Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Huffington Post, June 29, 2011, Wednesday

The Huffington Post

June 29, 2011, Wednesday

The Huffinton Post

Union-Busting Tactics More Pervasive Than Previously Thought: Study

In the last half-century of American organized labor, the deck has rarely been so stacked against workers, say labor historians.

When it comes to union-busting, employers' tactics are more pervasive than previously thought, according to a new working study produced by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. The study found that nearly 50 percent of all serious allegations of union busting tactics -- both legal and illegal -- by employers happens after workers express initial interest in a union, but before an official petition has even been filed requesting a vote on union representation.

The length of time -- and the pressure from employers -- between initial interest in a union and the election to determine whether employees wish to organize, the study argued, can significantly influence whether or not workers will get union representation.

"The cumulative effect of the steady, pervasive, and intense employer opposition undermines workers' attempts to exercise their rights to choose union representation free of coercion and intimidation," the study argued, concluding that the period between the petition and the election should be reduced to the shortest number of days possible.

The report comes a week after the National Labor Relation Board proposed new rules that if adopted, could make the road to unionization easier by streamlining the election process and -- most critically -- shortening the length of time between organizers gathering a sufficient number of signatures from workers and a union vote.

Typically, elections take place within two months after a petition is filed. The new rules would shorten that time period, though it's unclear by how much. Labor advocates say that almost any compression of the time period would be a good thing: For employees seeking to join a union, each day that passes is another opportunity for the employer to engage in crushing -- and often successful -- anti-union strategies.

"Employers have gotten emboldened," said Kate Bronfenbrenner, co-author of the study and a labor historian at Cornell University who has written extensively about anti-union strategy. "Employers have always opposed organizing, but what they are doing now shows that they are more and more confident that they are going to get away with it."

Bronfenbrenner laid out the numbers: Twenty years ago, she said, only 29 percent of employers threatened that a workplace might close if a union election succeeded. Along with threatening to fire pro-union employees, threatening to close a workplace is an illegal and increasingly common tactic employers use to intimidate employees in the run-up to a vote. Ten years ago, 50 percent of employers threatened a store closing, and, Bronfenbrenner continued, the most recent data drawn from the NLRB's document database of unfair labor practices, shows 57 percent of employers making such threats.

"The question is whether workers can survive the gauntlet another day, another week," Bronfenbrenner said. "Because every day, every week, that goes by that they have to go through the intimidation and coercion and threats that make up an employer campaign is one more day that makes it more difficult for them to exercise their right to organize."

Examples of attempts to organize derailed by aggressive anti-union tactics are numerous. In 2003, the last year of the study's sample, 3,746 petitions filed, but only 2,438 made it to vote; of those, more than 40 percent were lost by the union. Critics of organized labor attribute this to the unions' waning value in a global economy. But labor historians say that union-busting tactics and the laws that enable them play a far bigger role in the decline of American organized labor.

Earlier this month, a union vote at a Target store outside New York City failed after a majority of employees had already signed cards supporting unionization. Pro-union employees and organizers at the United Food and Commercial Workers union swiftly alleged wrongdoing.

"Target won through fear," one employee told The Huffington Post on the morning after the vote. The UFCW has filed numerous charges with the National Labor Relation Board, accusing the company of "unlawful denial of access to the store, unlawful dress code policy, unlawful no solicitation policy, unlawful use of social media policy as well as threats, interrogation and surveillance" -- even threatening that the company would close the store. Target broadly disputes the union's accusations and denies allegations that it threatened store closure.

One explanation for the upsurge of union-busting tactics, labor experts say, is how weak the disincentives are for employers. Under U.S. labor law, no punitive damages are allowed.

"There's actually a perverse incentive for employers to violate the law," said Dorian Warren, a co-author of the study and a Columbia University professor who specializes in organized labor. "It's cheaper to fire a couple of workers then let a union vote succeed. The employer sends a signal to the entire workplace, and if they lose in a couple of years, all they have to do is pay backpay and post a sign. "

The Post-Standard, June 28, 2011, Tuesday

The Post-Standard

June 28, 2011, Tuesday

The Post-Standard

Syracuse area economy: 8,000 fewer people at work, or looking, than in 2009

Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 9:00 AM

Kevin Cristaldi has been through all this before.

He lost his job at a Waterloo chemical plant that closed in 1982. He was laid off again 10 years later in the downsizing of an accounting firm in Potsdam. In 1998, the coffee-flavoring plant he worked for in Massena closed and his job was moved to Rochester. He followed, only to be laid off in 2001 when the plant shipped its operations out of state.

Then, after five years working for Parker Hannifin Corp. in Lyons, he lost his job in 2008. The plant shut down a year later.

Each time, Cristaldi, who lives in the Oswego County town of Volney, found another job relatively quickly.

Not this time.

“Before, you could be unemployed for a couple months, and you’d be back having a job,” said Cristaldi, 52. “I never thought I’d be out this long. No way I figured it would be 2 1/2 years.”

In those 2 1/2 years, Cristaldi has moved in with and cared for his ailing mother, collected the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and returned to school under a federal program to become a pharmacy technician. He finished the 25-week program through Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES in February and passed his qualifying exam in March. He’s hoping to land a job at a pharmacy or a hospital.

Cristaldi is re-entering what some economists say is an improving job market — although a very, very slowly improving one. The local unemployment rate in April dropped to 7.6 percent, the lowest since fall 2008. Still, it’s a long way from April 2007, when the rate was 4.3 percent. And it’s even farther from the boom times of 2000, when unemployment fell as low as 3.2 percent.

“The national and local numbers for the recovery show that progress is quite slow and it’s turning out to be a lot bumpier than many people originally expected,” said Matthew Freedman, a professor in Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations school. “What we’ve seen on the local and national level is job growth remains relatively anemic.”

Fewer people seek work

The Syracuse area’s unemployment rate was just below the statewide average of 7.7 percent and under the 8.7 percent national average for April.

The improving rate hides a troubling change that is the fallout from the deepest recession in decades.

Even though the unemployment rate is roughly the same as two years ago, about 8,000 fewer people were in the job market in Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties, according to a state Labor Department survey of households.

That means that those 8,000 people have vanished from the local labor force since 2009. They aren’t working and they aren’t looking. Those people retired, moved away or got so discouraged by the job search they decided not to go back at all, economists say.

So, while the unemployment rate improved, it hides that the local economy is slow to add jobs.

About 3,500 net jobs were created in the Syracuse area during the past year, according to a state Department of Labor survey of businesses. The private sector added about 4,400 jobs, while government employers cut 900.

Unemployment rates in April varied: 7 percent in Onondaga, 8.2 percent in Madison and 9.7 percent in Oswego. Only five of the state’s 62 counties have rates higher than Oswego’s.

Rates won’t drop to pre-recession levels anytime soon, said Roger Evans, an economist with the state Labor Department.

“We’ve got a long ways to go before we achieve full recovery from the recession,” Evans said.

There are fewer unemployment filings than there were at the depths of the recession in 2009-10, but not many fewer. There were 2,139 first-time filers in April in Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties. That’s a 25 percent drop from two years ago, but only about 4 percent fewer than last year.

Government cutbacks

The sector that lost the most jobs was government.

Overall, statistics in the Syracuse area showed a net drop of about 900 government jobs since May 2009. (Numbers in 2010 were swelled by temporary U.S. Census workers.)

Even with the losses, government remains a major employer in the area, with more than 59,000 people at federal, state and local levels. That’s nearly half again as many as the 40,000 people who work in the health care field.

As governments at all levels face budget deficits, they’re offering buyouts and laying off employees to save money. They’re also cutting back on other expenses.

“What’s even more worrisome is there are all sorts of important spillover effects from budget problems,” Freedman said. “Not only do we lose government jobs, but there’s also less contracting out. As a result, we see not only a reduction in government jobs, but a reduction in construction and other industries that contract with the government to do various things.”

Until last month, local school districts, which make up nearly half the total government jobs, grew or remained stable. That may change, however, as school districts begin cutting staff to make up for budget shortfalls. In May, school jobs dropped by 200 from the year before. Although that’s less than 1 percent, it’s the first decline in school jobs in May since 2000.

School employment has grown about 19 percent since 1990.

Seeing pay shrink

Unemployment rates and numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. They say how many people are working, but not how much they’re being paid.

That’s something Mike Dievendorf, of Fulton, knows too well. He lost his job at Ball Corp.’s plastic packaging plant in Radisson after it closed in 2009. Dievendorf trained forklift operators during his 20 years in manufacturing and before that he was in sales for 12 years.

“I was making $21 an hour at Ball,” said Dievendorf, 49. “I had an offer three months ago for $11 an hour.”

