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Timesizing News, August 2-31/2011
[Commentary] ©2011 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Harvard Sq PO Box 117, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

8/31/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. High unemployment doesn't have to be the new normal, by Evelyn Ganzglass, MCT via York Daily Recordn via ydr.com
    YORK, Penn. - This Labor Day is different. The old truths about a dynamic labor market in which the young and unemployed could quickly find jobs have given way to a grim new reality - weak job growth and high levels of prolonged unemployment.
    This shift threatens to transform far too many of America's once productive workers into permanently unemployed or unemployable people. Nearly one-third of the nation's 14 million unemployed workers have been jobless for a year or more, and an additional 8.4 million are working part-time because their hours have been reduced or they simply can't find full-time jobs.
    Equally troublesome is that only 58 percent of those over age 16 are working, the lowest percent since 1983. The employment situation is worse for young people, older workers, black and Hispanic workers and those with no more than a high school education.
    The unemployment rate has hovered around 9 percent or more since April 2009, and the shock value has worn.
    But if we allow idle workers and persistently high unemployment to become the new normal, we risk the deterioration of communities as well as the nation's position as a global economic force.
    Research shows persistently high unemployment has negative long-term social and economic consequences for individuals and families. The longer people are unemployed, the less employable they become because their skills decline and they lose connections to networks that may help them find jobs.
    College graduates who enter the workforce during a recession have lower lifetime earnings than those who began working when jobs were plentiful.
    Their entire careers and financial livelihoods are negatively affected by their early labor market experience. Older unemployed workers often leave the labor market altogether, which reduces their retirement incomes.
    Joblessness adversely affects children, too.
    For example, research shows parents' diminished economic resources negatively affect their children's education attainment. Heightened family economic insecurity is also associated with increases in child neglect and family violence.
    These negative outcomes for individuals and families are reason enough to invest resources in jobs creation. However, the harmful consequences extend farther.
    The Department of Labor notes that we celebrate Labor Day because the, "vital workforce added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy."
    In other words, American workers make this country prosperous. Our more than two-year-old economic recovery is fragile in part because far too many Americans lack jobs.
    But it doesn't have to remain this way. There are actions the nation can take to address high unemployment in the short- and long-term. But it requires that federal lawmakers do more than simply acknowledge we have a jobs crisis.
    They must also begin addressing this problem with the same level of urgency that they devoted to the debt ceiling. Two strategies they could implement are work sharing and subsidized jobs.
    Work sharing is a federal-state unemployment insurance program that allows companies faced with reduced demand to cut all employees' hours instead of laying off some workers.
    Company workers, in turn, maintain their jobs and benefits and also receive partial unemployment compensation to help offset lost income. Twenty-two states have work sharing programs.

    During 2009 and 2010, companies' use of the program saved 265,000 jobs, according to the Department of Labor. The federal government can help save more jobs by providing incentives to states to encourage more of them to enact work sharing programs.
    Another immediate job creation strategy is subsidizing jobs to provide opportunity for youth and long-term unemployed workers, a strategy that has been shown to benefit workers and employers.
    Last year, the government ended a successful, two-year subsidized jobs program that provided employment for about 250,000 people.
    The program put people to work while jobs were scarce, and it also helped employers boost productivity. A subsidized jobs program could be funded outright, or it could replace the $1 billion federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, which has had little effect on hiring and retaining disadvantaged workers.
    For the long-term economic health of the nation, we must maintain investments in education and training to build a strong workforce. This is critical at a time when more jobs require increased skills.
    Experts project that by 2018, nearly two-thirds of the nation's jobs will require some postsecondary education, but right now just over half the working population meets this threshold.
    A recent report of the congressional Joint Economic Committee predicts that, "without strategic investments in worker training, high rates of unemployment and long-term unemployment will persist, resulting in greater outlays for government, a reduction in revenues and slower economic growth."
    Federal lawmakers are still in their districts this Labor Day for the August recess.
    Some of them will issue public remarks celebrating the nation's workers. But the remarks will be hollow if they fail to return to Washington and take action to make sure the nation invests adequate resources to put people back to work and restore well-being to families and communities and economic health to the nation.
    High unemployment doesn't have to be and shouldn't be the new normal.

  2. Sharing the Work and Sparing the Planet: Beyond the Assumption of Consumption, by David Wann, Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire via CSRwire.com
    GOLDEN, Colo. - Policy analyst Charles Siegel has researched the “compulsory consumption” embedded in government and corporate work policies. He advocates policies that would let middle-class Americans choose whether to work and consume more, or work less and have more time. Most Americans work full-time because they must – part-time jobs typically have lower hourly pay and no benefits. Yet, in recent polls, up to 60 percent of Americans would gladly trade a day’s pay for an additional day off, and Kellogg Company’s experience with shorter workweeks explains why. Between 1930 and 1985, employees there enjoyed a six-hour workday, and with two discretionary hours added to each weekday, there were more room-mothers in classrooms. Parks, community centers, skating rinks, churches, libraries and YMCAs became bustling centers of activity. Kellogg workers recall the balance of their lives shifted from working to living. What to do with their time became more important than what to buy with their money.
    Siegel believes that by law, part-time employees who do the same work as full-time employees should get the same hourly pay, and that they should also have the same seniority – based on the number of hours worked – and same chance of promotion and pro-rated benefits as full-time workers. With more part-time opportunities available, there will be far less unemployment overall, and far fewer home foreclosures. By sharing the workload, employers will have healthier, more productive employees.
    What has to bend is the assumption of consumption.
    [False. The enemy is not consumption and there's no need to go on an anti-consumption campaign during a recession or a jobless "recovery" - which is a crisis of under-consumption. Consumption is not the enemy when it's done with Bucky Fuller's "doing more with less." What has to bend is the Protestant work ethic of "Work hard to get ahead" in the sense of "Work long hours to get ahead." Also, having to bend are control-freak employers who want a maximum of facetime or a total blank check on employees' lives offsite via email and/or cellphones-nee-beepers, no downtime, no boundary, no life. The sicksick sado-masochistic American Medical Assoc. has recently reduced interns' hours from 120 a week to 80. We are not reassured. Our doctors are the worst examples of living to work instead of working to live and they should be our best.]
    In fact, most Eurozone countries have already adopted work agreements like these. As a result, employee-chosen part-time work is becoming quite normal in the EU, with Holland leading the charge. In recent years, nearly half of all Dutch employees worked less than 35 hours a week, including 75 percent of all women and 23 percent of all men. Though unemployment rose to 10 percent in the U.S. in the current recession, Germany’s unemployment actually went down. Why? Because it’s standard practice there to reduce employees’ hours rather than lay them off. Germany enacted laws that prohibit employers from paying part-time workers a lower wage per hour than full-time workers. What’s more, unemployment compensation is calculated in lost hours rather than lost jobs.
    The past century has seen a 10-fold increase in productivity, but we’ve steadily used that dividend to increase consumption (and CEO salaries). A nationally mandated 30-hour workweek passed in the U.S. Senate in 1930 but was vigorously opposed by business leaders, who pitched “a new gospel of consumption.” The bill was defeated in the House by just a few votes, and in 1938 the 40-hour workweek was set in stone. The work-and-spend culture – really just a social agreement – went into high gear. Wrote marketing analyst Victor Lebow in 1950, “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption a way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek spiritual satisfaction, ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.”
    Did Americans choose this consumptive way of life or were we corralled into it with drumbeats of post-war euphoria and the smell of sky-high profits? Isn’t it time to hear a different drummer?
    About David Wann - David Wann is the author of a trilogy of culture-shifting books: Affluenza, Simple Prosperity and The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living...

  3. Conservation group lays off CFO - Officials say intent is not to avoid public scrutiny, ClackamasReview.com
    CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. - Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District's board has eliminated Chief Financial Officer Mike Garvison from its organizational structure, resulting in the immediate layoff of the position that had been the subject of public scrutiny due to allegations of criminal malfeasance.
    Garvison had received an annual salary of $61,560 for a 30-hours-per-week schedule, which the district has budgeted toward creating two new positions, a conservation planner and a part-time office assistant.
    The Skamania County court last year summoned Garvison to address accusations that he had overcharged his expense accounts and made other unauthorized personal purchases in excess of $50,000 while he was its county auditor.
    Effective Aug. 9 at close of business, District Manager Tom Salzer recommended that the board focus the organization's staffing structure on conservation results and efficiency. The board vote was unanimous, with all six members present and voting in favor of the recommendation.
    “The elimination of one staff position is the first step in improving our service and providing more effective conservation outcomes,” Salzer said.
    Salzer said the allegations against Garvison had no bearing on his recommendation to the board nor on their decision. Garvison was hired in November of 2009 to provide oversight of the district's financial functions and implement stronger internal controls, but he gradually provided more day-to-day accounting and contracting functions.
    “Mike helped create and implement robust internal controls. With those functions completed or able to be performed by other staff, the board found the conditions for which Mike was hired were effectively resolved,” Salzer said.
    Jan Lee, chair of the district's board, said that her main consideration in the decision was the ability to put an equivalent of 1.5 full-time positions on the ground and make time for more conservation work.
    “Those allegations had been around since he was first hired in 2009, and nothing has come of those allegations, so we certainly wouldn't make a decision based on that,” Lee said.
    A check of court records last week showed only the original complaint with an affidavit in support of probable cause and a judge's order to dismiss the case without prejudice.

  4. Unemployment at New Low of 5.5% -..- Steinitz: this proves that Netanyahu's financial policies are sound, by Maayana Miskin, Arutz Sheva via IsraelNationalNews.com
    TEL AVIV, Israel - Unemployment dropped to just 5.5% in the second quarter of 2011, down from 6% in the first quarter, the Central Statistics Bureau [CBS] revealed Wednesday.
    Among women, unemployment was at 5.4%, continuing a trend that began in mid-2009 of lower unemployment among women.
    The increase in overall employment was accompanied by a 1% drop in full-time employment, defined as 35 hours a week or more of work. The growth occurred among those working fewer than 35 hours per week – another 56,000 employees joined their ranks, for a 7% increase.
    Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed satisfaction with the drop, which he credited to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's economic policies.
    “The policy steps taken in the past two years continue to bear fruit,” he declared. “This historical trend toward decreasing unemployment stands out against the wavering world markets. The Israeli economy is stable, and must be preserved with a responsible budget policy, as we have done so far.”
    The CBS counts as unemployed those age 15 and above who have zero hours of paid work each week and are actively seeking employment.
    [So Israel is willynilly sharing the vanishing work: less "full time" employment, more potential consumers employed "part time." Timesizing cuts the holdover definitions of the past and redefines "full time" downward to where it should be in a robotizing economy. Here's another version -]

  5. PM: Gov't policy led to increase in housing construction - Central Bureau of Statistics reports 15% increase in construction starts in first half of 2011, unemployment rate at all time low of 5.5%, Jerusalem Post via jpost.com
    JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday commented on data issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics [CBS] reporting an increase in residential construction starts, saying the trend "reflects my government's accelerated and successful activity since the beginning of its term."
    Some 75,000 apartments were under construction in the second quarter of 2011, the largest number since 2001, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday. According to the CBS data, there has been a 15% increase in construction starts in the first half of 2011 as compared to the same period last year. The apartments under construction will reach the market over the next few years, and help push down prices, according to the Ministry of Housing and Construction.
    "The steps that have already been taken in the real estate market, and the recently-approved national housing committees law and Israel Land Administration reform, have contributed – and will continue to contribute – to greatly increasing the supply of apartments, and a subsequent decline in housing prices, around the country," Netanyahu stated.
    Housing starts were up 55% in the first half in the Southern District, up 29% in the Tel Aviv District, up 11.7% in the Haifa District, and up 9.3% in the Central District. Housing starts were down 11% in the Northern District and down 8% in the Jerusalem District.
    The Central Bureau of Statistics also released positive numbers on the unemployment rate on Wednesday, reporting an all time low of 5.5% of the civilian labor force in the second quarter of 2011, down from 6% in the preceding quarter. There were 176,000 unemployed in the second quarter.
    Participation in the labor force rose to 57.5% in the second quarter from 57.4% in the first quarter. The number of employees was 3.2 million in the second quarter, including 3.03 million employed by 175,000 private sector businesses. The number of employees rose by 3.4% from 2.99 million in the corresponding quarter of 2010.
    However, the number of people with full-time jobs (at least 35 hours a week) fell by 1%, or 20,000 people, from the preceding quarter, while the number of people with part-time jobs rose by 7%, or 56,000 people.
    ["However" nothing! There were 20,000 "full time" jobs that transformed into 56,000 "part time" jobs defined without reference to the market as to whether they're more or less than a totally arbitrary 35 hrs/wk. This provided a net activation of 56000-20000= 36,000 consumers. How much better to adjust "full time" downward as much as required to gain maximum employment and maximum consumer spending!]

