Saturday, October 9, 2004
Professor William R. Corbett, of Lousiana State University is visiting with the University of Georgia School of Law. Professor Corbett is a prolific labor law scholar, who has written in a variety of labor and employment law subjects.
Friday, October 8, 2004
The two most recent entries in Nagle's sanitation worker diary takes us to the nitty-grity of garbage pick up. On Wednesday' log , Nagle talks about learning to drive the "cut-downs" (i.e., the 30-ton, 30-foot dump trucks), and it appears she enjoyed it.
I hunched my shoulders forward, snugged my hat a little lower, then put myself and my instructor, Pat O'Brien, in motion. After he taught me some basics, I was nailing tight turns on narrow streets, rolling effortlessly along highways and through toll plazas, and backing up without trouble. I felt invincible—not much out there was bigger than I was.Nagle continues:
"F___in' A. This is f___in' fantastic." I don't indulge my inner potty-mouthed broad very often, and O'Brien was taken aback, but he soon adjusted, for which I was grateful.
By Thursday Nagle is actually on the job driving the cut-down through the streets of New York. Nagle describes some of the less desirable aspects of the job.
The stench is the cloying, frowsy odor of an over-fecund culture. We produce and consume in vast quantities and at great speed, and the refuse has to go somewhere. No matter the individual components, when it's all mashed together, trash generates a signature smell.
Motorists have no pity for garbage trucks and will do anything to avoid falling in behind one; during OJT, I often cut off a driver in the course of switching lanes. The driver always responded with enthusiastic gestures of ire.
The diary is published by Slate.com
No one nods off for the first speaker this morning. Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association (Teamsters' Local 831), sweeps into our classroom in the Central Repair Shop (CRS) accompanied by an entourage of five neatly coiffed, muscled men in union bomber jackets. Nespoli, who is silver-haired, has the broad shoulders and thick neck of a football player and the ease of self common to handsome men. He talks like he still works behind the truck, but his blunt language is part of his charisma, and it doesn't hide his considerable political savvy or his skill at working an audience.
Nagle also takes on the question of women entering a traditionally male-dominated job:
Nespoli then changes focus, assuring us that even though Sanitation was the last uniformed city agency to hire women, the "change-over," as he calls it, went smoothly. "There is no problem on the job with women," he says. "If they can stand next to you and do the job, that's the job. There's no sexual harassment on the job at all." I smile at this because I've seen female sanitation employees harass male sanitation employees, but this isn't what Nespoli means.
Thursday, October 7, 2004
In the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Slate.com., presents a weeklong journal of a sanitation worker in training by anthropologist Robin Nagle (New York University). On Monday's entry Nagle describes the ups and downs of the job.
In reference to the training process, Nagle says:
At any moment in the process, for a host of reasons, a candidate can be disqualified and kiss the job goodbye. I had heard guys say that becoming a sanitation worker was like winning the lottery; now I understand what they meant.
As to the job expectations, Nagle pointedly notes:
A buddy who has worked behind the truck for nearly two decades laughs when I complain about getting up so early. "That's where you learn humility," he says. Others are more pragmatic. Early hours are a small price for steady pay, job security, benefits. "You'll have a paycheck for the rest of your life," we are told over and over. "This job will let you raise a family, buy a house, send your kids to college." The American Dream is laid out before us as shiny as the wet streets outside; all we have to do is hang in for 20 years.
Professor Richard B. Freeman (Economics Department, Harvard University) presents From the Webbs to the Web: the Contribution of the Internet to Reviving Union Fortunes today Thursday, October 7, 2004 at the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California- Berkeley. Here is the abstract:
This paper shows that in the 2000s unions in the UK and US made innovative use of the Internet to deliver union services and move toward open source unions better suited for the modern world than traditional union structures. In contrast to analysts who see unions as being on an inexorable path of decline, I argue that these innovations are changing unions from institutions of the Webbs to institutions of the Web, which will improve their effectiveness and revive their role as the key worker organization in capitalism.
Professor Freeman co-chairs the Harvard Trade Union Program and directs the Labor Studies program at NBER. One of the most prolific and influential labor economists in the United States, Freeman’s many books include What Do Unions Do? (1984) and Visible Hands: Labor Institutions in the New Economy, forthcoming 2004.
