Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, November 27-30 (& December), 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
11/30/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/29 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA, and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
CTA drops 18-hour "working window" plan; Endorses mandatory EOBRs = 'black boxes' for trucks
Today's Trucking News
OTTAWA, Canada - In a surprise move, the Canadian Trucking
Alliance [CTA] has dropped its proposal to extend the "working window" two more
hours as part of the upcoming Canadian hours-of-service rule and has also weighed in on the side of electronic on-board recorders for trucks.
In a statement issued today, CTA's CEO David Bradley states that CTA has no
quarrel with the current HOS proposal of limiting driving time to 14 hours
- which is already "a 24% increase in daily rest time as compared
to the existing rules." He said that the trucking group's plan that would
have extended a driver's daily "working window" from 16 to 18 hours is not,
"as has been incorrectly reported by some in the media," for the purpose of
seeking longer driving times.
Nonetheless, CTA is dropping its pursuit of the controversial proposal
because of lack of sufficient widespread industry support and vocal
opposition from unions and independent truckers.
This summer, the CTA was able to gain the initial support of the Council of
Ministers, which directed the Canadian Council of Motor Transport
Administrators (CCMTA) at a meeting in Quebec City to review the impacts of
the 18-hour working window and to report back within 60 days. The CTA -
which argued that the extension addressed truckers' concerns over time
available to cope with delays - was hopeful that the amendment would be
included in the final regulation, expected early next year.
The announcement comes at the same time a report issued by a review panel
from the scientific community recommended that the two-hour extension not be
included in the final HOS rule. (See today's previous TodaysTrucking.com
story for more details). The report states that "proactive measures to
address operational problems should be proposed which safeguard the health
and safety of drivers and the public, rather than long split shifts
The expert panel also concluded that the proposal is not "consistent with
the 24-hour day, which was a core, scientifically supported recommendation"
of Canadian and U.S. expert panels going back to 1998. And without the use
of a sleeper berth, the additional two hours off duty is unlikely to be used for recuperative sleep.
The CTA press release didn't mention if the expert panel's report was a
factor in the lobby group's decision to abandon pursuit of the two-hour
Meanwhile, the CTA has also officially endorsed the mandatory use of
electronic on-board data recorders - sometimes called "black boxes" - for
all trucks governed by the National Safety Code and where a commercial
drivers licence is required. "It's imperative from a safety point of view,
which of course is paramount, but also in terms of providing responsible
carriers with a level playing field with competitors who might otherwise
choose to bend or break the rules to increase driving time," Bradley said in
CTA is urging the federal and provincial governments to enter into a joint
government-industry memorandum of understanding on how best to make EOBRs a
reality. "The days of the paper log book should be numbered," Bradley said.
Today's Trucking first reported this summer that the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration will seriously look at reintroducing the possibility
of EOBRs as part of the mandate handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals to
amend aspects of the HOS regime that came into effect on Jan. 4. The agency
is requesting comments on the potential for EOBRs until tomorrow.
"There's been years of research on EOBRs, however it's only been in the
last several years that there's been advancements in the technology that we
haven't taken a look at yet and need to explore," FMCSA spokesperson David
Longo told Today's Trucking recently. "There's a void there that we need to
fill, starting with public comment."
Sources in both Canada and the U.S. have told Today's Trucking that
mandatory EOBRs will in all likelihood be introduced by regulators in the
near future in an attempt to appease the courts and other opponents who
insist the current rules aren't safe enough for the public and drivers.
In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the hours-of-service rule and sent it back to FMCSA for review because the agency failed to comply with a
statute requiring the agency to consider the impact of the rule on "the
physical condition of the operators." While it didn't officially rule on
EOBRs, it did show scorn over, among other issues, the FMCSA's decision not
to include the devices in its final HOS proposal the first time around.
The reasons the FMCSA gave in dismissing 'black boxes' - that neither the
costs nor the benefits of EOBR systems are adequately known; that read-out
procedures created by different EOBR vendors are incompatible; and that
EOBRs are a direct assault on drivers' privacy - were not sufficient, in
the opinion of the court.
A time for flexibility
By Abigail Trafford
What do retirees and mothers of young children have in common?
They both want jobs with flexible [ie: reduced] schedules.
Working moms - and dads - want flexibility in meeting the demands of raising a family while meeting the expectations of
the boss. Men and women who plan to work after retirement want flexibility so they can meet their personal need to
regenerate with education, travel, volunteer service and caring for relatives - even as they fulfill the needs of an employer.
Flexibility means part-time work, episodic work, job-sharing and general policies that help people manage their private
lives. It's a workplace culture that focuses on getting the job done rather than punching time on the clock.
But a good job with flexibility is hard to find.
Senior Services of Albany, N.Y., a nonprofit agency that provides programs and services to older men and women in New York
state's capital region, took a first step when it devised a high-level, part-time job to create a new department of
volunteers. The leading candidate had recently retired after 20 years in state government. But the woman also wanted to take
month-long chunks of time off without pay to travel with her husband.
Could the job get done in these circumstances? "It was a risk we took," said Ann G. DiSarro, executive director of Senior
Services. But it was worth a try. "We're like a small business. We're not in a bureaucracy with standards for time off. It
was easy for us to do. The exchange is, you get a person who is very qualified for the job." Over the next five years,
Robyn Potter, mother of three, grandmother of six, put together a new base of volunteers. She expanded the Meals on Wheels
program by using capable men and women who were mentally or physically disabled to deliver the meals to the isolated and the
frail, a system that benefited both givers and receivers and saved money on hired drivers. She developed training protocols
and built up a network of volunteers in schools, churches and community centers.
Meanwhile, she took long trips with her husband as part of the Earthwatch study program, monitoring various species of
wildlife, from the platypus in Australia to the black rhino in Kenya.
Potter quickly saw that the job was cyclical, so she scheduled her trips six months in advance during down periods. The agency never had to hire someone to cover for her.
She also brought to the job the advantages from a lifetime of experience. The ability to work independently, organize well
and follow through stemmed from "my work experience, my experience as a volunteer, my experience as a mother," she e
xplained. She and her husband had adopted two hard-to-place children and become community advocates to get them needed
services. She learned to juggle, set priorities and be persistent. "You need those don't-give-up skills," she said. "You
learn what to let go of, what you need to follow through on. . . . You just keep making phone calls."
The result of her hiring by Senior Services was win-win. "She did these exotic travels and we got a great volunteer
department," DiSarro said.
"It was a give and take on both sides that worked out for both of us," said Potter. "Most employers do not take that risk."
Research by Phyllis Moen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota, shows that people in their fifties and
sixties and beyond want to continue to work, but they don't want to continue in their old jobs. They want new jobs -
usually ones with flexibility.
When I had my first child in 1967, it was assumed that I would quit my job. That assumption has been overturned, as moms
flooded the workplace, breaking down barriers against women and promoting family-friendly policies.
A similar evolution is occurring with retirees. Until recently it was assumed that a person who retired after a long career
would stop working, go to Florida and play golf. Today, older men and women may want to play more golf and enjoy more
leisure, but they also want - and need - to work.
There's a natural alliance between working parents and retirees to create more opportunities outside the traditional
full-time mold and break down prejudice against part-time workers. Together, these two populations representing millions of
Americans could form a critical mass for change.
We've all come a long way - but there's a long way to go.
EU 'punishing' UK over labour market
Financial Times, UK
By George Parker in Brussels
Denis MacShane, Britain's minister for Europe, yesterday accused the rest of
the European Union of trying to "punish" the UK for having a flexible and
successful labour market.
Mr MacShane told EU ambassadors in London there was a determined effort to
contain Britain in a "made-in-Brussels straitjacket".
The strident comments came from a minister who often criticises colleagues
for "bashing Brussels", because of the damage it does to the campaign to
ratify the EU constitution.
Peter Mandelson, the new EU commissioner for trade, recently warned of the
dangers of "exaggerated gloating" about the strength of the UK economy.
But Mr MacShane's comments reflect frustration in London at European
criticism of the UK labour market, where the jobless rate of 4.6% is
less than half that in France or Germany.
Britain is particularly opposed to pressure from the Commission and EU
member states to redefine its "opt out" to European legislation limiting
Mr MacShane told the ambassadors: "I am surprised at the desire of so many
in Brussels to punish Britain. As you know we have one of the best
performing economies, especially in the labour market field."
[Not really. Loads of hidden unemployment, same as U.S.]
He said Britain's labour laws were generating jobs [employment-funnelling does not generate jobs], creating wealth [funneling wealth to top brackets is not 'creating wealth'] and were
sustaining high levels of trade union membership.
[Britain does not have high levels of union membership. Neither does longer-hours USA.]
"There is a concerted effort by key players in Brussels - on the European
Commission, in the Council of Ministers and the European parliament - to
take Britain in the direction of rigid labour markets.
[BS - labor hours that can only get longer are hardly flexible.]
Some want a made-in-Brussels straitjacket, by imposing bureaucratic
inflexibility on the ability of workers and employers to shape working hours
that suit individual needs of employees."
[What hypocritical propaganda! Employees have less and less control as technology-diminished employment funnels onto fewer longer-working people and leaves more and more under- and un-employed. "Individual needs of employees" get less and less consideration.]
Mr MacShane urged the ambassadors to convey to their governments the need to
"say goodbye to out-of-date thinking from the 1980s about how work time
should be organised".
[MacShane is a McJobs thinker - no concept of whole-systems thinking or what real up-to-date thinking would be:
Britain is also fighting moves by the Commission to regulate the temporary
workers' sector, which the UK regards as a flexible route into the
- automatic conversion of overtime to training&hiring - see Timesizing Phase 2 and Phase 3.
- automatic adjustment of the workweek against unemployment, redefined to include the whole problem of non-self-support (unemployment, welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration...) - see Timesizing Phase 4 and Phase 1.]
Dispute surfaces over bus safety
The Grand Rapids Press, MI
By Matt Vande Bunte
CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. - Who[m] do you believe?
The Cedar Springs School Board at its last two meetings has heard reports
on the new busing procedures.
A driver says the new system is unsafe. An elementary school principal says
things are going just fine.
The school board is left to decide. And right now, the board president sides
with administrators, calling driver criticism of the new system an
understandable "negotiation strategy."
"There's just a lot of anxiety on (bus drivers') part that they need to do
something to get those hours back," Carolee Cole said.
Budget cuts this year took away employment benefits for drivers by reducing
their working hours below full-time. In order to do that, officials had to
overhaul busing, going to a single run instead of separate runs for
elementary and secondary students.
Cyndy Marek, a bus driver and union vice president, urged board members
last month to ride a school bus to see for themselves that "we're still
having transportation problems." Lower wages and no benefits are leading to
high turnover, she said, putting less-experienced drivers on the roads.
"I don't understand where they say there isn't a safety problem here,"
Last week, Cedar View Elementary School Principal Michael Duffy reported
that the number of troublesome incidents such as fights and bad language are
"not anything more than we normally have."
In addition, the new school schedule that goes along with the busing
changes is boosting student productivity because they are less tired at the
end of the day, he said.
In the Public Interest via ProgressiveTrail.org, OR
by Ralph Nader
Law-breaker, union-buster, tax-escapee and shifter of costs to others, the
world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, announced last week that it would
respect the wishes of its Chinese workers to form a union. As is usual with
Wal-Mart announcements, a substantial overstatement is working here.
In China, unions are not independent; they are government-controlled with
the Chinese communist party turning them into what would be called "company
unions" in the U.S. With 40 stores in China already, Wal-Mart understands
that these essentially Communist Party-controlled unions serve as a
controlling mechanism over workers a one-stop system which often have an
in-company manager in charge.
China is seen by Wal-Mart as the future. With the U.S. market approaching
saturation (Wal-Mart has 3,600 big and bigger stores here), the company with
the biggest gross revenues in the world - $258.7 billion last year is
importing more from Chinese factories then is the entire country of Germany.
Its message to U.S. suppliers is that if they cannot meet the "China price,"
they should close down in America and open up in the world's largest
communist dictatorship. Astonishing, isn't it, that this giant capitalist
corporation is using this Communist regime as its labor enforcement arm to
drive down wages and benefits in the U.S.
In Western Europe, Wal-Mart has to treat its workers better than it treats
its American workers. European labor laws are much tougher than those in the
U.S. Wal-Mart has to give its workers paid vacations (from 4 to 8
weeks depending on the country), better benefits and working conditions.
There is no "off the clock" work [see 6/25/2002 #1] or wages not fully paid for long periods of
time. Wal-Mart has even agreed to collectively bargain with a large German
In the country of its birth, Wal-Mart is wrecking havoc with worker
standards of living. It forces other large grocery chains to demand from
their unionized employees lower wages and benefits to be able to compete
with Wall-Mart's race to the bottom. This direction is a historically tragic
reverse for the U.S. economy that before World War II featured rising wages
that increased consumer demand and improved livelihoods.
Increasingly, Wal-Mart's immense arc of influence here is pushing wages and
benefits downward. With hundreds of thousands of its nearly 1.4 million
workers making under $7.50 an hour, before payroll deductions, (the average
wage is between $7.50 and $8.50 an hour), the average-on-the-clock workweek
is only 32 hours. Since Wal-Mart defines anyone working fewer than 34 hours
per week as part-time, they have to wait for two years before qualifying for
health insurance whose co-payment takes one-fifth of the average paycheck.
Get the idea of what is meant by the Wal-Mart way.
Waiting periods are key to Wal-Mart's phony health insurance boasting in
their television ads. Impoverished employees don't stay, with turnover rates
for these hourly employees at 50% to 100% at many stores.
Wal-Mart is devilishly ingenious in thinking up ways to have taxpayers fill
in its wage gap. Put them on partial welfare, says the very well paid
company bosses who make millions of dollars each per year. These workers are
given advice on how to apply so that taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's profits.
For example, in Georgia, over 10, 261 children of Wal-Mart employees are
enrolled in the state's Peachcare program for health insurance in families
meeting federal poverty criteria.
According to the report, Everyday Low Wages, one 200-person Wal-Mart store
could cost federal taxpayers over $420,000 per year. These costs include
subsidized lunches, health insurance and housing assistance, federal tax
credits and deductions for low-income families, among other examples of
Enough is never enough for this corporation. It often demands substantial
local tax breaks from municipalities as a condition for locating there.
Although successful local opposition is blocking dozens of Wal-Mart location
plans, this corporate welfare King still manages to escape its fair share of
taxes, while local home owner and small businesses ante up for local public
services and assume Wal-Mart's share. That is, small businesses that manages
to remain in the hollowed out Main Streets that are the aftermath of a
Wal-Mart opening. Minimal thinking by consumers say Wal-Mart is a bargain;
maximum thinking starts adding up the local, national and global costs of
this Goliath depressor of purchasing power by workers.
For more information on these cost burdens, see the website WalMartWatch.com
which also shows how communities have stopped the Wal-Mart invasion.
Push comes to shove for United - As the next round of labor talks begins, the airline is playing hardball, seeking work-rule rewrites that would change life on the job for thousands
Crain's Chicago Business, IL
By Julie Johnsson
As it seeks another round of pay cuts with its unions, United Airlines is
pushing for sweeping revisions in rules that govern how its 60,000 employees
perform their jobs.
The proposed work-rule changes are spelled out in term sheets the airline
gave unions earlier this month.
If approved, United would outsource more jobs, eliminate seniority and
job-protection provisions for ground personnel, force pilots to work longer
hours and scrap mandated rest for flight attendants.
How much United ultimately gets will be determined by negotiations with its
unions, which begin this week, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago,
which has set an early January deadline for United and its unions to reach
an agreement. If talks fail, the court could impose the contract terms
sought by the Elk Grove Township-based airline.
United seeks to trim another $2 billion from expenses, including $725
million in wages and benefits, to obtain financing to exit bankruptcy.
Hard times, hard line
While it wants to slash employee wages - again - United Airlines also
proposes sweeping changes in rules governing how workers do their jobs.
Changes that would affect all employees
Temporary pay cuts*: 4% from Jan. 1 until bankruptcy exit; 4% for up to six
months after bankruptcy exit if United violates debt covenants
Sick leave: Paid at 70%, not 100%, of employee's hourly rate
- paid through workers compensation, not sick pay
- vacation would be cut to: two weeks for first year of service, three weeks after five years with UAL, four weeks after 10 years.
Union: Air Line Pilots Assn.
Pay cut: 8%
Total concessions: $191.2 million
What management wants
Boost maximum workloads to 95 hours a month for 747, 777 pilots
Designate junior pilots, paid at a lower wage, as relief pilots on
long-haul international flights
Outsource cargo flights
What it would mean for workers
United will need fewer of its costliest pilots
Could pit 747 pilots against younger counterparts
Cargo flights to be flown by non-union pilots in non-UAL planes
Union: Assn. of Flight Attendants
Pay cut: 6.2%
Total concessions: $137.6 million
What management wants
Lift rules barring flight attendants from flying more than eight hours in
a 24-hour period
Duty time increased to 14 hours scheduled, 16 hours actual
International work rules dropped for flights to Caribbean, Central and
South America; minimum layover reduced to 22 hours
What it would mean for workers
Working back-to-back-to-back transcontinental flights
More unpaid hours idle at airports
Lower pay, less rest on overseas flights: hardships for older flight
Union: Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn.
Pay cut: 5%
Total concessions: $101.2 million
What management wants
Outsource plant and ground equipment maintenance, fueling and cabin
Furlough workers without regard to seniority
Perform heavy maintenance offshore
What it would mean for workers
Layoffs for everyone but line mechanics
United can close repair stations without offering veteran workers jobs
No FAA checks on offshore repair work
Ramp workers/ticket agents
Union: International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Pay cut: 7%
Total concessions: $180 million
What management wants
Greater use of part-time workers
Outsource food-service work, mail, cargo-running, security and fueling
Eliminate job-protection and no-furlough provisions
What it would mean for workers
Fewer full-time workers
Heavy cuts for all but gate agents, baggage handlers
*Temporary pay cut would be in addition to other proposed pay cuts
Source: Union documents
The nation's No. 2 carrier may be willing to exchange some of the proposed
work-rule revisions for greater wage cuts. That was the case last year, when
the airline dropped many of the concessions it sought after unions agreed to
a $2.5-billion pay cut.
"This is an initial proposal," says a United spokeswoman. "We've identified
a cost savings that we need from each employee group. How we get that number
is open to discussion and negotiation."
Some employees privately grumble that the work-rule revisions are aimed
more at busting United's unions than wringing significant new savings.
'DESTROYS OUR CAREERS'
Indeed, United's proposals would likely weaken unions by giving management
greater latitude to lay off workers and outsource jobs. If United succeeds,
other mainline airlines are likely to seek similar concessions.
"They get rid of these (existing work rules), it changes 40 years of
bargaining. It destroys our careers," says an Assn. of Flight Attendants
spokeswoman. The union has voted to authorize limited strikes if courts
abrogate its contracts with United, US Airways, ATA Airlines or Hawaiian
Airlines, all of which are in bankruptcy.
While United needs to minimize worker discontent, it holds the upper hand
since the Bankruptcy Court will likely side with the embattled airline if
That leaves United's unions with little leverage aside from threatening to
strike, which would likely destroy United as a similar move wiped out
Eastern Airlines a decade ago.
"The strike option is playing with fire; it's foolish at this point," says
transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University.
However, United has a history of taking full advantage of employee
concessions, which may make workers willing to engage in such brinkmanship.
After mechanics agreed to let the airline outsource heavy maintenance last
year, United moved all such work to outside vendors. Now, United seeks to
outsource all plant and ground equipment, fueling and cabin workers, moves
that would gut its ground workforce.
"I don't care if you pay us $80 an hour," says Richard Turk, a mechanic and
communications officer for Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn. Local 9, which
represents about 3,800 United mechanics on the West Coast. "If only eight of
us are left working, it really doesn't do any good."
Chirac rival takes over the French ruling party - 'Reformist' [our quotes]: Energetic, quick-witted and frank Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as head of the ruling UMP by a wide margin, taking him a step closer to the presidency
AP via Taipei Times, Taiwan
LE BOURGET, France - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has taken one step closer to a bid for the presidency, taking the helm of President Jacques Chirac's party.
In a multimillion-dollar, American-style political show, Sarkozy on Sunday
was named president of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), kicking off a
new era for Chirac's right....
At least 15,000 UMP members packed the hall of Le Bourget airport northeast
of Paris for the party's changing of the guard. Thousands of others followed
the proceedings on screens from adjoining areas. The press compared the
spectacle, featuring show-biz stars, to the crowning of a king.
In an address to the crowd, Sarkozy, elected for a three-year term, said he
will work so that UMP is the source of a rebirth for the "essential values"
of France - respect, work and country.
UMP, created in 2002 in an alliance of Chirac's conservatives and some
centrists, has been losing elections ever since. It replaced the traditional
conservative Rally for the Republic, a neo-Gaullist party created by Chirac.
Sarkozy made clear that, in giving the party new momentum, he wants to do
away with the status quo, which he called "our adversary."
"I want to remain a free man," Sarkozy said. "Things are going to change,"
he added later. "We will not disappoint."
However, Chirac sent a warning in a message to the party, insisting that
the "union" between conservatives and centrists upon which the UMP was
founded must be preserved.
"Today, you are the vigilant guardians," Chirac said in the message read
out quickly by Sarkozy. "Nothing, ever, must put this [union] into
Chirac said he counted on the "vitality, efficiency, commitment of Nicolas
Sarkozy" in his new job.