8/30/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. State program aids employers, workers, by Kristi Pihl, TriCity Herald via TheNewsTribune.com
    KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Kennewick's Center for Pediatrics is open today because of a little-known program offered by the state Employment Security Department.
    Dr. Ronald Wojnas, one of two pediatricians at the clinic, told state Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause on Monday that the Shared-Work Program is what helped him keep the clinic open after Medicaid cuts.
    Trause has been touring WorkSource offices in the state and meeting with employers who use the program, which allows workers to receive partial unemployment benefits when their hours are reduced.

    When Medicaid payments were cut by the state about two years ago, it was a big hit to the clinic's budget, Wojnas said. About 62 percent of the clinic's income came from serving Medicaid patients.
    So Wojnas said he had to lay off three employees and make all possible cuts. And when that wasn't enough, employees were asked to take one unpaid day off per week.
    A year ago, the clinic discovered the Shared-Work Program. Now, seven of the clinic's employees are using the program on a weekly basis. The clinic has a staff of 11, not including the two doctors.
    The program has helped reduce the clinic's salary costs so that it can remain financially viable and stay open, Wojnas said.
    Elizabeth Ortiz, a certified medical assistant, said the Shared-Work Program has helped her to be able to stay with the clinic and it's easy for employees to use.
    It pays employees about half of their lost wages, Wojnas said.
    Kathy Messinger, a financial administrative assistant, said the program helps her family fill in the gaps in their budget.
    Employees who use the program fill out a form online each week reporting their hours and wages, she said. If they work more than 20 hours but less than 36, they can receive unemployment benefits for the reduced hours.
    Trause said the program saves the state money because the workers are not receiving full unemployment benefits. And they continue to be employed, with the goal of having them return to full time as soon as possible.
    And in order to be in the program, benefits for employees remain the same, he said.
    Employers keep their skilled work force rather than having to retrain someone who is able to work part time, he said. There is an increase to what the employer pays for unemployment benefits for its employees.
    Trause said he would like to see more employers in the Tri-Cities area use the program to avoid layoffs. Currently, 21 employers and 180 employees are using the program in the Tri-Cities.
    Statewide, about 2,200 employers and 25,000 employees are using the program.
    Employers can participate for three years but need to reapply each year. The length of time was extended because of the recession, Trause said. Employers then must wait at least a year before reapplying.
    Although the state started the program in the early 1980s, Trause said it wasn't until the most recent recession that it became used by a wider range of businesses than manufacturers.
    Contact Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

  2. Shared-Work benefits both employer and workers, *TV news hilites of above story reported by Chloe Beardsley, KNDO/KNDU Right Now via kndo.com
    KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Shared-Work benefits both employer and workers. Shared-Work helps businesses keep employees working at reduced hours rather than laying them off. The Employment Security Department makes up the difference with partial unemployment benefits. A better alternative than letting someone go.
    Employment Security Department Commissioner Paul Troust says "first it helps the employer retain a skilled workforce. Second it helps the employee and keeps the employee connected with the employer. Third it saves the trust fund money because employers using the shared-work to maintain their relationship. The employee tends to come back to work full time more quickly."
    Employers like the Center for Pediatrics, benefit a lot from this program. It is especially good for businesses with people who have specialized training. The Shared-Work program helps financially assist employers to keep their trained employees.
    Right now more than 2,200 employers use this program with 25,000 employees enrolled. The program is offered statewide. For more information check out the *Employment Security Department Website.

  3. Storm Will Have a Serious Effect on Montville Business - Herb Plotnick donated more than $1,000 worth of food to a Norwich soup kitchen - It was that, or sit by and watch it go bad, by Carrie Jacobson, Patch.com via montville-ct.patch.com
    MONTVILLE, Conn. - On Monday morning, Herb Plotnick said, he and his son Jeff took more than $1,000 worth of food from Herb’s Deli on the Norwich-New Londdon Turnpike and donated it to the Norwich soup kitchen.
    More than 300 people were having breakfast there, Plotnick said.
    “They were so happy, it was like they thought there was a baby being born when we backed up with that truck,” he said.
    The Plotnicks made the donation because, with the power off now and for the foreseeable future, the food in Herb’s Deli's refrigerators and freezers was going to spoil. It was far better to donate it than just watch it go bad.
    And while there is some humanitarian joy in the donation, the fact of the matter is that the economic ramifications from Hurricane Irene are going to be far-reaching.
    In Montville on Monday, almost no stores were open, and there were few people in the ones that were open.
    Plotnik opened Herb’s Country store and sold perishable items – produce, flowers – at a deep discount, and said he might do the same today.
    “If the sign is out, it means we’re open,” he said.
    But that won’t do much to shift the bottom line.
    With the restaurant closed, there’s no money coming in for the owners. There’s no work, and no tips, for the waitresses. There is no business for the suppliers, who in turn, will have to cut hours for their staffers. The effects move out in circles.
    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith announced Monday that the state is putting together a business assistance program to help after the storm.
    Businesses will be eligible for help, including bridge financing and loans covering uninsured losses, through DECD.
    The program includes:
    * Loans of up to $200,000 to companies for storm-related damage, including property, machinery and equipment, and working capital;
    * Loan guarantees of up to $200,000 to banks and other lenders to spur local lending to businesses impacted by the storm;
    * Grants will be available to businesses for assistance in disaster recovery, such as temporary help and training; and
    * Technical assistance, linking businesses to a wide array of state and federal resources.
    A team of DECD workers will help identify financial and technical resources for business, and serve as business advocates with utility assistance, insurance companies, and federal agencies, according to a press release. To see a list of the centers, click here, or call 860-270-8215.
    For Plotnick, discounting isn't going to sell everything. His freezer full of ice cream?
    "You could drink it."

8/28-29/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. CCH® UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE - Arkansas amends its UI law on various subjects, 8/29 CCH via hr.cch.com
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas has amended its Employment Security Law as follows:
    Failure to respond. The law now provides that employers may choose to receive and respond to notices through the mail, online, or both. The Director will make the online option available on the agency’s website no later than January 1, 2012. Also, new language provides that an employer who fails to respond to a notice within 15 calendar days is deemed to have waived its right to respond.
    Notice to last employer. The law now provides that a notice of the filing of an initial claim will be mailed to the claimant’s last employer, posted online, or both. New language also provides that an employer may choose to receive and respond to a notice through the mail, online, or both. The Director is required to make the online program available by January 1, 2012. If a last employer fails to respond to a notice within 10 calendar days, it is deemed to have waived the right to respond. However, the Director may accept the statement given by the claimant as to his or her reason for separation from the last employer and may base his or her determination on the statement given by the claimant.
    Weekly benefit amount. The law now provides that effective July 1, 2012, the weekly minimum benefit amount will not be greater than $81 and the weekly maximum benefit amount will not be greater than $451. Under prior law, the maximum weekly benefit amount could not exceed $345.
    Maximum benefits. The law now provides that the maximum potential benefits of any insured worker in a benefit year will be the amount equal to whichever is the lesser of 25 times his or her weekly benefit amount or one-third of his or her wages for the base period. Under prior law, the calculation was made using 26 times the individual’s weekly benefit amount.
    Eligibility conditions. The term “qualifying wages “ refers to wages in any benefit year where an individual has been paid wages in at least two quarters and the total wages paid during the base period equal not less than 35 times the weekly benefit amount. Under prior law, such wages equaled no less than 27 times the individual’s weekly benefit amount. In addition, an individual will not requalify for benefits unless he or she has been paid wages for insured work equal to not less than 35 times the weekly benefit amount and has wages paid for insured work in at least two calendar quarters of the base period and, subsequent to filing the claim which established his or her previous benefit year, the claimant had insured work and was paid wages for work equal to eight times the weekly benefit amount. Under prior law, an individual could not requalify unless he or she had been paid wages not less than 27 times the weekly benefit amount and had been paid wages for work equal to three times his or her weekly benefit amount. 
    Misconduct. In all cases of discharge for absenteeism, an individual will be disqualified if the discharge was pursuant to the terms of a written attendance policy with progressive warnings, regardless of whether it is a fault or no-fault policy. Under prior law, the individual’s record for the 12-month period immediately preceding the discharge and the reasons for the absences were taken into consideration. A disqualification for absenteeism and for other forms of misconduct will continue until the individual has had at least 30 days of employment covered by an unemployment compensation law of the state, another state or the United States. Language that provided that an individual’s disqualification for misconduct is for eight weeks has been eliminated.
    The law also now provides that misconduct includes a violation of any behavioral policies of the employer as distinguished from deficiencies in meeting production standards or accomplishing job duties. In addition, if an individual is discharged on account of dishonesty; drinking on the job; reporting for work while under the influence of intoxicants, including a controlled substance; or willful violation of bona fide rules or customs of the employer pertaining to his or her safety or the safety of fellow employees, persons, or company property, the individual will be disqualified until he or she has been paid wages in two quarters for insured work totaling not less than 35 times his or her weekly benefit amount. Note, prior law did not specify individuals who violated rules pertaining to their own safety and disqualified individuals until they had earned wages for 10 weeks of employment.
    In addition, the law now provides that an individual who is discharged after testing positive for an illegal drug pursuant to a United States Department of Transportation-qualified drug screen is disqualified until he or she has been paid wages in two quarters for insured work totaling not less than 35 times his or her weekly benefit amount and passes a subsequent drug screen. Under prior law, an individual was disqualified until he or she had 10 weeks of employment and earned wages equal to at least the weekly benefit amount.
    The law also now provides that an individual will not be guilty of misconduct for poor performance unless the employer can prove that the poor performance was intentional. Further, a repeated act of commission, omission or negligence despite progressive discipline now constitutes sufficient proof of intentional poor performance and an individual who refuses an alternate suitable job rather than being terminated for poor performance will be disqualified until he or she has had at least 30 days of employment covered by an unemployment compensation law of the state, another state or the United States.
    Suitable work. The disqualification for failing to apply for or accept suitable work will continue until an individual has had at least 30 days of employment covered by an unemployment compensation law of the state, another state or the United States. Under prior law, the disqualification continued for eight weeks of unemployment. The law also now provides that the disqualification for refusing to accept or apply for suitable work will continue until the claimant has been paid wages in two quarters for insured work totaling not less than 35 times his or her weekly benefit amount.
    Shared work plans. The law now specifies that an individual who is eligible for shared work unemployment compensation benefits will not be paid for more than 25 weeks, whether or not consecutive, in any benefit year pursuant to a shared work plan. Under prior law, the individual was limited to payment for 26 weeks.

