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Timesizing News, September 4-6, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

9/04-06/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/03-05 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1, 85, 86 which are from 9/04-06 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 9/04-06), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 9/06   Nothing doing - Churches throw weight behind movement to get Americans to slow down, look inward - Campaign asks people to reflect on hectic lifestyles in four 'windows' - 'It's about restoring the quality of life through focusing on the issue of time and how we use it': Barbara Brandt, by Don Aucoin, Boston Globe, B5.
    Throughout the 1990s, as magazine covers and books proclaimed how overworked, overscheduled, and generally stressed-out Americans were, Barbara Brandt had two reactions.
    The first was wholehearted agreement: The author and activist had herself researched and written about what she calls the United States' "workaholic culture."... In her view, time poverty is a social justice issue so pervasive that even organizations with charitable goals force their employees to work too much overtime. "Some of the nonprofits are the worst offenders," she says..\..
    The second was puzzlement: If there was such universal acknowledgement of social damage caused by increased workloads and fragmented family life, why hadn't it kindled mass activism along the lines of the civil rights or environmental movements?
    Such activism finally dawned last October in the form of a national Take Back Your Time Day that sought to draw attention to the fraying of community and family bonds caused by "time poverty."
    But getting Americans to log off, unplug, and unwind proved no easy task. "People didn't turn up for our events," admits Brandt, the Boston area coordinator of the Seattle-based Take Back Your Time movement. Something more than another conference, another workshop, was needed.
    Enter the Massachusetts Council of Churches [MCC]. Today, on the symbolic occasion of Labor Day, the Council and the 1,700 Protestant and Orthodox congregations it represents will launch a quiet but direct challenge to the compulsive careerism...that ha[s] come to define contemporary life.
    In emerging as the first statewide religious organization in the country to officially throw its weight behind the Take Back Your Time Day movement, the Council is acting on its "longstanding interest in and support for issues concerning Sabbath observance and the growing imbalance between labor and leisure in our society," explains the Rev. Diane Kessler, executive director of the Council. ...Kessler got in touch with Brandt last fall after reading about Take Back Your Time Day. The result of their meeting is the Take Back Your Time/Four Windows of Time campaign.
    Information packets were mailed several months ago to member congregations urging worshipers to set aside four periods for rest, reflection, and "life-renewing activities" between today and Oct. 24, Take Back Your Time Day. During those four periods, there should be, as one of the packet's fliers puts it, [In short, it's a new, flexibly schedulable Sabbath, roughly once every two weeks straddling summer and fall.]
    Frenzied, out of balance
    But will the involvement of a religious organization change the character of a movement with secular origins? John de Graaf, national coordinator of Take Back Your Time [is] a documentary film maker at the PBS station in Seattle.... He is "thrilled" by the initiative and by the involvement of the MCC.... As a college student in the late 1960s, de Graaf recalls hearing in a sociology class that the U.S. would face a significant problem by 2000 - too much leisure.   24-hour workweeks and 7-week vacations were prophesied. "We got none of the time we were promised," he says.
    In fact, sociologist Juliet Schor has found that from 1973 to 2000, the average US worker added nearly 200 hours per year to his/her job schedule. Moreover, according to the Take Back Your Time handbook, US workers have "by far the shortest paid vacations in the industrialized world."
    But the nonpartisan movement's legislative goals remain in the formative stage:
    1. to enact limits on mandatory overtime,
    2. to require companies to provide a minimum of 3 paid weeks of vacation each year for all workers (organizers say 25%of US workers receive no paid vacation),
    3. to require paid family and medical,
    4. and to make Election Day a national holiday.
    Getting the issue on the public-policy agenda might be easier in a presidential election year when, according to de Graaf, [Republican pollster Frank Luntz on Bill Moyer's NOW in early July] found that the lack of free time is a big issue for swing voters, especially for women with young children.
    For all their concerns about the all-devouring nature of many jobs nowadays, organizers emphasize that the Take Back Your Time movement is not anti-work..\..
    [Just anti-overwork. The movement needs also to not be anti-consumption, since in an era when overlong workweeks relative to our technology levels are creating mounting but often hidden labor surpluses and flat and sinking wages, market forces are giving us lower consumption "for free" without fighting for it - and in the worst possible way. In fact, the movement's biggest "sell" to affluent decision-makers: the fact that downwardly (as well as current upwardly) adjustable workweeks reduce labor surpluses, raise wages by market forces, and centrifuge more of the national income out to middle- and lower-income people who spend it immediately, boost consumer demand, stimulate production, give investors market-supported investment targets for a change, and "the rising tide lifts all boats," just like during World War II without the killing and waste.]
    Costs of 'hidden overtime'
    ...Part of the problem \of overwork and personal\ time poverty that afflicts Americans...is self-inflicted. De Graaf points to what he calls "hidden overtime"..\..
    ...Erika Salloux of Cambridge MA, who runs a personal organizer company called Living Harmony, says part of the problem is personal technology run amok, so that people [drive or] walk down the street conducting business of their cellphones....
    Says [de Graaf,] "We've consistently traded our gains in [technological] productivity for money instead of [free] time.
    [And thus wound up with neither, because we did nothing about the technology-worsened labor surplus that increasingly clobbered wages.]
    The Europeans made a different choice: They chose to take time off as they made gains in productivity."
    [In short, European unions were a lot smarter about strategy. They realized that if you could just get one of labor's two traditional goals, shorter hours and higher pay, if you chose higher pay you wound up with neither but if you chose shorter hours you wound up with both. But European unions made the mistake of going for specific rigid and permanent workweeks, which although lower, soon were made obsolescent by incessant infusions of worksaving technology. They did not convert in a timely fashion to demanding fluctuating workweeks that varied first with corporate revenues and then changed gears to varying against municipal, regional and national unemployment, comprehensively defined. And then of course, they totally missed the boat on automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion. That's why -]
    There are signs of pressure on that practice. The NY Times...recently reported that some European countries...are either lengthening the workweek or considering doing so....
    Among the Massachusetts organizations that have followed the MCC's lead and endorsed the initiative are the Mass. AFL-CIO and the state chapter of the National Assoc. of Social Workers. Kathleen Casavant, treasurer of the state AFL-CIO, says the union lent its support because "these are issues that affect all of us: Casavant says union leaders hope to build momentum for legislation on Beacon Hill involving such issues....

  2. 9/03   EU grapples with how many hours to work - Pressure for longer work week is mounting as competition from low-cost countries poses threat to jobs in Europe,
    by Neo Hui Min, Straits Times, Singapore.
    LONDON - During the summer months of July and August, it is commonplace to find even the local boulangerie (baker's) in Paris shut, with a note on the door saying en vacances (on holiday).
    All eyes will be on negotiations at Volkswagen. The carmaker is trying to get its German union to accept a two-year wage freeze as part of a plan to slash labour costs by 30% by 2011. - AFP
    With a French law decreeing that employees work only 35 hours a week, those who put in longer hours can accumulate as much as two months' leave. But as workers return to their offices and factories this week, they know that this year's long break could be their last. At Robert Bosch's car factory in Lyon, workers have agreed to stretch their week by an hour without extra pay to prevent management from moving operations to the Czech Republic, where wages are about 40% lower. French Finance Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, a likely candidate for president, told financial newspaper Les Echos that the policy applied by the previousSocialist government is not working. The inflexibility of the short work week is costing the French government and companies dearly - 16 billion euros (S$33 billion) a year. Those in the working middle class who make enough to pay for longer holidays by the sea are not complaining, but those less well-off who want to earn extra cash are deprived of the option. 'We simply have to accept that those who want to work longer to earn more should be allowed to do it,' said Mr Sarkozy. He summed it up for many politicians earlier this year when he said that France's 35-hour work week was a financial disaster. With the leadership in France talking up the change, the work-hour debate is the hottest summer topic across Europe. The debate first caught the media's attention in Germany, where strong unions caved in to demands by at least two multinational companies for longer hours without extra pay. The chief economist at the London-based Centre of European Reform, Ms Katinka Barysch, told The Straits Times that during the past few years, German companies had begun refusing to implement annual wage rises as a way to control labour costs. 'Now, large companies are saying that we have to be even more drastic,' she says. So the ultimatum: Longer hours without extra pay or jobs go offshore. With two out of three Germans worried about losing their jobs, Ms Barysch says they have little choice but to give in. The factors affecting Germany hit Europe too - competition from China and the United States has challenged regional economies; investment dollars have become more fleet-footed in their choice of location, while Europe's welfare-heavy structure has repelled investors. Such factors have had a major impact on Europe's employment landscape. 'Unless EU governments start doing their homework, we will never be able to compete with the US,' says Mr Reinhard Kudiss, an economist at the BDI association of German industry in Berlin, which represents 107,000 companies, including Siemens and DaimlerChrysler. 'Foreign investors will judge us by the pace of change, and we cannot afford any more years of standstill,' he told Bloomberg News.
    Spain: 38 hours
    Italy: 37
    United Kingdom: 37
    Finland: 37
    Sweden: 36
    Ireland: 36
    The Netherlands: 36
    Belgium: 35
    France: 35
    Germany: 35
    Denmark: 34
    The case for shaping up Europe's competitiveness is giving many companies ample ammunition in their bid to slash costs. As a result, companies such as Siemens, which are pushing for longer hours, have a virtually watertight case - the preservation of jobs. With the unemployment rate in Germany hovering near 10%, the IG Metall union, which represents Siemens workers, has softened its stance against longer work hours. This month, IG Metall will be locked in another high-profile battle - this time with Volkswagen. The car manufacturer wants a two-year wage freeze or 175,000 employees will be at risk as part of a plan to slash labour costs by 30% by 2011. In addition, overtime will be paid only if employees work beyond 40 hours a week, not 35 hours as now. The higher work-hour push has also gained currency in Belgium and the Netherlands, which have 38-hour work weeks. What could finally tip the scales in employers' favour is the accession of 10 new EU states which have significantly lower labour costs. But critics such as the French left-wing Liberation newspaper have called the outsourcing threat 'blackmail'. Others have labelled as 'terrorism' such Robert Bosch negotiated deals. But other observers say that the case for relocation to lower-cost economies is not so simplistic. If it were really much more viable to relocate, companies would have done so as they seek ever higher profits. Dr Ruth Lea, director of the Centre of Policy Studies, notes that labour costs are not the only factor to consider when a company moves. Other expenses involve the costs of moving, including construction, recruitment and training. Economists say the best argument for longer working hours is that it will lead to more jobs being created. The president of economic research institute Deutsches Institut fur Wirtschaftsforshung, Professor Klaus Zimmermann, says longer work hours would help the German economy. 'Extending working time without raising wages can lead to more demand for labour, more employment and higher output. Ultimately, longer working time increases companies' production potential, and if labour costs are lower, they will also be prepared not only to employ their existing workforce for longer, but also to take on more staff,' he says. 'Moreover, with their incomes, the newly appointed workers will create additional demand for goods which, with more favourable prices at home and abroad, will help to absorb the additional goods and services.' While most economists agree with Prof Zimmerman, some unionists do not. Their argument stems from their belief in the 'lump of labour' theory, which says that labour can be infinitely divided. They add that the shorter, 35-hour work week in France has actually led to the creation of jobs - from about 23.1 million in 2000, when the law was implemented, to about 24.1 million jobs now. Some studies suggest that about 50,000 new and stable jobs have been created by the 35-hour week. And statistics show that longer working hours do not necessarily indicate lower unemployment. In Spain, for example, a typical work week is 38 hours - three hours longer than in France, but the unemployment rate is 11.3%. In France, unemployment is about 9.7%. But sober-minded analysts note that arguments centred on the number of work hours are too myopic in the context of an economy's competitiveness. What is more important, they say, is labour flexibility. A deterrent for potential employers in France is the world's highest minimum wage and income tax. In Germany, complex rules for dismissal stop companies from hiring. 'Even if we worked 60-hour weeks, we would not be competitive with the Czech Republic,' Mr Nicolas Sobczak, an economist at Goldman Sachs, told the International Herald Tribune. 'Working another hour per week does not change our relative position very much. If you want to reduce unemployment and boost competitiveness in Europe, you need more flexibility in the labour market, not tinker with the hours.' The problem with labour flexibility, however, is that there is a lack of political will for change. Says Ms Barysch: 'No government would launch a full frontal attack on current labour laws. They will allow or encourage individual companies to opt out of the system, but it would not be acceptable politically to scrap the current legislation or the 35-hour week in France.' She expects governments to just nudge the process along informally. When Mercedes-Benz wangled a deal for lower pay and longer hours from its staff recently, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called it a 'victory of common sense'. Now, observers across Europe are watching developments at VW closely. If IG Metall loses in its duel with VW management, it is almost certainly likely that other companies in Germany - and elsewhere in Europe - will push for the same. The days of long summer breaks, leisurely lunches and siestas seem to be fast fading.

  3. 9/03   If you don't agree with me, just leave! - Bush administration offers vouchers to middle class citizens seeking to flee,
    by Ilona Ronay, The Spoof (satire), UK.
    Washington, DC - President George W. Bush today outlined his proposal to give vouchers to middle-class Americans seeking jobs, job security, affordable health care, and the promise of an eventual retirement that does not include sleeping on the street and scrounging through garbage cans.
    "Americans who don't agree with my forward-thinking domestic policies can simply leave America," said President Bush. "I don't want to get too huffy about it, but if they are silly enough to prefer a country like France that has a 35-hour work week and 5 weeks of vacation each year, then c'est la vie, and good riddance to them. With these vouchers, we'll give them the means to do so."
    The vouchers will entitle people to a one-way economy flight on any American airline to England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, or Scandanavia and will also provide them with a little extra money to purchase inexpensive luggage, some bottled water, and a few snacks for the flight.
    "We need to concentrate on making the world a safer place so that people feel safe in their neighborhoods," said one Administration official. "We don't have time to deal with petty domestic issues like the economy. Bill Clinton got it wrong when he said 'It's the economy. stupid.' The correct phrase is 'the economy is stupid and anyone who worries about it is stupid too.'"
    "We're all about choice here," concluded President Bush. "I don't care that psychological research has shown that too much choice can be as bad as too little choice. Those Americans who want to be able to work at three or four low-paying dead-end jobs with no health insurance but be able to walk down a bread aisle in the supermarket that has 50 different types of completely inedible bread - stay here with me! You're my type of American!"
    He continued, "And those type of people who are satisfied with small supermarkets and only one or two types of bread that are are danged hard to chew - go! Go! Pick up a voucher and start packing!"
    Public response to the vouchers has so far been favorable. "Maybe they can do a better job with this idea than they did with the Medicare overhaul," mused one elderly couple as they juggled information on Medicare from 40 different sources.

  4. 9/03   BMW shows the way,
    Straits Times, Singapore.
    German managers stuck in protracted labour negotiations should study the trail blazed by high-performance carmaker BMW - whose practices could well be a model for the future of German, if not European, labour relations.
    The key to BMW's success: trading wage cuts for job security. Workers at three BMW plants in Bavaria often put in 40-hour weeks despite a national union contract mandating 35, Newsweek magazine reported recently.
    The workers put in an extra hour or two when asked. If one factory is busier, workers are hauled over from the slower sites. When sales are brisk, the employees work on Saturdays.
    BMW was changing the way Germans worked long before it was cool. Way back in the 1950s, workers helped persuade a big shareholder to save the company from being sold to outsiders.
    In return, the employees made wage and work-rule concessions to save jobs.
    The enduring legacy is feted inside the company as the BMW Formula for Work, based on flexible schedules that apply to blue- and white-collar workers alike, while offering the security that Germans crave, said Newsweek.
    University of Gelsenkirchen auto industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoffer calls BMW 'a benchmark' for labour relations in Germany.
    The difference between BMW and the latecomers to reform like Siemens and Daimler is striking.
    BMW has industry-leading profit margins and overtook rival Mercedes as world leader in premium car sales in the first half of this year.
    Mercedes, notes Mr Dudenhoffer, has given 'gifts' to workers over the years that differ from factory to factory and are hard to take away, such as hourly breaks or a premium for the late shift.
    At BMW, there is no overtime pay and working hours fluctuate with demand, but job security is guaranteed.
    [Compare Nucor and Lincoln Electric in the U.S.]

  5. 9/04   New order, yes, but not Europe v. the US,
    by Thomas Axworthy, Toronto Globe and Mail (D10), Canada
    Review of book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, by Jeremy Rifkin (Tarcher/Penguin, 448 pages, $38).
    Jeremy Rifkin is one of the most prolific public intellectuals writing today and his talents are on full display in The European Dream. Author of the bestsellers The End of Work and The Hydrogen Economy, Rifkin's method is to draw on history, theory and research from several different fields, then synthesize the results into a thesis that is both understandable to the non-specialist reader and relevant to public-policy debates. Rifkin is not always right - far from enduring the "end of work" as he prophesied in 1996, North Americans are working faster and longer than ever - but he is always stimulating. In The European Dream, for instance, Rifkin ranges from the Benedictine inventors of the mechanical clock in the 13th century, to Descartes's philosophy from the 17th century, to the Gaia hypothesis of Earth functioning like a self-regulating living organism in the 20th century, to this year's debates over the future of the European Union.
    Reading Rifkin is like having a symposium of Lewis Mumford discussing the myth of the machine, Jacques Barzun on the evolution of Western civilization, John Ralston Saul on rampant rationalism, Amory Lovins on ecology, and Don Tapscott on networking.
    The European Dream has echoes of Rifkin's earlier work on the impact of technology on lifestyle and the necessity of preparing for a new energy future. But the real subject of the book is the need for a new global ethic. After diagnosing the creation and evolution of, and growing disillusionment with, the Western paradigm of rationalism and market systems, Rifkin declares: "The question, then, boils down to this: How do we create a new moral bridge between 'the self' and 'the other' that is expansive enough and encompassing enough to be global in scale and universal in outlook? Can we establish a systemic approach to ethics that allows us to identify cold evil in all of its various guises? Equally important, can we learn to exercise the Golden Rule on a much broader playing field that includes not only our immediate relations with our neighbours but also the totality of relationships that make up the larger planetary community in which we are all embedded? . . . A tall order, but that's why we call it global consciousness." Rifkin's call for a new order is not simply a value preference. He believes that the truly great revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies fuse with new energy regimes to make existing paradigms obsolete and to create the climate for new ideas. He believes we are in such a historical divide today, with digital technology creating virtual communities or global networks, at the same time that we are running out of the fossil fuels that power today's economy. A new age of renewable energy will require a new ethic of sharing, community and non-material fulfilment.
    Traditional economists will snort at Rifkin's projections, but he marshals a powerful argument that the planet cannot sustain existing consumption patterns without suffering the fate forecast in The Day After Tomorrow. He is not alone in worrying. As eminent a scientist as Sir Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, recently warned in Our Final Hour, "The odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilization on Earth will survive to the end of the present century." Rifkin both makes the case for why we must change and offers detailed suggestions on how we should change. It is an impressive achievement.
    But if the substance of Rifkin's thesis commands support, I am less enamoured with the conceptual bottle in which he has poured his public-policy mix. Rifkin, an American, organizes his book around a Manichaean contrast between the American Dream and its European counterpart. The American Dream, he writes, "emphasizes the unbridled opportunity of each individual to pursue success, which in the American vernacular has generally meant financial success. The American Dream is far too centred on personal material advancement and too little concerned with the broader human welfare."
    The European Dream is the exact opposite, emphasizing "community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustained development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global co-operation over the unilateral exercise of power."
    There is a certain counterintuitive logic in Rifkin's choice of America and Europe as his counterpoints. With the Iraq war, Europe has not been the favourite of many American conservative commentators: Robert Kagan in Of Paradise and Power, for instance, writes, "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world." Rifkin would agree with Kagan, except he would add the codicil, "And the Europeans are right."
    If Rifkin's goal is to get his fellow citizens' attention, perhaps his bipolar division of the world makes at least marketing sense. But it does not make conceptual sense. One of Rifkin's basic points is that the new digital age is linking individuals across the old barriers of geography and nation-state ideologies, but then he casts his work in a framework of Europe versus America, a familiar geographic division.
    It would be more accurate to state that within every country there is a values debate between ecologically minded cosmopolitans versus nation-state traditionalists. Many voters in Oregon dispute the value preferences of their fellow citizens in Texas. Similarly, Rifkin praises the "social market economy" of Europe, especially the 35-hour work week in France, but a great many Europeans favour, instead, a more neo-liberal approach. Siemens in Germany has just won a 40-hour work week and workers for Daimler Chrysler in Germany recently agreed to lower pay with longer working hours in return for job security.
    [Job security based on further concentration of vanishing employment and necessarily higher unemployment numbers is a mirage.]
    Europeans, too, invented every single concept that Rifkin posits as central to the American Dream - individual rights, the market system, the primacy of reason, etc.
    Finally, I have been regularly visiting Europe for more than 30 years, ever since graduate school at Oxford, and not once have I ever heard a European extolling "the European Dream." What I have heard from every European acquaintance is grumbling about the bureaucracy in Brussels. For many, the European Union is a nightmare, not a dream.
    Rifken has written an important book. His argument for a new ethic should be taken seriously. Many in Europe will support his call, but so, too, will many Canadians and Americans. His cause is global awareness, and trumpeting false dichotomies is not the way to attain it.
    Thomas S. Axworthy is chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University, in Kingston, Ont. He served as principal secretary to Pierre Trudeau from 1981 to 1984.

  6. 9/04   American vacation vanishing for many workers,
    by Nancy Beardsley, Voice of America, DC.
    [So even Voice of America has begun to erode the myth that America Is Best.]
    Washington - Americans observe Labor Day on September 6, a holiday traditionally viewed as the end of the summer vacation season. But not everyone in the United States will be returning to work rested and relaxed. Studies show that Americans are taking fewer vacations, they're getting away from the job for shorter periods of time, and many continue to work even while they're supposed to be having fun.
    David Forthuber says he loves his job working for an American telecommunications company. The Orlando, Florida, resident earns a good salary, gets generous health benefits, and considers himself lucky to have three weeks of paid vacation time a year. Still, he works 50 hours a week, sometimes even more, and he says it would be nearly impossible for him to take more than a week of leave at a time.
    "There's just so much work. If you took a two week vacation, you would be so backed up in your work and there would be so many tasks that would be undone. And you would also have to find an unofficial partner or a couple partners who will cover for you during that period so your tasks aren't undone," he says.
    Activist and writer Joe Robinson believes too many people in the United States aren't getting the time away from work that they need. He says a significant proportion - more than 20% - get no paid vacation leave at all. Mr. Robinson is the author of a book called Work To Live, and the moving force behind a campaign that would require U.S. companies to give a mandatory 3 weeks of paid vacation leave a year. He says the campaign grew out of his own travels in other parts of the world.
    "It struck me that the Americans were always racing through their trips to get to their return flight. It has become almost an illicit affair to try to take some vacation. There's no law that gives it that validation as it does in other countries. In China they get 3 weeks by law, Australia 4 weeks by law, in Europe they get 4 to 5 weeks by law. And we average 8.1 days after a year and ten after 3 years. And many times, these days, that's only on paper," he says.
    A 2004 survey by the Internet travel service Expedia showed that 30% of all Americans will actually give up vacation time they earn this year. One reason for the trend, says Joe Robinson, is that U.S. businesses have been trying to cut costs by reducing their work force and offering fewer employee benefits. But he also believes Americans have long tended to measure their self worth by their work outputa practice that dates back to the nation's early settlers. "The Protestant Calvinist work ethic declared that idle time was the Devil's time, and one of the worst things was spontaneous enjoyment. That all got translated into the secular sphere in the early part of the twentieth century, and I think in recent years we've morphed from a work ethic to an overwork ethic," he says.
    The Expedia travel study also found that one third of all Americans now take work along with them on vacation. Dan Brooks is a technology attorney in the Washington, D.C. area. During the summers he spends time at his family's vacation home in the northern state of Maine. But he never really stops working. "My father, who built this place, made it a point not to bring work with him, but there was a transition sometime in the last 50 years," he says.
    That transition means that Mr. Brooks shifts back and forth between leisure activities and job duties while he's on vacation, starting with an E-mail check first thing in the morning. "I have clients who are being serviced as easily from here as they would be from the home office or the law firm office. The technology has enabled that to be almost seamless. Because of my specialty, I can pretty much arrange to have any piece of gear that works in an office work in my cottage here - printers, faxes, copiers, portable computers, networkjust like home," he says.
    Dan Brooks believes his working vacations reflect both the expectations of his clients and personal choice. He says he's never been the type to lie on a beach all day and do nothing. But Joe Robinson is convinced that for both their emotional and physical well-being, everyone needs a break from worka complete break that lasts more than a weekend or a week. "The vacation is really the best time of year for you to get reconnected to who you are and where you want to go, as well as to just enjoy yourself and get yourself recharged. Men who take an annual vacation a year can reduce their risk of heart attacks by 30% and women can do the same, reducing it by 50% by a simple annual vacation," he says.
    Joe Robinson says vacations also prevent the kind of employee burnout that can reduce productivity. He points to U.S. companies that, like businesses elsewhere in the world, are now planning for employee absences well in advance, and training workers who can fill in for their vacationing colleagues. "One financial services company in Oregon has doubled its profits as a result. Its morale has soared. Another company that went to three weeks vacation and cross-training in Cincinnati has increased their profits by 15%. They were able to eliminate overtime because morale at the company went sky high afterwards. So they're more productive than they were before," he says.
    Joe Robinson's campaign for a three week American vacation has gotten lots of support at his web site, where people post notes about their busy lives and need for more time off. They include David Forthuber, who says that while he's not a disgruntled employee himself, he does believe the issue should be of national concern. "I've thought for a long time that one of the problems in this country in the last twenty years or so is that people don't have time for their families any more. I got involved because I think we should have four-day work weeks and certainly at a minimum more vacation time so that people do have an opportunity to relax," he says.
    David Forthuber says that as a nation, Americans need to stop and think about why they're working so hard, what they're working for, and how to spend the free time they do have.

  7. 9/04   These are hard times for the American worker
    by John J. Sweeney, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI
    The legendary union leader Samuel Gompers, elected in 1886 as the American Federation of Labor's first president, once said, "What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge." If Gompers could be with us on Labor Day 2004, what would he add to his call? I'd humbly suggest that America's working men and women also want more good jobs and less dead ends, more health care and less rhetoric, more strong communities and less despair. Working people's situations have reached a low water mark in this nation. The Bush administration has presided over the worst economy for workers in decades as Americans' incomes fell for two consecutive years for the first time since World War II. Corporate profits have grown but workers' wages are flat. Health costs are exploding and coverage is declining. Our schools are crumbling, and the 40-hour work week is becoming a relic of the past. Think about the people in your own life who have seen hard times. Recall the 50-something couple who lost their house after they lost their jobs. In fact, personal bankruptcy filings rose by one-third between 2000 and 2003, with more than a million and a half individuals filing petitions last year. You may know a young person with a freshly minted college degree who can't find a good job, and is still working part-time in retail. It's not a fluke. The new jobs in growing sectors of today's economy pay a quarter less than the jobs in industries that are collapsing. Then there's the young couple and their child who are among the 44 million Americans without health care. In fact, 4 million fewer people have health care than when Bush took office. The so-called recovery is not reaching the middle class, and there's a reason for it. Companies are shipping good-paying jobs overseas in record numbers, and leaving only Wal-Mart-type new jobs behind. Our nation has lost 1.8 million jobs since President Bush took office - many of them were sent overseas by companies encouraged to do so under the administration's policies. For the past year, we've seen predictions that Bush could become the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression to end his term with fewer jobs than when he began. Now we know that prediction will be true. More job training won't change the fact that the good jobs just aren't there. After all, it's not just blue collar jobs that are getting shipped away. Between 300,000 and 500,000 professional jobs have been shipped overseas since 2001, according to Goldman Sachs. The new jobs that are being created are in service industries like cashiering, waitressing and home health care. These aren't family-supporting jobs with a real future. Gompers called for more leisure and less greed. Yet on Aug. 23, the nation's biggest pay cut in history took effect as more than 6 million workers became vulnerable to losing their overtime pay under the Bush administration's new overtime rule. They are nurses, working supervisors, team leaders, chefs, computer programmers and others whose employers will now be free to ask them to work for free after 40 hours a week, rather than paying them a time-and-a-half premium. Corporations are walking away with a huge chunk of change in their pockets, and Americans will be asked to work more hours away from their families for less money. Our nation needs a real vision for change and a new direction. We need a real plan to create jobs in this country and reward companies who stay here and invest in our communities. Companies that move offshore shouldn't get valuable contracts with American taxpayers' money. We must repeal the overtime pay cut. We need to tackle the health care dilemma and extend affordable health care to millions of Americans. We must invest in rebuilding our nation's schools and roads, and help states end their fiscal crises by investing in education and public safety programs. This Labor Day, working men and women want and deserve more. They are the people who care for our elderly, build our homes, process our accounts, teach our children and defend our cities. This nation has always been a place where children could do a little better than their parents. It will be a real tragedy if we accept anything less. John J. Sweeney is president of AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for America's unions, representing 13 million workers nationwide.

