Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bloomberg, January 20, 2011, Thursday


January 20, 2011, Thursday


Public-Worker Unions Battle U.S. Governors Over Benefits in Change of Role

To Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican governor, public employees are the haves and taxpayers the have-nots. Halfway across the U.S., Jerry Brown, California’s Democratic governor, wants unpaid days off for some state workers to cut labor costs.

Facing attacks from deficit-slashing officials on both ends of the political spectrum, government employees are fighting back. In Ohio, hundreds held a candlelight vigil in Cincinnati Jan. 14 to protest Republican Governor John Kasich’splan to bar state health and child-care workers from joining labor groups. Nationally, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plans rallies, phone banks and lobbying at about a dozen legislatures to counter what unions call an assault on recession-weary working people.

“The stakes have never been higher,” said Gerald McEntee, president of the Washington-based federation, which has 1.6 million members. “We’ll be running ground operations, hitting the airwaves and taking on the forces allied against us.”

States closed $130 billion of budget gaps this fiscal year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research group. The belt-tightening has made a target of unions, pushing them from their traditional role of defending against reductions to one that tries to shape how they’re made.

“They know they’re in for a difficult time,” said Richard Hurd, who teaches industrial and labor relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “Public-sector unions will have to make compromises.”

Shifting Blame

Advertising campaigns like Afscme’s “Stop the Lies: Public Service Workers Under Attack,” are trying to shift blame for state budget deficits to corporations and Wall Street. Afscme points out that its average member earns less than $45,000 a year and that average pensions are about $19,000 annually.

“The crisis the state is facing isn’t the fault of workers,” said Pierrette Talley, secretary-treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO in Columbus. “Workers didn’t shift jobs overseas. They didn’t gamble with our economy to bring it to near- collapse. And certainly they haven’t gotten the kind of bonuses and profits that corporations and CEOs have got.”

State and local governments pay $40.10 an hour in wages and benefits versus $27.88 for private-sector employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public employees make more because they have more education, union officials say.

When comparing employees with the same education, private- sector workers earned $2,001 more per year than public workers, according to a paper in September by Jeffrey Keefe, who teaches labor relations at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Spared From Job Cuts

Public workers have been spared the job cuts that decimated the private labor force. From December 2007 through December 2010, 7.1 million company employees lost jobs compared with 215,000 state and local workers, according to the labor bureau. While local-government positions fell 259,000 in the period, state employment rose by 44,000, the data show.

As union membership at companies declined to a record low of 7.2 percent of the workforce in 2009, it increased among government workers to 37.4 percent, according to the bureau. Union members made up 12.3 percent of the workforce that year.

The increased unionization of public employees parallels a 63.5 percent increase in state and local spending from 2000 to 2009, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Now, facing $140 billion of deficits in the coming fiscal year, according to the budget and policy center, governors are taking aim at labor costs, seeking wage cuts, health-care caps, higher retirement ages and more from employees toward benefits.

Pension Rollback

In New Jersey, with a projected $54 billion gap between assets in its pension and payments promised retirees, Republican Governor Chris Christie wants to roll back a 9 percent benefits increase enacted in 2001 and raise the retirement age to 65 from 62.

“Benefits are too rich and contributions are too small,” Christie said in his Jan. 11 State of the State speech. “The system is on a path to bankruptcy.”

Christie, 48, has also clashed with teachers. He’s sought to cap school-superintendent pay and wants salaries and tenure linked to student performance. The governor’s chiding of a teacher about union unwillingness to accept a one-year pay freeze became a popular Internet video.

In New York, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, 53, with a $10 billion projected budget gap, has called for a one-year state-wage freeze and is mobilizing business for a media campaign supporting his agenda. California’s Brown, 72, confronting a $25.4 billion deficit over the next 18 months, wants to cut employment costs by as much as 10 percent in part with the unpaid days off.

Bargaining Rights

The strongest challenges to unions come from newly elected Republicans such as Wisconsin’s Walker, 43, and Ohio’s Kasich, 58. They were part of a November election wave that now puts their party in control of 25 legislatures and 29 governorships. In addition to proposals to cut wages and benefits, both are seeking to curb workers’ collective-bargaining rights.

“The scope of these attacks is unprecedented,” said Naomi Walker, the Washington-based director of state-government relations at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union organization.

While labor unions haven’t said they will withhold campaign money from Democratic candidates who have been traditional allies, actions such as those of Brown and Cuomo could temper the enthusiasm of union voters, Walker said.

“These things will certainly impact whether working families get involved in their political campaigns,” she said.

Unions should use teachers, firefighters and active-duty police as spokesmen so there is “a sympathetic face attached to the issue,” said Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist who worked on the 2000 Al Gore presidential campaign.

Public Good

Labor must also make clear it’s willing to accept cuts for the greater public good, she said, and that any concessions reflect joint sacrifices, with business paying its share.

Some labor officials are signaling they’re willing to do just that. In Illinois, where lawmakers raised income taxes 67 percent this month to help close a $13 billion deficit, the public-employees union last year agreed to defer pay increases and suggested ways to save money on everything from health care to the parole system, said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for Afscme Council 31.

Those and other initiatives will spare as much as $400 million of expenses, while guaranteeing no firings, he said.

The American Federation of Teachers supports capping annual pension benefits at $100,000, eliminating “spiking” pay in the latter years of employment to boost pensions, and prohibiting teachers who retire and go back to work from collecting pensions while they’re active employees, said John Abraham, director of the AFT’s member-benefits department.

