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Timesizing News, September 1-3, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


9/03/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/02 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #26 & 27 which are from 9/03 hardcopy, & Australian & Far East stories which are 9/03), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The right to work (less), editorial opinion by Pres. Michel Kelly-Gagnon of Montreal Economic Institute, WSJ, A10.
    [Shouldn't this read, "The need to work less, so more people can more easily get a piece of the shrinking market-driven employment? Why is that an imperative? Because consumer markets are weak all over the world, and if more people are better employed, and even just employed, there will be more money centrifuged into the hands of people who immediately spend it, and less accumulating in the top brackets scanning with ever more difficulty for sustainable investments In fact, as the middle and lower income brackets require longer and longer to find jobs comparable to the ones they've been laid off from, the upper brackets require longer and longer to find sustainable investments, because so much of the national income has gravitated to them that they're actually suctioning the markets away from their own investments and cannibalizing their own consumer based. But all this is lost on Montreal Michel, whose head is still stuck in the pre-technological age of hard work and long hours. So he starts his opinion piece by flattering his readers, and his profession -]
    Readers of the Wall Street Journal know that there are economic laws that cannot be bypassed or abolished,
    [actually there are quite a few readers who either don't know this, or don't know what few principles this can be said of, or both. Michel himself is about to violate the law of "share the available work however much or little there is, or pay higher taxes for transfer payments to the excluded" (worst case: in the swollen prison population).]
    even when trying to achieve some well-meaning social goals.
    The laws of economics are as real as the law of gravity,
    [oh really - then how come people like Michel claim that wages vary with productivity instead of with supply of and demand for labor - that is, with labor shortage or surplus? - how come people like Michel don't apply their own law of the marginal utility of concentrated money to personal income and wealth, but instead set up the conflicting theory that the more money we concentrate in the top brackets, the more jobs we will have, regardless of effects on consumer demand?]
    even though those who would prefer to ignore them accuse us of being "ideological" for saying so.
    [What else can you call people who ignore their own science's laws because their paychecks are coming from wealthy alumni and donors? Oh yeah, biassed. Here comes the self-advertisement -]
    As president of a thinktank devoted to economic education [or indoctrination, apparently], I realized that even defenders of [oops, name-calling alert] do-goody utopian schemes know more about these laws than I previously imagined, if only intuitively.
    [Sarcasm? Tsk tsk. The only difference between easily recognizable utopians and the utopians of the top income brackets and their "scientific" apologists, is that the latter are doin' jess fine in the world as it is, so they assume we've already got utopia. Those suggesting changes don't.]
    There is an ongoing debate in France about the legislation - passed under a previous Socialist [oh nooo!] government - that forcibly [heil Jospin!] reduces the official workweek to 35 hours.
    [Just as there was an ongoing debate in USA about the legislation - passed under a previous Democrat government that some called socialist - that forcibly set the official workweek at 44 hours in 1938 and then forcibly reduced it to 42 hours in 1939 and to 40 hours in 1940. And similar forcible legislation in Canada. Is Michel suggesting we roll back the workweek to 44 hours? or remove all limits on the workweek altogether, allowing work all the way up to 7x24= 168 hours a week? And hey, why not reintroduce slavery at the same time, Michel? Never mind the fact that the Bible recommends a workweek reduction (from 7 to 6 days a week in Exodus 20), the fact that the Republicans championed workweek reduction in the first 75 years of their history right up to Hoover cutting the PO workweek to 40 hours in 1932, and the centre-right in France legislated subsidies for companies willing to cut their workweeks in 1996 (Robien Law).]
    The legislation is still in force but was somewhat loosened by the government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
    As I arrived in Paris a while ago, I saw demonstrators chanting slogans in relation to this issue.... Intrigued, I approached a woman who seemed to be one of their leaders. She explained that they were protesting to make sure the 35-hour law was maintained, because it was imperative to share work in order to reduce the number of unemployed in France.
    [Sounds reasonable, to anyone who doesn't believe that the 40-hour workweek was brought down from Mt. Sinai by Moses (and set in concrete) instead of the 6x12= 72-hour workweek. Funny how French employers want "more flexibility" in the 35-hour workweek, except they want a rigid 40-hour workweek - downwardly rigid anyway - it can flex upward as much as you, oops, they, like.]
    Trying to sound as unsarcastic as I could [something Michel obviously has trouble with], I asked, "Then, why not demand a 25-hour workweek? That would reduce unemployment even more."
    [A perfectly reasonable question - parallel to our asking Michel why not a 44-hour workweek, or even an all-168-hour one. And indeed, it would reduce unemployment even more. The answer to his question, why not make this demand, is that studies have indicated schedule change is the hardest type of change for people, so is better done gradually, so what the French should really be fighting for is Walter Reuther's concept of a gradual, automatically adjusting workweek - against unemployment. In fact, in the economy of the future which automatically maximizes its consumer demand, un- and under-employment automatically determine the direction of workweek adjustment, and regular electronic referendums determine the rate of adjustment; for example, the rate of one hour per year visualized in France between 1982-86, though for political reasons only the first hour's reduction was accomplished until 2000-2001.]
    The woman seemed genuinely puzzled for a few seconds. She then answered, "Well, we have to be realistic!"
    [A reasonable answer. Many people have an easier time visualizing a specific, albeit arbitrary, lower workweek, than an unemployment-determined, fluctuating workweek, though that is clearly what we'll eventually wind up with as worksaving technology continues to pour into the economy and the need for a substitute for downsizing is sharpened by deepening weakness in consumer markets.]
    There you have it, reality intrudes again!
    [- as the reality of weak consumer markets intrudes more and more on Michel's comfy pre-technological rationalizations of "work hard to get ahead."]
    But why should we expect a small bit of unreality to bring better results than a whole lot of it?
    [If by "unreality" he means change, we've already partly answered this question and Michel himself doubtless already knows and applies the answer in many other contexts - schedule change is rough on people, many grasp a specific figure more easily than a varying one, and generally, a small change is easier to achieve than a large one - we lock in our profits therefrom and go for another small change.]
    Are people more justified in thinking they can fly when jumping from a high ladder than when jumping from a plane?
    [This assumes that unemployment reduction via workweek reduction is as unrealistic as flying without a hang glider, a parachute or a plane - and it isn't, since we actually cut the workweek in half between 1776 and 1940 and experienced repeated jumps in wages and quality of life and consumer demand, and in the two episodes where we did it deliberately and nationwide (USA 1938-40 and France 1997-2001), we experienced a corelated unemployment reduction of roughly one% for each and every hour cut from the workweek (USA 44 to 40 hrs & 19% unemployment to 14.6%, France 39 to 35 & 12.6 to 8.6%). That's not flying without a glider, that's a corelation that demands further trials - unless you're too "ideological" to even think about it.]
    The same logic applies to all attempts at legislating desired ends that contradict the laws of human action.
    [But worksharing to maximize one's consumer base is no such attempt. It simply relies on a couple of well-known laws of human action that Michel and other affluence-brown-nosing economists would like to ignore - "share the work and lighten the load" and "money's like manure - it's no good unless it's spread around." And as we mentioned, those same homey laws are enshrined in economic law which economists would like never to apply to personal income and wealth, namely, the marginal utility of (concentrated) capital.]
    If people tried to understand economic laws and respect them the same way they respect the laws of physics, we would certainly live in much saner - and more prosperous - societies.
    [We certainly would, but that would require carefully blindered economists like Michel to apply marginalism to income and wealth - and employment and skills, and the peculiar blindspots carefully crafted into "economic education" by its financiers is going to be resisting that every step of the way - just as the Ptolemaic astronomers did everything in their power to support the idea that the planets revolved around the Earth and not the Sun. "Technology creates more jobs than it destroys!" Ri-i-ight - then why do we have layoffs? "Oh you silly lump-of-labor fallacy victims, don't you know that market-demanded employment is infinite?" Ri-i-ght - then why are we gaining so much hidden unemployment in terms of 2m welfare families, 5.7m disabled, 2-3m homeless, 2.2m incarcerated, and untold marginalized by forced retirement, forced unretirement, forced self-'employment', forced part-time...? These are all potential consumers, you remember, customers, markets - hel-lo-o, anybody home?]

  2. French finance minister switches to politics, news roundup via WSJ, A6.
    PARIS - ...Nicolas Sarkozy look[s] set to quit the ministry in November after receiving support from Pres. Jacques Chirac for his candidature to head Mr. Chirac's center-right UMP Party, a move that would pave the way for an expected 2007 bid for the French presidency. As [he prepares] to depart after only 5 months in the key finance post, it [is] unclear whether his flurry of moves to stimulate consumer spending, trim the national debt and protect and promote French companies will have a lasting impact on the economy....
    He has...kick-started sluggish consumer spending, his supporters say,
    [how?]
    and raised the specter of changing [ie: lengthening] the 35-hour workweek - an idea that France's powerful trade unions strongly oppose....
    [How does he propose to stimulate consumer spending by lengthening the workweek, which will just reconcentrate more of the nation's limited market-driven employment on fewer people, marginalize more employees, push current 9% unemployment levels back up to where they were before the French voted for the 35-hour workweek in 1997 (12% levels), and leave fewer people with the kind of spending money that could increase consumer spending? Dumb dumb dumb.]

  3. German unemployment increases most in five months (update5), by Andreas Cremer (acremer@bloomberg.net), Bloomberg.
    BERLIN - Unemployment in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rose the most in five months in August as stagnant consumer spending and the threat of slowing growth discouraged executives from hiring. The number of jobseekers in Germany rose a seasonally adjusted 24,000, to 4.41 million, the highest since May 2003, the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency said. The jobless rate was unchanged at 10.6%. German business confidence declined for a third month in four in August and consumer confidence for September fell to the lowest in more than a year. Companies including Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, are asking employees to forgo pay increases or work longer in order to secure their jobs. "My goal is to avoid having to cut jobs," said Joachim Rohwedder, chief executive officer of Rohwedder AG, a maker of industrial robots that employs 750 people, in a telephone interview from his office in Bermatingen in southwestern Germany. He said the company had agreed with labor unions to increase weekly working hours to 40 for 280 employees.
    Protests
    Seven consecutive monthly rises in unemployment are eroding support for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government as it prepares to implement the first reductions in jobless benefits since World War II. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets on each of the past five Mondays to oppose the cuts. Rising unemployment in Germany has discouraged consumers from spending and crimped the pace of growth across the 12 nations sharing the euro. The European Central Bank today kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a six-decade low of 2% to assist a recovery.
    In France, Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy today said workers in the euro region's second-largest economy should be allowed to work more overtime and that the cost to their employers should be reduced. French law mandates a 35-hour working week.
    The six leading German economic institutes have said the country's jobless rate won't fall below 10% this year or next. In the U.S., the unemployment rate was 5.5% in July, while Japan's rate was 4.9%. The number of people employed in Germany fell 1,000 in June from May, the smallest drop in three months. Economists had expected employment to fall by 10,000, according to the median of 10 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey. Employment figures lag those for joblessness by two months. "We are seeing early indicators that employment is increasing - a lower-than-expected fall in employment, a decline in short-hours working and increased part-time work," Labor Agency board member Heinrich Alt said in an interview. "If the development continues in the next two months, then we can speak of a turnaround."
    'Insufficient growth'
    Economists had expected unemployment to increase by 10,000, the median of 35 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey showed. Germany's benchmark DAX index was up 5.59, or 0.2% to 3823.21 as of 12:32 p.m. in Frankfurt. The euro traded at $1.2165 from $1.2189 late yesterday in New York. "Germany's insufficient economic growth is the main cause for the steady rise in joblessness," said Thomas Mayer, chief European economist at Deutsche Bank AG in London. "The economy has a long way to go before this development is reversed. Both domestic demand and the government's unsatisfactory record on structural reforms are weighing on the labor market."
    Budget deficit
    Increased spending on the unemployed forced Finance Minister Hans Eichel on Tuesday to boost his forecast for the budget deficit this year to 3.7% of gross domestic product, pushing the shortfall further beyond European Union limits for a third straight year. German growth in the first half was driven by exports. The 33% increase in oil prices this year has clouded the outlook for global expansion. The U.S. economy expanded 2.8% on an annualized basis in the second quarter, down from 4.5% in the previous three months. Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, said on Aug. 16 that growth may have peaked in the second quarter, held back by consumer spending, which accounts for more than half the economy. Growth slowed to 0.5% in the second quarter from 0.6% in the first as the domestic economy contracted. Still, Germany's recovery may gain pace in coming months as the euro stays at a "normal" level of about $1.20, compared with a Feb.18 high of $1.2926, and oil prices decline from a record $49.40 a barrel on Aug. 20, Deputy Finance Minister Karl Diller said in an interview. German companies are also discouraged from hiring by the cost of labor. Western German industry had the world's third-highest costs last year, exceeded only by Norway and Denmark, the Cologne- based IW economic institute said last week. Deutsche Lufthansa AG's cargo unit, the world's largest freight airline by cargo carried, said Wednesday it plans to reduce its workforce by 10% through 2006 to increase profit amid rising fuel prices. Volkswagen wants German workers to agree to a two-year wage freeze to help preserve 176,544 jobs.
    To contact the reporter on this story: To contact the editor of this story: Catherine Hickley at chickley@bloomberg.net

  4. Now hiring: Koffee Too, but not grad school, by Jessamyn Blau, Yale Daily News.
    After almost four years, I didn't think pResident George Bush would ever do something I approved of. As it happens, however, someone - and I certainly don't suggest that this was the work of Bush himself - in said administration happens to have made my day. Whoever this stooge was, he or she appointed Ronald Meisburg to the National Labor Relations Board, finally allowing for the reversal of the ridiculous NYU decision of 2000 that briefly qualified graduate students as employees.
    It takes some doing for a hardened liberal like me to actually agree with a policy sponsored by this IQ-less administration. The truth is that though I invoke partisan politics here (I couldn't possibly miss the chance to take a stab at Bush), this is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of definition, and apparently someone in the Bush administration has stumbled upon a dictionary. I suggest to members of the Graduate Employees & Students Organization [GESO] here at Yale that they set aside Proust and check out Webster's from the library: there they will find, shockingly, that students and employees are not one and the same.
    As the child of professors - one who will hiss and tear this column to pieces, another who will frame it and give me a gold star - I have never once seen a graduate student behaving like an employee, unless he or she were hired to babysit me (yes, it's true, such was my life - fortunately none of these babysitters was a member of GESO). These are people who worked hard, true, but as I saw it the work they did was for their benefit, and it involved, primarily, heaps of books and a mass of paper called a dissertation. My parents were English professors, so par for the course was for their graduate students to show up at the Modern Language Association convention with dissertation and diploma in hand and hopefully receive, in turn, an assistant professorship at University of X. At no time did said graduate students stop on the way to the MLA convention to dress like goons and annoy fellow students (that's right, GESO, we undergraduates are in fact your "fellow students") by shouting profanities about the college president.
    What about the services graduate students do provide? When graduate students grade papers or teach section, it is a practicum in the jobs a majority of them wish to hold upon graduation. It is helpful to Yale, and in that sense it is a service to the community, but I am fairly sure that if a graduate student would rather not be performing such services, he or she is welcome to set Schopenhauer and their degree aside to work, say, as a barista at Koffee, Too? - which, by the way, is just a short walk from the graduate students' lair, the Hall of Graduate Studies. Good luck putting that on your resume while your fellow Kantian expert posts an impressive list of student recommendations. What goes around comes around; what services graduate students provide Yale pay dividends in the future. I might even venture to say that graduate students should consider themselves lucky for getting stipends at all. It is my understanding that students in other areas of post-graduate education are not nearly as lucky. I might venture to say that if I wouldn't mind my head to be torn off as I strolled down Cross Campus because apparently graduate students these days consider these stipends a right, not a privilege. In fact, it is a privilege - not a right - to get a teaching assistant position at all, as fellow graduate students at public universities might tell us up here in the Ivory Tower.
    Let's take a step away, briefly, from the euphoric world of academia and turn to the world of medicine. Current debate concerns the famous 80 hour work week - should residents and interns have a work week limited to less than 80 hours? Well, let's see - at NYU, graduate students think that they should be paid extra for working more than 20 hours per week! Oh, excuse me, I didn't realize that grading papers was four times more taxing than saving people from death. And by the way: interns and residents are doctors. A generic graduate student is a TA with a BA - maybe an MA - but guess what? Not yet a doctor. Not a professional. Not an employee.
    Before I conclude, I can't help but turn my focus to GESO specifically because, after all, we are at Yale, where labor can never fail to ruin its own cause by doing something dreadfully silly. Now that the NYU ruling is reversed, GESO is doubly not a union and we should all recall that even when an NLRB vote was possible, GESO leaders were always too cowardly to allow such a vote! And when GESO did sponsor its own totally rigged vote in April 2003, GESO still lost. That's right. Not only are graduate students not employees, but time has told that the majority of graduate students at Yale - whether or not they approve of unionization - don't appreciate GESO's sophomoric politics. I mentioned earlier that graduate students aren't professionals. The activities of GESO suggest to me that many of its members are not only not professionals, they're not even adults. According to the dictionary, graduate student "unions" don't represent employees. In GESO's case, said "union" doesn't even represent students.
    Jessamyn Blau is a senior in Morse College. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.