  8. 9/04   This is Perspectives for Saturday, Sept. 4, 2004
    Macon Telegraph, GA
    By Victor Kamber
    Celebrate this Labor Day with the truth
    This Labor Day the news media should come to grips with a myth that ranks right up there with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny: that American workers can freely join a union of their choice. Exposing this myth would be shocking, scandalous news to most Americans who believe union membership is declining simply because today's workers no longer need unions. By telling the true story, some enterprising reporter could win a Pulitzer. Ever since Ronald Reagan became the first U.S. President to break a union, labor law in America has been a sham. Bet you didn't know that. The "right" to join a union has been on the books since 1935, but for the past three decades workers exercise it at their peril. What puzzles me is why editorial writers, lawmakers and civil rights activists who leap to fever pitch at the very hint of racial, gender or disability bias, aren't similarly moved by the pain of workers illegally fired for supporting a union. Why is their no public outrage? The snail darter has more champions than unorganized workers. Since the 2000 Presidential election, the situation has only gotten worse. The Bush administration makes Reagan look like Sam Gompers. Some reporter should ask Labor Secretary Elaine Chao if she has ever read the mission statement for her agency. Depriving 6 million workers of overtime pay and slashing funds for workplace safety is hardly what lawmakers had in mind when they created a department "to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States." The unabated trashing of labor law has had its impact: today just 8.2 % of workers in the private sector are members of unions. And do you know what? Union membership still isn't declining fast enough to satisfy the Bushies. Recently, the three Bush appointees to the National Labor Relations Board began searching for a legal means to do away with the "card-check", one of labor's main tools in allowing workers to form unions without employer interference. Without card-check, unions face delaying tactics in NLRB elections that give management time to identify, harass and fire union supporters. How bad is it? Worse than you can imagine. Check out these documented findings from Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University:
    € 25% of employers fire at least one worker for union activity during organizing campaigns.
    € 75% of employers hire union-busting "consultants" to help defeat organizing drives.
    € 92% of employers compel their workforce to attend mandatory "captive audience" meetings to hear and view anti-union propaganda.
    € 52% of employers threaten to call in immigration officials to intimidate undocumented workers.
    € 51% of employers threaten to close their plants and relocate elsewhere if the union wins the election.
    It isn't enough that employers routinely fire the most outspoken union supporters in organizing campaigns, but reporters allow industry spokespersons to get away with the lie that "the traditional benefits of the union movement are no longer appealing to workers." That was a recent direct quote from Randel Johnson, Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. No reporter confronted him with Bronfenbrenner's research, no one challenged him as to why working families find unions "no longer appealing" when union members earn 26% more than nonunion, more than 75% of union workers have health benefits (less than half of nonunion workers do); nearly 70% have a pension (only 14% of nonunion have one). Unions also mean a safe workplace and respect. The media pride themselves as the "court of last resort" for the weak and powerless in our society. Well, that's an apt description of workers without union representation. I think it's time to tell their story to the American people.
    Victor Kamber is CEO of The Kamber Group, one of the nation's largest independent communications firms.
    Honor man's mind, not men's muscles
    [Here's some happytalk from a logical positivist of the Ayn Rand persuasion -]
    It is fitting that the most productive nation on earth
    [only on an irrelevant per-employee basis regardless of employee hours]
    should have a holiday to honor its work. The high standard of living that Americans enjoy
    [not as high as Europe]
    is hard-earned
    [why is "hard" still in the equation in the Age of Automation & Robotics??]
    and well-deserved. But the term "Labor Day" is a misnomer. What we should celebrate is not sweat and toil, but the power of man's mind to reason, invent and create.
    [The power of man's mind to reason, invent and create doesn't seem to be doing much good if we're still trapped in the mindset of hard work and a "hard-earned standard of living," does it.]
    Several centuries ago, providing the basic necessities for one's survival was a matter of daily drudgery for most people.
    [And increasingly, it is so again, not only by this writer's own testimony about "hard-earned" living standards but because of our creation of mounting labor surplus by injecting worksaving technology without compensating with workweek reduction, thereby taking the work savings in terms, not of financially secure free time, but of financially insecure unemployment, overt and covert. Our huge and mounting covert unemployment creates so much job insecurity that no one wants to be first to leave the office at night, so workhours are getting longer and longer again - and daily drudgery is returning, big time.]
    But Americans today enjoy conveniences undreamed of by medieval kings.
    [Yeah, yeah, Bucky Fuller's argument - but TVs and toaster ovens aren't much use if you're unemployed and sick and one of the 45 million Americans not covered by health insurance.]
    Every day brings some new useful household gadget, or a new software system to increase our productivity, or a breakthrough in biotechnology.
    [Another writer (who should know) better mistaking technological whizbang for progress.]
    So, it is worth asking: Why do Americans have no unique holiday to celebrate the creators, inventors and entrepreneurs who have made all of this wealth possible - the men of the mind?
    [Again, what good is wealth when it's concentrated in black-hole massiveness in the top income brackets? Ever heard of the marginal utility of wealth? It's not that the money wasn't there during the Great Depression - it was there, but it was all trapped and "iced" in the top brackets. Recall Will Rogers' "Money is like manure - it's no good unless it's spread around." We'uns shore got a lotta gadgets and software, and trillions of bucks, but we ain't got adequate centrifuge mechanisms. We did during and after World War II, but a funny (and rather disappointing) thing happens as peace reigns through the decades - the affluent gradually dismantle or redirect toward themselves all the centrifuge mechanisms throughout the economy - the "1930s era" Glass-Steagal Banking Act which prevented much conflict of interest by separating banking, brokerage and insurance, the "Depression Era" soft-on-deadbeats Bankruptcy Act, the "World War II era" graduated income tax.... Pretty soon, we're right back to the kind of income and wealth concentration that developed throughout the 1920s. Then it's, "gee, where's our customers? why aren't people spending money? quirky consumers!" The wealthy are doin' jess fine so they are all utopians - mistaking what we've got for utopia and doing everything they can to keep things that way - never mind they've all fallen into the Chesterton Pan-Utopian Trap.]
    The answer lies in the dominant intellectual view of the nature of work. Most of today's intellectuals, influenced by several generations of Marxist political philosophy, still believe wealth is created by sheer physical toil. But the high standard of living we enjoy today [not as high as Europe or Japan] is not due to our musculature and physical stamina. Many animals have been much stronger.
    [Animals are irrelevant. He should be talking about the strength and physical stamina of automata and robots.]
    We owe our relative affluence not to muscle power, but to brain power.
    [And we owe our continuing affliction with unemployment and poverty to our failure to apply thee same brain power we lavish on computer software to social software, specifically to economic software.]
    Brain power is given a left-handed acknowledgement in today's fashionable aphorism that we are living in an "information age" in which education and knowledge are the keys to economic success.
    [Not any more. Any repetitive activity, however cerebral, can be automated or robotized, and any activity at all can be outsourced offshore. Hamber is a little behind the times.]
    The implication of this idea, however, is that prior to the invention of the silicon chip, humans were able to flourish as brainless automatons.
    [Huh, this does not follow at all. Maybe he means that prior to computers, humans had to make do with machines, as in the mechanization of agriculture and a great deal of manufacturing.]
    The importance of knowledge to progress is not some recent trend, but a metaphysical fact of human nature.
    [But progress can only go so far when the knowledge pursued is directed toward unextended self-interest and value concentration, and a grotesque under-balance of knowledge about value centrifugation is allowed to develop.]
    Man's mind is his tool of survival and the source of every advance in material well-being throughout history, from the harnessing of fire, to the invention of the plough, to the discovery of electricity, to the invention of the latest anti-cancer drug.
    [Well, now we need to move beyond material well-being to temporal well-being, from "having lots of stuff" to having lots of free time.]
    Contrary to the Marxist premise that wealth is created by laborers and "exploited" by those at the top of the pyramid of ability, it is those at the top, the best and the brightest, who increase the value of the labor of those at the bottom.
    [If only this were the best of all possible worlds where those at the top really were the best and the brightest; however, many of them have inherited, not made, their money, and currently manifest some of the worst and the dimmest behavior, not the best and the brightest.]
    Under capitalism, even a man who has nothing to trade but physical labor gains a huge advantage by leveraging the fruits of minds more creative than his. The labor of a construction worker, for example, is made more productive and valuable by the inventors of the jackhammer and the steam shovel, and by the farsighted entrepreneurs who market and sell such tools to his employer.
    [True. But if he as a class isn't paid very well, he can't buy the technologically amplified fruits of his (as a class) labor, and therein lies economic depression and Third-World-itis.]
    The work of an office clerk, as another example, is made more efficient by the men who invented copiers and fax machines. By applying human ingenuity to serve men's needs, the result is that physical labor is made less laborious and more productive.
    [Well, labor is always laborious if it's of long duration, and what Hamber is ignoring here is what's happening to the American workweek = against all expectation, it is increasing under un-timesized technological advances, not decreasing, and we now have the longest working hours in the developed world. Fredric, baby, it's time you wrapped your head around the fact that the most basic freedom is free time, because without it, the other freedoms have no room for to be exercised and enjoyed.]
    An apt symbol of the theory that sweat and muscle are the creators of economic value can be seen in those Soviet-era propaganda posters depicting man as a mindless muscular robot with an expressionless, cookie-cutter face.
    [Nice phrase, but the USA has a lot of that kind of artwork lingering from FDR's New Deal as well, mostly in libraries and other public buildings.]
    In practice, that theory led to chronic famines in a society unable to produce even the most basic necessities. [Only in the 1920s when Lenin tried to homogenize wages and thereby disincentivated all the unpopular jobs.]
    A culture thrives to the extent that it is governed by reason and science, and stagnates to the extent that it is governed by brute force.
    [Tell that to utopian Geo.W.Bush and his everso altruistic adventurers in Iraq.]
    But the importance of the mind in human progress has been evaded by most of this century's intellectuals. Observe, for example, George Orwell's novel "1984," which depicts a totalitarian state that still, somehow, is a fully advanced technological society. Orwell projects the impossible: technology without the minds to produce it.
    [Hamber is apparently unaware of the history of the Third Reich, a highly technologized totalitarian state that people thought "couldn't happen there" in the 1930s - just as most Americans assume it couldn't happen here in the twothousand-aughts, although a number of our German and Austrian acquaintances were getting ve-ry nervous even back in the first 6 months of Bush Jr's administration before he found the Pearl Harbor Incident he wanted so badly.]
    The best and brightest minds are always the first to either flee a dictatorship in a "brain drain" or to cease their creative efforts.
    [Gee, the Nazis sure had a lot of residual brains and unceased creative efforts under "Dolphie" - tank and plane technology, rockets, and let's not forget their highly advanced technologies directed toward civilians either. True, Descartes fled Church-ridden France when Galileo was silenced (Bronowski's "Ascent of Man," p.218), and many did bail out of Germany in the 1930s, but darn if circumstances didn't develop in the 1910s, 20s and 30s that induced a lot of smart people, like Werner von Braun, to stay in Germany as the Third Reich was a-borning. And some of the ones that snuck out gave us such wonderful boons to humanity as the atomic bomb (ie: Leo Lizard, oops, Szilard, and Albert Einstein - Bronowski p.367ff).]
    A totalitarian regime can force some men to perform muscular labor; it cannot force a genius to create, nor force a businessman to make rational decisions.
    [Yeah but many geniuses don't need to be forced to create under a totalitarian regime, if that's the "only game in town" - witness Michelangelo and composers and choreographers under the Soviets.]
    A slave owner can force a man to pick peanuts; only under freedom would a George Washington Carver discover ways to increase crop yields.
    [Ya know, I (PH) used to think like this, but I'm a lot more guarded in my linkage of Our Way of Life and all other Good Things (eg: creativity) than I used to be. It's an arrogant, defensive, non-listening and non-learning-from-others stance that I no longer need, just as Laplace "had no need of that hypothesis" (God) in his Celestial Mechanics.]
    What Americans should celebrate is the spark of genius in the scientist who first identifies a law of physics,
    [and in the neglected and evidently too-uncommon popularizer who brings science (eg: evolution) to the masses?]
    in the inventor who uses that knowledge to create a new engine or telephonic device, [and in the social designer who keeps people from killing one another or themselves by, e.g., hanging on the cellphone while driving or bicycling?]
    and in the businessmen [and women] who daily translate their ideas into tangible wealth.
    [and in the economic designer who figures out how to level the market's playing field so that businesspeople don't continue accumulating 500-700 times more than other people and winding up with no market-supported investment targets cuz they've cannibalized their own consumer base and suctioned the spending power away from them?]
    On Labor Day, let us honor the true root of production and wealth: the human mind.
    [And the true root of consumption and enjoyment? And let us not assume that the human mind has done all it can in the way of securing and amplifying wealth by spreading it.]
    Fredric Hamber is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. Send comments to reaction@aynrand.org.

  9. 9/05   Tied to office, workers pay with health
    by John Schwartz, NYT via International Herald Tribune, France
    Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and stroke to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable effect on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines. "It's an issue everywhere you go in the world," said Guy Standing, the lead author of "Economic Security for a Better World," a new report from the International Labor Office of the United Nations. White-collar workers are particularly at risk, Standing said, because "we tend to take our work home." Workplace stress costs the United States more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and the stress-reduction industry that has grown up to soothe workers and keep production high, according to estimates by the American Institute of Stress in New York. And workers who report that they are stressed, said Steven Sauter, chief of the Organizational Science and Human Factors Branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, incur health care costs that are 46% higher, or an average of $600 more per person, than those of other employees. American workers are not the only ones grappling with increasing stress and ever greater job demands. European companies are changing once-generous vacation policies, and stress-related illnesses cost England 13 million working days each year, a British health official said. Most stress-related health problems are a far cry from the phenomenon known in Japan as karoshi, or "death from overwork." But downsizing, rapid business expansion, outsourcing - trends that some have credited with increasing America's economic health - translate into increases in sick days, hospitalization, the risk of heart attack and a host of other stress-related problems, researchers find. The changing workplace, said Hugo Westerlund, a researcher at the National Institute for Psychosocial Medicine in Stockholm, "does pose a threat to people's health." Business has moved away from traditional employment. Instead, a RAND Corp. study found, one in every four workers in the United States is "in some nontraditional employment relationship," including part-time work and self-employment. Four out of 10 Americans now work "mostly at nonstandard time," according to figures cited by Harriet Presser of the University of Maryland. The odd hours include evenings, nights, rotating shifts and weekends to meet the demands of global supply chains and customers in every time zone. These jobs require an increasing amount of time as well. U.S. workers already put in more than 1,800 hours a year: 350 hours more than the Germans and slightly more than the Japanese, the International Labor Office said. Nonwork hours have also been increasingly invaded by technologies that act like a virtual leash. "The distinction between work and nonwork time is getting fuzzier all the time," said Donald Tepas, professor emeritus of industrial psychology at the University of Connecticut, who has studied the health and safety effects of overwork and sleeplessness. One result is an office culture where too much work is not enough. And while some workers thrive in the changing workplace, others find their workplaces ruled by what one expert, Joanne Ciulla of the University of Richmond, calls "the work ethic of fear." More than 30% of workers say that they are "always" or "often" under stress at work, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and a quarter of those surveyed in 2002 said there often were not enough co-workers to get the job done. Other surveys show no end in sight. In a new report, Kronos, a human resources firm, found that 62% of American workers said that their job activities and responsibilities had increased in the past six months and that they had not used all of their allotted vacation time in the past year. And 60% of those surveyed said they did not expect any respite from increased working hours in the next six months. The strain of working in an uncertain economic world weighed heavily on Sergey Shevchuk, a former programmer for financial services companies. He said he was caught in an emotional vise while the companies tried to weather the post-2000 stock slump by purging the ranks and looking toward outsourcing. "I was depressed and getting easily sick very often," he recalled. "I was coming home empty." Shevchuk has since left the world of programming, where his work could bring $135,000 a year, and started Distinct Construction Service, a home contracting business in New Jersey. Work can be seductive, said Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley. One in five of the people she interviewed in the course of research for her book "The Time Bind" said the rewards of work could actually become stronger than the comforts of home, so "home became work, and work became home." Researchers are beginning to document the toll that the changing nature of work takes on health. Pioneering studies in Scandinavia, where centralized health care allows researchers access to vast databases of medical conditions and treatment, have shown a strong link between downsizing and illness. A study by Finnish researchers published in February in the British Medical Journal, for example, found the risk of dying from a heart attack doubled among permanent employees after a major round of downsizing, with the risk growing to five times normal after four years. Two other studies, led by Westerlund, the Swedish researcher, suggest that other forms of strain in the workplace can also affect health. An analysis of medical records for 24,036 Swedish workers from 1991 to 1996 found that, in workplaces that underwent large-scale expansions, the workers were 7 % more likely to take sick leave of 90 days or more and 9% more likely to enter a hospital for some reason. Health risks rose if the expansion, defined in the study as more than 18 % annual job growth, continued year after year, he said. Employees in companies experiencing moderate growth, on the other hand, were slightly less likely to take extended leave, perhaps because the growth rate was more manageable. One explanation for why expansion might lead to poor health, Westerlund said, is that it often involves tumult: In some cases, offices expand when the parent company centralizes operations or merges offices through downsizing. In another study, Westerlund and colleagues gave a series of medical tests to 3,904 white-collar employees working in stable businesses and workers in other companies in various states of stressful transition, including reorganization, downsizing and outsourcing, in some cases because the companies were threatened by the difficulties of competing in a global marketplace. The workers in organizations that were in transition had higher-than-average levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure and other biochemical markers of heart disease risk, the researchers found. One result of this uncertainty, experts say, is that employees are increasingly turning to medication like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs to help them cope with the added pressures. Some researchers are trying to tease out the types of stress that are most detrimental to workers. In a large study conducted in the 1990s, David Almeida, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State University, interviewed 1,500 people, asking about their "daily hassles" and "chronic stressors" at work and at home over a period of eight days. Tension with co-workers and overbearing bosses was more likely to lead to psychological and physical health symptoms, he said, while deadline pressure could actually "make you feel masterful." Citing research by Robert Karasek of the University of Massachusetts and colleagues, he said workers who felt that they had a measure of control over their environment were far less likely to find work stressful than those who felt utterly at the mercy of a capricious boss, a child's illness or a lurching economy. The wear and tear of long hours, ringing phones, uncertain working conditions and family demands lead to what Dr. Bruce McEwen, director of the neuroendocrinology laboratory at Rockefeller University, calls "allostatic load," a stress switch stuck in the half-on position. The result: fatigue, frustration, anger and burnout. McEwen and other stress researchers have linked persistent stress to a variety of conditions, including obesity, impaired memory, and suppressed immune function. What is more, chronic stress contributes to behavior that makes it harder to recover, he said. Researchers are also finding links between stress and disease at the molecular level. At Ohio State University, for example, Ronald Glaser, a viral immunologist, and his wife, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a psychologist, are reaching across disciplines to understand how stress causes illness. Working with other researchers at Ohio State, they have studied the immune response of people who live with an enormous burden of stress: people who care for a spouse who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and who are, on average, 70 years old. The immune systems of the caregivers are compromised, they found. "What we know about stress is that it's probably even worse than we thought," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "If you're 50 years old and you hate your job, you're going to be stressed; that probably translates into immune changes." Recognizing workplace stress might be as simple as counting the broken pencils on a desk, but doing something about it is harder. The advice that most experts offer is deceptively simple: McEwen, for example, recommends getting enough sleep, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, eating sensibly and exercising. Emotional support can also make a difference, Kiecolt-Glaser said.

  10. 9/05   Medical specialists reduce their hours, by Bill Kettler (776-4492 or bkettler@mailtribune.com), Mail Tribune, OR.
    OREGON, U.S.A. - If you're contemplating risky activity that might endanger your head, try to avoid doing it on Thursdays and every other weekend. Those are the days when Medford's two hospitals will no longer have a neurosurgeon available for emergency calls. Patients who need a neurosurgeon's care on those days could be transported to a hospital in Eugene, Bend or Portland. Dr. Donald Roberson, one of four neurosurgeons who handled emergency calls, is leaving Southern Oregon. The remaining three, Drs. Jeffrey Louie, Donald Ross, and Miroslav Bobek, do not have enough time to care for their patients and also handle emergency calls every third night. "It's not a dollar issue for them," said Dr. Eugene Ogrod, interim chief medical officer at Providence Medford Medical Center. "They just don't have the hours." "They're not saying they don't want to do the work," said Mary Barnum, trauma coordinator for Rogue Valley Medical Center. "They cannot do it anymore." The new schedule, which took effect Thursday, will probably affect fewer than a dozen people over the coming months, but it reflects the growing shortage of medical specialists across the United States, said Susan Werner, trauma program manager in the Dept. of Human Services. "Less-populated areas lose their specialists first," Werner said, noting that Good Samaritan Medical Center in Corvallis recently lost a neurosurgeon, too. There will be a neurosurgeon available locally during the Labor Day weekend, but not on Sept. 11-12 and every other weekend thereafter. Neurosurgeons are typically called in to evaluate patients who have life-threatening head injuries. Accident victims and people who have suffered a severe stroke or concussion may die or suffer permanent brain damage without a neurosurgeon's speedy intervention. "I can't imagine mothers feeling comfortable with this arrangement if they have children who play football or soccer," said Dr. Paul Hoffman, a surgeon and chief of staff at Ashland Community Hospital. Emergency calls come at every hour of the day and night, adding extra hours to neurosurgeons' long work days and wreaking havoc with their work schedule. "We're working 12- and 13-hour days," said neurosurgeon Donald Ross. "A couple of days a week, when you're on call, the phone rings all night. "Then of course there's no day off," Ross said. "You have to start the next day. After several days you're rather fatigued." Ross said taking trauma calls every fourth day was one of the chief factors that led his colleague, Roberson, to leave Southern Oregon. Roberson declined an invitation to speak with the Mail Tribune. Ross said he and his two remaining colleagues, Drs. Bobek and Louie, decided it was impossible to take emergency calls every third night and to provide quality care for their patients as well as the accident victims. "The more ER time we spend, the fewer patients we can see," Ross said. Finding someone to replace Roberson may be difficult. Ross said about 125 new neurosurgeons will finish their training this year, but 350 left the profession in 2002 alone. "It'll take three years just to make up for people who left in 2002," he said. Oregon's medical climate makes it relatively difficult to recruit new physicians. High malpractice-insurance premiums and low reimbursements from the federal government for Medicare patients put Oregon at a competitive disadvantage. Ross acknowledged that transporting patients to distant hospitals will create hardship for the patients and their families. "We wish it weren't so," he said. "But this is the way it is right now."

  11. 9/05   Confusing productivity with long workweek, by Prof. Dir. Joan Williams & Faculty Fellow Ariane Hegewisch of the Program on WorkLife Law at American University Washington College of Law, Los Angeles Times via Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN.
    Politicians and CEOs like to boast about the productivity of American workers. But here's the dirty little secret: U.S. productivity is No. 1 in the world when productivity is measured as gross domestic product per worker, but our lead vanishes when productivity is measured as GDP per hour worked, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose members are the world's 30 most developed nations. Productivity per hour is higher in France, with the United States at about the same level as other advanced European economies. As it turns out, the U.S. "productivity advantage" is just another way of saying that we work more hours than workers in any other industrialized country except South Korea. Is that something to brag about? Europeans take an average of six to seven weeks of paid annual leave, compared with just 12 days in the United States. Twice as many American as European workers put in more than 48 hours per week. Particularly sobering is the fact that in two out of three American families with small children in which both parents work, the couples work more than 80 total hours per week, also more than double the European rate. Confusing productivity with long work hours precludes a much-needed public debate about the costs and benefits of workaholism. Conventional economic theory argues that Americans prefer the higher income gained from working extra hours, while Europeans prefer more family time and leisure. This truth may hold supreme among economists (and business reporters), but study after sociological study contradicts it. Sociologists have long documented that many Americans (men especially) want more family or leisure time and would be willing to sacrifice up to a quarter of their salaries in return. But they are prevented from working the hours they prefer for two kinds of reasons. Some Americans just need the money, given that the U.S. has the most unequal income distribution in the developed world. The average CEO of a major U.S. company, according to Business Week, is paid more than 400 times what the average worker is paid in the same company.
    [We've heard up to 700 times lately.]
    In Britain - the European economy with the most inequality - that ratio is 45-1. Because the profits from Europe's productivity increases are shared more equitably through shorter working hours and investment in education and health care, European workers can work fewer hours without worrying about creating a domino effect in which they first lose their jobs and then their health care. Other Americans who would gladly trade time for money cannot do so because the widespread demand for more family (and life-friendly) hours has not translated into good, reduced-hours jobs. In most workplaces, a shift to family friendly hours is the kiss of death professionally, and a refusal to work overtime is reason for dismissal. This leaves too many Americans with only two choices: a good job with health insurance at 50-plus hours a week or a dead-end job at 20 to 25 hours a week with depressed wages and no health insurance. The American economy, compared with Europe's, has fewer jobs that are 30 to 35 hours a week. As a result, many families who would prefer both parents to be employed end up with Dad working 50 to 60 hours a week because Mom cannot find a quality, reduced-hours job. So many mothers drop out. One in four mothers are out of the labor force during the key career-building years, including many with professional or on-the-job training. This is a squandering of human capital that is typically overlooked in discussions of productivity and GDP. A new and more promising way to fuel economic growth would be to offer good jobs with working hours that enable fathers as well as mothers to maintain an active involvement with family life as well as an active career.

  12. 9/05   West Europeans may have to retire abridged workweek - Free time imperiled by EU's industrious new members, by Eric Wahlgren, San Francisco Chronicle.
    PARIS - As Western Europeans head back to the office after their customary monthlong August vacations, they're finding more than just overflowing in-boxes. Their much-cherished short workweeks are under attack. The pressure on leisure-loving Continentals to work more has been growing since May, when 10 nations - mainly in Eastern Europe, where longer hours and lower wages are the norm - joined the European Union. This summer, several employers have asked their workers in the West to make an unsavory decision: work more or don't work at all. That was the choice Siemens gave some 4,000 of its mobile phone assembly employees in Germany in June. In the end, the workers agreed to work 40 hours a week instead of 35, with no extra pay, to keep their jobs from shifting to Hungary, a new EU member with labor costs about a sixth of Germany's average. "It was a tough agreement, but we ultimately had to save the jobs," said Martina Helmerich of IG Metall, the powerful German metal workers union based in Frankfurt that represents the Siemens employees. Across the border in France, where a 35-hour workweek has been enshrined into law, workers also are feeling the heat. In July, employees at a Robert Bosch auto-parts factory near Lyon voted to start working on average 36 hours a week for the same salary. The employer had threatened to ship their positions to the Czech Republic, another EU newbie. "It was blackmail, pure and simple," said Francois Ayme, a 29-year-old management consultant in Paris. Other companies have followed suit. DaimlerChrysler and Thomas Cook have wrangled similar agreements from their staffs in Germany. Though Ayme disagrees with the hardball tactics, he says his compatriots in France would benefit from working a little more. "Working more to me seems necessary to stay competitive, especially for young people who want to prove themselves," said Ayme, who admits to putting in very un-French 50-hour weeks. France and Germany aren't the only countries where cushy work schedules are being challenged. Austrian business associations have been pressing unions for increases in working hours. But in France and Germany, where workers are among the most pampered on the planet, debate over the workweek issue is reaching a boiling point. Nearly two-thirds of French workers are covered by the 35 hours law, which took effect in 2000 to combat stubbornly high unemployment, which was 9.8% in July. In Germany, the short workweek is not a state mandate, but a trend that developed over the years in union negotiations with employers. On average, German workers have agreed to work 37.7 hours a week - nearly 5% less than the weekly 39.6 hours average for the EU's new Eastern European members. Though less than a quarter of the German workforce is now unionized, about two-thirds of workers are still covered by union contracts. Competition for jobs with lower-wage countries is only one reason the fun-comes-first credo is getting a rethink. Politicians and others also are questioning whether France and Germany can afford to work so little while maintaining such generous social benefits. Employees in France averaged 1,453 hours of work in 2003, while German workers averaged just 1,446 hours, or 19% less than the U.S. average of 1,792 hours. The French and Germans get universal health care coverage and generous paid maternity leave, while five or more weeks paid vacation is the norm in both countries. The problem is, both governments are having increasing trouble paying the tab for all this and other programs. In August, the International Monetary Fund told both countries they needed to strengthen incentives to work to boost growth and keep social systems from going bust. But the reduced workweek is far from dead. "There will be a struggle," warned Andrea Bassanini, a labor economist with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Since taking effect four years ago, the abridged workweek in France has become as much a part of the French way of life as cheese for dessert and the double-kiss greeting. Stephanie Bonnet, director in an international public relations firm in Paris, trades longer workweeks for extra time off each month - on top of her five weeks' paid vacation - because the work rule requires that employees average 35 hours a week over the year. And she's not ready to give this perk up. "We're not on this Earth to be working all the time," said Bonnet, 36. "You need some balance in life." France's center-right government has said the law should be relaxed so people who want to earn more money can work more instead of getting so much time off. But the government so far has not jumped on reform. In Germany, unions argue that scrapping the abbreviated workweek would drive up the unemployment rate, which is already an alarming 10.6%. If working hours were extended, IG Metall's Helmerich said, 2 million more German workers would join the 4.5 million already on the unemployment line. German employees are willing to negotiate on working times, Helmerich added. But if workers agree to more hours, bosses need to make concessions too, she said. "In exchange, we need to see job security and new jobs when production increases," Helmerich said. Though some Europeans are afraid that global competition will turn their worker havens into the live-to-work U.S. model, so far there's little evidence that's the case, said Jon Messenger, a senior research officer with the International Labor Organization in Geneva. To increase the hours they spend working, Europeans would have to scale back their enviably long vacations. The EU minimum is four weeks' paid vacation, but workers in some countries get up to nine weeks. "I haven't heard anything about taking away any of the paid leave," Messenger said. Even Ayme, who supports the French working longer, said he has his limits. "I don't think we'll end up working as much as Americans, and is that really such a bad thing?"

  13. 9/04   Employed but dissatisfied - Stressed, underpaid workers consider alternatives, by Kristen Gerencher, CBS.MW via CBS.MarketWatch.com.
    SAN FRANCISCO - Many workers who may have been glad just to have job security during the recession are now grappling with dissatisfaction and weighing career options, according to several surveys. With Labor Day weekend upon them, families are sending their children back to school and confronting anew the struggle to balance work and life, with some pondering whether it makes sense to continue working when the negative impact of stress overrides the financial benefits, career experts said. In fact, a growing number of workers are considering downshifting, according to a survey of more than 1,200 people by the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit group that aims to help Americans consume wisely. In the past five years, 48% of Americans have voluntarily opted to make less money so they could have more time and a less stressful life, they told the center's pollsters. More than half would be willing to give up one day's pay per week to get that day off to spend with family and friends.
    [Data this is based on?]
    Signaling that materialism doesn't trump all, one in two Americans would accept less money in exchange for more time, they said.
    Child care concerns take toll
    At the same time, workers who survived several rounds of layoffs may still feel pressure to outperform, said Jim Derivan, spokesman for LifeCare, a benefits consulting firm. "While their primary concerns are with their family and care of their children, they're feeling a certain dedication to their employer to put in more hours to be productive," Derivan said, noting they're "looking for new and creative ways to balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities at home."
    68% of working parents are considering cutting back or even quitting altogether due to child-care issues, according to a LifeCare survey of nearly 500 workers.
    46% said they like their current job but want to work fewer hours, while 22% would like to quit work altogether for child-care-related reasons, according to LifeCare.
    More employers are offering flexible scheduling, job sharing, telecommuting, child-care referrals and other benefits to keep parents on the job, but some employees ultimately decide it's not worth the struggle, he said. "They can't always get to the day-care center right at 5:15," Derivan said. "What are they going to do? There's that stress about making arrangements to have someone in place to pick up their child." Those who continue to work also often patch together backup systems in case a child gets sick or has some other unscheduled absence, and sick-child clinics are still hard to find, he said.
    Career progress stalls
    Of course, labor concerns aren't confined to parents and their desire to alleviate time crunches.
    30% of workers say they are unhappy with their career progress, according to a survey of 1,600 mostly full-time workers from CareerBuilder.com, a job-search site.
    42% of those who are dissatisfied plan to leave their current positions, with 28% expecting to change jobs before the end of the year. "The top three factors we see time and time again in what causes the greatest amount of dissatisfaction with workers are pay, workload and career advancement," CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Sullivan said. And this year is no exception. Many workers say they don't see much opportunity to move up the ladder at their organizations, which may indicate that employers aren't doing enough to identify career paths for them, Sullivan said. Workers may also feel stuck or "compartmentalized" in their positions, she said. "You become focused on your particular function within a company and may not know there's a great opportunity in another department where you can transition your skills and experience." The top five reasons workers cited for their dissatisfaction in not achieving their career goals, according to CareerBuilder:
    1. Lack of career advancement opportunities at present employer: 27%. One in four workers said they've been overlooked for a promotion this year.
    2. Lack of appropriate education, training and experience: 18%. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement or assistance, and workers need to take responsibility for updating their skills, Sullivan said, noting that a two-year plan can help. "Here's where I am today, where I want to be two years from now. Here are the goals I need to make that happen. You want to make sure you're creating a checklist for yourself."
    3. Inadequate direction from supervisors: 15%.
    4. A challenging economy: 10%. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.4% in August and job growth returned after two disappointing months, the Labor Dept. said Friday. See full story. But even when jobs become more plentiful, more workers may leave their employers instead of taking another internal position when the time is right, Sullivan said.
    5. Lack of support from present employers: 7%.
    Low-wage work targeted for improvements
    Income inequality is another factor resonating with workers and voters this year, especially among people who earn less than $11 an hour and have family income lower than $40,000 a year, according to new research from the Corporate Voices for Working Families, an employer trade group of 45 companies covering 4 million workers. Six out of 10 voters think the problem of low-wage work has become more serious in the past few years, and 70% believe low-wage workers' employment conditions are a very or fairly serious problem, the survey said. Swing voters showed more concern than decided voters over such conditions, but 59% of the general voting public said a worker needs an income of at least $40,000 to support a family of four. Just 38% of low-wage workers receive job-based health insurance, compared with 69% of higher-wage workers, the study found.
    47% of low-wage workers receive paid sick leave, compared with 75% of higher-wage workers, and 47% of low-wage workers are offered a retirement plan versus 80% with some type of pension for higher-wage workers. Corporate Voices' employment base represents a small percentage of the 137 million private-sector American workers, 69 million of whom work in small or midsize enterprises, the organization's president, Donna Klein, said in a statement. "The reality today is that only some workers in some companies in some places have the support systems they need in place to be strong, productive employees and caring parents," Klein said. "More needs to be done."

  14. 9/05   Many in N.C. must work part time - Insecurity haunts the underemployed, by Amy Martinez (829-4884 or amartine@newsobserver.com), Raleigh News, NC.
    As many as 153,000 part-time workers in North Carolina wanted a full-time job last year but could not find one. For four years, unemployed workers have complained that full-time jobs were scarce. Every layoff announcement came with worries that the only jobs available would be part-time work at Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Their worries weren't far off. According to a report from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, a Raleigh nonprofit agency that focuses on low- and middle-income families, the number of part-time workers who prefer and are available for full-time jobs has nearly doubled since 2000. The center, for the first time, has put a number on the state's underemployed - including "involuntary" part-timers - by analyzing government data. "There's a lot of insecurity for families having to accept these part-time jobs," said the report's author, Elizabeth Jordan, a policy analyst with the center. "There's a sense of living day to day, week to week." The report shows that, throughout the economic downturn, businesses treated workers' hours like a knob on the radio, turning them down and then back up once things improved. By reducing workers' hours, businesses could avoid layoffs and still cut labor costs. And by hiring more part-timers, they could avoid skyrocketing health insurance costs. Jordan asserts that the state's unemployment rate, which has fallen to 5%, is creating an incomplete picture. The problem, she says, is that for purposes of calculating the unemployment rate, a job is a job is a job. No distinction is made between full time and part time, not to mention high-wage versus low-wage. While that one-size-fits-all methodology worked relatively well in the past, recent economic trends show decay in the traditional full-time job market, Jordan says. Being employed just isn't what it used to be.
    Hiding the Ph.D.
    North Carolina's part-time work force has grown from 19% of all workers in 2000 to 23% in 2003. For many, that growth has been positive. It allows students to make some spending money while not losing their focus on school. Homemakers can go to work in the morning and be home to greet their children at the end of the school day. But 17% of the state's part-timers want to work full time. Chuck Harner did not have part-time work in mind when he lost his job three years ago as a manager for EMC, a technology company in Research Triangle Park. Harner, 63, now works 12 hours a week at Wild Birds Unlimited in Chapel Hill. It takes him a month to earn as much as he did in a day at EMC. "I've sent out hundreds of resumes for a management job. There's just a black hole out there," Harner said. He and his wife refinanced their home in Durham to cut their monthly mortgage bill. "I was four years from paying off the house. I'll never own this place now," he says. Harner worries about being seen as over-qualified for jobs that are available, so his resume no longer lists a Ph.D. in math, earned at the University of New Mexico. "There's a guy in India doing what I used to do," he said. "For guys like me, the future is in retail." The growth in part-time jobs helps to explain last month's news from the U.S. Census Bureau: Between 2000 and 2003, median family income in North Carolina fell from $40,302 to $38,234, the portion of residents living in poverty rose to 14%, and the number of people without health insurance increased to 16%.
    Trend to end?
    Some economists say the number of involuntary part-timers has grown all it's going to in North Carolina and that soon more workers will find full-time jobs. "The economy was pretty sluggish during the first half of 2003," said Mark Vitner, an economist with Wachovia in Charlotte. "We have seen dramatic improvement over the last year, and I'd expect a huge drop in involuntary part-timers in 2004." Jordan is more skeptical. Although North Carolina's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in more than three years, she warns that an economic recovery will go only so far in helping involuntary part-timers. "Job creation isn't where it needs to be," Jordan said. "For this trend to go away, we're going to need to create new jobs, and we're going to have to prepare our workers for the jobs that are coming." She and other economic analysts point to a familiar litany of worries: technology jobs that are being outsourced to low-wage countries, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, increased foreign competition, and technological advances that allow manufacturers to do more with fewer workers. In other words, the economic problems that led to the increase in involuntary part-timers aren't going away. Last year, the state Employment Security Commission helped recruit part-time cashiers and salespeople for new Target stores in the Triangle. Gene Norton, who manages the commission's Raleigh office, took applications from technology workers who had lost jobs in Research Triangle Park. Now, many are resuming full-time work at RTP as demand for technology products again picks up, he said. Still, Norton sees the emergence of a "just-in-time" work force, where hours fluctuate along with demand. Many businesses, he said, are "hesitant to invest in long-term situations. They're choosing to test the waters first." Mike Helmar, who follows North Carolina for Economy.com in West Chester, Pa., agrees that the "just-in-time" work force is here to stay. But Helmar said workers with a college education and technological know-how eventually will return to full-time jobs. Businesses that had been cutting back on workers' hours will find that they no longer can keep up with increased demand for goods and services. Also, they may find it impossible to hold on to valued employees, he said. "As the economy strengthens, it will be harder for companies to maintain an involuntary part-time staff," he said. "If people have a choice, they're going to opt for a full-time job."
    Minorities hardest hit
    Jordan suggests that minorities are most at risk of having to settle for part-time jobs. Nearly one in two part-time Hispanic workers looked for, but could not find, full-time jobs last year. One in five African-American part-timers preferred full-time work. That compares with an involuntary part-time rate of 14% for whites. Chantel Underwood...is one such worker. Underwood, who is African-American, moved to Raleigh from Cleveland two years ago to attend Shaw University. She dropped out after one semester because of a learning disability and was homeless for a year and a half. Her parents are poor and unable to provide financial support, she said. Underwood lives on $400 a month, working two nights a week at a local nightclub. Occasionally, a construction company calls with $8-an-hour work, but it hasn't called in a while. A lack of personal transportation limits her job choices. Last month, Underwood took a room at the Epiphany House in Raleigh, where she pays $250 a month. She hopes to return to Shaw and become a physical therapist. Lunch is usually a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Dinner is cereal or chicken nuggets. "People say the job market is getting better, but I don't see it," Underwood said. "It's just hard to find jobs."

