Thursday, October 28, 2010

Space Daily, October 27, 2010, Wednesday

Copyright 2010 Space Daily, Distributed by United Press International

Space Daily

October 27, 2010, Wednesday

First Ever US Solar Jobs Census Finds Solar Employment On The Rise

The Solar Foundation has released a first-of-its-kind review of the solar workforce in the United States. The report, titled, "National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce" found that hiring in the solar work-force is on the rise. More than half of solar employers nationally plan to increase their workforce in the next year.

"Among other things, this study shows that investments made through Recovery Act - including the $2.3 billion in tax credits to U.S. based clean energy manufacturing - are already generating positive results," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

"The solar energy sector is an increasingly important source of good jobs for Americans. Fostering the growth of this emerging industry will help protect our environment, ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy, and offer great opportunities for the nation's working families."

"This first-ever national census shows that solar jobs are on the rise and expected to grow 26 percent in the coming year," said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of The Solar Foundation.

"By examining the data from thousands of companies along the entire supply-chain, the study shows that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. economy."

As of August 2010, the National Solar Jobs Census 2010 identified more than 16,700 solar employment sites and 93,000 solar jobs in all 50 states. It also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 26 percent, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2011.

This rate is significantly higher than the expected three percent net job loss in fossil fuel power generation and the economy-wide expectation of two percent growth over the same period.
The survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The report included data from more than 2,400 solar company survey respondents.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and Green LMI Consulting with technical assistance from Cornell University.

"This study contains high-quality research methodology," said John Bunge, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistical Science at Cornell University, and an associate professor of social statistics at Cornell's ILR School.

"Using both primary and secondary data sources further strengthens this data and ensures even higher confidence in its results."

LOAD-DATE: October 27, 2010

Montreal Gazette, October 25, 2010, Monday

Montreal Gazette

October 25, 2010, Monday

Montreal Gazette

Narcissists have no creative edge, but sell selves better: Study

By Shannon Proudfoot, Postmedia News October 25, 2010 Comments (5)

Narcissists are no more creative than other people, a new study finds — but they think they are, and they're good at convincing others of their creative genius.

"The depressing reality we ended this with is that narcissists really aren't very creative objectively, but they're really good at getting other people to think they are," says Jack Goncalo, of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

"What could happen is that narcissists will get their ideas pushed through when they're not very good, and then we have people who are more modest with really good ideas, but they're not getting heard."

In the first experiment, participants had 10 minutes to come up with as many uses as possible for a simple brick. Narcissistic types dreamt up a mean of 19.26 ideas representing 9.43 different categories — a performance that wasn't different in a statistically significant way from the 17.54 ideas covering 10.98 categories generated by non-narcissists.

A second test asked participants to imagine visiting a distant galaxy and a planet very different from Earth, and then to draw a creature from that world.

Responses were scored for "atypical" creative ideas, such as rearrangement of facial features or fanciful attributes like laser-shooting eyes. Narcissists didn't draw alien creatures that were any more creative than their humbler counterparts did, but that didn't stop them from rating their creativity more highly on both tasks.

Another experiment tested how other people judge creativity, with participants asked to come up with a unique movie concept and pitch it to another study participant who rated the idea. Narcissists earned higher creativity scores (a mean of 4.25 out of 7) than non-narcissists (3.44), even though the other experiments demonstrated they didn't actually offer more imaginative ideas.

"We really have to be careful not to mistake charisma for creativity," says Goncalo. "People who are enthusiastic and confident aren't necessarily the ones with the best ideas, just because they think they have the best ideas."

But in another experiment examining creative ideas in group settings, he and co-authors Francis Flynn and Sharon Kim uncovered one encouraging aspect: narcissists don't generate more creative ideas on their own, but they boost group output by spurring others to be more competitive and outspoken.

This study focuses on "sub-clinical narcissism," Goncalo says, which means even the highest score on their scale doesn't indicate a personality disorder.

"People think about narcissism as negative, but at the group level, having a couple around can be really useful," he says. "You can't have too many of them because then they start to get self-destructive."

In fact, the results suggest that in any group, it's optimal to have half or fewer of the members be narcissistic in order to benefit from the competitive creative boost without devolving into chaos. The researchers have since launched a new investigation to pin down exactly how this dynamic works.

The paper is published in the current issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and opens with the Pablo Picasso quote "God is really an artist, like me . . . I am God."

Goncalo says it was the popular stereotype of creative types as self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing that inspired them to take on this research, and he believes this is the first research to specifically examine the connection between narcissism and creativity.

"If you think about these rock bands that are really creative for short periods of time and then just explode and disband, I wonder if narcissism may be at play there, that the atmosphere can be conducive to creativity for awhile, but then the personalities just create too much friction," he says.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Pioneer Press, October 25, 2010, Monday

Pioneer Press

October 25, 2010, Monday

Pioneer Press

Jimmy John's union touts close vote

Sub shop owners say they'll look for improvements
By Julie Forster

The union that fell just short in its effort to win the right to represent workers at 10 Twin Cities Jimmy John's sub shops is preparing to file an appeal with labor relations regulators and touting last week's "near tie" as progress.

Calling themselves the Jimmy John's Workers Union, organizers say the fact that they secured 85 votes in favor of a union, with 87 against, shows the balance is shifting in the fast-food industry.

"We have a mandate to fight for change at Jimmy John's," said Erik Forman, a union organizer and delivery driver at one of the St. Louis Park shops.

The union, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World, claims management tried to intimidate and illegally influence the outcome of the election, charges the franchise owner denies.

Mike Mulligan, whose family owns the 10 west-metro Jimmy John's where the union election was held Friday, says the union organizing ordeal has "wounded" his company.

Unions have made little headway in the fast-food industry due in part to high turnover and a high percentage of younger workers who don't necessarily consider their jobs long-term. Plus there are few success stories in the industry that show the benefits of a union.

"It's hard for workers to look around and say, 'We will be just like them and have the same kinds of gains,' " said Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University in New York.

The Industrial Workers of the World, a radical anti-establishment union that peaked in the early 20th century, is focusing on the industry in a comeback bid. Mulligan says his franchise was simply the latest target.

Whether last week's defeat weakens support or energizes it could depend on how each side responds.

"You would hope that the franchise owners would use this as an opportunity to think carefully about how their restaurants are run and see if there are opportunities for addressing some of the issues that have come up," said John Budd, a professor of industrial relations for the Carlson School of Management. "Clearly, with 50 percent voting in favor, the concerns weren't just those of a few troublemakers."

"We have never denied that there weren't ways to improve our operations," said Mulligan, 66, a former Supervalu executive who's been a Jimmy John's franchisee for more than nine years. "We will sit down and take stock of what we have learned and see what it tells us about what we can do better."

Although the union effort came up short, the narrow margin could have a "great impact," Bronfenbrenner said. "People should never assume that there is no group that can't be organized. Workers will prove you wrong."

Ten years ago, for example, the thinking was that home health care workers can't be organized because they tend to work in isolation. "Now, they're organizing by the hundreds of thousands," she said.

Davis Ritsema, a delivery driver and meat slicer at a Jimmy John's in Uptown Minneapolis, said he's confident working conditions are going to improve even without a union contract. Ritsema makes $7.25 per hour with tips as a delivery driver and $8.75 per hour as a meat cutter.

The close margin "scares them a little bit, and we want to make sure that people are still pushing to see improvements at work."

Julie Forster can be reached at 651-228-5189.

The Times-Tribune, October 24, 2010, Sunday

Copyright 2010 The Times-Tribune
The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

October 24, 2010, Sunday

Beauty school boon

BYLINE: James Haggerty, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Oct. 24--Despite debate about the success of the $787 billion federal stimulus, it clearly benefits students at Empire Beauty School.

Students at Empire, a for-profit system based in Pottsville that has a school at the Birney Mall in Moosic, qualified for $42.3 million in Pell grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from April 2009 through June. The grants are provided to low-income, higher-education students. Empire, which offers degrees in cosmetology, barbering and cosmetology instruction, has 12,000 students at 103 schools in 21 states.

"We certainly have more students on Pell grants than other schools, but we have a different demographic, a differ-ent dynamic than other schools," said Angela Watson, a spokeswoman for Empire.

The stimulus-related aid to Empire's students emerges as the for-profit school sector comes under closer examina-tion.