Sarkozy, once part of Chirac's inner circle, betrayed the president by
backing Edouard Balladur for president in 1995 rather than the winner
Chirac. He retreated for seven years from the political scene to be brought
back in 2002 as interior minister.
Energetic, quick-witted and frank, Sarkozy is said to have wanted the prime
minister's job, but he quickly moved to center-stage with a law-and-order
program against delinquents and bold moves to bring France's huge Muslim
population into the mainstream.
Sarkozy took a deep jab at the 35-hour work week put in place by the former
Socialist government, saying he wants a "profound reform" of the law. Work
must be "rehabilitated" and "the France of work" must be "at the heart of
all politics," he said.
"We must invent and symbolize a French model of success inspired by no
other model but [able] to inspire others," he said.
Neither skin color nor social origins should stand in the way of success,
Sarkozy outlined a project to make the UMP a truly popular party, saying he
will spend three days a month in various French regions, meeting farmers,
factory workers and civil servants and encouraging the party's youth
movement to connect with high schools.
"Together, we will develop the great popular movement you have dreamed of,"
Sarkozy said. "A new horizon is before us."
Speaking like a statesman, Sarkozy also addressed international concerns,
lauding former communist-era leaders of eastern Europe like Lech Walesa and
Vaclav Havel for making "liberty triumph" - and getting heavy applause for
also praising Pope John Paul II.
As expected, Sarkozy won the Nov. 15 to Nov. 21 election for UMP president
by a wide margin. He took 85.1% of the vote, the head of the election
commission Robert Pandraud announced on Sunday, when results were made
Sarkozy has never said he seeks the presidency and, to much applause,
promised his "loyal and full support" in 2007 to "whoever it is" that can
best rally to unite the French.
Mobility means 'nowhere to hide' [ie: rest] - Latest survey forsees wireless future, but is it a better future?
By Matthew Broersma, Techworld
Greater mobility is associated with higher productivity, according to a
Cisco-sponsored survey published today by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Those who are away from their desks most of the time say they're more
productive than their stationary colleagues.
But while mobility looks to be the future - only 11% of respondents
said they will spend more time at their desk two years from now - the survey
found that many are troubled by the impact mobile technologies are having on
their lives. Three-quarters said the blurring of personal and work time was
a key negative aspect of mobile technologies, commenting that they felt "on
call" 24 hours a day, had less "thinking time" and had "nowhere to hide".
26% said more access to corporate communications would
increase their daily work hours, with one respondent commenting: "It would
increase stress and make life more difficult... total accessibility is not
conducive to good decision-making." Another 20% said more access
would reduce their work hours.
Despite such problems, 73% admitted that access to mobile tools in
places where they currently have little or no access - in the bath, perhaps?
- would increase their efficiency and reduce response time to problems.
Working away from their primary work space (almost always an office desk)
doesn't in itself make workers more productive - 66% said they felt
"very productive" at their desk, compared with 36% who felt that way
working from home, and only 15% feeling the same when working
elsewhere in their own companies, at other company locations and at supplier
sites. The least productive locations were during the daily commute, at a
neighbourhood cafe or on a business trip.
Instead, the flexibility to work in various locations seems to be a
productivity boost: those who spend more than half of their working time
away from their office desk said they were more productive than those who
were more stationary. The survey also found that the quarter of respondents
who were "very satisfied" with their companies' provisions for mobile
working reported higher levels of productivity.
However ambivalent workers might feel about mobile working, most expect it
will become a more important part of their jobs. 39%
expected to telecommute more from home two years from now, and 42%
expected to work more while travelling on business.
The survey covered 1,500 respondents over the summer, with 45% from
western and eastern Europe, 26% from the Americas and 22% from
the Asia and Australasia area. The respondents were mainly from the IT,
telecoms, finance, healthcare and biotech industries, with the largest group
between 35 and 44. Nearly a third were executives from large enterprises,
with 19% being CEOs, presidents or managing directors.
For many workers, it's home, suite home - Corporate apartments (employer-paid housing for workers on long assignments) are coming back
USA Today, VA
By Chris Woodyard
Sherry McMahon, a nurse from Tulsa, lives in a corporate apartment in Calif. [caption of photo By Bob Riha Jr., USA TODAY]
After falling in popularity after Sept. 11 and during the 2001 recession,
more businesses are returning to the idea of apartments as an alternative to
rising hotel rates.
The industry that provides corporate apartments has been in a steady
upswing as business travel has returned, says Terry Flahive, president of
the Corporate Housing Providers Association.
Employers get a cheaper place to house workers in big metropolitan areas.
Workers get a regular apartment that offers more space and is homier than a
Travel consultant Smith Analytics identifies 11,000 corporate apartment
units in the big city markets it tracks. Smith shows demand up slightly this
year over last.
Employees or consultants who work weeks at a time on assignment stay in
fully furnished apartments instead of hotel rooms. Instead of arranging for
units directly with a landlord, some companies or individual business
travelers contract with companies that specialize in finding, furnishing and
renting corporate apartments.
In a fragmented market of companies that provide corporate apartments, a
few big players have emerged.
They include BridgeStreet Corporate Housing Worldwide, Oakwood Worldwide
and Marriott's ExecuStay.
Aiding the rebound:
Higher hotel costs. As average hotel rates reach about $200 a night in New
York, a corporate apartment can look more like a bargain. That's true in
other big cities like Washington and Los Angeles, too.
Oakwood is seeing a 20% increase in occupancy this year "because hotels
have been raising prices," says spokeswoman Jessica Shih.
Fewer permanent staff. The jobless recovery has meant Corporate America is
trying to get more work from fewer employees.
That has meant hiring more consultants and temporary workers who can be
brought in for specific projects perfect candidates for corporate
apartments. ExecuStay says the average stay of workers in its units is about
Military housing. Corporate apartments around military bases have been
bulging since wars began in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the buildup, some
bases have had to turn to apartments outside their fences to house the
Providing such housing can involve a variety of arrangements.
Some companies, like BridgeStreet, simply rent unfurnished units in cities
where the corporations want them. It furnishes them right down to dishware
and premium cable TV channels. Others, like Oakwood, own a large number of
the apartment buildings where they house workers.
ExecuStay is turning the development of corporate housing into a franchise
opportunity. Whatever form it takes, the financial end of the deal is
usually pretty simple. The providers bill the corporations either monthly or
at the end of a guest's stay.
BridgeStreet President Lee Curtis says his units have an advantage over
extended-stay hotels. The typical BridgeStreet property is bigger and has
more amenities, like full-size kitchens, he says.
There are some disadvantages for workers. Besides only occasional maid
visits, there is no hotel room service.
But it is more like home. The providers say they try to make sure guests
don't get homesick. Oakwood hosts holiday brunches and musical performances.
It decorates for the holidays and holds mixers and craft classes.
Providers say December is a great time for travelers to try out corporate
apartments at a discount. Corporate tenants often head home to their
families, leaving many apartments empty.
BridgeStreet, for one, is offering one-bedroom apartments for $90 a night in
Chicago, $125 a night in San Francisco and $195 a night in New York through
mid-January. Those rates can be up to half off what a comparable hotel room
would cost, says BridgeStreet's Curtis. The units are offered at
Oakwood is offering holiday discounts through Jan. 9 on properties
throughout the country to corporate travelers and leisure travelers who plan
to stay more than two days on their trips. Details are on a special Oakwood
Web site: www.familyplacetostay.com
( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - currently he's experimenting with eight search runs:
"work sharing", OR overwork, OR overworking, OR "work-sharing", OR
"job-sharing", OR "job sharing", OR "work week", OR workweeks, OR "work-week", OR "work-weeks", OR "working week", OR "working weeks", OR "work-time", OR "worktime", OR "decreases hours", OR "shorter schedule"
"cut hours", OR "cutting hours", OR "more hours", OR "reduce hours", OR "reduced hours", OR "reduces hours", OR "reducing hours", OR "hours reduction", OR "40 hour", OR "40 hours", OR "forty hour", OR "forty hours"
"decrease hours", OR "decreased hours", OR "decreasing hours", OR "fewer hours", OR "schedule reduction", OR "long work", OR "long hours", OR "long days", OR "long workdays", OR "long workday", OR Nucor, OR "Lincoln Electric"
"work hours", OR "working hours", OR "shorter hours", OR "shorten hours", OR "shortened hours", OR "shortened work"
"free time" labor OR workers OR employees
leisure labor OR workers OR employees
vacation OR vacations labor OR workers OR employees
11/27-29/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/26-29 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA, and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
LIFE'S A BEACH: But with modern technology, work is never far away, even on
holidays - We're no longer a land of long weekends
Queensland Sunday Mail, Australia
If you're hanging out [Aussie: "waiting"] for Christmas, longing for a few weeks relaxing at
the beach, you're probably not alone.
A new report says many of us should already be kicking back, having ended
the working year last weekend.
The Australia Institute nominated November 20 which was last Saturday
as "Take The Rest Of The Year Off" Day.
It says if the average Australian worker took extra holidays from then
until the end of the year, they would have worked the same number of hours
as counterparts in other industrialised nations.
Aussies now work the longest hours in the developed world 212 hours, more
than five weeks, above the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and
Development countries' average.
The laid-back Norwegians put in 479 hours, or 12 weeks, a year fewer than
"While Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the
long weekend, they are now working the longest hours in the developed world
and, in fact, are at risk of working ourselves sick," report co-author Dr
Richard Denniss said.
"Australians work on average longer than Germans, Americans and even
Japanese, known for 'karoshi', or death by overwork."
Dr Denniss said the trend was driven by changing social norms.
"How many people come back from Christmas holidays saying, 'I want to work
even more hours this year?'
"But people are thinking, 'Everyone else seems to be staying late' or the
management culture is such that they are given a quota of work and have to
put those hours in to get it done."
The loss of support staff such as secretaries in the past 10-20 years had
increased the workload.
"The modern workplace culture is that those sort of jobs are a waste but
it's far more wasteful having people earning $80,000 standing at the
photocopier," he said.
Four out of 10 full-time workers said they would like to do fewer hours,
rising to 57% of those putting in 50 hours or more a week. A 35-hour
working week was the most popular preference.
A study four years ago showed one in five full-time workers in Australia
put in 50 hours or more a week.
But a recent survey found this had risen to one in three. And the
International Labour Organisation says the numbers doing that are growing
faster here than in any industrialised country.
Dr Denniss said overwork was bad for the individual and the employer. "Longand stressful work hours have negative impacts on physical and mental health
and relationships," he said.
"Australians are reporting higher stress and anxiety. Long hours are
related to an increased incidence of workplace accidents and higher staff
turnover and lower morale."
Australia's 10 or 11 public holidays a year are about the OECD average but
our four weeks' annual leave is less than the European five. Some countries
And Dr Denniss says 60% of people fail to take all their leave
Australians had to stop confusing materialism with standard of living if
they were to break out of the overwork trap, he said.
Has your job taken over your life? Write to: "Overwork" at The Sunday
Mail, GPO Box 130, Brisbane 4001; fax 3666 6787; e-mail
- [Hey, Aussie doctors are swinging with it -]
Medicare sweetener has added to GP woes
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
By Mark Metherell
AUSTRALIA - The Federal Government's "100% Medicare" sweetener to doctors is
unlikely to turn around the fall in services by general practitioners,
government forecasts show.
The Coalition's $1.7 billion election pledge to pay GPs an extra $4.60 per
service was designed to improve access to and affordability of GP services.
But the Health Department's own estimates show it does not expect any growth
in services. The overall cost of the new measure is forecast to fall
slightly over the next three years - from $505 million next financial year
to $504 million in 2007-08.
The department has acknowledged there is an underlying decrease in GP
services. It says there is also an overall trend towards fewer short and
standard consultations by GPs and proportionally more longer consultations.
The figures have surfaced amid fresh evidence that Australia is struggling
to fill vacancies for GP trainees. The GP training agency, GPET, says there
are 600 government-funded training places for next year, but it has been
able to fill only 530 of them.
More broadly, there are about 1400 medical graduates each year to fill a
total 1750 places available, including those for medical specialists, said
the agency's chief executive, Bill Coote.
"From our projections we have deduced that it will certainly be very
difficult to fill all our places in the next two years and to convince
doctors to join the training program with so many options available to
them," Dr Coote said. "If there is a continued shortage it might make it
even more difficult to attract doctors into areas of need, such as rural
The Federal Government has committed to increasing doctor numbers by 1500
over four years, including through recruitment of overseas-trained doctors,
and expanding medical school places by 246 a year.
The Government and professional organisations are also working to expand the
role of nurses in routine medical care to offset the squeeze on doctors.
A survey published this week found that even though the number of doctors
nationwide rose by 12% to 54,000 between 1997 and 2002, supply of
services has declined because doctors are generally working shorter hours.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said the reasons for the
shorter hours were complex but were likely to include an ageing profession,
a growing proportion of women doctors and a general resistance to working
more than 50 hours a week.
The steady decline in services is borne out by Medicare statistics which
show that in NSW patients see GPs an average five times a year. That
compares with four visits less than nine years ago.
Labor's health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said that while doctor shortages
represented part of the problem, the decline in bulk-billing in many areas
was also a likely reason. This meant patients who could not see a GP for
reasons of cost or availability were left with their illness undiagnosed, or
forced to go to a public hospital emergency department.
The chairman of the Australian Divisions of General Practice, Rob Walters,
said the projections of continued shortages represented a huge challenge and
raised more urgently the question of "what do we allow nurses to do?"
[Australian doctors (article above) are showing the way for their benighted fellow employees (article below) -]
11/27 We're no longer a land of long weekends
Queensland Sunday Mail, Australia
If you're hanging out for Christmas, longing for a few weeks relaxing at the beach, you're probably not alone. A new report
says many of us should already be kicking back, having ended the working year last weekend.
The Australia Institute nominated November 20 which was last Saturday as "Take The Rest Of The Year Off" Day. It says if
the average Australian worker took extra holidays from then until the end of the year, they would have worked the same
number of hours as counterparts in other industrialised nations.
Aussies now work the longest hours in the developed world 212 hours, more than five weeks, above the Organisation of
Economic Co-operation and Development countries' average. The laid-back Norwegians put in 479 hours, or 12 weeks, a year
fewer than us.
"While Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the long weekend, they are now working the longest
hours in the developed world and, in fact, are at risk of working ourselves sick," report co-author Dr Richard Denniss said.
"Australians work on average longer than Germans, Americans and even Japanese, known for 'karoshi', or death by overwork."
Dr Denniss said the trend was driven by changing social norms. "How many people come back from Christmas holidays saying, 'I
want to work even more hours this year?' "But people are thinking, 'Everyone else seems to be staying late' or the
management culture is such that they are given a quota of work and have to put those hours in to get it done."
The loss of support staff such as secretaries in the past 10-20 years had increased the workload.
"The modern workplace culture is that those sort of jobs are a waste but it's far more wasteful having people earning
$80,000 standing at the photocopier," he said.
Four out of 10 full-time workers said they would like to do fewer hours, rising to 57% of those putting in 50 hours
or more a week. A 35-hour working week was the most popular preference.
A study four years ago showed one in five full-time workers in Australia put in 50 hours or more a week. But a recent survey
found this had risen to one in three. And the International Labour Organisation says the numbers doing that are growing
faster here than in any industrialised country.
Dr Denniss said overwork was bad for the individual and the employer. "Long and stressful work hours have negative impacts
on physical and mental health and relationships," he said. "Australians are reporting higher stress and anxiety. Long hours
are related to an increased incidence of workplace accidents and higher staff turnover and lower morale."
Australia's 10 or 11 public holidays a year are about the OECD average but our four weeks' annual leave is less than the
European five. Some countries have six.
And Dr Denniss says 60% of people fail to take all their leave entitlement.
Australians had to stop confusing materialism with standard of living if they were to break out of the overwork trap, he said.
Supply shortages eat profits
Asahi Shimbun, Japan
The Asahi Shimbun
A shortage of materials, such as steel and synthetic resin, is eating into
the profits of many manufacturers.
Sharply growing global demand, especially in China, is making it harder for
large purchasers, such as automakers, shipbuilders and consumer electronics
makers, to get their hands on needed materials.
The limited supply has forced some makers to suspend production and
reschedule product deliveries.
Nissan Motor Co. reported Thursday it will hold up operations at three
assembly plants late this month and early next month due to a lack of steel.
An unexpected increase in vehicle exports is also squeezing automakers,
which account for about 20% of total domestic demand for steel
An executive of a major steelmaker said both automakers and steelmakers had
underestimated vehicle production for the current fiscal year.
And with their plants already operating at full capacity to meet the
sharply growing demand, steelmakers are hard-pressed to increase production.
Shipbuilders suffered shrinking profit margins as steel prices rose by
about 5,000 yen, or 10%, per ton in the spring.
Major shipbuilders such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and
Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. posted losses in their earnings
reports for the half year through September, mainly as a result of the price
hike and the rising yen.
Since early this year, those companies have taken countermeasures, such as
increasing the number of days off at their shipbuilding yards.
[= timesizing, not downsizing = worktime that fluctuates with reality, such as demand/revenue for corporations or demand/unemployment for governments.]
Rising synthetic resin prices are also eroding profits of major
Hitachi Ltd. forecasts its operating profit in the current fiscal year
through March will shrink by 57 billion yen due to higher priced plastic and
Meanwhile, suppliers are reluctant to boost their production capacities.
Having struggled to eliminate oversupply for years, steelmakers are very
cautious about building new capital-burning blast furnaces.
And having gone through a tough realignment period in the late 1990s to
survive global competition, petrochemical companies have no appetite for
investing in large-scale domestic production facilities.
- [Page down about 4 times to see our outline of the Timesizing solution before you drink the hemlock over this lengthy litany of pessimism.]
Taking The Dumbing Down of America
[Does he mean taking the dumbing down of America down? or taking on the dumbing down of America? or talking about the dumbing down of America?]
Collective Bellaciao, France
by Manuel Valenzuela
Something is amiss in the great nation called America. Ominous sirens
warning this reality can be heard emanating loudly through invisible winds
of change circulating our towns and cities. The American people are being
strangulated; unbeknownst to the masses they are being transformed and
conditioned, becoming the entity the elite have long sought, the culmination
of decades of social engineering designed to make of hundreds of millions
the slaves of times past and the automatons of the future.
Yet in this present day we find ourselves in, struggling to comprehend a
world gone mad, unable to discern neither the direction we are headed nor
the inevitable course time is guiding us on. It is because of what has been
done to us, and is presently being done to our children, that we fail to
comprehend the severity of the road that lies ahead. Quite successful have
the elite become in shifting the balance of power from the masses to
themselves. How, one might wonder, has this been accomplished, especially
when we are the many and they the few?
It is through the dumbing down of America, the methodical destruction and
purposeful elimination of the means by which a society educates and
enlightens itself. The evisceration of a system that extols accountability
and dialogue, opens up the gates of opportunity with the keys of ability and
questions authority and seeks debate is in full swing. A system that in
theory creates a wealth of knowledge, illuminates talent, births an informed
citizenry and creates free thinking, analytical minds has been slowly
implemented for the last several decades. The dumbing down of America
continues into the present, unrelenting and unhindered, squashing the masses
for the benefit of the elite.
A giant threat to the system is being disposed of, systematically and
without remorse, making of America and its citizens yet one more cog in the
engine called capitalistic exploitation of humanity.
What has happened to the Pax Americana?
Here stands the Pax Americana, the most imposing Empire that ever rose from
the short reign of human civilization, responsible for placing the entire
manifestation of world citizens at the threshold of perilous danger. It is
the Pax Americana that has unwound the stitches holding a volatile world
together, the nation that has over the last fifty years caused so much
damage to the peoples of the globe. The karma of ceaseless negative energy
is coming back to haunt an empire whose actions, while helping enrich its
own belly and those residing in its entrails, have decimated untold millions
whose only crime was being born in lands destined to suffer the harsh
exploitation of America and its capitalistic pandemic.
How has a once admired and loved leader of nations fallen from grace in such
a short period of time? What has happened to a populace living in the
wealthiest nation in human civilization? Why has the United States
transformed itself into the malicious beast the world sees through frightful
Gluttony and materialism have enveloped all corners of the United States,
from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans, from the border with Canada to the one with
Mexico. The vices of consumerism and greed are all-encompassing, years ago
having replaced virtues long since gone. The clandestine enslavement hidden
in mass production and ever-longer working hours has in the last few decades
become the value by which we measure one's worth to society.
The ability to question authority has vanished in a haze of indifference,
even as the evaporation of the American mind continues unabated. Government
has been transformed right in front of our eyes, becoming not democracy but
corporatism, the marriage between the corporate and government elite. Our
freedoms and liberties are in shambles, now fragile porcelain being
decimated by the thundering herd of bulls in Washington.
The government of, by and for the people is now comprised of leaches
flourishing in rotten swamps, prostitutes roaming bordellos masquerading as
palaces of governance and fecal matter prospering in the nation's sewers.
Corporations and their minions we help elect dominate and transform society,
leading us into the black holes they easily maneuver us into. We are being
used and abused, yet with the dumbing down of America easily controlled
beings we have turned into, comatose to the danger we have embraced and
oblivious to the strings attached to our appendages.
Something eerie seems to have engulfed us in the land of the free and the
home of the brave. From the land where all men are created equal has
equality disappeared; from a nation espousing freedom has freedom been
eviscerated. Once brave dissenters and seekers of accountability have gone
missing, allowing free reign to those endowed with power. Free-thinking and
analytical minds are as rare as the great apes humanity is making extinct.