  15. 9/03   68% of working parents want fewer working hours, Honeycomb Connect.
    WESTPORT, Conn. - 46% of respondents to the latest online poll conducted by LifeCare(R), Inc. indicated that they like their current job but desire to work fewer hours for childcare reasons, while 22% would like to quit work altogether for childcare-related reasons. The poll, conducted on the company's private web site, was open to the employees of LifeCare's 1,000-plus client companies nationwide. LifeCare is one of the largest privately owned employee benefits organization in the U.S. and the exclusive provider of Life Event Management(R) Services. "Obviously, employers everywhere should take notice of these findings since working parents make up a significant portion of the workforce," says John B. Place, LifeCare President and co-founder. The Labor Project for Working Families estimates that employees who have children under age 18 make up 40% of the work force. "Child care counseling and referral services are a powerful, cost-effective tool for recruiting and retaining working parents-and for improving their productivity and satisfaction levels. Employers who don't prepare to meet this group's needs will be at a distinct disadvantage in the competitive marketplace." Earlier this year, a Time magazine article ("The Case for Staying Home," 3/22/04) suggested that some women in the ‘professional’ class, who have a choice in the matter, are leaving the work force and, for the first time, employment statistics show a drop in the number of working moms, who are married and have a child less than one year old. Place points out that great progress has been - and continues to be - made in terms of providing working parents with access to quality, affordable child care options. "The variety of child care arrangements has grown tremendously over the past 20 years, offering parents today several options including in-home care, group child care, and child care centers, for example. In addition, care providers are available for back-up care and sick-child care, and others cater to children who have special needs. Despite all of these advancements, Place notes, more needs to be done to support the nation's working parents." As proof, Place cites a new report issued by Corporate Voices for Working Families (CVWF) that calls upon the nation's businesses and policy-makers to provide more and better after school resources for school children. In line with CVWF's mission to rally public and business support for issues affecting working families, the report ("After School for All: A Call to Action from the Business Community") highlights the need for across-the-board collaboration in order to improve young people's success in both school and life. CVWF reports that young people spend just 20% of their waking hours in school; it's the remaining 80 % of those waking hours that causes parents particular concern. Donna Klein, President & CEO of Corporate Voices for Working Families, asserts that a voluntary system of comprehensive, structured care settings will enable children to use this time to develop skills and interests, while in a safe environment. "Under such a system, children will benefit from greater exposure to learning opportunities," she says. "And working parents will benefit, too. After all, when employees are comfortable and confident in the quality of the care program, they are mentally engaged at the workplace - and more productive."
    Key childcare findings

  16. 9/05   Overworked workers, Savannah Morning News.
    Employees in the United States are working longer than most of the industrialized world. AIt's been 122 years since the first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882. But despite the nation's long history of celebrating labor, recent studies suggest average American workers may not have much to celebrate: They work longer hours and are guaranteed less paid leave than much of the industrialized world. In fact, not much has happened legislatively to protect American workers since 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the 40- hour work week with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In a society where most U.S. families have both parents working - while caring for aging parents or children - Dr. Jody Heymann, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, wanted to see how Americans were coping. And the Global Working Families project began. "So we spent a decade looking to see if we had decent working conditions to allow people to deal with the responsibility," Heymann said. What she found "overwhelmed" her. "I had no idea how far behind the U.S. is," she said, after spending years sifting through nearly 170 other nation's legal codes. Not only does the United States lag behind much of the rest of the world in terms of guaranteed minimum leave, but Heymann also found the country is behind in protecting workers against extreme work hours, offering services for pre-school and school age children and working conditions. The reason, Heymann noted, is that for the last 50 years the country has been engaged in an experiment to see if the private sector will voluntarily address benefits and paid leave. "And we're unique worldwide in terms of relying on the private sector," Heymann points out. While some companies have stepped up, the vast majority have not. Heymann is quick to add: In a competitive market, most businesses can't afford to handicap themselves with the costs of paid leave. But if all U.S. companies were mandated to offer certain benefits, businesses would stay on an even footing with their competition. Other groups that criticize American working conditions also point out that there has been a lack of commitment from political leadership to make changes. Bruce Herman, executive director for the National Employment Law Project in New York, calls it "a travesty." "That the largest economy has such poor policies and that we're so far behind the rest of the world is a complete failure of political leadership," he said. The Family and Medical Leave Act, is the only legislation U.S. workers have that relates to leave time. It was voted down by President George H.W. Bush. Then passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "It's quite weak," Heymann said. "But it is better than nothing." FMLA allows certain workers to take 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for health reasons, to care for a relative or for the birth or adoption of a child. During President George W. Bush's term, the states attempted to pass a law that would allot Unemployment Insurance funds for a paid FMLA, but Bush signed an executive order to make that impossible. As a result, California is the only state to provide paid FMLA through a payroll tax. "So it's employee-funded, with no business contribution," Heymann said. "That just shows how badly Americans want this." It was something Europeans wanted - and made happen. In the 1970s, Europeans worked longer hours than Americans, but no more. "It's been a conscious choice on their part to reduce the amount of time spent at work," said Gretchen Burger [it's Berger, isn't it?], national staff for Take Back Your Time Day, an initiative to reverse the "time poverty" experienced by most Americans. On average, Americans work almost nine full weeks, or 350 hours, longer per year than counterparts in Western Europe. The only way some Americans manage that kind of paid time off is by putting in many years of service with the same employer. Burger ascribes better organized unions as key to Europe's success, but points out that ultimately it's about making a choice and electing officials who will make it possible. Or, as former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers put it: "It is true that the Dutch are not aiming to maximize gross national product per capita. Rather we are seeking to attain a high quality of life, a just, participatory and sustainable society ... We like it that way."
    America's road to labor improvements How do we compare?
    In a study of 168 countries: Source: Harvard School of Public Health

  17. 9/03?   Still a ways to go, press release?
    Take Back Your Time Day wants Congress to: Source: Take Back Your Time Day

  18. 9/03   Easy street hits a dead end - Australia's effortless ride is over, but economic decline can be avoided, by Mike Steketee & Peter Dawkins, who have co-edited a book showing how, The Australian, Australia.
    Behind the hand-to-hand combat of the election campaign, a more fundamental battle is under way: for the right to govern Australia when big new challenges are emerging. Among them are the consequences of an ageing population, including: the prospect of slower growth in productivity and in the economy overall; a health bill that will chew up an increasing share of the nation's resources; a shrinking proportion of working-age taxpayers; and growing divisions in wealth between generations. It will be a pleasant surprise if we hear much about these issues, let alone the solutions, between now and October 9. This is despite John Howard's promise when he announced the election that he would unveil detailed plans for Australia's future over the next 10 years. This is a response to the Opposition's accusation that he has run out of puff. Many of the longer-term issues do not loom large in the focus group research on which political parties tailor their campaign messages. They cannot compete with the instant gratification of rival tax cuts or promises of increases in middle-class welfare. Besides, the solutions run the risk of offending some people, which is the last thing politicians want to do in an election campaign. Yet they are the domestic policy issues with which Howard, Mark Latham or Peter Costello will be wrestling if they are prime minister in future years. Almost 100 leading Australian and overseas thinkers from universities, politics, the public service, business, trade unions and community groups came to grips with them at the November 2003 Pursuing Opportunity and Prosperity Conference hosted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and The Australian. Their contributions are distilled in Reforming Australia - New Policies for a New Generation, published this week.

  19. 9/03   CIPD attacks TUC campaign to do away with 48-hour opt-out, PersonnelToday.com, UK.
    TUC [Trades Union Congress] calls for the removal of UK opt-out from EU Working Time Directive fly in face of the views of workers themselves, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD). The TUC report, More time for families: tackling the long hours crisis in UK workplaces, claims overworked parents do not have the time to see much of their children during the week or spend much time on family activities at weekends. However, Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said research showed that the majority of people actually working more than 48 hours per week chose to do so. "The issue of long-hours working is complex, deep-seated and ingrained in the culture of organisations. It cannot be addressed by a uniform ban," he said. "CIPD research shows that persistent long-hours working can have negative effects, but these would be best solved by employer measures such as flexible working arrangements rather than a blanket ban on long-hours working."

  20. 9/03   Lincoln City revises after-school program, By Terry Dillman, Newport News Times, OR.
    Participants in Lincoln City's summer recreation program enjoy an afternoon outing at the Lincoln City Pool. With the youngsters are group leaders Karen Hopkins, Hilary Wagner and Jo LeDoux. The city will offer an expanded version of the program when school starts next week. (Photo by Carol Posey)
    With the first day of school "just around the corner," Lincoln City officials recently turned their attention to the city's after-school program. Hoping to stave off criticisms that dogged the program last year, parks and recreation director Ron Ploger and his staff revised it, focusing on the main points of contention - cost, activities, hours, and notification to parents. Based on the results of a parent survey conducted at the end of last year's program and suggestions from city officials and other community members, the staff made major changes to the program. "We looked at things people didn't like and fixed them," said Ploger, who described the program and outlined the changes for city council members August 9. The Lincoln City Parks and Recreation after school program provides "a safe, positive environment" for grade school students, featuring "enriching, age-appropriate activities" to help children "develop important interpersonal skills as they work on learning activities and join in recreation together." The structured, supervised, disciplined program places more emphasis on healthy recreation and physical activities - a situation that concerned council member Ed Kuntz. "We really need to be multi-functional, and not just focus on sports or recreation," he said. "We also need to recreate the mind." "One of our primary concerns is not to be 'homework Nazis,'" Ploger responded. "We're here to help and encourage them." Cost this year is $25 per week or $6 drop-in for city residents - down from $40 and $8, respectively - and $30 weekly or $7 drop-in for non-residents, down from $45 and $9. There's also a one-time $40 materials fee. Hours are 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - 30 minutes longer than last year. The program closed for all holidays last year, but will remain open for working parents on Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, and Memorial Day this year. Field trips in 2003-04 were limited to swimming at the city pool. In addition to swimming, this year's field trip plan features the Oregon Coast Aquarium in South Beach, as well as roller skating and the Nickel Arcade in Salem. The agenda also includes appearances by area artists and guest educational speakers from Oregon State University's cooperative extension office, and Sitka Center. To maintain the program's continuity, it will again operate at the DelakeElementary building as long as it's available, with Oceanlake Elementary as an alternative location. "We also added a position in our budget to bring in someone to actually run the program," Ploger noted. The budget allowed them to hire a program director for 30 hours per week to manage and promote it. The director will also find and schedule enrichment activities to enhance the program and offset the recreational component. Children who want to do homework will find a quiet time, place and assistance to do so. An hour of free time offers the chance to do homework, participate in a craft project, or take advantage of free play, either outside or in the gym, computer room, or game room. Recreation remains the program's backbone, along with wholesome snacks, such as fruits, vegetables, and hot soup on cold days. "We believe very strongly that the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes this nation is facing is directly linked to poor eating habits and the lack of physical activity," said Ploger. "People often forget that through play, we are actually learning. First and foremost is learning to enjoy being active. Other important concepts are acquired and reinforced, such as learning to work as a team, setting personal goals, finding your own personal strengths and weaknesses, learning to accept defeat, and striving to overcome adversity. "Children need quality play time, and time to be kids." Ploger pointed to recent studies indicating that 16 to 33% of children and adolescents are considered obese. The city's after school program keeps participants busy, including special monthly recreational events during a no-school day. The qualified staff members are trained in CPR, First Aid, and child abuse recognition. Getting the word out about the program in a timely and on-going manner is a key to its success. "We really focused on a publicity campaign," said Ploger. "We've hit just about every avenue we can to reach the community." The publicity push includes packets of information at all elementary schools, program flyers, and media announcements to make and keep parents aware of what's available. Despite the enhancements, Ploger and his staff know the city's program faces strong competition from a federally-subsidized, more multi-faceted program offered at Taft Elementary. The city recreation department is a partner in that venture, and provides staff paid for by those federal funds, not by the city. Council members were pleased with the effort. Chester Noreikis called it "commendable," noting that Ploger had been "extremely responsive" to requests from the council, and Mayor Lori Hollingsworth said she is "encouraged by the flexibility and adjustments made in this program."

  21. 9/03   Women widen horizons in medical world, by Diana McCurdy, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand.
    Emily Siedeberg ducked instinctively as the dismembered body parts came flying across the laboratory in her direction. It was the early 1890s and Siedeberg was on her way to becoming New Zealand's first female medical graduate. Inevitably, her presence in the all-male medical faculty at Otago University was raising some hackles. Siedeberg weathered the impromptu shower in dissection class with good humour and went on to graduate and be in practice for decades in New Zealand. She died in 1968, at the dawn of the modern flood of women into medicine. Now, more than 100 years after Siedeberg graduated, metaphorical entrails are being thrown at female medical students once again. This time, though, they are not being flung from the hands of a few disaffected male students, but from a more powerful source: the head of the Royal College of Physicians in London. Last month, Professor Carol Black - only the second woman to head that influential college in 500 years - spoke in the Independent newspaper about the dangers of "feminising" medicine. She said the profession was in danger of losing its power and influence because too many women were scaling its ranks and medicine may be facing the same fate as teaching and nursing. She cited Russia as an example. "In Russia, medicine is an almost entirely female profession. "They are paid less and they are almost ignored by the Government. "They have lost influence as a body that had competency, skills and a professional ethic. They have become just another part of the workforce. It is a case of downgrading professionalism." The proportion of female medical students in Britain has increased steadily from about 20 to 25% in 1968 to more than 50% since 1991. New Zealand's statistics are similar. This year, Auckland Medical School's intake was 58% female; last year, it was 64% female. In 30 years, there will be equal numbers of women and men in our medical workforce. Black's stance drew support from Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive at the Medical Research Council. He told the Independent that women were not advancing in the ranks in sufficient numbers. Unless something was done to help women to pursue their careers alongside family commitments, major workforce problems could develop. Is this Siedeberg's legacy? Is the presence of her gender downgrading the profession to which she so passionately dedicated her entire life? If salary is a measure of status, then New Zealand doctors don't appear to be doing too badly - last year, fulltime equivalent salaries of specialists averaged $129,743. But what of less-tangible concerns, such as status and influence? Phillippa Poole, associate dean of undergraduate medicine at Auckland University, says there is no denying the presence of women has changed the medical profession. "But I'm very optimistic. I don't see it in a catastrophic way. Doctors now have a broader view of the health system, including the inequities, and a potentially greater sphere of influence than before." There is little evidence that women who have achieved high positions in New Zealand's medical profession are any less appreciated than their male counterparts. While the presence of women raises some practical workforce issues - such as the difficulties of pushing women up the ranks of a traditionally male-dominated profession - the good far outweighs the bad, she says. Rosy Fenwicke, doctor and editor of a newly published book on the experience of women in medicine, In Practice, doesn't waste time pulling punches. "What [Black] said was appalling. She is blaming women for things that aren't anything to do with gender, but are to do with how the world is changing." All the women doctors have been active in medico-politics and advocating for patient rights and health, Fenwicke says. Robyn Toomath, for example, is a consultant endocrinologist, diabetologist and general physician who set up and led Fight the Obesity Epidemic; Belinda Scott is a breast and general surgeon who directs a breast clinic and chairs the medical committee of the Breast Cancer Foundation; and consultant pathologist Karen Wood is vice-president of the Royal Australasian College of Pathologists. "Women are able to contribute at the highest level in medicine, they're able to do their jobs well, they're able to undergo difficult training and they don't let the profession down and I don't think that in any way they've decreased the so-called status of the profession by virtue of being women," says Fenwick. The idea that professions lose status when women enter in large numbers is an old feminist truism, says Auckland University Sociology Professor Maureen Baker. But she believes the changing structure of the health system has also played a role - increasing numbers of doctors are now employees rather than private practitioners. Also, as the population has become more educated, it is less inclined to put professionals on pedestals. So, while women have probably had an effect on the slipping status of the profession, they are certainly not the sole factor. At any rate, Baker asks, does it really matter if the prestige of the profession drops? Poole doesn't think so. "In New Zealand, respect is earned, rather than because of the position you are in," she says. "It used to be the doctor told the patient what to do. Now they are equal. "That may be perceived as a lack of status but now I think respect is being engendered in other ways. Doctors are seen as more caring." For Poole, the debate over doctors' loss of status - whether real or imagined - is a side issue. More important is the challenge of fitting growing numbers of women into a profession that has traditionally been structured around the lives of white, middle-class men. In the past, doctors could work long hours and let their wives pick up the pieces at home. As the sexual and ethnic mix of the profession changes, this becomes increasingly untenable. In New Zealand, as in Britain, a disproportionately low number of women are going into specialties. The most obvious reason for this is that many specialties are difficult to combine with family life. Some women forgo family life to dedicate their lives to their careers, but a large percentage juggle both (a recent survey of Auckland University medical graduates between 1973 and 1997 found that 60% had children). It takes 14 years of tertiary training and examinations to become a specialist. For women, that overlaps with child-bearing years. "Women are trying to combine working, training and family," says Poole. "That's potentially three full-time jobs in one." This "juggling" exacerbates workforce shortages. Women tend to work fewer hours than men and are less likely to work in rural areas. According to the latest Medical Council workforce report, women doctors across all ages work an average of 41 hours a week compared with men, who work 50. If women work only 80% of the hours of men, Poole says, should women be restricted to 40% of the places in medical school? She shrugs and laughs at the thought. But if our modern medical workforce works fewer hours, we need to train more doctors. No questions asked. It's not just waiting lists that suffer. It is essential that doctors are in the thick of health policy decision-making. If they are overworked, or work only part time, effective research and committee contributions are more difficult. So who is at fault? The women who unbalance the system by flooding into certain specialties and working only hours that are compatible with raising a family, or the male-oriented structure of the profession? Neither, says Poole. Women haven't really changed the profession - the profession was changing anyway. To deal with this, the health system needs to develop more flexible work practices, such as allowing doctors to interrupt specialist training for family commitments, then facilitate their re-entry and enable job sharing. Fenwicke points out, also, that it is not just women who are demanding these changes. "Men and women want to have a life outside medicine and we're seeing men and women changing the specialties that they're going into based on being able to have a work-life balance." Fenwicke believes the "problems" Black identifies are not really problems at all. "I don't think it's terribly good for people to work extremely long hours to the exclusion of everything else in their lives. "And doctors are constantly preaching that to patients. It's about time they took their own medicine." Striking a balance between work and private time is essential not only for family life, but also for maintaining the quality and influence of the profession, says consultant pathologist Karen Wood. Male and female doctors struggle to find time for medico-political issues and the professional colleges. She says the future of the profession "is going to very much depend on who the leaders are going to be - whether they are male or female - and whether they are prepared to stand up and wave the flag and further the cause of the profession". Everybody brings something different to the profession, says Medical Association chairwoman Tricia Briscoe. "There are advantages to having plenty of women in medicine, just as there are advantages to having plenty of men in medicine and we need to ensure we support all of those people because we don't have enough of them. "We need to ensure they have an environment they can work in that supports them and encourages them to stay."

  22. 9/03   Job picture brightens, more Aug. hiring, By Glenn Somerville, Reuters.
    WASHINGTON - The U.S. job market brightened modestly in August as employers added 144,000 workers to payrolls and weak hiring tallies for the two prior months were revised up, the Labor Dept. said on Friday. With the uneven jobs recovery a hot topic in the race for the White House, the department said the August unemployment rate fell to 5.4% - the lowest since October 2001 - from 5.5% in July. The figures, though slightly short of Wall Street expectations, were strong enough that economists saw more U.S. interest-rate rises on the horizon. Meanwhile, the New York-based Institute for Supply Management offered a mixed view of the service sector. ISM's index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 58.2 in August, the lowest level of the year, from 64.8 in July. However, a gauge of hiring plans rose, leaving unresolved whether the huge sector was poised for growth or stalled. The White House stressed the positive aspects of the jobs report, with President Bush declaring at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania: "It shows that our economy is strong and getting stronger." The Democrats, though, emphasized the net loss of private-sector posts during Bush's tenure. Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry countered that Bush is the first president since the 1930s to seek reelection "without creating a single job," referring to the fact that the United States is down a net 1.65 million private-sector jobs since Bush took power in January 2001.
    Financial markets showed a muted reaction after the August jobs gain fell slightly short of analyst forecasts for a 150,000 rise, but June and July job creation was revised upward by a total of 59,000. A Reuters poll of top Wall Street bond dealers after the data found all 22 primary dealers that deal directly with the Fed expect the U.S. central bank will raise rates another quarter percentage point later this month. Treasury Secretary John Snow, crisscrossing the country to talk up any positive news on expansion, expressed relief the economy is showing signs of perking up. "The American economy continues to move in the right direction, expanding and growing and creating more good jobs," Snow told a group of local builders and contractors in Pennsylvania. "We are not satisfied. But boy, to see that unemployment rate march down is gratifying." The fall in the jobless rate was not unalloyed good news, however. Economists noted a 152,000 fall in the civilian labor force that potentially accounted for at least part of the jobless rate decline. The labor force often falls when job-seekers abandon the hunt for work. Economist Sung Won Sohn of Wells Fargo Bank in Minneapolis said the jobs report brought "a sigh of relief" that justifies a Fed policy of gradually raising interest rates to ward off inflation as a recovery gains steam. "Now that the summer economic doldrums seem to be over, the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) will hike the interest rate by another quarter point on Sept. 21," Sohn predicted. The Fed, which raised borrowing costs in June and in August by quarter- percentage-point increments, bringing the official federal funds rate to a still-low 1.5%, said at its last meeting it believed the economy was "poised to resume a stronger pace of expansion going forward."
    Drew Matus, an economist at Lehman Brothers in New York, said the numbers were heartening when taken with the two prior months' revisions and a work week unchanged at 33.8 hours. A month ago, the government said 32,000 jobs were created in July. It more than doubled that on Friday to 73,000 and said 96,000 jobs were created in June, up from 78,000. "So all together, not stellar but a solid report," Matus said. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is to testify next Wednesday before the House of Representatives Budget Committee on the economic outlook, and may shed some light on whether policy-makers are becoming more confident about a resumption of vigorous growth. Bond prices softened as traders interpreted the report as a sign of a moderately strengthening economy that will keep interest rates on an upward road. The dollar rose against other currencies as the economy flexed its job-creation muscle. Stocks treaded water, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq composite index both easier. A disappointing earnings report from high-tech giant Intel Corp (INTC.O: Quote, Profile, Research) was the chief culprit behind the Nasdaq fall. The commissioner of the Labor Dept.'s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kathleen Utgoff, said in a statement that while massive Hurricane Charley struck Florida as the August employment data were being collected, it had no impact. She said the storm hit late in the period during which the department was conducting its monthly survey.

  23. 9/03   No overtime? Credit card woes? Let's eat out, by Kim Young-hoon (ojlee82@joongang.co.kr), Joongang Ilbo, South Korea.
    The stagnant level of consumer spending hides at least one major shift in consumption patterns, the national Statistics Office said yesterday. Korea's urban population, the report said, has increased its spending on restaurant meals. In the second quarter of this year, those dining-out expenses reached an average of 276,500 won ($240) per family a month. That was just over half of all spending on food and beverages. And restaurant bills accounted for about 14% of those families' monthly spending, nearly 2% higher than the figures for the second quarter of 2003. The statistical agency said the figures for the second quarter marked the first time that more than half of spending on food was spent at restaurants. "There are fewer families eating together at home because the number of households where both parents have a job has increased sharply," an official at the office said. "In addition, the introduction of the five-day work week has prompted more families to spend their weekends outside their homes," he added. Koreans have increasingly been patronizing restaurants since 1983, when urban families used only about 7% of their monthly food spending for restaurant meals. By 1993, the figure had grown to 27% and continued increasing until the crisis year of 1998, when it fell 2% to 34%, and then resumed its growth. The figures also gave some additional evidence of Koreans' changed dietary habits. They said that total monthly spending on food grains, which amounted to a third of all food spending in 1983, has fallen off dramatically. Those grains, mainly rice, accounted for only 8% of Koreans' spending on food in the second quarter of this year.

  24. 9/03   U.S. Dept. of Labor continues compliance outreach; Launches additional new tool for the overtime security rule, press release by Yvonne Ralsky (202-693-4676 or -4666), US Dept. of Labor via U.S. Newswire, DC.
    WASHINGTON - In a continued outreach effort to ensure full employer compliance with the Dept. of Labor's new overtime Security Rule, the Office of Compliance Assistance Policy today launched an additional Web tool, the FLSA overtime Security Advisor ( http://www.dol.gov/elaws/overtime.htm ). The purpose of this new interactive tool is to help employers and workers get comprehensive and accurate information about the new rule, which took effect on August 23, 2004. It is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "The Dept. of Labor's New overtime Security Rule provides strengthened overtime protection for millions of American workers. In an effort to ensure that workers understand their rights and employers know their responsibilities, the Dept. has undertaken the most extensive outreach on any regulation in its history. This is one additional tool to assist workers and employers," said Al Robinson, Wage and Hour Division Acting Administrator. Additional information about the overtime Security Rule can also be found on the Dept.'s Fairpay Web site ( http://www.dol.gov/fairpay ). This Web site includes a variety of tools or resources such as fact sheets and on-line training seminars with video and power point presentations. The new online tool, part of the "Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses" program, is one of many online tools available on the Dept.'s Compliance Assistance Web site ( http://www.dol.gov/compliance ). The tool helps workers and employers understand the new rules in a question-and-answer format. Employers can use the tool to ensure they are in compliance with the revised rule and are paying workers correctly. Workers can use it to help determine whether they are entitled to overtime pay. Secretary Elaine L. Chao established DOL's Compliance Assistance Initiative in December of 2002 to assist workers and employers in understanding the nation's labor laws and how to comply with them. Interactive tools on the Internet are a key feature of this initiative; they guide users to information about DOL employment laws and many related regulations.

  25. 9/03   Govt to help 'mutinous' seamen in Papua New Guinea, ABS CBN News, Philippines.
    Malacañang on Friday said the Dept. of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have teamed up to put an end to the standoff between the disgruntled Filipino sailors and the local authorities in Papua New Guinea. "Our paramount concern at the moment is to avert possible clashes between our nationals and local authorities in Papua New Guinea," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement. "The government will tackle the labor-related matters in due course, once the [overseas Filipino workers] are safely repatriated," Bunye added. The DFA said at least 150 angry Filipinos employed by Tuna Ventures Co. have taken over 10 foreign vessels to demand the release of their salaries and overtime pays. Jose Brillantes, foreign affairs undersecretary for migrant workers affairs, said the workers were complaining that they have not been paid for their overtime pay and that they have not received any benefits and bonuses from the company. Brillantes feared that the OFWs may face arrest because of their refusal to negotiate with the authorities. He said the International Transport Federation and the local trade union have stopped supporting the sailors because their action is not justifiable.

  26. 9/03   Force is not friendly, by Mike Nahan, Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia.
    THERE is no doubt that achieving a better blending of family and work is a top priority for many Australian families and businesses and for the community at large. But the ACTU's approach, taken in its so-called Family Friendly test case launched in the Industrial Commission this week, is not the way to go. As even the ACTU has recognised, many workplaces have made significant advances in becoming more family friendly. The key has been the adoption of individual and enterprise-based agreements. These agreements have given employees and employers the freedom and responsibility to structure work and conditions to meet their diverse and changing needs. Under these agreements employers and employees have agreed to a raft of family friendly innovations. They include: allowing workers to vary hours and days of work; shifting to part-time or casual work for a specified period; trading off annual leave loading for longer annual leave; time off in lieu of overtime and penalty rates; and more flexible use of annual leave. Of course, the ability of companies to accommodate these changes varies enormously, as do the needs and preferences of workers. For example, a trucking firm which faces peak demand early in the morning cannot afford for its workers to flex-off to take their children to school. While access to part-time work may suit some workers, others may place higher priority on longer hours with longer weekends. Thus the ability to tailor work and pay conditions to meet the particular requirements of employees and businesses is of paramount importance. The problem has been that companies relying solely on awards (mainly small private sector businesses) have been prevented from adopting family friendly arrangements. Many awards have not been up-dated and prohibit trading off set conditions to improve flexibility. For example, many awards prohibit shifting from full-time to part-time or casual work; prohibit trading off annual leave loading and prohibit varying annual leave conditions. Other awards place insurmountable bureaucratic barriers to the adoption of such measures. What is more, the ACTU has been the main culprit for these anti-family conditions remaining in awards. What the ACTU is seeking in the current test case is to remove flexibility and responsibility from employers and workers and force, through the commission, a prescribed set of new employee rights. These include the right to five years of part-time work after returning from parental leave and the right to adjust start and finish times to accommodate school and after-care commitments. While these rights may suit some companies and workers, they will not represent the best option for many more. If successful, the ACTU's approach will override more suitable arrangements already agreed to and will restrict the ability of workers and businesses to develop more suitable arrangements. It will also enforce conditions which some businesses will not be able to accommodate. This will reduce employment, particularly for people with demanding outside commitments. The ACTU approach of forcing prescriptive conditions on employees, from whom they have no mandate, and on employers, who they view as exploitative, is itself a major impediment to achieving family friendly workplaces.
    MIKE NAHAN is executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs (mdnahan@ipa.org.au).

  27. 9/03   Spiraling economic insecurity threatens global crisis: Report, by Suhasini, OneWorld South Asia via OneWorld.net, United Kingdom.
    NEW DELHI - A new study by the International Labor Office (ILO) says an estimated two million workers die each year from work related accidents and disease, while just 8% of people across the world have favorable economic security, cautioning that rising insecurity spawns anger and anxiety and blocks development. The report titled "Economic Security For A Better World" released in Geneva Wednesday is the first such effort to measure global economic security as perceived by the common man. It is based on detailed household and workplace surveys covering over 48,000 workers and more than 10,000 workplaces worldwide. Data from the People's Security Surveys conducted by the ILO reveals widespread job dissatisfaction the world over. Says ILO Director General Juan Somavia, "Unless we can make our societies more equal and the global economy more inclusive, very few will achieve economic security or decent work." In terms of relative performance in economic security, a high proportion of Asian countries fall into the surveys Much-to-be-done cluster of those with relatively undeveloped policies to promote economic security. Bangladesh and India's western state of Gujarat, are ranked lowest in south Asia in this regard. In fact, it says 15% of ethnic and religious minorities in the latter state cannot obtain salaried employment thanks to prevailing discrimination. Interviewees expressed an overwhelming demand for support to the economically vulnerable, and the reduction of inequality. The report stresses that economic insecurity fosters intolerance and stress, which contributes to social illness, warning that it could spark social violence as well. People in countries that give their citizens a high level of economic security have a higher level of happiness on an average, notes the report. Ironically, it points out that a high level of skills security is actually inversely related to happiness. Too many people are discovering their skills and qualifications do not match the jobs they have to perform, causing a "status frustration" effect. Regarding work-related ill health, the report says in 2002, over 500,000 people were affected by stress at work, with 13.4 million working days lost due to the occupational hazard. It adds that depression is a consequence of stress - now one of the world's major causes of premature deaths and disability, including suicides and death from overwork in Japan and many other countries. Significantly, the report highlights the lack of a pro-poor policy the world over, pointing out that subsidies for the poor have nosedived, with most given to large corporations and the affluent. The survey also finds that most anti-poverty programs fail to reach the people they are intended for. For instance, Ethiopia's food-for-work scheme did not benefit them, while Indonesia's rice subsidy scheme went disproportionately to the non-poor. Again, old-age income security continues to worsen across the world, especially in industrialized countries. Here, the rate of chronic poverty among the elderly has risen in 19 countries and fallen in eight. In developing countries, new data shows the cost of healthcare is the main cause of income insecurity and anxiety. In both rich and developing countries, healthcare costs have been rising as a share of disposable income. The report underscores the fact that political democracy and a trend towards civil liberties increases economic security. With globalization triggering the decline of trade unions, a weak collective voice has made workers insecure. Surprisingly, most workers interviewed, especially in developing countries like Bangladesh, parts of India and Pakistan, were unaware of the existence of unions and sceptical about their value. Even in some industrialized countries, the report notes the unionization rate has dipped to below ten%. Consequently, the study vehemently advocates a strengthening of the collective voice as the primary means of improving working conditions, and protecting workers health. Describing the exhaustive survey, Deepak Nayyar, member of the ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, notes, "The analysis and evidence show that globalization has been associated with erosions in critical areas of economic security. Yet, basic security can, and does, improve the well-being of humankind. This is the essence of our quest for a better world."

  28. 9/03   Charity lends weight to TUC campaign for abolition of 48-hour working time opt-out, by Daniel Thomas, PersonnelToday.com, UK.
    The individual opt-out allowing parents to work more than 48 hours a week must be abolished because family life is suffering, according to the TUC [Trades Union Council] and charity Working Families. A new report, more time for families: tackling the long-hours crisis in UK workplaces, revealed that six years after the introduction of the Working Time Directive, there are still more employees working over-long hours than there were in 1992. It is the families of long-hours employees who suffer the most, according to 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. The TUC analysed the responses of 89 parents responding to a survey on the Working Families website. More than four in 10 (44%) said they regularly had to work more than 48 hours a week. In an attempt to work more child-friendly hours, almost eight in 10 of the parents (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. Just over four in 10 (43%) of the requests to work flexibly were successful, a quarter were altered in some way before being agreed, and almost a third (32%) of the requests were rejected by employers. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "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. A clampdown on employers abusing working time rules and the removal of the opt-out would prove very popular with working parents."

  29. 9/03   Labor Day: Isn't that a misnomer? - Should we be ungrateful on Thanksgiving? Cut down trees on Arbor Day? Then why should 'Labor Day' be a day for loafing? by Bob Ruegsegger, The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, VA.
    THE IRONY of how we observe Labor Day in these United States has never escaped me. We recognize the contribution that labor - hard work - has made in the development of this nation by not working. What a novel approach! Please don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to the holiday; I'm just objecting to calling it Labor Day. Label it something else. Something more appropriate. When Peter J. McGuire, a New York City carpenter who assisted in establishing the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and Matthew Maguire, a Paterson, N.J., machinist, suggested that a holiday honoring American workers be considered, they probably had another name for the holiday in mind. Of course, the Knights of Labor supported the idea and organized a parade on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City to honor working men and presumably women and children, as well. That was the first Labor Day Parade. Those were the good old days - long hours, sweat shops and child labor. From that day forward, the idea of observing Labor Day as a holiday rather than reporting for work began to gather wide-ranging support from the labor movement. In 1887, Oregon was the first state to declare Labor Day a legal holiday, and in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill that established Labor Day as a national holiday. If Labor Day is considered in the same context and by the same standard as the other holidays, it makes no rational sense to call it Labor Day. The last thing anyone wants to do on a holiday is work. How can we justify calling a day on which no one is supposed to work Labor Day? If we observed other holidays by doing the opposite of what the name of the holiday suggests, some serious frustration would certainly result. For example, Arbor Day is traditionally commemorated by planting trees. If we use the same rationale used for Labor Day, we ought to be cutting trees down and grinding up the stumps. Can you imagine how chain-saw sales might skyrocket during an Arbor Day sale? Valentine's Day is a day when folks are supposed to show that they care for their loved ones - the special people in their lives. What if people did the opposite? Sweethearts broke up, and married folks divorced. Bitter enemies might send caustic cards called "Venomtines" to each other - or 10-pound boxes of chocolates. How about Thanksgiving? People could spend that day expressing their ingratitude rather than giving thanks. They could overcook the turkey, sit around the house watching the Redskins lose, and complain about their miserable jobs. What about Christmas? In a effort to remain politically correct, we could cross Christ right out of Christmas - Xmas. We could spend money, buy gifts and receive gifts without ever thinking of the religious origins of the day. On Memorial Day, we could honor our war heroes by kicking over their tombstones and spray-painting the walls surrounding our national cemeteries. Veterans Day would be a great time to show the men and women in our armed forces that we appreciate the sacrifices that they have made in the defense of our nation by withholding or delaying their retirement and disability checks. Finally, we could celebrate the birth of our nation on Independence Day by setting fire to the Stars and Stripes and running the flaming banners up the flagpoles in front of federal buildings. Perhaps I'm belaboring the point, and the point is that we ought to change the name of this holiday from Labor Day to something more appropriate. It took a little imagination, but I've finally arrived at the perfect solution to this holiday disparity. My ingenious proposal is that we rename this holiday No Labor Day. Now, that really hits the nail on the head!
    BOB RUEGSEGGER, a writer living in Virginia Beach, is a frequent contributor to Town & County. Contact him by mail at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va., 22401; by fax at 373-8455; or by e-mail to his attention at gwoolf@freelancestar.com.

