Wednesday, November 26, 2008, November 25, 2008, Tuesday

Copyright 2008 Capitol News Company, LLC
All Rights Reserved

November 25, 2008, Tuesday

HEADLINE: Labor pained: Labor sec. not on econ team

BYLINE: Ben Smith

The markets rose on the news of Barack Obama's economic policy team Monday, but some labor spirits fell.

Obama's team of treasury secretary and four top economic advisers, introduced as the hands that will steer Amer-ica's economy, had no particular ties to the labor movement. And Obama's secretary of labor was not introduced as part of that team - a suggestion that that post will retain its second-tier status and quiet voice in matters central to economic policy.

"I wish that [the secretary of labor] would have been among them," former Michigan congressman David Bonior, a labor stalwart and member of Obama's transition team, said of the group at the Chicago press conference. "I hope they take that job seriously."

Labor's low profile in Obama's transition is striking because of unions' vital role in the general election campaign. While Wall Street split its contributions between Obama and John McCain, labor, after dividing its efforts in the Demo-cratic primary, united behind the Democrat and emerged as by far the strongest outside force in the general election. Unions reportedly spent well over $100 million communicating with their members and other voters. The Service Em-ployees International Union alone spent more than $30 million on an independent campaign for Obama, while many of the AFL-CIO unions played key roles in overcoming potential prejudice among their older, white members.

"You can make the case that Obama wouldn't have won without the labor movement - troops, money, key states," said the executive director of the pro-union Labor Research Association, Jonathan Tasini, reflecting a widespread view in the labor ranks. "But when it comes down to it, they don't have the kind of juice to say, 'This is how we want the economic team to look.'"

That doesn't mean labor has no agenda in the transition. They're expecting a pro-union labor secretary - a shift from Bush's low-profile Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who was often at odds with organized labor. (Chao is best known as the answer to a trivia question: Who is the only Bush cabinet secretary who will have served all eight years?) Labor is also focused on the job of United States Trade Representative. And they're debating how hard to push Obama on the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make organizing easier.

Some unions are pushing former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt for labor secretary, though his lobby-ing and his staunch skepticism of trade may disqualify him; Bonior is backing a lesser-known union operative, Mary Beth Maxwell. Some unions are pushing Leo Hindery, a left-leaning business executive and donor, as trade representa-tive, though many in labor expect Obama to choose a former Clinton Administration technocrat, Lael Brainard, who has pushed for more enforcement of trade agreements.

In maneuvering for the top job, the labor movement is crippled by its internal split. Though leaders would like a pro-labor figure with national stature in the job - "someone with the stature to get into Larry Summers' face," Tasini said - the leading candidates seem to have been disqualified. Bonior and SEIU President Andy Stern have taken themselves out of the running. Other large figures are deeply rooted in the feuding sides - the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. Richard Trumka, who played a key role in selling Obama to AFL unions, is the federation's secretary-treasurer; SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, who was the face of the service unions' pro-Obama efforts in the general election, is the chair of Change to Win.

"If we believe this election was about rebuilding the middle class and reclaiming the American Dream, the next secretary of labor should be somebody who is passionate about workers and the issues confronting a 21st century workforce," Burger said in an email.

Labor leaders on both sides of the divide said they expect Obama to choose a neutral, like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who would be a high-profile friend of labor, if an outsider. They're also hopeful that Obama will pick a trade representative who has committed to introducing enforceable labor standards into trade deals.

"If it's Sebelius, [union leaders] will pretend to be pleased, but they will simultaneously be disappointed," said Clete Daniel, a labor historian at Cornell University, who pointed out that she's a relative outsider from a state whose "right-to-work" laws make union organizing harder.
(She has, however, generally backed a labor agenda in Kansas.)

Daniel noted that the power of the position had risen and ebbed since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's high-profile labor secretary, Frances Perkins, reaching lows of obscurity in Republican administrations, and perhaps its highest modern point under Jimmy Carter, whose labor secretary, Ray Marshall, was a well-connected union figure and an important inside player.

President Clinton's first secretary of labor, Robert Reich, battled Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin for restrictions on trade and additional government spending, but lost.

"Whoever is selected will have a stature not unlike that of Reich, which is a position of secondary influence," said Daniel.

Unions are also debating what they will ask of the labor secretary. Some have suggested pushing Obama to insti-tute a long list of rule changes and to push hard for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would change the rules in organizing campaigns to favor unions. In a September memo leaked to Politico, John Wilhelm, a close Obama ally who is co-president of Unite HERE, argued that they should eschew specific demands and instead push Obama for key ap-pointments and his bully pulpit.

"We should have only one demand of an Obama administration: that the President of the United States publicly, repeatedly, and strenuously advocate that workers have unions, because unions are necessary to build a good America; that he apply that advocacy to specific worker fights and not just general statements; and that he put people on the [National Labor Relations Board] and in his cabinet who share that view and are committed to implementing it," Wilhelm wrote.

And labor leaders continue to hope that unions have earned themselves a meaningful voice in Obama's adminis-tration.

"In this kind of environment, with the economy we have, I think this will be a big job," said Tom Balanoff, the president of SEIU Local 1 in Illinois and an old Obama ally. "I'm sure he'll pick somebody who understands that that's a job to promote the interests of labor or workers."

LOAD-DATE: November 26, 2008

Detroit Free Press, November 22, 2008, Saturday

Detroit Free Press

November 22, 2008, Saturday

Detroit Free Press

Cuts beyond UAW's jobs bank seen
Workers: Auto executives must sacrifice, too


Concessions by the UAW on the jobs banks may help win support for federal loans to help Detroit's automakers survive the global credit crisis, but it would need to be part of a broad package of concessions from all levels of the companies, workers and analysts told the Free Press on Friday.

Dismantling the jobs bank is among many measures the automakers are actively discussing with the union as they hustle to prepare a plan to convince Congress to approve $25 billion in federal loans for the automakers, the Free Press reported exclusively Friday.

"It's not a bad idea that it's at least dawned on them that they have an image and public relations problem," said Harry Katz, dean of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. "But they're going to have to go much, much further and deeper."

Asked Friday if further UAW concessions would help pass a federal aid package for Detroit, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: "I think everybody has to participate in ensuring the viability of the auto industry."

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC all have reported spending operating funds faster than they collect them for the last several months as financial turmoil has pushed U.S. auto sales to their lowest level in 25 years. GM and Chrysler have said their cash reserves could fall below the level necessary for operations by the end of the year.

Congress asked the automakers to deliver plans by Dec. 2 that detail how much they need and how they would spend federal loan money. Several members of Congress said any plan should include sacrifice from all levels of the organizations.

The jobs bank, a much-maligned program under which laid-off autoworkers are paid long after their jobs are cut, is one of the sacrifices the UAW may make.

In one proposal that has been discussed, workers would get near-full pay for 18 months during a layoff period, but there would be no jobs bank program after that.

Perception is everything
A UAW spokesman declined to comment Friday.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who joined the auto executives in testifying before Congress, bristled this week at the notion that the union hasn't given concessions on the program before.

Gettelfinger said there is a lack of appreciation for how the program has been scaled back to almost being gone.

Until the union's 2007 contract, workers could remain in the jobs banks for years. But under the new contract, the union conceded to tighter conditions, under which workers' jobs are protected by the jobs bank for just two years, and less if employees turn down transfers.

"Going back to the '07 negotiations," Gettelfinger said, "we took that language and stripped it down to where it's the mere shadow of what it used to be."

Asked Thursday if the UAW would be willing to give up such a provision as part of conditions for government aid, Gettelfinger said, "It's premature for me to answer a speculative question. ... Let's wait and see what they come down with."

The jobs bank may now be a minor program, but it stands tall as a symbol of excess and inefficiency to those outside Detroit, experts say. And for that reason, as much as any other, it may have to go, experts say.

"It seems like folks are getting paid for waiting. That doesn't seem to be following the American way of rugged individualism," said James Cashman, a management professor from the University of Alabama who spent several years working as a consultant for GM.

Jobs banks come from an era when automakers' manufacturing processes were being modernized to include technological improvements and the companies needed to win labor support for such innovations that seemingly would mean a loss of jobs.

"The jobs bank notion was created long ago with the idea of being a temporary location for people who were being displaced by upgrades in technology," Cashman said. "That whole premise seemed to have died long ago, and jobs banks have been, from the perspective of folks down here, kind of abused ever since."