Teachers will also likely have to agree to higher pension contributions and alter benefits, he said.

“Everybody’s got to do their part,” Abraham said. “We’re willing to take a haircut, but just saying that teachers need to do something isn’t going to solve the funding problem.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Martin Braun in New York at; Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

CNBC, January 14, 2011, Friday


January 14, 2011, Friday


U.S. Companies Getting Better at Hiring Veterans but Need Help to Reach Those With Disabilities

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A new poll released today found that a majority (67 percent) of HR professionals have included veterans in their organization's diversity plan or policy during the past 12 months.

The findings are detailed in a joint poll released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Northeast ADA Center at Cornell University's ILR School.

The poll, "Recruiting Veterans with Disabilities: Perceptions in the Workplace," also shows that 68 percent of organizations have hired a veteran during the past 12 months, with activity high across small, medium-sized and large organizations.

"The data indicate that many organizations have hired veterans, but they have yet to realize the full potential of resources out there to help them hire more of these highly skilled candidates," said Mark Schmit, director of research at SHRM. "Also, many organizations have not yet capitalized on the great potential of disabled veterans." Though human resource professionals are showing a strong intent to recruit and hire military veterans with disclosed disabilities, the number that hired during the past 12 months remains relatively low. Only 17 percent of HR professionals said their organization hired a veteran who disclosed a disability either before or after time of hire. Unknown is the number of veterans hired who chose not to disclose a disability.

People with disabilities are generally included in the diversity plan or policy of 70 percent of organizations represented in the poll.

Hannah Rudstam, senior extension faculty at the Northeast ADA Center at Cornell University, points to further implications of these poll findings: "Employers indicate having good will and recognize the business benefits in employing veterans with disabilities. Yet they struggle to translate this good will into recruiting, hiring and accommodation practices, particularly for veterans with the 'signature' disabilities of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury." How can HR find military veterans to recruit? While there are several key resources available to help civilian employers recruit military veterans with disabilities, HR professionals remain largely unaware of the programs: 87 percent were unaware of the Tip of the Arrow Foundation; 73 percent were unaware of the VetSuccess Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs; 61 percent were unaware of the Wounded Warrior Program; 60 percent were unaware of the Job Opportunities for Disabled American Veterans, or JOFDAV; and 59 percent were unaware of veterans' service organizations, such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Among those HR professionals familiar with employer programs for disabled veterans, less than three percent reported using these resources in the past 12 months.

The poll surveyed 1,083 HR professionals from SHRM's membership.

To read this survey: Follow SHRM research on Twitter at

About the Society for Human Resource Management The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world's largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at

About the Northeast ADA Center at Cornell University's ILR School The Northeast ADA Center within Cornell University's ILR School provides employers and other stakeholders with research, technical assistance, training and resources on a broad range of issues related to disability in America. Go to Cornell ILR advances the world of work through teaching, research and outreach. ILR's mission is to prepare leaders, inform national and international employment and labor policy, and improve working lives. Founded in 1945 as the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, ILR studies many areas - including human resource management - that shape the working world and contribute to an organization's success in a global economy. Go to

SOURCE Society for Human Resource Management Copyright (C) 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved -0- KEYWORD: Virginia INDUSTRY KEYWORD: WRK

USA Today, January 13, 2011, Thursday

USA Today

January 13, 2011, Thursday

USA Today

Tense time for workers, as career paths fade away

If you're a travel agent, bank teller or a file clerk; if you run a printing press, answer a switchboard or work at a sewing machine; if you repair watches or cameras; if you make anything that can be made more cheaply elsewhere, or do anything that can be done by a robot or computer, then you may feel history is against you.

An old vision of the post-industrial future — that work could be done by machines but nothing would take work's place — is being realized with a vengeance in the second decade of the 21st century.

Although most economists expect the U.S. job market to register at least small gains this year, many Americans who have a job still fear losing it. Many who don't have a job fear they never will find one. And many in both camps worry that the recession, which officially ended a year and a half ago, speeded up inevitable changes in the workplace.

Harry Holzer, a Georgetown University government professor and co-author of Where Are All the Good Jobs Going, says these fears are somewhat exaggerated — yet understandable.

"The U.S. economy churns a lot, more than in most countries," he says. "A lot of jobs are created and destroyed, and it creates a lot of anxiety. In a recession, the insecurity is even worse."

The fears now driving Americans' economic insecurity:

•Globalization and automation may export or eliminate not only jobs, but entire occupations — ways of life, really.

The Labor Department predicts that during the next decade there will be fewer workers in almost one-quarter of the 750 occupations it tracks, even as the total number of jobs increases by 10%.

•A disproportionate number of new jobs could be the kind that, as Studs Terkel put it in his book Working, "dulls the senses and breaks the spirit."

In April, MIT economist David Autor published an influential paper that described the U.S. labor market as increasingly polarized, with growth at the high-skill, high-wage and low-skill, low-wage ends, and contraction in the vast middle.

•After a mostly "jobless" economic recovery, the nation eventually might accept a basic level of unemployment much higher than the 4% to 5% many economists and policymakers have long considered indicative of "full employment."

Although 23 of 27 prominent economists surveyed last month by USA TODAY say they expect the nation's unemployment rate to eventually return to 5%, only three think it will do so before 2015. A few, such as Wells Fargo's Mark Vitner, believe it won't get lower than 6% before 2020 — with each percentage point representing several million jobs.

Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution labor economist, sees a growing chasm between the unemployed and the employed as the economy recovers. Might the latter back policies that slight the former, or at least make high employment a lower priority?

