Thursday, August 24, 2006

Newsday (Melville, New York), August 23, 2006, Wednesday

Copyright 2006 Newsday
Newsday (Melville, New York),0,491932.story?coll=ny-business-print

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

August 23, 2006 Wednesday


HEADLINE: NLRB again weighs issue of who's a supervisor

BYLINE: Carrie Mason-Draffen, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Aug. 23--Employers and unions are both eagerly awaiting a pending National Labor Relations Board decision that could make it easier for companies to declare certain workers supervisors and thus ineligible for union membership.
It isn't known when the board will rule in the so-called "Kentucky River" cases. Some media reports have said the ruling could come later this month. But an NLRB spokeswoman said she couldn't confirm that.
Union activists fear a decision from the five-member board, all appointees of President George W. Bush, will broaden the definition of a supervisor and make it illegal to organize certain employees in a range of industries including health care, building trades, broadcasting and port shipping.
Rick Fridell, a Hauppauge-based lead organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Third District, said the group's general foremen, who direct the work of others, would be most affected by a broad NLRB decision favoring employers.
"You can bet your last dollar that companies that are trying to stop their workers from forming a union will reclassify [their employees]," Fridell said.
One business group is hoping for a broad interpretation.
"The bottom line is that to be profitable, employers need to have a sufficent number of supervisors to effectively manage and direct their business operations," said Elizabeth Gaudio, with the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation in Washington D.C.
The labor board said in a statement it is deliberating "the proper legal standards" for determining whether a nurse or certain other skilled employees are supervisors, and thus excluded from union protection.
The decision will hinge on the workers' use of "independent judgment" to direct others. Two health-care facilities and a manufacturer in the so-called Kentucky River cases before the NLRB maintain that employees who exercise independent judgment in directing others are supervisors. These cases are named for a 2001 case, involving Kentucky River Community Care, in which the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the National Labor Relations Board's interpretation of "independent judgment."
Previous rulings from the board, which at the time was largely Democratic, have sided with unions and declared such employees nonsupervisory. The current, Republican-dominated board has hinted it may see things differently. In a recent statement it said, "The board is bound by the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court."
Boards dominated by Republicans have a history of "not being pro-collective bargaining," said James Gross, a professor of labor law and labor policy at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Still, the ruling's effect will depend on its scope, said Prof. Richard W. Hurd, also of Cornell. "Given the members of the board, it is likely it will tend toward the management decision," he said. "It's not clear how comprehensive the decision will be."

Redefining employees
Advocates for workers say as many as 8 million nationwide would be barred from joining unions if the National Labor Relations Board broadens the definition of "supervisor."
Here's a snapshot of how employees in some major industries might be redefined if the rules are implemented.
Occupation / % redefined as "supervisors" / Affected workers
Registered nurses 35% 843,000
Licensed practical nurses 18% 123,800
Assemblers 4% 91,700
Physicians 19% 52,400
Freight, stock, material handlers 4% 43,800
Post-secondary teachers 12% 42,600
Production inspectors, checkers,
examiners 6% 28,900
Printing press operators 8% 25,100
Editors, reporters 12% 24,100
Tool and die makers 14% 22,000
Dispatchers 9% 11,900
Glaziers 21% 10,200
Business, commerce and
marketing teachers 35% 9,400
Stationary engineers 22% 9,400
Millwrights 7% 5,200
Product demonstrators, promoters
and models; sales 3% 4,600
Sawing machine operators 4% 4,100
Porters and bellhops 4% 2,300
Weighers, measurers, checkers,
samplers 1% 400
Theology teachers 2% 300
Trade and industrial teachers 5% 300
Total 15% 1,387,000
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Melville, N.Y. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Buffalo News (New York),August 22, 2006, Saturday

Copyright 2006 Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

August 22, 2006 Tuesday


HEADLINE: Ford to extend buyout, reports say

BYLINE: Matt Glynn, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Aug. 22--Ford Motor Co. is reportedly preparing to extend buyout offers to all its hourly employees in North America, a decision that could affect the Woodlawn stamping plant's work force of 1,440 people.
Ford will announce the buyouts and early retirements in September, according to Bloomberg News, which cited two unidentified sources familiar with the plan. They asked not to be identified because the program isn't public.
The moves would expand the "Way Forward" plan announced in January to shed as many as 30,000 jobs and close 14 factories in North America by 2012. Ford currently offers incentives only to hourly workers at plants targeted for shutdown.
Ford's Woodlawn work force includes about 150 salaried employees, according to the company. The site produces stamped parts used by Ford assembly plants around North America.
Charles Gangarossa, president and chairman of Local 897, United Auto Workers, which represents hourly workers at the Woodlawn plant, said he had not received notice of a broader buyout offer.
Gangarossa said if such an offer is extended, he expects Ford will create different offers depending on workers' years of seniority. "I'm sure they're going to open it to as many age groups as possible," he said.
The union leader also said he expected that a buyout would appear most appealing to workers who are close to 30 years of service with the company and are close to retiring.
Donald Berta, a longtime employee, said he has only heard rumors, but the idea of a buyout intrigued him. "I have 36 years of service, and I'd like to leave," he said. "I was kind of hoping to retire soon, anyway."
Berta, 59, said he was planning to wait until he was 62 to retire but might move up his timetable depending on any offer.
A Ford spokesman, Oscar Suris, would not confirm speculation about an expanded offer. "We'd rather talk about our specific decisions and those we'll discuss next month," he said.
Bloomberg's story did not speculate on the value of the buyout offers, but it noted that GM had offered packages worth up to $140,000 to its employees. About 34,000 GM workers, or about one in three, accepted the automaker's offers.
Ford's buyouts are part of the latest restructuring after a $1.44 billion first-half net loss. Based in Dearborn, Mich., Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said in July it would accelerate job cuts and said last week it was making the biggest production cuts since the 1980s in the second half of this year.
Ford may have to offer more money than GM to get the same buyout-acceptance rate among union members, said Sean McAlinden, a labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ford's work force is younger, McAlinden said, because the automaker kept hiring into the 1990s after GM stopped.
"The only way to make sure people leave is to massively increase the buyout offers," McAlinden said. "My gut instinct is that they have to go way past the GM offer."
Arthur Wheaton of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations' extension in Buffalo, said the reported expanded offer reflects Ford's hurried restructuring efforts.
"Wall Street is expecting more change and a faster pace of change because General Motors offered buyouts to 113,000 workers across the board," Wheaton said.
Wheaton speculated that an expanded offer would get the most takers from younger workers who might want to explore other career options. Older workers may elect to stay with the company, he said.

The expanded buyouts would help Ford cut its labor costs more extensively, he said, but they carry a "mixed blessing": The automaker trims expenses while losing brainpower and worker experience. And that poses a longer-range risk to product quality, he added.
The buyouts could shrink the size of the Woodlawn work force, a cog in a regional automotive manufacturing sector. Though the Woodlawn plant's employment has declined over the years due to increased productivity and new technology, it remains a source of coveted high-wage manufacturing jobs.
The Woodlawn plant has already experienced some highs and lows this year. It is ramping up its use of a new press to supply two new vehicles, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, which will be assembled starting this fall in Oakville, Ont. Ford invested $214 @million in the Woodlawn plant for the new press and related costs.
Bill Ford is preparing to eliminate 6,000 salaried jobs in Ford's North American operations through buyouts or, if necessary, firings, a person with knowledge of the plan said last week.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

To see more of The Buffalo News, N.Y., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2006, The Buffalo News, N.Y. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

WBEN Radio (Buffalo, N.Y), August 22, 2006, Thursday

Arthur Wheaton of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations' extension in Buffalo was on WBEN Radion (8/22/2006) with Buffalo's Early News with John Zach & Susan Rose.

The interview was about Ford Motor Company and aired live at 7:50AM.

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), August 20, 2006, Sunday

Copyright 2006 Post-Standard
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.
The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York)