Rare is the citizen not captive to fear, insecurity and intimidation. The
ability to question authority or to seek accountability has collapsed along
with the towers of the World Trade Center. A world existing beyond the
borders and shores of America, containing six billion fellow humans, has
been forgotten and disregarded as ignorance to cultures, nations, beliefs
and ethnicities is conditioned into our minds practically from birth.
Something is amiss in a nation where one would expect the plenitudes of
Empire to trickle down into every man, woman and child. To bestow upon its
citizens the tools needed to seek true freedom of thought and a path towards
enlightenment would be expected of an American utopia that is more often
preached rather than practiced. Yet the question arises as to the cause of
why hundreds of millions continue to fall downwards into empty wells of
promises unkept instead of reaching for the zenith of those fulfilled.
What mechanisms left to erode the citizenry of free thought and freedom of
mind have been allowed to linger in American society, and how have they been
allowed to remain when the reality of what has occurred continues to degrade
the Pax Americana from the inside out?
Conditioned Producers and Consumers
[Before he muddies all this with the usual time-blind, no-exit, squirrel cage of complaint and what passes for diagnosis these days,
let's outline the Timesizing solution here. Timesizing analyzes the big immediate problem as a huge technologically amplified overbalance of production capability made worse by job-insecure employees working longer and longer hours - if they're still employed. The root of the problem is the common CEO response to technology = downsizing, where they never seem to connect the dots from their downsized employees to their downsized consumer markets. The next problem is degrading quality despite consumption of those who still have purchasing power, a quality drop due to obsessive-compulsive long-hours production that hammers the natural environment and work-life balance. Timesizing solves this in a two-step process. In "first gear," it solves employee job insecurity and weak consumer markets by reemploying and thereby reactivating all our deactivated consumers via the simple expedient of enforcing our current 40-hour workweek maximum with automatic overtime-to-hiring conversion or where necessary, automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion. This is Timesizing Phase Two and Phase Three. This may or may not be enough to provide full employment (defined by referendum in Phase One). Either way, we shift to "second gear," which is guaranteed to provide full employment - and at the same time ease 'face-time'-based hyper-production that is devastating the environment and work-life balance. Second gear involves simply resuming our gradual 150-year reduction of the workweek which we abandoned during World War II 65 years ago and allowing automatic conversion of overtime into jobs to start as far below the 40-hour standard as it takes to achieve full employment. Any anxiety that the reduction is going too far is handled by switching the pressure for full employment to a "population variable" in Phase Five, such imports/outsourcing, immigration, births. Now, after that brief pointer to a positive and optimistic solution, we return to this guy's pessimistic and lengthy diagnosis -]
Spawned from the assembly line called human procreation we open our eyes to
a world ready to transform our life energies into expendable disseminators
of the patterns of production and consumption that will mark our time on
Earth, in essence becoming the reason for our existence. To the system
called capitalism we become nothing more than a number which will in time be
exploited to the full extent envisaged by man. We are given social security
numbers, digits that will follow us through the journey from newborn to
cadaver. To the system we are this number, easily traceable, easily
Television begins to inculcate us with rampant bombardments of
advertisements, thereby beginning to condition the young, innocent mind to a
life trained for consumption. The foods we eat and the products we buy begin
establishing the tastes we will forever enjoy. Associations of pleasure,
ingrained tastes and smells, nostalgia of fantasy and perfection enter the
young brain. It is because of this that corporations want to hook us from
the first moments of infancy so loyal lifelong consumers we become.
To the innocent and pure mind television thus becomes the window to a world
that is neither real nor complicated. The virgin brain sees in the shows it
is blitzkrieged with a fiction that in reality does not exist. It sees
perfection, fantasy, beauty, consumption and loyal acquiescence, and, with
the passage of time, seeks to emulate this world in a false belief that it
can be attained. Ingrained in this principle is the belief, channeled by
corporations, that to achieve what can never be a person must consume and
produce, be obedient to authority, friendly to her corporate masters and
eager to embrace what society dictates. The dumbing down of America thus
As television becomes parent, teacher, role model, babysitter and
entertainer to the child, given the abandonment of historical parental roles
thanks to society's pressure to produce and consume, everything shown
becomes everything learned, thus habituating a child to the role
corporations have decided to bestow onto him. When everything seen on the
screen is created, controlled, manipulated and disseminated by the corporate
world the child's perception of what reality encompasses will indeed also
conform to the corporate vision. After image after image, fantasy after
fantasy, conditioning after conditioning, the young human mind has no choice
but to accept the commands of the brainwashing taking place right in front
of his or her baby eyes.
It follows that children learn every behavior from their parents as well.
From the very beginning entrenched behaviors to produce and consume become
ingrained in the young brain. The long hours at work, the short amount of
time spent with the child, the abandonment of parental roles and
supervision, the incessant drive for consumption, the wasting of money and
pursuit of material possessions, the behaviors of stress, depression,
unhappiness, anger and frustration are all absorbed by a mind that in
infancy acts like a sponge, learning human society from those closest to its
environment, whether it is family or television.
In adulthood, these same behaviors will be manifested, thereby helping
fulfill the role of producer and consumer the corporate world has reserved
for yet one more human energy sprouting from the conveyor belt of
procreation. Thanks to the television and parental subservience to the same
system of their youth, one's progeny will become the bogged down producer of
the same products he or she will later voraciously and seemingly without
The vicious circle that is the virus of American capitalism infects
seemingly from birth, inoculating children to the vices of exploitation from
which they will forever derive their existence. It is at the height of
innocence that the forces of capitalism attack, attaching themselves in the
depths of a human brain, dissolving precepts not in tune with its compulsive
and exploitive self. Once attached the virus is not easily displaced,
thereby becoming personality as well as behavior. From the cradle to the
grave, destiny in today's America is guided by the corporate world and its
sinister virus, helping not its host but its disseminator, unleashing wave
after wave of unhappy and exploited producer and easily conditioned and
Consequences of a Controlled Populace
Education in the United States has become an exercise in government and
corporate brainwashing, used to achieve a citizenry devoid of analytical and
free-thinking minds. The purpose, quite simply, is to retain the class
warfare structure that has marked American society for decades. Education
has become a tool used to make the wealthy richer and the poor more
indigent. It is now a mechanism to separate the have nots from the haves,
the higher castes from the untouchables. As it stands today, though
certainly being eviscerated more and more daily, education is making of the
masses impotent creatures of indifference, happily droned into complacency
and deprived of a knowledge that once served to curtail the power of the
elite that run the nation.
The result is the age of corporatism, the age of unfettered and
unaccountable power and the control of the masses through media
manipulation, societal fabrication and education eradication. As the world
slowly passes through the sands of time the people of the United States,
those living inside what has become a most hated geopolitical entity, are
seeing the result of being dumbed down and of letting incompetents,
warmongers, profiteers and deranged zealots run unfettered and unopposed,
ransacking the globe, its people and land in the process.
Today we see the ramifications of a citizenry that has allowed itself to be
made ignorant through its submission to those in power whose purposeful
malfeasance continues to destroy the very essence of knowledge that grants
freedom to enslaved minds. Iraq and the coming disaster in the Middle East
are a consequence to the decimation of education in the United States.
George W. Bush is a consequence of the dumbing down of America, to which he
owes his very position perched like the vulture he is atop the dying tree of
America that has been contaminated by his inept and infected claws smeared
in human blood.
Those in power have succeeded in making the masses a herd of sheep following
the shepherd straight into the slaughterhouse, unaware of the destiny that
awaits them nor of their role in the furthering of death, destruction and
violence now gripping the world. Like a deer caught in headlights, the
masses are hypnotized, unable to see beyond the sight of their own meeting
with a fate conditioned into our brains from infancy that is destroying
freedom, knowledge and our ability to question the evils being done in our
name. America today and the world tomorrow are a manifestation of this
Ignorance has replaced knowledge, resulting in power running amok, incapable
of being restrained, mutating and growing, feeding off our inability to
escape the debacle currently gripping our collective mind.
The education system in America has been carefully eroded over the course of
time, altered in such a way as to make creative and curious children barren
and submissive adults indifferent to the world around them. The system now
in place begins robbing a child's ability to think for himself or herself
from the very start of the education process. The class structure itself
eliminates individuality, personality and energetic ability, as one teacher
must educate many students competing for attention. It is here when talents
that need to be discovered get ambushed instead. Yet with a class structure
that has endured for decades, the child must become part of the whole,
learning from books laced with government and/or corporate propaganda.
In many school districts, mostly poor ones strapped for cash, books can be
dozens of years old, lacking modern thought or progress. Many books are
tools created by entities with special interests that have as a purpose the
teaching of their ideology or the furthering of their goals. The absurd
teaching of creationism is one such example. Many corporations now create
and donate books to school districts that contain references and examples to
their brand names and product descriptions. Even in school children cannot
escape the growing omnipresence of the corporate Leviathan which thirsts to
program the innocent the way it sees fit.
Indeed, the young mind is needlessly brainwashed with a history of a nation
that in many instances contradicts and even subverts the true historical
reality of the United States. Only the 'good' that America has fostered
during its rapid and short rise is taught, without ever dealing with therequisite bad inherent in an Empire that has laid claim to land and man
during years of brutal conquest, both militarily and economically. Glossing
over national heroes, mythifying them into deities and transforming them
into perfect human beings is the role of the school book, brainwashing the
young to a fictional perfection when reality begs to differ. Yet humanity
must be balanced and its reality etched in stone so that future generations
learn the human condition as well as its civilization.
The genocide of indigenous Americans is whitewashed; the slavery of blacks
that lasted hundreds of years, oftentimes suffering barbaric treatment at
the hands of their white masters is easily covered up in a few paragraphs,
deceiving readers to the true horrors their ancestors committed or suffered.
The subservient role women were placed under for centuries is hardly
mentioned, and the great civil rights movement that helped change history
for the better never gets the coverage it deserves.
The war crimes and crimes against humanity America has perpetrated worldwide
to millions of anonymous people under the rubric of freedom and democracy is
never mentioned, rather, they are sugarcoated and glamorized, serving as
examples of America's 'great history.' Also, the corrosive and damaging
effects of American capitalism disguised as democracy that has condemned
untold millions to the dustbins of history is manipulated to look like a
chivalrous attempt to save lives and free nations.
Brainwashing unquestioned patriotism into our young one's minds government
controlled education furthers the squashing of dissent and the questioning
of our sovereign's motives. We are conditioned that our elected leaders are
gods walking among men, to be trusted and never to be questioned. Their
intentions are always noble, their reasoning pure. Dissent and debate,
protest and curiosity are seen not as patriotic manifestations of an
informed citizenry but rather as an alien afterthought not worthy of
The ingraining of loyalty to flag and country, even when committing evil
worldwide, is to be allowed to continue, eventually becoming the means by
which the state is allowed to declare war, economic genocide and market
colonialism, without so much as a whisper from its constituency. The elite
therefore bask in the glow of the radiant beam called patriotic fervor,
indoctrinated from childhood, lasting until death.
Preaching the noble deeds yet hiding or disguising the evil ingrained in
empire building serves only to alter history and manipulate the young,
eroding our future in the process. To understand humanity in past, present
and future an entire history must be taught, both good and bad, thereby
creating in our future citizens the ability to grow wise to the mistakes of
times past in order to comprehend the ever-changing and oftentimes complex
conditions of the present. To not teach the truth of what has come before is
to leave behind the keys to unlocking the door of the human condition,
essentially condemning our children into repeating the errors that continue
to bear witness to unnecessary suffering, death, destruction, violence and
The fruits of our past mistakes can be seen in our history; the essence of
the human condition lies written for all to see. American education serves
no purpose if the result of its actions leads to a replay of years gone by;
it becomes an exercise in futility when our future repeats the blunders of
their ancestors and the follies of those who once led.
Brainwash education is the means to an end, a device that entraps rather
than make free. It is a valuable tool to exert hegemony over the populace.
When begun from the first years of youth, becoming attached and most
difficult to extract, brainwashing to suit the state and the elite's goals
is a dangerous device. When combined with the 9/11's of history, it takes on
a life of its own, becoming a Molotov cocktail ready to explode in seething
rage. The system would not have it any other way.
Made Ignorant to a World Beyond our Borders
American education makes no attempt to expose the wonders of a world
existing beyond its borders to its children. The outside world and its
plethora of diverse people are hardly mentioned, easily summarized in brief
mentions of world history. The ignorance of cultures, religions,
ethnicities, nationalities and beliefs that has ensued has made America a
nation neither curious to a grand spectrum of peoples nor understanding to
the vast complexities of an ever-changing world. Failing to understand what
exists beyond our oceans, American children, through the damaging effects of
the nation's dilapidated educational system, become isolated from the world
community and the fraternity of peoples.
It is understanding the world and becoming part of it that prevents the
Iraq's and Vietnam's of history from ever arising. It is knowledge of a
world and its people that creates peace and good-will. Ignorance, on the
other hand, fosters only exploitation, indifference and arrogance. Iraq
today is the result of this failure in American education. Abu Ghraib and
its war crimes is the result of a system that isolates, indoctrinates and
makes ignorant to the lives and realities of six billion people whose world
is larger than that of our own borders. The debacle in Iraq is a
manifestation of American ignorance to a world and its diverse peoples;
Iraq's daily explosions are testament to its failure to understand the
people it is occupying and the anger emanating from the arrogance and
ignorance of its soldiers.
The failure of American education to teach about a world existing beyond the
confines of its own grandeur is exemplified today by an Iraq that is the
catalyst to a most dangerous era in American history. Societies that are
ignorant to the greater world around them suffer a dereliction of humanity
and the far reaching implications their actions tend to unsettle. From the
actions of ignorance rise the reactions of those ignored.
America's failure to educate its children to a world beyond its shores, in a
world coming closer together is a travesty, and an error, especially for an
Empire whose grip is all-encompassing, its power circulating around the
globe. A leader of nations and an Empire such as America must learn and
understand the world it dominates and the people it controls. For it to
govern wisely its citizens must be brought into the sphere of a world
community that is both heterogeneous and aware of the dangers the Pax
Americana is capable of releasing. For it to avoid the wrath seen today its
ambassadors and representatives must be educated to the songs of the world
and the tunes of human civilization.
In order to prevent the never-before seen levels of hatred, animosity and
anger directed at the United States and the blowback that is now being
manifested the American education system must open itself up to the outside
world. If it remains isolationist and ignorant, preferring to enclose itself
in the bubble it continues to lock itself into, the karma we are witnessing
will be but the tip of the iceberg. Ignorance leading to exploitation can
only go so far; a world beyond our borders exists, and must be taught,
learned and understood.
For if the Empire's people fail to grasp the lands and peoples beyond their
borders, preferring instead to live in the comfort of their own existence
and the ignorance of their upbringing a world that was never known will be
once more forgotten, and the blowback birthed by our ancestors will be made
that much more difficult to comprehend.
Separate and Unequal
The purposeful inequality inherent in American education is created by
design, fostered by an elite that manipulates in society a separation
between rich and working class. It is abundantly clear that education
systems in America are nowhere near to being equal. On the contrary, theirinequality stems from a government and the elite that control it that seek
to maintain the status quo of preventing millions of children from ever
advancing beyond the caste they are born into. Without opportunity, ability
is wasted and those capable of threatening the power structure as it exists
at present are left to rot in the cesspool created by those social engineers
sealing the destiny of millions of Americans.
Maintaining separate and unequal education systems assures the elite,
government and corporations of millions of exploitable slaves that through
no fault of their own are condemned to a life stuck in the working class,
living off low wages, surviving on a day to day basis, uneducated and
ignorant to the exploitation they are subjected to. The millions that fate
has placed in corrosive school districts starving for pennies from the
government are subjected to an education that is shameful at best and a
crime against humanity at worst. Unequal distribution of tax schemes makes
it impossible for children born into poor neighborhoods from ever getting
the education the few elite children of privilege are guaranteed.
With rotting school districts that cannot afford good teachers, books,
buildings, administrators and a semblance of hope children receive
substandard education levels that forever alter their ability to learn and
advance in society. When this is compounded year after year the
ramifications are severe, serving to quash all ability and potential
opportunity. It is this level of education most American children, both
urban and rural, are subjected to, forced to endure the worst inequality of
teaching found in the developed world.
When the elite that run the nation are deciding futures, however, this is to
be expected. Their corporations need low-class workers; their armies need
soldiers; their government needs slaves. By maintaining separate and unequal
education systems, in essence two completely different systems, one reserved
for privilege, the other for future serfs, the elite are assured of control,
exploitation, power and growing wealth, mostly at the hands of the slaves
they have created. The masses, having been trained from birth to become the
slaves of the nation's capitalists, are subjected to years of subservient
education mechanisms that encourage and indeed guide us toward exploitation.
The dreams and hopes of childhood are thus eviscerated as the reality of the
environment and education we are born into collides with once creative
talents and utopian goals.
Born into environments offering the worst in American education creates in
the masses ignorance to the plight our government is subjecting us to. We
are made unaware and become indifferent to the massive crime being
perpetrated by government officials who help foster separate and unequal
education and even encourage it by their unwillingness to make right what
has been made wrong. The continued apathy of our government to the vastly
different levels of education is proof that it is complicit in the
manufacturing of an entire class of slaves produced to be exploited by the
powerful few. To continue a system that is so dastardly in its scope and so
damaging to millions is to acknowledge the purposeful disregard our
government has in alleviating a reality that in this nation at least does
not need to exist. It is shameful, it is wrong, it is a crime.
An assembly line of slaves has been created, socially engineered through
years of manipulations and exploitations, breeding ignorance, robbing
opportunity, erasing talent and harvesting entire generations of worker
bees. For America the beautiful needs slaves to work and enrich the elite,
it needs soldiers to wage war in the name of capitalism, it needs ignorance
to continue its sovereignty and castes from which to maintain the balance
that has kept those in power at the top for generations.
Separate and unequal, the secret ingredients to the American juggernaut;
separate and unequal, the oil that assures the mighty engine of capitalism
from ever corroding and malfunctioning. Through the backs of the masses the
elite survive; through the exploitation of the many the few thrive.
Leaving all Working and Middle Class Children Behind
The dumbing down of America continues its injurious path through the
policies of George Bush, who is quietly decimating the talents and energies
of the nation's youth. Wishing all children to become the bumbling idiot
that characterizes his existence, his policies have washed away what
remained of viable education. The dumbing down of America has only picked up
its pace as children today are being deprived of the tools necessary to
think for themselves. Forced by the government to teach to standardized
tests, school districts are erasing the arts and other important classes
from curriculum. Instead, teachers are being forced to prepare their
students to passing the test that determines financial reward or punishment.
This form of education is leveling critical thinking, analytical skills and
free-thinking minds. It is destroying education as we know it, along with
the futures of millions of children who are being made automatons lacking a
mind to question the world around them. This sinister mechanism is
purposefully being implemented to dumb down American children. It is yetanother tool those in power are using to create a nation devoid of free
Teaching to the test entails sacrificing all subject matter not included in
the test itself. As a result, vital tools such as music, art, languages,
social sciences, philosophy, health and other liberal arts are being
ignored, thrown away into dark closets of indifference. Worthy teachers now
have their hands tied down, unable to bring out the blossoms of talent from
their students. Instead, they must partake in the manipulation of America's
children, becoming the instructors to a new generation of students those in
power want desperately to transform into unthinking sentinels easily
manipulated and controlled.
America's teachers, already underpaid and under funded, battling a system
eager to destroy youth, must now see the seeds they sow become homogenous
crops succumbing to ignorance, eroding all semblance of individuality and
wasting away once fruitful and talented lives. All children are being left
behind, and American society will pay the ultimate and most severe price.
Fostering Ignorance, Creating Sheep, Cementing Decline
Children are brainwashed at a very early age to follow the dictates of the
state, to become the obedient drones the state needs in order to survive.
Curriculum programs prevent the free-thinking mind from ever emerging even
as such paramount subject matter such as art, foreign language, music and
philosophy are being eliminated or never implemented. It is at a very early
age when these classes can make a such a vital difference in children, in
essence granting an enormous head start towards a long lasting, happy life.
It is at early youth that the human brain absorbs everything that is taught,
it is at this stage in development when positive and all-inclusive education
bears fruit. Yet American children, living in the wealthiest nation on the
planet, are being denied the essential tools needed for human progress tomove forward, individuals to prosper and for a nation to thrive.
Becoming an exercise in futility, education has become a weapon to
militarize millions of children to the tune of the government, robbing them
of the free-thinking and analytical mind whose questioning of government and
individual thought the elite want eliminated. In today's America, no child
must be allowed to think or understand what is being done to them and the
society they inhabit. Every child being taught must march in lock-step with
millions more, becoming benign drones made ignorant to a process robbing
them of their existence, neither challenging those in power or absorbing the
ingredients necessary to develop a mind that may one day become the ultimate
weapon for freedom and salvation.
As in all state systems, in order to have subservient citizens, the young
must be programmed early on to the dictates of those in power. In America,
these entities are the elite capitalists that have transformed democracy
into corporatism. Entire generations of people have become an enormous herd
of sheep, unaware of the slavery that grips them and the exploitation that
befalls [ie: besets?] every waking hour. The corporatist state has accomplished the
ignorance of its citizens, now ruling unobstructed and unaccountable, free
to unleash wave after wave of crimes, both upon those it rules and those it
The majority of the American people now fail to question authority, debate
policy, seek accountability or demand answers. Indifferent we have become to
the dangerous ways of our government or to our own plight. Every generation
has seen its ability to understand, question and analyze dwindle with each
subsequent decade that passes. Soon the day will arrive when complete drones
our descendants become, completely subservient to the will of the rulers,
shackled in chains of ignorance, transformed into exploitable energies
deficient of free-thinking minds.