"Do the political math," he says — many more people have jobs than lack them.

Alexei Bayer, a financial analyst, even questions the very notion of growth, arguing that the past 2,000 years — including the Dark Ages — suggest prosperity is more aberration than given. "At least for now," he writes, "the U.S. may have run out of sources of growth."

Today's labor market insecurity, even for jobholders, is a product of what economist Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction" — the fact that capitalism, as he wrote in 1942, "incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

This revolution has helped create what Jeff Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James, has called "a bubble in pessimism" that's reflected in fewer marriages, a lower birthrate, less immigration and reduced mobility since the recession began in December 2007.

Employment angst has become part of the culture. On television, the WE network's series Downsized chronicled a family's struggles after the collapse of their construction business. The Lifetime network's The Fairy Jobmother helps jobless families.

The protagonists of the 2010 film The Company Men cope with losing their jobs at a soulless corporation that formed the basis of their identifies.

"Creative destruction" has even entered the political lexicon. Last fall, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin accused their Republican opponents, Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson, of embracing the doctrine, thus betraying an insensitivity to the unemployed. Toomey and Johnson won.

Burtless says he worries about conflict between those with jobs, whose financial prospects actually have gotten better lately, and those without them. To still be out of work, as the economy picks up and productivity increases, he says, "is like being kicked while you're down."

A new kind of joblessness?

Because of their more generous social welfare benefits and slower-growing economies, many western European nations have been willing to tolerate a relatively high level of unemployment. Not the USA, where work is considered a right and an obligation, and being out of it is considered temporary.

"As soon as someone loses his job, he can't wait to get another one," Burtless says.

Now, that assumption is under attack.

To many, it seems there's something new about this kind of unemployment, that "this is something we've not experienced before," says Linda Barrington, of the Cornell School of Industrial Relations' Institute for Compensation Studies.

The nation has set post-World War II records for the number of weeks one can collect unemployment compensation (99); for unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months (more than 40%); for the number of consecutive months the unemployment rate has been over 9% (20 in December).

This month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lifted its ceiling for recording how long people have been out of work from two years to five years.

Unemployment is starting to seem like more than a temporary setback.

During the past two years, the average time a worker has been unemployed has doubled to 34 weeks, and the government calls 1.3 million people "discouraged workers" — not looking for a job because they believe there are none. In the past year, their number has tripled.

Economists debate whether this is merely cyclical or a result of a basic mismatch between workers' skills and the work that needs to be done. Both sides are encouraged by estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts that by 2018 the economy will have 15 million more jobs than in 2008.

The bureau expects there to be lots of home health and child-care aides, fast-food counter clerks, security guards, janitors, lawn care workers, nurses, skin care specialists, sports coaches and scouts, aerobics instructors, fitness trainers and public relations people.

Newer occupations, such as solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians, also will grow quickly.

But there's a lot of what Georgetown's Holzer calls "churn": although the number of biomedical engineers will increase 72%, textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators will decline 44% by 2018.

"Do Not Call" orders are likely to reduce the number of telemarketers (-11%). The rise of e-readers will dictate fewer bookbinders (-12%). Automation and e-mail mean fewer postal service clerks (-18%), sorters (-30%) and letter carriers (-1%).

Even jobs that once seemed cutting-edge will see their ranks decline, including desktop publishers (-23%) and semiconductor processors (-32%).

Most experts agree, however, that the economy will recover, because the USA still has plenty of workers, factories and capital. Demand for goods and services will increase, jobs will be created and the jobless rate will fall, albeit slowly.

"The way work is done and what needs to be done doesn't change very fast, even now," says Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. "The jobs we have when the economy recovers will look much like the ones that were lost. People think work is changing faster than it is."

Global trade and technological advances should create roughly as many jobs as they destroy, if the American economy is as dynamic, creative and entrepreneurial as most economists believe.

Business start-ups reached their highest level in 14 years in 2009, exceeding the number of start-ups at the peak of the 1999-2000 technology boom, according to the Kauffman Foundation Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

"The American Dream is owning your own house, but it's also starting and running your own business," Barrington says. "That's the spirit you need for economic growth."

In Nashville, past and future

Different sides of the creative destruction process are visible in two Nashville suburbs.

•In Hermitage, Tenn., James Scott talks like a worker who suspects he has seen his best days.

The 54-year-old printing press operator has struggled to find full-time work with a commercial printer since he was laid off two years ago.

In the digital age, when orders for everything from brochures to magazines are dropping, the printing industry "is flooded with people looking for jobs," he says. He has had to take a $2.50-an-hour cut and work fewer hours than he would like. Nationally, the number of printing machine operators dropped by 50% from 2007 to 2009, and the Labor Department expects the demand for printers to decline 5% over the next decade.

The usual prescription for Scott's plight is retraining. But he's reluctant, in part because he doesn't expect any new job to match his current wage of around $17 an hour.

And he says he can't afford to miss even a few paychecks; last year he narrowly avoided foreclosure on his home of 27 years only by getting his monthly mortgage payment reduced by about $200.

"I'm 54, in debt up the yin yang and I need every cent of disposable income," he says. "If I retrain, I don't know if I can pay for that and, at my age, who's going to hire me?"

His outlook: "I may wind up just trying to last until I'm worked out and dead. It doesn't look like I'll ever be able to retire."

•In Franklin, Tenn., Sal Novin looks forward to the kind of future he anticipated as a kid watching The Jetsons, the TV cartoon show about a family of the future whose maid is a robot.