August 20, 2006 Sunday



BYLINE: By John O'Brien Staff writer

Sal Piemonte tells people his worst day was Oct. 5, 2001.
It's not the day he went to prison. It's the day he got out - the day he discovered his home on a hill in Solvay in a shambles, along with his life. Trash all over. Mold growing on dirty dishes. An overgrown lawn. And, most surprising: no wife, daughter and stepdaughter.
That was the worst day. In the best days, the early days, Piemonte was a brash, headline-grabbing lawyer with a clientele of drug suspects so devoted they scribbled his name on jail walls and chanted his nickname: Abogado de droga. The drug lawyer. In those days, Syracuse police officers tweaked their antagonist by making a T-shirt with those words and Piemonte's face.
Piemonte, 51, seemed as much performer as practitioner then. A judge once jailed him when he wouldn't shut up in court. Another time, he made news by demanding the district attorney resign and by calling police and prosecutors "Nazis."
He was caustic with authorities, but by most accounts a charmer outside the job. He was out on the town three or four nights a week. He could afford a boat and a $200,000 addition to his house.
But the image eventually fell apart. The drug lawyer was using drugs and drinking too much. He was a part-time village justice who committed crimes - separate cases of witness tampering and helping drug dealers hide their profits. Finally, the guy who fought to keep people out of prison landed in one himself.
All of it led him to his worst day. He was free, but to do what? His family, his profession and his audience were gone. He was bankrupt, and he'd lost the will to step outside.
Piemonte, always a loud and ferocious battler for his clients, had to figure out how to stand up for himself.
"That sounds like me'
He got his start in 1980 as an assistant Onondaga County district attorney, he said. There he became friends with another prosecutor and fun-loving guy, J. Kevin Mulroy. Over the next two decades, they would remain friends, through careers with a similar rise and fall.
Piemonte was engaged to Jill Russell until they broke it off in 1985. In 1998, she was murdered in her hospital room by her estranged husband, Jeff Cahill, who was sentenced to death until New York's death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional. Piemonte declined to talk about the relationship. But after Jill's murder, he told a reporter that she had recently revealed to him that her husband was dangerous.
In 1983, while still a prosecutor, Piemonte began using cocaine. He rationalized that it was OK because he was handling mostly sex cases, not drug crimes. He used cocaine occasionally but stopped when he got away from that crowd around 1985.
Piemonte's cocaine use started again in 1993 or 1994, he said. This time, he got the drug from friends, some of whom he had represented in non-drug cases, he said. He said he never paid for the drugs, that friends provided them for free.
Six years ago, Syracuse police and federal agents investigated the rumor that Piemonte was accepting drugs as payment for legal services. They found no proof of it, said Chris Wiegand, a former Syracuse cop who worked the case. But even Piemonte's friends suspected his clients were his drug connection.
"He became personal friends with some of those people, and that's always a bad idea," said Jim McGraw, a lawyer who shared office space with Piemonte.
He wasn't using cocaine every day, sometimes not even once a month. Other times, he'd use it three days in a row, he said. He liked the jolt of confidence and energy, but it dulled his senses. Christina Piemonte, who divorced him four years ago, said he kept it a secret from her.
"I didn't know until he was in rehab," she said. She declined to talk about her life with her ex-husband.
Piemonte built a reputation as a good trial lawyer who chased the dollar and the spotlight. He was willing to take on the police and the establishment, yet was polite and gregarious. Those attributes helped him win election as Solvay village justice in 1997.
He won acquittals of the top charge in dozens of trials, including at least two homicide trials. He won a $67,000 settlement for a pregnant woman who was strip-searched by Syracuse police in a public hallway. He made himself indispensable to Latinos accused of dealing drugs: He said he was one of three defense lawyers who spoke Spanish.
As his caseload grew, so did his problems. Dave Evans, a friend of Piemonte's who worked as his court clerk in Solvay, suspected Piemonte was using drugs while on the bench in 1998. Piemonte was fidgety, his speech racing.
"I'd go to court and notice there was alcohol on his breath," Evans said. "I made sure things ran smoothly."
Piemonte would recognize something in the drunks and drug users who appeared before him.
"I was reading a report and going through it and thinking, "That sounds like me. That sounds like me. That sounds like me. Holy - - . It's me,"' he said.
"It started to affect my conscience," he testified later before judges of the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court. He was appealing to them to get back his law license. "I started feeling that ... I'm directing people to get treatment when I felt that I should get treatment myself."
Piemonte checked himself into Tully Hill Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center in 1998.
But his troubles were just beginning. The next year, Piemonte tried to help a businessman in a DWI case. He asked a Solvay police officer not to show up for a hearing. In exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of witness tampering, Piemonte agreed to resign as Solvay justice.
Even before he finished his six-month suspension from practicing law for that crime, Piemonte knew the feds were on his tail. In 2001, they accused him of helping a client, cocaine dealer Michael Prevo, hide $11,000 in illegal profits by filing a false financial report with the Internal Revenue Service.
The storyteller
Piemonte was sentenced to three months at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa., where he says he learned five ways to light a cigarette without a match. He learned you don't get up from a meal without knocking on the table. And he learned not to take someone else's turn on the phone. He says he got punched out for that.
These are the stories Piemonte tells and, you have to remember, he likes a story.
"The story is not good enough, even when it's a good story," Evans said. "I've been there, experienced the same event. Then he tells it to someone else and you think, "Wait a second. That's not exactly what happened."' A bumpy plane ride from New Jersey became, in the retelling, a near-crash.
It's part of his charm, Evans said. Besides, he said, Piemonte backs up the bravado in the courtroom.
Piemonte tells a story of being locked in solitary confinement in prison on a technicality for at least two weeks. The cell was all steel, no windows. A single light bulb burned day and night. It wasn't air-conditioned, and it was July. At least 100 degrees. The inmate next to him screamed and banged his head on the wall all day. Piemonte got through by reading and re-reading a novel that a guard slid under the door. The cover was ripped off, so he didn't know the title. And the last few chapters were missing, so he doesn't know the ending.
But many novels usually have their titles printed on every other page, don't they? Piemonte says he was under too much stress to remember the title. When pressed, he said it was a detective novel, possibly by Steve Martini.
A life in hiding
Piemonte was at rock bottom after finding his home a mess when he got out of prison.
In prison, thoughts of his daughter Tori, then 7, kept him going, he said. When he got out, his family was the one thing he still had left. Then, that was gone, too.
A month later, on Nov. 8, 2001, Piemonte called his therapist, Robin Kasowitz. "I can't guarantee anything," he told her, and hung up. Fearing the worst, she called Solvay police. When officers arrived, no one answered the doorbell.
When they got in, they found two spilled bottles of pills on the kitchen counter, according to a police report: an allergy medicine and an anti-depressant. The officers, including Solvay police Chief Richard Cox, found Piemonte upstairs in bed.
He was in the fetal position, but conscious and coherent. Piemonte told them he'd taken pills and gin.
At University Hospital, he was so belligerent with the hospital workers that two police officers were called for "an emotionally disturbed person" and they put him in handcuffs. Then they called Syracuse Officer Joe Reilly, who'd known Piemonte for years and often testified against Piemonte's clients. When Reilly walked in, Piemonte was shouting at the officers.
"I don't need to be here. I don't have a problem," Reilly remembers him saying. Reilly took off the cuffs and talked to him for four hours, then drove him home.
Mulroy and Evans were two of a handful of friends who stood by Piemonte. They mowed his lawn and visited him when he was a recluse.
Mulroy and Piemonte grew closer partly because Mulroy had gone through similar turmoil. He was the son of the former county executive and a high-profile, outspoken judge in his own right. He, too, was publicly disgraced when he was removed from the Onondaga County Court bench in 2000 for his remarks about a black victim.
When they would visit, Mulroy and Evans regularly found Piemonte in his pajamas.
"He was like a barn cat," Evans said. "You knew he was inside, but you caught a glimpse of him only once in a while."
Piemonte had a long way to go. He'd go to therapy sessions with Kasowitz and become "almost catatonic," she said. Only one subject could snap him out of it.
"He'd be sitting in the office and having trouble just figuring out why to breathe," said Kasowitz, who spoke with Piemonte's approval. "And we started talking about law. He'd become impassioned and just start talking."
The road back
Without a law license, he worked three jobs: mowing lawns and tending bar at a restaurant and a country club. McGraw went to one of the bars and listened to Piemonte "moaning and groaning about his life."
"Instead of having thousands of dollars in his pocket all the time," McGraw said, "he was happy to get a tip."
Piemonte says he no longer drinks or uses drugs, that he stays sober one day at a time. He says he doesn't know when he had his last drink.
Ronald Dougherty, medical director of Conifer Park rehab center, said it would be highly unusual for a recovering alcoholic not to remember his last drink. "The date, the time and where they were - most recovering alcoholics can tell you," said Dougherty, who was not commenting on Piemonte specifically. It's also uncommon for someone to use cocaine as long as Piemonte did and never pay for it, Dougherty said.
Piemonte got back his law license a second time two years ago, after the Appellate Division granted him leniency because of his cocaine and alcohol addictions.
But it wasn't until a few months ago that he started believing he was back. He was in court arguing a case and Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick was sitting in the back. Afterward, Fitzpatrick went up to him, shook his hand and said, "It's good to have you back, Sal."
Fitzpatrick was the one who helped convict Piemonte in the witness-tampering case and who required him to resign as village justice. After that moment in the courtroom, Piemonte went to his car and got choked up, he said, because he took it as a sign that he'd redeemed himself.
"No one has ever questioned Sal's intellect or his legal ability," Fitzpatrick said. "He's a tenacious fighter in the courtroom. I hope the guy makes a strong comeback."
Piemonte said he's the only person in New York state history who has been a defense lawyer, prosecutor, judge and prisoner. He said he researched it. It's even wryly implied in his Yellow Pages ad: "Experience like no other."
"Sal's a fighter'
Gone is the plush law office. He works alone out of his home; lawyers don't want to associate their practices with his reputation. Piemonte often answers his own phone, which rarely rings. He has half as many clients as before and makes far less money.
Piemonte lives in a $300,000 home in Camillus. His place is immaculate, refined. He is handling his first homicide case since his return. He's won acquittals on the top charge in all four of the cases he has taken to trial. He's picking up clients who hear about him at the jail.
At the jail, inmates called out to him. They didn't care about his record.
"I know Sal's a fighter," said Davon Hunter, who was awaiting sentencing. "I can read people. This guy is hungry." Piemonte said he was especially determined to defend Hunter because the case was handed to him by Mulroy. Mulroy became ill and died last year from an unknown affliction.
"I didn't want to let Kevin down," Piemonte said. A jury acquitted Hunter of attempted murder and assault in June, but convicted him of an illegal weapons charge, in the shooting of a teenager. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Hunter and other inmates said Piemonte is one of the few lawyers who gives them the straight story. He takes their collect calls from the jail, even at 3 a.m.
A second chance
Friends have noticed a new Sal.
"Sal's a little more humble than he used to be," said private investigator Joe Spadafore, who has worked for Piemonte and is a friend. "His honesty is a little more than what it was."
Piemonte acknowledged what was at the core of his troubles: his arrogance. "I needed to be knocked down," he said.
The realization came after hours of staring out the back window of his home, into the woods, contemplating his life, he said. He'd swing from being angry with those who put him away, to angry with himself, to angry with God for knocking him down.
"I kind of felt like God was engaging in a little overkill," Piemonte said.
It's easier to step outside lately, but he said he still suffers "the humiliation of just having to walk down the street."
But the performer lives. He walked with a boldness, even a swagger, when he visited clients in jail a few months ago and held court with other accused criminals. He was dressed casually: khaki pants, loafers, sport coat and no tie. Coat wide open, hands on hips and legs splayed, he chatted up a deputy. Piemonte presented a confidence developed through years of jailhouse meetings. And three months as a prisoner.
He's always had that flair, said his older brother Vito.
The two were opposites growing up in Rome, N.Y. While Vito worked with his father doing carpentry, Sal was off playing sports or running for class president.
"He never lacked confidence," Vito Piemonte said. "He set his mind to something and he'd do it. He'd say, "I'm going to win,' and he did."
The old Sal never used to phone his brother. Since Sal's downfall, the calls come often, Vito said.
Part of getting back up was getting to know his 12-year-old daughter, Tori, much of whose childhood Piemonte missed. He blames himself for being too caught up in work and his lifestyle. Tori didn't know until recently about her father's troubles.
Soon after he bought his new home, he hired an artist to paint a jungle scene on her bedroom walls. Hidden in the scene are words and numbers she chose, such as her soccer jersey number and her pet rabbit's name. And one more detail that Piemonte added: "Daddy loves you."
The message was written in the leopard's spots - changing what the proverb argues cannot change.

