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Timesizing News, October 6-11, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


10/09-11/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/08-10 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 which is from 10/09-11 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 10/09-11), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 10/09   Hard work, hard times - Europe's fears over outsourcing look to be overblown
    By Carla Power, Newsweek International
    [But stay tuned.]
    It's close to midnight in Warsaw, and Marzena Beresciuk has taken a taxi straight from work to a 24/7 convenience store to buy groceries. Late nights are the only time the carefully coiffed record promoter can find to shop, given her standard 12-hour days. Like the rest of those lucky enough to have jobs in high-unemployment Central and Eastern Europe, she works hard. The average workweek in Europe's new member states is 44.4 hours, compared with 38.2 in the 15 Western members of the European Union. "Let's get to work," Warsaw professionals like to joke. "The earlier we start, the later we'll finish." Western European workers are spooked. They're haunted by the specter of Eastern European upstarts luring their jobs away with the promise of cheaper labor and longer hours. In Germany, employers exploited such fears to wring unprecedented concessions from unions this summer. In France, a recent poll shows that outsourcing now tops the list of economic worries. No matter that businesses have been shifting operations to Eastern Europe since 1990, or the fact that experts say it's actually helped save Western European companies by improving their global competitiveness. "There's a panic," says French union rep Bernard Fillonneau. With an ear for the political groundswell, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin just pledged 1 billion euro to "the battle against outsourcing." Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, nurturing presidential ambitions, quickly sounded a similar note. All this brought a tart riposte from Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts, who pointed out that it was "better that companies stay in the EU than move to Asia." He's right. Workers may be hurting now, but in the long run the Eastern European "threat" may be the best thing that ever happened to the Western European economy. It should speed reforms, convince workers of the need to loosen labor rules and work more competitively, and provide a bulwark against companies' going to more far-flung competitors like China and India. This summer five Central and Eastern European states lobbied in Brussels for increased flexibility under the European Working Time Directive, arguing that the EU's 48-hour limit on the working week cut into their productivity. That competitive drive, says Katinka Barysch at the Centre for European Reform in London, is crucial for Europe's survival in the global economy: "If we didn't have enlargement, we'd have to invent it." Try telling that to anxious Western European workers. In Amsterdam last week, 200,000 Dutch workers demonstrated against government proposals to cut benefits and extend work hours. Meanwhile Volkswagen reps negotiating with Germany's IG Metall union threatened to stop making future models in Germany if the union didn't agree to "modifications" in its wage contract. (Volkswagen has already moved substantial production to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.) This summer Siemens got its employees at two cell-phone-manufacturing plants to up their 35-hour workweek to 40 hours without more pay by promising not to move east, cutting the company's labor costs by 30%. The threat of outsourcing, says Germany's IG Metall spokesman Jorg Kother, "is being misused to make it easier for employers to dip into workers' wallets." The fear goes beyond jobs. Stephane Rozes at the French polling firm CSA says the controversy over outsourcing "reactivates the European crisis." It reawakens the biggest French worry about united Europe: that rather than pulling up the new countries, France will be dragged down to them. Responding to such concerns, Paris has proposed developing new "competitiveness poles"— hubs that would draw a single industry's research, manufacturing and training components together, in the theory that companies organized into networks won't outsource. Last month's budget also gave tax cuts to companies vulnerable to outsourcing, as well as to companies that shift previously outsourced jobs back to France. At bottom, the outsourcing controversy is probably hyped. The biggest wave of de-localization, as the French call it, happened a decade ago; foreign direct investment in the new member states today is actually dropping. Wages are rising fast in the East; Hungary's have gone up fivefold in the last 14 years. Productivity in the West far outpaces that in the East; the figure in Poland, for instance, is a mere 47.9% of the EU average. Outsourcing anxiety, notes Maxime Lefebvre of the French Institute of International Relations, merely masks the real problem—failed industrial policy. Simply put, "We're not creating enough jobs." If Western Europe addressed its own internal problems, perhaps it wouldn't have to worry about hardworking Easterners.

  2. 10/08   Albertsons to trim employees' hours in Dallas - Part-time positions part of strategy to help company battle Wal-Mart
    Idaho Statesman
    [start sidebar] Albertsons' part-time argument In a 15-minute satellite broadcast to employees Judy Spires, president of the Dallas/Ft. Worth division, explained to employees why a majority of them would be reduced to part-time work. Here are excerpts of her key points. • "Team, we are in a do-or-die situation. And as the leader of this organization, I must make some very difficult decisions and implement survival and growth strategies that will turn our current situation around." • "Our customers' shopping habits have changed and we need to have associates in the stores when our customers are there.... This requires swift action at store level. Schedules must be written to reflect the flow of customers when they most need our care and handling such as weekends and rush hour." • "When we had high volume in our stores and before the number of competitors in the marketplace exploded, it was easy and right to support our full-time workforce because we could. Now with our volume cut more than 50% in many instances, our company has taken way too long to face reality and make the necessary, very emotionally tough decision to right our operation." [end sidebar] Albertsons Inc. has told the 20,000 employees in its Dallas/Ft. Worth division that a "substantial group" of them will become part-time employees in a move to cut costs and improve customer service . Division President Judy Spires told employees in a recent satellite broadcast that the division is in a "do-or-die" battle with Wal-Mart and other competitors. She said her division must have the ability to move to an organization staffed mostly by a "flexible, part-time workforce" that would work 4- and 6-hour shifts each day rather than a standard 8 hours. The cost-cutting in Dallas follows a strategy the company has focused on since mid-2001. Albertsons CEO Larry Johnston said he expects to reduce costs across the chain by $1 billion before the end of 2005. Through the second quarter of 2004, Johnston told analysts in August, the company had reduced costs by $820 million, mostly from unprofitable store closures and new store acquisitions. Spires said the change in her division would accomplish a number of important goals including: • Putting more employees in the stores when customers are shopping — including morning and evening rush hours and weekends. • No longer wasting labor costs by having stores fully staffed when shoppers aren't there. • Allowing stores to better serve customers which would grow sales and help Albertsons regain the leading market share that was lost to Wal-Mart earlier this year. The Texarkana (Texas) Gazette first reported the story last week after a videotape copy of the satellite broadcast was given to them anonymously. The Gazette on Thursday provided the Idaho Statesman with a copy of the videotape. Jennifer Vroman, Albertsons spokeswoman for the Dallas Region, was quoted in the Gazette as saying the division had to make the changes to better serve customers while "maintaining the cost of running a business." Officials at Albertsons' headquarters in Boise declined to comment when contacted by the Idaho Statesman. Strategy could spread A labor spokesman said his union fears the shift to more part-time workers in the Dallas market is a change that may spread to other markets. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union represents 120,000 employees in 22 states, a little more than half of all Albertsons employees. The Dallas/Ft. Worth division doesn't have union workers. The strategy of cutting hours and relying on part-time workers is not likely to spread to the company's other divisions, according to Burt Flickinger III, a retail analyst and managing partner of New York-based Strategic Resource Group. "Florida might be a possibility," Flickinger said. "But they'll likely focus on markets where they're trying to build business and in markets where they don't have the size and scale that they do in the Western states." The battle in Dallas For now, Flickinger said, the Dallas/Ft Worth division is the priority because of a heated battle with Wal-Mart. Just this year Wal-Mart toppled Albertsons to become the No. 1 grocer in the Dallas market. Dallas always has been one of Albertsons' premier markets. It's the market where the company typically introduces new sales strategies. Dallas was the first major market to introduce the Preferred Shopper Card and more recently it was the market where the company introduced its handheld shopping scanner. The Dallas Morning News reported in February that the Wal-Mart now controls 25.1% of the market in Dallas. Albertsons — which had nearly 20% of the grocery shoppers the year before — now only controls 17. 6%, according to 2004 edition of Market Scope, a publication of Trade Dimensions International Inc. "Wal-Mart is determined that Texas and most importantly the Dallas and Houston markets will be the biggest battleground," Flickinger said. At last count, Wal-Mart had more than 40 supercenters and nearly 20 neighborhood markets operating in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market. Albertsons has 158 stores in Texas and about half are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market. In some instances, Spires said during the broadcast to employees, sales volume at stores in the division had dropped by 50%. "Do you know that our division is losing money?" Spires asked in the broadcast. "Do you know that we operate in the most competitive marketplace in the United States?" She added: "Our research tells us customers do not see us as their store of choice due to our inability to consistently provide for their current busy time-constrained lives. We must have shorter shifts and more hands in the stores to fix this or we will not be able to turn around our current situation." The move to shift more full-time workers to part-time didn't come as a surprise to Flickinger. "It's fairly traditional in the industry when there are price wars and profit pressures to adjust hours until some of the other weaker competition rationalizes out," Flickinger said. When this happens, Flickinger said, stores typically go from a 50/50 mix of part-time and full-time to having about 80% of the employees part-time. Although Albertsons has lost ground in Texas, Flickinger still believes the company can survive. "I think Albertsons will be one of the strong survivors, but it will take a lot of short-term pain for some long-term gain," Flickinger said. But Greg Denier, director of communications for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the short-term pain isn't warranted. "If you look at retailers like Albertsons, they are still profitable companies. There's no need for desperation measures," Denier said. "This is not a crisis like in the airline industry. They're still making money and there remains a stable consumer base for supermarkets." Company still on target Albertsons officials announced in a regulatory filing this week that they were still on target to meet profit expectations for the year. Denier says Albertsons' decision to rely more on part-time workers is a "negative trend" in the supermarket industry. "It's sad that Albertsons is doing this," he said. "It's quite a contrast to what supermarkets were 10 or 20 years ago when they could provide an employee a middle-class lifestyle." Denier expects that customer service will suffer because the company may lose full-time employees once they are switched to part-time. "It's a short-sighted business decision and bad for a company that wants to compete as a full-service supermarket," he said. "You need stable, steady employees who can build long-time positive relations with customers." Flickinger, however, doesn't expect the change to lead to poorer service and a loss of customers. He said the division would likely retain the bulk of its experienced employees because options like moving to Wal-Mart wouldn't be attractive because, he contends, Albertsons' pay and benefits are better. Flickinger said some of the jobs might return to full-time if the company can build its sales and improve profits. Support for employees In the broadcast, Spires said she understood that the changes would bring "turmoil" to the lives of many employees and some may need to find additional part-time jobs as well as purchase health benefits. Spires said part-time employees can still qualify for limited health benefits in the company's "Bridge Plan" that would cost an employee as little as $14.60 a week for a single employee. Spires was joined in the broadcast by three Dallas-area store directors who said moving to a part-time workforce had helped boost sales at their stores. One director said he's been giving employees suggestions on how to save money. The director related to an employee how he'd saved money by not taking his clothes to a dry cleaner and cutting out a family cell phone. "In that scenario I was able to show him how much money a month I was able to actually save," he said. At the end of the broadcast, Spires told employees the company is committed to helping employees make the transition. "It's not a matter of choice, it's is simply a matter of our survival and we can't ignore it any longer," Spires said. "Please join me in the fight for our lives and the return of our division to the shining star that it needs to be."

  3. 10/08   Do you dare to wait?
    By Brett Younger
    Dallas Baptist Standard, TX
    Stephen O'Brien, an investigative reporter who's always on the lookout for breaking news, published a thought-provoking piece on how to pick the right checkout line. His article in the Waco Tribune-Herald is a compelling look at, and this is a quote, "the pain of waiting longer than necessary - even if it's just a few seconds." The author offers tips on how to avoid the anguish of extra seconds in line: On the way into the grocery store, look for efficient cashiers. Avoid checkers with blinking lights or name tags that say things like "Hi, I'm Mike. This is my first day." If you hear the words "price check," move quickly in the opposite direction. In addition to evaluating cashiers, don't forget that sackers play a critical role. If bag-boy help looks thin, consider a longer line that has customers with fewer groceries. Don't look just at the length of lines, but also at who's in the line. Stay away from distracted shoppers who are less likely to fill out checks ahead of time. The article is mercilessly critical of those who wait until the transaction is complete to swipe their credit card though the machine. Everyone knows that they should do that as soon as the cashier starts ringing them up! Steer clear of customers with coupons or an abundance of produce. Once you've processed all the variables, pick a line and don't look back. The article quotes one embarrassed shopper saying: "I don't put a lot of thought into the checker or exactly what the customers in line are buying. Maybe I should." The implied response is: "Of course, you should. What's wrong with you? You don't deserve a place in the express line." Is it just me, or is it scary that newspapers assume that we worry about "the pain of waiting longer than necessary - even if it's just a few seconds"? If journalists are investigating how to pick the quickest checkout line, shouldn't we all be asking whether we're in too much of a hurry? The problem isn't the speed of the cashiers. We are the problem. We complain that we don't have enough time. There's so much to do - earn a living, explore a vocation, nurture relationships, care for dependents, get exercise, schlep over-programmed children from one activity to another, clean the house. Time abhors a vacuum. Modern technology promises to make our lives easier, but in the end, computers and cell phones increase the pace of work. We can no longer say that a proposal is in the mail; they'll tell us to fax it. Prior to cell phones, we relaxed when we were driving. Now, even if we don't have a cellular phone, it's hard to relax knowing that other drivers do. We want everything fast - fast food, eyeglasses in an hour, drive-through banking. Like the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland," we're always in a hurry. There's never a moment when there's not something else we should be doing. We carry a list of errands in our head. We fill every minute. How many times have you thought, "I wish there were a few more hours in the day"? The assumption is that given more hours we would accomplish more of what we want to get done. What's more likely is that it would only mean more hectic hours to live through each day. Maybe we should wish for a shorter day, so that the crazy pace of our lives would be limited to fewer hours. When we believe that busyness is noble, we measure our days by how much we get done, stop measuring things that matter more and hardly recognize the gifts we've been given. We lose our ability to play. We lose our passion. We forget our priorities. The psychiatrist Carl Jung said: "Hurry is not of the devil. Hurry is the devil." So here's what we should do: We should take a break. We should stop working, thinking about work, or talking about work. We should rest. Relax. Breathe. Sleep. Dream. Hope. Think. Contemplate. Read. Reflect. Pray. Play. Walk. Talk. Listen. Sing. Dance. Love. Celebrate. We should stop long enough to look at the world, see that much of it is good, and give thanks. We should stand back and view our lives the way that an artist stands back from the canvas to get a broader perspective. We should take our lives off the easel to get a better look. Attaining some degree of independence from our routine can be the difference between feeling like a gerbil on a spinning wheel and giving thanks for the gift of life. We should slow down by finding a nice long line in which to stand.
    Brett Younger is pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth and the author of "Who Moved My Pulpit? A Hilarious Look at Ministerial Life," available from Smyth & Helwys (800) 747-3016.

  4. 10/08   Albertsons cuts hours of Dallas workers
    AP via Grand Forks Herald, ND
    by DAVID KOENIG
    DALLAS, Tex. - Albertsons Inc. has reduced its number of full-time workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where it is locked in brutal competition with other grocery chains and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., labor organizers said Friday. The company would not disclose how many workers were affected. Albertsons has about 10,000 employees at about 80 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As of January, more than half of Albertsons' 212,000 workers were represented by unions, but the company hasn't tried to cut hours for those workers, said Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has tried to organize workers at some local Albertsons. "Clearly this is directed at their nonunion workers," she said. Stacia Leventhal, a spokeswoman for Boise, Idaho, based-Albertsons, declined to comment on whether the company cut workers' hours and took away benefits such as health insurance and sick leave, as workers at a suburban Dallas store claimed. Leventhal's boss in Boise and a company spokeswoman in Fort Worth, Jennifer Vroman, did not return calls from The Associated Press. Albertsons earned $556 million on sales of $35.44 billion in its fiscal year that ended Jan. 29. The nation's second-largest supermarket chain behind The Kroger Co., it has about 2,500 stores. In the Dallas-Fort Worth market, it trails only Wal-Mart in sales. Albertsons has cut the hours of employees elsewhere. In June, a reduction in employees' hours in Oklahoma were part of a requirement at stores across the country, Vroman said at the time. In the first six months of this year, Albertsons cut $710 million in costs as part of a plan to eliminate $1 billion in annual costs, chief executive Lawrence R. Johnston told analysts in June. At an Albertsons in Plano, a 38-year-old cashier who has worked at the store for 14 years said her take-home pay has dwindled from $300 to $143 a week since she was forced to go part-time a couple months ago. She said she now works 18 to 24 hours a week. She has lost benefits such as sick leave, and remains eligible for health insurance only by contributing unused vacation - and that runs out this week. "It's really hard for me. My husband is ill and can't work. I have to pay the bills and food and rent," said the woman, who didn't want to give her name because she feared losing her job. "They said the company is not doing well and they're doing this because they don't want to close the store." The Dallas area is a highly competitive market for grocery stores, which traditionally survive on thin profit margins. The Plano Albertsons is across the street from a recently remodeled Kroger and down the street from a more upscale Tom Thumb store, owned by Safeway Inc. Looming less than two miles away is a new Wal-Mart Supercenter. Wal-Mart controls about 25% of the grocery market in Dallas-Fort Worth, ahead of Albertsons at nearly 18%, according to research firm Trade Dimensions International Inc. Wal-Mart's prowess at cutting prices has pressured other local chains, which have higher costs, analysts say. Albertsons' challenges extend far beyond Dallas. The company said earlier this year that it lost about $90 million because of a management lockout of workers in Southern California. It has also clashed with unionized workers in Seattle over benefits. It pulled out of New Orleans and Omaha, Neb. Shares of Albertsons fell 20 cents to $24.17 in trading on the New Stock Exchange. The shares have gained 6.7% this year.

  5. 10/08   Minimum Wage Increase: Help or Hype?
    CNSNews.com Commentary via Cybercast News Service
    By Kimani Jefferson
    Massachusetts senator John Kerry, like other liberal politicians, is once again calling for an increase in the minimum wage. The Kerry plan calls for a 36% increase to seven dollars an hour. He says it will help those living in poverty. Like all liberal ideas, it sounds good at first. But what will the net effect be, specifically on blacks? The old adage remains true: The devil is in the details. According to a Employment Policies Institute (EPI) study, increasing the minimum wage won't alleviate poverty among the working poor. The majority of workers living in poor families already earn more than Kerry's proposed increase. Likewise, those earning minimum wage are more likely to live in families with incomes three times the poverty line (teens working their first jobs). An increased minimum wage would undoubtedly help some people. Eileen Appelbaum, a Rutgers University labor economist, says raising the minimum wage by $1.85 would translate into more than $3,800 a year in additional income for a full-time minimum-wage employee. But raising the minimum wage would also affect the size and earning potential of the workforce. One thing must be remembered about business: Profit is something employers don't forget about. History has proven employers won't stand idle, and increasing employee costs means staffing cutbacks and reduced hours. Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis points out that there are more negative consequences of a wage hike. Based on demographic studies of past increases: - A 10% raise in the minimum wage will reduce overall youth employment by 2.1%. - For low-income workers earning minimum wage or slightly better, a 10% minimum wage hike will result in a 10% job loss. - Eighty% of the net benefits will go to families who are not poor. - Teenagers will be encouraged to drop out of school, reducing their overall capacity to rise above low-skill level jobs. According to EPI's research, the effect on the black community would be particularly acute. For younger blacks, "A ten% increase in the minimum wage causes an 8.5% decline in the employment of African-Americans (aged 16-24)." It's a misperception that the working poor are poor because of a low minimum wage. In fact, the EPI study notes, "70.7% of workers living in poor families [already] earn wage rates greater than $7.00 per hour." Real reasons for such poverty include the fact that many of the affected work less than full-time and family sizes are too large for such low hourly wages. In the end, over 60% of the benefits of a minimum wage increase would go to families with incomes twice the poverty line or more. So, what's the answer? The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a far better policy tool for aiding low wage workers in poor families. According to EPI: "For every dollar in wages earned by a low-income family with two children, the federal government provides a tax credit of 40 cents. Workers with one child have an effective minimum wage of $6.90 per hour (the $5.15 per hour minimum wage plus an additional 34% credit of $1.75) and workers with two or more children have an effective minimum wage of $7.21 per hour (the $5.15 minimum wage plus an additional 40% credit of $2.06)." Employers don't directly pay for the EITC, so it causes no reduction in demand for low-skill workers. Also, the EITC would also help those in low-income families who are already making more than the minimum wage. It's the difference between sounding good and being effective. Liberals should have learned from the well-intentioned but failed programs of the '60s that intention doesn't guarantee outcome. It would be great to just look at numbers as they are, form ideas and merely extrapolate conclusions. Liberal conclusions regarding who would benefit from a wage hike does precisely this. It's a clumsy and dangerous proposition, however, for the working poor. Protecting workers from poverty is a great idea. Expanding the EITC is the best way to aid them without hurting small business (which hurts the working poor). Some are convinced that the wage hike will work. Well, to use Mark Twain's words, "The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain't so."
    (Kimani Jefferson is a member of the Project 21 National Advisory Council.)

  6. 10/08   Sick levels rising in social services
    Rochdale Observer, UK
    Social services staff at Rochdale Council are taking nearly a month off work sick a year. New figures show that the department's sickness levels are getting worse, despite a crackdown by council chiefs. Forecasts for this year, based on absences taken in the first three months, show that staff in adult care are expected to take 23.12 days off sick this year, compared to 18.64 last year. In the early part of the year staff in that department took nearly six days off sick each. The record of child care workers is nearly as bad. It is estimated staff will be absent almost 22-and-a-half days, having already taken an average of 5.6 days in the first quarter. If the forecast is correct then both sections will have figures more than double the council's target of 11 sick days per employee. Council chiefs fear this will cost them millions of pounds. A report to Monday's corporate services committee reveals that eight out of the council's 20 departments are failing to meet the council's sickness level target. The revenues and benefits section is also badly hit. Sickness is expected to rise from 12.48 to 15.64 days off per employee. Other departments ­ such as strategic housing, leisure services and environmental management ­ are improving, with the latter cutting its levels by one-third. Two years ago Rochdale Council had the highest levels of sickness absence of all Greater Manchester authorities and the second highest in the country. The latest report shows that last year's figure of an average of 12.03 days per employee was a 30% improvement on the previous year. This is below the council's own target of 12.5 days, which is also the district auditor's recommended level. An action plan has been set up by the council to tackle the problem and workshops are being organised in departments unable to reduce levels. Councillor Paul Rowen, the council leader, said: "This is costing the council millions because if someone is off sick they have to be replaced. If the council was a private company this amount of sickness wouldn't be tolerated and we shouldn't tolerate it, either because it is a waste of council taxpayers' money." Conservative group leader Councillor Ashley Dearnley suggested not paying people who are off for three days or less to stop people taking off Friday or Monday for a long weekend. Councillor Allen Brett, the Labour group leader, said: "Sickness absence in adult care is a problem and we've got to tackle it." Terry Piggott, the director of education, said that absence levels were greater in Social Services because it is a 24-hour service and there was a lot of lifting in adult care which could cause injuries. He also said that people were challenged about why they were off after returning to work.

  7. 10/08   Home for the Holidays The Jewish Journal, CA
    by Howard Nemetz
    My son attends Hebrew day school. At least, I think he attends it. It's October and he hasn't been there for a full five-day week yet. The school year begins, as it always does, the week of Labor Day - three or four days, depending on the school. I get that. A short week helps the potentially shocking transition from the carefree late-night/late-morning routine of summer to the foreign atmosphere of sitting still and concentrating on something other than PlayStation. Monday morning of the second week of school, we hit the ground running. It's time to get in the swing of things. It's time to learn. It's time for Rosh Hashanah. OK, nothing you can do about that. It's not Columbus Day or Grandparents Day. It's a biggie - after all, it's in the Bible. This year, the holiday fell on a Thursday and Friday, so the kids had another three-day week. Wednesday morning, I wake my son for school. He informs me that he has the day off. Apparently, the teachers need the day to prepare for the holiday. I'm not sure why it takes a whole day to buy a round challah, but I'm not sure about a lot of things - why people comb six strands of hair across their head and assume no one will realize they're bald, to name one. It's not a big deal. As they say in football, we'll get 'em next week. Now it's the third week of school. You can't fool me this time. I may not be a biblical scholar - in fact, I'm pretty sure I'm not a biblical scholar, and who would know better than me? - but, as I recall, where there's Rosh Hashanah, there's Yom Kippur. So I know it's a short week - our third in three weeks - but after this, it's smooth sailing until winter break (what was once called Christmas break before we smartly stepped in and protected our children from that word). The fourth week of school begins on Monday and ends on Tuesday. To be completely accurate, it ends at noon on Wednesday, but that half day is really only long enough to drop my son off at school, get stuck in traffic trying to get out of the parking lot, circle the block, get stuck in traffic trying to get into the parking lot and pick him up. Why another short week? It's Sukkot. And it's eight days long. I understand a harvest holiday. I understand that a harvest holiday, by necessity, has to take place around the harvest (i.e., the fall). I don't understand why the holiday has to be eight days long. Other cultures have harvest holidays - Americans, to name one (in fact, the only one I can name without having to do research) and they get it over with in one night. I know our people like to eat, but eight nights?! I think it's because we build a sukkah. If a Jew is going to build something - anything - it's not going to be for one night. Once it's up there, it's staying for at least a week. Sukkot is so long, in fact, that it's got a holiday in it - Shemini Atzeret, followed by Simchat Torah. I realize that Jews have been around for more than 3,500 years. I know that, in all that time, you're bound to accumulate a lot of holidays - some biblical, some celebratory, some of the "they-failed-to-kill-us-all, nyah-nyah" variety. But there are 12, and sometimes 13 months in the year. Spread these babies out a little. At least hold a few of them on the weekends. Hebrew day school isn't free, but so far my son has been home more in September than he was in August. Shemini Atzeret means "the assembly of the eighth day." Biblical scholarsspeak of the perfection of the number eight. It is on the eighth day that a Jewish male is circumcised in order to instill the potential for perfection in the human being. I don't remember my eighth day, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't perfect. I'm confident in saying that I enjoyed my seventh and ninth days a little more than that eighth one. If we want to cut down on these days off, let's start with Simchat Torah, a holiday that celebrates the completion of the reading of the Torah. That doesn't have to be in September. We can read a little slower. We'll finish it in November, right around Veterans Day. By then, my son could use a four-day weekend.
    Howard Nemetz has had a moderately unsuccessful career as a television writer.

