Friday, May 26, 2006

Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 2006, Thursday

Copyright 2006 The Christian Science Publishing Society
All Rights Reserved
Christian Science Monitor

May 25, 2006, Thursday

HEADLINE: Rising black-Latino clash on jobs

BYLINE: Daniel B. Wood Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


From where Johnny Blair Vaughn sits outside Lucy Florence Coffee House in the heart of Los Angeles's black community, he can feel the temperature rising over immigration.
The biggest reason, says the father of seven, is jobs.
"If you drive across this city, you will see 99 percent of all construction is being done by Hispanics.... You will see no African-American males on these sites, and that is a big change," says Mr. Vaughn, who has worked in construction for two decades. His two oldest boys, in their early 20s, have been turned down so many times for jobs - as framers, roofers, cement layers - that they no longer apply, he says.
While Los Angeles is ground zero for black-Hispanic friction these days, echoes of Vaughn's words are rising throughout urban black America as Congress labors over immigration reform. In cities where almost half of the young black men are unemployed, a debate is raging over whether Latinos - undocumented and not - are elbowing aside blacks for jobs in stores, restaurants, hotels, manufacturing plants, and elsewhere.
Hispanics and blacks tend to gravitate to the same inner-city areas and low-skill labor markets - and the result is a clash over jobs that require less skill and less education, experts say.
"In this era of mass immigration, no group has benefited less or been harmed more than the African-American population," says Vernon Briggs, a Cornell University professor who researches immigration policy and the American labor force.
Yet a precise relationship between the presence of immigrants and the loss of black jobs has not been clearly proven in research. Rather, the influx of legal and illegal immigrants has been so massive that it has affected the internal migration of native-born Americans to the point where "economists have given up trying to prove a one-to-one-displacement," says Dr. Briggs.
Some Latino groups, meanwhile, counter that such a correlation is more a perception than a reality.
"We are fighting ... hearsay and opinion," says Randy Jurado Ertll, a Hispanic educational consultant and director of El Centro de Accion Social, Inc., a community service organization in Pasadena, Calif. "Blacks say, 'Hey a Latino immigrant came and took my job,' and some Latinos say, 'Blacks have all the jobs at the post office or city hall and don't want to give jobs to Latinos.' "
Statistics show that young African-Americans are having trouble in the job market. Unemployment among young blacks nationwide is 40 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "For blacks, the growing presence of immigrant workers adds to the formidable obstacles they face in finding a job," said a Pew Research Center study released in April. Among blacks, 78 percent say jobs are difficult to find in their community compared to only 55 percent of Hispanics.
Many economists disagree that immigration is the reason black unemployment is high. Instead, shrinking budgets for job training and creation, industry downsizing and manufacturing flight to foreign countries are to blame.
Yet the perception that Hispanic immigrant workers are pushing blacks aside in the job market is evident in many cities with a high black population including Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, and Denver, Briggs says.
"Latinos and blacks are at each others' throats in our jails and in our high schools," says Najee Ali, an activist based in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Mr. Ali notes that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to intervene after several high school brawls broke out between Hispanics and blacks in recent months. Riots in the Los Angeles County Jail - the nation's largest - came about in part because of tensions on the streets between black and Hispanic gangs, observers say.
"Undocumented immigration that is taking jobs from blacks is the number one issue nationwide. Unless we address it, the same kind of eruptions we are seeing in Los Angeles will jump to these other cities as Latino populations increase there," he says.
Others point out that tensions between blacks and Hispanics are not new and are not tied solely to immigration. They also result from a competition for housing, education, and healthcare due to the sheer number of Latinos - they are the largest and fastest-growing minority group. Hispanics' increasing political clout as well as recent immigrants-rights demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands Hispanic immigrants in dozens of cities have roiled many in the black community.
"It angers me because I know that the jobs immigrants are coming to get are not just the ones they got in the past ... seasonal jobs for picking," says Vaughn. "They got a glimpse of what America is, and they want a piece of the American pie. I can't blame them ... but there has to be a way for the government to step in and make it fairer so that African- Americans can be employed also."
A vast majority of blacks, including Vaughn, believe Latin American immigrants are hard working, according to the poll taken by the Pew Research Center. Blacks are also more sympathetic than whites to the plights of immigrants.
They remember their own struggle to gain civil rights and the help that Latinos offered during the 1960s.
"The battle over immigrant rights will be fought as fiercely and doggedly as the civil rights battle of the 1960s. That battle forever altered the way Americans look at race. The immigrants-rights battle will profoundly alter the way Americans look at immigrants," says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of nine books on the black experience.
Today, the black community is split over how to address immigration. The NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights generally support the immigrant marches. They're against exposing all illegal immigrants to felony charges as outlined in a bill passed by the US House in December. A California Field Poll in April found that 82 percent of blacks instead support a US Senate measure, which would give undocumented workers currently in the US for more than five years the opportunity of citizenship.
But a vocal subset of blacks has a different view. Choose Black America, a coalition of business, academic, and community leaders, formed this week to advocate for stronger border security and not allow illegal immigrants to become citizens.
In April, a band of protesters marched in front of the office of Rep. Maxine Waters (D) of California because she, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, supports citizenship for illegal immigrants. Blacks also have "singed the phone lines at black radio talk shows with anti-immigrant tirades" and "bombarded black newspapers with letters blasting illegal immigrants," says Hutchinson.
"It's definitely one of the hottest topics on talk radio I've ever seen," says Greg Johnson, marketing director of KJLH, a leading black radio station in Los Angeles. The majority of callers favor more conservative enforcement solutions to immigration, but the station is getting callers on all sides, he says.
"Some are adamant to get them [immigrants] out; others say, 'let's work with them;' and others say 'let's figure out how to regulate it,' " says Mr. Johnson. "Some of the stress I'm seeing I don't understand. Blacks are divided on this issue and it needs to be talked out ... Latino/black relationships have to be resolved. We all live in the same neighborhoods we are part of the same community."
Despite these differences, some in the black community are seeking to build an alliance that lifts both blacks and Latinos.
With Rev. Sharpton and Christine Chavez, the daughter of United Farm Workers founder Cezar Chavez, Ali is expanding a national black and Hispanic coalition in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Washington, and New York - modeled after efforts started here last August. The groups are trying to find common ground on jobs, housing, education, healthcare, and controlling gangs.
Mr. Ertll says his group wants to meet at both the official and grass-roots levels to address the concern of low-income jobs for all ethnicities.
But some do not agree with construction worker Vaughn and others who say that Hispanics are a threat to blacks trying to find work.
"Yes, immigrants are coming in to take the jobs, but if you really put your mind to it, you can get one," says Jamal Dillard, 18, who just got hired as a courtesy clerk at Albertsons grocery for $6.75 per hour.
Some Hispanic and black thinkers agree that many American employers are taking advantage of both groups.
"It is past time for all African-Americans to understand that our interests and those of immigrants are not at odds," wrote Sharpton in a reply to critics. "Those truly concerned about economic fairness would be better off targeting businesses that exploit and underpay illegal immigrants to the detriment of American workers."
That detriment is the bidding down of wages for all lower-income jobs.
"The real culprits are the employers who work people 12 to 14 hours a day at $8 an hour or less without having to pay payroll taxes or provide any other form of benefits," says Ernesto Nieto, president of the National Hispanic Institute. "To direct blame to people in need because of American greed is to beg the question of who's really at fault here and who's really playing by the rules."
(c) Copyright 2006. The Christian Science Monitor

City News Service, May 24, 2006, Wednesday

Copyright 2006 City News Service, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
City News Service

No City News Service material may be republished without the express written permission of the City News Service, Inc.

May 24, 2006 Wednesday 5:37 PM PST

HEADLINE: City News Service



Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick will release a study tomorrow reviewing three years worth of negotiations with unions representing city employees.
The study, conducted by former California Auditor General Kurt Sjoberg and Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Negotiations, will be released by Chick during a news conference tomorrow morning.
The consulting team examined the costs of labor agreements in Los Angeles over the last three years, including base salary changes and working conditions.
The consultants also developed new procedures on how labor negotiations should be handled.
Chick and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for changes in labor negotiations on Sept. 20, just hours after the City Council approved large raises for about 8,000 Department of Water and Power workers, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 13.
The deal, which boosted DWP employee salaries by 16.25 percent over the next five years, was negotiated under the previous mayoral administration.
At the time, Villaraigosa said the city's method of labor negotiations was "flawed" and "outdated," and the dispute with the DWP employees "brought us to the brink of a strike that would have paralyzed our city."
Contracts with more than 20 bargaining units are either expired, or set to expire this year, including those covering Los Angeles Police Department officers, Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters and employees represented by the Engineers and Architects Association.
The Engineers and Architects Association is demanding a contract similar to the deal granted to the DWP workers, arguing their members do the same amount of work. The city is offering a contract with no raise the first year, and a 6.5 percent increase spread out over three years.
The union's members have taken an aggressive approach to making their voices heard by broadcasting radio commercials attacking Villaraigosa, holding demonstrations in front of city buildings and disrupting several of Villaraigosa's news conferences.
Union members shouted over Villaraigosa when he announced the appointment of Gloria Jeff as transportation director, then pulled similar tactics when Villaraigosa marked the start of the FlyAway bus service from Union Station to Los Angeles, and again when he presented an award to the cast and crew of the Oscar-winning film "Crash."
However, other unions have shied away from such tactics.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles police officers approved a new contract that would raise their pay by 10.25 percent over the next three years, according to the Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,300 sworn LAPD officers. The contract still requires the City Council's approval.
The city's firefighters, represented by the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, are expected to be given a deal similar to the one given to the police officers.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (New York), May 24, 2006, Wednesday