The federal government is stepping up regulation of the industry, which critics say exploits low-income students and leaves them saddled with debt and bleak employment prospects. Rising defaults on student loans leave taxpayers with the bill and the government is considering rules limiting the schools' access to financial aid.

"Now, you are seeing more scrutiny and I think that is warranted," Sen. Bob Casey said.

"The for-profit people have a different set of incentives and went into the business for a different reason," said John Bishop, Ph.D., a labor economist and professor of human resources at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "There's a real potential for exploitation."

Proprietary schools are a convenient target in a climate of rising austerity, said Dick Dumaresq, Ed.D., executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators, a trade group based in Harrisburg.

"This is the season of Halloween and there's a little bit of a witch hunt going on here," Dr. Dumaresq said. "When money rears its head, everybody gets nervous."

The Pell grant money delivered to Empire students through the stimulus accounts for 8.4 percent of more than $503.8 million distributed in Pennsylvania.

More than two-thirds of the students at Empire's school in Moosic received Pell grants in 2008-09, Ms. Waston said, and the average grant amount was $5,318. Costs for tuition, fees, books and supplies at the Moosic school total about $19,000 annually, she said, and it job-placement rate is 80 percent. Full-time students can complete the program in one year and they receive a diploma and license if they pass a state test.

Students in the Empire system actually received more than $58.2 million in Pell grants in 2009-10, including non-stimulus aid, said Sarah Gast, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. The per-recipient grant for Empire averaged $3,700. In 2008-09, Empire students received $35 million in Pell grants, she said.

"When you have that large of a student population receiving aid and do the math, that's how the number gets that big," Ms. Gast said.

One of the objectives of the stimulus was to train people for many types of jobs, said U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-11, Nanticoke.

"All the judgment in the stimulus bill probably wasn't the finest," he said.

The Pell grant totals reflect Empire's high ratio of nontraditional students, including people who enroll after years in the work force.

"It's high because of the type of student we get," Ms. Watson said.

"It might make sense at $3,700 per student to get a new career," Dr. Dumaresq said. "No one looks at the context."

For-profit schools have thrived in the troubled economic climate. Enrollment at proprietary schools in 2009 was 1.8 million, up from 240,000 in 1995, according to industry data.
"More people in greater need have gone back to school and the Pell grants have gone up, not only in our sector but across the board," Dr. Dumaresq said.

Empire has expanded to 103 schools from 85 early in 2009 and enrollment is up about 10 percent in the last year.

The growth came from expansion and acquisitions, Ms. Watson said.

"We're certainly are not growing due to the Pell grants," she said. "It doesn't do any great things for us financially. It doesn't change our bottom line."

The idea behind Pell grants was sound social policy, Dr. Bishop said, but it enables for-profit schools to prosper despite student outcomes.

"The problem with this program is, using our concern for disadvantaged people and creating opportunities for them to advance in life is being used to increase the profits of these schools," he said. "What the feds are thinking about with the Pell grants is, the student will have to commit the time and pay the rest of the costs.

"If the kid doesn't show up or comes for two days and goes away, they still get their money."

Contact the writer:

To see more of The Times-Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Cop-yright (c) 2010, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit, e-mail, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544).

LOAD-DATE: October 24, 2010

My Science, October 21, 2010, Thursday

My Science

October 21, 2010, Thursday

My Science

ILR School’s Employment and Disability Institute wins $4 million grant to study employer practices

What kind of manager is most effective at implementing disability policy? Can organizations help people with disabilities feel more engaged and fully utilized at work? How can employers be better equipped to recruit and retain people with disabilities, including returning veterans?

These are some of the questions that the Employment and Disability Institute (EDI), along with other ILR School and external partners, will explore over the next five years, funded by a $4 million grant from the Department of Education National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

"We’d like to see more people with disabilities being hired and retained, more being able to advance in their careers, and fewer being disparately affected by layoffs," says Susanne Bruyère, ILR School associate dean of outreach and EDI director, as some of the specific employment outcomes the study’s findings will inform and facilitate. "Often, people with disabilities can be marginalized when there’s an economic crunch."

The study’s 13 research projects include focus groups and surveys with human resources executives, as well as in-depth analysis of employer practices with private and public sector organizations.

Several projects will focus on how compensation affects employees with disabilities. Kevin Hallock, director of ILR’s Institute for Compensation Studies and who is leading this segment, said he hopes to learn more about the differences in compensation for people with and without disabilities, something that has never been done before.

Lisa Nishii, ILR assistant professor of human resources, will lead work with employers to take a closer look at how culture, policies and practices, leadership and work group dynamics affect the employment experiences of people with disabilities, she said.

"In a previous Department of Labor study, 75 percent of managers said they weren’t aware of disability policies, even though their organizations had these in place. We hope to learn more about the discrepancies between espoused and enacted policy and the obstacles that affect awareness and implementation of policy," Nishii said.

Research and outreach activities will also target rehabilitation agency providers, people with disabilities and their families, disability advocates, other researchers, policymakers and the media.

Bringing together the rehabilitation and employment communities is critical to the study’s success, said Judy Young, EDI assistant director of training and development. ILR’s connections and established relationships in both communities were a competitive advantage that helped secure the grant.

"Our prior research shows that employment participation rates for Americans with disabilities are approximately half that of their non-disabled peers (40 percent compared to 80 percent)," Young said. "With this study, we’re looking at all the stakeholders who can contribute to increasing these workforce participation rates and who have a say in whether a person with a disability will be successful at work."

Bruyère said an online tool that will help employers assess their effectiveness in recruiting and retaining employees with disabilities will be developed, along with a "significant outreach effort" to ensure employers have ready access to information on best practices.

Nishii hopes that besides learning more about the factors that affect people with disabilities after they’re hired, greater insight will be gained about broader diversity and diversity policy issues.

Partners in the project are: the EDI; Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies; Institute for Compensation Studies; ILR Executive Education and Human Capital Development group; e-Cornell; Conference Board; Society for Human Resource Management; National Federation of Independent Business and Disability Management Employers’ Coalition.

Joe Zappala is ILR School assistant dean for communications and marketing.

MSNBC, October 18, 2010, Monday

Copyright 2010
All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2010, Monday

Discussing politics at work

Talk around the water cooler these days is probably about witches, whores and Speedos thanks to the election sea-son.

A senatorial candidate in Delaware, who's against masturbation, is touting that she's not a witch in her political ads. The aide of a candidate for governor in California called his opponent a whore. And the New York governor's race has one contender publicly expressing his fear of homosexuals in skimpy swimming trunks.

Such emotionally charged political discourse often ends up in a workplace debate, labor experts said, and that's not always a good thing. It can lead to trouble for employees who have few if any free-speech rights at work, and for employers trying to maintain harassment-free, litigation-free workplaces.

"You can't say whatever you want and expect not to be fired," said Donna Ballman, an employment attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who represents employees and has seen a growing number of them disciplined lately for expressing their political opinions. "There is no First Amendment in corporate America."

Managers are also worried appropriate conduct at work may be suffering, maintained Elise Bloom, co-chair of the labor and employment law department at Proskauer, a law firm in New York.

"We are hearing a lot more questions tied to how much people can talk about politics," she said about the firm's corporate clients' inquiries.

To make matters worse employees are not only engaging in political conversations with co-workers face to face, they're also increasingly using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or blogs, e-mail and instant mes-saging, to get their opinions out this political season.

For example, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York Carl Paladino's comments last week about gays and Speedos became one of the top trending topics on Twitter, and that was during work hours. That meant thousands of people - probably from their offices and factories, and maybe even on a work computer - were tweeting about where they stood on Paladino's comments.

There were lots of homophobia jokes, and vulgar remarks I can't repeat here. And most of tweets had tweeters' photos and names attached, making it possible for managers to find if they wanted to. Even if a comment is seemingly innocuous, who's to say how your boss and coworkers (not to mention customers and clients of the company you work for) will interpret it.

The First Amendment says Congress can't pass laws curtailing speech, but taking political sides or appearing to take sides can be hazardous to your employment, even if you're not doing it during work time.

Last month, a New Jersey transit worker Derek Fenton was fired two days after he burned pages from a Quran out-side the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, even though he was off the clock. The transit agency said he violated its code of ethics and "his trust as a state employee."

And in August Bryan Glover, an assistant coach for a middle school near Nashville, Tenn., said he was fired from his job for distributing via email a country music song he wrote disparaging President Obama. Unfortunately, parents of students were on his email list and his song offended some.