The only vestige of freedom left is that of the mind, a realm never before
touched by the claws of the state and the powerful. Yet this freedom is
disappearing, for the state has found a way to annihilate a freedom once
thought untouchable. Free-thought is fading fast from an American psyche
that once espoused the belief in the power of the individual. In its wake
lie hundreds of millions of energies whose minds have been captured in a war
we failed to realize we were being subjected to. Free-thinking minds are
being made extinct, suffering from years of social engineering and
More and more we are failing to understand what is being done to us and our
children. With each passing day the corporate Leviathan absorbs more of our
collective brain, inculcating us with garbage, conditioning us to its
version of what American society should be. The wretched symptoms of
capitalism are devouring our very existence, making us the sheeple the
system feeds off of. We are being herded to the slaughterhouse, ready to be
gutted and mass produced, sold to the hungry wolves and vultures
concomitantly ready to feast off our once vibrant energies.
Tell the Children the Truth
The time has come to tell the children the truth. The time has come to tell
them that most are condemned to castes, unable to escape, destined to be
exploited, destined for modern man's version of slavery. The time has come
to tell the children of privilege that they are being trained to become the
exploiters of the masses, becoming condoners of subservience, inequality,
injustice, corruption and thievery.
We must awaken from this lethargy catapulting us into a future missing
freedom and individuality, happiness and a worthy existence. The dumbing
down of America cannot be allowed to continue, for if it does, George
Orwell's prophetic vision will become George Bush's sinister reality. It is
time to tell the children the truth. It is time to liberate ourselves from a
system that is making us all automatons. Freedom of thought, freedom of mind
and freedom to live are our goals. The elimination of the virus inflicting
ignorance and enslavement upon us and our children should be our mission.
The time to retake the American mind is upon us, and this starts with
telling our children the truth of what our indifference, subservience and
inability to act is condemning them to. For knowledge is power, the
kryptonite that weakens the energy leading us to nothingness. They know
this, which is why the dumbing down of America is taking place. Knowledge is
a threat to their existence and continued control, which is why they want it
destroyed. Education is liberation, something they want desperately to
avoid. An enlightened populace is their nightmare; an ignorant citizenry
their wet dream.
It is through the awakening of the masses that mountains are moved and
canyons crossed. It is through the slumber of the masses that evil awakens.
It is through our collective energy that those in power have no future and
no place left to hide. The future America is in our hands: either the
dumbing down continues or the awakening commences.
Mr. Valenzuela's new novel is now on sale through Authorhouse.com at Echoes
in the Wind Sales Page. A philosophical, eduational and spiritual story onhumanity and our civilization, as relevant as today's headlines, this book
is almost 600 pages in trade paperback form on sale internationally through
secure web page transaction. Additionally, the novel is now available on
Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as other online book sellers. If
preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar
bookstore worldwide through the book's ISBN number, 1418489905.
Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs
analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now
published by Authorhouse.com. A collection of essays, Beyond the Smoking
Mirror: Reflections on America and Humanity, will be published in early
2005. His articles appear regularly in alternative news websites including
informationclearinghouse.info. His unique style and powerful writing is read
internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting
humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached
at email@example.com. A collection of his work can be found visiting
his archives and by searching the Internet.
Europe's workers' paradise faces change - Employees begin to see their famed benefits going
By MICHAEL WOODS (firstname.lastname@example.org), Toledo OH Blade
BARCELONA, Spain - When Kristin K. Lay began planning a May, 2005, wedding here, she discovered a clause in Spanish employment law
that seemed mind-boggling to someone used to the American way of work.
She and fiance Bart-Jan H. LePoole, it seems, are entitled to a "honeymoon leave" - 3 weeks of vacation with full pay.
"I was surprised," said the chemistry teacher at an international school here. "I had never heard of a benefit like this. In
the United States, we would have had to wait and plan the honeymoon for summer or Christmas."
If the two eventually start a family, they can share 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, also required by law. They'd have
more in other countries. Sweden, for instance, provides 360 days of maternity leave at 80% of full salary.
Such generous perks, common throughout Europe, are only the icing on an employment cake that would make many an American worker drool.
Europe earns its reputation as the leisure society, where law and custom run against the live-to-work tide in the United
States. Europeans "work-to-live," thanks to workweeks as short as 35 hours, 40 days of paid vacation, cash bonuses to fund
vacation travel, and other benefits.
[The bizarre truth is, that shorter hours are not a benefit or a luxury in the age of automation and robotics - they are a necessity for there to be any markets left for the huge productive output of the automata and robots. Strange how few CEOs realize that.]
During the last few months, however, new labor agreements in Germany, France, and other countries have convinced experts
that the tide has begun to turn. After embracing American music, movies, and fast food menus [just a tad exaggerated], Europe is eying the American
way of work.
"In Germany, there is a clear trend to longer working hours," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, who directs a noted industry research center at the University of Gelsenkirchen.
[In short, he panders to shortsighted employers.]
"The 35-hour work week will be given up step by step and in my opinion
in about 2 years will no longer exist in Germany."
Other benefits also are on the endangered list, Mr. Dudenhoeffer said. German workers now are guaranteed 30 days of vacation
each year, plus time off with full pay for about 10 national holidays. As the German workweek moves toward American's
40-hour level, employers will whittle away at holidays and vacations, Mr. Dudenhoeffer predicted.
Martin Werding, who heads the labor department at Germany's Institute for Economic Research, said the trend toward working
longer hours at constant pay actually began in the late 1990s. But, it involved small local and regional companies, and got
little public attention.
In 2004, however, big global companies such as Siemens, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors' Opel division launched efforts
to stretch workweeks for tens of thousands of employees. An invisible trend suddenly got a higher profile.
"It is highly likely that this will invite managers in many more firms to take up negotiations for similar agreements," Mr.
Werding said. "The trend will certainly gain momentum."
Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkeley professor who specializes in labor economics, sees it as Europe's own
particular solution to a problem that industry faces everywhere: How to cut labor costs and stay competitive.
"In the U.S., the drive to cut costs is more targeted to lower wages and reduced benefits - especially health care," Mr.
Shaiken said. "Employers have targeted the shorter work week in Europe because they view it as more achievable than say
cutting jobs or lowering wages. I suspect we will see fierce and continuing employer pressure to extend the work week
Things are cushy for workers in many European countries. Each year, Europeans work up to 12 weeks less than Americans,
according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations Agency. vacations are guaranteed by law, not set by
individual companies. They also are generous and transportable, so that the newest hire still gets a minimum 20 days off in
many countries. Americans, in contrast, average 10 days of vacation annually, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor
European "bank holidays" expand leisure time by a dozen more days in some countries, with "the bridge" a time-honored
practice. When a holiday falls in mid-week workers can carry it over to a Friday or Monday for a long weekend. In some
offices, coffee breaks are a time to stretch the legs and shorten the workday with trips to the corner caf.
But the situation in France and Germany, where workers are among the most pampered on Earth, brought things to a boil. A
French law in 2000 cut the workweek from 39 days to 35. It now covers two out of every three workers. The goal was to create
jobs and cut unemployment. If workers put in fewer hours, more workers would be needed for the same number of jobs. French
workers also get 25-30 days of vacation plus a dozen bank holidays.
Over the border in Germany, the 35-hour workweek has been enshrined in custom and labor agreements, rather than law. Even a
new-hire factory worker averages 30 days of vacation and a slew of national holidays.
The bottom line fortifies America's live-to-work reputation. French workers put in an average of 1,453 hours in 2003,
according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Germans worked 1,446 hours. The average American
logged 1,792 hours - 339 hours more than France and 346 more than Germany.
Europe's siesta began to end in June, when unions at two Siemens mobile telephone factories in Germany signed a landmark
contract. They agreed to increase the workweek from 35 hours to 40 - with no extra pay. Workers also gave up bonuses that
many used to finance vacations. Instead, they will get bonuses based on productivity, intended to encourage harder work.
In July, French workers at the Robert Bosch auto parts plant in Lyon agreed to work 40 hours for the same pay, in a
challenge to the French workweek law. The French government so far has not opposed the contract.
Momentum grew during the summer. Security guards, cafeteria workers, and other support staff at DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes
division in Sindelfingen, Germany, agreed to work 39 hours for 35 hours' pay. Assembly line workers will continue on 35-hour
schedule for now. In Belgium, the Marichal Ketin steel company told its staff to work 40 hours instead of 36 at no extra
Last week, 32,000 workers in General Motors' European Opel division offered to extend their workweek to 40 hours without a
pay raise. It would save 10,000 job cuts that GM Europe says are needed to reduce production costs.
Other global and regional companies announced plans to extend their workweeks. Some governments are moving in the same
direction. The Bavarian government, for instance, increased the workweek for 140,000 civil servants to 40 hours to 42
without extra pay. Germany wants to extend the workweek for federal government employees from 38.5 to 40 hours. The German
national railroad wants conductors and engineers to work 6 more hours without extra pay.
Government leaders, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac support, a longer work
week. Dutch economy minister Laurens Jan Brinjhorst has urged a return to the 40-hour workweek throughout The Netherlands.
The move away from a leisure society began with concern about loss of jobs to China and other Asian countries with lower
labor costs, Mr. Werding said. It shifted into high gear in May, when 10 new countries joined the European Union.
They include Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary where workers are less pampered.
Wages in the Czech Republic, for instance, are 40% less than in France or Germany. Employees work longer and get
Concern about moving jobs to Eastern Europe helped several companies, including DaimlerChrysler and Siemens, got longer
hours and other concessions from workers.
"Extending working hours without adjusting pay is an elegant approach to reducing labor costs," Mr. Werding noted. "Workers
at least suffer no loss in their regular income."
Government officials in France and Germany already have floated trial balloons about reducing the number of holiday and
vacation days. However, those perks and social benefits like honeymoon and maternity leaves so far remain untouched.
Mr. Dudenhoeffer doubts whether such leisure society mainstays will be around in present form when wedding bells ring and
holidays beckon for Europeans in the future. Within the next 5 years, he predicted, those perks will start looking more like
their American counterparts.
[It's interesting how American reporters accept this kind of news so passively, or with a misery loves company attitude, rather than "ohoh, if it's rolling back there, we'll NEVER get it." Seems Americans have already resigned themselves to becoming slaves again - they've already given up, surrendered, to mass poverty. So much for the "Land of the Free."]
Workers in China shed passivity -
Spate of walkouts shakes factories
By Edward Cody
DONGGUAN, China - Heralded by an unprecedented series of walkouts, the first
stirrings of unrest have emerged among the millions of youthful migrant
workers who supply seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor for the vast expanse
of factories in China's booming Pearl River Delta.
The signs of newly assertive Chinese workers have jolted foreign and Chinese
factory owners, who for the last two decades have churned out everything
from Nikes to baby dolls with unbeatably low production costs. Some have
concluded that the raw era in which rootless Chinese villagers would accept
whatever job they could get may be drawing to a close, raising questions
about China's long-term future as world headquarters for low-paid
"One dollar, two dollars, it used to be they didn't care," said Tom
Stackpole, originally from Massachusetts, who is quality control director
here for Skechers USA Inc. and has been involved in shoe manufacturing in
southern China for a decade. "That has passed."
Stella International Ltd., a Taiwanese-owned shoe manufacturer employing
42,000 people in and around Dongguan, faced strikes this spring that turned
violent. At one point, more than 500 rampaging workers sacked company
facilities and severely injured a Stella executive, leading hundreds of
police to enter the factory and round up ringleaders.
"We never had anything like that before," said Jack Chiang, Stella's chief
Eight people slashed to death at Chinese high school
China approves testing for potential AIDS vaccine
Chiang suggested that several factors have contributed to the shift in
attitude. On the one hand, he acknowledged, assembly-line wages have not
risen in recent years nearly as fast as the cost of living. On the other,
image-conscious U.S. retailers who buy Dongguan's shoes have demanded better
treatment and human rights counseling for the workers, encouraging them to
step up and make demands for change.
Finally, Chiang added, broader general freedoms in the country have reduced
the Chinese people's traditional fear of authority, and not just among
factory workers. Protests by farmers and others, many of them violent, have
broken out with increasing frequency across the country in recent months.
The growing assertiveness of factory workers has posed a particular
political problem for the governing Communist Party, which ideologically
should champion poor laborers struggling against capitalist managers. But
local governments have become shareholders in many of the factories,
steering officials toward the management side of labor relations.
"The government is the largest boss in the area," said Liu Kaiming, a labor
analyst and director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in nearby
Lack of representation
Apparently eager to show solidarity with restless workers, the
government-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the only legal union in
the country, recently issued a reminder that the law requires foreign as
well as Chinese companies to accept federation branches wherever workers
demand it. The official federation announced Thursday that Wal-Mart, the
American merchandizing giant, had agreed to allow unions in its factories in
But factory owners and workers in the Pearl River boom zone said the
official union does little to represent labor, even in the rare cases when
branches are formed, because it is a spinoff of local governments that own
or rely on the businesses. In one factory, Liu recounted, the union head was
both a management executive and a senior official in the local government.
Even when they do not directly own companies, local governments have a high
stake in preserving the Pearl River Delta's role as a magnet for U.S.,
Japanese and other firms seeking cheap labor unencumbered by unions. Foreign
companies have invested more than $50 billion in the region over the last
five years, contributing to a 14% growth rate in the local economy,
compared with 9% countrywide.
The result has been a near-total lack of representation for the millions of
workers, most of them 18- to 22-year-old women, who toil on assembly lines
more than 60 hours a week for wages that amount to about $120 a month.
According to standard practice, most live at their factories in
company-provided dormitories and eat in company cafeterias - and then hand
back a third of their pay for food and lodging.
Some villagers, unhappy with such meager leftover savings, have gone home,
and factory managers have begun to encounter labor shortages for the first
time. Although recruits are still abundant for most areas, they said, the
most sought-after workers - young women with high school educations - have
become scarce in recent months, particularly in Dongguan's low-paying shoe
Sense of frustration
Conversations with workers outside Dongguan plants one recent day revealed a
sense of frustration about having no place to turn with complaints about
overtime, wage levels or the quality of their food. The conversations -
guarded because of workers' fears of retribution - also displayed little
hope of improvement because, in their view, management enjoys overwhelming
"There is not much communication between the top management and the
workers," said Mao Wei...who came to Dongguan a year ago from Shaanxi
province to work in the region's numerous shoe factories. Mao said workers
have little contact with anyone above their line supervisors, who themselves
have little standing to forward complaints or demand higher wages.
"Most migrant workers have to give up their rights to keep their jobs," said
another 20-year-old factory worker, who wanted to be called only Miss Chen.
"But to be frank, we are not here for rights. We are here for money. I have
to wire money back every month to support my family."
With no channels of communication from the assembly line to the manager's
office, the only outlets for worker dissatisfaction have been walkouts and
confrontations. According to Stackpole, the shoe industry in the Dongguan
area has encountered 10 or 12 walkouts over the last year, previously
unheard of during his long experience in the region.
"As translated to us, they just wanted someone to listen to them," Stackpole
The walkouts were organized in advance but not by formal labor groups or
permanent worker committees, he said, and most were resolved without
violence within a few hours. Nevertheless, they signaled that docility among
Chinese migrant workers can no longer be taken for granted.
In the latest unrest, about 1,000 workers staged a walkout on Nov. 7 at the
Shanlin Technology appliance factory in nearby Guangzhou, demanding higher
overtime pay and more days off, according to the government-run New China
News Agency. The workers returned to the assembly line a day later after
receiving assurances that overtime pay would rise by 12 cents to 36 cents an
hour and that they would get two days off a month, the agency reported.
Chiang said the first of his company's two walkouts erupted in March over
complaints about food in the company cafeteria and an error in the amount of
wages docked for vacation time during the Chinese New Year. The second,
which produced the violent rioting and injuries, occurred a month later,
encouraged by local employment brokers who used to earn commissions for job
placements but had been replaced by a company employment office, he said.
"I had my head in how to make beautiful shoes," he explained in an
interview. "I wasn't paying enough attention to" the human resources
Police arrested 10 workers this summer after investigating the two strikes.
Five were recently sentenced to jail terms, and the others await sentencing.
Stella has offered to pay support to their families and announced that it
backs efforts by their Beijing-based lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, to lodge an
In the trial of one worker, Chen Nanliu, Gao conceded that what happened at
Stella's factories was "inappropriate." But he blamed the explosion on
"clear and pressing social causes, namely the fact that our society today
permits and encourages the most naked forms of social injustice."
In a provocative summation to the court, Gao compared the lot of Dongguan
shoe workers to that of pre-communist Chinese laborers, who he said were
victims of capitalist exploitation under the U.S.-backed Nationalist
government until Mao Zedong's communists triumphed in 1949.
"What distinguishes the present situation, however, is that in those days
the Communist Party stood alongside the workers in their fight against
capitalist exploitation," he added, "whereas today the Communist Party is
fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the coldblooded capitalists in their
struggle against the workers."
At the factories, workers have circulated copies of Gao's statement for
reading in the dormitory, according to Robin Munro, an activist at the Hong
Kong-based China Labor Bulletin.
Stella's management, meanwhile, has organized an "executive mailbox" where
workers can drop written complaints. It started a magazine to air workers'
views and fostered new workers' committees, which, according to Chiang, can
meet with management to forward workers' concerns to the top.
"We would never have done this kind of thing a year ago," he said.
Ironically, Stella factories have earned a reputation among local workers as
one of the better places to find a job. With landscaped grounds and
well-maintained buildings where young men and women walk about with
color-coded shirts that denote their tasks, Stella compounds in some ways
resemble Chinese university campuses.
"Many workers want to find a job here," said Chen Hua...an Anhui province
native who lined up for an interview in front of a Stella plant. "The
competition is keen."
Attention News Editors: MEDIA INVITATION -
Press conference on truck drivers' working hours
CNW Telbec (Communiquιs de presse), Canada
MONTREAL, Quebec - Media representatives are invited to
meet the Honourable Jim Karygiannis, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
of Transport, and Robert Bouvier, President of Teamsters Canada. The meeting
is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Monday November 29, 2004 in front of
Montreal's Intercontinental Hotel, two steps away from the FTQ's Convention.
Both men will hold a press briefing in front of the hotel, next to the
Teamsters Canada truck to explain the potential consequences of increasing
working hours in the trucking industry.
Mr. Karygiannis will then travel aboard the Teamsters Canada truck for
the run from Montreal to Ottawa via Toronto.
The goal of the operation is to raise awareness among parliamentarians
as well as the general population of truck drivers' daily working
conditions. The invitation was made by Teamsters Canada following the
Ministry of Transportation's proposal to extend truck drivers' working hours
to 18 per day.
[The Ministry of Transportation has gone nuts and is endangering Canadian motorists.]
The Teamsters find the idea ludicrous and are opposed to
having truck drivers work 18 straight hours per day.
THE TEAMSTERS UNION IS AGAINST 18-hour DAYS FOR TRUCK DRIVERS!
Event: Press conference on working hours in the trucking industry
Date: Monday November 29, 2004
Place: Intercontinental Hotel, Montreal
360 St. Antoine West
Montreal, QC H2Y 3X4
Time: 7:30 a.m.
Visit our Website for more information: www.teamsters-canada.org
For further information: Phil Benson, (613) 292-9786 (English); Larry
McDonald, (905) 502-0062 (English); Stιphane Lacroix, (514) 609-5101
Health - Stress and Illness Rising in UK Workplaces - Unions
Reuters via Yahoo News
By Gideon Long
LONDON - Britons, slaves to some of the longest working hours in
the European Union, are suffering growing levels of
stress, back strain and other work-related injuries, the country's trade
unions said on Friday.
The problem is exacerbated by the failure of nearly half of British
employers to carry out adequate assessments of the risks faced by their
workers, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said.
"The top five workplace hazards are all easily preventable, yet too few
employers seem to be getting to grips with (them)," TUC general-secretary
Brendan Barber said.
Employers hit back, saying the TUC's findings were based on anecdotal and
subjective evidence, compiled by the Congress' own safety representatives
rather than independent monitors.
"We've had enough of these sort of surveys," said Dr Janet Asherson, head
of health and safety at the employers' body, the Confederation of British
"We need really to base our policy making decisions on hard facts and
medical and scientific evidence," she told Reuters.
The TUC found incidence of stress had risen 2% in the British
workplace in the past two years. Complaints of repetitive strain injury
(RSI) were up 3% and back strain 4%.
Some 58% of employees complained of stress, 40% of RSI and 35%
of back strain.
The CBI questioned the figures, compiled by 4,521 TUC safety
representatives at workplaces across the country.
"They are based on self-diagnosis," Asherson said. "We need to have
medically validated diagnoses to make sure we are all talking about the same
The TUC found that while over 90% of employers carried out regular
risk assessments to try to limit workplace illness and accidents - as they
are required to do by law - nearly half the assessments were inadequate.
The CBI questioned the TUC's definition of inadequate.
"The view of a (trade union) work and safety representative is very
subjective," Asherson said. "At the end of the day, the real test of any
risk assessment is whether it is deemed adequate in the eyes of the law."
The CBI could not provide figures of its own to counter those of the
Britain is sometimes viewed as the sweatshop of Europe, with a "long hours
culture" more akin to that of the United States than its EU neighbors.