  5. Majority of US adults say they've worked harder over the past 6 mos. than before, National-NBC via WIS, SC.
    A slow job market may be forcing Americans to work harder. Two-thirds of adults surveyed claim they've been working more over the past six months. About 10% say they're working at least ten extra hours a week. Many blame inadequate staffing and fewer people to do the same jobs. Experts claim employers will have to add jobs eventually, but a third of those surveyed don't expect any relief this year. Harris Interactive conducted the research, which found 1.5 million jobs have been added since last year, but 2.6 million have been lost since the recession of 2001.
    [Still no really comparable figures.]
    Employees also said they're working harder, but more than half say they're not being rewarded.
    posted 11:13am by Chris Rees

  6. We want cooked dinners, say kids. So here's how to rustle 'em up fast, by Rhodri Owen, The Western Mail via ic Wales, UK.
    Today's parents are spending too much time at work to be able to cook their children their favourite nutritious meal, a snapshot of modern life in the typical working Welsh family has found. A report published today by the TUC [Trade Unions Congress] and charity Working Families shows that family life is being damaged by the long hours parents are having to work. Meanwhile, a survey by the Stroke Association of the eating habits of four to 16-year-olds has revealed that roast dinners, apples and spuds are their favourite foods. But despite the healthy nature of the children's choice, some 68% of them are only getting to eat their favourite meal once or twice a week.
    However, it doesn't need to be this way, according to The Western Mail chef Gareth John, who has come up with some handy tips for time-challenged parents eager to feed their children well. "As a working father of three, I can sympathise enormously with what these surveys are saying," said Gareth. "But there is a way round this problem if you are prepared to do some crafty shopping and plan ahead." Gareth, chef at the Wynnstay Hotel in Machynlleth has tips for parents who want to cook up a roast for their children, including shopping around and making sure you get the most out of your oven. "These days you can buy ready-stuffed roasts which take around 45 minutes to cook," he said. "They're as good as the real thing. Also, pre-prepared vegetables may be a little more expensive but they will save you valuable time and are healthy for your children. It's all about planning ahead. If you're using the oven, why don't you put something else in alongside the roast? My wife sometimes asks me why I can cook a family roast and still find time to bake bread rolls when she can't even time to make the rolls." The TUC's report, titled, More time for families: tackling the long hours crisis in UK workplaces warns that six years after the Working Time Directive was introduced to limit the working week, there are still more employees working over long hours than there were in 1992. In the UK employees can only work over 48 hours if they sign an opt-out, but many long hours workers are never asked or are forced to do so. It is the families of long hours employees who suffer the most, says the report, with overworked parents simply not having the time to see much of their children during the week or spend much time on family activities at weekends. To illustrate the problems faced by mums and dads struggling to put in the hours at work and be there for their children, the TUC analysed the responses of a number of parents responding to a survey on the Working Families website. Of the 89 responding parents, 44% of those who working full-time said they regularly had to work more than 48 hours a week, and 90% of all the parents felt that these kind of excessive hours were harmful to families. In an attempt to work more child-friendly hours, 79% had asked their employers if they could work flexibly, yet only 40% of these parents were aware that they had a legal right to ask to change their hours. Some 43% of the requests to work flexibly were successful, 25% were altered in some way before being agreed, and 32% were rejected by employers. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, commented, "Excessive hours are bad news for everyone and especially damaging for workers with families. "While ministers remain wedded to the idea of maintaining the UK's individual opt-out, the children of long hours parents will go on suffering." Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families said, "We know that parents are struggling to find a balance between work and family life even on a 35 hour week. "Employees need the right to say no to long hours working, and employers need to recognise how much better it is for business to work smarter, not longer." Meanwhile, as part of their forthcoming Stroke Awareness Week, The Stroke Association survey asked children aged four to 16-years-old what foods they polished off their plates, how often, and what they pushed to one side. "It's encouraging to see that children have a good awareness of healthy eating," said spokesperson Sam Harding. "What's important now is to help them understand why maintaining a healthy diet is a vital part of their future well-being."

  7. Nucor to host town hall meeting in Blytheville to discuss lagging steel industry, KAIT, AR.
    [Nucor is one of our spontaneous private-sector timesizers.]
    BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. - Officials with the Nucor Steel Corporation will host a town hall public meeting in Blytheville later this month. According to a letter from Nucor vice president & general manager Sam Commella and Nucor-Yamato vice president & general manager and addressed to the Blytheville-Gosnell Chamber of Commerce, the meeting is to "address the continued deterioration of the U.S. manufacturing sector and the devastating impact it is having on the lives of Arkansans." The letter further states, "Your attendance and participation in this event would signal your commitment to help address this problem. We must act now to develop a strategy to help sustain American manufacturers and the livlihoods of those they support before it is too late.
    The forum is to be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14, at the old Wal-Mart building located at 301 South Service Road in Blytheville. A complimentary dinner is to be served to all those in attendance.

  8. State overtime plan: A tax on business? by Matt Wickenheiser (791-6316 or mwickenheiser@pressherald.com), Portland Press Herald via Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc., ME.
    Business leaders on Wednesday questioned whether re- vamped overtime rules proposed by the Baldacci administration amount to a tax on doing business in Maine. The proposed state rules seek to maintain overtime pay for workers who would lose it under Bush administration regulations that took effect Aug. 23. The key difference between the federal regulations and the proposed state rules addresses who is exempt from overtime. Essentially, the federal rules allow overtime for some employees who weren't eligible before, while exempting other employees who had received overtime. The state rules seek to keep overtime applicable to workers who had been eligible previously - while also allowing the new class of employees to receive overtime under the federal rules. "I think the reality is that you're looking at potentially increasing the cost of business here, vis-a-vis other states who don't implement rules to counteract the federal regs," said Peter Gore, a senior government affairs specialist with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman didn't return calls for comment. Labor Department spokesman Adam Fisher said a number of other states are looking at taking similar steps. "The state rules aren't adding to the number (of people eligible for overtime)," said Fisher. "It's just ensuring that no one loses it." The proposed state rules allow workers in most classifications to be exempt only if at least 80% of their time is spent in management. The provision mirrors the federal regulation that was replaced last week. The cutoff for retail workers in Maine would be 60%. Labor leaders in the state endorsed the state's move, while business groups were busy Wednesday digesting the proposed rules and attempting to determine the effect. Under the federal rules, some employees would gain overtime while others would lose it - sort of a wash, Gore noted. But under the Maine rules, the employees who would have lost overtime instead keep it. "You have the state out of balance with the feds," Gore said. "You have two sets of rules employers will have to look at." A public hearing on the proposed rules is planned for the beginning of October. David R. Clough, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he expected the issue would be contentious. "There really ought to be a pretty tall burden on changing the rules to try to make Maine's overtime regulations out of step with the federal regulations that will create more burdens for employers, add to their costs and create a more anticompetitive environment," said Clough. "It's a very competitive market out there. The jobs can go anywhere in the United States. Maine has to be very careful in erecting barriers to jobs." It is unclear exactly how many Mainers might be affected one way or another - either by the recently enacted federal changes or by the proposed state rules. During an election year, the issue has become political, with national estimates varying wildly, depending on what camp analyzes the policies. Many businesses, such as Maine Medical Center, said they didn't believe they'd be impacted by changes at either the federal or state level. Others, like L.L. Bean in Freeport, said they were studying both the Maine proposal and the federal changes. Tony Derosby, a partner in the employment practice group at law firm Pierce Atwood, said the proposed rules will place a burden on business. "New rules . . . will create an even more ambiguous environment," said Derosby. "It will require businesses, consultants and attorneys to figure out what Maine is now requiring." They would also create a negative impression of the state's business climate, he suggested. "Without looking at the (proposed Maine) rule, I would say certainly, in several respects, if you're a business looking at this from outside the state, and what you're hearing is that Maine is promulgating rules - the intent of which is to preserve overtime protection and preserve the status quo against a liberalization that was pro-business - you're going to perceive that Maine is not a business-friendly state," said Derosby. "If the rules do in fact create state laws that are more extensive than federal laws, that's a tax on doing business in Maine," he said. Matthew J. LaMourie, a labor law attorney with Preti Flaherty, said businesses have always been obligated to understand differences in state and federal overtime requirements. The most sweeping change in the federal laws make it so employees who earn less than $23,660 a year are now guaranteed overtime protection, regardless of their position, he said. The state law also includes that, he said. "What the (proposed) state rules do is add language to the current state statute that tightens up the administrative, executive and professional exemptions. In other words, the applicable tests for whether a person is exempt from receiving overtime are being made stricter," said LaMourie. "It's harder to be exempt from overtime." Fisher, at the Labor Department, said that while the state appreciated the federal government's attempt to protect those who earn less than $23,660 a year, the "expansion shouldn't come at the cost of others in our workforce." The state's rules also specifically reject federal changes as they apply to computer-related occupations. People who work in information technology departments, for example, would be exempt from overtime under federal rules, but not in Maine, said LaMourie, the labor lawyer. The intent of the federal changes was to provide clarification as to how certain exemptions were to apply, said LaMourie. He said the state rules appear to clarify things even further. Additionally, he said, the state law provides a "safe harbor provision" that allows businesses to correct improper deductions from paychecks. In the past, that sort of error made it so a company couldn't find that employee exempt from overtime. "The jury's still out on whether or not this is going to be bad for business. To the extent that there's greater clarifying language, that's a positive development. The safe harbor is a good development," LaMourie said.

  9. AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney remarks for Labor Day media roundtable, Common Dreams.
    WASHINGTON - This Labor Day finds union members deeply and actively involved in campaigning for a fundamental change in the direction of this country because they, like other working Americans, see the bottom falling out of their basic way of life - and it's been falling out fast in the last three and a half years under the policies of pResident George Bush. They see work being devalued. They see good jobs with health care and pensions becoming rare. And they see forces lined up to give more and more power to corporate interests that are driving job standards down. As I travel the country, I see what this means for working families. The plant worker whose job went to China and who now works in a grocery store for half the pay and no benefits. The middle-aged couple who both lost their jobs and are doing everything they can to hold onto their house. The I.T. worker who trained her replacement in India, can't find another job and has exhausted her unemployment benefits. The young couple with a child who work full-time, but don't have health insurance. I'm sure you know the statistics, but let me just remind you that pResident Bush promised 5 million new jobs - and he's 6 million jobs behind on that promise. He will be the first president since Hoover and the Great Depression to end his term with more people out of work than when he began. But it's not just about the number of jobs. The fact is that we are losing good jobs, and those we are gaining are not as good. The new Census Bureau numbers show how bad things have gotten: the typical household's income is now $1535 less than in 2000, and 45 million Americans don't have health insurance ­ 5 million more than when Bush took office. With every major decision he has made, pResident Bush has catered to corporate interests over those of working families. Cutting the right to overtime pay for up to 6 million workers. Proposing new tax breaks for corporations that move jobs to other countries. Rolling back safety and health protections. Slashing worker training. Opposing a minimum wage increase, refusing to tackle out-of-control health care costs and passing a prescription drug benefit that helps drug companies more than seniors. Proposing cuts in after-school care for children while giving huge tax breaks to wealthy taxpayers. Undermining workers' rights, from Project Labor Agreements to the right to bargain collectively for better standards. As Bush accepts his party's nomination tonight, he is likely to repeat his claim that our nation has turned the corner - but in fact pResident Bush has turned his back on working Americans. In a time of a growing gulf between the haves and have nots, the single largest challenge for the American labor movement is to help working people bridge this gap and rebuild our middle class. We need good jobs - not just any jobs. We need affordable health care and secure retirements. The union movement is leading this fight for working people. This Labor Day, we are strong, determined and stretching in new directions at every step. We've got new initiatives, increased efforts to help workers form unions and the most massive grassroots political program in our history to make sure the next president of our nation is one who honors working family values. Tonight more than 15,000 union volunteers will knock on a million union household doors in swing states as pResident Bush is accepting his party's nomination. We've never attempted anything at this scale in one major nationwide event. I will join the walks in St. Louis tonight, and more than twenty union presidents will also join the walks. As our political director Karen Ackerman will describe in a moment, our program this year is bigger, broader and more focused than ever before. Our members have never been more engaged and motivated as they see the effects of Bush's policies on their lives - our union halls have been overwhelmed by volunteers. Given the voting rights fiasco in 2000, we're determined to make sure every American's vote is counted this year. We have begun a non-partisan program called, "My Vote, My Right" which will work with allies in 32 communities in 12 states to educate citizens about their voting rights and help prevent voting rights violations. This program is already in action. We had poll watchers in Florida for Tuesday's primary - and will be involved in the primaries on September 7 and 14. We've continued to steadily help workers form unions - more than half a million workers joined unions last year - and nearly two million have joined unions since 2000. Last month, 3,300 America West Airlines reservations and gate employees voted to join the Teamsters in the biggest government-run, private sector election in years. Other recent wins include 1500 graduate employees at the University of Illinois, 1000 workers at Thomas Built Bus in rural North Carolina, and hundreds of Comcast workers have formed unions with CWA and IBEW. In fact, our polling has shown a steady increase in the percentage of working people who say they would join a union if they could - today fully 50% of workers in our country would join a union if they had a fair chance. But too many employers continue to routinely deny their workers the basic freedom to improve their lives through forming unions - that's why the Employee Free Choice Act is so important. It's a measure pending in Congress that would allow workers to have a union once a majority sign cards or petitions saying they want one, and would replace the lengthy and flawed National Labor Relations Board election process. Senator Kerry is among the more than 30 Senators - including Republican Arlen Specter - and 208 House members who have co-sponsored the legislation. It is precisely because so many people do want change and because the union "brand" is so valuable that our historic new initiative, Working America, is so successful. Working America was launched a year ago for people who don't have the benefit of a union on the job, but who want a say in issues that matter to them. Just one year later, we have recruited more than 650,000 members through door-to-door canvassing and on the web-making Working America the fastest growing progressive organization in the country and a powerful new voice for working people. On the doors, we've found that many people are extremely upset about the Bush overtime takeaway. In fact, Working America has sponsored a website called "Ask a Lawyer" where people can get more information on how they will be affected - it's at "www.workingAmerica."
    [Clearly somebody doesn't get that we need the .com or .org or .net at the end, not the www. at the beginning.]
    The fight to stop pResident Bush's overtime pay cut is a great example of how our movement fights for every working American. Up to six million working Americans will lose their overtime rights under this rule, which went into effect August 23, and which slashes much-needed pay for nurses, chefs, line supervisors, team leaders and others. At the AFL-CIO's leadership, hundreds of thousands of working people sent postcards, e-mails, petitions and faxes to pResident Bush and the Department of Labor to stop this pay cut. This is yet one more example of how the pResident puts corporate interests first ahead of working men and women. When Congress comes back next week, there will be huge pressure on them to overturn the Bush rule. Let me now call on the AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman to update us on our political efforts.

  10. Partial water supply in Taoyuan likely from tomorrow, by Bruce Chu, China Post, Taiwan.
    TAIPEI, Taiwan - Water supply in Taoyuan County, which has remained cut off for nine consecutive days in the aftermath of Typhoon Aere, will be partially restored early Saturday morning, the head of the Water Resources Agency (WRA) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs promised yesterday. WRA Director General Chen Chen Shen-hsien indicated that the plan to start supplying water to Taoyuan by rotation would be implemented according to schedule - at 600 a.m. Saturday. Under the plan, the county will be divided into two zones with each supplied with water by turns every other day, he added.
    The storm unleashed torrential rains which made the water in the waterworks to become too turbid too be cleaned up at once, according to the water company. During the past few days, most Taoyuan residents have relied on water transported to them in fire engines or taken out of wells. The county government, as an emergency measure, recently lifted the ban on the digging of wells.
    A technician with the Taiwan Water Company died yesterday. His death is believed to have resulted from overworking....
    [Karoshi in Taiwan.]

  11. How to fight college cheating, by Lawrence M. Hinman, Washington Post (Friday, September 3, 2004; Page A19), DC.
    Recent studies have shown that a steadily growing number of students cheat or plagiarize in college - and the data from high schools suggest that this number will continue to rise. A study by Don McCabe of Rutgers University showed that 74% of high school students admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on tests. Even more disturbing is the way that many students define cheating and plagiarism. For example, they believe that cutting and pasting a few sentences from various Web sources without attribution is not plagiarism. Before the Web, students certainly plagiarized - but they had to plan ahead to do so. Fraternities and sororities often had files of term papers, and some high-tech term-paper firms could fax papers to students. Overall, however, plagiarism required forethought. Online term-paper sites changed all that. Overnight, students could order a term paper, print it out and have it ready for class in the morning - and still get a good night's sleep. All they needed was a charge card and an Internet connection. One response to the increase in cheating has been to fight technology with more technology. Plagiarism-checking sites provide a service to screen student papers. They offer a color-coded report on papers and the original sources from which the students might have copied. Colleges qualify for volume discounts, which encourages professors to submit whole classes' worth of papers - the academic equivalent of mandatory urine testing for athletes. The technological battle between term-paper mills and anti-plagiarism services will undoubtedly continue to escalate, with each side constructing more elaborate countermeasures to outwit the other. The cost of both plagiarism and its detection will also undoubtedly continue to spiral. But there is another way. Our first and most important line of defense against academic dishonesty is simply good teaching. Cheating and plagiarism often arise in a vacuum created by routine, lack of interest and overwork.
    [So here's another problem that would be alleviated by less-infinite job descriptions and workweek reduction.]
    Professors who give the same assignment every semester, fail to guide students in the development of their projects and have little interest in what the students have to say contribute to the academic environment in which much cheating and plagiarism occurs. Consider, by way of contrast, professors who know their students and who give assignments that require regular, continuing interaction with them about their projects - and who require students to produce work that is a meaningful development of their own interests. These professors create an environment in which cheating and plagiarism are far less likely to occur. In this context, any plagiarism would usually be immediately evident to the professor, who would see it as inconsistent with the rest of the student's work. A strong, meaningful curriculum taught by committed professors is the first and most important defense against academic dishonesty. The second remedy is to encourage the development of integrity in our students. A sense of responsibility about one's intellectual development would preclude cheating and plagiarizing as inconsistent with one's identity. It is precisely this sense of individual integrity that schools with honor codes seek to promote. Third, we must encourage our students to perceive the dishonesty of their classmates as something that causes harm to the many students who play by the rules. The argument that cheaters hurt only themselves is false. Cheaters do hurt other people, and they do so to help themselves. Students cheat because it works. They get better grades and more advantages with less effort. Honest students lose grades, scholarships, recommendations and admission to advanced programs. Honest students must create enough peer pressure to dissuade potential cheaters. Ultimately, students must be willing to step forward and confront those who engage in academic dishonesty. Addressing these issues is not a luxury that can be postponed until a more convenient time. It is a short step from dishonesty in schools and colleges to dishonesty in business. It is doubtful that students who fail to develop habits of integrity and honesty while still in an academic setting are likely to do so once they are out in the "real" world. Nor is it likely that adults will stand up against the dishonesty of others, particularly fellow workers and superiors, if they do not develop the habit of doing so while still in school. The writer is a professor of philosophy and director of the Values Institute at the University of San Diego. He will discuss this article today at 1 p.m. on www.washingtonpost.com

  12. Funding cuts to impact MWR customers, by Robin N. Kendall, MWR via Patuxent River Tester, MD.
    In FY05, NAS Patuxent River's MWR department [stands for?] will feel the impacts of a nearly 40% budget reduction. While MWR leaders have made significant reductions in overhead operating costs, additional funds are needed and effective Oct. 1, some facilities will increase fees and/or reduce hours of operation. Throughout the Navy, MWR has been asked to become leaner and more efficient so that funds can be redirected towards the war on terrorism and modernization of the fleet. "This budget cut comes as no surprise to us, as we have been preparing for several years," said Kathryn Glockner, Pax River MWR director. "The Navy is regionalizing MWR and other community support programs in an effort to reduce costs. Our last resort is to increase fees and reduce hours." About half of MWR's budget comes from appropriated funds, set aside by Congress to support the morale of military service members and their families. The other half comes from non-appropriated funds raised by charging fees and from the Navy Exchanges. "Our management approach to coping with these cuts has been to reduce our overhead or back-of-the-house administrative functions first," Glockner said. "We're now operating MWR without a deputy director, along with fewer people in our personnel and accounting offices. We're operating very lean right now, and with the introduction of a new accounting system this winter, we hope to realize future efficiencies. We want the military member and federal employee to know that we've cut our overhead significantly in an effort to minimize the impact to the customer." Beginning in September, look for new hours and prices at the bowling center. The success of the bowling center is a source of pride for Pax River and for the past two years it has been recognized by Navy Personnel Command, MWR Division, as a top-performing small bowling center. In FY04, the bowling center will loose all appropriated fund support and must become self-sufficient. "Facilities like our bowling center have the potential to operate without appropriated funds (taxpayer dollars) and will do so in the future. The golf course, Patuxent Landing restaurant, the Officers' Club and movie theater have operated without taxpayer dollar support for many years. Much of MWR's some 60 facilities and programs will operate like this in the future," Glockner said. On Oct. 1, new prices and hours will begin at the auto skills center and drill hall. The auto skills center will close on Mondays and holidays. At the drill hall, the fees for locker rental will increase to $12 for six months or $24 for one year. Civilian Recreation Association memberships will remain at $200 per year but an additional $25-per-year fee will be added for each additional family member or $5 per month for monthly memberships. The CRA is for DoD Pax River federal employees who wish to use the drill hall. Beginning Oct.1, the drill hall will cut four hours off its operating hours each week by closing during traditionally slow times such as weekends and holidays.
    "MWR's primary mission is to provide fitness programs, and we have minimized the budget impacts in this area," Glockner said. "We've already cancelled less popular classes at our Energy Zone fitness facility with minimal customer impact."...