"The coach called me and said parents were upset that I was being politically incorrect and the song had racial overtones," Glover told Fox News Radio. "An hour and a half later I was told I was being terminated."

Glover has maintained in press reports that he lost his job because of the song's conservative lyrics and the fact that he was a staunch Republican (Glover and the school where he worked, Grassland Middle School, could not be reached for comment).

One of the major misconceptions among workers is that they have free speech rights on the job or off the clock, Ballman stressed. "You can be terminated for any of your private behavior. What you write on a blog or say on Twit-ter."

Few if any states have laws protecting employee free speech who work for private employers, but government employees tend to have more First Amendment rights said Risa Lieberwitz, professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University's ILR School. But, she added, "The scope of those rights has been severely limited by a serious of Supreme Court cases."

Only unions, she continued, give workers the best protections because typically union contracts require that work-ers can only be fired or suffer any adverse job action for "just cause."

If the political chatter is not polarizing or angry, it should be allowed for the sake of workplace functionality, suggested Bruce Barry, professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt University and the author of "Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace."

"Workers are adults. Everyone is going to talk about last night's ball game or last night's gubernatorial debate," he said. "Too many employers get too nervous about it too quickly," he said.

About one quarter of employers have written policies and 10 percent have unwritten policies regarding their employees' political activities, according to a poll done in 2008 by the Society of Human Resource Management. Among those, 5 percent have disciplined employees for not following the rules.

Clearly, political discussions can be pretty dicey undertakings for employees and managers because it can be hard for people to control their emotions, maintained Joseph Grenny, co-author of "Crucial Conversation: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High."

He surveyed more than 600 people and found that when discussing politics "only 28 percent feel they can control their own temper and only 23 percent believe they can handle it if the other person gets upset."

In most cases, according to Grenny's research, employees shy away from such talk:

. Seventy-seven percent of people avoid discussing politics, and one in ten even report that they stay away from political banter at all costs.
. Nearly half of respondents have had bad experiences in the past when sharing their political views-and rather than risk a verbal battle, they stay silent.

Given that passions can run high when it comes to political speech, some career and labor law experts suggest employees try to keep their opinions on the down low at work, and suggested that employers should discourage too much passionate politicking.

"One person's opinion is often considered another employee's hate speech," said Chris D'Angelo, a New York employment attorney who does harassment training for employers.

Suppressing your passionate opinions may seem tough right about now given this political season's hyperbolic rhetoric. But is this election year any different, or has the expansion of the way we communicate thanks to the Internet making it look worse?

"Candidates say things on the campaign trial that they would never say in a work environment," said Philip Edward Jones, assistant professor, department of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.

"Whether the campaign discourse has been getting more or less offensive over time is tricky to tell. How do you measure offensiveness?" he said.

Still, today's political brawls pale in comparison to those of previous generations, Jones noted. In the bitter political campaign of 1800, Thomas Jefferson's camp "accused President Adams of having a 'hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.' In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson 'a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.'"

Can you imagine the talk around the water well pump back then?

LOAD-DATE: October 19, 2010

BNA Daily Labor Report, October 13, 2010, Wednesday

BNA Daily Labor Report

October 13, 2010, Wednesday

BNA Daily Labor Report

Expedited Process Set Out in Memo Could Be Expanded

NEW YORK—The concept behind the expedited process for obtaining remedies for firings during union organizing campaigns set out in his recent National Labor Relations Board memorandum could be expanded to other areas of Section 10(j) injunctive relief, Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon suggested Oct. 13.

Speaking at a Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations program, Solomon said that the goal of the memorandum, which he issued to regional offices Sept. 30, is “real-time reinstatement.” The memorandum called for priority action and a speedy remedy in every meritorious unfair labor practice case alleging discriminatory termination during a union organizing effort (189 DLR A-13, 9/30/10).

“There really is no doubt among anybody working at the board that [protection against retaliation] is the very essence of the [National Labor Relations] Act,” Solomon said. “Firing destroys both the organizing campaign and—to me, more important—the employee's life.” Board staff will “fast-track these cases from beginning to end,” he said.

Asked if the expedited approach might be applied to 10(j) or 10(l) cases not involving retaliation charges, Solomon said that if the effort is successful, he hopes it can be expanded to other 10(j) cases. Section 10(j) of the NLRA empowers the NLRB to petition a federal district court for an injunction to temporarily prevent unfair labor practices by employers or unions and to restore the status quo, pending full review of the case by the board.

The 10(l) cases, Solomon suggested, would not lend themselves to the same approach. Section 10(l) of the NLRA requires the board to seek a temporary federal court injunction against certain forms of union misconduct, principally involving “secondary boycotts” and “recognitional picketing.”

The board will keep statistics to see if the new approach really works, Solomon said.

For the genesis of the memo, Solomon gave credit to Samuel Estreicher, who wrote an article as a New York University law professor setting out areas for administrative reform at the board, short of amending the act (106 DLR C-1, 6/5/09).

Time Lag ‘Too Long.’

Estreicher's 2004-08 statistics showed an average of 334 days between the filing of a charge to the filing of court papers seeking an injunction, he said. “That is much too long,” Solomon said, “so we've redesigned the process to try to remove the obstacles along the way.”

The presentation was Solomon's first speech since his appointment as acting general counsel in June (118 DLR A-14, 6/22/10).

In a discussion of the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in New Process Steel LP v. NLRB, 130 S. Ct. 2635, 188 LRRM 2833 (2010), rejecting the authority of the board to issue decisions with only two members (116 DLR AA-1, 6/18/10), Solomon reported that three-member panels of the board have redecided on remand 70 of the 96 two-member cases pending before circuit courts when the Supreme Court issued its decision (126 DLR AA-1, 7/2/10).

Of those, 56 are back in court, Solomon said. Some have been settled, and others are “yet to come,” he said. The three-member panels include Members Wilma B. Liebman (D) and Peter C. Schaumber (R)—who made up the two-member board—plus a randomly assigned third member.

The board expects “all kinds of attacks” questioning the propriety of having Liebman and Schaumber ruling on the redecided cases at all, Solomon said.

In four or five pending contempt cases, Solomon said, the board is taking the position that the contempt case is valid in the circuit courts even if the underlying two-member board decision is not.

Turning to recent board decisions to reconsider two sets of cases that question whether a union's support among employees can be challenged (168 DLR A-9, 8/31/10), Solomon said that the general counsel's office would not be filing briefs in the cases. The request for briefs, due Nov. 1, seeks “empirical data from the real world” to help guide the board, and the general counsel's office lacks any of that kind of empirical knowledge, he suggested.

Conflict on Deferral to Arbitration

On another subject, Solomon said that board staff have been grappling with “what to do next” to resolve a long-standing conflict with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on board policy on deferring to arbitration awards (213 DLR A-3, 11/6/09).

While the board has reserved the right not to defer to arbitration awards under certain specific circumstances, set out in what are known as the Spielberg/Olin standards, the D.C. circuit took the position that a collective bargaining contract constitutes an implied waiver of the employee's right to seek board review, Solomon said.

Although it has proved difficult to resolve the “complicated” issues concerning deferral, the board staff hopes to develop new proposed rules that would be announced publicly and considered by the board, he reported.

Annually, the board defers to arbitration in all but about two dozen cases out of 2,000, Solomon said. “It's a real problem, but only a real problem in a small number of cases,” he said.
On the issue of mitigation of damages, Solomon said that board staff have been asked to review the whole back pay process, “to go back to first principles and come up with a system that is fair.”

Although he acknowledged the complexity of mitigation issues, he suggested that it is insensitive to the impact a dismissal can have on an employee's life “to sit in our ivory tower and say you have to pound the pavement for two weeks and forever thereafter.”

Under current board law, illegally fired employees have a duty to mitigate their damages by looking for and performing other comparable work, and the mitigation earnings are subtracted from the back pay owed.

Management, Union Attorney Responses Vary

Discussing Solomon's presentation, management attorney Stephen Ploscowe of the New York law firm Fox Rothschild questioned the assumption behind the expedited process for seeking injunctions in retaliatory discharge cases.

“My concern is the board's assumption that there has been an unlawful discharge,” Ploscowe said. While some cases may have clear evidence on the record, others rely “on a board agent reporting hearsay to someone higher up in the region, and the region makes a recommendation to the board,” he said.

“It's a little harsh, frankly, in many cases to go to a 10(j) injunction,” he continued, adding that an expedited administrative law hearing would be preferable to determine the facts. “Frequently, there is too much of an assumption that there has been unlawful activity, and that is not always so.”

