Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sowetan, May 24, 2010, Monday


May 24, 2010, Monday


Why it’s better to date a poor guy

It’s every girl’s fantasy to be swept off their feet by a rich handsome guy, but money can’t make you happy. Right, girl?

Scientists say men with lean bank accounts are emotionally available, faithful and better in bed.

They say the problem with rich guys is that they think that their money is a magic wand that will keep you warm in bed and give you babies!

Girls, sure, being on the arm of a rich guy will land you on the best seats in a restaurant or a bar and when walking into a shoe shop you don’t have to look at the price tag. Dating affluent associates also enhances self-esteem. You’ll feel privileged you were the chosen one.

But if we have gleaned anything from Ralph Zikalala and Zandile Nhlapho, Khanyi Mbau and Mandla Mthembu, Hershelle Gibbs and Tenielle’s sagas , it’s that dating a rich dude comes with its share of headaches and heartaches.

And besides, rich men are often looking for a “trophy girl”.

Fair enough, poor guys have their own disadvantages – like having to listen to all his money worries and a list of his bills for weeks on end but gives you reasons you should give a poor guy a chance:

He’s more likely to be faithful

When Tiger Woods apologized, he implied that he felt entitled by his success to have affairs. He’s not alone. Not only does research show that lower-income guys are less likely to stray, but scientists also found that wealthy men are hypocrites about cheating.

“People in higher positions are more likely to cheat, yet they condemn others who do it because having money and power evokes entitled feelings,” says a study author.

He’ll charm your friends

Men who are low- and middle- income earners are more polite than wealthy guys when they meet new people, reports the journal Psychological Science.

When study authors watched rich and poor guys get acquainted with strangers, the less well-off men talked and laughed more and made more eye contact than the rich, who exhibited rude behaviour such as fidgeting, doodling ... even fixing their hair!

“Men with less money try harder socially because making connections is a survival skill – and rich men may subconsciously believe they don’t need it,” says Dacher Keltner , author of Born to Be Good.

He’ll champion your ambitions

Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology says that successful men can be more sexist than their lesser-paid counterparts. This is likely because they’re usually alpha males who feel it’s a “man’s duty” to provide, says Beth Livingston , an assistant professor of human resources at Cornell University.

Conversely, poorer men are often more supportive of their partners’ careers.
“Couples who encourage each other to fulfill their professional dreams tend to be happier,” says Joshua Coleman , author of Marriage Makeover.

Sex will sizzle

A guy with lighter pockets will try to wow you in bed, says Bethany Marshall , author of Deal Breakers.

“A man will use all of his resources to win a woman’s heart . And if he can’t afford fancy dates, he’ll often aim to excel in the bedroom.”

Reliable Plant, May 24, 2010, Monday

Reliable Plant

May 24, 2010, Monday

Reliable Plant

Toyota investment in Tesla a good move, but requires emission legislation for true success

Art Wheaton, senior extension associate in workforce, industry and economic development in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, comments on Toyota’s $50 million investment in Tesla Motors.

He says: “The long-term viability of a Tesla plant is almost entirely dependent on legislation to force people to drive zero-emission vehicles or force a percentage sale on auto makers. This news should also give Toyota some positive marketing and advertising for being environmentally friendly as it faces media criticism of recalls and unintended acceleration lawsuits. With some good luck and environmental legislation to support zero-emissions vehicles, Tesla could be successful for decades to come.”

Yahoo News, May 24, 2010, Monday

Yahoo News

May 24, 2010, Monday

Yahoo News

States face hurdles in cutting worker benefits

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – State governors working to close yawning deficits are again eyeing a tempting target -- the billions of dollars in benefits and wage hikes that public workers won in boom times.

So far, they have achieved only limited success due to ironclad union contracts, federal and state constitutional protections and lawsuits filed by public workers and others.

The stakes are high. All 50 states have a collective $1 trillion shortfall in their retirement funds, says the Pew Center on the States in Washington.

Some states have hired private workers in certain fields, from prisons to computers. Others have merged agencies, such as Massachusetts, which twinned its mass transit and highway arms.

But another initiative that Massachusetts hopes will save $1 billion over 20 years is more challenging. The commonwealth is waiting for a court to say whether it can cut health benefits for unionized transit workers, said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

"This could be the straw that breaks the back," he said.

The case in Massachusetts, where riders are already expected to endure fare hikes and service cuts for the next several years, illustrates a hurdle for other states faced with unions that enjoy considerable political clout.

Courts in states from Maryland to California have partly blocked unpaid furloughs, although some unions still prefer them to lower pay, as Hawaii's Republican Governor Linda Lingle found after the teachers' union spurned graduated pay cuts.

"They said 'Oh no, we have to treat everybody the same,'" Lingle told Reuters in late April. "I couldn't get them to accept that a furlough costs a lot more to someone at the bottom of the pay scale."

The recession has corroded public willingness to pay public workers more generously.

"It's changing because so many private sector workers are taking such a big hit on their 401(k) plans and lost their defined benefit plans," said Tom Kochan, a management professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. "That's what will stand out in the kind of public irritation at the public sector at the moment."


Most states still offer defined benefit plans that promise to pay retirees set amounts. The high costs have prompted many private companies to switch to thrift plans that pay retirees only what they and their firms contribute.

But many states can only cut benefits for new hires and cannot take away benefits for current workers or retirees.

That is partly because all but a dozen or so states let public unions negotiate contracts, said Joseph Slater, a professor at the University of Toledo College of Law.

"Once you've negotiated a contract, you're pretty much bound by the contract," he said.

Even in those mostly southern states that do not negotiate with unions, statutes can tie politicians' hands and it can be a battle to change them, experts said.

New York state got around constitutional curbs by creating five tiers of less costly pension benefits.

New York City has been allowed to add four tiers since its 1970s fiscal crisis but Mayor Michael Bloomberg now wants a fifth tier. He estimates the average city worker's benefits equal 70 percent of pay -- "and that's just something we can't afford."

Although Illinois has one of the nation's most severely underfunded pension funds, it created a second tier of less generous pension benefits for new hires only this year. But Illinois also raised the retirement age to 67 for the top benefits, which could save $44 billion over 35 years.

Michigan took a different approach, looking to save its school system $3 billion over 10 years.

A new law lets school workers retire early but restricts double-dipping, in which retirees who are rehired by the public sector collect both pensions and wages. The law also requires teachers to pay 3 percent of salary into a healthcare fund.

Deval Patrick, the Democratic governor of Massachusetts, has not persuaded lawmakers to approve major cost savings that would include raising the retirement age by two years to 67 and basing benefits on the five highest years of pay instead of three years, Widmer said.

Some states are pushing their problems out to the future.

New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, wants to delay $3 billion of pension contributions and crack down on benefits and wages for teachers, firefighters and police officers. But New Jersey public workers' unions have sued Christie.

Lee Adler, who teaches at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said while some union contracts remain in force after they expire, some governors are taking advantage of exceptions.

"Rhode Island's governor, after earlier failures to lower public employee benefits, was able to effectively change them by waiting for the contract expiration," Adler said.

In April, a federal court ruled for Rhode Island's Republican governor, Donald Carcieri, who persuaded lawmakers two years ago to slice retiree health benefits after the contract ended.

(Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 19, 2010, Wednesday

Cleveland Plain Dealer

May 19, 2010, Wednesday

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio's public employee pension system joined national debate when it successfully lobbied to keep Hugo Boss factory open

By Olivera Perkins

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Ohio's public employee pension system joined a national debate when it successfully lobbied to keep the Hugo Boss factory open in Brooklyn.

Supporters say public pension funds are right to take a stance on public interest issues like job loss, especially in places like Ohio with double-digit unemployment. But others think such pursuits could jeopardize the financial obligations funds have to pensioners.

The issue arose here because the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the country's 12th largest public pension fund, has invested $80 million in the Permira Advisors private equity fund that owns Hugo Boss, which is based in Germany.

Hugo Boss said in December that it would close the Brooklyn suit factory April 27 because it was not "globally competitive." The plant was profitable, but the company said it could do the work more cheaply by shipping the jobs abroad.

Employees began a seemingly Herculean campaign to save the plant. Demonstrations and rallies, with speaches by actor Danny Glover, played a major role, but so did the out-of-view lobbying by OPERS and other pension funds.

OPERS officials, along with the Workers United employee union, persuaded several of the nation's largest public pension funds to lobby Permira Advisors. Combined, those pension boards have invested about $500 million in the $12.1 billion Permira fund

A few days before the plant was scheduled to close, the union won a three-year contract for its more than 300 workers. Average wages are $10 an hour, a $3 per hour cut. About 80 part-time positions will be eliminated through buyouts. The size of the new workforce won't be set for several weeks, depending on how many workers take buyouts.