He turned it down. Dievendorf said he is taking classes to sharpen his skills in Excel and other computer programs while awaiting the promised end of the recession.

“You’re starting to see a glimmer of it,” he said, “but then you hear Birds Eye is closing ... and we’re losing New Venture Gear. I just see everything in manufacturing going overseas.”

Manufacturing’s slide

Construction, a bright spot a year ago when a national trade group ranked Syracuse in the top 10 metropolitan areas, lagged this year. Between February 2009 and 2010, the Syracuse metropolitan area was among just 10 of 337 in the country to add construction jobs, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. This year, Syracuse lost 300 jobs and fell to a tie for 188th place.

The contractors group said the decline in government spending on construction led to a decline in jobs in most metro areas of the country.

Employment in manufacturing held constant from 2010 to 2011 but has slid by nearly 38 percent in the past decade.

Between 2000 and 2010, the five-county area of Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego lost about 17,000 manufacturing jobs. That was partially offset by a gain of about 10,000 education and health services jobs.

Temporary employment services in the area say they’ve seen a boom in hiring over the past six months. Economists say that’s often a sign that businesses are dipping their toes in the waters of the economic recovery.

CR Fletcher Associates Inc. has twice as many people in temporary placements this month as it did in December, said Michelle Tracy, who speaks for the company. At CPS & Professionals Inc., in Liverpool, both the temporary and permanent hiring increased 50 percent in 2010 over the year before, said President Laurie Liechty.

About half of that increase is because the company expanded, and the other half is the economy, Liechty said.

“There’s an uptick,” she said. “It’s slow, and people are still cautious, but business has improved.”

Contact Glenn Coin at or 470-3251.

The Dominion Post, June 27, 2011, Monday

The Dominion Post

June 27, 2011, Monday

The Dominion Post

Stop blaming women for the continuing inequality in pay

Recent public gaffes blaming women for the gender pay gap are so "old school". The response is typical of those who understand remuneration as being about an individual market transaction and nothing else.

It's a position which focuses only on the person as an economic unit, rather than recognising the broader context in which we all work.

In particular, blaming women ignores the important role that social norms, the structure of the labour market and institutional policy settings play in producing wage inequalities.

Economists and sociologists have spent years examining the issue, and to date there is no research that attributes the gender wage gap to menstruation.

Nevertheless, understanding the pay gap does require us to look at "gender- specific" factors: such as qualifications or differences in how men and women are treated.

Renowned economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, from Cornell University in the United States, have been studying the reasons behind the differences in women's and men's pay for 30 years. They argue that while the gender gap in educational attainment has closed over time, men still tend to be concentrated in career-oriented fields of study such as engineering, business or finance and specialist medicine that lead to relatively high earnings.

Men are also more likely to work in male-dominated sectors strategically important to the economy, more highly unionised and more highly paid. Construction, durable manufacturing and mining are examples.

By contrast, women are more likely to be in clerical or professional jobs and to work in the service industry - where wages tend to be lower than in male- dominated occupations.

Also, it is true that over their lifetime, women may build less work experience than men as it is women who tend to move in and out of the labour market to manage family responsibilities.

The latest New Zealand Time-Use survey shows that women still pick up more of the caring responsibilities than their male partners, but women's attachment to paid work has increased substantially in recent decades. OECD figures show that around the world women are likely to return to work much earlier after giving birth than they did 30 years ago.

This is assisted in part by the introduction of paid parental leave, and childcare subsidies. But the return is often necessary for single parents, or those who are so lowly paid that two incomes are essential to maintain a minimum standard of living.

It is still the case that on average, women spend less time in paid work than men because they are fulfilling the essential role of reproducing the labour force. And this means they do not acquire, as quickly as men, the experience needed to increase their rates of pay or climb the career ladder.

Ad Feedback It's this combination of factors: industry (where we work), occupation (what kind of job we have) and experience (how we support the combination of work and procreation) that explains over half of the gender wage gap.

So what other factors matter?

Well, we know that the acquisition of pay increases requires an investment in skills and professional development. This might not appear to be a gender-specific factor but international evidence indicates that there are still plenty of employers out there who believe that investing in professional training for women is risky behaviour.

There is a perception that because women are designed to give birth they are therefore more likely to quit their jobs and subsequently do not provide a sufficient investment "return". This perception, not unlike that of the Employers & Manufacturers Association's Alasdair Thompson, is unfounded.

There are numerous studies showing that, after controlling for qualifications and pay, women are no more likely to quit their jobs than men. And yet the perception is otherwise. This suggests that all other things being equal, and despite being illegal, discrimination remains a factor in why women are paid less than men. Evidence shows that traditional attitudes and expectations about women's roles mean "old school" employers assign women to lower level jobs and overlook them for promotion. That is, until a court case arises.

Then there is the obvious but less tangible factor, the question of what we as a society and our labour markets choose to value.

Why is it that nurses earn less than police officers, when nurses have to undergo three years of training and also put themselves at risk in the job?

Why is it that in promotion applications, those who spend the most time at the office are considered to be more committed to their job than those who juggle the combination of work and home?

And why is it that meaningful part- time work, supported by ongoing professional development and a career path, is not a permanent feature of our labour market?

The issue of gender wage inequality is not about what individual women do or don't do.

And without doubt, reducing the gender pay gap would advantage society as whole.

So let's get over the blame game and get on with building good business practice and good government policy.

Dr Jennifer Curtin teaches comparative politics and public policy at Auckland University.

- The Dominion Post

Crains New York, June 26, 2011, Sunday

Crains New York

June 26, 2011, Sunday

Crains New York

Crane strike looms as contract deadline nears
$10 bilion in major New York City construction projects are at risk if union operators strike over pay, work rules.

They operate the cranes, backhoes and other pieces of heavy machinery that keep the city's construction sites humming. But by week's end, unionized operating engineers could be hoisting picket signs rather than steel girders and slabs of concrete—and forcing $10 billion worth of building activity to grind to a halt.

In the run-up to Thursday's contract deadline, the contractors who hire the operating engineers and the developers who pay them have campaigned aggressively to eliminate highly compensated positions that they contend involve little work. Doing away with “no-work” mechanics and oilers who, they claim, earn as much as $700,000 a year could save $67 million at the World Trade Center site over three years, they have argued.

Managers and owners have also pushed for the city to adopt a national licensing exam for crane operators, maintaining that it would increase safety. But labor leaders depict the call as an attempt to leverage concessions from the unions, which have a stranglehold on the current testing process.

The construction industry has zeroed in on Locals 14 and 15 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, sensing that a down economy is just the time to extract givebacks from a group widely seen in the building world as less willing than other tradesmen to compromise.

The two unions did not sign on to the cost-saving agreements that other laborers reached to help jump-start construction after the financial crisis, although they have made deals with owners on individual projects outside the official industrywide ones. The unions, whose members are the key cogs in construction projects, have had little incentive to give in.

“They control the work site; they control the movement of men and materials,” said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association. “That's what's given them their power over the years.”

The operating engineers, an insular group who pass jobs down to family members, have long been the outliers of the construction industry. Even within organized labor, there is a perception that they've been slow to change.

Leaders of the operating engineers' two unions, which have a combined 6,500 members, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The unions have drawn attention in part because their salaries are among the highest in the industry. Tower crane operators earn salary and benefits packages worth up to $97.93 an hour, while oilers cost employers as much as $73.44 an hour, according to the city comptroller's office.

Industry officials have also made allusions to the checkered past of both unions. A sweeping federal mob investigation in the early 2000s found that since at least the 1980s, the Colombo and Genovese crime families had exercised a “corrupt influence” within Local 14. Twenty-six officers, representatives and members of the union were convicted of racketeering.

In 2008, Local 14 signed a consent decree with the federal government to weed out the corruption. An ethics attorney and a hearing officer were brought on board. Neither returned calls seeking comment about changes being made within the union.

Jeffrey Grabelsky, director of the Construction Industry Program at Cornell University ILR School, says the attempt to paint the operating engineers as laborers who are paid exorbitantly for little work is unfair.

“Walk around the city and watch those operating engineers work. They are incredibly skilled, well-trained workers, and they're operating with very small margins,” he said. “I'm not saying there shouldn't be a careful look taken at work practices and traditional work rules, but if there's a problem, it's an anomaly. Deal with the problem. Don't paint with a broad brush.”

Rank and filers from other trades agreed.

“As an iron worker, literally, my life was in the hands of the crane operator,” said Pete Herman, a 20-year member of Ironworkers Local 361. “I'd be on top of the column when a 10-ton piece of steel is swinging. When I'm standing on top of that column, I'd say, 'Buddy, you've got a good touch.' I was amazed at the way they could sit and put the steel right there and keep me safe.”