Similarly, on mitigation of damages, Ploscowe maintained that the facts may not support the employee's case. He cited an instance in which an employer client had been denied mitigation even though the employee had been offered another, identical position at a nearby location with the same pay.

Susan Davis, a union attorney with the New York law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon, welcomed Solomon's memo, commending the “thought, creativity, and attention” given to the issue. She called for a broader review of the 10(j) injunction process and “the entire remedial scheme” under the act.

“I think there is a general, if grudging, consensus that penalties under this act are so weak that it is a rational economic choice for the employer to take to violate the law,” she said.

Davis sought to contrast the total of 112 Section 10(j) injunctions during the term of the most recent general counsel, Ronald Meisburg, with the thousands of “meritorious cases” in that period. “There is an enormous discrepancy between what is happening on the ground and what is happening in Washington in terms of enforcing the law,” she said.

LRP Publications, October 13, 2010, Wednesday

LRP Publications

October 13, 2010, Wednesday

LRP Publications

Key points:
· Keep open lines of communication with families during transition process
· Make sure postsecondary plan reflects child’s current needs, interests
· Review transition plan section by section to give parents time to raise concerns

Regularly communicate, collaborate with parents throughout transition process

Recent litigation underscores the importance of communicating with parents throughout the transition process about a student’s progress toward acquiring delineated postsecondary skills.

In Dracut School Committee v. Bureau of Special Education Appeals, 55 IDELR 66 (D. Mass. 2010), a student who had graduated was entitled to compensatory transition services because the district had failed to address his significant deficits with pragmatic language and social skills in his transition plan.

In Oyster River Cooperative School District, 110 LRP 33121 (SEA NH 06/08/10), an IHO ordered a district to allow a student with Asperger syndrome and anxiety issues to finish the school year rather than graduate in January because he had not yet met his transition objectives.

Cases like these are on the rise, says Cheryl Maimona, a school attorney with Pepple & Waggoner Ltd. in Cleveland. “More parents either don’t think their child is ready to graduate or come back to the district after the child graduates and say they did a poor job transition planning and don’t want the diploma after all,” she says.

Work to avoid these situations in your district by regularly communicating with parents and reviewing a student’s postsecondary needs, sources say.

Follow these steps:

Conduct, consider transition assessments. Conducting transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills should be the first step in your transition planning, says Nancy Hinkley, transition specialist for the Employment and Disability Institute at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The Dracut case underscores the danger of not conducting proper assessments and using those assessments to determine goals and services, adds Christopher L. Hirst, a school attorney at K&L Gates LLP in Seattle.

Consider family input early. Start talking to students with disabilities when they turn 12 about their future plans for living, learning and working, Hinkley says. This is a good age to begin discussing career pathways and whether the student will work toward a regular high school diploma. Having these conversations early gives the IEP team more time to consider realistic goals, help the student work toward those goals, and address any concerns that may arise.

Review transition plan often. “You have to regularly review whether the plan is appropriate and the student is meeting his goals,” Hinkley says. Consider holding a meeting if the child’s needs or aspirations change, sources say. Students’ needs and interests are “continually changing,” says Amy Szymanski, special education and school improvement consultant with State Support Team Region 1 in Toledo, Ohio. “The transition plan should stay up to speed with those changes.”

Review transition plan slowly. Review it section by section, and discuss each of the child’s areas
of need, Hirst says. Look at whether the goals are still appropriate or whether different services arerequired to address the goal.

Taking time to review the transition plan also gives parents a chance to think about whether they have any concerns. They’re going to feel rushed if you go through it in a hurry and say, “Any questions?” Szymanski says. Also, if you rush through the transition plan at the annual meeting, parents may be less likely to ask to reconvene at other points throughout the year. You don’t want them to get the impression that you don’t have time, Szymanski says.

“Parents should feel comfortable bringing any concerns to your attention as soon as they come up so the entire team can work toward a solution,” she says.

Assign a liaison. One person from the IEP team should be in charge of following up with the family on a regular basis, Maimona says. This should be someone who has a good relationship with the family, such as the special ed teacher, and can speak to the progress the student has made toward achieving his transition goals. Instruct this person to notify the IEP team leader as soon as she senses a parent is dissatisfied with a service or goal, Maimona says.

Respond promptly to parents’ concerns. If a parent is concerned that her child isn’t making adequate progress toward his transition goals, you can have an IEP meeting at any time during the year to discuss those concerns and consider revising the transition plan, Szymanski says.

Make sure parents know this as well, she says. “They shouldn’t wait until the annual IEP meeting to bring something to your attention,” she says.

Discuss continuing services when necessary. Remember, the fact that a student who receives
special ed services has earned enough credits for graduation is not always the determining factor for graduation eligibility. The IEP team must review the student’s IEP goals and objectives to determine whether he has made adequate progress and is ready to graduate. IEP teams should have a conversation about continuing services when a student hasn’t met critical transition goals, Maimona says.

For example, the student in the Oyster River case hoped to enroll in a university but had not yet met his independent living, community participation and vocational goals.

October 13, 2010
Copyright 2010 © LRP Publications

My Science, October 13, 2010, Wednesday

My Science

October 13, 2010, Wednesday

My Science

ILR School contributes to first solar jobs census

Not all economic news these days is good. But there are some bright spots.

One is solar jobs.

The number of solar workers is projected to jump 26 percent -- almost 24,000 net new jobs -- in the next 12 months, reports the National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce.

The census was conducted by the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit education and research organization, and Green LMI Consulting. John Bunge, ILR School associate professor of social statistics, served as technical adviser for the census, the first-of-its kind review of the U.S. solar workforce. He provided lead counsel on sampling and data analysis plans and provided expert advice on the research methodology.

"We faced a complex problem of simply defining the population -- those who are known solar industry employers, and those who are unknown or potentially active in solar energy but not listed in traditional categories," Bunge said.

He added: "This is hard to do, but it was done well, following a careful and statistically valid approach. The Solar Foundation and Green LMI’s success in identifying more than 16,700 solar employment sites and more than 93,000 solar jobs is indicative of a high-quality research methodology."

Bunge got involved in the project after getting a call from Maria Figueroa, ILR senior extension associate. The request for technical assistance first came to ILR’s Global Labor Institute from a Cornell graduate and eventually made its way to Figueroa.

"I took an interest because I have some experience working with the construction industry, where available statistics about the labor market are not always adequate and not always good at reflecting the actual levels of employment," Figueroa said.

Figueroa quickly realized that this project would need a lot of "heavy-duty statistical support." She immediately thought of Bunge, with whom she had previously worked.

Bunge said ILR’s involvement in this project is "right on target" since it combines employment research with survey statistics. "That’s why our department exists," he said.

"The fact that a national census is needed to examine the size and nature of the work force signals that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. economy," said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of the Solar Foundation.

Bunge noted that it’s surprising to learn about the number of people working in the solar industry and the projections for growth. "The Obama administration has been pushing for more green jobs," he said. "This is an important matter of national policy -- and it’s a good place for ILR to be."

Joe Zappala is ILR School assistant dean for communications and marketing.

NBC New York, September 22, 2010, Wednesday

NBC New York

September 22, 2010, Wednesday

NBC New York

New Website Helps Cheated Restaurant Workers guide to employee rights

It happens in the best of restaurants.

Cheating waiters out of their tips or proper wages is not such a dirty little secret anymore as growing numbers of workers have been suing to right alleged wrongs.

Now a new website can help guide restaurant employees through New York's complicated labor laws.

Called, it's the brainchild of a labor attorney who won a record $3.15 million settlement with Sparks Steakhouse last year, settling a class action suit about alleged tip-skimming.

"There have been some significant cases against famous restaurants that have shined a spotlight on restaurant pay practices," said attorney Louis Pechman. "Surprisingly, though, there are still many restaurants out there who are either ignorant of the law or are willfully violating the law." features a "top ten violations list" and a news blog with the latest on those eateries under fire for alleged wage or tip abuses.

While the amount of money not paid can seem small at first, over weeks or years, "it can become business ending," said Pechman. "In other words, ignoring the wage and hour laws may be a recipe for disaster."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2010, Thursday

The Wall Street Journal

October 14, 2010, Thursday

The Wall Street Journal

City, Firefighters Face Off Over Staffing

Administration Says It'll Let Lapse a Deal for Extra Hands on Busiest Engines; Union Claims Negotiations Are Necessary

The city has fired the first salvo in a battle with the firefighters' union over reducing staffing and controlling medical leave.