  30. 9/03   Working to save jobs,
    Straits Times, Singapore. Recently, major companies across Europe have secured long working hours from their employees in exchange for job security. Here are some of the major deals:
    Office furniture manufacturer Smead attempted to impose a 40-hour work week without additional pay at two of its three factories in the country. But unions won the battle in court.
    Marichal Ketin
    Smelting works Marichal Ketin is trying to raise the work week to 40 hours from a statutory 38-hour week without a pay rise.
    Robert Bosch car parts factory
    About 820 workers have voted to work an extra hour a week without pay, making it 36 hours a week instead of the legislated 35 hours a week. This prevents the company from moving work to the Czech Republic.
    Negotiations between the union and the car manufacturer are ongoing. VW wants wages to be frozen for two years, or it would cut 175,000 jobs. In addition, overtime will be paid only if employees work beyond 40 hours a week, not 35 hours as it currently stands.
    About 4,000 employees have agreed to work 40 hours a week, instead of 35, for no extra pay. This prevents the engineering giant from moving 2,000 jobs to Hungary.
    Thomas Cook
    Employees have agreed to work 40 hours a week, instead of 38.5 hours. They have also agreed to postpone a pay raise, in order to rescue the company from plunging into the red.
    Employees doing research and development have agreed to lengthen work hours from 35 a week to 40. Employees at the Sindelfingen plant will work 39 hours. Managers will take a pay cut. The measures save 6,000 jobs from being moved to South Africa.

  31. 9/03   Suppliers say they were ready for slowdown,
    by Julia Bauer, The Grand Rapids Press, MI.
    While major suppliers say they are ready for a production slowdown from two of the Big 3 automakers, some experts expect suppliers further down the chain to feel more pain. "They've been beaten up so bad for the last 10 years, it's just another thing to deal with," said Jim Gillette, analyst with CSM Worldwide. Even with ferocious rebates, too many cars still are on the lot for General Motors and Ford. GM plans to lower fourth-quarter output by 6.8%; Ford said it will make 7.8% fewer vehicles than it did last fall. At GM's 36th Street metal fabricating plant in Wyoming, the cutbacks will be less severe, spokesman Gary Evey said. "Sixty% of our volume here is trucks," Evey said. "The decrease in production for those is only 3.5%." To handle the slowdown, the plant will limit overtime and close on weekends and holidays. The plant will run on a five-day work week, Evey said. Delphi, the world's largest auto supplier, knew the cuts were coming, spokeswoman Luce Rubio said. "We forecast 18 months in advance. The cuts were expected weeks ago," she said. Although the GM and Ford cuts are more likely to hurt smaller suppliers, Gillette predicts relatively few layoffs this fall. "Most suppliers have not added much in the way of labor force in the last three years," he said. "Suppliers are a lot leaner today than they were back in the fall of 2000." For auto workers who look forward to the hunting season in November, the slowdown could have an upside. "It's going to be easier to get time off," Gillette predicted. Gentex Corp. manufactures high-tech auto mirrors and subscribes to J.D. Powers and Associates forecasting service for the industry, said Connie Hamblin, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. The projections matched the announced cutbacks. Gentex revised its projected third-quarter growth last month, lowering its estimate from 15% to 10%. "GM is our largest customer," Hamblin said. "It's business as usual for us." The decision by Ford and GM to cut production marked a saturation point for the power of the rebate, Gillette said. For the past three years, the Big Three offered lucrative rebates to try to whittle an over-supply. "It appears by limiting production, they've maxed out on their incentive programs," Gillette said. "GM and Ford are both making more money in their finance arms than in their automaking arms." Kevin Goodyke, general sales manager at Keller Ford Kia, agrees rebates probably have peaked. "Consumers are able to get great bargains right now - $6,000 rebates on vehicles," Goodyke said. "I've never seen them that high, and I've been in the business 23 years."

  32. 9/03   Study: Executives' top wish - more free time, study says,
    by Portsia Smith, The Free Lance-Star, VA.
    Three weeks ago, Joe Greene and his 4-year-old grandson, Sam, went fishing at a private pond in Fredericksburg. He watched his grandson catch his first fish, a small, slippery bream. Greene, the president and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Foam in Spotsylvania County, treasures moments like these, because they don't happen too often. His 55-hour workweek at the commercial roof insulation manufacturer doesn't always leave him a lot of time to spend with family or to enjoy outdoor activities. Most top executives, consumed with meeting after meeting and long-distance business trips, say they feel the same way, according to a recent study. Robert Half Management Resources, a staffing firm, developed the study that surveyed 1,400 chief financial officers across the country.
    36% said working fewer hours would be the one thing they would change about their current position. The other top choices - fewer meetings and more forgiving dead lines - were also time-oriented responses. "I like running a business and enjoy working and getting things accomplished," Greene said. "But I'd like to structure it so it's not so time consuming." Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources - which has an office in Washington - said chief decision makers don't have the luxury of time, and it ranks as the top priority on their professional wish lists.
    While the majority of respondents requested more time, 3% wanted more money, 8% would change nothing and 6% didn't know.
    "Everybody would like more money," said Richard Hurley, executive vice president and CFO of the University of Mary Washington. "But I don't complain about that. I wish there was a steady, predictable revenue stream." That would have been particularly welcome for Hurley, who was put on hold during the General Assembly's budget impasse earlier this year. For the past few years, he has had to develop university budgets based on unpredictable state revenues. Although he spends about 20 hours a week in meetings and 30 hours doing desk work and responding to phone calls and e-mail, Hurley said lack of time isn't his biggest concern. Dino Grigorakakis, regional manager of Robert Half Management Resources, said in a press release, "Executives today frequently must work overtime to keep up with mounting responsibilities, but doing so on a regular basis can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. "Ensuring sufficient support is available during busy periods and vacation schedules can help keep projects on track, alleviate job stress and minimize costly mistakes." Working in today's fast-paced business environment means taking a proactive approach to managing your workload. For busy executives trying to regain control of their chaotic schedules, or those just looking for a few new strategies, the following suggestions from Robert Half can help: To reach PORTSIA SMITH: 540/374-5419 psmith@freelancestar.com

  33. 9/03   NB, nurses try to avert strike - Two-thirds of nurses deemed 'essential workers',
    by Kristen Vernon, Times & Transcript via Canada East, Canada.
    NEW BRUNSWICK (NB), Canada - Should the province's 5,000 hospital nurses exercise their right to strike which could happen as early as Sept. 13 - nearly two-thirds of nurses would be required to report for work, providing essential services. But negotiations between the New Brunswick Nurses Union and the government, which broke down in the spring, are set to resume this morning and both parties are hopeful they'll be able to avert a strike. The nurses have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2003. Yesterday, just hours after announcing the nurses voted 98% in favour of a strike, the province offered, and the union accepted, an invitation to resume talks. The legal strike vote, which took place Monday and Tuesday, was the nurses' first. Nurses must wait seven days before they can walk out, which means they could strike as early as Sept. 10. But they have set a tentative strike date of Sept. 13. "We're hoping . . . we will be able to reach that through negotiations and find a settlement that both parties will feel meets the needs of the province with respect to health care," said Debbie McGraw, president of the nurses' union. Human Resources Minister Rose-May Poirier said she was disappointed by the results of the strike vote, but not surprised. "I'm hopeful if the union wants to show willingness and be flexible, we certainly are and that we can avoid a strike," she said. "We respect, we value the nurses and the work that they do and that's why we've been flexible in what we've offered up until now." Should the nurses walk out, the government and the union have agreed to maintain levels of essential services, which vary depending on the facility but include emergency, oncology and dialysis services, as well as parts of the extramural programs. "Regardless of what level has been agreed to, if there's an emergency, if there's a need for the nurses to go in off the picket lines, they would certainly go in," McGraw said. In the event of a strike, 62% of nurses have been designated essential. "We'll be able to provide emergency and essential services, but almost all services in health care are essential, which means with only 62% of the services, we won't be able to offer all of the services we normally offer," Premier Bernard Lord told the Times & Transcript yesterday from Toronto. "I've been clear: if the strike goes on and if the strike threatens the safety and security and care of the patients, then we'll certainly consider the options that we have, including back-to-work legislation. But it's not being prepared yet. Right now the focus is, let's get back to the table and let's see if we can get an agreement." The health authorities assure the public they have contingency plans and will continue offering essential services should the nurses strike, but they say it's too early to detail those plans. Should the nurses walk out, the following facilities under the Beauséjour Regional Health Authority would be affected: Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital, Shediac Medical Clinic, the extramural program and Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional Hospital. All South-East Health Authority facilities would be affected by a strike, consisting of The Moncton Hospital, the Sackville Hospital, the extramural program and community health services. "If they do exercise their right to strike, we will maintain all emergency services, all essential services, all ambulance services. The area where we will probably focus on in terms of reduction will probably be our clinic type services," said Donn Peters, president and chief executive officer of the South-East Health Authority. "I think as soon as we can verify if the official notice has been given, then we will, through the newspaper, through the media, start notifying the public about what they can and can't expect." Gilles Beaulieu, vice-president of planning and operations with the Beauséjour Regional Health Authority, made similar comments. "Each RHA (regional health authority) and ours is no different - has a contingency plan that would be put in place in the event of a strike," Beaulieu said. "I hesitate to comment further because it is still very early. It's not there yet. You could have various modes (of job action). You could have a work slow down, you could have a rotating strike or you could have a strike in the usual sense, a general strike. Depending on each situation, we would have to adjust our services accordingly." Hospital officials will advise the public and patients about the contingency plans, communicating in various ways, including through a telephone line and the media. The Miramichi Regional Hospital Authority has similar plans. "We have a contingency plan in place in the event of a NBNU strike. We assure the community that emergency and urgent services will continue to be provided. Affected patients will receive notice if their appointment/procedure has been cancelled," said Sonya Green-Haché, spokeswoman for the Miramichi Regional Health Authority. "Details of the service cancellations in this region will be released early next week." The main issue is wage parity with nurses in the other Atlantic provinces. The New Brunswick government has promised parity by the final year of a four-year contract. The province offered 18% over four years, plus a wage adjustment anticipated to be between three and six% to take New Brunswick nurses to the Atlantic Canadian average as of Jan. 1, 2007. "We feel this is fair and it's been good," said Poirier. "And it's also been a unique offer and by that I mean, this is the only group that we will be putting a clause in that we will be bringing them to parity, which is equal pay to the provinces of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland within two and a half years." "Just so the importance of the amount of money that we have here on the table: if you asked most New Brunswickers if they have received, in the past or if they plan to receive in the future, a $10,000 to $12,000 raise in four years, I think we know the answer to that. "As minister, as government, we have to find the balance that is affordable for all taxpayers in New Brunswick, but also being fair to our employees. I think we have shown that here." The union, however, feels parity with the other Atlantic provinces comes too late. "Parity or being competitive at the end of a four-year contract is too long to wait," said McGraw. "We need to be able to be competitive now so we can get those nurses into the system and keep them there. "When you look at the overtime that nurses did last year (230,000 hours), just to maintain a system, they know they aren't going to be able to hold the system together for too much longer without reinforcements. Half of our nursing population will be eligible to retire in 10 years. If we don't start addressing ways to get nurses into this province now, it's just going to be not a pretty picture for health care when that time comes." The average salary for a hospital nurse in New Brunswick is $48,555, which is 16.5% lower than in Nova Scotia, 12.77% lower than in P.E.I. and 13.58% lower than in Newfoundland. As the nurses decide whether or not to picket, CUPE Local 1252, which represents 6,500 hospital support staff workers, are also weighing their options. They've been without a contract for 14 months.
    (With files from Aimee Barry, Times & Transcript staff.)

  34. 9/03   Stop the peonization of American labor!
    by Dennis Rahkonen (www.dissidentvoice.org), Dissident Voice, CA.
    American workers are deliberately being turned into little more than glorified peons. Their good union jobs have been outsourced to peanut-pay locales overseas, and those lucky enough to find any replacement employment at all must try making ends meet with annual wages averaging $9,000 less than before. Benefits and pensions have broadly been whittled away to uselessness, or eliminated altogether. Recent data disclosed that U.S. poverty climbed for the third straight year, as did the number of our citizens without health insurance. Nearly 45 million of us are medically uninsured, a larger total than the entire population of many world countries. In a high percentage of those countries, however, affordable, single-payer insurance protects everyone. What an embarrassment for America to be so backward in such a key human regard! Our shameful decline is humiliatingly evident in other pivotal areas as well. Despite constant productivity advances, real wages for private-sector employees have fallen 8% since 1973. The typical American is toiling longer hours for less compensation, and most middle-class families need two or more breadwinners to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. For entry-level workers lacking a college education, the problem is far worse. Their real wages have dropped over 20% during the past quarter century. America's income gap is the developed world's widest, with rich and poor growing farther apart not just in wealth, but in general opportunity and essential quality of life. Adding insult to injury, the Bush administration has maliciously revamped overtime rules, to the harsh detriment of millions and the concomitant gain of Big Business profiteers. Here's how the overtime scam will play out: In compliance with a wish list drawn up by several of the largest industry associations, the Department of Labor is reclassifying various workers to exempt them from overtime coverage. Nurses, chefs, dental hygienists, secretaries, web designers, paralegals, reporters, pre-kindergarten and nursery school teachers, etc. -- even certain factory workers -- will now be nominally promoted to become "managers" or "learned professionals." In exchange for their dubious new titles, those workers will lose time-and-a-half for hours clocked in above 40 per week. Currently, the average employee whose income includes overtime pay gets $161 each week for his or her extra hours. As stated in a Utility Workers of America bulletin: "These overtime pay cuts are like a giant new tax on working families by a president who, at the same time, works hard to give tax breaks to millionaires." Even with overtime, countless families in our low-income, service-oriented economy have been living so close to the bone that any sudden, untoward development -- an emergency cropping up out of the blue -- thrusts them into financial ruin. Bringing harrowing threats of homelessness and hunger. Adding unbearably to the crisis nature of this economic injustice is the fact that, under rightwing political impetus, government programs and assistance crucial to the poor have been largely done away with. To get what they previously received as safety-net protection under New Deal and Great Society initiatives, low-income workers must now pay directly out of their own pockets. But their pockets are empty, and an intolerable suffering is consequently spreading through the richest nation on earth. Accompanied by growing anger. It used to be that each succeeding generation of American wage earners could reasonably expect to acquire a higher living standard than their grandparents and parents knew. Not so anymore. In a job environment where anti-union big box employers like Wal-Mart have replaced organized manufacturing plants as the steadily weakening backbone of the U.S. economy, kids coming up have pretty bleak employment prospects. Most new jobs are low wage. Three-fifths of minimum-pay employment is part time. Given American workers' huge difficulty in breaking out of that dead-end predicament, our nation is faced with an impending social catastrophe. According to trends documented by Beth Shulman, in her eye-opening book, The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 35 Million Americans, nearly one-third of U.S. workers will fall within low-income ranks by 2010. All this explains how Wall Street and its investors can be enjoying lucrative "recovery" while Main Street endures worsening pain. Rapacious class warfare is being conducted against our wage-earning majority. It's through their deprivation and opportunity denial that monopoly capitalism is managing to thrive. There is no worse parasitism in the natural world than this sucking of workers' lifeblood...this blatant exploitation of the many to lavish the unprincipled few. It's a colossal sin -- a dreadful result of unchecked crime in the suites -- that we've been economically chained to the same purchasing-power status that prevailed when disco ruled the airwaves and we wore bell-bottom pants and platform shoes! Getting ahead is the American Dream's core expectation. But under a politics that invariably favors elites over the masses, we're hurtfully falling behind. Workaday wage earners comprise our country's overwhelming adult majority. In a true democracy "of, by and for the people," it's those folks who get up early each morning to go to America's basic jobs that should determine how the U.S. economy functions, and in whose fundamental behalf. They would be keeping the great wealth their collective labor creates, instead of seeing it stolen by bosses unscrupulously prospering by hook or crook. Or by being socked with taxes to offset evasive loopholing by the rich. America itself will ultimately collapse if its workers are exploited to the point where they can't buy back what their toil produces. Economic injustice is an issue that rarely gets sufficient emphasis, which is exactly what those running siphon hoses from our thinning billfolds into their swelling corporate coffers want. It's time to stop grumbling in disconnected isolation and, instead, begin organizing, bringing together all constituencies sharing a life-or-death interest in seeing that justice finally gets fully done. Hooking up with unions and taking advantage of their skills and clout is an indispensable part of this remedial process, especially in the lowest, service-sector categories. (Two unions that have won important advances for especially bottom tier workers are UNITE HERE and the Service Employees International Union. Contact them if you're hurting and can't stand it any longer.) "All for one and one for all" is the only alternative to all of our lives otherwise going down the drain, no matter how hard we individually try to stay afloat, futilely splashing toward better tomorrows. It'll take a determined, well-organized, seamlessly unified fight to lift us out of imposed, modern-day peonage. Defeating George Bush is an essential first step to winning change. However, we'd be foolish to pin our hopes solely on John Kerry or the Democratic Party. We the people will ourselves have to collectively guide the system to make it function for the public welfare and the common good. Regardless of who wins in November, it'll take our unrelenting demands for shared progress and prosperity to bring America back from a labor status that, incredibly, seems like something experienced in the pre-industrial period, if not the Dark Ages.
    Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has been writing progressive commentary and verse for various outlets since the '60s. He can be reached at dennisr@cp.duluth.mn.us.

  35. 9/03   Will labor come back?
    by Liza Featherstone, The Nation.
    [Not until it jumps back on its power issue, eliminating labor surplus by cutting the workweek.]
    Labor Day has never been a very inspiring holiday, established as it was by late-nineteenth-century union bosses as a homegrown alternative to May Day, which was viewed as having uncomfortably leftist, European associations. American workers today, of course, would love to have the healthcare, organizing rights and vacations enjoyed by their counterparts in most of Europe, thanks to the "radical" labor organizing traditions on that side of the Atlantic. The Bush Administration is moving in the opposite direction, although there are some hopeful signs that labor's fighting back. Celebrating the holiday early, in August the Bush White House and its rich friends no doubt toasted new regulations that will deprive up to 6 million additional American workers of overtime, defined as time-and-a-half pay for working more than forty hours a week. Even more disturbing, in June the Administration's National Labor Relations Board quietly moved to "review" the legitimacy of the card-check procedure, by which an employer recognizes a union when presented with cards signed by more than half of the shop's employees. The labor board has upheld card check many times since the 1930s, when the procedure was first established. Repealing it would effectively deprive countless Americans of the right to organize and put an immediate halt to many of labor's most promising campaigns. The Bush Administration might have enjoyed a champagne toast to another recent victory over workers, also engineered by its NLRB. In July the agency declared that graduate students do not have the right to organize and that under federal law they are not employees, thus abruptly reversing a legal precedent set by several earlier decisions. The decision fell sharply along party lines: The three judges voting for it were Republicans; the two dissenters were Democrats. Presidential hopeful John Kerry, meanwhile, has firmly opposed the Bush Administration on overtime as well as card check, even co-sponsoring the Employee Free Choice Act, which would require an employer to recognize a union when 50% of its workers sign cards. At present, recognition is up to the employer, so if enacted this bill would hugely improve workers' chances of organizing. These issues alone - and of course there are many more - are reason enough to applaud unions' vigorous contribution to the defeat of George W. Bush, which has unified and energized the rank and file more effectively than anything in years. Many new organizations working to defeat Bush have strong ties to unions, including Grassroots Democrats and Voices for Working Families. Labor is also one of the major sponsors of America Coming Together (ACT), one of the year's most dynamic 527s, devoted to mobilizing voters in seventeen swing states. With more than 1,400 paid canvassers and numerous volunteers, ACT aims to make 17 million "contacts" with swing and base voters before November. More than 50,000 SEIU members knock on doors and make phone calls for Kerry. At least 2,000 of them have taken time off from work to do so. SEIU has put some $65 million into the effort to defeat Bush, while AFSCME has contributed another $48 million. At the same time, it's increasingly clear that for unions to make significant advances - to grow in numbers and influence, rather than just deflect right-wing assaults and accept their diminished social and political relevance - they must also think outside the Democratic Party. The Washington Post recently quoted SEIU president Andrew Stern's calling it a "hollow party," lacking new ideas. Stern reportedly suggested that efforts to reform both the party and the labor movement could be damaged by a Kerry victory, sparking a furious outcry. Without specifically retracting any of those comments, Stern later, on his blog, clarified that he was "100% behind Kerry" and that he had meant that he hopes the labor movement, once Kerry wins, doesn't "lose energy and unity." Stern was right in both instances: If labor's anti-Bush momentum could, post-November, be channeled into fighting for healthcare and organizing workers for the next four years - rather than dissipating under a Kerry administration - the movement would find itself much stronger. Labor leaders are also grappling more openly with systemic problems, like the Wal-Martization of the economy - the growth in low-wage jobs offering few benefits and little promise of advancement. And at SEIU's convention this summer, Stern implicitly acknowledged labor's political weakness and blasted the AFL-CIO, calling for unions to work together to change the organization's direction or build a new institution that can do a better job of fighting for workers. Stern is part of the New Unity Partnership, a group of labor leaders recommending, among other changes, that unions work together to form bigger, more powerful organizations and run bigger campaigns. Indeed, the NUP unions are already reorganizing themselves in significant ways. Major labor unions - SEIU and the newly merged UNITE HERE - have joined forces to organize Sodexho, a dining services provider notorious for unionbusting and race discrimination. Stern also announced a $1 million commitment to coordinate local and national efforts to fight Wal-Mart's antiworker abuses - badly needed, as Wal-Mart's operations are highly centralized, while most people fighting it have never heard of one another. But any successful revamping of labor strategy should also take heed of the vibrant small-scale and local organizing going on outside traditional unions: Immigrant workers nationwide, and black workers in the South - long hampered from organizing by "right to work" laws and by racism in traditional unions - have been organizing through worker centers, building power in their communities as well as on the shop floor. These are the bright spots. But the fact that Bush became President at all, and that his heinous policies are even considered, much less enacted, is a testament to labor's lack of power. Even within the Democratic Party, labor's influence has waned; recall that in 1980, the party's platform called for "full employment" and a "universal national health insurance plan." (To hear a politician use such language today, you would have to travel to Europe, Venezuela or Cuba.) Business interests have engaged in long-term political planning for decades, so it is no wonder their needs, and theirs alone, are reflected in current policy. Can labor do the same? If so, perhaps someday Labor Day, despite its history, won't seem like such a sham.

  36. 9/03   Labor Day 2004: A watershed moment for America's working families,
    by John R. Durso, Connellsville Daily Courier, PA.
    The first Monday in September has long been dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. Since 1894, when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill officially declaring Labor Day a national holiday, it has been a day each year that we pause and recognize the contributions workers have made to our nation's growth and prosperity. This year, Labor Day is also a call to arms for the labor movement. It is appropriate that our presidential elections come on the heels of Labor Day. This year's decision is crucial, a watershed moment in the history of American politics and an opportunity for our nation to stand up for the nation's working class. This is also a time for America's workers to stand up for themselves and vote into office a president that will advocate on their behalf. During this election season, there is much talk about George W. Bush's and John Kerry's varied positions on the war in Iraq. While there is great disagreement about foreign policy, it is right here at home that their differences are most apparent. For starters, take a look at the U.S. economy: never has the gap between the richest - those who own homes and stocks and received huge tax breaks - and the poorest Americans been more pronounced. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the wealthiest 20% of households in 1973 accounted for 44% of total U.S. income. Their share jumped to 50% in 2002, while all other income brackets fell. For the bottom fifth, the share dropped from 4.2% to 3.5%. While the average American is struggling to make ends meet, they are also facing an attack on the rights and protections that previous generations of workers fought for and gained in years past. This Labor Day 2004, let us consider President Bush's record over the past 42 months: If that's not enough to convince you we need a change, consider this: George W. Bush is the first president in more than 70 years to watch net jobs actually decline in his term. Not since Herbert Hoover's 1929-1933 administration at the beginning of the Great Depression has a U.S. president managed such a feat. John Kerry, on the other hand, has spent a lifetime defending the rights of working Americans, and he has a plan to build a stronger economy and create good-paying jobs for our nation. Under his plan, our economy will create 10 million new jobs in the first four years, middle-class taxes will decrease and middle-class incomes will increase. John Kerry knows that our nation is stronger when we create good-paying jobs here, not when we ship them overseas. He understands that hard-working Americans - not his rich cronies - should be rewarded with tax breaks. And he understands that we can only grow our economy by strengthening our middle-class. So today we celebrate what working people have done for this country. On Nov. 2, working people have one more important job - to raise our voices and vote for the candidate who will protect America's working families.

  37. 9/03   Labor Day becoming too much work,
    by David Liscio, The Daily Item, MA .
    A new survey has found that many Americans are feeling overworked and won't be celebrating Labor Day, the holiday established to recognize the rights and benefits gained by employees nationwide. Although those with occupations such as police officer, firefighter, nurse or doctor have always worked Labor Day, new laws that allow retail and liquor stores to remain open on Sundays and holidays are forcing millions of other Americans to punch the company time clock on what previously was a day of rest. "This job is 365 days a year. On holidays, some shifts always have to work and others are fortunate enough to be off," said Lynn Fire Chief Edward Higgins. "Nowadays, stores are open Sundays and holidays, and more and more people are working Labor Day.We're fast becoming a 24-hour, 365-day society. As much as we might not like the change, police and fire will never be able to shut down on any holiday." While most banks were scheduled to close and shopping malls planned to remain open, an informal poll suggested that many American workers would have Labor Day off. Elaine Kurkul, branch director of the Lynn YMCA, said the institution closes only four days a year - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Labor Day."We'll be closed on Monday," she said. At F.B. Harris, an industrial parts supplier in Lynn, employees were gearing up Friday for a three-day weekend."We're off on Labor Day and always have been.And it's not going to change in the near future," said a joyous Carole Bannister, the office manager."The only holiday we have given up is Veterans Day, but in return we get the day after Thanksgiving off as well as Thanksgiving.F.B. Harris has no problem giving us Labor Day off." The survey, conducted on-line by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Kronos Inc., validated that many Americans are feeling overworked. Of the more than 1,050 employed adults surveyed, 62% have experienced an increase in job responsibilities in the last six months. "Americans really deserve the Labor Day holiday this year, but not everyone will take the day off. While the economy has been sliding downward, worker productivity has inched upward," said professor Joanne B. Ciulla, author of The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work. "The work ethic is alive and well, but after years of economic uncertainty, it is often a work ethic based on fear or necessity. Americans need a day to relax and enjoy the other things life has to offer." According to the survey, there's no relief in sight.In the last six months, 32% of U.S. adults who are employed full-time have increased their workweek hours. Of those, 67% are working an additional five or more hours each week. "There are basically three reasons that this is happening," said Jeffrey Crosby, president of CWA-IUE Local 201, which represents thousands of GE employees.
    1. "Fewer people are protected by union contracts and therefore can't negotiate a paid holiday, so they may be required to work. This happens a lot in retail."
    2. Crosby said the U.S. has the longest workweek of any industrialized nation."And, in part, that is driven by stagnant earnings, so people become dependent on overtime hours to pay their bills," he said."That's not a positive thing."
    3. Thirdly, "It's a quality of life issue that maybe everybody ought to consider as individuals.Time that we used to spend in our communities, involved in the church, the union, the Little League, the PTO or other organizations, is now time we're spending at work. So a longer workweek has a negative impact on other aspects of our community and our families.I guess that's why I've always liked the bumper sticker that says, 'The Labor Movement: The folks who brought you the weekend.'We need to work to get our weekends back."
    As though corroborating Crosby's views, the Harris survey indicated that although more than half of employed adults have increased their job responsibilities in the last six months, 62% also have not received a pay raise. According to Harris Interactive, 67% of employed adults have not used all of their allocated vacation time in the last 12 months. And with Labor Day fast approaching, approximately 45% expect to work over the holiday weekend. "There is a clear correlation that a greater share of Americans are full-time, year-round workers and, therefore, probably enjoying fewer vacations," said Randy Ilg, economist for the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. "This is a growing trend and a result of the economic challenges American families face today."

  38. 9/04   50 ways to cut costs in government,
    Manila Times, Philippines.
    MALACAÑANG has announced that effective Monday, it will shut down centralized air conditioning in four buildings inside the compound during lunch break and from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. Waldo Flores, senior deputy executive secretary, said it was part of the Palace's contributions to the government-wide austerity program ordered by President Arroyo. I think there are many ways Malacañang and other government offices can cut down costs, save money and moderate the fiscal crisis described by the President. Here are some of them: For congressmen and senators: For all government officials: The President's austerity program under Administrative Order 103: (Send comments to opinion@manilatimes.?net)

  39. 9/04   Driven to despair,
    Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia.
    PARAMEDICS of the metropolitan and rural ambulance services claim they are among the public sector's worst paid professionals - and we believe they have a case. Pay rates have not kept pace with the changing nature of the job and the advanced skills now required to perform it. After completing a three-year degree or diploma course, a paramedic of six years' experience earns a base rate of about $43,000 a year. While police and firefighters have had pay increases of up to 20%, the ambulance paramedics have been asked to settle for 12% over three years, roughly the inflation rate. Firefighters were awarded an allowance of $63 a week to provide rapid response defibrillation, but ambulance paramedics were given $20 for the more advanced skill of manual defibrillation. They administer drugs in emergencies, and MICA paramedics are required to provide rapid sequence intubation, a lifesaving procedure performed in hospitals only by physicians and anaesthetists. The typical paramedic works long hours in a stressful environment, and is additionally on standby at other times in a system that appears to be starved of resources. As with other emergency services, ambulance operations are propped up by overtime and the goodwill of employees. For instance, paramedics in Ballarat say they work massive overtime loads (17,000 hours in 12 months in their region alone), fill dual roles because of staff shortages, and usually are unable to take rostered breaks because of the demands of the job.
    Silent sacrifice
    Outside normal hours, they are on call for long stretches at $3.10 an hour, saving the service the cost of employing full-shift crews. The public respects the paramedics, but the paramedics believe the State Government has little regard for their expertise, which is why industrial action is occurring again. The truth is that a government wrestling with cost blowouts on many fronts has chosen to ignore the merit of the pay claim for the sake of the healthbudget's bottom line. It will be a short-term fix if paramedics copy nurses, who cast aside the Florence Nightingale shroud of silent sacrifice in winning greater rewards for greater skills in a bitter industrial battle more than a decade ago. The solution probably lies in new funding arrangements for the ambulance services, replacing voluntary membership with a compulsory levy, perhaps via car registration.