The average fulltime British employee works a 43.7-hour week - longer than
in any comparable country in the EU.
Britain has led opposition to a European Commission
proposal to tighten an EU law which limits the working week to 48 hours.
Sweat, Fear and Resignation Amid All the Toys
The Los Angeles Times via truthout, CA
By Abigail Goldman
Despite Mattel's efforts to police factories, thousands of workers are
Just off a wide dirt road that leads to a densely packed jumble of
factories, workers behind one guarded metal gate toil seven days a week,
sometimes as many as 24 hours straight, making toys for about 20 cents an
It is a pace that makes them almost numb to the poor ventilation, the
lack of bathroom breaks and a fear that they will be beaten if they
Sweatshops aren't unusual, of course, in a country that possesses a
large and cheap workforce and a permissive government hungry to attract big
business. What makes this situation notable is that these workers make
products for a company widely considered one of the most socially
responsible American firms: Mattel Inc.
The El Segundo-based toy manufacturer was one of the first U.S.
companies - and the only major player in its industry - to establish an
independent system for monitoring and publicizing how factory workers are
treated. In fact, Mattel routinely checks and rechecks hundreds of plants
around the world, aiming to ensure that they comply with its 112-item code
The seven-year effort has paid off - at least to a point.
When it comes to limiting work hours, ensuring fair pay and improving
health and safety standards, "Mattel is one of the best," said Chan Ka Wai,
associate director of the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, which
has done extensive investigations into working conditions in the Chinese toy
Yet for all of that, tens of thousands of workers who make Mattel
products still suffer.
One big reason is that half of the toys displaying Mattel's familiar
red logo are made in facilities, like the one here in an industrial area of
Shenzhen, that the company doesn't own.
"Mattel has no way to know the truth about what really goes on here,"
said a 24-year-old worker at the Shenzhen factory. "Every time there is an
inspection, the bosses tell us what lies to say."
Labor advocates agree that the situation is difficult. Mattel may be
doing a lot to turn its own factories into showplaces, Chan said.
"But their vendors look very different," he added.
As increasing numbers of Western manufacturers shift production to
China and other developing countries, Mattel's experience underscores how
difficult it is to guarantee humane working conditions and still make the
ever-cheaper goods that consumers demand. It also raises the question of how
much responsibility a single company should bear when it operates in parts
of the world where poverty is omnipresent and the exploitation of workers is
The Times interviewed workers at 13 factories in southern China,
Indonesia and Mexico that make Mattel products, including company-owned
facilities and contractor-run plants.
Visits to five of the factories were arranged by Mattel. The Times
talked independently with employees at the other plants, where workers
agreed to tell their stories only if they and their employers were not
identified by name.
Many said they were worried about retaliation from supervisors. Others
expressed concern that if Mattel knew about the conditions, the company
would cancel its contracts, casting the workers onto the streets.
"It's good that they monitor, but not if it costs our jobs," said the
Shenzhen factory worker, who has performed a variety of tasks for a Mattel
contractor in the last two years, most recently stamping eyes onto plastic
animals. "It's better to have bad conditions than no job at all."
Inside Vendor No. 5
Across Guangdong province, on the northeast outskirts of the Guangzhou
city limits, Li Xiao Hong helps churn out toys at one of Mattel's
best-regarded contractor factories.
Vendor No. 5, as it's known, boasts dorms with TV rooms, a library,
sports facilities, classrooms - even karaoke machines to help Li and her
co-workers unwind after a long stint on the factory floor.
Still, conditions are far from ideal.
The plant's work areas are so poorly lighted that they seem permanently
shrouded in gray. A strong smell of solvent wafts across the facility as
rows of workers hunch over pedal- operated sewing machines and gluepots.
Li is the fastest worker on a long, U-shaped assembly line of about 130
women who put together Mini Touch 'n Crawl Minnie, a scampering version of
the Disney character activated by a baby's nudge.
Li moves with lightning speed - gluing the pink bottom, screwing it
into place, getting the rest of the casing to adhere, tamping it down with a
special hammer, pulling the battery cover through its slats, soldering where
she glued, testing to make sure the leg joints on the other side still work,
then sending it down the line.
The entire process takes 21 seconds.
She generally works 5 1/2 days a week, up to 10 hours at a time. Her
monthly wage - about $65 - is typical for this part of China, enough for Li
to send money back home to her poor farming family in Henan province and to
afford a computer class in town.
But Li pays a heavy price: Her hands ache terribly, and she is always
exhausted - a situation to which the 20-year-old seems resigned.
"People at my age should expect some hardship," said Li, clad in
bluejeans and a pink factory blouse, which she left unbuttoned to reveal a
white T-shirt emblazoned with the silhouette of Mickey Mouse. "I should
taste bitterness while I'm young."
Besides, many here apparently have it worse.
Last year, Mattel's independent auditors noted that the overtime
extracted by Vendor No. 5 often exceeded the maximum allowed under Chinese
law and under what Mattel calls its Global Manufacturing Principles.
The extra hours, inspectors found, were not completely voluntary
because workers were forced to seek permission to leave after their regular
shifts, another violation of Mattel's rules. Some were found to have worked
for nearly three weeks without a day off, which ran afoul of both Chinese
law and company mandates.
Robert A. Eckert, Mattel's chairman and chief executive, said he wasn't
surprised that some contractor factories had violated Mattel's wage-and-hour
restrictions. What's important, he said, is that the company work with its
business partners to recognize and correct the problem.
So far, Mattel has terminated 33 suppliers for violating its standards,
while refusing to add 28 others to its list of approved vendors because they
failed to meet the company's code.
Eckert made clear, however, that firing factories isn't the goal.
"Our job is to fix it," he said. "We're not in the business to try to
cut off plants."
Mattel began monitoring factories almost two decades ago, when it
focused on issues of health and safety, and greatly expanded the notion of
what it should be accountable for in the mid-1990s.
It was a time when activists around the world were stepping up
campaigns against Nike Inc., Gap Inc. and others for allegedly using
sweatshop labor outside the United States.
For Mattel, the stakes were particularly high. A worker abuse scandal
like the one that tarred Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Kathie Lee Gifford clothing
line in 1996, when activists found that items were made by children working
in deplorable conditions, would be especially disastrous for a maker of
kids' toys. Negative headlines would scare off customers and spook Wall
"There isn't a reward for doing the right thing," noted Sean McGowan, a
toy industry analyst with Harris Nesbitt in New York. "But there is a
penalty if you get caught doing the wrong thing."
Mattel later added a "social compliance" component to its program,
which included a strict set of rules about working hours, wages, factory
conditions and age requirements.
The company formalized these standards in 1997 when it established the
Mattel Independent Monitoring Council, a nonprofit group of observers funded
by the company but administered through the Zicklin School of Business at
Baruch College, part of the City University of New York.
The group, now called the International Center for Corporate
Responsibility, was charged with monitoring factories and publishing
detailed reports as a check on Mattel's internal audits. Critics have
questioned the monitors' independence. For its part, Mattel points out that
it is the only major toy company to release outsiders' findings.
(Its largest competitor, Hasbro Inc., has said that all its contractors
must comply with International Council of Toy Industries ethics guidelines,
modeled largely on Mattel's program, by the end of 2005. But Hasbro does not
make public its independent auditors' reports.)
Beyond scrutinizing its vendor plants in the developing world, Mattel
has also built its own first-rate facilities, complete with comfortable
living quarters for its workforce.
The factory floor at Mattel Die-Cast China in Guanyao is bright and
airy. Instead of the usual snaking assembly line, where workers perform the
same task over and over and over, many MDC employees move around to
different stations, often making an entire toy themselves; this helps
eliminate painful repetitive-stress injuries.
MDC's residence halls are more modern and nicer than dorms at top
Chinese universities. In their off hours, workers crowd into the television
rooms on each floor or play badminton on outdoor courts. Some head to the
gym or to computer centers to practice lessons they learn in free classes
offered on site.
The quality of life here is written on the face of nearly every MDC
worker: They smile, a rare expression at other plants.
"People can sense the difference if you're pushing them for the bottom
line or for themselves," said Rug Burad, the general manager of the plant,
where Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars originate.
"You want them to be their best so they produce the best. That's the
Crowding in Indonesia
Even at Mattel's own factories, change doesn't come overnight.
On the eastern side of Jakarta, past the garbage-strewn streets in the
main part of the city, Mattel's twin Indonesian production facilities rise
up out of the green fields like gleaming, white-tile temples.
The Dua and Satu factories - where half of the world's more than 100
million Barbie dolls are made each year - consist of low-rise buildings
connected by walkways with lush overhanging plants. The campuses, built in
the early 1990s, feature computer rooms, a library, a health clinic, sports
fields and a community garden. Management here has given a nod to both fun
and faith: The complex includes a disco as well as two mushollas, prayer
rooms for the workers, 90% of whom are Muslim.
Still, most of the dorm rooms, which house about 40% of the factories'
10,000-plus workers, fail to meet Mattel's guidelines for the maximum number
of workers per room (16) and the minimum amount of personal space allotted
to each (20 square feet).
Instead, the rooms are crowded with four rows of four bunk beds lined
up side by side, mattress to mattress. For all but those in the outside
beds, getting in and out can require a feat of gymnastics.
Mattel is moving to a less crowded format - two bunk beds in a row,
each with a lamp, fan and curtain shielding the bed from the open area - to
come into compliance with its own guidelines. But those changes, Mattel
said, take time.
"We can point to deficiencies in the system," said Jim Walter, Mattel's
senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, who oversees the
ethical manufacturing initiatives, "but I'm going to look at how far we've
For some, it's still not far enough.
In 2001, a report by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee
rapped Mattel, along with Hasbro, Walt Disney Co., Wal-Mart and others, for
making toys in brutal Chinese sweatshops. The National Labor Committee in
New York, the group that exposed the problems with Wal-Mart's Kathie Lee
Gifford clothing line, followed with another critique the next year.
Marie-Claude Hessler-Grisel, a French human rights advocate, still sees
many of the same problems that were highlighted in those reports.
Hessler-Grisel says she appreciates that Mattel has poured more than
$500 million into its own state-of-the-art facilities and spends about $10
million a year on monitoring factories, upgrading plants and training
But given that Mattel earned more than $500 million last year on sales
of nearly $5 billion, she expects the company to do a lot more and to do it
"These workers can't wait forever for a change," she said.
"I have nothing personal against Mattel," added Hessler-Grisel, a tiny
woman with short gray hair and red-rimmed glasses. "You always go after No.
1, and it trickles down."
Enjoying a 'Day Off'
Around the world, workers at factories making Mattel toys complain about
one thing above all else: the grueling hours.
Mattel's rules state that the most anyone can work is 12 hours a day,
six days a week - and that's only for very limited periods and when overtime
is voluntary. Regular workdays aren't supposed to exceed 10 hours a day,
including overtime. What's more, factory employees are not supposed to work
more than 13 days in a row. But according to more than a dozen workers, the
reality is something else.
Near Shenzhen, outside a large vendor plant, two 20-year-olds eating a
lunch of boiled noodles recounted how they routinely worked 11 hours a day,
six days a week. The worst time, they said, comes during the monthly
changeover, when their group goes from the day shift to the night shift -
and they must plow straight through, with barely a break in between.
In Indonesia, a...woman who worked at Mattel's Jakarta plant
talked about friends and colleagues who have assembled Barbie dolls for 30
days straight without time off.
Even at a Mattel-owned plant in Guanyao, where the hours are within
company guidelines, workers are so fatigued that those who return early from
lunch sleep at their spots on the assembly line, their heads resting on
In environments like these, the slightest break can seem like a
Near the city of Dongguan, two young women recently sat in a
fourth-floor room sectioned off by crude corrugated-metal walls. They have
little to show for their drudgery; they share a mattress and a hot plate.
But they said their life at a Mattel contractor factory had been good.
Unlike at the last plant where they worked, the Mattel vendor gives them a
But as the two friends described their "day off," it became evident
that they don't get anything close: On Sundays, they explained, they get to
leave work at 5 p.m., having put in eight hours instead of the typical 12.
"That's a gift," said one of the women, a migrant from Henan province
who frequently flashed a broad, toothy grin that made her look even younger
than her 20 years. "You don't have to work through the night."
Fear of Retaliation
At the Shenzhen factory, where about 1,000 people are employed, it seems
everybody knows the drill.
Before Mattel comes through twice a year for inspection, workers said,
managers promise to pay them time-and-a-half if they repeat the company
line: that they work just eight hours a day, six days a week, as allowed by
In truth, they slog for far longer than that.
Inside a tiny metal-walled shed a short walk from the factory, the...worker reclined on his bed with his fiancee by his side and
recalled how he was recently ordered to work 24 hours straight without rest.
"On the second morning we just kept working," he said, wrinkling his
nose as the eye- watering vapors of cooking peppers drifted through the room
from a building a few feet away. His fiancee pressed the tummy of a
defective Winnie the Pooh that she had rescued from the trash at work. The
bear meowed three times - she had sewn in a computer chip from a pet toy
that someone had found on the factory floor - and the woman laughed.
If all goes well, the couple said, they can each earn about $65 a
month, half of which they send home to their families in rural China.
Newcomers and slower workers, they pointed out, sometimes get no pay at
all: There is nothing left after charges are subtracted for meals and rent,
as many workers live in company housing.
The couple said they and their colleagues sometimes thought about
complaining, but the memory of what happened last year to one who did always
stopped them. At first, they said, the worker was shouted down by the floor
manager. Then, about 8 p.m., as he was leaving the factory, he was stabbed
repeatedly by a group of men.
Mattel said it was unaware of any such incident.
Few people saw the stabbing, and no one knew what ultimately happened
to the victim, the couple said, although some heard his screams. They didn't
dare help or call the police, they said, lest they suffer the same fate.
Squalor in Mexico
More than 7,000 miles from China, along the U.S.-Mexico border, a
41-year-old Mattel factory worker rocked back and forth on a rusted metal
chair and talked about life at the job site - and beyond.
The Tijuana facility where this woman earns the equivalent of $50 a
week, Mattel's Mabamex plant, is clean and well maintained. The company
strictly enforces its work-hour rules here, and she has few complaints.
Mabamex appears little different from factories on the U.S. side of the
But outside the 550,000-square-foot factory, the scene of squalor is
all too familiar: Like most maquiladoras - assembly plants that produce
goods principally for export - Mabamex is surrounded by the hovels where its
The dwellings are made of sheets of scrap metal and prefabricated
wooden walls - often, discarded garage doors from across the border. Few
homes have anything other than earthen floors. Fewer still have running
water. Most bathrooms consist of a system of buckets and open rivulets,
which wash the waste downhill.
The Mattel worker, a mother of four, said she would like to move her
family somewhere nicer. But given her salary, there is very little that she
"When we collect our checks, we feel bad about how little money we
make," she said. "We feel the pressure."
For a company like Mattel, it is a tricky proposition figuring out what
its obligation to workers - as well as to society at large - should be.
"Is it Mattel's responsibility to determine and pay a living wage? I
don't think so," said Walter, the company's quality assurance chief. "But
should Mattel prompt a local government to determine what a reasonable wage
is? We should have some impact on that."
The struggle between morality and profitability goes right to the top
of the company.
"Do we want to make people's lives better? Absolutely," said Eckert,
Mattel's CEO. "Do we want to unilaterally do things that make us
uncompetitive and therefore our products don't sell and therefore nobody
gets employed? No."
Few, if any, of the Tijuana maquiladoras do better for their workers
than Mattel does, said Alfredo Hualde, director of the Department of Social
Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a research institution in
Hualde notes that to have even the most basic amenities - sanitary
drinking water, indoor plumbing - the 150,000 maquiladora workers would
probably need to see their pay doubled. And that's unimaginable when the
Mexican government is doing all it can to keep factories from fleeing Mexico
for cheaper locales such as China.
"The main objective is to keep the maquilas here in Mexico to create
employment," Hualde said. "The quality of the employment is secondary."
When the Factory Closes
At the Shenzhen factory, the man who worked 24 hours straight learned
during the summer that there is something worse than laboring in terrible
conditions: being out of a job.
Work at the plant started to dry up, and the man went 22 days without getting paid.
Eventually, he landed a new job at a nearby eyeglasses factory. The
management is fair, the hours are blessedly shorter, and the pay is better,
he said. He and his fiancee were even able to move into a slightly larger
apartment with tile, instead of concrete, floors.
His fiancee hasn't been so lucky, though. When the Mattel contractor
finally closed in August, the only job she could find was at a nearby toy
factory - another Mattel supplier.
Conditions there, she said, are worse. The hours are longer and the
wages lower. Workers are instructed to keep two timecards so that auditors
can't detect the illegal overtime and insufficient pay. There is no clean
drinking water at the factory, she said, and no food for those who, like
her, often work the graveyard shift.
The woman longs for the day she can leave, she said. But she doesn't
know when that will be.
German GfK Consumer Confidence Rises Ahead of Christmas Holiday
by Christian Baumgaertel in Frankfurt at cbaumgaertel@Bloomberg.net
German consumer confidence rose this month as
shoppers in Europe's largest economy became more willing to spend ahead of
the Christmas holidays, the GfK market research company said.
GfK's index of consumer confidence, which aims to forecast household
spending one month in advance, rose to 2.7 points this month from a revised
2.4 in October, the Nuremberg, Germany-based company said today in a faxed
statement. A sub-index gauging consumers' willingness to buy rose to minus
24.4 from minus 28.6.
"There's hope that Christmas business will pick up," GfK Chief Executive
Officer Klaus Wuebbenhorst said in an interview. "The question is whether
we'll be able to still benefit from this next year."
German consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, hasn't increased
in more than a year amid unemployment at a five- year high and rising oil
costs. Hermann Franzen, president of HDE association of German retailers,
last month said an expected 1.5% gain in Christmas sales this year
will be too little for a "turnaround."
KarstadtQuelle AG, the country's largest department store operator, plans
to cut some 5,000 jobs and close 77 smaller stores. Workers as companies
including Siemens AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler
AG this year agreed to wage concessions such as longer work hours and
reductions in bonus payments to secure their jobs.
"The German Santa Claus is not bringing many presents on Christmas Eve,"
said Andreas Rees, an economist at HVB Group in Munich. "We see substantial
downside risks to our already cautious forecast for private consumption in
the fourth quarter."
A measure of shoppers' income expectations slipped to minus 15.8 in
November from minus 15.5 in the previous month and a sub- index tracking
consumers' expectations for the economy declined to minus 17 from minus
16.5, the GfK report showed.
The economy grew at the slowest pace in more than a year in the third
quarter, expanding 0.1% from the previous three- month period, as an
increase in investment struggled to offset a drop in exports. Consumer
spending stagnated last quarter.
"We'll probably have modest growth in consumption this year and there's
hope for a slight increase in 2005," said GfK's Wuebbenhorst. "It would be
important for the development of the economy overall."
Survey: Workers happy with vacation benefits
Las Vegas Sun, NV
By Alana Roberts (email@example.com)
One of the best things about work is earning time to get away from it,
Now that the holiday season is here and many workers begin to prepare for
time off, local workers say they have mixed opinions about the amount of
vacation time their jobs allow.
"Our vacation accrues with our holiday pay," Kevin Starcovic...of
Henderson said. He said at his job as an optical scanning technician at HCA
Inc.'s business offices in Las Vegas, he earns vacation time throughout the
year. He has worked at HCA for a year.
"It's taken out of the same bank (with) sick and holiday pay. It equals to
a little over two weeks a year. Two weeks is nothing," Starcovic said.
He spoke during a recent evening shift manning the fitness room desk at his
part-time job at the city of Henderson's Downtown Recreation Center. That
job doesn't offer any paid vacation time.
Starcovic's comments differed from those of Erin Dillon...of Henderson,
who spoke after finishing a fitness training session at the recreation
center the same evening. Dillon is a regional manager at Marriott
International Inc. She has worked at Marriott for 11 years.
"I get a lot of vacation time," Dillon said. "I don't take vacation. I'm a
workaholic; I'd rather save it. I probably take less than two weeks a year.
I actually have five weeks. I'm happy with the vacation time, I just don't
Although local workers offered mixed opinions about their vacation time, a
survey commissioned by staffing firm OfficeTeam shows a majority of workers
are satisfied with their vacation time. The company used an independent firm
to poll 573 U.S. workers about their satisfaction with the amount of
vacation time they get from their employers. Of those polled, 59%
said they were very satisfied with it.
Maureen Carrig, an OfficeTeam spokeswoman, said the results are an
indication that many[?] companies offer enhanced vacation time to entice
workers. OfficeTeam, which staffs workers in administrative roles has three
offices in Nevada, one in Las Vegas, another in Summerlin and a third in
"During lean years when companies didn't have budgets to offer raises and
bonuses, many offered vacation days to employees," Carrig said. "I think
what we're seeing is employees felt their work-life balance was being met,"
she said about the survey.
However, Starcovic said the standard two-week vacation offering many
American companies give employees after a year pales to the four-to-six paid
weeks of vacation time many European companies offer employees.
"We have some European friends," Starcovic said. "You set aside money while
you're working. When you take your vacation they pay you (with the accrued
money saved from the rest of the year)."
Ann McGinley, an employment law professor at UNLV's William S. Boyd School
of Law, said the European standard may be undergoing a change.
"In Europe, ironically, they're moving toward the American model," McGinley
said. "Companies in Europe say they can't compete because American companies
are moving there."