  13. Library to open 3 fewer hours, by Ted LaBorde (tlaborde@repub.com), The Republican, MA.
    SOUTHWICK, Mass. - The Southwick Public Library will scale back its Wednesday operating hours as of Sept. 15. Director Anne Murray said yesterday that effective Sept. 15 the library will be open 1-8 p.m. rather than 10 a.m.-8 p.m. "The Board of Trustees has found it necessary to reduce hours of operation each week by trimming three hours from our Wednesday schedule," Murray said. The reason, she explained, is that budget constraints in recent years have prevented the library from hiring additional part-time staff to meet the increasing number of patron demands. A similar action was taken two years ago when trustees curtailed some evening hours on Thursdays, Murray said. "The past three years have been kind of tight financially because of budgets," Murray said. "We need at least one additional part-time employee to meet demands." Including Murray, the library staff consists of two full-time and eight part-time employees. The library has an operating budget of $265,942 for the fiscal year. The library also might not get additional staff next year because the current focus of town government is to fill several positions that have been vacant for the past two years. Chief Administrative Officer Karl J. Stinehart said yesterday, "Our priority is to restore positions left vacant in recent years because of budgetary concerns and not create new positions unless there are revenue offsets." Stinehart noted the loss of five employees, including two police and a Department of Public Works employee, during the past two years. The Board of Selectmen filled one of the two police vacancies earlier this year and hopes to fill the second one by next fiscal year. Murray said library hours on other days will remain the same. The library schedule, effective Sept. 15, will be Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesday 1-8 p.m., and Thursday and Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The library is also open Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.. Murray said the library serves more than 9,000 patrons.

  14. Business backs 'donation' call; churchmen split, by Jodeal Cadacio, TODAY via ABS CBN News, Philippines.
    The fundraising campaign initiated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to help generate funds for the cash-strapped national treasury gained more support on Thursday from Filipino business leaders who pledged to raise an initial P300 million for the cause. The response from church groups, both to de Venecia's appeal and the call of the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to raise money for the government, has been split, however. While endorsing Fernando Capalla's call for sacrifice, the Bangon Pilipinas spokesman and the Philippine Independence Church cautioned against giving money to the government, saying its corruption and recklessness in the first place had led to the crisis. Instead, they endorsed direct programs to provide jobs and services for the poor; alongside radical reforms in the fiscal system. Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who is accompanying President Arroyo on her state visit to China, said that the President herself donated P1 million to the national fund drive, which he said has begun to generate a bandwagon. "This is a time to help the country whether you are rich or poor - a time to be counted upon," de Venecia said. The donations and pledges started pouring in after de Venecia made a donation of P1 million from his personal funds, followed by several congressmen. The House's target is to raise at least P5 billion, to be earmarked for the construction of 20,000 classrooms, and the purchase of as many computers for public schools to ease the classroom shortage and strengthen public school education. The President made her contribution on the second day of her Beijing trip. De Venecia said the fund drive is now called "Pera Para sa Pilipinas," and that the President has directed Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong to receive all contributions and donations, for which official receipts would be issued. De Venecia said a group of business leaders called Koalisyon ng Inang Daan led by Miguel Varela and Sergio Ortiz Luis committed P100 million - each member contributing P1 million - to be used for microfinance credit to assist small entrepreneurs nationwide. The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce under its president, Robin Sy, and Executive Director Francis Chua, committed a total of P56 million. The Filipino Chinese Business Club committed $300,000 or P16 million. He said that businessmen Lucio Tan and Jimmy Tang donated P2 million each. Three Cabinet secretaries - Vincent Perez of Energy, Cesar Purisima of Trade and Industry and Arthur Yap of Agriculture - contributed P500,000 each. Lakas Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo of Pampanga, the President's eldest son, and his uncle, Kampi Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of Negros Occidental, contributed P1 million each.
    De Venecia said that besides the fundraising campaign initiated by the House, the chamber will also start implementing austerity measures, beginning with the adoption of a four-day work week. De Venecia has issued a Memorandum Circular for the adoption of a compressed work week, which has proved to reduce cost on utilities and other expenses of the chamber.
    [The compressed workweek (four 10-hour days = still the same 1940-era workweek) is irrelevant to work sharing and spreading, and therefore irrelevant to consumer base maintenance. But it's sure nice to hear about some legislators who, unlike Americans, have not yet got too sophisticated and cynical for democracy.]
    "It is also consistent with the session days and assures the House in session of the extended service of the entire secretariat personnel," de Venecia said. But Party-list Rep. Maria Theresa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan said that while "donations are good, reforms are even better." She added, "Band-aid solutions won't do as remedies to the fiscal crisis." Baraquel said Akbayan is willing "to give up 50% of our pork barrel and one month of our representatives' salary, but any acts that the public might perceive as merely 'pa-pogi' at this point may well lead the country into an economic collapse if we allow ourselves to be distracted from the real task at hand." Baraquel said these well-meaning donations would be worthless and trivial if we fail to address the roots of the fiscal crisis. "We need to conserve our energies to go after tax cheats and make our taxation policy progressive. We need to institute transparent and participatory mechanisms in the use of public funds, revoke our flawed neoliberal economic policies and renegotiate or rescind anomalous government contracts that are deepening the country's debts." She said that Congress should also work for the immediate repeal of the automatic debt servicing provision of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987. "Being forced to pay debts at the expense of social services and our other needs is not a sound policy," Baraquel said....

  15. Labor Day honors nation's workforce - Observance grew from a parade in 1882 to a federal holiday in 1894, by Cathy Peterson, The Phillips Bee, WI.
    The Labor Day holiday is often regarded by most people today as a chance to enjoy a three-day weekend before the end of summer and the start of a new school year.
    However, the first Labor Day observance, which took place in New York City on Sept.5, 1882, was actually a parade organized by members of a labor union to draw attention to their demands for better working conditions.
    By 1893, more than half of the states had some type of Labor Day observance and a bill to establish a national holiday was passed by Congress a year later. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward to designate the first Monday in September as Labor Day.
    According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 147,300,000 people age 16 years or older in the nation's labor force in June 2004. Among these workers, who represent 66% of the civilian non-institutionized adult population, are 7,300,000 who hold down more than one job. The most common occupations include secretaries and administrative assistants, retail sales people, driver/sales workers and truck drivers, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers, first line supervisiors/managers of retail sales workers, registered nurses, consumer service representatives, janitors and building cleaners, laborers and manual freight, stock and material movers.
    One of the goals of the union workers marching in the 1882 parade was for a 40-hour work week, which over time, became standard. In 2004, however, 28% of workers age 16 and older were working more than 40 hours per week and 8% were working 60 or more hours per week.
    Nationwide, the census bureau reports, 15,800,000 workers are labor union members. Only 13% of wage and salary workers belong to unions. New York has the highest rate among the states, with about 25% of its workers in unions; North Carolina has one of the lowest rates, with only 3% of workers unionized.
    Local Workforce
    According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, about 73% of the state's eligible population is in the workforce; that percentage is among the highest of any state in the nation. However, the Price County workforce rate of 56.5% is lower than either state or nation.
    Of the 7,030 Price County residents currently in the labor force, 6,610 are employed and 420 are unemployed. The number of people currently employed in the county was higher than in 1997, but fewer than in the late 1990s when local manufacturers were effected by a decline in exports to Asia.
    According to the Price County Workforce Profile prepared by the state DWD, about 38% of all jobs in the county and 50% of the total payroll come from the manufacturing sector. Together, the largest industry sectors provide over half of all jobs in the county while the 10 largest employers provide one in every three jobs.
    The top 10 employers in the county include MarquipWardUnited LLC, Phillips Plastics Corporation, Fraser Paper, Inc., School District of Phillips, WeatherShield Inc., Flambeau Hospital Inc., Price County, Park Falls Public School, Park Manor Ltd, and Blount, Inc.
    In Price County, per capita personal income of $22,482, in 2001 was 74% of the national and 77% of the state per capita personal income. The county ranked 45th among the 72 counties in Wisconsin.
9/02/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/01 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #26 & 27 which are from 9/02 hardcopy, & Australian & Far East stories which are 9/02), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Foreign Affairs Ministry starts 5-day work week, Straits Times, Singapore.
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday began its new five-day work week schedule for staff but will keep its consular service counter open to the public on Saturdays. The ministry's office hours now run from 8.30am to 6pm from Mondays to Thursdays, and from 8.30am to 5.30pm on Fridays. This is 'in line with the Government's policy to introduce a five-day work week in the civil service to enable civil servants to strike a better work-life balance', the ministry said in a statement. The Government last month announced a slew of family-friendly measures, including a five-day week for the civil service, extending female civil servants' medical benefits to their dependents and extending maternity leave for all working mothers by four weeks. The ministry said opening hours for services to the public at the consular service counter will remain unchanged. From Mondays to Fridays, the counter is open from 9am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 4.30pm. On Saturdays, the counter is open from 9am to 12.30pm. Singaporeans in distress overseas can continue to contact their nearest Singapore high commission, embassy or consulate, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters duty officer on 6379-8800 at anytime.

  2. Workers feel overworked, overwhelmed - Nearly two out of three say workload has increased this year, by Martin Wolk, MSNBC via MSNBC Interactive.
    Labor Day weekend is approaching, and if you feel overworked and underappreciated, you are hardly alone. Even though the economy has added 1.5 million jobs over the past year, that has not come close to making up for the 2.6 million jobs that disappeared in the recession of 2001 and its aftermath. Employers have responded to increasing demand mainly by squeezing more out of existing workers — often after multiple rounds of layoffs. With many companies extremely reluctant to add jobs, nearly two-thirds of workers surveyed by Harris Interactive say their workload has increased over the past six months — with more than 10% of workers asserting they are putting in an extra 10 hours a week or more. And they are not happy about it. More than half answered no when asked, “Do you feel your employer appreciates and rewards you well?” Some of these results reflect a long-term trend of employers demanding more from their workers, in part because of advances in technology that make it possible for fewer people to do more. In the tight labor market of the 1990s boom years, those increased demands often were accompanied by sharply rising wages, improved benefits and increased flexibility in the workplace. But with plenty of labor available here and around the world, wage gains have tapered off and many companies have shifted their focus to cost-cutting and compliance issues, paying less attention to worker satisfaction, said Mike DiPietro, a vice president of Kronos, a workforce management company that commissioned the Harris survey. And that, he said, is a mistake. “This is not just a touchy-feely, let’s-make-people-feel-happier issue,” he said. “This is a business issue. It will become even more so as the economy starts to turn around and these overworked employees start to look around.” DiPietro said it is long past time for companies to stop rewarding employees simply on the basis of how many hours they work and to focus instead on results, a concept known as performance-based management.
    [Amen.]
    "With salaried employees especially it’s really difficult in many professions to stand out,” he said. The result is that many companies have a fostered culture in which workers succeed by arriving at the office before their boss, staying late, working weekends and staying in touch constantly. But there is a better way, he said. “Best-practices companies are focusing more on the achievement of goals,” he said. “It puts the focus on the more important thing which is the work — not the number of hours it takes to achieve the work.”
    CEOs plan more hiring, capital spending
    Computer software facilitates the process by allowing employers to measure everything from the number of keystrokes entered by a typist to the number of arrests made by a police officer. But Bruce Tulgan, author of “H.O.T. Management” and other books, cautioned that performance management does not work if supervisors rely solely on such objective measurements. “It’s just not enough to have a system that measures objective data,” he said. “You have to have managers directly engaged on an ongoing basis with their direct reports, constantly spelling out expectations, constantly setting deadlines and parameters. … Where you see this happening, that is where performance management really works.” But managers like the data. Dave Imhoff, director of clinical systems at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., said he is considering adding a system that would measure productivity for certain employees such as lab workers. He was more excited about a system being phased in that will adjust staffing needs to patient levels in every department on a shift-by-shift basis. Ultimately nurses will be able to "self -schedule" for shifts they want. "Anytime you can give the employees closer to what they want, they're going to be happier," he said. "And the happier you can keep them, the longer they will stay." The results of the Harris survey were released Wednesday, days after controversial new overtime regulations were imposed by the Bush administration, becoming another point of contention in a tight presidential election campaign. Democrats complain the complex new rules will mean pay cuts for millions of middle-class workers. Labor Department officials say the rules will make 1.3 million relatively low-paid workers newly eligible for overtime and will strengthen the rights of millions more. One thing is certain — the workplace is a far different world than it was when the nation’s overtime standards initially were set in the 1930s. The paradigm of the 20th century workplace was Henry Ford’s car factory, an assembly line where workers clock in, do a single task repeatedly, and clock out. In the 21st century, we think of concepts like work-life balance, flex time and the “road warrior” who keeps in touch from the car, airport, hotel or home office. “The idea that you go to work from 9 to 5 in the same location every day has really been eroded. That’s not how most people go to work these days,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm. More than a quarter of all factory workers now have some college education, and they need it, said Challenger. “I do think people’s job responsibilities are becoming more complex,” he said. “They have to do more on their own because of all the technology.” All these hours and responsibilities add up to a lot of stress. More than half the 1,052 workers surveyed said they feel “overtired and overwhelmed.” More than a quarter said they have trouble balancing their work and personal life and 21% blamed their work for frequent mood changes. A healthy 37%, however, said their work life has no effect on their personal life. One-third of the respondents in the Harris survey said their workweek has increased over the past six months, and a third of those workers, or nearly 11% of the total, said their workweek has gone up by 10 hours or more. The results were nearly the same for hourly and salaried employees. And most of them expect no relief from the longer hours over the next six months. DiPietro reasons that eventually employers will squeeze about as much productivity out of their current workers as possible and will have to ramp up staffing, creating opportunities for frustrated workers. And worker turnover can be extremely costly — a 1998 study found that nearly half of employers spent $10,000 or more to replace a single employee, and 20% spent more than $30,000 per employee. Not only that, but employee satisfaction and company profitability “correlate very highly,” said DiPietro of Kronos. He pointed to a study by Hewitt Associates which compared financially successful companies — defined as publicly traded companies with average annual profit growth of 10% or more — with companies that were not as successful. Workers at the so-called “double-digit growth companies” were far more likely to describe their workplace as “an exceptional place to work” — one which they would recommend without hesitation to a friend seeking employment. It is impossible to say whether happy employees make a company successful or vice versa. “It’s a chicken or egg question,” said Steven Gross, leader of U.S. compensation consulting for Mercer Human Resources. “When companies are more profitable there is less pressure on cost control. They are growing and there are more opportunities. When the company is shrinking there is no room for career growth, and there is less money for reward programs. It’s just not as much as fun.” What would it take to make workers happier? Gross said the most important motivating factor for workers in every geography around the world is “being treated with respect.” After that are the usual suspects — base pay, benefits, long-term career potential and opportunity for bonus compensation. “I think there is evidence that happier, less-stressed employees are more productive,” said DiPietro. “At what point someone crosses that line I don’t know.”