Last March, Novin, 37, founded a company that uses so-called artificial intelligence software to automate health care insurance claims.

He has a degree in biophysics with an emphasis on statistics, and he has spent his career as a software engineer studying how companies can use technology to reduce expenses. In 2009, Novin was named the Nashville Technology Council's "Innovator of the Year."

Despite the slow economy, Novin says he's optimistic. His new company, Healthcare Productivity Automation, uses "computer robots" running its software to process routine health care claims usually handled by people. The program reads a computer screen, enters data and decides the best way to process a claim. It can do this faster and more accurately than humans, he says, and thus helps avoid claim backlogs.

The company plans to develop other technologies to automate work for health care insurers and providers. Novin calls it "the beginning of the automation of white-collar work." He knows this will leave some people out of a job but says cutting administrative costs and reducing errors benefit patients.

As for workers, "we can make people live healthy and productive lives, rather than pushing paper around," Novin says. Harking back to The Jetsons, he says, "I long for that day when all you have to do is push a button. You can spend your time on interesting things rather than repetitive work."

Contributing: Naomi Snyder of The Tennessean in Nashville; Mike Chalmers of The News Journal in Wilmington, Del.; Jeff Martin of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.; John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press

DailyFinance, January 11, 2011, Tuesday


January 11, 2011, Tuesday


Another Safety Problem for BMW: X5s That Catch Fire

BMW ads claim the company makes the "ultimate driving machine." It's an interesting word choice because ultimate comes from the Latin word for last. And in the case of a Washington, D.C., lobbyist, her last moment on earth was spent in a BMW X5 that ignited in flames in her garage.

It's just one of many cases of BMW X5s catching fire, and it's hardly the first time that BMW vehicles have threatened the safety of their owners. In July 2010, I wrote about how faulty fuel pumps in some BMW models cause them to suddenly lose power, a hazardous condition that contributed to an October 2010 recall of 130,000 BMWs.

The last moments of Ashley Turton, an energy company lobbyist and former chief of staff to Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), are recounted in Tuesday's Washington Post. Turton was a mother of three small children -- a 21-month-old girl and twin 4-year-old boys -- who was married to Daniel Turton, White House deputy director of legislative affairs for the House of Representatives.

Ashley Turton left early for work but never made it. According to the Post, at 4:50 a.m. Monday, she was found dead in her 2008 BMW X5. The vehicle "crashed into the interior of the garage. After the impact, a fire started and quickly engulfed the entire garage as well as the automobile." Investigators aren't sure what caused the fire or what her exact cause of death was.

A Common Theme

A smiliar incident occurred in Westport, Mass., where on July 30, 2009, a 2004 BMW X5 went up in flames at a resident's home, according to Fortunately, the local fire department arrived in time to stop the fire from spreading further into the house, and nobody was injured.

Topix's BMW X5 Fire category has 48 posts pertaining to BMW X5 fires since 2007. While each post (none of which are independently verified) doesn't pertain to a separate incident, many of those reported share a common theme -- an electrical short circuit appeared to have ignited the gas tank, causing the vehicle to rapidly go up in flames. A blog is even dedicated to BMW electrical fires, and there's a Twitter feed called mybimmerburned.

At least one other incident reported on Topix started with an electrical fire in the dashboard. Here's a post from Chardon, Ohio, on Dec. 18, 2009 from Bob: "Yesterday, my wife was driving home from work in our 2002 X5 3.0 when smoke stated coming from the passenger side dashboard. In seconds, it filled the cabin to where she couldn't see. Luckily she was able to navigate to a nearby driveway and get out. Within minutes, the car was totally engulfed in flames. Thank God no passengers or small children in the vehicle."

Another Recall Needed?

Arthur C. Wheaton, director of the Western N.Y. Labor and Environmental Programs at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says, "If there are multiple, related cases in BMW's, then I think it is serious and should be investigated. The details here sound pretty serious and may require a recall." A BMW spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Sponsored Links This problem of BMW X5s catching fire isn't new. In 2001, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled over 76,000 pre-2001 BMW X5s and other models that ignited due to problems with "defective auxiliary fans." (Here's a link to get the related documents from put 01V206000 into the "Quick Search" field.)

And BMW is not unaware of fire problems. For example, in June 2010, it recalled 38,000 1-Series models. According to MotorCrave, the recall related to "a safety problem that could cause a fire in the event of a crash." NHTSA said the problem was that "In a crash of sufficient severity, deployment of the front pretensioner and load-limiter occurs. The insulation around the pretensioner could ignite." According to NHTSA's website, this problem affects nearly 32,000 vehicles made between December 2007 and May 2010.

Unfortunately, this 1 Series recall won't help anyone owning a BMW X5 such as the one in which Ashley Turton's life ended.
Filed under: Company News, Columns, People, Autos

See full article from DailyFinance:

Ithaca Journal, January 3, 2011, Monday

Ithaca Journal

January 3, 2011, Monday

Ithaca Journal

CU educator cites gains at climate talks
Dissension expected at this year's gathering

A walk on the beach is how Sean Sweeney, director of the Global Labor Institute at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, described December's United Nations climate change conference. But the 2011 session will be more like a snake pit, he said.

"The purpose of this year's meeting was to discuss what everyone could agree on," Sweeney said. "It was a chance to agree and feel good. There was no real confrontation, but the next one will be brutal."

Sweeney was one of three Cornell faculty members who attended the 16th Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico, in early December. Sweeney spoke on the role of labor unions in promoting climate protection.

