Saturday, November 20, 2004

Cutcher-Gershenfeld & Kochan on collective bargaining in the new century

New article by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld and Thomas Kochan, "Taking stock: Collective bargaining at the turn of the century" 58 Industrial and Labor Relations Review 3-26 (2004),  Examining data from two national surveys of matched pairs of union and management lead negotiators, the authors:

"evaluate the current state of practice in labor relations and test several propositions related to the transformation of American industrial relations. They find that 30-40% of the parties reported that they had introduced negotiated, workplace-level innovations or engaged in strategic-level interactions-both important aspects of transformation. Also, nearly half of the parties reported experience with use of interest-based bargaining practices. At the same time, relatively few parties reported relationships that were improving, and views on the extent of change differed between labor and management. Thus, there is an identifiable path supporting the transformation process, but only a minority of bargaining relationships are moving down that path."

November 20, 2004 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obesity and Wage Effects

Have you heard of the "Pound Penalty."

Weight discrimination in the workplace is common, but the economic cost for individual workers of being obese is not well understood. In a newly published study, finance professors from Middle Tennessee State University sought to quantify this cost using analytical methods that controlled for other variables that have been shown to influence income.

The MTSU researchers found the economic cost of obesity, or the "pound penalty," as they called it, was much greater for women than for men. But both sexes experienced a persistent obesity-related wage penalty over the first two decades of their careers.

After controlling for other variables influencing income, obesity was found to lower a man's annual earnings by as much as 2.3 percent and a woman's by as much as 6.2 percent. The average reduction for women was around 4.5 percent, study researcher Charles L. Baum, PhD, tells WebMD. The findings were reported in the September issue of the journal Health Economics.

For the complete article see Obese Face Wage 'Penalty' (CBS.com)

November 20, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Unions continue to debate their future

Following the various reports last week (here and here) about unrest within the AFL-CIO regarding the future direction of the labor movement, the New York Times reports on the waves created by Andy Stern's comments last week that "unions were doing far too little to help American workers because they were organizing too few workers and were often undercutting one another in negotiations."

According to the NYT,

"Mr. Stern's proposals have set off a fierce debate. Some labor leaders have accused him of arrogantly seeking to dictate to others. Many accuse him of favoring a top-down approach in which the A.F.L.-C.I.O. would tell long-autonomous unions what to do.

Mr. Stern's plan would, for example, force unions to recruit members only in their core industries, barring them from raiding those where other unions dominate.

Some labor leaders say Mr. Stern wants service unions to dominate the A.F.L-C.I.O. at the expense of fast-shrinking manufacturing unions. The president of the machinists' union, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, has even threatened to quit the federation if Mr. Stern gets his way.

Some labor leaders complain that Mr. Stern's proposals to merge unions would allow the big fish to swallow the little fish. His defenders say the heads of some small unions, despite their puny bargaining power, oppose mergers because they desperately want to cling to their positions, power and salaries."

Unions Resume Debate Over Merging and Power

November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Workplace English-Only Rules

The Denver Post reports an increase in court challenges to English-Only rules.

Claims against workplace English-only rules have increased 612 percent, from 32 cases in 1996 to 228 in 2002, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The article notes that opponents of these claims

"fear increasing litigation is creating a chilling effect for businesses. "These (cases) are going to continue to grow until we have a commitment to have everyone speak English," said Tim Schultz, spokesman and staff counsel for U.S. English Inc., a Washington, D.C., group dedicated to preserving English in the United States."

On the other hand, the article notes:

Karl Krahnke, a linguistics professor at Colorado State University, doubts that will work. Most immigrants over 25 years old probably won't become proficient in a new language, he said. And it shouldn't be required, either, he said.

"It is unethical to require them to give up their first language," he said. "If I speak Spanish and we're close friends and you speak Spanish, to be forced to talk about our families, feelings, illness or whatever in English just because we're out of our house is unfair and unnecessary."

Workers fighting English-only rules

November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deficits at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency which insures private pensions, reported a 23.3 billion deficit.  According to Forbes:

"The $23.3 billion deficit was more than twice the $11.2 billion long-term shortfall the agency reported a year ago and reflected continuing economic troubles in such industries as airlines and steel."

The agency's announcement prompted immediate reaction in Capitol Hill:

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said he wanted to move pension reform legislation through his committee next year.

"The systemic pension underfunding problems that have produced this staggering deficit underscores the need for comprehensive reforms to strengthen the defined benefit system and protect worker benefits," Boehner said.

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, said the Bush administration and Republicans controlling Congress have made the pension problem worse by failing to address the issue over the past two years.