Copyright 2006 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
All Rights Reserved
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (New York)

May 24, 2006 Wednesday



Get ready for Summer Fest at St. Agnes on June 16-17
St. Agnes Parish is sponsoring its Avon Summer Fest and 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 17 at the church, 108 Prospect St.
A rubber duck race, games, food, arts and crafts vendors, a 3-point shooting contest, live entertainment including a performance by Bob's Brothers Band and a raffle of more than 60 gift baskets will be among the festival highlights.
Admission is free.
The Battle of the Teen Bands will be held at 6 p.m. June 16 at the church. Admission is $2 per person.
Checkmate your partner at Chili Chess Club at library
The Chili Chess Club will meet 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Chili Public Library, 3333 Chili Ave.
For more information, call (585) 889-2200.
School to host ninth-grade awards ceremony May 31
The Churchville-Chili Central School District will host a junior high school ninth-grade awards ceremony at 7 p.m. May 31 at the high school, 5786 Buffalo Road.
Start Smart Baseball is for youths and their parents
The Gates Recreation and Parks Department is offering a Start Smart Baseball class for ages 3 through 5 on Mondays and Wednesdays from May 31 through June 21.
The classes, at Total Sports Experience, 880 Elmgrove Road, run from 4 to 5 p.m.
Start Smart, a program of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, also promotes quality bonding time between child and parent, and helps parents who don't have a sports background learn how to teach sports skills to their children.
Registration is required for the class, including paying $45 by today or $50 after today.
For more information, call the recreation office at (585) 247-6100, ext. 234.Internet class to help find Web sites and do research
The Gates Public Library, 1605 Buffalo Road, is hosting an intermediate Internet session from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. today. The session will help users practice more sophisticated methods for locating Web sites and doing Internet research. Prior experience using the mouse and keyboard is required.
For more information, call (585) 234-9190.
Middle school to perform in Spring Band Concert
The Gates Chili Middle School Spring Band Concert is today at 7 p.m. at the high school, 910 Wegman Road. For more information, call (585) 247-5050.
Sheriff's office promotes two to sergeant position
Two deputies in the Livingston County Sheriff's Office have been promoted to the rank of patrol sergeants.
They are Jeffrey Wisecrack and Chad Draper.
In announcing the promotions last week, Sheriff John M. York said the two men assumed their new ranks immediately as "first-line supervisors."
ork described the sergeant position as one of the most crucial within an agency. Patrol sergeants make immediate decisions as to what direction the agency takes, he said in a statement.
A Dansville resident, Wisecrack has been with the department since 1993. He started in the jail, and then moved to the patrol division. He had been a member of the emergency response team and an instructor at local academies.
Draper, a resident of York, has been with the department since 1999 as a member of the patrol division. He also has been a member of the emergency response team and also is a K-9 handler.
Museum to host talk about life as a Trappist monk
The life of a Trappist monk will be the topic of a program at 2:30 p.m. June 4 at the Livingston County Museum, 30 Center St.
The Rev. Jerome Machar of the Abbey of the Genesee will be the presenter.
Sponsored by the museum, the program is titled "55 Years in the Valley, What is a Trappist?"
For more information about the program, contact David W. Parish at (585) 243-9147.
Pancakes, flight simulator at Fly-in/Drive-in breakfast
The 1941 Historical Aircraft Group is sponsoring a Fly-in/Drive-in Pancake Breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. June 4 at the Geneseo Airport, 3489 Big Tree Lane, off Route 63.
The cost is $5 for adults and $2 for children 6 through 10 years old. Children 5 and younger can eat free.
Breakfast will be served in the large hangar, which has new doors. The museum, the office and other hangars will be open for tours.
Children will have an opportunity to operate airplane controls and enjoy the sense of flight in a flight simulator. The device is a plane with a computer installed in the cockpit.
A child-size wooden ride-on airplane also will be raffled off. The plane is recommended for children ages 2 and older. Raffle tickets will be on sale for $2 each. The drawing will be at noon.
For more information, call (585)243-2100 or go to the group's Web site at
1940s USO Show to be held at Geneseo Airport June 17
Memories USO Show, sponsored by the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group, will be from 6 to 10 p.m. June 17 in the large hangar at Geneseo Airport, 3489 Big Tree Lane, off Route 63.
The Warsaw Barbershop Singers will perform and the Johnny Mack Band will play music of the 1940s.
Those planning to attend are encouraged to dress in 1940s attire, military and civilian.
The event also will include a cash bar.
Food will be for sale.
Tickets are $12 per person and can be purchased at the HAG office daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. before June 17 and at the door that day.
For more information, call (585) 243-2100 or go to the group's Web site at
Red Cross will offer two courses for instructors
The Northern Livingston County Chapter of the American Red Cross is sponsoring two instructor courses in June.
Both will be conducted at the Livingston County Government Center, 6 Court St.
Fundamentals in Instructor Training will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 3. The class is required for anyone interested in becoming an instructor.
A Specialty Instructor Course in first aid and other topics will be from 1 to 3 p.m. June 3 and from 6 to 10 p.m. on June 5, 6, 7 and 8.
For details about the courses and fees, call the Red Cross office at (585) 243-7029 or send an e-mail to
City's Clean Sweep effort wraps up in northeast
The city's Clean Sweep effort is wrapping up this week in northeast Rochester, NET area F.
A major push is planned for Saturday.
Volunteers will gather at 9 a.m. at the Neighborhood Empowerment Team office at 500 Norton St., work from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., then end the day with a picnic.
Call (585) 428-5990 or go to to volunteer.
Courses on lead-safe work practices filling up fast
Classes are filling quickly for free lead-safe work practices training offered by Monroe County and taught by Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

City regulations affecting rental properties take effect July 1.
Classes are offered twice monthly at the school's Rochester location, 16 W. Main St. To register for classes on July 11, July 25 or other dates, call (585) 262-4440.
Landmark's annual house tour focuses on Brighton
For the first time, the Landmark Society's annual House and Garden tour will take people inside homes in the neighborhood along Ambassador Drive to Pelham Road in Brighton.
Tickets for the 36th annual tour, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4, are $20 for members and $25 for others. The tour sold out last year. An optional luncheon at Pomodoro Grill and Wine Bar, 1290 University Ave., is $15.
Tickets can be purchased at the Landmark Society, 133 S. Fitzhugh St., or online at The Web site provides additional information about the tour and luncheon.
A free, pre-tour lecture and slide show on the neighborhood's history will be at 7:30 p.m. May 31 at the Baptist Temple, 1101 Clover St.
Woodworkers' group is seeking new members
The Rochester Woodworkers Society is inviting all woodworkers in the area, from beginners to professionals, to join the society, according to George Harvey, chairman of the group.
To join and for more details, call (585) 229-2944 or go to the Web site at www.rochester
Staff reports