Sal Piemonte: key dates
1977: Graduates from Cornell University with a degree in industrial labor relations.

December 1979: Graduates with a law degree from Syracuse University.
1980 to 1985: Assistant Onondaga County district attorney.
1985 to 1993: Associate, then partner in the Martin & Martin law firm.
1993 to present: Solo practitioner.
1997: Elected village justice in Solvay.
June 1999: Pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of witness tampering. Sentenced to perform community service and resigns as village justice.
January 2000: Law license is suspended because of the criminal conviction.
September 2000: License is reinstated.
January 2001: Pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report with the Internal Revenue Service. He's sentenced to three months in federal prison.
November 2001: Law license suspended for three years.
2003: Files for bankruptcy.
July 2004: Law license is reinstated.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO Dennis Nett/Staff Photographer ATTORNEY Sal Piemonte meets with Bobby Robertson at the Onondaga County Justice Center in June. In his glory days, the lawyer earned the reputation of being willing to take on the police and the establishment. Drug suspects called him abrogado de droga, the drug lawyer. FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD... File photo/Stephen D. Cannerelli, 1997 SAL PIEMONTE celebrates winning election as Solvay village justice March 18, 1997 at the Solvay Town Hall. TO THE BOTTOM OF IT.... File photo/David Lassman, 2001 SAL PIEMONTE arrives at the Federal Building in Syracuse Dec. 26, 2001, where he pleaded guilty to helping a client hide $11,000 in illegal profits. Dennis Nett/Staff photographer SAL PIEMONTE calls a client from his Camillus home, from where he conducts his law practice these days. He acknowledges now that his arrogance was at the bottom of his troubles. "I needed to be knocked down," he said. File photo/Stephen D. Cannerelli, 1997 IN MAY 1997, Sal Piemonte prepares to hear his first case of the day as Solvay village justice. Two years later, he would agree to resign in exchange for pleading guilty to a charge of witness tampering. Dennis Nett/Staff photographer WORKING ALONE from his office in the basement of his Camillus home, Sal Piemonte is trying to piece back together his practice and his life.

The Citizen (Auburn, New York), August 19, 2006, Saturday

The Citizen (Auburn, New York)

Unwiring a successful career
By Harold MillerSaturday,
August 19, 2006 11:40 PM EDT

While it is true that most of our talented young men and women have to leave Auburn to seek their fortune, this is only half of the story. This area's excellent educational systems, plus an abundance of families dedicated to their children's upbringing and education, equip our young people to compete very well in the outside world.
Mark Fanning is a case in point. The fourth of seven Fanning children, Mark was educated in our local school system, then Cayuga County Community College. He then advanced to Cornell University, following in his father Marty's footsteps by seeking a career in industrial and labor relations.
A few years after graduation, Mark took a job with Scott Paper Company in Seattle, Wash. While there, he learned about the brilliant, reclusive Craig McCaw who is to wireless communications what Bill Gates is to computers.Success is preparedness associated with opportunity but the trick is to recognize the opportunity. Twenty years ago, the wireless communications business was in its infancy. Less than 1 percent of our population had cellular telephones but young Fanning, recognizing the growth opportunity in the field of wireless communications, took a job with MaCaw Cellular in 1989.With the help of a core of hard working, bright young people like Mark, MaCaw Cellular soon became the largest company in the business. Then MaCaw sold his company to AT&T.
He then took his winnings from the table and bought a small, struggling cellular company called Nextel and subsequently built Nextel into, arguably, what many considered to be the best and most successful cellular phone company. Then MaCaw's genius created a spin off called Nextel Partners, whose mission was to “connect the dots” by building national coverage for all the local and regional Nextel companies.For Nextel Partners, MaCaw invited the best of all who had worked in his various companies to invest in this keystone enterprise. Mark Fanning was the third person to join as vice president of people development and one of the eight executive officers of Nextel Partners.
In the final chapter of this saga of success, Sprint Corporation made Nextel an offer they could not refuse. Craig MaCaw accepted the offer in the belief that the fragmented cellular phone companies must consolidate to survive. Nextel Partners, as a separate entity, was sold $6.5 billion.Mark is now unplugged from his high profile career. Although still based in Seattle, he is enjoying time with his wife, Vicky, and their beautiful family at one of their homes on Owasco Lake. However, this may not last too long.Today there are 200 million cellular phones in use in this country, but the wireless communications business is still in its early stages of development. Craig MaCaw's vision from the outset was one telephone number for every person not tied to an address and not tied to a wire. This concept is being extended to computers.Globalization will be next. As it is now, there are many diverse cellular networks around the world but that will change.
MaCaw's vision will be expanded to one telephone number for every person, not tied to a wire and not tied to an address - anywhere in the world!
Mark Fanning will probably not be allowed to spend too much more time boating on Owasco Lake and playing with his children all day. His dynamic personality, proven ability and experience in the growing field of wireless communications is much in demand. Before long, someone is bound to give him an offer he can't refuse.Harold Miller is a businessman and Auburn native. He may be reached at

The Ithaca Journal (New York), August 18, 2006, Friday

Copyright 2006 The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY)
All Rights Reserved
The Ithaca Journal (New York)