U.S. Pension Agency Posts $23.3B Deficit

November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Abercrombie & Fitch settlement

Settlement in the discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch Co.:

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"Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has agreed to pay $40 million to black, Hispanic and Asian employees and job applicants to settle a class-action federal discrimination lawsuit that accused the clothing retailer of promoting whites at the expense of minorities, lawyers said Tuesday.

The settlement, approved Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, requires the company to adhere to a consent decree that calls for the implementation of new policies and programs to promote diversity and prevent discrimination in its workforce. It also must pay about $10 million to monitor compliance and cover attorneys' fees."

Abercrombie settles suit that alleged racial bias

November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Masters Program in Dispute Resolution

The University of Oregon School of Law announces a new Masters Degree Program on Conflict and Dispute Resolution. For complete information see here.

November 18, 2004 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Diary of a FIRED Flight Attendant

An interesting dispute involving a ex-Delta flight attendant who was fired for posting in her blog (Queen of Sky) suggestive pictures of herself in uniform.

The Yin Blog discusses the story here.

November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Representative Hoyer on the ADA

Promise of the Americans With Disabilities Act Remains Unfulfilled, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer Says in Speech at New York Law School.

"The promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act remains unfulfilled and the time has come to consider aggressive legislative action in Congress to address the unmistakable weakening of the protections afforded under the ADA, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Maryland, said in a speech on October 21 at New York Law School.

In 1990, Congressman Hoyer shepherded the Americans with Disabilities Act to overwhelming approval in the House, and it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA—the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities—was an explicit statement that a disability need not result in exclusion, paternalism or dependence, Hoyer says.

“Under this new law, Americans with disabilities were guaranteed that employers could not discriminate against them simply because they have a disability,” Hoyer says. “However, our progress and the best efforts of so many in the business community must not obscure this fact: The promise of the ADA remains unfulfilled for far too many of America’s 54 million disabled citizens.”

For the complete story click here.

November 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Workplace and Privacy Rights

From an article in the Des Moines Register on privacy rights at work:

"Where does work end, and you, the individual, begin?

Americans are workaholics, notorious for our nose-to-the-grindstone ways, shackling ourselves to our workloads and choosing to forgo our hard-earned vacations.

We plan our free time around our work deadlines. It's that simple.

The little time we do choose to skip out from under the heavy hand of work responsibilities is ours to do with as we please, right?

Free to light up a cigarette, guzzle down a cold one and hang out at the latest concert swinging through town. Work can't stop you from doing that, can it?

Well, maybe. For some of us, you might have to check with your boss first.

In some extreme cases, a difference in opinion between you and the higher-ups could get you fired."

Personal rights remain gray area in workplace, (Dawn Sagario)

November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New book on the public sector

New book by Stephen Goldsmith & William Eggers titled "Governing by Network."  Here is the abstract:

A fundamental, but mostly hidden, transformation is happening in the way public services are being delivered, and in the way local and national governments fulfill their policy goals. Government executives are redefining their core responsibilities away from managing workers and providing services directly to orchestrating networks of public, private, and nonprofit organizations to deliver the services that government once did itself. Authors Stephen Goldsmith and William D. Eggers call this new model “governing by network” and maintain that the new approach is a dramatically different type of endeavor that simply managing divisions of employees.

Like any changes of such magnitude, it poses major challenges for those in charge. Faced by a web of relationships and partnerships that increasingly make up modern governance, public managers must grapple with skill-set issues (managing a contract to capture value); technology issues (incompatible information systems); communications issues (one partner in the network, for example, might possess more information than another); and cultural issues (how interplay among varied public, private, and nonprofit sector cultures can create unproductive dissonance).

Governing by Network examines for the first time how managers on both sides of the aisle, public and private, are coping with the changes. Drawing from dozens of case studies, as well as established best practices, the authors tell us what works and what doesn’t. Here is a clear roadmap for actually governing the networked state for elected officials, business executives, and the broader public.

November 17, 2004 in Book Club | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Let's put that GPS technology to good use

According to the UPI,

Gps "The union representing Chicago Park District workers is balking at a proposal to track some employees via global positioning satellites and cell phones.

Park District managers say many companies are using GPS technology to improve efficiency and the managers reject fears of "Big Brother" looking over the shoulder of hourly workers from cleaners to landscapers."

Chicago park employees balk at GPS

November 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No so "Friends"ly lawsuit

Friends08 A Writers' Assistant for the hit TV show "Friends" filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Warner Bros. Television Productions Inc. and the producers and writers of the show alleging that they created a hostile work environment.