The last operating engineers strike was in 2006, when an attempt by the General Contractors Association to win changes in work rules sparked a weeklong walkout just before the Fourth of July. Thousands of workers were sent packing, and billions of dollars in projects came to a standstill. A settlement included minor concessions and hefty raises.

But this time around, though similar work rules are at the center of the conflict, building contractors are digging in their heels, citing a sour economy and growing competition from nonunion labor.

“We have to have reform,” said Mr. Coletti. “Every work rule has to be a productive work rule. Every job has to be productive.”

Other trades appear to be on their way to forging agreements or reaching extensions by the deadline, but a strike by the operating engineers could silence nearly $10 billion worth of private-sector construction at more than two dozen major sites across the city, according to a survey of owners by the Real Estate Board of New York. Because it would be difficult for other trades to do their jobs without the operating engineers, a walkout could result in some 11,000 workers being idled.

Builders are preparing for a strike, stockpiling materials on high floors so that work can continue without the operating engineers—a process known as “loading up the job”—and trying to figure out how workers will get to their locations, which can be hundreds of feet above the ground. Officials with the Building Contractors Association and the Contractors' Association of Greater New York are meeting with members to discuss strike preparedness.

But without the "good touch" of the crane operators, work won't be able to continue for long.

Democrat and Chronicle, June 25, 2011, Saturday

Democrat and Chronicle

June 25, 2011, Saturday

Democrat and Chronicle

CEO pay at U.S. companies has taken off again

If you're a worker bee, your paycheck was a bit bigger in 2010.

Total wages earned in the nine-county Rochester/Finger Lakes region for the first nine months of the year were up 2.2 percent over the same period in 2009, according to state Labor Department figures. That's a welcome bit of thawing after the freezes and pay cuts that came with the recession.

But if you're a queen bee, a head honcho at one of the area's biggest employers, chances are you did far better than that.

In instance after instance, leaders of the area's largest publicly traded companies saw their wallets grow considerably fatter in 2010.

Those rising compensation packages — typically a mix of salary, incentive cash bonuses and equity stakes such as stock or options — are no surprise.

"It was a good year for the stock market, and lots of compensation is related to firm performance, including stock price," said Kevin F. Hallock, chairman of Cornell University's Department of Labor Economics and director of its Institute for Compensation Studies.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn A. Britt got a 25 percent raise and a $2 million boost to his non-stock incentive pay, bringing it to more than $8.3 million. His total compensation was almost $10 million. Four other Time Warner Cable executives listed in the company's proxy statement made from $1.2 million to $3.8 million.

Larry D. Young, CEO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, owner of the Mott's juice plant in Wayne
County, received nearly a 5 percent salary increase and $1.1 million more in stock options compared with 2009, more than making up for a $200,000 decline in incentive cash. His total pay package was almost $2.9 million.

Harris Corp.'s Howard L. Lance received $1.2 million more in equity and bonus cash than he had in 2009, raising total compensation to $3.4 million. Harris' RF Communications unit is one of the largest corporate employers in the Rochester area.

At United Technologies Corp., which owns the Lenel Systems International security systems and software firm in Perinton, CEO Louis Chenevert saw his salary jump 11 percent in 2010 to nearly $1.6 million. His $4 million cash bonus — based on yardsticks such as the company's earnings — was a $2.3 million improvement from 2009. Chenevert's pay totaled $7.3 million.

The story was the same again and again at many companies across the local economic landscape, though smaller firms tend to pay their CEOs more modest sums.

The rapid growth of executive compensation is nothing new. CEO pay packages started booming in the 1990s, according to data from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
Throughout most of the 20th century, the heads of the nation's largest companies received annual compensation of less than $1 million. But that figure rocketed to more than $4 million during the 1990s and has been above $8 million since 2000.
Creating value

The size and makeup of executive compensation packages revolve around creating company and ultimately shareholder value, said David Larcker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of the new book Corporate Governance Matters. "When the decision the person makes has a tremendous impact on lots of people (and the person is) heading up a tremendous amount of resources, you want to be sure he's really motivated to do the right thing," Larcker said.

Not every CEO of local interest had a great 2010. Compensation for Eastman Kodak Co.'s Antonio M. Perez totaled $1.76 million, down from $2.9 million in 2009. The big drop for Perez was in incentive pay, which declined to $341,000 from $1.7 million. He also received less in stock and options.

Management theory guru and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Peter Drucker famously held that executives' pay packages should top out around 20 to 25 times what the average worker in the company makes. Otherwise, Drucker said, the company runs the risk of morale problems and a lack of teamwork among middle managers and rank-and-file workers.
But that idea has largely flown out the window among major corporations. By 2009, heads of major American companies were paid, on average, 263 times what the ordinary American worker made, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank.
The average wage in the Rochester area in 2010 was $42,625, according to state figures. Not counting stock and options, Kodak's Perez made 41 times that amount, while Ursula M. Burns' compensation at Xerox Corp. was 73 times higher and Corning Inc. CEO Wendell P. Weeks made 191 times the rank-and-file average.

However, Stanford's Larcker said that in certain industries it's expected that the CEO will make a lot more "because these are the people creating the value and the ideas." He mentioned Steve Jobs at Apple Inc. and Larry Ellison at Oracle Corp. "There are a lot of these guys here in Silicon Valley. Everyone agrees CEOs should be paid more than the average worker. The issue is how much more."


The pay packages received by the heads of large corporations have long been a hot-button issue, particularly when times are tough for workers. At Frontier Communications Corp.'s shareholder meeting last month in Connecticut, members of the Communications Workers of America union handed out leaflets decrying the increasingly large sums being paid to top executives — CEO Mary Agnes "Maggie" Wilderotter received a 10 percent salary increase, an 86 percent bump in stock awards and a $750,000 bonus in 2010 — while the company is seeking worker concessions in areas such as medical costs.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law last year requires that a company's shareholders get an advisory vote on executive compensation — "advisory" meaning that the vote doesn't actually carry any weight but serves more as a gauge of sentiment.

Yet judging by such say-on-pay votes, shareholders generally don't think CEOs are overpaid.

In May alone, executive compensation packages at Xerox, Kodak, ITT Corp. and Time Warner Cable were endorsed by substantial margins during annual shareholder meetings.

"What will be very interesting is the effect of say-on-pay in a year when the market is down," said Hallock, the Cornell compensation expert. "Are shareholders voting yes because they like the pay packages or are they voting yes because the stock is going up and everyone is happy?"


Forbes, June 24, 2011, Friday


June 24, 2011, Friday


America’s Most Sexist Jobs

Jun. 24 2011 - 3:09 pm | 12,807 views | 3 recommendations | 11 comments

Sexism in the American workforce doesn’t look like it once did. Mad Men era bosses–in tailored suits and mild inebriation, chasing secretaries around their desks–are no longer prime suspects. No, discrimination has become much more subtle. It’s in the over 97% of male chief executives running the country’s largest companies. It’s in the promotion nods for him over her. It’s in your wallet.

The gender wage gap persists almost five decades after the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. There are just a handful of jobs in which women earn slightly more than men (counselors, food preparers), compared to hundreds of occupations in which they make less. On average, women earn about 80% as much as men. In some jobs, they earn just over half as much as male peers, stunting their lifetime earnings by millions.

In Pictures: Jobs Where Women Earn More Than Men

“Statistically we control for a variety of factors like experience, education, occupation and industry,” says Francine Blau, a professor of labor economics at Cornell University. “Those factors can explain some of the gap, but there is about 10% that can’t be explained and could be due to discrimination. My personal feeling is that discrimination has declined significantly but still exists.”

ForbesWoman analyzed the median weekly pay of full-time workers by sex and occupation in 2010, collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to pinpoint the jobs with the largest gaps in men and women’s earnings. The result: What we consider the 10 most sexist jobs in America.

Personal finance advisors come in at No. 1. Women in this position earn a median of $962 per week, compared to men’s median of $1,647. Women are one-third of all personal finance advisors but earn just 58 cents on the dollar. Over a 35-year career, this discrepancy will cost women $1.25 million in lost earnings.

Blau says the severe disparity may be explained by a greater concentration of men at larger, more aggressive firms with high-value portfolios. Of course, why fewer women work at the big firms is less clear. There may also be some existing gender bias ingrained in the product: financial advice. “Does the customer stereotype that the woman doesn’t know as much?” she asks. “And does the employer not want to take that chance?”

In fact, quite a few sales positions surfaced at the top. Female securities, commodities and financial services sales agents (No. 2) earn $531 less than male agents each week, or about 63% as much. That will result in lifetime losses of $966,000. Similarly, women in retail sales (No. 3) earn 65 cents for every dollar earned by male peers, despite being 42% of retail employees. Women are also the majority of insurance sales agents (No. 7) but receive weekly paychecks that are $324 lighter.