Eye for an eye
UAW members say they have foregone increases in pay and benefits over the years in exchange for the job security provided by the jobs bank and would expect to see significant concessions in executive pay and from other constituencies if they are to give up that protection.

"People just think we're a bunch of overpaid autoworkers," said Mike Mitchell, 35, an assembly worker at GM's Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City, Kan. "If we're laid off for 12 months because we worked overtime for half a year and then had too many vehicles in inventory, who screwed up?"

If the automakers are going to be allowed to eliminate the long-held security of the jobs bank, he said, they better act more responsibly in their production plans and work steadily to produce vehicles.

They also better include significant executive sacrifice, he said.

"When they present the plan to Congress on Dec. 2," he said, "each party to this is going to have to make major concessions, or there's going to be a problem."

Contact KATIE MERX at 313-222-8762 or Staff writers Justin Hyde and Brent Snavely contributed to this report.

Las Vegas Sun, November 22, 2008, Saturday

Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2008, Saturday

Las Vegas Sun

Revisiting public workers’ pay

Local governments are asking unions to give them unprecedented breaks

Sam Morris

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid talks with reporters Thursday after a meeting in which he asked the heads of three unions — police, fire and the SEIU — for adjustments to existing contracts that would help the county avert layoffs and keep labor costs under control. “A meeting like we had has never been seen,” Reid said.

By Megan McCloskey, Michael Mishak

Sat, Nov 22, 2008 (2 a.m.)

In a state that prizes small, limited government, public employees have always been the exception, insulated from the economic ups and downs of the private sector. That is, until now.

Sun Archives
County weighs budget cuts (10-17-2008)
Lawmakers look to public for ideas (10-6-2008)
Beyond the Sun
Official Clark County Web site
For the first time in Nevada’s history, county and city governments are turning to public employee unions, strongly suggesting labor leaders reopen existing contracts and make some concessions — or face the prospect of layoffs.

Clark County officials, led by Commission Chairman Rory Reid, met with leaders of the Service Employees International Union and the police and fire unions Thursday to deliver the grim news. Expenses are outpacing revenues, Reid said. Thus, current labor costs are simply unsustainable, he said.

The three unions represent 12,000 workers, and their leaders bristled.

“A meeting like we had has never been seen,” Reid said later. Prior to this week, reopening contracts has “never even been suggested as an option.”

In labor-friendly Las Vegas, it’s a striking development. Indeed, the sensitivity of such a suggestion was clear, with labor leaders saying Reid tactically waited until a news conference to utter: “Everything is on the table.”

Similarly, Las Vegas, facing a $150 million deficit over the next five years, has met with four unions to discuss labor costs, which account for 75 percent of the city’s budget. The City Council is expected to address the issue Dec. 3.

Nationally, the move is hardly unprecedented. Citing budget shortfalls, counties and state governments across the country are examining the possibility of revisiting labor pacts to save money.

California and New York, typically labor-friendly states, are looking to temper costs by reducing state employee pay.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to mandate monthly, one-day unpaid furloughs for all state employees for the next 19 months. He is also proposing to slash Columbus Day and Lincoln’s birthday from the calendar and stop premium pay for those who work on the remaining 11 paid holidays. State agencies would also be encouraged to establish 10-hour, four-day workweeks.

Those changes would require legislative approval.

In New York, Gov. David Paterson is asking unions to forgo next year’s negotiated 3 percent pay hike.

Public employee unions are fighting back in both states.

Richard Hurd, a labor relations expert at Cornell University, said the country has not seen such a widespread movement toward labor renegotiation since the 1992 recession. Back then, New York City municipal workers, for instance, gave back millions in wages to avert layoffs.

Still, Hurd noted that such union concessions are typically voluntary. “Unless an agreement is reached, the contract is binding and the employer’s options are limited,” he said. “They always have the option of eliminating jobs or laying people off.”

Concessions often take the form of reduced pension contributions and postponed or waived raises, Hurd said. Generally, a union’s first step is to work with the government to find cost savings. Indeed, all three unions here have asked to examine the county’s books before revisiting their contracts.

For its part, the county began instituting a three-part cost containment plan in May, curtailing employee travel, restricting overtime to “critical purposes” and leaving 350 budgeted positions vacant. Last month, County Manager Virginia Valentine asked department heads to examine their individual budgets to identify further cuts. Those officials will report back next month. Also, The County Commission approved a plan this week to cut a dozen programs and services at University Medical Center, including its outpatient oncology center and high-risk obstetrical unit.

With part three comes possible layoffs.

The county is in this position, in part, because of considerable overtime costs, which until this year had been increasing. From 2002 to 2007, county overtime jumped 151 percent. The county knocked off — “with some tweaking here and there” — $3.5 million this year, bringing costs down to $26 million from last year’s $29.5 million, according to county spokesman Erik Pappa. (The Sun reported in February 2007 that Southern Nevada has three times the national average of public employees making six-figure salaries.)

One union, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents Metro and corrections officers, is refusing to reopen its contract, saying it would be all but pointless because the union’s contract expires in June and is accounted for in the county budget.

President Chris Collins is less than thrilled with the prospect of his union being the first to negotiate a new contract because it could set the standard for public-employee contracts in the new economy.

The jockeying has begun and the police union’s stance could foreshadow some inter-union tension.

If layoffs are necessary, Collins said, workers in nursing and fire and police services should be treated differently from other county employees.

“I think if you ask someone on the street if they would rather cut a police officer or cut county employee ‘B’, they’ll pick B,” he said. “The people who provide for the safety and welfare of the citizens in our valley, that should be our very last cut.”

Ed Burke, executive director of SEIU Local 1107, wasn’t as quick to abandon solidarity, but defended his members’ value: “I can make the same case for child protection. We’re just as important as the others.”

Investor's Business Daily, November 21, 2008, Friday

Copyright 2008 Investor's Business Daily, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Investor's Business Daily

November 21, 2008, Friday



5 Must firms cut prices to compete? Some experts argue that emphasizing value will win more customers in the long run. How?

** Rise above them. "Beyond Price" co-author Mary Kay Plantes says that in any industry, only one player can succeed on price. "The recession is only magnifying that issue," she told IBD.

Competitors who don't have the best bargains can earn customer loyalty by offering superior quality. "Always re-member that customers care about value," she said.

** Enhance the ride. Harley-Davidson doesn't just sell motorcycles. "They offer products that deepen the expe-rience for their customers," Plantes said. That means accessories, clothes and ride planning tools that create an entire lifestyle.

** Smooth the sale. Pennsylvania-based Springs Window Fashions calls itself the "best experience company" be-cause its mission is to take the hassle out of buying window blinds.

"They focus on giving the very best experience to the retail stores that are selling their product," Plantes said.

** Reframe your focus. Robert Finfrock, the other "Beyond Price"author, built his business selling precast concrete components used for parking garages. As industry competition increased, he realized general contractors were buying on price and availability, not value. So he transformed his firm into Finfrock Design-Manufacture-Construct.

By selling a start-to-finish solution directly to building owners, he increased his business tenfold.

"A competitor can copy a product, but it's hard for them to copy a whole business model," Plantes said. "That's conceptual work."

** Go to school. Identifying a business's advantage was one of 13 recession topics presented last month by instructors at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

School director Gene Boccialetti says the portfolio of special workshops was being developed when the economic downturn made it more pertinent. "This is the time to do intense learning programs throughout an organization," Boccialetti told IBD. "One thing we know is that pulling back on learning in a broad way is pretty dangerous."

** Take a page. From history. So says Andrew Razeghi, author of "Hope: How Triumphant Leaders Create the Future." He cites Henry Luce for launching Fortune magazine four months after the 1929 stock market crash. Luce bet that people would pay for his glossy inside look at the culture of business, so he charged $1 per issue -- an extravagant amount vs. the 5-cent Sunday edition of the New York Times.

Luce's gamble paid off. Fortune's circulation grew from 30,000 subscribers in 1930 to 460,000 in 1937.

"There are folks who see opportunity at those times, and that's certainly a good lesson for us now," Razeghi told IBD.