According to Maura Dolan (Los Angeles Times):

"Amaani Lyle was thrilled. She had worked in television before, but never for a blockbuster such as "Friends." It was her big break.

She was hired to be a writers assistant, to take copious notes while the high-powered writing team brainstormed for the show. But Lyle said her excitement soon gave way to feelings of degradation when the writers' conversation grew raunchy. At times, she said, she felt nauseated."

The case raises an interesting legal question:

"Does an employee have the right not to be to subjected to offensive sexual conversations and profanities at work even when the work involves writing for a show that deals with sexual material?

The court's ruling may determine whether laws designed to protect workers from sexual, racial and other kinds of discrimination in the workplace should be limited when the offensive conduct occurs during a creative process."

'Friends' lawsuit will test clash of harassment law, free speech

November 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conference on Workplace Discrimination Law in North America

The George Washingotn Law School hosts conference on WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION AND THE LAW IN NORTH AMERICA, NOV. 18 AND 19.

The Conference is presented by The Commission for Labor Cooperation Secretariat, the North American Consortium on Legal Education, and The George Washington University Law School.

Speakers include: Manuela Tomei, International Labor Organization; Leslie E. Silverman, EEOC; Gilbert Rincon Gallardo, National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, Mexico City; and Aji Mehat, National Labor Operations Directorate, Canada.

From the Conference's announcement:

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Congress enacting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting workplace discrimination at a national level. Twenty years ago, Judge Rosalie Abella submitted to the Canadian Parliament the report of the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, forever altering the way workplace discrimination is conceived of in Canada. Last year, Mexico enacted its first comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The enactment of the new Federal Law for the Prevention and Elimination of Discrimination in Mexico has continued to establish a legal basis for implementing public and social policies and programs to prevent and combat discriminatory attitudes and behavior. These North American workplace discrimination laws will be the topic of discussion at this two-day conference.

For a complete schedule click here.

November 16, 2004 in Conferences & Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 15, 2004

SEIU New Blog

The SEIU (Service Employees International Union) has taken several immediate steps to address "the new challenges for working people" created by the reelection of President Bush. 

First, the SEIU has published "Unite to Win - A 21st Century Plan to Build New Strength .

The plan states that: "The reelection of President Bush creates new challenges for working people. We must be bold enough, strong enough, and courageous enough to give ourselves the best chance to win. To change workers' lives, union members must be involved in changing what is within our control, uniting our current strength, and then uniting millions more workers in each industry to grow stronger. That is essential to building a grassroots, democratic labor movement; taking on today's employers; and uniting a true pro-worker majority in this country."

The plan identifies 10 principles "to build 21st century unions with the strength to change workers' lives."

1. Build New Strength by Stopping the "Wal-Marting" of Jobs

2. Build New Strength by Leading a National Campaign for Quality Health Care for All

3. Build New Strength by Protecting Workers' Free Choice

4. Build New Strength in National Unions That Match 21st Century Employers

5. Build New Strength Where Unions Already Have Some Strength

6. Build New Strength Where Unions Have Little Strength Now

7. Build New Strength in Politics

8. Build New Strength at the Local Level

9. Build New Strength by Drawing on Our Diversity

10. Build New Strength by Uniting a Global Labor Movement

In addition the SEIU started publishing a blog as a tool for open debate about how best to build new strength and unity for working people and the labor movement.

November 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Unions evaluate election outcome

Two further items on last week's meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

In "Labor Gets to Work on Revamp  - AFL-CIO Considers Profound Changes After Election Losses" Jeanne Cummings & Kelly Rayburn (WSJ) note that:

After two bitter presidential-election losses and decades of declining membership, the labor movement may be on the threshold of its most fundamental restructuring since the 1950s.

Should smaller unions merge to create a better match for today's global corporations? Should organizing drives be more confrontational and creative? Should labor's political check-writers become more bipartisan? And who should lead the movement through this divisive terrain?

Those questions will be at the fore today as the AFL-CIO's Executive Council gathers in Washington for a bittersweet postelection gathering. Labor threw all its energy behind the Democrats and John Kerry's presidential candidacy, registering record numbers of voters, donating more than $46 million to party coffers and delivering 65% of its members' votes to the Kerry-Edwards ticket -- 68% in the battleground states. It was their strongest mobilization effort ever, but President Bush still bested them.

A story in NPR's This Morning Edition (Outsourcing, Globalization Eroding Unions) also discusses this issue.  For a link to the audio story click here.

For an earlier post on this issue, see here.