In addition, Antonio Bento, professor of applied economics and management, spoke on the use of agriculture and forestry to manage carbon offsets. Johannes Lehmann, professor of crop and soil sciences, spoke on sustainable agriculture and carbon management.

This was Sweeney's fourth conference, he said. But it was much different.

"The main goal was to keep the process moving. There were no expectations to have big decisions made," he said.

The resulting Cancun Agreement gives the more than 190 participating countries another year to decide whether to extend the Kyoto Protocol -- the 1997 agreement that requires wealthier nations to lower emissions, while providing aid to developing countries to reach a cleaner energy future, according to The New York Times.

But the key is that this agreement is not legally binding, Sweeney said. The document is a "stepping stone" toward a legal global treaty, and the only country who did not sign it was Bolivia, he said. They viewed the document as too weak, according to the Times.

"The document is not insignificant, though. There are several things laid out in it that countries agreed upon," Sweeney said. He noted the agreement to slow deforestation and the ultimate goal of reducing emissions to the level where human activity no longer interferes with the climate.

Last year in Copenhagen, the goal was to produce a global treaty, Sweeney said. That conference ended without an agreement and this year's was largely to map out what countries agreed upon.

All of this will set up a "big fight" in Durban, South Africa, Sweeney said.

"It will be nasty. Rather than resolve the main issue of a legally binding agreement, which would have led to another train wreck, they decided to discuss what they could agree on. Next year will be different."

Friday, January 07, 2011

Biotech Week, January 5, 2011, Wednesday

Copyright 2011 Biotech Week

Biotech Week

January 5, 2011, Wednesday

Studies from Cornell University have provided new data on occupational rehabilitation

"As concerns grow that a thinning labor force due to retirement will lead to worker shortages, it becomes critical to support positive employment outcomes of groups who have been underutilized, specifically older workers and workers with disabilities. Better understanding perceived age and disability discrimination and their intersection can help rehabilitation specialists and employers address challenges expected as a result of the evolving workforce. Using U.S.," scientists in the United States report (see also Occupational Rehabilitation).

"Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Integrated Mission System data, we investigate the nature of em-ployment discrimination charges that cite the Americans with Disabilities Act or Age Discrimination in Employment Act individually or jointly. We focus on trends in joint filings over time and across categories of age, types of disabilities, and alleged discriminatory behavior. We find that employment discrimination claims that originate from older or disabled workers are concentrated within a subset of issues that include reasonable accommodation, retaliation, and termination. Age-related disabilities are more frequently referenced in joint cases than in the overall pool of ADA filings, while the psychiatric disorders are less often referenced in joint cases. When examining charges made by those protected under both the ADA and ADEA, results from a logit model indicate that in comparison to charges filed under the ADA alone, jointly-filed ADA/ADEA charges are more likely to be filed by older individuals, by those who perceive discrimination in hiring and termination, and to originate from within the smallest firms," wrote M.J. Bjelland and colleagues, Cornell University.

The researchers concluded: "In light of these findings, rehabilitation and workplace practices to maximize the hir-ing and retention of older workers and those with disabilities are discussed."

Bjelland and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation (Age and Disability Employment Discrimination: Occupational Rehabilitation Implications. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 2010;20(4):456-471).

For additional information, contact S.M. Bruyere, Cornell University, School Ind & Labor Relat, Employment & Disabil Institute, 201K Dolgen Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

The publisher's contact information for the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation is: Springer, Plenum Publishers, 233 Spring St., New York, NY 10013, USA.
Keywords: City:Ithaca, State:NY, Country:United States, Occupational Rehabilitation, Psychiatric This article was prepared by Biotech Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2011, Biotech Week via

LOAD-DATE: December 29, 2010

Bloomberg, January 4, 2011, Tuesday


January 4, 2011, Tuesday


States Luring Veteran Professors to Retire as Budget Cuts Loom

Darrell Fasching planned to keep teaching religious studies at the University of South Florida until he was offered a year’s salary of about $90,000 to retire and give up tenure rights earned over almost three decades at the school.

Fasching, 66, took the cash and left the Tampa campus Dec. 21, joining hundreds of professors at flagship universities from Illinois to Nebraska and Texas who have been coaxed into retirement with offers of as much as two years of pay to reduce operating costs.

Tenured teacher pay averages $117,000 a year at the top 200 U.S. public universities, according to figures from the Washington-based American Association of University Professors. Annual contracts for replacement instructors cost an average of $52,500, the group said an April report.

With the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities in Washington forecasting U.S. states will face fiscal 2012 deficits totaling $140 billion, “these buyouts will become more common,” said Roger Meiners, who teaches economics at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“Most states have horrific budget problems and they haven’t dealt with the kinds of cuts in higher education that are going to be necessary,” he said in a telephone interview.

State support for colleges and universities fell 3.5 percent to $75.2 billion in fiscal 2010, following a similar drop in 2009, according to figures from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University in Normal.

Growing Demand

“Enrollment meanwhile continued to grow even faster, in some states by more than 10 percent,” said Paul Lingenfelter, president of Boulder, Colorado-based State Higher Education Executive Officers, in an analysis posted on the association’s website. “Severe budget shortfalls and unmet educational needs are reaching crisis proportions, and budget reductions are continuing” in some states, Lingenfelter said.

Florida, which may face a deficit of more than $3 billion in the next fiscal year, cut funding for its 11 public universities by 22 percent from 2008 to 2010, University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in March. Tuition was permitted to rise as much as 15 percent this year at the Gainesville school, the budget and policy center in Washington said on its website in November.