  8. 10/08   U.S. Sept. Payrolls Rise 96,000, Less Than Forecast (Update7)
    Bloomberg, United States
    U.S. employers added 96,000 workers in September, fewer than expected, as an expanding economy failed to spur faster job growth in the final report before the presidential election. Factory jobs fell for a third time this year. "We received another disappointing jobs report for America's workers,'' said Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat challenging President George W. Bush in November. John Snow, the Treasury secretary and Bush's chief economic spokesman, said the results showed "good progress'' on employment. The jobless rate was unchanged at 5.4%, the Labor Dept. said in Washington. The government lowered its previous estimate for August by 16,000 jobs to 128,000 and said a series of hurricanes didn't "materially'' affect employment. The results fell short of the average 150,000 jobs a month some economists say is needed to absorb a growing labor force and keep the jobless rate steady. The dollar fell the most in two months against the Japanese yen and the U.S. Treasury's benchmark 10-year note rose, boosting speculation the Federal Reserve will skip an interest-rate increase at one of its two remaining meetings this year. The Treasury's 4 1/4% note maturing in August 2014 rose 29/32 point, pushing down the yield 11 basis points to 4.13% at 12:59 p.m. in New York. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 109.46 yen from 111.23 yen late yesterday. The Fed raised the benchmark U.S. interest rate three times this year, to 1.75%, and said it may keep raising rates at a "measured'' pace. Forecast Economists expected payrolls would rise by 148,000 last month following a previously reported increase of 144,000 in August, according to the median of 74 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from a decline of 10,000 to a 250,000 increase, the second biggest spread of the year, because economists disagreed about the hurricanes' potential effect. The unemployment rate matched the median forecast. "It was a disappointing report,'' said Edward McKelvey, a senior U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York. The Labor Dept. also said the economy may have gained an additional 236,000 jobs in the 12 months ended in March 2004, according to a preliminary assessment. The President's Council of Economic Advisers previously estimated the revision may have been 288,000 to as much as 384,000, adding that its calculation was "highly uncertain.'' The government will issue a final report and officially revise the numbers in February. The revisions would leave Bush with a net loss of about 600,000 jobs since he took office in January 2001. Debate Time Last month's job gain was boosted by a 37,000 rise in government payrolls, meaning that private businesses' hiring slowed to 59,000 last month after averaging 83,000 in the previous three months. "Businesses are still reluctant to hire aggressively,'' said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist for Schwab Soundview Capital Markets in Washington. "Businesses have benefited tremendously from improvements in productivity. That's a good story if you worry about inflation, but it's a bad story if you want more job creation.'' The report was released less than 13 hours before Bush and Kerry, a four-term senator, square off in the second of three debates. Bush's lead eroded after the first debate on Sept. 30, and the candidates are in a statistical dead heat in nine of 11 polls. Since Bush took office, the economy has lost 821,000 jobs. Kerry says the record sets Bush up to be the first president since the Great Depression to preside over a drop in employment. Bush says his tax cuts helped create 1.5 million jobs so far this year, and blames the loss of jobs earlier in his term on a weakening economy inherited from the Clinton administration, the Sept. 11 attacks, corporate scandals and the Iraq war. Snow focused on the 13th straight increase in employment. "The jobs numbers indicate we're continuing to see progress on the labor front, consistent with good GDP growth,'' the Treasury secretary said in an interview. Services, Manufacturing Employment in service-producing industries, which include retailers, banks and government agencies, rose 109,000 last month after rising 113,000 in August, the report showed. The increase was led by a 37,000 rise in government employment and a 34,000 increase in professional and business services. Retail and transportation businesses lost jobs. Manufacturing, a category that's critical in many of the so- called swing states in this year's campaign, lost 18,000 jobs, the most since December. The U.S. now has lost 2.71 million factory jobs since January 2001. "We've had some limited number of layoffs,'' said Richard Schnieders, chairman and chief executive of Sysco Corp., North America's biggest food-service distributor, in an interview from a Business Council meeting in Irving, Texas. "Our employee count is down 1,500 folks in the last six to eight weeks.'' Workweek and Income The manufacturing workweek fell by six minutes to 40.8 hours and overtime held steady at 4.6 hours. Average weekly hours worked by production workers held at 33.8 hours in September for a third month. Economists expected hours would fall to 33.7 from 33.8, according to the Bloomberg News survey. Incomes increased last month. Workers' average hourly earnings rose 0.2%, or 3 cents, after a 0.3% gain the previous month. Economists had expected a 0.3% increase in hourly wages. Average weekly earnings rose to $533.36 last month from $532.35 in August. The hurricanes had a minimal effect on the payrolls report, which is gathered by a survey of businesses, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a statement. "The severe weather appears to have held down employment growth, but not enough to change materially the Bureau's assessment of the employment situation in September,'' the statement said. Some economists said the separate survey of households that determines the unemployment rate showed greater effects from the storms. Robert Gay, chief strategist at Commerzbank Capital Markets in New York, said 1.89 million people in the household survey said they worked fewer hours because of bad weather. Hiring Plans U.S. employers plan to keep hiring through year-end at about the same pace as they did in the prior two quarters, according to a survey released last month by Manpower Inc. Twenty-eight% of the 16,000 employers who were polled said they intend to increase their staffs from October through December, compared with 30% last quarter. "I think caution is a watchword today,'' said Jeffrey Noddle, chief executive of Supervalu Inc., in an interview yesterday. "People are not going to add employment until they are very certain that there is growth in their business or in their industry or in their sector of the economy.'' Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu, the owner of Shop 'n Save and Save-A-Lot supermarkets, closed four stores in Florida due to damage from Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, Noddle said. Three of those were stillclosed. Job Cuts AT&T Corp., the largest U.S. long-distance telephone company, said yesterday it will cut at least 7,400 additional jobs this year and will write down $11.4 billion in assets as it exits the residential-phone business. Bedminster, New Jersey-based AT&T, which had 61,600 employees at the end of last year, had already eliminated 8% of its workforce this year. Sales growth at U.S. retailers slowed for a third month in September as higher gasoline prices cut into spending at chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the hurricanes forced stores to close in the Southeast. Sales at 71 retailers' U.S. stores open at least a year rose 2.4%, the second-smallest gain in 15 months, according to a report yesterday from the New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers. Third-quarter auto sales were the strongest in a year and business investment also rose, helping the economy accelerate from what Federal Reserve policy makers termed a "soft patch'' in the second quarter. Sales of cars and light trucks jumped to a 17.5 million annualized rate in September, a 5.4% increase from the previous month, industry figures last week showed. Growth Forecast The increase in auto sales prompted economists at Banc of America Securities LLC in New York and others to revise growth estimates for the third quarter. The economy probably expanded at a 4.8% annual pace from July through September compared with a previous estimate of 3.9%, said Peter Kretzmer, a senior economist at Banc of America. That would be the strongest growth rate in a year. "Our customers are telling us to be better prepared to handle increases in business,'' said David R. Goode, chief executive at Norfolk Southern Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. railroad, in an interview yesterday. "We have help-wanted signs out.'' The Norfolk, Virginia-based railroad plans to hire about 2,000 new workers this year to replace workers leaving the company, Goode said. Tonight's Debate Bush and Kerry will face questions from undecided voters during a "town hall'' gathering at Washington University in St. Louis, starting at 9 p.m. Washington time. Polls by the Pew Research Center, the Los Angeles Times, the Gallup Organization, ABC News and CBS News all show most viewers thought Kerry won the first debate, which was on foreign policy and homeland security. Bush led Kerry by as much as 13% in national polls two weeks before the first debate and that margin has shrunk to no more than 5% in 11 surveys conducted since Sept 30. Bush and Kerry are in a statistical tie in nine of those polls. He leads in one by 5% and Kerry leads by 4% in another. Among blacks, the unemployment rate fell to 10.3% from 10.4% in August. The jobless rate for Hispanics increased to 7.1% from 6.9% and for whites was unchanged at 4.7%. For teenagers, unemployment dropped to 16.6% last month from 17%. The jobless rate was unchanged for women at 4.7% and for men at 5%.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Torres in Washington ctorres2@bloomberg.net.

  9. 10/09   President's tax cuts are hurting the county
    Tulare Advance Register, CA
    I see the news about cutting firefighters, closed park bathrooms, reduced hours at the library and proposals to increase sales taxes, and I have to shake my head and wonder what people expected when they voted for George Bush and his tax cuts. Like everybody else, I like the idea of paying less taxes, but there is economic reality that cannot be ignored. Here's a short lesson that's very basic and not all inclusive but explains how things really work: We all pay federal income taxes, state income taxes and property taxes. The federal government makes decisions on how the money sent to them will be spent. There are federal programs and federal mandates to the states to implement those programs. The problem comes in when taxes are reduced and the federal government does not fully fund the federally mandated programs. If they don't want to lose more federal money, the states have to pick up the difference. When the state doesn't have enough money to fund the mandates and pay itsbills, it takes the money from the county property taxes. What ends up happening is what is going on now in our county. The state has taken the lion share of property taxes to make up for the shortfall in federal monies. The cities are hurting even more, and so they are looking for other sources such as sales tax increases to keep themselves up and running. Yes, paying less taxes is nice, but ultimately, you really aren't paying less taxes, you've just shifted how it's collected. The politicians won't tell you this. They want you to hear "tax cuts" and not think beyond that. Now you know better. So the next time a politician tells you they are for a tax cut across the board, such as the current president did, start thinking about how the state, county and cities are going to have to make up the difference. When you add it all up, you'll discover that you're really paying more and getting less, while millionaires and multinational corporations who didn't need tax cuts are paying far less or nothing at all.
    JAMYE POVALITIS, Visalia

  10. 10/09   On-the-fringe archives - Most U.S. workers satisfied
    by Dave Murphy, San Francisco Chronicle, CA
    ["On the fringe" is right. Has Dave asked them?]
    We've all heard that American workers put in longer hours than their counterparts in other countries, but a Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing released this week indicates that we're happier about many aspects of our jobs than workers in Great Britain and Canada are.
    [Or, those asked are feeling so insecure in America that they'e afraid to answer frankly.]
    The results, based on telephone interviews with more than 5,000 people in the United States and more than 1,000 people apiece in Canada and Britain, show that 38% of U.S. workers put in 45 or more hours a week, compared with 30% of Canadians and 28% of Britons. But the discrepancies are even wider - in a positive way for the United States - on such topics as bosses and relationships with co-workers. Seventy-four% of the U.S. workers who responded said they are "completely satisfied" with their relations with co-workers. Only 59% of Canadians and 61% of Britons could say that. And despite all the comments you might hear about nasty bosses, three- fifths of U.S. workers are completely satisfied with theirs. Only 47% of workers in Canada and 42% in Britain offer their supervisors that sort of praise. Among the other results - listing the percentage of respondents who say they are completely satisfied: - The physical safety conditions of your workplace: U.S., 73; Canada, 57; Britain, 58. - The flexibility of your hours: U.S., 62: Canada, 52; Britain, 52. - Your job security: U.S. 54; Canada, 40; Britain, 49. - The amount of vacation/holiday time you receive: U.S., 52; Canada, 47; Britain, 49. - The recognition you receive: U.S., 48; Canada, 37; Britain, 37. - Your chances for promotion: U.S., 40; Canada, 29; Britain, 25. - The retirement or pension plan your employer offers: U.S., 36; Canada, 25; Britain, 32. - The amount of money you earn: U.S., 28; Canada, 26; Britain, 23. Job insecurity: One of the most dangerous workplace strategies is to make someone feel insecure. Once in a while, a boss might get away with doing it to motivate a lethargic employee, but it is more likely to blow up in your face. And sometimes it will cause otherwise sane people to go nuclear. Take what is happening with the hotel strike/lockout in San Francisco. You could certainly look at either side and say that insecurity is a major factor. Workers could say that management's proposal didn't offer them a decent living and would threaten their ability to pay for medical care. So they called a two-week strike at four hotels. Management could say that such a strike - and the potential for more - - threatened the stability of not only those four hotels, but 10 others that use union workers. So it locked the workers at all 14 hotels out, and not just for those two weeks. It would be easy for some people to point at the other side's actions and say they are unreasonable, but sometimes escalation is just human nature. That's why insecurity is so dangerous. If you're ever tempted to go over a boss' head or behind a co-worker's back, take a moment and think about what has happened with the hotels. And human nature.
    On the Fringe runs Saturdays. E-mail Dave Murphy at dmurphy@sfchronicle.com

  11. 10/09   Oilpatch workers dying on the roads
    Edmonton Sun, Canada
    By MINDELLE JACOBS
    All you guys who'd rather sleep in instead of being forced to work bleary-eyed early in the morning have an unlikely champion: Dr. Louis Francescutti. "Most young guys will sleep till noon," says the head of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research. "Does it make sense to make them get up at 6 a.m. to work?" Guys in early adulthood are hardwired differently from everyone else, says Francescutti. They simply don't function well in the morning. "We're making people work when they should actually be sleeping," he says. And those 12-hour shifts for days on end that are so common in the oilpatch? Maybe that's not such a great idea, he adds. People can only concentrate for so long before accidents happen, he says. Fatigue is a major cause of road accidents, along with speed, drugs and booze, he notes. I can't help thinking about Christian Alexis, the 21-year-old oilpatch worker who died last week when his vehicle crossed the centre line on Highway 43 and crashed head-on into a pickup truck about 7:40 a.m. He had just finished a 12-hour shift. Did he fall asleep? We may never know. But his death underscores a troubling reality. Alberta workplaces may have had their best safety performance in a decade last year. The annual injury rate in 2003 was the lowest since 1991. Safety training standards have dramatically improved in the oilpatch over the past two decades and that's great news. But workers are still dying - on the road. Oil rigs used to be called "killing fields," says Murray Sunstrum, executive director of the Canadian Petroleum Safety Council. In the past, injuries and fatalities to workers typically involved things like crushing accidents, spinning chains or explosions, he says. "The industry has stepped up to the plate on this issue," he adds, noting the heightened concern with safety in recent years. "Now something as seemingly mundane as driving has supplanted everything else as the No. 1 cause of death (in the petroleum industry)." Fatigue, speed and inattention are the new killers of oilpatch workers, says Sunstrum. "If our outcome is peak performance and safety, we have to ask ourselves are we doing the best we can?" He agrees with Francescutti that it may be time to look at whether making employees work such long shifts - and such early hours - is doing more harm than good. On the other hand, winter is "gravy season" for oilpatch workers and long hours go with the job, Sunstrum says. Also, many people like working longer shifts, he adds. (Under Alberta labour standards, oilpatch employees and other industrial workers can work 28 12-hour shifts in a row before getting four days off.) Part of the problem is that there has been no comprehensive analysis of our traffic collisions, says Sunstrum. Different agencies compile various statistics but no one can see the forest for the trees, he says. "We're doing an abysmal job of putting together information that we can (base) research trends on." That's the daunting task facing various groups scheduled to meet Tuesday in Edmonton to begin mapping out a provincial road safety plan, says Sunstrum. That meeting stems from a recent government-commissioned report that recommended the province spearhead a wide-ranging plan to improve traffic safety. Oilpatch companies are "at their wits' end" as to how to get workers to drive safely, says Roger Soucy, president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada. "Trying to change human nature is a very difficult thing to do," he says. "You give them training and scare them to death with movies of accident victims and there's a percentage of people that just don't get the message."

  12. 10/09   Flexible working hours are best perk, executives say
    Canadian Press (CP) via Canada.com, Canada
    TORONTO, Ont. - What's your favourite employment perk? According to Canadian chief financial officers, it's probably a flexible work schedule. The national poll for the Accountemps staffing service found only six per cent of CFOs regard stock in the company as a highly motivating incentive for ordinary workers. "Not all companies are able to provide flexible schedules; it depends on the nature of the business and the number of people employed," observes Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Motivating Employees For Dummies. "However, firms that can offer this benefit may have an advantage when recruiting and retaining staff." Adds Robert Hosking, manager of Toronto operations for Accountemps: "Even minor variations in work schedules, such as allowing people to come in and leave a half-hour early, can help employees meet personal obligations that might otherwise prove distracting on the job."

  13. 10/09   Comeback kids: When mothers re-enter the work force
    AP via North County Times, CA
    By: SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
    For some mothers who took time off after childbirth, deciding to go back to work is the easy part. The real challenge is finding work that will be emotionally and financially rewarding, and that still allows them to do their other full-time job: raising the kids. Many women who stay home with their children - whether it's for a few months or several years - do expect to go back to work sometime, says Mary W. Quigley, co-author of "Going Back to Work: A Survival Guide for Comeback Moms" (St. Martin's Griffin). It's a follow-up to the first book she wrote with Loretta Kaufman called "And What Do You Do? When Women Choose to Stay at Home." The problem for many mothers is, according to Quigley, that they wait too long to decide how and when they'll re-enter the work force. "You really have to start thinking about going back to work when you make the decision to stay home," she says. And there are other decisions to be made: Will you go back to the same career? Even if you're not "working," are you willing to do volunteer work? Do you want to go back to school? Some careers - human resources, for example - are pretty easy to walk back into, but in others, such as information technology or scientific research, someone who has been absent for five years will be likened to a dinosaur, Quigley says. "If you want to stay in science, you have to keep your hand in it somehow," she advises. That can be done by staying active in professional groups or by taking the occasional class; Quigley shares the story of one woman who took enough part-time classes to eventually earn a master's degree in biology. Even one course from the current year could freshen up a resume. Another option for a former researcher or scientist is to rejoin the work force as a teacher or to start your own science-affiliated business, as one mother who began a for-hire service teaching science to preschoolers did. "You can think about jobs in your field, but not necessarily the same job," Quigley says. Some women, though, see this as a chance to right a wrong. "If you've decided you're not responsible for bringing in money anyway, take advantage of exploring and find something you want to do," Quigley says. "Going back to work is a golden opportunity to choose the job for the rest of your life. Take your existing skills and put them to work in another field." Fields that are the easiest to break into as a mid-life career change are those that are having trouble refilling the ranks, including nursing and grammar-school teachers, according to Quigley, a college journalism professor at New York University and a mother of three. Often these jobs are either physically or emotionally demanding - or both - but there is the possibility of a nontraditional version of these jobs, such as becoming a nurse for an insurance company. "That could be a straight 9 to 5 job," says Quigley. She adds: "Health industries hold huge potential. There are a lot of jobs, and many have the flexible hours that working mothers need. Think of physical therapists, they set their own hours." Parents (while the book focuses on stay-at-home mothers, Quigley says the advice applies to fathers, too) might be surprised how they can sell the child-rearing skills they've learned to potential employers. Parenting also helps you learn to give clear and direct instructions, to control your anger and choose words carefully - which can be helpful when dealing with difficult colleagues or customers, she says. "When you become a parent, you don't have unlimited free time, so your organizational skills and work ethic change for the better. If your kids are in nursery school for only two hours, you don't waste an hour futzing around, you get right to a task. That's hard to quantify on a resume but it's a really helpful skill to have." And, she adds with a laugh, "If you've volunteered on a local school or zoning board, you'll take a lot of heat, more than you'd take at a company." Volunteer work offers an opportunity to hone existing skills and learn new ones. Instead of stuffing envelopes for a charity, offer to work on, or better yet, create its Web site, Quigley suggests, because it will result in a tangible product that you can show to a potential employer. If you work on a fund-raising campaign, lead the project and make sure you add that to your resume, listing the goal that was met and how many people you coordinated, she says. Ambition, excitement and dedication also are difficult to define but they certainly are characteristics employers are looking for, and former stay-at-home moms usually have that fire in their bellies when they go back to work, Quigley reports. They are seeking a job because they want to, because they are energized and looking for self-fulfillment, she says, and they'll probably have a game plan in place for the family, too. Spouses will probably find themselves pitching in more and that's OK: It'll give them time to bond with their children and since they've had the past few years to concentrate on their careers, they might be able to ask for more flexible work hours now, Quigley says. "Most husbands aren't unhappy about a second income when they realize how much college costs," she adds. But even the best-laid plans won't help with the complex feelings a mother has as she returns to work, even if it was her idea in the first place. "There's going to be guilt and stress. You're never not going to feel guilty so just get used to it. If you have everything all lined up - who is going to care for the kids and the meals are all ready - during work hours you've got to put yourself first," Quigley says. "What's the worst case scenario? They'll cry - and pretty soon they won't even look up when you're leaving."

  14. 10/09   Greek communists protest for better wages, against unemployment
    Channel News Asia, Singapore
    ATHENS - More than 8,000 Greek communists demonstrated on the streets of Athens for jobs, better wages, and safer working conditions. The demonstrators, members and supporters of Greece's KKE communist party, came from all over the country for the rally. Party Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed the crowd, denouncing the policies of the two main parties, the conservative ruling New Democracy party and the Socialist opposition party PASOK. Banners read: "No tolerance of poverty," "No to the (European Union) agriculture policy," "No to dismissals, jobs for all" The KKE is calling for the minimum monthly wage of some 600 euros (720 dollars) to be doubled, shorter working hours, and measures to reduce unemployment which stood at 11% in the first quarter of this year. The KKE is the third party in parliament with 12 seats, obtaining 5.9% of the popular vote in a general election last March.

  15. 10/09   Hard work, hard times - Europe's fears over outsourcing look to be overblown
    By Carla Power, Newsweek International (Oct. 18 issue) via Newsweek, NY
    It's close to midnight in Warsaw, and Marzena Beresciuk has taken a taxi straight from work to a 24/7 convenience store to buy groceries. Late nights are the only time the carefully coiffed record promoter can find to shop, given her standard 12-hour days. Like the rest of those lucky enough to have jobs in high-unemployment Central and Eastern Europe, she works hard. The average workweek in Europe's new member states is 44.4 hours, compared with 38.2 in the 15 Western members of the European Union. "Let's get to work," Warsaw professionals like to joke. "The earlier we start, the later we'll finish." advertisement Western European workers are spooked. They're haunted by the specter of Eastern European upstarts luring their jobs away with the promise of cheaperlabor and longer hours. In Germany, employers exploited such fears to wring unprecedented concessions from unions this summer. In France, a recent poll shows that outsourcing now tops the list of economic worries. No matter that businesses have been shifting operations to Eastern Europe since 1990, or the fact that experts say it's actually helped save Western European companies by improving their global competitiveness. "There's a panic," says French union rep Bernard Fillonneau. With an ear for the political groundswell, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin just pledged 1 billion euro to "the battle against outsourcing." Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, nurturing presidential ambitions, quickly sounded a similar note. All this brought a tart riposte from Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts, who pointed out that it was "better that companies stay in the EU than move to Asia." He's right. Workers may be hurting now, but in the long run the Eastern European "threat" may be the best thing that ever happened to the Western European economy. It should speed reforms, convince workers of the need to loosen labor rules and work more competitively, and provide a bulwark against companies' going to more far-flung competitors like China and India. This summer five Central and Eastern European states lobbied in Brussels for increased flexibility under the European Working Time Directive, arguing that the EU's 48-hour limit on the working week cut into their productivity. That competitive drive, says Katinka Barysch at the Centre for European Reform in London, is crucial for Europe's survival in the global economy: "If we didn't have enlargement, we'd have to invent it." Try telling that to anxious Western European workers. In Amsterdam last week, 200,000 Dutch workers demonstrated against government proposals to cut benefits and extend work hours. Meanwhile Volkswagen reps negotiating with Germany's IG Metall union threatened to stop making future models in Germany if the union didn't agree to "modifications" in its wage contract. (Volkswagen has already moved substantial production to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.) This summer Siemens got its employees at two cell-phone-manufacturing plants to up their 35-hour workweek to 40 hours without more pay by promising not to move east, cutting the company's labor costs by 30%. The threat of outsourcing, says Germany's IG Metall spokesman Jorg Kother, "is being misused to make it easier for employers to dip into workers' wallets." The fear goes beyond jobs. Stephane Rozes at the French polling firm CSA says the controversy over outsourcing "reactivates the European crisis." It reawakens the biggest French worry about united Europe: that rather than pulling up the new countries, France will be dragged down to them. Responding to such concerns, Paris has proposed developing new "competitiveness poles" - hubs that would draw a single industry's research, manufacturing and training components together, in the theory that companies organized into networks won't outsource. Last month's budget also gave tax cuts to companies vulnerable to outsourcing, as well as to companies that shift previously outsourced jobs back to France. At bottom, the outsourcing controversy is probably hyped. The biggest wave of de-localization, as the French call it, happened a decade ago; foreign direct investment in the new member states today is actually dropping. Wages are rising fast in the East; Hungary's have gone up fivefold in the last 14 years. Productivity in the West far outpaces that in the East; the figure in Poland, for instance, is a mere 47.9% of the EU average. Outsourcing anxiety, notes Maxime Lefebvre of the French Institute of International Relations, merely masks the real problem - failed industrial policy. Simply put, "We're not creating enough jobs." If Western Europe addressed its own internal problems, perhaps it wouldn't have to worry about hardworking Easterners.
    With Tracy McNicoll in Paris, Malgorzata Bogusz in Warsaw and Stefan Theil in Berlin

  16. 10/09   Take our word for it
    Guardian, UK
    Can a dictionary be a political act? That was certainly the intention when some of the best-known writers in the US rushed into print with some provocatively defined new words, intending to stir things up in the presidential election. The four editors, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dave Eggers, Nicole Krauss and Eli Horowitz, conceived of The Future Dictionary Of America - supposedly compiled several decades hence - as a way for many American writers and artists "to voice their displeasure with their current US political leadership, and collectively to imagine a brighter future". Nearly 200 of them pitched in, and the intended beneficiaries are groups "devoted to expressing their outrage over the Bush administration's assault on free speech, overtime, drinking water, truth, the rule of law, humility, the separation of Church and State, a woman's right to choose, clean air, and every other good idea this country has ever had." Here is a selection of their new words. [KE: abridged for job or time-related daffynitions -] bush v.i. 1 to land a job or position for which one is egregiously unqualified, esp. through unscrupulous means. 2 to take a long and unearned vacation. 3 to sneak home during working hours. Mr Bemis was off with the truck for three hours, so I bushed it back to Crawford for a quick snort and a nooner with Sally Mae. 4[ since 2005 ] to be sent back to the place of one's origin, esp. in disgrace. Scott Phillips jobless oblige n. the responsibility of the out-of-work to update and fabricate their résumés, lay claim to far-fetched computer skills, complete one or more of the several projects they'd never had time for when they were employed, and receive adequate unemployment benefits, including health insurance. Kevin Moffett Zzzunday n. national holiday occurring once every 28 years, when a leap year coincides with a Sunday. Zzzunday is celebrated with 24 hours of uninterrupted sleep, in recognition of an entire generation's accumulated sleep deficit. Secondary holidays have grown to immediately precede Zzzunday, including Sleepless Friday, and a Hibernation Saturday of block parties, children's sleepovers, and retail promotional sales of bed linens, mattresses and pillows. Traditionally, insomniacs mark Zzzunday by going out to a Chinese restaurant - if they can find one open that day. Paul Collins

  17. 10/09   Weekend sittings to boost women judges
    The Observer via The Guardian, UK
    Gaby Hinsliff
    Courts would sit at weekends to give women a better chance of becoming judges, under plans for 'family friendly' working hours. The white, male and privileged world of the judiciary will come under attack this week from measures designed to shatter the glass ceiling seen as holding back female and ethnic minority candidates. Ministers will suggest changes, including different sitting hours, encouraging senior women lawyers to apply, and redrawing rules that force would-be judges to sit part-time initially - in time carved out from their existing careers - before becoming eligible. While more women than men are now called to the Bar, fewer than 16% of judges are women and just under 4% come from ethnic minorities. Baroness Ashton, junior constitutional affairs minister, insisted that appointments would still be made on merit, but judges should reflect the nation: 'One of the things we could look at is whether we could be more flexible. Could we use weekends better?' Ministers will also launch a study of factors underlying the reluctance of talented female and ethnic minority lawyers to try for the Bench, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that many still believe an 'old boys' network' operates and that if they have not come from the 'right' university or chambers they will be rejected. 'It is about perception: if you don't think you are in the right place to apply, you don't apply,' said Ashton. Women's groups have long campaigned for more female judges, blaming outdated chauvinist judges for unduly lenient sentences handed down for rape and other sexual offences.

