Thursday, May 26, 2005

Yearbook of Experts (R) News Release Wire, May 25, 2005, Wednesday

Copyright 2005 Broadcast Interview Source, Inc.
Yearbook of Experts (R) News Release Wire

May 25, 2005 Wednesday

HEADLINE: Father Knows Best - Whether We're Willing to Admit it or Not


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Amy Rigard Phone: 866-372-2636 Email:

Father Knows Best - Whether We're Willing to Admit it or Not

New Book Shares Lessons Taught by "Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven"

Williamsville, NY (May 2005) - Perhaps the old saying that "Father knows best" is true. Whether we're willing to admit it or not, we all learn lessons from the man we call "dad." The lesson may be something he sat down and taught us, something we observed from his behavior, or special memories we have from growing up with him. Often, the lessons are not apparent until many years later. Unfortunately, by then, it may be too late to say "thanks."

In his new book, Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven...and What They Continue to Teach Us (WAIH Publishing, $17.95, ISBN 0-9759057-1-6), author, management consultant, and executive coach Gerry Murak shares forty-four stories from people from several countries about the lessons they have learned from their deceased fathers. Each story reveals one individual's touching memory of his or her dad and describes the lesson(s) he taught them and continues to teach despite his absence.

Well organized and carefully crafted, Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven offers lessons in such areas as Attitude, Integrity, Determination, Compassion, Character, and many others. It is an insightful and moving collection of memories that anyone, young or old, male or female, can enjoy. The stories may also evoke memories and lessons individual readers have learned from their own father.

In addition to this book being a way to commemorate the lives of the fathers everywhere, the profits from the direct sales of this book will go toward the Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven Foundation, a central source of inspiration for those who have lost their fathers or are having challenges in being a dad. Also, every Father's Day, beginning in 2005, the author, who is also an international speaker, will give a free public speech to remember, share, and encourage others who have lost their fathers. The first speech is scheduled to take place during a "Father's Day Celebration" at the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, NY, on Saturday June 18th.

Gerry Murak, MS, MBA, is a Turnaround Performance Consultant, Executive Coach, founder of Murak and Associates, LLC, and adjunct business faculty for the University of Buffalo, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Daemen College. Gerry is a member of the National Speakers Association and has given presentations in over thirty states, two Canadian provinces, and China. He is a past President of the Board of Directors for Upstate New York Turnaround Management Association, and recipient of several awards for leadership.

For more information or a review copy of Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven...and What They Continue to Teach Us, please call 866-372-2636 or send an email to

The Boston Globe, May 24, 2005, Tuesday

Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe

May 24, 2005, Tuesday THIRD EDITION



BYLINE: By Diane E. Lewis Globe Staff

The strike against NStar is the biggest test of Gary Sullivan's three-year tenure as president of Local 369 of the Utility Workers Union of America.
A big man with a penchant for black suspenders and Hershey's chocolates, the 44-year-old Hyde Park native says he decided to become a union leader during the Boston Edison strike of 1986. He was prompted by the company's decision to withhold healthcare benefits from the strikers.
"Up until that strike, I didn't know the union was one of the reasons we had benefits," Sullivan said. "I took all that for granted."

Sullivan said he weighed the risks when he and other union officials asked members to take a strike-authorization vote. Now he's in the midst of the utility union's first strike in nearly 20 years, and he's standing by their decision.
Labor experts say, however, that at a time when unions are getting little support from the National Labor Relations Board and the courts, the NStar strike is a gutsy move.
"Given the economic climate and how the courts are interpreting labor law, it is a risky time to go on strike," Thomas Juravich, director of the Labor Relations and Research Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said. "But what Gary Sullivan has working for him is a highly seasoned workforce that is not easily replaced. Vocational schools have not done a great job in the Commonwealth training people to move into these positions. And unlike garment work, these jobs can't be moved abroad."
Sullivan, who represents the nearly 2,000 members who went on strike May 16, contends that overtime, not money, is the issue driving the walkout as employers like NStar have expanded hours and reduced labor costs.
He said the bargaining team was willing to compromise until the company revealed at a shareholder's meeting that it had "its best year ever."
"That's when we asked, 'Why the takebacks?' " said Sullivan.
Yet Sullivan said he's willing to make concessions. For example, NStar bases contributions to the 401(k) plan on workers' total earnings, including overtime. Sullivan said he would tear that up and allow the firm to calculate contributions without overtime pay. He also said the company uses vacation averaging to determine how much time off workers should get. That, too, he said, includes overtime, but "I would have given that up in a heartbeat."
The company, which serves 1.4 million customers in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, declined to discuss Sullivan's comments or negotiating tactics. "Over the years, we have had a good working relationship with Gary Sullivan and with the union under his guidance," said Michael Durand, an NStar spokesman. "We are still hopeful that we can get beyond this impasse and get a contract that brings our employees back to work to service our customers."
Myles Calvey, business manager at Local 2222 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Quincy, is a longtime friend who said Sullivan injected "new energy into the labor movement." He also said that no union leader is eager to strike in the current economic climate because the risks of losing jobs and any past gains are so great.
"There is no winner in a strike if you and management are not able to hammer out a relationship later," said Calvey. "But Gary has his workers and the Massachusetts union leadership behind him."
Labor specialists said Sullivan might look like an old-style union boss, but he is not.
"Gary is an example of a growing number of people in industrial unions who are taking advantage of labor education degree programs as a way to improve their skills," said Steve Early, spokesman for the Communication Workers of America in New England.
Among other union leaders with degrees are John Wilhelm, a Yale University graduate and president of UNITE Here; Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania; and Jeff Crosby, president of Local 201 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Lynn and a UMass graduate.
"The economy has become more and more complex and employers are far more sophisticated," said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University. "Gary Sullivan and union leaders like him know that to help workers at the bargaining table they have to understand the changing nature of the economy and the changing nature of labor laws."
Sullivan entered UMass-Boston in 1990 after losing a bid for vice president of Local 369. After graduating in 1995, with a bachelor's degree in labor relations and law, he rose to secretary treasurer of the union, then became interim president in 2002 when the president took a job at another company and left the union. Three months later, he won a three-way race for the presidency.
An avuncular figure who worked in the trenches before becoming a union leader, Sullivan started out as an underground splicer, then became an underground troubleshooter and an underground construction inspector. Sullivan has been walking the picket line with workers since the strike began. Last week, he visited a picket line on Massachusetts Avenue and talked to strikers.
"We all have kids, and we all have mortgages," said NStar striker Byron Blandin, 43, of Hyde Park. "But I know I will be out for as long as Gary says we need to be out. He knows us."

Diane E. Lewis can be reached at

Plain Dealer (Cleveland), May 22, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