August 18, 2006 Friday
1 Edition


HEADLINE: A future educator considers the ICSD

Kate Ofikuru / Guest Columnist

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of monthly articles sponsored by the Village at Ithaca addressing the issue of equity in the Ithaca schools. These columns appear on the third Friday of each month.
Over the past 12 months, so many people have asked me, "What exactly is it that you do?" As an Americorps VISTA volunteer serving with the Village at Ithaca, I have responded in several ways. Sometimes I relate my job to that of an administrator - combing through the vast resources available to the Village and working to implement programs and partnerships that fit with the Village's mission. At other times I have taken on the persona of an advisor and events coordinator, collaborating with different committees within the Village to ensure that their programs and initiatives run as smoothly as possible. Lately I've been laboring in public relations, assisting the Village in the production of its quarterly newsletter: The Voice of the Village at Ithaca. Beyond each characterization of my role, I have made one distinct association that pervades my work as a VISTA: laying the groundwork for future educators, including myself.
While Cornell is not known for having an extensive teacher education program, I have come to learn that the Ithaca community has, in the past, prided itself on such initiatives as "Grow Your Own." There is something inspiring about a community that is so invested in the academic success of its children that it would work to encourage its youth to return to the community as educators. This past year, I have received advice from many Ithaca teachers, staff, and community members encouraging me as I have explored a career in education during my time as a VISTA. Indeed, despite the hardships they have faced, they press on to inspire more people of color to enter into the vocation of education.
From what I have witnessed, the inspiration is much needed. In just 12 months, I have seen questions raised over the validity of test scores, the appropriateness of assigned readings, and most notably the recruitment and retention of staff of color within the Ithaca City School District. These issues are disheartening to me, a young African-American woman about to begin a masters' program in elementary and childhood education.
It is imperative, coming from one who might have sought employment in the ICSD, that the inherent problems aforementioned are recognized, and more decisive, explicit moves to eradicate these problems and promote equitable opportunities for employment and advancement for people of color are enacted. The benefits will then flow down to the children and uplift us all.
Based on several discussions I have had on this issue, important suggestions for attracting future educators of color to the Ithaca schools have emerged. The district would be aptly positioned if it:
(right triangle) Gave community members from diverse constituencies notice of key position announcements far enough in advance, in order to encourage outreach to their networks of potential applicants.
(right triangle) Formed and authorized an advisory group of local/regional human resources professionals skilled in diversity recruitment to advise about best practices regarding job description reviews, application and interview processes, and strategic investments in supportive retention practices once candidates accept a position.
(right triangle) Created a welcoming environment for all teachers, classroom aides, support staff and administrators of color making a professional commitment to Ithaca. Internally, assist all employees in cultural competency - from the office and the classroom, thereby deepening their commitment to a culture of continuous learning and exploration toward the goal of educational excellence for all students. Externally, First Fridays of Ithaca, the Tompkins County Diversity Consortium, and a wealth of other resources exist that can partner with the District to address the life-work balance needs of colleagues.
I have not given up hope that such a goal can and will be achieved. When asked if I would come back to Ithaca and teach, I answer, "maybe." If I did, I know that the Village at Ithaca would be here still working hard to "raise the children." I would have the support of Beverly J. Martin school principal Denise Gomber, and teachers like Millicent Maynard Clark, Brooke Barnett, Abe and Denise Lee, and Jackie Melton Scott. There would be parents I could depend on like Dawne and Seth Peacock and Kenneth and Yolanda Clarke. I could call on Pastor Nathaniel Wright and the Calvary Baptist Church family, as well as numerous other community members who have enriched my time here in Ithaca.
This critical point remains, nonetheless: the District needs to pay attention to the cries of this community and be unwaveringly dedicated to resolving the academic and administrative inequities that adversely affect our children. Then this community will move with greater progress towards its true potential.

Kate Ofikuru is a recent graduate of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and she has been admitted to Teachers College, Columbia University. The Village at Ithaca can be reached online at, by e-mail at, or by phone at 272-9218.

Inside Higher Ed, August 17, 2006, Thursday

Inside Higher Ed
Aug. 17

More Than Fiduciary Duties
By Ronald G. Ehrenberg

Trustees of public and private research universities have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of their institutions. However, actions that appear to be in the private interests of their institutions may not be in the social interest and these institutions are also expected to serve society as a whole. In deciding what optimal policies are, trustees must weigh their institutions’ private interests against the interests of society as whole. Seven examples are provided below.
Undergraduate Financial Aid
Increasingly, and with a few exceptions (such as my own university), public and private research universities are competing for prestige in the market for undergraduate students by offering non need-based grants to admitted applicants. However, evidence suggests that the increased use of merit aid may “crowd out” need-based aid and lead to fewer students from lower and lower-middle income families enrolling at these institutions. How should trustees trade off enhancing their institution’s prestige as an undergraduate institution versus maintaining the social goal of remaining accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds?
This is an important issue because our nation’s public and private research universities spend more per student on undergraduate education than their comprehensive university counterparts. Considerable research suggests that students who attend institutions at which more resources are devoted to their education achieve higher earnings after graduation and are more likely to be admitted to top professional schools, which also contribute to mobility and prestige, than comparable students who attend institutions at which fewer resources are devoted to their education. With few exceptions, the shares of students attending our nation’s most selective public and private research universities that are Pell Grant recipients are woefully low.
Similarly, to the extent that institutions are under pressure to enhance their graduation rates, because these are used as another metric of institutional prestige and success, they can do so by devoting more resources to help the most disadvantaged students that the universities enroll succeed. Alternatively, they can do so by reorienting the nature of their institutions’ student bodies; as an example a number of urban research universities are moving away from their roots as institutions that serve disadvantaged urban residents by building more on-campus housing and using merit aid to attract less disadvantaged students from outside their cities to their institutions. Trustees must ask which strategy makes most sense for the institution and which is in the public interest. Suppose that to achieve any given level of graduation rate success is cheaper for the institution if it goes the merit aid route, rather than spending resources recruiting talented students from lower income families, providing need-based aid to them, and then providing extra support services to help them succeed at the institution. From the perspective of a trustee, is the appropriate policy choice obvious?
Creating the Faculty of the Future
American colleges and universities, including our nation’s research universities are increasing their usage of adjuncts and other forms of contingent faculty. Partially, this has resulted from financial pressures facing the institutions and uncertainty about future budgets. Partially, it has resulted from research universities encouraging their tenured and tenure-track faculty to “buy back” their teaching time so that they can devote more time to research and generate more research ( and potentially more commercialization revenues) for the university.
While adjuncts and other non tenure-track faculty save universities money, research also shows that, on balance, they adversely impact upon undergraduate students in the form of reducing graduation rates, increasing drop out rates, and reducing student interest in taking subsequent classes in the same field. That’s not to say the adjuncts aren’t working hard and that many of them aren’t deeply committed to teaching — but people teaching from semester to semester, frequently at multiple institutions and without offices or meaningful support, face great difficulties in being as effective in the classroom. In addition, the reduction in the share of undergraduate teaching done by tenured and tenure-track faculty at research universities deprives these students of role models who might encourage them to go on to Ph.D. study and the reduction in the share of faculty positions that are tenured and tenure-track at research universities reduces the attractiveness of pursuing Ph.D. study to undergraduates attending these institutions. Put simply, although each research university trying to maximize its research output is operating in its self interest, these employment practices may hurt undergraduate education and have contributed to the decline in Ph.D. going behavior of American college students.
Should trustees take a more forceful position and argue for the importance of having more of the undergraduate teaching at research universities done by the tenured and tenure-track faculty, even if this means that less research will be produced at the university? Should trustees argue for the importance of maintaining the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty so that their institution’s students will be more likely to go on for Ph.D. study, even if this is not the deployment of faculty that will minimize the cost structure of their university?
Tenure and the Absence of Mandatory Retirement
Research universities make a commitment to faculty members when they award them tenure. Tenure is important to both faculty and the university both because it protects academic freedom and because it provides an incentive for faculty members to work for the best interests of the university and to participate in faculty governance. However, with the passage of the 1987 amendments to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, since 1994 tenure has become effectively a lifetime employment contract because tenured faculty members cannot be compelled to retire. The end of mandatory retirement for faculty surely has contributed to the growing use of contingent faculty.
The tenure system was originally adopted in the United States with mandatory retirement as an important part of the system. One would think that with the elimination of mandatory retirement that universities and their faculties would devise systems of post-tenure review processes to assure that tenure is not seen as an unfettered lifetime employment contract. Indeed, the American Association of University Professors position is that post-tenure review systems are consistent with a tenure system as long as the evaluations of faculty members are done by their peers, these reviews are seen as formative (seeking at the first level to improve performance) rather than summative in nature, the reviews are not used to shift the burden of proof from an institution (to show cause for dismissal) to the faculty member (to show cause for retention), and the reviews are conducted according to standards that protect academic freedom.
To date, post-tenure review processes have been adopted primarily at public universities, often under threat of legislatively imposed mandates. No president or provost at a private research university wants to even raise the issue with his or her faculty because of the concerns that doing so would cause the administrator to lose the support of the faculty (making it harder for him or her to lead the university) and that some faculty (but presumably not the most talented) would flee to other universities. So even though adoption of post-tenure review systems by all research universities would help to demonstrate that higher education is trying to maintain “quality control”, which is socially desirable, it is very unlikely to occur. Should the trustees of individual private research universities play the role that the legislatures play with respect to public institutions and urge the president of research universities to push for the development of post-tenure review system?
The ‘U.S. News & World Report’ Rankings and Controlling Costs
The annual U.S. News ranking of research universities as undergraduate institutions is partially based on the amount that each university spends per student. Any university that unilaterally cuts its spending or holds down the rate of increase in its spending relative to its competitors will fall in the rankings — even if the spending cuts have no impact on the undergraduate experience. Previous research has shown that an institution that falls in the rankings finds in the next year that it receives fewer applications, has a lower admitted student acceptance rate, has lower SAT scores for its entering students and must increase the size of the financial aid packages that it offers to attract students, other factors held constant. No trustee should want to see his or her university fall in the U.S. News rankings.
While spending more per student does, on average, lead to better outcomes for undergraduate students (see my discussion above), given concerns about runaway costs and tuition in American universities, one would think that running an institution in an efficient matter and cutting out waste would also be a social goal.
Should trustees of public or private research universities put pressure on their institutions’ administrators to hold down costs as a way of increasing economic efficiency and reducing future increases in tuition? What is more important, their institution’s position in the rankings or operating the institution in a way that does not waste resources?
Commercialization of Research
The Bayh-Dole Act encourages universities to obtain patents on faculty research findings from research funded by government grants to provide universities with a financial incentive to speed the flow of faculty research findings into commercial use. Many research universities have established offices of technology transfer to facilitate the development of licensing arrangements and joint ventures to help accomplish this goal. While most universities actually have not yet shown a profit on such arrangements, a few have hit it big.
Even if such efforts ultimately enhance the revenue flow coming into universities, commercialization efforts may have downsides as well. These include limitations placed on access of other researchers to new research findings and limiting poor countries’ access to scientific breakthroughs that have the potential to improve their populations’ economic well-being and health. For example if the rights to market new strands of disease resistant crops or new medicines to combat serious diseases are licensed to third parties, there is no guarantee that these parties will sell them to poor nations at prices that are at all affordable. Should trustees of research universities encourage their administrators to seek commercialization contracts that would guarantee access to such discoveries to people from poor nations, even if this means a reduction in commercialization revenues coming into their universities?
Training Our Nation’s Teachers
A number of our nation’s selective private research universities have eliminated or deemphasized undergraduate teacher education programs. One reason is that teachers’ salaries are lower than the earnings in alternative occupations that graduates of these institutions enter and thus potential teachers may be unwilling to take on the large debts that are often necessary to finance attendance at these institutions. Another reason is that schools of education typically do not generate large volumes of external research funding and that the alumni of these schools typically do not have the financial resources to generate large gifts to the institutions.
A number of studies suggest that, on average, students learn more when they are taught by teachers with high academic ability. Other studies suggest that students from selective academic colleges and universities are more likely to enter teaching if there is an opportunity for them to become at least provisionally certified as a teacher as part of their four-year undergraduate program. Given concerns about the quality of elementary and secondary education in the United States, encouraging, rather than discouraging, bright college students to enter teaching careers is very important for our nation’s well-being.
Rather than reducing their role in training teachers, should research universities, especially the most selective ones, be developing programs to encourage their students to enter the teaching profession? One possible policy would be to develop loan forgiveness programs for graduates who enter teaching; these would be analogous to programs that a number of leading law schools have adopted for their graduates who enter public interest law careers. To develop funding to support these programs will require the development of increased annual giving or increased endowments for these purposes; to do so will invariable reduce the funding available for other initiatives that the institution may perceive to be in its private interest. Should trustees of research universities urge their administrators to move in this direction?
The Land Grant Mission
Many public universities were founded with explicit land grant missions and historically have received funding from state and federal governments to help them carry out these missions. Through agricultural, cooperative, and industrial extension services, they have been major transmitters of knowledge to American farmers, consumers, workers and industry. Cuts in state and federal funding have limited the ability of land grant universities to carry out their land grant missions. The universities cannot “load” the costs of these activities onto the backs of undergraduates in the form of higher undergraduate tuitions. They have been forced to become more entrepreneurial and to use the “profits” that they generate from groups that can pay for their services (e.g. large corporations) to subsidize the provision of services to underserved populations. However, forced to generate their own revenues, it is natural for them to spend a larger share of their time on commercial activities and less on serving the public at large.
If a land grant university were to devote more resources to extension and public service activities, these funds would again have to come from annual fund raising and from raising endowments to support these activities. More generally, if other public and private research universities are serious about their social mission, they too should be engaged in activities to benefit society more broadly, such as working to improve elementary and secondary education, and will need similar sources of funding to do this.
While a recent Washington Monthly ranking of universities took involvement in extension and public service activities into account, this ranking is currently not one to which many people pay much attention. So devoting resources to these activities will mean doing less of other things. How do trustees, who have fiduciary responsibility for operating budgets, decide what the appropriate balance is between these activities and what many view as the core missions of the university — undergraduate and graduate teaching and research?

