March 4, 2005
New York Law School hosts Wagner Moot Court Competition
New York Law School hosts the Robert F. Wagner National Labor & Employment Law Moot Court Competition
Each Spring, the New York Law School 's Moot Court Association administers the Robert F. Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition. For nearly thirty years, as many as forty schools from across the country compete in this prestigious event.
The Wagner Competition is the nation’s largest student-run moot court competition and the only national competition dedicated exclusively to the areas of labor and employment law. The Moot Court Association sponsors this competition in honor of the late United States Senator, Robert F. Wagner, our distinguished alumnus.
This year’s Wagner Competition will begin Wednesday, March 9, 2005, with a check-in at New York Law School from 6 to 9 P.M.for the Competitors. Preliminary Rounds will be held on Thursday, March 10, 2005, and Friday, March 11, 2005. The Final Round will be held at New York Law School, Sunday, March 13, 2005, at 2:00 P.M. All are welcome to attend.
NY disses Wal-Mart
Regarding NY City's decision to deny Wal-Mart's bid to open store, Ari Melber writes,
"The epicenter of American capitalism just rejected America’s biggest company. On February 24, New York City told Wal-Mart to go sell their crap somewhere else.
City officials rejected a bid to put the city’s first Wal-Mart in Queens, after major opposition from labor unions and the general public. Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the U.S. and the biggest retailer in the world, with 1.2 million employees and $256 billion in global sales. Yet as the megastore has tried to break into the lucrative coastal markets in California and New York, it has faced stiff opposition and widespread concerns about its labor practices."
Labor joke of the Week
From BigLabor.com this week joke:
Busy, Busy, Busy
A self-important manager shuffled papers and tried to look busy on his first morning on the job.
As his secretary was leading a man into the office, the manager picked up the phone and barked, “Sorry, but I’ve got a huge workload here and won’t be able to look into this for several weeks. Call me back then, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Returning the receiver to its cradle, and ignoring the stunned look on his secretary’s face, he said, “And just what can I do for you sir? I’m rather quite busy at the moment.”
For the punch line see here...
Also check BigLabor.com's Cartoon of the Week
March 3, 2005
According to NewsDay.com, "Connecticut lawmakers are pressing Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for more details about Wal-Mart's alleged violations of child labor laws, including those at 21 Connecticut stores. In a letter to Chao Thursday, Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman also questioned the federal government's recent settlement with the retail chain, which requires the agency give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before any investigation of any store." (Details Sought on Wal-Mart Child Labor Settlement - by Lolita C. Baldor))
For an earlier post on the settlement see here.
Labor in Vegas
Some reports about what's happening this week at the AFL-CIO Executive Committee Meeting.
The NYT and the Chicago Tribune report on the failed attempt by some labor leaders to shift more resources into organizing:
Labor Leaders Reject Rival Plan to Shift More Money to Organizing (by Steven Greenhouse):
In a vote likely to create deeper tensions inside the labor movement, the leaders of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. rejected a proposal on Wednesday to cut in half individual unions' contributions to the federation to free up more money for organizing.
The 15-to-7 vote against the proposal put forward by five large unions came during the federation's winter meeting here, which was taking place under a threat by the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s largest union, the Service Employees International Union, to leave the organization.
Dissidents lose key vote on AFL-CIO reforms (by Stephen Franklyn):
In the opening round of a growing power struggle among labor leaders, a group of dissident unions on Wednesday lost a key vote here, setting the stage for a showdown at the AFL-CIO's July convention in Chicago.
But the dissidents predict that their ranks will grow before the three-day July convention of the 13 million-member umbrella organization for the nation's 58 unions.
"We will try to convince people as we go to Chicago," said Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa, speaking for the five unions that had failed to gain support for a sweeping reform of the 50-year-old labor organization.
Their setback came within the AFL-CIO's Executive Committee, where they lost 15-7. The AFL-CIO's much larger Executive Council was expected to vote later Wednesday on the same issue, and a similar result was anticipated.
Similar reports appear in the Washington Post (AFL-CIO's Sweeney Defeats Challenge From Dissidents) and the LA Times (Unions Reject Bid for Change at AFL-CIOUnions Reject Bid for Change at AFL-CIO)
Andy Stern responds these developments in the new SEIU blog. Here is part of what he has to say:
The discussion of the leaders at the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Las Vegas has begun, and my first impressions are formed.