  3. [Here's a switch -]
    Employers take unexpected heat from workers unhappy about shift to the ranks of overtime eligibility, by Adam Geller, AP via Miami Herald, FL.
    [And here's an even more pungent headline for this story that appears tomorrow (9/02) on Google News labelled "originally published on 9/02," presumably in the Baltimore Sun.]
    Overtime issue has surprise twist - Many employees view new eligibility as affront; 'I've had something taken away', AP via Baltimore Sun, MD.
    The complaints began even before University of Missouri administrators e-mailed more than 400 employees to confirm what might seem a harmless change - soon, the memo said, they'd be eligible for overtime pay. It was not what Mary Porter wanted to hear. It had taken Porter 35 years to climb the university's ladder, from the copy machine operator's job she started just out of high school, to a position with the salary, benefits and responsibility certifying her as a professional. Now the grandmother of three saw the university, armed with new government rules on overtime pay, pulling the ladder's top rungs out from under her. "It just feels like, in a sense, I've had something taken away from me," said Porter, an administrative associate who half-jokes that she's "trained" the last four chairmen of the university's anthropology department. "I had that (salaried) status because I worked my way up. ... It made me feel personally like I had accomplished something." The Bush administration's new rules on overtime pay have been at the center of a furious, and still unresolved, debate over charges they will cost millions of workers the right to overtime pay. But some employers are catching flak of a variety few expected - not from workers angry about losing overtime pay, but from some irritated about a change that gives them the right to receive it. Overtime pay is the quintessential pocketbook issue,
    [it never should be, because this implies chronic overtime, and it should only and always be emergency]
    but the workers' objections are largely rooted in the immeasurable. For many, the change amounts to a difficult-to-define feeling that their work and status is cheapened. "Not every company saw this coming, and I certainly don't think the regulators had a sense that this was going to happen," said Jonathan Sulds, an attorney with corporate law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in New York. Employers, anxious to turn the tide on a swelling wave of expensive lawsuits by workers claiming they've been unfairly denied overtime pay, largely favored the administration's overhaul of wage laws. The changes, which took effect Aug. 23 despite vehement criticism by labor unions, are focused mainly on skilled and white-collar jobs, exempting many such positions from eligibility for overtime pay. Some of the changes are straightforward. Workers earning less than $23,660 a year must be paid for overtime under the new rules, almost triple the old salary requirement. Workers earning more than $100,000 and whose jobs regularly include at least one administrative or professional responsibility will now be excluded from overtime eligibility. But the new rules, part of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, are complex and leave much to interpretation. Nobody really knows how many workers will be affected, or how they will be impacted. The debate has included estimates that anywhere from 107,000 to as many as 6 million workers will lose overtime eligibility. Estimates of how many will gain eligibility vary from almost none to 1.3 million. It could be some time before the reality becomes clear. Employers, though, say strong reactions from some workers whose jobs have been reclassified from salaried to hourly - giving them access to overtime pay - has already created awkward situations. At Missouri, administrators are shifting between 400 and 500 salaried workers to hourly status, eligible for overtime pay. Not one of the school's 19,000 employees is losing the right to overtime, said Ken Hutchinson, vice president of human resources. The change has generated complaints from many of the affected employees, including administrative associates - the office managers for many academic departments - executive assistants, and computer workers. A series of meetings held on the Columbia, Mo., campus in recent months drew up to 100 workers and professors who back them, criticizing the administration's plans. "Many have come up through the ranks and finally reached a point where they were considered to be an executive, administrative or professional employee," Hutchinson said. "So changing that has been difficult and some feel like it's a demotion. It's not the case at all." Administrators responded to some criticism by grandfathering the affected workers, so they will not lose the extra vacation time to which salaried workers are entitled. But many of the employees have been at the university so long that the vacation reduction would not have impacted them, and the change has done little to salve hurt feelings. "I and other people feel like our career ladder has been cut off," said Danni Derryberry, an administrative associate in counseling services who's worked at the university for 38 years. Managers at fashion marketer Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. have run into similar objections from some workers at its New Jersey offices with jobs in white-collar fields like accounting and legal services. Many of those employees consider themselves professional, said Michael Colosi, the company's corporate vice president and general counsel. But as managers informed some employees that their pay would be computed on an hourly basis, with overtime eligibility, rather than as a fixed salary, some took it as an indication that they were no longer on the management track. "That really, when you're dealing with somebody who is college educated and works in an office capacity, sort of challenges their notion of the status of their position," he said. When Sulds' law firm invited client companies to a briefing on the rule changes recently, the employers and lawyers helped themselves to poached salmon and vegetables, then began picking through the topic like so much mystery meat. "There's a real sort of a status associated with not being on the clock," said one employer, as peers nodded in agreement. The companies' anecdotal experience bears little resemblance to the rank-and-file discontent critics of the rules say is likely as scores of workers lose overtime pay. But it falls in line with a survey of firms indicating that, at least at first, far more are reclassifying workers as hourly with overtime rights, than are stripping eligibility away. About 26% of companies surveyed expected the rule changes to result in an increase in the number of workers eligible for overtime pay, while just 7% of firms said it would increase the proportion who don't qualify. The May survey by WorldatWork, a trade association for people in charge of corporate compensation and benefits programs, tapped 351 companies. Consulting firm Hewitt Associates, which has also surveyed employers on the topic, found many companies were running behind in figuring out the new rules. But as they do, most firms are likely to add more workers to the rolls of overtime eligibility than vice versa, said Tom Farmer, a senior consultant at Hewitt. "As a practical matter, most employees are going to welcome overtime eligibility," he said. But "some of them will probably be kicking and screaming all the way to the time clock." Sulds said that rather than reclassify such workers as hourly, some companies have beefed up their job duties so their positions more clearly meet the rules' tests for exemption from overtime. Such expanded responsibilities are not necessarily accompanied by an increase in pay, he said. Some of the University of Missouri workers say that knowing how tight the school's budget is, they doubt there's any more to pay for extra hours. The school said it does not expect any of the affected employees to lose pay as a result of the change. Consultants to employers said they do not expect companies to incur substantial additional overtime costs. Workers whose jobs are reclassified as hourly could lose vacation time or health benefits accorded to management employees, Farmer said. But some companies will probably grandfather workers to minimize such losses, and maintain morale, he said. Still, the bottom line in workers' objections goes beyond the bottom line, observers say. "It's less about the dollars and more about the perceptions," said K. David Hirschey of Personnel Management Inc., a Minneapolis consultant to employers. Employees at some firms feel that being shifted to the hourly ranks makes them more susceptible to layoffs, he said. Others feel the change will limit their access to positions on the professional track. For most, though, it's that lingering discomfort that their position has been devalued. "It's never been ... about the money," said Gail Lawrence, chair of the Staff Advisory Council representing the University of Missouri workers. It's "about the pride in their jobs, and their pride in the university and their pride in themselves, for working their way up."

  4. Board mulling legality of changing to 40 hour work week for King George, by Phyllis Cook, Journal Press, VA.
    The 35-hour work week of King George County employees may be on the way out. Then again, maybe not.
    Currently, county employees are scheduled to be on the job for 8 hours per day, but with a paid one-hour lunch. But prior to making any change to get 40 hours of work for 40 hours of pay, the Board of Supervisors must look at the legality of increasing the county work week. The topic came up during review of a new draft of personnel policies at a work session on August 24. County administrator Dennis Kerns made reference to a legal opinion on changing the current practice of giving employees a daily paid lunch, saying he had requested it from county attorney Matt Britton. Referring to Britton's memo on switching the practice from paying for 35 hours to paying for 40 hours of work, Kerns said, "Our choices are to terminate all the employees or get them to agree, because we have set a policy of paying employees for lunch." Kerns added, "We can make the change, but there are legal procedures we have to go through." He also said, "We could go to a 30-minute lunch time and be okay." Supervisor chairman Joe Grzeika asked that Britton's memo be distributed to members of the board, so they could read the legal opinion themselves and discuss it at a future meeting. Supervisor Jim Howard said he'd like to see the change made, but added, "I don't think we can change it that quickly." Supervisor Cedell Brooks, Jr., questioned the necessity of pursuing making a change. "We've done this for a number of years," Brooks said. "I guess this is something we can change, but is it that much of an issue to dwell on a 35 versus 40 hour week?" Supervisor Steve Wolfe said making the proposed change was a matter of productivity, adding that as it stands, the hours for paid lunches add up to over 31 days per year for each employee. Wolfe stated, "Full time employees should work 40 hours a week." Grzeika noted that the current practice also affects overtime pay. "I don't think we ought to be paying overtime until they get to 40 hours of work time excluding lunch." A draft personnel handbook was first reviewed by the Board in October 2003 and again earlier this year in February. Supervisor Dale Sisson said from his standpoint, it is an issue with taxpayers. "I have been asked numerous times when we are going to make the change to 40 hours." Sisson added, "For every ten people on staff, that equates to another position you would be adding back." Supervisors were told in October that the practice of a paid lunch had been in effect since at least 1987, with staff saying that it was likely instituted as a benefit, as county pay was not commensurate with similar jobs in the area at the time. Grzeika said the paid lunch may have been used as a benefit in the past because county salaries were lower than others, but now the county has very competitive salaries. "People want to compare our county salaries to other places," Grzeika said. "When we compare ours, we're actually short-shrifting ourselves because we pay for fewer hours, but are not getting credit in the salary comparisons." After board members are provided copies of the legal opinion, Grzeika asked them to be prepared to discuss the issue again. "We'll all have access to Matt's legal opinion. This will be one for the board members to mull and come back with their recommendations." Grzeika also said he'd like the board to be supplied with the actual policies defining the work week from the other localities in the RADCO planning district.

  5. [More seeing links between overtime and slavery -]
    Brutal hours, no overtime pay: At least slaves got Sunday off, by Susan Pinker, The Globe and Mail, Canada.
    Dear Susan, I work in the reporting and consolidation department of one of Canada's largest corporations. The hours are brutal and the working environment has gone from bad to worse in the last nine months. Team spirit has disappeared, morale is at an all-time low and I'm at a loss as to why management has not addressed the problem. The department (10 employees) has a history of being a very difficult place to work owing to excessive overtime.
    [Isn't that a tautology? What does over time mean if not excessive time?]
    Employee turnover is extremely high - 100% in the last three years. This past year has been particularly difficult because of a major acquisition and changes in reporting requirements. In the first four months of the year an employee easily put in 250 hours of overtime. At one point we worked six weekends in a row on top of 14-hour days. What made matters worse was management's lack of concern. There was no talk of additional compensation (we don't get paid for overtime since we are "professionals") and no pep talk during the whole period. In the past month, three employees have resigned. Why would management not be concerned with the high turnover? If they are, they're not showing it. Why don't they propose some sort of compensation mechanism to ease the pain? Our complaints to management have not yielded any results. They tell us it'll look great on our résumé. Are we being laughed at? I don't understand how management in this world-class company seems to be asleep at the wheel. Am I missing something here? - Too Tired for Words Dear Too Tired, Yes, you're missing something. If turnover is 100%, and three members of the team have quit in the last month, you're missing the boat. Your schedule does have an antediluvian ring to it. According to my calculations, you are clocking an average of 16 hours of work a day, seven days a week. Slaves on southern plantations worked those hours during the harvest season, the agricultural equivalent of putting in excessive overtime. So did factory workers before labour unions were formed. Even if work has time-bending qualities - whether you're in the fugue state of "flow" or you're so bored that time stands still - what you're referring to sounds like old-fashioned abuse to me. Frank Forrest, a child labourer during the industrial revolution, captures your predicament perfectly in a memoir published in 1850 as Chapters in the Life of a Dundee Factory Boy: "In reality there were no regular hours, masters and managers did with us as they liked. The clocks in the factories were often put forward in the morning and back at night. "Though this was known amongst the hands, we were afraid to speak, and a workman then was afraid to carry a watch." At least American slaves got Sundays off, once a month anyway - according to transcripts from the Federal Writers' Project, which features thousands of first-person accounts of slavery recorded between 1936 and 1938. One quotes a plantation owner as boasting that "I make sure my slaves are fed, clothed, housed and free from illness," which is more than you can say for your boss. While I don't want to make cheap comparisons - after all slaves risked being hunted down by dogs and whipped or beaten to death if they tried to escape - there is irony in being trapped by oppressive work that offers neither great pay nor satisfaction as a reward. Yet, though technically and legally free, like you, many people feel they cannot leave their jobs. The enslavement is psychological; it can be more terrifying to risk a void than cleave to the status quo, even when you're utterly miserable. At least you know your bills are paid and your time deployed completely accounted for, in your case. Consider, though, that with an employment rate that has climbed rapidly since mid-2001 and a very strong economy, according to Statistics Canada, there is a good chance that you would find a job less abusive than the one you have now. Indeed, the economy is so strong that as I write this, corporate profits have hit a record high of $50.7-billion, up 4.1% from the first quarter of 2004. That should answer your question about management's apparent lack of concern. From their perspective, if it's not broke, why fix it? And as long as you keep putting in these hours with neither acknowledgment nor pay to compensate you, it looks like you agree. Susan Pinker is a psychologist and writer who also teaches in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University.

  6. Nafau decries 'slave' conditions in Namibia's pelagic industry, by Maggi Barnard, The Namibian (Windhoek) via AllAfrica.com, Africa.
    The Namibia Food & Allied Workers Union (Nafau) has condemned alleged unfair labour practices in the pelagic industry, claiming that sea-going workers were being marginalised like slaves. In a statement issued by the union's regional office at Walvis Bay, the Regional Organiser, Cleopas Ngwena alleges that sea-going employees do not enjoy the same recognition as other employees in the industry. Ngwena said workers were forced to sign a no-work-no-pay contract drafted by the companies without their input. According to the union official this is illegal in terms of the Labour Act as a contract of employment has to be discussed and agreed upon by both the employer and employee. He further said it was illegal to employ permanent workers on this type of contract. Ngwena charged that the no-work, no-pay contract only applied to black workers, while white workers received a full salary under all circumstances. Further complaints raised in the statement address benefits, overtime and basic salary. The union claims sea-going workers do not get benefits, such as housing and transport allowances and medical aid. They are not paid overtime for night shifts and work on public holidays, and they are only paid commission and no basic salary. The union listed 11 demands in the statement. They want equal and fair treatment like employees working in factories - a basic salary plus commission, and that the no-work-no-pay contract be discontinued as a matter of urgency. The rest of the demands concern smaller issues, such as the discontinuation of deductions for food and clothing and the payment of salaries at the end of the month. "We have explored all avenues to discuss these problems with the Chairperson of the Pelagic Association, but in vain. The workers' plight is falling on deaf ears," said Ngwena. When contacted for comment, Denise van Bergen, Chairperson of the Pelagic Association of Namibia, told The Namibian no discussion or formal correspondence had so far taken place with Nafau. She said Ngwena had only asked her about the payment of commissions which she had explained to him. "The industry has agreed to use one commission rate, and that is the only standard in place in the industry. The commission system has been in place since the 1940s." Van Bergen said each company had its own arrangements with workers regarding other benefits. She said the policy of the association was to only deal with unions that had 50 + 1% membership in the industry. "We can only speak to the union and not negotiate as we are not an employer." There are about four unions and none had more than 50% membership, according to Van Bergen.

  7. Government should not get carried away, Malta Independent, Malta.
    The government must not get carried away by comments of over-manning and low productivity in the public service sector reported in the media, said the Union Haddiema Maghqudin. In a statement issued yesterday, the UHM noted that comments about public service employees always surface when the collective agreement is nearing its end. "The recent decision by the Health Division to stop recruiting people in professional grades where vacancies exist is a blunder, as is the one to stop filling vacant posts in the grading structure of employees in essential services," said Public Services sector secretary J.M. Briffa. The public service sector's work prior to Malta's EU accession was commended by everyone, and the government employees sector of the UHM has already expressed its displeasure at the recent news regarding overtime in summer. The sum mentioned as being spent on overtime during the summer months not only refers to employees working half days, but also those in essential public services, it said. UHM's slogan: "a day's pay for a full day's work" shows it is responsible and is calling on workers to give a full day's work, the statement concluded.

  8. Philippine leader suspends benefits, perks to save money, dpa via Manila Bulletin, Philippines.
    MANILA - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday issued an order suspending several benefits and perks of government employees and officials as part of efforts to save money amid a looming fiscal crisis. Arroyo, who left for a three-day state visit to China, ordered government offices and state corporations to suspend all foreign and local travels unless necessary or when expenses are to be paid by grants or hosts. In an administrative order, she also prohibited agencies and departments from taking out unnecessary paid media advertisements, conducting training, seminars and workshops unless funded by grants, and holding parties, cultural and sport activities. The austerity measures were issued weeks after Arroyo admitted that the country was in the midst of a fiscal crisis, with a ballooning budget deficit and a huge national debt. Economists have warned the economy could collapse within three years or face an Argentina-type crisis unless drastic measures were taken to raise revenues and cut expenses. In her order, Arroyo also reiterated an earlier directive banning the purchase of new government vehicles, except ambulances and those required by the police and the military. Government offices were also ordered to cut by at least 10% payments to consultants, technical assistants and casual employees, as well as the consumption of fuel, water, office supplies, electricity and other utilities. For employees rendering overtime work, they would be compensated through additional days-off instead of extra pay, the order added.
    [Huh?]
    New or additional monthly allowances, per diems and car plans were also suspended, while the existing allocations for such benefits were ordered reduced to a "combined total of a maximum of 20,000 pesos (357 dollars) per month". Amid calls by the government for sacrifice, some legislators, whom Arroyo has asked to pass new tax measures to raise more funds, have already offered to give up their annual development fund allocation to save money. House Speaker Jose de Venecia, who has also pledged to donate one million pesos from his personal funds, urged wealthy Filipinos to contribute to the government's coffers by donating jewelry and other expensive personal effects. The influential Catholic Church has also urged Filipinos to donate whatever amount they can to the government, while a Manila radio station said some callers have already pledged to contribute a part of their monthly salaries and allowances.

  9. Start spreading the news - Let a hundred protests bloom, by Brian Dolber, Gadflyer, United States.
    "Don't you see? The rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing Communist, Jewish, homosexual, pornographers. I think of us that way sometimes, and I live here." So whined Woody Allen in Annie Hall, a quarter-century before the 2000 election gave rise to the "red state/blue state" motif that now dominates so much political analysis. This concept made it feel a bit strange for many New Yorkers, including myself (okay, I'm from Lawn Guyland, but close enough), when country musicians began singing about burning skyscrapers after the 9/11 attacks. Now the GOP is in the Big Apple, attempting to show, once again, that they are "uniters, not dividers," by attaching themselves to a town that represents everything that they do not. ...The birthplace of the labor movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Stonewall rebellion is now hosting an organization that seeks to abolish overtime pay, end affirmative action, and write discrimination into the Constitution....

  10. Democrats' turn to spin foes, Denver Post, CO.
    When Democrats gathered in Boston last month for their national convention, Gov. Owens was there as part of a high-powered Republican spin team. This week, the Democrats are countering, arranging for citizens from Colorado and other swing states to say George W. Bush has not governed as a compassionate conservative. Democratic leaders said the PR effort would give the real picture of what Bush has done as president, rather than let primetime speakers revive the compassionate conservative label. It also signaled the direction John Kerry's campaign will take in Colorado, where his team thinks Bush is vulnerable on health care and economic issues. Many of those who spoke at Tuesday's makeshift Democratic press room were nurses. Beverly Douglas of Centennial, head of the Colorado Nurses Association, talked about the new Fair Labor Standards Act, which she says makes it impossible for many nurses to get paid for overtime. "It's a slap in the face to the dedicated professionals who provide health care in this country and at a time we're facing the worst shortage of nurses this country has ever seen," she said....