Ronald G. Ehrenberg is th Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, and a faculty trustee at Cornell. The views expressed in this piece are solely his own. A longer version, with citations, is available on the research institute’s Web site as a working paper titled “Key Issues Facing Trustees of National Research Universities in the Decades Ahead.”

Marketplace, August 16, 2006, Wednesday

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

LISTEN at --

A year after breaking up, labor unions AFL-CIO and Change to Win are in talks to pool their campaign efforts — and financial resources — for November's midterm elections. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

KAI RYSSDAL: We talked about this a lot when it happened last summer. There was a big split in organized labor. Seven unions left the AFL-CIO and organized a new group. Change to Win, they called it. Looks like now they're emphasizing the "win" part over "change."From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte reports labor has the November elections in its sights.
ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: The two union coalitions are planning to coordinate their efforts to get working people to the polls. Greg Tarpinian is executive director of Change to Win:
GREG TARPINIAN: There's more that unites us than divides us in many areas so it's natural for us to come together on those areas that we agree. And it's clear that one thing we agree on is creating a shift in the political climate in this country that favors working people.That climate, says Clark University labor relations professor Gary Chaison, has turned particularly cool under the Bush administration. He says labor wants a Democratic majority in the House.
GARY CHAISON: They wanna be able to come out of the midterm elections victorious or relatively victorious and go onto the next election with a feeling that they've regained their role as a political power.

Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University says there's a good chance of that. She says there have always been disagreements within the labor movement.

KATE BRONFENBRENNER: When they have come together has been when they've been most effective. And we have concrete examples of that: The last time minimum wage was increased, that was when the entire labor movement came together and did a nationwide campaign.As to whether the newly combined groups will stay together, Gary Chaison of Clark University is hopeful.

CHAISON: I think they will patch up their relations permanently if they see they can be successful working together.He says the original falling-out was between the top officers at the AFL-CIO, but the rank-and-file have been getting along. Union members are inherently practical, he says, and will do whatever it takes to elect a Congress that will support better wages, pensions and workplace safety.In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

WBEN Radio (Buffalo, N.Y), August 17, 2006, Thursday

Delphi Court Case Looms As Talks Press On
Thursday, August 17, 2006 05:43 AM - WBEN Newsroom

Detroit- (CBS/WBEN) - Delphi Corp. is due in court Thursday to ask a judge to reject labor contracts, and drastically cut wages for workers at the bankrupt auto parts manufacturer's Lockport plant and the rest of the company.

Talks between Delphi Corp, General Motors and various labor unions were ongoing late Wednesday, in advance of the court date.

Several analysts tell WBEN a deal on wage cuts could be reached soon, even as the company presses on in bankruptcy court, asking a judge to void their union labor contracts. Such a move could force a strike by the 2,000 workers in Lockport.

Arthur Wheaton, a professor at the Buffalo office of Cornell Univeristy's Labor Relations School says some sort of proposed agreement on wage cuts is likely by Labor Day. You can hear more with Wheaton by clicking on the audio link above.

Delphi spokesman Lindsey Williams said "high-level" talks were taking place Wednesday among the various parties, but declined to give specific details.
Toni Simonetti, a GM spokeswoman, said the auto maker "remains fully engaged in discussions with Delphi and other parties in an effort to reach a consensual agreement."

She declined to discuss the timing on a conclusion to the talks. Officials from the United Auto Workers could not be reached for immediate comment.
Officials from the union and the companies have said they want to reach a mutual agreement, but the UAW - in a press release issued Friday - said Delphi is not willing to bend on critical issues on the table.

The negotiations are aimed at helping Delphi clear a number of financial hurdles standing in the way of its planned emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company continues to bleed money due to what it calls non-competitive labor costs and unfavorable supply contracts with top customer and former parent GM.

As a result, Delphi is scrambling to restructure various parts of its business and has said it will reorganize with or without the help of GM and the UAW. Delphi on Tuesday announced that it lost $2.6 billion during the first half of the year amid heavy costs for an employee attrition program.

A key step in Delphi's reorganization plan is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, when a court hearing on the supplier's motion to throw out its U.S. hourly labor contracts is scheduled to resume.

The UAW has said it would strike if Delphi if contracts are rejected - a potentially damaging move for GM production.

Delphi has repeatedly delayed hearings on the motion to reject contracts as negotiations continued - a delay last Friday allowed for six more days of talks and suggested some progress, although the UAW has maintained that Delphi thus far has not made acceptable offers on certain issues, including wages.

The company's financial condition has led it to craft a multi-pronged plan to recovery, including proposed wage and benefit cuts. Delphi is also looking to close or sell 21 of 29 unionized plants in the U.S. and is seeking to cancel as much as $5 billion in GM supply contracts.

As of June 30, Delphi had $2 billion in cash on hand, up from the $1.6 billion it held on Oct. 8 when it filed for bankruptcy, not including debtor-in-possession financing.

Buffalo News (New York), August 11, 2006, Saturday

Copyright 2006 Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)

Distributed by Knight/Ridder Tribune News Service

August 11, 2006 Friday


HEADLINE: New pact for Goodyear seen likely

BYLINE: Fred O. Williams, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Aug. 11--A new contract for Goodyear Corp., owner of the Dunlop plant in Tonawanda, seems likely now that the Steelworkers have reached an agreement with BFGoodrich, their target in pattern bargaining with the tire industry.
Goodyear-Dunlop employs about 1,200 union workers at the Tonawanda plant, which has been running on an expired contract since July 22.
However, union officials aren't predicting that the job protections and pension increases gained at Goodrich will automatically be adopted at larger Goodyear.
"That (agreement) sets the bar -- we think the other companies can follow suit, without giving anyone an unfair advantage," said William Pienta, Steelworkers District 4 director in Buffalo.
The Goodrich contract reached over the weekend protects 90 percent of jobs and bars plant closings during its three-year term. It also preserves cost-of-living raises and health care for active and retired workers. New hires will start at a reduced wage, but their progression schedule to full scale is shortened by one year.
Goodyear would only say in a statement that its negotiators are reviewing the Goodrich contract "to determine its relevance for Goodyear." The statement alluded to the difference in size of the companies, mentioning Goodrich's "three remaining plants." Akron-based Goodyear has 12 plants and 12,600 union workers, more than triple Goodrich's employment.
Goodyear opened talks in June with a proposal saying it needs a "significantly lower cost structure." The union said that accompanied a proposal for a 40 percent pay cut. Goodyear has made a profit in the past two years, following an $800 million loss in 2003.
"I think pattern bargaining is becoming much more difficult to maintain, because different companies are facing different economic factors, and the strength of unions has declined," said Arthur Wheaton, an instructor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations extension in Buffalo.
In the auto industry, for example, automakers are cutting different deals based on the age of their work force and their consequent overhang of future retirement benefits bills.
Negotiators will probably begin working on the specifics of a Goodyear deal early next week during meetings in Cincinnati, Steelworkers spokesman Wayne Ranick said. Union negotiators will remind the company of concessions granted in 2003, he said.
"The company is still talking about needing to make restructuring," he said. "We're saying it's not going to be entirely on our backs."