In a letter Tuesday to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the city said it planned to let lapse a deal that allows 60 engine companies to staff each shift with an extra firefighter, as long as the average number of firefighters taking medical leave doesn't exceed a specified level.

The agreement offered the city a way to control medical leave and the union more overtime. The agreement, which allowed a fifth firefighter per shift at some of the city's busiest engine companies, is set to expire early next year. The question is whether the state's arcane labor law allows the city to decide to let the agreement die or whether it forces the city to negotiate over its renewal. City officials estimate eliminating the fifth firefighter would save $16 million in overtime costs in the first year and $30 million after five years. Union officials insist the staffing is necessary to keep response times down and any cuts put the public at risk.

Union officials said the so-called Roster Staffing Agreement stipulates that once it expires, the city must negotiate according to collective-bargaining laws if it wishes to change staffing levels. Documents outlining the terms of the agreement state that in the event the city plans to make staffing changes, "the parties will negotiate to the extent required by the New York City Collective Bargaining Law."

In the letter informing the union that the agreement is expiring at the end of January, city Labor Relations Commissioner James Hanley unveiled how the city plans to try to control medical leave without the Roster Staffing Agreement. The letter said that should the percentage of firefighters on medical leave exceed 7.5%, the city would implement a policy that would suspend a privilege known as "mutuals" that lets firefighters trade shifts among themselves so that they can work two 24-hour shifts instead of a total of 48 hours over four days.

"It's an effort to keep medical leave in check," while allowing the city to save on overtime from the extra staffing under the current agreement, said a city official familiar with the new policy. About 70% of city firefighters work mutuals, the official said.

The city said the new policy concerning mutuals is not subject to any collective-bargaining laws. "This has been litigated and resolved, and we have the right to make the change," said Jason Post, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Stephen Cassidy, president of the UFA, called the new policy on mutuals a "red herring." He said the issue is about whether the city can just let the existing agreement that provides for the extra firefighters at the busiest engine companies expire.

"The letter that came from Commissioner Hanley doesn't address the issue at all," Mr. Cassidy said. "Are they saying that they don't have to negotiate with the UFA? I don't get it."

Mr. Cassidy said according to the Triborough Amendment of the Taylor Law, an expiring agreement must continue to be implemented until a new agreement is negotiated with the union.

Earlier this year, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano told a City Council committee that any plan to reduce staffing on the 60 engine companies with the extra firefighter would be discussed with the union and go to arbitration if no agreement were reached.

On Wednesday, Mr. Post said the Roster Staffing Agreement was not a labor contract and can be allowed to lapse. He said the city would be open to discussing staffing as part of future negotiations with the UFT. "Nothing is on or off the table," he said.

Lee Adler, an expert on public-sector collective bargaining at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said whether the current agreement can be allowed to expire hinges on "if it is part of a collective-bargaining agreement or found to be in a collective-bargaining agreement by the state or municipal dispute-resolution authorities." In that case, "the firefighters are likely to be in good shape," Mr. Adler said.

If the agreement was part of a stand-alone pact, the fate of the agreement becomes "a bit unclear," he said.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at

Rochester City Newspaper, October 13, 2010, Wednesday

Rochester City Newspaper

October 13, 2010, Wednesday

Rochester City Newspaper

Labor's love lost

Jefferson Cowie traces the roots of blue-collar conservatism.

Interview by Ron Netsky

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Jefferson Cowie. PROVIDED PHOTO

Two posters are prominently displayed in Jefferson Cowie's Cornell University office. The first, dealing with a workers' protest, is no surprise; Cowie is associate professor of labor history at Cornell.

But next to that is a poster promoting a 1970's Bruce Springsteen gig at New York's Bottom Line. For Cowie, the subjects are inexorably linked.

In his new book, "Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class," Cowie weaves popular culture into the narrative of labor history.

The book traces the way some traditionally Democratic workers gravitated to the Republican Party as the left embraced minorities, feminists, and countercultural youth in the 1970's.

As the country braces for another election in which many workers appear poised to once again vote against what would seem to be their best interests, the reverberations of the 1970's continue to be felt.

The book also deals with the more liberal outlook on labor in the 1970's that made it possible for Congress to pass the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act in 1978. The bill, sponsored by then Senator Hubert Humphrey and Representative Augustus Hawkins (whose district included the turbulent Watts area in Los Angeles), called for the right to a job.

The bill called for local planning councils to map out community needs involving transportation, child care, housing, health care, and other areas that could be filled with public- and private-sector jobs.�

Even though the bill was greatly compromised by amendments before it passed, Cowie finds it fascinating that the discussion even took place. He believes the playing field regarding labor issues has shifted far to the right in subsequent decades. In his view, we now think within such narrow parameters that a bill like Humphrey-Hawkins would be unimaginable today.

Cowie, who serves as house professor and dean of William Keeton House, an innovative learning environment on Cornell's West Campus, was not born to privilege. He grew up in Crystal Lake near Chicago, the son of a janitor.

"When your dad works the nightshift at the same high school you're going to, you have a portal on how the world works that very few people have," Cowie says.

That's why one of the book's themes: the hidden injuries of class, is so important to him

In a recent interview, Cowie discussed his book and its relation to contemporary politics. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

CITY: One of the central themes of your book is that the 1970's was the decade that Democrats, the traditional party of unions and blue-collar workers, lost labor. What happened?

Cowie: The 1970's is kind of an inverse of the 1930's. During the 1930's, the Democratic Party is as close to a labor party as it's ever going to be. That continues for several decades through Johnson and then Nixon. Then what happens?

Scholars debate whether it was an economic crisis that liberals had no solution to in '73, '74, '75. Others have looked at the racial backlash, the rise of identity politics, and the decline of class politics. I look at it as a perfect storm: all of these things happening at the same time.

In terms of race in the 1970's, busing may have been necessary to integrate schools and level the educational playing field in cities, but it was not popular with many in the middle class.

The main character in the book, [autoworker] Dewey Burton - that's what drives him to vote for George Wallace in 1972. That's the axe that falls through the Democratic Party at that particular moment.

We may be shocked today by the popularity of the Tea Party and figures like Glenn Beck, but in the 1970's, Wallace, a segregationist, had a large following. If he hadn't been shot, who knows how far he would have gone?

He runs as an independent in '68, but he's a viable Democratic candidate in 1972. He won the Michigan primary the day he was shot.

To take the 1930's-1970's analogy a little farther, the 1930's put politics on an economic platform: the 1970's shifted it to a social and racial platform, which has pretty deep resonance in American culture.

So in some ways what's going on now with the Tea Party and the Glenn Becks and cultural politics, they're the descendents of Wallace.

Also in the 1970's, Democrats changed the presidential delegate selection process, bringing in more women, minorities, and youth. Meanwhile, Nixon sees an opening and embraces blue-collar workers, the majority of whom are white males.

Nixon is the greatest character in 20th century political history. He was a genius, he was crazy, he was paranoid, but he came up with the silent majority tactic after 1968: What can we do about workers?

Basically, he wants to re-create the Republican Party in such a way that it's a permanent successor to the [Franklin] Roosevelt Coalition. To do that he needs the working class. He brilliantly says we can't attack the unions, but we can win their hearts and minds on these cultural values, on the war, on patriotism, on machismo. He reaches out. There's a great campaign sticker, a picture of a hardhat in red, white and blue. It just says "Nixon," and it captures the whole campaign.

In the book you discuss the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, which before it was gutted, would have guaranteed jobs.

On one hand it's like it's from another planet. But it was important enough for people to think they had to pass an empty shell of a bill.

The lesson today from Humphrey-Hawkins is one of political imagination. People at one point said, maybe the role of the state is not just to prop up corporations, maybe the role of the state is to actually insure that citizens have jobs. This will take care of poverty, this will create unity in a divided population.

We talked about that in a way we just don't anymore. Now economic policy falls along orthodox lines. We have a vicious debate within very narrow parameters. There's a possibility of having a discussion that's a mile wide instead of six inches wide. Humphrey-Hawkins represents that wide discussion.

That bill harkened back to the Works Progress Administration of the Franklin Roosevelt era. In dealing with our current crisis, we're putting stimulus money out there but not in the way Roosevelt did.

The New Deal had two phases. The first, the National Industrial Recovery Act, looked a lot like what we're doing now. Roosevelt basically organized business owners to solve the problem. And that didn't work. It was found to be unconstitutional and it didn't save anything. it was a disaster.