  40. 9/04   US firms reap fruits of Brazil slave labor - From corned beef to wooden flooring, cheap U.S. goods made from Brazilian raw materials often come from enslaved workers near the Amazon,
    by Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder Newspapers via The Wichita Eagle, KS.
    MARABA, Brazil - Jose Silva came to the Macauba Ranch in Brazil's eastern Amazon hoping to earn a few hundred dollars clearing jungle. Two years later, he was $800 in debt and terrified that if he tried to leave the ranch, Gilmar the field boss would pull out his .38-caliber revolver and kill him. "I would cry alone at night in my hammock and ask God to help me escape. I felt like a slave," he told Knight Ridder. Silva was a modern slave, working with 46 other men and a boy to clear jungle with machetes, chain saws and tractors from sunup to sundown in the tropical heat, seven days a week, for no money. He and the others got one meal a day of rice, beans and a little chicken or beef, which they were made to eat standing up to discourage resting. There were no toilets or latrines at the workers' camp, only bushes. Rat feces flecked the sacks of rice in the camp's storehouse. Flies covered raw meat hung on clotheslines in the tropical heat. Workers got no medical attention, even though one of them shivered with malaria, a disease spread by the Amazon's ubiquitous mosquitoes. Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. Earlier this year, however, the government acknowledged to the United Nations that at least 25,000 Brazilians work under "conditions analogous to slavery." The top anti-slavery official in Brasilia, the capital, puts the number of modern slaves at 50,000. The fruits of Brazil's slave labor end up in the United States in the form of imported hardwoods, pig iron and processed meats. Other products, such as soybeans produced on farms cleared by enslaved workers, compete with U.S. products in world markets. "Silva" isn't the ranch worker's real name. When a Knight Ridder reporter encountered him, he was an informant leading Brazilian labor department investigators, accompanied by heavily armed federal police, back to the Macauba Ranch. He may be called as a witness in court cases, and labor officials insisted that he not be identified for fear of reprisal. While landowners don't own Brazil's modern slaves, the workers toil at gunpoint and the threat of violence, hidden by the vast Amazon jungle and, in many cases, beyond the reach of the law. Most are unschooled men from Brazil's northern states, where their families live in tiny dirt-floored homes without running water. Their infants squabble with cats and dogs and pigs over food. Recruiters who promise land-clearing jobs that pay $3 to $4 a day find it easy to lure these men hundreds of miles southeast to clear land at the edge of the Amazon jungle. "Our situation obligates us to travel," said Jose Egito dos Santos, 43, a father of four once lured into slavery. He's a subsistence farmer in the northern state of Piaui, where he considers himself lucky to make $20 a month. Slavery persists in Brazil - alone among South American countries - for a simple reason and a complicated one. The simple reason is that slaves are out of sight and out of mind: Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, who dominate the national political culture, are no more likely to worry about rural slaves in the Amazon than New Yorkers are to worry about illegal immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley. The eastern Amazon region, where most Brazilian slavery occurs, is remote, and its ranchers feel few restraints in how they treat their workers. "Landowners believe it is the most normal thing in the world to deny someone their liberty and even their life," said Marinalva Cardoso, leader of a government anti-slavery team. By law, enslaving a worker can bring a landowner two to eight years in prison in addition to fines. However, the fines are so low - less than $110 per offense - that they're at worst a small cost of doing business. And no one has ever been imprisoned for it. The complicated reason is that Brazil's modern slaves are cogs in the global economy. Their labor makes Brazil's exports of beef, soybeans, timber and pig iron cheaper - often much cheaper - than competing U.S. products. On the Macauba Ranch, where Silva worked, some slaves cleared jungle with machetes to make tropical hardwoods accessible to loggers, pastureland for cattle and farmland for soybeans. They also did the logging and manned clay ovens that turned wood from the cleared land into charcoal that's used to make pig iron. Brazil is the leading exporter of cooked and processed meats to the United States. Beef from cattle raised on land cleared by slave labor can end up in products such as Con Agra's Mary Kitchen corned beef. Typically, commodities produced with slave labor in Brazil get mixed in with commodities produced by its legal workers. By the time they reach the United States, it's almost impossible to determine whether a shipment is contaminated. U.S. companies, do, however, import products from areas of Brazil where slavery is widespread. Brazilian tropical hardwoods such as cumaru, ipe and jatoba, some of it harvested or made accessible to loggers by enslaved workers, are widely sold as exotic flooring and decking. In U.S. stores such as Home Depot's Expo Design Centers, such woods are sold under names such as Brazilian cherry, Brazilian teak and Brazilian walnut. Cleared wood that has no commercial value ends up in charcoal ovens, which are often tended by slaves or by what Brazil terms "degrading" labor: workers considered slightly less abused because they're not held against their will. Degraded workers in the Amazon number in the hundreds of thousands or more. No one in official Brazil has a precise number for them or for slaves. Blast furnaces in the eastern Amazon combine the charcoal that they produce with rich local iron ore to make pig iron, which is to finished iron and steel products what baking chocolate is to chocolate cake and fudge. U.S. companies imported virtually all the 2.2 million tons of pig iron that northern Brazil produced last year. One of the biggest buyers was Nucor Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., America's leading steel-maker, whose products end up in everything from cars to steel beams. Executives of U.S. companies contacted by Knight Ridder said they considered links between Brazilian slavery and their products to be insignificant. Nucor buys pig iron from Ferro Gusa do Maranhao (Fergumar), a Brazilian pig-iron maker that labor inspectors determined was buying charcoal from a ranch that used slave labor. "We're not familiar with it, not involved with it. It's something for the Brazilian government to handle... . Nucor doesn't have the ability to influence the issue," said Dan DiMicco, Nucor's president and chief executive officer. Kay Carpenter, a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Neb., which buys cooked beef from Brazil and sells it under the Mary Kitchen label, said her company was "several steps removed" from cattle ranches that are operating on land cleared by slaves a few years ago. At Cargill Inc. world headquarters in Minneapolis, spokeswoman Lori Johnson said the agribusiness giant had limited leverage over Brazilian soybean farmers. "I think it is unfair of folks to point at Cargill and say Cargill is solely responsible for actions other people take," she said. American companies may see no evil, but the working conditions on some Brazilian farms and ranches may be even worse than those endured by the 3.6 million African slaves on whom Brazil depended for four centuries, said Marcelo Campos, who heads anti-slavery programs at Brazil's Ministry of Labor. "Legal slaves were property, and watched over because they were an asset," he said. "They had food and shelter because the owner needed to make sure they stayed alive. Today's slave is not a concern (to the landowner). He uses them as an absolutely temporary item, like a disposable razor."

  41. 9/04   Overtime status seen as status symbol - New federal pay rules make some salaried workers feel demoted,
    AP via Knoxville News Sentinel, TN.
    [Same article, different headline -]
    9/05   Overtime pay for me? Thanks but no thanks,
    by Adam Geller, AP via Seattle Post Intelligencer, WA.
    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 that 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, 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. 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. 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 - have already created awkward situations. At Missouri, administrators are shifting 400 to 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 affected 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 such as 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," Colosi said.

  42. 9/04   Bush policies give workers an unhappy Labor Day,
    by Gregory Stanford, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI.
    The plight of working stiffs has worsened under President Bush - a fact lost in the sound and the fury of the Republican National Convention. Jobs are down. Wages are almost flat. Jitters over health insurance are up. And the Bush people have weakened the right to overtime for some workers. All in all, Labor Day finds little reason for cheer. Oh, yes, the monthly federal jobs report came out Friday with a bit of good news: Jobs rose by 144,000 in August. What's more, federal labor statisticians pushed upward the tepid numbers for the previous two months. The White House likes to cite such developments as proof that the president's tax cuts are working. Such nonsense littered the convention. The claim is like the Milwaukee Brewers' arguing that Tuesday night's victory over Pittsburgh shows that the team's strategy for taking the pennant is on track. The team would never make such a claim, of course. That victory, you may recall, broke a 12-game losing streak. Despite August's rosy numbers, the nation has still lost, under Bush's watch, more jobs than it gained. His term remains in danger of being the first since Herbert Hoover's with a net job loss. The current deficit: 800,000 jobs. Against another measure, the predictions of his economic advisers, the gap is even wider. They had promised that his economic strategy would yield 4.3 million new jobs over the last 14 months. The economy fell short by a whopping 2.7 million jobs, notes the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. In Wisconsin, jobs have grown, but by a mere one-tenth of 1% since the recession's start, according to the institute - not enough to keep up with the 3.5% growth in the working-age population. And the White House can thank big government for keeping the numbers from being even worse. The private sector has lost 1.7 million jobs since the start of the recession, in March of 2001. Growth in the public sector has offset much of that loss. Such harsh reality, of course, did not intrude on the Republican confab. Remember, employment must keep expanding just to keep up with population increases. Slow job growth makes jobs insecure, keeps pay raises small, boosts the ranks of the poor, hurts the ability of communities of color to close the racial gap. Another think tank has weighed in on the troubling plight of working stiffs this Labor Day. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found tepid growth in pay, but unusually large gains in corporate profits. The center, which monitors the impact of public policies on workers and poor people, analyzed recently released federal census data. During this recovery, total wages are growing at less than 1% a year in America, whereas total profits are rising at 14% a year. In contrast, in previous recessions on average, wages grew at the rate of 5% a year and profits at the rate of 12% a year. In other words, the recovery is indeed leading to economic gains, but for fat cats in pin stripes (OK, they may go to the gym and dress casual now, but you get the gist), not working stiffs. This Labor Day, health insurance worries loom large. In 2003, 56% of workers who worked at least 20 hours a week for half the year had health insurance through their employers, down from 59% in 2000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Health insurance continues to sap the economy in other ways. Employers, cognizant of the rising costs of providing these benefits, are leery of adding positions. A new employee means more health costs for the employer. The Bush administration is committing sins of omission and commission. It won't lift a finger to raise the minimum wage, for instance. A hike would boost wages in general at the bottom of the income scale. It changed overtime regulations to guarantee the right to extra pay for extra work to hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers who now lack such assurance at the same time it seems to have taken away that guarantee from millions of other toilers. And its tax relief, as most experts will tell you, was skewed toward the wealthy - meaning the working stiffs didn't make up for their stagnant wages with such relief. Yes, pointing out that workers are not faring all that well this Labor Day makes me a girlie man. So be it.

  43. 9/04   Labor intense [based on the phrase "labor intensive" meaning "takes a lot of manpower per output"],
    by Linda Brinson, Winston Salem Journal, NC
    One Father's Day long ago - which, of course, came on the heels of Mother's Day - I asked my parents why there was no Children's Day. Their answer was that there was no need to declare a Children's Day, because in 1950s America, every day was Children's Day. Now in early 21st century America, I'm tempted to make a similar observation: We don't need to declare a Labor Day, because every day is Labor Day. Of course, such a quip would be misleading, technically at least, because Labor Day is not a holiday devoted to work. Labor Day was dreamed up by the labor movement in America as a way of honoring the contributions of workers, and it became a legal holiday as a way of giving (most of) those workers an extra day of rest. Or maybe I should say that Labor Day is not supposed to be a holiday devoted to work. I'd be willing to bet that my husband and I won't be the only ones who will spend most of the holiday catching up on work around the house and yard. And plenty of Americans will spend at least part of Labor Day dealing with work they brought home from the office. Lots of us will go to the office for a few hours, and many more will at least check e-mail and voice mail. I don't know if our problem is the Puritan work ethic run amok, or the legacy of generations of capitalism, or the persistent American belief that working hard will bring success. But for some reason, we are a nation that has all but forgotten how to relax. If we're not working, we're worrying about work. At our house, we have three dogs. Mirk and Charlie are border collies, and Cade is a German shepherd/husky mix. Cade likes to stretch out in the shade or on the couch. If she gets bored, she'll give token chase to a squirrel or one of the cats, then flop back down, satisfied. Her primary exertion is begging for treats. Mirk and Charlie, on the other hand, are always on duty. If we don't give them chores to do, they figure out jobs on their own. They spend a fair amount of time herding our elderly horse around the pasture and in and out of the barn, for no apparent reason. When we go for walks, they organize us. If they think there's work to be done, they will refuse to eat. If modern Americans were dogs, most of us would be border collies. We always think we have work to do. If we somehow run out of chores that really need our attention, we creatively some up with something else that simply must get done. There aren't many of us who can do nothing for long stretches without feeling anxious. I know I'm afflicted in this way. Working a full-time job, commuting an hour and a half or more a day, maintaining (sort of) a household and dealing with the activities of a busy teen-age son, I rarely have unscheduled time at home. But when I do, I find it nearly impossible to sit still and do nothing. If the house were ever completely clean, the laundry washed and put away and the flowers weeded, I'd need to clean the attic, reorganize my closet and put 30 years' worth of photos into albums. The moment I sit down, I think of something that needs my urgent attention. Guilt is a big factor for women of my generation. Even if our mothers didn't have jobs outside the home, that good old American work ethic drove them to pursue housework with a vengeance. They set a standard that their daughters who do have other jobs can't hope to match, so we either knock ourselves out trying or feel perpetually inadequate. A few years back, another mom told me, as we sat on bleachers watching our sons play baseball for the third night that week, that she vacuumed her house while her family slept. The middle of the night was the only time she had to get that chore done, and her family had grown so used to it that they could sleep through the noise. I confided that I just didn't get the vacuuming done sometimes, but I did feel bad about it. Men may be driven by competitiveness as much as guilt, but overwork is an equal-opportunity curse. Despite - or because of - all our ingenuity, gadgets and technology, not to mention our prosperity, it's been well documented that Americans - male and female - take a lot less time off than workers in other industrialized nations. The International Labor Organization reported earlier this year that Americans work 12 weeks a year more than Europeans. And we don't even use all the vacation we have: In its fourth annual survey of U.S. vacation habits, released in May, Expedia.com reported that at least 30% of employed Americans gave up vacation time last year. On average, every employed American forfeits three days of vacation a year, for a total of 415 million unused vacation days, the survey said. Stuart MacDonald, a senior vice president at Expedia, issued a statement warning of the dangers of overwork and urging Americans to "make vacationing a higher priority on everyone's to-do list." That may sound like odd advice to a nation of people with too much on their to-do lists. Nevertheless, here's hoping we can all make ourselves spend Labor Day not laboring. Even if we have to work hard to make ourselves relax. € Brinson is the Journal's editorial page editor. She can be reached at lbrinson@wsjournal.com

  44. 9/04   Troubles in paradise
    Houston Chronicle, TX
    Hawaii is a dream destination for most travelers, but Norwegian Cruise Line endured a nightmarish start to its much-anticipated NCL America program in the Aloha state. First, NCL's Pride of America, the first newly constructed U.S.-flag cruise ship in half of a century, sank during a storm last January in a German shipyard. The vessel, scheduled to begin leisurely weeklong sailings to four islands in July, will be delayed about a year while repairs are completed. Now, NCL's reflagged Pride of Aloha - the former Norwegian Sky - is generating a boatload of controversy while operating the Pride of America's scheduled itinerary with an all-American crew. Conceding in a statement that "for a variety of reasons the service on the initial cruises was not up to the standards for which NCL is known," the cruise line is refunding 50% of a mandatory service charge to passengers aboard several voyages. Cruise Week newsletter estimated the total refund at about $500,000. Passengers on sailings covered by the refund also will receive a credit certificate as partial payment toward a future cruise. Kinks understandable In some respects, the startup woes are understandable. Other ships' staff and crew are assembled from as many as 50 nations. Many have been at sea for years and are accustomed to working long hours seven days a week, standard in the industry. Finding and training 1,000 Americans for new jobs has proved a challenge, with high attrition reported. NCL fanned the fumes, however, when it announced that a heretofore optional $10 per person daily service charge - $140 per week for a couple - would become mandatory aboard the Pride of Aloha. It also revealed plans to extend the policy fleetwide. NCL, whose Norwegian Sea operates weekly cruises from the Port of Houston to Mexico and Central America, has taken a roasting from those who believe - as I do - that gratuities for service should be at an individual's discretion (especially if the service is below expectations). Adding to the discontent is that workers on the Pride of Aloha (unlike other NCL ships) are subject to U.S. minimum-wage standards and overtime pay, so there is some uncertainty as to where this fee goes. NCL does merit plaudits for undertaking this ambitious venture and for planning other U.S.-flagged vessels. The refund is a positive gesture, too. Early cruises have been sold out; future bookings are solid. Recent reports indicate service has improved. More on "bumping" Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, whose 2,000-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas sails weekly from Galveston, took issue with my suggestion that reserving "guaranteed" space on a cruise ship (as opposed to a specific stateroom) results in a greater chance of being "bumped" if a vessel is booked beyond capacity. While conceding that "overselling" a ship can occur, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Jaye Hilton said, "It's very rare, and we don't just call someone and say, `You're kicked off the ship.' We would contact passengers and ask if their schedule is flexible. And if you buy a guarantee, you're not at the top of the list to be called. We'd be more likely to start with guests who aren't committed to flights. We don't want to inconvenience anyone." Hilton reiterated that passengers who relinquish their space are compensated on a case-by-case basis.

  45. 9/04   Work-related stress runs up $300 billion annual bill in US
    BY JOHN SCHWARTZ, New York Times via The Wichita Eagle, KS
    American workers are stressed out, and in an unforgiving economy, they are becoming more so every day.
    62% say their workload has increased in the past six months. At home, in the soccer bleachers or at the Labor Day picnic, workers are never really off the clock, bound to BlackBerries, cell phones and laptops. Add iffy job security, rising health care costs, ailing pension plans and the fear that a financial setback could put mortgage payments out of reach, and the office has become, for many, an echo chamber of angst. It is enough to make workers sick - and it does. Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and stroke to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable effect on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines. Workplace stress costs the nation more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and the stress-reduction industry that has grown up to soothe workers and keep production high, according to estimates by the American Institute of Stress in New York. And workers who report that they are stressed, said Steven Sauter of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, incur health care costs that are 46% higher, or an average of $600 more per person, than other employees. "The costs are significant," Sauter said. "Those are just the costs to the organization, and not the burden to individuals and to society." American workers are not the only ones grappling with escalating stress and ever greater job demands. European companies are changing once-generous vacation policies, and stress-related illnesses cost England 13 million working days each year, a British health official said. "It's an issue everywhere you go in the world," said Guy Standing, lead author of "Economic Security for a Better World," a new report from the International Labor Office, an agency of the United Nations. Most stress-related health problems are a far cry from the phenomenon known in Japan as karoshi, or "death from overwork." But downsizing, rapid business expansion, outsourcing - trends that some have credited with increasing the nation's economic health - translate into increases in sick days, hospitalizations, the risk of heart attack and a host of other stress-related problems, researchers find.

  46. 9/05   NSW school cleaners to strike for four days
    Green Left, Australia
    by Jenny Long, Sydney
    As part of its campaign against new job-threatening multi-year contracts to clean schools and other public buildings announced in June by the NSW Labor government, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) announced on September 1 that it was calling for a 96-hour strike by all NSW public school cleaners beginning on the morning of September 7. The LHMU has also called on school cleaners to attend a rally outside the NSW parliament building on September 8 to protest against the proposed contracts, to be introduced in 2005, which the union argues will drastically cut the hours cleaners are paid to clean schools and other public buildings, and offer no guarantee of employment to existing cleaners. NSW LHMU cleaners' secretary Annie Owens has warned that the contracts threaten the jobs of up to 7000 existing cleaners. Over the previous fortnight a broad ranger of individuals and groups have thrown their support behind the cleaners' campaign. According to the LHMU, at least 1000 people across the state have sent protest emails to Premier Bob Carr's government. On August 24, the NSW Teachers Federation sent a bulletin to all NSW schools and TAFEs asking teachers to actively support NSW cleaners. In the bulletin, Teachers Federation secretary Barry Johnson stated the work of cleaners ensures hygienic conditions for staff and students. "Our cleaners should not be held to ransom by the proposed new contracts, nor should staff and student health and safety be compromised by the proposed reductions to cleaning standards", he wrote. Johnson also said that no teacher, parent or student should carry out the work of cleaners during any cleaners' strike, outside cleaners should not be employed, and that alternative arrangements should be made if the schools are non-operational due to health and safety concerns. After government contract cleaners rallied outside his office in Tamworth on August 12, independent state MP for Tamworth Peter Draper raised their concerns in the NSW Legislative Assembly. He pointed out that since the average age of NSW cleaners is 48, they fear that under the new contracts the government will favour the hiring of younger workers who have not previously suffered workplace injuries. Draper also noted that according to a recent study by WorkCover, it was already physically impossible for the cleaners to achieve a reasonable level of cleanliness within the hours provided and occupational health and safety standards. He asked how it was that one government department answerable to NSW industrial relations and commerce minister John Della Bosca could be making a recommendation against the "high expectations in limited time frames and product savings", when another department that answers to him was renegotiating the contracts to reduce hours and cleaning standards. In response to the suggestion by commerce department bureaucrats that parents do voluntary school cleaning, Draper asked: "Does the department honestly expect optional services to be picked up by parents, Parents and Citizens Association members, and even teachers, whose recent wage case highlighted their work load and who, in small rural schools, are already struggling with a lack of peer and administration support?"

  47. 9/05   West Europeans may have to retire abridged workweek - Free time imperiled by EU's industrious new members
    San Francisco Chronicle, CA
    by Eric Wahlgren
    Paris - As Western Europeans head back to the office after their customary monthlong August vacations, they're finding more than just overflowing in-boxes. Their much-cherished short workweeks are under attack. The pressure on leisure-loving Continentals to work more has been growing since May, when 10 nations - mainly in Eastern Europe, where longer hours and lower wages are the norm - joined the European Union. This summer, several employers have asked their workers in the West to make an unsavory decision: work more or don't work at all. That was the choice Siemens gave some 4,000 of its mobile phone assembly employees in Germany in June. In the end, the workers agreed to work 40 hours a week instead of 35, with no extra pay, to keep their jobs from shifting to Hungary, a new EU member with labor costs about a sixth of Germany's average. "It was a tough agreement, but we ultimately had to save the jobs," said Martina Helmerich of IG Metall, the powerful German metal workers union based in Frankfurt that represents the Siemens employees. Across the border in France, where a 35-hour workweek has been enshrined into law, workers also are feeling the heat. In July, employees at a Robert Bosch auto-parts factory near Lyon voted to start working on average 36 hours a week for the same salary. The employer had threatened to ship their positions to the Czech Republic, another EU newbie. "It was blackmail, pure and simple," said Francois Ayme, a 29-year-old management consultant in Paris. Other companies have followed suit. DaimlerChrysler and Thomas Cook have wrangled similar agreements from their staffs in Germany. Though Ayme disagrees with the hardball tactics, he says his compatriots in France would benefit from working a little more. "Working more to me seems necessary to stay competitive, especially for young people who want to prove themselves," said Ayme, who admits to putting in very un-French 50-hour weeks. France and Germany aren't the only countries where cushy work schedules are being challenged. Austrian business associations have been pressing unions for increases in working hours. But in France and Germany, where workers are among the most pampered on the planet, debate over the workweek issue is reaching a boiling point. Nearly two-thirds of French workers are covered by the 35 hours law, which took effect in 2000 to combat stubbornly high unemployment, which was 9.8% in July. In Germany, the short workweek is not a state mandate, but a trend that developed over the years in union negotiations with employers. On average, German workers have agreed to work 37.7 hours a week - nearly 5% less than the weekly 39.6 hours average for the EU's new Eastern European members. Though less than a quarter of the German workforce is now unionized, about two-thirds of workers are still covered by union contracts. Competition for jobs with lower-wage countries is only one reason the fun-comes-first credo is getting a rethink. Politicians and others also are questioning whether France and Germany can afford to work so little while maintaining such generous social benefits. Employees in France averaged 1,453 hours of work in 2003, while German workers averaged just 1,446 hours, or 19% less than the U.S. average of 1,792 hours. The French and Germans get universal health care coverage and generous paid maternity leave, while five or more weeks paid vacation is the norm in both countries. The problem is, both governments are having increasing trouble paying the tab for all this and other programs. In August, the International Monetary Fund told both countries they needed to strengthen incentives to work to boost growth and keep social systems from going bust. But the reduced workweek is far from dead. "There will be a struggle," warned Andrea Bassanini, a labor economist with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Since taking effect four years ago, the abridged workweek in France has become as much a part of the French way of life as cheese for dessert and the double-kiss greeting. Stephanie Bonnet, director in an international public relations firm in Paris, trades longer workweeks for extra time off each month - on top of her five weeks' paid vacation - because the work rule requires that employees average 35 hours a week over the year. And she's not ready to give this perk up. "We're not on this Earth to be working all the time," said Bonnet, 36. "You need some balance in life." France's center-right government has said the law should be relaxed so people who want to earn more money can work more instead of getting so much time off. But the government so far has not jumped on reform. In Germany, unions argue that scrapping the abbreviated workweek would drive up the unemployment rate, which is already an alarming 10.6%. If working hours were extended, IG Metall's Helmerich said, 2 million more German workers would join the 4.5 million already on the unemployment line. German employees are willing to negotiate on working times, Helmerich added. But if workers agree to more hours, bosses need to make concessions too, she said. "In exchange, we need to see job security and new jobs when production increases," Helmerich said. Though some Europeans are afraid that global competition will turn their worker havens into the live-to-work U.S. model, so far there's little evidence that's the case, said Jon Messenger, a senior research officer with the International Labor Organization in Geneva. To increase the hours they spend working, Europeans would have to scale back their enviably long vacations. The EU minimum is four weeks' paid vacation, but workers in some countries get up to nine weeks. "I haven't heard anything about taking away any of the paid leave," Messenger said. Even Ayme, who supports the French working longer, said he has his limits. "I don't think we'll end up working as much as Americans, and is that really such a bad thing?"

  48. 9/05   Cuban Socialism Fails Workers - Castro's Socialism Fails Workers
    NewsMax.com, FL
    by Wilson C. Lucom
    Under Cuba's socialist system, the average working person earns about $10 a month ­ 34 cents a day, $120 a year ­ on which to live: to buy food and clothing and pay for rent for the entire month. In Cuba, retirees on social security live on $4 a month ­ 14 cents a day, $48 a year. The average wage of a working person living in the democratic, capitalist United States is about $520 a week, $2,080 a month, $25,000 a year. Although Cuba has a good education system, once students graduate they cannot earn a decent wage. For example, a computer engineer graduate in Cuba earns $360 a year, compared with an independent computer engineer in the United States, who earns $60,000 a year. A comparison between Cuba and the United States is made as follows:
    Average yearly wage
    Average monthly wage
    Average daily wage
    The Cuban working person's human rights are grossly violated, but no one talks about these violations. It is time the world and its media started taking notice and talking about the huge differences to the working person between living under capitalism and living under socialism. Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States and could enjoy almost similar wages, but the egomaniac Castro, for his own self-aggrandizement, has kept 11 million Cuban people in virtual poverty for 30 years. He was not elected by popular vote; he should now hold free elections with a socialist candidate (not Castro) and a capitalist candidate and let the people decide which system they wanted to work for and live under. An article from Investor's Business Daily, July 19, 2004, best sums up the comparison: Work Doesn't Pay in Havana, So Leisure 'Industry' Thrives, by W. Michael Cox
    Fidel Castro's socialist dictatorship has kept Cuba a poor place ­ especially when compared with the 77-year-old dictator's ideological adversary, the capitalist U.S. Although many Cubans are well educated, they earn about $10 a month in farming or working in state stores, factories and offices. Many of Havana's once stately buildings are crumbling, neglected for decades after Castro stole the nation's wealth and redistributed it to the poor. For most Cubans, a good meal consists of rice and beans. Stores offer a bare-bones selection of maybe two dozen items ­ packets of sugar on one shelf, a few bottles of soda on another. Kids gratefully accept soap as a gift from tourists. Despite material want, many Cubans pleasantly while away their time at leisure pursuits, becoming virtuosos at singing, dancing and playing instruments. In one small-town library, for example, four saxophone players enchanted me with classical music on a Wednesday evening. It was my very own Buena Vista Social Club. The grass-roots artistic flowering raises the conundrum of Cuba: How does a society on the brink of economic failure produce so many accomplished performers? At first, I thought Cubans were just lazy, preferring to play rather than work. To an economist, that answer didn't cut it ­ if only because of the obvious energy Cubans put into enjoying themselves. Cubans' real problem lies elsewhere ­ in socialism's perverse incentives. When the state provides for its citizens regardless of how much they work, nobody's motivated to put much effort into their job. When work doesn't pay, precious little gets produced, so consumers don't have much to buy. Bare shelves give individuals little incentive to forsake leisure in favor of work. Over time, the economy spirals downward, like water circling a drain, with living standards sinking toward subsistence and citizens inclined to work only the minimum. Any initiative at all comes outside the system. Cuba's go-getters make a few extra pesos off the tourist trade by turning cars into cabs, or homes into restaurants and boarding houses. Like Americans, Cubans strive for the most satisfying mix of consumption and leisure. What's different is socialism has made leisure, when measured in terms of foregone consumption, incredibly cheap. So Cubans, quite intelligently, channel their time and energy into leisure activities. In short, they've become connoisseurs of leisure ­ and they've done it despite the fact that Cuba's state-run economy doesn't provide the kind of recreational cornucopia found in America. There are no multiplex movie theaters, amusement parks or shopping malls. Cubans indulge in what's available ­ music, dance, art, sports and games, becoming quite good at them. Applying the same economic logic to the U.S., we see a very different trade-off between consumption and leisure. Our free-market economy provides plentiful jobs and high wages, giving Americans ample opportunities to earn money. No American has to worry about how to spend it. We live in a consumer's paradise, where grocery stores sell up to 40,000 items. Americans don't work even more than they do because leisure time is a normal good. Most of us want more of it as we get wealthier, and we sacrifice some consumption to get more free time. A rich variety of entertainment and activities compete for Americans' work time ­ movies, sports, concerts, television, video games, hobbies, shopping and so much more. Is there any wonder why few Americans have learned to sing, dance or strum a guitar as well as the Cubans? Some Americans might regard singing and dancing through life as preferable to the workaday world of rush projects and bulging e-mailboxes. They should remember that Cubans endure harsh living standards, a trade-off few Americans would make for added free time. By finding some happiness in Castro's economic wasteland, Cubans show the resilience of the human spirit. What Cubans really want, though, is relief from a system that grinds them into poverty. They want opportunity. If free to choose, Cubans would no doubt make themselves better off by spending more time working to consume and less time on leisure.
    [Most of these criticisms of Cuba apply increasingly to the U.S., especially during the Bush years.]
    Wilson C. Lucom is co-founder, with Reed Irvine, of Accuracy in Media (AIM). Lucom's first grant started AIM. For over 25 years he was a vice president and a director of AIM. For many years Lucom was editor of Accuracy in Academia's newspaper, now called Campus Report. During the Roosevelt administration, Lucom served as an assistant to the Secretary of State in the State Dept. and Acting Chief of Mission, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

  49. 9/05   Leith: Labor Day a hard-won concession
    Ironton Tribune, OH
    By Teresa Moore For many, Labor Day is an extra day off from work, a three-day weekend, even. But an Ohio University Southern professor said the holiday was borne of a hard-fought battle for recognition of service by largely unappreciated workers. "American labor really didn't make progress until the 1840s," professor Bob Leith said. Until then, the carpenter, bricklayer, factory worker and even the cowboy worked long hours for little pay, often with little attention paid to their health and safety. The tradition of Labor Day is a holiday of modern making. The road to recognition of labor has been punctuated by many gains but also littered with many setbacks, Leith said.
    The first strike
    In 1619, Polish immigrants brought to the New World as indentured servants staged what would become the first labor strike in American history. Leith said the Poles had been recruited to produce pitch, tar and glass, with the understanding they would work four to seven years and then gain their freedom. As Jamestown colonists prepared to elect representative to the House of Burgesses, the precursor to Congress, Poles requested their right to vote. But at that time, the right to cast a ballot belong to the privileged few: white male landowners of English extraction. The Poles were incensed. "They went on strike by laying down their tools and refusing to work," Leith said. "No vote, no work."
    The Gay '90s
    Leith said throughout history, the laborer has often provided far more for others than he received for himself through his own hard work. Even in the 1890s, an era rather erroneously dubbed "The Gay '90s," Leith said many suffered under the worst of conditions. "In this decade, one-eighth of the families in the United States controlled seven-eighths of the country's income." Many immigrants worked 60 hours a week for less than $10. "Indians were being forced onto reservations, cowboys were losing their jobs because of the railroads, immigrants in this country were being housed in inhumane environments and paid very little for their work, and labor was losing out to scabs and injunctions," Leith said. "The Gay 90s weren't very happy for a lot of people." In 1892, A strike occurred at Carnegie Steel in Homestead, Pa., when management asked workers to take pay cuts to avoid layoffs. Workers were locked out of their jobs and management tried to sneak replacement workers into the back of the plant. The workers who had been locked out discovered the plan and a gun battle ensued. The governor of Pennsylvania sent in troops. After a five-month strike, the company rehired only 800 of the 4,000 former employees. Another strong steel union would not be born until the 1930s.
    Their own mistakes
    Leith said while management could be stubborn in the face of the need for change, often, labor made its own situation worse by resorting to violence to try and win concessions from their bosses. This usually only worsened labor's reputation. A case in point was a mass meeting organized in May 1888 in Chicago. The rally was organized to show solidarity for an eight-hour work day and to protest police violence in the McCormick Harvester Company strike. Protesters met in the city's Haymarket Square, chosen to accommodate what organizers thought would be masses of angry laborers. Apparently the mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, thought masses of people would show up, too: he ordered a detachment of police to Haymarket Square to quell any violence. "Few people showed up," Leith said. "The mayor left early because the speeches he heard were harmless." After the mayor left, police officers began ordering people to disperse and as they did, a bomb was thrown and 11 people were killed: seven police officers and four workers. "More than 70 people were injured. The culprit was never caught, but eight so-called "radicals" were found guilty of inciting violence; four of them were executed, and three were eventually pardoned by the Governor of Illinois. The repercussions of the incident- whether the rally organizers were to blame or not, delayed any real progress on the issue of the labor rights the rally was meant to address, Leith said. "The Governor's career was ruined. This 'Haymarket Massacre' dealt a huge blow to labor by slowing the movement for an eight-hour workday," Leith said.
    Makings of Labor Day
    In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, one of the founders of the AFL-CIO, spoke to the Central Labor Union of New York City about establishing a day set aside to honor the American worker. He suggested that day fall somewhere between July 4 and Thanksgiving, Leith said. A celebration, complete with a parade, was planned for Sept. 5. Ten thousand workers attended, many of whom risked losing their jobs if they did. In the parade down Fifth Avenue, they carried signs that read "8 hours to constitute a day's work" and "All men are born equal." But it wasn't until 1887 that Oregon became the first state to officially create a Labor Day holiday. Washington, D.C., followed suit and by 1923 all states had declared such a holiday.

  50. 9/05   Labor pains - Union leaders say troubling issues, concerns facing workers
    Evansville Courier & Press, IN
    By TOM RAITHEL 464-7595 or raithel@evansville.net
    As millions of American workers celebrate Labor Day with parades, picnics and personal time off, a swarm of troublesome issues nags them. Outsourcing, rising health-care costs and unfair overseas trade practices are among the concerns facing workers today, according to local labor leaders. Many labor leaders also are concerned about the upcoming elections and are encouraging people to elect "labor-friendly" candidates this fall. "Labor probably has more issues today than it ever has in my lifetime," said Mike Hoagland, business representative for the Chicago and Midwest Regional Board of the United Needle Trade, Industrial and Textile Employees. And Chuck Whobrey, president of Teamsters Local 215, said the concerns go well beyond organized labor. They were affecting workers everywhere. Two issues - job security and rising health-care costs - override all others, according to a survey of labor leaders by the Courier & Press. Dave Willett, president of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 104, said that, unlike the 1990s when the country was creating jobs, today's workers face "the loss of jobs, good-paying jobs. The good ones are going overseas." Other leaders also cited unfair overseas trade practices as a key component of job insecurity. "I'm scared to death of what's going on today," said Charlie Wyatt, president of the Labor Day Association, citing the loss of jobs to workers overseas. "There's going to come a day that it's going to come home to roost." Outsourcing, which occurs when companies contract with an outside company to do work formerly done within that company, is another job security problem, and most labor leaders saw it closely tied to unfair overseas competition. "The pressure for us to compete in the global marketplace is greater now than it was 15 years ago," said Dave Jones, president of Local 808 of the International Union of Electrical Workers. "We want a level playing field." The other top issue among labor leaders was health-care costs. "They just keep eating up everybody," said Jack McNeely, president of the Central Labor Council of Evansville. "It's a major issue in every contract negotiation." Labor leaders cite recent studies that say 40 million to 45 million Americans aren't covered by health insurance. Some workers elect not to be covered because it costs too much. "I think it hurts the whole country," Jones said. McNeely said if the problems of high health-care costs and job security could be fixed, labor would go a long way to solving its current problems. But the bread-and-butter issues also continue to be concerns. Don Travis, president of the Evansville Teachers Association, said achieving "a fair and livable contract," including good wages and benefits, was one of the uppermost issues on his mind this Labor Day. And Jones said it was important to maintain workers' living standards, which appeared to be deteriorating. "We're losing buying power. I think that's definitely related to unfair competition." Some labor leaders criticized the new federal law governing overtime, but have to work too much overtime was also a problem. Wyatt said some companies today put off hiring needed workers by having others work long hours. "You hear people working 60 to 70 hours a week," he said. There were other concerns. Although drug testing of employees came up in contract negotiations between Local 808 of the IUE and Whirlpool Corp. early this year, it was rated a relatively low concern of labor leaders. Martyn Pyle, president of the Local 4700 of the Communication Workers of America, said his only problem with drug testing is "when it's not done fairly among the employees ... when some are targeted." Travis of the Teachers Association said he was concerned with attempts to minimize his profession. He said he was offended by people who think anyone, regardless of training and certification, can enter today's classrooms and teach. Whobrey said he also was concerned about corporate greed. "When you've got CEOs (chief executive officers) making millions and millions of dollars and putting more health-care costs on employees, I think they've lost their moral conscience." For many of the labor leaders surveyed, these concerns are linked to the upcoming presidential election. They are critical of President George W. Bush. "We feel the current administration isn't labor friendly," said Pyle.