OPERS trustee Hugh Quill, director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, believes pension funds should lobby on public issues.

"Rightfully, as a pension fund that plays in these kinds of markets, we should be setting standards about what we will invest in and what we expect of our partners," he said.

But J.W. Verret, an assistant professor at George Mason Law School in Virginia, disagrees.

"The situation puts pension funds into a distinct conflict of interest," he said. "The people who run public pension funds are public officials and political officials who want to use their shareholder leverage to get more votes. If the conflict is not managed properly, it could put pensioners at risk."

OPERS got involved at the request of the Hugo Boss union. A few weeks later the union met with OPERS trustees, urging them to lobby. In February, the pension fund sent a letter Permira voicing its "concerns about future involvement" in the fund because of the Hugo Boss uproar.

Before long, public pension funds in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York City also were lobbing Permira. So was the nation's largest, CalPERS in California, which has a history for such activism.

"We led the way like Ohio, a heartland state, doesn't have a reputation for doing," Quill said. "I think private equity companies took notice, [saying] 'Look we can't afford to be alienating huge institutional investors by the handful or pretty soon we're not going to be able to raise the resources for our next offering.' It was an activist approach that would usually not be associated with OPERS."

Joe Costigan, treasurer of the Midwest region for Workers United, agrees. It was easier to get other funds to sign on after they reviewed Ohio's position, he said.

Experts on both sides of whether public funds should engage in activism said the lobbying most likely worked.

"At the end of the day, Permira is doing a calculation as to whether potentially lowering the value of their investment in Hugo Boss [by keeping the plant open] is worth doing for them at the expense of potentially not getting more money from those pension funds," said professor Steven Kaplan, a private equity authority at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

Kaplan questions activist pension funds because he believes it could compromise a fund's fiduciary responsibility to its members.

Quill said trustees never risked the fund's financial health because its Permira investment wasn't performing well.

"If it was going gangbusters, it would have been less of a slam dunk," Quill said.

Verret, the law professor, said lobbying efforts are increasing among public pension funds, causing the intermingling of pension funds with politics. This concerns him, he says, because pension funds nationally are underfunded by about $1 trillion.

Ken Margolies, director of organizing programs at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations school, said pension funds can argue that they lobby for reasons that affect their bottom lines.

For example, in a letter to Permira, New York City Comptroller John Liu said Hugo Boss' negative publicity could degrade the brand in the United States and pose a "serious and unnecessary" risk to the city's pension funds.

Margolies said such lobbying efforts are more requests than demands, so it is difficult for a company to say it was pressured.

"It is like someone saying: 'I'm one of your best customers, and I wish you would do this,' " he said. "You assume they are saying: 'I might stop shopping there, but they don't put that into words.' "

Kiplinger, May 18, 2010, Tuesday


May 18, 2010, Tuesday


New Leader May Bring Unity to Labor

A unified front will make labor a stronger force in contract negotiations.

A more unified labor movement maybe the result of a leadership change at the Service Employees International Union. The resignation of Andy Stern, the larger-than-life president, and the election of Mary Kay Henry as his replacement, will likely mean much closer ties with the AFL-CIO, maybe even a full reconciliation. Other unions that broke away may also return. “There’ll be more cordiality with the AFL-CIO and down the road there’s the potential for a reunion,” says Richard Hurd, professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

With Stern leading the charge, SEIU and other unions broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the “Change to Win” coalition. At the time Stern emphasized the need to grow union membership and while SEIU grew significantly during Stern’s presidency, other Change to Win unions were not as successful. “It’s difficult to grow labor in an economy that sheds seven million jobs in two years,” says Marick Masters, Director of Labor at Wayne State University.

Henry is expected to focus on healing the divisions in the labor movement. Henry was the head of SEIU’s health care division before being picked by the union’s executive board to fill out the term of Stern. Stern’s candidate, Anna Burger, dropped out of the running as it became clear that support for Henry was substantial.

A united labor movement has a better chance to be more effective. During Stern’s tenure he antagonized many in the labor movement, most notably, a large local in California and Unite Here which represents restaurant and hotel workers. Infighting among unions could give the appearance of labor as weak and divided and could cause employers not to take their demands as seriously as they might if presented with a united front.

Henry vows to maintain a political role, but it won’t be her top priority as it was with Stern, who became one of Obama’s close allies and strategists. “The vote for Henry signals a move back to pre-2006 days when the primary focus was on growth through organizing and NOT politics,” says Hurd.

The Buffalo News, May 15, 2010, Saturday

The Buffalo News

May 15, 2010, Saturday

The Buffalo News

Squeeze tightens on workers, author says
Labor forum hears of rise in insecurity, decline in unions' role

By Matt Glynn

Steven Greenhouse's account of intense economic pressures on American workers hit bookstores in early 2008, just as the recession was taking hold.

The New York Times reporter's book, "The Big Squeeze," detailed the often agonizing struggles working people faced with wages, health benefits, pensions and job security.

Greenhouse said the conditions he analyzed have not gotten any easier since then, with unemployment high, wages flat and less job security. "My book says that in most of the last decade, things were tough for workers. But now things are tougher still."

Greenhouse has covered workplace and labor issues for the Times since 1995.

He spoke Friday in Depew at a conference presented by the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations celebrating the 75th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act.

Greenhouse reflected on the fact that only about 7 percent of private sector workers in the United States belong to a union, down sharply from decades past.

(Buffalo Niagara's private sector union membership is far higher, at 16.5 percent last year, according to

Greenhouse said some might think that in tough economic times, workers would flock to join unions. But he said the trends do not point that way.

Some theorize that workers already feel insecure about their employment, and worry that organizing efforts could put their jobs at risk, he said.

Greenhouse says he believes employers and unions alike have played a role in the overall decline in private-sector union membership.

On the company side, some employers aggressively resist organizing, hiring anti-union consultants, holding meetings with workers to criticize unions or threatening to close a plant if the union prevails, he said.

John Dunlop, a U.S. labor secretary under President Ford, found in a study that one in 18 union supporters in organizing drives was penalized, through firing, demotion or worse shifts, Greenhouse said.

"I do think many employers have gotten much more aggressive in fighting unions, and too many of them break the law," he said. "And I think that's certainly a factor that's holding back unionization drives."

But a lot of other companies use "generous, good, wise, sensitive, empathetic human resources strategies" that provide good wages and benefits, and address workers' needs on family and medical leave, he said. "They try hard to make their workers happy, and a lot of those workers say, "I don't need a union, my company treats me very well.'‚"

He cited Costco, which is 15 percent unionized.

"The 85 percent of Costco workers who are not unionized are in no ways rushing to unionize because they have it so good."

After five years, a typical Costco worker makes about $50,000, including such factors as a 401(k) match, he said.

Greenhouse said union leaders and organizers are also part of the reason for the decline in private sector membership.

In the 1930s, when the National Labor Relations Act was passed, unions were "inspiring," Greenhouse said. "People were excited about them; people paid attention to them; people cared about them."

"I contrast that with today, where a lot of people don't care about unions, a lot of people are antipathetic to unions, a lot of newspaper editors aren't concerned about unions and don't want to assign stories about unions," he said.

Greenhouse said he has spoken to many young people who don't know much about unions or aren't enthusiastic about them.

"If the role of unions is to do a great job representing workers and organizing more workers, then they're not doing a very good job in attracting workers, in mobilizing workers and inspiring workers," he said.

Greenhouse said he felt the "Justice for Janitors" campaign driven by the Service Employees International Union was effective because it targeted low-wage workers "who are largely invisible, who have no one pulling for them."

Many community and religious leaders were eager to support the cause, he said.

"I think the more unions portray themselves as, and seek to put themselves forward as, a social justice movement, I think the better they're going to do," he said.

Greenhouse said some people tell him he should be more critical of unions because so many unionized industries in the United States are in trouble.

"I tell them that in some ways, unions are a victim of their own success," he said.

Steelworkers, autoworkers, rubber workers all did well from the 1950s into the 1970s, but in recent decades, overseas competition had radical impacts on those industries, he said.

"I think that's one reason why some unionized industries have been hurt more and lost more jobs than nonunion industries, because they have generally been the ones hit hardest by global competition," he said.

Friday's event was co-sponsored by Region 3 of the National Labor Relations Board and the New York State Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law Section.

Attendees included Mark G. Pearce, a Buffalo labor lawyer recently sworn in as a member of the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

WENY-TV News, May 14, 2010, Friday


May 14, 2010, Friday


Expert Says Furloughs Won't Make It Past Federal Judge

Katherine Underwood

As WENY-TV first told you Wednesday, there's a temporary restraining order blocking Governor David Paterson's furlough strategy, until a judge decides if it's legal.
Cornell labor relations expert, Rebecca Givan thinks this is all just a little game of chicken.