  18. 10/09   What the experts say - Use incentives to retain staff
    Business Link Nottinghamshire via The Times, UK
    Manny Gatt
    A personal approach is the key to retaining staff. Making staff feel involved, valued and indispensable should cut the high turnover. Other incentives could be offered to employees, such as profit sharing and training schemes. Staff could also be tied to the company contractually. Keeping positions open when newly qualified staff go travelling may help to ensure they come back to the clinic on their return. It is hard for MFS to compete with London wages, but working outside the capital has obvious benefits, and Anna Kavanagh should concentrate on work-life balance to recruit and retain staff. The quality of life outside London is often a draw, and many staff will value this over higher wages. MFS could also explore recruiting overseas. The company is forward thinking in that it offers flexible working hours, and this could be marketed to potential staff as a major benefit, especiallyfor women.
    [Abridged]

  19. 10/09   Now pharmacists sick over new CDAP plan
    Newsday, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago
    By AZARD ALI
    YESTERDAY'S Budget an-nouncement by Prime Minister Patrick Manning that all will access drugs at private pharmacies under the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP), was a bitter pill for pharmacists to swallow. Having again boycotted hospital and health centres' dispensaries yesterday, pharmacists have decided to abandon their current sick-out action and embark on go-slow action from Monday at all health institutions where they work. Newsday obtained the views of the protesting pharmacists on the new measure. Expansion of the CDAP programme to include everyone, regardless of age, the pharmacists said, was aimed at making their jobs redundant at public health institutions. Currently, only persons under age 18 and over 65, access drugs at private pharmacies under CDAP. Only 13 drug items are dispensed under this programme. Hospital pharmacies currently stock 633 drug items and it was the view of the protesting pharmacists yesterday that the measure means less people will access drugs at hospital dispensaries. "Less patients mean less work for pharmacists," a spokesman for the pharmacists said. "The result of which is a cut in the working hours of pharmacists." Pharmacists, who have virtually shutdown dispensaries for thousands of hospital out-patients, are clamouring for reclassification of their work status which would earn them higher salaries. Junior Minister Conrad Enill announced an enhanced package increase for them on Thursday. "We do not think what is being proposed has met our expectations," one pharmacist said. The pharmacists, Newsday was told, have collectively agreed to report to work next week Monday, but will withold their "enthusiasm" on the job.

  20. 10/09   Save the Sabbath
    Jerusalem Post, Israel
    By ZVI ZAMERET
    In the wake of the turmoil that swept the country in the 1990s over the closing of Jerusalem's Bar-Ilan Street on Shabbat, the Supreme Court turned to a committee I chaired to help quell the uproar. We recommended creating a permanent body, the Moatza Meyuhedet Le'yahasei Hilonim-Dati'im - or its Hebrew acronym - the YAHAD Council for secular-religious relations. The Israeli government adopted our recommendation, and five years ago a special council was set up adjacent to the president's residence to deal with matters of principle related to the tensions between Orthodox (especially haredim) and secular Jews (especially the radically secular). Among the issues the council is currently grappling with are religious concerns about archeological digs; medicine's ability to extend life; euthanasia; and issues relating to organ transplants. One YAHAD Council committee - comprising mostly secular members but including several wearing crocheted kippot - has, for the past two years, been discussing how the Sabbath has been completely undermined in this country and what to do about it. A study the committee ordered at the beginning of its discussions discovered that: 18% of employees in Israel - 324,000 people - work on Shabbat. 16% of those who work on Shabbat - 60,000 people - work seven days a week, with no day of rest. People who work on Shabbat work 50 hours a week (compared to an average of 39 in the rest of the economy). A little over 20% of those who work on Shabbat are new immigrants. Nearly half of those who work on Shabbat are aged 18-35. The hourly wage on the Sabbath is lower than the wage on weekdays. Some 600,000 Israelis shop every Shabbat. Israelis spend more than NIS 3 billion annually on shopping on Shabbat. There is no doubt that those figures have increased since the study was conducted two years ago. TRAGICALLY, IN front of our eyes the Jewish people, who gave the Sabbath to all of humanity, is gradually renouncing it. The half of our people who live in Israel are the first to undermine the sanctity of Shabbat and its lofty social goals. If in ancient times the Sabbath was one of the basic rights of every slave - and every animal - today there is an emerging class of Shabbat slaves, with no rights, whose job is to serve their Shabbat masters (whose only desire is material). Thus a basic fabric that united all segments of the nation throughout the ages is being ripped asunder. This is creating an unfortunate partition between the observant and the secular, between the rich and poor, veteran Israelis and immigrants, the old and the younger generations. What can be done in the present reality? The only option is to rethink the Israeli work week and make both structural and social changes. Our council evaluated the possibility of reorganizing the work week: to shorten it to a five-day week, to make Sunday a day off, and to move all commercial and athletic activities to that day. Our research and analysis showed that the idea - which at first appealed to all of us - was impossibly unworkable. Here are just some of the problems we discovered. Sunday as a day off is too expensive for the economy; it can harm our defense posture; it could further weaken the education system; and losing Friday as the day off would conflict with the holy day of nearly one-fifth of the population (Muslims and Druse). We became increasingly convinced that the correct and most feasible solution is an overall social-structural change in the economy to make Friday a true day of rest. We envision our new Friday as a day for shopping, banking, medical treatments, sports, and recreation. And we propose closing all commerce on Shabbat except for cultural activities, organized excursions, restaurants, gas stations, and the like. The crux of our unanimously adopted proposal is to close the shopping malls that opened on Saturdays without any real public debate. These particularly undermine the foundations of our Jewish existence. Now that the Dovrat Commission has proposed that the educational system operate only five days a week, introducing Friday as a free day for the whole economy will be much easier. At the same time, we would like to see a relaxing of some of the restrictions currently imposed by the law. For instance, we favor allowing public transportation on Shabbat. We assume this will serve mainly the needy, young people, immigrants, poor families, and those without cars. After all, everyone else who wants to travel on Shabbat already does. The proposed change, which we see as both social and structural, still requires further careful thought. But we think it should be undertaken, first of all, by secular people so that the move is not interpreted as yet another attempt at Orthodox coercion by the religious. We think it is precisely people who do not observe Shabbat who should begin the soul-searching. We need to reflect upon what has happened to us. What has secular-liberal fanaticism, which has been raging unbridled in our society in recent years, wrought? In the final analysis, Shabbat belongs to all Jews, regardless of their religious orientation.
    The writer is chairman of The YAHAD Council's Sabbath committee.

  21. 10/09   Union: Fire district offer 'comfortable'
    St. Petersburg Times, FL
    By MARY SPICUZZA
    SPRING HILL - The Spring Hill Fire District has reached a tentative agreement with its firefighters union. "The union has gotten an offer that they feel comfortable with going to a vote," union president Capt. Mike Rampino said Friday. Rampino would not discuss specifics of the offer, which was made by the district's negotiating team last week. He said that he must first discuss the issue with union members. Fire Chief J.J. Morrison said the tentative agreement includes a 5% salary increase for each year of the three-year contract. Starting pay for a firefighter/EMT is currently $32,965. At the other end of the scale, firefighters with a paramedic's certificate and at least seven years in the department earn $44,083. Officers can earn even more. There are about 100 employees in the department. "The negotiations are moving along fine," Morrison said. Rampino said members of Local 2794 will be voting on the tentative agreement at ratification meetings Monday and Tuesday and should have a decision by Thursday. Fire Commissioner Richard Martin also declined to discuss details of the negotiations, but said they have been "trying to get this wrapped up" in recent weeks. "There's been a lot of back and forth discussion," he said. "This is something we do every few years, and some years it's easier than others." Martin said negotiations, which began in February, should be over soon. "Nobody wants to see this sort of thing drag on any longer than it needs to," Martin said. Early during negotiations, firefighters were seeking a 14% pay raise over three years and a shorter work week. Neither Morrison, Martin nor Rampino would discuss any other details.
    Mary Spicuzza can be reached at 352 848-1432 or mspicuzza@sptimes.com

  22. 10/09   Oversight may skip lower court - Board may take fire appeal to Supreme Court
    Waterbury Republican-American, United States
    By Cara Rubinsky
    WATERBURY, Conn? - The oversight board may go directly to the state Supreme Court with its appeal of a ruling that vacated a contentious fire union contract. At issue is a decision by Waterbury Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Gallagher, who last week invalidated a fire union contract imposed by the state oversight board. The city is counting on the contract to save $1.5 million in its $325 million budget for 2004-05. Members of the state oversight board met for an hour Friday in a closed-door executive session. Attorneys briefed them on their options, but nothing was decided. Mayor Michael J. Jarjura, who has a seat on the board, said he expects members will vote on whether to appeal at a meeting Wednesday. Attorneys have until Oct. 21 to file a regular appeal, but they must file by this coming Friday if they want to skip the lower court and go straight to the Supreme Court. That could speed up the process because whoever loses in the lower court will likely try to take the case to the Supreme Court anyway. "This way we would get the issue settled once and for all," Jarjura said. The Supreme Court could consider the case or decide a lower court is the more appropriate place for it. Gallagher ruled the oversight board exceeded its authority when it started a second round of arbitration after a first round ended with members deadlocked 3-3 on an agreement negotiated by the city and the fire union. Jarjura and the fire union said that agreement would have saved $1.5 million. A seventh member did not vote on the first proposed contract because he had not attended the hearings. He was replaced and the hearings started from scratch. The board voted 5-2 to impose a contract that differed significantly from the one the city and union reached. The fire union boycotted both rounds of arbitration. The union's attorney said at the beginning of the second round that members' refusal to participate was due in part to their belief the oversight board had no authority to restart the process. "We tried to be reasonable and warn them, and they told us go jump in a lake, basically," said Daniel French, fire union president. "We never wanted this fight. We had an agreement on the table that did a lot of damage to us, but we were willing to accept it. The decision from the oversight board was so heinous and illegally awarded that we feel we need to fight to protect ourselves." Gallagher did not explicitly say the board was wrong to start a second arbitration. But she ruled the contract was void because the board did not issue a decision by June 15, the deadline for the first arbitration. She did not indicate how the situation might be resolved, which was a topic discussed in Friday's executive session, Jarjura said. If a second round of arbitration was ruled invalid, a third is unlikely to be acceptable. Firefighters and the city could go back to the bargaining table, but the oversight board would still have to approve any agreement they negotiated. "There was a lot of discussion regarding the fact that the decision leaves too many things open for uncertainty," Jarjura said. "If we just did nothing, say there was no appeal, what would that mean? What would happen if the city and the union could not come to an agreement, and how would that impasse be broken?" Jarjura said the oversight board may consider asking Gallagher for clarification while attorneys work on the appeal. Firefighters continue to work under their new schedule, which took effect Sept. 11. City and oversight board attorneys contend Gallagher's ruling is automatically stayed at least until they decide whether to appeal. French said Friday that might not be the case. The fire union's attorney is still researching the issue. "We're not entirely sure that the city's assertion that they have an automatic stay is factual, and we have reason to believe otherwise," French said. "We don't want to waste our time or theirs unless we're certain." City officials will face a major budget gap if firefighters return to their old work schedule. The new schedule is designed to minimize overtime by extending the work week from 42 to 50 hours and cutting the number of shifts from four to three so more firefighters are available on each shift. The old contract mandated a minimum of 329 firefighters. The city was already short about 30 firefighters, and another 17 have filed for retirement since the new contract took effect. If firefighters go back to their old schedule, the city will have to pay massive amounts of overtime or hire more firefighters. The new contract mandates fewer firefighters. French said firefighters object not only to working longer weeks at a lower hourly rate, but also to provisions that give city officials increased management rights and allow them to close firehouses and privatize bureaus without consulting the union. The new contract granted them 7% raises, but they are making less per hour than they were before.

  23. 10/10   Exporting Blame - With All the Anxiety Over Outsourcing, Where Should the Fingers Be Pointing?
    Common Dreams
    by Michelle Chen
    As unemployment remains high and once-stable jobs mysteriously vanish, Americans are becoming desperate for answers: How are workers supposed to deal with unprecedented economic insecurity, where are these jobs going, and who is to blame? Interest groups and politicians have decried outsourcing as the American worker's nemesis, fueling public anxiety about the dangers of globalization and a new protectionist mindset that reacts against the free trade doctrine of the corporate America. Kerry, backed by the AFL-CIO, has blamed Bush for the loss of jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. New statistics revealing the export of 3.3 million white-collar jobs by 2015 are stoking fears that the global economy is slowly draining the incomes of the middle class. In response, the usual establishment cogs - Bush's advisers and various corporate spokespeople - tout outsourcing as a positive new status quo for corporations. There are also academics and economists who dismiss the doomsayers, arguing that outsourcing is at best a productive economic trend - keeping prices low and industries efficient - and at worst, a natural phenomenon over-hyped by party politics. The reality, as always, is more complex than either side will admit, and oversimplifying the issue threatens to do more harm than outsourcing itself. There's a stark logic to outsourcing: jobs will go wherever they cost employers less. Geographic movement tends to follow the bottom line. Just as yuppies move to Brooklyn when they can no longer afford converted East Village tenements, so companies like IBM are spurred by the Pavlovian capitalist impulse to set up shop in Mumbai for cost-efficient computer work. Political scientist Daniel Drezner wrote in Foreign Affairs that Americans should avoid "outsourcing hysteria" because the offshoring statistics reflect "gross, not net losses." This basically means that as long as the number of new jobs created compensates for the number of jobs lost to foreign subcontractors, American workers should be okay. Drezner notes, "about 22 million new jobs are expected to be added between now and 2010." But outsourcing hysterics - most of whom are not economists or corporate strategists and therefore at much greater risk of actually experiencing outsourcing first-hand - might find it difficult to mellow out after checking the arithmetic of outsourcing advocates. Since Bush took office, the manufacturing sector has seen a net loss of 1.6 million private sector jobs. An exponential reversal of this trend in six years through private sector growth seems a miraculous feat of economic contortion. Analysts cite the law of comparative advantage, which dictates that if we have elementary school drop-outs in Thailand stitch our sneakers, we Americans can then engage in business more befitting a developed nation: upgrading our technology and services industries, establishing new sectors and providing new employment opportunities for displaced domestic workers. Sounds like a plan. Except we're not following it. Our so-called recovery phase passed its second birthday without much fanfare; jobs that theoretically should be available are simply not there. Stephen Roach, an analyst at Morgan Stanley (a company not known for its anti-globalization stance) told the Times, "Something new is going on. America is short of jobs like never before." Simply put, this ain't your Momma's unemployment cycle. Nonetheless, outsourcing is more a symptom than a disease, and attacking it alone is like uprooting your garden to get rid of hay fever. Outsourcing is the predictable scapegoat for the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost during Bush's term. Manufacturing has been globalization's biggest casualty as factories move overseas to capitalize on abundant low-wage labor. Factory workers, who have seen the number of jobs in their sector dwindle by 11% in the past decade and unemployment jump 36% since 2000, are understandably shaken. But the zero-sum theory of protectionism shortsightedly equates each American job lost to one gained overseas. In fact, the main culprit is not the Dickensian industrial parks of Guangdong but the Brave New World of automated factories. Though the going-rate for a Sri Lankan garment worker is only about 2% that of her American counterpart, a robot will happily log more hours than even the most desperate factory drone. Since the 1970s, the general trend - not just in the US but in all industrialized nations - has been the replacement of workers with cutting-edge production technology. One US company recently got press when it increased productivity five-fold by upgrading their automation systems to operate around the clock with only two staffers. The demand for skilled workers to operate such systems has eclipsed the demand for unskilled wage workers. In the 1980s, job opportunities in manufacturing began shifting dramatically from low- to high-skill labor. This has led to jobless millions choking on the dust of booming productivity, and transformed the composition of a given industry's workforce. American workers are being ousted not by foreign ones, but rather by the same tide of modernization causing massive unemployment even in "insourcing" countries. In China, sleek new industries are similarly rendering state factory workers obsolete. The current pattern of white-collar jobs being lost to the information revolution is an outgrowth of a long-standing, worldwide trend. But if outsourcing isn't the enemy, is it our friend? Bush's Council of Economic Advisers have proclaimed, "Free trade is win-win. Free trade encourages countries to specialize in what they do best." Apparently, what poor countries do best is funnel peasants into mega-factories to produce Walmart Tupperware, while America specializes in increasing simultaneously the nation's overall wealth and the number of poor people at home and abroad. If these are the benchmarks of what the CEA deems "economic well-being around the world" - well, everybody's a winner. The "win-win" school is also guilty of using zero-sum reasoning to prove that newly created domestic jobs will "replace" eliminated ones. Job loss trends hardly correlate to the "robust" growth analysts envision. The economy is restructuring to create new opportunities, but wealth is also shifting into fewer hands. A study of worker displacement from 2001 to 2003 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 60% of displaced workers had found new jobs, but over half were earning less, one third taking a pay cut of at least 20%. Moreover, underemployment has grown alongside unemployment as more Americans turn to part-time work to get by. Expectations for the high-skill labor market seem similarly detached from reality. The BLS recently reported that unemployment over the past year remained constant at all educational levels, except for high school graduates, whose unemployment increased. And yet professional sectors requiring a college diploma are expected to lead the anticipated wave of job growth. Even if they do, former auto plant workers are not likely to find reemployment as high school teachers or software engineers - two of the most promising sectors, according to the BLS. Bush's 2005 budget seeks to cut job training and supportive services for the unemployed, which, along with severe under-funding of public schools, ensures that low skills will remain low. Outsourcing's cheerleaders think multinational corporations will reinvest profits domestically and therefore expand employment. But while outsourcing companies feed off a slew of incentive and assistance programs, "reinvestment" often expands profits more than it expands job opportunities. The number of domestic jobs at US multinationals grew at only half the pace of offshore jobs between 1982 and 2001, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. With white-collar outsourcing gaining momentum, this divide between domestic and offshore growth will only intensify. And the prospects for displaced low-skill workers getting rehired for skilled positions, by the same bosses who downsized them, look dim. Outsourcing reflects the cold protocol of the corporation: maximize output, minimize input. But protectionism is not a responsible solution to a "race to the bottom" affecting all of humanity; it smacks of Reagan-era xenophobia and undermines opportunities within the context of globalization to improve living and working conditions for workers everywhere. Policymakers and activists cannot react to outsourcing without tackling broader issues implicated by it. Lower labor costs in the developing world stem from appalling working conditions, which international institutions fail to address. Income loss due to globalization and recession reveals the need for tax reform that favors working families over CEOs. Schools should prepare students to rise to the challenge of a volatile international economy. The federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program should encompass a broader range of workers and communities left behind by "recovery." While America's workers seek to assign blame, fingers should point not to factories in Asia but to a government that squanders resources on the military and economic domination of weaker nations, to boost an economy that actually undermines domestic living standards. Without systemic reforms, shipping jobs overseas is not a winning formula for anyone except big business. Yet by making workers of all backgrounds realize they face a common struggle, it might be a catalyst for a true structural adjustment: one that reverses the hording of power by the engines of capitalism and restores dignity to labor on every shore.
    Michelle Chen (cainzine@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her writing has appeared in South China Morning Post, Clamor, ZNet, IntheFray.com, and The New Standard.

  24. 10/10   Non-stop public services
    China Daily, China
    Various public service departments should not stop working during holidays, said an article in the official website of the China Central Television. An excerpt follows: Contrasted from the busy sectors of travel, commerce and transportation over the National Day Golden week, some public service departments are taking a relaxed holiday. The banks stopped working, the post offices delivered no mail, the hospitals only opened for emergencies, administrative approval centres also shut up. Not only during the Golden weeks, but many public service departments stop working during weekends, which brings about inconvenience to the public. Public institutions normally open eight hours a day, five days a week, and close for the three Golden week holidays every year. But a market economy takes no break and holidays are actually peak time for operation. The work of public service departments involves various sectors and many people's lives. Their taking a holiday will easily cause inconvenience and difficulties to social life, and sometimes even lead to big economic losses. For example, the furniture chamber of commerce in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, reported to a related department last year that unavailability of official permissions and approvals during holiday and weekend breaks would affect the enterprises' normal operation and business opportunities. After applications and negotiations, they finally had the local approval department arrange holiday duties to provide the much-needed services. Due to their special social functions and responsibilities, public service institutions should not stop during holidays. But every citizen has a right to take holidays. Therefore, public service departments should not implement the same working timetable and enjoy holidays like normal public institutions. Working staff of the public service departments can rotate days off. But services provided for the public should not be stopped. Public service sectors, especially those government administrative approval departments, should take the social responsibility of providing good services. They must learn from the sectors of travel, commerce and transportation and serve the people without a break.