May 22, 2005 Sunday
Final Edition; All Editions


HEADLINE: Torn alliances;
House of labor divided over strategies and styles

BYLINE: Alison Grant, Plain Dealer Reporter

FACEOFF: The Chicago showdown could go several different ways. G4
With the AFL-CIO's convention just two months away, tensions are high between supporters of incumbent President John Sweeney and a dissident faction made up of five of the country's biggest unions.
The fight is rooted in shifts in the economy. Sweeney counts among his top supporters the old-line industrial unions, as well as government employees and teachers. He's opposed by a service-sector bloc led by Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.
The rift also involves leadership style: It pits the careful, consensus-building Sweeney against the impatient, go-for-broke Stern.
It involves an insider trying to hold on to some of the AFL-CIO's traditional departments and activities, versus an outsider saying the federation needs to chop off things that don't work.
Most of all, the split is a profound clash over the best strategy to revive a labor movement in desperate straits. Big labor's membership has sunk to 12.5 percent of the U.S. work force, and union leaders are looking for the most powerful gambit to turn things around.
Without dramatic change, organized labor is facing possible ruin, both sides agree. With no time to waste, and resources limited, each side has seized on what it considers its best chance at rebirth.
The dissidents - the SEIU, the Teamsters, laborers, food and commercial workers, and the merged union of hotel, restaurant and apparel workers - say the federation should zero in on organizing. They want the AFL-CIO to shift half its budget - $65 million - to enlisting new members.
The SEIU coalition lost that argument in a vote at a winter meeting of the AFL-CIO's policy-making Executive Council in Las Vegas. Last week, it took its case directly to 27,000 local unions and state federations across the country.
Along with a big organizing budget, the dissidents want to overhaul the labor movement to create a few large unions that focus on core industries or occupations; rules to make unions concentrate on organizing their core industries; and better enforcement of jurisdictional boundaries so unions don't raid one another.
For the first time last week, Stern also pushed for Sweeney's ouster and asked for help from other insurgents to accomplish it. Stern says he's not interested in the presidency himself, though. John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here's hospitality division, is weighing a challenge but has not announced he's running. The Unite Here union represents apparel, hotel and restaurant workers.
In an interview, Wilhelm said, "If the majority believes that reform is needed, clearly we would need a change in leadership, because Sweeney is attached to the status quo."
Sweeney, on the other hand, thinks he is the best man to lead - so much so that he decided to seek a third term despite a pledge when he took office in 1995 to leave after 10 years at most.
In late April, Sweeney, Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson answered the insurgents with dozens of recommendations.
Their proposal, "Winning for Working Families," calls for the federation's political fund to increase by $7.5 million to $30 million, out of an overall budget of $125 million. The goal is to elect union-friendly candidates and encourage a climate for union growth. The officers propose moving from biannual get-out-the-vote work to a year-round, nationwide mobilization of union members. The project's launch would be in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Their plan also calls for doubling, to 2 million, the membership of Working America, a program that lets nonunion allies help out with organized labor's political agenda.
It also seeks to increase spending on organizing by about $10 million, to a total of $22.5 million. The dissident coalition considers that too low.
Like the insurgents, the AFL-CIO proposes voluntary mergers of unions to increase bargaining power. It also would build an army of work site volunteers by extending education and mobilization training to 100,000 union stewards by 2008.
Other ideas have bubbled up in the self-examination that kicked off six months ago when Stern first threatened to quit.
The Laborers International Union of North America wants to consolidate the power of union financial institutions, including worker retirement assets that total more than $5 trillion. The idea is to build a single financial services organization that could be a war chest, dramatically expanding workers' financial power.
The American Federation of Teachers says labor should abandon narrow agendas and become a voice for all working people. Organized labor was founded to advance a workers' agenda, the AFT says, but increasingly is viewed as another special interest.
Wilhelm, from the hotel union, warns that unions have become a taken-for-granted "appendage" of the Democratic Party. And Firefighters President Harold Schaitberger argues that labor must connect with Republicans in an era of Republican dominance.
Leader is labeled 'boring white Irishman'
Much as this is a debate about strategy, it's also about personal styles.
Sweeney, 71, who preceded Stern as head of the service workers, came to power in 1995 in the first contested election in the federation's history. He had a reputation as something of a rabble-rouser, not afraid of bold tactics such as the "Justice for Janitors" campaign, in which union members blocked roads and bridges to draw attention to their fight to organize janitors.
Sweeney brought a sense of rejuvenation to the AFL-CIO, tackling politics harder than at any time in the federation's history. Even Sweeney's critics say he made great strides in powering up union political activity.
But in office, the soft-spoken Sweeney acted more as a conciliator than a firebrand. As union membership continued to slide, he was faulted for not moving more aggressively.
It didn't help that Sweeney, though universally liked, is regarded as an average public spokesman.
"As good a man as he is, a boring white Irishman is not the face of the labor movement that you want to put forward," said Jonathan Tasini, a New York political consultant and president of the Economic Future Group.
And now it's Stern, 54, who has emerged as a maverick, admonishing Sweeney publicly for not jolting organizing into high gear.
Stern is confronting his old mentor: In 1984, Sweeney, then head of the SEIU, had summoned Stern to Washington to be his organizing director. Stern helped run Sweeney's campaign when he ran for the federation presidency in 1995, then replaced him as SEIU president after knocking off a top Sweeney lieutenant.
In the next decade, Stern notched a series of wins. The SEIU added tens of thousands of members in the decade of his leadership, and Stern made a convincing case that he had smart tactics for turning labor around.
A long profile in the New York Times Magazine depicted him as a brash reformer, not afraid to step on toes. He was described as "charismatic," someone "done caring what the other bosses think."
Maintaining spirit of unity
As Stern rattled the rafters, Sweeney was intent on keeping the house of labor in one piece.
"Unity is labor's greatest asset," he has said.
Some outsiders agree. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University specialist on organizing, said the future of U.S. labor depends on whether the SEIU can come together with the industrial unions, which are weaker than in years past but still have the global alliances in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.
The SEIU-led uprising comes with something of a nuclear option, though. Unless Stern is satisfied with changes at the AFL-CIO, he vows to pull his 1.8 million-member union out.
"I think the best thing that can be said right now is that there's a lot in play and the ground is very shaky," Tasini said.
Sweeney's troubles mounted Tuesday when he got letters from federation workers bitter about the way his administration cut 167 jobs at its Washington headquarters and in the field. The abrupt layoffs came after criticism from the insurgents that the AFL-CIO was top-heavy and inefficient. The federation said it would create 61 positions that people could apply for.
The letter writers said they had been eliminated in a way that "we have come to expect from corporate America, not the house of labor. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by staff who have dedicated their lives to fighting against such behavior."
The AFL-CIO also is dealing with a jarring loss: Several of the insurgent unions told the federation to remove their members' names from its master political list because of a dispute over sharing information. The federation faces a blow to its envied ability to get out the vote unless the names go back on.
Amid the troubles, Terence O'Sullivan, president of the laborers, said all sides want their differences hashed out before a meltdown.
John Ryan, executive secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, is worried about what will happen to union alliances and joint political work in Northeast Ohio if the service workers or others split away. He said he made an awful mistake when the carpenters left the federation four years ago by not keeping informal ties with them.
"We will always abide by the constitution to protect our charter," Ryan said, "but we will also adapt methods to allow us to continue to have our tremendous unity in Greater Cleveland."
Tom Juravich, director of the labor center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, says Stern's ultimatum is part brinksmanship. The SEIU chief could have a fallback plan, he said.
But as time elapses without reaching common ground, the prospect of a split - into two federations, perhaps - grows stronger.
It would be a strange way of marking the 50th anniversary of the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, when unions gather in Chicago for their July convention.
"Those that dislike the policies of the labor movement," said Trumka, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, "it will be their victory."
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4758

Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), May 22, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY)
All Rights Reserved
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York)

May 22, 2005 Sunday

SECTION: MONEY; #column#; Pg. 1E


Seminar discusses disabled workers

Employers interested in the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities can learn from a national expert at a free seminar on Tuesday, sponsored by One-Stop Career Centers in Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties.

Edwin Lopez-Soto, of Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School, will present from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, at Broome Community College, Decker Health Science Center, Room 201.

Topics to be covered include how companies can take advantage of government tax incentives, plus many nonfinancial benefits. Representatives of local companies that have had success with this program will take part in the presentation, as well as an employee who was hired under this program.

A new online calculator to assist employers with computing their tax incentives will be demonstrated. Lopez-Soto is author of Benefits Management for Working People with Disabilities - An Advocate's Manual. For the last 25 years, he has been an advocate of the disadvantaged and the disabled.

To reserve a seat, call the local One-Stop Career Center: For Broome or Tioga counties call 778-2230; for Chenango, Delaware or Otsego counties call Denise Hebbard, 334-1409.

Etiquette expert discusses manners
Etiquette expert Robert Shutt will offer a manners lesson during a lunch scheduled for The Cellar Restaurant in Owego.
The session, sponsored by Broome Community College, will cover topics such as placing an order, using utensils and picking up the tab, among other issues.
The session is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday, June 9 at The Cellar Restaurant. The cost is $39. For details and to register, call the college's Center for Continuing Education, 778-5012.
Apprenticeship recruitment set
The Northeastern Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Outside Electrical Industry will conduct recruitment for 20 electrical line worker apprentices from May 16 through November 11.
Applications can be be obtained by writing to the Northeastern Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, 649 North Lewis Rd., Suite 210, Limerick, Pa. 19468-1234, or online at The geographical jurisdiction of the committee includes all of New York, excluding New York City. The testing fee is $25.
The committee requires applicants: be at least 18 years old; achieve a qualifying score on the NJATC aptitude test, have a valid driver's license, and pass a physical exam and a drug test at the sponsor's expense -- after acceptance into the program.
Supervision skills to be addressed
Sharpen your listening skills, business writing, team building and ethics in a "Fundamentals of Supervision" seminar at Broome Community College scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. on successive Tuesdays from June 7 through August 9.
Participants will take assessments, develop skills and interact with others from companies and organizations in the area.
The cost is $329. For details or to register for the course call the college's Center for Community Education, 778-5012.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Hartford Courant, May 22, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Copyright 2005 The Hartford Courant
The Hartford Courant

May 22, 2005, Sunday

HEADLINE: The Hartford Courant, Conn., Dan Haar column

BYLINE: By Dan Haar


IT'S TIME TO END CAPTIVE WORKER MEETINGS: A dozen or so years ago, Bruce "Zeke" Zalaski was ordered to a meeting with his fellow workers at Barnes Group Inc.'s Associated Spring division.
The company was in a dispute over benefits with the employees' union, the United Auto Workers. As Zalaski remembers it, a top Associated Spring executive said the union was "terrible," and, anyway, the boss said, the company and its workers were like a family, with no need of a union.
Zalaski -- then and now, a member of the union's negotiating committee -- recalls objecting to the statements, to no avail. Then and now, companies have the right to compel workers to meetings to hear the corporate message on various topics, including union activity, politics and even religion.
Today Zalaski, a state House Democrat from Southington, is a rarity, an active union member in the state legislature. He's still at Associated Spring in Bristol, a press set-up man, generally pleased with the company as an employer, he said.
With his own experience in mind, he's co-sponsoring a bill that would strip companies of the right to order employees to meetings on religion, politics or labor union affiliation.
Companies could still gather employees together to say what they wanted, as long as it didn't amount to discrimination, harassment or intimidation. But they couldn't force anyone to attend. The bill -- which would become the first law of its kind in the nation, if adopted, according to several experts -- pits labor unions against the business lobby. Both sides claim rights are at stake, along with economic common sense.
"It's a balancing act between the rights of the employer and the rights of the employee and the union," said Gary Starr, a partner in the employment law department of Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford. Unions, he said, "are seeking a way to shift the balance of influence during an organizing drive to the union's advantage, when the law and the federal regulatory scheme don't go that far."
This is a reform we should not need because, as opponents rightly say, federal labor laws do protect workers from intimidation by employers. Still, its time has come for reasons of balance. The system has grown rife with abuses by companies, and skewed against unions trying to organize workers.
Look at the numbers: The nation's workforce has slipped from a peak of 33 percent union in the 1950s to 12.5 percent today, and only about 8 percent in the private sector. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the rising power of employers has a lot to do with it.
Versions of this bill have arisen and died in Connecticut and elsewhere over the years. Last month, the idea died without a vote in the judiciary committee, but it's still alive, as supporters intend to bring it to the House floor under a new bill number.
Employers, the business lobby and opponents of the bill in the General Assembly say companies have the right to free speech, especially crucial since unions can contact workers at home. They also say the bill would lead to unintended consequences, such as scotching United Way meetings and the like -- and, more important, training meetings in diversity and cultural sensitivity.
"Define politicking. There's a whole bunch of stuff that comes around this issue," said Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, deputy GOP leader in the state House. "Will this law make it clear-cut? I don't think so. It needs to be sharpened."
He's right, it does need sharpening. But it's worth the fix, not the political trash bin. Arguments about unintended consequences are a smokescreen blocking the main issue. I'd suggest limiting the ban to mandatory meetings during union organizing drives.
But if it's easy to find flaws with the bill, it's easier still to find examples of companies herding workers together to bash unions on the eve of an organizing election. At a time when appeals take years and everyone knows it, at a time when the Bush-appointed majority on the National Labor Relations Board favors employers, at a time when typical workers are losing bargaining power, companies have a built-in advantage just by opposing a union. They are able to intimidate in subtle ways, sometimes without ill intent at all.
So, although it's true that federal law protects workers from threats by companies, in practice the protection is voluntary.
There is no way to glean a pattern from among the 19,946 complaints filed with the NLRB against employers in the year that ended last Sept. 30 because the board doesn't break out the complaints related to "captive audience" meetings.
"They do it in such a subtle way it's very hard to prove," said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.
Bronfenbrenner, who has testified and provided research to Congress on business intimidation of workers seeking to organize, said employers' opposition activities have increased in recent years, but that the number of charges filed by unions has decreased because unions believe complaints may be futile.
Futile, in a system that is basically feudal. Labor lawyer Dan Livingston argues that the whole idea of companies "owning" their employees' time stems from 16th-century English common law rather than American labor law, and should fade to history.
To see more of The Hartford Courant, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2005, The Hartford Courant, Conn.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail

Newsday (New York), May 17, 2005, Tuesday

Copyright 2005 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)

May 17, 2005 Tuesday


HEADLINE: It's not just pensions that we're losing

BYLINE: Marie Cocco

We always knew there were no guarantees. Now there are no binding contracts either.
At least, not if the contract is between employer and employee. That is what it comes down to in the United Airlines pension-dumping case. Workers now have no right to expect that in exchange for a lifetime of labor and loyalty they will receive a pension in retirement. Not even when the pension isn't just a promise but part of a union contract into which both parties have entered freely, bargaining away one form of compensation - say, higher wages or better hours - in rough exchange for another.
The media have fixed the story line. Since a federal bankruptcy judge ruled last week that United could walk away from its pension obligations and dump them on the government-backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the analysis has had all the originality of a high school paper written to fit a teacher's rubric. The United situation, the narrative goes, is typical of problems old-line companies like the airlines and steel industries - and perhaps soon the automakers - are having in making good on their "generous" promises to workers and retirees. The largesse is said to be unaffordable and unwarranted in our leaner-and-meaner marketplace. The coming wave is the 401(k) and the individual health savings account, which shift the risks of old age and ill health off the corporate ledger and into the worker's lap.
The premise behind the plotline is that workers must accept whatever cuts corporate titans choose to impose - wage reductions, pension terminations, health insurance that is ended or eroded through higher co-payments - as the price of holding onto their jobs. We are all Hooverites now.
Has there ever been a time when the field has been tilted so steeply against the average worker? The last gilded age comes to mind. The same culture of corporate entitlement thrives, even as most Americans are told to make do. Median pay and bonuses for the CEOs of our 100 largest companies rose 25 percent last year, according to a recent analysis by USA Today. Pay for rank and file workers went up 2.5 percent.
Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, the decline of manufacturing, with its high-paying jobs and good benefits, was said to be a painful but necessary transition to a healthier new economy that would reward those who could adapt. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton told us that if we "worked hard and played by the rules" he would use the presidency to help us succeed, mostly by advancing education and technology skills.
But technological fluency didn't help thousands of IBM workers who've been laid off. No college diploma shielded them from seeing their guaranteed pensions transformed into less generous "cash balance" plans. Now that even radiologists are at risk of having their jobs shipped offshore, isn't it time to admit that our theory of temporary upheaval as a transition to better times is wrong?
This era is different from others: Nobody can quit.
In past economic transitions, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor scholar at Cornell University, workers retained a measure of power because they could seek other employment, often in the same industry. But where would a United pilot land if he fled the company? Most likely at a low-cost carrier that pays a lower salary, with fewer benefits. Could a billing clerk drive to the office park next door and snag a better job? Not when the competing office workers aren't across the street but across the ocean. "In fact, we don't have a free market," Bronfenbrenner says.
Ordinarily when things get so out of whack, governments step in to tip things back toward balance. Our current government has done the opposite, with economic policies that reward those already blessed. Organized labor might be a ballast, but right now labor is structurally weak and riven by internal bickering.
And so it is up to the middle-aged, middle-class to get off the couch and get organized. Private grousing must end and public activism begin - with union drives or political pressure or whatever holds the best hope for change. Because after all, we've got nothing to lose but the downsizing of our dreams.

The Miami Herald, May 16, 2005, Monday

The Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, May. 16, 2005

Rules help you survive, thrive at workThree authors offer insights and advice for successfully coping with the challenges of workplace dynamics.
Someone once told me that every employee's primary responsibility is to make the boss look good, or at least not look bad. Of course, some reciprocity would be nice, but that's another story.
The workplace can be a confusing and challenging place. It has been variously compared to a jungle, a rat race, an ant colony and high school. It has long proved fertile ground for comedians and screenwriters, and its perplexing nature has inspired countless books that attempt to provide illumination, direction and caution.

Here are several current contributions to the cause:

You Can't Win a Fight with Your Boss and 55 Other Rules for Success. Tom Markert. HarperCollins. 160 pages. $14.95.
Tom Markert's little book provides a very nice overview on what it takes to deal with office machinations and politics. He's a fervent advocate of good conduct, ethical behavior, common sense and hard work. Throughout, his lean and affable text is laced with tales to admonish and advise.
Trouble is, there are few surprises, revelations or terribly deep insights to be found here. Yes, one shouldn't pad expenses, quarrel with managers, neglect to prepare for a big presentation and so on.
Still, it's helpful to become acquainted -- or reacquainted -- with the fundamentals of personal and professional behavior, and at that, Markert does an efficient and agreeable job.

The Rules of Work: The Unspoken Truth About Getting Ahead in Business. Richard Templar. Pearson. 240 pages. $16.95.
Richard Templar covers much the same ground as Markert, but goes a bit further. He seems more pragmatic, realizing that appearances are as important as actions -- sometimes even more so. To that end, he examines the meaning and strategies implicit in such things as attire, language, protocols and other unspoken codes.
He appears to be just as ethical and well intentioned as Markert, though. Nothing sinister or Machiavellian here. The text is informed by his awareness of how and why humans behave in the real world and not just in the classroom or within the pages of a textbook.
Templar is a good writer, though a bit of a scold, but his heart and head seem to be in their proper places. You may still want a more detailed examination of human motivation and workplace dynamics, but for a plane trip or a few hours on the beach, this may well suffice.

Get Them On Your Side. Samuel B. Bacharach. Adams Media. 233 pages. $19.95.
Samuel Bacharach goes a little deeper, offering multiple scenarios and stronger intellectual foundations for his advice than the others. He's just as worldly as Markert and Templar, but he more thoroughly explores the diversity of psychological needs and motivations that come into play during office interactions. For some, it may be too much, and the approaches taken by Markert or Templar will suffice. But Bacharach chooses interesting and apt anecdotes and comes across as a highly capable teacher and coach on office politics and consensus building. Nice job!

CIO Magazine, May 15, 2005, Sunday

CIO Magazine
May 15, 2005

Small Book, Big Ideas
If you're playing corporate tug-of-war, get political know-how on your team


Get Them on Your Side: Convert Skeptics, Get Results
By Samuel B. Bacharach Adams Media, 2005, $19.95

Many CIOs already recognize the importance of political savvy (see "It's Politics, as Usual"). For everyone else, a single line from Samuel Bacharach's Get Them on Your Side says it all: "A good idea is not enough—you need political competence."

Although the author is a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, this how-to guide is anything but academic. In it, he lays out an 11-step process for achieving a goal, grouping the steps into three sections: map the political terrain, get others on your side and make things happen. The discussion of each step mingles anecdotes from business, government and nonprofit organizations (as well as a few family-life scenarios), with rubrics for understanding human interaction.

For instance, Bacharach says that regardless of a proposal's specifics, the person championing it can expect to be met with at least one of six objections, a list that includes "It will make things worse, not better," and "You don't know the issues well enough." Other lists are the four types of agendas and the four sources of personal credibility. Although they're all fairly obvious, together they form a comprehensive framework for political competence that holds up in many different contexts.

Its broad applicability is one of the book's strengths. Bacharach has been published widely in academic journals on management and organizational behavior, and he has written several textbooks on organizations and negotiation. Get Them on Your Side reflects the breadth of his knowledge. Yet he has also conducted numerous workshops with real executives, giving the book's examples a genuine feel.

Bacharach sometimes soft-pedals his arguments, but at other points he shows a Machiavellian streak, thereby exemplifying in his own writing the variety of techniques for getting people on your side and getting things done.