Business Wire, May 22, 2006, Monday

Copyright 2006 Business Wire, Inc.
Business Wire

May 22, 2006 Monday 12:20 PM GMT

DISTRIBUTION: Business Editors; Energy Editors

HEADLINE: GE Appoints Seven Company Officers

DATELINE: FAIRFIELD, Conn. May 22, 2006

GE today announces the appointment of seven Company officers.
Stuart D. Aronson, 43, is President, Global Sponsor Finance, GE Commercial Finance. Aronson has run the Global Sponsor Finance business since March 2003. Prior to this role, he was General Manager of the Commercial & Industrial business within the Structured Finance Group in GE Commercial Finance. From 1990 to 2002, Aronson had a variety of roles within Commercial Finance's Capital Markets group. From 1998 to 2002, he was Managing Director in charge of Transaction Execution for Syndications, Securitization and Trade Finance in Capital Markets. Before that, he was Managing Director in charge of Syndications and Placements. Aronson received his Masters' in Finance from Columbia University in 1987 and his Bachelors in Economics from Tufts University in 1985.
Jean-Michel Cossery, 46, is Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, GE Healthcare. He has been Chief Marketing Officer since he joined GE following its acquisition of Amersham in April 2004. Cossery had been the Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Amersham Health since November 2000. Cossery has five post graduate degrees, including an MBA from the Rotterdam School of Management. He holds a PharmD in Pharmacology and a PhD in Nuclear Chemistry & Neurology, both received at the University of Paris in 1987 and 1986 respectively. He received his Masters' in Organic Chemistry in 1984 and in Pharmacy in 1983, also from the University of Paris.
Michael A. Jones, 41, is Vice President, Business Development, GE Healthcare. He has been General Manager of Business Development for Healthcare since 1998, when he started with GE. In this role, Jones is responsible for developing the business's overall strategy, and identifying and executing merger and acquisitions, investments and alliances in support of the strategic growth initiatives of the business. Prior to joining GE, Jones spent 10 years on Wall Street in a variety of M&A, private equity and investment banking roles. Jones received his Bachelors in Economics from Princeton University in 1987.
John (Jack) F. Ryan, 39, is Vice President, Human Resources, GE Infrastructure, Aviation. In this role, he oversees talent development for GE's aviation business, an $11 billion business with more than 26,000 employees worldwide. Ryan has led global Human Resources for the business since July 2005. Prior to this role he was an HR leader for Aviation's Services operation in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before that he was an HR leader for Industrial Systems Solutions within GE Industrial. From 1997 to 1999, he was the HR manager for Commercial Engine Operations in Aviation. Ryan began with GE in 1988 as an HR Intern in Schenectady, New York and was a member of the Company's Human Resources Leadership Program. Ryan received his Bachelor's degree in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University in 1989.
Trevor A. Schauenberg, 37, is Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, GE Commercial Finance, Capital Solutions. Schauenberg was Chief Financial Officer for GE Infrastructure, Transportation from September 2003 to March 2006. Prior to that, he was Chief Financial Officer for Global Property & Casualty Reinsurance within GE Insurance Solutions based in Germany. From 1999 to 2001, he was Chief Financial Officer for Insurance Holdings within Commercial Finance, based in London. Schauenberg was a member of GE's Corporate Audit Staff for six years, eventually being elevated to Executive Audit Manager for GE Capital in 1997. He started in the Company's Finance Management Program in 1991. Schauenberg received his Bachelor's in Finance from the University of Iowa in 1991.
Robert Stefanowski, 43, is President, Global Media & Communications, GE Commercial Finance. He has run the Global Media business since February 2004. Stefanowski has had a variety of roles within GE Commercial Finance since he started with the Company in 1994. In 2003, Stefanowski was the head of Commercial & Industrial Finance within GE Commercial Finance. From 2002 to 2003, he was a Managing Director of Global Sponsor Finance. Stefanowski received his Masters' in Business Administration from Cornell University in 1992 and his Bachelors' in Accounting from Fairfield University in 1984.
Brian J. West, 36, is Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, GE Infrastructure, Aviation. He has been Chief Financial Officer for Aviation since July 2005. West started with the Aviation business as Finance Manager for Engine Services in 2004. Prior to Aviation, West was Finance Manager for Global Products in GE Plastics from 2002 to 2004. In 2001, he was Chief Financial Officer for TV Stations within NBC Universal. West was a member of GE's Corporate Audit Staff for six years, eventually taking the position of Staff Executive and Operations Leader in 1999. He began his career with GE in 1991 as a member of the Company's Finance Management Program. West received his Master's in Business Administration from Columbia University in 2001 and his Bachelor's in Finance from Siena College in 1991.
GE (NYSE: GE) is Imagination at Work -- a diversified technology, media and financial services company focused on solving some of the world's toughest problems. With products and services ranging from aircraft engines, power generation, water processing and security technology to medical imaging, business and consumer financing, media content and advanced materials, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit the company's Web site at

CONTACT: General Electric Linda Boff, 203-373-2989

Newsday (New York) (Nassau and Suffolk Edition), May 19, 2006, Friday

Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)

May 19, 2006 Friday



FINKE-Colonel Daniel Leon, Jr., U.S. Army Retired Reserve, 76, of Centereach, LI, New York, died Monday, May 15, 2006 with his wife, Barbara by his side. Born in Brooklyn, New York, November 25, 1929, the son of Katherine and Daniel L. Finke, Col. Finke served in the NY National Guard & U.S. Army Reserves achieving distinctions with the Meritorious Service Award, the 245th Artillery NIKE-Ajax Missile Award and the MEDDAC Crest. Finke held various executive positions with the Suffolk County Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Health & the Northport VA Hospital. He also served as a District Councilman. He graduated The Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations and The U.S. Army Command & General Staff College. Survivors include his wife of 49 years, the former Barbara Jeanne Wilson; his three children, son, Daniel & his wife Maureen; daughter Paris Helene and husband Roger Loesch and grandchildren, Roger Jr., Carter, Julia Wilson, Daniel III, Christian and Valerie Jeanne. He is also predeceased by his son Christian Brett. Services at O.B. Davis Funeral Home on Saturday 5/20 47:30PM, Sunday 2-4PM and 68PM. Mass Monday 5/22 9:45AM at Assumption BVM Church in Centereach, burial following at Calverton National Cemetery.

Compensation & Benefits for Law Offices, May 2006

Copyright 2006 Institute of Management & Administration
All Rights Reserved
Compensation & Benefits for Law Offices

May 2006


HEADLINE: CBLO Calendar (0606)

Fundamentals of Compensation, Ithaca, N.Y., June 23-24. Contact: Cornell University, 212-340-2802;
SHRM 58th Annual Conference and Expo, Washington, D.C., June 25-28. Contact: Society for Human Resource Management, 800-283-SHRM;
Managing Flexible Benefits, Chicago, July 17-19. Contact: WorldatWork, 877-951-9191; fax: 480-483-8352; e-mail:;
ACLEA Annual Meeting, Kohala Coast, July 29-Aug. 1. Contact: Association for Continuing Legal Education, P.O. Box 4646, Austin, TX 78765. 512-453-4340; fax: 512-451-2911; e-mail:;
ABA Annual Meeting, Honolulu, Aug. 3-8. Contact: American Bar Association Meetings and Travel Department, 321 Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610. 312-988-5870; fax: 312-988-6338; e-mail:;
ALA Region 1 Educational Conference and Exposition, Uncasville, Conn., Sept. 15-16. Contact: Lisa Mikita, Association of Legal Administrators, 75 Tri-State International, Suite 222, Lincolnshire, IL 60069-4435. 847-267-1252; fax: 847-267-1329; e-mail:;
ALA Region 5 & 6 Educational Conference and Exposition, Palm Springs, Sept. 15-16. Contact: Lisa Mikita, Association of Legal Administrators, 75 Tri-State International, Suite 222, Lincolnshire, IL 60069-4435. 847-267-1252; fax: 847-267-1329; e-mail:;

Grounds Maintenance, May 1, 2006

Copyright 2006 Prism Business Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Grounds Maintenance

May 1, 2006

HEADLINE: Proof Positive

BYLINE: By Tracy Powell

In the past 15 years, drug testing in the U.S. workplace has gone from ground zero to widespread employer acceptance. In 1983, less than 1 percent of employees were subject to drug testing. Today, about 49 percent of full-time workers are subject to some form of workplace drug testing, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A major contributor to this increase is the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, which requires drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, pipelines and other transportation industries. Testing of landscape construction workers has been an outgrowth.
"Screening on a pre-employment basis would be a very wise thing to do for a business owner, particularly in grounds maintenance where heavy equipment use is involved as well as working on other people's property," says Joseph Reilly, chairman of the board for the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association. "You want to make sure you have an employee coming on board who is free of drugs and not a substance abuser."
David Snodgrass, president and co-owner of Dennis' Seven Dees Landscaping in Portland, Ore., notes that easy entry into the green industry is a wide-open gate. "Studies have shown that those who abuse drugs tend to switch employers often, sometimes three or more times a year. Those companies that hire on the spot are perfect targets for these types of employees."
Dennis' Seven Dees Landscaping has had a drug-testing program in place for more than 10 years and, according to Snodgrass, it has served them well. The company's program tests all pre-hire candidates and tests employees when there is suspicion of drug use, usually at the time of an accident. Snodgrass's company has worked closely with a local hospital that administers the drug testing. That procedure may be changing soon, however, as an onsite saliva test is currently being researched. Snodgrass says that the saliva test may save his company half or more of the costs of using the hospital's resources.
Even without random testing, Snodgrass notes that no "tests for suspicion" have ever come up positive. He attributes this success to a top-quality workforce that approaches his company for a job.
"Because we test, word is on the street that we're not a company that condones drug abuse on the job. And so, we attract clean employees," says Snodgrass, who is also chairman of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) safety and risk management committee. "For the company that thinks it's too small, or that if they tested they would end up with no employees, that company's reputation works against them. In fact, they're better off not having any employees at all."
Comments like, "I can't institute a drug-free policy because I'll lose all my employees" are, according to Reilly, "mythical statements."
"They might lose about 5 to 10 percent of their employees, but those were the ones that they needed to lose anyway," says Reilly. "In a small business, one employee who is involved in substance abuse can have devastating effects on that business."
"The fact that you're a drug-free workplace works well in any recruitment ads," says Mel Kleiman, principal at Houston-based Humetrics, a human resources consultant group. "When you run the ads, you'll get fewer people responding to it. But they'll be less likely to be drug users."
Kleiman suggests that, if you have a drug-free workplace, you should strive to weed out applicants before there's even a need for "testing for cause."
"One of the interview questions you should ask is, 'Did your last employer require a drug test?'" says Kleiman. "The other question is, 'Are you willing to take a drug test today?' If you simply ask whether they're willing to take a drug test, you'll find that almost all will answer 'yes.' But if you ask if they're willing to take it today or tomorrow, the 'yes' answers will drop."
The high cost of employing such workers can be enough to close a business. And out-of-pocket expense is just the beginning.
"With lowered morale, high absenteeism, the risk of lawsuits because of at-fault accidents, the endangerment of others, and increased premiums due to higher rates of accidents can easily add up to four times the out-of-pocket costs," says Snodgrass. "In addition, a company without a drug-testing policy and a high accident rate risks not being able to even get insured. Insurance companies are getting smarter about this."