“The budget picture in Florida is very bleak and things aren’t looking any better for next year,” said Fasching, the retiring professor in the fourth most-populous state. He said Florida’s economic outlook prompted him to take the buyout.

Missouri State Offer

Missouri State University in Springfield is offering up to $25,000 in bonuses to the first 50 qualified professors who agree to retire, according to information posted on its website. The school offered buyouts to faculty members last year as well.

“We anticipate having a significant reduction in our state appropriations for fiscal year 2012,” President James E. Cofer Sr. said in a Dec. 17 statement on the website. With 70 percent of Missouri State’s budget paying salaries and benefits, Cofer said, “there is little doubt that personnel will be affected by the reduction.”

Nationwide, state spending for each full-time student fell 5 percent in the past academic year and 9 percent the year before, the College Board said in an Oct. 28 report. Tuition and fees for in-state students at four-year public schools rose an average of 7.9 percent this academic year to about $7,600, it said. Costs have risen 5.6 percent annually through the past decade, after inflation, the New York-based nonprofit said.

Texas A&M University in College Station persuaded 104 professors to retire, said Karan Watson, the interim provost. At the University of Texas in Austin, 27 of 88 eligible professors in the College of Liberal Arts accepted buyouts totaling two years of salary, said Gary Susswein, a spokesman.

Richer Bids

Buyouts like those offered in Texas are expensive, and schools must have the resources to provide them, said Ronald Ehrenberg, an economist who teaches labor relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Moody’s Investors Service rates the University of Texas System’s debt Aaa, its highest grade. The University of Texas Investment Fund managed $25.1 billion in assets as of Nov. 30, according to a statement on its website.

The Texas system’s endowment, which includes Texas A&M and other schools, is the fifth-largest among U.S. colleges, behind Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, Princeton University in New Jersey and Stanford University, adjacent to Palo Alto, California. Just 23 four-year schools have Moody’s highest debt rating, including Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

State appropriations cover 14 percent of the University of Texas’s budget, down from almost 60 percent in 1976, Susswein said.

Anticipated Savings

The buyouts may save the two schools more than $15 million a year, based on average salaries for the departing educators of about $89,000 at Texas and $120,000 at Texas A&M, said Watson and Susswein. Texas cut spending at its public universities and other state agencies by 7.5 percent over the past two years and is seeking 10 percent more over the next two years to cope with a projected deficit of more than $15 billion, Susswein said.

“It’s short-run budget pressures that are driving this,” Ehrenberg said in a telephone interview. “The danger is you may lose your most talented faculty.”

To avoid losing academic stars, Chancellor Harvey Perlman at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln reserved the right to approve individual buyouts that were accepted. The incentives included a year’s pay for professors who were at least 62 years old and taught at the school for 10 years or more, said David Lechner, vice president for business and finance. Perlman hasn’t disclosed how many professors will participate, Lechner said.

Tenure Protection

Tenure rules and laws prohibiting mandatory retirement can make removing senior instructors difficult, said Meiners, the University of Texas economist who co-authored “Faulty Towers.” The 2004 book examines the effects of the job-protection system.

Educators typically earn tenure over five or six years based on teaching performance, research and professional service, said John Curtis, research director at the American Association of University Professors, in a telephone interview. The system is supposed to protect academic freedom and promote innovation rather than promise a lifetime job, he said.

Private colleges and universities have cut budgets because of falling endowment returns and rising competition for tuition dollars, Curtis said. Mostly, they’ve resorted to freezing wages and hiring and curbing benefits, he said.

At Harvard, retirement incentives were offered to 176 professors 65 or older with at least 10 years on the job, according to last year’s annual faculty report. It said 46, with a median age of 70, accepted.

Lasting Effect

The effects of departures by the most-seasoned professors may not show up immediately in schools they leave, Curtis said.

“Experienced and active faculty members who will be leaving and replaced in the short-term are going to be followed by people who are much more transient,” Curtis said. Instructors lacking tenure don’t have as much support to develop new courses or work with students outside of class, he said.

At Texas A&M, senior faculty turnover had slowed since 2008 because diminished retirement savings made it harder to quit, said Watson, the interim provost. The collapse in assets from the start of the financial crisis to March 2009 erased $11 trillion from the value of U.S. equities, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

South Florida’s Fasching had postponed his retirement after U.S. equities fell to a 12-year low in March 2009, cutting his retirement savings by a third. “The one-year salary they offered me was enough to put me over the top,” Fasching said.

Costs May Rise

In California, which is facing a $22 billion budget gap for the year that begins July 1, faculty buyouts aren’t being contemplated, according to Dan Simmons, a law professor in Davis and chairman of the system’s academic senate. Even so, retirement costs may rise faster than projected.

One group of administrators including academic deans is pressing state university regents to increase retirement benefits for those who are the best paid, earning more than $245,000 a year, Simmons said. The group wants the increases to be retroactive to 2007, adding $51 million in costs to the system’s pension, which already confronts a $21.6 billion funding gap, according to Peter King, a system spokesman.

Buyouts may have an unintended consequence, by prompting senior faculty members to postpone retirement because they anticipate another incentive plan, Cornell’s Ehrenberg said. “Once you do it, people will hang around, hoping you’ll do it again,” he said.

Illinois Buyouts

About 133 professors age 55 and older at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign took buyouts offered last year which included a half a year’s salary, said Michael Andrechak, associate provost for budgets and resource planning. The state, which faces a deficit equivalent to more than half its $26 billion general-fund budget, owes its university system $400 million, he said.