  11. Specter wins endorsement of the AFL-CIO - The incumbent U.S. senator is the only Republican in Pa. to win the support of the large labor union, by Lara Jakes Jordan, AP via Philadelphia Inquirer, PA.
    Pennsylvania labor leaders endorsed U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's bid for a fifth term yesterday, delivering a big blow to his challenger's efforts to paint him as a puppet of the GOP's conservative wing. Specter was the only Republican of more than a dozen Pennsylvania candidates to win the statewide AFL-CIO executive council's nod.
    [Clearly the AFL-CIO still has no idea what they're up against in this "election" (we've just heard on the radio that Diebold's GEM 18.19 & 18.23 voting machines have capability for entering a code and setting up a second set of voting results that are designed for easy manipulation), and believes they still have the luxury of voting the candidate, not the party. Thanks to their cluelessness and that of many other Democrats and independents still floating in the 1990s or earlier, this may be the last time they have the inconvenience of an election to deal with.]
    Though not fatal to Democratic Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D., Montgomery County), the endorsement raises questions about his ability to galvanize widespread support.
    The 58-member state council, which represents 900,000 union workers in Pennsylvania, needed at least a two-thirds majority vote yesterday to endorse Specter. Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Bill George said Specter won the nod because of his longtime work to secure transportation funding that creates jobs, improve public education and, more recently, retain overtime pay for workers. But the decision was as much a strategic one for the council, which considered Hoeffel's chances of winning before making the call.
    [With "strategy" like this, who needs cyanide pills?]
    "I think a lot of people felt that Hoeffel's polling number wasn't at the level that it should be to beat Arlen Specter," George said. [Brilliant. Oh Bill George is sooo concerned about the future of America!]
    Specter said he was "especially heartened by the fact that no Democrat in modern times has won a statewide office without AFL-CIO endorsement" and called the nod "a very good omen." "But I'm still taking nothing for granted."
    Despite the snub, Hoeffel said he nonetheless expected to benefit from union voters in November who pull the Democratic ticket when they turn out for the presidential race. "I'm more determined than ever to fight for the votes of working Pennsylvanians," Hoeffel said. "I know for a fact that the vast majority of labor households are going to vote Democratic, and I'm going to work hard for that vote." Hoeffel attributed the endorsement to Specter's "24 years of relationships with some labor leaders." Specter was first elected to the Senate in 1980.
    Democratic political strategist Larry Ceisler called the endorsement a "big victory for Specter" that could cripple Hoeffel's efforts to raise his stature and money among national Democrats. "Hoeffel's best political argument against Arlen Specter was that he is too close to President Bush," said Ceisler, who is based in Philadelphia. "The AFL endorsement really undercuts that attack."

  12. Young pros becoming old waiting for love, by Lopamudra Ghatak, Economic Times via EconomicTimes.com, India.
    Amrit Vishnoi's existence was what many would call a perfect one. A plush job with a fat salary and an intellectually stimulating work environment should have kept him and his folks happy at the end of the day. However, that was not to be. For the...hard-core tech professional continued to be a source of worry for his aged parents, who were more than a little baffled by his single status and his clear stand against arranged marriages. For the Bits Pilani alumnus, it was simple logic. Although he did not want to not want to spend the rest of his life with someone he did not know, he was defenceless against his mother's persistent goading that he seemed Œinefficient' to crack success on the marital front, unlike his soaring success mother would say, when it came to seeking someone for himself. "My family refuses to believe that I can't find anyone physically appealing and mentally stimulating at the same time. Actually, they have almost given up on me. But it's true that I have not yet found anyone who has been able to stir my soul," Vishnoi, candidly admits. However, he has no qualms as he admits that his "profession does limit his scope of meeting interesting people belonging to the opposite sex". For most tech professionals spending long hours at the workplace, cracking solutions and developing programs , it's not an easy deal when it comes to matters of the heart. With the workplace eating into their time, most tech pros are stripped of any quality time to socialize. Added to that is the fact that since maximum time is spent in the office, most interaction is likely to revolve around the workplace. And according to software analyst Rajarshi Mazumdar, this "limits options to strike up a pact, which may have something more in common than discuss mere mundane workplace affairs". "I spend something like 12-13 hours in office everyday and there have been times when I have come home only after 2 days. In such situations, do you think there exists any scope of interacting with anyone outside the workplace? Since I only go to parties organised by friends, do you think that there exists any hope of meeting someone outside the circle of work for me?" Mazumdar posed....

  13. Labor Day [history] and change, Ivorytown Beacon, CT.
    The time when people could count on spending their entire life working at the same job or being employed by the same company has essentially ended. In this region, like elsewhere in the United States, people have discovered they must be willing to adjust and to improve their job skills so they can succeed in a constantly changing work environment. With the nation preparing to celebrate Labor Day next week, it's important to highlight the importance of people accepting - and even embracing - the need to always hone their work-related skills. Call it lifelong training. There was a time when someone could leave high school and take a job in a factory or at a utility company, and continue working in the same place for a lifetime. The region was filled with factories that hummed 24 hours a day, paying salaries that enabled hard-working employees to raise families, buy homes and live the American Dream. Large service companies, such as the phone and electric companies, also offered an inviting place for many people to spend their working lives. However, that has all changed in the 21st century, with the possible exception of some jobs in government. Due to globalization, new technology and a never-ending desire to increase worker productivity, a vast majority of people will hold many different jobs and work for many different companies during their lives. The emergence of Labor Day as a national holiday 110 years ago was borne out of change in the workplace. As the country became more industrialized, many people were working long hours in dangerous conditions for minimal compensation. A recession in the early 1890s brought the frustration and resentment of everyday workers to the forefront. As their bosses became wealthier and they toiled harder, workers decided they weren't going to take it anymore. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, largely as a political ploy to calm restless unions. The recession in the early 1890s led to layoffs and wage givebacks for people working in many sectors of the economy. A strike at the Pullman Co., the famous maker of railroad sleeping cars, became the epitome of the labor movement. When the company cut its payroll and lowered the wages of the remaining employees, furious workers went on strike. A national boycott of trains with Pullman cars ensued, followed by rioting led by union members and their sympathizers. President Grover Cleveland declared the strike illegal and 12,000 troops called in to break it up. It was a setback for American unions, which didn't gain strength again until the Great Depression in the 1930s. A bill to make Labor Day a national holiday was then rushed through Congress and signed by Cleveland as a way to appease angry union members and their supporters. The effort to create a national holiday to honor working men and women actually had been initiated a few years earlier by trade unions.
    [So the distractibility of labor onto meaningless fluff instead of hammering for empowering shorter hours goes back a long way before peaking in the 1930s when they let slide the 30-hour workweek in exchange for an alphabet soup of makework, the Big Four socialist parading horses (SocSec, Workers Comp, Unemployment Insurance, Minimum Wage) - and continuing, disempowering labor surplus.]
    In the 1950s, nearly 50% of Americans were union workers. Unions fought to protect workers' rights and to prevent corporate excess and greed.
    [None of it counts unless you cut the disempowering labor surplus, and the only way to do that in peacetime is workweek reduction. As proven by the results of labor's distractibility -]
    Today, less than 15% of the U.S. workforce belongs to unions, and many of those union workers are government employees. More manufacturing jobs are moving overseas, further hurting trade unions.
    [Labor is toast, because it was never bright enough to keep its eyes on the prize = a workweek that automatically adjusted against unemployment, comprehensively defined.]
    Labor Day is a time for everyone to appreciate the hard work of all Americans - especially those in the so-called working class.
    [Oh cut the unjustified self-congratulatory crap, focused again on the self-disempowering anachronism of long hours ("hard work") during the Robotics Age!]
    That hard work will continue, ensuring America's prosperity [nope, ensuring America's quick trip to the Third World], but with some changes. People shouldn't be afraid of those changes.
    [Oh yes they should.]
    Instead, they must focus on acquiring all the skills they can to succeed in an evolving workplace. Lifelong training should be seen as an opportunity.
    [Any repetitive part of any human activity can be automated. The process of mechanization and automation has swept through agriculture, manufacturing and is now sweeping through the service sector, including high tech - there are now plenty of programs to write programs. This process is no longer about "hard work" or about employees' individual responsibility to "acquire all the skills they can." There's nowhere for them to run and hide. There's no safe skill area.]

  14. ECB raises inflation forecast, Reuters, UK.
    FRANKFURT - The European Central Bank will revise slightly upward its 2004 and 2005 inflation forecasts in its new quarterly economic projections, central bank officials in the euro zone have told Reuters. The growth outlook, however, will remain unchanged, the officials said on Wednesday. "There is a slight change ... it's all relatively marginal," said one central bank official. "The upward trend by 0.1 percentage point (in inflation), that's correct." "There are no changes to the growth hypotheses," the official added....
    Wages - need more evidence
    Far more important than headline oil costs, however, is their feed-through to wages and broader-based consumer prices - what Trichet calls second-round effects, monetary officials stressed. Initial signs on the wage front are encouraging for the ECB. German group Siemens has negotiated a longer work week without a pay increase and France is talking of extending its work week. But these are still anecdotal developments rather than firm evidence of a trend.
    [First time we've seen this admission!]
    "It is too limited and not widespread enough," the official said, a view backed by another central bank source.

  15. Lincoln Electric board declares dividend, PRNewswire-FirstCall via Yahoo News, CLEVELAND - The Board of Directors of Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LECO - News) has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.17 per diluted share, payable Oct. 15, 2004, to holders of record as of Sept. 30, 2004.
    Lincoln Electric is the world leader in the design, development and manufacture of arc welding products, robotic arc-welding systems, plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Lincoln has operations, manufacturing alliances and joint ventures in 18 countries and a worldwide network of distributors and sales offices covering more than 160 countries. For more information about Lincoln Electric, its products and services, visit the Company's Web site at http://www.lincolnelectric.com

  16. Paramedics tell of staffing crisis, Bendigo Advertiser, Australia.
    VICTORIA STATE, Australia - Central Victorian towns have been left without their own ambulance services, according to burnt-out paramedics who say they are fed-up with working constant overtime. The allegations come amid concerns by Rural Ambulance Victoria that workplace bullying may be happening within the service in light of recent industrial action. A statement from one of the region's paramedics, obtained by The Advertiser, identifies three occasions last month where there was no ambulance directly operating out of Kyneton. It also claims ambulance shifts at Daylesford, Castlemaine and Romsey were not filled and had to be covered or monitored by services from surrounding towns. Rural Ambulance Victoria has labelled the statement a "scare-mongering" tactic. Spokesman Paul Bird said areas were always covered by some form of ambulance service. "There have been night shifts we have not been able to fill, but no branches have been closed," he said. "It is important to remember we regularly have no ambulances in town because they are out doing their jobs," he said. However, two Central Victorian paramedics and ambulance union representatives have agreed staff shortages have reached crisis point. One said ambulance officers were each averaging about 600 hours overtime per year and were constantly called to work on days off. "Paramedics take the job knowing what it is going to be like and their dedication is great, but there are just not enough resources," one ambulance officer told The Advertiser. "You are just constantly tired. "When someone takes annual leave or sick leave, it just throws everything into chaos because people are just sick of doing overtime." Another Bendigo paramedic said under-resourcing in small towns in particular, impacted on the ability of paramedics to respond to emergencies. "People have to wait - unfortunately that is the nature of the job," he said. "But if a patient is time-critical with life-threatening injuries, I would hate to speculate on what could happen then." Ambulance Employees Association Bendigo representative Richard Marchingo said the community would be alarmed if the full extent of resource shortages was known. He claimed management was constantly dealing with complaints from the public in relation to response times and even paramedic attitudes. "The morale is low and it is getting harder and harder to get paramedics to work overtime," he said. "Response times are a concern and going to a job knowing that someone else is waiting makes it difficult." Mr Marchingo said some paramedics were working up to 80 hours a week and days off were often interrupted by requests to work overtime. He said the situation was alarming. "Being on a major highway - it is a huge risk to leave (a town) unmanned," he said. "The public expect a reasonable (ambulance) system, but there's not one at the moment. "In places such as Kyneton, Castlemaine and Gisborne, the population has grown significantly, but no extra resources have been put in." RAV spokesman Paul Bird said there appeared to have been recent incidents of workplace bullying within the ambulance service. "Unfortunately, it's getting very dirty at the moment," he said. "There is a lot of scaremongering and politics going on. "It seems a remarkable jlco-incidence that since the Industrial Relations Commission order, we have had a sudden drop-off in paramedics willing to work overtime," he said.

  17. Ralph's folly - In his attempt to screw workers, Ralph Regula screws himself, Cleveland Scene Weekly, OH.
    Workers who may find themselves stripped of overtime under new federal legislation will have a local politician to thank: Congressman Ralph Regula (R-Navarre). The legislation would make a few low-income salaried workers eligible for overtime, but employers would be allowed to exempt anyone considered to be holding a "position of responsibility" who makes more than $22,000 - a category that includes everyone except the dude making French fries. Democrats tried to block the bill when it landed in Regula's appropriations subcommittee. Regula cut them down with a vicious chopblock. He threatened to strip funding for education and health programs in the district of any Democrat who opposed the abolition of overtime. But while Regula may like to play hardball, his technique leaves something to be desired: He made the threat in writing. Now his opponent, Jeff Seemann, is trotting it out as campaign fodder. Regula has since applied for an internship with the Genovese Family, in hopes of improving his game.

  18. Workers, contractors settle three lawsuits - The settlement does not end the controversy over work on the IPFW housing project, by Linda Lipp, Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN.
    Three lawsuits filed by workers against contractors on the IPFW student housing project were settled out of court in August. The 10 workers named plaintiffs in the three lawsuits, filed in February, received amounts ranging from $1,000 to $9,000, minus Social Security taxes. In addition, five workers who were not named plaintiffs, but who had anticipated filing similar claims, received amounts ranging from $1,000 to $7,000, minus Social Security taxes as well. Together, the payouts to workers totaled $68,450. Settlement of the lawsuits does not end the controversy over wages and benefits paid by some contractors on the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne project, however. The Indiana Department of Labor has been investigating claims scores of workers for some of the nonunion contractors on the project were paid far less than amounts required by Indiana's Common Wage Law. Deputy Commissioner David Finnegan said his department hopes to wrap up the investigation, which began last September, within a few weeks. Former Deputy Labor Commissioner Pete Rimsans estimated in February the workers might have been cheated out of as much as $3 million in wages and benefits. A subsequent study by two professors with the IU Department of Labor Studies here estimated lost wages at $2.5 million and the total wage and benefit package at $3.3 million. The workers who filed suit were employed by subcontractor Hough Drywall of New Palestine. They claimed they had not been paid $26.79 per hour in wages and benefits they were due under the Common Wage law. They also alleged they were paid straight time for hours in excess of 40 per week, instead of overtime at the rate of time-and-a-half, as the law requires. Attorney Alan VerPlanck estimated the workers received 50 cents on the dollar for what they believed they were owed as a result of the settlement. The settlement agreement also called for Hough to pay $21,550 in attorney's fees to VerPlanck's firm, Eilbacher Fletcher. Although MW Builders, the Overland Park, Kan.-based general contractor on the project, also was named defendant in the lawsuits, that firm did not make any financial contribution to the settlement, VerPlanck said. As condition of settlement, the plaintiffs agreed to drop their participation in a National Labor Relations Board action filed by Carpenters Local 232, whose members did not get work from any of the contractors on the IPFW construction project. The plaintiffs' attorneys also agreed not to take on any further claims against MW and Hough, except those existing before May 28, and not to cooperate with other attorneys who might pursue additional claims. MW and Hough made no admissions of wrongdoing or liability. The February lawsuits followed an earlier claim filed by six workers. They also settled out of court, receiving undisclosed back wages, damages and attorney's fees. The plaintiffs in the first lawsuit were fired after they filed their complaint. The plaintiffs in the subsequent lawsuits also lost their jobs, but that happened when their employer, Hough Drywall, was thrown off the project in mid-February. MW dismissed Hough after a series of discussions with Purdue Construction Superintendent Lewie Wallace. In November, Wallace had ordered MW to dismiss another subcontractor, Texas-based Kajn Framers/Better Builders, for failing to provide requested wage documents for the Indiana Labor Department's investigation.

  19. Air controller shortage threatens N.E. skies, by Casey Ross, Boston Herald, MA.
    A worsening shortage of air traffic controllers is threatening to create gridlock in New England's skies and longer delays in airports if federal officials don't act now to increase staffing, union officials say. "The system is facing a crisis," said Michael Blake of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "You will start to see more delays and cancellations at a time the airline industry is trying to recover from 9/11." Union officials say the shortage, which is being driven by a rapidly accelerating rate of retirement, is not being treated with enough urgency by the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency is still developing a plan to deal with the shortage while "we are already seriously behind when it comes to hiring," Blake said. A spokesman for the FAA said yesterday that officials are on top of the problem. "We have a sound, long-term and practicable effort under way to determine precisely what we need to hire and train controllers at each of our facilities," spokesman William Shumann said. The agency's plan for hiring controllers is due out in December. Meanwhile, union officials are pushing the U.S. Senate to spend $14 million next year to hire 300 new controllers. They say at least 1,000a year are needed, but 300 is as much as they can hope for in the budget year to begin in October. Officials at a Nashua, N.H., facility that controls traffic over New England, Canada and the Great Lakes expect to lose 40% of controllers by 2010. They say controllers are already working overtime to keep the skies safe. That sounded ominous to Jim Bennett, a Fort Lauderdale man traveling through Logan yesterday. "Delays don't bother me, but the idea of someone making mistakes because they are tired and working too long does," Bennett said. "Some jobs you just don't do that to."

  20. Auto industry innovation is the answer, by Patricia Panchak for Industry Week Magazine via MotorTrend Magazine.
    It's become an undisputed truth in manufacturing: Low cost, high quality and fast delivery are the measures by which a manufacturer will succeed. Fail on these fundamentals, and your customer will go to a competitor, right? Not so fast. If that's so, then how does one explain the popularity of the Toyota Sienna minivan compared with GM's, Ford's or Chrysler's offerings? In the past year, the U.S. Big Three gave cash rebates, cut-rate financing and other incentives to entice buyers and pump up their market shares. Meanwhile, Toyota Sienna buyers were paying full ticket price, waiting months for delivery and boosting Toyota's growing slice of the U.S. automobile market. Why? Product innovation. An article in The Wall Street Journal last month detailed Toyota's and other Japanese automobile makers' strategies compared with the U.S. Big Three's. To avoid profit- and brand-killing financial incentives, Toyota stuffed its vehicles with new features - automatic doors, extra audio speakers and remote power door locks - and held the line on price. It worked: Toyota and other Japanese car makers spent a meager $931 on incentives on average (the U.S. Big Three average was $3,445) and grabbed another 1.4% of market share from the U.S. in 2003. That's why the intense focus by U.S. manufacturers on costs has me worried. Almost daily I get letters from manufacturers highlighting their cost disadvantages and asking, "How can we possibly compete?" And it seems every manufacturing organization focuses on the issue. At the end of last year, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released a study that concludes U.S. manufacturers labor under a cost burden that is, conservatively they say, 22% more than that of their main foreign competitors. I agree with the letter writers and the NAM report's conclusions: U.S. manufacturers face a dramatically higher cost structure than their competitors, and the structural costs have become more burdensome with increased competition from low-cost countries. I even agree with some of the policy changes that NAM calls for to offset these cost disadvantages. But U.S. manufacturers need to channel most of their fear of cost competition and their anger at the unfairness of it toward what they must do to overcome the high costs they face. Many are so worried about competing on cost, their greatest weakness, that they are failing to compete on innovation, their greatest strength. As a result, they should be more frightened by the competitive challenges detailed in Senior Technology Editor John Teresko's report on Asian innovation than they are of those described in the NAM report. Even if U.S. public policy makers act boldly to address the concerns in NAM's report, it's unlikely that they will dramatically alter the competitive landscape. U.S. manufacturers still will be forced to overcome very big cost differentials. The manufacturing industry's earlier run-in with competition from low-wage countries presents a noteworthy precedent: The U.S. government didn't ride to the rescue with dramatic roll-backs of the U.S. minimum wage or suspend overtime rules to reduce the cost of labor. The cost and standard of living in the U.S. wouldn't allow it. Now that the cost imbalance results from taxes, regulation and health care, it will be no different. Luckily, we know how to compete. U.S. car manufacturers, for example, have demonstrated leadership in the past decade not with low prices, but with the successful creation of two entirely new categories of vehicles: the minivan and the SUV, as well as with the dramatic updating of that old American icon, the pick-up truck. Unfortunately, many of our competitors are now doing the same. Which is all the more reason we must focus on innovation.