The Providence Journal (Rhode Island), May 15, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 Providence Publications, LLC
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)

May 15, 2005 Sunday
All Editions


HEADLINE: COMMENTARY - While GOP dithers - Clinton tackles immigration threat


HILLARY GETS IT. Hillary Clinton says she's against illegal immigration. And she would fine employers who hire illegal aliens.
Pundits say the New York Democrat is using this hot-button issue to position herself for the 2008 presidential election. It's a way to hit Republicans from the right. Polls show huge majorities of both Republicans and Democrats oppose illegal immigration -- and are frustrated that President Bush won't do a thing to stop it.
But this issue does not belong to the right. Or it shouldn't. Illegal immigration hurts most liberal causes. It depresses wages, crushes unions and kills all hope for universal health coverage. Progressives have to understand that there's little social justice in an unregulated labor market.
"Liberals are so confused on this issue," says Vernon Briggs, a labor economist at Cornell University and self-described liberal. "Immigration policy has got to be held accountable for its economic consequences."
Many Democrats used to get it. In 1964, President Johnson abolished the Bracero program, which brought in "temporary" farm workers from Mexico. Its demise let Cesar Chavez organize U.S. farm workers. His union won some battles early on, but a new wave of illegal immigrants in the mid-1970s reversed that progress. The union barely exists today.
It's long been a felony offense for a foreign national to enter the United States illegally. And until 1952, it was also a felony to harbor an illegal alien. That's when farm interests had the law changed to take employers off the hook: Employing an illegal alien no longer constituted "harboring" one. This came to be known as the "Texas Proviso."
As factory jobs vanished and illegal immigration swelled in the 1970s, Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, sensed a growing crisis. Then came the flood of refugees from Cuba and Haiti -- most claiming political asylum. Carter refused to give blanket amnesty. The refugees were taken care of in 1986, when Republican Ronald Reagan granted a blanket amnesty for 3 million illegals.
Carter also tried to repeal the Texas Proviso. Congress stalled and instead set up a commission to study the matter. It was chaired by the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, then president of the University of Notre Dame.
U.S. immigration policy was "out of control," the panel announced. It minced no words: "The Commission has rejected the argument of many economists, ethnic groups, and religious leaders for a great expansion in number of immigrants and refugees."
Shortly thereafter, Carter lost his bid for re-election. Reagan became too busy cutting taxes for the rich to bother with the commission's recommendations. (Besides, isn't cheap labor another kind of tax cut?)
The cause was taken up by Sen. Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, and Rep. Romano Mazzoli, a Kentucky Democrat. In 1986, they pushed through legislation that repealed the Texas Proviso. It established fines for employers who knowingly hire illegals. But there was a yawning loophole: Employers did not have to check whether the documents presented by job applicants were valid or fake.
By 1991, America was in a recession. The economy had lost a million jobs. That year, the current president's father, George H.W. Bush, signed a law that raised annual legal immigration by 35 percent, to 700,000. And it did nothing about illegal entrants.
Congress in 1990 had established another commission to study the problem. This one was headed by Barbara Jordan, a Democrat who had represented Texas in the House. The Jordan Commission made excellent recommendations, which went nowhere. One would have required employers to make a single phone call to verify a job applicant's Social Security number. Even that was too much.
The rationale for the 1986 amnesty (we've had seven since then) is that we had been sending illegal immigrants mixed messages. After all, it had previously been legal for employers to hire them.
Nowadays, the messages aren't even mixed anymore. A cheap-labor Republican, George Bush won't enforce the employer penalties. He has a new amnesty program. And he vows to "match any willing worker with any willing employer." Hence, the latest stampede at the southern border.
Sounds like the Democrats have an issue. And if Clinton can seriously address the problem in non-racial terms, she could march straight to the White House. Go for it, Hillary.
Froma Harrop is a Journal editorial writer and syndicated columnist. She may be reached by e-mail at:

Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2005, Friday

Copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune

May 13, 2005 Friday
Chicago Final Edition


HEADLINE: Union discord heads to Chicago;
Harsh words fly as AFL-CIO's convention nears

BYLINE: By Stephen Franklin, Tribune staff reporter.

With their convention in Chicago just over two months away, the nation's major unions are caught up in an unprecedented spiral of anger and unbrotherly love.
"My gut feeling is that we are headed for difficult times and hopefully we'll be able to pull all of the pieces together," said Laborers union President Terence O'Sullivan.
Feeding the unease is a spirited drive by a handful of unions, who want sweeping reforms, saying this is a do or die moment for labor as its ranks have shrunk to 12.5 percent of the workforce, a modern day low.
Tensions have spilled over onto the re-election bid by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Although no one has stepped forward to run against him, there are indications that the dissident unions may try to dislodge him.
As a result, unions have lined up on either side of the 71-year-old leader, who won his job 10 years ago by leading a historic coup in the name of reform. Sweeney is known as soft-spoken and inclined to avoid public conflict, but he has added his voice to the accusations.
In a speech this week to a Machinists union meeting Sweeney talked about the "selfish and destructive" voices that are "tearing at the fabric of our movement."
If the rhetoric continues to escalate, one of Sweeney's close advisers said, Sweeney would not back down. "It will be very ugly. It will get nastier," he predicted.
The tough talk gained a new edge this week at a Teamsters union conference in Las Vegas, where Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and several other dissident union presidents spelled out their complaints about other unions--and Sweeney.
They complained that too few unions realize how drastic the problem is, that too many unions compete against each other for members, and that Sweeney has not energized them to find the solutions.
Unions rarely launder their problems in public, fearful it will only help their foes. But Hoffa ripped into the Machinists union, describing it as one of several "bottom feeding unions," which has tried to steal away his union's members with "lower, sweetheart contracts."
Machinists union spokesman Richard Sloan promptly shot back, saying Hoffa and his allies are not interested in reform, but rather in control over the AFL-CIO.
"They want to dictate to the rest of the labor movement," said Sloan, whose union backs Sweeney.
Fights between unions over new members also have spilled into public view.
For example, Unite Here recently filed charges in federal court and within the AFL-CIO against the Communications Workers of America, claiming that the CWA violated a promise not to organize casino workers. Unite Here represents the majority of unionized casino workers.
The CWA's withdrawal of $50 million in the last month from the New York-based Amalgamated Bank quickly drew the attention of union officials who attributed it to the bad blood between the two unions. Amalgamated Bank in New York City is wholly owned by Unite Here.
Asked about the withdrawal, CWA officials would only say it was an investment decision.
The dissidents belong to five unions--the Teamsters, the Laborers, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Unite Here, who say they account for 35 percent of the AFL-CIO's nearly 13 million members.
So far, John Wilhelm, the head of the hospitality division for Unite Here, is considered the most likely candidate to run against Sweeney.
Wilhelm, who led the hotel workers union before its merger with Unite, will only run, union insiders said, if the dissidents seem likely to oust Sweeney. Currently, they are said not to have the votes to do so. But that situation could change, they said.
Nor is it clear whether SEIU President Andy Stern will live up to his threat to pull his 1.8 million-member union out of the AFL-CIO if broad reforms are not enacted.
In a gesture clearly aimed at Stern and the other dissidents, Sweeney last month announced a series of funding and organizational changes at the AFL-CIO. But they did not quiet the dissent.
"So far, the Sweeney administration has offered the rhetoric of change, but not the substance of change," Wilhelm said this week.
The real question, suggested Cornell University labor expert Rick Hurd, is not what happens before the delegates gather in Chicago. It is what happens after, he said. "I'm not sure what can be done before July. But somebody has to pull it together afterward."
- - -
Agenda's simmering issues
Convention: Four-day gathering beginning July 25 marks the AFL-CIO's first Chicago convention.
Voting: 2,500 delegates are expected to vote on changes involving both leadership and policies of the AFL-CIO, the 50-year-old umbrella organization for the nation's major unions.
Major issues: How much power the AFL-CIO should have over its members, whether smaller unions should be required to merge, and how much funding unions and the AFL-CIO should put into politics and organizing.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, spoke at a March rally. Dissidents may challenge him in his re-election bid. Bloomberg News file photo.

PHOTO: James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union, said the Machinists union is trying to steal members.

The Providence Journal (Rhode Island), May 13, 2005, Friday

Copyright 2005 The Hartford Courant Company
Hartford Courant (Connecticut)

May 13, 2005 Friday





A 23-year veteran of the local volunteer fire department has been named its new chief.
Charles Flynn, who most recently served as the department's deputy chief of training, was named to his new post on Thursday by Town Manager Bonnie Therrien. Flynn has a one-year provisional appointment while he obtains the advanced fire certification that is required for the post.
``I'm excited and I was surprised,'' said the 41-year-old father of two who was promoted to the deputy chief position about a year ago. ``I am excited about leading the department and want to take it in a good direction.''
Flynn was one of three local candidates considered for the department's top spot, a position left vacant by the sudden resignation several weeks ago of Chief William Clark. Clark left the post shortly after town officials learned he attended a town-funded, $3,000, three-day International Fire Chiefs conference in Florida without telling Therrien, who must approve all out-of-state travel. Clark maintained he did not feel he was doing anything wrong at the time. He wrote a public letter of apology but resigned soon afterward.
``One of the things Chief Flynn will have to address is the department's morale, and gaining the respect of the members,'' said Therrien, referring to the damage caused by the issue involving Clark. ``[Flynn] already has a great rapport with the department,'' she said. ``It's rebuilding time.''
Flynn already holds three levels of firefighter certification and is certified as a fire officer and fire instructor. He attended the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He is currently the education and training coordinator for the Communication Workers of America Local 1298.
``My background in communications and unions will be a bonus in the chief's job,'' Flynn said. ``I know how to deal with both sides of the house.''
Flynn said he had no immediate plans for any changes in a department that includes three volunteer fire companies with a total of about 100 members.
``First I want to meet with officers and staff, and the rank and file,'' he said. ``Right now, that and getting a new start for the department is my first priority.''
Flynn said one initiative he favors is having all members of the department obtain certification from the federal National Incident Management System, which sets standardized procedures for national, state and local emergency responders.
The new fire chief said he plans to immediately attend the advanced certification program he needs for his new position.
As fire chief, Flynn receives a yearly stipend of about $1,000 from the town and a $1,000 property tax abatement.