  25. 10/10   Full-time jobs prove elusive - 'Contingent' labor force transforms world of work
    MSNBC
    By Jonathan Weisman CYNTHIANA, Ky. - Phillip Hicks had loaded his rusting pickup and was heading to work one afternoon last year when his tearful daughter called from a pay phone. She had been pulled over for speeding, she told her father, and worse, she was driving with a suspended license. The police had impounded her car and left her by the side of a dusty highway. advertisement To most workers at the sprawling Toyota plant where Hicks works, the detour to pick up his daughter would be a headache, no doubt. To Hicks, 40, it was considerably more. He called his employer to say he would be late for the swing shift. But since Hicks is a temporary worker, his daughter's brush with the law became a permanent blemish on an already shaky employment record. Temps are allowed only three days off a year, and Hicks was coming up against that. "They told me I had an attendance problem," he sighed wearily, his soft mountain accent revealing his roots in coal country to the east. Hicks is among the ranks of what economists call the "contingent" workforce, the vast and growing pool of workers tenuously employed in jobs that once were stable enough to support a family. In a single generation, "contingent employment arrangements" have begun to transform the world of work, not only for temp workers, but also for those in traditional jobs who are competing with a tier of employees receiving lower pay and few, if any, benefits. The rise of that workforce has become another factor undermining the type of middle-wage jobs, paying about the national average of $17 per hour and carrying health and retirement benefits, that have kept the nation's middle-class standard of living so widely available. Hicks has spent four years as a temp worker building cars for Toyota Motor Corp., making manifolds and dashboards for Camrys, Avalons and Solaras sold all over the United States. He works alongside full-fledged Toyota employees who earn twice his salary, plus health and retirement benefits. When Toyota announced it would be coming to Georgetown, Ky., in 1985, it promised to invest $800 million in the community and employ thousands, with thousands more jobs coming through its suppliers. By 1997, the plant exceeded all expectations, with 7,689 full-time workers, a payroll over $470 million, and a ripple effect creating more than 34,000 other jobs in the Bluegrass state. Controlling additions to workforce But by 2000, Toyota was carefully controlling any additions to the workforce. When Hicks left his family in Knott County, Ky., to seek work at the plant 140 miles away, the only door left open was through a temporary agency, Manpower Inc. At $12.60 an hour, the job would not even let him afford the $199-a-week health insurance premium for his family of five. But Hicks said Manpower assured him that after a year - two at the outside - he would be on Toyota's payroll, earning $24.20 an hour, with health insurance, a dental plan, retirement benefits, incentive pay, the works. "I could stand on my head for a year or two for a $20-an-hour job with benefits," he shrugged. The increasing use of temps "is part of the diminished and inferior wages and fringe benefits you see in all the new jobs that are becoming available," said William B. Gould IV, a labor law professor at Stanford University and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. The government does not have up-to-date figures for the size of the entire contingent workforce, which includes temps, independent contractors, on-call workers and contract company workers. In 2001, the Labor Dept. classified 16.2 million people - as much as 12.1% of the labor force - as contingent workers. It does track one slice of that workforce: temporary workers. Since January 2002, the nation added 369,000 temp positions, about half of the private-sector jobs created during that stretch. Temporary jobs accounted for one-third of the 96,000 jobs added to the economy in September. In 1982, there were 417,000 workers classified as temporary help. Today, there are more than 2.5 million, according to Labor Dept. data. That is about equal to the number of manufacturing jobs lost in the past decade. Barrie Peterson, associate director of Seton Hall University's Institute on Work in South Orange, N.J., said that as many as half of those lost manufacturing positions may have been converted to temporary employment. The change can be abrupt. At A&E Service Co., a small auto-parts assembler in Chicago, employees were told on July 15 that the firm "will no longer hold general labor employees on its payroll. All general labor employees that choose to work at A&E Service Company, LLC must be employed by Elite Staffing effective immediately." On the announcement, workers were asked to check a box accepting or declining the new temporary employment, then sign and date the form. Temps no longer fit the stereotype of the secretary filling in for a day or two. Jobs categorized as precision production, repair, craftsmanship, operations, fabrications and labor now account for 30.7% of all temp jobs, nudging out clerical and administrative support, which represent 29.5% of the temporary army. Peterson calls it "the perma-temping shell game," part of a broader effort by employers to convert sectors of their workforce to temps. Temp workers as buffer Satisfaction with the arrangement varies. About 83% of independent contractors in the Labor Dept. survey said they were satisfied. By contrast, about 44% of temps and 52% of contingent workers said they were not satisfied. The impact of the temp trend on the American middle class can hardly be overstated. As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in a paper last year, temporary workers "receive much lower wages than permanent workers, although they frequently perform the same tasks as permanent staff members." An analysis by Harvard University economist Lawrence F. Katz and Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger found that states with the highest concentration of temps experienced the lowest wage growth of the 1990s. Toyota executives say they use temporary workers as a buffer, to insulate their full-time staff from the ups and downs of consumer demand. Since it opened in 1988, through two recessions, the Georgetown plant has never laid off an employee, said Daniel Sieger, manager of media relations for Toyota Motor Manufacturing in North America. Even without layoffs, however, the plant's full-time staff has declined by 706 positions from the 7,787 employees it had in 2000, according to Toyota. Over that time, the temp workforce dipped from 409 in 2000 to 301 in 2002, then rose to 425 late this summer. Toyota managers say they will try to hire all of their long-term temporaries by the end of the year or in early 2005, after they see how many Toyota workers accept an early retirement package. Forty-seven temps were hired in late September. The management move came after The Washington Post spent a week in Kentucky examining the temporary employment issue at the Georgetown plant. Before September's hires, it had been two years since the plant hired a full-time "team member," Toyota managers said, a period during which the plant shed 240 full-time positions. Temporary employment during that time rose by 124. "Certainly the long-term temporary issue is one that we regret," said Pete Gritton, the plant's vice president of administration and human relations. "We never intended to have those people in here for four years or whatever as temporary." Temporary employment is an increasingly important issue for unions. The expansive labor contract reached between the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co. in September 2003 includes six pages of rules governing the use of temps. Under the agreement, Ford can bring on a temporary worker for a maximum of 89 days, after which the worker must be hired or dismissed. Most temps can only work two days a week, as well as "premium" days such as holidays. Just 62 miles west of the Toyota plant, the UAW made a stand at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant, refusing even to countenance 89-day temps. "It's a big, big deal," said Mike Stewart, the UAW's building chairman at the plant in Louisville. "Any time you get this kind of [compensation] divide, it just means less people making less money who can't afford your product. We will always keep temps to a minimum." The use of temporary workers appears to be most pervasive in plants owned by foreign companies, which tend to locate in states where laws make union organizing difficult, said Susan N. Houseman, a researcher at the independent W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich. One Japanese auto parts plant estimated that a 5% reduction in the share of temps in the workforce would increase total labor costs by $1 million over a year, an Upjohn study found. At BMW's auto plant near Greenville, S.C., about 175 temporary workers supplement a production workforce of 3,500, keeping the assembly line churning out Z-4 roadsters and X-5 sport utility vehicles for the U.S. and global market through lunch hour and break times, said Robert M. Hitt, a spokesman for BMW Manufacturing. At Faurecia S.A., a BMW supplier in nearby Fountain Inn, S.C., about a third of the workers making door panels, consoles and dashboards for the Z-4 are temps, said Campbell Manning of Palmetto Staffing Group Inc., the temporary employment agency that staffs the French auto parts supplier. "They don't hire permanent," she said. "After 90 working days, they used to roll onto the payroll. Now they just keep them as long-term temps." Palmetto Staffing charges Faurecia a flat $12-an-hour for each of its temps. If Faurecia hired its own permanent workers, expenses for workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and other demands would add $4 to $5 onto a $9-an-hour wage. Benefits would add more. Even the temps cannot argue with the logic of hiring a lower-cost workforce. "I don't really blame Toyota," said Roy Biddle, who went to work at the Georgetown plant at the same time Phil Hicks did, nearly four years ago, with similar assurances that he would land a full-time job after a year. "The law's the law, and they're just doing what they can do under the law." To temper expectations, Toyota last year implemented a new policy capping temporary employment at two years. After that period, workers must leave, but can reapply in six months. If hired again, a worker starts at the entry wage of $12.60 an hour, compared with more than $14 per hour if they have been there for a few years. About 160 long-term temporaries, like Biddle and Hicks, were grandfathered in and allowed to stay indefinitely. Nancy Johnson, director of the Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of Kentucky, said that because of the new policy, temps now cycle from one plant to another, working at Toyota, then at nearby E.D. Bullard Co., making fire helmets, then perhaps at an auto parts supplier before heading back to Toyota. Temps applying for state aid At the Kentucky State Cabinet for Health and Family Services' community office in Georgetown, social workers say more Toyota temps are applying for state aid to cover food costs and medical bills. "It's the traditional Japanese model that people talked about in the '80s," Johnson said. "Toyota never lays people off, sure, but the temps are absorbing the financial swings of all these companies, and they're doing it at a price." Rick Hesterberg, a plant spokesman, noted that $12 to $14 an hour in central Kentucky compares favorably to wages even for some permanent jobs. "These people still make good money," he said of the temps. "It's nothing to snuff your nose at, at least in this part of the country." But many Toyota temps say their problems go beyond money. Indeed, life seems always on the edge of disaster, where even rewards - the small gift bag of cookie cutters or the "Star Performer" T-shirts that are given out to temps - seem more like petty humiliations. In February, a Toyota temp posted an anonymous "discussion" paper in the assembly-line men's rooms, pleading "the 'E' word, 'E' for exploitation." "There are temps at [Toyota] who have been here for 3 years, some approaching 4 years, many waiting for the permanent job offer," the essay reads. Toyota "is exploiting their patience, their economic status, their work ethic, their work contribution, their reliability, their health, their safety." Chris, a graduate of Western Kentucky University, once interned at Toyota during college, doing computer-aided design and drafting. He spoke on condition that his last name would not be used. Even with a degree and an internship on his résumé, he, too, was steered to Manpower as the only door into Toyota. But unlike the other temps, he figured his temporary stint would quickly lead not just to the factory floor, but to the white-collar suites. Now, after four years, he frets that his wife wants a second child but he's not sure how they'll pay for the insurance. "These people are making extreme sacrifices, working second shift, no benefits, low pay," fumed Matt Roberts, 31, a full-time Toyota worker since 1997. "It's a disgrace to the American dream. That's what it is." For years, the United Auto Workers has tried to unionize the Toyota plant, to no avail. Recently, the use of temps has become a major issue. For full-time workers, the temps present a quandary. On the one hand, the full-time workers may see the temps as Toyota does, a buffer protecting their jobs. The more low-paid workers there are at the plant, the more profitable the company will be, and the less likely to resort to layoffs, suggested David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. A union might threaten that buffer by demanding that temps be brought on full-time or dismissed. "The temps may help keep the union out," Cole said. "It's in the selfish, vested interest of the full-time workers to keep more temps." But some Toyota workers do not see it that way. Several full-time employees said the growing presence of temps at the plant is holding back their wage gains, while limiting their movement in the plant. Some employees say they have been stuck working nights because any open day-shift positions are quickly filled by temps. "If you break down, they've got a new guy waiting at the door," said Roberts, who with his wife, another Toyota worker, clears a six-figure income. "You're creating a tug of war. There's no protection for either side." In Georgetown, the divisions can show up in strange, some say demoralizing, ways. Toyota is famous for the "kaizen" - continuous improvement - checks that it pays to workers who come up with suggestions that save money. Earlier this year, Hicks and Chris helped devise a change that cut two jobs from their small quadrant of the assembly line. The change meant more work for everyone, but it was more efficient. Toyota rewarded the idea by sending out $500 checks to every member of the team, every full-time member, that is. The two temps who came up with the suggestion got nothing. Their group leader did feel bad. He gave each of them a $25 gift certificate to the Toyota company store. Then a full-time worker slipped them both $50. "You guys got us this money," Chris recalled him saying. "Sorry I can't give you more."

  26. 10/10   In My Humble Opinion: Musing On A Sunday Afternoon
    The Chattanoogan, TN
    by Mike North
    THE WORLD RESENTS our prosperity, but perhaps it should get the speck out of its own eye before it tries to jerk the stick out of ours.
    [Dream on, Mike. Most of the world doesn't give a flying flick about you, or "us", or US, except when we launch into wars of choice.]
    The British take an average of five weeks vacation each year. The Italians and Germans take six weeks. In France, most full time workers take two months off every year. What about us? The average American worker takes 10 days off each year. According to one study, Americans give back 415 million unused vacation days to their employers per annum. So before the world has a fit over our economic clout, they might want to consider getting out of their hammocks and doing some work. A little productivity goes a long way. MONTHS AGO, I was critical of President Bush's immigration reform proposals. The initiative hasn't even been enacted yet, and the Border Patrol estimates that the number of illegals captured at the border has increased by 30%. It seems that a great many Mexicans are under the impression that some form of amnesty has already been enacted, and they are rushing in to take advantage. If this is the case before the proposal becomes law, what's going to happen if it actually passes? THOSE OF YOU who point to Europe as an example for us to emulate will be glad to know that the city council of Monza, Italy has banned fishbowls. Anyone keeping fish must provide a fully equipped aquarium. According to "The week" magazine, councilman Giampietro Mosca claims, "A fish kept in a bowl has a distorted view of reality." Sounds to me like the city council of Monza has a distorted view of reality. Perhaps the citizens should provide a fully equipped aquarium for the council to live in. MICHAEL MOORE IS known for his so-called documentaries, most of which are textbook examples of propaganda. In his films he takes on corporate America, the rich, conservatives ­ you know, Satan and all his minions. Moore is a self-proclaimed champion of the "little guy." Unless the little guy happens to own a small business. In that case, the little guy is Satan. In an interview with the Arcata, CA "Arcata Eye," Moore said, "You know in my town the small businesses that everyone wanted to protect? They were the people that supported all the right-wing groups. They were the Republicans in the town, they were in the Kiwanas, the Chamber of Commerce - people that kept the town all white. The small hardware salesman, the small clothing store salespersons, Jesse the Barber who signed his name three different times on three different petitions to recall me from the school board. @$%! all these small businesses - @$%! 'em all! Bring in the chain [stores]. The small businesspeople are the rednecks that run the town and suppress the people. @$%! 'em all. That's how I feel." Let me see if I can get this straight. Corporations are evil, because they oppress the little guy - as long as the little guy is a dues-paying, union member Democrat. If the little guy is a small business owning Republican, then the corporation that drives them out of business is doing us all a favor. In another example of love and tolerance, Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg released a memo updating Democrat candidates on polling data. The memo addressed the loyalty of the Bush base of support. Greenberg's memo split the Bush base into several demographic categories. No big deal right? Data is usually dissected demographically. But most pollsters and strategists don't refer to their population segments as "The Faithful," "Country Folk," "White Deep South," " - - - - - Boys," and " - - - - - Old Men." Most pollsters would refer to these groups by such tags as "White Evangelicals" or "White non-college Male Seniors." Seems like name-calling is taboo these days, unless you happen to be making fun of whites, males, Christians, or any combination of the three. While everyone is harping on the Enrons of the world, you might want to peek at some of the labor unions. Pat Tornillo, former president of the United Teachers of Dade, used his business card to charge $4,000 worth of jewelry. According to Reader's Digest, he was buying custom tailored suits, flying to India, Bangkok and Australia, and visiting expensive spas. Another teacher's union head, Barbara Bullock, is reported to have embezzled 2.5 million dollars from the Washington, D.C. union she oversaw. In just three months, the Labor Dept. took enforcement action against 34 union officials and employees. In 2003 the total number of criminal enforcement actions was 143. One-third of labor unions file their financial reports late, or not at all. In addition, most of these are never audited. I'm all for busting white-collar criminals. But not all white-collar criminals work for corporations. Some of those criminals might be representing the employees.
    Mike North writes a regular op-ed column for six newspapers in the southeast Tennessee, northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama region. He is a professional land surveyor with True Line Company, Land Surveyors. He is a former Walker County School Board member and a student of history and political science. He can be reached at Mike@myhumbleopinion.net

  27. 10/10   Chairman facing eager challenger - Political newcomer has campaigned hard with red signs countywide
    Charlotte Observer, NC
    Commissioners Chairman Joe Carpenter says his experience and community involvement will help him beat Democratic challenger Blake McLean, a 30-year-old auctioneer from Bessemer City. McLean, on the other hand, says his youth and what he calls voters' dissatisfaction with Carpenter will help him win the race for the Crowders Mountain Township seat on the Gaston Board of County Commissioners. Carpenter, a retired landscaping contractor, says he wants to continue the progress he's made on the board. Among the accomplishments he touts: approving an agreement with Mount Holly to get water and sewer lines to East Gaston High, supporting the Gaston 2012 economic development plan and getting the county on a more solid financial footing. He says he's helping improve the county's finances by decreasing spending and holding down the county's tax rate during his last four years on the board. In 2001, commissioners raised the property tax rate 11% to meet operating expenses. Carpenter said that increase would have been even higher if commissioners hadn't cut expenses. The following year, the board kept the tax rate flat but forced county employees to take days off without pay. Then in 2003, commissioners dropped the tax rate 2.5 cents to 89.3 cents per $100 valuation, but many taxpayers paid higher taxes because of a property revaluation. And this year, Carpenter and commissioner Donnie Loftis persuaded the board to keep the tax rate the same, vowing to set aside any additional revenue for future capital projects to bolster economic development. The county now expects a $5.1 million surplus, in part because sales-tax revenue was higher than anticipated. "I had to deal with the hand I was dealt. I think my record is good," said Carpenter, 68. Along with political experience and community involvement, Carpenter says he's supported by business leaders and others in the community. "But if it's a battle of putting signs out, he wins," Carpenter said, referring to McLean's red-and-white campaign signs that have sprung up in most every township. McLean said he knows he's going to have to fight a tough battle to win in a county that has primarily elected Republicans in recent years. The seven-member Board of Commissioners is all Republican. "But I have heard lots of people disgusted with Joe," McLean said. "If (Democratic state Sen.) David Hoyle can get elected, so can I." McLean says Carpenter's history of raising taxes has upset him and other voters. He first decided to run for office in 1998 after feeling commissioners wouldn't help him resolve a problem with county building inspectors. He said he would listen to his constituents. "When a problem comes to a county commissioner it's his responsibility to take care of it," he said. Like Carpenter, McLean says it's important for the county to build infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, to encourage development and bring jobs to the county by working with the Economic Development Commission and lowering the tax rate. But McLean doesn't support Gaston County's half-cent sales tax referendum because he says residents can't afford any more taxes. "The county is starving the community," he said.
    [And the state is starving the county, and the federal government is starving the state, and Bush's taxcuts for the rich and war of choice are starving the federal government.]

  28. 10/10   German, French Reports May Signal Slowing Growth, Surveys Show
    Bloomberg, United States
    German investor confidence probably fell this month and French industrial production may have slowed in August, suggesting record oil prices are crimping growth in the 12 nations sharing the euro, surveys of economists showed. In Germany, an index of investor and analyst sentiment compiled by the ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim may have declined to 35.5, a 16-month low, from 38.4 in September, according to the median of 24 forecasts gathered by Bloomberg. French output probably rose 0.1% from July, the slowest pace in four months, the median of 18 forecasts showed. "The effect of the oil shock is real for the euro zone,'' said Laure Maillard, an economist at CDC Ixis Capital Markets in Paris. "Given the renewed increase in oil prices, worries about U.S. growth and the deterioration in the German labor market, a drop in the ZEW index will probably confirm the slowdown.'' The manufacturing and service industries in the euro region slowed in September and retail sales declined as unemployment held at a five-year high of 9% in August, reports last week showed. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said on Oct. 7 the 60% gain in oil costs this year makes the growth outlook subject to a "good deal of uncertainty.'' ZEW will publish its report on investor confidence tomorrow at 11 a.m. Thereport on French production will be released by Paris-based statistics office Insee at 8:50 a.m. local time. Trichet Speaks The European Central Bank held its benchmark lending rate at a six-decade low of 2% Oct. 7 amid signs that oil prices above $50 a barrel and rising unemployment are tempering growth. Trichet speaks at a conference in Amsterdam tomorrow at 5 p.m. and the ECB publishes its monthly report for October on Oct. 14. Central bankers "are currently more concerned about the outlook for activity'' than inflation, said James Nixon, an economist at Barclays Capital in London. "That's in the forefront of their minds.'' The pace of growth in the euro region slowed to a quarterly 0.5% in April-June from 0.6% in the previous quarter. The region's recovery remains "relatively timid,'' as slowing global demand weighs on exports and consumer demand shows few signs of a rebound, the Brussels-based European Commission said in its quarterly economic report on Oct. 5. Investors have pared bets that the ECB will raise rates before March 2005. The yield on three-month Euribor interest future contracts for March settlement was 2.31% on Oct. 8, compared with a 2.49% yield on Sept. 7. Italian Production The Euribor contracts settle to the three-month euro- area inter-bank offered rate for the euro, which has averaged 15 basis points more than the ECB's key rate since the currency's start in 1999. The Euribor three-month money market rate was 2.15%. "We expect the ECB to remain on hold in the next 12 months because of the economic slowdown,'' said Maillard at CDC Ixis. In Italy, the third-biggest economy using the euro, industrial production probably rose 0.1% in August, the median of 25 estimates in a Bloomberg survey showed, after increasing 0.4% in July. The report will be released by the Rome-based government statistics office Wednesday. "Rising oil prices definitely are a key factor in the world recovery,'' Italian Finance Minister Domenico Siniscalco said in Rome on Oct. 7. "In our country there's great concern it could reduce the buying power'' of consumers. Italian growth slowed in the second quarter as household spending declined, making the country the worst performer among the Group of Seven industrial nations. Energy Effect The euro region is lagging behind the U.S. and Asia. The IMF said on Sept. 29 that the U.S. will expand 3.5% next year after this year's 4.3% growth and Japan will grow 2.3% after 4.4%. The 12 nations sharing the euro will expand by 2.2% this year and next, the IMF forecast. Higher oil prices are curbing profit at companies including PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest carmaker. The Paris- based company expects rising commodity prices, including steel, to cut operating profit by about 80 million euros for the year, Chief Executive Jean-Martin Folz said last month at the Paris car show. Peugeot has total operating profit forecast of 2.2 billion euros. The increase in gasoline costs also reduces the chances of a rebound in consumer spending, which has already been crimped by rising unemployment. The pace of growth in household demand, the slowest pace in the economy, halved in the second quarter. In Germany, companies such as Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, and KarstadtQuelle AG, its largest department store operator, are threatening to cut jobs unless workers accept smaller pay increases and longer working hours. German industrial production dropped 1% in August from July, the Economics and Labor Ministry said on Oct. 8, the seventh report in the past week to suggest the pace of growth is slowing. The nation's unemployment rate rose to 10.7% in September, the highest since February 1999. Germany's DIW economic institute on Oct. 8 lowered its forecast for growth in the third quarter to 0.3% from a September prediction of 0.4% as demand for exports slowed. To contact the reporter on this story: Francois de Beaupuy in Paris fdebeaupuy@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris@bloomberg.net Chris Kirkham at ckirkham@bloomberg.net

  29. 10/10   Establishing healthy business climate is the difficult part Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc. via MaineToday.com, United States
    With the election weeks away, many business lobbies like to assess legislators' contributions to the "business climate," a phrase that's been bandied about so long that we forget its metaphorical status. The conditions under which business thrives cannot be measured in the precise ways we measure barometric pressure. There is more than one way to promote business prosperity. But thriving businesses, important as they are, constitute only one social value. Scorecard-watching without attention to these broad, albeit always disputable, matters can be harmful to our health. The Maine Economic Research Institute (MERI), an arm of the Maine Chamber of Commerce, recently gave my state representative, Ted Koffman, a 20% rating, an "F" even in an era of grade inflation. I know Ted from his efforts to foster collaborative endeavors between business and environmental groups for sustainable development in Maine. Some business leaders in Bar Harbor, lifelong Republicans, share my respect for him. Scorecards are no better than the assumptions on which they are built. I could provide a long methodological critique of MERI's effort. Suffice it to say its authors assume that any regulation costly to Maine businesses ipso facto creates a bad business climate. Rep. Koffman was docked because he supported LD 1309, a law banning the sale of arsenic-treated wood in Maine. The arsenic in pressure-treated wood can leach out into wells and rubs off when touched, posing health threats to children and workers. The bill imposed little, if any, cost on those few Maine lumber yards that carried this material. And a safer form of pressure-treated wood was already in the marketplace. The bill ultimately reduced risks to people and liabilities to businesses, especially tourism and outdoor-recreation interests that depend on Maine's reputation for safe water and clean air, all of which affect the bottom line. Scorecards like MERI's are replicated by other business lobbies. Many assume that lax regulations, cheap, non-union labor, and low taxes constitute the key to big profits and eventual prosperity for everyone. When the state's economic success depended heavily on exporting raw commodities, that strategy may have made some short-term sense. But as Maine hopes to prosper through more knowledge-based industry and tourism, the case against fouling our own nest becomes ever stronger. MEANS TO AN END A recent study by Charles Lawton and Frank O'Hara for the Maine Center for Economic Policy illuminates the complexity of even such seemingly straightforward issues as business taxation. They provide no easy comfort to either the right or the left. Business cares about tax levels, but often these concerns are subordinate to the quality of municipal and state services. There is a positive correlation between investment in highways, safety, education, and economic development, but the relationship is not always present. Quality of life counts, but the authors are careful to point out just how elusive this concept is. Economic growth is not an end in itself but a means to a higher quality of life. Some environmental economists, inspired by Herman Daly's seminal book "For the Common Good," have argued that conventional economic measures like gross domestic product are inadequate. Economies that produce lots of houses, malls, cars and boats can also produce traffic and asthma. These economists argue that working hours, the incidence of crime, air and water quality, and the degree of social and economic equality are also key indicators of real economic development. Taxes, higher wage standards and more state expenditure on education and sustainable transportation could all work to foster a business climate. But these need to be integrated in sensible and widely monitored strategies. Today, the tourist family that spends $25 at McDonald's in Ellsworth has sent most of that money to out-of-state ranchers, chemical companies and advertisers. In a piece earlier this year for the Maine Sunday Telegram, Lawton reminded us that "Maine households spend more than $3 billion on food products every year, but less than 4% of that total comes from Maine farms. Maine is not likely to supply the local supermarket with coffee, kiwis and mangoes any time soon, but $2.9 billion still leaves quite an untapped market." Maine has growing and increasingly diverse local organic food markets, but there is far more that can be done to foster it. Recent robust growth in organic milk production is an example of how we can meet consumer demand through Maine agriculture. FOCUSING ON OUR WORKERS Steering more of the dollars Maine residents and tourists spend on food and other amenities to local producers benefits the state and its businesses. But simply cutting taxes and looking for cheap labor won't accomplish this end. Bowdoin College economist David Vail has long been interested in sustainable business development. He points out that Maine could reap benefits from efforts like those in Minnesota. That state's tourism center provides customized training for festival directors, survey research, advice on designs for new facilities, and promotion of farm-based tourism. Iowa State University also assists communities in marketing regional crafts and foods and emphasizes local history. Here in Maine, culinary arts students in some vocational programs are given instruction in local produce, nutrition, the role of different foods in different cultures, and broad business and marketing plans. It is not too much of a leap to imagine such students - even working as wait staff - engaging customers in discussions of nutrition and local produce and thereby enhancing the value of the tourist experience and the return both to their immediate employer and to other Maine businesses. But when minimum wage standards are low and communities spend little on employee training, most businesses have little incentive and too few opportunities to hire quality workers. Some industry spokespersons have already responded in all too predictable ways to the study's recommendations. One business lobbyist quipped, "I have yet to see fulfilled the promise that an industry can be improved by increasing the taxes that it pays." Yet the rise of the very industry that makes mass tourism possible disproves this "common sense" maxim. The growth of the modern auto industry would have been inconceivable apart from the tax-and-spend policies of the highway trust fund. In addition, unionization - and higher wages - among auto, steel, aluminum and rubber workers fostered improved technology, better efficiency, and more secure, productive and knowledgeable workers. And for many workers, higher wages also translated into more demand for the product. No scorecard is ever likely to silence all doubters. The best are the ones that admit they are based on debatable assumptions and put these out for public scrutiny. The value of an economic development strategy that recognizes the skills of the work force and that provides people with the opportunity to choose leisure over more goods is hard to prove definitively. Nonetheless, for my money that is the kind of business climate worth fighting for.
    John Buell of Southwest Harbor is a free-lance writer who focuses primarily on labor and environmental issues. He's the author of "Closing the Book on Homework," published by Temple University Press.