To see more of The Buffalo News, N.Y., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2006, The Buffalo News, N.Y. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 2006, Friday

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

August 11, 2006, Friday

HEADLINE: Ignoring split, labor makes election push

BYLINE: Amanda PaulsonStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


Rival union federations agree to coordinate get-out-the-vote and other efforts for November.

One year after America's labor movement saw its largest schism in decades, unions are gearing up for a high-stakes political battle in November.
It's the first test of how the split between the AFL-CIO and the new seven-union Change to Win labor federation will affect the political activities of the labor movement. It's also a chance for unions to demonstrate that they still wield political heft despite dwindling membership.
The coming elections were a key topic at separate meetings in Chicago this week of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the executive council of the AFL-CIO. In one promising sign for labor's fall push to help Democrats, the rival federations have launched a national committee to coordinate political activities.
"I believe they're going to be reasonably unified, but it's a little bit early to say how well the coordination will work," says Rick Hurd, a labor expert at Cornell University. He notes that the Change to Win affiliates, which represent some 6 million members, may be less likely to do an all-out field operation than they were two years ago as AFL-CIO unions.
Despite fewer members, unions "have become more and more effective at communicating their message to members, and at getting members to vote according to labor endorsements," he adds.

With several key gubernatorial battles and a chance to take back the House and, possibly, the Senate for Democrats, unions see these as particularly critical midterm elections. They're doing their best to prepare:
* The AFL-CIO is dedicating the most it ever has for a nonpresidential election - $40 million - for political mobilization this fall. It has zeroed in on 21 key states to focus on and will be active in more than 200 Senate, House, gubernatorial, and state legislative races.
* AFSCME announced a new initiative this week that, among other things, will create an army of 40,000 volunteers to do political registration and get-out-the-vote work. The union will also aggressively raise funds for its large political action committee and raise membership dues $3 a month to help fill coffers for future elections.
* The AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation have set up a national labor coordinating committee for political activities. They've agreed to merge member lists, work together on phone banks, walks, and leaflet distribution, and help state and local groups work closely on key elections.
"These elections are really important - they're going to set the tone for the presidential election in 2008," says Edgar Romney, secretary-treasurer of Change to Win and co-chair of the coordinating council. "I think the understanding and attitude is that we're all in this together and we have to win this battle. And whatever differences have evolved at the top, we'll put those aside."
But there are still some clear differences. When Change to Win split off last year, one key reason was its philosophy that organizing, not politics, was where the labor movement should be focused. And that is showing up this fall. Whereas the AFL-CIO is active in hundreds of races, Change to Win - at least at a national level - is zeroing in on three. They're all gubernatorial races: in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
"This is our first election cycle. It's a new approach to doing our politics. So we're strategically looking at where we can have the most impact," says Colleen Brady, Change to Win's political campaigns director. "The priority of the Change to Win labor federation and the founding of it is based on organizing new members. Politics plays a role in that."
Local groups and individual Change to Win unions will probably be active in many more races, she notes. "It's still a labor family. On the ground, we will work together where it makes sense."
AFSCME - the largest union in the AFL-CIO and one of the most political, because it represents public employees - is concentrating on a wide swath of races, from critical congressional battles to gubernatorial and state legislative races.
The gubernatorial races are particularly important, says AFSCME political director Larry Scanlon, because they can have such an enormous impact on organizing rights. After losing Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky recently to Republican governors, collective bargaining rights in those states were virtually eliminated, he says.
AFSCME is spending about $20 million to get out its political message in 2006 and another $6 million to $7 million in direct campaign contributions through its political action committee. It recruited and trained some 40 congressional candidates to run this year, and has targeted 12 congressional districts with moderate Republicans that it thinks might be receptive to labor-friendly ideas.
"I think we can take back the House - Republicans are running scared," says Mr. Scanlon. As for the unusually large number of races that AFSCME is involved in, he says that "it's a target-rich environment. That's one of the problems this year."
Some observers have been skeptical about how much influence labor is able to wield politically these days, with a membership that has dwindled to a little more than 12 percent of working Americans. But others say that even as their numbers have gone down, their political activities have gotten far more sophisticated than they were a decade or two ago.
Unions have harnessed technology, focused on races where they can have the most impact, and stepped up member-to-member campaigning, they point out. As a result, a growing percentage of voters are union members.
"I can think of a number of things labor has done wrong, both politically and nonpolitically, in the last decade," says Robert Bruno, a labor expert with the Chicago Labor Education Program of the University of Illinois. "But one unappreciated success is how effective labor's political impact and outreach have become."
(c) Copyright 2006. The Christian Science Monitor

The Bookwatch, August 1, 2006, Tuesday

Copyright 2006 Gale Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2006 Midwest Book Review
The Bookwatch

August 1, 2006

HEADLINE: Nightmare's Fairy Tale;
Nightmare's Fairy Tale: A Young Refugee's Home Fronts;
Brief article;
Book review

Nightmare's Fairy Tale
Gerd Korman
University Of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, 3rd Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
0299210804 $19.95 1-800-621-2736
Nightmare's Fairy Tale: A Young Refugee's Home Fronts by Gerd Korman (Professor Emeritus of American History at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations) is the personal and eye-opening story of a young man and his broken family's escape to the refuge of America only months before the beginning of the second world war. As a detailed auto-biographical account of Korman's childhood througha Kindertransport near Warsaw, deportation from Hamburg, a temporarystay with an Anglican family and the reunification of his family andJewish homage in New York. Very highly recommended for its vivid depiction of unseen historical afflictions, Nightmare's Fairy Tale is anideal addition for the reading lists of non-specialist general reading fans with an intrigue for historical, Judaic, and World War II memoirs.

Internet Bookwatch, August 1, 2006, Tuesday

Copyright 2006 Gale Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2006 Midwest Book Review
Internet Bookwatch

August 1, 2006

HEADLINE: Nightmare's Fairy Tale;
Nightmare's Fairy Tale: A Young Refugee's Home Fronts;
Brief article;
Book review

Nightmare's Fairy Tale
Gerd Korman
University Of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, 3rd Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
0299210804 $19.95 1-800-621-2736
Nightmare's Fairy Tale: A Young Refugee's Home Fronts by Gerd Korman (Professor Emeritus of American History at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations) is the personal and eye-opening story of a young man and his broken family's escape to the refuge of America only months before the beginning of the second world war. As a detailed auto-biographical account of Korman's childhood througha Kindertransport near Warsaw, deportation from Hamburg, a temporarystay with an Anglican family and the reunification of his family andJewish homage in New York. Very highly recommended for its vivid depiction of unseen historical afflictions, Nightmare's Fairy Tale is anideal addition for the reading lists of non-specialist general reading fans with an intrigue for historical, Judaic, and World War II memoirs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

National Public Radio, Marketplace, August 9, 2006, Thursday

Gene Carroll was interviewed on National Public Radio's MARKETPLACE on August 9. You can listen to him toward the end of the story.

See --

Your boss never looked so good

Thousands of disgruntled workers have entered a contest to find out who has the worst boss. Alex Goldmark has the story.

You can listen to it at --


KAI RYSSDAL: There are good bosses. And bad bosses. I'm not naming any names, but we've got some of both around here, and I'm sure it's the same for other people, too. But if you stop and think about it, how bad was that bad boss really? Prize-winning? Alex Goldmark reports on the Bad Boss contest.

ALEX GOLDMARK: Screamers, cheapskates, bullies, and just plain weirdos. AFL-CIO affiliate Working America heard about bosses like that from over one million workers. So, the outreach group decided to hold an Internet contest. A lot of entries leave you wondering what was that boss thinking! Like Hannah from Florida. She works in big box retail and didn't want her last name used.

HANNAH: "Any employee caught violating safety procedure was given a two-foot rubber chicken to wear around their necks, the chicken was on a string. In order to get rid of the chicken an employee had to catch another employee behaving unsafely and so that, of course, invited employees to chase each other around the store with the chicken, trying to find the slightest safety violation and rid themselves of the safety chicken." Another boss thought firing a stun gun in a staff meeting might increase motivation. Or how about the boss who wouldn't pay doctor's bills for his employee who got hurt on the job, even though the hurt employee was his own daughter.

Karen Nussbaum is executive director of Working America.