Financial Times (London, England), May 11, 2005, Wednesday

Copyright 2005 The Financial Times Limited
Financial Times (London, England)

May 11, 2005 Wednesday
London Edition 1


HEADLINE: Stagnant salaries push more families towards the breadline: A surfeit of workers and the threat of off-shoring are allowing employers to call the shots on pay, reports Christopher Swann


The last time Miguel had a pay rise that kept pace with cost of living, Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Spice Girls were still together and investors were in love with internet stocks.
Since then, the hotel banquet server has been forced to give up a two-bedroom apartment and now shares one bedroom with his wife and two children.
"It has been harder and harder to get pay rises out of the company - even though profits are good," he complains.
Over the past year the problem of stagnant wages has not been confined solely to those working for companies that are heavily exposed to foreign competition. With wages across the nation failing to keep pace with inflation, an increasing number of workers are justified in feeling that they have been treading water, or worse.
For most economists, this suggests that there is more slack in the labour market than the 5.2 per cent unemployment rate would suggest. Others say globalisation and lower levels of unionisation may have led to a longer-term shift in the balance of power between workers and employers.
In the past economic cycle, companies have been extremely successful at capturing the lion's share of the gain from productivity improvements. Since 2001 productivity has been rising at an annual average of 4.1 per cent, while compensation growth has averaged just 1.5 per cent, leaving workers with just over a third of the benefit from rising efficiencies.
In the previous seven business cycles, by contrast, workers reaped about 75 per cent of the benefit of increasing efficiencies. "Businesses have clearly managed to gain the upper hand," says Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think- tank.
Wage rises have been relatively lacklustre across the income spectrum. White-collar workers got the better of their blue-collar comrades in the year to March, but only just, seeing their wages rise by 2.5 per cent compared with 2.3 per cent.
While the discomfort has been spread relatively evenly, it is likely to have been most keenly felt among low-income earners.
For most middle- and upper-income families, disappointing wage growth has been more than offset by bumper gains in property values, which have increasingly been unlocked for spending.
Meanwhile, advocacy groups believe stagnating wages are starting to have a visible effect on low earners.
"We have been noticing that low earners are increasingly having to fall back on services intended for the unemployed," says Marc Cohan, a director of the Welfare Law Center. "Even some full-time workers in light construction or factory work are finding themselves using food stamps and soup kitchens."
So what has shifted the balance? Although the labour market has clearly been improving, companies may still feel there is an abundance of workers to draw on. By this stage in an economic recovery, the US economy would typically generate 300,000 jobs a month.
But even April's bumper gain of 274,000 jobs failed to match that. The monthly average for the past year has been just 181,000. The labour force participation rate - though rising recently to 66 per cent - is still well down on its peak of 67.3 per cent in April 2000.
"This may reassure companies that there are workers waiting in the wings to re-enter the labour market when necessary," said Alan Ruskin, director of research at 4Cast, a consultancy. In addition, workers may have been sacrificing higher salaries to hold on to benefits. Healthcare costs, for example, have soared.
Linda Knighten, a cook for a hotel in San Francisco, was locked out of work along with her colleagues last winter in a dispute over health benefits. "We have been fighting so hard, that the issue of pay fell by the wayside," she says.
But other problems for workers may have damaged their bargaining position over the longer term.
One is globalisation. So far all the evidence suggests that few have lost their jobs due to offshoring. Of more than 182,000 US workers fired in mass lay-offs at the start of 2004, just 2.5 per cent of the jobs were relocated overseas.
Even so, some economists believe the mere threat of offshoring may have been a significant factor keeping wage growth small. "It may be the case that job insecurity due to cases of offshoring has been making workers slightly more timorous in negotiating wages," says Paul Ashworth, US analyst at Capital Economics, the consultancy.
Wage negotiations have increasingly become an individual rather than a collective affair. Back in 1983, 20 per cent of workers were represented by a union. But trade union membership has since fallen, to 12.5 per cent of the workforce in 2004, from 12.9 per cent in 2003. This is largely because manufacturing, the traditional stronghold of unions, has been declining. But unions also believe that companies have become increasingly forceful in preventing collective bargaining.
Recent research at Cornell University suggested that 75 per cent of businesses, when faced with the prospect of unionisation, had hired anti-union consultants, while one-quarter had fired pro-union activists, and one-third had offered special favours to workers opposing collective bargaining.
Until companies start finding it harder to get workers, it will be hard to tell whether the weakness in wages has been merely a short-term cyclical problem or a longer term trend.
But many economists believe that US companies need to be a little more generous if economic growth is to remain strong.

National Public Radio (NPR), All Things Considered, May 11, 2005 , Wednesday

Copyright 2005 National Public Radio (R)
All Rights Reserved
National Public Radio (NPR)

SHOW: All Things Considered 8:00 AM EST NPR

May 11, 2005 Wednesday

HEADLINE: AFL-CIO announces it will lay off one-quarter of its staff



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The AF of L-CIO is doing something it often criticizes big companies for doing. It is laying off workers. The layoffs are the group's largest in decades, and as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, they're a sign of the challenges organized labor faces as it wrestles with an uncertain future.
The shrinking labor movement is about to get a little smaller. The AFL-CIO, labor's umbrella group, is cutting one-quarter of its work force. The group says the layoffs will allow it to focus on recruiting union members and political mobilization. The AFL-CIO plans to send up to $15 million in dues back to member unions for grassroots organizing. The group's president, John Sweeney, wants to use some of the savings to build a full-time effort to elect more pro-labor candidates.
Mr. JOHN SWEENEY (President, AFL-CIO): You can't be successful if you don't build a stronger labor movement. And you can't build a stronger labor movement without changing the laws in our country.
LANGFITT: Sweeney made his proposals after five member unions demanded the AFL-CIO pour more money into organizing. One union, the Service Employees International, has threatened to leave the group if it doesn't make dramatic changes. Sweeney's critics say the situation is so dire that the group needs to put more than half of its budget into organizing. As Sweeney prepares to run for a third term, opponents say his plans to refocus the AFL-CIO aren't enough.
Mr. JOHN WILHELM (Co-president, United Here): Those proposals are the rhetoric of change without the substance.
LANGFITT: That's John Wilhelm, co-president of Unite Here, which represents textile as well as hotel and restaurant workers. Wilhelm is one of Sweeney's sharpest critics and often mentioned as a rival candidate.
Mr. WILHELM: Unfortunately, John has become invested in the status quo, and so I think this debate is fundamentally important. And I think there needs to be a leadership change in order to carry out the next wave.
LANGFITT: Given the AFL-CIO's role as defender of workers' rights, the layoffs are especially painful. More than 100 people will lose their jobs. Nelson Lichtenstein teaches labor history at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He says the cuts are tied to the labor movement's steady decline. In the 1950s, 35 percent of workers were union members; today fewer than 13 percent are.
Mr. NELSON LICHTENSTEIN (University of California-Santa Barbara): Labor is weak institutionally and financially in the United States. And when you don't organize workers, you don't have dues. Big labor doesn't exist; it hasn't existed for decades, and this is a symptom of that.
LANGFITT: Liechtenstein says the debate between Sweeney and his critics has become little more than a budget battle at a time when the movement needs bold ideas. Rick Hurd directs labor studies at Cornell University. He says the AFL-CIO has to unify behind a common strategy at its summer convention or risk a split.
Mr. RICK HURD (Cornell University): The layoffs in and of themselves mean very little. What matters is what comes out of this whole process. If the convention results in a divided labor movement with some unions leaving, then the size of the staff almost becomes irrelevant because it's going to be hamstrung in terms of getting anything done.
LANGFITT: The debate over the AFL-CIO's future could reach a crescendo when it holds what is expected to be a watershed meeting this July in Chicago. After nearly a decade in office, Sweeney says he has enough support to win another five-year term. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

PR Newswire US, May 11, 2005, Wednesday

Copyright 2005 PR Newswire Association LLC.
All Rights Reserved.
PR Newswire US

May 11, 2005 Wednesday 06:38 PM GMT

HEADLINE: DaimlerChrysler Names John T. Bozzella to Vice President - External Affairs & Public Policy (Americas)


WASHINGTON, May 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- DaimlerChrysler today named John T. Bozzella to the position of Vice President - External Affairs & Public Policy (Americas), effective immediately.
Bozzella will be responsible for leading and providing strategic direction to DaimlerChrysler External Affairs offices in Washington, Canada and Mexico, as well as coordination of federal and state policy issues in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler's External Affairs & Public Policy office in Auburn Hills, Mich.
He will also coordinate the activities of the Corporate Representative offices in South America.
Bozzella will report to DaimlerChrysler Group Senior Vice President - Global External Affairs & Public Policy Robert G. Liberatore.
"I've had the opportunity to work with John many times over the past 10 years," said Liberatore. "He is an extremely effective advocate for our industry, and I am delighted that he will be bringing his strategic insights and leadership abilities to DaimlerChrysler."
Bozzella joins DaimlerChrysler from Ford Motor Company, where he was Vice President of Public Policy and State Governmental Affairs. In prior roles at Ford, Bozzella also served as Executive Director, Government Affairs; Director of State Government Affairs; legislative manager for Clean Air and Fuels (Washington) and manager of special projects in Labor Relations (Dearborn).
Prior to joining Ford, Bozzella was Director of the State Legislative Affairs for the Office of the Mayor of New York City.
He holds a bachelor's degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.
CONTACT: Han Tjan of DaimlerChrysler AG, +1-212-909-9061, ; or David Elshoff of Chrysler Group,
Web site:
SOURCE DaimlerChrysler


NOTES: NOTE TO EDITORS: Additional information and news from DaimlerChrysler is available on the Internet at: .