Are women less convincing salespeople? “Every piece of data we have suggests that there is not a significant performance gap [between men and women],” says Matt Wallaert, lead scientist at compensation website GetRaised.

However, Wallaert’s research shows that women tend to be more “fairness oriented.” When women sell products with variable prices, like cars or securities, he says they may be more likely to negotiate a mutually beneficial sale with a fairer price. This might cut into their commissions or bonuses, but they end up creating a loyal, return customer.

“Women may be creating a long-term outlook that is better for the business,” says Wallaert, “but we incentivize short-term outlooks. That short-term orientation destroyed our economy. If more women went into financial services positions, we would likely not be in the situation we’re in.”

Non-transparent pay structures also contribute to stark gender discrepancies. For positions like marketing and sales managers (No. 6) and financial managers (No. 7)—jobs in which women will make nearly $1 million less over their careers—there’s more of an opportunity for what Wallaert calls “fuzzy” pay adjustments. Base salaries, raises and bonuses likely result from the subjective reasoning of the supervisor rather than a clear pay structure.

“The surest way to fight the gap is with an exacting formula,” Wallaert says. If companies introduced narrow pay ranges for each title and clear metrics for performance-related bonuses, he believes compensation would be fairer. However, Blau notes that this wouldn’t solve the problem of women at smaller firms or in less profitable sectors or the issue of their slower promotion rates.

One thing every woman should do today, says Wallaert, is figure out what they should be making—based on position, industry, location and their contribution to the bottom line—create a detailed presentation of why they deserve a raise, and then ask for one. Asking for more may not solve the issue, but it helps.

BNA, June 23, 2011, Thursday


June 23, 2011, Thursday


Cornell University Study Supports Use of Project Labor Agreements

ALBANY, N.Y.—Project labor agreements in New York give rise to social and economic benefits to the state, while saving money and avoiding delays on major construction projects, according to a study from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
The study found that PLAs currently govern labor relations on projects involving “tens of billions of dollars’’ throughout New York state, but primarily in the New York City area. The study said one of the key advantages of PLAs, aside from the no-strike agreement, is the use of a common contract expiration date for various craft agreements.

“This is especially significant for projects now underway in metropolitan New York City: up to fifteen craft agreements will expire in the New York City area during 2011,’’ according to the study, which was written by Fred B. Kotler, a lecturer and research associate at the ILR school. “Projects covered by PLAs are shielded from the potential disruption that may develop from any single contract dispute.’’

The study said PLAs provide cost savings by standardizing contract terms among the various craft agreements; obtaining an exemption from New York's so-called Wicks Law requirements; reducing costs for shift work and overtime; and prohibiting strikes.

Joshua Reap, vice president of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors Empire State Chapter, told BNA that the study was “pro-union propaganda” and did not present an objective view of the facts involving PLAs.

The Washington Post, June 22, 2011, Wednesday

The Washington Post

June 22, 2011, Wednesday

The Washington Post

A good case against Boeing

By Kate Bronfenbrenner

Business, politicians and the media have made much over the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against Boeing, but the outrage has been misdirected. The board was right to bring the complaint, because the law is on its side, and such complaints are a step in the right direction.

The National Labor Relations Act says that it is an unfair labor practice to retaliate against workers for union activity such as organizing and “protected concerted activity” such as striking. Some say that this case is about a company’s right to set up shop where it can maximize profits. In this instance, Boeing built a $750 million plant in nonunion South Carolina to begin production of its new Dreamliner. The company has argued that starting pay in South Carolina is lower than in Washington state, where most of its aircraft are made, and that it has not shut its Washington operations but hired more workers — driving some to claim that the labor board, for political or other reasons, is infringing on the company’s right to make money.

The labor board has a clear mission: to consider whether Boeing’s production shift is retaliation for union activity. On that, Boeing is clearly in the wrong. But the board has also touched the third rail in labor law: management rights to open, close and move operations free from interference, even when the purpose of doing so is to avoid unionization.

Companies obviously want to maximize efficiency and profits. They have every right to do so — as long as profits are made in a manner that does not violate the law. Much as our society has decided that increased profits or competitiveness cannot justify a policy of age discrimination, it is against the law to retaliate against workers for engaging in protected concerted activity such as strikes, as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers local in Washington state did for nearly 60 days in 2008.

In its October 2009 quarterly conference call to shareholders, Boeing used unequivocal language when it proposed moving work on the 787 Dreamliner to South Carolina because of “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.” In a videotaped interview with the Seattle Times in March 2010, Boeing executive Jim Albaugh said that “the overriding factor [in choosing South Carolina] was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we are paying today. . . . It was that we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.”

The NLRB is not claiming, as columnist George F. Will has argued, that moving businesses to right-to-work states “constitutes prima facie evidence of ‘unfair labor practices.’ ” Contrary to what Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney and others have said, the board is also not creating a world where it is unsafe for a business to open shop in a union state if it planned to operate anywhere else in the world that has lower wages or working conditions. Boeing’s statements, made as threats before the move and then as explanations afterward, were clear violations of the law. The board had no choice but to act.

It’s true that such NLRB actions are rare. But given the global trend among businesses, the country would benefit from more such complaints. Production shifts and threats of shifts have become one of the most pervasive and effective components of employer anti-union campaigns. In the 1980s, before the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, research that I conducted found that employers threatened to close plants in 29 percent of all NLRB-monitored election campaigns but followed through with closures in just 2 percent of facilities. By 2003, research I conducted found that plant closing threats were made in 57 percent of all NLRB-monitored union elections; in 15 percent of elections, plants were closed within two years of union victories. Plant closing threats are significantly higher in mobile industries such as aerospace production and now average as high as 74 percent for manufacturing industries overall.

Plant closures and threatened closings keep workers insecure and companies unaccountable. The mission of the NLRB includes discussing, and ruling on, employers’ use of production shifts to retaliate against union activity. If the NLRB did not take on such cases, it would cede to employers unilateral control over a large swath of the U.S. workplace. In holding Boeing accountable, its members are taking on a trend that should have been dealt with long ago.

Kate Bronfenbrenner is director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the author of “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing.”

Forbes, June 22, 2011, Wednesday


June 22, 2011, Wednesday


Disappearing Middle-Class Jobs


“The American dream is dead for the majority of America,” financial guru Suze Orman told Forbes last year, speaking about her upcoming book The Money Class.

The dream she was referring to isn’t a Cinderella story. Rather, Orman believes the hope of someday owning a home, of working one job for life and retiring at 65 has been crushed by the financial crisis. “The middle class has disappeared,” she said. “Many of the millions of jobs lost I don’t think are coming back. I am really afraid for the majority of Americans today.”

Are stable, well-paying middle-class jobs an endangered species? Economists say: Sort of.

“The idea that one can have a single-earner family, get a good job, keep it for life and have a comfortable living is all but gone,” says Kevin Hallock, professor of labor economics and director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University. “Long-term job stability is declining, and there aren’t good unionized jobs like there once were.”

The recession may have just complicated and compounded what was already occurring. Generally, jobs are disappearing where there’s been a technological advance—“where a human was doing something, now a technology is doing it”–or a change in the way that organizations function, says Hallock. And not only are old-fashioned assembly line jobs on the decline, several white-collar office positions are also in jeopardy.

“There has been some long-term decline in middle-income jobs,” says Harry Holzer, Georgetown University economist and co-author of Where Are All The Good Jobs Going. “Specifically, it’s good-paying production and clerical jobs that are disappearing.”

Holzer is quick to say that though there has been “shrinkage,” he remains confident that there are many good jobs in the middle—they may just look different.

New technology has gradually cut into many steady jobs that had previously been critical to the market. Clerical occupations are shrinking fast, as companies tighten budgets and easy-to-use software enables workers to do their own administrative tasks. According to data provided by Moody’s, nearly 300,000 office and administrative support positions gradually disappeared in the five years before 2009, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects continued contraction throughout the next decade.

Because over 20 million people count on clerical work, the vanishing act is a major blow to the middle, but there are other more niche positions that are also on the chopping block. Internet travel sites have essentially erased the need for travel agents, an occupation which declined by 14% and 12,500 jobs in the last five years for which data is available. Similarly, proofreaders—generally highly skilled workers with a four-year college degree—were once vital to publications and communications departments. These positions shriveled by 31%, likely due to advanced software, Holzer says.

“Having a college diploma doesn’t make you immune to the shifts in the labor market,” notes Holzer. “It is a testament to the churning in the U.S. market.”