In SEIU we have had some success (a lot compared to other unions) and still our leaders are seeking even greater changes to improve our chances to build something stronger for our members. Our leaders are striving to do all that they can do to value and reward the work of all Americans. This is the perspective I brought to Las Vegas, optimistic that other labor leaders would also want hopeful change.
Sadly, many other unions believe we should just do more of the same and somehow we will get a different result. Yesterday some said labor's decline is the fault of politicians or society or the system or...well, just about anything else except themselves.
At SEIU we are confident we can win. We believe others can too, but many leaders have little confidence that making major change will improve the lives of working Americans, so they want to do what is safe, familiar and failing. It is clear, some have just given up. (Hope vs. Despair)
March 2, 2005
NBER Report on Outsourcing and Technological Change
by Ann Bartel, Saul Lach, Nachum Sicherman - #11158 (LS PR)
"In this paper we argue that an important source of the recent increase in outsourcing is the computer and information technology revolution, characterized by increased rates of technological change. Our model shows that an increase in the pace of technological change increases outsourcing because it allows firms to use services based on leading edge technologies without incurring the sunk costs of adopting these new technologies. In addition, firms using more IT-intensive technologies face lower outsourcing costs of IT-based services generating a positive correlation between the IT level of the user and its outsourcing share of IT-based services. This implication is verified in the data."
Health Insurance Costs and Labor Markets
Katherine Baicker & Amitabh Chandra have posted "The Labor Market Effects of Rising Health Insurance Premiums" as part of the NBER Working Paper Series. Here is the abstract:
Since 2000, premiums for employer-provided health insurance have increased by 59 percent with little corresponding increase in the generosity of coverage. The effect of this increase in costs on wages and employment will depend on workers' valuation of the benefit, the elasticities of labor supply and demand, and institutional constraints on employers' ability to lower wages. Measuring these effects is difficult, however, without a source of exogenous variation in the cost of benefits. We use variation in medical malpractice payments driven by the recent "medical malpractice crisis" to identify the causal effect of rising health insurance premiums on wages, employment, and health insurance coverage. We estimate that a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums reduces the aggregate probability of being employed by 1.6 percent and hours worked by 1 percent, and increases the likelihood that a worker is employed only part-time by 1.9 percent. For workers covered by employer provided health insurance, this increase in premiums results in an offsetting decrease in wages of 2.3 percent. Thus, rising health insurance premiums may both increase the ranks of the unemployed and place an increasing burden on workers through decreased wages for workers with employer health insurance and decreased hours for workers moved from full time jobs with benefits to part time jobs without.
March 1, 2005
Coming up in March
Programs coming up this month:
Business, Labor and Law in the Global Economy - A Symposium at the University of Richmond School of Law, co-sponsored with the Robins School of Business, and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies March 17-18, 2005.
Here is the overview:
The world has changed. We communicate instantly with employees, customers, clients and colleagues, yet rarely pause to consider the legal, financial and human relations issues that are presented by the dramatic economic and technological changes that have occurred. Internationalization of business, trade policies, job losses and environmental concerns affect employers, employees, unions, government and the economy, presenting vital issues for the future of our country. Will the America of the future be a vibrant technological and service economy, a landscape of shuttered factories and unemployed workers, or something in between? Will we continue to be the world's economic superpower or will our star fade as other economies develop and strengthen in the international arena?
This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of speakers to explore these questions. Law, business, economics, labor studies, leadership and international studies all have a role to play in the crucial policy decisions that our country must address in the global economy of the 21st century. The symposium approaches the issues resulting from globalization from multiple perspectives: the academic and the practical; the employer, the employee and union; and the public and private sectors.
Among the questions to be considered are: What is happening in China, India, and Canada? How are American business and labor dealing with the global economy? How can American business continue to compete effectively? What new legal issues confront business and labor in the international arena? How is the global economy affecting Virginia? What mechanisms exist to protect employees from the devastation of job loss and the ever increasing pressure on business to lower labor costs?
The public and private decisions made on the economic and policy issues resulting from globalization will affect us all. Join the dialogue at the University of Richmond as experts debate the important questions for the future.
For a complete schedule see here.
Case Western Reserve University School of Law presents The Rush McKnight Labor Law Lecture, next March 23, 2005.