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), May 6, 2005, Friday

Copyright 2005 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

May 6, 2005 Friday Final Edition


HEADLINE: Casino workers plan to unionize -- Grand, Sheraton won't oppose the drive

BYLINE: Oliver Staley

Hotel and restaurant workers at Caesars Entertainment's four Mississippi casinos are poised to unionize, scoring a major blow for organized labor in a region that has long been hostile to unions.
UNITE HERE, an organization formed last year by the merger of textile and hotel and restaurant workers unions, is leading the effort to sign up Caesars workers in Tunica and on the Gulf Coast. Caesars management said it is not opposing the efforts.
Organizer Mervilus Jean-Baptise, manning a table at the Grand Casino workers' cafeteria Tuesday, said he had been collecting check-off cards in Tunica since March 1. The union now had a sufficient number of workers enlisted to form a collective bargaining unit, he said.
Jean-Baptiste would not comment further and other union officials refused to talk about how or when the union would certify.
However, under the "card check" method of certifying a union, which is often used when management does not object, organizers would only have to collect cards from a majority of eligible employees to form a union without a vote. That method has been used at other Caesars properties.
Labor experts said organizing any workers in Mississippi would be a significant development for a movement that has been in decline for decades.
"Given the difficulty organized labor has in growing nationally, if they can unionize in a state like Mississippi, that sounds like a coup to me," said David Hames, associate professor of management at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
With only 4.8 percent of its workers in unions, Mississippi has one of lowest rates of organized workers in the nation. Only North Carolina and South Carolina have lower percentages.
"The South, in its business and political leadership, is as anti-union as it's ever been," said University of Mississippi journalism professor Joe Adkins, who has written about the history of labor in the South.
Adkins noted that there are other signs of union activity in Mississippi, including the United Auto Workers opening an office in Canton, home of the Nissan plant.
UNITE HERE, which represents more than 90,000 casino workers nationwide, is spearheading the effort at Caesars but it is cooperating with the Teamsters and the International Union of Operating Engineers, which would represent some classes of workers. If the unions are successful at the Caesars properties, it could lead employees at Mississippi's other casinos to organize, or put pressure on other casinos to raise wages, said Lee Adler, who teaches at Cornell University's school of Industrial and Labor Relations. There are about 12,000 casino employees in Tunica and 28,500 across the state.
The casinos covered would be the Grand Casinos in Tunica, Biloxi and Gulfport and the Sheraton in Tunica. In Tunica, about 1,300 of Caesars's approximately 3,000 employees would be covered.
Among the eligible workers are kitchen, bar, restaurant, maintenance and transportation employees but not dealers or other gambling-floor workers.
Those classifications are already unionized in Caesars's other properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, said Caesars spokesman Robert Stewart.
Stewart cautioned that unionizing is not the same thing as agreeing on a contract. Employees at Caesars Indiana have been unionized for a year, but they have yet to ratify a contract, he said.
But at other Indiana casinos unionized by UNITE HERE, negotiations resulted in wages increasing 7.6 percent and improved health care benefits.
Adding a wrinkle is Caesars's impending sale to Harrah's Entertainment, a massive merger that is expected to close this summer. "We are aware of it and we are monitoring the situation," said Harrah's spokesman David Strow, who said the unionizing activity would not jeopardize the merger.
- Oliver Staley: 529-6515

Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), May 5, 2005, Thursday

Copyright 2005 The Morning Call, Inc.
Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

May 5, 2005 Thursday


HEADLINE: Emmaus student-athletes make their college choices

BYLINE: By Beth Hudson Of The Morning Call

A lifelong soccer player, Amanda Lucik didn't join the Emmaus High School field hockey team until her senior year.
Despite Lucik's late entry into the sport, college programs took an interest. Now she's headed to Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference to play midfielder -- as in, field hockey midfielder -- for the Chippewas.
"It surprised me, the opportunity I was given," Lucik said. "Six different Division I schools recruited me. The facilities were a big thing. I left there saying, "This is the school for me."'
That was a recurring sentiment Wednesday at Emmaus, where 10 student-athletes, plus their parents and coaches, participated in the school's spring signing day.
Five of the Green Hornets will compete at the Division I level, while two are headed to Division I-AA schools and three to Division II. Twelve other Emmaus student-athletes had announced their college choices earlier in the year.
Bryan Reiss, Emmaus' first state wrestling champion, made his decision shortly after the season ended. Reiss, who won the Class 3A 275-pound gold medal in Hershey and lost only one match all year, will wrestle at the University of Maryland.
In addition to Reiss and Lucik, three members of the Emmaus track and field team announced plans to compete for Division I schools.
Sam Luff, already a PIAA silver medalist in cross country and track, will run both sports at Cornell, where he also plans to major in industrial and labor relations.
"I think in cross country, I'll definitely be in the top seven [on the varsity] -- at least, I'd hope so," Luff said. "They're actually much better in track than cross country.... I think I'll probably run the 5K in track."
Luff is coming off a second-place finish in the 3,000-meter run at last week's Penn Relays and is hoping to finish his high school career with a state championship in Shippensburg.
Adam Leibensperger, one of the Lehigh Valley Conference's best hurdlers, has committed to the University of Akron (another MAC school), and runner Kathy Parker will attend Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Leibensperger placed third in both the 110 and 300 hurdles Friday at the Allentown School District Invitational, and Parker won the girls' 400 at that event.
Star soccer forward Jen Dervarics started looking at her school of choice -- Bucknell -- a couple of years ago. She wants to major in mathematics and was impressed with Bucknell's academic program.
"It came down to Pittsburgh and Bucknell," she said. "I love the school [Pittsburgh], but I didn't want to be that far from home. I'm hoping to have an impact [on the soccer team] right away. I'm just going to work hard and, hopefully, I'll get my chance."
Swimmer Billy Waldron also chose a Patriot League school -- Lafayette. He competes in the 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley and plans to double major in psychology and economics/business.
"I made my decision at the end of the summer and applied early," he said. "That was the one school where I really felt comfortable. I knew the academics were excellent, and the swimming fell into place."
Fellow swimmer Amanda Foltz, who specializes in butterfly and freestyle sprints, will compete at Shippensburg University. Two other Emmaus athletes, Nate Gilbert and Kate Higgins, also chose PSAC schools.
Gilbert, who currently has the state's best effort in the triple jump, is headed to Kutztown. Higgins, who runs both cross country and track, will go to Millersville.

Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2005, Thursday

Copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune Company
Chicago Tribune

May 5, 2005 Thursday
Chicago Final Edition


HEADLINE: When backing off is a sign of leadership

BYLINE: By Samuel B. Bacharach.

The ongoing debate about John Bolton, President Bush's beleaguered nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, illustrates a classic dilemma leaders often face when appointing "their people" to key positions: When does sticking with your candidate show an obsession with face-saving and narrow political interests rather than a commitment to a broad strategic agenda?

Sometimes sticking with your candidate becomes politically costly. Good leaders understand when the time has come to move on. Maybe the time has come for Bush to consider that possibility.

Most leaders instinctively choose people who they believe will follow and support their agenda. They need to have a sense that individuals in positions of power--who are accountable to them--will see the world in the same way that they see the world. For most Bush administration appointments, this seems to be the primary litmus test. The administration has consistently demanded that appointees represent not only the ideology but also the administration's specific agenda. The administration has demonstrated little concern for the broader interests of Congress, state governments and the American people.

Sometimes, leaders lose a tremendous amount of "political capital" by ignoring the concerns of key groups in their organization. In their pursuit of controlling their agenda, they risk eroding the support of key constituents. The case of John Bolton demonstrates how a leader (Bush) can actually tarnish his position by pushing his agenda unilaterally.

For Bush, just as for any other leader, it is critical to find the right balance between administrative control and broad support. Although it may be essential for a leader to have his people in administrative control, effective leaders also understand that if they go too far, the people they ultimately appoint will face an uphill battle in implementing their agenda. Because the legitimacy of any person in a leadership position--like the future U.S. ambassador to the United Nations--is partly based on the perception of the individual's character and partly based on the perception of the degree of support he brings.

The reality of organizational politics is that the hiring or promotion process at more senior levels is informally one of advice and consent. By seeking the consent of a broader and diverse group of interests, leaders can hope to enhance the legitimacy of their appointee, thereby effectively increasing and sustaining their own base of power. Hiring or appointing key leadership positions becomes an opportunity for a leader to expand his coalition within the organization. The Bush administration has obviously forgotten this key lesson of governance, and the Bolton nomination is threatening to chip away at Bush's existing coalition. Installing Bolton, in the context of the challenges, will simply be another jolt, sending the message out that will inevitably weaken all future nominees, including U.S. Supreme Court justices. Sticking with Bolton's nomination could have the effect of weakening the president's power, rather than extending it.

Stepping back takes courage and some humility. Often, once a candidate gets further down the hiring process, leaders can find themselves falling into a pit-bull mentality, where the goal becomes getting "their man" through the process, rather than achieving an effective long-term solution--leading more with their ego than with their sense of strategy. To this point, ego-driven leadership has served Bush well, but in his second term, as the issues become more subtle, more administrative and more open to continuous debate (e.g., Social Security and Supreme Court nominees), the president will have to get more strategic and ask such questions as, "What is the implication of the Bolton nomination for my other efforts?"