  30. 10/10   Union for sex-trade workers?
    Edmonton Sun, Canada
    DOUG BEAZLEY
    [A bit late. We've already got The Coyotes.]
    Shorter hours. Higher pay. Condoms that never break. A pitch to start unionizing Canada's hookers, strippers and massage parlour geishas is getting a cool reception from women in and around the city's sex trade. Recently, sex-trade workers in Toronto and Montreal announced the creation of a new job collective with the very un-sexy title of the Canadian Guild for Erotic Labour. The guild isn't a full union, but was conceived to push for workplace reforms in the sex trade. Nice idea, says one local escort - but don't expect to see escorts lining up to join. "Anybody who comes around to the escort agencies talking union is gonna end up a Jimmy Hoffa under three feet of concrete," said Carol-Lynn Strachan, independent escort. "How could you make it work? How do you stop the owner from punishing the girls who organize for a union?" Strachan agrees escorts are routinely victimized by their agency employers. JoAnn McCartney, an ex-vice cop with city police who now runs a court diversion program for prostitutes, says she researched the industry's fine schedule when she busted several local agencies in the late 1990s. "An escort can be fined $100 by her employer for not picking up the phone on the first ring," she said. "They can be fined for chatting with another escort while in the limo. An escort can get fined every time she turns around. "It's sheer exploitation. Maybe a union could help protect them from getting ripped off by the agencies." But no guild or union could take in streetwalkers, said McCartney, since the dangerous lives of street prostitutes would create liability headaches. "The minute some john got sick from an HIV-positive hooker, he'd be suing the union." One independent massage parlour worker said a guild would have a hard time getting organized in Edmonton - or in any other city where biker gangs control much of the trade. "You'd be asking for a war," said Tanya. "Who wants to get in the middle of a war?" As for strippers, the manager of one peeler bar says he doubts a union or guild could ever negotiate a scale of pay or benefits. "The girls get paid on the basis of the shows they do, and what the customers like," said Michael Kolody of Diamonds, 4635 Gateway Boulevard. "We sure don't base it on seniority."

  31. 10/10   DM Views: Growing Global Mail: Opportunities and Obstacles
    By: Michael J. Critelli, Pitney Bowes Inc. via DM News, NY
    Quick, rank the world's most dynamic industries, with market presence, growth potential in core offerings and new products and services and the infrastructure to accommodate new growth. Did you list the global mailing industry? If not, you're overlooking a sector wherein market dynamics, new technologies and regulatory change are poised to reinvigorate the value of mail and related services. The industry's image lags reality. Mail is viewed as a dying communications medium used by a remaining few "unwired" individuals. That unreconstructed view of mail is just plain wrong. In the United States alone, the mailing industry generates $900 billion in revenue, drives more than 8% of the GDP and accounts for more than 9 million jobs. But it is the new value of mail and related services - more tailored and personalized, more secure, more competitively priced and more flexible - that is the breaking news in this industry's future. In the world of TiVo, the national no-call registry and an unending avalanche of electronic spam, mail's non-intrusive, highly personalized, traceable reach gives marketers reason to reconsider mail as the key to unlocking the fortunes of one-to-one marketing. Technology associated with customer-oriented mail continues to improve. Printing costs are falling. Quality and prices are improving in data mining technology. Data-rich, readable symbology on letters is enabling delivery applications, like the U.S. Postal Service's Confirm, to track mail from origination to delivery. Over time, tracking and tracing will offer marketers "date certain" delivery options, enabling unprecedented precision in direct mail campaigns.The mailing industry has innumerable unexploited opportunities to help businesses. The biggest competitive advantage every postal operator has is its universal network of carriers who deliver to millions of homes daily. Among the hottest new growth services in the delivery market is home-to-home shipment of packages resulting from online auctions by providers like eBay and Amazon.com, an industry opportunity that did not exist until recently. What's the catch? To capitalize on these innovations, postal operators must focus on the growth potential in their core offerings while working with regulators to achieve greater flexibility in the pricing and modeling of new products and services. Companies like Wal-Mart, Intel and Dell Computer have revolutionized retail thinking with continually declining prices. Regulators must give postal operators the flexibility to offer similar, promotional rates to new businesses and for new products and services. There are an infinite variety of delivery options for which some recipients will pay a premium price. Conceptually, letter carriers could provide delivery and pickup service for other items such as video rentals or pharmaceuticals. The key is always to innovate, to find ways to reduce costs in the network and to unlock additional economic value for the recipient. Posts also must encourage and expand work sharing as a core business strategy. As stakeholders for a growing mailing industry worldwide, we need to be vocal advocates for eliminating practices that drain resources from postal operators and detract from their core mission. Postal operators need to work with their governments to develop strategies that enable ongoing value delivery and cost reduction. Governments and postal operators need to recognize that a vibrant mailing industry will generate far more jobs, both in the public and private sectors. In the United States, the mailing industry has more than 10 times the number of employees outside the USPS than within it. Finally, the industry must reconcile disparate international rules that govern mailing technology and operations. Postal operators are protective of their particular standards and processes, but individual, uncoordinated actions make the industry smaller and less competitive than it could be. Each of these changes is eminently achievable. The value that each change would unleash will mark the beginning of a dynamic period of growth for the global mailing industry. Michael J. Critelli is chairman/CEO of Pitney Bowes Inc. (www.pb.com).

  32. 10/10   Business Books/BIZBOOKS1011 - "What I Learned From Sam Walton: How to Compete and Thrive in a Wal-Mart World," by Michael Bergdahl, John Wiley & Sons Inc., $24.95
    Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN
    Retail warriors will find this book by a former Wal-Mart insider revealing, perhaps frightening. At the nation's No. 1 company by sales, executives prefer the term "share of wallet" to the more traditional business measure "market share." Such vocabulary evokes a determined mind-set. Senior Wal-Mart managers at the Bentonville, Ark., headquarters usually find themselves at the office on Saturday mornings for the legendary 7 a.m. strategy sessions - a routine established by founder Sam Walton, who used to let loose his hunting dogs in the office just to keep things interesting. "While 99% of the other corporate offices in America are closed down for the weekend, Wal-Mart's competitive strategies are discussed and implemented at its Saturday morning meetings," writes Michael Bergdahl. "Unless competitors are willing to go to a six-day work week ... I don't know how they can even think about competing directly." The formula for Wal-Mart's success, he concludes, is easy to describe but difficult to implement. My conclusion: It might be a nice place to shop, but I wouldn't want to work there.

  33. 10/10   Green Party hopeful presents unconventional vision - David Cobb speaks at LSU
    The Advocate, LA
    By DEBRA LEMOINE dlemoine@theadvocate.com
    David Cobb told an audience at LSU Sunday that he expects to win the presidential race for the Green Party. Unlike President George W. Bush and Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry, Cobb views victory in a rather unconventional way: not by occupying the White House. Cobb, a 41-year-old attorney and Green Party organizer, promotes an unconventional vision of an anti-corporate and environmental-friendly platform that calls for a complete overhaul of the U.S. political system. His success, he said, is based on convincing people who agree with him to register and vote for the Green Party instead of selecting the lesser "evil" candidate of the two main political parties. "We the people are far more powerful than we realize if we only act collectively," said Cobb, a Texas native who now lives in northern California. Cobb talked to 20 people who came to LSU's Allen Hall on Sunday night specifically to listen to his ideas in a forum sponsored by the Green Party of Louisiana. Bristling at the idea that the Green Party is a "spoiler" for a potential Democratic victory, Cobb said alternative parties give more voters a voice. "In 2000, I think Al Gore won the presidential election. I think Bush stole the election," he said, referring to voters being turned away at Florida polls and the U.S. Supreme Court's intervention that ultimately ended in a Bush victory. Voters cast more votes in favor of Gore, but Bush won majorities in enough states to garner more Electoral College votes. In this election, Cobb said, re-electing Bush is worse than electing Kerry. The Green Party strategy to promote its platform without aiding Bush is to focus on those states that party officials believe Kerry can't win, like Louisiana. "If you vote for John Kerry because you're trying to get Bush out of the White House, you are wasting your vote in Louisiana," he said. Bush will win Louisiana's nine Electoral College votes, which will render Kerry votes meaningless, he said. "Instead, be willing to participate in the only political party willing to advocate for change," Cobb urged. Cobb likens "voting Green" to the progressive political movements that led to reforms such as the end of slavery, women's right to vote and the 40-hour work week. Third-party candidates promoted such causes in past elections and managed to gain popular support for them, Cobb said. The Green Party promotes cleaning up the environment and controlling corporate practices that they believe will destroy the planet. Cobb said passing a few environmentally friendly laws and winning a few court cases are not enough. Instead, Cobb said, there needs to be an entire overhaul of the legal system that he said gives too many rights to corporations. Cobb said the election system also needs to change to give more voters a voice. Besides abolishing the electoral college, Cobb supports the idea of proportional representation, such as electing candidates to governmental houses based on the percentage of registered voters to each party. He also promotes instant-runoffs, where voters rank candidates. The candidates garnering the least first-choice votes would be dropped and other candidates selected as a second-choice would receive those votes. The process would continue until there is a candidate who receives a majority of votes. On foreign policy, Cobb supports U.S. forces turning over Iraq to United Nations peacekeepers. If he were elected president, he said, his first action would be to offer the Iraqis an official apology for the war, rescind corporate contracts for rebuilding the country, and ask the U.N. to direct all peacekeeping efforts. When asked, he said if he had been president during the Sept. 11 attacks, he would have allowed Afghanistan to extradite the attack's mastermind Osama bin Laden to an international tribunal instead of insisting the U.S. courts try him. Cobb also supports other "progressive" standards, such as raising the minimum wage and ending trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  34. 10/10   Teachers question spending of pension fund 'perks'
    AP via Dayton Daily News, OH
    CLEVELAND - Retired Ohio teachers who are paying more for health care believe their pension fund is spending too much on employee perks at their expense. The State Teachers Retirement System has spent more than $2 million in tuition reimbursements to its employees since 1999, double what Ohio's four other pension systems have spent combined. Retired Chillicothe schools Superintendent Dennis Leone, a critic of the STRS, said the disparity is further evidence that the pension fund's administrators "don't have a lick of sense." Damon Asbury, STRS executive director, said he and the board have gone to great lengths to withdraw or reduce some of the employee benefits. But he defended the tuition reimbursement policy, noting that employees must take courses to improve or acquire skills necessary to perform their jobs. Asbury also disputed the contentions of some retirees that STRS employees have seen no increase in their health care premiums in recent years. "Our associates have stepped up and increased their premium costs," he said. "They went from paying essentially nothing to almost 20% of the premium." Leone and Tom Curtis, a retired industrial-technology teacher from Canton, chafe at other benefits STRS provides to employees, including a 37?-hour workweek, a stipend of up to $5,000 a year for each child they adopt and subsidized child care. STRS previously paid about $500,000 a year to defray employees' child-care costs. After retirees complained, administrators cut that benefit to about $190,000, which the 56 employees who use the onsite child-care facility are "repaying" by giving up two vacation days and working two hours a week of uncompensated overtime. Asbury said STRS began offering the adoption subsidy in 1997 at the request of the late Dave Thomas, an adoptee who later founded the Wendy's hamburger chain. STRS spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said four employees have received a total of $16,073 in adoption payments since then. As for the 37?-hour work week, Asbury said it's a practice that goes back many years. He said it will be examined in an audit to be completed early next year.

  35. 10/10   Voters will decide if business must cover it - Employers would be forced to pay for healthcare
    Ventura County Star, CA
    By Timm Herdt, therdt@VenturaCountyStar.com
    When Spencer Garrett, general partner of the Pierpont Racquet Club in Ventura, decided several years ago to purchase the historic Pierpont Inn next door to the tennis club, he made a difficult business decision. "With the club, we had a nice, profitable business and felt that providing health coverage to our employees was something we could afford. We applied that model to the inn," he said. "We said that's going to be company policy, but it put us behind the 8 ball with that expense." Garrett has stuck with the policy, which he says makes the Pierpont "the exception, not the rule" among restaurants and small hotels. But the expense keeps climbing, up about $75 per month per worker over the last few years, with total monthly premiums now close to $8,000. Although it has been hugely expensive, Garrett said, the decision to offer health benefits was the right thing for his business. He's not sure it's the right call for every business, however, or if it's something the government should require. "If the law insisted on it, you might not be able to get started with a business," he said. "You may look at that and say, 'The cost of my business just increased by $6,000 or $7,000 a month. That's my profit. It may be better to go to work for some big company and have somebody else pay my healthcare.' " In a nutshell, that is the issue posed by Proposition 72. Health insurance is prohibitively expensive, at $9,950 a year for a family of four and rising fast. According to a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, it is beyond the reach of most household budgets. If families can't afford it, who will be the "somebody else" to pay? An American tradition Employer-based health coverage is the linchpin of the American healthcare system. Of the adults in California not old enough to qualify for Medicare, two-thirds who have health insurance obtain it through their employers, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. On Nov. 2, Californians will answer a fundamental question about employer-based healthcare: Should it become a basic right of workers, akin to the minimum wage or the 40-hour work week? Proposition 72 on the Nov. 2 ballot would mandate all employers with 200 or more workers offer health coverage to workers and their dependents by Jan. 1, 2006, and all those with 50 or more workers offer coverage to at least some employees a year later. The plan would have to offer basic coverage and be available to all who work at least 100 hours a month. Employers would be required to pay at least 80% of the premiums. If a company chose not to directly provide the coverage, it could pay a fee to the state to support a health insurance purchasing program that would make policies available to its uninsured workers. A law requiring that was passed by the Legislature and signed by former Gov. Gray Davis last year, but business groups led by the California Restaurant Association initiated a petition drive to overturn the law by referendum. A yes vote on Proposition 72 would affirm the law; a no vote would overturn it. If it is affirmed, California would become the first state in the nation to mandate that midsized and large employers offer health coverage to workers. The business groups argue the law would stifle investment, force marginal operations out of business and eliminate jobs. Proponents say those concerns are overstated, because 94% of all businesses in California - those small businesses with fewer than 50 employees - would be exempt. Proponents frame the issue like this: The number of people in California without health insurance has become a crisis. Something must be done to address it. If not this, then what? There are an estimated 6.3 million people in California without health insurance. Not only does this lead to needless suffering and premature deaths, proponents say, but it also shifts costs because when the uninsured do require urgent medical care someone else has to foot the bill - taxpayers through public health programs, hospitals and doctors through providing services for which they are never paid. When it comes to addressing the problems of the uninsured, society's options are few, said Maricela Morales, associate executive director of the Ventura-based Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. "Either we expand government-based insurance or we expand employer-based insurance," she said. "It's really that limited." Surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading national health policy research group, have found that 73% of Americans prefer employer-based private insurance to government-run healthcare. Yet Kaiser's annual surveys of employers show that fewer employers are offering health benefits - 63% this year, down from 68% three years ago - and the cost of providing such benefits is rising dramatically. The 2004 survey found an 11.2% increase in premiums from a year ago, which followed a 13.9% increase the year before. The year-to-year drop in the percentage of employers that offer health coverage has been too small to make specific conclusions, said foundation vice president Gary Claxton, but the effect over time "looks like a steady decline. When we look at the difference between the high point and where it is now, we can say it has gone down." Change in business Claxton said it appears fewer employers are offering coverage because of "a combination of rising costs and a poor economy." The drop is almost entirely among businesses with fewer than 200 workers. He said it is not mostly a case of companies that once offered benefits deciding to eliminate them, but rather a change in employment patterns - manufacturing businesses closing, replaced in the economy by service businesses that do not offer coverage. Donna Gerber, director of government relations for the California Nurses Association, said Proposition 72 is needed to set a floor for employer-based health insurance, much like the minimum wage sets a floor for wages. "We want to make sure that all access to healthcare isn't stripped away," Gerber said. "The future is clear: Middle-class families are going to see their healthcare reduced or taken away." In addition to the nurses association, Proposition 72 is supported by the California Medical Association and the California Healthcare Association - the groups that represent doctors and hospitals, respectively. Morales said the need for Proposition 72 is to address the shift in employment patterns before too many more low-wage workers are left to fend for healthcare on their own. "It will affect large companies that pay low wages and do not provide insurance," she said. "A low-wage industry and the lack of health benefits; the two go hand-in-hand." The lack of health insurance is particularly acute among Latino workers, who are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage industries. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has found that although Latinos make up 26.5% of the California work force, they account for 59.1% of workers without health insurance. Opposition to the measure comes chiefly from the restaurant and retail industries. Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association, asserts that "20% of our membership goes out of business the first day this law takes effect." The industry operates on very low profit margins, he said, and the added cost of paying health insurance premiums would in many cases be the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. The association has thus far contributed $1.4 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 72. Says Condie: "We can't afford not to fight." Proponents acknowledge the cost of doing business for restaurants that don't now offer health benefits would rise. They argue it would be a fairer to raise the price of a hamburger a few cents to pay for healthcare than to continue to place the burden of caring for restaurant workers when they get sick on taxpayers. Said Beth Capell of the healthcare advocacy group Health Access: "People aren't going to drive to Nevada to buy a hamburger. ... Taxpayers can no longer carry the burden. The systems that the uninsured rely on are collapsing because they're underfunded." Competition counts Alan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said the competitiveness issue cannot be so glibly dismissed. While restaurants might not directly compete with out-of-state restaurants, he said, other low-wage industries do. The retail industry has to compete with Internet-based retailers. The agricultural industry must compete in a global marketplace. "California would be the only state in the country to have a health insurance tax or a healthcare mandate," he said. "It would put us at a horrible competitive disadvantage." Business groups argue that although Proposition 72 is designed to address the problem of the uninsured it would do an incomplete job. The UCLA center estimates when fully implemented the health insurance mandate would reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 1 million. "It simply takes a broken system and perpetuates it," said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association. "It doesn't address the problem of the uninsured in any efficient manner." Dombrowski said the Proposition 72 campaign has had the beneficial effect of causing "a discussion about the problem." Zaremberg said the state's business community "is sensitive to the problem and certainly wants to solve it." Although the group's campaign to defeat Proposition 72 zeroes in on the proposed state purchasing pool and attempts to capitalize on public fears about government-run healthcare, when Zaremberg is asked to name an approach that has helped the problem of the uninsured, he cites a government-run program - Healthy Families. That program provides coverage to children of working families. What makes Healthy Families a good government-run program and the purchasing pool plan proposed by Proposition 72 a bad one, Zaremberg said, is that all taxpayers pay for Healthy Families while just employers would pick up the tab for a health insurance mandate in the workplace. Regardless of the outcome on Proposition 72, said Morales of the Ventura County advocacy group, employers will soon be forced into joining the dialogue about a single-payer, government-run healthcare system. One such plan has been proposed in the Legislature by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica. She notes that on the national level the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined a diverse coalition to look for ways to address the problem of millions of working-class Americans who have no health insurance. "We either work within the employer-based system or employers are going to have to participate in what they would probably call bigger government," she said.
10/08/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/07 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 which is from 10/08 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 10/08), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. [This article indicates that some of Juliet Schor's and John de Graaf's messages are succeeding in finding their targets -]
    Rising college costs squeeze students - and graduates
    guest commentary by Devin Nordberg
    Denver Post, CO
    BOULDER, Colo. - ...Affordability of state colleges and universities \is falling in all\ our 50 states, based on...a study recently released by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education (http://measuringup.highereducation.org). You don't have to explain the difficulty of financing a college education to today's college students; most are painfully aware of it. Consider this: The prohibitive cost of higher education mocks the idea of America as a land of opportunity, especially since a college degree determines one's income more than ever. According to the Economic Policy Institute, With healthcare costs skyrocketing and employee benefits declining, the situation is even worse than wage statistics indicate.
    As livelihoods hinge on more expensive education, even those students who manage to attend college are suffering destructive consequences as increasing debt loads limit their freedom. When you're steeped in debt, you face powerful pressure to seek high-wage work. Many people who would like to work in social service or non-profit sectors find that their debt obligations effectively remove those choices.
    With $16,000 in debt after graduation, I have given up pursuing environmental work because it doesn't pay enough to make both my housing and student loan payments. Many non-profits are suffering from this phenomenon. Meanwhile, corporations gain power when more people depend on maximizing income just to meet their debts.
    Partly due to increased debt, Americans work an average of 200 hours per year more now than they did in 1970. With so much less free time, community engagement and parenting time suffers. Even health suffers as overworked parents cook less and eat more fast food.
    America likes to pride itself on being an innovative culture, but people who can't afford to miss a paycheck are unlikely to become entrepreneurs or inventors. Funding higher education as poorly as we do today is short-sighted and ultimately will lessen prosperity for us all. Sadly, with college students working more hours than ever during their school years to try to avoid or reduce debt, their energy and idealism are sapped. Many of my students are too sleep-deprived to do much beyond work and school.
    In the 1990s, some baby boomers embraced "voluntary simplicity." By opting to earn less money, they could turn to work that was more personally fulfilling, and they could work fewer hours, allowing them to volunteer more, spend more time with their families, and live healthier lifestyles. Alas, these options are open only to those without substantial debt.
    We need to enable motivated people of modest means to attend college, not just to be a kinder nation, but to invest in our collective future. If we want all citizens to enjoy the opportunity to improve themselves and our society through higher education, then we should think of education as a social investment, not merely an individual one, and start funding it accordingly.
    Devin Nordberg is an academic adviser at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

  2. Topic: All work and no play makes Jack an entrepreneur
    CNW Telbec (Communiqués de presse), Canada
    TORONTO, Ont. - Nine-in-ten small business owners agree that independence and control over their decisions is the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur. This was the key benefit of entrepreneurship identified by business owners across all sectors and sizes of firms in a recent study released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
    "Even though 92% of entrepreneurs also find running a business stressful, the benefits of being their own boss still measures very high," said Catherine Swift, president and CEO of CFIB.... "Operating your own business requires a serious and sustained amount of time and effort," she noted..\..
    Swift said, in addition to dealing with the work/family balance issues of their employees, the study also found that small business enterprise [SBE] owners have significant issues of their own. The self-employed with no employees, are more likely to be at both ends of the scale: Vacation time is another area where small business owners seem to push themselves for the sake of their businesses. "However, in spite of the long hours and the reduction in the amount of personal time, entrepreneurs value their ability to decide their own futures and take great pride in the ownership of their businesses." said Swift.
    The Work & Family survey was conducted by CFIB between December 2003 and February 2004, and drew 10,699 responses. The results are accurate to within +/- 0.9%, 19 times out of 20.
    For further information: please contact Holly Bennett or Anne Dean at (416) 222-8022; The full report is available at http://www.cfib.ca/research/reports/pdf/WFB_e.pdf

  3. Overtime: Neither Chaldean nor Arabic time but political time
    by Marion Edwyn Harrison
    American Daily, OH
    It’s puzzling to speculate but why are there 12 hours in a day, 5 fingers (except for the [6-fingered] Queen Ann Boleyn) on a hand, 60 (12 x 5, or 10 x 6) minutes in an hour, and so on, but 8 hours in a standard working day, 40 (5 x 8) in a standard working week?
    [We hope the author does not regard the standard workday and workweek as set in concrete. There is very little here about the long series of reductions that left us at 8 and 40 after 150 years of adjustment, followed by a 64-year (so far) freeze. There is also a bit of a wrong impression by repeating these work units were set by politics. Union actions such as strikes and boycotts are more the realm of economics rather than politics.]
    History answers the day and hour riddles, and nature the fingers, but politics the rest.
    The Chaldeans used 12 as their number base.... There are theories but no proof as to the origin of 12 in that context.
    [The best-supported theory is that the Babylonians (old name: Chaldeans) counted their four fingers, their thumb and then their palm, to arrive at a total count of six on each hand.]
    The Arabs, [early] mathematicians of the period dubbed in Europe the Christian Era (although that name isn’t politically correct among our contemporary secularists), used 10 as the basic number. The most obvious theory is that people have 10 fingers but there are competing, mostly arithmetically esoteric, theories. So much for historical answers.
    What is the source of the 8-hour day? What is the source of the notion - statutory since the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 USC, §§ 201ff. - of overtime?
    The 8-hour source was born of political compromise. It probably also has the advantage of practicality. Many people can work productively for 8 hours, especially with a meal break, while fewer can work as productively for 10 or 12 or more hours.
    Why the typical American-employee working week is not 7 days is a mixture of compassion, common sense and Judeo-Christian teaching. Our childhood rhyme reminds us what happens when Jack has “all work and no play.” Why the typical working week isn’t 6, instead of 5, days is politics but it, too, manifests some common sense.
    What about overtime? Whence the concept and why? And, doubtless because 2004 is the quadrennial year - Presidential election - any change or proposed change in overtime rules becomes an election issue. Those candidates seeking the votes of employees, and particularly of unsophisticated employees, naturally can’t - and don’t - resist an opportunity to dump upon any opponent who approves a regulation which affects overtime.
    Thus, the Democrats condemned the Republicans because pursuant to proposed Dept. of Labor (DOL) regulations (August 23, 2004) many workers - for example, some 130,000 chefs and 160,000 mortgage loan officers - supposedly no longer would have been eligible for any overtime pay. Republicans claimed the regulations would have added some 70,000 teachers and 82,000 sales workers who had been ineligible. Overall, the Republicans claimed 6.7 million additional people would gain the right to overtime rates or to clearer and more beneficial overtime rates while the Democrats claimed 6 million people would lose overtime-rate eligibility. (Business Week, 9/06; US Senate Republican Policy Committee Memorandum, 9/9; DOL website materials, www.dol.gov/fairplay; Congressional Record, at H6922 et seq, 9/9.) It would appear the proposed DOL regulations would have benefited more workers, in large measure because they are clearer and would reduce litigation. By and large, it’s blue-collar and nonprofessional white-collar wages workers who are eligible for overtime pay rates, whatever the numbers.
    Does the concept of overtime pay stand the test of reason? The candidate for office must assert a resounding Yes! The more objective answer may be a quiet but rational No. Common sense, human experience and various studies tell us that most people work less productively after they have worked 8 hours than during those 8 hours. Why, then, pay overtime? Wouldn’t it be logical to pay a reduced rate, reflecting reduced productivity (assuming, of course, the individual is not forced to work overtime)? Or, more generous toward the worker, pay at the base rate? The answer undoubtedly varies with the person, type of work, compensation and other factors. However, as a generalization, unquestionably more people work less productively during overtime than during base time.
    Everybody has forgotten a principal - some might say, the principal - reason why the New Deal first inaugurated overtime: To save jobs! The Great Depression was raging in the 1930s, as it did until World War II force-rescued our economy. Some employers were compelling employees to work what we now term overtime while many others were unemployed. Thus, forced to pay the same worker more wages hourly when the worker worked overtime, it was calculated that many employers would not compel their employees to work beyond 8 hours daily or 40 hours weekly and would hire more people, thus reducing unemployment. The labor unions also projected - correctly - that when better times returned more employees would be paid more money because they would work overtime hours.
    A realistic and sensible society would not require any overtime differential unless the employee were compelled to work overtime. (Extra pay for working graveyard or other unattractive shifts is a discrete issue, beyond this project.) Let’s not anticipate the dawn of such common sense, even if this were not a Presidential election year. Society tends to forget why laws are enacted. Laws often take on a life of their own. Tinker with them at your political peril.
    Hold on! It’s the quadrennial year! No tinkering! We must not expect the Congress to risk political peril. What happened on September 9? The expected, of course: the House rejected the proposed regulations, 22 (mostly Northern and Midwestern) Republicans joining the Democrats, 223 - 193. On September 16 the Senate Appropriations Committee added its block, 16 - 13 (although at least the Chairman voted for jurisdictional reasons - a separate subject.) So we never will learn whether the rejected DOL regulations would have benefited more or fewer workers (although objective analysis suggests they would have benefited more, as well as reduced litigation).
    Political PR predominated: Big Labor, in cahoots with the so-called “Trial Lawyers” (who feast upon opportunities to litigate), opposed the proposed regulations, so Congress dumped them. Perhaps it’s not much taught in collegiate political science but my empirical experience since I was a Congressional page 57 years ago, other observation posts on and off Capitol Hill since, is that even-numbered, and especially the quadrennial, years, even more than odd-numbered years, are less for serious legislating unless it’s a handout of taxpayer money (which, of course, is the overriding and masterful Congressional talent).
    Do you think there was any reference in debate to the inherent illogic in overtime - paying somebody more when he is less productive? Or to a principal original FLSA purpose - to provide more jobs by discouraging overtime? Of course not. overtime is a “right,” a “contract,” millions depend upon it, so forth - all good political rhetoric, nothing relating to an original statutory purpose, productivity, economic sense, foreign competition.
    Meantime, without attempting to rationalize how 8 instead of 10 or 12 became the magic base, we stick with 8. Maybe over the relative objectivity of non-election years, as cheaper (and sometimes equally, or more, qualified) foreign workers compete, the politicians might phase out the overtime differential when the overtime truly is not compulsory - but let’s not bet that way. As thousands of my overtime-deprived fellow lawyers can testify, overtime compensation is not a sine quo non of success....