Removing senior professors will provide little benefit for the Illinois employee retirement fund because the money has already been pledged to the educators, Andrechak said. About $1.7 billion of the state’s $5.3 billion backlog of bills for fiscal 2011 was owed to its pension plans, Moody’s said in a Dec. 6 report.

About 59 percent of employees of U.S. universities participate in defined-benefit plans, mostly sponsored by state governments, according to TIAA-CREF, the New York-based nonprofit that specializes in retirement plans for educators.

Tenure and union contracts hinder administrators as they try to cut personnel costs quickly and cheaply, said George Leef, research director at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“You’ve hardly seen any hardball tactics except at institutions that are on the verge of collapse and only then do they get serious about reducing costs,” Leef said.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Mildenberg in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 6587 or; Janet Lorin in New York

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at; Jonathan Kaufman at

Crain's New York Business, December 31, 2010, Friday

Crain's New York Business

December 31, 2010, Friday

Crain's New York Business

This year, tame your office narcissist

By Anne Fisher

Most workplaces have a few of them, and some have several: people who are, in Jack Goncalo's words, "self-loving, self-aggrandizing and self-absorbed." Maybe it's a partner, or a colleague, or even (perish the thought) you. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to tame someone's out-of-control ego, here's encouraging news. According to Mr. Goncalo's research, narcissists can be quite valuable to a business. Says he, "You just have to make sure that they're in the right jobs."

Mr. Goncalo, a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, also teaches seminars on creativity at Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies at Madison Avenue and East 34th Street.

He and two colleagues set out to determine whether there really is a connection between narcissism--"as a personality trait, not a mental disorder," he explains--and innovative thinking.

It turns out that creative people aren't as narcissistic as many people think, he notes. The myth may persist because of examples like Pablo Picasso. "God is really an artist, like me," Mr. Picasso once said. "I am God."

OK, so maybe your office egotist doesn't put himself on a par with the Almighty, or at least doesn't say so out loud. Still, if you're putting up with someone's outsize ego because he or she comes across as a font of terrific plans and suggestions, the question is worth asking: Do narcissists really have better ideas than their more modest and self-effacing peers?

In general, the answer is no. But supersize self-regard does have its uses. "What we found is that people who got very high scores on a standardized test for narcissism did not, when their ideas were evaluated objectively, actually produce better ideas," says Mr. Goncalo. They were, however, far better than average at persuading others that their ideas were terrific.

"The narcissists we studied impressed independent judges as more enthusiastic, confident and charismatic than the test subjects whose narcissism scores were low," he says. "Because they truly believe their ideas are superior, they're much more effective at pitching them to others." The implications for business are clear, Mr. Goncalo adds: "Narcissists make great salespeople."

And that's not all. If you want to kick-start creativity on a team project, make sure the team includes at least one or two outsized egos--but not more than one or two. In a fascinating study called "Are Two Narcissists Better Than One? The Link Between Narcissism, Perceived Creativity and Creative Performance," Mr. Goncalo and his colleagues found "evidence of a curvilinear effect:" Having a few narcissists around is "better for generating creative outcomes"--in part because narcissists bubble over with innovative suggestions as a way of calling attention to themselves--but "having too many provides diminishing returns."

"On a team that's overloaded with narcissists, there will be too much conflict," explains Mr. Goncalo. "Nothing will get done."

Based on his research, Mr. Goncalo believes that the biggest business risk posed by your office narcissist is that "better ideas from quieter, less persuasive people may get overlooked. Be careful not to judge an idea by who's presenting it." Noted.

How do you deal with self-absorbed colleagues or employees? Do you agree that egotism and charisma go hand in hand? Tell us at

Forbes, December 28, 2010, Tuesday


December 28, 2010, Tuesday


The Bitter Fruits Of Equality


The tax cut extension set to take hold on New Year’s Day has one weird feature. It expires in two years, on Jan. 1, 2013. Political strategists say that the 2012 election is now poised to be a referendum on getting the rich to pay their fair share.

It’s quite something to hear all the loose talk about the George W. Bush era – it was the “age of inequality,” a “new Gilded Age.” For while tax rates on top earners and estates were indeed moderate in this period, there were immense countervailing statistics, such as the evaporation of tax obligations on the lower middle classes and the stunning share — 40% — of income taxes paid by the top 1% of earners.

What is it like when tax policy is “equitable”? What happens to society’s class system when the maximum rate of a progressive income tax is, say, double what it is at present? This was the case, after all, in the 1970s, when that rate was 70%, compared with today’s 35%.

Let’s set aside the effect on the government. If the government can’t get by with tax rates at that level, let alone use the receipts bonanza to procure equality straight away, the fault is all its own. How did the real sector do in the 1970s, against the touchstone of equality?

Very poorly, as it turned out. The rich spent the 1970s trying to figure out how to hide their money. If you bring in a pile, and the next dollar of income will net you 30 cents, you will strive to look for cracks in the tax code to get a bit more out of that dollar.

The 1970s were the first heyday of “alternative investments.” Gold, oil, land, straddles, these exotica had been the preserve of a small group of specialists before 1969, when high earners got hit with a triple tax increase. The top capital gains rate got upped to an effective 49%, there was an income-tax surcharge, and the millionaire’s minimum tax (the AMT monster of today) began. This is not to mention “bracket creep,” whereby real tax rates go up with every increase in the price level. For the record, inflation was 200% from 1969 to 1982.