Chai Rachel Feldblum is a Professor of Law and Director of the Federal Legislation Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, will present "Workplace Flexibility: The Next Frontier in Employment Law."
For more information see here.
RLA Recent Decision
February 28, 2005
Recent Productivity Increases Due in Part to Decline in IT Prices
On February 3, 2005, the Congressional Research Service updated "Productivity: Will the Faster Growth Rate Continue?"
The Report attributes the recent pickup in productivity in part to the rapid rate of decline in the prices of computers and other IT equipment. An important factor in those price declines has been innovation in the manufacture of microprocessors. As computer prices have fallen, their use has become much more widespread. Because of falling prices it has become profitable to put computers to uses with smaller and smaller returns. There is also the prospect that it may take firms a considerable amount of time to adapt the way they do business to take advantage of their investments in IT equipment. As was the case with other historic technological advances, the productivity gains attributable to investments in IT equipment may ripple through the economy for some time.
Document No: RL32456
Thanks to Law Librarian Blog for the tip.
Three articles about Wal-Mart's employment practices.
In At a Small Shop in Colorado, Wal-Mart Beats a Union Once More, Steven Greenhouse (NYT) describes a recnet unsuccesful organizing drive at the tire-and-lube shop at a Wal-Mart store in Loveland, Colorado. Among other very interesting issues, the article describes how some employees who initially signed authorization cards, voted against the union following Wal-Mart's campaign against the union.
Alicia Sylvia, a single mother of 10-year-old twins, was a big union booster at the outset.
"Compared to other stores, we don't even make what cashiers make," said Ms. Sylvia, who earns just under $9 an hour writing up service orders as cars arrive at the garage and says she cannot afford Wal-Mart's health insurance. In Colorado, full-time unionized supermarket cashiers generally earn $15.66 an hour after two years.
"We should make more, since we work on vehicles and can get burned, and we have to stand out in the cold and heat," she said. "If you're working 10-hour days in the rain and getting your pants wet and freezing all day, it's not fun."
She acknowledged that the antiunion videos had helped turn her against unionizing.
"I really wish Wal-Mart would become better," she said. "But even if we get a union, it will be a long battle. Wal-Mart doesn't have to agree to anything. The message we got was, 'You're a small bunch of guys, and you can stand out there and strike, and we're going to replace you.' They'll never agree to a contract, out of pure stubbornness. I'm so confused."
In the Wal-Mart Manifesto, Timothy Noah (Slate .com) debunks Wal-Mart's CEO (H. Lee Scott Jr.) recent speech in which Lee argues that Wal-Mart is good to its employees.
"What's fairly new in Scott's speech (a related ad campaign was launched last month) is Wal-Mart's rising on its hind legs to tell the world that it is good to its employees. I'd thought it was a settled matter that Wal-Mart had achieved its miraculously low prices by squeezing its employees. Not so, said Scott:
Wal-Mart's average wage is around $10 an hour, nearly double the federal minimum wage. The truth is that our wages are competitive with comparable retailers in each of the more than 3,500 communities we serve, with one exception—a handful of urban markets with unionized grocery workers. … Few people realize that about 74 percent of Wal-Mart hourly store associates work full-time, compared to 20 to 40 percent at comparable retailers. This means Wal-Mart spends more broadly on health benefits than do most big retailers, whose part-timers are not offered health insurance. You may not be aware that we are one of the few retail firms that offer health benefits to part-timers. Premiums begin at less than $40 a month for an individual and less than $155 per month for a family.
The apparent purpose of the speech was to counter political resistance to the building of Wal-Mart "supercenters" in California. But if Scott saw much danger that Wall Street might believe his rosy picture of labor relations, he wouldn't paint it, because that would create an investor stampede away from Wal-Mart stock. What we have, then, is a unique rhetorical form: Nonsense recited by someone who is relying on most of his listeners to understand that he is spouting nonsense. Wal-Mart took the trouble to send this speech out to writers "who are in a position to influence a lot of others," according to a cover e-mail I received from Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for corporate communications. I took Williams' email as a plea to expose the dishonesty in Scott's remarks (Stop us before we kill again!) disguised as a plea to give Scott's remarks a fair hearing. I will try to oblige."