  4. Hundreds turn to job fair for help - Out of work but not out of hope
    Marion Star, OH
    By JOHN JARVIS
    MARION, Oh. - ...Approximately 312 individuals attend[ed] the Marion Connections Job Fair on Wednesday....
    Che Burroughs of Marion said she was seeking a job with more hours after her hours were reduced about six months ago at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles License Bureau. "I like doing what I'm doing, but it's not getting things taken care of," she said, adding she was seeking a job in clerical work that offers benefits. "We're having trouble keeping the ends met."...
    Reporter John Jarvis: 740-375-5154 or jjarvis@nncogannett.com

  5. Mops for pickets - Comfort Suites staff takes layoff fight to streets
    San Francisco Examiner, CA
    by Mary F. Albert
    SO. SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Once equipped with sponges and mops, the former cleaning staff of South City's Comfort Suites Hotel now carry picket signs in protest of the hotel's decision to fire 18 room cleaners in March.
    On Oct. 1 when their union contract with the hotel ended, a cluster of former room cleaners, many of them immigrant women, began pacing the sidewalks in front of the hotel's E. Grand Avenue location, handing out leaflets encouraging potential patrons to boycott the hotel.
    Above a booming blow horn and chants such as "Don't check in, check out," Local 2 union representative Becky Perrine said the group has vowed to gather every Wednesday through Saturday between 8 a.m. and noon until they get their jobs back. "We are not going anywhere," said Perrine. "These ladies worked at the hotel for many, many years. They were mass fired, and we want their jobs back."
    Many of the workers said they chose to picket because they believe they were unjustly treated and, most importantly, need to get back to work....
    For South City's Miriam Villarreal, who worked at the hotel for 15 years, finding full-time work has been a struggle. Reduced hours at her new part-time job have made it difficult for her to cover house payments and her son's tuition at the College of San Mateo. "My husband works full-time, but it is not enough," said Villarreal....
    Even when they were bound by the agreement, the hotel's management firm Paramount Hospitality holds that they acted within their rights when they replaced the staff. "The management contract very clearly states that the hotel has the right to subcontract," said David Lane, president of Paramount Hospitality Management.

  6. County crews cast votes on furlough days
    Union Democrat, CA
    by CHRIS NICHOLS
    Members of the Calaveras County Employees Association this morning were expected to reject a proposed change to the county's mandatory furloughs, deciding to stay with the original plans that call for five days off without pay. Under the suggested change, county offices would have the option to close an hour early one day each week for the rest of the fiscal year, spreading out the mandatory time off most county employees must take. Without association support, the original plan of closing offices for an entire day on four future furlough dates would remain. With 70% of association member's votes tallied this morning, Stacie Link, secretary of the association, said she expected the proposal would be rejected. Five furlough days were approved by the Board of Supervisors this summer in an effort to cut costs. County officials originally estimated $300,000 would be saved with the mandatory days off. The county's first furlough day, Sept. 3, coincided with the Pattison Fire near Valley Springs. With most employees at home, remaining county staff were stretched thin and swamped with calls from residents. The four remaining furlough days are now set for Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving; Feb. 18, the Friday before President's Day; March 25, Good Friday; and May 20, the Friday of the Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jump Jubilee. Dave Barker, president of the employees association, which represents about 20% of county employees said association members were divided on the proposed change. He said many favored keeping a full day off because the time allowed workers to have a long weekend, albeit unpaid. The loss of a full day's pay during one pay period convinced other association members to vote for a change, Barker said. While both county officials and association members are frustrated with the need for any sort of unpaid time off, some county workers hope the furlough days will motivate the general public to speak out about the resulting loss of services. "We hope the public will be outraged," Link said, adding that some association members voted against changing the furlough plan as a protest against cuts to worker's pay. She said she hoped the county would include more input from its employees before making such cuts. "They shouldn't get to the point where the only place to cut is employees," Link said. The vast majority of the county budget covers employee pay. State cuts in funding and larger-than-expected payments to county employee retirement accounts forced county officials to approve furloughs this year for only the second time in a decade. County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell said he was willing to listen to any suggestions from the employee association but added that "management by committee doesn't work very well." At Monday's weekly supervisors meeting, Mitchell said that if county employees had agreed to pay three% to four% on their retirement accounts, the furlough issue would be nonexistent. "It solves all of these issues," he said. Due to the frustration among employees, department directors and county officials caused by the furloughs, Supervisor Victoria Erickson said she has questioned whether approving the mandatory days off was the right call. Like other supervisors, Erickson said her hope in approving the furloughs was to avoid layoffs. However, she said she is not convinced that the furloughs will save as much money as projected. She added that she will be hesitant to approve such a measure next year without more review. "I will take responsibility for making the decision," Erickson said. "Looking back, I'm not so sure it was a good idea to do furlough days."
    Contact Chris Nichols at cnichols@uniondemocrat.com

  7. Pay deal for consultants hands health boards a £13m headache
    The Herald, United Kingdom
    by Calum MacDonald & Helen Puttick
    EDINBURGH, Scotland - A new pay deal for consultants is costing Scotland's health boards £13m more than they expected. In some cases the annual bill for the package is two or even three times the initial estimates, and the boards are having to find the extra cash by making savings elsewhere.
    There have been suggestions that the new contract was designed for England and that increasing salaries and regulating working hours as a way of attracting and retaining staff could backfire.
    The bill for the deal is said to be higher than anticipated because the number of hours that consultants work was underestimated by the officials,
    [in other words, the usual wishful thinking instead of realistic estimation]
    with many dedicated doctors doing a lot more hours than they were paid for, but now can earn more for less work.
    The latest problem follows concern about whether the Scottish Executive would be able to meet its aim of providing an extra 600 consultants by 2006. One consultant, who did not wish to be named, said: "There was a feeling south of the border that there were a number of NHS [National Health Scheme?] consultants not fulfilling their NHS commitments and the way to (make them) do that was to give them a tight, time-defined contract and then pay for what they did. "Traditionally in Scotland most people have been committed to the NHS and have worked probably many more hours than they were really being paid for.... The net effect of the contract is people are being paid more money to do less work than they were previously."
    One Scottish Executive insider added: "I think a lot of people would agree it was a UK contract that was designed for England because of the level of private practice down there is not a major issue in Scotland."
    Under the new contract, consultants at the higher end of the pay scale saw their salary increase from £70,715 to £88,000 while those at the lower end rose from £54,340 to £65,035.
    However, some bonus payments, such as those given for performing family planning procedures, have been removed.
    Peter Bennie, the deputy chairman of the Scottish consultants' committee of the British Medical Association, said any suggestions that the contract was designed for England were "clearly nonsense", stating that although the two agreements were broadly similar, there were also differences.
    The deputy chairman said that before the new deal, consultants were contracted to work 38.5 hours a week but BMA surveys had shown their members were actually working more than 50 hours.
    Mr Bennie said: "I think it is entirely appropriate and sensible that consultants are now getting paid for the hours they do rather than just being paid for some of them. We went through a very detailed negotiating process with the Scottish Executive and representatives from NHS employers. "Throughout that process we were making it clear to them that we were quite clear that consultants were working those sorts of hours, so none of these costs should be a surprise."
    NHS Argyll and Clyde has admitted to one of the largest jumps in the expected bill, from £1.4m to £5.4m.
    NHS Ayrshire and Arran has experienced a jump of £1.45m, NHS Borders £1m and NHS Lothian is predicting a rise of at least £5.6m.
    Asked how any increase in the bill would be funded, NHS Argyll and Clyde said: "Funding will require to be met from the total allocation from the Scottish Executive health department, any overall financial shortfalls will require to be covered from internal savings programmes."
    NHS Shetland, where the bill is £94,000 higher than predicted, said it would find any extra cash required "by deferring other potential developments or finding efficiency savings within areas which do not affect services to patients".
    Some of the health boards have not yet finished negotiating settlements with their consultants, even though the initial deadline was May. NHS Fife, for instance, has agreed deals with only 39% of the workforce.
    A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said that it was wrong to suggest the contract was designed for England, pointing out differences which exist north of the border such as the normal working day running from 8am to 8pm rather than 7am to 7pm.
    She said: "The Scottish terms and conditions were developed in partnership in Scotland to meet the needs of the health service in Scotland."
    The spokeswoman also said that the contract improved the working lives of all consultants in a number of ways, helping recruitment and retention.
    Examples include recognising emergency work as part of their normal job and linking pay rises to achievement.
10/07/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/06 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 which is from 10/07 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 10/07), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. [Re worklife limits - which will eventually be replaced by better workweek limits plus disability & rehab provisions -]
    Saving social security,
    letters to the editor, NYT, A30.

  2. Clairton Public Library marks 100th anniversary
    McKeesport Daily News, PA
    by JENNIFER R. VERTULLO
    CLAIRTON, Pa. - Starting as a small book collection in the basement of the city's former highschool in April 1904, members of Clairton Women's Club knew there was a place in their town for an educational pastime. Moving back and forth between vacant storefronts and school buildings, the library has seen many incarnations. But since 1960, Clairton Public Library has been comfortable in its Miller Avenue home. Today, the library offers everything from children's books to mature fiction and reference catalogues - a collection library board members and Clairton School District officials have worked hard to acquire over the years. "We're still moving on. We're still here," library director Emma Anderson said. "We're keeping up with libraries in Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair. We just need support, and it wasn't always easy." Running a library in a financially distressed city is difficult, she explained. After the library was established with some city funds and some funds from the school-district budget, resources weren't always available.
    Anderson said the library was thankful to get state and federal grants for books and equipment. "We got a lot of books with that money," she said. "We were able to pay for things the public could use, but we couldn't afford them on our own." In 1972, the library began receiving state aid on a regular basis - totaling several thousand dollars per year. That didn't seem like much to library officials, Anderson said.
    The library lost school-district support in 1986 and had to cut hours of operation to 20 per week. "We couldn't have programs," Anderson said. "We weren't here for the students. We didn't have the books to help them in their studies."
    Two years later, more funds became available again and the library was able to remain open 30 hours per week.
    As Clairton's financial status improves, the library regains support from both the school district and the city. "The library is particularly important to me because I believe the way we solve a lot of problems in society is through education," said City Manager Ralph Imbrogno, who also serves on the library's board of directors. "It's particularly important to see all of our citizens, from young children to senior citizens, make use of the library as a pastime and as a means to better our society."
    The Friends of Clairton Public Library Group, run today by President Lorraine Kossum, has helped establish many programs and extracurricular activities over the years. In 2001, a junior "Friends" group was established as a public-service organization and nationally acclaimed local authors - Paul Paulicelli, Boyce Allen and Trisha Gadson - have visited the library to host book reviews in the last year.
    This week, several activities were planned to encourage participation in the library's centennial celebration. Clairton Public Library officials invite residents of all ages to participate in this week's activities and pick up a book while they're there. "When you read a book, it almost becomes a part of you because the knowledge in the book becomes a part of what you know," Imbrogno said. "It becomes part of your mindset."

  3. Library cuts back 3 hours
    The Grand Rapids Press, MI
    By Juanita Westaby
    KENT COUNTY, Mich. - Don't count on Wednesday nights at the Byron Township library this winter.
    Because Kent County voters rejected a 0.12-mill increase for the Kent District Library [KDL] system, the Byron Township branch will be open 3 fewer hours. As of Jan. 1, the library will close at 5 p.m. Wednesdays instead of at 8 p.m.
    Township Board members, having just seen completion of a $1.7 million library building in December, expressed frustration about the cut. "They told us, 'You build us a new library, and we'll give you more hours,'" said Treasurer Carol Houseman. "We built them a new library - and it's not even a year - and they're cutting back hours."
    Voters in the primary renewed a 0.88-mill levy for library operations but rejected the additional millage. In September, the KDL board slashed a total of 53 hours of operations from its 18 branches.
    [What's the breakdown? Were there layoffs?]
    Township Supervisor Larry Silvernail questioned the KDL's priorities, particularly money that will be spent on new checkout technology. "It seems to me in our economic times, when jobs are down, we should forgo the technology and put people back to work," he said.
    [This would imply that there were layoffs.]
    KDL director Martha Smart said voters were informed going into the election that cuts would be made if the additional 0.12-mill levy was rejected. She said the Internet has placed more demands on libraries because it allows more patrons to browse and place library items on hold from their homes. That means library staff have to spend more time handling materials, and some of those employee hours have to be diverted from branches' hours of operations.
    Smart said KDL is spending $614,000 on the checkout technology, which places microchips in each library item. It will allow personnel to check out entire stacks of books at one time, rather than handling each item individually. Smart said the system will hold down personnel costs by raising productivity.
    "The goal is to be able to have the library services people are demanding and not have to keep going back to the public for additional millages," she said. "Even though in the short run, there's an additional cost with the (microchips), in the long run there will be savings."
    Smart said the Byron branch was open 45 hours a week 10 years ago. That was raised to 48 in 1999 and continued at that level through 2003. When the new building opened, the KDL added 4 hours [raising it to 52?], which will be cut by 3 in January.
    [Leaving it at 49? If so, it's still one more hour a week in exchange for the new building - and seemingly a lot more service.]

  4. Financing plan foes reiterate objections
    Brookhaven Daily Leader, MS
    by Matthew Coleman
    Brookhaven, Miss. - Opponents of a tax plan to help lure a Home Depot to Brookhaven urged city officials Tuesday to let the home-improvement store pay its own way instead of providing city revenue for the infrastructure. Approximately 30-40 citizens, mostly objectors, filled the city board room Tuesday night for a public hearing on a tax increment financing [TIF] plan. The TIF plan would allow the city and county to provide infrastructure to the proposed development on Brookway Boulevard.
    Many of those in attendance Tuesday night had also attended a similar hearing Monday morning before the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors. Like supervisors Monday, aldermen last night took no action on the proposal. Speakers made many of the same points they expressed at Monday's county meeting.
    Bill Behan, president of Columbus Lumber Co., said he was not trying to stop efforts to bring a Home Depot to Brookhaven. However, he contended a TIF plan was unnecessary to help the second-largest retail company in the United States [after Wal-Mart]. Behan said bringing a Home Depot was not economic development but economic displacement because limited sales would be drawn away from existing local businesses. He expressed concerns for those businesses, many of whose owners, he said, had dedicated their lives to Brookhaven. "There will be locally owned businesses that will not survive with Home Depot in the marketplace," Behan said.
    Eddie Cagle, who worked with Wal-Mart before joining Columbus Lumber, drew some comparisons between his former employer and Home Depot. Those included the large company's practice of lowering prices, while raising prices on other products to reman profitable. Cagle also mentioned the potential for payroll cutbacks that could affect employees and their families.
    Cagle said Home Depot was not wanting to come to Brookhaven to help the community but because Lowe's is 20 miles away in McComb. "It's a major war between them," Cagle said.
    Cagle made some sarcastic comments about the "professional highschool-student" level of service provided by places like Lowe's and Home Depot. In a similar tone, he questioned how much additional sales-tax revenue would be generated by shoppers from Meadville, Bude, Monticello and Wesson coming to Home Depot.
    Cagle said representatives of Ergon Properties, which is handling development of the site for Home Depot, were bluffing when they say the store will not come without the TIF plan. He urged aldermen to have Home Depot pay its own way if it wants to be in Brookhaven.
    [Amen to that. The bloody nerve of these slimy wealthy developers, trying to get taxpayers to subsidize the economic rape of their own communities!]
    Former Supervisor Bill Loving was the lone voice in favor of the Home Depot plan Tuesday. He also spoke at Monday's county hearing.
    [Bill-loving is right - loving the higher tax bills everyone's going to get once the big box stores gut the current diverse ecosystem of small businesses.]
    Loving mentioned several instances in which he found products cheaper at places outside of Brookhaven.
    [Then drive 20-30 miles outside of Brookhaven on more expensive gas to save the couple of bucks on those products, moron!]
    He said he understood some businesses may not survive with a Home Depot here.
    [Bill "Business Killer" Loving.]
    "But the people of Lincoln County need some help," said Loving, adding that a few dollars makes a difference to the working man.
    [What bleeding-heart hypocrisy! This sexist b*st*rd is going to start a cascade of layoffs throughout his community in the name of giving "some help...to the working man."]
    Loving's comments motivated Linda Pickett, of Perkins Hardware, to speak. She said she and her husband had operated the store for 12 years, working six days a week and sometimes on Sunday to help customers and keep the business going. "We don't mind the work. We do it because we love it," Pickett said.
    Pickett said the store looks out for its employees and had cut hours only once in 12 years, in 1995 during a recession. Regarding prices, she said their store is cheaper on many items sold by larger stores. "But most people never take the time to come look," Pickett said.
    John Koehler, of Delta Welding Supply, pointed out sponsorship of local youth sports teams by local businesses. He questioned whether Home Depot would be as civic-minded.
    [Bingo.]
    Like Behan, Koehler pointed out Home Depot's size. "It surprises me to even think we'd help somebody like that," Koehler said.
    [Yeah, the small "helping" the huge. How much is Home Depot or the developers "helping" Bill Loving to get him to betray his business and taxpayer community like this, we wonder.]
    The help being sought is funds to provide a road, water and sewer, a traffic signal and other infrastructure to the 11-acre site on the boulevard. The infrastructure would also be in place to help with possible future development of 15 surrounding acres.
    [Development in the sense of more businesses requires a stronger customer base. The only way communities like Brookhaven, Miss., are going to get a stronger customer base is by community-based worksharing along timesizing lines. If they go the overpopulation route, they'll just strain local resources and turn the community into just another little piece of the Third World in America.]
    Chris Gouras, a consultant for Ergon Properties, cited revenue totals showing the site generating a total of $2,837 in property taxes for the city and county now. With the development, real and personal property taxes for the city and county were estimated at over $80,000. Based on anticipated $15 million in annual sales, the city's share of sales tax was estimated at $194,000.
    [All that's without factoring in the larger loss of tax revenue due to the cascade of small-business failures that a new mall on the boulevard would trigger - and then people would no longer have the stores within walking distance - they'd have to drive to the mall - on more expensive gas. The big box stores have done the same here in Cambridge-Somerville, Mass. We saw a big Somerville Lumber and Grossman's Lumber built in North and West Somerville and the excellent family hardware stores we had in Harvard Square and Union Square died, leaving only Masse's on Walden St. and Tags in Porter Square. Then a Home Depot came to Assembly Square Mall and Som Lum and Grossman's both died. Now we have to drive a million miles to Assembly Square and walk a million miles through the caverns of Home Depot once we get there. This is progress?]
    All or part of that new revenue could be pledged to pay off a bond issue for the infrastructure project....
    [If the city and county need new revenue, let them tax those who have more money than they know what to do with - and there are apparently plenty of those people around if developers are straining to impose their unwelcome services on doing-fine communities like Brookhaven.]
    Gouras said construction of the store would result in about 100 construction jobs over an eight-month period, with an payroll of around $2.2 million.
    [Eight months is soon over.]
    Once built, the store would have 75-100 full or part-time employees and an annual payroll of about $2 million.
    [And those jobs would be low-paying and the profits would be yanked out of the community and vacuumed into the pockets of Home Depot's top executives, to speed America's slide to the Third World. Brilliant.]

  5. [Another article on overtime addiction in a frozen-workweek world -]
    Protesters decry rules
    Kansas City Star, United States
    by Linda Man
    INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - About 50 unhappy workers Tuesday showed up at the Bush-Cheney headquarters in Independence to protest new overtime rules. The changes became official Aug. 23 and affect the Fair Labor Standards Act, which identifies which types of workers must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a work week. The protesters, who contend that millions of workers are losing overtime benefits, delivered petitions containing signatures of 10,000 Missouri residents who want to kill the changes. "We can't live," without overtime pay, said Ella Hayes, a janitor. Hayes said overtime helps pay for necessities such as child care and health care. Randy Kiser, an AFL-CIO staff member, said he hopes the Bush administration will listen because the law "affects working families - whether they're union or non-union."

  6. Wednesday's HOME-spun wisdom
    RisMedia.com, CT
    Today is the birthday of the late George Westinghouse. Read more about this famous inventor. Westinghouse was born in Central Bridge, New York on October 6, 1846. From early age, he had a creative mind and his father's shop was just the place to try out new ideas. Once when asked to cut some pipe, George, instead, designed a power device that cut the pipes automatically in a fraction of the time thought necessary. At age 19, he received his first patent: a design for a rotary engine. A year later, home from the Civil War, Westinghouse found his destiny. In 1866, perhaps the year that changed his life, Westinghouse was riding a train suddenly brought to a halt to avoid colliding into a wrecked train on the rails ahead. Inspecting the sight, he mused that there must be a safer way to stop a heavy train. Existing braking systems were inadequate. Based on compressed air - the idea used to power rock drills while tunneling - George began to experiment with a new type of braking system for trains. At 22 years of age, he developed the air brake, a device that stopped trains using compressed air. Legendary success insured, he pressed on. By 1881, he had perfected the first automatic, electric block signal, a device designed to avoid wrecks, save lives and help move rail traffic. Westinghouse's safety devices instilled passenger confidence and provided operational efficiency to rail owners. The materialization of a colossal railroad industry resulted. But, railroading was not the only business touched by his prowess. From patent rights purchased from Nikola Tesla, the brilliant intellect who discovered the basis for most alternating-current machines (the rotating magnetic field), Westinghouse helped spearhead the development of alternating current. The Age of Electricity was thus set in motion. And, from the workings of a simple well in his back yard, he figured out an efficient way to transmit clean, natural gas to homes - for lighting and heating - and to industry for fuel. The natural gas industry owes its existence to Westinghouse. After that, in Pittsburgh, about 1905, Westinghouse showed his new alternating current electric locomotive. Not long after, his new engine was seen everywhere. Ships were next; Westinghouse marine turbines began a new era of power on the seas. It is little known that one of his 361 patents is a citywide telephone switching system, created long before widespread use by the telephone companies. Or, that the first radio station in the world was Westinghouse KDKA in Pittsburgh; that the first practical induction motor, the first contract to harness the enormous water power of Niagara Falls and the first power station turbine generator were all credited to Westinghouse; and, that Westinghouse led the world in using atomic power to propel ships in the Navy. Remember Westinghouse appliances? Sewing machines, washers, dryers, the first "turnover" toaster, irons, grills, percolators, am-fm radios and record players. That's not all. Starting in 1871, George Westinghouse gave his employees a half day off on Saturday, the first step toward a five-day work week. In 1908, he began a pension fund for workers; in 1913, paid vacations were initiated. Finally, Westinghouse designed for personal use the first illuminated tennis court. To supply electricity to the 1500 light bulbs, he wired the first private alternating-current power plant. George Westinghouse died on March 12, 1914. Millions benefited from his companies and those that sprung up because of his innovations. During his career, he formed about seventy companies. He and his wife, Marguerite, together in marriage over 47 years and to whom he credits his success, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

  7. Tesco's new policy that punishes the sick
    Socialist Worker, United Kingdom
    U.K. - A Tesco warehouse worker told Socialist Worker what it's like to work for Britain's biggest supermarket chain: "Although the treatment of staff in the warehouse is pretty bad, the general feeling is that we have it a lot easier than the shop floor staff. Tesco are introducing a new sickness policy. This is supposedly voluntarily, although it is being imposed on all new members of staff. Staff will not get paid for the first three days of their time off. There is no leeway with this - no matter how serious the reason you have had to take time off, you will lose three days pay. With the old warehouse contracts you were not paid for the first day taken. The sick day structure works as follows: If you are away from work on two separate occasions in a six-month period, you are put on stage one of the procedure. You are kept on stage one for six months. If during that six-month period you take time off on two occasions you are put on a stage two. Stage two lasts for six months. If during this six months you take time off on two occasions you are placed on a stage three. Stage three lasts for three months. If you take time off on one occasion during this period you will be dismissed. One man who works in the same warehouse as me has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Because he went to management and informed them of the situation they placed him on the sickness procedure. This means that every time he has to take a day off, or even an afternoon off for a check-up, it counts against him. It is quite feasible that this man will lose his job, in what the management calls a contractual dismissal, in order to get well. Of course, he is also losing money every time he takes time off. We work shifts of 6 days on and 1 day off for six weeks, and then 9 days off. Shifts are 6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm. The staff get one 30-minute unpaid lunch break in an 8-hour shift [actually 7.5 minus the halfhour lunch]. [6 days of 7.5-hour shifts is six weeks of a 45-hour workweek - followed by 9 days off. That averages out to 6x45 hours over 6+1&2/7 weeks = 270 hrs ÷ 7.2857 wks = 37 hours a week, which is not bad. However, the 9 instead of 7 days off at the end continuously cycles people through the week and keeps their lives in turmoil, instead of just having 7 days off at the end to keep things lined up with the 7-day week.]
    In the warehouse where I work management is fairly flexible on tea and toilet breaks as long as it doesn't interfere with the amount of work done. But most warehouses enforce a set break before and after lunch.
    There is little or no say over holiday. You take your nine days off at the end of your 6-week rota. Any flexibility is completely up to management.
    Bank holidays are incorporated into the days you have off according to the above plan, and can't be taken on the actual bank holiday unless your nine days happen to coincide with it. This includes Christmas.
    [Aha. There's the catch on that "generous" (but deranging) 9-day 'rota.']
    This is partly the reason that around 30% of staff take sick leave around this time.
    [Bingo.]
    There is a general feeling of hatred towards the company. They see that the company directors and shareholders are making huge amounts of money out of them.
    [Budda boom.]
    Pay-raise discussions for staff take place a few weeks after the yearly announcements of the directors' large bonuses, and yet we are told there is no growth in the marketplace and so pay increases can only be around 3%.
    The main union for Tesco workers is Usdaw, who the workers have very little faith in. The Tesco/Usdaw Partnership Agreement means that the union works very closely with Tesco management...."
    [How convenient. Just as in China or the old Soviet union.]