** Pursue star projects. For a more recent example, Razeghi points to Apple's iPhone. "The R&D (for the iPhone) was happening during the last recession in 2001," he said.
While other firms pulled back, Apple's Steve Jobs pushed to develop a top-notch product. Razeghi said the time is now to pursue that kind of "Hail Mary pass" project.

LOAD-DATE: November 20, 2008, November 20, 2008, Thursday

Copyright 2008 U.S. News & World Report
All Rights Reserved

November 20, 2008, Thursday

HEADLINE: Obama Plan to Grant TSA Workers More Union Rights Renews Debate Over Security Effect

BYLINE: Amanda Ruggeri

Previous attempts were blocked by worries it could reduce TSA's flexibility in emergencies.

The Transportation Security Administration received a big promise in one of the nine letters that Barack Obama sent to federal agencies before his election that he will fight for collective bargaining for TSA workers.

Obama's statement, which says that making good on his long-held stance will be a "priority" for his administration, may reignite an old battle.

At stake, say opponents, is public safety. Their concern is that TSA's flexibility in responding to emergencies would be limited by having to come to collective agreement before shifting workers, altering procedures, or changing schedules. The head of TSA, Edmund "Kip" Hawley, has testified that collective bargaining "would not provide the flexibility required to wage war against terrorism."

But not everyone agrees.

"What does this have to do with anything other than fair pay for fair work?" says Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer for the telecom group BT. "There is no security reason. This is just plain dumb."

Supporters of the change, like Schneier, point out that other workers deemed responsible for public safety like po-lice and firemen are heavily unionized. And many other federal employees, including those who deal with national se-curity like border patrol agents and customs officers, have the right to collectively bargain.

"In 9/11, the first responders all were organized, and there wasn't one grievance filed. There wasn't one problem," says Emily Ryan, spokesperson for the American Federation of Government Employees, which has been fighting for collective bargaining for the TSA. "It's a lame excuse to block these workers from having workplace rights."

Opponents say that TSA workers already have key rights. They're allowed to join unions, which can represent them at disciplinary and other personnel proceedings. Whistle-blowers and those who allege discrimination are protected, they say.

In the past, the security argument has won out. Last year, in the face of a presidential veto threat and strong Republican opposition, a provision that would have granted TSA workers collective bargaining rights was dropped from a national security bill.

But proponents say that the final agreement to set up collective bargaining can ensure flexibility in emergency situ-ations, as have agreements for similar professions. Besides, they say, it hasn't been argued that protection of the public by police or firefighters will be altered by unionizing. "And yet," says Richard Hurd, a Cornell University professor of industrial and labor relations, "for some reason, the workers who check luggage at airports somehow are not as trust-worthy if they're represented by unions. It just doesn't make much sense."

Potential effects on flexibility depend on the mind-set of the union, says Stewart Verdery, former DHS assistant secretary for policy and planning. "If the union is willing to work with them on having flexibility on staffing and duties, then it could work," he says. "If they are trying to make life difficult for the federal security directors who run the air-ports, then it could be a major problem for TSA's mission."

But as for strikes one of the big worries of critics they'd be simply illegal, as they are for all federal employees. That's something air traffic controllers learned the hard way in 1981, when all of those who continued to fail to report to work were fired. Similarly, although police are some of the most heavily unionized workers, disruptions of their services are rare. In his almost 40 years of studying labor relations, says Hurd, he doesn't recall ever seeing an instance in which police or firefighters endangered public safety as part of labor negotiations.

Some say that collective bargaining could even improve the TSA. The agency's attrition rates have been falling, but they're still high voluntary attritions are at nearly 17 percent, compared with a little over 2 percent for other federal civilian employees. And their injury and illness rate is nearly six times that of those working other federal jobs. If they can negotiate better working situations, say advocates, then more skilled, educated workers will be attracted to the job and stay there longer.

But overall, the effect of a collective bargaining agreement on security would, most likely, be negligible.

"No one would notice, including me," says Hurd. "The only thing you might notice is that you might see someone, on occasion, with a lapel pin saying that they're union."

LOAD-DATE: November 21, 2008

Chicago Tribune, November 20, 2008, Thursday

Chicago Tribune

November 20, 2008, Thursday

Chicago Tribune

Meltdown 101: What you need to know about collecting unemployment benefits

By CANDICE CHOI AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ The numbers are alarming — Citigroup alone plans to lay off 53,000 people.

With the seemingly endless stream of news about job cuts in recent weeks, you may be wondering about your own job security. How would you get by if you were suddenly out of work?

For the uninitiated, filing for unemployment may conjure images of standing in long lines to fill out forms, but that's not the case.

Eligibility and compensation vary by state, but a few general guidelines apply across the board. Most states, for instance, now require people to apply for benefits online or by phone.

That may make filing easier for the freshly out-of-work. More than 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year. Last month, the unemployment rate jumped to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent and 10.1 million people are now looking for work.

Next year isn't looking any better, with the rate expected to climb to 8 percent or higher.

Here are some questions and answers about how to make the most of your unemployment benefits.

Q: Am I eligible?

A: Most employees who lost their jobs through no fault of their own are eligible. If you were fired for misconduct or quit, don't bother applying.

In certain circumstances, resigning isn't a deal breaker. One example is if you left your job because your spouse was relocated.

"It depends on the case, but it has to be for a compelling reason," said Rick Marino, director of unemployment insurance in New York state.

You may be eligible even if you take a company buyout, so long as there was a likelihood you would've been laid off otherwise, Marino said.

Each state also has its own eligibility criteria based on how long you worked and how much money you earned before being laid off. Generally, anyone who worked full-time for a year will likely qualify — and sometimes the minimum is shorter than that.

Q: When do I need to file?

A: Filing quickly is in your best interest.

The value of your unemployment check is generally determined by a "base period." That means your earnings in the months leading up to your filing will be used to calculate your benefits.

If you wait too long to file, you may be averaging in time where you didn't earn any money, which could potentially lower your benefits.

Some states have "alternative base periods" or other loopholes to prevent delayed filings from affecting benefits. But to avoid any confusion, it's best to file quickly.

Q: How do I file?

A: If you commute to work in another state, file for benefits where your employer is located — not where you live.

Most states now require people to file for benefits by phone or online, said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, based in New York.

Information you'll need when filing might include:

— Your Social Security number.

— Registration number for former employers (this can be found on your W2 tax forms).

— Dates and places where you worked in the last 12 months to 18 months (not just your most recent employer).

After filing, you'll need to check in weekly or biweekly to continue getting benefits. That usually involves answering automated questions online or by phone about your ongoing job search.

Q: How much will I get?

A: On average, states replace 50 percent of wages, with a cap on how much you can get.

In California, for instance, the maximum weekly benefit is $450, regardless of how much you earned. Florida's cap is $275 while Hawaii's is $523.

Most states also provide additional funds for dependents — usually a fixed sum. In Massachusetts, for instance, the allowance is $25 per dependent.

Benefits can now usually be paid through direct deposit, said Thomas Golden, director at Cornell University's ILR School, which focuses on labor policy and issues.

Q: How long can I collect benefits after filing?

Benefits typically last for up to 26 weeks. This summer, the federal government temporarily extended benefits for up to 13 additional weeks because of the worsening economic climate. The extension applies to anyone who exhausted benefits in the past two years or files through March, Stettner said.

The White House also said Thursday that President George W. Bush would sign legislation to extend benefits through the holidays and into the new year for Americans whose benefits were running out. The House had approved the bill in October, and the Senate followed suit Thursday.

All told, benefits can be collected over a 52-week period after filing. So if you find temporary work, you can resume collecting benefits once that job ends.

Q: What else can my unemployment agency do for me?

A: As a result of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, states are required to provide one-stop centers that provide job search, training and referral services.

In New York, for instance, workshops include Excel and PowerPoint lessons and occupational training classes.

Employment centers usually have free Internet and phones to help people with their job search too.

Q: Do I lose benefits if I turn down a job?

A: If your unemployment agency matches you with a job and you turn it down, you may be disqualified for benefits. Though Stettner of the National Employment Law Project said it's rare to be denied benefits because of refusal to work.

He also noted that job matches are most common for lower-wage or entry-level positions.

WIVB Channel 4 News, November 20, 2008, Thursday

WIVB Channel 4 News

November 20, 2008, Thursday

WIVB Channel 4 News

Arthur Wheaton was interviewed by Rich Newburg discussing auto industry bailout plans.