“The governor is trying to sort of stare down the public employee unions and they're staring right back at him,” Givan suggested.

says it's nearly impossible to furlough unionized workers because the governor cannot override contracts without mutual agreement.

She thinks Governor David Paterson knew he wouldn't get anywhere with the furloughs, but it was a way to make the unions look bad.

“It's a way to say we really want public employees to share this sacrifice, as they're calling it, and the unions are saying, ‘look we've given you plenty of other strategies for saving money,’” Givan said.

Workers unions like the Civil Service Employees Association say they've sacrificed enough.
CSEA Spokesman Mark Kotzin says they've even agreed to pension reform to help the governor save money.

“We've done a lot more with a lot less resources our people are working the jobs of many people and they’re still getting the work of the state done,” Kotzin explained. “So, it’s wrong to say there hasn't been any sacrifices.”

Paterson says the one-day-a-week furloughs would save about $30 million a week.
Kotzin says that's not enough to pull the state out of its fiscal crisis, but it is enough to hurt workers and their families.

“It would have a very negative impact on their livelihood, it would have an impact on their ability to spend money in their communities, to pay their taxes, to meet their financial obligations,” he said.

says the impact of the furloughs would reach far beyond state workers.
“It’s not only about cutting their salary 20 percent, it’s about cutting the services that we all need by 20 percent and that's a sacrifice on everyone,” she explained.]

expects Paterson and the unions to head to the negotiating table.
Kotzin says the unions are willing to work something out, but they won't break contract.

Air Transport World, May 12, 2010, Wednesday

Air Transport World

May 12, 2010, Wednesday

Air Transport World

Challenges to new US labor rule contemplated

21 Share EmailPrintA senior US lawmaker is warning that the National Mediation Board exceeded its legal authority with a new ruling that strengthens air and rail union organizers.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member on the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stopped short of saying he will seek legislation to roll back the decision issued Monday by NMB (ATWOnline, May 11). But he said in a statement that the board decision is such a fundamental change that it is "properly within the authority of the United States Congress."

Under the ruling, a union would win a representation election if a majority of workers participating vote "yes." For 75 years, air and rail union organizers have had to get yes votes from a majority of all workers who would be represented.

A group of airlines represented by the US Air Transport Assn. plans a federal lawsuit to block and then overturn the board decision. ATA VP-Communications David Castelveter said the suit likely will be filed within days. He declined to comment on possible Congressional action.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University senior lecturer on labor relations, told ATWOnline that she doubts Congress will undo the ruling because elected officials understand that "having a majority of votes cast is a universal standard." She said she couldn't predict what courts will do but noted that the appeals process will last a long time and many more workers would be organized during that period.

Mica and other Republicans would face a steep challenge in trying to enact a measure to undo the NMB ruling because Democrats control the White House and both the House and Senate. Even if Republicans win back Congress in November's midterm elections, President Barack Obama is seen as unlikely to sign a bill that would overturn the NMB decision.

Michigan Lawyers Weekly, May 10, 2010, Monday

Copyright 2010 Dolan Media Newswires
Michigan Lawyers Weekly

May 10, 2010, Monday

Provisional awards from arbitrators can be win-win

BYLINE: Barry Goldman, Esq.

Mediators often tell the parties what they would do in the case before them as though they were hearing it as an arbitrator. It's a common settlement technique.

But mediators are not arbitrators. They have no authority to issue awards. The exercise is purely hypothetical.

What would happen if arbitrators used the same technique? What would happen if arbitrators issued provisional awards?

Imagine a labor arbitration addressing the interpretation of a contract provision involving, say, layoff. The contract says layoff will be by seniority within classification. Position X is considered a member of classification A for some purposes and a member of classification B for other purposes.

The contract is silent about which criterion is to be used in making layoff decisions. The employer makes a decision to apply one criterion or another and institutes layoffs. The union files a grievance, and the case goes to an arbitrator. The parties make arguments, cite authorities, write briefs, and the arbitrator makes a decision and writes an award.

What if, instead of writing a final and binding decision, the arbitrator wrote a draft decision and circulated it to the parties? Neutral arbitrators on tripartite panels do this all the time. In that context, it is done to give the party-appointed arbitrators - the "wing men" - a chance to lobby for changes.

On the theory that a negotiated agreement is almost always preferable to an imposed solution, and that the parties who have to live with the result are in the best position to craft it, this is a good thing.

An arbitrator, after all, has only a very limited range of freedom in crafting an award. Typically, either the employer's view prevails or the union's does. There is not much room for a nuanced approach to the particular situation on the shop floor.

First, the arbitrator is not likely to know much about the situation on the shop floor, and second, even if he did, his decision is supposed to be based on principles of contract interpretation, not particular circumstances.

The two approaches may yield very different results. Principles of contract interpretation may require that the employer lay off Smith and retain Jones. The particular circumstances in the shop may make that course of action pointless, cruel, or just plain stupid.

Smith may be about to retire, and Jones may be about to have a baby. It may be that laying off Smith and retaining Jones is not what anybody wants. In that case, if the parties get a look at the arbitrator's opinion before it becomes final, it may open the door to a settlement that improves the outcome for everyone involved.

Some people believe that arbitrators have no business making deals. We can call this the "Shut Up and Rule School. " If the parties wanted a dealmaker, the argument goes, they would have contracted for one.

This is a valid point. Arbitrators do have a duty to make rulings when they are called upon to do so. But an arbitra-tor who simply parachutes in from the Land of Contract Interpretation may do more harm than good. A richer and more productive view of the arbitration process sees it as an extension of collective bargaining.

The point of collective bargaining is that the parties negotiate the terms of their relationship. From time to time, it may be necessary to call in a third-party neutral to resolve disputes, but the goal of that intervention should not be to supplant collective bargaining. It should be to assist it.

By issuing a provisional award, an arbitrator affords the parties an opportunity to engage in bargaining to improve the outcome of the case for both of them. The provisional award combined with the particular circumstances on the shop floor can be used to inform settlement discussions.

If the parties choose to take the opportunity, the outcome can be improved and the collective bargaining relation-ship strengthened. If they choose not to take it, the provisional award becomes final and the parties are in the same position they would have been if there had been no provisional award.

The suggestion has no downside.

Barry Goldman is a Bloomfield Hills-based arbitrator and mediator of workplace disputes. He is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators, an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School and the Scheinman Institute for Dispute Resolution at Cornell University. Contact him at

LOAD-DATE: May 17, 2010

Inc. Magazine, May 9, 2010, Sunday

Inc. Magazine

May 9, 2010, Sunday

Inc. Magazine

9 Avoidable Workplace Health and Safety Hazards

Workplace health and safety hazards can be costly (to lives and the bottom line), but the good news is that they are largely preventable if you take the right precautions.

By Josh Spiro | May 14, 2010

You don’t need to work surrounded by combustible materials to face serious health and safety risks, but the recent mine explosion in West Virginia, which killed nearly 30 workers, has called regulatory attention to that extreme end of the workplace hazard spectrum. Whether it’s a failure to protect your workers against carbon monoxide, the silent killer, or a sleep-deprived employee getting into a fatal car accident on the drive to work, every job comes with potential hazards.

Common workplace health and safety hazards include: communicable disease, transportation accidents, workplace violence, slipping and falling, toxic events, particularly chemical and gas exposure, getting struck by objects, electrocution or explosion, repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries, and hearing loss. Although some hazards are less likely to happen in some work spaces than others, it's important to assess which hazards are most damaging to your business and your employees. Some may disrupt your continuity more than others, some may pose more serious threats to employee welfare, and still others will result in the most time lost or be the most costly. What all these setbacks have in common is that thorough planning can forestall many of them.

The go-to resource for the legal requirements in your particular industry or state is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the arm of the federal government that enforces health and safety laws. "It's becoming a much more aggressive organization right now," says Jerry Laws, the editor of Occupational Health & Safety, a Dallas, Texas-based magazine. This crackdown is partly due to a string of recent, highly-publicized disasters including the West Virginia coal mine explosion, an oil rig south of Louisiana that blew up, and a fire at a Washington State oil refinery.

But ultimately, staying on OSHA's good side and protecting your employees isn't so challenging. "What they're asking employers to do, among other things, is look at your risk factors and see where your problems are," says Nellie Brown, the director of Workplace Health & Safety Programs at Cornell University's school of Industrial Labor Relations. While they aren't usually budget-breakers, many precautions against hazards obviously have a higher initial cost, but as the old saying goes, "It's better to be safe than sorry."