Bush isn't the only leader facing this dilemma today. Across the nation, scores of leaders are trying to install effective people to help run their organizations. And most of these leaders are likely heading down a path of unilateral power--which is very transitory and short-term--rather than a long-term power-enhancing path of seeking advice and consent. We can only hope that Bush and other leaders in his position will demonstrate the courage to reconsider their candidates and seek to optimize the long-term success of their institutions.
Backing off is sometimes a sign of leadership.

Samuel B. Bacharach is a professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University. He is the author of "Get Them on Your Side."

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: President Bush continues to vigorously defended John Bolton (above), his controversial choice for UN ambassador. KRT photo by Chuck Kennedy.

CNN, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, May 2, 2005, Monday

Copyright 2005 Cable News Network
All Rights Reserved.



May 2, 2005 Monday


SECTION: NEWS; International

HEADLINE: Nuclear Defiance From North Korea; Blunder at Pentagon; Blair's Battle

BYLINE: Lou Dobbs, Andrea Koppel, Jamie McIntyre, William Schneider, Kitty Pilgrim, Casey Wian, Lisa Sylvester, Anderson Cooper

GUESTS: Ed Royce, Mitchell Reiss; Kris Kobach

North Korea apparently test-fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today declared no one should doubt the U.S. ability to deter North Korea. Officials at the Pentagon inadvertently released a classified report about the death of an Italian intelligence agent at a U.S. checkpoint in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces a general election in just three days now, and illegal immigration is a huge issue in this campaign. A new study out today highlights the rising number of Hispanic workers in this country. Many of those new workers are, of course, illegal, illegal aliens who are displacing American workers and bringing wages for working U.S. citizens down. More than half of all of the farm workers in this country are illegal aliens working for low, exploitive wages. Interview with Congressman Ed Royce.

[skip to Hispanic Workers story]

DOBBS: And I have to ask you this, because within your report, and just now talking about illegal immigration and immigration, illegal immigration is obviously a very important issue in this country and the crisis...
DOBBS: ... of illegal immigration is intensifying. But it's very clear here, we're talking in the United States about illegal immigration. There seems to be the suggestion, and correct me if I'm wrong, that in the U.K. it's immigration and legal immigration that's a concern there.
SCHNEIDER: That's correct. The level of immigration has risen during the eight years of the labor government under Tony Blair. There's no denying that. Those are the official figures.
The level of illegal immigration no one knows. But people are worried about it, and they believe that there are growing numbers of people who are in this country illegally. So they are both issues here.
DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much, sir.
Still ahead, this economy does not benefit from illegal immigration. Employers do. Our special report tonight on an industry that benefits immensely from exploiting illegal labor.
And buy American. America's manufacturing base has been so diminished that there is no way we can comply with a proposed law to buy American. That story coming up.
DOBBS: A new group of volunteers is planning to help the Minuteman Project monitor our border with Mexico. The Friends of the Border Patrol will be deployed in California this coming August. The group's leader, Andy Ramirez, says citizens volunteering to defend our nation in time of war and crisis is a time-honored tradition. So far, 300 people have volunteered for the project, including former law enforcement and military officials.
The Minuteman Project, which attracted thousands of volunteers, ended over the weekend. The group said the month-long project helped apprehend 335 illegal aliens. That is despite intense criticism of the group, even from President Bush, who called the minutemen vigilantes. Even "The New York Times" this weekend ran what appeared to be a begrudging article about the success of the Minuteman Project.
A new study out today highlights the rising number of Hispanic workers in this country. Many of those new workers are, of course, illegal, illegal aliens who are displacing American workers and bringing wages for working U.S. citizens down.
Kitty Pilgrim has the report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Plenty of Americans want to work in the construction industry. But new immigrant workers snapped up about half the new jobs last year. And the Pew Hispanic Center says 70 percent of immigrants from Latin America are illegal.
The trend can be seen all over the economy in a range of jobs: plaster workers, hotel workers, service jobs in hotels and restaurants, hospital workers.
RAKESH KOCHHAR, PEW HISPANIC CENTER: What we found in the last year is that out of the 2.5 million jobs created in the economy, one million went to Latino workers, almost all of whom were recently- arrived immigrants.
PILGRIM: Newly-arrived immigrants are not just staying on the border. States showing the largest growth in immigrant population in the last four years, Tennessee, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, and Maryland. Legal or not, employers are hiring them. And wages are falling as new immigrants are willing to work for less.
The Pew Hispanic study found those who lose out the most are legal American-born Latinos. American Hispanic workers lost 44,000 jobs in laundry services and housework, and recent immigrants picked up nearly all of those jobs.
DANIEL GRISWOLD, CATO INSTITUTE: It confirms a lot of things that we already knew. One, that Hispanics who come here as immigrants are competing most directly with other recent Hispanic immigrants. Secondly, that immigrants are moving beyond traditional urban centers and out more into the countryside or suburban areas. PILGRIM: New immigrants are taking any work they can get and getting it in disproportionate numbers. Forty percent of new jobs went to newly-arrived Latino workers, even though they make up only 15 percent of the work force.
PILGRIM: Now, the numbers from the Pew Center point out what many Americans have known intuitively for years, the recent wave of immigrant has made finding a job in certain industries harder to do and the wages in those industries, Lou, a lot harder to live on.
DOBBS: Now, the Pew study did not break out numbers in terms of illegal and legal immigrants.
PILGRIM: That's right. But when pressed, they said that they estimate from other studies about 70 percent of the Latino immigrants are illegal.
DOBBS: Why would they not put that bold faced straightforwardly in front of the readers of that study, those that they are trying to communicate?
PILGRIM: Yes. It was enigmatic why they didn't break it out into two different groups. But -- but when pressed, they did come up with that.
DOBBS: And it's enigmatic why any organization that has "Pew Hispanic Center" with the word "Hispanic," why it would not take great pains to differentiate the interest of illegal immigrants and those who are legal and who are embraced in this country.
PILGRIM: Particularly when the Hispanic population is the population that's being hurt. The legal Hispanic population is being hurt by this wave of illegal immigration.
DOBBS: And yet Hispanic activists, open border activists in this country, will try to claim some sort of basic ownership of Hispanic values when talking about illegal immigration. And they seem to be absolutely disdainful of the true interest of Hispanic-American workers in this country. It's mind-boggling.
PILGRIM: It certainly is. And -- but one thing is clear about this. Hispanics are being hurt, legal Hispanics are being hurt by this.
DOBBS: And nationally, wages are estimated to be somewhere around $150 billion, working wages in this country for U.S. citizens, $150 billion, and depressed wages a year. That, in addition to all of the other burdens, has obviously a tremendous impact on the economy. Not to mention society and our culture.
Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much for the report.
One American industry that benefits greatly, perhaps more than any other, in fact, from the millions of illegal aliens in this country is agriculture. More than half of all of the farm workers in this country are illegal aliens working for low, exploitive wages.
Casey Wian reports from Santa Paula, California.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of farm workers in this country are illegal aliens. Growers know it, so does the government. It's a business grown dependent on lawbreakers and accomplices with little interference from authorities.
Growers hire middlemen harvesting companies or farm labor contractors who in turn hire the workers. This contractor who spoke on condition we conceal his identity says illegal aliens are often the only people willing to endure the physical demands and seasonal nature of farm labor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're forced to hire, you know, whoever is out there. And those type of workers are workers that are coming across the border, whether that is legal or otherwise. We're in kind of a catch-22 situation where if we don't come up with laborers we are just not going to be able to harvest the fruit
WIAN: Most harvesting companies require immigration documents from their workers. But the only real requirement is that documents can't be obvious frauds.
(on camera): The Labor Department estimates about half of the nation's farm workers are illegal aliens. Here in Ventura County, California, the number is much higher, about 80 percent. And farm labor contractors say they could double the wages they pay and still not attract enough legal workers.
(voice-over): Workers here average $8 to $9 an hour depending on the crop. The most productive can make twice that. But only for a few weeks at a time.
LANCE COMPA, LABOR LAW PROFESSOR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: The hourly wage for a lot of farm workers isn't that bad, you know. I think this idea that growers are getting rich off exploiting low wages, there is a lot of exploitation, but it's not so much wages.
WIAN: Compa says California is one of only a handful of states that recognize farm worker unions. And even the largest of those say the beneficiary of illegal alien labor is not big agriculture but U.S. consumers. The average American spends just $7 a week on fresh produce.
ARTURO RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT, UNITED FARM WORKERS: Consumers obviously want the best food that they can, the best produced food that they can possibly get, at the best price that they can receive. And so those pressures are always on the agricultural industry, as well as the farm labor force.
WIAN: Other pressures include increased competition from Chinese and South American produce imports, harvested where wages and labor conditions are much worse. Casey Wian, CNN, Santa Paula, California.
DOBBS: And on the subject of illegal immigration and border security, tonight the Mexican government is taking on one of our guests who appeared on this broadcast almost three weeks ago. Peter Gadiel, the president of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America was here as our guest to discuss his support for the Real I.D. Act, which is designed, of course, in part to keep drivers' licenses out of the hands of illegal aliens.
While he was here, Mr. Gadtiel showed us just how easily it is to obtain a Mexican I.D. card that many illegals are using to obtain drivers' licenses in some states. And he showed us his, his phony matricula consular.
Mr. Gadiel's appearance here prompted a sharply-worded letter from Mexico's counsel general. That leader asked Gadiel to surrender his matricula consular card, saying in part, "Our attorneys are currently exploring all legal avenues on this matter to determine responsibilities in the purchase and use of a forged Mexican government-issued I.D."
Peter Gadiel, for his part, says he is amazed by the letter from the Mexican government and says he has done nothing illegal. He will be here to talk about this astonishing development this coming Thursday. And we have yet to hear from the Mexican government as to how many letters of complaint they have sent to illegal aliens using matricula consulars as -- and other forged documents in this country to obtain jobs and entry to this country.
We'll continue to explore that with the Mexican government here.
That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you believe the Bush administration will ever get serious about border security, yes or no? Cast your vote, We'll have the results coming up tonight.
Next here, how some foreign manufacturers are getting away with labeling their products "Made in America." It's a good thing, too. We'll explain why. Our special report on that is next.
And then, new hope for the Real I.D. Act. Just weeks after it appeared stalled, perhaps dead. One sponsor of the legislation will tell us how it survived and its prospects now on Capitol Hill.
LOAD-DATE: May 4, 2005