University Wire, November 19, 2008, Wednesday

Copyright 2008 Yale Daily News via U-Wire

University Wire

November 19, 2008, Wednesday

Economy hurts colleges, Yale more stable

BYLINE: By Isaac Arnsdorf, Yale Daily News; SOURCE: Yale U.


With the economy floundering, university presidents around the country have unleashed a flurry of memos in recent weeks, reacting to the crisis with varying degrees of alarm. But throughout, at least one university has been relatively sanguine: Yale.

The University has more flexibility than most, analysts said, thanks to its $22.9 billion endowment. Some of the University's peers already know they are in trouble. But it is not yet clear how hard Wall Street's tumble will hit Yale.

University President Richard Levin said in an interview last week that talk of further University action would have to wait, pending an examination of the economy after the holidays.
In a letter to faculty and staff Oct. 24, Levin said the University anticipated the current economic slowdown and structured its budgets accordingly. Should the economic conditions continue to deteriorate, Levin wrote then, the University would have the option of slowing some of its capital expansion projects. Levin's memo was sent before other university presidents sent their own letters announcing cuts or hiring freezes.

"Everyone is reacting to the same uncertainty, the same sense that endowments are going to drop," Provost Peter Salovey said Friday. "There are different approaches to how to calibrate the expectations of faculty, staff, students and donors."

Just Monday, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it would cut general spending 5 percent next year and 10 to 15 percent in the next three years.

Higher education analysts and experts said the range in universities' reactions owes to the temperament of their trustees and the depth of their coffers. Many schools stretched their budgets thin during the boom years since 2003 with ambitious expansion plans or financial aid initiatives to follow Harvard's and Yale's - projects they are now finding harder and harder to afford.

All universities, experts said, are facing falling revenue streams, but only a few have endowments large enough to withstand the losses. Consequently, other, less well-endowed institutions have had to carry over the losses to their spending.

"Other schools that compete with Harvard, Yale and Princeton for students - but didn't have quite as much money - stretched a little," said Roger Kaufman, an economics professor at Smith College who studies higher education. "Now they're really struggling."

With asset prices plummeting across the board, declines in endowment returns were a near certainty. In a recession, a university's financial strength is determined by how cautious university planners were before the crisis and how overextended their spending commitments are today, said Richard Anderson, an endowment consultant at institutional fund consultant Hammond Associates.

The irony is that the wealthiest universities rely the most on their endowments as a source of operating income, said Ronald Ehrenberg, an economics professor at Cornell University and an expert on higher education. This makes them more vulnerable to market fluctuations, Ehrenberg said.

But wealthy schools still have an advantage in hard times; they can spend a smaller percentage of their endowment while still injecting significant funds into the budget.

The first distress signal in the Ivy League sounded at Ehrenberg's own Cornell, which announced a hiring freeze, construction pause and intensive spending re-evaluation on Oct. 30.

Cornell's endowment supplies about 10 percent of its operating budget - about a quarter of the proportion that Yale's endowment contributes to its revenue. But that's because Cornell's fund is about a quarter the size of Yale's.

"We must carefully balance our concerns about the present with our commitment to preserve this asset, the endowment, for the future," Cornell spokesman Simeon Moss said in an e-mail message. "The endowment enables the university to weather economic storms, such as this. It allows the university to support many programs and initiatives that it wants to have thrive into the future."

Stanford, with its $17 billion fund, is aiming to cut spending by 10 to 12 percent. Although its endowment seems large, it is almost half the size of Yale's per capita.
In an Oct. 29 statement, Stanford provost John Etchemendy explained that each of Stanford's sources of income are falling, especially the endowment, leading the university to project budget cuts. Stanford's news office declined to comment further.

Harvard and Yale are not immune to market turmoil, officials said, but their wealth may help cushion them from cuts like those at other schools. Other schools have already announced reductions because their endowments cannot sustain current operations coupled with plunging returns.

But Harvard's and Yale's can, the analysts said. Whether they should depend on those funds during lean times - or whether they will - is an open question.
Paul Needham contributed reporting.
(C) 2008 Yale Daily News via UWIRE

LOAD-DATE: November 20, 2008

Cornell Chronicle, November 19, 2008, Wednesday

Cornell Chronicle

November 19, 2008, Wednesday

Cornell Chronicle

Men urge men to stop domestic violence

By Mary Catt

When Matt Held -- the lead coordinator of undergraduate dormitories at Cornell -- was a boy, he came home from school one day to a scene he would never forget. In the kitchen, he saw his stepmother badly beaten by his father.

"It looked like she had gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali," he recalled. "It was shocking. It scared the hell out of me."

Abuse can become a family tradition, handed down from father to son. But the image of his stepmother's swollen face made him decide he would never inflict that kind of pain on another person. "I decided right then that I wasn't going to be like my father."

Now, as an adult, Held is a member of a labor and management committee promoting diversity, and has helped the organize skits and other events at Cornell about domestic violence.

Held is featured in a new booklet, "Stand-Up Guys," with five other men who have worked to help prevent violence against women and girls. Organized by Cornell ILR's director of workplace issues, K.C. Wagner, the brochure includes the men's real-life stories and shows "that any man who truly cares about the women and girls in his life can really make a difference," Wagner said.

There were more than 50,000 reported cases of domestic violence in New York state in 2006, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Most perpetrators and victims were members of the same family, and most victims were women or girls.

"Stand-Up Guys" supports two programs led by the ILR School and its strategic project partner Connect in New York City: the Domestic Violence Awareness and Workplace Empowerment Initiative, and Men and Women as Allies. The programs encourage employers, unions and local organizations that provide services to domestic abuse survivors to educate the public about work-related consequences of bullying, domestic and workplace violence. Organizations that fight violence against women and girls are distributing the booklet nationally. "Stand-Up Guys" was funded by a $100,000 grant from the New York State Department of Labor.

Wagner, as part of her work at ILR, examines how domestic violence and adult bullying manifest at work and what supervisors, colleagues and unions can do to help one another fight domestic violence.

Since the 1990s, Cornell's joint labor/management partnerships have played a strategic role in awareness and training campaigns, which have taken root in public- and private-sector businesses and organizations nationally, she said.

"Stand-Up Guys" is available online at Free print copies are available to New York residents and organizations through Wagner at

GRITtv, November 18, 2008, Tuesday


November 18, 2008, Tuesday


Can the Auto Industry Go Green, RFK's Legacy, and the Betrayal


What is the cost of bailing out the auto industry? Well, it may be more complicated than a simple yes or no vote. The real challenge may be coming up with an energy plan that stimulates the economy without destroying the environment. Congress is set to decide this week whether to extend a new $25 billion loan to the Big Three or apportion some of the $700 bailout money to save GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Some say these auto companies are dinosaurs bound for extinction - but if they fold, according to the Center for Automotive Research, as many as 2.5 million jobs could be lost.

On GRITtv Peter Lazes, Director of Programs for Economic Transition at the Cornell University School of Industrial & Labor Relations, Arun Gupta, writer and editor of The Indypendent, writer and filmmaker Mitchell Bard, Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor at The New Republic, and Betsy Rosenberg, the creator and host of EcoTalk Radio weigh the costs of bailing out the auto industry.

"Morristown: In the Air and Sun," a film produced by Anne Lewis and Appalshop, tells the story of labor and immigration in Eastern Tennessee. To find out more about the film and to arrange a screening go to - it's available in both English and Spanish.

Then, on Wednesday a ceremony in Astoria Queens will mark the naming of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Formerly the Triborough Bridge it connects Manhattan to Harlem, the South Bronx, and Queens. Kennedy himself moved to the North Bronx when he was just a few months old and grew up in New York. RFK’s daughter Kerry says that even as a politician her father believed that strength came from working together as a community. And when he campaigned in 1968 Robert Kennedy stood alongside Caesar Chavez, traveled to the Mississippi Delta, to Indian Reservations, and toured Appalachia as a sign of the kind of community he hoped to build. On GRITtv Kerry Kennedy discusses her father’s legacy and the ongoing work of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Finally, Ellen Kuras on her long awaited film The Betrayal. Thavisouk Phrasavath, the film’s co-director and editor, met Kuras after he and his family fled the war-ravaged country of Laos. The Betrayal, recently shortlisted for an Academy Award, tells the story of Thavi, his family, and the impact of war on our collective memory and sense of history. And a commentary from Greg Denier of Change to Win.

