff, retailing analyst at Bernstein Research: "Any unionization would impact cost structure."

The right to unionize at one location doesn't mean Wal-Mart is about to lose one of its biggest competitive advantages, low-cost labor. Still, analysts are keeping a vigilant eye on any changes in the labor environment, as unions grow more determined to bring Wal-Mart to heel.
For the past two years, the UFCW has been active across Canada, where Wal-Mart has 231 stores, and where labor laws are generally more union-friendly than in the U.S. The Service Employees International Union this summer earmarked $1 million to "help underwrite efforts of different groups [with] concerns about Wal-Mart's impact on the economy," says T.J. Michaels, the union's spokesperson. According to Greg Tarpinian, executive director of the Labor Research Assn., a consulting firm funded by unions, there is currently "more coordination and discussion on Wal-Mart than at any point in time before."

A regional labor-relations board gave the UFCW the right to represent workers at the store in Jonquiere, north of Quebec. Although Wal-Mart has not announced if it will appeal the decision, the retailer is unlikely to accept the decision without a fight. "We are taking it step-by-step," says Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Pelletier. Meanwhile, labor's success in Jonquiere should serve to rally unions elsewhere. "The UFCW is dying for just one little crack in the surface," says Kozloff.

EMPLOYERS' ADVANTAGE. Although unions are determined, they have yet to form a united, multi-union. "To organize Wal-Mart will take unions working together on a global campaign," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.

Even if the labor movement crafts a cohesive plan and pours more funding into the drive, some experts are skeptical that unions can make much of a dent. "American law is ineffective in deterring employers who wants to remain nonunion and are willing to go to the edge of the law, and beyond, to intimidate workers who want to join," says Michael Harper, professor of labor law at Boston University. Essentially, under current law, the punishment to employers who get caught illegally bullying workers is relatively small -- so slight, says Hopper, that many companies think the penalties are a price worth paying to remain union-free.

As for the Jonquiere Wal-Mart, the UFCW's go-ahead to represent the store's workers is just the first step. Next, another labor-board hearing, scheduled for Aug. 20, will determine the bargaining unit's composition. Says Wal-Mart's Pelletier: "We are going to participate."
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's more immediate concerns are the uncertain state of consumer spending and the Street's reaction to fiscal second-quarter results, due Aug. 12. (On average, analysts expect second-quarter earnings per share of $0.61, up 16% from $0.52 in the same period a year ago, on sales of $7 billion. In 2003, Wal-Mart reported $8.9 billion in net income, on $258.6 billion in sales.) For the second quarter, the retailer is likely to play up cost savings due to its direct-sourcing initiatives, which Kosloff sees as mitigating fears of a slowdown in consumer spending.

FIRST STEP, THEN STUMBLE? That may be, but many analysts figure the possibility of fewer consumer dollars pouring into Wal-Mart cash registers is too high to be ignored. That, together with multiple unresolved lawsuits, has resulted in a lukewarm opinion on the stock. Kozloff rates it neutral, saying she sees "no near-time catalyst" lifting the share price. Of 32 analysts, 14 rate Wal-Mart hold.

Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart will prove to be a slog, and most experts expect the company to mount an aggressive counter-assault. The labor movement will have to be far more savvy if it is to achieve another victory beyond a single store in Canada. "I'm not heartened too much," says BU's Harper of the union victory. Even so, Wall Street is starting to weigh the potential long-term consequences, both for Wal-Mart and other retailers.

Chicago Tribune, August 11, 2004, Wednesday

Copyright 2004 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune

August 11, 2004 Wednesday
Chicago Final Edition

Union leaders vow all-out effort on Kerry's behalf
BYLINE: By Stephen Franklin, Tribune staff reporter.

Despite dwindling ranks, the nation's union leaders predicted Tuesday that organized labor will put on a stunning show of muscle come Election Day.
"We will have the finest political effort in the history of the labor movement," declared AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, echoing a vow he has repeated over the years.
But AFL-CIO and other union leaders, who are plotting their strategy this week in Chicago on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, said this year's effort will be different. They promised stepped-up spending, greater mobilization of union members and more attention to the nuts and bolts of getting out the vote.
The AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for many of the nation's unions, will spend $44million on campaign efforts, up $3 million from four years ago. And two large unions also will be major spenders.
The 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union expects to spend $65 million, nearly triple its spending in the 2000 election.Similarly, the 1.5 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will spend $40 million, an increase of more than $8 million from four years ago.
While most of the union leaders gathered in Chicago talk of the need to put a Democrat in the White House, that view is not unanimous. Three unions--the Carpenters, Seafarers and Operating Engineers--have remained neutral so far, according to AFL-CIO officials. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2001.
Bolstering its political war chest has become a key strategy for organized labor. And while it has not outspent businesses, it has learned how to take better advantage of a natural strength --its rank and file.
Indeed, the service employees union expects more than 2,004 members to register and rally voters in so-called battleground states. Likewise, officials said many AFSCME offices would empty in coming weeks to help Kerry.
The unions also are planning for 25,000 members to go door to door and reach about 1 million union voters on the night of Sept. 2, when President Bush is scheduled to accept the Republican nomination.
Saying they learned from four years ago, the unions also will assign teams to identify and monitor communities with histories of problems at polling places. More than 1,000 labor lawyers have offered to staff the effort, union officials said.
"They are really serious about it," said Richard Hurd, a labor expert at Cornell University, adding that the unions appear to be putting out more effort. Hurd predicted that union officials also are likely to hold politicians more accountable to their promises.