  51. 9/05   Americans need more time off
    Santa Cruz Sentinel, CA
    The season for stories about summer vacation spots is ending, and soon returning students will pick up their keyboards to write "What I did on my summer vacation." Few have an overview of the American vacation. American vacation practices are tied in a Sysiphean knot with the American work ethic, morality, self-worth, survival and our economic system. If we begin to pick at our complex attitudes and practices, the whole fabric could unravel. Today, there's little concern about our lack of vacation time. Once workers fought fierce battles for the annual vacation, but today we live to work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans work an average of one month longer each year than they did 20 years ago, much harder than medieval peasants did. Near-record levels of mandatory overtime push American workers to the top rank of worker productivity, which increased 30% since 1973. Some 63 % of Americans work more than 40 hours a week, 20% feel guilty about taking vacation, and 12% get no vacation at all. Is this a trend of modern life? "Is life more fast-paced? Definitely," says John Stanton, a food-marketing specialist at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pa. "We are actuallyworking more hours and taking less vacation time than ever before. Life is more hectic for both adults and kids." Stanton explains that the pace of life began increasing when women joined the work force. Today, women not only go to work, they also cook, clean and care for the children, which places the family under tremendous pressure. Family togetherness becomes more difficult - even the traditional three-meals-a-day is being replaced by eating-on-the-go. The traditional family vacation is likewise difficult to schedule. Today's children have tightly scheduled activities, and coordinating vacation times for a family is much more complex. People are worried about their jobs and feel they are indispensable - a result of companies downsizing over the past 20 years. If you go on vacation, who will do your work? Americans are so indispensable in their jobs that 30% of them refuse to take their allotted vacation time. In a recent poll, Expedia.com discovered that Americans received an average of 12.4 vacation days this year and will give three back to the company - up from two last year. We will forego a total of 415 million days of vacation this year. Last year, Expedia.com calculated that the value of work days given back to employers in unused vacation amounted to $21 billion. Despite U.S. workers putting in more hours than any other workers in the industrialized world, the United States is the only nation that does not require mandatory paid leave. The Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that U.S. workers average 14.2 days off, including holidays, while workers in the European Union average 20, with some member countries mandating 30 days off a year. Experts debate whether we do this to ourselves as virtuous loyal workers, or whether the economic system forces us to work hard or lose our jobs. Researchers such as Juliet Schor, author of "The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure," and the recent book "Born to Buy" trace the lack of vacation to our economic system. Schor finds the cause is the increasing gap between the rich and poor, and media-driven consumer aspirations that lead us to emulate the top 20% of income earners. Today, we aspire to luxury and affluence, while in earlier times a comfortable middle- class existence was a common goal. The business drive for profit places an emphasis on greater output rather than more time off and richer social lives. More output requires an escalating level of consumption to absorb the increased output and our lives become a vicious circle. Ironically, our vacation-starved lifestyles aren't fulfilling. Long work hours undermine quality of life and personal relationships; we never have "enough," high levels of consumption destroy the environment and our culture suffers because people are too tired and stressed to participate in community life. A counter-trend may be in the making. Auto manufacturers are finding that employees are willing to buy extra vacation time. More one-working-parent families are making do with less for more quality time. A growing "simplicity" movement places emphasis on quality of life rather than accumulating wealth. How this will affect vacation time remains to be seen, but one thing is obvious - Americans need more time off.
    Don Monkerud is an Aptos resident.

  52. 9/05   More work, less pay? - Effect of overtime rules overstated, but still a step back for labor
    By Tracy Warner, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN
    Orwellian language has become a staple of the Bush administration, and so when it calls a new labor policy "FairPay," anyone who works for a living has reason to worry. The "FairPay" rules governing overtime pay, which took effect two weeks before Labor Day, sparked an outcry from labor advocates....

  53. 9/05   Getting a life - or at least a vacation
    by Joe Robinson, Washington Post via Fort Worth Star Telegram, TX.
    There's a photo in my stash of vacation shots that I pull out from time to time as a refrigerator-magnet-style reminder to myself. It's a picture of me from the late '70s crashed on a bench in London's Victoria Station, my head cocked back against a wall, eyes closed in total exhaustion, clothes rumpled. I look quite wasted. I used to love that shot. I set it up myself to capture a vacation well done. I'd just finished storming through England, Germany and Poland, and I had made a flight from Berlin to London by about a millisecond. The photo was proof of my leisure output: miles covered, sights seen, terminals raced, goals achieved! Back then, I was a vacation sprinter. Maybe you're one yourself, going at your holiday with a productive vengeance, jamming it with back-to-back sights or activities or interrupting your fully scheduled day with calls to the office to make sure you aren't missing anything while you are gone. As we've stumbled out of our workplaces to hit the vacation trail this summer, lots of us have taken along an extra bag - dead weight that I call nonperformance anxiety. This tiresome companion has a habit of dooming trips to fits of guilt or frantic attempts to vacation in job mode. In a culture where we define ourselves by what we do - putting in 60-hour weeks while working out daily - free time can be a source not of fun but of torment. Busyness has become our nation's real business, a goal in and of itself. I learned the exhausting way that the juice of the journey isn't in the sights notched but in the unscheduled moments. I came to realize that, like a jazz concert, a vacation isn't about knocking off songs - it's all in the playing. Our work habits keep many people from seeing that. Case in point: a vacation that Faye Rogaski, a New York public relations entrepreneur, took in February with her parents and brother to the island of St. Martin, where holiday-makers can linger over such decisions as whether to float in the sea or visit the poolside bar. For Rogaski, the choices had nothing to do with the island's decelerated offerings. They were dictated by that exasperating stowaway in her luggage. Her first dilemma was whether to stay out of touch with her office or scour around for an Internet outlet. It was no contest. Rogaski described to me how she prowled the island for her electronic fix. She tracked down a connection and was soon embroiled in a "business crisis" some 2,000 miles away. It led her to cut the trip short, ruining the family vacation. "I brought my office life into my vacation," she told me. "I realize I am completely uncomfortable relaxing, which is quite frightening." Just how frightening this chronic overscheduler found out earlier this year, when her workaholic ways came to an unscheduled stop - from a stroke. Rogaski is 29. Her doctors, she said, attributed the stroke in part to her tendency to overwork. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who are dogged by the downtime killers of leisurephobia and productivity paranoia. The need for constant activity comes from "the belief system that I have to perform to be OK," says Steven Sultanoff, a psychologist in Irvine, Calif. "I'm supposed to perform, I'm supposed to do," he says. "And if I'm not doing, performing, accomplishing some visible task, then I lose my value. People who have that real strongly have a difficult time taking vacations, and some never take a vacation." A survey from the American Management Association shows that 58% of managers planned to stay in touch with their workplaces while on vacation this year, and only 31% were taking more than a week off at a time. Apparently panicked that there's too much work to do, American workers say on average that they'll give back 50% more unused vacation days this year than last, according to a survey by Internet travel company Expedia. The same company's polling found that two-thirds of Americans wish they had another week off. The conflict between the time off we want and the guilt we feel when we surrender to leisure is a long-running battle for 20-mule-team American Dreamers. But it has gone to absurd new lengths in a volatile economy driven by 24/7 technology tools and an overscheduling mania that has made many feel as if free moments are a descent into terminal vagrancy. Some plan every moment before they leave the house. Consider Amanda Vega, a marketing executive from Scottsdale, Ariz. To guarantee that her time off is action-packed, Vega leaves nothing to chance. Before she and her husband take off, they plot activity options, from meals at certain restaurants to museum visits, as if they were preparing a report for the next week's budget meeting. "I spreadsheet them into a document by time/day and then optimize that spreadsheet in an order so that I can make sure we get the most done in our time allotted on a vacation," she says. "It kind of takes the fun and whimsy out of it, but I think I would be really, really nervous if I didn't have some sort of plan." You know the old adage that work expands to fill the available time. With today's technology, that has come to mean all the time. But we don't have to turn into hard drives with hair. It is possible to relax before the grave, if we can just move beyond the new standard default behavior (where work always takes priority over our personal lives) and do for ourselves what we do for kids: Set boundaries. It's hard to let up when you've been programmed not to. That hard-wiring comes by way of our original taskmasters, the Puritans and Calvinists. Their central tenets - that work is an end in itself, that idle time is the devil's time, and that all spontaneous enjoyment should be strictly avoided - morphed from sacred to secular proscriptions that run us today. Except that instead of the fear of God controlling the show, now it's the fear of worthlessness, a belief that our identities are riding solely on the tally of what we produce each day. But productivity paranoia isn't all self-inflicted. It's aided and abetted these days by a workplace culture that would like you to believe that advancement depends on your being welded to a work station. Research shows that leisure can do something that job titles and money can't: Deep down, everyone knows you need time off to make your life better. But we don't believe it until some study tells us so. Here it is: A new study by psychology professor Tim Kasser at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., reveals that as work hours go up and leisure time down, feelings of life satisfaction and vitality plummet, while health problems and negative emotions increase. Other studies have shown that actively indulging in leisure increases initiative, self-esteem, leadership, perceived competence and adaptability and promotes positive mood and well-being, because it builds lasting self-worth that is not dependent on the ephemeral approval of others. The productivity yardstick simply doesn't work on holidays because vacations aren't about output; they're about input - exploring, learning, reflecting. The good stuff on a holiday has nothing to do with end results or tallies. The magic is in the experience itself, which, like life satisfaction, can't be quantified, only felt. Over the years and many voyages to exotic ports, I've come to see that the best part of a vacation isn't getting somewhere else but being where I am, fully immersed in the experience. The urge to check off items on the agenda torpedoes the key ingredients of a memorable trip - spontaneity and discovery, which come from the almost extinct practice of lingering. It's here in this scary nonproduction zone that I've been swept up by a parade of random strangers and adventures that have yielded invitations to homes and cane farms, to watching primal scenes on African savannas, to finding secrets off the beaten tourist track, wretched and sublime local cuisine, musical happenings, impromptu parties and gilded Alpine sunrises. All of which, if it makes you feel less guilty, could be considered productivity of the highest order.

  54. 9/05   Bad year for employers, workers
    by Jason Stein, Wisconsin State Journal, WI
    In one of the worst years for labor-management strife locally in two decades, even WEA Insurance Corp., a company providing insurance to the states largest teachers union, is facing a labor dispute. Pickets from the United Staff Union march Thursday outside the Madison home of Fred Evert, WEA executive vice president. (Andy Manis photo for the State Journal)
    Looking back over the past 12 months, union leader Jim Cavanaugh sees the worst time of labor-management strife in the area since the early 1980s. The agonizing strike at the Tyson plant in Jefferson, budget woes weighing on state workers, the contract stalemate at CUNA Mutual Group in Madison and a possible one- day walk-out at WEA Insurance Corp. - itself a company serving unions - have made it an unsettling year for both employers and workers. "We're looking at some situations where there have been longtime relatively peaceful and productive relationships" between management and unions, said Cavanaugh, president of the South Central Federation of Labor. "They're just very contentious this time around." Federal data on strikes and lockouts suggest this trend of increased contention is local, not national, said Chip Hunter, an assistant professor at the UW-Madison School of Business. But as the nation observes Labor Day, officials at Madison companies and unions say the same issues creating problems locally, such as rising health care costs, are likely to create more conflicts around the country in the coming year. This Wednesday, workers in the 1,400-member CUNA Mutual union go back to picketing, ending a cooling-off period that failed to overcome key differences with the company over worker outsourcing, a longer work week and other issues. The drawn-out negotiations - workers have gone without a contract since April 1 - have been the subject of many discussions at the home of Mel and Lori Nonn of Madison. Together the couple have seven children and 41 years of work experience at the Madison company, whose 2,600 local workers provide insurance, investment management and a host of other services to credit unions around the world. Mel Nonn, a treasury specialist with CUNA Mutual, and Lori Nonn, a shipping and receiving clerk, watched with dismay as labor strife arrived at CUNA Mutual, often considered one of the best employers in the city. "I think there's been a lot of kitchen table discussions about what's going on," said Mel Nonn, 46. Without pay raises for going on three years, Nonn worries his wife might have to take a waitress job to supplement the couple's income. The dispute has meant headaches for the union and company as well. A union campaign has hurt CUNA Mutual's business and last month chief executive Michael Kitchen had to resign after admitting he had offered money to a dissident group seeking to break away from the union. Dennis Krull of CUNA Mutual Group Employees Want to Work said his group sent a petition last week to the National Labor Relations Board requesting a separate bargaining unit for the union's professional employees. A June proposal by CUNA Mutual calls for: lengthening the work week from 37.5 to 40 hours; making employees' up to 4% annual pay raises over three years subject in part to performance; and reducing the union's ability to dispute the outsourcing of jobs. "Our objective is to still be a leading employer in Dane County but we are seeking some changes and the changes are designed to allow us to continue to be financially strong," said CUNA Mutual spokeswoman Sydney Lindner. CUNA Mutual posted record earnings last year but is facing mounting competition, Lindner said, with a half-dozen new competitors for the company's bond, financial services and pensions business. John Peterson, business manager for the union, said his group was ready to compromise but had trouble drawing CUNA Mutual into talks about where those compromises might come. Issues such as rising health- care costs are making it tougher to bargain. At Madison's WEA Insurance Corp., which provides insurance to the state's largest teachers union, a labor group representing 215 clerical employees is threatening a one-day strike in October, in part because of higher employee drug costs in a proposed contract. "We're waiting for (WEA) to come back to the table because we've offered everything we can," said Deb Lewis, a member of the bargaining committee for the United Staff Union. For its own part, WEA is holding firm. "Health-care costs are eating up such a tremendous portion of the available pie that there's just not more to go around," said Laurie Wegger, director of human resources for WEA. "The cost of providing employees with health insurance has doubled over the last few years." Meanwhile, the state of Wisconsin has reached agreements on eight of the 19 contracts it must wrap up with state workers, said Scott Larrivee, spokesman for the Dept. of Administration. One of the sticking points has been the state's insistence that workers take on a bigger share of the growing health-care premiums and costs. UW-Madison's Hunter pointed to the need for broader health-care reform to prevent contract talks from becoming struggles over who will pay unthinkable costs. "The solution lies beyond what an individual firm and union can accomplish," he said. The last year did bring a few bright spots for labor groups in Wisconsin. While union membership nationwide continued its decades-long slide in 2003, falling to 12.9% of the work force, membership rates in Wisconsin rose slightly to 15.9%, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Federal officials also seem close to certifying the results of a May election for leaders of the union representing some 1,300 workers at Oscar Mayer Foods in Madison and 208 workers at Jones Dairy Farm in Fort Atkinson, said union official Mike Krogman. Oscar Mayer has delayed contract talks with the union while the legitimacy of its leaders was confirmed. Settling that issue would allow United Food and Commercial Workers Local 538 to move confidently ahead with negotiations with the two companies, said Krogman, secretary-treasurer for the union. Krogman said he had even seen progress at the Tyson Foods pepperoni plant in Jefferson, where some 400 members of his union mounted a punishing yearlong strike only to approve essentially the same contract they had walked out to protest. Most of the striking workers who wanted to come back to work at the plant - about 200 workers - have done so, Krogman said. Relations with replacement workers hired during the strike - the target of many union harangues - are better than might be expected, he added, noting that replacement workers are now serving as union stewards. Still, the wounds of a long labor struggle like Tyson's or those still being waged in Madison can prove hard for a union and company to heal, he said. "We've got a lot of work to do. Both of us - Tyson and the union - have to work on getting morale up there," Krogman said.
    Contact Jason Stein at jstein@madison.com or 252-6154.

  55. 9/05   Signals creating confusion
    by EDIE GROSS, The Free Lance-Star, VA
    HAPPY LABOR DAY. If you think your job is lousy, consider this: In the late 1800s, many Americans - and their kids - were working 12-hour days, seven days a week to pay the bills. In 1894, after massive strikes by railroad workers, Congress declared the first Monday in September would henceforth be a worker holiday known as Labor Day. It took another 44 years for Congress to propose the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established 25 cents as the minimum hourly wage and 44 hours as the maximum work week.
    EDIE GROSS is The Free Lance-Star's transportation reporter. If you have transportation-related questions, write to Getting There, c/o The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; or browse fredericksburg.com and fill out the Getting There form.

  56. 9/05   Bush policies drown the American worker
    Quad City Times, IA The legendary union leader Samuel Gompers, elected in 1886 as the American Federation of Labor's first president, once said, "What does labor want? We want If Gompers could be with us on Labor Day 2004, what would he add to his call? I'd humbly suggest that America's working men and women also want more good jobs and less dead ends, more health care and less rhetoric, more strong communities and less despair. Working people's situations have reached a low water mark in this nation. The Bush Administration has presided over the worst economy for workers in decades, as Americans' incomes fell for two consecutive years, for the first time since World War II. Corporate profits have grown but workers' wages are flat. Health costs are exploding and coverage is declining. Our schools are crumbling, and the 40-hour work week is becoming a relic of the past. Think about the people in your own life who have seen hard times. Recall the fifty-something couple who lost their house after they lost their jobs. In fact, personal bankruptcy filings rose by one-third between 2000 and 2003. You may know a young person with a freshly minted college degree who can't find a good job, and is still working part-time in retail. It's not a fluke. The new jobs in growing sectors of today's economy pay a quarter less than the jobs in industries that are collapsing. Then there's the young couple and their child who are among the 44 million Americans without health care - in fact, four million fewer people have health care than when President Bush took office. The so-called recovery is not reaching the middle-class and there's a reason for it. Companies are shipping good-paying jobs overseas in record numbers, leaving only Wal-Mart type new jobs behind. Our nation has lost 1.8 million jobs since President Bush took office. He will be the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression to end his term with fewer jobs than when he began. Our nation needs a real plan to create jobs in this country, and reward companies who stay here and invest in our communities. Companies that move offshore shouldn't get valuable contracts with American taxpayers' money, and we must repeal the overtime pay cut. We need to tackle the health care dilemma and extend affordable health care to millions of Americans - thus leveling the playing field between the honorable employers who provide health care, and the ne'er-do-wells like Wal-Mart which shirk their responsibilities. We must invest in rebuilding our nation's schools and roads, and help states end their fiscal crises by investing in education and public safety programs. This Labor Day, working men and women want and deserve more. They are the people who care for our elderly, build our homes, process our accounts, teach our children, and defend our cities. This nation has always been a place where children could do a little better than their parents. It will be a real tragedy if we accept anything less. John J. Sweeney is the president of AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for America's unions, representing 13 million workers nationwide.

  57. 9/05   Unions seek reversal of Harris-era labour setbacks
    CANADIAN PRESS via Toronto Star, Canada
    Ontario union boosters are calling for the Liberal government to reinstate labour laws struck down by the Harris government, and say things are so bad in the province that workers are scared of their bosses. Tensions over union rallying and activity have escalated into threats and physical violence in recent years, says John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. The Labour Relations Act says people have the right to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers, but amendments by the now defeated Harris Tories turned unionization into a highly problematic process for Ontario workers. "What Mike Harris did was change the laws so that it has become very difficult to truly exercise that right," he said. "If the Liberal government cares about the working people in this province, they need to fix those laws now." The labour movement is primarily urging Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government to reinstate automatic certification. The law punished employers who illegally interfered with the unionization process by granting its workers automatic union status. Employers were practically free to interfere with the process after Harris's government eliminated the automatic certification, Cartwright said. This led to firings of workers who tried to organize union drives, and later, threats and violence. "There's been a serious escalation and it's been evident in every single union drive that I've been involved in," said Courtney Radic, a Toronto union organizer with Unite Here, a group that represents 440,000 unionized workers in Canada and the U.S. "Employers know that if they break the law, they can get away with it." In May 2001, the Ontario Labour Relations Board found that Baron Metal Industries Inc. had committed illegal actions to defeat the United Steelworkers' organizing attempt in November 1998. The campaign ended in a tied vote after Baron Metal hired two known members of a criminal gang a few days before the vote to intimidate employees. Employers can usually get away with firing workers due to union involvement, because the Labour Board doesn't typically hear the employees' grievances for about 18 months, Radic said. "(Changing the laws) would go a long way to making workers feel like they can exercise their rights, because right now, workers are scared. They're scared of their bosses." The Liberal government hasn't yet taken any steps towards creating a better situation for those trying to initiate union activity. The huge fiscal deficit left behind by the Tories can hardly be used as an excuse in this case because "it doesn't cost them anything in order to give justice back to working people," Cartwright said. "They're dragging their feet. They mentioned during the election that these laws were terrible and unfair and that they needed to be fixed, but many months have gone by and there's been no indication that there's a willingness to make any serious change." As he prepared for Labour Day weekend activities, Labour Minister Chris Bentley wouldn't say if his government would bring back automatic certification. "I have been meeting with a steady stream of people from the union movement and the business community and other interest groups to hear what changes should be made to our labour laws," he said. "We're getting close to a point where we can make some decisions." The primary concerns of his ministry have been raising the minimum wage, repealing the 60-hour work week, and improving job protection for people taking care of dying relatives. He said his government is committed to restoring "the balance in labour relations, and then maintaining it." The problems, he said, began not with the Conservatives, but with the NDP government that preceded it. The NDP swung the balance heavily in favour of the workers. When the Tories came into power, Bentley thinks the party viewed the NDP's actions as a licence to swing the scale heavily to the other side. "For about 15 prior years, the party in power had attempted to shift the balance from one side to the other, and frankly, that isn't in the long-term interest of Ontarians," he said. Cartwright thinks the need for immediate change is dire. The government has the power to make improvements, and he hopes it make some moves quickly. "We don't want to be celebrating Labour Day a year from now and still have people being fired because they tried to exercise their democratic rights."

  58. 9/05   Overworked workers - Employees in the United States are working longer than most of the industrialized world
    by Alison Zielenbach 912.652.0362 or alison.zielenbach@savannahnow.com, Savannah Morning News, GA
    It's been 122 years since the first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882. But despite the nation's long history of celebrating labor, recent studies suggest average American workers may not have much to celebrate: They work longer hours and are guaranteed less paid leave than much of the industrialized world. In fact, not much has happened legislatively to protect American workers since 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the 40- hour work week with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In a society where most U.S. families have both parents working - while caring for aging parents or children - Dr. Jody Heymann, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, wanted to see how Americans were coping. And the Global Working Families project began. "So we spent a decade looking to see if we had decent working conditions to allow people to deal with the responsibility," Heymann said. What she found "overwhelmed" her. "I had no idea how far behind the U.S. is," she said, after spending years sifting through nearly 170 other nation's legal codes. Not only does the United States lag behind much of the rest of the world in terms of guaranteed minimum leave, but Heymann also found the country is behind in protecting workers against extreme work hours, offering services for pre-school and school age children and working conditions. The reason, Heymann noted, is that for the last 50 years the country has been engaged in an experiment to see if the private sector will voluntarily address benefits and paid leave. "And we're unique worldwide in terms of relying on the private sector," Heymann points out. While some companies have stepped up, the vast majority have not. Heymann is quick to add: In a competitive market, most businesses can't afford to handicap themselves with the costs of paid leave. But if all U.S. companies were mandated to offer certain benefits, businesses would stay on an even footing with their competition. Other groups that criticize American working conditions also point out that there has been a lack of commitment from political leadership to make changes. Bruce Herman, executive director for the National Employment Law Project in New York, calls it "a travesty." "That the largest economy has such poor policies and that we're so far behind the rest of the world is a complete failure of political leadership," he said. The Family and Medical Leave Act, is the only legislation U.S. workers have that relates to leave time. It was voted down by President George H.W. Bush. Then passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "It's quite weak," Heymann said. "But it is better than nothing." FMLA allows certain workers to take 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for health reasons, to care for a relative or for the birth or adoption of a child. During President George W. Bush's term, the states attempted to pass a law that would allot Unemployment Insurance funds for a paid FMLA, but Bush signed an executive order to make that impossible. As a result, California is the only state to provide paid FMLA through a payroll tax. "So it's employee-funded, with no business contribution," Heymann said. "That just shows how badly Americans want this." It was something Europeans wanted - and made happen. In the 1970s, Europeans worked longer hours than Americans, but no more. "It's been a conscious choice on their part to reduce the amount of time spent at work," said Gretchen Burger, national staff for Take Back Your Time Day, an initiative to reverse the "time poverty" experienced by most Americans. On average, Americans work almost nine full weeks, or 350 hours, longer per year than counterparts in Western Europe. The only way some Americans manage that kind of paid time off is by putting in many years of service with the same employer. Burger ascribes better organized unions as key to Europe's success, but points out that ultimately it's about making a choice and electing officials who will make it possible. Or, as former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers put it: "It is true that the Dutch are not aiming to maximize gross national product per capita. Rather we are seeking to attain a high quality of life, a just, participatory and sustainable society ... We like it that way."
    America's road to labor improvements
    1882: Workers in New York City held a parade in honor of a secret labor society, Knights of Labor, who were in town for a convention. "And the local folks thought 'Wouldn't it be nifty to put on a show for our delegates?'" said Leslie Orear, president of the Illinois Labor History Society. That was the first Labor Day parade.
    1884: The Organized Trades and Labor Federation gave businesses a two-year warning that May 1, 1886 would be the day of the eight hour day movement. "And any employer who didn't sign up would have their workers strike," Orear said.
    1886: Thousands of U.S. workers went on strike on May 1, but the movement was derailed on May 4, when policemen came to the Haymarket in downtown Chicago to break up a labor meeting and a worker threw a bomb into the police ranks. The police responded by opening fire. "It looked like the revolution had begun," Orear said of the event now called the Haymarket Tragedy. "People were rounded up and the strike collapsed."
    1890: European labor groups met in Paris, and Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor, urged the groups to select May 1 as the day to recognize organized labor. Both did.
    1894: Congress passed a law cementing Labor Day as a holiday for the nation.
    How do we compare? In a study of 168 countries: Source: Harvard School of Public Health
    Still a ways to go
    Take Back Your Time Day wants Congress to: Source: Take Back Your Time Day

  59. 9/05   Trainman will spend Labor Day just like any other workday
    By Don Lowery 912.826.1290 or donald.lowery@savannahnow.com, Savannah Now.
    Labor Day is just that for Norfolk Southern trainman Nick Branson: another work day. Branson has worked Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, the Fourth of July and every other holiday since going to work for the railroad 18 months ago. And like those other holidays, today is just another day in the west Chatham County train yard. "I go out and switch (train box) cars, work the yards and break down trains and classify them when they come in," said Branson, 43, of Cobbtown. "It is pretty much like any other day with stuff coming in and going out." A married man with children, Branson said he likes his job and can manage his family activities to accommodate his work schedule. Planning is required for holiday activities, but Branson said that's no problem. "We try to work around it because we know I will be working," said Branson. "If we know I am working on the morning of a holiday, we plan things in the evening. "Work interferes with some things but if you plan ahead, you can do your job and enjoy the holiday, too," The pace at work remains constant on most holidays for railroad employees, Branson said. Like most industries, production is continuous and steady, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - 366 on leap year. Cargo is produced, loaded onto boxcars, boxcars are classified and trainmen "build" trains to roll down the tracks. Trains arrive from different locations and are then broken down, boxcars are classified and relocated, and trainmen then start reshuffling boxcars to build more trains. "It slows down a little at Christmas but it's a pretty regular routine throughout the year," said Branson.

  60. 9/05   Benefits play a big role in worker recruitment
    By Mary Carr Mayle 912.652.0324 or mary.mayle@savannahnow.com
    Jessica Tuten knew she wanted to work at Memorial Health University Medical Center nearly a year before she graduated from nursing school. "My first experience with Memorial was during clinicals," said Tuten, who joined the hospital's oncology team after graduation in May from Armstrong Atlantic State University. "But it was really after my externship here last summer that I knew this was where I wanted to be." Asked why she chose Memorial Health, Tuten said it was hard to put her finger on a single deciding factor. "I think it's really a combination of the training, the benefits and the people," she said. "I guess, more than anything, it's the general atmosphere. I like working there - I feel good about what I do." That's just what Memorial Health president and CEO Bob Colvin wants to hear. "What we do here is so people-intensive," he said. "And study after study has shown that the happier your employees are, the happier and more satisfied your patients are likely to be." That's why Memorial Health aggressively went after - and earned - a spot on Fortune magazine's most recent "100 Best Companies to Work For" list, coming in at No. 54. "We wanted people to know that this is a great place to work," Colvin said. Among the carrots Memorial dangles in front of potential employees are tuition assistance, on-site day care and a free health club membership. The hospital also pays the full salaries of those employees called to active duty with the National Guard or Reserve. "It's the least we can do, especially for those employees who are putting themselves in harm's way," Colvin said. But Tuten and her company seem to be bucking the trend. According to a 2003 national survey of employee benefits trends commissioned by MetLife, employee satisfaction with benefits is declining. Only 32 % of employees surveyed last year expressed satisfaction with their workplace benefits, compared to 41% in 2002. For a whopping 92% of employees surveyed, medical insurance was the most important benefit, followed by paid vacation days and holidays. Dental, life and disability insurance, as well as employer-funded pension plans also rated high with employees.

  61. 9/05   Capital Column: New overtime laws kick in
    Naples Daily News, FL
    TALLAHASSEE - Regulations that haven't changed much in more than 60 years have gone out the window as rules governing whose paid overtime underwent a major revision. Touted by U.S. labor officials as a major improvement for low-wage workers, the revisions in overtime requirements have been sharply criticized by labor groups who say the provisions mean less pay and employment security for millions of service and other "white collar" workers who comprise the fastest growing segment of the U.S. work force. Officially, U.S. Labor Dept. officials say the new rules will bolster overtime rights for 6.7 million American employees, including 1.3 million low-wage workers who did not qualify for benefits under the old system. "Under the new rules, workers will know their overtime rights, employers will know their responsibilities and the department can more vigorously enforce these protections," U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said in a statement released when the new rules went into effect Aug. 23. U.S. law requires the payment of at least time and a half for qualified employers working more than 40 hours a week. The key word here is "qualified." The nation's fair labor practice law was put in place in the late 1930 and saw its last major revision shortly after World War II. The new regulations governing the payment of overtime may not be made clear for months as employers, state and federal officials weed through a 500-page stack of rules. Such ambiguity has led critics to contend the new rules will, in practice, result in lost income for millions of white-collar professionals and lowly paid service workers who previously benefited from overtime provisions. "These regulations will change the rights of millions of employees and will inevitably lead many of them to work longer hours and to receive less pay," according a report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington based research center. "(The Institute) estimates that the new regulation will eliminate overtime rights for more than 6 million employees." Registered nurses, for example, may not be eligible for overtime benefits. Based on specific circumstances, RNs, if paid by the hour, may be exempt from overtime requirements under a section of the law dealing with "learned professionals." Other health care workers would face similar requirements. Likewise, computer technicians may be exempt from overtime pay if they already receive more than $27.63 an hour, regardless of how many hours they work a week. Also, line workers at fast-food chains could lose their eligibility if they also supervise some of their co-workers. For some, however, it's not so complicated. Employees making less than $23,660 a year ($455 per week) must be eligible for overtime benefits. The previous threshold was $8,060. On the other end, employees making more than $100,000 a year and perform some managerial duties are exempt from overtime requirements. The biggest controversy surrounds employees who earn between those two extremes and hold executive, administrative, and professional, outside sales and certain computer positions. So-called "blue collar" workers must be paid overtime. Blue-collar work is described as largely physical labor or assembly line work characterized by repetitive duties. The law also exempts law enforcement and emergency response personnel from the overtime exemption. Police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, EMTs, probation and parole officers are not subject to the overtime exemptions.
    For more information on new overtime regulations, contact the U.S. Dept. of Labor at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/wages/overtimepay.htm
    Michael Peltier is the Daily News' Tallahassee correspondent. Computer users may reach him at mpeltier1234@comcast.net

  62. 9/05   Differing views on city worker overtime
    New York Newsday, NY
    By William Murphy
    Two very important people on the city labor scene were talking recently about overtime for workers - and boy do they see the world differently. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was talking a week ago Sunday about the benefits of having the Republican National Convention here. It would mean overtime, particularly for police and construction workers at the convention site. And that was a good thing for the workers, he said. Two days later, Brian McLaughlin, the top spokesman for the city's labor movement, was musing about the state of organized labor as he prepared to lead a union rally outside the convention. He was remembering the good old days, 1971 actually, when he started out as a unionized electrician and had a 25-hour work week. Anything more was overtime, so overtime was rationed and workers got time off. And that was a good thing for the workers, he said. Right there may be a major reason why Bloomberg and many of the unions representing city workers are in such a bitter battle over a new contract. Bloomberg and members of his administration see overtime as something desirable for workers, even to the point that it will keep labor peace. Before the convention, one aide dismissed the notion that police officers and other disgruntled workers would stage a job action because the workers would want the overtime. The Bloomberg administration also has a nontraditional view of worker productivity, which usually means getting people to work more effectively. What he has put on the table in contract talks with the uniformed unions is an offer of more money for more work. Police officers, for example, could earn more money by making 10 more "appearances" an year. In other words, work 10 additional days. That would reduce the need for overtime and save the city money. With less overtime, however, the workers could actually earn less in income. Neither Bloomberg nor McLaughlin was talking about each other when they spoke. The mayor is a self-made billionaire who switched from Democrat to Republican and gave up daily control of his media empire to become a $1-a-year mayor. McLaughlin is a Flushing Democrat, a member of the state Assembly, a former union electrician and now head of the Central Labor Council, an umbrella group for more than a million union members in the city. Bloomberg to business executives on Broadway about the convention: "If you wonder who benefits, just take a look at everybody that works either in law enforcement or in the tourism industry - any of your construction industries - real jobs and good-paying jobs are what come out of this." McLaughlin in his labor office: "The concept was that if a working person had time off, you'd be doing homework with your son or daughter. You'd be taking them to cultural events in the community. He or she would contribute to the fabric of the civic life in the neighborhood ... They'd volunteer for the ambulance corps. They'd volunteer for the Fire Dept. or the Little League." Bloomberg and his people are sensitive to his image as a billionaire, and references to his wealth can be unfair. But when he told protesting firefighters in the Bronx last month that he was working hard for the city, and working for just $1 a year, the gap between management and labor became clear. And when he does not see how workers view overtime, the gap widens. Chuckles with a capital C. Finishing third is respectable, particularly when the category is funniest member of the House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is the winner every election year in that category, as judged by Washingtonian Magazine. In this month's edition for the 2004 election cycle, Frank wins again. The third-place finisher was U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), who comes across forcefully here at home but is known for his humor in Washington. Rangel is the only city representative mentioned in any of the 23 categories. He is also cited among the "biggest Bush whackers." If you think national politics is not a cutthroat business, consider this from the Congressional staff members that were questioned about which member of Congress they would like to see as president in 2012. "No one," was the most popular response.