Finally, Robert B. Reich (ex-Secretary of Labor) argues that we should stop blaming Wal-Mart and instead look at ourselves for Wal-Mart's employment practices ("Don't Blame Wal-Mart"). According to Reich,
"But isn't Wal-Mart really being punished for our sins? After all, it's not as if Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, and his successors created the world's largest retailer by putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to shop there.
Instead, Wal-Mart has lured customers with low prices. "We expect our suppliers to drive the costs out of the supply chain," a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said. "It's good for us and good for them."
Wal-Mart may have perfected this technique, but you can find it almost everywhere these days. Corporations are in fierce competition to get and keep customers, so they pass the bulk of their cost cuts through to consumers as lower prices. Products are manufactured in China at a fraction of the cost of making them here, and American consumers get great deals. Back-office work, along with computer programming and data crunching, is "offshored" to India, so our dollars go even further.
Meanwhile, many of us pressure companies to give us even better bargains. I look on the Internet to find the lowest price I can and buy airline tickets, books, merchandise from just about anywhere with a click of a mouse. Don't you?
The fact is, today's economy offers us a Faustian bargain: it can give consumers deals largely because it hammers workers and communities."
Weekend Newspapers Round-up
A number of interesting articles and editorials on labor and employment related issues. Here are some excerpts:
Six Figures? Not Enough! (by Alex Williams, NYT):
There was a time not long ago when earning six figures was a significant milestone among upwardly mobile professionals. If you were young and single in one of the nation's big cities, you could live in a building with a doorman, drive a European car, eat at fine restaurants and vacation in Jackson Hole. For married people it meant a suburban home and college savings accounts for the children.
Beyond the lifestyle, $100,000 was a psychic achievement; it meant joining the meritocratic elite. The prospect of "six figures" kept white-collar workers toiling for 20 years, confident that hard work would be rewarded and that the American social contract was securely in place.
Certainly $100,000, which is more than twice the national median household income of $43,527, is still a princely wage in most of the country, placing you in the top 5.2 percent of American wage earners with full-time jobs, according to the 2000 census. Even in New York City, only 7.5 percent of full-time workers make that much. But $100,000 isn't what it used to be. It has been devalued, in the practical sense by inflation and psychologically because it is now a relatively common salary for newcomers in fields like law and banking. For today's executive strivers in the more affluent cities, there is a new grail: $200,000
St. Louis Orchestra Reaches Pact After 2-Month Dispute (by Daniel J. Wakin, NYT):
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians and management appear to have ended a labor dispute that cost two months of the season.
The two sides reached agreement on a contract on Thursday night, and it is likely to be ratified on Tuesday. If the musicians accept the pact, rehearsals will begin on Thursday for concerts next weekend.
Maternal Wall: Moms Find Roadblocks to Jobs, Advancements (by Amanda Cuda, The Connecticut Post)
"Just as the glass ceiling once kept women out of desirable jobs based on gender, there are invisible obstacles keeping mothers from these same positions, or causing them to lose the positions they already hold. This phenomenon has been dubbed the maternal wall by many, including Joan Williams, law professor and director of Program on WorkLife Law at American University, in Washington, D.C.
AT LUNCH WITH: Warren Farrell - Are Women Responsible for Their Own Low Pay? (by Claudia H. Deutsch, NYT)
"Do you think that Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard's president, stirred up a hornets' nest by suggesting that women's brains are not genetically wired for math or science? Wait until you hear Warren Farrell on the subject of women's pay.
Sure, Dr. Farrell accepts that women, as a group, are paid less than men. But the way he sees it, using pay statistics to prove sex discrimination is akin to using the horizon to prove that the world is flat.
Women, he believes, methodically engineer their own paltry pay. They choose psychically fulfilling jobs, like librarian or art historian, that attract enough applicants for the law of supply and demand to kick in and depress pay. They avoid well-paid but presumably risky work - hence, the paucity of women flying planes. And they tend to put in fewer hours than men - no small point, he says, because people who work 44 hours a week make almost twice as much as those who work 34 and are more likely to be promoted."
The program is a research and advocacy center that seeks to eliminate employment discrimination against caregivers, such as parents. It recently released a report, co-authored by Williams, about ending discrimination against caregivers in the workplace. Much of the report discusses the bias faced by mothers in the workplace. Williams said the point of the report was to determine how rampant this kind of prejudice is. She said that WorkLife Law has documented 170 cases where people have taken successful legal action against companies for caregiver discrimination."