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Maintaining Continuity

"Things that affect large portions of the [employee] population really affect small- and medium-sized businesses more than large businesses," says Al Berman, executive director of DRII, The Institute for Continuity Management, a New York City-based organization that certifies businesses in contingency planning.

The most prominent hazard in this category is communicable diseases such as colds and the flu, and the reason they can knock out such large portions of your workforce depends partly on our society's working culture. "We don't discourage people from coming to work when they're ill," Berman says, "there is almost an encouragement [to come in] because we limit the number of sick days" employees have.

Aside from giving employees more flexible sick leave, small businesses can also prepare for epidemics by testing whether employees have the infrastructure to work remotely if they are ambulatory but contagious. This can include ensuring that employees have access to VoIP and work e-mail accounts from home, though this won't work in fields such as manufacturing where employees need to be on site to accomplish their jobs.

Finally, Berman suggests that it's important to cross train employees "so that no one person becomes critical to your operation." These types of preparations can cost employers some additional effort and money but Berman echoes Brown when he advises that, "it behooves employers to look at the long term on these things rather than the short term."

Dig Deeper: How Business Travelers Can Avoid Swine Flu

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Be Prepared

There are two prominent types of general preparation employers can take against health and safety hazards in the workplace: job hazard analysis and risk mapping. These approaches share an element of stepping back and examining your procedures and facilities with new eyes unclouded by routine and alert to potential danger. "It's sort of the Sherlock Holmes idea: you've seen but you've not observed," Brown says.

She goes on to explain that job hazard analysis is "when you look at how a job is done and what sorts of equipment people are interacting with. These are not real mysteries, they tend to be things that you can look at very objectively and see where your protection and prevention needs to be."

Risk mapping is a similar process but it involves examining liabilities by examining your physical workplace and facilities rather than considering the habits and duties of your employees. Combining both of these tools can prevent many accidents at work. For example, if you have an area of your facility where liquids might spill, you would want to include handrails to prevent slips and falls if and when that occurs.

Dig Deeper: A Start-up Plans to Make Mining Operations Safer

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Preventing Fatalities

The biggest threat to your employees' lives is tied to your workplace environment, though the deaths do not occur at work but rather en route. Driving fatalities are "the biggest thing that gets people killed in this country and it's been so for a while," says Laws.

Often overwork, sleep deprivation, and cell phone usage are behind these deadly accidents. "Anything you can do to make people's work hours predictable and regular is really helpful," says Brown. "After that the most helpful thing you can do is take other steps to help your employees with their work-family balance. "One of the things that gets people really concerned is how they can manage childcare, how they can manage elder care, how they can get off time to just live some life besides work," Brown adds. Policies dictating safe cell phone use can also help reduce crashes.

Here are three more sources of potentially fatal accidents your employees could get into and how to prevent them.

•Workplace Violence –Non-employees perpetrate most instances of fatal workplace. The disgruntled gun-toting recent fire resides more in the newspaper headlines than in the category of statistically significant concerns. "If you look at the data on workplace violence easily three quarters or more are robbery," says Brown.

Consequently, she advises examining where employees are exchanging or guarding money, interacting with the public, or working alone or in small groups in the late or early hours of the day. You can also make sure the area around your workplace is well-lit, install security cameras, or consider scaling back your business hours if late or early operation comes to necessitate hefty security and insurance costs.

•Falls – The falls that result in fatalities tend to be in industries such as construction or landscaping. This is a case where training your employees in safety procedures and periodically evaluating their understanding and execution of those procedures is the most useful course of action. Additionally providing equipment precautions such as guardrails and rope and pulley supports when possible is also a good idea.

•Toxic Events – Gas and chemical leaks are the most common problems though asbestos continues to plague businesses moving into older facilities. "You're going to see probably a big push on carbon monoxide detectors" in the near future, Berman says. It is now mandated that natural gas have some sort of odor but preventing ventilation problems and carbon monoxide leaks is the next frontier for OSHA.

Getting struck by objects or electrocuted are two other common and preventable ways employees die.

Dig Deeper: The Top 100 Health Companies

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Non-fatal Injuries

When it comes to non-fatal workplace injuries, the clear leaders are incidents of ergonomic problems and overexertion. They affect people in manufacturing, service, and office settings and regulatory bodies are increasingly cracking down on employers who ignore their employees' ergonomic needs. Furthermore, because these injuries can give rise to chronic conditions, they result in one of the higher rates of lost work time.

Brown advises that employees at computer workstations sit at a height that allows their legs to reach the ground, they should have a wrist rest, and not need to crane their neck, eyes, or back in the extreme. She adds that it's important to have lumbar support and if your office chairs don't have this built in, you or your employees can purchase cushions that will provide that extra lower back support.

Ergonomic injuries don't only take place when there is older office equipment with fewer adjustable parts. They can also happen simply from sitting at your desk for too long.

In addition to the wear and tear of the workplace itself on employees' bodies, lifting heavy objects such as boxes of files can result in accidents. Good lifting technique is often ignored when there is insufficient space or time to get a job done properly, but Brown says a good general rule is rather than "lifting, lowering, or carrying, you want to push, pull, or slide."

In a manufacturing setting, hearing loss is a common problem that can creep up on you and your employees but that is easily preventable. In a manufacturing setting, hearing loss is a common problem that can creep up on you and your employees but that is easily preventable. Simply provide headphones or earplugs that cancel out high decibel levels, depending on what volume of noise the equipment in your office environment produce. But providing the equipment is not enough, you need to enforce the policy and make sure your employees are using all the protective gear.

However, whether an injury is fatal or more glancing, one of the biggest mistakes employers make is improper documentation. Laws says, "the most cited OSHA standard seems to be failing to log your injuries correctly or not logging them at all. It's not something you're required to hand over to OSHA unless they knock on your door," but if they do, you'd better have it.

Dig Deeper: New Website Tracks Worker Injuries

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Employee Education and Awareness

A businesses human resources department can do a lot to reduce workplace accidents simply by educating employees. Making sure your employees are "current on what the local and seasonal threats are and passing out information doesn't cost a lot, it could be a monthly e-mail, says Berman.
But you need to go beyond informing employees. Laws explains that, "a lot of the standards that are in place do require training of one sort or another or some sort of documentation that the person was trained." Following up with employees to make sure the training sank in and is being incorporated into their daily responsibilities is also crucial.

Dig Deeper: How to Start an Office Recycling Program

How to Avoid 9 Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards: Resources

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides free evaluations of whether your workplace may contain health hazards.

OSHA provides lists of the most common workplace health and safety violations by industry. Look your industry up here.

Berman also advises that business owners reach out to industry experts or associations in their field, but most of all to their local board of health. He says, "a small- or medium-sized business should actually go to their local board of health or commissioner of health and have these discussions periodically as to what they should be looking for."

The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2010, Saturday

The Wall Street Journal

April 10, 2010, Saturday

The Wall Street Journal

Not All Differences in Earnings Are Created Equal


Later this month, American women will start earning money for the first time this year.

That seemingly nonsensical statement stems from this fact: For the average full-time female worker to earn the same amount of money as the average man, she would need to work nearly four additional months—until the third week of April—because of the 23-percentage-point gap in pay between the sexes.

That is why several advocacy groups have designated April 20 as Equal Pay Day. Lawmakers in the U.S. and the U.K. have taken up the cause, and President Barack Obama, who cited the pay gap on the campaign trail in 2008, repeated the statistic while commemorating International Women's Day last month. The Senate is considering a bill meant to address underlying gender discrimination some believe explains the pay gap, and the U.K. Parliament passed such a bill this week.

But do women really earn that much less than men? It depends on how you interpret the numbers.
Journal Community

Vote: What is the best explanation for the gap between men's and women's income?

People often assume that the gender gap measures how much a woman is paid for doing the same job as a man. Instead, the figure is based on a broader look at employment. In 2008, the typical American woman working at least 35 hours a week, year-round, earned 77.1% of what the typical American man did, according to the latest figures from the Census Bureau. That gap has changed little since 2001, ranging from 75.5% to 77.8%.

But restrict the comparison to those working 40 hours a week or more, and the gap narrows, with women earning 87% of what men did.

Also, the gap covers all workers, regardless of job title. But men, on average, work in higher-paying fields.

Cornell University economists Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found that after adjusting for factors such as education, experience, occupation and industry, the remaining, "unexplained" gender gap in 1998 was nine percentage points. Women also are likely to interrupt their careers, often to start a family, and such breaks can derail promotions and raises.

"When you first see the numbers, you would say there is a glass ceiling," says Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin. "And yet when you scrutinize the data, you find lots of evidence of people making rational choices."

But advocates for closing the pay gap say these differences in industries, job titles and career tracks might themselves be evidence of discrimination, rather than of free will in the job market. If women are underrepresented in higher-paying fields, that could be due to hostile environments in those fields rather than women's preference to work elsewhere. "Employers are doing a terrible job of hiring women in large enough numbers into nontraditional occupations," says National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill.