Thanks to the American News Project for video in tonight's show.

NPR, November 17, 2008, Monday


November 17, 2008, Monday


Hispanic Turnout May Spur Immigration Overhaul
by Jennifer Ludden

Morning Edition, November 17, 2008 · In recent years, political advice on immigration in both parties has gone something like this: "It's the third rail of politics." "The less said, the better." "If you say anything, talk tough."

But with President-elect Barack Obama's solid win — and his overwhelming support from Latinos — some think that advice may change.

"What the election showed is that the conventional wisdom on why immigration reform is too hot to handle is wrong," says Frank Sharry of America's Voice, a pro-immigration lobbying group.

More Hispanics than ever voted, and they voted 2-to-1 for Obama over McCain. Sharry says Latino support was decisive in helping deliver the swing states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. And polls show it was the immigration issue — specifically some in the Republican Party who demonized illegal immigrants — that helped drive Latinos to the Democrats.

"The large, vocal anti-immigrant vote that has hijacked the Republican Party — they have a lot of bark but not a lot of bite," Sharry says. "They couldn't turn elections."

Sharry's group tracked 18 close congressional races that pitted an enforcement-oriented Republican against a pro-legalization Democrat; in nearly all, the Democrat won. As a senator and during the presidential campaign, Obama also expressed support for legalizing an estimated 12 million immigrants, provided they pay a fine, pay back taxes and learn English.

Does that mean an immigration revamp in Obama's first 100 days? Well, it's not likely, and if nothing else that's because of the economy. Labor economist Vernon Briggs of Cornell University says it's harder to argue for legalizing millions of low-skilled immigrants when many more low-skilled Americans are likely to find themselves out of work.

"The unemployment rates for unskilled workers without high school diplomas, or only a high school diploma, are the highest in the United States," says Briggs. "There's no indication that our labor force is in desperate need of unskilled, poorly educated, non-English speaking workers."

Supporters of legalization see it differently, arguing that the best way to make sure immigrants do not pose an unfair threat to American workers is to make the immigrants legal. But even ardent immigrant advocates admit the economic collapse does change something else.

"It probably takes off the table the creation and rapid implementation of any major new guest-worker program," says Craig Regelbrugge of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

Still, even if there's no support for bringing in new workers, Regelbrugge sees an argument for legalizing agricultural workers already in the United States. Seventy percent of them are believed to be undocumented, and he says these jobs do not disappear in a bad economy. Regelbrugge says efforts to find Americans to take agriculture jobs have failed, but each immigrant worker supports three to four other U.S. workers.

"So to the extent that Freida the fertilizer salesperson or Chuck the cheese factory worker are worried about their own well-being, so too they should be worried about Miguel the milker and Pepe the peach picker," he says. "Their jobs are here together, and if the production moves, the American jobs move, too."

With the economic crisis, health care and energy dominating the political agenda, the Obama administration and the next Congress may well be tempted to keep pushing off immigration.

But if they do, lobbyist Sharry would urge them to think about 2012 and the decisive Latino vote that will have grown even bigger by then. Sharry believes Democrats will need to push an immigration overhaul to satisfy this now crucial constituency. And if the diminished Republican Party hopes to win back that Hispanic support, it could be harder for them to oppose it.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2008, Friday

The Chronicle of Higher Education

November 14, 2008, Friday

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Why Colleges Should Offer 3-Year Diplomas


Educators need to be more imaginative in finding ways to slow or reduce the alarming rise in the cost of college. Since 1981 higher education has been the fastest-growing component of the Consumer Price Index, and tuition rates at nearly all institutions show few signs of leveling off.

For the 2006-7 academic year, tuition and fees at public institutions rose 6.3 percent, and those at private colleges increased 5.9 percent, both double the inflation rate. The College Board estimates that, to pay such tuition bills, students and their parents borrowed more than $157-billion from the federal government in 2005-6 and at least $17-billion from private lenders. That escalation has become a serious worry for parents, state legislators, and economists.

In Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much (Harvard University Press, 2000), Ronald G. Ehrenberg, an economist and director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, details the ingenious attempts to reduce expenditures when he became Cornell University's vice president for academic programs, planning, and budgeting, in 1995. He paints a vivid picture of how so many faculty members pay little attention to the rising costs at their institutions and tend to behave like independent entrepreneurs or henchmen in their disciplines, ignoring their universities' need to be more frugal.

Higher education's costs cannot be reduced much more through additional incremental cuts. Only major structural redesign can result in significant decreases. And colleges need to introduce some major alterations, if only to show the public that academe is sensitive to the mounting indignation at ever-increasing tuition and fees.

The health-care field has, to some extent, restructured itself to stem escalating costs in its services. Higher education should follow with its own rationally chosen renovations.

At least two structural reforms could make a difference for anxious students, parents, and legislators. The first is to replace many four-year undergraduate programs with three-year programs. The reasons are numerous. Each year more and more students take Advanced Placement tests, and so a growing number of college students have achieved sophomore status, or close to it, when they enroll.

Further, a higher percentage of college graduates than ever go on to graduate or professional schools, so the necessity for undergraduates to major in some subject for depth in a discipline is undercut — students will "major" in law, engineering, medicine, business, or some other field during their graduate study. More than 90 percent of graduates of the most renowned colleges, and nearly three-quarters of graduates of solid four-year colleges, pursue graduate work. The century-old major requirement is now largely an anachronism, although academic departments continue to argue for its maintenance.

Moreover, college students are usually older now than were students of a century ago. (Charles Eliot, longtime president of Harvard University, entered college at age 15 and graduated before he was 20.) So students may now require less than four years of college life to prepare for the future. Information technology also allows students to learn from online courses and two-way video conferencing, which makes eight semesters on campus less important. Then, too, the explosion in continuing education allows graduates to add a course or two that they might regret not having taken while in college.

In fact, the number of students who finish their undergraduate degrees in seven semesters is growing. At the Johns Hopkins University, for example, more than 20 percent annually complete their degrees at least one semester early.

Undergraduate studies in Britain are three years in length; the same is true at many Canadian universities. Similarly, the European Union agreed in 1999, as part of the Bologna Process, on three years as a common length of undergraduate studies, to rationalize the disparate time arrangements of different European countries.

In the United States, the concept of a three-year baccalaureate is not new; it caught the nation's attention more than 100 years ago, at Harvard. President Eliot thought college took too long, especially with the development of summer schools and the opening of more graduate programs and professional schools. From 1896 to 1900, one-sixth of Harvard students completed their undergraduate work in three years; in 1906, 36 percent of the university's B.A. recipients did so. After World War II, many veterans, with the help of the GI Bill, attended summer school and took extra courses to finish college in three years.

Then, in the early 1990s, S. Frederick Starr, president of Oberlin College, advocated that, at least at selective colleges like his, a three-year bachelor's degree should be introduced, to "reduce the cost to students by nearly one-quarter." For dedicated athletes, underprivileged minority students and immigrant youth, and students who needed some remedial work, some form of preparatory fourth year could be maintained. Two years later, Gerhard Casper, president of Stanford University, joined Starr and proposed that Stanford consider offering a three-year degree to reduce the rising costs of elite higher education and to slow the escalating costs of institutional financial-aid budgets. Casper also believed that the new technology would enable many students to complete courses off the campus. But neither the Oberlin nor the Stanford faculty was more than lukewarm about the proposals.

Today a handful of America's four-year colleges offer a three-year option. But the concept continues to be resisted, and institutions seem content to pass on the four-year financial burden to students, who often need to work part-time and take out loans to pay for rapidly rising tuition.

A second structural change — to help reduce costs for students, support three-year degrees, and use well-equipped campus facilities more efficiently — is for students to attend college year-round, with a four-semester schedule. Some private colleges already use their campuses all year, and several states are considering such a requirement at their public universities. The current two-semester academic year is, in fact, based on the agricultural cycle of the previous century, when many students were needed to help with spring planting and fall harvesting. But colleges no longer need to lie fallow for nearly three months a year.

Switching to year-round operations would require new arrangements to continue giving faculty members the time off to write, travel, and do research. Semesters could be reduced to 12 weeks, and other innovative steps would have to be taken. But a college with a four-semester scheme could not only cut costs for students by reducing their time to degree completion, but also increase its own revenues. Moreover, such a change would help diminish two of the public's criticisms of higher education: that institutions are prodigal and inefficient, and that many professors have too soft a life, with a work year of only eight to nine months.