November 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conference on Union Organizing

On January 27 and 28, 2005, New York Law School’s Labor & Employment Law Program, Justice Action Center, and Institute for Information Law & Policy will present the Next Wave Organizing conference to examine how workers organize in the 21st Century and how new tools and techniques can be harnessed to improve organizing.

The Conference will convene students; union and other worker organizers; scholars in labor and employment law, industrial relations, economics, and political science; as well as technologists to discuss the future of worker organizing and organizing, generally. Panelists will address: What societal changes have led to next-wave organizing? Have next-wave organizers targeted new groups of workers, identified new goals for their organizing, and found new sources of leverage? How does technology help organizers, particularly organizers of low-wage workers, to increase their organizations’ leverage and how might they use technology even more effectively? Do next-wave organizations directly affect labor market outcomes, like wages, hours, and working conditions, in the way that traditional unions do? If not, should that be their goal and how can they accomplish that goal?

November 15, 2004 in Conferences & Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Sullivan on Disparate Impact

Charles Sullivan (Seton Hall) has posted "Re-reviving Disparate Impact" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Rejecting the Supreme Court's attempt in Wards Cove to cut back the disparate impact theory of liability under Title VII, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 codifying the doctrine. Although that Act was the culmination of a vibrant national debate, there has been surprisingly little implementation of the doctrine since its passage. During the same period, however, there has been increasing scholarly consensus both that discrimination remains an important national problem and that the legal tools to address it are wholly inadequate. While the 1991 resurrection of disparate impact might have seemed the answer, the attention of the commentators returned instead to disparate impact's sibling, disparate treatment liability.

On the disparate treatment front, there has been change but perhaps not progress. After thirty years of wrestling with the McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green grand experiment with proof structures for proving intentional discrimination, the Court's 2003 decision in Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa circled back to the obvious and simply asked whether there was "sufficient evidence" that a prohibited ground was "a motivating factor" for an employment practice. While Desert Palace may make proof structures obsolete, it is doubtful that its "sufficient evidence" approach will result in more verdicts for victims of discrimination. The same judges whose summary judgments and judgments as a matter of law have for years reflected profound skepticism about the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace will continue to keep the gates, and juries may also be reluctant to find violations because of common perceptions that discrimination is largely a thing of the past.

The time, then, is ripe for a reconsideration of the question of discrimination in an effort to define the proper role of the two theories of liability - disparate treatment and disparate impact. This reassessment is in large part responsive to the new wave of research by scholars such as Linda Krieger and Tristin Green. Speaking in terms of cognitive bias and workplace dynamics they argue that discrimination is both more pervasive and less conscious today than was true when Title VII was enacted in 1964. While these commentators have rejected a disparate impact solution in favor of modifying disparate treatment, the history of that paradigm hardly justifies optimism.

Consequently, this Article argues for expanded use of disparate impact as a tool to address both old- and new-fashioned discrimination and develops the justifications and mechanisms for so doing. While a more robust use of disparate impact forfeits the moral high ground that validates the core disparate treatment prohibition, it argues that those heights have already been eroded by scholarship such as Krieger's and Green's. Further, since disparate impact functions not as an absolute prohibition but rather as a means of balancing adverse effect against business justifications, it is a more attractive avenue to address present-day "subtle discrimination" than radically expanding the disparate treatment model.

November 15, 2004 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

BLS Report on Employee Benefits

Sixty-nine percent of workers in private industry had access to employer-sponsored medical care plans, and 53 percent participated in  medical care plans in March 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the  U.S. Department of Labor.  Fifty-nine percent of workers had access to retirement benefits, with 50 percent participating in at  least one type of retirement plan.  These findings are from the Summary,  "National Compensation Survey:  Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2004".

The following are some of the major findings:

Three-fifths of private establishments offered health insurance in March 2004, and about half of establishments offered retirement plans.

Paid leave was the most commonly provided employee benefit in the private sector:  Paid vacations and holidays were available to 77 percent of employees.  Paid jury duty leave was also common, available to 70 percent of workers.  Half of the workers had paid military leave benefits.

The large majority of employees covered by medical care plans were in plans requiring employee contributions for both single coverage and family coverage.  Employee contributions to medical care premiums averaged $264.59 per month for family coverage; for single coverage, employee contributions averaged $67.57 per month.

Twenty-one percent of employees were in defined benefit retirement plans, and 42 percent were covered by defined contribution plans.  (Some employees participated in both types.)  The overall coverage of retirement plans has held relatively steady for the last few years.

Fifty-one percent of workers had access to life insurance, and nearly as many, 48 percent, participated.  Short- and long-term disability benefits were available to 39 and 30 percent of workers, respectively, and nearly all participated.

November 14, 2004 in Government Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)