Also, not all gender differences explain men's higher pay. U.S. working women earn less than men even though they are more educated on average than working men, points out Jeffrey Hayes, senior research associate for the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a nonprofit research group.

The importance of how the pay gap is calculated was highlighted in a recent battle in the U.K. The Government Equalities Office last year said that women earn 23% less than men, based on the median hourly wage of all employees. But the U.K. Statistics Authority, which audits government numbers, pointed out that the gap looks much smaller when focusing on full-time workers, among whom men make 13% more than women; or part-timers, among whom women make 3% more than men. The gap is bigger overall than in either of the subsets of workers because more men than women work full-time, and full-time workers earn more than part-timers per hour.

But the contrast between full- and part-time income gap shows how advocates on either side of the issue can find a number to back their case. "Everybody wants one statistic to use to measure the gap between men's and women's pay, and there isn't one statistic that really serves satisfactorily," says Richard Alldritt, head of assessment for the U.K. Statistics Authority, "which is quite an unusual situation for a concept that is really quite a simple concept."

A survey of global businesses released last month sheds light on the shortage of information about the gender gap. Just 28% of 600 major global employers whose human-resources managers responded to a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum attempt to track differences in pay at their companies by gender. "You can't solve what you can't measure," says Saadia Zahidi, a co-author of a report on the survey for the World Economic Forum, organizers of the annual Davos forum.

For planning purposes, the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of women's and civil-rights organizations, schedules Equal Pay Day far in advance—before the latest Census numbers are available. Committee chair Michele Leber says the most-recent data would point to holding Equal Pay Day on April 19, not April 20, a Tuesday. "A number of years ago, we decided to select a Tuesday in April—Tuesday because that is how far into the [next] work week a woman has to work to earn as much as men do," Ms. Leber says.

Nonnumerical considerations also come into play. "We try to avoid major holidays and other conflicts," Ms. Leber says. "And we have been trying to schedule it when Congress is in session."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NPR, May 12, 2010, Wednesday


May 12, 2010, Wednesday


SEIU's First Female President Sets Out To Heal Rifts

by Don Gonyea

Mary Kay Henry, the new president of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union, inherits an organization that added scores of members while most other unions shrank. But bitter internal fights also grew under Henry's controversial predecessor, and she's now tasked with healing those rifts. She says she'll also focus on beefing up union organizing and the SEIU's political clout.

As a native of Detroit — a big union town — Henry says she saw firsthand how unions made life better for middle-class families. The third oldest of 10 children in a big Catholic family, she grew up wanting to work in the health care field. She graduated from college in 1979 and went to work for SEIU organizing hospital employees in California. Now, at age 52, she has been an international executive vice president of the union for six years. And this past weekend, she became the first woman to hold the SEIU's top job.

"Every time I'm introduced, like this morning, I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm the president of SEIU,' " Henry says.

She says her job is to articulate the hopes of SEIU members on a national level.

"There is a deep sense, I think, on the part of our members and all working people, that there is a crisis in this country for working people, that we've had it with trying to make ends meet and not have our work rewarded," Henry says. "So I hope it will be reigniting the fire that our union has had for a very long time to address that economic crisis on behalf of all workers."

But another big task she inherits is to try to deal with the aftermath of internal disputes between her predecessor and some local union members.

Settling Disputes

Andy Stern, who retired last month, had several high-profile clashes with union leaders in California. The bitter fights started over negotiating and organizing strategy, and then escalated, affecting tens of thousands of workers.

Henry says she'll pour her energy into addressing the still-touchy situation.

"There's widespread sentiment inside of our union to try and settle that dispute," Henry says. "We agree that ... it's holding us back from moving our union forward, and we want to get it settled."

Cornell University labor expert Kate Bronfenbrenner says it's a big task, but Henry can approach the issue in ways Stern couldn't.

"She can be the peacemaker because she didn't start the fight," Bronfenbrenner says. "That makes it much easier for her to do it."

Connecting With The Rank And File

On Tuesday, Henry got started on her tasks by meeting with some of her troops. Union members who work in child care and early education were in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress.

"I'm so excited to have you," one woman exclaimed. "This is the greatest thing happening — a woman in office."

During the meeting at a hotel conference room, Henry worked the room.

"For anybody that thinks that what we do, or you do every day is babysitting, we've got another thing to tell them," Henry said.

Looking like a talk-show host, she encouraged her audience to share their concerns. And share they did: "We need retirement. We don't have a retirement plan. We work all this many years, we're giving extra that we don't really have from our families to help other families, and nobody's looking out for us." Then the group headed down the street to the Capitol.

'Pushing The President'

SEIU has become a major force in Democratic politics in the past decade. It was an early and important supporter of candidate Barack Obama, and Henry says the union's leadership is doing all it can to help get his agenda enacted.

"But at the same time, they do want to see their union pushing the president," Henry says. "Because we think it's the only way to help create a balance in this country from the forces that want to protect the status quo, from the forces that want change for working people in this country."

SEIU was also a very visible presence at health care rallies across the country over the past year, and Henry says political activity is also being beefed up for this year's midterm elections.

But this week's more immediate task for Henry is to settle into her job and begin to connect with the rank and file.

Slate Magazine, May 12, 2010, Wednesday

Slate Magazine

May 12, 2010, Wednesday

Slate Magazine

The Right Kind of Peer Pressure
Want girls to do better in school? Surround them with smart classmates.

By Ray Fisman
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010, at 7:04 AM ET

In 1995, clinical psychologist and therapist Mary Pipher rose to national prominence with the publication of Reviving Ophelia, a runaway best-seller that described the many perils confronted by girls coming of age in America. Pipher wrote that around junior high, "many confident, well-adjusted girls were transformed into sad and angry failures." Pressures from teachers, parents, and especially peers were producing a generation of eating-disordered, substance-abusing, academically underachieving girls.

Two recent studies suggest that Pipher's basic observation about girls' vulnerability to peer pressure remains true, but they emphasize that peer pressure can sometimes be a good thing. The studies examined the academic achievement of high school students and found that being surrounded by underachieving classmates has a negative effect on girls and boys—both genders feel pressure to conform to the lower standards of their peers. But the studies also show that girls are more sensitive than boys to the presence of high-achieving peers. Surround a girl with diligent classmates, and her performance will improve.

There are two basic challenges that have confounded social scientists' efforts to analyze how we're influenced by our peers. First, our peers don't drop from the sky—we tend to associate with others who are like us to begin with or those whom we'd like to emulate. Friends may pressure friends to do drugs, or friends may become friends because they share a rebellious streak that involves doing drugs. Friends also tend to read the same magazines, shop at the same stores, attend the same classes—so if they act the same, it may not be because they pressure each other, but because they are both swayed by the same influences. Economists refer to this as the reflection problem: If two people are moving in tandem, is the left one mimicking the right or vice versa? Or is some invisible force moving both simultaneously?

Researchers have had to get creative to try to overcome the reflection problem. One recent study by Cornell economist Kirabo Jackson measures peer influences by taking advantage of the peculiarities of the high school assignment process in his home country of Trinidad. Testing starts early for Trinidadian children, who take placement exams in fifth grade to determine where they will study through to high school graduation. While students get to rank schools based on location and other preferences, for the most part high scorers attend the best schools in Trinidad and low scorers attend vocational schools. This means that high-scoring fifth-graders will end up in well-funded schools surrounded by other high-scoring students and taught by the island's best teachers. So they tend to go on to do well on their standardized tests at the end of high school. But the quality of each class at any given school will vary from year to year for idiosyncratic reasons: It was a particularly competitive year; new school buses opened up different school choices. As a result, two students who have the same incoming test scores but who are a year apart may end up at the same school with the same teachers and the same financial resources, but with very different peers.

Jackson obtained the school records of more than 150,000 Trinidadian students entering sixth grade between 1995 and 2002 and followed them through to graduation in 10th grade, when all students again take a set of standardized exams. He found that students who attended high school with high-achieving peers performed better at graduation, passing more of their final exams than students who went to the same school in a different year, when the crop of classmates was weaker. Intriguingly, the effect of high-achieving peers was much more positive for girls than for boys. Jackson's results suggest that boys may, in fact, pass fewer exams when surrounded by high-achievers, while girls' graduation exam pass rates are helped by having bookish classmates. While the overall effects are modest—a girl in a strong class might pass one-tenth more exams than if she had been in a weaker one—it appears to be several times stronger for girls enrolled in Trinidad's best schools. (Even boys seem to get a small boost from good peers at these top schools.)