Educated and skilled professionals sometimes fall victim to structural changes in their sectors. Broadcast news analysts and advertising and promotions managers experienced five-year declines of 16% and 33% respectively. The adjustment follows a wide-spread media transition to online content and shrinking advertising revenue and budgets. Likewise, agricultural engineering jobs contracted by 18%, despite the general demand for engineers, because agriculture is a declining sector.

Economists hope these changes will result in creative destruction—new middle-class jobs will emerge to balance out those that were lost. However, Hallock believes companies are still nervous about growing their ranks. “It’s expensive to hire and fire workers,” he says. “Companies are reluctant to hire now. It’s exacerbating the problem.”

The Huffington Post, June 21, 2011, Tuesday

The Huffington Post

June 21, 2011, Tuesday

The Huffinton Post

Americans To Teachers And School Districts: Stop Fighting And Start Teaching

When the Hesby Oaks School reopened its doors in 2006 after being closed for two decades, the community of Encino, Calif., had reason to be pleased. The Los Angeles Unified School District had invested more than $24 million dollars in the school's reopening. It was a big investment, to be sure, but one that promised to pay dividends. And indeed, over the years that followed, that promise was largely fulfilled, as the school’s consistently high test scores brought new families to the area.

Five years on, though, that investment isn’t looking quite as good. To save money, the district has proposed a round of budget cuts that would lead to widespread teacher layoffs. Hesby Oaks, “the little school that could," as one first-grade teacher recently referred to it, is poised to lose no less than half of its teachers.

All across the country, in towns from Long Beach, Calif., to Levittown, N.Y., teachers and school districts have been waging pitched battles over budget proposals. And while the teacher-versus-district narrative that runs through each of these disputes is usually well-reported, you tend to hear less about how these battles affect the community at large -- the local citizens who tend to be none too pleased to learn that teachers and administrators are fighting over their tax money instead of using it to educate the community's children.

Alana Rubens, the mother of a fifth grader and first grader at Hesby Oaks, said she worried that Hesby might shutdown again, and she blamed the Los Angeles Unified School District. She thought it was "shooting itself in the foot."

“You’re going to have middle-class flight from public schools, and they’re going to go back to private schools,” she said.

In Encino, as in towns across the country, most residents have been throwing their weight behind the teachers, speaking up on their behalf in school-board meetings and to the press.

But in some cases, as these conflicts have dragged on, there have been reports of community members growing impatient with the teachers and siding with the bureaucrats.

Sally Klingel, a labor expert at Cornell University, said that the phenomenon of the public turning against labor unions is fairly common, specifically within the public sector.

When it comes to teachers and hospital workers and the like, she said, "you know exactly how much someone is making and how much it costs you."

In March, at a packed school board meeting in Lindenhurst, N.Y., residents asked the teachers' union to make some concessions in an effort to save a number of the district’s extracurricular programs. Their requests fell on deaf ears. Halfway through the meeting, the teachers rose, grabbed their coats and left the auditorium.

John Lisi, a Lindenhurst resident and the president of a local civic association, pointed out that if the walk-out was intended to rally the community around the teachers’ cause, it didn’t quite work out as planned. Members of several PTA groups went out into the hall and tried to persuade the teachers to come back into the room, but the teachers refused and the meeting fizzled out.

"Everyone needs to be paid and compensated well," Lisi said.

"But at the same time," he added, "the last couple of years have been extremely unusual economically.”

He suggested that teachers take the slow economy into consideration when deciding whether to accept a pay freeze. The only alternative would be to hike up taxes, he said, and if that happens, it could have a detrimental effect on the town as a whole.

“No one’s going to live here because they won’t be able to send their kids to school,” he said.

Just down the highway in Smithtown, N.Y., a similar scene unfolded not long ago: The Smithtown Teachers Association walked out of a March school board meeting and, like their fellow teachers in Lindenhurst, they have yet to reach a deal.

Mark Slavinski, one of 25 people from the community who spoke at the meeting, was appalled. “I'd like for every one of them to go to their classrooms tomorrow, look their students in the eyes and tell them their checking accounts are more important than their students' education,” he said .

Compared with other budget battles, the fights over educational funding tend to elicit strong emotions -- especially anger. If your house gets rezoned, you can move. If your daughter gets a poor first-grade education, there isn't much you can do about it.

After objecting to the Wisconsin bill that stripped most public-service workers of their collective bargaining rights in March, Joseph Kiriaki, the director of a local teachers’ association in Kenosha, Wis., received two very angry letters -- Actually, describing them as angry would be an understatement.

The first, an email from a supporter of the bill, contained "private" information about Kiriaki’s family and advised him to prepare for a 'visit' to his house. The second arrived in his mailbox from a fake address and contained two yellow-page clippings -- one for a self-defense training facility and one for a funeral home.

The budget battle, he said, was rupturing the community. “We took our side,” he said. “We rallied. We protested. And we were at the capital with thousands of people that took issue against this. But, because I was one of the organizers, I suppose I was targeted by folks that took sides themselves.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

MarketWatch, June 16, 2011, Thursday


June 16, 2011, Thursday


Your well-paid, middle-class job is in danger
Some highly paid workers may find they need to switch careers

By Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The job market is changing, and it’s not just manufacturing jobs that are disappearing. Even some highly-paid workers may find themselves needing to re-tool their skills in the years ahead.

The ongoing movement of jobs to countries where labor is cheaper, plus the development of new technologies, may mean fewer opportunities for some well-paid positions in the U.S. over the next decade, said Larry Katz, an economist at Harvard University.
Click to Play
Wisconsin caps wage hikes

The Wisconsin Supreme Court OK'd the state's collective-bargaining law which limits public employees' bargaining rights over wages. AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Lynn

“Employment growth has stopped, or even declined, among many middle- class jobs that are high wage” and don’t require a college degree, Katz said.

“A lot of traditional middle-class, upper-middle-class jobs have been disappearing. If you look at general managers and middle-management jobs, those are ones that have been in decline and will decline further,” he said.

Workers making about $40,000 to $80,000 a year constitute the bulk of labor costs for many companies, and these workers may be on the chopping block, said Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive of ManpowerGroup, a Milwaukee-based staffing services firm.

“That’s your middle class,” Joerres said. “Companies are finding ways to reduce the number of people in those areas, and change the jobs to make them more simple, to reduce the skill that is required.”
Changes in the health-care field

Kevin Hallock, director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University, cited radiologists as an example of a well-paid worker that could be hit by technology and cheap global labor.

“I suspect that we will see fewer radiologists in the U.S. than we have in the past since I understand there is little reason for a radiologist to be in the same place as a patient,” Hallock said. “A radiologist can read a Terre Haute X-ray as easily in India as she can in Indiana.”

However, fewer opportunities do not necessarily translate into the disappearance of an entire field.

“A lot of medical diagnostic work will be done overseas. You can have the initial diagnostic done elsewhere, and have a domestic supervising physician,” said David Autor, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Medical costs are a huge issue, and there’s enormous incentive to find ways to reduce these costs. The internationalization of medical services will be one of the important ways that costs will potentially be slowed,” he said.

Software can also cut down on workers needed to sort through paperwork, such as legal documents, Autor said.

“You digitize all of those documents, and a piece of software reads them and catalogs them,” Autor said. “There is a lot of legal work that is essentially increasingly subject to automation, and that will affect the opportunity set for lawyers.”

Computer programming is also becoming a commodity, Katz said.

“What used to be good programming jobs, or routine legal work, these are things that are easily broken into parts, and done in other places,” Katz said.
Good news, for some

However, not all is doom and gloom. Among the 20 fastest growing occupations from the U.S. Labor Department’s employment projections for 2008 to 2018, 11 earn at least $10,000 more than the national annual median wage of $32,390 in May of 2008.

Examples of these workers are biomedical engineers, network systems and data communications analysts, and financial examiners.

Meanwhile, more than half of the 20 occupations with the fastest projected decline — think sewing machine operators, photographic processing machine operators and file clerks — were below the national median wage. Read the Labor Department’s report.

Here are the 10 fastest growing occupations from 2008 to 2018, and their median wages, according to the Labor Department:
Biomedical engineers, median wages of $77,400
Network systems and data communications analysts, $71,100
Home health aides, $20,460
Personal and home care aides, $19,180
Financial examiners, $70,930
Medical scientists, except epidemiologists, $72,590
Physician assistants, $81,230
Skin care specialists, $28,730
Biochemists and biophysicists, $82,840
Athletic trainers, $39,640

Here are the 10 fastest declining occupations:

Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders, $23,680
Textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders, $23,970
Textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders, $25,400
Shoe machine operators and tenders, $25,090
Extruding and forming machine setters, operators, and tenders, synthetic and glass fibers, $31,160
Sewing machine operators, $19,870
Semiconductor processors, $32,230
Textile cutting machine setters, operators, and tenders, $22,620
Postal Service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators, $50,020
Fabric menders, except garment, $28,470

Adaptation is key

Workers with diminishing prospects will need to evolve, experts said.