KAREN NUSSBAUM: "Despite the fact there are so many really funny entries, it was the ones about my-mother-was-dying-and-my-boss-still-made-me-write-up-the-memo-from-the-meeting-instead-of-being-at-the-hospital kinds of stories that were the winners every week." She says, venting helps cope.

NUSSBAUM: "There are some really unbelievable stories, like the guy who worked the night shift from the change over time from daylight savings, whose boss insisted there was no way he could have clocked in eight hours, because an hour had been lost that night."

JIM HIGHTOWER: "But it really does boil down to that issue of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, respect." Author Jim Hightower is one of the celebrity commentators invited to post some wit and context on the Web site. He sees the contest as a way of standing up to your bad boss.

HIGHTOWER: "While you are an employee, that doesn't make you a slave. You're still a human being and a citizen. And you've got a right to speak up, and this is, this is one way to bring that out, that other people are speaking up and fighting back."

The prize for having the worst boss story is a one-week paid vacation, but what many entrants really want is a different boss, so they can take that vacation. And the AFL-CIO isn't doing this just for catharsis and commiseration.

GENE CARROLL: "Bad bosses are good for unions, but they're not good for anybody else."

Gene Carroll is a former union organizer. Now he heads Cornell University's union leadership program in New York City.

CARROLL: "When there is an atmosphere in a workplace created by a boss who is arrogant, immature, insecure, it will fuel people organizing to stand up to him, and it really forms the basis of building a union in a workplace."

Say if you're boss makes you wear a rubber chicken at work, you're gonna want to find a way to confront him. And Carroll says unions are one way to do that. They offer protection from retaliation. But, I'm not sure any union will be able help the winner explain to the boss where that vacation came from.

In New York, I'm Alex Goldmark, for Marketplace.

Smithsonian Magazine, August 2006

Smithsonian Magazine, August 2006

Trial By Fire
Vital records were missing -- and would have stayed missing were it not for a dead lawyer's vanity.
By David von Drehle
Related links

On March 25, 1911, a pleasant springtime afternoon, a fire broke out in a garment factory near Washington Square in New York City's Greenwich Village. Within minutes, the entire eighth floor of the ten-story tower was full of flames. Onlookers, drawn by the column of smoke and the clamor of converging fire wagons, watched helplessly and in horror as dozens of workers screamed from the ninth-floor windows. They were trapped by flames, a collapsed fire escape and a locked door. Firefighters frantically cranked a rescue ladder, which rose slowly skyward—then stopped at the sixth floor, fully extended. Pressed by the advancing blaze, workers began leaping and tumbling to their deaths on the sidewalk. Other workers perished in the flames, still others plunged into an open elevator shaft, while behind the factory two dozen fell from the flimsy fire escape. In all, 146 workers, most of them immigrant young women and girls, perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. For 90 years it stood as New York's deadliest workplace disaster.

This story—and the fire's impact on the politics of New York and the nation—took hold of me in the early 1990s. I had moved to the Village as a reporter for the Miami Herald, and one day, while exploring the neighborhood, I was surprised to find the factory tower still standing at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. In the years that followed, I often passed that corner and always paused to look up at those ninth-floor windows.

My curiosity led me to a spare and forceful book, The Triangle Fire. Written by a labor organizer named Leon Stein and published in 1962, the book was both harrowing and somewhat frustrating. Stein had interviewed dozens of survivors, tracked down a number of original records and rendered the story in taut prose. But many of the questions that most interested me were taken for granted by Stein, who spent his career in the New York garment industry, a world stamped by the Triangle tragedy. I was hungry for more about the context and characters surrounding this event, which influenced such momentous figures as the progressive New York governor Alfred E. Smith, the New Deal architect Senator Robert F. Wagner and the pioneering Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. But no full-length study of the fire and its impact on politics had been written in the decades after Stein's book.

So I proposed to write my own.

How rash! But my folly dawned on me slowly—and only after I had blown a substantial stack of my publisher’s advance on diapers, formula and preschool tuition. I discovered that virtually all the key documents concerning the Triangle fire had been lost or destroyed. Records of the fire marshal’s investigation: long gone. Files of the coroner's special jury: vanished.

Worst of all, I couldn't find the official transcript of the trial of Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, the Triangle factory owners, who had been charged with manslaughter on the theory that their negligence caused the workers' deaths. Their three-week trial in December 1911 collected sworn testimony from more than 150 witnesses who were questioned while details of the disaster were still relatively fresh in their minds. Dozens of survivors, including Harris and Blanck themselves, recounted their narrow escapes, while firefighters, police officers and building engineers added details of the factory layout and the fire's awful progress. No other document could take me closer to that factory in the moments before and after the fire erupted.

I knew that a transcript had been prepared, because Stein had used it in his research: his notes were part of the labor history archive at the Kheel Center at Cornell University. Yet when I contacted the New York City archives, I was told that, well, the transcript—all 2,000-plus pages—seemed to have been lost. It apparently vanished, wouldn't you know, during a project to preserve historic documents. Sometime around 1970, an archives official explained, New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice received a grant to transfer important court records to microfilm. Somewhere between the courthouse and the college, the Triangle record was lost forever.

Still, I figured there must be other copies, prepared for the prosecutor or the defense attorney. I inquired at other New York colleges and universities, at the New York Public Library, at various city museums and state archives. Coming up empty, I turned to the multitude of daily newspapers from 1911. Surely the sensational trial of Harris and Blanck must have been covered extensively, in front-page stories full of colorful details and verbatim testimony.
Nope. My heart sank as I fed rolls of microfilm into reading machines at the Library of Congress (having moved to Washington as a reporter for the Washington Post). There was next to nothing in the New York World, the American, the Herald, the Times, the Tribune, the Post. Only the most dramatic testimony and the verdict—not guilty—registered more than a few paragraphs stashed in the back pages.

My frustration turned to panic. Samuel Johnson famously declared that "no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money," and I have never been wealthy enough to test his theory. The money I had taken was now gone, even as the bills continued to arrive. I began to lose hope that I could actually make a book from the scraps and remnants I had been compiling.
Which was sad, because some of the scraps were fascinating. Virtually nothing had been known about the young women who worked and died in the Triangle factory, but I was finding whispers of their brief stories in old census records and city maps. The microfilmed record of a Socialist newspaper in New York, the Call, contained a haunting half page of photographs of Triangle fire victims, lent by their grieving families. The same newspaper fleshed out Harris and Blanck's role in resisting efforts to unionize the garment factories.

Such discoveries kept me plodding along, despite flagging hopes. One spring day in 2001, almost exactly 90 years after the fire, I turned my attention at the Library of Congress to the high-priced attorney Harris and Blanck hired to save them from prison. Max D. Steuer was among the most colorful figures in the peacock gallery of New York before World War I. An immigrant and former sweatshop worker, Steuer rose to the pinnacle of the New York bar, starring as courtroom magician in dramas ranging from celebrity sex scandals to securities frauds to the disputed wills of dysfunctional dynasties. He became known as "Million-Dollar Steuer" in the Hearst newspapers until he complained about it to one of his clients: William Randolph Hearst. The Triangle trial—specifically, Steuer's cunning cross-examination of the star prosecution witness—was a key moment in his legendary career.

I found a sketch of Steuer's life in the Dictionary of American Biography, published in the early 1960s. The entry ended with a list of sources printed in tiny type. One note caught my eye: "Collections of the records and briefs of cases in which Steuer appeared are in the N.Y. County Lawyers' Assoc." What records?

I looked up the NYCLA on the Internet and was pleased to find that it still existed. It had been founded early in the 20th century as an alternative to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, which—in those days—was not open to women, blacks or Jews like Steuer. A few calls led me to Ralph Monaco, director of the NYCLA library, who seemed genuinely interested in my saga—and genuinely sorry to tell me he had no idea what records the Dictionary was talking about.

That was the low point.

Three days later, Monaco called back. He had posted a listserv message explaining my plight to the Law Librarians Association of Greater New York. One of his predecessors as director of the NYCLA library, Alison Alifano, saw the message and replied that a collection of Steuer’s records was somewhere in the library. She just was not sure where. Then a veteran library employee named Jose Rosario unearthed what appeared to be a transcript from the stacks.

I told Monaco I could be in New York the next day.

How about next week? he countered. Promptly at 9 the next Monday morning, I entered NYCLA's downtown headquarters, an elegant Cass Gilbert landmark in the twin shadows of the World Trade Center towers. On Monaco's desk, I finally laid eyes on my prize: two fat, antique, leather-bound tomes, labeled Vol. 1 and Vol. 3. Vol. 2 appeared to be missing, so Rosario and I went back to the stacks to hunt for it. He led me to a shelf of similar books, all from Steuer's estate. Scanning the spines, I realized that he had commemorated his greatest trial victories by binding his carbon-copy transcripts in gold-lettered leather. Upon his death in 1940, he bequeathed these trophies to NYCLA. And as his fame had faded with the passing decades, they were relegated to storage and forgotten.

We never found the missing volume, but that hardly dampened my excitement as I turned the first of more than 1,300 pages of recovered history. For much of the next two weeks, I read slowly through the sometimes tangled testimony and typed thousands of words of notes and quotations into my laptop. Photocopying the volumes was out of the question—the cheap paper, nearly a century old, was crumbling between my fingers. In fact, I began to worry that Monaco would call a halt to my reading because the books were falling apart. So I sat at a table as far from the reference desk as I could get, and swept small drifts of paper crumbs into my briefcase to hide them.