  2. NYC workers fight for 40-hour week, by Daniel Massey, 8/28 Crain's New York Business via crainsnewyork.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Tami Tyree's 25-year career in retail includes stints at some of Fifth Avenue's most prestigious fashion outlets. She took time out to pursue a music career, but now she's broke and looking to get back into the retail game. Despite her considerable experience, however, the 53-year-old has gotten offers only for part-time positions.
    “I always made a really nice middle-class living doing what I did,” she said. “Now I'm being told I can work 15 hours a week for $10 an hour. I don't know who can live like that.”
    When manufacturing reigned, workers fought for a 40-hour week, pushing to reduce their hours on the job. Now that manufacturing jobs have been replaced by retail and other service positions, workers are again fighting for a 40-hour week. Only this time, the battle has been turned upside down.
    Employers, especially retailers, have sliced workers' hours in order to increase flexibility and avoid paying benefits. They are using “just-in-time” scheduling to shave payrolls and maximize profits. This has left workers scrambling, resulting in high turnover rates.
    “People nowadays don't shop from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday,” said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research, a market intelligence firm focused on retail technology. “Retailers have to be able to match the staff to when customers are going to be shopping.”
    The local reliance on part-time workers has been particularly evident lately. Retail has added 15,500 jobs in the city since September 2009, making the sector one of the few high notes in an otherwise flat recovery. But increasingly, the focus is shifting from the number of new jobs to the quality of those positions. The city's official unemployment rate last year was 9.5%, but a broader local jobless measure hit 15.6%, due mostly to people who are involuntarily working part-time.
    Target Corp. workers are trying to organize, in large part because they're logging too few hours and scheduling is haphazard, they say. Uniqlo Co., a casual clothing retailer, is hiring 1,000 part-time workers for two stores opening in Manhattan this fall. And contract talks between Macy's Inc. and the retail workers union, which concluded in June, grew contentious in part because the union worried that a proposed electronic scheduling system could cut into some workers' hours.
    High-tech scheduling tools
    Using part-timers enables retailers to cover peak traffic times and to make sure they're not overstaffing during less busy periods. With electronic scheduling systems, they can staff sales floors or checkout counters in 15-minute increments.
    Furthermore, shifts in consumer behavior—notably, the rise of online shopping—have put pressure on in-store sales and reduced the benefits of training and retaining full-time employees. And since many part-timers don't get benefits, aren't eligible for unemployment payouts and will never hit the threshold for overtime pay, relying on them results in big cost savings.
    “Labor as a percent of sales is what store managers are measured on,” said Ms. Baird of RSR Research. “They're not measured on turnover and the stability of their workforce.”
    However, the race to cut hours leads to collateral damage, notes Susan Lambert, an associate professor at the University of Chicago.
    “Requiring people to have open availability and having them work wildly fluctuating hours makes it difficult to line up child care, develop family routines, get a second or third job, or go to school,” she said.
    For employers, one cost of part-time workers is higher turnover. Replacing those who quit can amount to more than 30% of their annual salary, says Lisa Disselkamp, founder of workforce management advisory firm Athena Enterprises. But most retailers don't view that price tag the same way they view traditional labor expenses.
    “It's a hidden, built-in cost,” Ms. Disselkamp said. “When you can't demonstrate it with hard data, leadership doesn't buy into it.”
    And that leaves workers like Tashawna Green struggling. Ms. Green had worked at Target for about a year when she decided she could no longer make do with the number of hours she was offered. She didn't quit, but joined with co-workers to try to organize a union. Their campaign, which focused on scheduling, came up short, but the United Food and Commercial Workers union is challenging the result.
    “How do you cope?”
    “You look forward to having a whole bunch of hours so you can take care of responsibilities, but to come in and find out you're only working 12 or 15 hours—how do you cope with that?” asked Ms. Green.
    She was fired earlier this month, allegedly for hostile behavior, though she says it was because of her support for the union.
    In one instance, Ms. Green said, she asked to change her availability because of issues caring for her 6-year-old daughter, but her request was denied.
    A Target spokeswoman said in a statement that employees establish the hours they are available to work and are then scheduled based on that availability. “All team members looking for more hours are continually encouraged to consider opening their availability or cross-training in other areas,” the spokeswoman said.
    At one Tommy Hilfiger store in Manhattan, all of the nearly two dozen nonmanagerial sales workers are part-timers, according to a current worker. That worker typically gets only eight to 15 hours per week, has no health insurance and has sometimes had to skip lunch “because I couldn't afford it.”
    A spokesman for Tommy Hilfiger said in a statement that “part-time employment is a reflection of consumer and seasonal demand” and that “it also accommodates many of our associates who are college students and require flexibility in scheduling.”
    But workers say the notion that retail employees are primarily college students looking for extra cash is outdated. Half of the city's retail workers are 35 or older, according to a 2008 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. They're beginning to challenge the industry's part-time push. Apple store workers have started a union drive because of scheduling, among other issues, while the Retail Action Project, a nonprofit group of retail workers, is fighting to lift industry standards.
    RAP is conducting the first local survey of workers in the industry. It's also engaging employers about the hidden costs of flexibility, and it's pushing for stepped-up enforcement of labor laws designed to discourage unpredictability in scheduling.
    “If you know when you're working,” said Carrie Gleason, RAP's director, “and know what your income is going to be from week to week, even if it's low, it changes your life.”
    A version of this article appeared in the August 29, 2011 print issue of Crain's New York Business.

8/27/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Cops get Yuma donut shop owner, Tucson Citizen via TucsonDailyIndependent.com
    YUMA, Ariz. - Tong-Seng Jerry Luy, 45, of Yuma, Ariz., pleaded guilty on August 23, 2011, in federal court in Phoenix to Concealment by Trick and to Willful Failure to Pay Overtime. The case arises out of an earlier civil investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor into the employment practices at Luy's Yuma restaurant, Arizona Donut & Café.
    "This employer took extraordinary measures to avoid paying low-wage workers their rightful overtime wages under the law," said Eric Murray, district director of the Wage and Hour Division's Phoenix office. In his plea agreement, Luy admitted he knew the law required him to pay overtime wages (an additional one half of the hourly rate of pay) to his employees when they worked in excess of forty hours in a workweek, but that he did not do so. He further admitted that he discussed the law with Department of Labor representatives who were investigating his business between July and September 2010, that he agreed with the Department of Labor that he owed over $27,000 in past-due overtime wages to eight employees, and that he would pay those wages by October 31, 2010. In lieu of paying the past-due wages, he printed repayment checks, required his employees to endorse those checks back over to him, and presented the fronts of the checks to the Department of Labor to make it seem as though he had repaid his employees pursuant to the agreement. Luy also admitted that he continued to fail to pay overtime to his employees for new work following his agreement with the Department of Labor.
    Sentencing is set before U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone on December 8, 2011. A conviction for Concealment by Trick carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both. A conviction for Willful Failure to Pay Overtime carries a maximum penalty of six months in federal prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, Judge Martone will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. Judge Martone, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
    The investigation in this case was conducted by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Gary M. Restaino, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
    CASE NUMBER: CR-11-0843-PHX-FJM RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-188(Luy)
    Posted by Arizona Independent Daily

  2. Library books getting antennae, by Kathleen Pointer, (8/26 late pickup) The Olathe News via Kansas City Star via kansascity.com
    OLATHE, Kans. - Changes are underway for the Johnson County and Olathe Library systems, though patrons might not notice any blatant signs.
    But starting Tuesday, the Antioch Branch of Johnson County Library will close for about a week so employees can start tagging items with radio-frequency identification tags.
    “Basically, what it is going to allow us to do is to process things going out and in faster,” said Kim Fenton circulation manager with the Johnson County Library. “It may seem like a tiny change but multiply that out over the 7 million items a year we circulate and it’s a big impact.”
    It’ll be especially helpful for employees returning after holidays or closures when a backlog tends to build up, said Marsha Bennett, community relations with Johnson County.
    Moving to the new system, which is expected to cost about $710,000, started about a year ago, but next week will mark the first significant tagging event. Tagging at the various branches is expected during the next nine months and costs are spread out over two to three years, Bennett said.
    Olathe libraries are a bit ahead of their neighbors. Olathe is “pretty much finished” and is wrapping up the last collection.
    “We have a close relationship to the county library and we found out what they were doing and it went from there,” said director Emily Baker.
    Both Olathe and Johnson County library representatives cited the importance of efficiency in light of recession-prompted budget cuts. With fewer hands needed to handle items and items getting into the system and onto the shelves quicker, the hope is that employees will have more time to work with patrons. While neither system had layoffs, they have had to cut hours.
    “Next year will bring another tight budget and we don’t know what that will bring,” Bennett said.
    Though Antioch will be closed because it has one entrance, and a security system that goes with the RFID tags requires new gates, other libraries with multiple doors may stay open while items there are tagged, Bennett said. Lackman Library, up next in October, is another single-entrance location and probably will need to close.
    Next week’s tagging at Antioch will serve as a type of pilot program to test how long it could take to tag all the items. There are about 84,000 items in the branch’s collection. The Central Resource library has about 280,000. Linda King, page supervisor with Johnson County, said Central will do tagging over a period of time. It’s expected to take from mid-September into early December.
    “I think the efficiency piece is just fabulous for security and inventory,” King said. “We’ll have a much better feel for our collection.”
    Enhanced security is a bonus, too, representatives say. When an alarm goes off, RFID identifies the items in a stack that have been checked out and the ones that haven’t.
    Down the road, Johnson County hopes to install automatic sorters that would divide items into the proper bins as they are dropped off.
    To reach Kathleen Pointer, call 816-234-7701 or email kpointer@kcstar.com.