In this environment, the rich simply stopped what they were doing and focused all attention on preserving capital and avoiding confiscatory rates. They asked OPEC to let the price of oil float, so that western investors could buy that commodity and not pay tax on the unrealized gain in price. Same thing with gold, the private ownership of which was made legal in 1974 in the face of public pressure. Oil went up 14-fold in this period, gold 20 times.

These hard assets made for excellent collateral, so as their price shot up in the 1970s, the rich did not sell — and get subject to that nasty capital-gains tax — but used the holdings as stakes for loans. Mortgage interest can be written off against earned income, an especially valuable thing in the context of a 70% marginal rate. So there was a land boom too.

Private money piled into this all this inert stuff, meaning that the real economy was starved of investment for not just job creation, but job perpetuation. Unemployment went up by half to a new normal of 7% by the late 1970s, only to crest at 11% as the crisis peaked in the early 1980s.

Rich corporations followed suit. In 1978, General Electric noticed that its simple natural resources business accounted for 5% of the company’s revenue but somehow 15% of profits. Executives at GE contemplated diverting investment capital from jobs-intensive industrial projects (such as work in nascent Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to mines in South Africa. U.S. Steel bought Marathon Oil and laid off 160,000.

So be careful what you wish for, equality-seekers. A new book (by Cornell historian Jefferson Cowie) calls the 1970s The Last Days of the Working Class for a reason. On paper, under high tax rates, the rich do their fair share and get their comeuppance. The lessened “inequality” statistics that show this are based on taxable income — which the rich artificially deflate in periods of onerous taxation. But in reality, what happens given high taxes is that the rich see themselves through very well enough, while good livelihoods for the rank-and-file become ever more elusive.

USA Today, December 28, 2010, Tuesday

USA Today

December 28, 2010, Tuesday

USA Today

Tracking jobless gets grim change

Reflects longer stints of unemployment

By Rick Hampson

So many Americans have been jobless for so long that the government is changing how it records long-term unemployment.

Citing what it calls "an unprecedented rise" in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless.

The move could help economists better measure the severity of the nation's prolonged economic downturn.

The change is a sign that bureau officials "are afraid that a cap of two years may be 'understating the true average duration' — but they won't know by how much until they raise the upper limit," says Linda Barrington, an economist who directs the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Likening recessionary unemployment spikes in recent decades to a storm at sea, she says, "The waves are getting higher, and we want to understand the intricacies of how they're made up."

The change involves the form used for the bureau's Current Population Survey, based on interviews with thousands of the unemployed. Currently, no matter how much longer than two years someone has been out of work, the form allows interviewers to check off only "99 weeks or over." Starting next month, jobless stints of "260 weeks and over" can be selected on the response form.

"The BLS doesn't make such changes lightly," Barrington says. Stacey Standish, a bureau assistant press officer, says the two-year limit has been used for 33 years.

A two-year limit hampers economists' ability to compare this recession's effect on the job market with another severe one in the early 1980s, Barrington says.

Although "this feels like something we've not experienced" since the Great Depression, she says, economists need more information to be sure.

The change will not affect how the unemployed are counted or the unemployment rate is computed nor how long those eligible for unemployment benefits receive them. Analysts call the move a sign of the times.

"We realize more and more people are unemployed longer than 99 weeks, so we need to break it down further," Standish says.

Long-term unemployment has grown markedly over the past few years. The BLS says the average length of unemployment has increased from 29.4 weeks in November 2009 to 34.5 weeks last month. Nearly 10% of the USA's 15.1 million jobless have been looking for work for two years or more.

Rick Bartz, 59, of Cary, N.C., a purchase and supply expert, was laid off by Sony Ericsson's struggling North Carolina operation eight months ago.

"It puts a lot of stress on me and the wife," he says. "She gets tired of me not being able to find something." He says that lately he's been able to get just a few interviews.

Some workers despair. "I don't know when I'll work again," says Ricky Browner, 30, of Passaic, N.J., who lost his construction job two years ago. "This thing goes on and on."

Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says most economists expect hiring to remain sluggish in 2011 before improving in 2012.

BNET, December 23, 2010, Thursday


December 23, 2010, Thursday


CEO Wanted. Creative People Need Not Apply
By Jessica Stillman

The business media (including BNET) devote a lot of space to the struggle for more innovation and creativity, with the NY Times magazine featuring a lengthy article on corporate America’s hunger for innovative ideas last weekend. But according to new research out of Cornell University, when it comes to young professionals looking to rise through the ranks of their organization, being perceived as an ideas guy has its downsides.

The series of three studies was carried out by Jack Goncalo, a professor at Cornell’s ILR School and the results will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. After crunching data, Goncalo’s headline conclusion is that “creative people are getting filtered out on their way to the top.” Why might this be so?

Our three studies show that when people voice creative ideas, they are viewed by others as having less leadership potential…. The reason is that deeply held expectations of “creative people” and “effective leaders” often clash. Creative people are viewed as risky and unpredictable, while leaders are expected to reduce uncertainty and uphold the norms of the group. Although people claim they want creativity, when given the opportunity, they actually preserve the status quo by sticking with unoriginal thinkers, data suggest.

The result is a mismatch between what companies say they are hiring leaders for and the type of people who they actually get to fill these positions. “Promoted for their unspoken promises to preserve the status quo, leaders are often expected to change the status quo when they arrive at the top,” concludes the research.

What do you think, does a reputation for innovative thinking actually hold people back from the top positions?