One could point to other structural alterations to the American higher-education enterprise that should be considered — for example, truly reforming collegiate athletics by professionalizing Division I football and basketball, or reducing the number of administrators. While publications on planning nearly always offer better strategic ways to compete against other rival institutions, very few analyses offer ideas for fundamental change that can truly reduce the escalating price of college. But although small incremental improvements and better strategic methods and designs may continue to help academe, it is clear that further financial tinkering within the century-old structure of higher education is no longer sufficient.

George Keller, who died last year, was chairman of the department of higher-education studies at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education and author of Academic Strategy (1983) and Transforming a College (2004), published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. This essay is adapted from Higher Education and the New Society, published this month by Johns Hopkins.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Managing Accounts Payable, December 2008

Copyright 2008
Institute of Management & Administration

All Rights Reserved

Managing Accounts Payable

December 2008


HEADLINE: Layoffs: How to Make the Most of a Difficult Situation


Main Article

Probably the most dreaded task of any AP manager is to lay off someone. Unfortunately, layoffs have become all too common during the current economic turmoil. There's no easy way to do it, but there are some things to do that will help make the task less onerous.

Should Be Rational

While there may not be a good layoff, employment analysts say, a better layoff is possible if an organization approaches the downsizing rationally; communicates effectively and early; supports managers conducting the job cuts; offers counseling and training for laid-off employees, and their families if necessary; and invests in the remaining workers.

"Companies are so afraid of lawsuits about favoritism that instead of creating a logical plan to do with merit, competence, or need, what they do is the great 'fairness' thing, which is typically the first in, first out system," said ArLyne Diamond, founder of Diamond Associates, a management consulting firm in Santa Clara, Calif.

"They penalize some very good people, and since the rumor mill always knows what's going on ahead of time, the best people leave early and get other jobs," Diamond said.

Do It Strategically

Employers should be upfront about where job cuts will occur, Diamond said, to avoid unwanted attrition. Moreover, management should announce that there are some critical areas where there will not be layoffs--if this is the case--and explain the situation as early as possible, she said.

Patrick M. Wright, director of the Cornell University Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed that when a layoff becomes inevitable, a major challenge for the company involved is to figure out where to make cuts. It does not make sense, he said, to think about a 10 percent layoff across the board "where you're laying off 10 percent of your R&D scientists when your future is built on generating new discoveries."

He said that corporate headquarters is not always the best place to decide which jobs to cut. "I think one way to think about it--instead of talking about numbers of jobs to cut--is to think about a reduction in labor costs," Wright said. "And let companies or business units figure out how they're going to achieve that reduction."

Sometimes employers can avoid layoffs with this approach, perhaps cutting hours and using other creative approaches, rather than eliminating jobs, Wright said. It is easier for a company to boost hours if things pick up again than it is to bring back employees who have been laid off, he added.

Diamond said that while re-hiring laid-off employees happens, it is not a desirable approach. "The back and forth is bad for everyone," she said. "It's like taking the romance out of a marriage. Once trust is broken, it's almost impossible to build it back again. The employment contract is first and foremost a relationship."

Model Approach

In an article titled "Managing a Downsizing Process," in Human Resource Management magazine, author and University of Colorado business professor Wayne Cascio sites Palo Alto, Calif., company Agilent for its intelligent and caring approach to a 2001 layoff.

The company took extensive measures to avoid letting employees go, Cascio said, such as instituting a hiring freeze, followed by a mandatory three-month across-the-board pay reduction of 30 percent. But when a layoff became inevitable due to continued dropping market demand, Agilent handled the process with honesty and integrity, according to Cascio. He cited Agilent as a model of how to conduct a downsizing in a caring way and how to communicate that caring. Cascio said that employees supported the cuts at the company, and morale was not destroyed.

Layoffs should always be an employer's last resort, he said. "Where a layoff doesn't make good sense is when companies do it only because their competitors are doing it or they're trying to reassure investors that they're taking some tangible action, to show Wall Street that they're doing something," Cascio said. Unfortunately, he said, "it happens a lot."

Dignity and Respect

If cutting jobs arbitrarily is the biggest mistake companies make during a layoff, Diamond said, the second biggest is treating employees like thieves--escorting them out of the building at the time of termination--because of an excess fear of security breaches. "You need to treat people with care, respect, and dignity," she said.

"There will always be the one or two people you can't trust at the highest and lowest levels," she said, "but if the people you're firing were going to steal the secret sauce, they would have already done it." Instead, Diamond said, companies should be providing all the resources possible to prepare a laid-off employee for another job and sometimes another career.

She said that one of her pet peeves is laid-off employees not getting competent career counseling. Employees who are leaving need help with everything from updating their resumes to dealing with personal stress, Diamond said. And when the employee being let go is the family's primary breadwinner, she said, other family members may need counseling as well.

Dealing With the Survivors

In the wake of a layoff, the survivors--employees not laid off--may feel guilty about their good fortune, warned Laura Crawshaw, founder of Executive Insight Development Group Inc. in Portland, Ore. Moreover, she said, if the company has not given a lot of advance warning about job cuts, communicated a sense of caring, and treated exiting employees with the utmost humaneness, the remaining employees "will also be fearing that the next knock on the door" will be announcing a layoff for them.

Crawshaw said a company should be truthful about its rationale for layoffs, something along the lines of: "Our intent was to build the organization; our goal was to grow and have many happy employees. But the fact of the matter is that the market has changed. To our deep regret, we've had to close divisions."

Finding the Silver Lining

Cascio noted that layoffs are not always a bad thing for companies. "Sometimes organizations are just overstaffed, and you don't have any choice," he said. "You have to get rid of excess capacity. Other times you might just have an asset that's not performing well, and somebody else can make much better use of it."

"But the broader point," Cascio said, "is that you can't just pretend the company is the same. It's not." He said that the employees who remain following a downsizing will need training for new or altered jobs.

"If you go on a crash diet, you have to have new clothes," he said.

This article is adapted from Making Job Cuts Less Cutting: Honesty, Conveying Caring and Respect Recommended, which appeared in the July 28, 2008, issue of the Human Resources Report, published by the Bureau of National Affairs (


Sidebar: Delivering the Bad News to a Laid-Off Employee

For employees who get the pink slip, caring and respectful treatment by their employers can soften the blow. Consultant Laura Crawshaw says that being fired is a sort of death--the termination of one's work life. "The employee is being confronted with a major loss," she said, and whether or not it works out in the long run, at that moment it is traumatic.

So how do you lay someone off "in the most humane fashion?" While managers need to pay attention to legal and other limitations, Crawshaw said, they also need to understand the emotional realities of the situation. Because of their difficult role, managers may tend to "retreat into the automaton" mode, Crawshaw said. But managers with the task of firing people must understand the emotional aspects, she said.

"The bottom line is treating people with dignity and respect in that moment," she said. "In my view, you let people be who they need to be at that moment; they might be quiet, get angry, criticize the organization, vent about a certain supervisor, and I think a respectful response is to listen.

"Understand you're not going to fix it or solve it or hand a job back or defend the company's decision. Trying to do that will be frustrating and provocative," Crawshaw said. The best approach is to "reflect back that you're listening," she noted.

Employees' reactions to being laid off are different. Some can be either "fight or flight," Crawshaw said. A fight response might be arguing or attacking a supervisor or attacking the person doing the terminating, she said. A manager needs to understand that the employee being let go is trying "to survive this moment," she said, adding, "If you understand that, you can have a lot more empathy. You won't take it as personally." Crawshaw said those in the "flight" mode are in shock and not thinking clearly; they can withdraw and not have any questions and just "clam up."

"It's a hard thing," Crawshaw said of laying off workers. "You may need some support, certainly talk to HR, your boss, and others who've been through it before."

(Source: BNA's Human Resources Report)

Sidebar: Delivering the Bad News to a Laid-Off Employee

LOAD-DATE: October 31, 2008

The Canadian Press, November 13, 2008, Thursday

The Canadian Press

November 13, 2008, Thursday

The Canadian Press

Public art is big money for NYC, but economic impact questioned

NEW YORK — The city has hosted two grand public art installations in the last three years: the saffron fabric "Gates" exhibit in Central Park in 2005 and the recent "Waterfalls" show near the shorelines of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In both cases, officials said the projects generated staggering amounts of money for New York. They said that "The Gates" brought in a whopping US$254 million and four million visitors, and "The Waterfalls" generated $69 million and attracted an estimated 1.4 million visitors.