The Times-Union, May 12, 2010, Wednesday

Copyright 2010 The Hearst Corporation
All Rights Reserved
The Times-Union (Albany, NY)

May 12, 2010, Wednesday




ALBANY--The furlough of unionized state workers is an evisceration of their contracts and "effectively revokes the essential bargained-for contractual rights" of the 100,000 workers affected, lawsuits filed Tuesday in federal court claim.

Three unions -- the Public Employees Federation, Civil Service Employees Association and United University Professions -- filed suits naming Gov. David Paterson as a plaintiff and claiming the furlough measure is a violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution. All three suits are pending before Judge Lawrence Kahn, who could schedule oral arguments as soon as today.

The suits seek to rule Paterson's actions illegal, and also seek a temporary restraining order preventing the newly passed laws from taking effect. Legislators reluctantly approved an emergency budget extension Monday that called for one-day-a-week unpaid furloughs of unionized workers. Paterson repeated Tuesday that the measures are legal and that they necessary to save money to bridge a $9.2 billion deficit. The state has been without an overall spending plan for more than five weeks, and serious negotiations between Paterson and legislative leaders are stalled.

"The offending governmental actions serve to eviscerate the contractual relationship between the parties and effectively revokes the essential bargained-for contractual rights," the PEF suit reads. "The offending governmental and legislative action is an abuse of the state's police power."

Both the PEF and CSEA suits address the furlough measure, but also Paterson's refusal to authorize contractual raises of 4 percent that were due to take effect April 1. The suits claim that the acts violate a constitutional provision which forbids government from passing any law "impairing" the execution of any legal contract -- including labor agreements. CSEA's suit also names the Assembly and Senate as defendants, and faults the government for failing to contribute to the employee benefit fund.

The suits also allege that Paterson violated the Taylor Law, which requires bargaining with public employee unions before contractual changes can be made.

Paterson said he was "not surprised" by the suits, but insisted his legal footing is sound. The governor and his aides said they have been negotiating with the unions for months and have offered several alternatives to the furloughs, including a five-day pay lag and the opportunity to forgo the raises. Unions have, at times colorfully, rejected each proposal. A negotiated solution is not as likely while litigation is pending.

"When you keep saying no, and you keep saying nuts, they left us with absolutely no choice," Paterson said Tuesday afternoon. "Listen, I feel badly for the members of the union, but I also feel badly for the students" whose professors will be furloughed during examination periods. "I feel bad for the school districts that are losing money. I feel badly for the nursing homes, and for the encumbrances on other workers in other areas. I feel badly for the people in the private sector, but the reality is that we're all in a recession. All we were asking was for the union to take their fair share."

The governor vowed to fight the suits, which will be defended by aides to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Paterson previewed the defense, saying the contracts were negotiated in better times and the "intervening cause of this state being in so much recession" makes full payment impossible.

A similar claim was made by Prince George's County in Maryland, but a court there ruled in December that a furlough was inappropriate because not every financial resource was exhausted, according to Lee Adler of Cornell University's school of Industrial Labor Relations.

"In order for a state to not constitutionally impair a contractual agreement, their actions must be reasonable and necessary," Adler said. The PEF suit anticipates this point, and claims "the state knew or should have known at the time it negotiated these contracts that future budget delays, shortfalls and deficits were distinctly possible, if not likely."

Meanwhile, bickering between Paterson and the union leadership continued as employees prepared for the furlough. Paterson's top aide, Larry Schwartz, said CSEA President Danny Donohue should take a "more mature tone," noting Donohue used profanity to describe Paterson's plan and suggested he was lower than a rat. He said that the administration is working with agencies to ensure that the furloughs are implemented in an "orderly" manner, but that specific plans are not yet codified. Union leaders suggested that some agencies will opt to furlough all of their workers on the same day.

Schwartz and Paterson refused to validate a comment by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, who said Tuesday that "if the furlough doesn't work I'm sure there will be layoffs."

"I would certainly have no problem with it," he said.

Reach Vielkind at 454-5081 or



LOAD-DATE: May 13, 2010

The Buffalo News, May 12, 2010, Wednesday

The Buffalo News

May 12, 2010, Wednesday

The Buffalo News

Upholding furloughs in court seen as impossible

Union contracts hard to void, experts say
By Tom Precious

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson faces a nearly impossible legal road to win federal court blessing for his furlough of 100,000 state workers, legal experts say.

For taxpayers, it would be better to resolve the legal issue promptly before the furloughs start next week and the state faces the prospect of being on the hook for back pay — plus interest payments — if the governor loses in court.

And if Paterson loses, the furloughed workers will have won what amounts to a free day off from work — with interest.

"It's very difficult to void the provisions that are in a union contract," said Rebecca Givan, an assistant professor and expert in collective bargaining at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

"I think the state is in a very, very weak legal position because there are existing contracts with all the unions," added David Schlachter, a Suffolk County lawyer who won a 1991 case against the state on behalf of court employees who saw their salaries delayed by the state during a fiscal crisis.

The fact that New York faces a severe fiscal challenge is not enough, on its own, to let the state void the terms of a contract through furloughs, which amount to a 20 percent cut in pay for 100,000 executive branch workers.

"The fiscal emergency can be used in the case of bankruptcy, but we're not there yet. A dire situation is not the same as bankruptcy," Givan said.

Paterson said Tuesday that at the time the union contracts were signed in 2007 it was "not within the contemplation" that the recession would hit the state so hard that it could not meet the terms of the salary provisions.

His comments came after four separate legal actions were commenced by unions representing various state workers, as the prospect of furloughs beginning Monday appeared to be set following the Legislature's approval of Paterson's plan to cut the pay of 100,000 workers by requiring them to stay home one day a week without pay until a 2010 state budget is passed.

The unions — including the Civil Service Employees Association and Public Employees Federation, as well as those representing SUNY and City University of New York employees — filed lawsuits in federal court in Albany seeking a temporary restraining order against the furloughs and implementation of a 4 percent raise for state workers that has been delayed since April 1.

The unions argue that Paterson is violating the constitution by trying to change the terms of a contract — or, more precisely, "impairing the obligation of contracts" under the State Constitution. They say their wages are guaranteed under the collective-bargaining deal made by the state in 2007.

PEF also contends that the furloughs and pay freeze "constitute a deprivation of property without due process of law."

Judge Lawrence E. Kahn was assigned the case. A hearing on the matter is expected to be held today.

Legal and public employee union experts — as well as Democratic leaders of the State Senate and Assembly — say the governor faces a daunting challenge to get the furloughs to stick.

Other states, notably California, have gone the furlough route only to be turned back by federal courts. Some states, such as Hawaii and Illinois, have negotiated furlough days with public employee unions.

One of the few cases in the nation that might give Paterson hope was the 2006 federal court decision against a challenge by the Buffalo Teachers Federation to a wage freeze by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, also known as the control board.

But in that case, unlike the furlough legislation approved Monday night, the State Legislature went out of its way to document the long-term fiscal plight of Buffalo to justify giving the control board the powers to do things like freeze wages.

"You have to demonstrate more than just [being] short of money. You have to show that you didn't consider cutting wages or breaching union contracts on a par with other options like raising taxes," said Vincent Buzard, an attorney with Rochester's Harris Beach law firm who represented the Buffalo control board in the major legal decision.

"They're very difficult," Buzard said of the contract cases the state is now being forced to defend, "because the state would be arguing for an exemption to the constitutional protections against impairments of contracts, and exemptions for an emergency and protection of health and welfare of the state must be shown."

"When you're doing one of these, you have to make sure everyone is sharing the pain," he added.

But Buzard said courts don't automatically issue restraining orders in such cases, in part, because there is no permanent harm since the money can be repaid to any state workers affected by the furlough.

While Paterson has allies among some fiscal conservatives who call the state payroll too bloated, the impact of a furlough will be felt by many New Yorkers. The furloughs come as summer classes are set to begin for state university professors, and many state parks are seeing more visitors as the summer approaches.

The governor said Tuesday the public employee unions "left us with absolutely no choice" because they refused to go along with any of his ideas to save the state $250 million in payroll costs to help close a $9.2 billion deficit. He said others — like SUNY students, nursing homes and public schools — also are being asked to share in the fiscal pain. "They have volunteered no sacrifice during this great recession," Paterson said of the state worker unions.

But unions said Paterson's move is unilateral and counterproductive, arguing that the layoffs include money-generating positions such as auditors in the tax department and clerks at the motor vehicles agency. "Our attorneys feel we have a solid case," said Darcy Wells, a PEF spokeswoman.

Many contract experts agreed.

Schlachter, who beat the state in federal court on an impairment-of-contract lawsuit two decades ago, said courts look upon collective-bargaining agreements as a binding contract.

