Friday, April 22, 2011

American Banking News, April 22, 2011, Friday

American Banking News

April 22, 2011, Friday

American Banking News

Kane Is Able Names Dennis Merriam Vice President of Human Resources

Third-party logistics provider Kane Is Able, Inc. today named former Family Dollar Stores executive, Dennis Merriam, its new Vice President of Human Resources. Merriam will oversee human resource responsibilities for 1,200 KANE associates across 18 nationwide offices and distribution centers.

Scranton, PA (PRWEB) April 22, 2011

Third-party logistics provider Kane Is Able, Inc. (KANE — today named former Family Dollar Stores executive, Dennis Merriam, its new Vice President of Human Resources. Merriam will oversee human resource responsibilities for 1,200 KANE associates across 18 nationwide offices and distribution centers. He will report to KANE president Dick Kane.

“Having managed all aspects of human resources for a rapidly growing Fortune 500 company, Dennis has the experience to sustain KANE’s position as an employer of choice within the logistics industry,” says Dick Kane. “He’ll be responsible for recruiting and developing the people required to support the company’s growth.”

Merriam has 30 years of active human resource management experience and holds a law degree from Florida State University, with a concentration in labor and employment law. Prior to KANE, Merriam held human resource management positions at General Electric, National Gypsum and, for the last 18 years, with Family Dollar — a national discount retail chain with 47,000 associates, including 3,000 staff in nine distribution centers. In addition to his law degree, Merriam holds a bachelor's degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and an MBA from Florida Tech.


KANE is Able, Inc. is a third-party logistics provider that helps consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies warehouse and distribute goods throughout the U.S. Its CPG logistics services include transportation, distribution, contract packaging, cross-docking services, load consolidation, and inventory management. KANE manages 8.5 million square feet of warehouse space in multiple facilities covering all regions of the U.S.

For the original version on PRWeb visit:

Forbes, April 20, 2011, Wednesday


April 20, 2011, Wednesday


The Best-Paying Jobs For Women In 2011

More than ever women are staking their claim to the best and highest-paying jobs on the market. In 1964, 19 million women were employed in the US. Today they total 65 million, fanning out across industries and increasingly pursuing higher education. The amount of working women who have attended college leapt 200% since 1970, and the undergraduate class of 2011 will be 57% female.

Yet as far as women have come, they still earn an average of 81.2% as much as men and remain concentrated in lower-end jobs, such as administrative assistants, cashiers and retail workers. This will be the third year in a row that ForbesWoman runs its annually updated list of the best-paying jobs for women to spotlight the occupations where women can–and do–earn the most. Using data on the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in 2010, collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we discovered that tech and health care is where the money’s at.

At No. 1, female physicians and surgeons topped the list. These women earned a median of $1,618 per week, or about $84,000 a year, more than any other profession tracked by the BLS. In just a year, women’s earnings increased by $400 a week, causing the job to jump up the list from the No. 6 spot last year. Male doctors continue to earn more than female doctors, but the pay gap has narrowed each year; it’s now at 29% versus 41% two years ago.

See the list: Top 10 Best-Paying Jobs For Women In 2011

“We may be witnessing an aging factor,” speculates behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert, lead scientist at compensation website GetRaised. “The highest paid doctors are the oldest doctors. With more women in the field, they may be aging up and earning more.”

Interestingly, the second best-paying job for women is pharmacist. Female pharmacists make a median of $1,605 per week or about $83,500 annually, nearly as much as physicians and surgeons and more than chief executives, which came in at No. 3 on our list. Women comprise 48% of the pharmacy profession and earn 83% as much as male pharmacists. Meanwhile, only 26% of CEOs are women, and they earn just 72% as much as male peers.

Francine Blau, a professor of labor economics at Cornell University, believes the pay gap may be higher among doctors and chief executives due to factors like specialty type, self-employment, industry and firm size. Moreover, these occupations feature a wider range of pay. If men earn more of the outlying, mega salaries, it could bring the male median up. (There are only 11 female CEOs in America’s largest 500 companies, including Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld and Yahoo’s Carol Bartz.) Conversely, “in pharmacy there’s not as much scope,” says Blau. “There’s a clearer range of salaries available.”

Discrimination may factor in as well. “Not only are women less likely to make it to those upper ranges [of a profession] because of promotion gaps,” says Wallaert, “when they do get there they are less likely to be paid fairly.”

Times may be changing, however. Three of the top 10 highest-paying jobs for women were in technology fields, which feature some of the narrowest gender pay gaps. Female computer software engineers (No. 5), who earn a median of $75,000 annually, and computer programmers (No. 9) comprise just 20% of their respective occupations but earn more than 90% as much as their male counterparts. Similarly, women computer and information systems managers (No. 6) make 82% as much as men.

See the list: Top 10 Best-Paying Jobs For Women In 2011

see photosAP PhotoClick for full photo gallery: The Most Powerful Women In Tech
“Engineers are generally employed by younger tech companies with less entrenched male-dominated cultures,” says Wallaert, pointing to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg as a female leader in the field. “Women need to embrace tech. It’s a growing industry, and gender doesn’t apply.”

Technical occupations may be particularly promising for women because they are high-paying and require clear, objective qualifications. “You can program or not,” says Blau.

While there are very few jobs where women earn more than men (food servers, bill collectors and stock clerks), the data shows that the greater percentage of women in a field, the smaller the gender wage gap. This year, female-dominated jobs that also ranked as best-paid include physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and human resources managers.

“Dating back to the 1970s, women have been moving into relatively higher paying jobs that were traditionally male,” says Blau. “It’s been a very positive development. Over all, the gender pay gap is narrowing.”

The Star Ledger, April 20, 2011, Wednesday

The Star Ledger

April 20, 2011, Wednesday

The Star Ledger

TSA airport screeners at Newark airport, elsewhere vote to form collective bargaining unit

NEWARK — The 1,200 airport screeners in Newark Liberty International Airport and their 42,000 brethren around the country have voted to form a collective bargaining unit, federal officials said today.

After nearly nine years of screeners’ pushing for bargaining rights, the vote was not a surprise: 16,464 in favor of collective bargaining, with 3,111 opposed.

But during the same six-week electronic ballot process, rank-and-file employees of the Transportation Security Administration were split almost evenly between the two unions competing to represent them, failing to hand either one a majority of the votes cast. A runoff election will be held in the coming months to choose the union.

Even so, the election’s incomplete outcome was cheered by union supporters. And for the screeners at Newark Liberty, the arrival of collective bargaining was the second workplace triumph in two days. On Tuesday, Newark’s top TSA official, Federal Security Director Barbara Bonn Powell, announced she was leaving the post amid a string of embarrassing security lapses and low morale among management and entry level employees who openly criticized her leadership.

"Even though I didn’t want to have a runoff, at least we know we’ll have a union," said Stacy Bodtmann, a screener at Newark who is secretary-teasurer of Local 2222 of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the two unions seeking to represent the screeners. "With Barbara gone, nothing could ruin it."

For years, Local 2222 has represented thousands of dues-paying screeners at Newark, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in grievances, disciplinary procedures and other individual matters.

But the runnoff will be held to select either AFGE or the National Treasury Employees Union to represent all 43,000 screeners nationwide as a single unit in contract negotiations over scheduling, dress code, breaks and other issues unrelated to pay, security techniques and standards and hiring qualifications.

Screeners will not be forced to join the winning union, or pay dues. But the losing union will no longer represent TSA screeners in any capacity. Also, any contract provisions agreed upon through collective bargaining will apply to all TSA screeners.

Rick Hurd, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, said that by improving morale and including workers in the formulation of workplace rules, collective bargaining could improve security.

"As long as the relationship between the union and the agency is positive, then you would expect that the effect of collective bargaining on performance would be positive," Hurd said.

© 2011 All rights reserved.

BNN, April 15, 2011, Friday


April 15, 2011, Friday


Toyota Troubles

Art Wheaton, auto industry and labor relations expert at Cornell University
discusses Toyota's future challenges with BNN's Howard Green.

The Berkshire Eagle, Sunday April 10, 2011

The Berkshire Eagle

Sunday April 10, 2011

The Berkshire Eagle

As state legislators across the country struggle to manage serious budget deficits, there has been a scrutiny of the cost of benefits for public sector employees and the enduring role of organized labor. Emotion and resentment runs high over the costs of pensions and salaries. This is not because people believe hard-working people everywhere do not deserve dignified retirement and good wages. Rather, bad economic policy over the past 30 years has left the deepest income inequality in our nation since 1929. It is little wonder that emotions run high!