Buffalo News (New York), May 1, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)

May 1, 2005 Sunday



Associated Healthcare Systems, an adult, home-based therapies provider, named Peter C. Storey president. With the Amherst company for 19 years, Storey previously was vice president and chief operating officer. He is a graduate from St. Bonaventure University and earned his MBA from the University at Buffalo. The company also appointed Elizabeth Woolrich vice president of business development and Arletta Samulak chief financial officer. Woolrich, with the company since 1985, previously was patient management center director of the Amherst/Buffalo location. She is a graduate of the University at Buffalo. Samulak is an accounting graduate of Canisius College and obtained her MBA at St. Bonaventure University. She has been with the company for eight years.
Amigone Funeral Home chief executive officer Vincent J. Amigone was elected president of the National Association of Approved Morticians, a nationwide organization of leading funeral homes.
Lawley Automotive Dealership Solutions, an auto warranty and aftermarket products provider, named Patricia Yanity accounting manager. She most recently was with Harry R. Defler Corp. in Buffalo. Also, the agency named Jason Dernbach regional manager, dealership profit development. Previously, Dernbach was with Fox Valley Club and Intrepid Automotive Enterprises.
Rural Metro Medical Services named Kirsten Meade Lenartowich human resources manager. Lenartowich is an industrial and labor relations graduate of Cornell University and most recently, was director of human resources at General Electric. Also, the company promoted John Rusinski to recruiter. Rusinski has been in emergency medical services for more than 23 years and is a certified paramedic. Finally, the company named Brian Pfeiffer area manager of the Cheektowaga/Amherst Section. Most recently, Pfeiffer was a fly car paramedic.
Ciminelli Development Co., a commercial real estate, development and investment company, promoted Mariann Stiles to vice president. Stiles has been with the Williamsville company for more than seven years and most recently served as director of human resources.
Huron Plumbing and Heating Corp., based in Tonawanda for more than 15 years, named Christopher M. Connelly chief operations manager. Connelly is a graduate of Canisius College and also a licensed journeyman plumber.
The Insurance Women of Buffalo honored Eric P. Keller, president of H.R. Keller and Co., as Employer of the Year.
The Buffalo Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals named Thomas J. Bienias its 2005 Executive of the Year for his vision and leadership. Bienias is chief executive officer at Ethox Corp.

Buffalo News, May 1, 2005, Sunday

Copyright 2005 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Copyright 2005 Buffalo News
Buffalo News

May 1, 2005, Sunday

HEADLINE: As Detroit gets squeezed, Buffalo area will feel the pinch

BYLINE: By Fred O. Williams


James Virag heads off to the General Motors plant at 10:30 p.m. and works through the night, running safety checks on equipment. Despite the graveyard shift, he sees his job as one of the Cadillacs of Buffalo's economy.
"I'm blessed. I know people would give their right arm for my job," the 32-year-old said. As an electrician he earns close to $ 30 an hour at the Tonawanda engine plant, plus health and pension benefits.
Now the automaker's financial crunch -- GM lost $ 1.1 billion in the first three months of the year -- puts a shadow over his career, the mainstay of his family of four and their home in Lancaster.
"I've got seven years in, I've got 23 to go before I retire," Virag said. "For me it's pretty scary."
Julie Virag agreed, saying she's glad her husband has his electrician's certificate to fall back on.
Multiply the Virag household by 10,000 to get an idea of the cumulative worry facing the Buffalo Niagara region. GM and major supplier Delphi Corp. are in a profound slump, while competitor Ford Motor Co. shares some of the same industry problems. Ford spinoff Visteon Corp. reported a first-quarter loss last week, and American Axle & Manufacturing reported a drop in profits. All these companies have plants in the area.
Some analysts have suggested that bankruptcy isn't out of the question for GM and Delphi, who face escalating costs for pensions and health care even while GM's market share shrinks. Company officials dismiss that idea. But however they do it, Detroit automakers must cut costs to remain viable, analysts say, and that probably means a bumpier ride for Western New York's economy.
"I think there's going to be radical changes in pensions and health care," said Arthur Wheaton, an instructor at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo. "They may trade off closing plants for changes in benefits."
Analysts say today's crunch compares to the industry's woes in the early 1980s, when Chrysler nearly went bankrupt. GM chief Rick Wagoner is pushing Washington to help with health care policy while vowing to win back market share from Toyota Motor and Honda -- which are largely responsible for slicing GM's share of the market to about 25 percent, from its goal of 30 percent.
It would also help if gas prices came down and buyers flocked to GM's redesigned trucks and SUVs that start to debut for model year 2006. But the surest way automakers can blot up the red ink is to roll back benefits for workers and retirees.
"The next round of negotiations is going to be incredibly difficult," said Kevin Donovan, Buffalo region director of the United Auto Workers.
The UAW contract expires in 2007, but it won't take that long for the crunch to hit home. On Monday GM Powertrain will lay off 100 workers for two weeks because of lower-than-expected orders for the plant's 3.9-liter engine, spokeswoman Mary Ann Brown said. They join 117 workers on a voluntary "reverse seniority" layoff, a prelude to retirement that pays workers nearly what they earn on the job. The layoffs could deepen this summer if another Tonawanda product, its 3.4-liter engine, is retired.
In Lockport, Delphi's Safety & Interior plant has 58 on voluntary layoff and another 131 scheduled for what was expected to be a short-lived layoff last week, a union official said.
"We're still attached at the hip to GM," said Paul Siejak, president of Unit 1, UAW Local 686 in Lockport.
The layoffs show that when Detroit is squeezed, Buffalo feels the pinch. U.S. automakers plus supplier Delphi employ about 10,000 people in the region. Several thousands more retirees from auto plants receive robust pension checks, making the industry a pillar of the local economy. A retiree leaving GM now after 30 years of work receives about $ 3,000 a month.
GM singled out health costs in announcing its first-quarter loss. The automaker spent $ 5.2 billion on health care last year for 1.1 million U.S. employees, retirees and dependents, with the bill expected to rise to $ 6 billion this year.
That's only the beginning. The costs of an aging work force will continue to rise.
Over the next 10 years, GM faces costs of $ 68 billion for pensions and nearly $ 50 billion for retiree health care costs, according to its annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Health care alone adds $ 1,200 to the cost of a GM car, the company has said; competitors with new plants and younger workers in the U.S. face much lower obligations.
"I think it's a very dicey time for GM, Delphi and Ford," Donovan said. He calls the lack of national health care in the United States -- almost alone among industrialized countries -- a major drawback for the automaker. In Canada, for example, health costs are $ 800 per worker, versus several thousand in the U.S.
Even so, he said, "I don't think (solving) health care is going to solve all of GM's problems," he said.
A big question will be how much workers are willing to give up in order to safeguard their jobs. Analysts point to GM's labor costs, but workers feel they're being made to pay for management's mistakes -- such as the agreement in February to pay Italy's Fiat a break-up fee of $ 2 billion to cancel a joint venture.
"Nobody got fired, there were no repercussions," said Virag. "Then all of a sudden GM says 'We're having a hard time with legacy issues, we have to talk to the UAW about it.'-- "
What is more, health coverage isn't the gold-plated plan many people think, he said. Workers at Tonawanda face the possible expiration of their HMO option this year, leaving them with major medical coverage and the out-of-pocket costs that entails.
The UAW rejected GM's call to reopen its contract at a meeting with the automaker in March. That appears to heighten the stakes for the next contract in 2007.
Delphi executives will have their own meeting with the UAW leadership sometime this month, spokeswoman Luce Rubio said. The annual event could include discussion of health care issues, but she said she was unaware whether Delphi will seek to modify its labor contract, which like GM's expires in 2007.
Siejak said he's not sure how the idea of concessions would go over with the 3,200 union workers at the Lockport plant. The union is already waiving contractual job targets and has reluctantly agreed to a reduced pay scale for new hires.
"If our international union felt it was necessary to make some concessions, I trust my international leadership," he said.
The auto industry's cyclic nature gives some workers a jaded view of the current downswing.
"I work with guys who've got 30 or 40 years in who say: 'I've seen this before; the market goes up, the market goes down,' " Virag said.
Still, the long-term health of the industry is a concern for him, which he sees leading to a reduced compensation package eventually. He expects that during the remaining 23 years of his career the Tonawanda engine plant will have to grapple with the rise of the fuel cell to replace the gasoline-burning engine, along with the automaker's financial challenges.
An area native, Virag considers the option of transferring to another GM plant as a last resort.
"The future's really uncertain," he said, "nothing's guaranteed."