Impressive numbers - especially in tough economic times.

But how does the city come up with such detailed attendance and economic impact numbers for these privately funded projects that are free to the public? And how does it determine the projects' spillover benefits to hotels, restaurants, businesses and other cultural institutions?

It's a complex methodology that includes survey responses, ridership data from tour boats and mass transit, visitor head counts, hotel and restaurant bookings, retail and souvenir sales, and attendance rates at other cultural institutions. Websites also are analyzed to determine how many people are posting blog items and photos about the exhibits.

But some experts have questioned the accuracy of those numbers, saying that figures such as a quarter-million dollars in economic impact for "The Gates" seems a little extreme.

"The thing about 'The Gates' and 'The Waterfalls' is that it's in the open air so it's difficult to assess how big the crowd is," said Cathy Lanier, a researcher at the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University.

"I know that the work on 'The Gates' was criticized by others. They just didn't believe that the numbers were that high," said Lanier, who has done three large-scale studies on the economic impact of art institutions for the Port Authority.

She did not review the Economic Development Corp.'s 26-page report on the projects' affect on the local economy, but said the methodology was basically sound, based on a commonly used impact model.

Public art has become big business in New York in recent years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called public art "a signature of New York City" that inspires New Yorkers, helps bring in visitors, swells its coffers and burnishes the city's image as a world cultural destination.

The Economic Development Corp. said that 'The Waterfalls,' by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, "demonstrated once again how public art makes New York one of the world's great places to live, work and visit."

After the 16-week show closed Oct. 13, Bloomberg said it had exceeded the city's expectations by $14 million.

"We've always understood that we have to encourage big, bold projects that set our city apart, and this will be increasingly important while areas of our economy are struggling from the turmoil on Wall Street," he said.

The four scaffoldlike waterfalls, about 27 metres to 36 metres high, were visible along the shores of Manhattan and Brooklyn and Governor's Island. They were illuminated after sunset.

The project's estimated $69 million included $15.5 million raised by the nonprofit Public Art Fund - which commissioned the project - to construct, operate and dismantle the falls.

Another $26.3 million came from "incremental visitor spending and the indirect economic impact of these expenditures," the EDC report said.

Visitor surveys at seven vantage locations found that 23 per cent, or 320,000 people, who visited 'The Waterfalls' were making their first foray to the Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan waterfronts. Of the 1.4 million visitors, some 79,000 people were out-of-town tourists who made the trip specifically to see the falls.

Over the past six years, the city has spent large sums to redevelop its once neglected waterfront, and the exhibit was a high-profile way to showcase it and the surrounding neighbourhoods as a destination.

The EDC also relied on Department of Transportation data, which estimated hundreds of thousands of "incidental sightings" of 'The Waterfalls' by people who travelled daily by ferry, car, bicycle and subway on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and surrounding highways.

Ferry and boat tour operations created special 'Waterfalls' cruises that provided some of the most exact numbers. For example, the Circle Line Downtown tours reported a total of 213,000 passengers on special daily 'Waterfalls' cruise during the exhibition's run.

Economic impact information also was gleaned from various other events created around 'The Waterfalls.' Hotels offered special overnight 'Waterfalls' packages and vouchers, restaurants catered 'Waterfalls'-themed dinners, walking tours combined culinary sites with 'Waterfalls' views, and schools organized special 'Waterfalls' outings.

Through visitor interviews and surveys, the city learned that 95 per cent of all out-of-towners to 'The Waterfalls' saw at least one other show, museum or cultural attraction during their stay. It also surmised that people from at least 55 countries saw 'The Waterfalls.'

Indirect measures of the installation's success came from websites such as, which posted 6,000 'Waterfalls' photographs. There were also 1,200 blog postings and more than 200 YouTube videos of the falls.

Similar criteria were used for the 'Gates' exhibition, which festooned 37 kilometres of Central Park pathways with more than 7,500 metal gates draped in orange fabric for two weeks in February 2005.

Rickshaw and horse buggy rides and concession stands in the park provided some of the most exact numbers. These tourist attractions - normally suspended in the winter for lack of business - were reinvigorated for the exhibition, and reported booming business. Museums and restaurants in and around the park also reported a huge increase in patrons.

'Gates' souvenirs alone accounted for approximately $4 million. Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who financed the entire project themselves, presented the city with a $3 million donation. They also hired 700 New Yorkers to install and tear down the exhibit.

Public art in New York City is not a new phenomenon.

The city has had a partnership with the Public Art Fund over the past 30 years that has resulted in many popular installations. Some were smaller,such as "Sky Mirror," a stainless steel concave sculpture by award-winning artist Anish Kapoor that was planted in tourist-saturated Rockefeller Center for nine days in 2006.

In 2000, a whimsical installation called "Cow Parade" saw some 500 life-size fibreglass cows, each decorated by a different artist, strewn throughout the city. They were later auctioned to raise money for local charities.

And as one public art project closes, another seems to open elsewhere.

In late October, a luminous, futuristic-looking art pavilion by London architect Zaha Hadid opened in Central Park. Chanel, which commissioned the Mobile Art project to resemble the designer's classic quilted, chain-handle purse, paid the city a $400,000 "use fee" and pledged a donation in the seven figures to the Central Park Conservancy.

On the Net:

The Buffalo News, November 9, 2008, Sunday

The Buffalo News

November 9, 2008, Sunday

The Buffalo News

Business booms at Cameron Compression
Strong export markets, good labor relations keep plant humming

By Matt Glynn

Inside Cameron Compression Systems’ sprawling Cheektowaga plant, workers are assembling massive machines destined for use in places like Switzerland and Saudia Arabia.

About 75 percent of the plant’s business comes from outside the United States, providing some insulation against the faltering domestic economy. The Cheektowaga plant designs and makes gas and air compressors used in a variety of applications, from textile plants to oil and gas refineries to snow-making and the air-separation industry.

Cameron C ompression’s Houston-based parent company has committed a total of about $27 million in capital investment to the Broadway plant in 2007 and this year.

The plant’s employment has risen to about 900 salaried and hourly workers from 325 just six years ago. Since January, the plant has hired about 145 people.

At a time when many area manufacturers are struggling or reducing their work forces, Cameron Compression’s new investments and job growth are noteworthy. Management and union leaders say a good relationship between the two sides has helped foster the growth, and they have received recognition for their cooperation.

“One of the things I find allows us to work together very well is candor and honesty,” said Wayne Krieger, director of operations. “There’s a lot of communication and dialogue back and forth.

“There’s a common denominator: Take care of the customer,” Krieger said. “And it is throughout this building, and it is a major part of our success.”

Union leader Joe Czajka said the two sides “have a pretty good relationship. We have our ups and downs. We work together.”

As chief steward for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Niagara Lodge 330 at the plant, which represents its 327 hourly workers, Czajka has a frontline role in the union.

“I don’t hear too many problems,” said Czajka, a 20-year employee. “If there were problems, I would be the first one to know. For the most part, it’s pretty smooth in the shop.”

Cameron Compression and Machinists Niagara Lodge 330, which is part of the union’s Buffalo-based District 65, were recently named winners of the “Champions at Work” award, presented by the Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo. The award grew out of the school’s 2000 study of productive management-labor relationships at area companies.

Management and labor at Cameron Compression have demonstrated an ability to find common ground, said Reggie Grogan, industry education specialist at the school and Champions at Work coordinator.

“It doesn’t mean they don’t disagree” on some issues, she said.

Nominees for the award are examined for their workplace partnerships, their workers’ pay and skill level and, if applicable, their labor record in facilities in other countries, Grogan said.

Cameron Compression stood out for its workers’ high level of skills, as well as the advanced technology it uses to compete, she said.

While good relations between management and labor can’t guarantee a plant’s future, especially if corporate decisions are directed from elsewhere, they can allow an employer to better endure downturns, she said. “It helps when that working relationship is there.”