"Circumstances can change after a contract is signed, and the fact that there have been changes, whether anticipated or not, doesn't justify walking away from contracts," he said.

Home News Tribune, April 29, 2010, Thursday

Copyright 2010 Home News Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, New Jersey)

April 29, 2010, Thursday

Plainfield's newest charter school set to hold star-studded benefit dinner


Barack Obama Green Charter High School co-founder Steven King knows that his school ultimately won't be judged by the star value of those scheduled to speak at its first benefit dinner.

But a lineup like this certainly won't hurt.

The school with an eco-friendly mission and curriculum, last year established by the state Department of Education and scheduled to open this autumn, has assembled Princeton University professor and civil-rights activist Cornel West, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and hometown-hero, musical legend George Clinton to appear at its May 20 fundraiser.

"We've been very fortunate, but part of that fortune is being timely," said King, who also serves as president and CEO of a research organization focused on developing sustainable urban-development solutions. "Dr. West has also started to get involved in sustainability lately ... and Newark is one of the leading cities in being involved with green initiatives. This kind of falls in line with (Booker's) strategic plan as well."

According to King, West recently responded positively to a request to speak at the dinner, then offered to reach out to try to bring Clinton on board as well. West and Booker are scheduled to appear as keynote speakers, and Clinton will perform live music and accept an honorary proclamation from Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

West, 56, is a philosopher and best-selling author who also had an integral role in the development of The Matrix film trilogy, playing a speaking part in each of the last two installments. Booker, 41, has been lauded for introducing sweeping reforms to New Jersey's largest city and recently stepped into the national media spotlight during a well-publicized mock feud with television personality Conan O'Brien. And Clinton, 68, is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and longtime leader of the musical group Parliament-Funkadelic, who started performing while working in a city barbershop during the 1960s.

"Everybody that I've talked to, people not just in New Jersey but New York, Philadelphia and other places, is just kind of like, "wow, that's a triple-header,' " King said. "It's good to hear that, good to see that people are really excited about it."

But King said he's just as excited for the first day of school. King, who also works as a researcher and program coordinator at Cornell University's School of Industrial Labor Relations, said that early interest in the high school has been strong. According to the school's mission statement, it is being founded to "prepare students to become informed, engaged and independent critical thinkers and to inspire leaders for sustainable development."

School officials earlier this month earned Zoning Board approval to establish the school at the existing Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County facility on West Seventh Street. The two organizations, the schedules of which are not anticipated to conflict, plan to partner to accommodate 120 students in 2010-2011, the school's first year of operation, with a eye on expanding to 240 students by its fourth year.

Charter schools are schools that receive funding from public-school districts, but operate independently of those districts. Barack Obama Green will be the city's first charter high school but its fourth charter school - others include the Central Jersey Arts Charter School, Queen City Academy Charter School and Union County TEAMS (Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Math & Science) Charter School. A fifth school, the Dr. Ellen G. Pressman Charter School, opened last fall but closed less than four months later due to lack of enrollment.

LOAD-DATE: April 30, 2010

Targeted News Service, April 29, 2010 Thursday

Copyright 2010 Targeted News Service LLC
All Rights Reserved
Targeted News Service

April 29, 2010 Thursday

American Arbitration Association Elects New Board of Directors

The American Arbitration Association issued the following news release:

The American Arbitration Association (AAA), the world's leading provider of conflict management and dispute resolution services, announced the election of 12 new members to the AAA's Board of Directors at its annual meeting held today in New York, New York.

The newly elected members of the board are as follows: Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez, Esq. is Head of the Interna-tional Arbitration Group and a Partner at Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP. Mr. Aguilar-Alvarez handles arbitrations and has also represented investors in investment disputes arising under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and other bilateral investment treaties. He has handled a wide variety of disputes in many international venues under diverse legal systems (e.g., under the laws of Canada, several US states, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Spain, France and Sweden) involving parties of more than 30 nationalities. Mr. Aguilar-Alvarez served as Principal Legal Counsel for the government of Mexico for the negotiation and implementation of the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) and free trade agreements with Costa Rica, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela. He is also a Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School.

Henri C. Alvarez, Esq. is the Co-Chair of the International Law Practice Group and a Partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. Mr. Alvarez has over 20 years of experience in the field of international commercial arbitration and dispute resolution.

Since 1985, he has taught a course on arbitration at The University of British Columbia.

Mr. Alvarez has acted as both an arbitrator and as counsel in international and domestic commercial arbitrations involving investments, trade, franchising, licensing, distributorship, construction, forestry, oil and gas, energy, banking, corporate and general commercial disputes. He has served as a sole arbitrator, party-appointed arbitrator and Chairman in a number of international matters and conducted arbitrations in English, Spanish and French.

Jacquelin F. Drucker, Esq. is a full-time arbitrator of employment, labor, and complex commercial cases, with a nationwide and international practice. Ms. Drucker serves as a permanent labor arbitrator under dozens of collective bargaining agreements and handles cases in a wide variety of industries. As an employment arbitrator, Ms. Drucker handles cases involving the full range of statutory and contract claims under employment ADR systems and pursuant to individual employment contracts. She is on the adjunct faculty of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cornell Institute on Conflict Resolution, where she teaches programs on employment arbitration, labor arbitration, mediation, employment law, and labor law. Ms. Drucker is a NEWS RELEASE Past Chair of the New York State Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law Section. She also served as that Section's CLE Chair and was Neutral Co-Chair of its Committee on ADR in Employment. She has also served as Neutral Chair of the American Bar Association's Labor and Employment Law Section Committee on ADR in Labor and Employment Law and was Chair of the New York County Lawyers Association Committee on Labor Relations and Employment Law.

John Fellas, Esq. is a Partner in the International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration practice group at Hughes Hubbard and Reed LLP. Mr. Fellas has practiced in both the U.S. and England in the fields of both international arbitration and litigation. He has acted as an advocate and arbitrator in major international commercial cases across several industries. Mr. Fellas is the Chair of the Practicing Law Institute Program, International Business Litigation and Arbitration. He is also a member of the Editorial Board for Global Arbitration Review.

Toni D. Hennike is Coordinator of the International Investments & Arbitration Group in Exxon Mobil Corpora-tion's Law Department. She leads a legal team that has direct responsibility for certain investor-state arbitrations and has coordination responsibility for other arbitrations. Ms. Hennike is an Adviser on The American Law Institute's Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration, a member of the Advisory Board of The Institute for Transnational Arbitration, and belongs to the International Section of the American Bar Association, the American Society of International Law, and the Houston International Arbitration Club. She is admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and in the state courts of Texas and Oklahoma.

Jean E. Kalicki, Esq. is a Partner in the international arbitration and litigation practice groups at Arnold & Porter LLP. Ms. Kalicki has particular experience in investment treaty arbitration and has represented both investors and so-vereigns, in roughly equal numbers. In commercial arbitration, Ms. Kalicki has represented clients on five continents, as well as the United Nations. She serves as arbitrator for numerous institutions in both investment and complex commer-cial disputes, serving as Chair, sole arbitrator, and co-arbitrator. Ms. Kalicki is the long-time Chair of the DC Bar's In-ternational Dispute Resolution Committee, and teaches arbitration topics as an adjunct professor at both Georgetown University Law Center and American University's Washington College of Law. She has been widely recognized for her leadership in the field and was selected by Global Arbitration Review as among the top 30 women in arbitration world-wide.

Mark Kantor, Esq. serves as an arbitrator and mediator, and teaches courses in International Business Transactions and in International Arbitration as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is a member of the ADR Advisory Board of the International Law Institute, the Editorial Board of Global Arbitration Review, the Board of Editors of the Journal of World Energy Law and Business, and the Board of Editors of The Banking Law Journal. Prior to retirement, Mr. Kantor was a partner in the Corporate and Project Finance Groups of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

David Kreider, Esq. is the General Counsel and Member of the Executive Leadership Team at Vodafone New Zealand. He is also an arbitrator, adjudicator and mediator. Mr.
Kreider has been appointed by various leading arbitral institutions and nominated by disputants themselves to serve as arbitrator in relation to a wide range of cases, involving telecommunications, computer networks and services, and China-related business matters, including among them complex, multi-party cases with very significant dollar amounts at stake.