McGinley said more generous vacation time makes for less-stressed
"I think the European model is healthier," she said. "Most European
companies give at least four weeks in addition to holidays. I think it would
be best to be somewhere in between (the American and European models)."
She also said vacation is important to the image employees have of their
"They're more important for the long term," McGinley said. "Employers don't
seem to expect employees to stay. If we were to go back to the old ways, if
we wanted to keep people that would be a way of reducing educational costs.
Good employment policies, including good benefits, which would include good
vacation time, is a way of doing that."
Rick Vaillancourt, former president of the Southern Nevada Human Resources
Association, and president of human resources consulting firm Training and
Development Consultants, agreed with McGinley's comments.
"I think largely they're (workers) more concerned about a benefit package,"
Vaillancourt said. "I agree, most people are reasonably satisfied with their
vacations. I think the focus has largely been on the (health) benefits. I
think in the trade off of health benefits verses time off or increased
vacation time, the health benefits would win hands down."
Pa. Turnpike: No holiday for drivers, tolls to be collected
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA
By Jere Downs
As Black Friday shoppers crammed into the King of Prussia mall, a pro-union
Santa stood vigil with striking Pennsylvania Turnpike toll collectors nearby
on day three of their first-ever strike.
At 380 pounds, the bearded, 60-year-old retiree and friend of striking
workers was the picture of Santa, albeit with a Teamsters shirt beneath his
red coat and a picket sign shoved under his wide black belt.
"My deer will not cross a picket line," Drexel Hill resident Tom Anthony
warned as he waved to motorists at the Valley Forge interchange. "It will be
a sad Christmas if Santa cannot come to the Northeast."
Motorists will first have to get through Sunday, when the Turnpike
Commission will use managers and temporary workers to collect $2 for cars
journeying home from Thanksgiving celebrations and $15 from commercial
freight. The commission decided against waiving tolls all day Sunday, one of
the busiest days of the year.
"When we do have a traffic situation at an interchange, backing up the ramp
down to the main line, we will waive the tolls," Turnpike Commission
spokesman Bill Capone said Friday.
Capone and striking workers expressed hope that the strike, sparked by a
dispute over health benefits and job security, would end soon. The Teamsters
contract - covering toll collectors, maintenance workers, and office staff
in Locals 77 and 250 - expired in October 2003. There have been no talks
The commission has suspended health benefits for about 2,000 workers, a
common practice during strikes. The proposal rejected by workers offered
management-level health insurance, an upgrade, with the caveat that it could
be changed at any time during the contract.
The commission is also seeking to add more "supplemental" toll collectors -
currently about 30% of the workforce in our region - who labor full
time without sick pay or vacation benefits. The contract proposal also
included a 2.5% raise annually for three years. The commission has
rejected a worker proposal that the pay increase be retroactive to last
Teamsters representatives were unavailable for comment Friday.
About 220 managers have been working 12-hour shifts at the tolls, joined for
the first time Friday by 40 temporary workers. The Turnpike Commission is
paying an agency $16.25 an hour for each nonunion worker hired and expects
to employ 30 more, Capone said.
Supplemental toll collectors, even those with five or six years on the job,
are paid a base of $15.76 an hour. Workers at the Valley Forge interchange
estimated that there are 93 supplemental workers and 240 "permanent" toll
collectors in our region. Permanent toll collectors with three years of
experience earn $18.69 an hour (plus overtime on holidays), paid vacations,
and sick pay.
The dispute has caused a dilemma for some truckers. Many union drivers are
not crossing the picket line, which is effectively 531 miles long. Nonunion
truckers sympathize, but clutch eagerly at a cross-state toll of $15 - a
$125 savings on the usual charge for a 40-ton rig.
"If I can run the entire turnpike for $15, I will do so gladly with a big
smile on my face," said Lee Klass, 56, of Portland, Ore.
Klass later called back to say he had changed his mind. "If workers go out,
they go out for a good reason," he said. "I would not cross a picket line.
It's one of my core values."
Since deregulation of the industry, America's truckers, on average, work
harder and earn less than they have during the last four decades, according
to former trucker Michael Belzer, a labor-relations expert at the University
of Michigan and author of the book Sweatshops on Wheels.
Even so, some truckers are ready to show solidarity with fellow Teamsters.
Gerald Sullivan of Northeast Philadelphia hauls the U.S. mail for Mail
Contractors of America, an Arkansas-based firm. Sullivan, who helped fellow
employees organize his shop with Teamsters Local 470 of Philadelphia, vowed
to avoid the turnpike on his daily run to Springfield, Mass.
Contact staff writer Jere Downs at 610-313-8128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Dwayne Campbell contributed to this article.
Today's moms seek the best of two worlds -
Mothers develop strategies to balance needs of families, jobs
Indianapolis Star, IN
By Dana Knight (317-444-6012 or email@example.com)
Lori White's heart was being tugged by two opposing forces.
One: a successful career she had spent eight years building.
The other: a beautiful baby boy who had been in her life three months.
"I didn't feel like I was ready to totally quit working," said the...hiring coordinator for the Marion Superior Court Probation
"But I felt this kind of strong calling like I needed to spend as much time
as I could at home with my son."
After 12 weeks of maternity leave, she made the plea to her employer for
what she calls the best of both worlds - part-time work.
She struck a deal that puts her in the office three days a week and off
work, at home, two days with 1-year-old Zachary.
Her inner struggle is one nearly 4 million new moms face each year.
Stay home. Go back to work. Work from home. Go part time. Take an extended
leave. Switch jobs.
Many baby boomers didn't have this problem. The mothers either left work to
raise their families or they blazed new career paths.
"Boomers were able to fit pregnancy in between promotions," said Betty Wong,
executive editor of Working Mother magazine. "Gen Xers don't feel it's an
either-or situation. They don't see any problem going in and out of the work
Consider these stats:
The number of women going back to work after having babies is declining,after decades of rapid growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1980,
38% of women who had had a child in the past year were in the labor
force. By 1998, that number jumped to 58.7%. In 2002, the latest
figures available, it dropped to 54.6%.
Part-time workers' share of the labor force is rising. According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers putting in fewer than 35 hours per week
accounted for 23.9% of the work force in 2001, up from 18.3%
Doing the job at home is a booming business. In 2000, 4.2 million people
worked from home, up from 3.4 million in 1990, says the Census Bureau. That
increase is double the growth of the overall work force during that decade.
"It's a definite possibility that a large number of these people working
from home are mothers," said Julia Overturf, demographic statistician with
the Census Bureau. "The people who would want to have more flexibility in
their work hours would be mothers."
Making it work
Flexibility is a must for most new moms, but it often means giving up
That may be simply a loss of income. But some working mothers with flexible
schedules give up much more - promotions, raises and even respect in the
workplace, said Riki Wilchins, executive director of the Washington-based
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.
They become known by their employers as second-class employees.
"It's a gender stereotype of the worst kind," Wilchins said. "With millions
of working women balancing work and family, the prejudice that devotion to
one will automatically pre-empt the other is simply horse-and-buggy
Women must take a stand.
"Some women have this fear that if you have a child and you don't work 60
hours a week, they are going to think you are putting your child above your
job," she said.
White said she was willing to do whatever it took to "make this work." She
took a $1,200-a- month salary cut going part time.
Financially, the career- after-children decision is one of expenses added
versus lost income. Expenses such as day care, wardrobe, lunches and
transportation to work. Most experts say unless a mother is making more than
$35,000 a year, it's not worth it to work.
For example, a married woman with two children, working full time and
earning $2,000 a month, will lose $400 in income tax, FICA, Medicare and SDI
Child care costs another $800 to $1,000 a month.
Most mothers, if it worked financially, would rather spend more time with
their children, according to the Sloan 500 Family study, a survey of 500
Nearly two-thirds of moms who work full time said they would rather be part
time, according to the survey. About 40% of those mothers said job
and family life conflict almost all the time.
What about dads?
Fathers have similar feelings, according to a new poll of 500 men by Best
46% said they would take a pay cut if they were assured of
being able to leave work each day by 5 p.m. Another 38% said if they
could get one extra hour a day, they would spend it with their children.
Ryan Fannin said it's tough working 40-plus hours each week, knowing what he
is leaving behind.
"When you're having a hard day at work, you're like, 'Oh man. Why can't I be
at home right now?' " said the...manager of football information
systems for the Indianapolis Colts. "Because you know what you're missing."
What makes him feel better is knowing that his wife, Gina, is at home full
time caring for 19-month-old Trevor.
Gina Fannin...left her job as a research technician at the Institute for
Psychiatric Research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to
"I've just always had in my heart that I wanted to stay at home," she said.
"My mom always stayed home with us. I just thought it was really important
to be there if I could."
When she and her husband discussed the situation at the end of her maternity
leave, they realized staying home wasn't going to work financially.
She extended her leave for a week, to buy some time. Meanwhile, Ryan Fannin
received a raise that covered their needs.
"It was a blessing," said Gina Fannin. Trevor has sleep apnea, asthma and
acid reflux. He didn't sleep through the night until he was almost 17 months
Fannin said she needed the flexibility that being at home full time brought.
Working from home
Flexibility was also a requirement for...Molly Johnson, a general
litigation attorney specializing in probate law. But she found hers by
keeping a career and working from home.
"I absolutely had thought I would always be career-minded," said Johnson,
who is expecting her second child in April. "My priorities changed after
Johnson resigned while on maternity leave to care for Caleb, who now is 2.
Within months, she had found a job at the Downtown Indianapolis law firm of
Curtis E. Shirley that allowed her to work from home.
"I love having a career, and I would miss it horribly," she said. Some weeks
she works 60 to 70 hours. Some days she is away from home taking depositions
or attending a trial. But, for the most part, she is there to watch "Sesame
Street" with Caleb or play in the fallen leaves outside.
"If you sit down, have your priorities straight, it's absolutely possible as
a mother and a woman to have a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience,"
The possibility of getting that balance relates to the mindset of corporate
America, said Working Mother's Wong. "Luckily, companies are realizing they
need to cater to these women to meet their needs," she said.
Some top companies that cater to women are going to extremes, like offering
up to three years off after a baby with a guaranteed job when the mother
returns. They are putting fitness centers and massage therapists into the
workplace. Most importantly, they are working with women to make sure their
schedules fit the needs of their families.
At Ernst & Young, the accounting and consulting firm, all employees are
encouraged to build their careers around personal commitments, said Shari
Alexander Richey, a tax consultancy partner.
"We believe flexibility is about choice - it's about making a life, not
making a living," said Richey, 38, who serves on the firm's Gender Equity
Task Force and has two children, 3 and 5. "If we can have happy people, we
can have happy clients."
Among Ernst & Young's offerings are paid maternity and paternity leave and
adoption financing. All employees have laptops so they can work anywhere -
and are given 24-hour technical assistance.
Fifty employees in Indianapolis have designed their own work arrangements.
These include job sharing, compressed work weeks, reduced schedules,
telecommuting and flex time.
"I would say we're pretty liberal in terms of making sure our employees work
when and where they want to get the job done," said Richey.
The cost to companies who don't work to keep good employees is staggering. A
woman who makes $50,000 a year, then bolts because she's not happy, costs
her employer $16,875, according to Advantage Hiring. The cost includes
overtime paid to cover the needs of the vacant position while searching for
a replacement, advertising the job, interviewing and training the new
Back at work
Jackie Thurnes...puts her daughter above her job - and everything else
- yet she is making it work as a career woman.
"The biggest thing is that she's No.1 definitely - no ifs, ands or buts
about it," said Thurnes, associate director of enforcement for the National
Collegiate Athletic Association. "The things you used to worry about at work
are not a big deal anymore."
Thurnes said financially she needed to return to work.
"It was just pretty much a given I would go back," she said. "It's pretty
hard nowadays, for financial reasons, to not go back. If I had the choice, I
would be here (at home)."
Since she can't be at home, Thurnes has changed her work life to fit her
9-month-old daughter's needs.
The NCAA allows her to go to work late or take time off when she needs to.
Thurnes also has cut her travel by 50%.
Moms who don't have any choice but to work have to let go of that inner
struggle, said Gail Blanke, author of "Between Trapezes: Flying Into a New
Life With the Greatest of Ease."
"She has to let go of the guilt - maybe I should be home," she said.
Blanke said to look at work as an adventure and a chance to set an example
for the child.
"Interestingly enough, the same kind of qualities we're asking women to
utilize as they raise their children are the same wonderful qualities that
the best leaders exude," she said. "It's not more complicated than that. It
just shows that work and life are intertwined."
Meshing work, life
Angi Johnson...is trying to mesh the two successfully. After having
daughter Magdalene, now almost 9 months old, she switched jobs.
Johnson went from being a supervisor at a mobile crisis unit for abused and
neglected children to a position as a home-based counselor.
Instead of being in the office 40 hours a week, Johnson will work mainly
from her Indianapolis home and have the flexibility to set her own hours.
"I'm taking a pay cut, but it's the best thing for my family and me right
now," she said. "I didn't like being away from her that long. Now I won't
have to be."
'Day of rest' re-evaluated - Sundays in the Tri-State - like much of America - have shifted from a day of
relaxation and religious observance to, frankly, just another day of the
Evansville Courier & Press, IN
By PHILIP ELLIOTT and RYAN REYNOLDS
And on the seventh day, God rested.
But today, few take his cue.
Sundays in the Tri-State - like much of America - have shifted from a day
of relaxation and religious observance to, frankly, just another day of the
Churches may fill their pews on early Sunday mornings, but the aisles at
Wal-Mart are just as crowded.
And the post-service dinner at Grandma's house in the country? In many
cases, it has been replaced by a trip to a steakhouse for a $9.99 sirloin
special, or three hours at the pub, eating appetizers and quaffing beer,
surrounded all afternoon by television sets broadcasting the day's
professional football games.
It's just not your father's Sunday anymore.
The idea of a weekly day of rest goes back to the book of Genesis. There,
God creates the Earth and its creatures in six days. On the seventh, he
God didn't need the day off. In Isaiah, audiences later are told, "Hast
thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the
Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?"
"God didn't rest because he was tired," said the Rev. Ron Osborne of
Evansville's Keck Avenue Southern Baptist Church. "He did it for the same
reason a musician takes a pause in music. It's not because he's tired. It's
for reflection on what's gone before and what's yet to come."
For Karen Clark of Evansville, Sunday simply can't be a "pause in music."
Clark said she works Monday through Friday, and sometimes has to work
overtime hours on Saturday in a retail job. Sunday, from sunrise to sunset,
is the one day she can count on each week to be open for all the "little
things" that pile up through the week.
"That's my laundry day, my shopping day, my car-washing day and, during the
summer, it's my lawn-mowing day," Clark said. "It's the one day I can throwmyself at all the stuff I didn't get done during the week because of my
The department store where Clark works is open on Sundays, like most other
businesses in the Tri-State. But even though Sunday has turned into the
second-busiest shopping day of the week - trailing only Saturday - there are
businesses that close for the day.
In Indiana, liquor stores are shuttered on Sunday, as are car lots. In
Illinois and Kentucky, liquor stores are allowed to be open, but car lots
there are closed, as well.
A person can buy a beer in Indiana on Sunday, but it has to be at a
restaurant or bar that also serves food. In Kentucky, a state appeals court
decided this summer to overturn a ban on Sunday liquor sales across the
Bluegrass. The decision opened the door for municipalities to allow packaged
liquor sales on Sunday.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 19 states
do not allow Sunday sales.
The Sunday restrictions are part of each state's "blue laws" - restrictions
on what businesses and activities can and cannot take place on the seventh
day of the week.
The origin of the term "blue laws" is attributed to various meanings, from
the color of the paper on which the laws were printed to a suggestion of
staying "true blue" to the letter of the law. There is also the definition
of "blue" that means risque or indecent - comedians often refer to telling
dirty jokes as "working blue."
Historians have traced the first American blue laws back to the early
1600s, when the Virginia colony made a law requiring church attendance.
In the Tri-State, blue laws deal mainly with alcohol and automobiles. And
some of the owners of those businesses don't seem to mind being out of
operation for a day.
"Customers like a day when they can just walk around on the car lots and
kick tires at their leisure," said Tim Dowling, executive vice president of
the Automobile Dealers of Indiana. Butch Hancock, president of Evansville's
Kenny Kent Toyota Lexus Mitsubishi, said he has never had a customer ask
him, "Doggone it, Butch, why aren't you open on Sundays?"
"I think it's a quality of life issue," Hancock said. "A lot of us are here
from 8 a.m. until 10 or 11 o'clock at night. It's nice having that one day
"It's not the same as it was 25 or 30 years ago," he said. "When I was a
kid, grocery stores were closed on Sundays. Things have changed to
Local clergy wonder whether that's a change for the better. They point out
that the day of rest was codified in the Fourth Commandment, offered to
Moses in Exodus. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," God declared
to Moses and the Israelites. "It's commanded," said the Rev. Phil Hoy, of
Henderson's Zion United Church of Christ. "The command is for our sake. We
are such fools we don't think we need it, and that's a huge mistake on our
part. If we don't give that to our children, we're cheating them."
For Christians, the Sabbath was shifted from Saturday to Sunday to reflect
Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.
"The shift over went from the Sabbath to Sunday, the day of Resurrection
and that become the holy day," Hoy said. "With it came the functions of the
Sabbath - the day of worship, the day of rest, and depending on the group, a
day for restoration."
And while grocery and department stores may now be open on Sundays, Hoy
said he and his wife try not to shop then.
"I still don't feel good about that for this reason: I'm really concerned
about work schedules people have, work schedules that keep them from
personal life or family life. ... My own personal concern comes back to:
What's a work week?"
The average American worked 46 hours a week last year, according to a study
by the National Sleep Foundation.
[Clashes with 43-hour figure above (story #3)?]
The number continues to increase each
year, threatening churches just as much as their parishioners.
Churches, themselves, are finding it increasingly difficult to schedule
"One of the problems, coming from a liturgical denomination, is trying to
find a time to schedule a confirmation class," Hoy said. "It's has become
When Hoy graduated from seminary in 1962, he could schedule confirmands for
a two- or three-hour session. Now, finding that block of time that isn'tprogrammed with sports, extracurricular activities or studies is almost
impossible. "We are just so organized. I think we're over-organized," Hoy
said. But maybe God wouldn't mind if these man-made restrictions were
"God never intended for the Sabbath Day to be a burden to us," Osborne
said. "It was given to us as a blessing. It was meant as a reflection on the
goodness of God, of the grace of God."
As Jesus told his followers at the end of the second chapter of Mark, "The
sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." But it's not as
simple as saying we're not going to work on Sundays. "There's no turning
back the clock. I don't think it's possible we'll ever see society turn back
to the way it was in the '40s or '50s," Osborne said.
"Our society is so profit-driven and market-driven. Unfortunately, it's
business and profits before nearly anything."
- [A rationalization of cutting welfare? -]
Actually, reform frees those trapped in the net
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI
By JOHN GARD
One hundred and fifty years ago, a new system of agriculture sprang up
called tenant farming.
The premise sounded good. Poor farm laborers with no work to do would be
given a piece of land to farm - and the tools to farm it - from a land-rich
but cash-poor property owner. The profits from the produce of that land
would be shared between the two, to their mutual benefit.
In reality, the landowners often burdened the workers with additional
charges and mountains of debt. In the end, instead of enjoying the dignity
of work and profit, tenant farmers found themselves trapped in an insidious
new form of dependency and servitude under the crushing weight of their debt
to the landowner.
Today, defenders of the welfare state risk a similar error when they argue
against tax relief and welfare reform.
They make well-meaning arguments for more taxpayer-funded social programs
aimed at lifting individuals out of poverty. But they fail to realize that
the very weight of the expanding tax burden necessary to fund those programs
keeps low-income individuals and families bogged down in their poverty.
Today, we risk trapping low-income individuals in a client-status
dependency by creating a tax climate that makes the cost of leaving
dependency behind so high it is impossible to attain. They remain tangled in
a system that was intended to be a safety net to keep them from falling down
but has instead become a snare that keeps them from rising up.
Fortunately, policy-makers from conservatives like former Wisconsin Gov.
Tommy G. Thompson to liberals like former President Clinton have concluded
that the best way to help people in poverty is not to make dependency
cozier, but rather to move toward independence by making work more
The best anti-poverty program ever designed is a job. Wisconsin's welfare
reform, W-2, was built on simple logic: All able-bodied adults who need
taxpayer-funded assistance should be able to achieve long-term independence
through work and to support their families and children. To assist in
reaching this goal, the taxpayers provide generous child care and health
care benefits to sustain these individuals while they are making the
transition from dependency to work.
The results have been remarkable. Wisconsin welfare caseloads dropped from
more than 52,000 right before W-2 began to only 10,000 today.
The caseload drop is only part of the story. A University of Wisconsin study
of the program, funded by the federal government under the Clinton
administration, compared results from individuals receiving benefits in 1998
with where they stood a year later.
Of those who enrolled in W-2, almost 70% were off payments only 12 months
The average wage of those who went to work increased from $7.30 to $8.10
in just one year;
Not only did wages go up, but people worked more hours, so that one year
later, wages increased more than $2,000, and average family income (from all
sources) increased from $12,100 to $14,800 per year.
Sadly, even as our success in reforming welfare moves more and more people
from the world of dependency to the world of work, Wisconsin's high tax
burden threatens to keep these individuals and families trapped in poverty.
Because of our tax burden, per capita income in the Wisconsin is well below
that of our neighbors.
Simply put, after government takes its cut, there is less money left in a
Wisconsin worker's paycheck than in any of our neighboring states.