The Machinists union has represented the plant’s work force since 1958, when the site was known as Joy Manufacturing. Edward Fik started working at the Broadway plant nearly 45 years ago and recalled only a few labor disruptions during his long employment.

“It proves that people are working together,” said Fik, president of Niagara Lodge 330 and District 65. “Overall picture is, it’s been a good place to work.

“We’re like the couple that’s been married for 25 years,” he quipped.

Company and union officials alike say Cameron Compression’s focus on the international market has fueled its growth. They credit Robert Rajeski, now based in Houston as president of Cameron’s compression systems operating group, with emphasizing opening sales and service offices around the world when he was leading the Cheektowaga location several years ago.

“He had a vision to get into the geographies to get the business,” said Mahesh Joshi, vice president of centrifugal compressors and the plant’s top on-site executive. Today, Cameron Compression Systems has offices in six other countries, including two that opened this year.

Joshi said the plant’s high skill level, in both its engineering and production sides, enables it to compete globally. The systems it produces can run for 20 or 40 years, receiving technological upgrades and maintenance along the way.

Joshi said the systems play a pivotal role where they end up. For instance, in a manufacturing plant, the compressor might create industrial air to operate pneumatic tools, serving essentially as another utility.

“Once our machine is sold, the [customer’s] whole line depends on it,” he said. “The heart of the plant is a compressor.”

Within the corporation, which has 260 locations worldwide, the Cheektowaga site is known for its innovation, said Patricia Liles, director of employee relations and organizational development at Cameron’s Houston headquarters.

“Great ideas come out of this Buffalo location that can be implemented across the company,” she said. The local site is considered one of the corporation’s strongest sources of new-product development.

Turnover in the Broadway plant’s hourly work force is only about 2 percent a year. The average pay for the hourly workers is about $23 to $27 an hour, excluding benefits. Some former American Axle & Manufacturing workers are among the recent hires.

“I think the guys who get hired here, they generally like their jobs,” Czajka said. “That’s one way there is such good job security here.” The current labor contract runs through early August 2009.

Management and union leaders at the plant say they are watching trends in the global economy, knowing that a slowdown could affect production back home. Joshi gives quarterly updates to employees on the state of the business.

Parent company Cameron’s third-quarter earnings report sheds some light on the financial contributions made by the Cheektowaga operation, which is part of the corporation’s compression systems group.

Sales in that group rose 34 percent from a year ago to $164 million, and the parent company said sales of centrifugal compression equipment — whose manufacturing is headquartered in Cheektowaga — accounted for about three-fourths of the revenue increase.

Joshi said divisions within Cameron, such as the one that includes the Cheektowaga plant, are given a lot of autonomy to run their businesses.

“Our corporation does care and they keep checking that we are taking care of our employees,” he said.

Financial Week, November 9, 2008, Sunday

Financial Week

November 9, 2008, Sunday

Financial Week

Unions: It's time to cash check
After spending $400 million on the election, Big Labor wants easier organizing laws

By Neil Roland

As the labor movement seeks to cash in on its huge contribution to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, business groups are trying to play out the clock on legislation to ease union organizing—even citing the credit crisis as a reason to put any new organizing laws on hold.

A bill pushed by labor would give unions rather than companies the choice of having workers vote to organize by signing cards rather than using secret ballots. Opponents worry that union strong-arming could intimidate workers who don't want to openly vote against an organizing effort. But proponents cite studies they say support unions' contention that employers have been using their own strong-arm tactics to deter workers from organizing.

The legislation passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate after a Republican filibuster. It has gained new momentum after labor spent $400 million on the election and assigned 250,000 volunteers who helped drive states such as Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania into Mr. Obama's column.

After the election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers came out with guns blazing.

In a 14-page letter to the president-elect, the manufacturers' group said the Employee Free Choice Act is “anti-worker.” The bill “interferes with the democratic process and would have a negative impact on the rights of manufacturing workers,” the letter said.

Not to be outdone, the Chamber held a press conference last week at which its president, Thomas Donohue, said the bill would increase employers' costs and should take a back seat to legislative efforts to stimulate the economy. “We should wait until after we get economic stabilization and get more people back to work,” Mr. Donohue said.

He warned that the Chamber was not open to compromise and would mobilize its grass roots and use advertising to oppose the bill. The Chamber has already spent “in the single-digit million-dollar range” on advertising against the bill this year, spokesman Justin Hakes said.

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said his group and the umbrella AFL-CIO want the bill passed as soon as possible. “We have the greatest inequality in the history of our country, the middle class is shrinking, and there's not a minute to wait,” he said.

Current law lets companies decide whether unions should be allowed to organize workers through a secret ballot or by getting a majority to sign cards. Labor favors card-signing because it can be done off-site without an employer's knowledge.

Senate Republicans might successfully filibuster the bill again if it is introduced, said one political scientist.

“The public is wary of where unions are these days, so that Republicans can safely filibuster on this without seeming too obstructionist,” said Bruce Cain, director of the University of California's Washington center.

Both labor and business should be open to compromise if it looks as if the bill can't get through Congress, said Thomas Kochan, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“An impasse would perpetuate the terrible adversarial environment, and you wouldn't be able to drive improvements in worker innovation and productivity,” he said.

Some academic studies have found that employers use a variety of tactics to intimidate workers who want to organize.

One out of every 17 eligible voters in National Labor Relations Board elections is fired, suspended, demoted or otherwise economically punished for supporting unionization, according to a two-year study by Oregon University political science professor Gordon Lafer.

“The system is profoundly broken, profoundly undemocratic and, I would say, profoundly un-American,” Mr. Lafer told a congressional committee last year.

Some employers use one-on-one meetings to tell workers to vote against the union, he said. Others delay union elections for months, bar unions from access to employee lists and plaster workplaces with anti-union posters while prohibiting unions from posting.

Cornell University labor professor Kate Bronfenbrenner said employer intimidation is getting worse because globalization enables managers to use the threat of outsourcing, and improved technology allows electronic surveillance.

Chamber of Commerce lawyer Charles Cohen has countered that unions typically win 60% of all elections involving new organizing, the same rate as 40 years ago. FW

Write to Neil Roland at Or write to the editors at

WBEN AM, November 7, 2008, Friday

WBEN AM, November 7, 2008, Friday

Arthur Wheaton was interviewed discussing the GM financial crisis.


Denver Post, November 6, 2008, Thursday

Denver Post

November 6, 2008, Thursday

Denver Post

Election a giant step for labor

Obama's win and the defeat of Amendment 47 help the groups.

By Andy Vuong

Organized labor emerged victorious nationally and in Colorado on Election Day, as its work helped propel perhaps the most union- friendly presidential candidate in years to the White House and defeat an anti-labor Colorado ballot measure.

Labor groups have a strong ally in President-elect Barack Obama, who included references to union members in his 30-minute infomercial last week and closed his campaign with a last-minute stop at a United Auto Workers phone bank in Indiana.

"His ties to the labor movement were upfront," said Richard Hurd, a labor-studies professor at Cornell University. "(Unions) expect that they're going to have much more access to this administration than they had even during the Clinton years, so labor probably feels pretty good today."

Many observers expect unions to make another push to pass the federal Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to organize workplaces. It would eliminate the secret-ballot requirement in workplace elections, making it mandatory, instead of voluntary, for businesses to recognize a union if a majority of their employees sign a union card.

In Colorado, unions helped Democrat Mark Udall win the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Republican Sen. Wayne Allard. They scored another victory when Democrat Betsy Markey won the 4th Congressional District race against incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave, who had previously pushed for a federal "right to work" law.

Unions spent more than $25 million to defeat Amendment 47, the statewide right-to-work ballot measure that sought to prohibit mandatory union fees as a condition of employment.

"What that does is stop the momentum of right-to-work," said Ray Hogler, management professor at Colorado State University.

The last time a statewide right- to-work measure was defeated was in 1978, said union political consultant Steve Welchert.

Labor's victories have some business officials concerned about whether unions will target the Colorado Labor Peace Act next year. The act makes it tougher for unions to mandate union fees, requiring a second supermajority vote after organizing a workplace.

The Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a bill in 2007 that would have eliminated the second vote, but it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter.

"Clearly, organized labor has been energized by its campaign against 47 and by the fracture within the business community that resulted in certain business groups and business leaders aligning with them to fight Amendment 47," said Dan Pilcher, chief operating officer of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209 or