Each morning, however, Monaco and his colleagues welcomed me back. And gradually I learned not only what it was like to endure the fire but also what it was like to work at the Triangle Waist Co. Notorious today as a classic sweatshop, the Triangle was a model of modern efficiency to its owners and employees. Indeed, as I came to understand the factory, the pace of daily work and the intricate relationships inside the large, family-run business, I could see how the factory's scale and efficiency helped cause the tragedy. Specially designed bins held hundreds of pounds of scrap cotton and tissue paper at a time. In one of these bins, just before the quitting bell rang, a fire kindled. The supply of fuel turned the factory into what a fire captain called "a mass of traveling fire" within 15 minutes.
Some testimony was spellbinding, such as factory foreman Samuel Bernstein's marathon account of his efforts to fight the fire and save the workers. Capt. Howard Ruch of the New York Fire Department told of his initial survey of the charred ninth floor. "I stepped on something that was soft," he said, and only then realized he had reached a pile of bodies. Line by line, the transcript restored history to three dimensions and provided a Rosetta stone for understanding Leon Stein's notes from the lost volume of testimony.

Through the cooperation of NYCLA and Cornell, my experience of reading the lost transcripts is now available to anyone with an Internet connection. In 2004, Kheel Center director Richard Strassberg carried the Steuer volumes to the Ithaca campus, where each page was scanned and digitized. Because the quality of the originals was so poor, the process captured only about 40 percent of the text. So Patricia Leary of the Kheel Center painstakingly corrected every page.

Last autumn, after more than a year of effort, the Kheel Center posted the entire text on its Triangle fire Web site: The site, which receives some six million visitors each year, is a model for archivists who want to make their records available to students and researchers. By June, portions of the recovered record had been downloaded more than 1,100 times, Strassberg reports, including nearly 400 complete copies.

The Triangle fire catalyzed reforms in New York that spread nationwide—outward-swinging exit doors and sprinklers in high-rise buildings, for example. These reforms in turn fueled the careers of people like Smith and Wagner and Perkins, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. Half a century after the fire, she still pointed to that day as the birth of the New Deal. Today, the memory of the fire moves reformers to wonder why some workers in the United States—and many more abroad—still toil in needlessly dangerous conditions.

The Washington Post, August 10, 2006, Thursday

Copyright 2006 The Washington Post
The Washington Post

August 10, 2006 Thursday
Final Edition

SECTION: Financial; D01

HEADLINE: Wal-Mart to Allow Unions in China;
Comparing Move With Firm's Stance in U.S., Critics Claim Double Standard

BYLINE: Allen T. Cheng and Lee Spears, Bloomberg News


Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said it will allow employee unions in China, breaking from its long-standing practice of resisting organizing efforts at its stores.
Wal-Mart, which employs 23,000 people in China, will let the All-China Federation of Trade Unions set up branches in all its outlets, said Jonathan Dong, a company spokesman.
The retailer has come under fire from unions, including the AFL-CIO, which says the Bentonville, Ark., company contributes to U.S. job losses and human rights violations when it does business in China. Wal-Mart's U.S. employees are not unionized.
By allowing unions into its Chinese stores, "Wal-Mart's applying a complete double standard here," said Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, a coalition of labor, religious, community and environmental groups that wants the company to boost wages and benefits. "Why are they comfortable with it in one country and fighting it in another?"
Wal-Mart has 60 outlets in China and plans to open as many as 20 more stores this year. China's average annual economic growth of 9.1 percent over the past decade has raised household incomes, making it an attractive market.
"My suspicion is they're doing this because it's the only way that they can maintain their plan in China," said Richard W. Hurd, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "Part of getting along with the government in China is accepting government-sponsored unions."
Establishment of unions at Wal-Mart may put pressure on other foreign companies in the world's fastest-growing major economy to let employees organize. About 39,000 out of more than 100,000 overseas companies in China have set up unions, according to a report last month by the official New China news agency.
Wal-Mart, which has allowed only "a few" unions into its stores elsewhere around the world, "isn't afraid of strikes in China," Dong said. "China's unions are different from unions elsewhere. The goal of China's unions is to build a harmonious society."
Since July 29, unions have formed at five Wal-Mart stores in China, Xinhua said. The stores include one in Shenzhen's Dafen district, where 27 employees joined. At the company's Fujian province branch, 30 of Wal-Mart's 500 employees joined the union.
Attempts to organize at almost 5,000 Wal-Marts in North America have mostly failed. Workers at one store in Quebec have organized. Last year, the company closed a store in Jonquiere, Quebec, after workers there voted to unionize. The company said the store was not profitable. In 2000, a store in Jacksonville, Tex., switched to prepackaged meat after butchers voted to organize.
Other companies, including DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit, have no unions in the United States while permitting them elsewhere. Allowing unions in Chinese stores probably will not make it easier for labor to organize at Wal-Mart locations in the United States, Hurd said.
"Among the advanced industrialized countries, the policies in the United States are the least supportive for collective bargaining and unions," he said.
This week, Wal-Mart said it would raise starting wages at almost one-third of its U.S. stores by 6 percent and place a cap on the maximum that hourly employees could earn in each job category.

The Washington Post, August 10, 2006, Thursday

Copyright 2006 The Washington Post
The Washington Post

August 10, 2006 Thursday
Final Edition

SECTION: A Section; A05

HEADLINE: AFL-CIO Aligns With Day-Laborer Advocates

BYLINE: Karin Brulliard, Washington Post Staff Writer

The AFL-CIO voted yesterday to join forces with a national network of day-laborer organizers in a push for worker rights and legalization for unauthorized workers, a move that could provide day laborers with a potent ally in efforts to establish hiring halls and combat shifty employers.
Six years after organized labor made an about-face to support illegal workers, the agreement further cemented the struggling labor movement's embrace of illegal immigrants as key parts of the U.S. workforce and potential union members. Research indicates that about three-fourths of day laborers are in the country illegally.
For day laborers and their organizers, who have faced high-profile opposition in Herndon and elsewhere, the agreement offers access to expert lobbyists and lawyers and a chance to devise strategies with local councils of the 10 million-member AFL-CIO, which backed sanctions against illegal immigrants until a policy shift in 2000. The partnership does not require day laborers to join unions.
"Day laborers in the United States often face the harshest forms of workplace problems, and this exploitation hurts us all, because when standards are dragged down for some workers, they are dragged down for all workers," John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said at a news conference in Chicago, where he signed an agreement to form a partnership with the Los Angeles-based National Day Labor Organizing Network.
The group, known as NDLON, is made up of about 30 day-laborer centers and organizers, including CASA of Maryland and Tenants and Workers United in Alexandria.
Officials said the groups will begin working together at a national level, crafting policies on workplace issues and campaigning for immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship but not a guest-worker program, which both groups oppose.
The agreement gives local AFL-CIO councils the option to link up with day-laborer centers. Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA of Maryland, said he expects to work with local AFL-CIO organizers to boost the state's minimum wage and fight local ordinances that might penalize day laborers.
The alliance comes one year after four major unions split from the AFL-CIO, taking a third of its membership, and as the labor movement struggles with decline. Union membership waned from about 35 percent of the 1950s workforce to about 13 percent last year.
About 117,600 day laborers solicit jobs each day, according to a national study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, New School University and UCLA. They frequently fall victim to the employer abuses and workplace hazards that unions battle: Nearly half have been stiffed or denied breaks, and 20 percent have been injured on the job, the study found.
"We want to build a stronger network of support for our day-worker centers," Pablo Alvarado, executive director of NDLON, said in an interview.
Since 2000, organized labor has been a chief advocate for immigrants. And worker centers and street-corner activists have been organizing day laborers. But unions and worker centers have rarely collaborated.
Recently they have begun wooing one another. Alvarado recently escorted AFL-CIO leaders to a day-laborer corner in Agoura Hills, Calif., where workers have a pact not to work for less than $15 an hour. Labor leaders see such self-organizing as the "seeds of the labor movement," said Ana Avendaño, general associate counsel for the AFL-CIO.
Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at UCLA, said, "The labor movement wants to ride that wave."
Not everyone thinks it is a good idea. In Allentown, Pa., unions are backing a law prohibiting the hiring of illegal immigrants. Vernon M. Briggs Jr., a Cornell University labor economics professor, said labor's support for illegal immigrants could encourage immigration and depress wages for low-skilled Americans.
"Fighting for people who are not supposed to be working in the first place? What kind of union is that?" Briggs said.
In Fairfax County's Culmore neighborhood, men waited for work yesterday outside a 7-Eleven, where organizers with Tenants and Workers United have helped day laborers set a $10 minimum wage and record employers' license plate numbers.
Most were vaguely aware of the agreement. But they described their need for advocates. Jose Santos Lazo, 37, said he dropped a large sheet of wood on his face during a job last year. Surgery cost $17,000, he said, and his boss promised to pay. But the employer has vanished, said Lazo, a Salvadoran who said he has legal residency.
"I do not have money for a lawyer," Lazo said.
Alvarado said that is a resource the AFL-CIO can offer.