That fact hurts every worker in Wisconsin, but it hits those just making
the jump from poverty to the world of work the hardest.
In Wisconsin, we work longer hours and hold down more jobs than anywhere in
the country. Our labor participation rate - the percentage of our employable
citizens who are in the work force - is the highest in the country.
But our workers are still merely treading water because our tax burden is
one of the heaviest in the nation.
This situation is economically untenable for the long term. Without change,
more and more of our job creators and more and more of our best workers will
simply vote with their feet and take their jobs, skills, wealth and ideas to
states with more reasonable tax climates.
But economics is only one reason why I am such a strong supporter of
taxpayer protection measures that place constitutional limits on how fast
the size and cost of government can increase.
I also am fighting for these limits because I believe it is fundamentally
wrong to ask workers to make tough decisions in their family budgets simply
because we are unwilling to set priorities and make tough choices in
Tax policy does not function in a vacuum.
When government puts a certain policy in place, there is always some
response from the marketplace.
When we raise taxes on workers, they have less money to spend on their
needs, they have less time to spend on their families, they have less
economic independence, they are less free.
When both parents in a family are forced to work merely to keep their family
income from losing ground to their tax burden, our children are harmed, our
families are weakened and our society pays the price.
When we place high taxes on businesses, they pass those costs on to their
consumers, once again forcing individuals to work longer and harder for less
real economic freedom.
By the same token, when we reduce the tax burden, we increase personal
freedom, economic freedom and the dignity that goes along with them.
We empower our citizens to make their own choices. We make our society
stronger. We make our citizens more free.
Proposals to link increases in government taxes and spending to increases in
personal income make sense because they ensure that your tax bill cannot
grow faster than your paycheck.
That helps every taxpayer, but none is helped more than those on the
low-income end of the economic spectrum.
Those who argue against welfare reform and tax reform like to couch their
arguments in terms of "compassion."
But it is an odd and tragic form of compassion that offers individuals a
take-it-or-leave-it choice between security and freedom.
Unfortunately, that is exactly the choice those advocating expansions of
the welfare state and increases in the tax burden are offering.
They are the modern equivalent of property owners offering tenant farmers a
secure place on the land at the cost of economic and personal freedom.
I believe true compassion springs from recognizing the inherent human worth
and dignity of every individual and encouraging each individual to maximize
his or her potential in a free society.
Our goal should be to display that kind of compassion by working to end the
cycle of dependency, reforming welfare and reducing Wisconsin's tax burden
so all our citizens can enjoy the maximum economic benefit from the work
If we achieve these goals, we can ensure that, in Wisconsin, we have a
properly functioning social "safety net"; one that helps those who have
fallen bounce up and not one that keeps those striving to rise tied down.
Rep. John Gard (R-Peshtigo) is speaker of the Assembly.
Parents deserve a new deal, too
The Observer via Guardian, UK
It is a thrilling time to be a parent. We are truly at the heart of the
'agenda'. Politicians, when they aren't fining us or serving parenting
orders on us for not doing a good enough job, are fighting over who can best meet our needs.
The expansion of childcare places since 1997 is rightly a source of great
pride for the government, as is the imminent announcement about delivering
the next tranche. The Tories have been drawn into the battle for families'
hearts and minds. We should be in clover.
But are we? While all this activity is welcome, the provision of childcare
is only one piece in a big jigsaw of policy and cultural shifts that parents
At the moment, the debate about childcare takes place against the sterile
backdrop of work. We are forever subtly reminded that being productive cogs
in the economic machine somehow makes us better citizens. The exhausting
mantra of 'hard-working families' in political debate underlines the idea
that good services are a reward for all this graft.
But family life is about more than just work. It is about caring, leisure,
having time to talk, even to do nothing. The number of women in work has
shot up over the past 30 years but they are not all pursuing high-flying
careers or aiming at the glass ceiling. The average family now needs 1.5
incomes to survive and many women work through need or to enhance less
tangible aspects of family life.
Government rightly identified that schools are a huge, wasted resource out
of hours and should be used more flexibly, but education and care are two
different things. The unfortunate term 'educare' conjures up images of
toddlers being woken from afternoon naps to take their three-year-old Sats
before being allowed a bit of play. Work-life balance seems to be being
delivered on a factory line.
Most parents understand the value of pre-school education, especially to
offset disadvantaged home lives, but two or three hours early-years'
education is not the same as round-the-clock group childcare.
And while there are children whose home lives are so impoverished that
being in a nursery aged 0-two may be an improvement, the jury is out on
whether it is the right environment for all small children. Justifying wider
childcare policies on the basis of research such as last week's Effective
Provision on Pre-School Education report only muddies the water.
The confusion parents still feel about managing the work-life dilemma was
accurately revealed in the UK Family Trends study by the National Family and
Far from having it all, women in particular still feel 'role strain';
uncomfortable about working and about staying at home, unsure about nursery
provision during office hours and conscious that political solutions still
don't address the relationship between work and care.
Keeping schools open for an extra four hours is not enough. A bigger
cultural shift is needed. It includes resolving the pay gap so women can
afford to work fewer hours, educating or even obliging employers to offer
flexible working patterns and guaranteeing high-quality childcare.
As someone who has suffered 'role strain' for almost 18 years and can boast
of having tried just about every kind of working pattern, I can vouch for
the fact that childcare is only half the problem.
It's the little things that compound the stress. What happens when children
are ill, when transport lets you down and small children need carting to
different carers, when you have to tell an employer you want to be at the
school assembly or take your child to the doctor?
None of this is encompassed in 'educare' and will only be addressed by
politicians who genuinely share with parents the view that personal
relationships and care are as important as work and can convey that to
I recently asked a younger friend, struggling to get home from a
yearned-for new job in time to care for her daughter, why she couldn't tell
her new employers she had to get home for her child. Her reply? 'I can't.
It's not part of the deal.'
We've had a new deal for schools and a new deal for jobs. Now it is time
for a new deal for parents.
Staff 'buy' extra holiday time
The Sunday Times, UK
TIME is becoming more valuable than money. Employees in some of Britain's
biggest companies are taking advantage of new schemes that allow them to
sacrifice part of their salary in return for extra holiday.
The cash for holidays deals are offered by companies such as Nationwide,
Lloyds TSB and Cadbury Schweppes. According to the preliminary results of
research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), due
for publication early next year, 8% of employers now offer staff the
opportunity to buy extra holidays.
Until recently the practice was virtually unknown, with companies allowing
workers no more than the maximum paid entitlement. But there has been
growing pressure in the workforce for longer holidays, a fact highlighted
last week when London Underground managers gave in to union demands for a
record 52-day annual holiday entitlement for station staff.
The annual Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For research, which captures
the opinions of more than 58,000 employees across 228 companies, confirms
that a growing number of workers are opting for more time rather than cash.
Given the choice, 44% chose money and 36% preferred time off. In the 1970s
and 1980s higher pay, rather than more holiday, was the priority for the
vast majority of workers.
Now, complaints from employees are often more likely to be about long
hours. British employees work among the longest hours in Europe and have
some of the shortest holidays, although they work fewer hours than their
counterparts in America and Japan.
In France and Germany, employees enjoy about six weeks' holiday plus 11 bank holidays. American and Japanese workers, by contrast, take two weeks' holiday a year.
On average, British companies offer 25 days of paid holiday a year plus
eight bank holidays. The new unpaid entitlements enable workers either to
enjoy an extra week off or to take several long weekends during the year.
Charles Cotton, who researches pay and benefits for the CIPD, said:
"Employers report that the ability to buy holidays is one of the benefits
employees value most. If they want to take more Friday afternoons off to go
surfing or something, this allows them to do it." The study looked at 572
organisations in the private and public sectors, employing 1.5m people.
Out of its 15,000 employees, 3,500 Nationwide staff this year opted to
trade in part of their salaries for more holiday.
Paul Bissell, senior rewards manager at Nationwide, said: "Increasing
numbers of our employees are buying holidays. Leisure time and leisure
pursuits have become more important to people than money.
"Ten or 20 years ago a good basic salary, a pension and a few days' holiday
was what attracted high-quality staff. Now employees are more selective."
Laura Scott...from Purton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, a senior analyst
with Nationwide, sacrificed five days' pay for an extra week's holiday.
Scott, a keen horsewoman who plays polocrosse - lacrosse on horseback - says
the extra holiday enabled her both to compete during the summer and go on
holiday to America. "I value my holidays," she said. "I am quite happy to
take a small salary cut if it means I can take five extra days off."
For Philip Pashley...from west London, an internal communications
manager with Centrica, the services company that owns British Gas, it was
the attraction of spending more time with his young family that persuaded
him to swap three days' pay for time off.
"Our daughter Olivia is 18 months old and my wife is expecting another
baby," he said. "The chance to spend more time with my children offsets the
slight reduction in salary.
"My wife and I are from Yorkshire and so our parents live quite a distance
away. Extra time off means we can visit them for more long weekends and
gives them more chances to see their granddaughter."
HSABC endorses adjustment plan for lab redesign - Deal signed with Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada
Vancouver - The Health Sciences Association of B.C. [in the National Union of Public and General Employees] (HSABC/NUPGE) and the
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have reached an agreement 'without
prejudice' on a wide-ranging package of measures to mitigate the impact of
Restructuring will occur in the laboratories at Lions Gate Hospital,
Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Hospital - 12th and Oak Pavilions, and
Vancouver Hospital - UBC Pavilions.
The authority's objective is to meet workforce reduction targets through
attrition to the greatest extent possible.
The parties have scheduled a series of meetings to explain the situation
and to carry out a "Voluntary Canvass/Expression of Interest." Meeting times
and locations will be publicized as soon as locations are finalized. The
purpose of the canvass is to identify potential vacancies that will help
Voluntary options include a labour adjustment incentive (ranging from a
benefit of eight to 20 weeks salary), a phased retirement initiative (of up
to one year), job-sharing, transfer and other proposals. If an application
is approved by VCHA, an offer will be made for the employee's consideration.
The canvass will also be conducted at the laboratories at Pemberton Health
Clinic, Powell River General Hospital, St. Mary's Sechelt, and Squamish
General Hospital, for the same purpose.
Filling reorganized positions
A process has also been developed for filling the reorganized positions.
Some positions will be assigned; some are limited to competition between
incumbents and some will be posted, either at the four sites undergoing
restructuring or at all eight VCHA sites listed. In some cases, first
consideration will be given to affected employees in positions of Grade 3 or
The VCHA will then identify those employees whose positions remain to be
deleted, and will issue displacement notices. The VCHA will not issue layoff
notices to laboratory employees prior to January 2005.
The parties have adopted a bumping process for the purposes of implementing
the changes at the four sites undergoing restructuring. The process is
described in the adjustment plan, and is to be used by employees who have
been issued displacement notices.
Training opportunities are subject to operational requirements and will be
offered on a priority basis where it serves to avoid the layoff of an
employee who has seniority over another employee.
Wage protection is provided subject to certain requirements concerning
bumping. Salary structures for certain positions have also been established.
The laboratories at the four hospitals will operate as one operational unit
for the purposes of the collective agreement, except as otherwise provided
in the adjustment plan. Seniority lists of all technologists in the four
laboratories will be merged into one list by dovetailing.
The full text of the adjustment plan will be available at the upcoming
French Finance Minister Takes Over Ruling Party Leadership -
Sarkozy to Lead France's Ruling Party -
Election Puts Popular Finance Minister in Position to Run for Presidency
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service via Washington Post, DC
PARIS - France's energetic and outspoken finance minister,
Nicolas Sarkozy, took over the leadership of the country's ruling party
Sunday, giving him a vehicle and platform to launch a presidential campaign
in 2007 and setting up what is likely to be two years of intense political
combat with the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac.
Chirac, who turns 72 on Monday, has hinted that he might run for a third
term, but Sarkozy, 49, has spoken out loudly - some say impolitely - about
the need for a younger generation of leaders to take charge and implement
economic and societal reforms. Chirac had initially tried to block Sarkozy's
ascent to the helm of the ruling party, the Union for a Popular Movement,
but on Sunday he warmly congratulated his younger rival.
French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was surrounded by reporters as he
left his last cabinet meeting on Wednesday. As the new party chief, Sarkozy
must resign his cabinet post. (Remy De La Mauviniere - AP)
Sarkozy was named the party's president at an American-style party
convention complete with French tricolor flags, music and a giant video
screen on which speakers were shown. The election was actually held a week
ago, but the results were announced Sunday, showing Sarkozy the runaway
winner with 85.1% of the votes cast. The tightly organized
production, which some news media dubbed a "coronation," seemed set not only
to showcase Sarkozy's status as France's most popular politician, but also
to burnish his image as a modernizing politician willing to break with
Chirac did not attend but was represented by his wife, Bernadette Chirac,
who rarely makes political appearances. Sarkozy offered her a kiss when
receiving the election results and hugged his other main rival, the prime
minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Sarkozy's election to the party post means he will have to resign as
finance minister on Monday, after just eight months on the job. Chirac - in
a bid to curb Sarkozy's rising popularity - declared last summer that no
cabinet member would be allowed to hold the party presidency. Without a
high-profile government job, Sarkozy faces the challenge of keeping himself
and his ideas in the news media for the two years before the presidential
race begins in earnest, analysts said.
But staying in the headlines has not proved difficult for Sarkozy, as he
has shown himself willing to tackle old orthodoxies and offer sometimes
controversial solutions to some of the most vexing issues facing France and
Europe. For example, with tensions now rising over Europe's Muslim
communities and questions being raised about past integration policies,
Sarkozy has proposed allowing state funding for mosques as a way to curb
foreign financing of them. The idea, which would challenge France's strict
separation of church and state, has been criticized by Chirac.
In his acceptance speech Sunday, Sarkozy showed no reluctance to embrace
contentious positions. Among other things, he proposed a "profound reform" [ie: destruction]
of France's 35-hour workweek, a centerpiece of the last Socialist
government's economic policy. It is popular with workers, but businesses
have decried it as too costly.
"I am ready to carry your energy, I am ready to embody your hopes," Sarkozy
said. "I am ready because I know that deep inside, France no longer fears
change, but is ready for it."
Sarkozy's rise to the top of France's largest political machine - a party
begun, under another name, by Chirac nearly 30 years ago - is an unlikely
success story for France, where most politicians come from the same elite
social class and the same school, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration.
Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant father and a French mother with
Jewish roots. Sarkozy also is a lawyer, not a professional administrator
from the prestigious school.
His popularity soared after he became Chirac's interior minister in 2002
and he launched a crackdown on crime by borrowing from New York City's "zero
tolerance" policy. He also earned plaudits from French Jews for being among
the first to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitic attacks in France.
15% pay hikes on the way for city workers
The Union Leader, NH
By RILEY YATES
MANCHESTER, N.H., U.S.A. - Two-thirds of city workers are scheduled to receive a more than 15% pay increase over three years under the Manchester pay system and
the contracts approved by most unions, officials and records say.
The system was set in 1999 and aimed to remove inequity and politics from
payroll. But many Manchester officials say the cure needs to be cured.
"Most city employees in the last few years are enjoying pay increases that
are not enjoyed by the private sector," said Alderman Paul Porter of Ward 6,
a retired city assessor. "The whole pay scale has gotten out of hand."
Named Yarger-Decker for the consulting firm that recommended it, the pay
scale grants two yearly raises: one a step increase, the other a
cost-of-living adjustment negotiated through collective bargaining.
Together, they mean most city workers will receive 5% pay hikes for
this and each of the next two fiscal years, officials said.
That's a raise of 15.7% in three years, as the increases are
compounded. It is also typical of the pay system, officials said.
In 2000, Public Works Director Frank Thomas earned $96,797. In 2003, his
salary was $119,983 - a 19.3% increase, a study of city pay shows.
Finance Officer Kevin Clougherty's salary rose from $90,523 to $108,334
over the same three years, a 16.4% rise.
Dramatic at the top level, city officials said similar increases span the
Mayor Robert Baines said the city needs to revisit Yarger-Decker - again by
comparing Manchester pay to that of similarly sized cities. He said he plans
"shortly" to ask aldermen to approve a review.
"You go through an analysis and then you go through a political process,"
said Baines, who argued the recent three-year contracts give the city time
to work through any pay discrepancies.
The system includes other increases beyond the steps and COLAs.
Longevity steps inject another 3% pay raise every fifth year an
employee works for the city. Any worker who is promoted must receive a 10
percent pay increase. Workers also receive a roughly 3% step raise if
they go back for more education during their career.
"The Yarger-Decker program as far as I'm concerned was probably not the
right way to go," said Alderman George Smith of Ward 10, a retired city
utility inspector. "It's probably bankrupting the city."
But while increasing at a faster rate, Manchester government pay still
remains lower than the private sector, studies by the New Hampshire Economic
and Labor Market Information Bureau said.
Manchester employees were paid an average $686 a week in the first quarter
of 2004, or $35,700 a year. The city's private sector paid 10.6% more
an average of $761 a week or $39,600 a year, a census of employment and
Private-sector wages in Hillsborough County went up 6.2% in the past
three years. Statewide, wages increased 5.8% in the three years from
the first quarter of 2001 to the first quarter of 2004, another report by
the bureau said.
Yarger-Decker covers all city employees, with the school district having
its own system.
The system classifies workers by 34 grades based on skill and job, from an
annual low of $12,044 to a high starting salary of $112,318. The 13 steps
cover workers' first 12? years, granting a 3% raise for each step.
The COLA for this and the next two years is 2%. All but one city
union - Water Works - has accepted the offer, while it was unilaterally
granted to unaffiliated employees by aldermen.
Clougherty and Deputy Finance Officer Randy Sherman said the pay raises do
not correspond to budget increases, as newly hired workers replace much
higher paid senior employees, keeping salaries down. Many of the highest
paid employees are reaching or at their final step, they added.
"It doesn't add that much every year," said Sherman. "You're going to have
to expect you'll give some sort of pay increase every year."
Fully 20% of the city's 1,245 employees had reached the final step
by June, records show. Another 285 are scheduled to reach it by contract's
end on June 30, 2007, according to records.
Others say the system remains out of whack.
At-large Alderman Mike Lopez said he's unconvinced the eventual caps
projected under Yarger-Decker will actually come.
When top jobs open through retirement, the city tends to reclassify them
with higher pay, Lopez said, doing so in the name of attracting quality
"It probably won't be in my lifetime that it's proven," Lopez said. He
added Yarger-Decker's increases come without ties to productivity or
"I can remember when department heads didn't necessarily get 3%
(step increases)," Lopez said. "If they performed well, they got bonuses."
Alderman Mike Garrity of Ward 9 shares his nostalgia.
"It was not too long ago that you worked for the city to get great benefits
and great job security," Garrity said. "Now we have great pay as well as
great benefits and great job security.
Human Resources Director Virginia Lamberton disputed criticism of
Yarger-Decker, though she said it is not flawless. The system will
self-reform, Lamberton said, as more and more workers lose their step
increases as they max out on Step 13. When that happens, she said, union
officials will become willing to bargain away some of their wage benefits to
get higher rewards for longevity.
"The aldermen say, 'That damn Yarger-Decker,'" Lamberton said. "Well, it's
just a pay matrix."
Baines also defended the system, which was put in place under his
predecessor, Raymond Wieczorek. Baines maintained Yarger-Decker has been
shorn of many of its more onerous aspects during his tenure.
Before, COLAs were automatic and tied to the northeastern consumer price
index, which includes Boston, Baines said. Now they are negotiated. Also, a
much-maligned bonus system was eliminated.
"Yarger-Decker is relatively new and midway through it we did another
review," Baines said of his efforts as mayor. He added with a pitch toward
consolidations: "The real way that we are going to save money is to
restructure the way we do government."
Mike Roche, the head of a union that encompasses city Water Works and three
private utility companies in the state, said the problem is high salaries atthe top of Manchester government - not Yarger-Decker.
A 10% increase means more when someone making $100,000 a year
receives it, he said.
"Yes, it happens to a person making $400 a week," Roche said. "But it
doesn't have the same impact on the meter payer or the taxpayer. It all goes
back to cost and 'how can I afford that?' "
Roche said the city should have a salary cap, as it did in the 1980s. The
idea the average city worker is overpaid doesn't fit for utility workers, at
least, he said: Private companies tend to pay 10 to 15% more.
Stephen Abbott, a member of the Concerned Taxpayers of Manchester, said
city salaries need to be scrutinized to make sure they fit with the market.
"They may work very hard for their money, but it does seem to be a lot to
be paying employees," Abbott said. "All I can say is it adds up and it shows
in the tax bill."
Yarger-Decker was set up to reward workers who commit to Manchester,
preserving institutional knowledge while attracting highly qualified
applicants, officials agreed.
Before, pay raises depended heavily on city unions - some powerful, some
weak - with workers at the same jobs earning different sums depending on
their department, officials said.
Some assistant directors had higher salaries than their bosses. Manchester
had numerous pay scales depending on department, a nightmare for a city
seeking to award fair wages.
"You don't want to have that in a government situation," said Lamberton,
who noted a secretary might make $10,000 in one department, but $15,000 in
another. "It creates a problem for equal pay for equal work."
Changing the system again will be difficult, officials admit. Under
collective bargaining, city unions can reject offers that are worse than the
One effort this year lacked support.
When Garrity and Alderman Frank Guinta of Ward 3 proposed a budget that
would cut workers' increases, it did not get far as Baines warned it could
lead to a lawsuit by city unions.