  8. Latham's safe whoever wins - ...Fear of a Green alliance
    by Tom Skotnicki
    BRW Australia Business Review weekly, Australia
    CANBERRA, Australia - Labor insiders regard the strong support of the Greens - more than 10% nationally - as a two-edged sword. It provides Labor with the possibility of winning an unlikely victory even if it struggles to attract much more than 40% of the primary vote. Traditionally, three-quarters of the Greens' preferences go to Labor, but the proportion could be higher this election.
    A lot of Greens voters are believed to be disaffected or potential Labor voters attracted to the Greens by issues such as the war in Iraq, detention centres and the environment. But despite the invaluable role that the Greens could play in putting Labor in government, some people within the Labor Party dread the prospect of dealing with the Greens in government. The Greens could have up to seven senators, once they all take up their seats after June next year. If Labor wins government, the Greens could hold the balance of power. This would force Labor to take the Greens' policies seriously, not just on the environment but on economic and trade issues, where it is to the left of Labor.
    An example of the Greens' growing sensitivity about the portrayal of its policies was the way that Greens leader Bob Brown recently took one journalist to task for a report on the party's policy on recreational drugs. Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson played on a similar theme with his line about the Greens being like a watermelon, "green on the outside and red in the middle". One senior Labor figure said the "potentially unholy alliance" line being pushed by the coalition was being echoed within sections of the Opposition.
    If business has concerns about Labor's industrial relations policies, how will it react to the Greens' proposals for a 35-hour week and more emphasis on job sharing to tackle unemployment? The Greens are also advocating limits on unpaid overtime, although there is so far no indication of how it would want this policy enforced.

  9. Harmony is still assessing retrenchment options
    Business Report, South Africa
    by Nicky Smith
    JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's largest gold producer, Harmony Gold Mining, would only be able to tell how many people needed to be retrenched at the end of its December quarter, the company's marketing director, Ferdi Dippenaar, said yesterday. Yesterday Harmony and the National Union of Mineworkers announced they had come to an agreement on a way forward for the company's restructuring programme. A voluntary retrenchment programme was still being used. At least 20 000 Harmony workers were to have gone on strike yesterday as part of what Dippenaar referred to as "positioning" in the negotiations with the company. The union knows that the company which has been battered by the strong rand can ill afford to have its mines come to a standstill. In return the company had played its forced retrenchments card. The resolution, Dippenaar explained, was that union leadership had now agreed to organise acceptance for moving to continuous operations (conops) across all of the group's gold mines in a bid to maximise returns on assets. This means 11 days on and four days off for workers and that the mine runs all day and all night every day of the week, stopping only for scheduled cleaning and safety shifts. There has been 80% agreement to conops across the company's mines which is being implemented to save jobs at mines and restore struggling mines to profitability. Simon Kendall, a gold analyst with UBS, said he would like to see evidence of retrenchments or otherwise before "reading too much" into what either the company or the unions had to say. "They don't really have any choice [but to retrench]," he said. Nick Goodwin, a gold analyst with Tlotlisa Securities, said Harmony did not have many options on its hands to cut costs if it had decided not to retrench workers from its marginal Free State operations. Another analyst said: "It could be a short-term reaction to the improved rand gold price. Things are looking a little better and maybe this has led to a change of heart," he said. Dippenaar said only once conops was implemented across the group would it be known how many jobs still needed to be shed. The share price gained R3.29 to R89.29 yesterday, while the gold sector gained 2.09%.

  10. Struggle for power a smokestack issue - Mortars shell GIs at electrical plant
    Chicago Tribune, IL
    By Rick Jervis
    ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - The Musayyab power plant sits on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in this city like a steel giant laboring to breathe. Two of its four towering smokestacks spew a steady stream of white smoke, a sign that the turbine engines attached to them are working. One smokestack puffs out weak wisps. The fourth is dormant. Like many of Iraq's 30 electrical plants, Musayyab is struggling to return to full capacity. Because of bad parts, outdated technology and the stress of war, the four-turbine diesel plant produces less than half of its designed capacity. But the Musayyab plant has an added liability: It is within the razor-wire confines of a U.S. military base. Created to protect the plant, the base raises concerns from plant officials, who fear mortars aimed at Marines will one day bludgeon the plant, and from military officers, who monitor nearly 1,000 mostly Iraqi employees and temporary staffers who work there each day. "Our job is to make sure Iraq has power," said Capt. Henry Parrish, camp commandant and the Marine in charge of securing the plant. "We do everything we can to make that happen."
    `We do everything we can'
    Restoring power plants such as Musayyab, a 1960s-era facility that churns nearly half of Baghdad's power, to full capacity has been a priority for the U.S.-led coalition and a major step in the rebuilding process - a "tier-one asset" in Marine parlance. The sprawling base, 30 miles south of Baghdad and home to 1,000 Marines and sailors attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was built around the plant to protect it from insurgents. But securing it has been a challenge. Shrapnel from mortars aimed at the Marines has punched holes in fuel tanks that run the plant. Oil pipelines that once fueled the facility have been ruptured by insurgents. Workers have been threatened and killed. In August, the plant's manager disappeared on his way to work. On a recent afternoon, Iraqi employees smiled and waved as Parrish strode into the lobby of the power plant, flak jacket on. Parrish smiled back and greeted them in Arabic. "Salaam aleikum," he told a guard at the door, pronouncing the Arabic greeting with a Georgia accent. "Aleikum essalam," the guard answered. Married with three children and one on the way, Parrish, 34, has a finance degree from Georgia Southern University, where he also was a running back on the football team. In the Marines he completed command training at the Expeditionary Warfare School. But no amount of training prepared him for his task as plant protector, he said. "I had no idea what I was getting into until I got here," Parrish said. The Musayyab plant has been battered by war. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, U.S. missiles knocked it out of commission, plant officials said. The facility was repaired and went untouched during last year's invasion. But failing parts and outdated equipment have greatly reduced its output. With all four turbine engines working properly, the plant is designed to crank out 1,280 megawatts per minute, plant officials said. Currently, with one of its turbines out and the others running under capacity, it is producing 550 megawatts per minute, they said. The lower output accounts for the frequent outages, brownouts and power surges plaguing Baghdad and surrounding cities, officials said. But finding spare parts is the least of plant officials' worries, they said. Plant employees have been targeted by insurgents, and some have been followed as they leave for home. One worker was killed in a car bombing outside the base's front gate, a plant official said. As a result, employees are working fewer hours, cutting back on production, the official said. On Aug. 18, the plant's manager was driving to work in the nearby town of Musayyab when gunmen shot out a tire and took him from his car, according to a witness, said Marine spokesman Capt. David Nevers. The manager hasn't been seen since.
    Everyone here `is in danger'
    "Everyone in this company is in danger," said Ali Hassan, 25, a chief engineer in the plant's main control room. "But we try not to think of it too much. Electricity is for all Iraqis. It has to go out." Another threat for employees and the plant are the rockets and mortars fired almost daily at Marines on the base. Two weeks ago, 15 mortars landed in less than an hour, officials said. More recently, a mortar shell exploded near a 3,000-gallon tank holding diesel fuel for the plant, Parrish said. Shrapnel from the mortar sprayed across the tank, punching quarter-size holes in its base, leaking fuel. One plant official, who asked not to be named, said the plant would be safer outside a U.S. base. But that is not an option U.S. military officials are willing to consider. "[The base] was put here initially because there was a threat," said Lt. Col. Robert Durkin, the base commander. "If we leave and something happens, then 40% of Baghdad is out of power and everyone's up in arms. We'll stay until the Iraqi government brings in a security force capable of taking over," Durkin said. One of the first tasks assigned to Parrish when he arrived in June was to improve plant defenses against mortars, he said. He fortified mortar positions surrounding the plant that had been erected by the Army, which previously occupied the base, and set up artillery guns to fire 155 mm rounds in an effort to discourage enemy fire, he said. He also began meeting with plant officials, listening to their concerns and adjusting security plans, he said. The daily meetings fostered friendships and sometimes stretched into long conversations about the differences between Islam and Christianity, among other topics, said Parrish, a devout Baptist. "Everyone just wants peace," he said, "so they could work." Another concern for Parrish was the nearly 1,000 plant workers who entered the base each day - people who could relay the base's layout to insurgents or bring in bombs. Each morning, every person who enters the plant is patted down for bombs and other weapons, Parrish said. Mobile phones, which could be used as detonation devices or to help pinpoint targets for mortar teams, are not allowed, he said. And every vehicle that enters the base is searched by bomb-sniffing dogs. "You have to be diligent," Parrish said. "But you have to be courteous. These people work here. It's their livelihood." Marine officials said a team of U.S. military personnel recently visited the base to assess plant security and eventually train and establish an Iraqi security force to take over protection of the plant. Until that happens, it's Parrish's job to help keep Baghdad neighborhoods lighted. "Our goal is to get them up to capacity," he said. "The sooner that happens, the sooner we leave."
10/06/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/05 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 & 12 which are from 10/06 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 10/06), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. For younger workers, family matters - Generations X and Y placing less emphasis on careers, study says
    by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, F1
    Employers take heed: Baby boomers might have been content to put work above all else, but that's not necessarily true of Generation X and Y. A study released yesterday by the Families & Work Institute reveals that younger generations - ages 18 to 37 - are far more family-centered than older workers and, surprisingly, less focused on advancing in the workplace than their predecessors.
    The study, commissioned by the American Business Collaboration, a consortium of eight top US firms, found that 52% of college-educated men were focused on career advancement in 2002, down from 68% a decade earlier. Additionally, 36% of college-educated women were interested in increased work responsibilities or advancement in 2002, down from 57% in 1992.
    Stan Smith, national director of Next Generation Initiatives at Deloitte & Touche, which is a member of the business collaborative, said the message is clear: ''These are highly motivated professionals who want to get the job done but also want to honor their obligations to their families. So, it is important [for businesses] to offer informal work arrangements that permit reduced hours, compressed hours - you name it."
    Ellen Galinsky, president of the New York-based Families and Work institute, said the research reveals a profound shift in attitudes and suggests that working men and women are redefining their priorities.
    ''Baby boomer women were pioneers," Galinsky said. ''Boomer men grew up in an era when work was more a part of your identity. Their children - the GenX and GenYs - were the children of divorce, the children of people who gave their all to work and then lost their jobs. And, today, they don't want to be stick figures in their children's lives. They see that life can be fleeting and tenuous. So, they are more intentional about the way they want to live it."
    The study says members of Generation Y were between the ages of 18 and 22 when they were surveyed in 2002. Members of Generation X were between the ages of 23 and 37, and baby boomers were 38 to 57 at the time of the survey....
    Rosalind Barnett, director of the Community, Families, and Work Program at Brandeis University,...said one reason for the shift is that younger generations are more likely to delay childbearing in order to pursue education and secure a good job so that they will be better prepared to fulfill their parental duties. And, realizing that both spouses must work, men are more likely to share housework than prior generations, she said....
    Carol Evans, president and chief executive of Working Mother Media in New York, said only 57% of US companies offer flex time to workers and just 36% allow employees to telecommute or work from home....
    A handful of others appears to be paying attention. [Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, a Boston law firm,] offers flex time, a part-time partnership track for men and women, and telecommuting. It also has backup child care at its Boston site and at-home backup care. Both programs are subsidized by the firm, according to Wendy Starr, director of human resources....
    So does Deloitte & Touche. About 1,200 of the company's 30,000 US workers have flexible schedules. This summer, the company began testing a pilot program that permitted 15 employees to take five years off for educational or personal reasons and then return to the firm without losing their standing.
    ''We really need these people," said Deloitte's Smith. ''These are people who want to know what options they have in their careers, and they want a blueprint. They want to keep the family important."
    Diane E. Lewis can be reached at dlewis@globe.com

  2. RiverView reduces staff - Federal and state cuts, increased payments lead to staff cuts
    Crookston Daily Times, MN
    by Natalie J. Ostgaard
    Although RiverView Health has seen great growth over the last couple of years, its CEO, Deb Boardman, says that at the same time, the organization is feeling the pain of federal and state budget cuts and reduced payments from private insurance companies. In response, RiverView is reducing its expenses by about $550,000....
    Reductions
    Boardman explains that over the last few months, the organization has been analyzing where it could feasibly make cost reductions, using industry benchmarking as a guide. This takes into account a number of factors such as the number of clients and workers, measurements and industry standards in determining where staff and other expense reductions could be made.
    Unfortunately, when reductions are made, some people inevitably find themselves out of work. At this time RiverView's cost reductions involve primarily staff. Some reductions were made over the last several months in the areas of expenses and employee attrition, but they were not significant enough to offset the declines in reimbursements, Boardman adds.
    She explains that, although approximately 16 full-time equivalent positions will eventually be eliminated in about an eight-month period, only five employees are actually losing their jobs. The reductions cover all types of positions - clinical and non-clinical - in approximately 10 departments.
    HR Director Jean Tate says RiverView is taking advantage of retirements, requests for reduced hours and other staff changes to implement some of the reductions. Most of the employee reductions involved cutting hours, but some were also made by outsourcing and adding some duties to existing jobs.
    "Our objective is to affect as few people as possible," says Tate, "and we are putting together a program to assist those who are impacted."
    That program includes a severance package, employee assistance services and working with Minnesota Work Force Center to help the displace workers find new employment.
    "In some cases, those effected qualify for other open positions at RiverView and will have preference for those jobs," she adds.
    While RiverView is reducing staff in some areas, it's also added nearly 70 employees over the past two years.
    "This is a minor adjustment that we need to make to respond to declining payments, but we are continuing to see growth in our business," Boardman says.
    Revenues have increased more than 20% in each of the last two years, adds Bennett, due to offering new services and programs never before available in Crookston in expanded and renovated facilities. But, "declining payments are forcing us to look at reductions. It's a very difficult environment to deal with."
    Health care organizations throughout the state are experiencing similar problems. "More than 25 of the hospitals in the state of Minnesota are losing money right now," says Dwain Fagerlund, chairperson of the RiverView Health board. "At a recent hospital trustee conference attended by some of our board members, nearly every session dealt with financial issues. It is a big problem in the healthcare industry right now."
    "We've done well at managing our expenses," Boardman concludes, "it's just that no one wants to pay for what we're doing."

  3. The problem of unpaid overtime
    Japan Today, Japan
    by Terrie Lloyd
    A reader wrote in and asked about an article on overtime a while back, asking as an employer what the actual practical overtime rates actually are. This got me checking about the latest on the whole overtime issue, now that the economy is starting to move again, and what I found was interesting - it looks like the government is starting to implement labor laws to protect people from excessive overtime.
    First, though, to answer the specific question. On checking with the Tokyo Labor Bureau, we were told that the law allows the following overtime rates for regular employees normally working 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week.
    weekdays, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the rate is 1.25 times the normal hourly pay. Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., the rate is 1.5 times. On public holidays (or in the case of a typical weekday worker, Sunday as well) the rate between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. is 1.35 times, and between 10 p.m. and midnight, it is 1.60. In all cases, overtime rates are only paid on your base salary, not on bonuses, special allowances, and other non-base remuneration.
    Employers can require you to work hours convenient to the company, providing those hours don't exceed 40 hours per week for mid- to large-size firms and 45 hours per week for small firms. Note that working Saturdays and Sundays is not considered overtime if those days are your regular work days.
    Generally, companies only pay overtime on units exceeding 30 minutes past your regular work hours, and also providing you have received permission to do that overtime. In reality of course, many companies in fact expect employees to work unpaid overtime, as a means of showing devotion to the company and a willingness to support the rest of the team.
    Thus, "good" workers show up at the office 30 minutes early and leave the office 11-12 hours later, around the same time as their boss does.
    [No wonder highly technologized Japan has high unemployment and low consumer demand.]
    This means that the average unpaid overtime being pulled by most workers is around 20 hours per week. This is known as "Service Zangyo."
    [Probably meaning "Service Zero.]
    It is no coincidence, then, that the government is considering changing the Industrial Safety & Health Law next year to require companies who make their staff work 80 or more hours of overtime per month [almost 20/wk avg], to provide those employees with doctors visits and interviews.
    The move is apparently aimed at reducing the rash of suicides and cases of chronic fatigue plaguing male workers. Part of the plan is that doctors who spot workers under overtime-induced stress would then counsel both the worker and their employer, encouraging them to reduce the employee's hours and make them take holidays.
    The problem of unpaid overtime is particularly rampant at present, because of the overlap between companies' continuing focus on reducing manpower costs and the more recent pickup in the economy. In light of the huge shift to part-time workers, the remaining full-timers, especially in smaller companies, are under severe pressure to get everything done with less resources. As a result, in 2003 the Labor Standards Office ordered over 18,511 small companies across Japan to back-pay employees for extra hours worked, versus just 1,500 such orders issued in 2002.
    According to a recent Japan Times article, a professor at the Kansai University has estimated that Japanese employees worked a total of 27.33 trillion yen of unpaid overtime in FY2002, equivalent to an extra 8.18 million full-time jobs. The article then goes on to illustrate the cases of a 34-year-old bank employee and 27-year-old supermarket worker who work on average of 300 hours and 150 hours of unpaid overtime per month respectively. No wonder the two individuals had decided to call the Association of Labor Lawyers hotline for help. It's a wonder they had enough energy left to find the number.
    Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at www.terrie.com. For further contact with Terrie, email him at terrie.lloyd@daijob.com.

  4. Bush trade policies promote outsourcing, experts say
    Keokuk Gate City Daily, IA
    by Steve Dunn
    KEOKUK, Iowa - The outsourcing of jobs to other countries is no accident, about 20 citizens were told Monday night during a televised town hall meeting at Keokuk's City Hall. "The current administration promotes a lot of policies that encourage companies to move to other countries where the wages are lower and environ- mental restrictions are less," said David Leshtz of the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign. Citing NAFTA specifically, Jim Jontz, president emeritus of Americans for Democratic Action, said NAFTA is a laundry list of factors that make it easier for companies to go to Mexico. "Big companies got a lower risk of doing business in Mexico," Jontz said. "They lobbied hard to get it through Congress. The prices of products though are not lower, but the owners of companies are making more money. However, there is nothing in NAFTA to protect workers." Jerry Kearns, a staff representative with the United Steel Workers of America, noted how outsourcing and imports have hurt Lee County. A couple hundred jobs were lost when Ferro-Sil closed in Keokuk as the result of outsourcing, he said. Other Southeast Iowa industries affected in one way or another include Exide Technologies, Case Corporation and Conifer Corporation in Burlington; Blue Bird Body Company, Celestica Corporation and Trans Bus Inc. in Mount Pleasant; Design Engineering and Manufacturing Co. in New London; and Alpharma Inc. in Palmyra, Mo. Alluding to his U.S.-made tie and Cambodian-made shirt, Keokuk City Council member Bill Olmsted said Americans have themselves to blame in some ways. "In many ways it becomes our fault," said Olmsted, referring to the choices Americans make when buying products made in America or overseas. David Osterberg, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, said, "We haven't gotten back to the same number of jobs we had at the start of the recession in March 2001, even after three years." The number of jobs in the U.S. has dropped by one million since March 2001. In addition, the national unemployment rate, which was about 4% in the late 1990s, has risen to about 6% and has not really changed that much. The unemployment rate for young college graduates hasn't recovered either, according to Osterberg. Many of the job losses have come in manufacturing and information technology, according to Osterberg. About 30,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Iowa alone since March 2001. On top of that, wages have not been increasing much, and family units are working more hours, he said. The high point in manufacturing wages was from 1959 to 1973. Government services are even being outsourced now, Osterberg said. He cited the example of a border patrol contract that allowed uniforms to be made in Mexico. "You can be on either side of the political spectrum and be real worried about outsourcing," he added. Government procurement should favor domestic employment, he said. In addition, private firms should be required to be transparent in their business dealings and the U.S. tax code should not reward offshore investment, he said. Jontz said the U.S. faces new decisions about trade agreements modeled after NAFTA such as the Central Free Trade Agreement. "We're also negotiating with individual countries," he added. "The coverage in the agreements would expand the sectors affected such as services. The jobs in all of these sectors will be compromised and officials' ability to make public policy also will be affected." The good news is that none of these proposed new trade agreements have to look like NAFTA and none of them will take effect before the general election on Nov. 2, Jontz said. "Kerry has taken positions that offer voters a very clear choice," he said, referring to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. "The polls show today's undecided voters care a lot about jobs," he continued. "Many of these voters do not make the connection between the policies that Bush is negotiating and supports and the loss of jobs. If this information can get out, it will have a big impact on many of them." According to the Citizens Trade Campaign, Kerry opposes the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which Bush has negotiated and is awaiting congressional action. Kerry also opposes the Free Trade Area of the Americas being negotiated by Bush, which would expand NAFTA throughout the western hemisphere. Kerry says he will renogotiate both agreements and fix NAFTA, the Citizens Trade Campaign says. Kerry and Bush also differ on core labor standards. Kerry says U.S. trade deals must include the core, internationally-recognized labor standards that guarantee the rights of workers to form unions and bargain collectively and prohibit child labor, prison labor and discrimination, the Citizens Trade Campaign says. On the other hand, Bush's trade deals only ask trade partners to enforce their own existing labor laws whether or not they meet international standards. Bush's trade deals also allow countries to lower their existing labor standards to attract investment. The Citizens Trade Campaign also says Bush has negotiated trade deals that provide extremely weak enforcement of labor and environmental standards, but extremely strong enforcement of investment, patent and other business protections. Kerry says that the enforcement of labor and environmental protections in trade agreements must be as strong as the enforcement of business protections. Kerry also opposes trade agreements that give foreign corporations greater property rights than U.S. companies and that empower foreign corporations to attack domestic labor, environment and consumer protections. Bush has negotiated and signed trade deals that give foreign corporations exactly these rights, the Citizens Trade Campaign says. Referring to the enforcement issue, State Rep. Phil Wise, D-Keokuk, brought up the trouble Roquette America, Inc. has had with NAFTA. "The enforcement of NAFTA is either incompetent at the least or conspiratorial at the worst," said Wise. When trying to point out the impact of outsourcing and unfair trade agreements, Wise said the issue should be localized as much as possible. Roquette America, Inc. in Keokuk and Sheaffer Pen Corp. and DuPont in Fort Madison have 500 to 600 hourly jobs that could be adversely affected some day, the veteran legislator indicated. Some of the audience members present for Monday's town hall meeting agreed to meet again at 7 p.m. next Monday at the Keokuk Labor Temple to get out the word about Bush's and Kerry's positions on outsourcing jobs and new trade rules.