In addition, there are increasing attacks on collective bargaining agreements in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. In many ways, the approaches favored by some state governments are largely retributive. Reforms aim to "get back at" unions rather than to find a sustainable approach to cutting costs while developing growth strategies that include improving the quality of services and care.

The roadblock that labor, management, and state legislation are currently facing is that the adversarial tactics of the past will no longer resolve our significant fiscal problems. Cutting health-care benefits for state workers while increasing co-payments will not reduce health-care costs. This strategy will only continue to fund a broken system without implementing real cost-saving measures such as chronic disease prevention, health education, and coordination of services.

For all of us consumers of state services the exploitation of a financial crisis to achieve ideological goals is a losing game. Are we willing to stand in line longer at the motor vehicles bureau to get our registration renewed? Are we willing to remain in the emergency room longer due to reduced staffing? The focus on union-legislator vendettas only impedes us from finding solutions that will help mend our country's economic fabric.

What is needed is a radical change in how labor, management and government address service cost and delivery issues. "Business as usual" will not work any longer.

To start, unions have an opportunity to look beyond their primary functions of collective bargaining, grievance handling, and concession bargaining to find specific ways to radically reduce the cost and augment the quality of services for the communities that employ them. Unions have often been stymied by an atmosphere in which bureaucratic decision-making has reigned supreme. Union members have intimate and unique knowledge of their workplaces and work processes which can be utilized to create real improvements. Unions have an opportunity to utilize these intellectual assets. The very real problem of creating high- quality, cost-effective public service in a time of fiscal crisis can begin to be solved through the empowered creativity of the work force.

At the same time, it is imperative that management and state legislators be open to including union leaders and their members as resources for change. Stripping away collective bargaining rights and outsourcing are quick fixes at best and not conducive to long-term financial stability and growth. In fact, such narrow strategies only serve to alienate the work force, resulting in poorer services and care. Lawmakers must be willing to value the role and input of public sector employees and unions rather than viewing them as enemies.

Making the necessary sea changes in labor-management problem solving will not be easy. Nevertheless, there is some precedent for methods which harness the power of labor, management and legislators to improve our economy.

During the economic imbroglio of World War II, the U.S. encountered significant trouble in producing high-quality, cost effective tanks and airplanes. Walter Reuther, past president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, relied upon a team of skilled machinists and assembly workers to develop a proposal to address the underutilization of American auto plants and the need for military equipment. This initiative took federal government support in order to succeed, but demonstrated the profound importance of the skills and insights of auto workers to maximize the resources of auto plants.

Today, several labor-management partnerships have been established to meet the fiscal and quality challenges facing the health-care industry. Through innovative collective bargaining methods and labor and management leadership agreements, Kaiser Permanente, the largest care management organization in the U.S. and its unions representing nearly 100,000 workers, have created "unit-based teams" comprised of managers and frontline staff to tackle problems in its hospitals and clinics. These teams have resolved problems from quality of patient care to environmental issues, creating more productive workplaces and more cost-effective patient care. Other health care unions are initiating similar activities in cities from Los Angeles to Burlington, Vermont.

We do not need to build more airplanes and tanks, nor is labor-management partnership a magic bullet. We are, however, facing a crisis that demands an innovative path to achieve appropriate changes. In countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Norway collaborative work between labor, management and government has enabled these countries to thrive during a time when most of Europe is, like us, in a deep recession. It is time for the U.S. to join them.

Peter Lazes is director of the Healthcare Transformation Project and Programs for Economic Transitions, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

WIVB Channel 4, April 9, 2011, Saturday

WIVB Channel 4

April 9, 2011, Saturday

WIVB Channel 4

Volunteers ready homes for summer

ILR's Art Wheaton leads Western New York Apollo Alliance weatherization of 50 Buffalo homes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A group of volunteers are helping dozens of Buffalo residents prepare their homes for the summer months.

More than 60 volunteers from Daemen College, UB, ECC, and PUSH Buffalo are helping fix up homes in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood.

They're finding ways to make the houses more energy efficient.

The teams are also installing carbon monoxide detectors.

Organizer Art Wheaton said, "The Seneca-Babcock is one of the older neighborhoods in Buffalo. A lot of the homes are over a hundred years old and are in dire need of some work and some help. Some of the homeowners try to keep up but others don't have the money to try to do it or the knowledge or the expertise."

Saturday's green initiative is organized by the Western New York Apollo Alliance.

About 50 homes will be weatherized.


The Brown Daily Herald, April 7, 2011, Thursday

The Brown Daily Herald

April 7, 2011, Thursday

The Brown Daily Herald

Simmons’ approval rating down 12 percent

President Ruth Simmons' approval rating fell to 62.5 percent this semester, down from 74 percent last semester, according to last month's Herald poll. Less than half of students had an opinion on the Corporation's job performance.

Of the 62.5 percent students who approved of Simmons, 30.3 percent strongly approved and 32.2 somewhat approved. Last semester, 34.8 percent strongly approved of Simmons and 39.2 somewhat approved. This semester, the poll offered "Not familiar enough to answer" and "No opinion" as separate responses. Past polls offered a single response of "Don't know / No answer."

Two students cited Simmons' service on the board of the Goldman Sachs Group as a possible reason for the slip in her approval ratings. Simmons announced in February 2010 that she would not seek reelection to the investment bank's board.

Ronald Ehrenberg, professor of industrial labor relations and economics at Cornell, said the popularity of college presidents can fluctuate based on a multitude of factors. He said there was no single reason to expect a president's approval rating to fall over time.

The drop in approval, instead of reflecting opposition to Simmons' specific actions, may instead be a result of a less informed student population. This semester 25.0 percent of students said they were not familiar enough to make a judgment about Simmons, up from 20.1 percent who responded "Don't know / No answer" last semester. This semester 8 percent responded "No opinion."

Ben Winkler '11.5 said his opinion of Simmons was "not really based in much real fact," but was "mostly in line with the student population's hype, the idolization of Simmons as an icon."

"I have no idea what she's been doing, but I'd trust her with my life," he said.

Students also tended to have fairly limited knowledge of the Corporation, the University's highest governing body. The Corporation is responsible for choosing the president, approving the University budget and making high-level policy decisions. About 42.9 percent of student respondents this semester, including 55.9 percent of first-years, said they were not familiar enough with the Corporation to make a judgment. A further 15.9 percent responded that they had no opinion of the Corporation.

Thirty percent of respondents approved and 11.1 percent disapproved.

This represents a dramatic decline in student awareness of the body from the most recent previous poll on student approval of the Corporation, which was conducted in spring 2009 and showed only 37 percent responding "Don't know / No answer."

Michael Becker '13 said he strongly disapproves of many recent actions taken by the Corporation, which he said is operating with "a very strong profit motive."

Becker, who said he was attracted to Brown because of its active students and professors and Corporation members who seemed to be interested in social justice, cited the Corporation's efforts to make tenure more selective and the administration's handling of negotiations with Brown Dining Services workers as two reasons why he believes that appropriate concern for the employees and the community "has not been reflected in the policies of either Simmons or the Corporation."

"It's a little unnerving — what is the Corporation?" asked Nam Pham '13, adding that while he did not know much about its operations, he suspected that it "may not have Brown's best interests in mind."

"I don't really know what the Corporation does other than that they make decisions," said Hana Ward '11. "I don't know who they are, if they are here on campus a lot or where they are. They're pretty anonymous."

WorldatWork's workspan magazine, April 2011

WorldatWork's workspan magazine

April 2011

WorldatWork's workspan magazine

Research for the Real World

ICS Director Kevin Hallock shares research on what happens when peers learn each other's salaries.

Pay Secrecy and Relative Pay
Should Compensation be Secret?

Financial Times, March 23, 2011, Saturday

Financial Times

March 23, 2011, Saturday

Financial Times

Powerhouse economies lure staff
By Elaine Moore

Published: March 23 2011 18:30 Last updated: March 23 2011 18:30

The march of global talent from east to west, and from west to further west, is faltering. Instead, emerging powerhouse economies – mainly in the east or south – are luring ambitious workers with above-average salaries and the chance to participate in growth markets.