In 1935 we get a very different New Deal. That's when you see Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act. That's when you see the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. That's when you see an approach where we're going to give money to people so they can stimulate demand rather than allow corporations further power to control a messed-up situation.

Is it simplistic to put together the fact that we have a need for repairs on infrastructure and a need for jobs and wonder why we don't have another Works Progress Administration-like program, putting people directly to work?

No. I completely agree. The infrastructure is falling apart. We need transportation. And why are we not leaders in the development of green technology? I'm a big proponent of the Apollo Alliance, an attempt to revitalize the rust belt by developing green technologies.

We're here talking in this one closet of the house called economic policy and we never get out when there are all these other rooms to explore.

The songwriter you believe consistently had his finger on the pulse of labor's problems is Bruce Springsteen.

If you look at Springsteen's career it captures the story extraordinarily well. There are these jazzy, crazy early albums and they're full of life and possibility and there's one line that really jumped out at me from "Greetings from Asbury Park." He says, "Dockworker's dreams mix with Panther schemes to someday own the rodeo." The dockworkers, the labor union, the Black Panthers; it's the blue-black alliance.

By mid-decade it's "Born to Run." Got to get out. He's in the car, ready to roll out of town, asking his girlfriend: are you with me or not? Then he does what no other artist of the day does, he goes back. In "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" Springsteen asks, who did we leave behind? Who are these people?

I think his own fame freaked him out and he went back and said, where did I come from? He looks into that darkness in those factory towns and finds an inescapable despair and claustrophobia that really concern him.

But when he puts out "Born in the USA," the song is co-opted -and misunderstood - by Ronald Reagan, who sees it as a patriotic rallying cry to use in his campaign.

I hated "Born in the USA" when it came out because I thought my guy had been co-opted by mainstream society and the frat boys were now playing his music. I was in college and into punk. But when I went back as an adult and a scholar and looked at that song, I was blown away by how much he captured the moment and how many layers.

You have this worker who fought in Vietnam, lost his job at the oil refinery, is this close to going to the penitentiary, and that story is absolutely dwarfed by the sonic chorus of this nationalist boom, boom, boom.

As poetry it's amazing, because even if you read it, it's "Born in the USA, born in the USA, born in the USA," then the story underneath all that chorus. So the workers are lost, lost in this reverberating sound machine of patriotism.

The latest incarnation of the far right is the Tea Party. But the movement is funded by the Koch Brothers, oil barons with their own agenda. The Machiavellian tactics seem to have changed. Have Nixon's dirty tricks evolved into stealth funding?

They're on steroids now. Nixon first figures this out and says we can't harm the institutions of labor because they'll bite us, so we're going to leave those. But in the meantime we're going to chip away.

Then Reagan comes along and one of his first acts is chop the unions, get rid of PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization). That's a green light to corporations to declare war. You erase that economic identity and what's left? Cultural politics.

You're right; a lot of this is Astroturf rather than grass roots. There are often institutions behind this stuff. But I do think the paradigm in which they're operating is an incarnation of what came out of the 1970's.

Why do working people vote against their best interests?

The Democrats tepidly represent working people's economic interests. Republicans aggressively represent their cultural interests. I don't think anybody aggressively represents labor's interests.

I agree with Rick Pearlstein when he says Democrats need a 16-year plan. It's not tomorrow, it's not next year. Think of Goldwater in 1964 and how Republicans got to Reagan in 1980. And you've got to be able to fail. It's all short-term calculus right now.

The other problem is somebody's really doing a really good job seeding conflict and division.

And because Obama is the fulfillment of the 1960's dream he becomes an easy target.

Yes, the whole multicultural embodiment that he is. Early on you saw the Roosevelt-Obama comparisons: Time Magazine had him in the open-air limousine with the cigarette holder. [Paul] Krugman called him Franklin Delano Obama. But in terms of economic problems, failed initiatives, and the disappointment of liberals, he might be looking a little more Carter-esque.

Today's issues of outsourcing and the implications of a global economy were not on the radar in the 1970's. What are the challenges for labor in the future?

If you look at the trajectory of organized labor, it's been downward since this one massive upheaval in the 1930's and 1940's. It peaked around 1955, went down slowly, and since the 1970's it's fallen off precipitously. Now we're in a situation where public-sector unions are the strongest, private-sector unions are weak, and the writing on the wall is not good because you can't support a unionized public sector on a non-union worker's wages.

I fear that we're at the end of our rope as an empire. And empires in decline are scary things socially, culturally, and politically. Whether we'll have the imagination to reinvent ourselves and rise to this challenge instead of rest on our bigotries as our laurels remains to be seen, but there's no reason we could not. As Thomas Friedman has suggested, there's a green economy to be built here. There's a vibrant possibility for us to be technological leaders.

America's got one thing on its side: we invented rock ‘n' roll. What I mean by that is there's a creativity that comes out of some of the cultural tensions in this country, and rock ‘n' roll is a product of that racial and class tension. If that energy and creativity could surface, what makes America great is that kind of thing rather than the rah, rah.

Cowie on pop culture:

"There are pieces of popular culture that are popular because they tap into something deep in the psyche of the country, and ‘Saturday Night Fever' was one of them."

"The idea that you start out in a small working-class community and one person is the chosen one, one person's going to get out and the future belongs to that person. All of these other people aren't going to get out: they're buried in the past. They're in Brooklyn and we're never going to hear from them. Tony's in Manhattan. It's like Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road": 'it's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win.'"

Cowie on the attacks on Obama:

Some of the far right have painted Obama as a Kenyan, Muslim socialist.

"The terms of debate are incredible," Cowie says. "I can almost not stand it. We have all of these problems and issues and we're talking about that? But that's where Republicans have been much more sophisticated than Democrats."

"The Democrats have selected to play on the Republican terrain. Reagan was such a shock that everyone in the Democratic Leadership Council said ‘we've got to shift to the right. Nobody wants liberalism anymore.' But if you're going to lose, you might as well lose with your own ideas and your own plans rather than losing with the other guy's plans. You might as well go out swinging."

PR Newswire, October 13, 2010, Wednesday

Copyright 2010 PR Newswire Association LLC
All Rights Reserved
PR Newswire

October 13, 2010, Wednesday

First Ever U.S. Solar Jobs Census Finds Solar Employment on the Rise;
More than half of all solar employers plan to expand workforce in the next year

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organi-zation, today released a first-of-its-kind review of the solar workforce in the United States. The report, titled, "National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce" found that hiring in the solar workforce is on the rise. More than half of solar employers nationally plan to increase their workforce in the next year.

"Among other things, this study shows that investments made through Recovery Act -- including the $2.3 billion in tax credits to U.S. based clean energy manufacturing -- are already generating positive results," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The solar energy sector is an increasingly important source of good jobs for Americans. Fostering the growth of this emerging industry will help protect our environment, ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy, and offer great opportunities for the nation's working families."

"This first-ever national census shows that solar jobs are on the rise and expected to grow 26 percent in the coming year," said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of The Solar Foundation. "By examining the data from thousands of companies along the entire supply-chain, the study shows that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. economy."

As of August 2010, the National Solar Jobs Census 2010 identified more than 16,700 solar employment sites and 93,000 solar jobs in all 50 states. It also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 26 percent, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2011. This rate is significantly higher than the expected three percent net job loss in fossil fuel power generation and the economy-wide expectation of two percent growth over the same period.

The survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The report included data from more than 2,400 solar company survey respondents.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and Green LMI Consulting with technical assistance from Cornell University.

"This study contains high-quality research methodology," said John Bunge, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistical Science at Cornell University, and an associate professor of social statistics at Cornell's ILR School. "Using both primary and secondary data sources further strengthens this data and ensures even higher confidence in its results."