  21. Poll: Many work on Labor Day, by Aleksandra Todorova, Smartmoney.com.
    Labor Day may be known for blowout sales and end-of-summer barbeques, but this year one-third of Americans plan to spend the holiday weekend at work, according to a survey released Wednesday by Kronos, a workforce management company in Chelmsford, Mass. Another 12% of the respondents said they may have to be on the job as well. "Many of [these workers] feel they have to," says Michael DiPietro, a vice president at Kronos. A lot of it has to with what we've come to call the "jobless recovery," he explains: companies increasing their current employees' workload rather than hiring new ones in order to increase productivity at a minimum cost. As a result, workers are so pressed to keep up the pace that they "feel the need to email their boss at 11 p.m., to show they're working late," DiPietro adds. According to the Kronos survey, 35% of Americans usually work during the weekends, with most of them (95%) working at least two weekends each month. As a whole, 62% of Americans say their job responsibilities have increased in the past six months, 32% say they spend more hours at work, but only 38% indicate they have received a raise during that time period. There isn't even time for a break: In the past year, 67% of America's workforce hasn't used allotted vacation time. The result: Americans say they feel overtired and overwhelmed (53%); have difficulty balancing work and personal responsibilities (28%); experience frequent mood changes (21%); and say their families and personal well being have suffered (26%). (Results add up to more than 100% because respondents indicated more than one answer.) Jared Bernstein, director of the living standards program at the Economic Policy Institute and one of the authors of its annual publication, "The State of Working America," says the results of the survey are indicative of economic trends in the past few years. However, he's troubled by the long-term implications. "Some of the productivity gains we've experienced over the past few years come from employers squeezing more work out of less workers," he says. "That has led to a sentiment of overwork and stress, and it's not a particularly sustainable path to faster productivity growth."

  22. Burton, Bush and DeBartolo, by P.J. Corkery, San Francisco Examiner, CA.
    Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer share yet one more rare distinction: Dubya has nicknames for them. ... Not many Democrats have penetrated the presidential brain so deeply as to warrant pet names, but these two have. In Dubya-talk, Boxer is known as "Ali" and Feinstein is called "Frazier." Ali & Frazier! Get it! Two Boxers! Dubya likes it. ... Among the other Bush nicknames are "Guru" for The Farm's Condi Rice ... and "Hogan" for John McCain. That one's easy too: Hogan for "Hogan's Heroes," the TV sitcom set in a stalag. ... Dick Cheney is "Big Time" ... Barney Frank is "Sabertooth" ... and rather appropriately, that master of stink politics Karl Rove wafts forth in the bright presidential lexicon as "Turd Blossom." ...
    Very droll return-of-fire to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth comes from a website called www.SwiftYachtVets.com, which memorializes the Prez's days in the wheelhouse. Recalls one old Swift Yacht salt of GWB, "I remember one time we got stranded out in Goosefair Bay and ran out of gin. We were up to our eyeballs in limes and tonic. Wouldn't ya know, here comes George W. Bush on the Laura II with a relief shipment of Tanqueray. By God, he saved a few lives that day!" ... Under-recorded: Two hundred thousand people marched through the streets of New York City Monday to protest the government, but nary a word of that makes the front pages. That was a monster protest. ... And scarcely a word in the press on the huge pay cut Americans just took as the Labor Dept. - redefining janitors as executives, among other moves - eliminated cash overtime for millions. ... But the front pages are full of stories about ex-Mayor Rudi comparing Bush to Churchill ... parties for John McCain at La Goulue on Madison Ave. (the most overpriced boite in NYC) ... and the inclusiveness of the Republican Party. ... We live not only in the era of conspicuous consumption, but also of conspicuous omission. ...
    Fair Play: The wretched excesses of your prominent Dems are also underreported. For example, you won't read a word (except here) about the way John Burton ended his political career. His final hours in elected office, as presiding officer and boss of the state senate, ended in a scarifying outburst of vulgarities and bullying late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Johnny began his final night by calling the caucus into session and harassing them with a spewing of unprintables. Then he called the chamber into session to consider the Workers' Comp Bill, engaging in more unparliamentary talk. Then, in a completely unparliamentary maneuver, he suddenly adjourned the session without completing the legislative work. That shows 'em who's boss, Johnny. ... Er, who was boss. Crude finish to an often brilliant career. But then, some guys can't go without making it ugly. ... Scandal Watch: FBI agents showed up at the residence of Mrs. John F. Shelley, mother of the beleaguered Kevin, and had a look around. ...
    Now, wait'll ya read this. Eddie DeBartolo is inflicting himself on the public again. Weirdly enough, Easy Eddie makes his re-entrée to the world via the pages of yesterday's L.A. Times.
    DeBartolo tells the Times' Sam Farmer that his felony conviction in 1998 (on charges he was involved in a bribe attempt to obtain a Louisiana gambling license), which forced him out of football and caused him to lose control of the Forty Niners to his sister, was "a blessing in disguise.
    "Maybe it was time (to leave)," he said. "I'll never forget what Joe Montana said to me. We were riding in the car in Canton when he was being inducted (into the Football Hall of Fame). We were just talking about football and him. He said, 'You have to be like me. Put football in the rearview mirror.'"
    That was then, as they say. Now he'd like to be back in the NFL. ... Jerry Jones is even quoted as saying he'd embrace DeBartolo on his return to ownership of some NFL team.
    Eddie belittles his brother-in-law, Dr. John York, as a cheapskate: "All I can say is, that's John. That's his management style. Everybody can't run things the way we did.. ... I probably went that extra step, anyways. Can I say that that bonded the team more with me? I think it did. In fact, I know it did. That doesn't mean that John won't be successful with his management style. Have I ever seen anyone build a winner with that management style? ... I don't know." ... I'll bet Eddie worked on that paragraph for days.
    Of course, DeBartolo fails to mention that there's a salary cap these days. ... Somewhat disingenuously, I think, he says he didn't "give it more than a 15-minute thought process," when it came time for him to decide to give up the Niners in 1999. ... At any rate, Eddie's back. ...
    Tip off P.J. at 415-359-2649. E-mail to pjcorkery@examiner.com.

  23. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal reveal who the real "class warfarers" are, by Charles M. Kelly, OpEdNews via OpEdNews.com.
    Want to know who the real "class war farers" are? The following excerpt makes it clear that they are NOT Democrats who want the voting public to be "envious of the rich." Instead of supporting Democrat efforts to raise the minimum wage, Republicans deliberately create conditions that allow corporations to take ruthless advantage of their own lowest paid workers.
    From the Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2004.
    This is as blatant a class warfare tactic as you'll find. At a time of record corporate profits, skyrocketing increases in corporate executive pay, and escalating investor incomes - the greedy bastards at the top want more, and they're willing to take it from the lowest paid members of our society to get it. It gets so repetitious it's monotonous. The exposed greed of today's corporate hierarchy has become commonplace - even to the extent these people are willing to conspire to violate the law.
    From the Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2004.
    We're truly living in a new era in which the "aristocracy" believes that they deserve all that they can grasp from the common people. The executives described above are becoming typical of the corporate environment - not in that they are willing to violate laws - but that they are willing to do whatever it takes to become members of the world's new aristocracy, no matter at whose expense and who it hurts. The people described in this excerpt are merely more extreme examples of the executives described in the previous excerpt. For a brief case study that demonstrates the real purpose of globalization, the following excerpt is a classic. It's increasingly becoming clear that globalization is based on the theory that an economy should be designed to benefit investors at the direct expense of labor. Investors should be a new class of aristocracy, and workers should grateful enough to have jobs that they will accept terrible working conditions and wages. That's exactly what has evolved today. Investors have all the bargaining power, and workers have none.
    From the Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2004.
    Remember, in the 1960s economists were predicting the explosion of productivity and technology that we are seeing today. They also predicted that work would be reduced to an 8-hour, 4-day workweek. Of course, those were the days when true Democrats were in control of Congress and the White House.
    [And when economists could still connect the dots between reduced workweeks and stable employment and robust consumer markets.]
    After Republicans and conservative Democrats gained control of both, they made deals with their conspirators in other countries - and the results have been a disaster for workers throughout the world. Consider:
    € "Germany's short work week and generally restrictive labor policies are often cited by economists as the main factors crippling its economy." Here the Journal describes a fair sharing of profits with workers as "restrictive." Actually, what this statement means is that Germany can no longer compete with those corporations and countries who have sold out their workers to the lowest bidders in the world.
    € "As West Germany went through its "economic miracle" in the decades after World War II, unions managed to win ever more generous terms for workers across whole industries." But that's the way it was supposed to be. As corporations were more successful, and investors made more money - workers were also supposed to benefit.
    € "Companies went along as long as they could compensate for the higher costs by improving productivity through automation." Again, that's the way a humane capitalist system is supposed to work.
    € "More recently, however, price pressure from foreign competitors has increased to such a degree that many German companies are giving their workers a simple option - work longer for the same pay or lose your job. Many German manufacturers already have operations in Eastern Europe and Asia, lending such threats enough credibility to make workers buckle." Ah, and that is what has enabled investors and top corporate executives to drive down labor costs - bald-faced threats. Or, as one person put it:
    € "The ability of companies to blackmail employees has increased." Precisely, I couldn't have said it better.
    € "Germany's flagging economy and globalization are giving companies the ammunition they need to chip away at the "social contract" between employers and workers." Again, that's the whole point of globalization: it gives corporations the excuse to forget all the old bromides about being loyal to your employees, and slogans like "employees are our most important product." With globalization, all past agreements with workers, actual or implied, are forgotten. It's now all about money for investors and top corporate executives, who want it all for themselves.
    € "Siemens Chief Executive Heinrich von Pierer, recently referred to as "Rambo" by an IG Metall official for his hard stance on working hours, says companies like his are only doing what is necessary to remain competitive." This is the ultimate hypocrisy. Get politicians elected to office who deliberately create the race-to-the-bottom for wages - and then say you've got to destroy your own workers' incomes and working conditions in order to remain competitive.
    Isn't this a great economy that Republicans and conservative Democrats have given us?
    Chuck Kelly is at http://www.KellySite.net. He holds a Ph.D. in industrial communications from Purdue University, is now a retired management consultant, and author of the books, The Destructive Achiever, The Great Limbaugh Con, and Class War in America. This article is originally published at opednews.com. Copyright Chuck Kelly, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached. Check out other articles by Chuck Kelly at Chuck Kelly Archive

  24. Lincoln Financial Group [LFG] recognized by AARP as exemplary employer for older workers; LFG among 35 employers honored, Business Wire, CA.
    PHILADELPHIA - Lincoln National Corporation, the parent company of the Lincoln Financial Group of companies, was named today by AARP as one of the Best Employers For Workers Over 50. This marks the second consecutive year Lincoln Financial Group was honored by AARP with the award. In naming Lincoln as one of 35 honorees this year, AARP - a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people age 50 and older - lauded the companies for their policies affecting employees age 50-plus. AARP The Magazine will feature an article on best employers in the November/December issue and also list the winning companies. "Our company culture as well as our employment policies support a commitment to advancement and work/life balance so it's an honor to be recognized by AARP. We are focused on finding and retaining talented people, regardless of age," says Jon A. Boscia, chairman and chief executive officer, Lincoln Financial Group. Joyce Line, assistant vice president and director of operations and an employee who is over 50, can attest to Lincoln's commitment to advancement. She joined Lincoln 32 years ago in a clerical level job and moved into management five years later and has progressively risen to more challenging roles. Line, who does not have a college degree says, "I credit the company for recognizing and valuing my knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience and also for giving me a chance since I don't have a degree. To grow professionally, I've used the company's tuition assistance program to take business classes." "The company really provides opportunities to save for retirement and I credit the company for making information and resources readily available to employees when they need it. I am aware of people who work for other employers who don't have the same access to information that we do," adds Line. With the changing demographics of the labor force, Lincoln continues to emphasize flexible, family-friendly programs to better meet the needs of its diverse population. This is underscored with initiatives such as flextime, job sharing and a number of employee support services that address the needs of Lincoln employees at various life stages. AARP initiated its exemplary practices search by inviting employers with 50 or more employees to outline their innovative policies toward 50 and over workers. A consulting firm conducted the preliminary rating of responses. Then, a six-member independent panel of judges evaluated the applications and their opinions, combined with the consultant's evaluations, led to final ratings. Additional vetting followed to determine the Best Employers. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation (NYSE:LNC) and its affiliates. With headquarters in Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Group has consolidated assets of $109 billion and had annual consolidated revenues of $5.3 billion in 2003. Through its wealth accumulation and protection businesses, the company provides annuities, life insurance, 401(k) and 403(b) plans, 529 college savings plans, mutual funds, managed accounts, institutional investment and financial planning and advisory services.

  25. Government taking health workers for granted, by Mark Wignall, Jamaica Observer, Jamaica.
    Late Sunday night, I had reason to visit the Accident and Emergency (A & E) unit at the University Hospital. I was absolutely amazed at the seemingly impossible task that health workers have taken on, dealing with a never ending stream of people in various stages of ill-health. At minutes to midnight, all beds were already taken and the alternatives were the Kingston Public Hospital in the heart of the tough downtown Kingston or, for the well-heeled, the upscale Tony Thwaites Wing, for which a minimum deposit of $60,000 was required. Said one doctor to me: 'Once we deal with patients at A & E, if they have to be admitted and there are no beds available on the wards, we have no other option but to send the patient to KPH. And let me tell you this, at KPH, they have to take you, whether a bed is available or you have to stay on the floor.' Another doctor was still doing examinations. She would be leaving for home in one hour's time, after doing 30 straight hours. 'Why do you do it?' I asked her. 'Dedication for one,' she replied. 'Second, there is no money in it working here, as some may believe. I am able to survive financially because my husband is also a health worker. If I should tell you what I am taking home, you would laugh.' She was nearing the end of her internship. 'You see, Mr Wignall, the Government knows that the vast majority of us here are super dedicated so they take advantage of that situation in understaffing, forcing us into long hours of work, all the while knowing that in the end we will acquiesce to whatever they demand of us.' Four years ago when I was admitted to Ward 3 and spent six days there, I was pleasantly surprised by the treatment given to me and other patients. Granted, prior to admittance there was pressure on systems such as X-ray units and Ultrasound. But what took place after bolstered my faith in at least one Jamaican institution. I praised the young doctors, the nurses, the students, the ancillary staff, not because I felt in any mood to offer them empty congratulations, but simply because they were working above and beyond the call of duty. That state of affairs with the Government relying solely on the dedication of professionals runs the risk of eventually alienating these important groups of persons. In the teaching profession, we also find another stock of professionals that are being overlooked by the authorities. Granted there is some chaff in the system who still need weeding out, but in the main, the typical teacher is a dedicated soul who will always go that extra mile. If there is one feature of this PNP Administration that has hurt it politically more than others, it is its inability to get the small things fixed. Potholes, clearing gullies, bushing a verge, replacing a water pump. Under the previous JLP Government, beautification was the order of the day, that is in lining the roadways with plants, having clean markets and arranging timely collection of garbage. Many persons criticised this and made the suggestion that the Government should instead pay attention to 'the important things' rather than trivial matters. The fact is, smaller matters have to be dealt with first. What this administration has done is water down the application of attention to all services until we have reached a point where no one service works efficiently. Which is why I am forced to praise our health services. At KPH, for example, people who are in the business of chopping up their relatives, carving up their friends and getting shot by the police all end up there to place pressure on a system already under immense strain. And yet, the worst kind of behaviour is exhibited by these patients who are demanding that they be attended to as a matter of first priority. Then of course there is the all-important matter of funding the cost of health, with many patients opting not to pay even minimal fees but expecting top-class service. When a doctor or a nurse has been going for 20 hours and working in cramped conditions and patients are shouting at them, yelling expletives every which way, it is only super dedication which keeps such a system moving. In the last few weeks, we have shown the world what we are capable of in sports. We stepped up to the bat and we delivered. And how we did deliver! We need to replicate this right here at home, in the health services, education, national security and in other areas. There are policemen working against all odds and just trying to give an honest day's work for less than reasonable pay. Yet these men are forced to sit and watch their corrupt colleagues cavort openly with drug dealers and are warned to hear, see and say nothing. The authorities know this and, like everything else in the system, there has been a failure to nip it in the bud. Again, let me congratulate the health system and especially the dedicated staff of the University Hospital who know what hard work really is. Some of us only speak of it. The doctors, nurses, students and ancillary staff there live it on a daily basis and they are barely recognised by the governmental authorities.

  26. Frontier Airlines, WSJ, D13.
    Frontier Airlines pilots agreed to switch from a fixed salary to an hourly pay system.... Most U.S. carriers pay pilots on an hourly basis..\..
    The new system will also reduce the need for new pilots as the airline adds planes and routes..\..CFO Paul Tate said.... The airline expects pilot productivity to increase by about 10% because its 500-plus pilots will have more incentive to fly more hours.
    Previously, Frontier paid pilots the fixed salary for flying 65 hours or more a month. Under the new system, pilots are guaranteed at least 75 hours of flight time monthly.
    [With 'guarantees' like this, who needs toxic fumes?]
    Federal rules limit pilots to 100 hours of flying per month....
    [At least it's not 100 hours per week, like the 80 hours per week medical interns are 'limited' to.]
    The pilots union, the Frontier Pilots Assoc., is happy with the deal, said union Pres. Jeff Thomas. "We're looking to compete long-term. There's a real emphasis on making this thing work," he said.
    [So they're switching from piecework ('salary') to wage work (hourly). But -
    "Whether we work by the piece or the day
    Increasing the hours decreases the pay.]