Wednesday, October 6, 2004
Controversial in the best of times, trade has become even more so in the aftermath of the 2001 recession and in light of the unusually slow job growth during the recovery. Critics blame trade in general and foreign outsourcing in particular for "shipping American jobs overseas," a theme we can expect to hear in the fall political season. Is it trade or other factors that are behind the unusual U.S. labor market? Which type of jobs will replace those being lost? And what should Congress and the president do, if anything, about trade and outsourcing?
The conference will feature Sen. Chuck Hagel, Roger Ferguson, Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve Board and Gregory Mankiw, Chairman, President's Council of Economic Advisers.
Multiple constituencies debate the merits of S.1925. The bill, referred to as the Employee Free Choice Act, amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the National Labor Relations Board to certify a bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees have authorized designation of the representative and there is no other individual or labor organization currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit.
For a representative perspective of the arguments against the bill see The Economics Consequences of "Card-Check" Forced Unionism (National Institue For Labor Relations Research). For the arguments in favor of the bill see, Protecting Workers: Employee Free Choice Act (Moving Ideas- The Electronic Policy Network).
Unlikely to pass in a presidential election year, but interesting debate nonetheless.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004
An article in today's Washington Post describes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's new approach to workplace safety and health regulation. In OSHA Withdraws More Rules Than It Makes, Reviews Find, Cindy Skrzycki notes that, "[s]ince the administration took over in 2001, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has forged hundreds of agreements with companies and business associations to improve their safety records while rulemaking has been sharply curtailed." These agreements or "long term alliances" emphasize outreach, education, and sharing "best practices." The OSH Administration argues that the new approach has resulted in safer workplaces. Unions and other critics are concerned with the lack of union participation in these alliances, and questioned the data presented by the administration.
Recent article from the Labor Research Association about the composition of the Board's membership. In particular the article notes that:
"The five-member NLRB is now controlled by Bush appointees. The winner of the November election will control new appointments for all five seats plus the crucial general counsel position. One NLRB member's term expires in December of this year; two expire in 2005, one in 2006, and one in 2007. The general counsel’s term expires in June 2005." November Election Will Determine the Fate of the NLRB
Monday, October 4, 2004
Columbia Law School's Professor Cynthia Estlund has published a new book, Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy. Estlund explores a paradox that has escaped labor and employment law scholars alike. As described by the publisher (Oxford University Press):
At a time when communal ties in American society are increasingly frayed and segregation persists, the workplace is more than ever the site where Americans from different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds meet and forge serviceable and sometimes lasting bonds. What do these highly structured workplace relationships mean for a society still divided by gender and race? Structure and rules are, in fact, central to the answer. Workplace interactions are constrained by economic power and necessity, and often by legal regulation. They exist far from the civic ideal of free and equal citizens voluntarily associating for shared ends. Yet it is the very involuntariness of these interactions that helps to make the often-troubled project of racial integration comparatively successful at work. People can be forced to get along-not without friction, but often with surprising success. This highly original exploration of the paradoxical nature--and the paramount importance--of workplace bonds concludes with concrete suggestions for how law can further realize the democratic possibilities of working together. In linking workplace integration and connectedness beyond work, Estlund suggests a novel and promising strategy for addressing the most profound challenges facing American society.
As in the last couple of terms, it looks like the Supreme Court Term will be primarily focused on questions of constitutional interpretation, national security and immigration law. Still, the Court has already granted certiorari in a couple of cases of interest to those of us teaching in the employment law area.
In Smith, Azel, et al. v. City of Jackson, Miss., the Court has been asked to decided whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).
Although not an employment law case, in Jackson, Roderick v. Birmingham Board of Education the Court will decide whether the private right of action for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., encompasses redress for retaliation for complaints about unlawful sex discrimination.
Sunday, October 3, 2004
Human beings are often boundedly rational. In the face of bounded rationality, the legal system might attempt either to "debias law," by insulating legal outcomes from the effects of boundedly rational behavior, or instead to "debias through law," by steering legal actors in more rational directions. Legal analysts have focused most heavily on insulating outcomes from the effects of bounded rationality. In fact, however, a large number of actual and imaginable legal strategies are efforts to engage in debiasing through law - to help people reduce or even eliminate boundedly rational behavior. In important contexts, these efforts promise to avoid the costs and inefficiencies associated with regulatory approaches that take bounded rationality as a given and respond by attempting to insulate outcomes from its effects. This Article offers both a general theory of debiasing through law and a description of how such debiasing does or could work to address central legal questions in a large number of domains, from employment law to consumer safety law to corporate law to property law. Discussion is devoted to the risks of overshooting and manipulation that are sometimes raised when government engages in debiasing through law.