8/26/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Will Obama Attempt A Spread the Jobs Around Scheme? by talkshow host Austin Hill, TownHall.com
    BOISE, Idaho - Yes, you read correctly.
    “Spread the jobs around.”
    You’re probably familiar with Barack Obama’s well documented intentions to “spread the wealth around.” In a discussion about his vision for economic recovery back during the campaign of 2008, he expressed that intention using those precise words (do a web search with the President’s name and the phrase, and see what pops up).
    Today, the President struggles with the political consequences brought about by the stifled economy, which has been brought about his own “wealth spreading” ways. Yet within the Obama worldview, it makes sense that a President who has displayed no vision for wealth creation – he has only championed ways in which to re-distribute existing wealth – would likewise have no real vision for job creation, and would instead attempt to “spread around” the inadequate number of jobs that already exist.
    Enter Dean Baker, an Economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. As if perfectly timed with the President’s upcoming address on the economy, Mr. Baker has proposed what he calls a national “work sharing” program, calling it a “quick route to full employment.”
    A quick visit to the “Center’s” website provides a brief description of Mr. Baker’s academic paper on “work sharing.” Describing the overall program, the website indicates that what is being proposed is a “system of work sharing that would give employers an incentive to maintain workers on their payroll at reduced hours as an alternative to laying them off. The system would be attached to the existing system of unemployment compensation, with short-time compensation as an alternative to unemployment compensation. This means that work sharing would require no new government bureaucracy…”
    While recently being interviewed about his “work sharing” concept on the Fox Business Channel, Mr. Baker further elaborated, stating “"...we're talking about a situation where workers would work somewhat fewer hours, and make somewhat less money…” As an alternative to being laid-off altogether, Mr. Baker surmises that “alot of workers would take that in a second..."
    Indeed, what Mr. Baker is proposing is best described as a “spread the jobs around” approach to employment. And no doubt it has some of the same appeal, mostly emotional appeal, that candidate Obama’s “spread the wealth around” ideas did three years ago. But just because it “looks good on paper” doesn’t mean that it’s good, functional, or even “fair” public policy. In reality, the “spread the jobs around” idea is flawed on multiple levels.
    [It hardly just "looks good on paper" when Germany just breezed through the last downturn with worksharing (German, Kurzarbeit) and wound up with unemployment down to 1992 levels and almost intact domestic markets. Let's take a look at what this in-the-box thinker thinks are flaws.]
    For one, the idea of making public policy of this sort erroneously presumes that businesses aren’t already “spreading around” the workload at times.
    [No it doesn't. It only presumes that "at times" is totally inadequate for businesses to already be spreading around the workload - it has to be constant - and it presumes that their current amount of workload spreading is not even close to enough, else WHERE ARE THE JOBS today? And where is a real recovery? It needs to be massive and continuous.]
    Politicians, government bureaucrats, and many academicians don’t understand this, but actual business owners and managers have to make difficult decisions with their staffs every day.
    [Yes, and the more "difficult decisions" they make to cut jobs instead of hours to improve their short-term balance sheets, the less long-term markets they have.]
    If one worker is productive and another is not, an owner or manager has to make tough choices to maintain and bolster productivity.
    [Productivity is meaningless without marketability.]
    If budgets shrink, a business must make move [huh - you're getting incoherent] so as to maintain productivity while at the same time trimming expenditures. This may involve “spreading around” the workload and employee compensation, re-assigning workers to different tasks, or in some unfortunate cases laying-off workers. But when layoffs must occur, a business will generally try to retain the most productive workers, while sacrificing the least productive.
    [Layoffs presume that they will not hurt overall markets, but when everybody's been doing them for decades...]
    An arbitrary government policy that would force businesses to “spread the jobs around” would likely undermine businesses quite severely.
    [Some, yes - which should move to China where they can work employees all 168 hours a week - but such a government policy maintains and rebuilds domestic consumer spending and markets and is not arbitrary if it is controlled by the unemployment rate = as long as unemployment is too high or rising, the workweek comes down to squeeze out the natural market-demanded employment on everybody, instead of allowing it to concentrate on fewer people and sending the rest into shock where they stop spending cuz they got nothing coming in.]
    Rather than prioritizing productivity, as business owners and managers must, “spread the jobs around” establishes as its goal the reduction of the unemployment rate.
    [And the maintenance of domestic spending! Can you think two moves ahead in chess?]
    So what if the most competent and productive workers get their hours and wages cut, as a means of providing hours and wages to less productive workers?
    [Everyone gets their hours cut, not just the most competent and productive - it's like no-fault car insurance, except it's consumer market insurance with the premiums paid in time not money. And btw, productivity is hardly the problem in a robotizing economy. As mentioned, the problem is marketable productivity. And as Reuther retorted when Ford taunted "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
    When desperate incumbent politicians are running for re-election, spreading the jobs around becomes an attractive policy idea if it can help reduce the unemployment rate in the short run.
    [A shift in funding from the unemployment insurance fund to a tax on chronic overtime with an exemption for reinvestment in OT-targeted training&hiring.]
    Thus the needs and interests of the politicians are dramatically different from those of businesses.
    [This is not about politicians. This is about system requirements. Economic system requirements, for things like, say, a vibrant consumer base undergirded by a full-employment basement.]
    Another problem with “spread the jobs around” is that it begins with the wrong question in mind.
    [Oh no, it doesn't.]
    Asking “why is the unemployment rate so high?” is worthwhile.
    [Work spreading begins with that question and answers, because the downsizing response to technology concentrates the market-demanded employment on fewer and fewer people, who constitute and fund fewer and fewer consumers.]
    But a better question is “why are so many American businesses experiencing strong profits and all time high levels of productivity, and still not hiring new workers?”
    [There is no automatic connection between either strong profits and hiring, or high productivity and hiring. Why would anyone think there is? In the case of high productivity, quite the contrary. Businesses have two options in response to rising productivity: A. they can maintain employment and markets by work spreading, or B. they can reduce employment and markets by downsizing. Too many have been opting for B. And often the "profits" are bogus - from M&As and resulting accounting cosmetics - or unsustainable "working the float" between downsizing and the collapse of associated markets.]
    Those questions are related, but they are not the same. Politicians and liberal think-tank operators don’t want to ask the “why no hiring” question, because the answer traces back to some of their favorite policy creations.
    [We just answered it.]
    The worst part of “spread the jobs around” is that it makes mediocrity acceptable.
    [Nonsense. Mediocrity is irrelevant. Relevant is marketable productivity.]
    It says “America can no longer create wealth and opportunity for all, so we must force some of that opportunity out of the hands of certain individuals, and arbitrarily place it in the hands of certain others.”
    [Here we're slipping into patriotic rhetoric and using “America can create wealth and opportunity for all" as an alternative Pledge of Allegiance. But we think it's more patriotic to stick to the economics and get a true picture of America's situation, which is indeed that “America can no longer create wealth and opportunity for all," because if it can, WHERE IS IT? Maybe all around Austin Hill's circle of buddies, carefully insulated from discordant news. What work spreading says is that we must reverse the hyper-concentration and coagulation of wealth and opportunity out of the diminishing population where it has formed into a black hole, far beyond what they can spend and now beyond what they can even invest sustainably, else why are they taking longer and longer to "get it back to work"? Work spreading says that indeed, there is a point in the concentration of the national income and wealth where it begins to undermine itself, because that concentration is sooo intense and decelerating of the velocity of monetary circulation and indeed, decirculating. And America is going down until we reverse the overwhelming centripetal forces on employment and money and strengthen the centrifugal forces on them.]
    “Spread the jobs around” implies that for some people to win, others must fail just a bit.
    [Let's unmix these metaphors. Pick one: A. For some people to win, others must lose just a bit. or B. for some people to succeed, others must fail just a bit. In terms of B, we modify to: For some people to succeed, others must sacrifice just a bit of their success.] This is consistent with the Obama worldview, but it is repugnant to a majority of Americans.
    [We disagree. Especially when for the others not to lose just a bit, and not to sacrifice just a bit of their success means that they are decirculating their foundational currency and wrecking the economic system they depend on. There are system requirements, and when we have obsessive-compulsive acquisition promoters like Austin Hill, those system requirements are violated and we move toward the dread Blue Screen of Death, as we still are in our current diagonally downward spiral, with each brief up-arc hailed as Recovery!]

  2. Prince George’s County Council District 6 candidates square off in exclusive debate - Watchdog group sponsors invitation-only discussion to four of 15 challengers, by Abby Brownback abrownback@gazette.net, Maryland Community News Online via Gazette.Net
    PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Md. - Four of the 15 candidates for the vacant District 6 seat on the Prince George’s County Council tried to earn voter support Thursday at an invitation-only debate in Largo.
    Republican Day Gardner of Bowie and Democrats Mark Polk of Bowie and Arthur Turner of Kettering accepted invitations to participate in the debate, sponsored by People For Change, a county political watchdog group. Democrat Christine Osei of Bowie joined the debate, held at Mount Ephraim Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, despite not being invited.
    Sandy Pruitt, the leader of People For Change, said the group only invited who it considered the top three Democratic candidates — Derrick Leon Davis of Mitchellville declined to attend — and the lone Republican in the race to replace former councilwoman Leslie Johnson (D). The special general election will take place Oct. 18.
    Johnson resigned after pleading guilty in June to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit evidence- and witness-tampering for her role in attempting to dispose of about $180,000 in bribes allegedly collected by her husband, former County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
    “The direction should come from the people,” said Turner, who added that residents aren’t sure where the county is headed. “I am listening to you.”
    Four of the declared candidates in the Sept. 20 primary ran against Leslie Johnson in last year’s Democratic primary. Davis was the runner-up, followed by Turner, Venus Bethea of Upper Marlboro and Polk.
    District 6 includes Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Kettering, Largo, Mitchellville, South Bowie and Upper Marlboro.
    Candidates cited foreclosures, jobs, public safety and ineffective government as the top county issues.
    “The biggest reason people are losing their homes is ... because of no jobs, cut hours or medical issues,” Polk said. “You’ve got to have a job.”

    Gardner supports creating an Office of the Inspector General to rein in corruption in county government. Osei wants to see more interaction with youth and police officers.
    People For Change conducted a straw poll of the 150 residents who attended and planned to announce its endorsement Friday. As of 2 p.m., the organization had not announced its choice.
    “Running for public office requires a great deal of courage and sacrifice, so it is disappointing to me that People For Change used a secret and arbitrary process to silence the 11 other declared candidates,” Davis said in a statement.
    Davis participated in an Aug. 18 forum with 10 other candidates at Prince George’s Community College in Largo.
    Upper Marlboro resident Evelyn Younger, a Davis supporter, said she attended the debate to hear from some of the other candidates in the race.
    “We need decent schools,” Younger said. “We need to pay our teachers what they deserve. We need someone we can trust.”
    Education and health care are important to Patricia Cypress of Upper Marlboro, who said she is leaning toward one candidate.
    “I’d like to see [national health care reform] filtered down to the population,” she said.
    Also running for the seat are Democrats Van Caldwell of Upper Marlboro, Thirl Crudup of Kettering, Wanda J. Dixon McKnight of Capitol Heights, Esther S. Hankerson of Upper Marlboro, Cassandra Lewis of Upper Marlboro, Wayne Lynwood Leach II of Upper Marlboro, Margaret U. Okoroji-Shaeffer of Upper Marlboro, Brad Donnie Ray of Largo, and Sherine Taylor of Upper Marlboro.

8/25/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Clinton City Hall Closed Friday For Furlough Day, KWQC 6 via kwqc.com
    CLINTON, Illin. - Clinton's City Hall will be closed Friday for a mandatory furlough day for the city's non-union workers.
    The furlough day is one of six to be taken this fiscal year, for a total savings of $42,000.
    Clinton City Administrator Jeff Horne says he'll work from home Friday. He is one of 52 city employees that he and the city decided will take days off without pay.
    "I'm trying to recoup about $1.1 million this year, so this is a relatively small piece," said Horne. "I'm furloughed too. I take the pay cut just like everyone else."

    Horne says some city services will be affected, mainly those that are administered in City Hall.
    Residents will not be able to apply for building permits or pay bills.
    City Hall will reopen Monday.

  2. Who said life is supposed to be fair? by Chris Rickert, Capital Times (blog) via host.madison.com
    MADISON, Wisc. - Maybe it's called the "me too" clause because it leads to lawsuits premised on the childish notions that life is fair and someone else can always be relied upon to pick up the bill — say, for example, taxpayers.
    How else to perceive the lawsuit filed Friday by the Wisconsin State Employees Union asking the state to compensate its members for six days they didn't work?
    As part of a money-saving move in the 2009-11 state budget, unions representing state employees agreed to take 16 unpaid furlough days. During the worst economic downturn in 75 years, furloughs were a common practice at many private-sector businesses, too.
    But earlier this year, members of the assistant district attorneys union balked at taking the final six of their days, arguing it had taken furloughs in the past when other unions didn't have to, and public safety would be compromised without them in the courtrooms.
    That's when Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who inherited the furlough plan from his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, made a crucial mistake common to parents of two or more children everywhere: He treated one differently than another.
    Walker gave in to the assistant DAs, and the chorus of "me too!"s began.

    Of the nearly 20 bargaining units that signed memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, laying out how the furloughs would be implemented, six had included "me too" clauses. The clauses basically obligated the state to give the six unions the same changes to the MOUs that any other union was able to finagle later — like having to take six fewer furlough days.
    Since members of the six had already taken all their 16 furlough days, though, the state agreed to give them six paid days off, according to Peggy Lautenschlager, WSEU's attorney.
    WSEU didn't have a "me too" clause because it was the first bargaining unit to sign an MOU, Lautenschlager said; there had been no one yet to say "me too" to.
    But Lautenschlager said other language in the MOUs and in an Office of State Employment Relations memo outlining the furloughs makes it clear the state must treat all the unions equally, regardless of whether they had "me too" clauses.
    She might be right. Still, her clients are OK with getting paid days off —as opposed to cash — as compensation, so it wouldn't exactly appear they're in danger of missing a mortgage payment or having their phones cut off.
    And while the assistant DAs did get paid for six more days than other union members, they also spent those six days working.
    Lautenschlager said the lawsuit isn't about the money, but about the state acting unfairly. "It's things like that that cause citizens to lose faith in their government," she said.
    Of course, state employees suing to renege on their furlough agreement and get paid for not working might cause taxpayers to lose a bit of faith in them.
    But then life isn't fair for any of us.
    Contact Chris Rickert at 608-252-6198 or crickert@madison.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisRickertWSJ)...

8/24/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Mom of a Million Mistakes: Another Summer Without Enough Childcare - You would think I would have learned my lesson by now, by Jessica McFadden, Patch.com via wheaton-md.patch.com
    SILVER SPRING, Maryld. - Two years ago, when the children were home from school for the summer; I increased my freelance writing and communications work, as well as worked to sell one house, buy another and move... and did not hire adequate childcare.
    Last summer, I found myself working at least 28 hours per week as an editor and writer... and did not arrange enough babysitting coverage.
    [At least she's talking about 28 and not 48 hrs/wk.]
    This summer I had a newborn at home, as well as her two older siblings, and I committed to a few hours each day of freelance work.