Brazil, Russia, India and China, collectively referred to as the Brics, are gaining a reputation as some of the best destinations for expatriates.

But this unwieldy group defies easy categorisation. Discrete in terms of geography, history, working culture and language, companies and employees who want exposure to Brics must decide whether to export existing corporate cultures or adapt to their varied local working habits.

For example, interruptions during presentations are welcomed in Brazil, where business cards should be printed in both English and Portuguese, but in India, where English is an official language, such behaviour is less acceptable. In Russia employees are entitled to 28 days annual leave, while in China workers are required to work at weekends to make up time lost during national holidays.

But negotiating such new social terrains is not enough to put off employees in the west who are faced with high rates of unemployment and stagnant economic growth. The death of long-term employment rewards, such as final salary pensions, has led many professionals to see their careers more as a series of stages, one of which may well be time spent working in an emerging economy.

David Heath, global director of international business at Alexander Mann Solutions, has worked with clients in a variety of emerging markets and says that barriers to employment are falling. “I’d say a lot of grads I speak to are just as excited by the prospect of working in Mumbai as they are about working in New York.”

Jobs agency Manpower recently surveyed 64,000 employers in 39 countries and found that across the world job prospects were strongest in India and China. Demand was so high, said employees, that rival firms had taken to poaching staff, which in turn led employers to invest in incentives to retain workers.

In a separate series of interviews, HSBC, the bank, quizzed 4,000 expatriates around the world and found that Bric countries scored above average for economic outlook, career development, earnings and the ability for workers to save money.

The term Bric was dreamed up in 2001 in a paper by Jim O’Neill, a Goldman Sachs economist, who argued that the size and speed with which these four countries were growing meant they could exceed the US and developed economies of Europe by 2050.

Goldman Sachs now says it could be sooner than that. In 2007, China became the world’s second largest economy, a year earlier than predicted. The financial group has since said that China could overtake the US in terms of stock market capitalisation by 2030.

The size and strength of Brics led Mr O’Neill to comment in a Financial Times interview that it was now pathetic to continue calling these four countries “emerging” markets.

This rapid success has made them attractive employment prospects. According to HSBC, Russia is home to the wealthiest expatriates, with more than one third earning above $250,000. In possession of the largest natural reserves of gas in the world and vast quantities of oil and coal, the country also has the best educated citizens of any emerging economy.

Sergey Salikov, manager at Ancor, the largest recruitment company in Russia, says the real expatriate rush occurred there in the early 2000s when Russian companies required western business knowledge and would pay a premium for it. Now that Russian managers have become more qualified and experienced, salaries of expatriates and their Russian colleagues are becoming comparable.

European and American expatriates in Russia are also being challenged by managers migrating from India and China, he says, whose compensation expectations are less ambitious and whose motivation levels might be higher.

“Top Chinese managers are flexible when it comes to adjustment to new conditions. Often, they imitate manners of people they are communicating with,” he says. “Indian managers favour open communication and democratic management style. So expats from India and China find it quite easy to adjust to Russian companies’ working culture.”

As employees criss-cross the world, multinational companies have started using different organizational models, according to associate professor Chris Collins at Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. One of the most successful is the development of a global culture, with norms and values that translate and transfer across boundaries and which recognize the new fluidity of employment.

In The Rise of the Global Nomad, author Jim Matthewman identified the group who might be best suited to this culture and who he believes will drive the future growth of international organisations. These multi-cultural global professionals, fluent in multiple languages, including English, will not be traditional expatriates who travel abroad for a short period, but highly mobile professionals with a global mindset.

Not all industries lend themselves to cross-border movement, of course. Blackie Swart, HR officer for Citi Russia, says that one of the bank’s most attractive programmes is internal mobility, which moves senior management around the globe, but those working in regulation have a harder time transferring their skills.

Similarly, Robert Walters, the recruitment firm, moved into the Brazilian market in 2010 and Frederic Ronflard, its country director, says tax regulations in Brazil tend to be so complex that it makes no sense for multinationals to take accountants there when good local candidates are available. Any accountants who do move to Brazil must speak Portuguese.

“The work culture is different but adaptation will be easy,” says Mr Ronflard. “But the regulations, constant change of laws and high level of demands of paperwork are complicating day-to-day operations.”

For those who can get to grips with the difficulties, success in emerging economies is seen by some companies as proof of an employee’s ability to work in a challenging environment.

Michael Maeder, account manager at Direct HR, a China-focused recruitment firm with offices in seven Chinese cities, says experience gained in China could be highly valuable, given the country’s future economic status.

However, he cautions that for those of non-Chinese background, the culture differences can be significant. There are, he says, unappealing sides to living there, such as poorer human rights and freedom of information.

Levels of transparency on key factors such as salary levels can be another sticking point for foreign employers and employees: “Most foreign enterprises underestimate HR issues when entering the Chinese market,” he explains.

And now that local Chinese firms are gaining ground on multinationals, companies are having to work hard to retain staff: “The competition for top talent with large Chinese enterprises, particularly state-owned enterprises, is becoming tougher.”

This phenomenon is also occurring in India, where home-grown companies, such as Tata, have risen to compete not only in their own country but overseas.

Prof Collins has identified a migration of talent within Bric countries from large multinationals to home country companies, where local employees perceive better opportunities for senior leadership roles.

“Local employees may believe they don’t have a shot at moving up to the senior leadership ranks of the multinational,” he explains. “The foreign companies, who look to take values and leadership models developed in the US or Europe abroad, are therefore those most likely to be the ones experiencing an outflow of leaders and technical talent.”

Daily Finance, March 21, 2011, Monday

Daily Finance

March 21, 2011, Monday

Daily Finance

The Sorry State of America's Wage Earners
By David Schepp

It's well known that the typical American household has essentially been running in place or falling behind financially for some time. Sapped by greater outlays for everything from energy and health care to transportation and education, workers' wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living.

What is news, however, is that stagnant wages have been a problem for far longer than anyone heretofore supposed, according to a new report released last week by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank focused on the poor and middle class.

Titled The Sad But True Story of Wages in America, the study found that all workers, regardless of whether they work in the private or public sector, have endured decades of stagnating wages despite significant gains in productivity.

"The EPI study confirmed and elucidated a trend that economists have been tracking for some time," says Matthew Freedman, professor of labor economics at Cornell University's ILR School. "Wages have been relatively flat for the bulk of the U.S. population, not only for the last 20 years, but, in fact, even further back -- well into the '70s."

Demonizing the Public Worker

Freedman says that what gains American workers have seen in earnings "have accrued almost entirely to those at the very top of earnings distribution." That is to say: the rich have gotten richer, while the middle class has been treading water. As a result, the nation has experienced an increasing disparity between haves and have-nots during the last few decades.

The findings throw into sharp relief the current debate about whether public-sector employees -- particularly those who belong to unions -- are paid too much.

As the EPI study puts it:

The current public discussion illogically pits state and local government employees against private workers, when both groups have failed to sufficiently benefit from the economic fruits of their labors.The tactic of demonizing state workers has been used in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states where Republican governors and legislators have sought to take away public-sector workers' collective bargaining rights. These elected officials, most notably Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, argue that state budgets can't afford the largess paid to public-sector employees, despite concessions willingly made by state workers.

The perception that public employees are getting a better deal has stirred up resentment among some in the private sector who, in these austere times, feel they shouldn't be the only ones making sacrifices such as paying more for health care or forgoing raises.

But even if public employees were indeed paid better, the problem with that argument is that it's akin to asking the lone healthy person in a roomful of sick people why he, too, hasn't fallen ill.

A Love-Hate Relationship with Teachers

In the furor that has erupted over state budget deficits, "we've lost sight of the more important aspects of things," Freedman says. It's a classic example of taxpayers' reaction to the conundrum of either paying more in taxes or asking government to cut public workers' salaries.

"When the option is raise my own taxes versus [cut] somebody else's salary," he says, "it's always, 'I'd rather reduce somebody else's salary.'"

It's interesting to think of teachers in this scenario, Freedman says. "On one hand, we spend a lot of time complaining how teachers aren't valued enough, and then on the flip side suddenly now everybody thinks that teachers are greedy and are perhaps overcompensated."

The Only Real Winners: the Wealthy and the Corporations

Of course, the one issue missing from the public debate is that employers have benefited mightily from the fruits of workers' labor in the last couple of decades. According to the EPI study, productivity among American workers grew by 62.5% in the 20 years ending in 2010. Increased productivity benefits companies by reducing their need to hire and train more workers, among other savings.