  27. Economic scene - Wal-Mart may be the new model of productivity, but it isn't always wowing workers, by Jeff Madrick, NYT, C2.
    On this Labor Day, it is worth remembering how widely it was once argued that America's new economy would produce more democratic workplaces that depended on the advancing skills of workers. Old assembly-line mass production was dead [ie: robotized], hierarchical management was a dinosaur, and the nation's productivity would be raised rapidly through the creation of interesting new jobs at higher pay and benefits.
    But the new economy, it appears, can cut two ways. New technologies can be used to create good jobs,
    [for example...?]
    but they can also be used to create stultifying and poorly paid ones.
    [for example, "old assembly-line mass production" mentioned above. Unmentioned is the much more significant function of new technologies in destroying good jobs - in the sense of costly, high-paying jobs?]
    In fact, the latter possibility, more than outsourcing or globalization, may account for why the nation's productivity has been rising recently while real wages are stagnating and job creation is well behind the pace of past recoveries.
    [Happytalker Madrick is focused exclusively on the positive, job creation not job destruction. Here he attributes rising productivity and stagnating wages exclusively on slower job creation, without mentioning job destruction or what economists call "technological displacement."]
    To the historian Nelson Lishtenstein, who reaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, one way to think about how the economy has changed is that Wal-Mart Stores, a services company, is the classic "business template" of the contemporary economy....
    Just as it closely manages its inventory and purchases, Wal-Mart's central management deploys its employees and minimizes their hours.
    [Here again we have the reality of shorter hours - but in the worst possible way; namely, to avoid any chance of their possible definition as "full time." ...Instead of in the best possible way by redefining "full time" at a lower number of hours. But this "minimize hours" statement is strange in the light of the following nugget -]
    ...Academic researchers interviewing Wal-Mart employees find frequent complaints about stress and overwork and little respect for personal needs....
    High technology, critics say, also allows companies like Wal-Mart to juggle worker schedules so adeptly that they can make efficient use of part-time help. So part of Wal-Mart's success results from hiring a high proportion of temporary and part-time workers from the ample supply of students, retirees and working spouses.
    [This is all very futuristic, except for the failure to redefine "full time" downward so that fulltime level wages and benefits attach to the shorter schedules. Also futuristic is that Wal-Mart is pioneering the major management skill of the future, defining and suturing shorter and shorter shifts - but again in the worst possible way.]
    A new study by Arindrajit Dube and Ken Jacobs of UCal/Berkeley, has produced clear evidence of Wal-Mart's comparatively low wages. The researchers calculate that in the San Francisco Bay Area, the company's average wage, about $11 an hour, is roughly 30% below what unionized workers get in local grocery chains.
    [Again, the "bad apples spoil the good" and the bad money drives out the good.]
    They also find that the average Wal-Mart wage for all of California is 20-30% below the average wage paid by retailers with 1,000 or more workers. Indeed, annual turnover is high at Wal-Mart, averaging some 46% nationwide. Costco averages only 24%, though Wal-Mart counters that its turnover is lower than the average for all American retailers....
    Just as at the turn of the last century, most Wal-Mart critics say a crucial way to improve conditions is to change laws to make labor unions easier to organize....
9/01/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 8/31 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except Australian & Far East stories which are 9/01), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Small businesses to get low-down on awards, by Peter Wilson, Wodonga Border Mail, Australia.
    VICTORIA, Australia - Small business operators in Alpine shire can get the low-down on the implications of federal awards at a briefing at Bright tomorrow. The Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry will conduct the briefing to alert employers to additional costs they could incur when federal awards come into force in Victoria from January 1 next year. The changes mean that many employers will have to pay their staff 17.5% annual leave loading, weekend penalty rates, overtime and other employment benefits for the first time. Vecci general manager, workplace relations, Mr David Gregory said many regional Victorian firms and businesses not already covered by federal awards faced the increased labour costs and compliance requirements from January 1. "Alpine council is actively supporting this briefing, recognising the significance of the changes that will affect a large percentage of businesses in the area," Mr Gregory said. "The new entitlements have the potential to add real cost increases to the wages bill of regional employers."

  2. Slavery is not dead, just less recognizable - Today, 27 million people are enslaved, more than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade, by Susan Llewelyn Leach, Christian Science Monitor.
    Slaves are cheap these days. Their price is the lowest it's been in about 4,000 years. And right now the world has a glut of human slaves - 27 million by conservative estimates and more than at any time in human history.
    Although now banned in every country, slavery has boomed in the past 50 years as the global population has exploded. A billion people scrape by on $1 a day. That extreme poverty combined with local government corruption and a global economy that leaps national boundaries has produced a surge in the number of slaves - even though in the developed world, that word conjures up the 19th century rather than the evening news.
    "For an American audience, their conceptualization of slavery is locked into a picture from the past," says Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves (www.freetheslaves.net), a nonprofit in Washington. "It's fixed in the slavery of the deep South and it's about African-Americans being enslaved on plantations with chains and whips and so forth."
    Modern-day slavery has little of the old South. Of those 27 million, the majority are bonded laborers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal - workers who have given their bodies as collateral for debts that never diminish no matter how many years, or sometimes generations, the enslaved labor on. Cooking the books is an early lesson for slaveholders.
    Yet despite this new largely unacknowledged slavery epidemic, Dr. Bales is optimistic. While the real number of slaves is the largest there has ever been, he says, it is also probably the smallest proportion of the world population ever in slavery. Today, he adds, we don't have to win the legal battle; there's a law against it in every country. We don't have to win the economic argument; no economy is dependent on slavery (unlike in the 19th century, when whole industries could have collapsed). And we don't have to win the moral argument; no one is trying to justify it any more.
    The fact that it's still thriving, he explains, comes down principally to ignorance about the institution and lack of resources directed at eradicating it.
    Lack of public awareness is strikingly apparent in developed countries, where few are conscious that it is not exclusively a third-world problem.
    Although the numbers are small relative to the worldwide challenge, in the developed world slavery happens uncomfortably close to home. For instance, between 14,000 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually, according to the US government, most forced into the sex trade, domestic servitude, or agricultural labor. At any one time, between 52,000 and 87,000 are in bondage. And much of that is in plain view, in towns and cities across the country, experts say. People simply don't recognize it.
    In June, an Indian domestic in Brookline, Mass., won a court case against an Omani couple who had barred her from leaving their apartment unescorted for more than a year, forcing her to look after their four children, cook, and clean without proper pay or meals. An alert neighbor who caught wind of her plight helped her escape.
    But that is the exception, suggests Tommy Calvert of American Anti-Slavery Group in Boston. "Law enforcement and legal professionals don't always identify a victim of slavery as such." And the public is even less likely to recognize the signs.
    Last month, the State Department issued a fact sheet urging citizens "to help end modern-day slavery" and warned "it may even be happening in their own backyards."
    It's where domestic violence was 35 years ago, Bales say. No one talked about it, no shelters existed, and no one had written a pamphlet laying out what it looked like.
    That's about to change. A pamphlet on slavery is in the works, says Bales, who hopes to get it distributed to neighborhood watch groups around the US before the end of the year, if funding comes through. The draft, titled "How can I recognize trafficking victims" includes a list of "visible indicators" of whether an establishment is holding people against their will and the physical signs that a person might be enslaved. Once people are better informed, he expects a flood of cases.
    Part of the confusion about slavery, says Bales, is that it has evolved over the centuries and what we traditionally thought of as slavery - chattel slavery - looks very different these days. But the definition remains the same: "Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised" (Slavery Convention of the League of Nations, 1926).
    In his book "Disposable People," Bales says ownership is no longer an attractive proposition for most slaveholders because the price of slaves is so low. In 1850, a slave would cost about $40,000 in today's dollars. Now, you can buy a slave for $30 in the Ivory Coast. The glut "has converted them from being the equivalent of buying a car to buying a plastic pen that you use and throw away," he says. That makes maintenance of the "investment" a low priority, and little care is taken for slaves' well-being.
    The most common type of slavery is debt bondage which traps 15 million to 20 million in loan agreements they can never pay off. Others are lured by false promises into forced labor situations, where they are coerced to stay under threat of violence. Slavery also includes the worst forms of child labor and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
    The fastest growing type, however, is trafficking ("forcing and transporting people into slavery"). According to a Department of Justice report in June on human trafficking, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year (and millions more are trafficked within their own countries). Of those, about 80% are female, and an estimated 70 % end up in the commercial sex trade, the report says. The United Nations estimates that the profits from human trafficking (about $9.5 billion last year) rank it among the top three revenue earners for organized crime, after drugs and arms. In 10 years, it's expected to be the top source of revenue.
    This rapid rise has been met with new laws in the US (the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000, which was reauthorized and expanded last December), a rapid ratification of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime put forward in 2000, which also came into force last December, and greater sharing of information and coordination among nations to combat trafficking.
    The UN declared 2004 International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and its Abolition, even though, ironically, there are more slaves now than there were even at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.
    Enforcement is one stalling point in its eradication. A Human Rights Watch report issued in July, for instance, looks at the pattern of exploitation of foreign domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Although the Saudis are held to account for a judicial system that makes its almost impossible for foreign nationals to appeal their circumstances, says Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Middle East and Africa for HRW, the sending countries shirk their responsibilities, too. "They need to better protect their nationals," she says. "Unfortunately, each one [of the sending countries] says, if we make it tough for Saudi [Arabia] then they will just go to Pakistan [for foreign workers]. And Pakistan says, if we make it tough, then they will just go to the Philippines. So it's a race to the bottom."
    Even when law enforcement is not in question, uncovering cases can be like looking for clues in the dark. Last year, only nine trafficking cases were prosecuted in the US with a total of 17 convictions - the smallest sliver of those working the new slave trade. "The thing that is unique about human trafficking and enslavement," says Bales "... is that it's a crime of seriousness equal to kidnapping, torture, murder etc. and yet it has the 'dark figure' [a criminologist's term for crimes that remain hidden, unreported] of bicycle theft."
    The conditions of those enslaved are usually filled with physical and mental abuse and violence - or at least the constant threat of it - and sometimes unimaginable deprivations. Girls are frequently "broken in" to the profession of prostitution, for instance, through beatings and rape, and if they are rebellious, they may end up dead. Long hours, sometimes 15 or more hours a day, with no days off, privacy, or adequate food are common.
    For those who escape servitude, the road to freedom can be uncertain. A UN fact sheet on contemporary slavery hints it may be easier to free the body than the mind: "Even when abolished, slavery leaves traces. It can persist as a state of mind - among its victims and their descendants and among the inheritors of those who practiced it - long after it has formally disappeared."
    To see what happens when a country does no more than liberate its slaves, says Bales, look at the US. "It had one of the largest botched emancipations in human history. Four million people dumped into the economy without any kind of tools, capital, education, political participation, rehabilitative care. Nothing. And we're still paying the price."
    Rehabilitation, as crucial as it is, is still an infant science. Lone individuals like Vivek and Vidyullata Pandit in northern India, a husband-and-wife team, have developed their own system of rehabilitation for bonded laborers. But more universal treatment protocols are perhaps years off. Currently, programs adapt models used for victims of torture or domestic violence.
    "Bondage can be compared to living in a prison or a mental institution," Bales writes in "Disposable People." "Those who get out have to learn about living in the 'real world.' " And sometimes, freed slaves do return to their slaveholders, unable to cope outside the strict confines of their former existence.
    "The three most important things people need to fight bonded labor," says Vidyullata Pandit on the website of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which funds their work, "are knowledge of the law, self-confidence to bring about change, and ... conviction to ensure they don't go back to bonded labor once they are released."
    [We won't get rid of slavery until we get population and birth policies that switch humanity from quantity to quality of reproduction. The most flexible approach to that, so you're not just saying, with China, "only one kid per couple!" is Ken Arrow's idea of exchangeable birth licenses. And that won't be fair until we at least balance income per person and maybe wealth per person. And that won't be sustainable until we first balance employment per person via some such automatic worksharing program as Timesizing.]

  3. Work resumes at power stations, NEWS.com.au, Australia.
    STATE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA - Work resumed at two West Australian power plants yesterday after maintenance employees ended a two-month strike. The 120 workers from the Kwinana and Muja power stations in the state's south-west are employed by United KG, the maintenance contractor for electricity authority, Western Power. Their eight-week strike arose from difficult negotiations for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), with workers seeking a 15% pay rise over three years and better conditions, including a 36-hour week. [Forget the pay and go for the shorter hours, or you'll wind up with neither.]
    Comment was being sought from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), but it is understood workers set aside their push for reduced hours in order to reach agreement on all but one area of the EBA.
    [Oops, they went the wrong way. Another hard lesson comin' up!]
    "The one matter to be arbitrated is the quantum of pay in the final year of the three-year EBA," a spokesman for United KG said. The workers' bargaining period was terminated by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on Friday, effectively making strike action illegal. The workers voted to return to work following a meeting between AMWU representatives, United KG and industrial commissioner Brendan McCarthy on Monday. The terms for the return to work were set by the AIRC on Monday, and workers were back on the job from 7am (WST) yesterday, after extensive safety checks. United KG regional general manager Jon Birman said the company would now do all it could to ensure the maintenance on the power stations was completed ahead of the increased demand expected in summer. The strike had given rise to fears of summer blackouts, with the timeframe for essential maintenance work scheduled to be finished before the peak demand period now delayed by up to 45,000 man hours. Mr Birman said although he was focused on the safe resumption of work, the company also wanted to prove itself as a reliable provider of maintenance for Western Power and its customers.

  4. Europeans stuck in economic doldrums, by James Neuger, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand.
    Europe is slipping further behind the US in competitiveness as the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, weakened by election setbacks, fail to take advantage of the economic recovery to reduce taxes and over-regulation. After lagging US growth through the 1990s, European Union leaders embarked in Lisbon in 2000 on a plan to turn the bloc into what they called "the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy" by 2010. Europe has outgrown the US only once since then, in 2001. The EU predicts growth of 1.7% for this year, compared with an expected 4.2% for the US. For next year, the EU expects the economy to grow 2.3%, lagging the expected 3.2% growth rate in the US. President George W. Bush, who is set to win nomination for a second term at this week's Republican National Convention in New York, is campaigning on an economy that has added 1.24 million jobs so far this year and a jobless rate that fell to 5.5% in July. European unemployment was unchanged at a 3 1/2-year high of 9% in June. "Unless EU Governments start doing their homework, we will never be able to compete with the US," said Reinhard Kudiss, an economist at the BDI association of German industry in Berlin, which represents 107,000 companies including Siemens AG and DaimlerChrysler AG. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's plans for cuts in jobless benefits to curb spending are meeting weekly street protests. France's employers are hamstrung by a 35-hour work week.
    [Funny how these reporters always buffer it for employers, saying that "employees say they are more productive with a 35-hour workweek," but implying that it's the God's Truth by not buffering it on the other side, "France's employers are hamstrung by a 35-hour work." Period, "simple fact," no opinion involved.]
    Italy, Europe's most indebted nation, has promised tax cuts without saying how it will pay for them. "If we keep going forward like this, the gap won't narrow: it will grow," said Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's European Affairs Minister. "There has to be a strong political will to make reforms and invest in the future." Since the beginning of 1999, when the euro was introduced, the Dow Jones Average has risen 11%. Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 50 Index has lost 20 % in the period. Europe's economic growth unexpectedly slowed to 0.5% in the second quarter, as a pickup in exports failed to stoke job creation and consumer spending. "Governments simply have no choice but to move ahead with economic changes if they are serious about growth," said Thomas Mayer, chief European economist at Deutsche Bank AG in London. The parties of Schroeder, 60, French President Jacques Chirac, 71, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 67, lost support in European elections on June 13. Schroeder's Social Democrats scored their worst result in a nationwide election since World War II, polling 23.2%, as voters protested against the jobless rate and the cuts in benefits. In France, Chirac's allies won 37.4%, lagging the Socialist-led opposition with 41.6%. Support for Berlusconi's Forza Italia fell to 21%, 8 percentage points lower than in the 2001 general elections, weakening his grip on power as coalition partners demanded more say over a pensions law and plans to cut taxes. Germany, the continent's largest economy, abounds with reasons Western Europe is losing the competition for investment and jobs to the US, China and India - and the low-tax Eastern European countries that, after entering the European Union in May, are competing right on Germany's doorstep. German labour costs are six times the Eastern European level. A corporate tax rate of 37% is almost twice that of neighbouring Slovakia, which now makes more cars per person than any other Eastern country. For German corporate standard-bearers such as Siemens and DaimlerChrysler, the only expansion is abroad. With German unemployment at 10.6%, the most workers can hope for is to keep their jobs. Munich-based Siemens won an extension of the work week at two phone factories to 40 hours from 35 hours at no extra pay after threatening to cut 2000 jobs there. Schroeder's law reducing jobless benefits from January next year, the first cuts in unemployment welfare since World War II, prompted thousands to take part in demonstrations throughout August in east German cities including Leipzig and Berlin. Support for Schroeder's Social Democrats was 24% in a survey by polling company Infratest-Dimap published August 29, compared with 38.5% in elections two years ago. The cuts in unemployment benefits "are highly overdue", said Norbert Quinkert, the head of Motorola's German unit. "They will raise the pressure on the jobless to take up work." He said he gets frustrated with the slowness of decision-making in Europe. "In the US decisions are simply taken more quickly," he said. Schroeder said on July 10 that he will focus on putting into practice laws already passed, rather than trying to win support for more cuts in welfare or a further easing of labour restrictions.