    So what did I do? Did I finally wise up and sign the big kids up for camps, or track down a lovely nanny to assist our family?
    Nah, I followed my typical insane pattern, declared that this summer was my "maternity leave" with only a few hours per day of working, and I did not hire any help.
    Now, please do not worry that my children were left to run amok through the streets or parked in front of the television all day as I tapped-tapped-tapped on the laptop, oblivious to their cries for food, water and love.
    I promise I provided a fun, stimulating, summery summer for my children. They participated in our neighborhood's swim team, our church's vacation Bible school, and almost every day were treated to a playdate and or a fun field trip in the community.
    I just fit in the work at the expense of my own sleep at night, or personal time on weekends and evenings. I usually typed these columns and other writing submissions with one hand while breastfeeding the baby with the other. (Alice says "hi").
    It took a good deal of juggling, but I think the keeping-the-balls in the air stress was worth getting to spend oodles of time with the kids this summer.
    However, that stress level is now wearing thin. So, while I am thankful for our camp-less, nanny-less, very-heavy-on-the-family-time summer; I am even more thankful that school is starting in less than one week.
    And you know who else I am thankful for?
    TEACHERS. I am more than happy to relinquish my two oldest into their very capable hands on Monday.
    Jessica McFadden is a parent in Silver Spring who writes the aptly-named website for parents, "A Parent in Silver Spring."
    [At least she's talking about 28 and not 48 hrs/wk. But she can move to Pennsy. and take advantage of their rolling back the child labor laws - git her older kids to support her in the fashion to which she wishes to become accustomed (but watch out for deeper labor surplus and poverty down the line!) -]

  2. Lawmakers Move to Update Child Labor Law - Doing so would increase the hours minors can work while clearing up ‘archaic’ and confusing provisions, by Yasmin Tadjdeh, UpperMacungiePatch via Patch.com
    [Grrreat! We've already got so mothers, illegal aliens, young interns, robots and automation working that young men and fifty-somethings can't find jobs. Might as well make it impossible for adults in general to find jobs, regardless of gender -]
    HARRISBURG, Pa. - For the first time in nearly a century, Pennsylvania's child labor laws may be completely revamped and allow for more working hours for minors.
    The Child Labor Law of 1915 contains “archaic” provisions, contradicts itself and needs to be modernized, state Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, the main sponsor of HB 927, said this month at a House Labor and Industry Committee hearing.
    Due to amendments to the law, the state's child labor standards have become increasingly difficult to understand, said Bruce Hanson, executive director of the House Labor and Industry Committee and drafter of the bill. HB 927 would modernize the language and make it easier for employers and employees to grasp, as some terminology used in it is even beyond the understanding of the lawmakers.
    “Pennsylvania’s child labor law was first enacted in 1915. Over the last 96 years, the way people live their lives has drastically changed. We went from horse and buggy to horse-powered engines; from black-and-white televisions to high definition; from compasses to GPS; from phonographs to digital downloads; and from vaudeville to the Internet,” said Scott Robinette, a deputy secretary for the Department of Labor & Industry, who testified at the hearing.
    The law has been amended several times, and the department said the time has come for the law to be reformed, Robinette said.
    Under the bill, teenagers 16 and older could work 10 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, up from eight in the current law.
    Delozier’s bill also would allow those teens to work a total of 48 hours in a week when school is not in session, up from the previous 44 hours, and a maximum of 10 hours a day, an increase from the previous eight.
    Under current law, when school is in session, employees 16 and older can work a maximum of 28 hours a week, and the bill does not change this number.
    Newspapers in the state would benefit from the bill because it would allow children as young as 11 to work seven days a week as newspaper carriers, instead of six days under the law as it is today.

    Bernard Oravec, publisher of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the state’s fourth oldest newspaper, told the committee he was in favor of the law, which would continue to allow children who deliver newspapers to begin working at 5 a.m.
    The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said allowing children to work at such early hours is dangerous.
    "It is our organization’s belief that no 11-year-old should be working at 5 a.m. in the morning,” said Michael Stefan, a legislative representative for the labor union group.
    Delozier said the changes were meant to set clear standards for employers and minors, and to modernize the law by eliminating confusing language and clear up gray areas.
    “The bottom line is that HB 927 does not reinvent the wheel,” Delozier said.
    However, union representatives said the changes would move child-labor laws backward.
    “The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO acknowledges that portions of the current child-labor law are antiquated, unclear and inconsistent with current federal standards,” Stefan said. “While we recognize these faults, we also find it necessary to be clear with our position of opposition towards any expansion of working hours."
    The new bill also would put Pennsylvania more in line with federal labor laws.
    Under Pennsylvania law, teenagers who are 14 and 15 can only work four hours a day and a maximum of 18 hours per week during a regular school week. However, federal law mandates that minors in that same age group work a maximum of three hours a day; Delozier’s bill would match the federal law.
    State Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster, asked Stefan how the current law affects which jobs Amish youth can participate in, such as the stripping and sorting tobacco, which is currently illegal, but the issue was not resolved.

  3. We will not be trampled upon - We'll work with employers in light of the recession, says union chief Chris Furbert - but don't take advantage, by James Whittaker, Bermuda Sun via bermudasun.bm
    HAMILTON, Bermuda - Union chief Chris Furbert has warned employers not to use the recession as an excuse to trample on the rights of workers.
    He said the Bermuda Industrial Union was well aware of Bermuda’s economic troubles and had compromised on hours and overtime on numerous occasions.
    He insisted strikes, like the one which grounded public buses last week, were a “last resort”.
    But he said the union would not shy away from industrial action if its members were treated unfairly.
    Asked if now was the wrong time to strike, he said: “Is there ever a good time to have industrial action?
    “If people say, you shouldn’t go on strike in the middle of a recession then employers can just go out and treat you how they like.”
    Speaking after a month of industrial strife which has seen labour disputes involving bus drivers, dock workers, city garbage collectors and prison officers, Mr Furbert accepted that times were tense.
    But he said the BIU could not take the blame if labour disputes spiralled.
    “It shouldn’t have to take industrial action to get somebody’s attention.
    “It shouldn’t come to that stage where we have to do that. With the bus situation nobody could say we weren’t trying to resolve that — it’s been out there since June 27.”
    The case of bus driver Jennifer Harvey, sacked for failing to take a drug test in the wake of an accident, will go to an independent arbitration panel, following last week’s action.
    Prison officers — not affiliated with the BIU — have withdrawn their plans for industrial action.
    But disputes rumble on the docks and at the Corporation of Hamilton, where workers have put in 21-days notice of a strike.
    The city workers are planning action in support of garbage collector Michael Pond who was fired after being convicted of slapping a teenaged girl who had verbally abused him and insulted his mother.
    Mr Furbert said he hoped the situation could be resolved at the negotiating table before the 21 day notice — required in industries essential to public welfare — was up.
    Despite the BIU’s reputation, Mr Furbert insists the union seeks to negotiate first.
    And he pointed to a series of deals that had been struck during the recession as evidence that the BIU was co-operating with employers.
    “We’ve done that with HWP, we’ve done it at the airport with BAS. We’ve agreed to shorter working weeks.
    “We’ve had the hotels on a wage freeze, we have 1,200 Government staff working overtime for straight time rates. We’re doing all these things.”
    He believes Stevedoring Services is asking too much in its proposals to cut working hours of staff on the docks. He said the proposal could mean three-days less work every two weeks for the dockers.
    But he said cutting working hours was a potential solution for firms looking to reduce overheads.
    “When it comes to redundancies we have to sit down and talk. The Union is here to represent its members. That may mean going to a shorter work week but that is a conversation we have to have with management.”
    He said the Union accepted that Bermuda was struggling but urged firms to cut hours rather than jobs.

    “Cutting hours is the best way to do it right now.
    “If you need to cut costs by ten per cent then a four-and-a-half day working week will get you there.”
    But he said no decisions should be taken without the Union being involved. And he insisted the BIU wanted to see the company’s books before it approved any reduction in hours or pay.
    “We are not just going to accept it. But if everyone comes to the table and you show us your financials then we will compromise.” 
    He said the Union would stand by its members – even when they made mistakes — like in the case of the garbage collector.
    “People make mistakes in life, none of us are perfect. You think if somebody makes a mistake they need to be fired and go find another job?
    “The Employment Act speaks to workers rights when it comes to progressive discipline – you can’t jump straight to someone being fired.”
    He added: “Management has rights, those rights are still there. But union rights don’t exist because it is a recession? Why should that be?”

  4. Chandler, Gilbert libraries popular with patrons, by Edythe Jensen, The Arizona Republic via azcentral.com
    CHANDLER, Ariz. - There's no hometown loyalty when it comes to public libraries, especially when some cash-strapped cities cut hours to save money while others maintain Sunday and evening hours. The latest reciprocal borrowing numbers show Mesa residents are leaving their city's bookshelves in droves while Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe are attracting crowds from neighboring municipalities.
    The figures, which represent library cards, are used by the Maricopa County Library District for funding. The district compensates cities that have more non-resident library users than residents using other libraries. For the difference, the "net user" cities get $28.50 per out-of-town cardholder. Money comes from library district property taxes and can be used by the popular libraries to maintain collections and pay staff.
    Gilbert has the Valley's largest "net user" number: 12,299. Mesa has the largest deficit: minus 12,242.
    Mesa Library Director Heather Wolf said residents started flocking to Gilbert's Southeast Regional Library at Greenfield and Guadalupe roads before her city started cutting library hours and programs in 2006. That's because growing populations in south and east Mesa were closer to the Gilbert facility than to any in Mesa until three months ago when the city opened a fourth branch, Mesa Express Library, in a shopping center at Power and Baseline roads. Wolf said she is hopeful that next year's reciprocal borrowing figures will show fewer Mesa residents turning to out-of-town libraries.
    However, all Mesa libraries are closed on Sundays; all except the main branch downtown are closed on Mondays, and none stay open past 7 p.m. Libraries in Chandler and Gilbert stay open until 9 p.m. several nights a week, are open on Mondays and have several branches with Sunday hours. Tempe's library is open until 8 p.m. three days a week. Scottsdale, which offers evening hours, counts 1,123 Mesa residents on its library cardholders list.
    Minutes from Mesa Library Board meetings show people complained when the hours were reduced nearly five years ago after staff cuts.
    At a May 2006 meeting, a board member said she went to the Red Mountain Library for two hours one Sunday afternoon to explain to people who came there why it was closed. According to the minutes, the member "reported that she hardly had time to sit down and estimated approximately 80 cars and 100 patrons to the Library during that time frame. Most patrons were unaware that the Red Mountain Library was now closed on Sundays."
    Two patrons who visited Chandler's downtown library last week said their Mesa homes are close to libraries in that city but they prefer the later hours, high-speed Wi-Fi, special programs and homey atmosphere in Chandler's facility.
    "Chandler's library has an area where I can talk; in Mesa, it's 'shush!,' " Ben Kownack, 46, said. He raves about the downtown Chandler library's high-speed free wireless service and said he takes the Link bus from his central Mesa home to the Chandler library even though the main Mesa library is closer.
    Beverly Lokota, 56, said Chandler's downtown library "feels like home. The staff is friendly and I love their little gift shop. One day, I smelled soup cooking so I went into the shop, bought a cup of soup, and sat at a table and read my book."
    Lakota said her home near Alma School and Baseline roads is close to a branch library in that city, "but they kept cutting their hours; they don't think about people."
    Chandler Library Manager Brenda Brown said the city strives to give libraries a comfortable "living room" atmosphere.
    Chandler libraries continue to offer activities for adults and children that have been cut by other cities to save money. They include tutoring labs staffed by volunteers, book discussion groups, children's story times, English conversation sessions for non-native speakers, games, computer classes and needlework groups.
    Gilbert libraries have cut programs to save money, but the Southeast Regional facilities, location, size and massive collection are big attractions, said Donna Petersen, president of Gilbert Friends of the Library. The facility holds 170,700 books and other materials in a 66,000-square-foot building set in a 12-acre Riparian Preserve.
    "It's huge, and a big section is set aside for children," she said. "Mesa has so many retirees, and this is the library they come to."
    Petersen, who runs the library gift shop as a volunteer, said the store attracts about 500 customers a week and helps raise more than $80,000 a year for library materials. Although she is disappointed that the town cut library programs to save money, Petersen said that won't keep her away from "my library . . . this place excites me."
    Petersen lives in Chandler.