The rise in productivity is far greater than the increase in real hourly wages for both private-sector, and state and local government workers, which grew 12% in the same period. (EPI notes that overall compensation, which includes health care and other benefits, grew a bit more for both groups, but still lagged well behind productivity growth.)

What's worse is that for workers without college degrees, wage gains have been even more meager. During the same 20-year period, private-sector wages for high-school educated workers grew by just 4.8% -- and a mere 2.6% for state employees. By contrast, real wages for college graduates in the private sector grew 19.4%, compared with 9.5% for those in state government jobs.

Government Policies Put Workers Last

Why have workers, regardless of their education or place of employment, fared so badly in the last few decades? The cause lies in the nation's economic policies, which have not supported good jobs during the last 30 years or so. Rather, EPI's study finds:

The focus has been on policies that were thought to make consumers better off through lower prices: deregulation of industries, privatization of public services, the weakening of labor standards including the minimum wage, erosion of the social safety net, expanding globalization, and the move toward fewer and weaker unions.Such policies, the group says, have eroded most workers' bargaining power, widened income inequality and reduced access to good jobs.

It's not at all clear how to solve the problem of stagnant wages. Still, Freedman says, "It doesn't seem to me that the solution is an extreme one like policymakers in Wisconsin would like to pursue."

See full article from DailyFinance:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Post Bulletin, April 7, 2011, Thursday

Post Bulletin

April 7, 2011, Thursday

Post Bulletin

Unions merely try to protect workers

Share Posted: Apr 07, 2011, 4:20 am

In his column of April 4, Olmsted Republican boss Bruce Kaskubar rhetorically clubs organized-labor members as "cons, fighting mobs, and union bosses."

Clearly, this "Us-vs-Those-People" argument is part of a larger GOP strategy to divide the labor movement into factions; i.e. Private Labor — Sort of Good vs. Public Employees — Very BAD!

Apart from our wondering what happened (in their minds) to the concerns of working women, Kaskubar's protestations that they aren't really "against the working man" the question: Does he really believe his party's revisionist spin on this; or merely think workers know as little of history as he?

There is much empirical fact to prove labor’s positions. See, for example, what the research of Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell’s School of Industrial Relations, shows: Her '09 report “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing,” demonstrates the kinds of unfair practices workers everywhere are up against.

For example, 63 percent of employers have supervisors interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one sessions; 57 percent of companies threaten workers with plant closings; 47 percent threaten to cut wages and benefits even when/if they win representation; a majority of workers still don’t have a first contract after a year; and the right to collective bargaining only guarantees a place at the negotiating table.

Considering such relentless assaults from conservative leaders, is it any wonder unions now represent fewer than 12 percent of American workers?

Innovation Trail, March 30, 2011, Wednesday

Innovation Trail

March 30, 2011, Wednesday

Innovation Trail

Stop blaming unions for deficits
By Ken Margolies

Just because there's an agreement for New York's 2011 budget doesn't mean the debate ends. The Innovation Trail is continuing its series of commentaries about how to fix the budget. The opinions contained in this commentary are those of Cornell University's Ken Margolies. His piece is part of the Innovation Trail's "Budget Solutions" series of guest blog posts.

Think you have a good way to fix New York's budget? Submit it to us and we might use it on the blog.

When families are in debt, they are supposed to "tighten their belts" and cut back on expenses. However, if most families cut back at the same time, the economy would suffer from lack of demand.

Leading economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Christopher Pissarides argue that austerity measures go in exactly the wrong direction and are more likely to result in lower economic growth, worsening unemployment and protracted recession.

Even if that's true, if you don't have the money, there is no choice but to make sacrifices, right? Not necessarily, depending on why the family is in crisis and who makes the sacrifices. If the parents were paying lavish allowances to the children and everyone was dining out on lobster every night, the solution is obvious.

Corporate responsibility

However, the main reason families and states are facing extreme deficits is that relaxed regulations allowed creatively greedy people to grant questionable mortgages and then insulate themselves against losses by selling shares in the risky loans to others. That scheme fell apart and the economy collapsed in 2008.

In commenting on that collapse, Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, said he was, "in a state of shocked disbelief" that the financial industry did not curb itself. That's like me saying I'm shocked my dog ran out of the house just because I left the door open.

Dogs run away. Banks, stockbrokers and other free market capitalists relentlessly pursue profit. They do so, regardless of the consequences for the rest of us, unless some regulatory doors are closed by government or the people organize a strong counterbalance to protect their own interests.

Unions have served as that counterbalance and, for many years, their efforts through collective bargaining and political action raised compensation and improved working conditions for everyone.

Millionaires, billionaires and corporations used their power to cut regulations and slash their taxes. As they increased their profits, real wages stagnated. The resulting shift has created the largest income and wealth gap in America since colonial days. This was possible, in part, because millionaires, billionaires and corporations weakened unions in the private sector.

Now, they have declared war on public sector unions.

"Starve the beast"

As Warren Buffet, said, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." One strategy the wealthy use in their war is called "starving the beast." According to Wikipedia, "starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future reductions in the size of government."

Today's starve-the-beast advocates are some of the same people that gave us the Bush tax cuts, responsible for so much of the deficit.

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, pushed through a big tax cut that created the deficit he used as justification for stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers, despite union agreement to concessions Walker said he needed.

Walker, other politicians, and those they say they speak for, are counting on convincing the middle class that public sector unions are the cause of deficits, and that when wealthy Americans are taxed, it is bad for everyone.

Our friendly billionaire, Mr. Buffet, candidly disagreed and said "The rich are always going to say just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."

Preserving services

I think the American public is catching on. In Wisconsin, Ohio and across the country, nurses, firefighters, teachers and the people who protect our water, our children, our elderly and who provide so many services that communities need, are standing up for themselves, their unions and the people they serve. They are saying we are not the cause of the bad economy and deficits.

This stance is supported by research from some of the country's top scholars in "Getting It Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications from Research on Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining."

The authors, including Thomas Kochan of MIT and Harry Katz of Cornell, conclude:

The existing research shows [public sector] compensation is lower than that of comparable private-sector employees.

If we do not cut public sector pay and benefits and government services how will we close the deficit?

Governor Cuomo's budget, according to another non-profit, non-partisan research group, the Fiscal Policy Institute:

•"Relies excessively on spending cuts, which increase unemployment and intensify hardships."
•"Does not propose any new revenue sources and [allows] the temporary income tax increase for New York's highest income taxpayers to expire."
•"It is unfathomable that those who have profited so tremendously from New York's economic growth over the past two decades are not in a position to aid poor and working New Yorkers in this time of need."
In New York State as well as throughout the rest of the nation I think we need to organize to force our governments to address the deficit in ways that promote growth, preserve needed services, and require that those who caused the economic meltdown and used their inordinate power to dramatically grow their wealth pay their fair share.

Ken Margolies is the director of Organizing Programs at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He uses his labor union experience to train and advise union members, officers, staff, delegates and stewards.

DailyFinance, March 28, 2011, Monday


March 28, 2011, Monday


GM's Stock Price Falters as Company Revisits Failed Strategies

For shareholders in General Motors (GM), March has been more bear than lion. The automaker's stock has consistently traded below $33 a share -- the price stipulated in its initial public offering last November.

Over the past month, GM shares have lost nearly 8% of their value. To be sure, some of the drop in value is related to events outside of GM's control: soaring fuel prices, instability in the Middle East and Japan's earthquake.

But there is likely one other source for the current spate of investor angst: Chief Executive Daniel Akerson. On more than one occasion, Akerson has expressed frustration that GM engineers aren't able to more quickly churn out fresh products -- something the automaker needs to do to keep pace with crosstown rival Ford Motor (F) and Asian automakers, including South Korea's Hyundai Motor.

'Like a Can of Diet Coke'

Akerson's discontent is driven by his perception that GM is no different from any other consumer-products company. Citing Coca-Cola (KO) as an example, Akerson recently told The Wall Street Journal that a GM car was just like the can of Diet Coke he was drinking during the interview.

"GM has to start acting like a consumer-driven -- not [an] engineering-driven -- company," Akerson said. "We sell a consumer product -- our can just costs $30,000."