  5. Memo to Germany: Get to work, by Michael Freedman, Forbes.
    Government attempts at reforming German labor law have met with protests. Economists say a painful restructuring may be on the way. But reform is vital: Between 2001 and 2003 economic output in Germany inched up a mere .85%, compared to 5.9% in the U.S. Even the most sanguine economists predict growth of just 2% for 2004, compared to 4.5% in the U.S. and 3.5% in the United Kingdom. Now some of Germany's largest companies are starting to pick up where government left off. This spring, employees at Siemens agreed to work an additional five hours a week without additional compensation. Employees also accepted performance-related bonuses rather than annual bonuses. The alternative? The company said it would have to move plants to low-cost Hungary. With cheaper factory workers looming in nations just over the German border, DaimlerChrysler recently hammered out a similar deal with its workers. Most recently, Volkswagen entered the fray. The auto maker announced this month it needed to cut labor costs 30% by 2011 and had "no leeway for pay increases." The company's personnel director said Volkswagen was at a distinct disadvantage in wage costs at the company's six West German factories, but offered an alternative to relocation for the 176,544 German employees: "a radical simplification of the present remuneration system," including cutting its 22-tier pay scale to a 12-tier structure, performance-related bonuses and urging younger employees to work more hours. If accepted, Volkswagen's plan will also restructure overtime and give individual factories more autonomy, so a plant in the midst of a major new project could temporarily increase hours. That's now impossible given the collective bargaining agreements. The moves represent a sea change in the way corporate Germany negotiates with workers. Over the last two decades, German workers became accustomed to working short hours, a trend driven by the giant trade union IG Metall, which demanded a 35-hour work week beginning in the mid-1980s. According to a recent Deutsche Bank report, this reduction in working hours was seen as a way to fight unemployment by redistributing available work among more people. Since 1998, the 35-hour work week has been the standard for all collective bargaining agreements. But this put Germany at a disadvantage to other European nations. German companies grant employees 29 days annual vacation, compared to 24 days in the rest of the European Union. Deutsche Bank figures contractual hours worked in West Germany last year averaged 1,643, compared to 1,708 hours in the first 15 European Union nations. The addition of ten new EU members this May exacerbates the problem. Polish and Hungarian workers toiled 200 hours more than West Germans - for far lower wages. Today, even the unions know that labor costs are higher in Germany than in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, says Philipp Vorndran, chief strategist at Credit Suisse Asset Management in Switzerland. Other companies are likely to follow the savvy moves first made by Siemens, by explaining to employees that investment can either be made within the country or outside its borders. "They have handed over the problem and the final decision to the unions," says Vorndran. That means tough times could be ahead for German workers. Reforms are likely to cause consumer spending to drop and add to nervousness as the unemployment rate fails to immediately decline, says Rick Lacaille, Europe's chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors unit. "[But] in long-term, you'd have to conclude this is a very good thing for Germany," he says. "Whether you get to the long term without a lot of pain or a diversion is another matter."

  6. Internet and texting blamed for divorce increase, by Terry Kirby, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand.
    LONDON - The growth of text messaging and the popularity of internet reunion sites were blamed yesterday for fuelling a rise in divorce rates, which have reached a seven-year high in Britain. According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics, there were 153,490 divorces in England and Wales last year, a rise of 5755 over the previous year and the third successive annual increase. It is the highest total since 1996 and suggests that around four out of ten marriages end in divorce. Relate, the marriage guidance body, said that around a tenth of all its cases were now influenced by the internet. It said people were finding it easier to have affairs than before, by using such methods as text messaging and emails which allow discreet communication. The internet and in particular the massive growth of Friends Reunited, which now allows people to search for individuals whether or not they were at school or work with them, has helped people renew contact with former friends and ex-lovers, leading in many cases to the breakdown of their existing relationship. Other internet developments, such as dating services and chatrooms also allow the opportunity for extra-marital activities. Christine Northam, a senior counsellor for Relate said: "In my experience, the internet has had a big impact and is influencing a number of affairs. People sit in front of their computer screens all day and are using their spare time to find out what happened to old flames or embark on something new; it makes it all very easy." People having difficulties in their current relationships were more likely to look at the past through rose tinted glasses, she said. David Allison, a solicitor and mediator with the specialist London law firm, Family Law in Partnership, said: "This is part of a pattern that we are seeing as well, where modern methods of communication are a factor in divorce cases; its so easy to keep track of people by the internet. "But while they do allow people to conduct affairs discreetly, they also leave a trail of evidence - by way of text messages and emails - and that can lead to break ups if they are discovered." Recent high profile cases of couples affected by Friends Reunited include David James, the England goalkeeper, who split up with Tanya, his wife of 13 years and mother of their four children, when he had an affair with a girlfriend from his school days, Amanda Salmon, whom he met through the website. She also left her partner, although she is now said to be no longer with James, who is divorcing his wife. Yesterday, it was disclosed that Tony Stubley, 39, a policeman and the £2m winner of this week's lottery, is divorcing his wife after beginning an affair with Jean Wells, who was his teenage girlfriend and is now his partner. She also left her husband. But counsellors also pointed out that other factors apart from the internet were contributing to the divorce rate - the long-hours culture in the workplace, as well as the lack of stigma about divorce in society. The increasing number of people from divorced backgrounds was making it less likely that people saw divorce as a bad thing - although Relate pointed out that it also served as a counter to divorce. The figures also show that the average age of getting divorced has risen slightly to between 30 and 34 for men and 25 to 29 for women, possibly as a result of the tendency to marry latter in life. Around 154,000 children were affected by the divorces last year - including 34,000 under five.

  7. Extended store hours worry Béchard, NTR via Montreal Gazette, Canada.
    Quebec Employment, Social Solidarity and Family Minister Minister Claude Béchard said Tuesday that he thinks extended opening hours for stores will have a negative effect on the province's families. Despite his misgivings, Béchard said he would not pressure his government to modify the law. The law permits businesses to remain open until 9 p.m. on weekdays, something that has been adopted by several Montreal-area shopping centres in the past few days. Béchard said the long hours will prevent some employees from spending enough time with their families and others will have difficulty finding childcare. The minister said he has discussed his concerns with Regional Development Minister Michel Audet Béchard added that it was too early to change the law since the government will announced its policy on work-family balance this December.

  8. American dream, by Sarah Roberts (Sarah@newdream.org or 301-891-3683), Environmental Media Services, D.C.
    Poll shows that a whopping 48% of Americans have actually opted to make less money in order to get more time and a balanced lifestyle Takoma Park, MD ­ It's Labor Day weekend and many Americans need a break. According to a recent national poll released by the Center for a New American Dream, Americans are overworked, overspent and rethinking the American dream. At a time when Americans are divided politically, they seem to agree on one thing: we aren't focused on what really matters. More than eight out of ten Americans believe that society's priorities are "out of whack" and 93% agree that Americans are too focused on working and making money and not enough on family and community. Almost as many (more than 8 in 10) say they would be more satisfied with life if they just had less stress. The combination of excessive materialism and economic insecurity leaves many people in a bind. A surprising number are actively taking steps to work less, even if it means reducing their consumption. One critical finding of the survey shows that many Americans have voluntarily made changes in their lives in the past five years that resulted in making less money. The primary reasons given for voluntarily reducing work and income are a desire for a less stressful and more balanced life and a desire for more time. This is steep increase in the number of self-proclaimed "down-shifters" compared to earlier polls. "Americans are getting worn out by the race for more. This Labor Day, they are more interested in being with loved ones rather than in hitting the mall" says Betsy Taylor, President of the Center for a New American Dream. The national survey reflects concerns over two related trends in American society: excessive consumerism coupled with economic insecurity. Eighty-eight% believe that American society is too materialistic with four of five Americans saying that society is too focused on shopping and spending. At the same time, nearly two-thirds (64%) report that the American dream is harder to achieve than it was even ten years ago and less than half of all Americans believe they will achieve the American dream themselves. When asked why, three in four Americans cited debt while six out of ten said it's hard to make ends meet. "Americans are mis-educated to be consumers and to value wealth more than time. In a precarious economy, many are fearful of falling into poverty. We're a hyped up, stressed, tired and addiction-prone people. The two most radical things we can do in America are slow down and talk to people" says Mary Pipher, noted author and family therapist. The Center for a New American Dream poll suggests that politicians might do well to address American concerns about over-work, overspending, and rising levels of personal debt. At a time when many Americans are hard-pressed financially and struggling to make ends meet, it's remarkable how many are trying to reduce their workload, despite the economic obstacles. More than half of Americans (53%) say they would be willing to give up one day's pay per week in exchange for one day off per week to spend with family and friends and 83% agree that they would like more of what really matters in life.
    * This is a preview of a national public opinion survey commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream and conducted from August 4 - 9, 2004. The results are from a census-balanced and nationally representative poll of 1,269 American adults ages 18 years of age and older. Widmeyer Communications of Washington, D.C. conducted the survey for the Center for a New American Dream. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3.0%. Full poll results and a report are available online at www.newdream.org. The Center for A New American Dream is a national non-profit organization that helps Americans consume wisely.
    To schedule an interview with Betsy Taylor, please contact, Sarah Roberts at 301-891-3683. Full poll results available at www.newdream.org.
    POLL HIGHLIGHTS
    VALUES AND PRIORITIES
    €85% of respondents think that as a society our priorities are out of whack.
    €93% of respondents say that too many Americans are focused on working and making money and not enough on family and community.
    €A majority of Americans (53%) say that spending more time with family and friends and having less stress in their lives (52%) would make them much more satisfied with their lives.
    €87% of Americans feel our current consumer culture makes it harder to instill positive values in our children.
    AMERICAN DREAM
    €More than 3 in 5 Americans (62%) say that the American Dream is harder to achieve today compared to their parent's generation.
    €More than 3 in 5 Americans (64%) say that the American Dream is harder to achieve today compared to 10 years ago.
    €Only 15% of respondents believe that all or most of Americans will be able to achieve their idea of the American Dream.
    €Only 3% of Americans say that the phrase "more is better" describes the American dream while 86% say that getting "more of what matters in life" is a better description.
    €Less than half of Americans think they themselves will achieve their idea of the American dream.
    DOWNSHIFTING ­ AMERICANS WANT MORE OF WHAT REALLY MATTERS AND THEY ARE GOING AFTER IT
    €Over the past 5 years, nearly half of Americans (48%) say that they have voluntarily made changes in their life, which resulted in making less money in order to get more time and a less stressful life.
    €A majority of Americans (53%) say they "would be willing to give up one day's pay per week in exchange for one day off per week to spend more time with family and friends."
    €One in two Americans say they would willingly accept less money in exchange for more time.
    CONSUMER SPENDING AND MATERIALISM
    €Nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88%) say American society is too materialistic.
    €Since September 11, 2001, 40% of Americans have made conscious decisions to buy less.
    €Americans see negative consequences of excessive materialism: 58% feel it is causing people to work too much; 57% say it causes other nations to perceive us as greedy; 52% say it causes a lack of free time; 52% say it harms the environment.
    €95% of Americans agree that today's youth are too focused on buying and consuming.
    WORK
    €88% of respondents say that working too many hours results in not having enough time to spend with family. 70% say it prevents them from doing things they want to do.
    €Over half say wages for workers are too low and this is a major reason people can't achieve the American dream.
    €More than six in ten (66%) of Americans think that outsourcing of jobs to other countries makes it harder for the average American to achieve the American dream.
    DEBT AND ECONOMIC INSECURITY
    €More than half of Americans (52%) say they have too much debt. €76% of respondents say that debt is a major reason it is harder to achieve the American dream today.
    €81% of respondents say that the high cost of healthcare makes it harder for the average American to achieve the American dream while 68% say the high cost of housing is a major factor.
    CONSUMPTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
    €91% of respondents believe that most of us buy and consume far more than we need; it's wasteful.
    €The majority of Americans (83%) agree that the way we live consumes too many resources.
    €81% of Americans agree that protecting the environment will require most of us to make major changes in the way we live.
    €71% of respondents say that our dependence on oil leads to conflicts and wars with other countries.

  9. Head of Spain's largest bank calls for an end to Europe's welfare state, by Daniel O'Flynn, Infoshop News via spermwhale.
    Earlier this year the head of Spain's largest bank said there was not much time left to destroy what remains of social welfare in Spain. In a well-publicised leak of his speech at a private lunch of the Financial Club in Bilbao, "The economic situation in the world, Spain and the banking market," Alfredo Sáenz told like-minded people from the business and financial sector that Spain must dismantle the welfare state just as governments throughout Europe are doing. Sáenz stated, "We must improve our labour and financial markets structurally, and accommodate our tax levels to those countries that are going to compete with us, and we must accommodate our regulatory practice to much more liberal concepts, or really we are going to have a problem". He continued, "It is not possible to think that European welfare can continue, much less after the entrance of the ten new members in the European Union [on 1 May 2004]... Welfare, I reiterate, it is necessary to disassemble it and we do not have too much time to do it... The question is how long we have to do it, and it is not much time, not more than 15 years." As chief executive of Banco Santander Central Hispano (BSCH), Sáenz echoes the thinking of the leading representatives of the Spanish bourgeoisie. BSCH is also the largest banking concern in Latin America and has close relations with regimes there that have imposed structural adjustment policies that have produced a social catastrophe in the region. Governments like that of Lula, in Brazil, who began his political career as a leader of the militant metalworkers' union, and has now implemented labour "reform" legislation that makes it easier for employers to fire workers, cut wages and eliminate benefits, work closely with Santander bank. ...
    Sáenz views are common currency throughout the boardrooms of financial and industrial corporations and government circles in Europe. Magazines such as Business Week, Time, Newsweek and the Economist all call for the end to the welfare state and warn that the social conditions of workers in western Europe should be more akin to those in eastern Europe. There are further warnings that India, Bangladesh and China still undercut all the above.
    Figures on labour costs and hours worked show the scale of the offensive being prepared by the governments of Britain, Germany, and France, and also how Spain's traditional advantage over its competitors, of low wages and long hours, has been undermined.

  10. Cowboy capitalism, by Jerry Jackson, Heber Springs Sun-Times, AR.
    The economy of the United States ebbs and flows, has good times and bad times, but the general trend over the last 60 years (since World War II) has definitely been on the improve. This is true even though many of our Canadian and European friends look down their noses on what they consider the "American Condition" which means the American worker does not benefit from some of the restrictive and progressive aspects of mini-socialist countries. They also refer to our system as 'Cowboy Capitalism'. Our Canadian friends are suffering from a stagnant economy, various expensive social programs and a currency rate that shows the Canadian dollar to be worth about 75 cents of the American dollar.
    ["Suffering" with less crime and a better quality of life than here, where we also have a stagnant economy, various expensive social programs that we don't like (like the new Medicare drug plan) and a currency that is none too strong against the yen and the euro.]
    The national health program in Canada does not serve its citizens well.
    [Yes, it does, because all citizens are covered while 45 million Americans aren't, and if we say they have to wait, so do we - for example, 4-6 months for a colonoscopy, 3 months for a dermatology appointment, and all while, if we have health coverage, we're paying $400 a month for it!]
    Numerous Canadians stream across the U.S. border every day to receive medical treatment that is either not available in Canada or is available only after a wait of a year or more.
    [Numerous rich Canadians, that is.]
    Citizens of this country would not put up with this,
    [Baloney! Millions of citizens of this country who have what passes for health coverage here do put up with this every day, the self-employed for instance, and 45 million more have no health coverage whatsoever.]
    yet how often do we hear uninformed U.S. citizens say they wish we could change to some type of a socialized medical program.
    [How about the uninformed US reporters like Jerry Jackson who have no clue how millions of Americans live and in their jingoism, just tunnelvision onto the good stuff.]
    Some will use words that will camouflage the term "socialized medicine". They believe our only solution is to have the federal government take over. God save us all if this is the path we choose.
    [God save from the path YOU have chosen, Jerry - we're spending a lot more than Canada and France and getting a lot less for our money, thanks to the mountains of paperwork generated by our thousands of inefficiently work-reduplicating insurance companies - whose "competition" is strangely delivering higher and higher prices instead of lower and lower - and there are still 45 million of us not covered who will be a danger to us all if any fast-acting epidemic strikes.]
    Many recent articles and news programs have concentrated on getting drugs from Canada at lower prices. Does anyone explain why the drug prices are cheaper in Canada? It is not because it is the market price, but because the Canadian government has instituted price controls.
    [No, it isn't, you ignoramus. It's because the Canadian governments, federal and provincial, with huge single-payer systems, have the clout to do tough negotiating on Canadians' behalf with the big US pharmaceutical companies that the little split-up American insurance companies don't have.]
    Some of you might say, "well, it's about time someone is controlling drug prices". The answer to this is rather basic. If our government puts price controls on drugs, companies would not have the billions of dollars needed for research and development.
    [So what? All the drug R&D in the world does no damn good to the millions of Americans who can't afford the expensive US-sourced drugs, not to mention the 45 million Americans who have no health coverage at all. Get your priorities straight, you putz!]
    Drug companies would immediately divert their capital where better return on investments would be obtained.
    [Yeah, away from their CEOs' pockets!]
    The new drugs and improved medical procedures would quickly disappear.
    [Fine - and the old drugs and medical procedures would quickly become available to everyone.]
    Let's jump across the "big pond" to our friends in "old Europe", particularly Germany. An article in The Wall Street Journal on August 2 by Daniel Schwammenthal is enlightening indeed. Starting in the later 80s, powerful labor unions in Germany convinced most Germans that the progressive thing to do is adopt a 35 hour work-week. If the work can't get done in 35 hours, no problem, companies would just have to hire more people thereby providing another benefit - decreasing unemployment.
    So what happened? Companies who then suffered from lower production hired less people, not more. In Germany, because of the heavy hand of union negotiating, fringe benefits cost the companies an additional 78 cents for every dollar of wages.
    Companies then were forced to try to control labor cost. As a result unemployment rates are disturbingly high and economic growth is projected to be only a third of current growth in the U.S.
    [Their unemployment rates aren't as high as ours when we include our hidden unemployment that they lack, like our 2m welfare families, 5.7m disabled Americans, at least 2m homeless, 2.2m incarcerated..., and who needs the kind of GDP "growth" we're getting when it's heavily dependent on the record expansion of our prison-industrial complex and the sooo constructive benefits of our unprovoked invasion of Iraq and the quagmire we thus created?!]
    The good[?] news for Germans is that the unions are losing a good portion of their restrictive control over their economy. Governmental leaders, including Chancellor Gerhard Schrader, have concluded their country and its workers must perform more like the Americans, and a move is on to proceed to a 40 hour week, and in some situations, a 43 hour week. German workers and German companies are affected by new members of the European Union, especially Hungary, where the cost of labor is only a fraction of that in Germany.
    [Wunderbar - our IMF has convinced many stupid German leaders to join The Race to the Bottom in which we're such front runners!]
    A weekly magazine in Germany calls it "farewell to paradise" as the basics of free capitalism are moving quickly to give a basic economic lesson to our German friends. As you might expect the German unions are not going to give up easily. Although numerous German companies are expanding their work-week to 39 or 40 hours per week, the unions are still trying to establish the 35 hour week as the standard with exceptions being made only to help those industries in trouble.
    In this country, most of us have learned and experienced that to be successful and to make a good living, 40 hours a week is a minimum.
    [What's "good" about working a 1920 or earlier workweek level of 50-60 or more hours, not having time for our families, spiritual lives and civic duties, and merely marginalizing more and more of our fellow Americans whom we then have to support with our taxes one way or another?]
    It is possible our Canadian and European friends will come to this realization and discover that 'Cowboy Capitalism" does not come easily, but alas has numerous benefits.
    [It is also possible that they will discover Timesizing and far outdistance us as Cowboy Bush and Cheney mire us 'dogeys' deeper and deeper in the cowflaps. Jerry's "alas" reveals his hidden motive = 'misery loves company.']
    (Jerry Jackson has lived in Cleburne County for 17 years after spending 30 years in the public accounting industry.)



Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
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2003
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For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.

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