  5. Bloor West area libraries strongly supported in the community - A library is more than just books; it's an experience: councillor, insideTORONTO.com
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - One is more than 21,000 square feet of space boasting a long list of features, including a reading garden and quiet study rooms - its circulation hovered around 500,000 last year; the other is a fraction of its size at 1,100 square feet, circulated about 42,000 items and has significantly less amenities.
    No matter their differences, both the Bloor/Gladstone Library and the Swansea Memorial Library are each beloved to the thousands of people who rely on their neighbourhood branches, a great number of whom visit on a weekly and even daily basis.
    Brian Gibbons, a 43-year Swansea resident, sits reading a newspaper on a recent visit to Swansea Memorial Library, its pages spread across the table. He said he retreats to his local branch at least three times a week to read the events of the day in peace.
    "It's quiet," said Gibbons, who said he appreciates that the papers are updated daily and kept in a tidy and orderly fashion.
    Meanwhile, Sonia Conte sits at a computer, her fingers tapping away at the keyboard on her almost daily trip to the library. Conte, who lives next door, said she loves it for its size and tranquility.
    "It's cozy. You can't get lost in here," she said with a smile.
    Across the room, Sophia Athanasopoulous, 2, makes herself comfortable on a plush yellow and red turtle. She and her brother, Lucas, visit the library daily to check out books and DVDs and to use the computers. Swansea Memorial Library dates back to the early 20th century when in 1919 the Women's Patriotic League of Swansea decided to establish a public library as a memorial to the 22 Swansea men who died in the First World War. The library originated at Swansea Public School, but moved to the town hall in 1959.
    The soldiers' photographs and names adorn the upper portion of a mural in the foyer of the town hall, on the outer wall of the library.
    "It's more than just a room with books in it, it's a living memorial," said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette, Monday, Aug. 15.
    Results of a recent public consultation process found libraries ranked eighth of 35 services as necessary for the city. They ranked fourth out of 35 services that the city should provide while 97 per cent of people involved in the process identified the public library as necessary for Toronto to be livable and prosperous. The core service review was sparked after a city-commissioned report by firm KPMG recommended closing under-utilized branches and reducing programs to save money.
    Asked if she could shed any light on what criteria would make a library a target for cuts, Doucette was at a loss.
    "I have absolutely no idea," she said.
    Cheryl Skovronek, an area manager of 17 branches for the south-west side of the city, said Toronto Public Library is investigating "deficiencies."
    "We're looking across the board at how branches perform and how we use our staff," she said.
    Even though Swansea library is open just 28 hours a week, it's extremely well used, said Doucette. In 2009, its circulation was 39,266. By 2010, it had risen to 42,554. In 2009, said Doucette, there were 63 programs, which 1,000 people attended. Last year, Swansea library dropped its number of programs it offered to 28, but still managed to attract 800 people.
    "This branch costs under $100,000 (including staff, the collection and operating costs) a year to run," said Doucette.
    In 1999, the library was slated for closure, but the people of Swansea fought hard to keep it open, Doucette said.
    Jennifer McGregor had just checked out some books with her 18-month-old daughter Olivia at Bloor/Gladstone Library around 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 12. They've been area residents for a year and love the Dufferin and Bloor Street West branch for its children's programming.
    "I bring her here to read and to meet other children," said McGregor. "I'm so glad it's in my neighbourhood. It's beautiful, so open."
    Two years ago, the library underwent a massive renovation and expansion. The glass addition features a two-storey curtain wall providing a dynamic street presence and boasts views into the library and out onto the street. The two-and-a-half-year restoration and renovation project was complex given the historic nature of the building.
    The library first opened in 1913 and was known then as the Dovercourt branch. Its name changed to Bloor/Gladstone in 1938. In 1993, the library was listed on the Toronto Historical Board's inventory of heritage properties.
    The library is 11-year-old Melissa Sekhri's home away from home. She's there twice a day, usually to escape the constant ribbing she gets from her older brothers, she said.
    "I love reading," she exclaimed.
    Libraries, said Davenport Councillor Ana Bailao, not only serve to educate, but to open doors to people. The councillor is a huge proponent of libraries.
    "I've been hearing from hundreds and hundreds of my constituents asking me to keep the library open," said Bailao.
    The Bloor/Gladstone Library's circulation rose from 253,516 in 2009 to 496,545 in 2010. There is a long list of programs, including author talks and lectures, reading and story time, ESL and newcomer programs, book clubs and writers' groups, homework help and leadership.
    Leah Girardo, who recently moved back to Toronto, lives within walking distance of Bloor/Gladstone. She's taking gender studies at the University of Toronto in the fall and said she anticipates spending lots of time at the library.
    "The library is not just about books, it's about an experience," said Bailao.
    [But then, you can even say that about waterboarding.]

  6. Doctors review contract drafted by Treasury - Contract to gradually increase salaries, shorten hours, and add 1,000 doctor positions; Medical Association willing to sign but doctors protest nationwide, by Neri Brenner, Ynetnews.com
    HAIFA, Israel - Representatives of the Israel Medical Association gathered Wednesday to review the agreement terms drafted by the Finance Ministry, signaling that the longtime labor dispute might be coming to an end.
    Increased salaries and shorter hours are among the terms in the draft agreement that aim to improve the doctors' employment conditions. The average doctor's salary is expected to rise by 49% while the basic salary is set to increase by 32% not including benefits.
    The doctors' wages in the periphery will reportedly increase even more than the wages of doctors in the center of Israel.
    The gradual reform is expected to cost the Finance Ministry an additional NIS 2.6 billion ($727 million) a year.
    After a 9-day marathon of negotiations between the doctors and the treasury, the IMA authorized Chairman Leonid Eidelman to sign a contract that he sees fit.
    Representatives of the IMA who have gathered to review the draft have expressed willingness to sign the contract, but medical interns around the country have staged protests against the move, claiming that the IMA has no authority to end the strike that has been going on for the past 157 days.
    The developing contract will be in effect for the next nine years, and will apply retroactively from July 2010, when the previous contract expired.
    As per the agreement, 1,000 additional doctor positions will be gradually added in the coming years. The contract also calls for the doctors to punch a time clock – a bone of contention in the struggle – but allows for an eventual replacement of the clocks with another attendance recording system.
    [Hey, professional consultants, lawyers and contractors are time-accountable - it's time medicos joined the rest of humanity! And if they're allergic to physical clocks, they can always check with *Kronos Time&Attendance.]
    The percentage of the raises that the doctors are to be granted has not been made public yet, but it was reported that doctors in the periphery and those who specialize in areas where there is a shortage will receive higher salary increases. Moreover, the contract opened a new pay grade and allowed for new opportunities for promotion.

8/23/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Longer Weekends and Higher Wages? Five Surprising Ways That Would Help Improve the Economy, by Sarah Jaffe (not the zilch-voice zip-personality depressed and depressing "singer"), 8/22 (late pickup) AlterNet.org
    Americans have been told that austerity measures and shared suffering are the path to economic recovery, but in fact, many fixes could dramatically improve our lives.
    BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Americans have been sold a big lie on the economy.
    We've been told, over and over, by politicians in both parties, that in order to have an economic recovery, we're all going to have to sacrifice. We're going to have to undergo brutal austerity measures that make our lives demonstrably worse for a while in order to get back to prosperity. We just have to accept wage and benefit cuts, high unemployment, and cutbacks to government services, because that's the only way we will recover from this crisis.
    That's just not true.
    It's an ideological position contradicting not just leftist economists, but even Republicans. It's a position that conveniently fits right in with the agenda of Big Business: slash public spending, force wages down, cut benefits, keep workers poor and desperate for any job they can get, and privatize government services and infrastructure for profit.
    Worse than that, it won't work.
    In fact, many economists have pointed out policies that would not only strengthen our economy in the long term, but in the short term make our lives actually more pleasant and livable.
    Since the pursuit of happiness is actually enshrined in that Constitution conservatives love to tout, we've collected five suggestions for improving the economy that would also make our lives better right now.
    1. Longer weekends, more vacations.
    [At last! here's somebody who has the same priorities as (economic) system requirements as routine urgently-demanded human employment is turned over to robots.]
    Annie Leonard pointed out at the New York Times that Americans work longer hours than people in any other industrialized nation. We work nearly nine weeks more than Western Europeans, and we get far fewer vacations.
    Yet right now there aren't enough jobs to go around. So instead of continuing to squeeze the workers who are still employed for more hours, Dean Baker suggested that we spread those hours among more workers.
    His idea, to subsidize shorter work-weeks with unemployment insurance benefits, would create an incentive for businesses not to lay off workers, but to cut their hours a little instead. His example, that a worker might put in 20 percent fewer hours but take only a 10 percent pay cut, would of course take some money from a worker's check, but at least compensate the worker with more free time.
    This approach has actually been tried in Germany with great results. Labor economist Mark Price told me, “One of the most jarring statistics to come out of the Great Recession is that unemployment today is lower in Germany than when the recession began. The Germans suffered through a recession like everyone else did, but they absorbed the recession through reductions in working hours instead of through layoffs. Work-sharing arrangements allowed employers to cut hours in response to a decline in demand for their products and allowed workers who had their hours cut to supplement their pay with unemployment insurance benefits.”
    Keeping workers with some income keeps them spending, and keeping them in the workplace means that as demand picks back up, their hours can be increased again easily.
    Jeremy Grantham, the leader of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO), one of the world's largest asset management firms, pointed out in his letter to investors [PDF] that the U.S. was great at “job destruction,” noting, “Where Dutch and German companies, among others, tried to protect their workers’ social capital by limiting firing, we protected short-term profits.”
    (A recent article in Canadian magazine MacLeans also pointed out that Dutch workers, women in particular, often only work part-time to spend more time with their families—and that the Netherlands consistently ranks as one of the happiest nations on earth.)
    Of course, part of the problem with the economy right now is that the workers who do have jobs aren't making enough money to keep spending, so any policy that saw those workers taking wage cuts could be problematic for recovery as well as for the people themselves. Therefore this idea works best for workers who already make a solidly middle-class salary; people barely making ends meet as it is would be little helped by additional cuts to their salaries. The policy worked in Germany and the Netherlands because salaries there tend to be higher.
    Price pointed out that in addition to fewer hours, more generous leave policies would actually create demand for jobs. “In practice, federal policy incentivizing employers to offer more paid vacations, family and parental leave and paid sick days, in addition to getting the US closer to international norms regarding these vital labor standards, would likely lead to additional hiring at the current relatively low level of demand.”
    And Baker argued:
    “There seems to be no way to avoid the fact that we are destined to have a prolonged period in which the economy is operating below its potential output. It makes much more sense to turn this into leisure that can be enjoyed by everyone, rather than unemployment that is suffered by an unlucky minority of the work force.”
    2. Write down mortgages, fix housing crisis, create one million jobs?
    A new report by the group New Bottom Line argues that fixing the mortgage crisis by getting banks to reduce the principal on home loans would actually create 1 million jobs.
    The housing bubble so overinflated the cost of houses that a whopping one in five homeowners in the US owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth in the current market. New Bottom Line points out that the same big banks that created the housing bubble, artificially inflating the value of housing by repackaging mortgages into "securities" and selling them at a profit, are the ones that can fix the problem. But, of course, they're unlikely to do so without someone forcing their hands.
    So the groups affiliated with New Bottom Line are calling on state attorneys general to call for restitution to homeowners in their settlement with the banks over foreclosure fraud. If the lender writes down the loan, they reduce the amount of the principal from what the borrower originally signed up to borrow to the actual market value of the house right now. The report estimates that this process would save homeowners $71 billion per year.
    According to their blog:
    “Six billion dollars per month that is currently going to mortgage payments would instead go toward buying groceries, school supplies, and other household necessities. As consumer demand picked up, businesses would start hiring again. The report estimates that putting $71 billion into American consumers’ pockets annually would help create more than one million jobs per year.”
    What about the cost? Well, according to New Bottom Line, “Last year, the nation’s top six banks paid out more than twice the cost of the plan ($71 billion per year) in bonuses and compensation alone ($146 billion in 2010). Currently, the nation’s banks are sitting on a historically high level of cash reserves of $1.64 trillion.”
    The New York Times editorial page also supports writing down the principal on home loans.
    “Reducing principal is a better solution than lowering interest rates, because it reduces payments and restores equity. Bankers resist, because it could force them to recognize losses they would prefer to delay. The administration has resisted, in part because principal reductions are seen as rewarding reckless borrowers.”
    That's an important point—that the bankers would only delay their losses by refusing to write down principal. The housing market is unlikely to return to its previous levels—Grantham noted that massive housing wealth was “an illusion”--and so even if the banks choose instead to foreclose on millions of homes, they're then stuck with a property they too cannot sell for its previous estimated value, and by flooding the market, they'll drive values down even further. Keeping people in their homes is good for the banks, good for the economy, and good for the homeowner. New Bottom Line is right to call its solution “Win-Win.”
    3. Early retirement.
    There's been a lot of focus on the youth unemployment rate, with good reason. But there's also a crisis facing older workers, who, facing long periods of unemployment, are being forced to spend their retirement funds early. Meanwhile, as many lost their retirement funds in the first round of the financial crisis, or are seeing their pensions taking a hit, they're being forced to work longer, thereby not freeing up jobs for those younger workers.
    Rep. Dennis Kucinich offered up a solution back in 2010, a plan he said would create 1 million jobs: a temporary reduction in the age to receive Social Security benefits. Currently, workers can begin getting reduced benefits at age 62; Kucinich's plan would lower that age to 60.
    This might sound wild, as right now what we're mostly hearing about are benefit cuts or raising the age of retirement. But our austerity-obsessed politicians are wrong. Kucinich argued:
    “Many older workers can’t wait to retire, while many younger workers desperately need work. My plan enables older workers to take early retirement, thereby freeing up those jobs for younger workers who are currently unemployed. If just 25% of eligible workers choose to retire early, we can very quickly open one million job opportunities. These are not temporary jobs, but permanent jobs that already exist in our economy, even under the current recessionary circumstances.”
    And way back in 2009, progressive commentator Thom Hartmann argued for lowering the retirement age to 55, and actually increasing benefits:
    “If enough Boomers left the job market, it would even flip the current dynamic of too-many-people-chasing-too-few-jobs upside down, and create a tight labor market. Tight labor markets drive up wages.
    And as wages go up, tax revenues – which are paying for Social Security (among other things) – would increase.”