Sponsored Links To analysts (and no doubt GM employees who have been down this road before), Akerson's comments are dispiriting. Believing that cars are no different from beverages, neckties or nail polish is what caused GM's downfall and subsequent bankruptcy in 2009. It was the source of the company's bland product offerings in the 1990s, which eventually led the company to hire auto-design guru Bob Lutz in 2001 to turn things around.

Akerson isn't the first CEO of a Detroit automaker to make the same wrongheaded assumption. Jacques Nasser, who led Ford for nearly three years before being fired in 2001, sought to rearrange the Dearborn, Mich.-based company into autonomous consumer business groups. He also, as with GM in recent years, pushed out people who knew the car business and hired from outside the industry.

Nasser's belief was that Ford was a consumer-products company that happened to sell cars, says Arthur Wheaton, who analyzes the auto industry for Cornell University's school of industrial and labor relations. "It was a huge flop."

More in Common with Tech Companies

Car companies have more in common with technology companies, such as Apple (AAPL), a company that views innovation and engineering as key, Wheaton says. Unlike beverages or hand cream, automobiles are constantly evolving technologies. Just as you wouldn't hire someone whose expertise is in shampoo or razor blades to develop the next generation iPhone or iPad, it makes as little sense to expect the same people to develop new cars, trucks and utility vehicles.

By adhering to its principles, Apple hasn't only become an iconic brand known for innovation, its reputation has allowed the company to ask for and get a premium price for the products its sells, which raises another concern among GM shareholders.

In the months after GM exited bankruptcy in 2009, the revived automaker stuck to its guns by not deeply discounting cars to spur sales, instead relying on a formula that produced hefty profits from each vehicle sold. But the automaker has since backtracked in a bid to boost its share of the U.S. car market by offering generous incentives.

To be sure, rebates, and cheap financing and lease rates have helped GM move more vehicles off dealers' lots, as last month's sales figures showed. February sales surged 46%, exceeding analyst estimates as well as those of GM itself.

But analysts warn those sales come at a cost -- reduced trade-in values, as one example. "We don't see any upside to incentives," Eric Lyman of Automotive Lease Guide told "It is manipulating the market and lowering the cost of your vehicles, which lowers the resale value of your used vehicle in the market."

GM so far has done a remarkable job at turning itself around. With the two-year anniversary of its bankruptcy looming, however, it's unclear whether reshaping its identity and selling cars on the cheap can help the company stay on the road to recovery.

See full article from DailyFinance:

Marketplace, March 26, 2011, Saturday


March 26, 2011, Saturday


Wal-Mart faces major class action employee discrimination suit

By John Dimsdale

The suit was filed on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart, saying the company had a pattern of discrimination in pay raises and promotions.

Kai Ryssdal: The largest employment discrimination class action lawsuit ever lands at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. It involves the largest retailer ever. A suit filed on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart says the company had a pattern of discrimination in pay raises and promotions.

The question for the Justices goes something like this: Can the individual circumstances of 1.5 million different people really be combined into one coherent class? The answer could affect everything from corporate legal strategy to minority employment.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: It was on a Monday 12 years ago that Stephanie Odle lost her job at the Wal-Mart in Lubbock, Texas.

Stephanie Odle: I was fired so they could give my job to a male manager who left Arizona on Friday and said, 'I'm going to be the marketing manager in Lubbock.' And I was the marketing manager in Lubbock.

She had worked at nine different stores in three states over eight years by then. So, Odle figures she had a good sampling of the company's attitude toward women workers.

Odle: At the time, I'm thinking, 'Why doesn't he like me? What did I do?' Everywhere, I was thinking, 'What have I done to these people?' I wasn't really putting together how -- is discriminatory the right word? How it was everywhere I went!

Odle got in touch with lawyers who knew other women complaining of similar treatment, being paid less than men and promoted less often. Odle became one of the first plaintiffs in a federal employment discrimination suit against the giant retailer.

The plaintiffs' lead counsel, Brad Seligman, says every woman who ever worked at Wal-Mart is represented in this suit brought by six women.

Brad Seligman: What this case is doing what the civil rights laws and class action laws were meant to do, which is to give people a way to band together so they could have a fair chance of proving their case and making a change so the laws would be obeyed.

Wal-Mart wants the court to throw out the class action, saying men and women at the company are paid and treated equally. Theodore Boutros is Wal-Mart's lead lawyer. He says the six original plaintiffs can't possibly speak for hundreds of thousands of employees.

Theodore Boutros: They sued claiming to represent every employee at every position in every state in thousands of stores for a long period of time. No court has ever recognized a class like that.

The enormous size of this class action is why virtually every major company and business association is backing Wal-Mart. Jonathan Cohn wrote one of the court briefs in Wal-Mart's favor. He says a class of this size means any company would be forced to settle out of court, rather than risk a judgment against it.

Jonathan Cohn: Wal-Mart would be crazy to bet billions of dollars, and that's what's on the line here -- on a single case, a single judge or jury's award.

But Cornell labor professor Kate Bronfenbrenner says letting workers join together in a national lawsuit gives them a fighting chance against corporations with deep pockets. She says this is an important test of workers' rights to prove company-wide discrimination.

Kate Bronfenbrenner: If Wal-Mart loses this, this could make a big difference for women workers, workers of color, low-wage workers that these other companies would step back and say, 'We can't assume that we can get away with this.'

If the Supreme Court dismisses the case, the women can only pursue individual claims. Bronfenbrenner says that will make it much harder to file class action suits against any large corporation.

For her part, plaintiff Stephanie Odle says just the threat of the case she started almost 12 years ago has forced Wal-Mart to improve treatment of women employees.

Odle: We have made a difference. We did do it. I did keep my promise to my now 14-year-old that she's not going to have to go through what I went through.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

Washington Square News, March 26, 2011, Saturday

Washington Square News

March 26, 2011, Saturday

Washington Square News

Unions, families of victims remember the Triangle fire

by Emily Yang

Hundreds of people gathered on Washington Place Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which broke out in the eighth and ninth floors of what is now the NYU Brown Building. 146 workers died, fueling reform and calls for regulation in the workplace.

The ceremony, hosted by Workers United, began at 11 a.m. with musical performers. A procession of victims' family members, labor unions, theater and dance troupes and students marched from Union Square to Washington Place.

Harry Katz, the dean of the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School at Cornell University, was among those in attendance at the ceremony.

Katz's grandparents, who were immigrants from Russia, worked in sweatshops.

"[My grandparents] didn't really like to talk about the work – it was hard work," Katz said.

They were also part of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), a union that actively fought for change after the Triangle fire.

The ILR School now keeps the archives and papers of the ILGWU, and uses those materials to build a website where school children can learn about the fire.

The Wells family attended the ceremony in memory of their family member, 18-year old Annie Nicholas, a trimmer who worked and died in the Triangle factory.

"My grandmother told me that [Annie] was making $12 a week, and that she actually escaped from the fire at first," Matthew Wells, Nicholas' great-great-great-nephew, said. "But she went back to get her scissors and then died. She jumped out of a window, because the autopsy said she died of broken bones."

At 12 p.m. speakers and honored guests began to take the podium to address the crowd, emphasizing the fire's legacy and the rights labor unions have fought to secure over the past century.

Bruce Raynor, the president of Workers United, led the ceremony.

"We've come together to remind ourselves that those workers were killed by the greed of their bosses and the inaction of public officials to provide a safe way to exit those buildings," Raynor said. "Those workers were fighting for their rights, to have a union for that workplace, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect on the job, something that's God-given in the City of New York and in our country."

Other speakers included President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Mary Kay Henry, president of 1199SEIU George Gresham, New York Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor/activist Danny Glover.

"We must always protect our most vulnerable workers," Solis said. "We must provide safeguards and a safety net for all workers, and yes, we must ensure that all workers have a voice at the table."

Mayor Bloomberg described how the fire affected New York City and the increased workplace safety measures that were enforced after the tragedy. He noted that the work to improve working conditions never really ends; instead, it passes from one generation to another.

"That tragic fire shocked our city, stirred its conscience, and brought out the true strength of our community," Bloomberg said. "New Yorkers were outraged by the unsafe, inhumane conditions that took the lives of 146 people here. They said, 'That's not America; we can do better,' and they took action. That's why today, we're taking action."

Bloomberg, who has instituted budget cuts opposed by public sector unions during his time as mayor, was booed loudly during his speech.

At the end of the ceremony, local school children and families of the victims read the names of the workers who lost their lives in the fire.