The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 will be made publicly available for the first time at The Solar Foundation's Release Party at Solar Power International '10 in Los Angeles on October 13. For details, go to:

Background Materials:
Report: Available October 13, 2010 at
About The Solar Foundation:

The Solar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-lobbying organization founded in 1977 that strives to increase the widespread adoption of solar energy through educational outreach, policy research, and market transformation. Read more at
SOURCE The Solar Foundation
CONTACT:Mark Sokolove, +1-703-599-7656,, or Brian Mahar, +1-202-437-6595,, both of Tigercomm for The Solar Foundation


LOAD-DATE: October 14, 2010

WNY Labor Today, October 2, 2010, Saturday

WNY Labor Today

October 2, 2010, Saturday

WNY Labor Today

Union-Led Fall Weatherization Home Engery Conservation Kit Project Targeting As Many As 30 Low-Income Homes Today In Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock Area, Reps Say “It’s A HECK Of A Way To Kick Energy Habit & Lower Utility Bills”

Union Painters & Steel Workers Part Of Group Of 50 Volunteers Who Are Giving Their Time To Make The Fourth Annual Western New York Apollo Alliance Weatherization Event That Assists Low-Income Homeowners In The City Of Buffalo Another Success

by Tom Campbell

(BUFFALO) - As part of a continuing and unique Green Initiative that’s driven by the Western New York Apollo Alliance, the first wave of an overall 50 low-income homeowners in the City of Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock Neighborhood will be the recipients today of a major weatherizing effort that prominently features Organized Labor and their members volunteering their time.

The 2010 Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) Project involves Union Members from Painters District Council 4 and United Steelworkers District 4, as well as a number of other community and college volunteers, who are working today to make a first wave of as many as 30 homes more energy-efficient. The remaining 20 homes will be completed in April. The Seneca-Babcock effort will help low-income homeowners reduce their energy consumption, help minimize home energy costs and introduce a Green Approach to that community, Alliance Representatives said. Volunteers will weather-strip doors and windows, insulate hot water heaters and pipes, seal cracks, and install compact fluorescent light bulbs, to name but a few efforts. Apollo Alliance members are also offering homeowners tips and information about other ways to save energy, which will simultaneously cut utility bills and pollution.

“Energy costs are rising and this is not a stop-gap measure. We’re hoping everyone sees value in it and that it works to bring about a heightened level to improve energy-efficiency within older homes. It’s our goal to get even more people, including those in Organized Labor, to get involved in this effort,” United Steelworkers District 4 Representative Frank Hotchkiss, who founded the Alliance and now serves as its co-chair, tells

In the past, the HECK Project received a good share of its $10,000 program funding to run the effort from Albany, but with New York State’s budget problems drying up that stream, City of Buffalo Councilmen David Franczyk and Richard Fontana, as well as several corporate entities, stepped forward to bridge the gap and ensure the fourth year of the effort would happen.

“(Our funding) got squashed and we lost a majority of it, but Buffalo Councilmen Franczyk and Fontana, as well as a number of individual contributors - including the Honeywell Company and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, came up with dollars and donations to help us,” Alliance Chair Art Wheaton, who also serves as director of Western New York Labor and Environmental Programs for the Cornell University Industrial & Labor Relations School, tells In addition, National Fuel dropped off 150 weatherization kits yesterday (Friday) so they could be used in the Seneca-Babcock effort, Wheaton said.

The Apollo Alliance is unique in the array of organizations it unites around Green Economy projects - Labor Unions, environmental groups, universities, community housing groups and others. As such, the WNY Apollo Alliance helps unites a diverse array of organizations dedicated to growing a Green Economy in Western New York, including those Labor Unions involved in the effort.

Hotchkiss explained the bluegreen alliance was founded in part in 2006 by former USWA District 11 Director Dave Foster. It brought together the USWA and the Sierra Club to form a strategic initiative combing the talents of Organized Labor and environmentalists who partner on three key issues: global warming and clean energy, fair trade and reducing toxins. Since 2006, a number of other groups and organizations have joined the movement, including former Vice President Al Gore's Green Jobs For All.

"The goal is to reduce greenhouse gases and toxic emissions and reindustrialize the United States through 'Green Jobs.' In New York State alone, through such means as solar and geo-thermal, it's been estimated that as many as fifty-thousand jobs could be created, with five-thousand in Erie County, another twenty-five-hundred in Niagara County and three to four spin-off/support jobs for each new manufacturing job created. The good part is this is not something new or something that will be done in the future. This is considered off-the-shelf technology that can be put into place right now," Hotchkiss said.

"The problem is educating our businesspeople and elected officials to the benefits of moving forward on all of this. We all need to save energy because it will result in so many tremendous economic benefits. We've got to get the general public to understand the urgency of all of this and create the political will to get it done. It's come time to hold our politicians' feet to the fire, so to speak, to get real and positive movement that will make this happen," he said.

The Washington Post, October 2, 2010, Saturday

Copyright 2010 The Washington Post
All Rights Reserved

The Washington Post

October 2, 2010, Saturday

Raising a big stink? Try the rat.

The rat is down.

It's the motor, Doug Webber thinks. Something is wrong with the rat's motor. When the rat is up, it is 13 feet tall, it has glowing red eyes, it has black claws, it has yellow teeth, it has a pustulated sore in the middle of its belly that meas-ures about one foot by two feet.

But now the rat is down, a pile of collapsed gray vinyl across from the Daycon headquarters in Upper Marlboro.

"We've had him since April," says Webber, the business representative for Teamsters Union Local 639and the organizer of this Daycon picket. "But sometimes the Metro Council will call up and say, 'We need the rat back,' and then we'll give it up for a while."

A few weeks ago Webber got a call from the Metro Council, Washington's local AFL-CIO branch, which owns the rat; the Montgomery County Government Employees Organization was organizing a protest and needed an inflatable rodent. MCGEO members borrowed it, they returned it, it was broken.

The motor, which inflates the rat, is in a zippered panel on the rat's butt. Webber, a portly man with gray hair and a goatee, reaches into the panel and removes a few parts so that he can run to Home Depot for replacements. He looks down, nudges the deflated rat gently with his shoe, and says:

"Poor Scabby."

A labor union in Washington will on occasion be upset with somebody. Contract negotiations go awry. Nonunion workers get hired. At these moments, you need a symbol. You need something that is going to attract the attention of passersby, something that your members can rally around during their protest, something that is so hideous that the company whose building it sits in front of will do just about anything to get you to move it.

You need access to a rat.

"Are you doing a rat story?" Frank Larkin says with delight. Larkin is a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Washington. He has worked with a number of rats in protests around the country. "It's sort of like Lassie," Larkin says. "There are a number of rats, but the public thinks there is only one."

"It's a widespread symbol," says Jeff Grabelsky, a professor at Cornell's institute on labor relations, who studies unions. In urban areas, the inflatable rat has achieved a level of ubiquity, becoming one of the most recognizable protest strategies. There are Flickr pages dedicated to following them: "The Rat Patrol" has hundreds of photos submitted by rat paparazzi.

"We get our rat from New York," says Linda Bridges, a vice president with the local Office of Professional Employees International Union. Her union has its own bullhorns and loudspeakers. But the rats? "They're pretty expensive, so we just borrow them."

"We have access to three," boasts John Boardman. Boardman is the local executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here, which represents workers in the hospitality industries and nationally has about a quarter-million members. He doesn't always use the rats - better to reserve them for important occasions - but everyone knows he has them.

Boardman's rats belong to his group's sister branch in New York, but he can get those big boys to Washington any-time he wants, with just a phone call.

"The rat circuit is pretty identified," Boardman says. His and Bridges's might come from New York, but "if I made a couple of calls, I could probably locate a rat in the District, just from the folks I know."

In Washington, the Metro Council's Scabby has an agent. All of his booking is handled by Chris Garlock, union coordinator and chief rat wrangler. His group inherited it from a union that wasn't using it anymore. "Someone will call me and ask me, 'How do I get the rat?' " Garlock says. His answer: It's complicated.

There are all sorts of rules about the rat, and about Washington protests in general. Is the rat going to be sitting on a lawn or strapped on top of someone's car? Is the rat going to block traffic, either foot or vehicular? "The rat - well, you've seen it," Garlock says. "It's got a bit of a big footprint."

There have been debates over the legality of the rat. In 2003, for example, a hospital filed charges against a union of sheet-metal workers in Florida, claiming that the giant inflatable rat that the workers had been using to protest was an unfair labor practice. The Cardozo Law Review ran an article: "Is a Giant Inflatable Rat an Unlawful Secondary Picket?"

(The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees issues of employees' rights, declined to offer an opinion on rats for this article, citing a rat-related court case on the NLRB's docket for review.)

"It's not like you're coming over and borrowing a cup of sugar," Garlock says. The rat comes with responsibilities. Sometimes Garlock will steer people away from the rat, if he thinks they haven't fully considered the implications. He'll talk through some options to start with. "How about going to the boss's country club" to picket? "Or how about picket-ing in front of his church? You have a whole bunch of options, and you always want to escalate."