According to a 2001 Cornell University study titled "Evaluation of Drug Testing in the Workplace: Study of the Construction Industry," the average company in the study sample experienced a 51-percent reduction in its injury rate within two years of implementing a drug-testing program. As a result, workers' comp costs dropped by more than 10 percent.

(inserted here by ILR in the News --
Note: this study was done at ILR -- see
article at -
for convenience).

Preventing drug abuse while on the job goes beyond the pre-employment screening. "It should be a comprehensive program that includes a policy that outlines what a company will do as far as screening, as well as additional testing for existing employees," says Reilly. "So it's not just get clean, get a job and that's the end of it."
For companies setting out to initiate a new program, Reilly recommends three primary resources. The first being companies like Florida Drug Screening, Inc., of which Reilly is president, which are commonly referred to as third-party administrators. "We help small businesses set up drug-free workplaces, including policies and procedures, as well as a mechanism for the testing to occur in their local area."
Secondary resources can be found online, such as the U.S. Department of Labor's "working partners" Web site (, with an interactive policy maker, a quick-and-dirty program that allows visitors to create their own drug-free workplace policy.
"Finally," says Reilly, "there are attorneys and consultants who help people make policy and get procedures together."
Rosenberg, Texas-based Turfgrass America, with approximately 800 employees at peak season, began its drug-free program in March. Kathy Romero, human resources manager, says that her company chose to begin drug testing "for the safety of all of our employees, as well as to keep our workers' comp costs down. We have to do that for our drivers for DOT anyway, so we decided to do it for all employees."
Even Turfgrass America co-founder Arthur Milberger comes under the new policy: "Now, if we have a fender bender - even if it's me, going home today - we have to go to the nearest clinic and have a blood test and be screened for drugs. And it's a good thing, because it clears up any misunderstanding. If we get sued, and an incident is brought up, we can say we got tested and it was perfectly fine. We're covered."
Turfgrass America gives employees at least a 60-day notice before conducting random drug testing, which is administered by trained personnel. All of the company's managers will eventually be trained how to look for suspicious drug-related offenses.
"The most proven drug-testing method is a urine test collected by a trained collector and sent to a laboratory for both an initial screen and, if positive, what's called a GCMS confirmation," says Reilly. "Then that result is reviewed and verified by a medical review officer to rule out any legitimate medical explanation or legally prescribed medication. This method is the predominate method of drug testing that's been in place for the last 20 years. When everything is done properly, those tests always hold up in court."
Other onsite tests, such as saliva and breath tests, are becoming more popular due to convenience, low costs and less invasive procedures.
Some civil rights groups have voiced concerns over presumed rights violations. But, according to Reilly, drug testing is legal in every U.S. state. Rights can only be violated when policies are lax or inconsistently administered.
"The most important thing is to have a policy in place and to follow that policy consistently," says Reilly. "That keeps the business owner out of court. The third-party administrator will have programs in place in a particular state that comply with that state's laws, because that's the administrator's specialty - that's their business. Most administrators have already had attorneys review their policies; they're basically using a template policy for the small business. That said, any policy that a company implements should first be run by their attorney for that final seal of approval."
Reilly advises having a policy created by a third-party administrator, then having an attorney review it. "You don't want to pay your attorney all the money involved in writing the policy, something that's been written before. There's plenty of sample policies out there, even on the Internet, that a person could tweak for his or her own use."
PLANET has produced a safety program CD that includes a model safety program, part of which includes a replicable drug-testing policy. For PLANET, says Snodgrass, addressing the drug issue "has been on our list of best practices."
"In our industry, with the trucks and other machinery that we operate, there's a big risk not testing for drugs," adds Snodgrass. "It's risky enough in our business with employees who have all their faculties about them. You just multiply that risk when drugs are involved."
Tracy Powell is a freelance writer who resides in Charlestown, Ind.

HRfocus, May 2006, Vol. 2006, No. 6

Copyright 2006 Institute of Management & Administration
All Rights Reserved

May 2006


HEADLINE: HR RESEARCH: How to Enrich and Expand Your Internet Searches

Main article
The Internet can be a great place to look for answers to questions about HR practices, technology, and more. Knowing where to look can make it even easier to take advantage of the Internets many resources.
To help you get the most in the shortest amount of time, HRfocus shares information about some sites, plus an explanation about a factor that you may not realize affects your Internet searching.
They can be annoying, but did you know that search engine ads affect the quality of your sbbearch results?
The ads take two forms: popups and banners, which are easy to recognize, and sponsored links triggered by keyword ads, sometimes known as adwords, which steer your search to the advertisers Web site. Thus your search for a word or phrase (such as "executive compensation") triggers a sponsored link, which then becomes an integral part of the search results. You need to know to what degree the paid-for adwords influence the ranking of the search results.
Here are some of our favorite HR Web sites, including what you are probably already familiar with and some that may be new to you. We recommend them all as worthy of "bookmarks" or "favorites" on your Web browser:
SHRM ( The Society for Human Resource Management has a well-organized database for easy searching and excellent bulletin boards.
Bureau of National Affairs ( IOMAs parent company contains news and other materials on human resources and business topics.
IHRIM ( Although IHRIM is a major organization addressing HR information systems and technology, youll find very useful information on broader issues such as the role technology now plays in a variety of HR processes and practices.
Human Resources Planning Society ( This group of mostly large-organization senior HR professionals tackles issues related to the developing profession and business of HR.
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The main site for federal government information on HR topics including wages, benefits, employment, demographics, and safety.
National Labor Relations Board ( This is where youll find federal law related to organized labor.
Securities and Exchange Commission ( Information about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act can be found at this site.
Center for Advanced HR Studies at Cornell University ( Research on varied HR topics from a leading university.
HR Internet Guide ( Links to many different HR-related Web sites, including equal-employment opportunity, staffing and selection, incentive plans, job analysis, and training and development.
HR Software ( software-net). Links to vendors galore, ranging from employee self-service to intranets to 360-degree feedback.
HR Blogs. The latest in online communications, blogs are a way to tap into discussions about a wide range of topics. Check out these HR blogs: HR for the leader in you (; Kevin Eikenberry Group (; BNET ( contains links to many other HR blogs and resources; and HR Megablog ( has lists of HR blogs and resources.
Theres more to the Web than just Google, Yahoo, and MSN for searches. Here are some sites weve found that may be helpful for general research:
SMEALsearch (smealsearch. Search engine for academic business information.
The List of Lists (www. Looking for the top companies in a specialty market? LOL contains a database of them.
NewsDirectory ( Provides easy access to thousands of global news sources, including newspapers, magazines, and television stations.
Daypop ( As a supplement to Google or Yahoo news searchers, Daypop offers breaking news from 60,000 current event sites.
Search Engine Watch ( An e-site that covers the search engine market. Youll find lots of information about new search engines and search engine functionality here. Check out "Search Engine Resources" for lots of tips on how to search better on any search engine.
Complete Planet ( This site can help you find specialty search engines. ( If you are in a hurry and would like a way to explore a lot of search engines all at once, try this site. It provides results from 14 search engines, including Google, Ask, Yahoo, About, and others. You can also shop, get news, and use other features.
Blogs. These sites will help you locate blogs on almost any topic you can think of: Technorati (; LiveJournals search engine (; Opinmind (; and BlogSearchEingine (
Yahoos Pixelfast (www. A great site to find out what others are looking at on the Webyou can find out the most popular searches. The service allows you to purchase (by bidding) the names of people who searched the topic. Sounds like one way to tackle that passive job searcher situation (by checking on who has been visiting your job Web site).

Monday, May 22, 2006

The New York Times, May 22, 2006, Monday

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

May 22, 2006 Monday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section B; Column 5; Metropolitan Desk; Pg. 1