  63. 9/05   Commentary: overtime law
    Lihue Garden Island, HI
    By Phil Hayworth - The Garden Island
    Several hundred union members marched outside the Labor Dept. in Washington D.C. last month to protest new overtime pay regulations that took effect last week. Under the new rules, referred to by proponents as "FairPay" rules, workers earning less than $23,660 per year - or $455 per week - are guaranteed overtime protection. Proponents say it will strengthen overtime rights for 6.7 million American workers, including 1.3 million low-wage workers who were denied overtime under the old rules. Opponents say that the new rules are intended to reduce employers' costs by cutting the number of workers who are eligible for overtime pay. Ultimately, they say, the new rules will hurt the middle- to low-end worker - you know, the one who makes just above minimum wage - which is too much to get overtime under the new rules, but too little to make ends meet. Proponents of the new rule say it will affect those at the very low and very high ends of the pay scale for the better, and that most folks won't be affected because they fall somewhere in the middle. As for Hawai'i's workers - don't sweat it. The new rules do not affect us at all, or change in any way overtime rules in Hawai'i. According to the Hawai'i Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations, things will stay as is: only workers guaranteed to make $2,000 per month are exempt from overtime pay. In other words, most salaried workers are exempt because most make the two grand each month. Hourly workers by definition, however, are guaranteed nothing. If they don't show up, they don't get paid. If they work harder, they get more. It all kind of evens out in the end. Salaried workers often have contracts, and are protected with insurance or severance pay from arbitrary firings or lay offs. They have other safety nets hourly employees often lack. Salaried workers often complain that they're worked far harder than their hourly co-workers. But hey, that's the price you pay for a corner office and a view. The state Legislature could choose to pass a law that "conforms" to the federal rules. If they do, you can bet they'll hear from their angry constituents. By the way, more than 90% of Hawai'i's workers are hourly employees. That's a lot of angry constituents. On a national level, the new rules have forced Republicans like U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, out to the streets with protesters wearing shirts reading: "Bush: Keep your hands off our money." About 11.6 million workers receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week, U.S. Labor Dept. officials have said, and 115 million workers are covered by the overtime rules in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Estimates of how many workers will lose their overtime eligibility vary from 107,000 to 6 million - that's half of all people getting overtime now. Another 1.3 million could become eligible. Employers have sought the changes for decades, complaining the existing rules were ambiguous and out of date, and questioning why highly paid professionals should get overtime pay. In other words, a lawyer making $100 per hour, billing at $200, beyond 40 hours, makes big-time overtime. On the other end, retailers, restaurants, insurance companies and others said they were getting hit with multimillion-dollar lawsuits by workers claiming they were cheated out of overtime pay. Chances are that cheating happens on both sides of the street. Does the new law, in a way, throw the baby out with the bath water? No, says the Labor Dept. spokesperson. "Under the new rules, workers will know their overtime rights, employers will know their responsibilities, and the department can more vigorously enforce these protections," Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement. But Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa sees it another way: "The middle class is getting a gut punch on overtime," he said.
    For more information, see www.dol.gov/esa/whd.
    Phil Hayworth, business editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or phayworth@pulitzer.net.

  64. 9/05   THE GRINCH THAT STOLE LABOR DAY FROM VETERANS - I know you won't believe this, but our President told a whopper in New York - An update of our report from last Labor Day
    by Greg Palast
    In celebration of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has announced the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law which requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime. I'm sure you already knew that - if you happened to have run across page 15,576 of last year's Federal Register. According to the Register, where the Bush Administration likes to place its little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose their overtime pay for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit" in quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor Dept., the amount employers will now be able to slice out of workers' pockets is tallied on the plus side of the rules change. President Bush announced in his convention acceptance speech in New York this week that he was changing overtime rules to give workers "comp time" off, instead of pay. He forgot to mention that a couple of days before, on August 23, his Labor Dept. had already put in half the plan - eliminating overtime pay for millions - while failing to put into the regs one word about comp time. In the pre-September 11 days, we used to call what the President said, "lying." Nevertheless, workers getting their pay snipped shouldn't complain, because they will all be receiving promotions. These employees will be re-classified as managers exempt from the law. The change is promoted by the National Council of Chain Restaurants. You've met these 'managers' - they're the ones in the beanies and aprons whose management decisions are, "Hold the lettuce on that."
    NO overtime IN BAGHDAD
    My favorite of Chao's little amendments would re-classify as "exempt professionals" anyone who learned their skill in the military. In other words, thousands of veterans will now lose overtime pay. I just can't understand why Bush didn't announce that one when he landed on the aircraft carrier.
    Now I should say that, according to Chao's press office, the changes will actually extend overtime benefits to 1.3 million burger flippin' managers. How does that square with the billion dollar "benefit" to business owners? Simple: The Chao hounds at the Labor Dept. suggest that employers CUT WAGES so that, added to the new "overtime" pay, the employees won't actually take home a dime more. I can hear the moaners and bleeding hearts saying this sounds like the Labor Dept. is telling Big Business how to evade the law. Yep, that's what the Dept. is doing. Right there on page 15,576 of the Federal Register it says, "Affected employers would have four choices concerning potential payroll costs: ... (#4) converting salaried employees' basis of pay to an hourly rate that result in virtually no changes to the total compensation paid those workers." And in case some employer is dense as a president and doesn't get the hint, Comrade Chao repeats, "The fourth choice above results in virtually no (or only a minimal) increase in labor costs." For decades the courts have thrown the book at cheapskate bosses who chisel workers out of legal overtime by cutting base pay this way - but now they'll have a new defense: Bush made me do it. But then, there likely will not be any cases against employers anyway since Chao herself is supposedly the labor cop whose job it is to stop paycheck theft. She's well qualified for that job. Her resume reads, "Married to Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky." I called her press office to ask if she qualifies for overtime, but they'd left the office early. And there is good news for our sporting President. Word from the White House is he'll be golfing on the Labor Day weekend. Under Chao's rules he need not worry if he wants to replay that hole. "Exempt professionals" who cannot earn overtime - once defined as doctors, lawyers and those with specialized college degrees - will now include anyone who provides skilled advice ... like caddies ("You might try the other end of the club, Mr. President").

  65. 9/05   Pay attention to what isn't being said,
    Fayetteville Online, Fayetteville NC.
    It has never been a tradition of Labor Day for Americans to make resolutions, which is unfortunate. At the top of the list every year should be the resolve to pay closer attention to government. It's about our paychecks. Attention is crucial between now and November as voters choose a president. As the convention speeches revealed, there are differences between the candidates. John Kerry promised to never tamper with Social Security. President Bush, however, said young people deserve to have their retirement funds invested in growth funds. Translation: He would "privatize" at least some of Social Security into a federal version of a 401(k). Those are stark differences on an issue that affects every worker's retirement years.
    More immediately, the two issues that concern workers most today are jobs and health benefits. How the candidates approach the debate is telling. President Bush said little about health care, other than that people should have access to it, and that he guarantees that all communities get neighborhood clinics. He wants lawyers to get off the backs of doctors. That covers two concerns. But not ones that most workers face daily. Too many of us are too rich for Medicaid, too young for Medicare and too poor to pay premiums. That is the lot of many middle-income workers today. Kerry and John Edwards make promises about health coverage for all Americans, but they are short on the details. It's a shame that health care is a side issue. Both employers and employees agree that these costs are a serious business problem. Medical costs are behind a rising number of personal bankruptcies. Business owners look at soaring health-care premiums and are reluctant to create new jobs. Resolving this issue would be a win-win for all. On jobs, both Kerry and Bush dance around the issue. Both speak eloquently about job training. But train them for what? A technology job that will be shipped to India next week? Bush says he is confident that Americans can compete against workers of the Third World. Sure they can. But a textile worker would have to move to China to prove the point. In a campaign season, it's necessary to read between the lines. Promoting "comp time" for working mothers is a grand idea - unless it means removing the option to earn overtime. That issue isn't a promise. It was done nine days ago. New regulations reclassified some workers. For some on the lowest end of the pay scales, the new regulations open up the possibility of earning more overtime. Many other hourly workers, however, will get an unwanted promotion to a new pay classification. They won't be eligible for overtime, even if they work by the hour. (To find out how your job is affected by these new regulations, check the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Web site at www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/whd/fairpay/main.htm.) Still, some workers will welcome the change if the cost savings keep companies from laying off more workers. A smaller paycheck is better than none at all. The economic outlook is somewhat improved from two years ago, but it's a back-and-forth of economic growth followed by setback. Aside from the unavoidable impact of deployments on the retail sector, economic times in Fayetteville appear rosier. The annual State of Our Community report delivered last week was largely optimistic. The military contractor Lear Siegler arrived to offer jobs, and Goodyear pledged to invest $18 million in its Kelly-Springfield plant. As for the once-important textile industry, plant workers holding onto the last scraps of jobs left might be able to cling a bit longer. Apparel makers are trying to persuade the Bush administration to restrict some textile imports from China, using an already agreed-upon "safeguard" clause. Economically, the forecast remains cloudy unless job losses, outsourcing and health care-related issues are addressed. The slogan "Do more with less" was once aimed at government budgets. Today, it has been aimed back toward working families. They are being told to lower their expectations and to compete harder for jobs that aren't here anymore. If there were a tradition of giving gifts for Labor Day, American workers would wake up to stockings full of coal.

  66. 9/05   Brazil Union Backs 10% Pay Raise From Automakers, Estado Says,
    Brazil's metalworkers union approved a contract with the country's automakers giving workers a 10% pay increase and limits on overtime, the O Estado de S. Paulo daily newspaper reported. About 8,000 union members from the ABC region of metropolitan Sao Paulo, the heart of South America's auto industry, yesterday approved the contract, negotiated with the National Vehicle Manufacturers' Union, the paper reported, citing metalworker officials. The pay increase represents a real wage boost of 4% above the country's INPC inflation rate, a rate calculated by the national statistics agency that focuses on the cost of living for lower-income Brazilians, Estado said. The contract also limits overtime to 29 hours a month starting in January, a move aimed at forcing automakers to hire more workers, the paper said. The agreement commits employers to using only third-party contractors for food and cleaning services that obey Brazil's labor laws.

  67. 9/05   Week in review,
    Press Herald, ME.
    Business leaders criticized overtime rules proposed by the Baldacci administration and said they might put Maine at a disadvantage in attracting investment and jobs. Federal rules that went into effect last month expanded overtime pay to some workers who had been ineligible, but also exempted some employees who had received it previously. The state rules would allow the expansion of overtime pay but also preserve overtime for those classes of employees who are ineligible under the new rules. Business leaders said the rules would increase the cost of doing business in Maine.

  68. 9/05   Forum editorial: Too much labor can hurt family,
    In-Forum (subscription), ND.
    The traditional close of the summer season today doesn't feel like the end of summer. August was unseasonably cool and September has started out warm and sunny. But today, Labor Day, marks a change from summer activity to the routines of school, work and - this year - political campaigning. Labor Day has its roots in the nation's labor movement, but these days the holiday is more about seasonal transition than thinking about jobs and work. That's a shame. It's a loss to our national character. We are, after all, a nation of workers. But the men and women who do the nation's work are working longer and harder for less reward. The stress on families is greater than it was a generation ago. The economy's worship of productivity is, in effect, a formula that demands fewer people do more work, and that translates into more hours on the job and fewer hours with home and family. The statistics confirm the trends. The nation's productivity is the envy of the world, but the cost to individual workers is considerable. Americans have never been reluctant to work, but they value their leisure time, too. The balance between time on the job and time off is out of kilter in many segments of the economy. Even in the so-called white-collar professions, there seldom is off time because of ubiquitous cell phone and computer technology. We all know driven people who can't go on vacation without being connected to the job back home. Admirable? Maybe so. But the time comes when every worker, no matter how dedicated to his/her work, needs to get away from it. There comes a time when family, friends and solo leisure are more important than completing that report or working overtime on the job site. Labor Day is supposed to be a holiday that celebrates the working men and women of the nation. It's become just another long weekend. But even then, too many of us in the workforce forgo the late-summer break and go to the office or open the store or head to the construction site to get in a few hours of overtime. That might be a recipe for one form of economic vitality, but in the long run, it's a sure-fire way to damage the bedrock unit of society, the family.

  69. 9/05   Point of view - Labor Day is time to think - and to steer clear of fear,
    by Betty Booker, Richmond Times Dispatch, VA.
    Hours of aimless summer vacation were once spent watching ants hasten down dusty tracks scratched between tufts in the back yard. They would have worked together without human-drawn paths in their persevering quest to feed and seed. "Wasting time," an essential piece of the work of childhood, was what children did back in the'50s, before the young were hyper-programmed to use time with adultlike efficiency. We hung around outside, alone or in packs. Together we rode bikes, built forts, skated, bounced on pogo sticks, stilt-walked, Hula-Hooped, climbed trees, waded in creeks, swam, canoed, cart-wheeled, hiked, skinned the cat, rolled down grassy hills and went to camp. Why watch TV? "Do-nothing" time like this in childhood is the source of lifelong creativity, community, productivity and insight, and solitude reactivates it in adulthood, said British psychoanalyst Anthony Storr. Recollections for such vacations surface on Labor Day. That's also when analysts release grim or cheery commentaries on the condition of the labor force. The battle between polarized perceptions continues this year: Why are we allowing our society to repeat destructive patterns that ignore the lessons of history? Fear is a large part of it. Fear makes us vulnerable to giving in to demands that eat huge holes in our lives. The larger the holes, the more we crave personal, family, communal and spiritual nurture. The more we hunger for these basic needs to be met, the more susceptible we are to manipulation. And unless we learn to discern real life from shallow promises of "rescue" and "safety," we will find ourselves facing even deeper losses. Rabbi Arthur Waskow calls "economic fear" a culprit that creates a "spiritual emptiness" and divides the country into people who work too much and people who don't have as much work as they want. Few people living in "fear, despair and exhaustion" have the energy for mates, offspring, neighbors, churches and civic and political activities, he notes. And they can easily become enraged and humiliated, and they start looking for scapegoats and rescuers. This scenario is dangerous, in my view, and has many historical precedents. For example, the humiliation fostered by the harsh 1919 Versailles Treaty shamed the defeated Germans. In their fear, despair, exhaustion and poverty, they were manipulated to look for scapegoats and so blamed their economic fears on citizens labeled "misfits" - including the disabled, the poor, the infirm, the gay, the genetically "flawed" - and Jews. World War II and the Holocaust followed. The answers to difficult personal and societal problems are not found in a return to a romanticized or revised history, or even to fondly recalled summers. The past was hard - raw-knuckled, struggling, exhausting, dangerous, inequitable, racist, misogynistic, uneducated, unhealthy and xenophobic. Complex problems and economic fears must be resolved in a new way using the exquisite gifts of discernment and community. It is up to ordinary citizens to develop solutions, together and openly, using the creative energy developed in childhood. The first place to look for solutions is within. Then reach out to others, in much the same way pioneers labored in groups to settle the nation. It's a myth that this great work was solitary.
    We know what to do:
    Dismiss nothing. Follow the evidence. Trust your gut.
    Contact Betty Booker at (804) 649-6805 or bbooker@timesdispatch.com

  70. 9/05   Workers continue abattoir industrial woes,
    ABC Regional Online, Australia.
    Some staff at the KR Castlemaine abattoir, on the outskirts of Toowoomba, are continuing industrial action today. About 25 members of the Electrical Plumbing Union want a 4% pay increase. Union member Greg Briggs says overtime bans are in place. He says they hope to continue negotiations with the management of KR Castlemaine this week, but so far talks have not been constructive. "We had a meeting with them on Friday which was more or less a screaming match," he said. "We hope to be back at the table and talking to them again this week sometime early. "We just work to rule, no overtime and basically take our lunches when we're supposed and go home, just work our normal eight hours."

  71. 9/05   Worries about NLRB fuel union campaign,
    Boston Globe, MA
    By Diane E. Lewis
    The AFL-CIO's $45 million effort to unseat President Bush is driven by an issue that unions care passionately about, but many voters have never heard of: the makeup of the National Labor Relations Board. Labor leaders say that in recent months the current board has made hard-hitting decisions that favor employers. And a Bush appointment last December increased to three the number of Republicans on the five-member NLRB, a change unions say could profoundly hurt organized workers for years. Since then, two major board decisions, on graduate students and nonunion workers' rights, have been the focus of criticism from labor organizers. "The question of presidential appointments to the National Labor Relations Board is as important to labor as abortion rights are to women and civil rights are to minorities," said sociologist Robert J. S. Ross, director of International Studies Stream at Clark University in Worcester. Their concern is prompting a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in a tight presidential race that is entering its final post-Labor Day phase. In addition to the AFL-CIO's push, the 1.5-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is earmarking $48 million to urge union members to vote Democrat, particularly since more than 30% of union households vote Republican. The Service Employees International Union is putting $65 million into a similar effort. So far, 35,000 volunteers backed by the AFL-CIO have knocked on doors, passed out 1.5 million get-out-the-vote fliers, and made 5 million telephone calls to the nation's union households to rally members. The NLRB chairman, Robert J. Battista, a Bush appointee, bristled at union contentions of probusiness bias. "This type of election-year hyperbole unfairly undermines public confidence in the nation's basic labor law and its institutions that have worked so well since 1935," Battista said in a statement. The cases "were correctly decided, soundly reasoned, and speak for themselves," he said. The board, established under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, supervises union elections and remedies unfair labor practices at work. But labor leaders say these recent NLRB decisions came after Bush appointed Ronald E. Meisburg to the board in December, a move that tipped the board to a GOP majority. Meisburg's appointment expires when Congress recesses in November, but unions fear he will become permanent if Bush is reelected. That could change if Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry of Massachusetts wins the election. "Unions are very concerned," said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University. She said unions fear corporations will be emboldened to work with the administration to dismantle labor rights if Kerry loses and the board is still controlled by Republicans. "This election is critical for unions and for worker rights in general," she said. Already upset over the Bush administration's decision to eliminate overtime for some workers, unions became alarmed when the NLRB announced in June that it would hear a case challenging the use of "card check recognition." The organizing technique lets unions form bargaining units at workplaces after a majority of workers sign union cards. The employer must agree to recognize the cards and unit. Card check recognition has been around for some time, but unions have relied on it more in recent years because of increased employer hostility to organizing in the workplace, said Bronfenbrenner. Card checks have become a formidable organizing tool in the labor movement's arsenal, especially today when just 12.5% of the US workforce is unionized, down from 35 % in 1945. In Las Vegas, for example, thousands of hotel and casino workers have been organized over the past five years using the tactic. Although union members tend to back Democrats, labor organizers are especially pleased with Kerry because he came out in favor of a bill that would prevent employers from prohibiting card checks in the workplace. The bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, is sponsored by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and would allow a new union to be certified after the board finds that a majority of workers have signed union cards. "Kerry is strongly in favor of card check," said Steve Elmendorf, Kerry's deputy campaign manager. "He has made no bones about supporting it." Republicans maintain that without secret-ballot elections, workers could be forced into joining a union. The US Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million businesses, agrees. "There is no question that these so-called card checks are subject to coercion and sometimes, frankly, workers don't even know what they are signing," said Randy Johnson, vice president of labor, immigration, and employee benefits at the chamber in Washington, D.C. He said unions want to eliminate union elections because "their numbers are dwindling, and they are trying to figure out how to reverse that trend." Card checks are not the labor movement's only concern. In July, the NLRB ruled that graduate students at private colleges and universities are not workers. That means they no longer have the right to form unions like other workers. The decision reversed an earlier 2000 finding that opened the door to unionization for the students. In a separate June decision, the NLRB barred nonunion workers from bringing a union representative to meetings where the workers could be disciplined. That ruling overturned a four-year-old NLRB finding. Labor unions argue that such workers should have representation when the outcome of a meeting with the boss could affect their livelihood.
    Diane E. Lewis can be reached at dlewis@globe.com.

  72. 9/05   Foreign firms come bearing jobs
    Minneapolis Star Tribune (subscription), MN
    by Mike Meyers
    Turck Inc. has 360 employees in the Twin Cities. But these "American jobs" have an international pedigree. Turck is a U.S. affiliate of a German company that's also running plants in China and Mexico - and the jobs in each country are interrelated. Based in Muelheim, Germany, Turck makes sensors used to measure a broad range of industrial activities, from determining when bottles are filled in breweries to gauging how accurately pipes are being threaded in a metals plant. It has operations in more than a dozen other countries, including Brazil, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Switzerland and South Africa. While U.S. companies sending jobs to other countries have become the object of intense criticism in recent years, the American economy also has been experiencing a steady increase in the number of foreign firms creating jobs within the United States. "My feeling is there are more jobs coming into the United States than going out because everybody wants in this market," said Hans Zeisch, vice president of manufacturing for Turck in Plymouth.
    [Typical head-in-sand thinking from executives, who want to keep assuming that the job market is infinite, like the oceans, the fisheries and the groundwater. In fact, right now everybody can get "in" this market without paying the "high labor costs" of moving jobs here.]
    Nationwide, the number of Americans working for foreign-owned firms rose from 4.9 million in 1991 to 6.4 million in 2001, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Minnesota, 108,400 people worked for U.S. affiliates of foreign companies in 2001, a 21% increase since 1996. Over the past 15 years, the estimated number of such "insourced" jobs grew 117%, while the estimated number of U.S. jobs outsourced to other countries grew 56%, according to an analysis of BEA figures by the Organization for International Investment in Washington, D.C. The trend is apparent in Minnesota. Blandin Paper Co. in Grand Rapids is owned by the Finns. The French own Alliance Capital Management in Minneapolis. Electrolux in St. Cloud is a Swedish affiliate. The parent company of Fallon Worldwide, the prominent Minneapolis advertising firm, is based in Paris. ING Americas, the Minneapolis insurance company, was acquired by the Dutch four years ago. In Waseca, Brown Printing Co. has 1,100 employees printing 40 million magazines and catalogs each month. Bertelsmann AG, based in Gutershol, Germany, has owned Brown Printing since 1979. Thanks to major German investments in technology, Brown Printing today prints three times as many periodicals as 10 years ago - with about the same number of employees. That cross-border investment has kept Brown Printing globally competitive - and preserved the largest employer in Waseca, said Harry Popiel, the company's vice president of human resources. McQuay International, based in Plymouth, makes air conditioning equipment in Minnesota and has operations in China, India, Italy and the United Kingdom. The company employs 800 people in Minnesota, up 200 over the past four years, thanks to decisions made by the company's owners in Malaysia.
    China to Minnesota to Mexico
    Turck illustrates how futile it can be to try to label jobs by nationality in a global economy. The company last summer moved into a new factory in Tianjin, China, a manufacturing center about two hours from Beijing. The plant soon will employ 100 Chinese workers making sensor components, work that largely has been done by Germans. Many of those parts will end up in finished products made in Minnesota. The company is chasing customers in other parts of the world, as well. It opened a factory in Mexico about three years ago to try to attract customers who normally couldn't afford its products. By moving much of its large-volume, rote work to Mexico, Turck will have room to expand its customized, higher-end work in Minnesota. Turck promised its Twin Cities workforce that no jobs will be lost because of the Mexican plant. In fact, Turck added 40 skilled workers to its Minnesota payroll even as less-skilled work is transferred to lower-cost countries. "If I took away my Mexico production, my customers there would say, 'I can't afford you,' and if I took away my U.S. production, my customers here would say, 'I can't wait that long for you,' " Zeisch said. Other Minnesota companies, including Donaldson, Softbrands, 3M and Cargill, can tell similar stories of jobs that wouldn't be on the payroll without international operations. Wayne Schuller, 66, retired from a job at a publishing company and now is working again, selling the services of Intellevate, a Minneapolis company that secures and maintains patents and trademarks for companies worldwide. About 75 of the firm's 100 employees, ranging from paralegals to patent scientists who evaluate the technical aspects behind intellectual property, are in India. "My job wouldn't exist if it were not for our legal support center in India," Schuller said. "This job was created because of the need to find customers for that facility." Craig Roessler is executive director of worldwide business operations for Rochester-based Pemstar, a maker of computer chips and cell phone components. The company has 15 sites in North and South America, Europe and Asia. "I think the first knee-jerk reaction is, jobs are streaming into China," Roessler said. "But I think the global economy is here. It's a misconception that we can keep everything in the U.S."
    [Giving us a nice self-contradiction.]
    Permac Industries in Burnsville fashions parts ranging from rings that tie parachutes to small planes to parts for soda fountain machines and construction trucks. President and CEO Darlene Miller plans to send some work to China, but she said it's to the benefit of her 27 Minnesota employees. "No one here will lose a job. We're not planning to let anybody go - in fact, we're hiring," she said. Miller is investing in a $700,000 piece of equipment to give workers in Burnsville better tools for specialized work that demands higher skills than the work she plans to send to China. A side benefit for the company's Burnsville workers is that the work going to China will reduce the need for what at times has seemed relentless overtime. "The simple parts eat up a lot of machine time," said John Keith, a Permac team leader. "If we farm that out we have time to look at getting new business, more complicated business."

  73. 9/05   Small businesses hiring despite grim reports - Although the Labor Deparment claimed a considerable lack of new jobs this summer, small businesses are still inclined to hire new workers
    Miami Herald, FL
    BY JOYCE M. ROSENBERG, Associated Press
    When the Labor Dept. announced that U.S. employers had created a meager 32,000 jobs during July, the news didn't necessarily mean that the nation's small businesses are going through an economic crisis. Economists say that as far as many small companies go, the government's data may not reflect reality; they say small businesses are increasingly inclined to add workers. "They're hiring," said William Dunkelberg, chief economist with the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. He said the NFIB's latest survey of its members, taken in July, found that ``their hiring plans improved even more." And a small, unscientific sampling of small-business owners in August found that they are indeed hiring - or, if they're not, it isn't always because of economic weakness. At Accurate Manufactured Products Group, "business for us is still very strong" despite the soft patch the economy went through during the spring, said Matt Goldberg, president of the Indianapolis-based company.
    The company, which moved this year from New York, has expanded to 20 employees from 11. It not only replaced workers who didn't transfer with the company, but also created new positions as sales increased. And, Goldberg said, ``we expect to add more." Many small companies go about the hiring process in an extremely deliberate fashion, waiting to take on new positions until their business justifies the expansion. That's a very different approach from companies that might hire in anticipation of better times. "I am probably one of the cheapest, slowest people to hire in the world," said Clint Greenleaf, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Greenleaf Book Group. But with his business growing, he is adding four staffers to his payroll of 10. Greenleaf said sales at the book publisher and distributor grew more than 100% last year, and 2004 is also expected to be strong. "Our growth has been such that I haven't seen a bad economy," he said. ``That said, it [the weak economy] probably adds to my level of cautiousness. ...I don't want to be in a position to fire someone." Herz Financial, which specializes in estate planning for wealthy people, has no plans to add staff at its offices in Farmington, Conn., or Boca Raton. Senior Vice President Randy Herz said this reflects a prudent attitude toward hiring, not a slowdown in business. Herz said the company would rather invest more in technology to make itself efficient than in new employees. So it's more likely to buy a $20,000 piece of labor-saving equipment than hire a $45,000-a-year worker. In expanding a staff, "you have all the headaches of hiring, firing, employment issues, management, training," he said. This strategy grew out of experience, Herz said. In 1999, Herz Financial increased its staff and, in the end, found it didn't help the business.
    For some companies, there are issues beyond a difficult economy that affect hiring decisions. At PR Farms, a Clovis, Calif., fruit grower, state regulations are making it hard to add to a 250-person staff, General Manager Pat Ricchiuti said. "I just feel that we're limited in our growth and expansion because of all the issues we're going to face. Every time we turn around, they create new laws," Ricchiuti said. One of Ricchiuti's concerns is the state workers' compensation insurance rates. Although rates have fallen an average 10.38% due to laws passed since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, they are still quite high, having risen an average 149% from 2000 to 2003, according to the state Dept. of Insurance. Ricchiuti said it makes more economic sense to pay workers overtime than to hire more employees and have additional workers' comp costs.
    [This is exactly the direction we don't want to incentivate. How about paying for some of workers' comp out of steeply graduated income taxes? We'd still want some from employers to incentivate them to keep the workplace safe.]
    He also said the state's minimum wage - currently $6.75 an hour, compared to the federal minimum of $5.15 - makes his company's peaches, plums, grapes and other fruits less competitive than those produced in other states. A bill now making its way through the California Legislature would raise the wage to $7.75 by Jan. 1, 2006. Ricchiuti said the combination of these and other regulations have made it hard to turn a profit. "There are some crops now that we're just breaking even on," he said.

  74. 9/05   Sluggish economy dampens spirit of Labor Day for some Mount Vernon News, OH
    MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Today the country celebrates Labor Day, a day dedicated to the American worker and the labor movement that many feel gave birth to the country's significant middle class population. But amid the celebration, some local workers are feeling the pressure of a sluggish economy and a manufacturing industry that is rapidly exporting jobs out of the United States. Such is the case for Jeff Hinger, a 31-year veteran of the Jervis Webb Co. in Mount Vernon, a company that has recently closed its doors, eliminating 42 total jobs. Hinger is obviously upset about the plant closing, explaining his feelings that the labor movement has moved, or been forced, backward in the last few years. "We're losing out to another country, which is happening a lot," he said, indicating that Jervis Webb's work will be transferred to a plant in Canada along with the work from a sister plant in Georgia. "I think as far as my own personal opinion goes, that it (the progress of the labor movement) has fallen off. We don't have the overtime we used to [never should have - should have hired & avoided progress-killing labor surplus!], our insurance costs are so high. That takes a lot out of your pocket." Hinger has firsthand experience with the labor movement, having worked in various union positions including president for many years at Jervis Webb. His work with the union put him in a position to negotiate all kinds of things with the company including wages, benefits and pension plans. "For 28 years I held a union position, I've been involved in the union for quite a while. ... It was important," he said. "I was very big on our pensions. It was one of my goals to make sure that when we did retire we had enough money to live comfortably." Hinger said for many years he considered Jervis Webb a good place to work, a place that took good care of him and the other workers. But wages and benefits eventually turned into severance packages as the doors closed on Jervis Webb, putting Hinger and many of the plants longtime workers in the new position of looking for work after decades of stability. "I've never went through this, I've worked in the same place for 31 years. It's kind of mind boggling," said Hinger. "It's not a very good time right now." Faced with a life changing event, Hinger said he can't help but feel that today's worker is in a worse position than they have been during many previous Labor Day celebrations, and that the focus of the entire holiday seems to be shifted off of the plight of the worker and onto the end of summer celebration the holiday has come to represent. "I think it's shifted away for people like me who've lost their jobs," he said. "But it's still a holiday and you have to look at it that way. Thirty-three of the 42 jobs lost at Jervis Webb were union positions.

  75. 9/05   The final decline
    by Jan Baughman, Swans, CA
    It all started rather subtly, under the radar screen unless one were willing to look for it, slowly, gradually heating such that one didn't even notice the temperature change, until like the frog in the pot, we were all boiled meat. The minimum wage, which was once mainly a part-time income for 16-year olds and the like, became the unlivable wage for the masses. Any increase was a political hot button "threatening the small business owners," so the rate stagnated until it became a sub-minimal pittance causing its earners to take multiple of those sub-minimum jobs to survive. Then they took away overtime... Minimum wage was never again adjusted for inflation, nor was the definition of poverty, which stayed at $18,000 per year for a family of four, thus leaving tens of millions of others unaccounted for and not counting. The slave wages resulted in lower and lower cost of goods that the high-paid marketers forced down the slaves' throats. They could have (and believed they needed) everything in every size and every color; every make and every model. Zero% down for five years; buy now pay later. Debt "stimulated the economy," and further enslaved the masses. Fast food became the cheapest form of the most calories, never mind the sodium, fat, toxins; the slaves fed the machine while the machine fed the slaves until the system imploded. Like in the Middle Ages, obesity became a fashion statement for the enslaved; a symbol of gluttony was the only remaining show of materialism, as poverty, lack of health care, child care, affordable housing, left little else possible to achieve. A Happy Meal could be yours for just 99 cents (not even adjusted for inflation.) The competition for stealth food led to the outsourcing of drive-thru's to order centers; and, ultimately to self-serve machines, such that the slaves no longer even had their McDonald's careers to sustain their poverty. Soon many of the masses became enslaved in prison, where 20-cent per day minimum wage was the norm. A few prison poster child high-flying executives whose empires thrived off of raping the masses briefly occupied those prisons, and their creative juices flowed. They invested in those very prisons, hired their captive skilled labor and indoctrinated a generation of consumer targets. Live and work at San Quentin; free room and board; develop a skill, support the company line, spend your wages at the company store. We'll take care of you - join the Wal-Mart family, forever. Come one, come all. Soon the export of jobs to India, China, Taiwan and the like became unnecessary with this newly-created domestic work force (and just in time, since few countries were willing to trade with America by then.) Made in the USA took on a whole new meaning. Ethnocentricity exploded. The government was still able to eek out money from the enslaved; a dollar here, a quarter there, lottery tickets and "gaming" (pared down from "gambling" to loose the stigma of addiction) provided the enslaved with another feel-good form of entertainment in the guise of funding education and local governments, and they never noticed that education and infrastructure had long-since crumbled. The "free" captives hardly noticed the changes, handing over their freedoms one by one on an aluminum platter to those born with silver spoons in their mouths. They became caged animals in "free speech zones," with the freedom to choose between sub-optimal education, military service, debt, prison... All in the name of capitalism, security and the still-lauded promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Voting was eliminated early on in the Final Decline. Voting rates dropped from 45% to 30% to 25% and on, until ultimately there were too few unincarcerated and participating citizens to justify the cost of campaign matching funds, ballots, elections, and all the security required to protect the democratic process. The powerless were fully powerless to fight the system, and soon had little desire but that their basic needs were met. When the Final Decline was complete, there would be no departure from totalitarianism for a long, long, long time; certainly for a longer time than the previous system had existed.