“Lots of people can transform themselves,” Katz said. “People with a good set of flexible skills will be able to adapt. Creativity and flexibility will continue to be greatly valued. People with a certain specific set of vocational skills are going to have a tougher time without some new training.”

While technology may replace some workers, it also creates opportunities to use new skills.

“Some types of engineers won’t be doing the type of engineering they are doing now if someone comes up with a technology that makes what they do obsolete,” Hallock said. “But they are likely to do something related.”

To succeed, a worker should “be an active learner,” Manpower’s Joerres said.

“Taking on responsibility for invention and innovation gives you a better chance of remaining in a position than the person to your right or to your left,” Joerres said.

Reuters, June 15, 2011, Wednesday


June 15, 2011, Wednesday


Analysis: tax cut for employers no panacea for jobs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It may be the only stimulus option that would get through the divided U.S. Congress, but a proposal to cut payroll taxes for employers would probably fall short of its aim of kick-starting the weak jobs market.

The latest idea to pull the country out of its economic morass has run into skepticism from economists and some business owners, even before it takes shape in Washington.

Cutting payroll taxes for employers could provide a small boost to growth. But most agree that a temporary lowering of the rate will not convince companies to hire.

"There is no silver bullet to get people hiring," said David Rhoa, owner of Lake Michigan Mailers, a document management company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Of course, Rhoa, like most business owners, would welcome a tax cut. But he would reinvest the savings in his firm and give some of it to his 56 employees as a small pay raise.

"Anything that they do with that money short of burying it in the backyard should be helpful" to the economy, he said.

Without more demand from consumers, Rhoa says a payroll tax cut would not convince him to hire beyond the three new workers he already plans to add this year.

Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor and a vocal proponent of renewed heavy government spending to spur growth, says companies are "sitting on a vast cash hoard" of more than $1.9 trillion, which shows their reticence about hiring is not due to a lack of funds.

"Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren't enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell," Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, told Reuters in an email.

Differences over the effectiveness of cutting taxes to boost jobs are not new.

A tax credit under former President Jimmy Carter to stimulate new hiring in 1977-78 has been lauded by some economists. John Bishop, an associate professor of human resource studies at Cornell University, said it preceded a jump of more than 10 percent in private employment.

But critics say the impact was short-lived and highly expensive to taxpayers.


President Barack Obama on Monday praised a payroll tax holiday introduced earlier this year for employees -- but not for employers -- as helping the economy. The White House has said it is open to ideas about new measures.

Democrats' hopes of extending the duration of benefit payments for people out of work is likely to be opposed by Republicans. A plan to provide tax credits for firms investing in research and development was previously blocked.

Vice President Joe Biden discussed the idea of payroll cuts with lawmakers on Tuesday in the latest round of deficit reduction talks with a small group of legislators from both parties.

Republicans are not rushing to support a payroll tax cut for employers but might back it as a stop-gap measure, given their preferred option of a broad reform of the U.S. tax code is unlikely to be accomplished in coming months.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in May, a concern for Obama as he gears up his re-election campaign.

Obama's two-year, $830 billion stimulus plan passed in February 2009 is credited with helping avert economic disaster. Now, as the recovery is sputtering, Republicans are deeply opposed to further spending.

In addition, the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus options are limited when its bond-buying program ends this month.

The 2 percent payroll tax cut for employees, adopted only in late 2010, has cost public coffers an estimated $112 billion. Cornell's Bishop estimated the cut may have added 0.8 to 1.5 percent to economic growth this year.

Former Treasury Secretary and until recently White House Economic Adviser Larry Summers this week suggested raising the existing payroll tax cut for workers from 2 to 3 percent, and extending it to employers as well. He estimated the cost would be around $200 billion over 10 years.

Bill Rys, tax counsel at the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said cutting payroll taxes would help offset new, more expensive U.S. healthcare requirements.

Economists disagree on how many jobs a tax cut would create -- estimates range from 10,000 to 1 million -- but say they probably would not make a big dent on unemployment.

Robert Lerman, economics professor at American University and a fellow at the centrist Urban Institute, said the tax break should be limited to employers who add new positions.

"We want to expand employment but on the other hand we don't want to worsen the deficit too much," he said. "That is why the cost-effectiveness of these ideas is critical."

Still, Summers' proposal might bring the unemployment rate down by 0.6 or 0.7 percentage point, he said.

Supporters of a more targeted approach point to a law passed last year, known by its acronym, HIRE. Under the law, the federal government offered employers a 6.2 percent payroll tax cut for hiring unemployed workers. In addition, they received a $1,000 tax credit for retaining each new employee for at least one year.

Rhoa, the Michigan business owner, and other employers complained that such programs are complex and bureaucratic. Most importantly, they do not put money directly in the pockets of owners and employees, creating a delay in the stimulus effect.

Rhoa took advantage of the law to add employees. But he said he would have hired them anyway.

"Those weren't jobs that we created to hire those people. It was essentially a coupon from the federal government."

(Additional reporting by Rich Cowan, Alister Bull and Laura MacInnis in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reuters, June 15, 2011, Wednesday


June 15, 2011, Wednesday


Strike deadline looms at Macy's New York flagship

NEW YORK, June 15 (Reuters) - Workers at four New York City area Macy's Inc (M.N) stores, including its Herald Square flagship, could strike late on Wednesday for the first time since 1972 should they fail to get a new contract from the department store chain.

The union representing the 4,000 workers is demanding better wages, pension and health benefits, and hours, saying that Macy's recent sales and profit gains warrant improvements in their work conditions.

A spokesman for the union, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), declined to say whether the parties were getting closer to a deal ahead of the midnight deadline on Wednesday, but did confirm that talks are continuing.

"It's a good sign that after intense negotiations, you still have both sides at the table," the spokesman, Dan Morris, told Reuters at midday.

A spokeswoman for Macy's did immediately return a call for comment.

The current contract, signed in 2006, was extended by 45 days in early May, but expires at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday 0359 GMT Thursday). Talks are expected to go down to the wire.

Some workers at Macy's 1 million-square-foot flagship store in midtown Manhattan expressed ambivalence about a strike but said it might be a necessary evil.

"It's either we give up short term for long term. Or we work today and we struggle long-term," said Troy Mitchell, a 14-year employee of the Macy's in Manhattan, where he works in the men's clothing section.

If workers struck, the union, which is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers, said it would be ready to picket and hand out leaflets at the Manhattan store, and the other locations in the New York City boroughs of The Bronx and Queens and in New York State's Westchester County, this week.

Macy's took an ad in Sunday's New York Times looking for temporary sales staff "in anticipation of a possible labor dispute."

Last month, Macy's raised its profit forecast for the rest of the year, and its debt regained investment grade status from rating agency Standard & Poor's after two years.

The labor dispute comes amid moves by workers at other retailers and restaurants seeking to unionize. The UFCW is trying to organize 5,000 workers at 27 Target Corp (TGT.N) stores in the New York City area.

Employees of a Target store in Valley Stream, New York, will vote on Friday on whether to join a union. It would be the first Target store to unionize.

This increased activism among retail workers reflects growing frustration at not getting better contracts despite retailers' improving sales, according to one labor relations specialist.

"The unions are saying: 'We really have to fight back," said Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner. "The recession has continued for workers, but it hasn't for corporations. They're doing better."

Still, high unemployment is also on many workers' minds. Recent efforts to unionize at Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) and sandwich chain Jimmy John's have failed. (Reporting by Phil Wahba and Roy Strom, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

Newsday, June 13, 2011, Monday

Copyright 2011 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

June 13, 2011, Monday

In an era of aid cuts and tax protests, law enforcement dominates the county's payrolls

The total compensation of police and sheriff's department employees in Nassau and Suffolk last year reached al-most two-thirds of each county's payroll, propelled by generous raises, overtime and retirement packages.

A Newsday analysis of county records shows years of raises above the inflation rate pushed base salaries to as much as $219,000 for a Nassau police captain. A Suffolk sheriff's officer earned overtime of $120,166, while a retire-ment package boosted another Nassau captain's total pay to $876,078.

Sixty-six Nassau police and sheriff's deputies, who along with other union workers were offered an incentive of $1,500 per year of service to retire last year, received more than $500,000 each in total compensation.

Police and sheriff's department employees compose 45 percent of all county workers in Nassau and 38 percent in Suffolk. There were about 12,400 county employees in Nassau last year and 14,000 in Suffolk, according to databases provided by the county comptrollers offices. The employee totals exclude the two county community colleges and the Nassau Health Care Corp., which are not entirely county-funded.