    And, of course, early retirement would give those workers spare time to spend with their families and friends, travel, and enjoy the benefits they've worked their whole lives for.
    4. Bicycle stimulus.
    "Green jobs" have been called for as part of any recovery package since the beginning of the economic crisis, a way to not only move the US back toward economic prosperity, but also to shift our priorities toward environmental sustainability. One interesting example of green job creation would be investing in bike paths in urban areas where cycling can easily take the place of car travel.
    If fixing the mortgage crisis is win-win, investing in bicycle infrastructure is win-win-win: it not only could create jobs that would stimulate the economy, but is better for personal health and also for the environment, replacing gas-powered cars with people-powered transit. Bicyclists save money on transit, are healthier overall, and don't have to spend time and money on the gym, and a city that invests in bike paths and safety encourages more and more people to take up biking to work.
    Nancy Folbre blogged at the New York Times:
    “Major improvements in bike infrastructure wouldn’t just make it easier to get to work. They would also create work, a high priority in our high-unemployment economy.
    Construction of bike paths offers more job creation per infrastructure dollar than investment in roads. (For more details, see this recent study by my University of Massachusetts colleague Heidi Garrett-Peltier, who analyzed 58 projects in 11 cities, using an input-output model to measure employment impact).”

    When people drive less or give up owning cars entirely, the money they would have spent on gasoline and car insurance then can be pushed back into the economy in other ways—Philly CarShare noted that cutting back on driving increased people's purchasing power by nearly $3000 a year.
    In addition to bicycling, the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggested another green transit stimulus—a temporary reduction in the cost of mass transit for one year. This would put money back in commuters' pockets, as well as providing an incentive for people to switch to mass transit from their cars. Mass transit doesn't provide the health benefits of bicycling, but it is much greener—and cheaper—than automobile use, and making it still cheaper would help out the very people who, once again, are most likely to spend the money they save in other ways.
    5. Raise wages.
    Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry have been trying to score with the talking point that 46 percent of Americans don't pay any income taxes.
    Perry, especially, doesn't like to follow that point up with an explanation of why. It would undermine his chief campaign promise: that he's a job creator, that as governor of Texas he's been good for the economy, because the jobs created on his watch have been low-wage jobs, the kind that keep workers poor and thus under the minimum income required for federal income taxes.
    The answer that is little discussed by Republicans or indeed Democrats is that increasing wages for workers would actually mean more tax revenue for the government—without a need to actually “raise” taxes. It would mean more money in the economy, as those workers would have more to spend.
    Grantham, hardly a raving socialist, argued:
    “Today the artificial sugar-coating of increasing debt has been removed and we must live with the reality that an average hour’s work has not received a material increase for 40 years. Without increased debt and without gains in hourly wages, how can there be sustained broad gains in consumption? Only Chanel suits, Hermes scarves, BMWs, and their ilk have very strong sales, and these top-end items are just too small a fraction to carry the day. If we want to dig out of our current morass, don’t we have to change this equation and isn’t the most direct way of doing this to divide the pie more evenly?
    . . . Wouldn’t it be better for us to decide deliberately and by ourselves that income distribution which creates the best balance of social justice and incentive to work?”

    The federal minimum wage isn't enough to support one person, and certainly not enough for a family—a full-time minimum wage worker makes $15,080 a year, nearly $3,500 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage would create an economic stimulus, putting additional money into the hands of those who are the most likely to spend it, rather than save it.
    While Michele Bachmann and others have argued that the minimum wage is a "job-killer," Doug Hall noted that this isn't true. ”Previous research showing a significant negative impact have been displaced by studies showing that an increase in the minimum wage has a small — and even positive — impact on employment.”
    It's not just the minimum wage that needs to go up. The federal government might have the leverage to control the bottom, but it was the efforts of unions that drove up wages for years, and increased unionization would again result in higher wages. Even as union rights are being attacked from all sides, union workers make more money than non-union workers in the same field, and enjoy better benefits and working conditions, adding to their quality of life.
    As Grantham pointed out, US workers are extremely productive, well above the developed world average, and yet they've seen almost none of the results of their productivity. It's time to fix this, for the sake of the economy, for the workers, and for all of us.
    Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

  2. Indianapolis Marion County Public Library hopes to restore hours, by Mary Milz, 13 WTHR via wthr.com
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - After drastic cutbacks last year, the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library is hoping to restore hours at its ten most popular branches.
    Glendale Library along north Keystone Avenue is one of them. It could open on Fridays again, a move patrons would love to see.
    Jerome Anderson visits the branch often.
    "I believe we should get it going again. It's helpful to the community. The library is something we need," said Anderson.
    Plans to increase hours at the Glendale, Wayne, Pike, Lawrence, Nora, Irvington, Southport, Franklin and Central Libraries are included in the library's 2012 budget. So is restoring the amount of amount of money spent on new books and other materials.
    Librarian Carol Segal says she's thrilled and notes the word is spreading.
    "Today someone said they heard about it and asked when are you going to reopen on Fridays. I said not for a while and they wanted it to happen right away - it wasn't good enough," she said.
    The hours changed last year. Faced with a big budget shortfall, the library board considered closing six branches, but given the huge public outcry, the board opted to cut hours instead.
    CFO Becky Dixon said this year's budget calls for increasing the hours of service by 80 hours. Dixon said they hope to do that by moving debt service payments from the operating budget to the debt service fund and using some County Option Income Tax revenue.
    A change in state law last session, prompted by library advocates, now allows COIT money to be allocated to the library system in Marion County. While Mayor Greg Ballard's budget plan includes giving the library system 1/10th of a percent of the COIT funds or roughly $150,000, the City-County Council still needs to sign off. Patrons hope they do.
    "Because we're cutting too many things of value to people, and many children don't have the money to buy books," said Norma Hoffman.
    Aaron White, a student who spends three to four days a week at the library, said, "Friday is such a great day, you have big projects and you need to get stuff done. It makes sense to be open Friday."
    The reaction is not surprising given a recent library survey. Library officials say they had 7,212 responses to a host of questions. In addition to that, there were 352 comments on the new hours with 330 of them negative.
    Like many people, Deb Evans says she's adjusted to the new hours but still finds them inconvenient, especially since she still has young children.
    "It'd be great to know I can come here and not have closed doors facing me, I can pick up hold items and find different materials for the family. As a mother of preschool children, I really appreciate coming at any time," she said.
    The library board is set to vote on the budget Monday, August, 29th. It then goes to the City-County Council for final approval.

8/21-22/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. NPR Tells Us That There Is Nothing that Congress and the Fed Can Do About the Weak Economy, by Dean Baker, 8/22 BusinessInsider.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Okay, that is just not true. Congress can do another big round of stimulus. It could mandate a reduction in the value of the dollar in order to boost net exports. Or it could push an aggressive work sharing program like the one that has led unemployment rate to fall below pre-recession levels in Germany.
    The Fed could target a long-term interest rate. For example it can set a 1.0 percent target for the 5-year Treasury rate. Or it could target a higher rate of inflation, committing itself to throw out enough reserves as necessary to raise the inflation rate to 4.0 percent, a policy that Bernanke advocated for Japan back when he was still a professor at Princeton.
    It is simply wrong to claim, as NPR did in this piece, that there is nothing more than Congress and the Fed can do to boost the economy. if it wants to say that none of these measures are politically viable, that may well be a true statement. But then the problem is with the people who dominate politics in the country. It is a political problem, not an economic one and NPR should clearly identify it as such.
    (Thanks to Jonathan Lundell.)

  2. Catholic education needed for teachers, too, 8/21 CatholicSentinel.org
    PORTLAND, Ore. - Teaching the teachers is important, too. Every year the Archdiocese of Portland offers training for faith formation directors so they are better equipped to help catechists and those teaching parish classes explain Catholicism.
    Every time Suzie Marcy, director of religious education at St. Monica Parish in Coos Bay, takes one of these courses she looks back at what she had been doing and realizes that she can do it more effectively.
    “We really have to be knowledgeable because we could lead someone into error,” she said.
    As parishes cut back staff hours, many DREs are finding it harder to find the time to not only finish their parish work, but also to keep up their own educations. In order to earn basic certification through the archdiocese, DREs must take one class each semester, including a weeklong course during the summer. Marcy takes classes online, funded in part by scholarships, but was unable this year to travel to Portland for the DRE “study week” because of budget cuts at her parish. Marcy’s job was cut from 28 hours a week to 20.
    [= cutting hours instead of complete jobs. Our first pre-publication copy of Timesizing Not Downsizing was bought by Ruy Costa, then Asst. Director of the Mass. Council of Churches cuz he was concerned that with job insecurity and nobody wanting to leave the office first at night, people didn't have time for their spiritual lives.]
    Even so, she must manage preparation and cleanup and be there for five hours of classes on Sundays, meet with catechists, organize parent meetings, coordinate vacation Bible school, set up volunteer retreats and more.
    As a result of the time crunch, Marcy won’t be able to receive her basic certification this year.
    “I talk to a lot of catechists who are like, ‘I can’t believe you do this in 20 hours a week,’” Marcy said. Sometimes she does, she said, and sometimes she doesn’t.
    The Archdiocese’s $50 million Sharing Our Faith, Shaping our Future campaign seeks pledges from parishioners to support seminary education, priest retirement, Catholic education/faith formation and various parish needs.
    Funds raised will help beef up programs like the one in Coos Bay.