Danny Glover spoke on the importance of memory and social activism:

"In memory of [the victims], it is imperative that we have the answers, that we come up with the answers for the future of not only our children, but for the future of the world, the future of this precious planet that we live on."

Emily Yang is a staff writer. Email her at

Buffalo News, March 25, 2011, Friday

Buffalo News

March 25, 2011, Friday

Buffalo News

UAW official sees callback of laid-off GM workers
No confirmation from automaker

A United Auto Workers leader says General Motors will recall its remaining 2,000 laid-off workers by fall, but the automaker is not confirming that timeline.

Detroit newspapers reported that Joseph Ashton, a UAW vice president, said at a union meeting this week that "those people will be back at work in September." He was referring to the roughly 2,000 UAW-represented workers at GM presently on layoff.

GM's Town of Tonawanda engine plant has nearly 200 workers on layoff. The figure includes 59 placed on temporary layoff this week, in a ripple effect from the Japan earthquake and tsunami. A GM truck plant in Louisiana that uses engines produced at the Tonawanda site has been temporarily shut down, due to a lack of parts the Louisiana plant receives from Japan.

GM also has a components plant in Lockport that was formerly part of Delphi Corp. A layoff figure for that plant could not be obtained Thursday.

Ashton was director of Amherst-based UAW Region 9, before he was elevated to his current position last June. He spoke this week at a three-day UAW bargaining convention in Detroit, as the union prepares for contract talks with GM, Ford and Chrysler. The contracts expire in mid-September.

GM did not confirm the specific timeline laid out by Ashton.

"We can't predict timing, but we have made several recent announcements that will bring people back to work, including adding shifts at Lansing Grand River and Flint Assembly, as well as our efforts to staff Orion Assembly," said Kim Carpenter, a GM spokeswoman, referring to three Michigan plants.

Mary Ann Brown, a spokeswoman for GM's Tonawanda plant, said the Tonawanda site is not scheduled to bring back all of its laid-off workers until next year, when two new engine lines will go into production.

Local UAW officials could not be reached to comment on Ashton's remarks.

Bringing back all the laid-off workers would be a significant milestone. Under contract terms, GM can start hiring workers at about half the traditional pay rate once all laid-off employees are called back.

Arthur Wheaton, an automotive industry expert at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, described Ashton's remarks about calling back the laid-off workers as a good bargaining strategy.

"You're getting it out on the table now," letting workers know that a plan to recall employees is in the works, Wheaton said.

It also could help win members' support for a tentative agreement when that time comes, by signaling to them that their leaders have taken care of the laid-off workers, Wheaton said.

Ashton's remarks should also been seen as good news for GM, an indication that the automaker is gaining strength, Wheaton said.

"Its not bad news for the company to say, 'Hey, we're doing better, we can bring these people back,'" he said.

GM and the UAW are gearing up for talks as the automaker shows signs of improvement after going through bankruptcy in 2009. One factor that will make these negotiations different: The UAW has agreed not to strike GM before 2015.

If all of GM's workers at the Tonawanda plant are called back and there are still jobs to fill, laid-off workers from other GM plants would have the first chance to take those positions. After that, GM could fill any additional positions with workers hired at the second-tier wage rate.

Layoffs at the GM Tonawanda plant spiked in 2009 as the site phased out two engine lines. But as GM production and sales picked up, some workers were called back last year.

NPR, March 25, 2011, Friday


March 25, 2011, Friday


Remembering New York's Deadliest Factory Fire


This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, the college athlete born with one leg who managed the leverage to win a national wrestling championship. We'll hear from Anthony Robles in just a few moments.

But first, an event that had a profound impact on the way we work and live today. It was 100 years ago, March 25, 1911, when a devastating fire ripped through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. In just under half an hour, 146 people would lose their lives.

At least one set of doors had been locked by factory owners, and the death toll was ultimately attributed to poor working conditions and safety measures, and a general disregard for the young immigrant girls and women who made up a majority of those who were killed in the fire.

The tragic loss of life captivated the American public, and would underline issues of labor relations, class and politics for decades. One warning. To understand the nature of this historic event, we're going to briefly hear details of the tragedy that may not be suitable for young ears.

Curtis Lyons joins me know from our New York studios. Mr. Lyons is director of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University. And the Kheel Center is home to the largest archive of information regarding the Triangle fire. Mr. Lyons, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. CURTIS LYONS (Director, Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University): Thank you for having me.

LYDEN: Let me take you back to a clip that we pulled actually from the Chicago Tribune, but they had a correspondent in New York. This is looking back to the 25th of March, 1911.

(Reading) They were putting on their hats and coats at quitting time on Saturday, March the 25th, 1911, when someone noticed smoke curling from the long rag bin under the cutting tables on the eighth floor. Someone telephoned warning to the executive offices on the 10th floor, but nobody told the ninth floor. There were no sprinklers. One set of doors was locked.

The building's fire escape filled up and collapsed. It's elevators made several trips, but were finally jammed by the bodies of those who had leapt into the open elevator shaft to escape the flames. The rest of the ninth floor workers were forced to the windows. They came down like rockets. Long hair streaming with fire, dresses aflame. The final count was 146 dead.

So listening to this account, what were the means of escape? What was possible, and what was blocked?

Mr. LYONS: There were two interior staircases, one of which was passable, the other of which was commonly locked near the end of the day so that all the workers could be required to go out the one exit so their bags could be checked to make sure they weren't stealing anything.

There was also an exterior fire escape, but it was very difficult to navigate, and because of those difficulties, it ended up too crowded and collapsed with most everyone who was on it dying that way.

LYDEN: Let's listen to this clip from a woman who survived this fire, Pauline Pepe. She was interviewed in 1986, and this interview is part of your collection at the Kheel Center. And here she is describing what she saw when she got out of this building.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

Ms. PAULINE PEPE (Fire Survivor): When we got down, we saw the three flights burning, and I says (unintelligible) were we up there? We couldn't imagine -everything was caught.

Unidentified Woman: What was going on downstairs when you came down?

Ms. PEPE: The people, they're all - all the bodies - oh, we got sick. The men took us over right way. When I think of all those girls engaged to be married, oh, I feel terrible. That was a sight to see.

LYDEN: You know, it's remarkable, that clip, Curtis Lyons, because you still hear in her voice how horrifying it was for her.

Mr. LYONS: Oh, yes. There's no question. It was a scarring event for everyone who attended, I believe. I mean, the policeman and the firefighters, the witnesses. There was a gentleman on the second floor who was in his office. He heard a ruckus. He went to the window just in time to see a body fall right in front of him, and then another and another.

And they found him still standing in front of that window dumbstruck an hour later, the police did, and had to just lead him out of there, because he was just in complete shock and terror.

LYDEN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're speaking with Curtis Lyons. He's the director of the largest archive of information on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which occurred 100 years ago today. It killed 146 people.

The fire came at a time when labor relations in the garment industry was really about to change anyway. And about 20 years later, Franklin Roosevelt's very famous labor secretary, Frances Perkins, would say that the Triangle fire was, quote, "the torch that lit up the whole industrial scene."

Now, we have a clip of tape here from the Kheel Center's archive in a much later lecture in 1964 in which Frances Perkins talks about the fire and its impact.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

Ms. FRANCES PERKINS (Labor Secretary for President Franklin Roosevelt): This made a terrible impression on the people of the state of New York. I can't begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere. It was as though we had all done something wrong, it shouldn't have been. We were sorry, mea culpa, mea culpa.

LYDEN: So how did labor relations organize after the fire?

Mr. LYONS: Well, there was certainly a lot more interest. The International Ladies' Garment Workers Union had formed just a few years earlier and had gained a number of members from the uprising of the 20,000 which began in 1909 and ended in 1910.

Workers of the Triangle Company had started that strike in 1909. So regular newspaper readers all knew Triangle, and they had read that these were the kinds of things that the workers wanted rectified.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYONS: And now they could read directly, here were some of the results of them not being rectified, and part of which was, of course, not having union representation. One girl can go to an owner and say that door needs to be unlocked, and she'll be fired. If it's done with the union backing, then they're much more likely to get results.

LYDEN: Now Hilda Solis, the current secretary for Labor, is in New York today in commemoration of the fire. It's interesting that she too talks about a sweatshop from her own community in California - El Monte, California, found in 1995 to have Thai immigrants sewing brand-name clothing for next to nothing. Connections, do you think, to the Triangle fire?