  76. 9/05   EDITORIAL: Targeting deadbeats good for state, families
    Adrian Daily Telegram, MI
    A dubious record was set this week during a criminal prosecution in Lenawee County District Court. Under an initiative put in place by state Attorney General Mike Cox, Roy Paul Boulay, 43, of Golden, Col., was arraigned Monday on a felony criminal charge of failing to pay more than $100,000 in child support ordered in Lenawee County Circuit Court. It was the largest outstanding child support amount that has ever been sought by a local court. However, this record only stood for one day. It was eclipsed Tuesday when a charge was filed against Ralph Lloyd Gale Jr., 46, of Wayland, alleging he is $152,352 behind in payments to his family. Half a dozen parents have been charged with felony criminal offenses in Lenawee County this year under an enforcement program launched last year by Cox. The effort was launched to go after parents who simply refused to pay court-ordered support. It's good to see the state go after deadbeat parents. We hope these local families see their money soon. Cox made this point clear - these are not mothers and fathers who have failed to make payments dues to hardship. They are parents like former Detroit Lions star Bennie Blades, who fathered six children with six different women. In November, Cox pursued charges against Blades for neglecting to pay $300,000 in child support to the mother of a 12-year-old girl. Boulay and Gale are not NFL superstars. Cox explained last year that when the amount of child support owed totals more than $100,000 or involves a mother or father who has moved from the state, his office will act on the family's behalf. Divorce is the biggest plague facing American families today. It wounds children irreparably, shaping a child's attitudes toward commitment, family and, sometimes, integrity, forever. Whether it is to wound a former spouse or simply out of selfishness, withholding child support victimizes one's own children. When this money is not received, many single parents are forced to accept state aid. Then, it's taxpayers who must pay for one person's selfishness. This week the court went after an outstanding amount of child support that is equal to three consecutive annual salaries for some of us. One wonders what could be going through that man's mind. But let's also take a moment to recognize all the divorced moms and dads who do the right thing. We often hear more about "deadbeat dads" than we do the ones who beg for overtime in order to pay their child support on time for fear of reprisal - which most often comes in the form of denying them visits with their kids. And we never hear about the single dads who make significant financial sacrifices in order to make sure their children lack for nothing. Judges and lawyers both will admit that there is an inherent bias against men in divorce court. Good people who love their children find themselves dollars away from bankruptcy and with little contact with their children after going through the proceeding. We support Cox's mission. Make the deadbeats pay. Then, we hope he turns his attention toward addressing some of the inequities in our court system and fight harder for good fathers and their rights, rather than exclusively fighting against bad fathers.

  77. 9/05   Unions still have a strong purpose, city labor leader says
    Ann Arbor News, MI
    Q: Are unions in Michigan as powerful as they once were in the 50s, 60s, and 70s?
    A: When unions were being formed, it was to increase job security, maintain fair treatment, limit discrimination and favoritism and give the opportunity for fair wages to more people. The people who created the unions in earlier years, those are the people who really knew the meaning and really realized the need. They realized the union was everyone. The unions were a lot stronger back then. There are fewer people nowadays that realize the benefit of unions because they received the benefits of our predecessors. Unions still have a strong purpose here because the problems are the same: fair and equal treatment, general job security, health insurance, the equal opportunity to take a vacation without losing your money.
    Q: What is the current political environment for labor unions?
    A: The current government situation is not union-friendly, like the law that just passed on overtime. If we didn't have a union here in Ann Arbor, we wouldn't be guaranteed overtime. The current administration in Washington, D.C., is not union friendly. It is corporate friendly.
    Q: The city has requested a task force to study maintenance requirements for the parks. What is your take on that? They are cutting staff and buying more park land. How does it affect the parks department?
    A: The main problem is money. The city says they have less money than they used to have when they had the higher FTE count. The employees realize they have more work to do now than they did in the past because of the increased parkland and reduced staff. It is nice to have a lot of parks. But it seems to me that the people who are in charge of putting money into the maintenance accounts don't realize that it costs more money to maintain it even if you don't buy more park land. Everything increases in cost over time. It is very clear to me we don't have enough staff to maintain what we have.
    Q: What is the long-term effect of that?
    A: It is a relationship between city employees and city government that is going downhill fast. The parks and forestry employees are working as hard as they can to maintain as much as they can. There is just not enough time in the day to finish everything.
    Q: What are your thoughts on the reorganization the city is undergoing? It is now in its third year.
    A: When I started at the city six years ago, the thought of working for the city of Ann Arbor was, it is a great place to work, and everyone is fighting to work for the city. Now, I've heard people say recently when there are job postings in the newly created job classifications, I've heard people in the city say that they will not recruit their friends and family to work for the city because it is not fun anymore.
    Q: Why isn't it fun anymore?
    A: Because there are less people doing the work now than three years ago and there are more managers. That adds stress to the work force. A lot of stress. There are so many managers they have plenty of time to pick at things that used to not matter.
    Q: How many open grievances do you have?
    A: I'll give you a comparison, the first year I was president three years ago, it would be maybe one grievance a week. I might forward two cases to arbitration a year. The last two years, the grievance load has increased from four a month to 10 a month. I'll probably forward out of those 10 a month, four cases a month to arbitration a year.
    Q: Do the city workers understand the reorganization?
    A: No.
    Q: Why not?
    A: Because it is changing all the time. That is the most frustrating part to people. They still don't know the true organization of the city. What the people do know is what they've always done. The tree trimmers know how to trim trees. That's what people know. It makes their day more enjoyable if they know what they are doing. It is just the change in management that upsets the work force. The AFSCME workers want to do what they do best.
    Q: What will happen to the city in five years?
    A: The city will realize that it is beneficial to have workers specialize in a certain career field. The whole reorganization focuses on wider skills and less focus on one specialty.
    Q: Will the reorganization make the city better?
    A: That is a tough question. Portions of the reorganization will work. The city gave monetary advantages to the city employees to transition into the new classifications. This initial transition period puts everyone in a new situation. Everyone is uncomfortable. Stress levels are higher. It is going to take quite some time for the newly transitioned employees to acquire the skills to make the reorganization succeed. Some areas will succeed. The clerical reorganization in time will succeed. The field staff, the guys who go out and do the work, the people who enjoy specializing in a certain field of work, those crews may have more of a difficult time broadening their skills.
    Tom Gantert can be reached at tgantert@annarbornews.com or (734) 994-6701.

  78. 9/05   THE HARD-EARNED DAY
    Tallahassee Democrat, Tallahassee.com, FL
    by Kathleen Laufenberg
    Thanks, Pete. Peter J. McGuire, that is. He's the fiery labor-union leader most historians credit as the creator of Labor Day, a holiday many of us celebrate by sleeping in, taking a last swim, or shopping the sales at the mall. But Labor Day is more than just a bookmark between summer and fall. It's a day with a stormy past, one peppered with determined characters and violent conflict. People died on the path that brought us Labor Day. So pour yourself a cold glass of sweet tea and take a minute to reflect on how labor earned its day.
    From paperboy to organizer
    Born to an impoverished family in New York City, McGuire (1852-1906) knew firsthand about hard labor. One of seven children, he dropped out of school when he was 11 to hawk newspapers - something plenty of kids did back then to help their families. That was also the year his father went to war: the Civil War, in the Union Army. McGuire had other hardscrabble jobs, too: as a shoe-shine boy, errand runner and, at 15, an apprentice piano maker. Along the way, the red-headed firecracker was swept up in the labor-union movement and quickly became, according to the AFL-CIO Web site (www.aflcio.org), "one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the American labor movement" and "a notorious and effective agitator." McGuire launched the idea for Labor Day at a May 1882 union meeting, offering a resolution for a "festive parade through the streets of the city." That September, a crowd of perhaps 10,000 showed up for the first Labor Day parade in New York City. Many had been warned they might be fired for participating. They came anyway.
    The 12-hour work day
    The parade included a marching band and bricklayers in white aprons holding banners that declared "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for recreation!" and "Labor creates all wealth." overtime wasn't the issue then that it is today, with the recent changes in the law regarding who is entitled to overtime and who is not. Back in the 1880s and at the turn of the 20th century, the issue was shrinking the12-hour work day. "This was a time of considerable labor strife, conflict and unrest," said Robert Zieger, a professor of history at the University of Florida. Industry workers were expected to work the same hours their farming fathers had, Zieger said, from sun up to sundown. Ultimately, he said, it was the issue of civic duty that helped the eight-hour movement. "You can't fully participate in your community if you're working dawn to dusk." After the first Labor Day parade, reports say there were picnics with Irish stew, homemade bread and apple pie. But it would be another 12 years before the holiday went national - and even then, it was done with great reluctance and in the midst of bloody worker-management battles.
    The Pullman Way
    The deal maker for creating Labor Day was a strike by the workers who built and repaired the Pullman Palace Sleeping Cars (railroad cars) in Pullman, Ill. - a real company town. In those days, Pullman was a household name. The company's ads ("5,209 Miles of Perfect Passenger Service") could even be found on the front page of the Tallahassee-based newspaper, The Weekly Floridian. The town of Pullman (near Chicago) was designed and built by company president George Pullman and featured row houses for craftsmen and assembly workers; modest Victorian houses for managers; and a plush hotel where Pullman lived and entertained. Pullman employees banked at the Pullman Bank and had their rent (set by Pullman) automatically deducted from their paychecks. All went fairly well under this feudal-like system until a nationwide depression hit in the 1890s. In 1893 and 1894, the Pullman company slashed its workforce from 5,500 to 3,300 workers and reduced wages 25%. But rents were not lowered in the company town. Not surprisingly, that's when things in Pullman began to get ugly.
    Messing with the mail
    The Pullman craftsmen, members of the American Railway Union, voted in May 1894 to strike. A month or so later, the federal government jumped into the fray, citing problems with the delivery of the mail. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered," declared President Grover Cleveland, a long-time opponent of organized labor. Cleveland sent out thousands of troops to quash the strike. Riots erupted. Strikers were killed. Labor leaders were jailed. But in the wake of the violence, Cleveland signed a bill creating a national holiday honoring labor. "It was the easy thing to do," Zieger said. 1894 was also an election year, and Cleveland no doubt saw the new holiday as a way to appease working-class voters. He was not re-elected. Fortunately for us, though, this hard-won holiday has remained.

  79. 9/05   Wages failing to keep pace with rising costs
    Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, FL
    By Niala Boodhoo
    Gladys Manning hasn't had a raise for two years. The Riviera Beach day care worker, a single mom with four children, makes $10.30 an hour. Her last raise was only 30 cents an hour. "Every day, I'm struggling even for us to eat and have a meal on our table," said Manning, 44, who says she can't afford medical insurance for her kids. While Florida has recently had the strongest job growth rate of any state, Manning's case shows how salaries haven't kept pace with the rising costs of living, especially in South Florida. And, as employers shift costs, workers are increasingly paying more of their health insurance premiums. To top it off, higher prices of consumer goods, especially fuel, are eating away at paychecks. Stagnating wages over the past few years are the bleak side to Florida's bright employment picture. The unemployment rate in Florida has been at or below the nation's jobless rate since February 2002. In July, for example, the state's unemployment rate was 4.4%, compared with the national average of 5.5%. But last year median wages in South Florida actually declined compared with the year before, according to figures from the Dept. of Housing andUrban Development. It projects that income in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties will rise this year, but still fall below 2002 levels. Meanwhile, the consumer price index, a typical measure of inflation, has climbed more than 6% since January 2002, and housing prices have soared. A spokesman for the state Agency for Workforce Innovation said he couldn't confirm HUD's data that shows sluggish wage growth in South Florida, but he sees good news for Florida families. "There are more people going back to work in Florida," said Warren May, adding that the state agency sees families benefiting from new federal overtime rules that took effect last month. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Isaac Shapiro disagreed, saying that the income picture over the past three years "hasn't been pretty." "You've had the rise in poverty, a drop in income and a big increase in the number of people without health insurance," said Shapiro, a senior fellow with the Washington-based center, which focuses on issues that affect low- and moderate-income families. Across the country, according to U.S. Census data, median household income dipped in 2001 and 2002, when adjusted for inflation. Income in 2003 was relatively unchanged from the previous year. Part of the problem is that wages react slowly to changes in the overall economy, said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington. It took a while for the explosive wage growth of the end of the 1990s to slow down, said Mishel. Now that the economy has improved, wage growth is lagging, but price increases have quickened, "so you're getting hit both ways," he said. His counterpart at the conservative Employment Policy Foundation said that wage growth should accelerate, though, as the economy and businesses gain a sturdier footing in the months to come. But for Plantation banker Matt Korshoff, 32, his rising salary hasn't kept pace with other costs. His biggest expense? Two years ago, he paid about $150 a month for health care to cover his wife and two children. He switched companies for a promotion and a raise but now pays $700 a month. "My wife and I have been trying to figure out, what is that point where you can't afford to have health care anymore?" asked Korshoff. Last year, the number of uninsured Americans increased 15.6%, according to U.S. Census figures released two weeks ago. There are now 45 million uninsured Americans, 3 million in Florida. The good news in Florida, some argue, is that the state has been creating jobs rapidly. In June, Florida had the fastest rate of annual job growth of the 10 most populous states. In July, employment in Florida expanded 2.2%, or 163,200 jobs, over the year before. But Florida's economic dependence on the tourism industry and service sector has always helped skew the state's jobs toward more low-income employment. The median wage last year in Florida was $12.52 an hour - $1.10 lower than the U.S. average - according to Florida International University professor Bruce Nissen's annual Labor Day study of the state's work force. Nissen says the industries that are creating the most jobs in the state tend to be in professional and business services - from bookkeepers to building security guards - and in the leisure and hospitality industry, such as workers at hotels and restaurants. The annual salaries for professional and business services workers were $33,982 in 2002, and $17,135 for leisure and hospitality. The better-paying industries, such as wholesale trade, financial activities and manufacturing, shed positions between 2001 and 2003, according to Nissen's study. "It's a tough situation," said Ralph Parilla, president of the Plantation-based Parilla and Associates. His company does compensation studies of local, state and national jobs for its clients. "It is a time when you're not seeing huge raises, but you're seeing costs go up," he said.
    Niala Boodhoo can be reached at nboodhoo@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4208.

  80. 9/05   Productivity And Pay Moving Further Apart
    Hartford Courant (subscription), CT
    Higher efficiency and rising pay. For decades after World War II, the two went together, a patriotic blend like burgers and fries. It was the heart of the American economic bargain. Workers helped their companies make more widgets faster and offer smarter service in less time. The companies sold more of everything. Hiring abounded. Typical workers pulled in ever-richer paychecks, well ahead of inflation. It clicked like a Swiss watch from 1947 to 1973. Income gains for families at the middle of the pay scale, adjusted for inflation, exactly tracked gains in productivity, the measure of total output by the nation's companies and other organizations per week of work. Makes sense; after all, productivity tells us how fast an economy can grow without overheating. Starting in the Watergate years - a time of all sorts of upheaval - family pay started to fall behind, bouncing up and down in waves every few years. New data for 2003 confirm an alarming trend. Productivity is up consistently and sharply - very sharply, thank you, at a near-record pace. But despite the gains in efficiency, median family income isn't just flat. It's down for a third straight year. There are as many opinions about this breakdown as there are experts. One thing is certain, as another Labor Day dawns. The old bargain isn't just over, it's stuck in reverse. Between 2000 and 2003, a family in the middle of the scale - the median, at which half of all families earned more and half earned less - sustained an income decline of $1,680, or 3.1%, after adjusting for inflation. Productivity, meanwhile, zoomed ahead by 12% in those three years. Make no mistake, all the added efficiency still yields bigger stacks of money. Families well above the middle have continued to reap rewards in the past few years from the nation's amazing efficiency, although even their incomes declined in some years. And corporate profits, after a sharp drop in the 2000-01 downturn, have bounced back powerfully. That has led to a surge in the share of profits going to shareholders and other owners of capital, rather than to workers. But the old standby measure of typical prosperity, median family income, remains in a slump. The slipping connection between productivity and median income is a key theme in an updated book, "The State of Working America 2004-05," being released today by the Economic Policy Institute. The book, produced every two years by the Washington-based think tank, documents that much of the gain made by low- and moderate-income Americans in the late '90s - a time of extremely low unemployment - has evaporated in the recent recession and beyond. Until recently, economists on the left and the right debated what was happening to families in the middle and below, especially as they gained ground in the Clinton era. But now the ugly trend is clear. What's still hotly contested is where we're going from here, how, and why. History points to a strong rebound for Jane Fileclerk and Joe Punchaclock. If productivity gains hold up and corporate profits finally lead to more hiring - Friday's lukewarm national report was barely enough to keep up with the number of new workers - then Jane and Joe will have some bargaining power. Jared Bernstein, a co-author of the book and senior economist at EPI, is not optimistic. "Unless the proper conditions are in place, there's no guarantee that improved productivity will lead to increased living standards for middle-income Americans," Bernstein said. Ominously, there are forces at work trying to keep those conditions at bay. Some evidence cited by EPI shows that even though the unemployment rate remains low by historical standards, hidden joblessness is growing. That includes workers who have given up on finding jobs. Add to that the number of workers losing hours. Globalization, that old whipping boy blamed for all sorts of ills, does appear to be keeping U.S. wage gains down even as it creates wealth overall. Companies don't even have to move work overseas to squeeze more out of their staffs here at home. Just the threat is enough. Rising interest rates, designed to keep the economy from overheating itself into inflation, could quash hiring. Plenty of experts think the Federal Reserve is overreacting - that there isn't really a threat of inflation, and that the unemployment rate, now 5.4% nationally, could fall to 4 % or lower without a fear of overheating. Government policy hasn't done much to offset the weak hiring and pay trends. For years, we'll feel the effects of President Bush's deplorable anti-worker efforts - from fighting raises in the minimum wage to attacking overtime and harassing labor unions. His tax cuts, aimed at and promised largely for the rich, created plenty of money for investment without stimulating much demand for goods and services. "Folks are investing in machines rather than people," said Doug Hall, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, an advocacy group that is releasing the report "The State of Working Connecticut" today. Job losses in Connecticut have been steeper than in the nation and the rest of New England. Income losses by people with less education have been especially sharp. Across the United States, CEO pay keeps rising, of course, especially now that stock options are lucrative again at many companies. Some say that's just a minor factor in the spreading of wealth, but consider that compensation for the top guy directly affects everyone in earshot of the boardroom - they all want their piece of the windfall. At the bottom, meanwhile, minimum wages have fallen far behind inflation since the 1970s. So, while the fatcat-pull effect is in force for managers' pay, the burger-flipper-push effect is dormant. Higher health care costs may have masked gains by typical workers, as employers pay more for medical insurance to cover their employees. That's a huge factor at PTR-Precision Technologies Inc. in Enfield, a maker of computerized welding machines for aerospace and other industries, with 50 employees. "If you ask the guy who on Friday gets a paycheck, he totally agrees" that worker pay is stagnant, said the company president, Gottfried H. Kuesters. But he added, "To us, the total cost of employment has ratcheted up." The company has continued to invest in advanced equipment, he said, but competition in manufacturing has kept price increases down. Fear not, says Ed Potter, president of the Employment Policy Foundation. Flat family pay at the middle is simply part of a cycle. In fact, his Washington-based group estimates that the nation will face a shortage of as many as 35 million workers by 2035 as companies search for ways to replace long-retired baby boomers. For now, it's clear the glass is half-empty for typical working families. The level may rise, but it won't happen without a lot of enlightened work. Everyone, left and right, agrees the answer lies partly in more and better education and training. That makes for nice political rhetoric, but making it happen effectively requires a commitment this nation hasn't shown.
    E-mail: haar@courant.com

  81. 9/05   Self-delusion is the name of the GOP game,
    by Robert Steinback, Miami Herald via Tallahassee Democrat, FL
    I don't think we can win the war on terror.
    Wait! Wait! Forget I said that! We can win the war on terror! We can! We can!
    I half expected to see President Bush holding Toto and furiously clicking his ruby slippers together, so certain was he that simply by repeating a belief, he could make it so.
    Yet Bush's 24-hour pirouette regarding the winnability of the war on terrorism - easily the flippest of flops yet seen in a presidential campaign laced with accusations of same - provided an appropriate backdrop for last week's Republican National Self-Delusionfest at Madison Square Garden.
    The theme of the convention - indeed, of the entire GOP presentation this election cycle - seemed to be, If we say something often enough, no matter how inaccurate, laughable or downright ludicrous, it becomes reality.
    How else but through self-delusion could a political party stage its convention deep within a formidable, neighborhood-strangling armed defensive bunker, having placed New York under a level-orange terrorism alert, and still take credit for making Americans "safer"?
    How else but through self-delusion could an administration underfund its own education program by $9.5 billion, underfund veterans' benefits and close VA hospitals, call the outsourcing of jobs overseas a good thing, and cut back access to overtime, while 1.3 million additional Americans fell below the poverty line and 1.4 million became newly uninsured in the last year alone - and still claim to be the party of "compassion"?
    How else but through self-delusion could a president turn a projected $5 trillion federal surplus into a projected $5 trillion deficit, create the largest annual budget deficit in U.S. history, and preside over a net loss of a million jobs while personal bankruptcies hit all-time highs, and still claim to be steward of a "strong" economy?
    How else but through self-delusion could a president speak of "liberating" the people of a nation that now teeters on the brink of a civil war held off not by any exercise of democracy, but only by the intervention of a godlike ayatollah who, luckily for us, is named Sistani and not Khomeini?
    How else but through self-delusion could an administration claim to be "winning" a war on terrorism while scores of American soldiers are being killed each month by terrorists in Iraq, when airliners are crashing in Russia, buses are blowing up in Beersheba and commuter trains are exploding in Madrid, and while civilians from various nations are being kidnapped in Iraq and executed?
    Oh, that's right - the president said we can't win the war on terrorism, just before he said we could. You know things are bad when Bush can't even get his delusions straight.
    Self-delusion is usually harmless, even entertaining - until others begin to buy into it in large numbers. There has been an eerily cultish quality among Bush supporters. His devotees have been hypnotically impervious to any evidence contradicting whatever spin on reality he and his people have put forth.
    A commission empaneled by the White House says Bush's defense secretary bears some responsibility for the reprehensible treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Four more years! Bush refuses to denounce the widely discredited ads aired by Swift Boat Hypocrites for Truth despite their implicit insult to all war veterans? Four more years! Bush's own envoy concludes there probably were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Bush chose to attack? Four more years! The 9/11 commission reveals Bush did little despite being handed a document a month before the Sept. 11 attacks entitled, "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.?" Four more years!
    It's disconcerting when a leader can induce adoring followers to believe what he says over the reality that should be evident to their own eyes and ears. It almost makes you want to cry out, "Snap out of it! Don't drink the Kool-Aid!"
    Contact Robert Steinback at rsteinback@herald.com.

  82. 9/05   Working in Michigan - Lower pay, lost benefits slam ex-factory workers - One-third will land in lesser jobs,
    By Louis Aguilar & David Coates, The Detroit News via DetNews.com, MI
    Roy Taylor, a case manager at Roseville's Michigan Works...helps Dale Ross...and Jim Downey...look for new careers. Both men lost their factory jobs when a New Baltimore plant closed. "I still get up at 3 a.m. every morning, I make a pot of coffee, and then I realize I got nothing. I got nowhere to go," Ross says.
    Dale G. Young / The Detroit News photo
    Richard Arnold, who lost his factory job, is among the more fortunate ones. He was one of 150 people hired at a Home Depot in Jackson, out of 4,000 who applied. The Labor Day holiday ritual of attending neighborhood barbecues takes on added significance for Jesus Murguia this year. It means free meals for himself and his five children. "Every little bit is going to help. I only got about $700 in the bank," Murguia, 33, said. And his $850 rent is due. On Wednesday, the Jackson resident lost his job as an extrusion setup operator at Hahn Elastomer Corp., a maker of plastic auto parts. The 49-year-old Plymouth company went out of business, causing 275 factory workers to lose their jobs at plants in Jackson and Warren. Murguia and his co-workers join about 210,000 Michigan factory workers who have lost their jobs since 1999. For scores of those workers, it's more than a job lost. It's a way of life that's vanishing. The number of Michigan workers earning comfortable salaries through a factory job is getting smaller by the month. And many of the newly laid off, often middle-aged and without college degrees, are ill-prepared to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. How many of these workers will land on their feet as Michigan's economy changes from the Industrial Age to the Information Age? "I just don't know the answer to that; I don't think anyone does," said David Hollister, director of the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth, the state agency whose goal is to promote job creation and economic growth in the state. "I think the younger ones, the ones with skills and who are sophisticated, they can land on their feet." Nationally, ex-factory workers are the least likely of all workers to find new full-time jobs, and a third of them will eventually accept work for less pay, often 20% less, with less generous benefits, according to studies of displaced workers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "They are in a gray area," said Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., an Ann Arbor think tank studying work force and economic trends. "They are among the last remaining low-educated, high-income workers in the state, and that is not the future of the Michigan economy. Those kind of jobs are drying up." The average annual pay for a Michigan factory worker was $52,003 in 2002, the latest figure available. The annual average for all workers was $38,135. "That kind of (factory) job is dwindling for high school educated people. They are not being replaced by any kind of new job," Glazer said. For Murguia, the $13.50-an-hour position at Hahn Elastomer was the best job the high school dropout has ever had. "It was (health) benefits. It was lots of overtime. I was putting in six days a week right until the day they told us" of the plant closing, he said.
    [Well, pal, you contributed to it by hogging the work and creating the labor surplus that depressed wages and weakened markets.]
    Workers at Hahn Elastomer started losing their jobs in early August. He doesn't know anyone who has landed a new job. On his final day, Murguia gave bear hugs to his few remaining co-workers who hadn't already been laid off; he watched the huge machine that he worked on for five years get loaded onto a truck; then he walked off the job after refusing an order to help clean the empty factory. "It was like asking me to clean up after my funeral. I couldn't do it," he said, just moments later. "I'm just kind of numb, right now. I think my heart will break the first time I won't be able to buy something for my kids," he said. His children range in age from 9 to 13. In his Jeep Cherokee, Murguia had three applications for similar work in Oakland County, at least a 90-minute drive from Jackson. "I'll do what I got to do. I like this kind of work because it feels good to help make something. I hope I can keep going in it," he said. "I don't have a choice but to find something before my unemployment runs out. What I've told (his children) is that I'm going to be staying around the house for a while (until) I figure out a place to work." Politicians and labor experts say many new manufacturing jobs in Michigan will be in research and development, marketing and managerial, all of which will create a kind of Silicon Valley for the automotive and manufacturing industries in the state. Many laid-off factory workers don't currently qualify for those jobs, according to officials at Michigan Works, the state agency that helps people find jobs. Many didn't foresee losing their jobs, said Roy Taylor, a case manager at Roseville' Michigan Works, who has dealt with hundreds of laid-off factory workers this year. "Most of them are workers who have had stable careers for 10, 20 years. Most of them don't work for the auto companies. They often worked for .... auto supply firms who always had work. Most of them were working six days a week, 10 hours a day right until the time their companies shut down," Taylor said. Last week, as Taylor and his colleague Linda McLatcher walked through the Michigan Works office, Taylor peeked inside the computer room where the jobless can create their resumes and search online job sites. The room was filled with middle-aged men. Most wore jeans and work boots and were cautiously pecking at the computer keyboards. Taylor smiled and shouted "hello" into the room. In the hallway, he said: "That's very typical of the kind of customer we are getting these days. They have a lot of financial responsibility, which makes it difficult for them to go after a low-wage job. But they aren't quite ready for retirement." That pretty much describes Dale Ross, 46, and Jim Downey, 50, who lost their jobs in April after Veltri Metal Products shut its plant in New Baltimore, which made trailer hitches. The Troy-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. "I still get up at 3 a.m. every morning, I make a pot of coffee, and then I realize I got nothing. I got nowhere to go," Ross said, as he sat in the Michigan Works office in Roseville last week. "Ever since I got out of high school, I was working in plants, learning a bit of electrical work, learning wiring training. Even, like, five years ago, I could walk across the street from any shop I worked and get a 50-cent-an-hour raise for the same job. "And now, I just bought a town house and have a new child. My wife works, but I'll be damned if I'm going to just sit there. I can't; I mean, hell, why should I now have a degree for the same job I've been doing for 20 years? Damn it, I can't ..." He didn't finish his sentence and slumped into the plastic chair. "I know what he's saying," chimed in Downey, sitting next to him. "I'm 50 years old, you really want me to go back to school for two years for the promise of another big paycheck? I got bills right now. "I know, sooner or later, I'm just going to have to settle for anything I can get." Three years ago, Michigan Works put 69 different factory jobs on its "declining occupation list," which is almost half of the 140 careers that are waning in Michigan. As of July, there were 686,000 factory workers in Michigan, about 17% of the overall jobs in the state. That's the lowest number of factory workers in the state since at least 1993, when statisticians changed the kind of jobs they counted as factory work. Labor experts think it's probably the lowest number of manufacturing jobs in Michigan in decades. Richard Arnold considers himself a factory survivor. Ever since he returned to his native Jackson in 1965, after a five-year hitch in the Army, he had always found factory work. First, it was at the former Yard-Man plant, which was one of Jackson's biggest employers. When that closed in 1979, Arnold, like many of his 1,000-plus co-workers, found new work quickly, he recalled. "It took me less than a day. I even got a raise" to find another job, back then. Throughout the years, he was laid off three times when plants closed, he said. "I kept thinking, OK, I'm going to learn how to do a lot of different things to be valuable. I learned a little about welding, a little about painting and driving a forklift, some plumbing." Last year, he feared being laid off again before reaching retirement and full pension age. "I was just nervous the plant would close, and I doubt that I could find another job since most of the plants are gone now." Then in February 2003, he heard about a Home Depot store opening in Jackson. He was among the 4,000 who applied to be a sales associate. He saw a lot of his former co-workers in the long line when he applied. Arnold was among the 150 who were hired. His track record of constantly teaching himself new skills impressed the retailer, said store manager Jim Abraham. "That set him apart from a lot of the other applicants we get with a manufacturing background," Abraham said. He estimates about a third of Home Depot employees in Jackson are former factory workers. Arnold loves the job, he said, because the pay is similar and he has full benefits. "I know I'm lucky. When I see some of my former colleagues in the store, and they ask me how I got this position. I tell them, You always have to remember that jobs change all the time. You have to keep learning.'" You can reach Louis Aguilar at (313) 222-2760 or laguilar@detnews.com.

  83. 9/05   Speakout: Bush's 'war' on federal workers
    Rocky Mountain News, CO
    By Timothy D. Allport
    Like most Americans, I commend the troops on the front lines during this difficult time in our nation's history. It is my hope, however, that more people come to remember those of us standing on the second line - federal employees. We respond to national emergencies, protect the borders, enforce the laws, operate the nation's prisons, deliver the mail, protect historic sites and national parks, support military operations, protect the food and water supply, administer and run essential government programs. Most federal employees diligently perform the duties expected of them. Yet, this administration has effectively declared war on the civil service system and refueled antigovernment sentiment. Legislation to outsource and privatize government jobs is in full gear, so corporations can get richer and career positions become low-paying service jobs. The recent disturbance at the private prison in Crowley County should serve as a wake up call for state government officials who would put money before security. Government-run prisons are certainly not immune to violence, but prisons, like other government agencies, are not corporations. I know in the federal prison system the public gets what they pay for. We are probably the most well-trained correctional workers in the world and the largest correctional system in the United States. Our record speaks for itself. Our correctional institutions generally run very smoothly. That is one reason why the public is largely unaware of what has been happening. Collective bargaining and labor laws have been trashed under the guise of national security. Agency budgets are dangerously underfunded and morale is low. overtime pay and maybe our retirement systems are being threatened. Reduction-in-force notices have been sent to thousands of employees. A hiring freeze is in place and mandatory overtime is burning out our staff. The problem of understaffing within the Internal Revenue Service has quickly become a governmentwide concern and the public needs to understand the implications. By the time News readers see this, our union will be airing a radio ad on several local stations, and, on Sept. 21, we intend to hold an informational picket. And what we want all Americans to know is that federal employees have been treated like a threat to national security even though we are national security. Timothy D. Allport is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 709 at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in unincorporated Jefferson County.

  84. 9/05   Changing world of work
    Chicago Daily Herald, IL
    By Emily Krone Daily Herald Business Writer
    Though employment has expanded since September of last year, persistent slack in the labor market has diminished job quality, according to a study released today by a Washington, D.C., think tank that focuses on the interests of low- and middle-income workers. The report, released biennially by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, tracks the decline of real wages and the rise of nonstandard employment, particularly the phenomenon known as "just-in-time" jobs. Just-in-time employment refers to the practice of hiring and firing according to the ebb and flow of the business cycle, as manufacturers manage inventory. Temporary, part-time and overtime employment - arrangements that allow employers to adjust staffing levels quickly - may all fall under the category of just-in-time. According to the report, 13% of all jobs created since August 2003 are in the temporary employment industry. The report also found that since the 2001 recession, the percentage of workers in part-time employment has fluctuated more wildly than at anytime in the last 30 years, suggesting that businesses were utilizing just-in-time practices to "test the recovery waters" without assuming the risk of full-time hires. John Challenger, of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas in Chicago, said he has observed the trend in the Chicago area. "It used to be everyone was a permanent, nine-to-five worker," he said. "Now companies aren't adding as much bench strength. They're waiting for growth to happen." Richard Kay, an analyst specializing in Chicago markets for the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security, said it is difficult to determine whether the increase in temporary hires indicates market strength or weakness. On the one hand, he said, the trend could indicate employers are "sticking their toes back in the water." Conversely, he said he has heard of several Chicago-area manufacturers who have cut payroll by replacing experienced, full-time workers with temporary help. Historically, upswings in temporary hires have coincided with economic upswings. Since data became available in 1990, employment in the temporary-help industry as a share of total employment peaked in 2000, at the height of the Internet boom. For workers, the shift to just-in-time can mean job instability and loss of benefits. "More people today are adapting to and accepting part-time work," Challenger said. "But that can also mean that there are more people seeing their lives disrupted." Between 2000 and 2002, workers who said it was "not at all likely" they could find a different job with about the same income and benefits increased 10%, to 39%. The report also found that regular, full-time employees are more than four times as likely to receive health insurance from their employers as non-standard workers. The trend, however, also reflects worker demand for more flexible schedules. Joan McAniff, branch manager for the temporary agency Manpower in Schaumburg, said temporary placements can be "win-win." She said temporary agencies allow employers and employees to get to know each other before they offer or accept a permanent job. Positive or negative, the trend is here to stay, according to Robert Gleeson, the director of governmental studies at Northern Illinois University. As the local economy becomes increasingly tied to the global economy, companies must become "more nimble," he said. "Just-in-time is part of that ability we need to flexibly respond to changes that happen in the global economy," Gleeson said. "That's new territory - especially for us in the middle of the heartland."

  85. 9/06   Workers of the world, relax - Toil used to be a necessary evil - Now, our jobs define us, op ed by Alain de Botton, NYT, A19.
    [They also used to define us in the past - witness the thousands of surnames derived from crafts and trades: Wheeler, Tinker, Smith, Goldsmith, Carter, Wagoner, Bowman, Knight, Rider, Currier,...]

  86. 9/06   An economy that turns American values upside down - Working harder but not sharing in the gains, op ed by Bob Herbert, NYT, A19.
    [And that won't happen until we reduce the hidden labor surplus by cutting our workweeks.]

Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
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July 1-12/2004
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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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