Yarger-Decker upped the work week from 35 to 40 hours. Lopez said one thing
to look at is whether the extra hours are productive or whether the city could save by cutting back.
Wal-Mart Tests Unions in China, Just As China Unions Test Management
FinancialWire via financialwire.net via COMTEX via Investor's Business Daily
Wal-Mart (WMT) thought it was safe to embrace unionism ' in China ' Chinese
workers have found their John L. Lewis [US labor union leader] soul.
Traditionally passive, Chinese unionists, who make everything from widgets
to Nike (NKE) shoes, are suddenly turning aggressive and refusing to work at
low wages so yankee dogs can live high on the hog.
As Chinese workers look towards equality, of course, U.S. manufacturers may
find it economically feasible in the long-term to return jobs to the U.S.,
boosting American employment rates.
Stella International is a Taiwanese shoe manufacturer that employs 42,000
in China. Upwards of 500 angry workers recently rampaged through the
U.S. retailers demanding better treatment and human rights for workers are
said to be partly to "blame" for the newfound worker activism.
Most workers are women, aged 18 to 22, who work on assembly lines for over
60 hours each week for salaries of about $120 a month. Most of them live in
company dormitories and eat in company cafeterias, which can cost up to
one-third of their meager paychecks.
As villagers leave these conditions and return home, labor shortages are
starting to occur.
Earlier this month, some 1,000 workers walked out at an appliance factory
in Guangzhou.; Among their demands: more overtime pay and more days off.
They returned only after being granted overtime pay raises of $0.12 to $0.36
per hour and two days off each month.
Wal-Mart may soon dream of a good old-fashioned AFL-CIO union back home.
Opinion - Workers surveyed say vacation time adequate
Amarillo Globe News, TX
By Dwayne Hartnett (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How many times have you heard a co-worker say, "I could use a vacation."
The usual reply is, "Me, too."
Based on that, it would appear most people in the workplace think they
don't accrue enough vacation time.
Time off, if you will, from work.
For sure, few American companies give their employees as much time off as
European firms do.
The usual amount of "holiday" time, as the Europeans call it, is usually a
full month in the summer months and an extra week at Christmas and Easter.
That might make American companies sound like Grinches.
According to a new survey, most American companies aren't Grinches when it
comes to giving their employees time off.
59% of employees polled by Office Team, a leading staffing
service with operations in Amarillo and Lubbock, say they are satisfied with
the amount of vacation time their employers provide.
Another 25% say they are somewhat satisfied.
Only 15% express discontent.
The poll was developed by Office Team, which specializes in highly skilled
administrative professionals. The company is a division of Robert Half
International and is headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. The company is also
the parent for Accountemps, which also has offices in Amarillo and Lubbock.
Conducted by an independent research firm, the survey included responses
from 573 men and women, all 18 years of age or older, and employed.
The respondents were asked: How satisfied are you with the amount of
vacation time your employer provides?
Very satisfied 59%;
Somewhat satisfied 25%;
Not very satisfied 8%;
Not at all satisfied 7%;
Don't know/no answer 1%.
The survey produced some additional, albeit expected, information,
according to Diane Domeyer, Office Team executive director.
"For many professionals, the challenge lies in not receiving days off but
in finding time to take them," Domeyer said. "People often feel guilty about
spending more than just a few days out of the office for fear of
inconveniencing colleagues or returning to unmanageable workloads,
especially if their firms are operating with lean staffing levels."
Although employees may hesitate to take too much time off, passing up
breaks can lead to burnout, according to Domeyer.
"Instead of letting vacation days go unused, workers should schedule time
off well in advance so their employers will have time to prepare for their
absence," she said.
Office Team services Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle out of its Lubbock
office. Kayla Batenhorst, branch manager for Office Team in Amarillo and
Lubbock, said local results mirror the national scene.
"They are pretty synonymous with the results published from the survey,"
Batenhorst agreed with Domeyer, especially on workers facing burnout,
saying, "When a worker winds up experiencing burnout, it doesn't help him or
her or the company they are working for."
Batenhorst said the tenure of the company involved can affect the way the
issue is handled: "Some employees fear that if they take too much time off
from a new job with a new company, they will be replaced."
That's highly unlikely with today's labor laws and relatively low
Not many companies are willing to lose an employee they have spent money
training over something as petty as time off.
It does happen. But not as much as in the old days. There were Grinches
Domeyer said these tips can lead to a smooth - and guilt-free - vacation:
- Consider offseason travel. The holidays can be a hard time to be out of the
office, since so many co-workers may plan to be out at this time. Instead,
consider using vacation days during the other months.
- Develop a proposal. When meeting with your manager, discuss how
time-sensitive projects can be completed in your absence.
- Spread the word. Let everyone know about your travel plans as soon as
possible. That way, people won't count on your help while you're away.
- Use out-of-office functions. Let those who call or e-mail know you're away
so you will have fewer messages to respond to when you return.
- Say thanks. Small souvenirs work wonders. Of course, returning the favor is
the best way to show appreciation.
Red tape claim is red herring, says TUC chief - Barber rejects jibe from employers' body and backs productivity drive
The government should reject the CBI's "flimsy" complaints about red tape
and instead concentrate on the real challenge of turning Britain into a
high-productivity economy capable of meeting mounting global challenges,
says the head of the TUC.
Brendan Barber retaliated in an exclusive interview with the Guardian to
the jibe from Digby Jones - the CBI's director general - that unions risked
becoming irrelevant when he accused the employers' organisation of firing at
the wrong target.
Speaking ahead of Gordon Brown's pre-budget report on Thursday, which will
sketch out the long-term challenges for Britain, Mr Barber said the unions
had a key role to play in the necessary transformation of the economy in the
The TUC general secretary said relations with the government had improved
since the deal agreed at Warwick this year on worker-friendly policies to be
pursued by a third Labour administration but expressed irritation at the
CBI's influence over ministers.
"The government is too respectful to the flimsy arguments of the CBI on
some occasions. Britain is one of the most lightly regulated economies in
the world, yet if you listen to the rhetoric of the CBI, an employer can't
get through the door for all the government regulations that have been
delivered by the postman that morning.
"The CBI is firing at the wrong targets. The real challenges for a
successful economy are to get investment right, to get more high performance
workplaces, to build high trust relationships and to get communications
right. The workforce has to be involved in major changes, and there has to
be sustained investment in skills."
Mr Barber said there was a strong correlation between the modernising agenda
and trade union recognition. "Trade union representation is a vital part of
the mix. Banging on about regulation, red tape and all the rest of it is
shooting at the wrong target. Digby was a bit silly to say that unions risk
becoming irrelevant. I didn't take it too seriously. Digby doesn't mind
being a bit provocative, as is his wont."
Countering the argument that unions might become irrelevant, Mr Barber said
unionised workplaces paid better, were more likely to invest in skills, were
safer and were more likely to have equal pay and flexible working.
The real challenge was to deliver a high performance and high productivity
economy. "It's about real flexibility not just about hire and fire. The
sterile argument about red tape is not meaningful. If we want to address
that central challenge we can't have the relentless drip-drip from the CBI
and other employers' lobbies complaining about regulation."
One of the tests of strength between the TUC and the CBI is the EU's
working time directive - whether workers should be allowed to work more than
48 hours a week. Mr Jones has described attempts by unions to regulate
working time as a return to the 1970s, but Mr Barber said: "People who work
long hours don't always have free choice. Pay structures force them to work
unduly long hours. Would they like to work shorter hours? You bet they would. A third of those who have signed opt-outs allowing them to work more
than 48 hours said they were under duress when they did so.
"Britain works the longest hours in Europe. Working time should be better
managed, but the row has allowed employers to sidestep the issue rather than
getting their act together."
Here for the long run - Americans are living and staying active longer, but increasing longevity
could create problems for society
BY RONI RABIN
[We view current increasing American longevity as a temporary function of recent medical advances coupled with the still high retirement support available to older Americans. Once the slashed retirement support cuts in, Americans will start dying younger and younger, as other Third World residents do.]
Rhoda Kaye's friends from her days in community theater - "the girls," she
calls them - are all in their 80s now. But just try keeping up with them.
Over French toast and tuna melts at The Three Star Diner in Queens last
month, Jacqueline Barsh, 80, suggested they stage a reading of a new play.
Kaye, 85, would be perfect for one of the parts. Sylvia Popkin, who's 87 -
and still sings a cappella at a shelter for battered women each Mother's Day
- will be the 'producer.'
By the way, Kaye said over coffee, the fashion show she participated inraised thousands of dollars for charity. (She modeled a white sequined
evening gown with flutter sleeves.)
These octogenarians are the new face of aging in America. People are living
longer - and remaining active and independent for longer, as well. Average
life expectancy is 74 for men and almost 80 for women, up from 48 and 51,
respectively, in 1900. As more seniors stave off the infirmities and
disabilities of old age, and a lower percentage become chronically disabled
or institutionalized, they are enjoying a greatly enhanced quality of life.
But while many people may relish the idea of a long life - usually with the
proviso that they retain their health - increasing longevity has potentially
ominous implications for society as a whole. In 2011, the first baby boomers
will turn 65 - a date to be marked by the ballooning of the ranks of senior
citizens, with resulting pressure on such resources as health care, private
pension and Social Security.
Even as scientists continue to unravel the molecular and genetic secrets of
aging, some ethicists and futurists are beginning to ask whether longevity
is an inherently good thing - and whether we're prepared for the
consequences. For as the elderly will occupy an ever-greater proportion of
the population - many with years of health and independence - millions more
will need care for chronic debilitating illnesses, such as Alzheimer's
disease and arthritis.
"Are we going to have large numbers of vigorous, healthy, involved, very
productive people - or lonely, bored, not very healthy and dependent
people?" asked Dr. Donald Louria, professor of preventive medicine and
community health at New Jersey Medical School. Loria hosted a daylong
conference at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in the
spring on "Creating Very Old People: Individual Blessing or Societal
He posed the potential plight for individuals: "Suppose we can rejuvenate
the body, and not the mind? Or the mind, and not the body?"
And George Roth, a former National Institute of Aging scientist, suggested
that vitality, not longevity, should be the goal. "You don't want to live to
120 if you're going to be sick for 50 years," he said.
But researchers no longer believe that prolonging longevity necessarily
leads to a prolonged period of debilitation. Several large studies have
shown that as life expectancy has increased over time, the period of disease
and disability that typically precedes death has generally been postponed
and compressed, said Dr. Richard Suzman, associate director for behavioral
and social research at the National Institute of Aging.
Less likely to be disabled
The percentage of chronically disabled elderly is declining: A national
long-term care survey found a drop from 25% in 1984 to 20% in
1999. And for super-seniors - those 90-94 - the news was even better: 47
percent were severely disabled in 1984, but only 39% in 1999.
(The survey classifies people as severely disabled if they are unable to
perform everyday activities such as eating, dressing and bathing without
Rhoda Kaye and her friends are going strong. Kaye still drives and manages
her own household in Queens Village, and until a few years ago she sang
professionally. She recently had cataracts surgically repaired, but other
than that her medical problems are those of midlife: slipped discs and high
blood pressure. She has started working out with weights, after successful
therapy for back problems at Parker Jewish Geriatric Institute in Lake
"I'm into the health scene," she said. "I only cook with olive oil or
canola oil and I'm extremely careful about everything I eat; I'm practically
a vegetarian ... And I wash my hands 100 times a day!"
Her friends are similarly active: Barsh, an off-Broadway actress who lives
in Great Neck, goes to a gym twice a week and takes a jazz dance class.
Popkin, of Glen Oaks, makes the rounds visiting her five children, sevengrandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Ann Rennick, 86, of Queens
Village is a bridge fiend who plays at senior centers and hosts parties:
She's even talked the ladies into playing for money - a quarter each.
Dorothy Harrison, an 81-year-old Sea Cliff woman who still does volunteer
work at North Shore Hospital at Glen Cove, attributed her good health to
excellent care that wasn't available to blacks years ago. Her own mother
died at 38 of a heart attack apparently caused by high blood pressure;
Harrison said she takes medicine to keep her own pressure in check.
"My doctor does a very thorough workup, not like in those days, when you
paid the doctor two dollars and he told you everything was OK," Harrison
said. "I feel like I'm in my late 40s."
Average life expectancy for blacks is 72.2, however, five and a half years
lower than the 77.7 for whites. Other inequities persist as well, according
to a recent Federal Interagency Forum aging report that found only 52
percent of older blacks and 36% of older Hispanics had a high school
education, compared to 76% of older whites. It also found the median
net worth of older white households was $205,000 in 2001, five times higher
than that of blacks, $41,000.
As for men, while their life expectancy is not as long as that of women,
the gap has begun to narrow, declining steadily from the 7.5-year gap in
women's favor in 1980 to a 5.5-year gap in 2001, according to the National
Center for Health Statistics.
Rocky Imerti, 81, who lives in Glen Cove and is president of a social club
and financial officer for his American Legion post, says remaining active is
"I didn't do much at first after retiring, but I couldn't think right," he
said, adding he still does his own yard work, even chopping wood. "Hard work
never killed anybody."
The impact extends beyond the plight of individuals. The oldest-old - those
85 and older - are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States. The
U.S. Census Bureau predicts there will be 15 million Americans in that
category by 2040, more than quadrupling the 3.6 million in 1995.
A third to be at least 50
People 65 and over, now just under 13% of the population, are
expected to reach 20% by 2030. And just 16 years from now, a third of
the country will be at least 50.
Dan Perry, who heads the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research, says we
have no choice: Older people are here to stay, and steps must be taken to
improve the quality of their lives.
"It's not like we're suddenly going to be invaded by aliens from outer
space - these people are here now," Perry said.
But some scientists say too little is spent on longevity research.
"For every $100 NIH [the National Institutes of Health] spends on research
in biomedicine, exactly 6 cents are spent" on research focusing on the
mechanism of aging, said University of Michigan researcher Dr. Richard
Miller, who studies genetics and aging in strains of mice that live 40
percent longer than ordinary mice. "If what we do in mice were applied to
people, many 100-year-olds would be as vigorous as today's 75-year-olds."
Dr. Miller admits his estimate is subjective; in fact, the National
Institute of Aging receives about 3.5% of National Institutes of
Health total funding. But officials say the funding pays for research that
focuses primarily on improving the health of older people and curing
Alzheimer's, not on longevity per se, though the two areas overlap.
Some biomedical ethicists, futurists and even aging experts oppose research
designed solely to increase longevity. They say most advances in lifespan
over the past century are due to such developments as water purification and
better sanitation, nutrition, and housing. Medical advances have contributed
in recent decades as heart disease and the dangers of smoking have become
Society will do well to invest resources in early childhood development and
education and improved prenatal care - all of which are associated with
better health outcomes and longer life, according to Dr. Robert Butler,
president of the International Longevity Society in Manhattan, a research
and public policy center affiliated with Mount Sinai School of Medicine in
New York. Education, in particular, plays a powerful role in predicting
longevity, for reasons that are not entirely understood.
Simply extending the lifespan could lead to "social disaster," said Daniel
Callahan, an ethicist at the Hastings Center. He foresees nasty
intergenerational battles over prime jobs as one possible outcome - a trend
already evident at universities today, he said, where there is intense
competition for each tenure track position that opens up, as older
professors remain on the job.
"Evolution is kind of smart that it knocks off those of us who are elderly
to make room for the young," said Callahan, quickly adding that he is a
senior himself. "I'm 74."
Dementia could strike many
Other experts worry about the increasing number of frail centenarians whose
care will fall on the shoulders of adult children who are 60 or 70
Among the so-called 'super-old' will be many with dementia, since advancing
age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's. The disease
affects half of those over 85.
An estimated 4.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease today, a
figure that has doubled since 1980 and will grow to at least 11 million over
the next 45 years, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The cost of
care each year is estimated at $100 billion.
The burgeoning senior ranks will put more stress on the health care system,
increasing the demands on Medicare, which covers everyone 65 and older and
is already facing a deficit. Research shows the elderly use about 30%
of the nation's health care dollars, and those 85 and over rack up more than
double the health costs of 65-year-olds. Parkinson disease, arthritis,
diabetes, heart disease and almost all types of cancer increase with age.
The increased health care needs will inevitably drain government resources
away from the needs of younger generations for such basics as education,
warned Bruce Vladeck, professor of health policy and geriatrics at the Mount
Sinai School of Medicine and a former administrator of the Health Care
Financing Administration, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid.
"We will spend more on what elderly people need, and less on everything
else," Vladeck said.
Private pensions and the Social Security system will be stressed as the
ratio of workers to beneficiaries continues to fall: It was 16-to-1 in 1950
and is 3.3-to-1 today. Within 40 years it will be 2-to-1. Government reports
have predicted Social Security will experience shortfalls by 2018 if
adjustments aren't made.
The threatened programs are the very ones that are lifelines for many
senior citizens today. Fewer elderly live in penury now than in the past, as
the percentage of elderly in poverty has declined from 35% in 1959 to
10% in 2002.
One of the questions futurists ask is whether workers will continue to
retire by age 65, only to survive - and collect pensions and Social Security
- for another 30 to 40 years.
They may elect to postpone retirement, but many older people are plagued by
losses of function, especially sensory losses. Close to half of all older
men and nearly one-third of older women have trouble hearing without a
hearing aid, surveys show, and vision problems affect almost one in five,
even with glasses or contact lenses. Some experts say more research needs to
be directed at developing simple devices that will improve quality of life -
like better hearing aids.
Often it has been the low-tech inventions - canes and walkers, not to
mention adaptive housing, elevators and microwave ovens - that have been
critical in enabling the elderly to maintain independence.
Preventive care and exercise help many maintain their mobility and
independence, and the Glen Cove Senior Center's morning exercise classes
have a steady following.
Many routines are done in a seated position, using balls, weights or bands,
to maximize participation. The focus is on building strength in the
extremities and improving balance and coordination, skills that can prevent
Fay Graziose, who's 85, has been coming to the center for 23 years. "I had
open heart surgery five years ago, and came right back to the exercise
class," she said.
She and her younger sister, Rose Trotta, who's 80, belong to a singing
group ("The Stardusters") that performs at local community centers. "I sing,
and she plays piano or keyboards," Graziose said.
Olga "Jo" Plaut, who lives in Glen Head and just turned 80, squeezes the
classes into her busy schedule of volunteer work at the local hospital
emergency room and at a thrift store, a Great Books reading group and season
tickets to several classical concert series.
"It's hard to get old - it's hard work," she said. "I'm not a person who
gives up easily. If it hurts here or it hurts there ... You push yourself,
and you go on."
Some demographers believe life expectancy has yet to reach its ceiling. In
the future, they say, individuals will adjust the mix of work, leisure and
education to accommodate a longer life span. Retirement may be postponed
until 70 or even 80 to alleviate the financial concerns of an extended
Instead of life's route consisting of about 25 years of education, 35 years
in the workforce and "the final 40 years in enforced leisure," says James
Vaupel, a member of the U.S. National Advisory Council on Aging, younger
adults could reduce work hours while they have small children but invest
more in their careers later in life.
The NIA's Suzman acknowledges that longevity presents its share of
challenges - but "at the same time, I'd say it's one of the triumphs of the
EDITORIAL: Nevada's elite class - More evidence that public sector workers in the Silver State have it too good
Las Vegas Review-Journal, NV
[The state containing Las Vegas, the capital of pleasure and leisure, is COMPLAINING about somebody having it "too good"???]
Nevadans received another warning last week about the looming fiscal crisisthat will result from the stratospheric salaries paid to local government
A Reno Gazette-Journal analysis of the Census Bureau's 2003 Annual Survey
of State and Local Government Employment and Payroll found Nevada's
public-sector work force has the fifth-highest average salary in the nation.
Among the findings: firefighters rank second nationally, police rank fifth
and teachers rank 15th.
Through the wonders of collective bargaining, municipal and county workers
have become the elite class in Nevada. On average, they are paid
substantially more than the private-sector worker. They enjoy annual pay
increases that vastly outstrip those awarded in the business world. They
have more holidays and more vacation pay. They can accrue vast amounts of
sick leave, and they pay little or nothing for their health insurance. They
have a lucrative defined-benefit pension plan that guarantees their high pay
will continue into early retirement.
Nowhere in the private sector can such sweet guarantees be found.
Predictably, those with a stake in the gold mine of government employment
downplayed the Gazette-Journal's findings, which echo figures reported in
this newspaper for years. Officials talk of the need to offer "competitive"
pay, lest their entire payroll dump their four-bedroom homes and flee for
greener pastures. Terry Hickman, president of the Nevada State Education
Association, had the gall to tell the Gazette-Journal that the state's
sizable contribution to each teacher's retirement "is not a salary." Tell
that to anyone whose employer doesn't match 401(k) contributions.
In Clark County, the skyrocketing costs of employee salaries and benefits
has left the government virtually unable to expand its services to meet theneeds of the valley's ever-growing population. Voters had to approve a sales
tax increase to put more police on the streets.
Eventually, all Nevadans - including public workers - will pay dearly for
the lucrative salaries and benefits that pervade government employment in
the Silver State. One need only look at the city of San Diego and major U.S.
airlines, which are flirting with bankruptcy because of the high cost of
employee salaries and pensions. The lesson: Don't bet your future on
promises that can't be kept.
Nevada's elected leaders, union officials and public workers can whistle
while they cash their checks for now - the state's economy and population
are growing at a healthy clip while unemployment is at its lowest rate on
record. One day, harder times will return, and taxpayers aren't likely to
feel pity for those who have lived so well at their expense.
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