Law enforcement salaries are consuming a large chunk of county budgets - Nassau is set to spend a total of $2.6 billion this year, and Suffolk $2.7 billion - at a time when the troubled economy and state budget cuts are forcing the counties to slash spending and there is voter discontent with high taxes.

Suffolk is considering closing at least one county health clinic to fill a $179.5-million budget shortfall. Nassau's finances have been taken over by a state fiscal monitoring board and the county is preparing to lay off hundreds of employees as it struggles to close a deficit of as much as $176 million this year.

"I'm not going to say whether police deserve more money or less," said Tim Hoefer, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative research group that studies fiscal policy. "The question is what will suffer, your tax levy or the other things you value, like your local animal shelter?"

Data from county records

Newsday drew compensation data for all employees in the county police and sheriff's departments from public records obtained through the Freedom of Information Law.
Employees are considered full-time if they earn $30,000 or more, since those who make less for the most part are part-time or seasonal workers.

"The question isn't whether an officer is worth it," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who often has battled with police unions over wage and benefit issues. "They are. The question is whether we can afford it. And we can't."

Other officials defend law enforcement pay, saying it reflects the valuable and demanding nature of the work.

"Here in Nassau and Suffolk we pay a lot for good services to maintain a high quality of life for our families," said Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), a member of the Public Safety Committee. "And the No. 1 aspect of quality of life is public safety."
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, justified his members' salaries, not-ing that law enforcement composes just 10 percent of the average homeowner's property tax bill.

"The public is getting a good bang for their buck," he said.

According to records, Nassau and Suffolk are spending a much greater share of their payrolls on law enforcement than New York City.

In Nassau, 66 percent of the $928 million payroll last year went for police and sheriffs pay - including salaries, overtime, retirement payouts that include accrued sick and vacation time and other forms of compensation such as night differential pay.

In Suffolk, the figure was 59 percent of the 2010 payroll of $993 million.
Total payroll for the New York City Police Department will reach $4.3 billion this year, about 20 percent of the city's total payroll.

Long Island police and sheriff's patrol officers are paid some of the highest law-enforcement salaries in the nation - ranking sixth among all metropolitan areas last year with median wages of $84,090, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Officers in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area in California had the highest median wages, $96,330. In 2010, the median wage among employed residents in the Nassau-Suffolk area was $38,680.
Police and sheriff's deputies dominate the ranks of the highest-paid government employees in

Nassau and Suffolk.
Top earners in counties
Det. Robert Doyle got the highest compensation of any Suffolk employee last year, with a total of $399,000 in-cluding base earnings of $82,900, $39,800 in overtime and a retirement payout of $251,700, after serving 33 years on the force. Capt. Robert M. Turk was Nassau's highest earner with more than $876,000, including $209,000 in salary and overtime and the preponderance of the rest from his October retirement payout. The Nassau data does not
include precise figures for retirement packages.

Even factoring out one-time retirement payouts, which are in addition to pensions and can include tens of thousands of dollars in accrued vacation and sick time, active-duty police and sheriff's deputies still were the highest-paid government employees in both counties.
In Suffolk, the top-paid active-duty employee was Deputy Police Insp. Henry Mulligan, with total earnings of $260,300, including base salary of $210,600 and $6,500 in overtime, along with other contractual payments.

Nassau Police Officer Gary Renick was the county's highest-paid active employee, at $253,000, including $106,700 in salary and $111,500 in overtime.

By comparison, Levy earned a total of $189,158 in 2010, while Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano made $173,944.

The police and sheriff's officers in Nassau who were tops among active-duty earners did not return calls seeking comment. The top active-duty earners among Suffolk police did not return calls; there were no sheriff's officers among the group.

Big retirement payouts

Some Nassau police received such large retirement packages that they left the department almost millionaires. In an effort to reduce the size of the county payroll, Nassau offered all union workers a $1,500-per-year-of-service incentive to retire last year, and 125 cops took the offer.

Capt. Robert McGuigan, a deputy police commissioner in Nassau, followed Turk in the rankings with $865,555 in total compensation - $199,200 in salary and $10,100 in overtime, plus his retirement payout.

Thomas Krumpter, Nassau's acting police commissioner, said the PBA during former County Executive Thomas Suozzi's administration agreed to a deal to cap police retirement payouts at twice an officer's annual base salary. Those caps were removed temporarily in 2010 by Mangano as an incentive to lower payroll by getting people to retire early. The move, however, ballooned retirement payouts, said Krumpter and union officials.

Suffolk's list of employees with the highest total compensation last year, topped by Doyle, also was dominated by law enforcement personnel who were leaving the department. The top 10 highest-compensated Suffolk employees were all police.

Pay rates outpace inflation

At least a decade of state arbitration decisions have raised the salaries of police personnel faster than the Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in prices paid for a representative basket of goods and services, for Northeast states.

The arbitration system, set out in state law, requires contract talks to go to binding arbitration should the parties not be able to agree at the negotiating table.

Arbitrators are required to consider the raises and pay of police in similar jurisdictions and they have historically viewed Nassau and Suffolk as the most similar comparison for each other. If Nassau or Suffolk police get a raise, it drives up pay for the other department at the next arbitration.

Jeff Frayler, president of the Suffolk PBA, said it's only fair for arbitrators to keep raises and salaries in line with those of other area cops. He stressed that the union helped to reduce costs by agreeing in 2009 to defer $12 million in wage increases until the officers retire.

In Suffolk, police officer salaries have grown by an average of 4 percent a year since 1987, while the Consumer Price Index for the Northeast rose by an average of 3.5 percent over those years, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and county figures. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board that controls the county's finances, has frozen all salary increases for 2011. The issue is now in litigation.

Base police salaries in Nassau will have grown by an average rate of almost 3.1 percent from 2001 through 2015, when the officers' contract expires. (The Consumer Price Index grew by an average of 2.8 percent between 2001 and 2011).

The salary hikes in both counties have contributed to the growing number of $100,000-a-year cops.

In Suffolk, 2,941 law enforcement workers, or about 70 percent of Suffolk County's 4,254 full-time police and sheriff's personnel, were paid more than $100,000 in salary and overtime in 2010.

In Nassau County, 2,520 police and Sheriff's Department employees - about 55 percent of the total - received in excess of $100,000 in salary and overtime; 80 percent were police.
Tens of millions for overtime

Nassau police and sheriffs spent just over $67 million on overtime last year; Suffolk's police and sheriff's depart-ments spent $69 million.

Eight employees in the two counties earned more in overtime than they made in salary.
Michael Adams, president of the Nassau County Sheriff's Officer Association, said working in the jail with dan-gerous prisoners - even on OT - is challenging.

"We call it blood money," Adams said. "No one wants to be there. It takes a beating on you."
Mangano attributed the high overtime numbers for police to minimum manning staffing rules enacted in the 1980s that require a set number of police cars on the streets at any given time. Mangano wants to change these rules, contained in the PBA contract expiring in 2015, to increase the department's flexibility in assigning officers.

In Suffolk County, sheriff's deputies topped the list of overtime earners. Sheriff's officer Glen Rahner made the most in OT: $120,166 in addition to his $90,862 salary. Deputy Sheriff Mario Belcastro got $100,282 in overtime. A message left with the sheriff's office for Rahner and
Belcastro was not returned.

Sheriff's chief of staff Michael Sharkey said overtime costs were driven higher because 99 positions were vacant. The vacancies were caused partly by Levy's refusal to authorize as much hiring as the department wanted and the fact the county had no police academy graduating classes scheduled last year, Sharkey said.

In response, Levy spokesman Dan Aug said, "There are more employees in the sheriff's department today than at any time in recent memory."

Are salaries sustainable?

Officials and fiscal experts are divided about whether the counties' levels of law enforcement spending are sustain-able.

Mark Lavigne, deputy director of the New York State Association of Counties, said with the State Legislature's an-ticipated approval of a 2 percent cap on property tax increases, coupled with no relief from state mandates on counties, "salaries across the board on all level of government could very well be unsustainable."

Lee Adler, a professor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a former union activist, said, "The problem is not that the police or anyone else is being paid too much. There are certain forces in our society that are not being taxed appropriately."
He cited Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's decision to let the state's "millionaire's tax" on high-income residents expire.

Adler also argued that volunteer fire departments in many areas of Long Island save tax dollars, and offset the cost of having well-paid police.

But Mangano said something has to change.

"This situation cannot be maintained," he said. "These are tough economic times and we are seeking additional concessions."