HEADLINE: City Workers' 9/11 Claims Meet Obstacles

BYLINE: By SEWELL CHAN; Diane Cardwell contributed reporting for this article.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's decision to intervene in the case of a former deputy mayor who believes that he became severely ill from working around ground zero after the Sept. 11 attack has cast unwanted attention on the city's handling of 9/11 workers' compensation cases. Scores of such cases -- the city could not say precisely how many -- continue to drag on nearly five years after the attack.
Advocates for public employees who worked in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, said that before the mayor stepped in, the case of the former deputy mayor, Rudy Washington -- who had his initial claim challenged by the city, and then won a judge's order granting him health care benefits only to see that order, too, appealed by the city -- was typical.
''Workers going through this process are being fought tooth and nail, while justice and humanity call for providing them with the medical treatment that they need,'' said Joel A. Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a union-backed nonprofit educational organization that has often criticized the city's handling of compensation claims.
Dr. Robin Herbert, an occupational-medicine specialist and incoming director of the World Trade Center Health Effects Treatment Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said the workers' compensation program was one of the most common sources of complaint among her patients.
''There's no question that our patients who have physical and mental health consequences of the World Trade Center disaster have had their psychological distress worsened by the difficult interactions with the workers' compensation system,'' she said.
William D. Dahl, a paramedic who worked for the Fire Department for 21 years until a city panel allowed him to retire on disability last month, has been fighting for long-term health care coverage.
Mr. Dahl, 42, who was an emergency responder near ground zero on 9/11, filed a pre-emptive compensation claim immediately after the attack, but he did not develop symptoms requiring treatment until a year later. Since then sinusitis, tracheitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer, have been diagnosed, he said. He coughs continually.
On April 17, the New York City Employees' Retirement System granted Mr. Dahl a three-quarters disability pension. However, a month later, the city's Law Department told Mr. Dahl that it would challenge his claim for health care benefits under the workers' compensation system. Each side has presented doctors who disagree on the severity of Mr. Dahl's illnesses.
Mr. Dahl, who lives in Seaford, N.Y., said he could not understand how one arm of the city -- the pension system -- could certify his World Trade Center-related disabilities while another arm -- the Law Department -- has questioned how sick he is. ''They have fought me every step of the way,'' he said of the city's lawyers.
The state-run system is intended to provide workers who are injured or disabled on the job with medical assistance and fixed weekly payments -- two-thirds of wages, up to $400 a week -- to replace lost pay, loss of the use of a body part or facial disfigurement.
Although the system was set up to eliminate the need for litigation, compensation cases can be as protracted and adversarial as lawsuits. Of the 313,102 claims resolved in New York State in 2004, 55 percent involved a hearing at which evidence was provided, and the rest were resolved informally.
Most private employers rely on insurance companies to identify and challenge claims that might be fraudulent, but some of the largest employers, like the City of New York, are self-insured and decide on their own when to challenge claims. Industry experts have estimated that 10 to 20 percent of workers' compensation claims may be baseless.
One reason for the contentiousness is that the nature of workplace injuries has changed. Over the years, cuts, smashed feet and falls have become less common, replaced by injuries like back strain in which the severity and cause are more difficult to determine, said Robert S. Smith, a professor of labor economics at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
''I don't think the system is well designed for diseases that have long latency periods,'' he said.
As of last week, compensation claims had been filed by or on behalf of 1,436 employees of the City of New York and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority citing deaths, injuries or illnesses caused by 9/11, according to the State Workers' Compensation Board. That figure does not include claims by police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers, who are covered under separate workplace-injury programs.
In general, more than 90 percent of the 9/11 cases that have been brought to the board are considered ''resolved,'' according to a spokesman for the board, Jon A. Sullivan, but neither the state nor the city could say what proportion had been accepted or rejected. All workers' compensation cases are sealed.
The Law Department, which represents the city in workers' compensation cases, said it could not discuss the cases of Mr. Dahl or Mr. Washington and also declined to discuss how it handles compensation cases generally.
Mr. Washington, 51, was a top official during the eight years of Rudolph W. Giuliani's tenure as mayor. He is believed to be the highest-ranking city employee to file an injury claim stemming from the attack. He filed his claim in December 2004, more than a year after the usual two-year deadline for filing compensation claims.
The city challenged not only the timeliness of the claim, but also the link between 9/11 and the ailments Mr. Washington reported. He testified and presented medical reports at four hearings.
In March of this year, an administrative law judge sided with Mr. Washington after finding that he met a narrow exception to the deadline. In April, the city appealed the judge's ruling.
On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg said that he had only recently learned about the appeal and that he believed it was based ''on a technicality.'' He added, ''I thought that it was wrong.'' City lawyers are scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Mr. Washington's lawyer, Robert E. Grey.
A recent report on the workers' compensation program, prepared by the Law Department, lists 47 new 9/11 claims that were received in 2005, suggesting that many employees are continuing to pursue claims well after the usual two-year deadline.
Neither the mayor nor Gov. George E. Pataki addressed last week the broader complaints by 9/11 claimants about the workers' compensation system. Mr. Pataki said only that the system's judges rely on ''professional judgment'' in rendering decisions.
''I'm sure they understand the implications of the tremendous sacrifice that thousands of New Yorkers made, risking their lives on the pile after those towers came down,'' Mr. Pataki said on Thursday. ''So they had to obviously follow the medical conclusions that are reached by the professionals, and I'm confident they're doing it.''
However, those statements have not quelled growing criticism of the system, from both ends of the political spectrum.
''Mayor Bloomberg made the right decision in the end, but it shouldn't take front-page media coverage and high-powered friends to convince our leadership to do the right thing for those who are suffering,'' said Jerrold L. Nadler, a Democratic congressman who has called on the state to waive the two-year deadline to file most compensation claims.
Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican business executive who was a top deputy in the Giuliani administration, said he believed the Law Department was making it much harder for civilian workers to obtain benefits than uniformed police officers and firefighters. ''Why are we treating a civilian city worker different than a uniformed city worker?'' he asked. ''I think the administration is taking advantage of the fact that it can.''
Friends of Mr. Washington -- and Mr. Bloomberg himself -- have rejected the notion that he received any special treatment.
Mr. Shufro, the occupational health advocate, said he hoped that Mr. Washington's case would lead to more awareness of city employees in similar situations.
''We have people who, unlike Rudy Washington, don't have friends in high places and are losing their houses and having their kids withdraw from college because they can't get medical care and wage-replacement benefits, paltry as they are, to sustain themselves,'' Mr. Shufro said.

Newsday (New York), May 21, 2006, Sunday

Copyright 2006 Newsday

Distributed by Knight/Ridder Tribune News Service

May 21, 2006 Sunday


HEADLINE: Col. Daniel L. Finke Jr., avid boater, traveler

BYLINE: Emi Endo, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

May 21--Retired U.S. Army Reserve Col. Daniel L. Finke Jr., of Centereach, died Monday at Stony Brook University Hospital after a long battle with an illness. He was 76.
A fan of big-band tunes and crossword puzzles, Finke enjoyed boating in Setauket and Port Jefferson Harbor, said his daughter, Paris Helene Loesch, of Llewellyn Park, N.J.
"He loved the water, especially the North Shore and the Long Island Sound, where he spent many summers boating with his family," she said. His most recent powerboat was dubbed "The Colonel."
Born in Brooklyn on Nov. 25, 1929, to Daniel L. Finke, an inventor, and his wife Katherine, he graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. He attended Empire State College and then the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University in Ithaca. Later, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
He joined the New York National Guard in 1951, where he served until he was honorably discharged in 1970. He also served in the 244th Medical Group of the U.S. Army Reserves, where he earned awards including the Meritorious Service Award in 1981. He retired from the Army Reserves in 1989.
He married Barbara Jeanne Wilson on Nov. 10, 1956, in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Finke worked in the Northport VA Medical Center from 1969 until 1973 before joining the Suffolk County Health Department, where he worked until 1979. He then worked in the county's Labor Department until he retired in the early 1990s.
Finke enjoyed traveling around the East Coast and Midwest. At home, he believed in doing repairs himself, said his daughter, who called him a "tinkerer. He had things jury-rigged like you couldn't believe." When the weekend came around, he would cook pea soup, stews or a clam dish, she said.
With his wife, he volunteered for the American Cancer Society.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his son, Daniel Mark Finke, of Montclair, N.J., and six grandchildren. Another son, Christian Brett Finke, died in a swimming accident in 1979.
Visitation will be held at the O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Centereach today from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. A funeral Mass will be said tomorrow at 9:45 a.m. at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church in Centereach, followed by burial in Calverton National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the 16 North Nursing Education Account, Office of Advancement, Stony Brook University Hospital, HSC Level 3, Room 122, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8304.
Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Melville, N.Y. 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

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), May 19, 2006, Friday

Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)

May 19, 2006 Friday
Final Edition


HEADLINE: Bill prevents abuse, protects choice

BYLINE: Steve Adams

Do you think your boss has the right to tell you how to vote? How about which church you should belong to? Your opinion on the war in Iraq? These are personal choices that every person should be able to decide on his or her own, without feeling forced, intimidated or coerced.
With that freedom in mind, the Colorado legislature has passed House Bill 1314, the Worker Freedom Act, to prevent employer abuses and establish minimum worker protections when it comes to issues of religion or politics in the workplace. The bill is headed to Gov. Bill Owens' desk, where he can choose to veto or sign it into law.
Colorado workers need this layer of legal protection, and here's why: Increasingly, employers are using the workplace as a forum for espousing their religious and political beliefs, and requiring employees to attend mandatory meetings to listen to those beliefs, regardless of their relevance to job performance. Employers have forced workers to listen to their views on gay marriage, presidential candidates, and to attend prayer breakfasts and other religious exercises. They really turn up the heat during election season, arguing that workers should vote for a certain candidate because that candidate is "good for the company," or "good for business."
While it's fine to express these beliefs, workers should not feel forced to obediently listen in order to keep their jobs.
That goes double for workers who are trying to form unions. Kate Bronfenbrenner with Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations estimates that 92 percent of all employers force their employees to attend mandatory meetings while employees are trying to organize a union. During these meetings, employers make threats such as loss of employment benefits or shuttering of the company if workers choose a union; employees who refuse to attend such meetings can be fired under the law.
Of course, employers are entitled to share their view of unions with their employees. Distributing literature or holding voluntary meetings are two perfectly acceptable ways to do so. But they should never use their position of power as bosses to force workers to listen against their will, and they should never harass, abuse or intimidate people for trying to make up their own minds.
Industry groups say employers have a right to make you listen to them, as long as it's on their dime. And if you don't like it, you know where the door is. That may be true when it comes to matters of job performance, but accepting someone else's political, religious or other beliefs should never be a condition of employment. Does that include workers' personal opinions of unions? You bet it does. Employers cannot force you to join their political party or religious group, nor can they force you to accept their beliefs on joining a union. And workers shouldn't have to put their livelihoods on the line to protect that freedom.
The Worker Freedom Act does not limit what employers can say; it forbids employers from forcing employees to listen. This distinction is critical because opponents of the bill say it is an attack on free speech. But the bill does not limit speech - it protects choice.
Experts on labor law say that the bill does not interfere with labor law under the National Labor Relations Act, because nowhere does the law give employers the right to compel workers to listen to their beliefs.
Signing the Worker Freedom bill into law will benefit everyone: it will give employees protection and legal ground to stand on when their rights are violated, and give employers a clear idea of what their boundaries are. When it comes to workers' rights, we should not be vague or slippery about what those rights are. Unless of course, we intend to violate them.