Sometimes, as with nuclear weapons, the threat of the rat is enough.

"But if you start with the rat . . . " Garlock says, trailing off.

If you start with the rat, there is nowhere to go but down.

The history of rats (the furry kind, not the inflatable kind) in inextricably entwined with the history of humans. They don't live somewhere unless we do, says Robert Sullivan, author of "Rats: Observations on the History and Habi-tat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants." In one of the Revolutionary War's first battles, the New Yorkers who participated were known as "vermin," thus kicking off centuries of American rodent-based insults. "They're vermin and lice, crummy faceless hoards of disgusting creatures," Sullivan says. What better symbol to immediately evoke revulsion?

The rats (the inflatable kind, not the furry kind) have been used in protest for at least 20 years. This is when Big Sky Balloons, a company in Plainfield, Ill., that specializes in giant inflatables, created its first rat - made-to-order for a bricklayers union in Chicago. Mostly the company does clowns or Santas for school fairs or holiday parties, but a subset of the business is "union balloons," which, in addition to three varieties of giant union rats, also include union skunks, corporate fat cats, greedy pigs and cockroaches.

"The cockroach, we've only sold two," says Peggy O'Connor, who runs Big Sky with her husband, Mike. "Scabby the rat, he's the classic. Usually people just want the standard model. Sometimes they might want the rat to wear a top hat or, like, hold a union worker in [the rat's] hand." The rats run from around $2,300 for the smallest size, a six-footer, to $8,100 for a 20-footer. Big Sky sells 60 to 75 a year, mostly to cities on the East Coast. They're used most often by construction and carpenters unions.

Note: Big Sky, the maker of union rats, does not have a unionized workforce.

Not everyone uses the rat. "It's not something we've really embraced," says Christopher Nulty, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million workers in about 100 occupations. Nothing personal, he says. They're just overflowing with protest props already.

Certain restaurant or food service unions don't use the rat, either. The symbolism gets too confusing. Usually Scabby is used to symbolize scab workers; if you put him in front of a supermarket, everyone just assumes the building has a rodent problem, missing the message entirely.

And then there's the question of whether the rats are even effective - something for which there are no hard data. Local targets of the rats say they're not.

"Really, we haven't paid too much attention to it," says Laura Howe of the Red Cross, which has previously been a rat target. "From time to time we have people that protest . . . and sometimes the rat shows up. It's another day in Washington."

Back in Upper Marlboro, Doug Webber has returned with the repaired motor, which he pops back into Scabby, whobegins to whir. The rat is plugged into the generator, which Webber lugs around in the back of his van along with the rodent, which fits neatly into a large cardboard box when not inflated and is usually stored in a closet.

Within minutes, the rat begins to rise - his body filling with air, then his paws, and finally his long, skinny tail.

Across the street, the Teamsters picketers stop their marching to watch Scabby sway in the breeze.

"Beautiful," one says. "Beautiful."

The trucks that drive by will often honk in appreciation. Lots of union laborers out here in this corporate park. Occasionally a Daycon employee will pull into the parking lot and look witheringly at the rat; when the company's media relations department is asked for comment on how it feels about the rat, a representative says that she'll look into it. She never calls back.

The rat needs to be tethered with tent stakes and nylon rope. If it's not properly secured, it could tip over in an unseemly manner, or roll into traffic, or even bounce down the road - a rat race of one, dragging its tail behind it.

"That's the message we want to send," Garlock says later on the phone. "Once you unleash the rat, there's no telling what could happen."

LOAD-DATE: October 2, 2010

The Chief, October 1, 2010, Friday

The Chief

October 1, 2010, Friday

The Chief

Nassau: Forget Contracts, We’ll Set Worker Salaries

Unions Ready to Sue

Contracts? We don’t need no stinking contracts!

That’s the message Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano is sending to public-employee unions. His Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010, submitted to the County Legislature last week, would allow him to set salaries for employees represented by unions regardless of “any terms in any laborrelated agreement to the contrary.” The proposal says any cuts in pay should not be construed as salary deferrals or an “eventual retroactive pay entitlement.”

‘I Will Order Labor Savings’

“To balance our 2011 county budget, I will order labor savings from Nassau County employees,” he said in his transmittal letter accompanying his proposed budget, which was dated Sept. 15. The county’s five unions will have to make $60 million in concessions this year, he said.

Ryan Mulholland, a spokesman for Civil Service Employees Association Local 832, which represents about 7,000 county employees, said he believed that pay for union members would go up or down depending on the state of the county’s finances.

“It makes our contract pretty much worthless,” he said in an interview.

He and state CSEA spokesman Steven Madarasz said Mr. Mangano’s proposal would violate the Taylor Law, which governs relations between public employers and employees. The law does not include provisions allowing a public employer to unilaterally declare a negotiated contract null and void.

“It’s a blatant violation of the Taylor Law and the U.S. Constitution,“ Mr. Madarasz said.

“We don’t think there’s any way he can do it,” Mr. Mulholland said.

Mr. Mangano, who is caught be- tween residents who can’t afford tax hikes and a state-appointed financial control board that is ready to take over the county if he can’t bring the deficit below 1 percent of the budget, sees it differently.

Tax Increase ‘Unaffordable’

“The county can no longer meet the burden of labor contracts that exceed [inflation] by over $500 million collectively over the life of the contracts,” he said in a budget-summary document. “In aggregate, these wage and benefit increases represent a tax increase in excess of 60 percent. It is impossible for homeowners to sustain the future growth of the current labor agreements without substantial tax increases. The Mangano administration believes that at this precarious economic juncture, an increase in tax burden . . . is simply unaffordable.”

“Things like this have been tried in other places,” said Ken Margolies, director of organizing programs for the New York City Extension of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “More often than not when it gets to court they don’t succeed.”

Mr. Mangano told Newsday that he had hired national and local labor lawyers who “have provided us with the confidence that we can achieve these savings.” He said case law gives him the authority to require givebacks from workers with the County Legislature’s approval, but he declined to discuss his legal strategies in detail.

Mr. Margolies raised the possibility that the Taxpayer Relief Act might be a bargaining tactic. “He might be trying to use this as a way to get them to voluntarily make some concessions,” he said in an interview. “This has been happening around the country.”

Or, he said, the proposal might be a political strategy. “It may be popular with the voters, blaming public employees for the financial problems of government,” he said. This shifts the onus for the county’s financial problems from Mr. Mangano to the unions, Mr. Margolies said.

‘Not Interested in Givebacks’

The budget contains no propertytax increase. The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group that advocates for lower taxes, says that Nassau’s property-tax burden is the second highest among the nation’s counties. Mr. Mangano plans to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to give residents and businesses refunds of incorrect property assessments by county
officials. He also wants to shift the burden of refunding future inaccurate property-tax levies from the county to school districts and city governments, which receive much of the property-tax revenue but are not part of the county government. Their reaction has been negative.

Spokesmen for Mr. Mangano did not respond to requests for comment.

“We’re not interested in giving anything back,” Mr. Mulholland said, explaining that the unions had made $150 million in concessions last year. Workers received no raise in 2008, he said, gave back a contractual raise that was supposed to go into effect in 2009 and deferred their 2010 raise, he said.

“The PBA has done its fair share,” James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, told Newsday.

Also, Mr. Mulholland said, about 750 employees retired over the past 15 months under various county and state incentive plans. Mr. Mangano’s budget calls for a 5-percent reduction in county employment, from 8,393 to 7,976.

Wide-Ranging Implications

Mr. Madarasz said the U.S. Constitution prohibits any impairment of a contract. “The ramifications of [Mr. Mangano’s proposal] are enormous,” he said in an interview. “It’s not just about labor contracts, it’s about any contract out there about anything.” The proposal could create a precedent for overturning business contracts, he said.

The county’s five unions settled contracts that run through 2015 with the former County Executive, Thomas R. Suozzi. Mr. Mangano narrowly defeated Mr. Suozzi last November in his bid for a third term; high property taxes and the deepening recession were key campaign issues. Mr. Mangano said the “county entered contracts with reckless disregard for residents’ ability to
pay and without regard to rising unemployment and disclosure rates.”

Nassau County’s situation is similar to that of Westchester, another wealthy, high-tax county that has been hit hard by the economic crisis. Westchester’s new County Executive, Robert P. Astorino, has also said its residents cannot afford another tax increase and is looking at laying off
hundreds of county workers to balance the budget.