Percent of total county payroll that went to police and sheriff salaries:
NYC 20%
Capt. Robert M. Turk
Highest retiree payout on LI
Officer Gary Renick
Highest-paid Nassau cop
Dep. Insp. Henry Mulligan
Highest-paid Suffolk cop

GRAPHIC: 1) PHOTO BY HOWARD SCHNAPP - Capt. Robert M. Turk, 2) PHOTO BY ED BETZ - Suffolk County police officers at their graduation ceremony in Brentwood on Friday. Law enforcement salaries compose a large chunk of county budgets. 3) NEWSDAY COVER PHOTO / ALEJANDRA VILLA - A police officer saluting; CHART - Percent of total county payroll that went to police and sheriff salaries (SEE END OF TEXT)

LOAD-DATE: June 13, 2011

WBEN, June 13, 2011, Monday


June 13, 2011, Monday


Art Wheaton was interviewed by WBEN on the current climate in healthcare, as Kaleida and SEIU enter talks.

AFL-CIO, June 9, 2011, Thursday


June 9, 2011, Thursday


Academics, Activists Search for New Ways to Revitalize Labor Movement

More than 200 academics and labor activists came together yesterday to discuss strategies for revitalizing the union movement.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler set the tone for the conference, sponsored by Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Union membership numbers aren’t a popularity poll, nor a reflection of a declining need for unions—just a sad reflection of how incredibly difficult it is for workers to form unions in our modern corporate environment. It’s a tragic commentary on today’s economy that good, middle-class union jobs have left America.

Shuler said the entire union movement is committed to finding new ways to build political and economic power, to unite working people with collective action and to lift everyone up together. Unions will do what we’ve done before—help workers organize again, in new sectors that haven’t traditionally been unionized in our country and even in the sectors—from domestic work to guest work—that lack the legal right to bargain.

But this battle needs all hands on deck, she said, including academics, students and other young leaders to produce new ideas and passion for justice.

Nelson Lichtenstein, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy, told the audience, workers and their unions face an unprecedented attack by Republicans, corporate interests and even some Democrats. He said it is up to progressives, academics and union activists to defend the idea of democracy at work.

To better communicate that idea of democracy at work, progressives need to revise their message to fit the 21st century realities, said Jefferson Cowie, history professor at Cornell University. Progressives need to engage conservatives in a battle of ideas that reflect our core values, he said, adding that conservatives are better at framing their ideas in terms that appeal to peoples’ values and emotions.

Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice, said domestically and globally, workers are angry, frustrated and feel less secure. To revitalize the union movement, she said, we must broaden our outreach and scope of organizing. Using the example of the massive support for collective bargaining in Wisconsin and other states, she said we have to channel that enthusiasm into more than the traditional union roles.

The Wisconsin demonstrations could be the beginning of building a strong new progressive movement if we use it as an opportunity to form strong coalitions with immigrants, community and environmental groups that joined in backing collective bargaining, Gupta said.

Participants also discussed innovations and strategies for organizing and techniques for encouraging new scholars to enter the study of labor.

Deseret Morning News, June 7, 2011, Tuesday

Copyright 2011 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

June 7, 2011, Tuesday

A look back in time at 1911

The year was 1911 ? sandwiched between the turn of the century and the Wright brothers taking flight on one side and World War I and flapper girls on the other. William Taft served at the helm of the United States as its 27th presi-dent. Utah's third governor, William Spry, was in office and the Progressive Era was in full swing.

But those are just the basics. There were many other events, trends, advancements and discoveries that created the world in which the Hotel Utah was born on June 9, 1911. The next day, the Saturday, June 10, 1911, edition of the De-seret Evening News carried the headline: "The Magnificent Hotel Utah Opens Its Doors." Political affairs Reform proved to be a driving force for politics around the world. In the year leading up to the opening of the hotel, China ab-olished slavery and South Africa declared its independence from the United Kingdom, according to In Central and South America, many of the problems that existed when certain countries gained independence in the 1800s still remained 100 years later, according to Jeffrey Shumway, professor of Argentinean and Latin American his-tory at BYU. "Many Central and South American countries were progressing economically, but there were underlying social problems in the midst of economic growth," he said. Such social problems contributed to the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in November 1910. By that time a year later, the previous president was overthrown and Francisco Madero was elected. The Socialist Party was gaining power and popularity in America, according to Brian Cannon, professor of modern and rural American history at BYU. On March 4, 1911, Victor Berger of Wisconsin became the first socialist U.S. congressman. A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. in New York on March 25, 1911, killed 146 people in 18 minutes, according to the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. This disaster fueled debates over working conditions across America. Other political deliberations regarded topics such as Prohibition. Other developments Discoveries and inventions were also rampant around 1911 in many different fields. Henry Ford introduced his "reasonably priced, reliable and efficient" Model T automobile in 1908, according to the Henry Ford website, Many, however, still relied on traditional forms of transportation. "It's an interesting era in that way because you continue to have horse-drawn conveyances on the city streets, electric street cars and then automobiles all together at that point in time," Cannon said. The field of exploration saw two major events. Hiram Bingham located the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu on July 24, 1911. Five months later, Roald Amundsen's expedition became the first to reach the South Pole. Cultural phenomena The cultural landscape at this time was full of distinctive trends, many of which can be seen in today's society. "The Great Train Robbery" debuted as the first silent film in 1903, and by 1911, many people opted for the cinema over theater, Cannon said. Baseball became increasingly popular with the establishment of the World Series in 1903. archives state that Taft symbolized the sport as "America's pastime" by being the first president to throw a first pitch at a baseball game in 1910, one year prior to the hotel's opening. Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 car race on May 30, 1911, with a speed of 74.602 mph. This is 95.663 mph less than winner Dan Wheldon's speed of 170.265 mph in the 2011 race, according to

LOAD-DATE: June 8, 2011

WorldatWork's workspan magazine, June 2011

WorldatWork's workspan magazine

June 2011

WorldatWork's workspan magazine

Research for the Real World

ICS Director Kevin Hallock discusses the impacts of pay practices

Does That Pay Practice Really Have Any Impact?
Are your pay practices performing?

AOL Jobs, May 23, 2011, Monday

AOL Jobs

May 23, 2011, Monday

AOL Jobs

Facebook Suit Highlights Employers' Misunderstanding of Labor Laws

A complaint recently filed by federal labor officials against a Buffalo, N.Y., nonprofit highlights misunderstandings that many employers have
about workers' activities that are protected by law.

In a statement Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board said it was challenging the dismissal of five employees of Hispanics United, a social-service organization, for firing five workers over statements that they posted on social networking website Facebook.

The case involves an employee who, prior to meeting with Hispanics United management about working conditions, posted to her Facebook page a co-worker's allegation that employees didn't do enough to help the organization's clients.

That post in turn generated comments from other employees who defended their work and criticized working conditions, including workload and staffing issues. Upon learning of the posts, Hispanics United fired the five employees, claiming that their comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post.

In its statement, the NLRB said that the Facebook postings were "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act, "because it involved a conversation among co-workers about their terms and conditions of employment, including their job performance and staffing levels."

That's a point often lost on many employers, says Laura Hertzog, an employment-law expert at Cornell University's ILR School in New York City.

Rule Covers More Than Union Activity

Employers often misconstrue a certain section of the National Labor Relations Act, believing it only applies to workers governed by collective-bargaining agreements.

"If you read it quickly, people think it applies to union activity," Hertzog says. Though Section 7 -- the segment in question -- explicitly lists union-related activities that are protected, it also notes other protected activities. "And that's the piece that [employers] seem to miss," she says.

Specifically, the law says that employees are permitted to engage in "other concerted activities," as noted in the NLRB statement, which essentially means "employees doing something together," Hertzog says.

The law extends that protection not only to union activities but to other mutual aid and protection, which Hertzog says is "actually defined pretty broadly." It includes, for example, two or more employees talking about wages, hours and work conditions.

Hertzog says the law generally doesn't generally apply to those workers in supervisory roles, and wouldn't include discussions of things such as products made by the company that the workers are employed by.

Based on her reading of the NLRB complaint, Hispanic United failed to recognize that the employees were engaging in protected activities, Hertzog says. Further, she says that Hispanics United's claim that the five employees harassed the first person doesn't hold water.

Harassment Is No Justification

Harassment involves much more than simply being mean to somebody, Hertzog says. "People are mean to each other in the workplace all the time." And although employers are required to stop harassment, she says, "they're not required or justified in doing something illegal to stop somebody being mean to somebody else."

The case is to go before an NLRB administrative judge in Buffalo on June 22, unless the parties involved settle before then.

The Hispanics United complaint is the latest in a string of cases involving employer actions taken against employees for posting comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

The latest of those involves a high school coach and substitute teacher in suburban Boston who was fired Wednesday after he posted what school officials said were "inappropriate communications" to students on Facebook.

School officials said that police have begun an investigation in the wake of the dismissal. The teacher, Jon O'Keefe, was terminated after students complained about the comments to school officials Monday afternoon.