NOTES: Steve Adams is the president of the Colorado AFL-CIO.; SPEAKOUT

Voice of Reason (Radion WHLD 1270, Buffalo), May 15, 2006, Monday

Arthur Wheaton, Workplace & Industry Education Specialist, Institute for Industry Studies at ILR Extension in Buffalo, was interviewed Monday May 15th live from 8:30AM to 9:00AM on Alex Blair's morning show on the VOICE OF REASON (Radio WHLD 1270, Buffalo) discussing the Delphi, GM and UAW negotiations. The show's host is Alex Blair, a former Sr. Extension Associate from the Buffalo office who still teaches in ILR's UAW-Ford Automotive Industries Program.

See -

WBEN Radio 930 am (Buffalo, N.Y), May 8, 2006, Monday

Delphi Decision On Unions Debated
Monday, May 8, 2006 06:37 AM - WBEN Newsroom

Listen at -

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Bankrupt auto parts maker Delphi plans to seek court approval this week to cancel its contract with the United Auto Workers, while workers press on with a scheduled strike vote.
The company is one of the region's largest employers with approx. 4,000 workers at the Delphi Thermal Systems plant on Upper Mountain Road, in Lockport.
UAW members at Delphi vote by May 14 on whether to authorize a strike against the auto-parts maker. A strike could force General Motors, Delphi's biggest customer, to temporarily shut plants.
Hearings on motions to void the contracts were scheduled to begin Monday, but will now be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with a possible third day of debate set for Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Hear an interview on this topic, by clicking on the audio link above. WBEN's Dave Debo chats with Cornell University's Art Wheaton.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Law and Public Policy, Wharton, online 17 May 2006, Wednesday

Law and Public Policy, Wharton (online 17 May 2006)

The Immigration Debate: Its Impact on Workers, Wages and Employers

Illegal immigration into the United States has sparked heated debate in Congress, roiled the two main political parties, and prompted hundreds of thousands of immigrant supporters to take to the streets recently in peaceful demonstrations nationwide.
The controversy picked up new momentum on May 15 when President Bush, in a televised address to the nation, called for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. He said he would send 6,000 National Guard troops to four states along the U.S.-Mexican border beginning in June to provide intelligence and logistical support -- but not armed law enforcement -- to civilian border patrol agents. In addition to securing the border, Bush also said it was necessary for the House and Senate to pass legislation that would allow illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time to remain and be able to undergo a process to become citizens.
"There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation," the president said. "That middle ground recognizes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years and has a home, a family and an otherwise clean record." Meanwhile, Congressional leaders have said that they would like to send immigration-reform legislation to the president for his signature before the end of May.
At stake in the debate are the lives and livelihoods of as many as 12 million undocumented workers, the companies they work for, respect for the rule of law, and the job opportunities of millions of low-skill American citizens -- both native born and immigrants who became naturalized by going through the proper channels. The large number of illegal immigrants raises key economic questions: Do illegal immigrants depress wages paid to low-skill workers? Do they take jobs away from Americans? How dependent on undocumented workers is the U.S. economy? Should illegal immigrants be compelled by law to return to their native countries? Or should Democrats and Republicans hammer out legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to pay some type of penalty yet remain in the United States and continue working?