Mr. LYONS: Well, there are certainly still sweatshops in America. There's no question about that, illegal sweatshops, at least we can say that. And there are still very illegal sweatshops overseas. There was a fire in Bangladesh in December, which reminded a lot of people of the Triangle fire including young immigrant women in fact from other countries other than Bangladesh who were jumping from the top floor windows in an attempt to escape the fire.

So there's no question that while the Triangle fire led to some extremely important legislation, that there are still areas where there are great dangers in the workplace.

LYDEN: As the director of the archive, is there one item or story that stands out for you?

Mr. LYONS: You know, there was one quote from a survivor. She talked about how when they immigrated they knew life would be tough. They knew it would be better than what they left behind, which in almost all cases, of course, it was. But she said that all the greenhorns, which is what they called the most recent immigrants, all the greenhorn parents told their children that in America they don't let you burn. And that always grips me very hard whenever I read that quote.

LYDEN: Curtis Lyons is director of the Kheel Center for Labor Management, Documentation and Archives at Cornell University. He joined us from our New York bureau. Mr. Lyons, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Mr. LYONS: Thank you for having me.

New York Times, March 21, 2011, Monday

New York Times

March 21, 2011, Monday

New York Times

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

In the arts and academia, on television and on a Greenwich Village street, the 146 victims of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire will be remembered over the next few weeks in an outpouring of events marking the centennial of the workplace tragedy.

The events, which started last month — roughly 100 in New York City and another 100 elsewhere in the nation — seem on a scale unmatched in New York since the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 or the Statue of Liberty’s 100th birthday party in 1986. And those were celebrations. This commemoration will have a more mournful, reflective tone.

“It’s amazing, the passion that has come out for this,” said Sherry Kane, a spokesman for Workers United, the union that today represents garment workers. “I think it speaks to people because it’s about immigrant issues, women’s issues, workers’ issues, so it’s all these communities and it feels very important to them.”

The lineup of events planned around the anniversary on March 25 include documentary films, art exhibits, plays, dance recitals, a requiem, a soliloquy, a slide show, an oratorio and lectures and panel discussions.

Eric Michael Johnson
for The New York Times

A replica shirtwaist in the style of the day, sewn by Alexandria Hoffman as part of an exhibition commemorating the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire.Ruth Sergel, founder of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, which is coordinating the events, said she thought the ardent interest derived from a “zeitgeist where people are deeply discontented with the way things are.”

“When you look at the history and you see people dropping their petty differences and coming together for positive change in the wake of the fire, we want to replicate that,” she said.

The climax of the commemorations will be a March 25 memorial service outside the building on Washington Place and Greene Street in Greenwich Village where the Triangle shirtwaist factory was situated. The building, which was fireproof — though its contents were not — still stands; it is now New York University’s Brown Building of Science.

The ceremony will begin with a procession of people holding bamboo poles draped with the blouses that were part of the shirtwaist style, each emblazoned with the name of one victim. Speakers will include the United States secretary of labor, Hilda L. Solis; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; the actor Danny Glover; and Suzanne Pred Bass, the grandniece of Rosie Weiner, a young woman killed in the blaze.

As there has been in years past, victims’ names will be read by descendants and schoolchildren, with each name punctuated by the tolling of a fire bell. Firefighters will raise a ladder to the sixth floor of the building to demonstrate that rescuers in those years were not able to reach those trapped on the eighth and ninth floors.

Some other highlights:

HBO’s documentary “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” will be shown March 21 and for several nights afterward. A PBS documentary on Triangle was shown on Feb. 28 on the series “American Experience” and is viewable online.

In its March 25 issue, The Forward will publish translations of articles that its Yiddish-only predecessor ran in the days after the fire, as well as editorials by its fabled editor at the time, Abraham Cahan.

Between March 23 and March 27, the composer Elizabeth Swados will join with the writer Cecilia Rubino and the poet Paula Finn to stage a dramatic oratorio about the fire at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South, a few blocks from the fire site.

On Saturday at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble were to perform Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem” for organ and strings and new works that were created by the composers George Andoniadis, Victoria Bond, Ricardo Llorca and Martha Sullivan around Jonathan Fink’s poems about the fire.

Universities are seizing upon the anniversary as a teaching moment. New York University’s Grey Art Gallery has been exhibiting historic and contemporary photographs, artifacts, art and books that document the calamity, a show that will run through July 9, except for the period between March 27 and April 11. City University’s Graduate Center will hold an all-day scholarly conference on March 24 evaluating the historical significance and legacy of the fire.

And Cornell University’s Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, a leading repository about the fire, has beefed up its Web site with new information about each of the victims as well as eyewitness accounts, transcripts and photographs.

There will also be Triangle-related events in San Francisco, Washington, Minneapolis and other cities. In Chester, Pa., in a work titled “Soliloquy for a Seamstress,” LuLu LoLo, a performance artist, will portray a young seamstress who unfolds her dreams and dissatisfaction to her younger sister moments before both perish in the fire.


City Room will be observing the anniversary of the Triangle fire next week in a series of posts and multimedia presentations.

AOL News, March 20, 2011

AOL News

March 20, 2011

AOL News

What's All the Fuss About? Labor Relations Terminology Explained

National and local headlines have been dominated recently by stories about labor disputes and controversial education reforms. But what exactly is at stake in those battles is somewhat murky. News reports are bogged down with eye-glazing terminology such as "collective bargaining" and "binding arbitration" -- not necessarily phrases that would incite most people to join 85,000 protesters camped out around the Wisconsin state house.

In an effort to clarify the debates gripping the nation this year, we have written a pocket-sized primer on some of those ugly terms. Print it out, carry it in your wallet, show it to your friends.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Farmers march outside the Capitol in Madison, Wis., on March 12. Tens of thousands of protesters staged a massive demonstration outside the Capitol one day after Gov. Scott Walker signed his controversial budget repair bill into law.Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining is the lightning rod that sparked the uproar in Wisconsin last month. Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair bill" stripped most public-sector employees (police and firefighters excepted) of their right to collective bargaining.

Teachers, who filled the State House in Madison for several weeks of protest, said they would swallow pay cuts and increases to their benefit contributions, but they would not let go of their collective bargaining rights without a fight.

So just what is collective bargaining?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines it as the:

Method whereby representatives of employees (unions) and employers negotiate the conditions of employment, normally resulting in a written contract setting forth the wages, hours, and other conditions to be observed for a stipulated period (e.g., 3 years). The term also applies to union-management dealings during the term of the agreement.

Collective bargaining agreements are the contracts between a union and an employer. Employees have much more power when it comes to negotiating their employment if they can do so together. And unions are where this togetherness takes place.

"Collective bargaining creates a certain level of due process and equal protection for employees," said Ellen Dannin, a professor at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law and a former trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board.

The fanfare surrounding collective bargaining has its roots in the National Labor Relations Act, which was passed in 1935 after Congress looked at the Great Depression and decided that the "inequality of bargaining power" between nonorganized employees and their employers was keeping wages down and generally depressing business. (Read more about the National Labor Relations Act here.)

Today, destroying collective bargaining rights is a means of taking power from unions.

Walker has said his bill is necessary to balance Wisconsin's budget by giving local governments the ability to single-handedly make changes to public-sector pay and benefits. Opponents say it's a political attack on Democrats, who are generally supported by unions.

"[The bill] has greatly weakened a major financial supporter of the Democratic Party," said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School. "This is clearly just a political action."

Evidence pointing to this is the fact that the bill does not apply to police and firefighters, who tend to support Republicans.

Binding Arbitration
A key ingredient in union-employer relationships is binding arbitration. When the two sides cannot agree on certain aspects of a discussion, they will often be required to present their cases to an arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators), who then decides on a course of action.

"A common understanding by the parties in all cases, however, is that they will be
bound by the opinion of the decision maker rather than simply be obligated to
'consider' an opinion or recommendation," according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Without this mechanism in place, the employer in the situation may only be held accountable to itself and could decide unilaterally to approve its own offer.

In Ohio, a bill that would eliminate binding arbitration for police and firefighters is being considered in the state House of Representatives after it was passed in the Senate. Police and firefighters are already banned from striking there, leaving them with little bargaining power.

However, "there is no evidence that arbitration has led to higher wages than would otherwise be the case," Ehrenberg said.