  5. Mixed reviews on furlough plan
    Union Democrat, CA
    By CHRIS NICHOLS
    A dozen Calaveras County department directors yesterday told county supervisors that the county's mandatory furlough plan is slowing productivity and hurting staff morale. Under the current plan, most county employees must take five unpaid days off work, saving the county nearly $300,000. Supervisors this summer called for the furloughs to cut into a deficit that hit $2.45 million in June. Directors pointed to what happened the first furlough day, Sept. 3 - the day the Pattison Fire near Valley Springs erupted - as reason to change how the mandatory days off should be done. The skeletal crew of county workers on duty that day were swamped with calls for help. Many county employees had to be called in or volunteered to work without pay during the fire. Several directors, speaking at a furlough study session during yesterday's weekly supervisors meeting, said they wanted more staff available on furlough days and more control over when employees take the mandatory days off. Directors supported a change to the furlough plan suggested by County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell. Instead of a full day off, offices would have the option of closing an hour early one day each week for the rest of the year, Mitchell said. Members of the Calaveras County Employees Association are to complete a vote this week on whether to approve Mitchell's suggested change to the furlough plan. Though it was too close to call this morning, Stacie Link, secretary for the association, said employees will most likely vote against the change. Link said employees would rather be forced to take a full day off so the public can "feel their pain." "If employees are going to lose days, if they're going to suffer, then the public needs to feel it," Link said. The furloughs are currently scheduled just before or after holidays, a fact that does not make managing the Animal Control Dept. any easier, said Director Jerry Howard. "Extending holidays extends the workload and creates a backlog and doesn't make the public happy," he said. "Just because it's Frog Jump weekend, routine work doesn't end." The four remaining furlough days are now set for Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving; Feb. 18, the Friday before President's Day; March 25, Good Friday; and May 20, the Friday of the Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee. County officials must notify all employees by Wednesday about any changes to the Nov. 24 furlough day. One by one, directors spoke yesterday, listing a myriad of problems with the five furlough days. Sheriff Dennis Downum expressed concern about deducting pay from his administrative staff members, many of whom already work hundreds of unpaid hours each year. Public Works Director Rob Houghton said his department and its contractors could not take entire days off and still complete projects, like paving county roads, in a timely manner. Supervisors and county administrative officials acknowledged there is no simple solution. "It isn't an easy process and it isn't always fair," said Francine Osborne, the county's deputy administrative officer. "But this is what the board decided to get through this tight year instead of laying off a small handful of employees." Rather than furloughs, Supervisor Merita Callaway suggested departments find their own way to reduce costs. Several directors supported this suggestion and said it would give them more flexibility in managing their staff and budget. Legally, the county may not be able to give directors this control, Mitchell said. Supervisors and county officials said they would continue to explore options for how to manage future furlough days but did not expect any major changes to the current plan this fiscal year.

  6. Report: State faces nursing shortage
    AP via Providence Journal, RI
    PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island hospitals face a significant shortage of nurses over the next two decades, at a time when aging baby boomers will increase demand for care, a study released today said. The report's findings are consistent with surveys conducted nationwide. U.S. authorities have warned that the country could fall 275,000 nurses short of the numbers it will need by 2010, in part because of increasing health care demands from a growing elderly population. The state study, conducted for an independent health care research organization called The Rhode Island SHAPE Foundation, was based on surveys of more than 2,359 Rhode Island nurses, interviews with experts and statistical information from hospital and other health care facilities. It was done by Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm. A 20-person advisory committee made up of business, government, medical and community leaders oversaw the work. In Rhode Island, about 72% of approximately 20,000 licensed nurses are working in the profession, the study said. The number of nurses is expected to drop as the work force ages. The report found that Rhode Island is short about 1,200 nurses. It said by 2010, the state will be short anywhere from 1,800 to 4,200 nurses; and by 2020, the nursing shortage could be up to 10,000. The study goes on to say that one in eight practicing nurses under the age of 60 plans to leave the field in the next three years. "The findings offer both bad news and good news to Rhode Island," said Dayle Joseph, dean of nursing at the University of Rhode Island and chair of the advisory committee. "The bad new is, today's nursing crisis could balloon into tomorrow's health care disaster if we don't act quickly. The good news is, it's not too late to take action." Across the country, hospitals are trying to recruit and keep more nurses. Too few nurses can cost patients their health and sometimes their lives, study after study shows. Hospitals generally say they haven't hired more nurses because they are in short supply. They also blame financial pressures, such as technology costs and cuts in government and insurance reimbursements. Most oppose hard-and-fast limits on how many patients nurses may handle. Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty said today he intended to pre-file legislation to establish a nurse scholarship program and expand a nurse reward loan forgiveness program. "If we fail to address this nursing crisis, our other efforts to promote quality care will not succeed," Fogarty said. The Nurse Reward program forgives the interest on student loans for the first four years of repayment to qualified graduates.

  7. Compuware again recognized as one of 101 Metropolitan Detroit's best and brightest companies to work for - Compuware's HR practices and commitment to work/life balance honored by the Michigan Business & Professional Association for 4th consecutive year
    PRNewswire-FirstCall via Yahoo News
    DETROIT - Compuware Corporation today announced it was named as one of 101 Metropolitan Detroit's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For by the Michigan Business and Professional Association. This annual award honors Metropolitan Detroit companies that recognize employees as their greatest assets and work with imagination and conviction to create organizational value and business results through people. The 101 recognized companies were rated in the areas of Compensation and Benefits, Training and Education, Recruitment and Retention, Employee Communication, Diversity, Work/Life Balance and Community Service and Culture. Additionally, the selected companies had to show a unique thought process with top support from senior management and policy makers, above average programs, services and solutions for employees and adaptation to various new factors in the marketplace. Compuware continues to treat employees as its greatest asset by providing a premier work environment, stellar benefits and work/life programs. In support of this philosophy, Compuware recently implemented flexible work arrangements including flextime, part-time and job sharing and continues to offer an array of work/life and wellness programs. Compuware's benefits also include a comprehensive medical plan and company paid life, dental and disability insurance, as well as stock benefits. At Compuware's Detroit headquarters, employees are offered an onsite gourmet cafeteria; state-of-the art Wellness and Child Development centers; physician, chiropractor, massage and dry cleaning services, as well as access to numerous onsite retailers. "Receiving this award year after year demonstrates Compuware's continuing commitment to our employees," said Thomas M. Costello, Jr., Compuware Senior Vice President, Human Resources. "Compuware's emphasis on superior benefits, a balanced work/life environment, open communication and charity and community involvement creates a unique culture that honors and respects the contributions of our employees."
    Compuware Corporation
    Compuware Corporation (Nasdaq: CPWR - News) maximizes the value IT brings to the business by helping CIOs more effectively manage the business of IT. Compuware solutions accelerate the development, improve the quality and enhance the performance of critical business systems while enabling CIOs to align and govern the entire IT portfolio, increasing efficiency, cost control and employee productivity throughout the IT organization. Founded in 1973, Compuware serves the world's leading IT organizations, including more than 90% of the Fortune 100 companies. Learn more about Compuware at http://www.compuware.com/.
    For sales or marketing information
    Compuware Corporation, One Campus Martius, Detroit, MI, 48226, 800-521-9353, http://www.compuware.com
    Press contacts
    Kelly Rionda, Compuware Corporation, 313-227-8660, kelly.rionda@compuware.com

  8. Sheriff's deputies in Yuma County win $430,000 in overtime case; more damage payments likely AP via Tucson Citizen, AZ
    YUMA - The Board of Supervisors agreed to pay more than $430,000 to former and current sheriff's deputies and corrections officers as part of a settlement in an overtime case. The board voted Monday to pay the interest owed on $941,190 in back overtime owed to the 650 employees and former employees. But the board still has not figured out how to settle the most costly part of the case, possibly $1.8 million in damages. The county previously paid the court-ordered backpay. Arizona law provides for damages of up to three times wages owed if an employer fails to pay when the wages are due. But attorney Bob Yen, who is representing the deputies and officers, said the class-action plaintiffs have asked for $1.8 million. The damages part of the case remains unsettled. "It just depends. If they were to come back with a number we felt is reasonable, we would then go to the court and seek approval and then give notice to each of the plaintiffs in the suit," Yen said. Eleven deputies first sued the county in 1996. The case later was given class-action status, eventually attracting hundreds of employees and former employees. The deputies contended they were owed overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a standard work week. At the time, the sheriff's office only paid overtime when some employees worked more than 171 hours within a 28-day period [avg. 42¾ hrs/wk], on-par with a federal standard. The department has since changed its policy.

  9. Arbitrator crafts contract for deputies
    The Grand Rapids Press, MI
    OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. - About 90 Ottawa County road patrol deputies soon will have a new three-year labor contract, 21 months after the last contract expired and with a binding arbitrator's seal. A state arbitrator recently decided a long-standing contract dispute involving road patrol deputies with the Sheriff's Dept.. Wage, health insurance and the method for calculating overtime pay had divided the two sides. Union representative Jim DeVries said the arbitrator awarded a 4% retroactive raise for 2003 and 3% raises for this year and 2005. "We always compare ourselves with deputies in Kent, Muskegon and Allegan counties," he said. "We needed the 4% raise to catch up with those places." Road patrol deputies make about $51,000 a year, depending on longevity, DeVries said. The arbitrator generally sided with county administrators on health insurance issues, allowing an increase in co-pays for prescription medicine. The co-pay will be $20 for generic drugs and $40 for name-brand prescriptions. Road patrol deputies also must pay a portion of their health insurance premiums, which they must pay retroactively to 2003. DeVries said the arbitrator sided with the union on an overtime issue. Previously, the hours in a "comp" day or vacation day for a deputy were not included in the work week total for purposes of overtime pay. A deputy might take a vacation day on a Monday, then not be paid overtime for working Saturday because of the hours calculation, DeVries said. The new contract allows for overtime pay under those circumstances. The contract, expected to be approved by the county board soon, expires at the end of 2005.

  10. Waterbury may be in bind over judge's decision
    Waterbury Republican American, United States
    by Cara Rubinsky
    WATERBURY [Conn.?] - City officials could face at least a $1.5 million budget gap if an appeals court rules a judge was correct in overturning the new fire union contract. The oversight board and the city have until Oct. 21 to file an appeal. Firefighters had hoped to return to their old schedule Monday, three days after Waterbury Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Gallagher overturned their contract, which was imposed by the state oversight board and took effect Sept. 11. But city officials said the new schedule will remain in place at least until the appeal is filed. Not clear is whether attorneys will have to ask a judge to stay Gallagher's ruling or whether firefighters will automatically continue to work under their new contract until the appeal is resolved. Avoiding a deficit if firefighters revert to their old contract will require Herculean effort. Even one year with a deficit means five more years of control by the state oversight board, created in March 2001 to help the city recover from a $100 million deficit. The board has powers to impose contract provisions. It could be dissolved by January 2007, but only if the city ends this fiscal year and next in the black. The city is counting on the new contract to save $1.5 million in the $325 million city budget for 2004-05, which was already tighter than some oversight board members would have liked. Officials have not yet developed a contingency plan in case Gallagher's decision is upheld. At issue in the union's lawsuit was whether the oversight board had the authority to start a second round of contract arbitration after a first round ended with six board members deadlocked on an agreement negotiated by the city and the firefighters. Mayor Michael J. Jarjura and the fire union said that agreement would have saved $1.5 million. A seventh member did not vote on the first proposed contract because he had not attended the hearings. He was replaced and the hearings started from scratch. The board voted 5-2 to impose a contract that differed significantly from the one the city and union reached. Firefighters, contesting the oversight board's authority, boycotted both rounds of arbitration. In her ruling, Gallagher did not explicitly say the oversight board was wrong to start a second arbitration. But she ruled the contract was void because the board did not issue a decision by June 15, the deadline for the first arbitration. Most of the savings in the new contract are expected to come from reduced overtime. The contract extended the work week from 42 to 50 hours and cut the number of shifts from four to three, meaning more firefighters are available to work on each shift.
    overtime in the first week of the new schedule totaled about $5,000, down from an average of $73,000 a week for the first 10 weeks of the fiscal year, when firefighters worked under their old contract. As of Sept. 15, overtime totaled more than $700,000 for the fiscal year, which started July 1. The $18.3 million fire department budget for the year includes just $1 million for overtime. If the new contract stands and overtime continues to average $5,000 a week, the city will come in just under budget. Officials have determined they can use federal money to purchase some items they had intended to buy with city money, giving them a bit more wiggle room in the overtime account. None of that is likely to matter if the new contract is struck down. The old contract mandated a force of 329 firefighters, but the city only had 300; the empty positions had to be filled by paying overtime. The new contract decreases the minimum number of firefighters. Seventeen firefighters have filed retirement papers since the oversight board imposed the new contract. Not yet clear is whether they would be allowed to return if Gallagher's ruling stands. If they cannot or will not return and firefighters go back to their old contract, the city will have to hire more firefighters or pay overtime to fill the additional positions. Other costs would likely be associated with reverting to the old contract, though no one is sure exactly how much they would be. Because the work week under the old contract was eight hours shorter, firefighters would likely be entitled to overtime for at least some of the additional hours they have worked since the new contract took effect. Also unclear is how salaries would be affected. The contract grants firefighters a 7% raise, but they are making less per hour than they did under their old contract.
    [And that's a paycut, folks.]
    "It could be a much bigger problem than $1.5 million," Jarjura said, adding he believes the city and oversight board have strong grounds for an appeal. "I would use all of my power and my skills to avoid any deficit. We're cognizant of that problem, there was already, most of the overtime account was used up, so it's a tight budget, it's a difficult process, but we will again do whatever is necessary to end the fiscal year on balance. I'm not throwing in the towel." Then there's the question of how the union would get a new contract. If a second round of arbitration is ruled invalid, a third is unlikely to be acceptable. Firefighters and the city could go back to the bargaining table, but the oversight board would still have to approve any agreement they negotiated. "I can't imagine us not appealing because there's so much uncertainty as to what would transpire if the ruling was allowed to stand," Jarjura said. Michael Cicchetti, oversight board chairman, said the board will almost certainly appeal, probably before the Oct. 21 deadline. "It's all but official at this point," he said. "From the people that I've talked to on the board, most of them are prepared to appeal this since it's not in the best interests of the city." Daniel French, fire union president, said the union's attorney is looking into the issue, but firefighters seem to have no choice but to continue working under the new contract at least until the city and oversight board decide whether to appeal. "If that's standard procedure and that's law, then that's what it is," French said. "I don't know what other options we'd have. We're not thrilled with this contract, but we do respect the law, and if that's what it is it is."

  11. Down on the farm - Dairy workers fight for their right to organize in Oregon Infoshop News
    by Family Farm Defenders
    Thanks to a backroom deal hatched between the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Farm Bureau, southern white segregationists, and new deal democrats, farm workers and domestic servants were specifically excluded from the right to engage in activities of mutual aid, protection, and collective bargaining as extended to other U.S. workers under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Starting in WWII and through the mid 1960s the infamous "Bracero" program facilitated the migration of close to four million seasonal farm workers from Mexico into the U.S. as a cheap labor option for agribusiness. This easily exploited throwaway labor force persists today under the auspices of the federal H2-A Guest Worker program. Such institutionalized discrimination has been reinforced by U.S. refusal to recognize the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labor Organization (ILO)'s rules on just compensation, forced labor, and union organizing. As a result, farm workers in the U.S. today remain among the most abused in the world, with no federal right to form a labor union, to earn overtime pay, or protection against child exploitation, workplace injury, and toxic exposure. Through the historic struggle of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) that began in the 1960s, California was forced to pass its own Agriculture Labor Relations Act in 1975, extending federal NLRA guarantees to farm workers. Similar farmworker organizing drives led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) are winning victories in FL, NC, and OR. Many of these struggles are documented in a March 2004 Oxfam report titled "Like Machines in the Field ­ Workers Without Rights in American Agriculture" (available online at www.maketradefair.com). Just like the UFW's earlier CA grape boycott, these grassroots efforts are successfully bridging the economic and cultural divide that often separates rural workers from urban consumers through popular education, corporate campaigns targeting the likes of Taco Bell and Mt. Olive, as well as pro-fair trade, anti-sweatshop, global justice activism. In the rolling desert-like grasslands along the Columbia River in northeastern OR another epic labor battle is now underway against one of the largest factory dairy farms in the Pacific Northwest. Threemile Canyon near Boardman, OR, employs 140 mostly Latino immigrants to manage its herd of 18,000 Holstein and Jersey cows (30,000 head total including calves), as well as raise potatoes, corn, wheat, and alfalfa. Threemile's daily output of 1.3 million pounds of milk finds its way to national retail chains such as Safeway, as well as processors like Tillamook County Creamery Association, the famous OR-based co-op cheese maker. In a remote corner of the U.S., one now finds half mile long confinement barns, high tech carousels milking 500 cows at once, and workers facing a grueling 60 hour work week in a hell on earth reminiscent of a 19th-century Dickens novel. The 225 square miles on which Threemile Canyon sits was originally owned by aerospace giant, Boeing Corp. and subleased to farmers for irrigated operations. In early 2000, the ND-based potato giant, R.D. Offut bought out Boeing and launched a $185 million joint venture with Bos Family Oregon Farms, a mega-dairy outfit based in Bakersfield, CA. One of the first jobs of Threemile's new management team was to address a backlog of environmental lawsuits due to massive water withdrawals from the Columbia River blamed for the destruction of wild salmon runs. By cutting its water demand in half (to 120,000 acre feet per year) and setting aside 23,000 acres of endangered juniper sage habitat for conservation, Threemile was able to turn a "green leaf" and placate many of its most outspoken critics. Everyone from the Nature Conservancy to the Wall Street Journal has since dumped accolades on Threemile as a great model of ecological stewardship and responsible business. In fact, Oregon's ex-Governor, John Kitzhaber, is quoted on the factory farm's own website as saying" this farm merges economic and environmental values in a superb example of sustainable agricultureŠ I predict this will be the model and the standard for this kind of development in the future." Part of this sustainability includes recycling of potato skins and other pesticide-laden crop waste as feed to the locked-up dairy cows, which are also pumped full of synthetic hormones and subtherapeutic antibiotics. Oregon taxpayers forked over $20 million in low interest loans and tax credits to get the mega dairy off the ground, while the residents of Portland are paying Threemile another $500,000 a year in exchange for taking their food waste for its composting operation. Ratepayers for Portland General Electric are poised to spend another $1 million annually on the "green power" from Threemile's methane project. Manure from the herd ­ an estimated 675 tons per day ­ is destined for a pair of 50 foot tall methane digesters to produce electricity. Without the guaranteed milk market offered by Tillamook, the massive taxpayer subsidies, as well as the $100 million line of credit from the Bank of the West, Threemile would probably not be solvent today. Conditions for workers on such factory farms are extremely filthy, dangerous, exhausting, and poorly compensated. Three Latino workers on a mega-dairy in CA died recently when they were overcome by hydrogen sulfide and ammonia fumes. Workers are sometimes forced to work in manure up to their waist, and end up with open festering sores that in turn contaminate their own families. Workers frequently break bones from being kicked by cows and from slipping on manure drenched concrete floors, which explains why the rate of injury on dairy farms is the highest in all of agriculture and higher than that in any other private industrial sector, according to a 2003 Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health article. One worker quoted in an Aug. 27, 2004 Salon.com article said, "I worry every day that I will break my hand or get hurt, but I never say anything for fear I'll lose my job. No American would do this job. This is a shit job, for shit money." Dairy farm workers in OR earn as little as $5.15 per hour and are often forced to work 12-16 hour days with no overtime or bonus pay. Until Feb. 2004, farm workers in OR did not even have the legal right to a lunch break or rest periods. In Feb. 2003 the United Farm Workers (UFW) launched an organizing drive at Threemile Canyon after a hundred workers went on wild cat strike and walked off the job following a cut in pay. Union activists soon encountered harassment, intimidation, and in some cases physical assault and illegal firing. Safety violations were rampant, and OSHA now has a dozen citations against Threemile in its records. In all of 2003, though, federal and state regulators only managed to inspect 51 out of the nation's estimated 86,000+ dairy farms. Seventeen workers who sued Threemile for minimum wage violations and illegal payroll deductions accepted an out of court settlement for $70,000 in June 2004. Plaintiff Reginaldo Rodriguez, remarked "I feel very satisfied with the money that we won...but we're concerned about the company retaliating, because the employee handbook says that we don't have rights...that the company can fire us at any time." Agribusiness outfits prefer to hire undocumented workers so that they can simply fire them at will if they get hurt, sick, pregnant, complain, or otherwise prove to be a problem and a drag on profitability. This also enables them to avoid pesky workman's compensation claims and skirt around other laws about employment non-discrimination and workplace safety. A different spin is provided by Agnes Schafer, vice president of Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America (DFA): "Farmers in general are pro-Hispanic because it's economical and it's people who want to work and who value agriculture." DFA has long been criticized by family farmers for its ruthless corporate-style management that places short-term profit above the interest of its own dairy co-op members. DFA is currently under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Justice in several states for anti-trust activities involving manipulation of milk prices and corruption at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Under intense public pressure to negotiate with UFW, Threemile hired Portland television celebrity and public relations flak, Len Bergstein, to advise them in their union busting work. In a February 24, 2004 Oregonian article, Bergstein asserted, "the history of this thing is that the union lies about the operations of the farm for their own purposes. They've been unable to gain widespread support, so they make these outrageous charges without any regard for the truth." Among these charges is growing worker concern that Threemile is contributing to the Mad Cow epidemic in the U.S. through its sloppy handling of dead animals, foodwaste, compost, and feed rations with the same mechanical equipment, leading to dangerous cross contamination. Reminiscent of the gross animal abuse scandal now embroiling KFC, an employee at Threemile stated, "I saw how they killed the calves with hammers; they hammered the calves' heads until they killed them." One upset worker who videotaped such livestock abuse at Threemile was promptly fired. Other workers have been told by supervisors to continue milking cows regardless of mastitis since the elevated bacteria levels would still be diluted enough to pass regulatory health inspection. Utilizing secondary consumer-based boycotts, the UFW has mounted a grassroots pressure campaign against Threemile's major milk buyers and financial creditors. Feeling the heat, both Tillamook in April 2003 and Safeway in June 2004 have now called on Threemile to negotiate with the union, leaving DFA (owner of the Borden/Elsie the Cow label), Bank of the West, and Sorrento Lactalis (maker of "Precious" and "Sorrento" brand cheese products), as targets. On April 24th, 2004, when Bush's Interior Dept. Secretary, Gale Norton, appeared at the Portland, OR zoo for an Earth Day ceremony marking Threemile Canyon's conservation efforts, protestors were on hand to expose the green washing and union busting behind the award. On Aug. 18th, 2004 dozens of Threemile farmworkers and their supporters formed a "human billboard" along Highway 395 in Herminston OR to protest the illegal firing of union activist, Daniel Sepulveda. Sepulveda was sacked for insubordination after an altercation in June that led to his hospitalization with a crushed foot. According to supervisor, Shawn Francis, Sepulveda intentionally put himself in front of his moving truck and got run over. Threemile has brought in union-busting consultants to met with workers in small groups of 3-4, and convincing them to sign an anti-union petition. One of the consultants has reportedly even told workers that it is illegal to have a union in Oregon. While the corporate managers at Threemile Canyons have made some concessions on wages, healthcare, and safety to undercut the UFW drive, they still refuse to recognize the union itself and are lobbying for new state laws allowing indefinite farmworker contracts and outlawing harvest strikes.

  12. Union offer to cut bonuses is rejected by German retailer,
    WSJ, A16.
    Retailer KarstadtQuelle AG rejected an offer by its union to cut bonus payments. Karstadt, one of Germany's biggest employers with about 100,000 employees, needs union support to avoid going bankrupt as it restructures. But service-industry union VER.DI said it was opposed to job and wage cuts and longer working hours, top elements of the overhaul. A spokesman for Karstadt, which owns businesses in such areas as department stores, coffee chains, mail order and travel, said what the union proposed "was not enough."...

  13. Congress reinstates truck-driving rule for more hours
    AP via Billings Gazette, MT
    WASHINGTON - Congress overturned a court order and quietly reinstated a trucking industry-supported rule that allows drivers to stay behind the wheel longer between rest periods. A federal court threw out the regulation last summer, saying the Bush administration had failed to consider its impact on truckers' health. The rule, which had been in effect for nine months, allows drivers to work up to 11 consecutive hours, one more hour than previously permitted, and to log a maximum of 77 hours over seven days, 17 more than before. It replaced a rule that had been in place since World War II. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the rule after it was challenged by the consumer group Public Citizen. The court allowed the rule to stay in place temporarily at the request of the agency that came up with it. The temporary delay in enforcing the court order remains in effect. The new law means the longer-hours rule will be permanent. Last week, Congress extended the rule for up to a year by adding it to a separate measure allocating money for highway construction. No announcement of the change was made. The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, signed off on it. Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said the trucking industry had done an end run around the federal court. "They didn't want it decided on the merits. They wanted it decidedpolitically," she said. Claybrook said the 30% increase in the amount of time a trucker can now drive makes the roads more dangerous. Fatigue is a predominant cause of large truck crashes, which kill 5,000 people a year, she said. Transportation Dept. spokesman Brian Turmail said the new rule reduces the risk of accidents because it requires drivers to take at least 10 hours off between shifts, two more than before. The rule also reduces the maximum work day from 15 hours to 14. "It's designed to make the roads safer by significantly reducing fatigue-related crashes," Turmail said. The law keeps the rule in place until Sept. 30, unless the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration comes up with a new one. Turmail said that agency, which is responsible for trucker safety, is conducting a comprehensive review of the physical effects of drivers' operating their vehicles. That's what was missing from the agency's original deliberations, the overturned court order had said. "The agency neglected to consider a statutorily mandated factor - the impact of the rule on the health of drivers," wrote Judge David B. Sentelle. "The FMCSA points to nothing in the agency's extensive deliberations establishing that it considered the statutorily mandated factor of drivers' health in the slightest." The trucking industry supports the law, saying that switching back and forth between old and new rules would be disruptive. American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said in a statement that reinstating the old rule "could have caused great damage to the national economy." Public Citizens' Claybrook said that going back to the previous 60-year-old rule would have little effect because most truck drivers are familiar with it. Teamsters union spokeswoman Eugenia Gratto said the truckers prefer the original rules because they're safer than the one that increased truckers' hours on the road. "We're certainly disappointed it was slipped in the bill," Gratto said. "A lot of congressional members didn't know about it." In 2002, the trucking industry gave $377,000 to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Industry, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics campaign watchdog group.



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