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli and Vernon M. Briggs Jr., professor in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., are firm in their conviction that illegal workers exert downward pressure on wages and reduce job opportunities for low-skill U.S. citizens. Briggs believes that the negative impact of undocumented workers on American low-skill workers and on labor standards is so great that immigration authorities should clamp down on employers who hire illegals so that a clear message is sent to current and potential illegal workers: Illegal immigration will not be tolerated.
However, Bernard Anderson, practice professor in Wharton's management department and an assistant secretary of labor for employment standards during the Clinton administration, says that while illegal workers do have some effect on wages and displace some American workers, their impact is far less onerous than Cappelli and Briggs assert. In addition, Anderson says, illegal immigrants work hard, do not come to the United States to receive welfare, and should be allowed to remain in the U.S. after paying penalties.
Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer and senior research associate with the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., says Pew, which bills itself as a nonpartisan "fact tank," has taken no formal position on the immigration issue. But he does say that the data on the broad economic impact of undocumented workers does not lend particularly strong support to either side of the argument.
Portrait of Illegal Immigrants
A study released in March by the Pew Hispanic Center, which is supported by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, contains extensive information on the nature and extent of illegal immigration. The study uses the term "unauthorized migrant," which it defines as a person who resides in the United States, but who is not a U.S. citizen, has not been admitted for permanent residence and has no temporary status permitting longer-term residence and work.
The report, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau's March 2005 Current Population Survey, estimates that the U.S. is home to between 11.5 million and 12 million illegal immigrants, up sharply from 8.4 million in 2000. Unauthorized migrants accounted for 30% of all foreign-born people in the U.S. as of 2005. Most unauthorized migrants -- 6.2 million, or 56% of the illegal population -- come from Mexico. About 2.5 million, or 22% of the total, come from the rest of Latin America.
In 2005, illegal migrants accounted for about 5% of the civilian labor force, or 7.2 million workers out of a labor force of 148 million. Approximately 19% of illegal workers were employed in construction jobs, 15% in production, installation and repair, and 4% in farming. The Pew report also shows that illegal immigrants comprise 24% of all workers in farming, 17% in cleaning, 14% in construction and 12% in food preparation. Within those categories, unauthorized migrants tend to be concentrated in specific jobs: They represent 36% of all insulation workers, 29% of all roofers and drywall installers, and 27% of all butchers and other food-processing workers.
It is often said by supporters of illegal, low-skill immigrants that the U.S. economy needs such laborers because they do the kinds of work that Americans will not do. But Cappelli calls that assertion a "complete myth." Immigrants have been hired to do such jobs in such large numbers, not because Americans refuse them, but because Americans are not willing to perform such tasks where the wages are lower than they would otherwise be, where work rules may not exist and where the working conditions may be hazardous. Many employers seek illegal workers for the simple reason that it keeps costs down and means the companies do not have to invest in equipment and other capital improvements. Relative wage levels for low-skill and unskilled American workers, according to Cappelli, have plummeted over the past generation and show no signs of rising.
Cappelli says he has witnessed the effects of immigrant workers on wages and working conditions in other parts of the world, including the Middle East. In Bahrain, for instance, where guest workers from Bangladesh are frequently used on construction sites, a visitor can see them using picks and shovels instead of machinery.
Why do illegal immigrants force down wages? "That's how markets work," responds Cappelli. "It's hard for the average person to understand that these are markets. If illegal workers left the U.S. tomorrow, what would happen? Some people think nobody would do those jobs. If that were to happen, companies would change those jobs, and wages would go up. Yes, companies would hire the people who are not necessarily doing those jobs now. This goes on in every labor market. There are no jobs that we can think of where, over time, work doesn't get done. It doesn't happen."
While it is true that low-skill workers who enter the United States legally also exert downward pressure on wages, there is a significant difference between them and their undocumented counterparts. "The difference is legal immigrants are let in, at least in part, on economic judgments about where the needs are for their skills," Cappelli notes. "That's one of the criteria for being allowed to come in."
Cappelli says the United States needs legislation that "faces up to the real economic issues. If you allow more unskilled workers into the U.S., it will lower costs for employers. It will also lower wages for people who do those jobs. It's clearly a political question. If you want to benefit low-skill American workers, you reduce illegal immigration. It's important to have a very clear conversation on the choice we want to make. And we are ducking that by saying these are jobs no one wants to do."
Briggs, the Cornell professor, says turning a blind eye to illegal workers, as U.S. immigration authorities have done, can end up harming U.S. citizens and the illegal employees themselves. Undocumented workers can "displace," to use the term of labor economists, African Americans and other minorities who are young and seeking their first jobs or older minority workers with few skills. Moreover, even if the illegal workers are earning the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour -- and most are, according to Briggs -- the conditions under which they work can be dangerous. Yet these people have no way to seek legal remedies because they are in the U.S. illegally.
Democracy's 'Seamier Side'
"Many [illegal immigrants] are working under conditions that are appalling," Briggs says. "Some are paid in violations of hours laws, some are children working in jobs they shouldn't be. It's one of the seamier sides of democracies .... Some are working basically as slaves." Illegal immigrants are typically males ages 18 to 30 who are very ambitious, Briggs adds, and they will take any job, including those that make them vulnerable to abuse.
"Illegal immigration is an issue that takes everything down to its crudest level and makes it vile to discuss," he says. "The illegal immigrants will always win in jobs competition with U.S. citizens. This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with U.S. citizens; it just means there is a contrast" between the U.S. and the illegal immigrants' countries of origin. "No matter how bad things are in the U.S., it's better than the country [these workers] are coming from. If it means crowding into apartments or working weekends, they will do it, and they won't complain about sexual discrimination or racial discrimination. Tragically, many employers, if given a choice between illegal immigrants or U.S. citizens, will always take the illegal immigrant."
Briggs acknowledges that there is scant data to support his concerns about the plight of many illegal workers. But he is firm in his belief that "if we don't get serious about enforcing [immigration laws], people are going to continue to be hurt. These are the most vulnerable members of society."
In Briggs' view, the only effective way to reduce illegal immigration is to take employer sanctions seriously and actively enforce them at worksites. "That means [instituting] heavy penalties on employers who hire immigrants and making it clear that illegal immigrants are not going to work. They are not supposed to be here; they are not supposed to be working. You have to make it impossible for them to work. They will gradually get the idea they have to go back, that there's not much hope they are going to get legalized status."
Briggs says it may be useful to require immigrant workers to carry a "job identification" card that they would have to present to prospective employers in order to obtain work and to apply for government services. Briggs opposes building "massive walls" along the U.S.-Mexico border, but adds that "physical barriers" of some kind in strategic locations along the border may help. "We could possibly build more electronic fences that give signals when people cross them and tell [authorities] where they are."
Anderson, the Wharton labor economist, disagrees with Briggs' view of illegal immigration, saying the situation "is not as bad as Briggs says it is. ... One line of argument as to why it's necessary to protect the borders is that the failure to do so subjects the United States to an intolerable risk of terrorism, not that there's been any evidence at all that terrorists have come through the southern border. The other question is what impact there is on wages, economic status and employment for American workers. That's where you get a clear divide in the economic literature. The evidence produced by economists who have studied this question is mixed."
Anderson says there is indeed much anecdotal evidence that Hispanics now do many of the jobs once performed by African Americans, such as service jobs in the hotel industry. Anderson says he himself has witnessed such changes across the American South during his travels over the past 30 years. "No one will convince me that there has not been labor displacement," he says. Nonetheless, there also is evidence that many African Americans no longer perform low-skill service jobs -- not because illegal immigrants have taken those jobs from them, but because they have moved on to take better-paying jobs or have grown older and retired from the labor force.
"There has been substantial [improvement] in the economic status of minorities in this country as a result of the civil rights movement," Anderson says. "There is no question that African Americans have benefited in their occupational status as a result of that." He says that 70% of black workers today hold white-collar and service-sector jobs, while others are working in the many auto-manufacturing plants that have sprung up across the South.
Weighing all the available evidence, and noting that the data are mixed, Anderson concludes that "there has been some displacement and some depression of wages" among U.S. citizens as a result of illegal immigration. "But it has not, in the main, had a significant effect in reducing the earnings and employment opportunities of American workers, including minority-group workers. Immigration, including illegal immigration, has not been terribly detrimental to employment opportunities for African Americans. I firmly believe this. It is for that reason that you don't find African American political leaders lining up with the opponents of immigration."
When you look at opponents of illegal immigration, Anderson adds, "you find the same right-wing, reactionary scoundrels who have opposed progressive legislation, who have opposed the minimum wage and efforts to improve the economic opportunities of minorities."
What kind of an immigration bill would Anderson like to see emerge from Congress? "We must secure the borders. That has to be part of any legislation. We have to recognize that the huge numbers [of undocumented workers in the U.S.] are not here to receive welfare; they are here to work. If there were no employment opportunities for them, they wouldn't be coming. But we should not have an immigration system that allows immigrant workers to reduce the wages and diminish the working conditions of American workers. Therefore, I say protect the borders to significantly reduce the inflow. We should then move toward the legalization of those who are already here. If we legalize them [after requiring them to pay a penalty], then we let them out of the box they are imprisoned in and set in motion a process for improving wages and working conditions."
On the broad question of the effects, positive or negative, of illegal immigration, Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center, says: "I don't know if there's anything in the data that clearly points one way or the other. At one level, it's a lot of people: 11.5 million to 12 million. But it's about one in 20 workers, so it's not a huge share of the labor market. It is, of course, a much higher share of the low-education labor market, maybe as much as 15% or 20%."
Passel adds, however, that he has seen no evidence in the economic literature proving that illegal immigrants have displaced American citizens in low-skill jobs. "The presence of illegals is not associated with higher unemployment among natives and it seems to me you would have to see that kind of thing for there to be true displacement in any sense. Geographically, it tends to be the reverse: Places with large numbers of illegals tend to have lower unemployment than places without illegals. Illegals go where the economies are strong, and as a result there's no impact."
An Ineffective Policy
Although the Pew Hispanic Center takes no position on the immigration issue, Passel says it is clear from the demographic evidence that U.S. immigration policy is not working in its attempt to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States and reducing the number already here.
"At least for the last decade, and even longer than that, we have focused on two different approaches," Passel says. "One is we have made it harder for [illegal immigrants] to get in and have even tried to block people from coming in. That's clearly not working. There's some evidence from some of my work, and more directly from the work of others, that it's actually been counterproductive. What we have really done is instead of keeping people out, we have kept people in."
The reason: Many illegal immigrants would actually prefer to move back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, taking employment when it is needed and returning home to visit family. But by making it more dangerous and expensive to come into the United States over and over again, the immigrants decide to bring their wives and children and stay put once they arrive. Indeed, Passel says that some 1.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States are under 18. About 3.1 million more are children who were born here to illegal immigrants and thus are U.S. citizens. Whatever policy decisions are made in Washington, they will have to take into account the fate of nearly five million children.
The second approach U.S. immigration officials have followed in recent years is to make it hard for undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States once they have arrived by refusing to give them drivers' licenses, making them ineligible for government benefits, or cracking down on day-labor sites. "But that doesn't seem to have had much impact either," Passel says. "It's probably because no matter what is done to make life difficult, life is still easier than it was back home."
A European Perspective
Rafael Puyol, executive vice-president of the Instituto de Empresa Foundation Madrid, and an expert on demography and immigration, weighed in with his own perspective on immigration. He suggests, for example, that immigrants are almost always active in the same kinds of activities. "In the U.S., they are largely involved in agriculture, especially harvesting crops. They move throughout the country, following the calendar. In Europe, agriculture -- particularly in eastern Spain -- always [offers] entry-level [jobs], although many immigrants want to leave these jobs as soon as they can" and move into other industries. In Spain, in addition to agriculture, immigrants work in construction, hotels, restaurants and as domestics. Lately, however, Puyol has observed a greater diversification of activity into specialized services such as plumbing and home repair.
Two factors determine the arrival of immigrants in any particular place, Puyol says. "The first factor is the availability of jobs in the high-priority areas. In a country such as Spain, immigrants come from the Mediterranean region where there is a combination of agriculture, construction and services." They also flock to large tertiary cities "because there is a multitude of activities in both services and construction."
The main issue, he notes, is whether jobs are available. But there is also another very important consideration -- "the impact of earlier immigrants to the same country, from the same geographical region. The people from the first wave of immigration usually greet, orient, and assist those immigrants who come from the same place of origin. They help them get settled and find a job until they can be somewhat independent." As a result, "relatives, friends and acquaintances play an important role when it comes time for new immigrants to locate."
Puyol believes that the two main focal points of immigration are the United States and "old Europe." The U.S., the primary focal point, "is a country of immigrants, and you cannot understand the demographic history of the United States without understanding its history of immigration. First, there was the European immigration, and lately it has diversified into other [regions] of origin -- Latin America above all, but also Asia. The second focus of immigration is 'old Europe' -- the 25-member states of the European Union, which was the first region in Europe that had immigrants and which now has an increasing number of them from Eastern Europe. Next are the smaller focal points in Asia, the Near East and, of course, Australia."
Regarding immigration laws, he says: "You have to establish a regular process for dealing with arriving immigrants. In this day and age, you cannot pursue a policy of completely open doors. The results are economically inappropriate and socially complicated. You must arrange things so that the incoming migration is regulated. Second, the legal system must contribute to immigrants' progressive integration. Give immigrants the same legal rights as other citizens. Immigrants also have to accept the basic laws that regulate social life, [particularly with regards to] the constitution. Immigrants in the U.S. and Europe must enter the country in a legal way, and they must have access to arrangements that permit the gradual integration of those" who wish to integrate.
Laws that arrange for temporary legal status almost never provide good results, Puyol states. "You must let free market forces determine whether people who enter the country want to stay there permanently or return to their country of origin. In addition, you must assist legal immigration by making arrangements with the countries of origin that help immigrants from those countries arrive at their destination through regularly established channels. That means you have to support a legal immigration policy that is sufficiently generous that immigrants arrive under favorable conditions. You also need a parallel, generous policy for integrating those people. Those generally applied laws must not have any special exceptions; they must be laws that are accepted by all countries that welcome immigrants."
Finally, Puyol makes a distinction between Europe and the U.S. "America has a better demographic situation than Europe. In America, immigrants come predominantly because of work-related reasons. In Europe, you have to add a certain demographic factor to the economic ones. Population growth in European Union countries is at rock bottom. Fertility rates are much lower than those in the U.S., and aging people constitute a much larger percentage [of the population] than in the U.S. In Europe, we are going to require more immigrants or our labor market is not going to function; it will not be possible to finance pensions and social costs for those people who have already retired. In Europe, there are going to be a lot more immigrants in the future than there are now. Perhaps this the key difference between the situation in the U.S., on one hand, and old Europe on the other."