'Last in, First Out'
"LIFO," as it's known by its acronym, is the policy of firing the most recently hired first, also known as seniority. Most union contracts require seniority rules for layoffs. LIFO generally refers to teacher contracts.

Battles over LIFO are ongoing in several states nationwide. In New York, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a reprieve from LIFO. And Florida, Idaho and Utah all passed bills eliminating LIFO this month.

Opponents of the policy say it gives undue priority to those who have been around longest, potentially requiring the firing of better teachers.

Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, former chancellors of the New York City and Washington, D.C., public schools systems, respectively, explained their opposition in an editorial in the New York Daily News in January:

The policy has three major negative impacts: first, it removes many high-performing tenured and non-tenured teachers from the classroom, while retaining those that are less effective but have more years in the system; second, it causes a higher number of layoffs, since junior teachers are paid the least; and finally, it disproportionately impacts the lowest performing schools, which have the largest number of new teachers.
But proponents of LIFO, including teachers unions, say seniority is necessary to encourage teachers to enter and remain in the profession.

"From an economic point of view, there is some sense to it because if you are a senior person and you have job protection, you are likely to share with your younger colleagues everything you know," Ehrenberg said. "The cost arises if the old workers are not performing at satisfactory levels relative to what we'd like them to be performing at."

But even if that does occur, there are methods for removing unsatisfactory teachers through our old friend arbitration.

"Historically, people have gone into teaching because, though pay was lower, there was job stability," Ehrenberg explained. "And now we're talking about -- at least in some states -- taking it all away."

Merit-Based Pay
Several proponents of education reform are big fans of merit pay, by which an employer determines an employee's salary based on performance, not seniority, as is the case with many union contracts requiring step increases based on time in the job.

"In public education, the concern arises because our students just aren't doing as well as they used to do and we're just desperately trying to find a way to improve our system," Ehrenberg said. One of those ways is to encourage high performance by linking it to better pay.

But there are downsides to a seemingly simple idea. Employers can use merit pay to squeeze out individuals who would otherwise be hard to fire by reducing their salaries, for instance. And for teachers, a switch to merit pay would destroy yet another incentive to sticking around in a low-paying, difficult profession if sticking around longer didn't necessarily ensure a higher paycheck each year.

Value-Added Assessment
Another issue with merit pay is the question of how to assess an employee in the first place. How can you be sure than an objective evaluation is "stable"? Ehrenberg asks. Similarly, how can you be sure a subjective evaluation isn't biased?

And if your employee is a teacher, the question is even harder to answer.

Sponsored LinksIn the education debate, a new process is being touted as a method of evaluating teachers. Value-added assessments look at the progress of each individual student over time to determine how much he or she has learned in one year.

Each student takes a standardized test at the end of the year and the scores are compared to the year before. The progress the student has or has not made can then be attributed to the teacher.

The trouble with this model, say opponents, is that it encourages teachers to teach to tests and ignores mitigating factors that are external to the teacher's control -- factors such as economic status, familial involvement and just plan bad luck.

History News Network, March 7, 2011, Monday

History News Network

March 7, 2011, Monday

History News Network

Illegal Immigration and the Dilemma of American Unions
By Vernon M. Briggs, Jr.

Vernon M. Briggs, Jr. is Emeritus Professor of Labor and Industrial Relations at the New York State School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Over its long and often turbulent evolution, the American labor movement has confronted few issues as persistently and as difficult has those related to subject of immigration. By definition, immigration affects the size of the labor force at any given time as well as its geographical distribution and skill composition. These vital influences, in turn, affect national, regional and local labor market conditions. Most immigrants directly join the labor force upon entering the country, as do eventually most of their family members. Hence, organized labor never has ignored immigration trends. As Samuel Gompers, one of the founders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and its long-time president, wrote in his autobiography: “Immigration is, in its most fundamental aspects, a labor problem.”

Immigration, therefore, has affected the developmental course of American unionism while, at the same time, the labor movement has sought to shape the size and character of ensuing immigrant entries through its influences on prevailing immigration policies at any given time.

The dilemma for organized labor has always been that over the long run immigration flows tend to increase the size of the working class ( a positive political consideration); but in the short run immigration affects the labor supply which can modulate wage conditions and alter employment opportunities for the same working class (a negative economic consideration).

In its early years, would-be labor organizations initially sought to attract workers to join their ranks based on appeals made along political, utopian, and even radical lines. None of these proved successful. Learning from these adverse experiences, American labor leaders—such as Gompers—ultimately elected to pursue an organizing appeal centered on attaining short-run economic objectives—higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions at the work site. It manifests an economic preference for “bread and butter in the here and now” while rejecting the political route of “pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye.” This “job conscious” focus has traditionally distinguished the American union movement from similar movements in most of the rest of the free world and partially explains why there is no formal “labor party” in the United States as there is in other Western nations.

Thus, it is not surprising that at every juncture and with no exception prior to the 1990s, the American labor movement either directly instigated or strongly endorsed every legislative initiative by the U.S. Congress to regulate and to restrict immigration. It also supported all related efforts to strengthen enforcement of these policies. Labor leaders intuitively sensed that fluctuations in union membership were inversely related to prevailing immigration trends. When immigration levels tend to decline, union membership tends to increase (as they both did from the early 1930s through to the mid-1960s). When immigration levels tend to rise, union membership levels tend to fall (as they both have done since the mid-1960s up to the present). Subsequent empirical research has validated their supposition.

But in the early1990s, with immigration levels soaring and union membership floundering, the labor movement at the leadership level began to waffle on its historic position of putting the economic interests of American workers ahead of those of would-be immigrants. By mid-decade, organized labor [as represented by the actions of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)] actively opposed the thrust of major reforms offered at the time by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (chaired by Barbara Jordan) seeking to render the nation’s immigration system accountable for its economic consequences and to address in more effective ways the on-going massive abuse of existing policies by illegal immigrants. There was no mention of any desire to enact another amnesty for those illegal immigrants in the country.

Among its important findings, the Jordan Commission found that the level of legal immigration was too high and recommended that it be reduced by about 35 percent. In order to reduce the heavy emphasis placed on family reunification as the principle criterion for immigrant admissions, it recommended limiting family eligibility to the nuclear family as opposed to the open-ended current system giving preference to extended family considerations. Also, the Commission recommended ending all admission of unskilled foreign workers in the employment-based admission categories.

Startlingly, the AFL-CIO joined forces with business interests, agricultural employers and the “immigrant rights community to oppose all of these changes when Congress unsuccessfully sought to enact these reforms in 1996.

Not long afterward, the metamorphous was complete. The AFL-CIO Executive Committee in 2000 it proclaimed that it is now “on the side of immigrant workers.” It announced that it favored repeal of the sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants as well as another generous amnesty for illegal immigrants currently in the country.

The historic reversal in its stance on immigration was due to the fact that organized labor was keenly aware that its membership rolls were falling. In response, major changes were made in the leadership of the AFL-CIO as well as in that of many national unions in the 1990s. These new leaders pledged to reverse this trend. With illegal immigrants flooding into the country and, largely for political reasons, the federal government unwilling to take any meaningful steps to combat the phenomenon, labor could either stick to its traditional position; or they could switch sides. They chose to become part of the “pro-immigrant” political coalition and hope that these new immigrant workers (and their supporters) will reward these efforts by fighting to become union members and for pro-labor causes. Unions, after all, do not hire workers; employers do. If employers are going to hire available illegal immigrants (who they often prefer over citizen workers) and the federal government refuses to keep them out of both the work force and the country, they concluded that they had to become immigrant friendly.

But by abandoning the insightful recommendations of the Jordan Commission and joining the “pro-immigrant” political lobby, there are real risks for organized labor. First, it endangers the prospects that they will be able translate their imagined gains in new members into any real ability to win tangible wage and employment benefits for their rank and file members (since illegal immigration and the flow of unskilled legal immigrants will both continue and another mass amnesty will only legitimize the presence of millions of illegal immigrants already here). Secondly, the policy shift runs the risk of alienating the millions of low-skilled American workers (both native-born and foreign-born) who are not union members but who must continue to compete with this ongoing wave of immigrant job seekers. And thirdly, since the labor movement would be seen as being just another special interest group that is quite willing to trade the national interest for its own self-interest agenda, it raises the real prospect that the broader populace will cease believing in the moral credibility of the labor movement.