Billy R. Martin, Esq. is a Partner in the Global Litigation practice at Howrey LLP, focusing on white collar criminal defense. Mr. Martin serves as an advisor to Fortune 500 corporations, private citizens, political leaders, professional athletes, entertainment industry celebrities, and local and foreign governments. He is also an accomplished negotiator whose experience includes bringing diverse constituencies and interests together to resolve community conflicts, often in the midst of highly charged political circumstances. Before entering private practice, Mr. Martin had an extensive public service career, beginning with service as a local prosecutor in Ohio and culminating with senior managerial and trial positions within the Department of Justice and the office of the US Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Michael D. Nolan, Esq. is a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy LLP where he focuses on all phases of commercial litigation and arbitration. Mr. Nolan's practice has a particular focus on international arbitration and litiga-tion. He is consistently listed in Euromoney Guide, Experts in Commercial Arbitration and Chambers USA for interna-tional arbitration. Mr. Nolan also has substantial experience with compliance issues that arise under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, other anti-bribery laws and sanctions programs. He has developed and implemented an-ti-corruption programs for companies and financial services firms. Mr. Nolan teaches as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Jan Paulsson, Esq. is a Principal Consultant and Co-Head of international arbitration and public international law groups at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. Mr. Paulsson has acted as counsel or arbitrator in hundreds of interna-tional arbitrations. He is President of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and the EBRD Administrative Tribunal; and is a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Mr. Paulsson holds the Michael Klein Distin-guished Scholar Chair at the University of Miami and is a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. He is also a Profesor Honorario of the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas.

Edna Sussman, Esq. is the principal of SussmanADR LLC and has been appointed as the Distinguished ADR Prac-titioner in Residence by the Fordham University School of Law. Ms. Sussman has served as the arbitrator or mediator in over 150 domestic and international disputes and serves on leading ADR panels. She was elected to serve as chair-elect of the New York State Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section for the 2009-2010 term. Ms. Sussman was also elected to serve on the board of the College of Commercial Arbitrators. She is an arbitration trainer for the AAA and has published and lectured extensively on the arbitration and mediation process.
Contact: Wayne Kessler, 212/716-3975,
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LOAD-DATE: May 9, 2010

Time, April 20, 2010, Tuesday


April 20, 2010, Tuesday


Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men?
By Laura Fitzpatrick

Last year's tax returns may already be signed, sealed and delivered, but April 20 is the day the average American woman will finally finish earning her 2009 salary — at least, the one she would have received if she were a man. That's because U.S. women still earned only 77 cents on the male dollar in 2008, according to the latest census statistics. (That number drops to 68% for African-American women and 58% for Latinas.) To highlight the need for change, since 1996 the National Committee on Pay Equity, an advocacy-group umbrella organization, has marked April 20 as Equal Pay Day. There are some signs of progress: the first bill Barack Obama signed into law as President targeted the U.S. pay gap, and the Senate is considering a bill that is meant to address underlying discrimination. But the question remains: Why has it taken so long? Nearly half a century after it became illegal to pay women less on the basis of their sex, why do American women still earn less than men?

The answer depends on whom you ask — and so does the size of the gap. Some say 77% is overly grim. One reason: it doesn't account for individual differences between workers. Once you control for factors like education and experience, notes Francine Blau — who, along with fellow Cornell economist Lawrence Kahn, published a study on the 1998 wage gap — women's earnings rise to 81% of men's. Factor in occupation, industry and whether they belong to a union, and they jump to 91%. That's partly because women tend to cluster in lower-paying fields. The most-educated swath of women, for example, gravitates toward the teaching and nursing fields. Men with comparable education become business executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers — jobs that pay significantly more.
(Read about a new wave of women in Europe's boardrooms.)

Still, workers don't choose their industry in a vacuum. "Why do you think [male-dominated industries] are sex-segregated?" says Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "Very often women aren't welcome there." Real or perceived, discrimination in certain sectors could discourage women from seeking employment there. A dearth of role models might, in turn, influence the next generation of girls to gravitate toward lower-paying fields, creating an unfortunate cycle.

But industry doesn't tell the whole story. Women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the Census Bureau in 2007 — even in fields in which their numbers are overwhelming. Female secretaries, for instance, earn just 83.4% as much as male ones. And those who pick male-dominated fields earn less than men too: female truck drivers, for instance, earn just 76.5% of the weekly pay of their male counterparts. Perhaps the most compelling — and potentially damning — data of all to suggest that gender has an influence comes from a 2008 study in which University of Chicago sociologist Kristen Schilt and NYU economist Matthew Wiswall examined the wage trajectories of people who underwent a sex change. Their results: even when controlling for factors like education, men who transitioned to women earned, on average, 32% less after the surgery. Women who became men, on the other hand, earned 1.5% more.

Skeptics who deem the 77% estimate too optimistic also note that the figure only counts women working full-time (35 hours a week or more, for the full year) and doesn't account for the fact that women are far more likely to take time off to start a family or work part-time while rearing one. Over a period of 15 years, according to a 2004 study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), a full 52% of women in the prime earning age range of 26 to 59 go through at least one full calendar year earning nothing at all, compared with just 16% of men. Those choices make a difference: over that span, female workers earn just 38% of what men make — making the wage gap twice as large as the census figure. (And despite the earnings premium that comes with greater education, women with bachelor's degrees earn less over 15 years than men with a high school diploma or less, according to the IWPR study.)
(Read TIME's 1982 cover story "How Long Till Equality?")

Yet no matter how you interpret the numbers, there are a few stubborn percentage points that can't be explained away. Economists and advocates alike speculate that these are the products of slippery factors like discrimination — conscious or not. A 2000 study, for instance, famously found that after symphony orchestras introduced blind auditions, requiring musicians to perform behind a screen, women became more likely to get the gig. "I think discrimination has declined," says Cornell's Blau. "But I'm not yet seeing or believing that it's been completely eliminated."

Ensuring an end to discrimination would benefit more than just women, as advocates who resist the characterization of equal pay as a zero-sum game are quick to point out. When Iowa instituted wage adjustments to combat pay discrimination, men accounted for 41% of the beneficiaries. And considering that nearly 40% of American mothers are the primary breadwinner in their households, America's children would benefit as well. Women's wages have increased just half a penny on the dollar for the past four decades. How much longer can it possibly take for equality to arrive?

Human Resource Executive Online, April 15, 2010, Thursday

Human Resource Executive Online

April 15, 2010, Thursday

Human Resource Executive Online

Succeeding in HR

Understanding the business and having the courage to express fact-based opinions will enable emerging HR talent to reach the top. More experience working with boards of directors of senior leaders will also offer needed perspective.

By Kristen B. Frasch

Just how effective senior HR leaders are at nurturing and developing chief human resource officers within their own ranks was a point of concern raised at a bonus session Monday, prior to the conference, entitled "Becoming a Chief HR Officer: How to Get There and What You'll Need to Succeed."

Patrick M. Wright, the William J. Conaty GE professor of strategic human resources at Cornell University's ILR School and the session's moderator, presented results of a study from the university's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies underscoring the fact that, in Wright's words, "HR talent management is abysmal."

The study, The Chief Human Resource Officer: Shifting Roles and Challenges, polled 54 CHROs culled from the 2008 Fortune 150 list. It found that only about one-third (36 percent) of organizations' CHROS are being promoted from within HR and slightly less (31 percent) are being hired directly into the role from outside.

Even more alarming, Wright said, was discovering that 10 percent of CHROs at these companies were promoted from within, but not from HR.

"This underscores how badly we really are doing at developing our own talent," he said.

Yet working concurrently with that shortcoming, the study also revealed a profound interest by CEOs today in HR talent and talent, generally.

A majority of CHROs (63 percent) said talent is one of their CEO's top priorities for HR, yet they also cited talent gaps in the HR function as a major obstacle to delivering on the CEO's priorities and meeting strategic objectives.

Joining Wright were panelists James M. Bagley, global leader of corporate officers sector at Russell Reynolds Associates, a New York-based executive search firm; Kevin Barr, senior vice president of human resources at Terex Inc., a Westport, Conn.-based construction equipment manufacturer; and Kenneth J. Carrig, executive vice president of human resources for Comcast Cable, based in Philadelphia.

All were concerned with HR talent development and agreed that prepping their top performers by giving them more experiences working with boards of directors and senior HR leaders would help them gain the perspective they need to lead.

Barr cited an experience early in his career when a board member asked for his views on his CEO's salary and whether he was learning how to get along with the company's founder.

"Had I had the opportunity to meet with boards of directors and CHROs earlier in my education, I would have avoided a lot of problems," Barr said.

He also stressed the necessity for top HR performers to get out "into line-leadership roles so they'll have more of the kinds of experiences they'll need."

Carrig, too, told the audience he would "encourage you all to go out and work in your business."

Less "learning on the job is being allowed today in a business world of rapid changes and enormous challenges," said Carrig. "Having a network of fellow peers and CHROs to turn to is imperative."

But so is understanding that CEOs "look to us to better understand the business and speak the business," and no one can do that without fact-based, numbers-based discussions, proposals and assessments, he said.

Beyond that, he added, "we need the courage to have a point of view. That's very respected by a CEO, even when it's not favorable or easy to hear."