Manila Bulletin, May 16, 2006, Tuesday

Copyright 2006 Gale Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2006 Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp.
Manila Bulletin

May 16, 2006

HEADLINE: Conflicting claims on illegal immigrants;
Opinion & Editorial

Byline: ALEX VEIGA Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- The debate over immigration reform resumes on Capitol Hill this week -- so brace for a barrage of conflicting claims over whether the millions of people here illegally drain or fill the government's wallet.
Illegal immigrants cost $20 billion (euro15.5 billion) each year in education, health care and other public services. They contribute more than $7 billion (euro5.4 billion) annually in Social Security taxes for benefits they'll never claim.
Those are just some of the statistics that lawmakers and interest groups from both sides will trot out starting Monday when the Senate begins discussing what would be the most sweeping immigration reform legislation in 20 years.
Do illegal immigrants take more than they contribute? Or is it theother way around?
Despite volumes of studies cited by both sides, no one knows for sure.
And answers often reflect the opinions of who's talking as much asthe reality of illegal immigrants in the United States today, according to academics who study the issue.
"Because of the politically charged nature of this, people are going to cherry-pick their results," said V. Joseph Hotz, a labor economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who doesn't believea definitive study is possible.
One reason is the nature of the population in question.
"Anything that is illegal, the data is going to be suspect," said Vernon Briggs, a labor economist at Cornell University who has been studying immigration issues for 40 years.
That won't stop Congress from wrestling with that bottom line and other issues.
Majority Leader Bill Frist has said he is committed to passing immigration reform legislation by the end of May. The bill up for debatewould include additional border security, a new guest worker programand provisions opening the way to eventual citizenship for many of the illegal immigrants in the country.
The House passed a bill late last year that would criminalize illegal immigrants and those who offer them assistance.
Pressure to act quickly has intensified. A majority of Americans now cite anxiety over immigration as one of the most important problems facing the nation, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos.
Yet compiling hard data has been difficult.
Even the number of illegal immigrants in the country is debated.
The generally accepted figure is about 11 million, but some researchers peg the number as high as 20 million.
In diverse areas such as Los Angeles, illegal immigrants can rent an apartment and open a checking account with little more than an ID from their home country. That kind of anonymity hampers researchers trying to tally how many are here _ and how much they cost in public services.
That uncertainty hasn't stopped advocates on both sides from citing research that seems to make their case.
To fill in the blanks, researchers often assume the bulk of illegal immigrants have little or no formal education or skills; are likelyto live at or below the poverty level; contribute little in the formof taxes; and take advantage of public services.
One report both sides cite as one of the most definitive is nearlya decade old. In 1997, the National Research Council concluded that all immigrants _ not just those here illegally _ had a negative fiscal impact on state and local services but at the federal level received less in services than they paid in taxes.
In California, the state with the highest population of foreign-born residents, citizen households were saddled with an annual tax burden of $1,178 (euro912) from the use of public services by immigrants,according to the study.
Pro-immigrant groups counter that whatever the answer _ whether immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in services or the other wayaround _ the economic importance of illegal immigrants is undeniable.
"You don't know whether a guy who is loading boxes on a truck or onto a ship on the docks pays his taxes or not," said Benjamin Johnson, director of the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, which calls itself nonpartisan but pro-immigrant. "But you know what that worker means as a cog on the economic wheel."

The Burlington Free Press (Vermont), May 15, 2006, Monday

Copyright 2006 The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, VT)
All Rights Reserved
The Burlington Free Press (Vermont)

May 15, 2006 Monday 01 Edition


HEADLINE: The 'strike-stopper' settles Vt. teacher disputes

BYLINE: Molly Walsh

By Molly Walsh
Chalk up another victory for Ira Lobel.
Last week, the well-traveled lawyer from Albany, N.Y., cemented his reputation as a strike-stopper when he helped resolve the deep disagreement between 300 public school teachers in Bolton, Huntington, Jericho, Richmond and Underhill and the school boards of the Chittenden East Supervisory Union.
The six-day strike was the fourth teachers strike to erupt in Vermont in 12 months and the fourth to end only after Lobel was called in to mediate. How is it that two sides who could not agree for 14 months in Chittenden East found compromise when Lobel badgered them for a mere eight hours Tuesday night?
The graying, curly-haired negotiator is the first to say that he does not perform magic. In 35 years of resolving labor tiffs he has, however, developed good timing. This helps Lobel recognize when unbending opponents are ready to bend. The crisis of a strike like last week's, which threw 3,000 students out of school, has a way of helping people agree.
"When people have high stakes, they make hard decisions," Lobel said. "When people have low stakes, they don't make decisions."
Lobel won't say exactly what he charges, only that the going rate for his type of work is $800 to $1,500 a day. Typically, both sides in a labor agreement must agree to hire him. They split his fee.
Lobel is a free-lance mediator and arbitrator, having retired a few years ago from the independent federal agency that offers contract-resolution services to unions and employers. It was during Lobel's nearly three decades with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service that he gained expertise by working dozens of contract talks involving Vermont teachers, municipal and hospital workers, and professors. Over time, he built a reputation as someone who could be fair to both sides and bring tired, cranky late-night talks to a close.
Jon Harris, a Mount Mansfield Union High teacher who led negotiations for the Green Mountain-NEA union in the Chittenden East strike, is impressed with Lobel. "He has a personality that's able to ask questions and ... I don't know ... work the room, so to speak, and do his job. He's an effective mediator."
Also satisfied with Lobel's work: James Massingham, superintendent of Chittenden East's nine schools.
"I think his history of being in these contentious situations and having a fair amount of success helps. I think he only says what we authorize him to say. He's very careful to understand our position so he doesn't misrepresent what our intent is, or was."
Blunt, then chatty
Lobel has two personalities. During negotiations he's blunt with his opinions, said Williston lawyer Anthony Lamb, who has watched Lobel in action at many contract negotiations.
"He's very direct. He's likely to tell you you're going to lose, so get over it," Lamb said.
Lobel softens his straight talk by cracking corny jokes and chatting on nonlabor topics.
"One of the things that he does do, he spends a lot of time just 'B.S.-ing' with people," Lamb said. "He does it in order to create relationships with people."
At Colchester's Hampton Inn on Tuesday, Chittenden East school board and teacher negotiators set up shop in separate rooms, as is common during contract negotiations. Lobel ping-ponged between the rooms, sometimes breaking into a jog as he ferried paperwork, proposals and ideas between the two parties.
Occasionally, he'd poke his head into a room and bark a name. A person would come out, and Lobel and the negotiator would have a quick, quiet conversation. Then, doors slammed as Lobel resumed his hotel shuttle diplomacy.
During lulls, Lobel struck up brief conversations in hallways with waiting reporters, reminiscing about past strikes or discussing television markets. He brought out leftover pizza for people waiting outside the conference rooms for word of a settlement. He'd also tell reporters whether he thought they had time to make a run to the store without missing a crucial announcement.
"Stay right there," Lobel commanded reporters late Tuesday night when a deal seemed close.
Lobel sees his approach as more finesse than straight talk.
"Obviously I have to use a great deal of tact and diplomacy, so to speak," he said. "I do a lot of what ifs. I do a lot of supposes. I do a lot of hypotheticals."
Miracle worker
or screw-up?
Once a settlement is reached, Lobel earns mixed reactions from the people who hire him, he said.
"It's anywhere from 'Ira, you're a miracle worker,' to 'Ira, you screwed us again,' to 'Ira, would you get out of here because we have work to do,' to absolutely ignoring me. It's a whole range of human emotions. Some of it is very gratifying and some of it is very annoying."
Lobel grew up in Albany and still lives in the area, in a suburb called Delmar. He graduated from Cornell University in 1970 with a degree in labor relations and earned his law degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. His wife is a public school teacher and so is one of his daughters. Ask him if he ever used mediating strategies on his own now-grown children and he laughs, saying, "You'll have to ask them."
Then he explains that he has no leg up in mediating family matters because he's emotionally invested -- a handicap. "When you're a mediator for yourself, when you've got a vested interest in the process, it's hard to negotiate."
Lobel stays fit for his marathon mediation sessions by exercising -- he bikes in the summer and in winter keeps a pair of cross-country skis at the ready in his car.
The federal mediation service was created under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act to reduce strikes. When Lobel started working for the service in the 1970s, organized labor had a strong foothold in the U.S. economy, especially in manufacturing.
Many union jobs have since moved offshore and labor's influence has waned. National union membership declined from 20 percent of wage and salary workers in 1983 to 12 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ten percent of Vermont wage and salary workers are union members.
Still, unions such as the National Education Association retain clout, and in Vermont the run of strikes over the past year has generated political debate for and against the union's bargaining tactics.
In all four strikes, health care costs were a major issue -- an issue that is not going away, Lobel suggested. When it costs an employer $16,000 to provide family insurance, that creates problems.
"It's just a phenomenal cost," he said, "regardless of who pays for it."
Free Press Staff Writer Matt Sutkoski contributed to this story.
Contact Molly Walsh at 660-1874 or