8/20/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. How Can We Get Businesses to Hire? letters to editor, New York Times via nytimes.com
    To the editor from WINTHROP DRAKE THIES of New York, Aug. 17, 2011
    Re “What Is Business Waiting For?,” by Joe Nocera (column, Aug. 16) [see below, 8/14-15/2011 #2]:
    To encourage new hiring, the United States needs to pass legislation capping the workweek, as France did in 2000. France imposed a 35-hour workweek, with a 25 percent bonus for overtime.
    [Have not heard this, but it does not sound like much of a disincentive against chronic overtime for companies in the age of expensive employee benefits. Here's our alternative.]
    In addition, French workers today get 30 days of paid vacation.
    While the French policy was intensely criticized, both within and outside France, it was immensely popular with workers, who reported enjoying the extra time for leisure and to be with their families. And it reportedly helped create some 350,000 new jobs.
    It was later eased when the French economy got healthy and the focus changed to worker productivity and international competitiveness.
    I believe that capping the American workweek would be a solid move to create many jobs quickly. Reasonable exceptions could be made for vital workers like police and fire personnel.
    The writer is a retired attorney.
    To the Editor from TERRY CATCHPOLE, Executive Chairman, The Catchpole Corporation of Boston, Aug. 16, 2011
    Two years ago our executive communications company had 17 employees. Today it has seven. We very much would prefer to have 17 employees. The primary reason we do not is that, like many small businesses, we are dependent on big businesses as customers.
    And the big businesses that we would ordinarily depend on to become clients are sitting on their cash, because they are deathly afraid of an Obama administration that has been hostile to business (for example, the National Labor Relations Board’s ordering Boeing to change its plans for a new South Carolina plant).
    They have no idea where the administration’s next attack is coming from, and how much it is going to cost them to defend. So businesses do not spend money; they do not hire my company; and we cannot hire back those 10 good people we had to let go.
    To the Editor from PETER NIKOLITS of Orleans, Mass., Aug. 16, 2011
    Joe Nocera emphasizes the differences between German and American employers. I would point out that Germany has a universal health care system; thus German employers are not responsible for providing health insurance for their employees, as most American companies do.
    Our system puts a great burden on our companies and actually discourages them from hiring full-time employees. It also raises the cost of American products in the global market, a handicap hard to overcome.
    To the Editor from BOB KAGAN of Narberth, Pa., Aug. 16, 2011
    I don’t agree that executives focus on short-term results because “they’ve spent the last 30 years having it beaten into them that the only thing that matters is delivering ‘shareholder value,’ ” as Joe Nocera writes. Executives focus on short-term results because they are the ones who have beaten this thought into shareholders and then worked to create a compensation system that rewards them for doing just that.
    Conservative economic theory preaches that people are primarily motivated by economic incentives. Until executives are compensated on measures other than shareholder value, they will do whatever it takes to maximize their own pay regardless of whether it is beneficial in the long run for either the company or the country.
    The writer is managing partner of a real estate investment company.

  2. County to explore new furlough program, by Michael Bates, Hernando Today via Tampa Bay Online via Tbo.com
    BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - County commissioners have said they will look at anything and everything to find money and balance the budget.
    One of those ideas is implementing a "Furlough Friday" starting Dec. 30 and continuing For 10 months through Sept. 28, 2012.
    The government center would be closed the last Friday of every month and the employees would take an unpaid day off.
    The county estimates it would save the general fund $278,550 and other boards funds $598,680 for a total of $877,230.

    The plan is similar to a plan last year when county employees took 10 unpaid furlough days. To avoid too much disruption of taxpayer services, employees arranged their days-off schedule with their supervisors so departments could still cater to the public.
    But this plan would shut down the entire government center that one day a month.
    County Administrator David Hamilton and Commission Chairman Jim Adkins met with the elected constitutional officers and broached the plan but there was no interest, according to a staff report.
    If the county successfully negotiates the 10 furlough days with the Teamsters, staff would return to the board in September with an amended policy.
    At the same time, the board has indicated an interest in reducing salaries up to 5 percent. Since the furloughs would result in a 3.85 percent decrease in employee salaries, the board has recommended reducing the salaries of non-union employees making $60,000 or more by 1.15 percent to get the 5 percent reduction.
    The 1.15 percent reduction would result in a $13,867 savings in the general fund and a $24,273 dollar savings in other funds, according to a staff report.
    County commissioners will discuss this latest money-saving idea during Tuesday's meeting.
    Also Tuesday:
    •Commissioners will discuss a move to use the general fund stabilization reserves to help balance the 2012 general fund budget.
    Doing so requires a super majority vote of the board.
    The county's policy requires that if such funds are used they must be replaced at a rate of 1 percent of the general fund budget per year, which should take two years.
    •The Little Rock Cannery is back on the agenda, this time as part of a proposal to lease the beleaguered facility to the nonprofit Auro Community Cannery Inc.
    The arrangement would provide a seamless link of "establishing, cultivating and preserving healthy foods" for people interested in canning, according to a staff report.
    The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville...
    Reporter Michael D. Bates can be reached at 352-544-5290 or mbates@hernandotoday.com.

8/19/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Wall Street vs. Earth, by Dennis Goodenough, Capital Times (blog) via host.madison.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - I want gas to cost six bucks per gallon. On top of that I don’t think it will be a good thing for the U.S. to “create more jobs” and “grow the economy.” When gas is cheap people just burn more, and rekindling conventional “growth economics” will exacerbate the destruction of the natural world.
    Anyone who can’t see the connection between “consumption” and the resulting loss of the biosphere hasn’t been paying attention. Record heat in the southern U.S., drought and famine in Somalia, loss of rain forest, etc. I could fill the page.
    A civilized economy is not sustainable if the natural environment is not sustained. Further, the world’s current economic and political upheavals foreshadow a planet already at the environmental “tipping point.” Whether we wipe out the atmosphere, the oceans, or kill each other in “tribal warfare” over dwindling resources, it will matter little. When the carrying capacity of the planet is exceeded, economic collapse looks like a holiday compared to environmental collapse.
    Multinational corporations and international bankers (the masters of the universe) scramble to sequester resources for their own personal enrichment and power. These guys have a worldview in which “biosphere dynamics” just don’t exist. The same goes for garden-variety economists. While raiding what remains of the U.S. and European economies, they simultaneously advance toward the 2 billion “new consumers” in China and India. As for the environment, if they succeed in selling an Asian version of the American dream to the people of those countries, the fat lady will have sung.
    The current financial/political circumstances of the world should focus our attention on finding a solution to humankind’s most pressing dilemma: a fair and, most of all, sustainable way of allocating remaining resources to everyone. For Americans this would mean the lifestyle of the “middle class” is over. India’s and China’s economic assent will no longer let us wantonly consume the “trinkets” causing the “obesity” of the American dream. For the multinational tycoons who are swindling anyone and everyone in their quest for financial world domination, it means a number of them need to wind up in jail.
    I have some ideas about navigating the future, although I doubt they would pass muster in today’s political climate. First the jobs. Currently, Citizen A works 60 hours a week while his neighbor, Citizen B, has no job. As long as there’s only so much work in this country, let’s spread it out evenly among everyone. Dropping the workweek from 40 to 32 hours would give the unemployed a job and the currently employed more time to have a beer.
    Second, raise the minimum wage to, say, $12 per hour so Citizen B doesn’t have to go live under a bridge.
    [If we dropped the workweek far enough, market forces would make minimum-wage legislation unnecessary by harnessing market forces to raise wage levels in response to a perceived "labor shortage."]
    Third, once a shorter workweek allows Citizens A and B to dump some of their respective stress, let’s all take a good look at why we need so much “stuff” in this country to be happy. Sociologists told us long ago that twice the property can’t make someone twice as happy.
    Quality of life issues, rather than quantity of stuff, should head a new national discussion; and while we’re at it, let’s have a talk about “steady state, zero growth” economics before the biosphere teaches humans a nasty lesson.
    Dennis Goodenough is a building contractor. He built his first energy-efficient house in 1979. He operates his business out of Stoughton, Wisc.
    ["Out of the mouths of babes and building contractors, Thou hast perfected shalom."]

  2. Shift work may have little effect on pregnancy, Reuters Health via Reuters.com
    Some studies have suggested that working the night shift may raise a pregnant woman's risks of preterm labor or having an underweight baby. But a new review says that if those effects exist, they are likely to be small.
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Looking at 23 studies involving thousands of women, researchers found that, overall, shift work was not strongly linked to the risk of preterm labor, versus the standard 9-to-5 job.
    Women working night or rotating shifts did have a slightly higher chance of having a baby who was underweight or "small for gestational age" -- meaning small for the baby's sex and the week of pregnancy during which he or she was born.
    Still, the evidence was not strong enough to make "confident conclusions," the researchers report in the obstetrics journal BJOG [British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology - now international but not changing its initial initial, so there!].
    Together, the results suggest that any effects of shift work on preterm delivery and birth size "are likely to be small," write the investigators, led by Dr. Matteo Bonzini of the University of Insubria in Italy.
    In theory, irregular work hours could affect a woman's reproductive function by throwing off the body's natural "clock" and disrupting normal hormonal activity.
    A recent U.S. government study, for instance, found that nurses who worked rotating shifts were more likely to have irregular menstrual periods than those who worked a consistent schedule. That, the researchers said, raised the possibility that rotating shifts might affect fertility.

    [The key management skill of the future for any economy that wants to survive is suturing shorter shifts - and if pregnant women find non-rotating shifts healthier, that is the way to go. On the other hand, if we want to do something about planetary overpopulation...]
    Whether that is the case, though, is unknown. And when it comes to pregnancy, studies have come to conflicting findings about whether women on night or rotating shifts have higher risks of preterm delivery or having an underweight baby.
    One of the problems is that many factors could potentially explain a connection between shift work and poorer pregnancy outcomes.
    Women who do shift work may make less money, have higher smoking rates or generally less healthy lifestyles than women with a standard work week. In some studies, researchers are able to factor in many of those variables; in others, they're not.
    The current review included 23 international studies, each involving anywhere from 700 to more than 35,000 women.
    When the researchers combined the results from all studies looking at preterm delivery, there was a slightly higher risk seen among shift workers -- 16 percent higher, versus non-shift workers.
    But then the researchers sifted out several studies they deemed low-quality -- because they didn't account for smoking and income, or relied on women's self-reports rather than medical records.
    Without those studies, the link between shift work and preterm labor disappeared.
    As for birth size, there were somewhat higher risks seen among women doing shift work -- they were 12 percent more likely, for instance, to have a baby who was small for gestational age. But the evidence was not statistically strong, and the increased risk could be a chance finding, the researchers say.
    "On balance," Bonzini and his colleagues write, "the evidence currently available about the investigated birth outcomes does not make a compelling case for mandatory restrictions on shift-working in pregnancy."
    Still, they add, there's a need for further studies.
    "In the meantime," they write, "we suggest that, it would be prudent, insofar as job circumstances allow, to permit pregnant women who wish to do so, to reduce their exposure to shift and night working."
    In general, experts suggest that, for the sake of overall health, shift workers try to catch up on sleep when they can, and pay extra attention to their diet and exercise habits -- both of which can suffer when working irregular hours.
    SOURCE: bit.ly/mYG55j BJOG, online July 27, 2011.

8/18/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Study Leads Food Pantry to Shorten Hours - Northfield Township decides to end evening and weekend operations after doing cost evaluation, by Eleni Demertzis, Glenview Patch via Patch.com
    GLENVIEW, Northfield Township, Illin. - The Northfield Township Food Pantry will end its evening and weekend hours effective Aug. 31 after a study found that longer operations were an unnecessary expense.
    The township’s Human Resources Committee performed a study that determined patron traffic during the evenings did not warrant the cost of extended hours at the pantry, located at 3801 W. Lake Ave. in Glenview.

    “It was only after the six-week study that the board determined this was an unnecessary expense,” said Township Trustee Carol Blustein.
    “The number of clients using the pantry was in the single digits over this period,” she said. The number of volunteers during the same period was also low.
    Meanwhile, staff members came in late on Thursday morning rather than being paid for extra hours.
    “This left the office short staffed once a week—another unnecessary impact in light of the usage,” she said.
    The pantry will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday when the new hours take effect.
    As residents of Glenview, Northfield and Northbrook experience unemployment and underemployment due to the recent recession, the food pantry has seen an increase in demand, according to Blustein. Now, it serves an average 1,685 people each month.
    According to the organization’s annual report, $166,000 was distributed in grocery cards, 370 sets of school supplies were given to students and an average of 497 local families were provided with food and grocery cards each month last year.
    The operating expenses were $108,442 for the previous fiscal year.
    To volunteer or make a donation to the pantry, people can call 847-724-8300 or visit www.twp.northfield.il.us/Pantry.htm.

  2. Red Bluff City Council drops Parks and Rec Department, by Tang Lor, RedBluffDailyNews.com
    RED BLUFF, Calif. - The Parks and Recreation Department is being eliminated and replaced with a new department that ideally[?] would create less work for parks.
    The department reorganization, which the Red Bluff City Council approved Tuesday, is one of several recommendations from the Budget Committee in an effort to close the city's $300,000 general fund deficit.
    During its first review in June, a majority of the council rejected the proposal and asked the Budget Committee to meet again with staff for possible changes, but much of the recommendation remained the same when it was brought back Tuesday.
    In order to create a general fund savings of $50,000 to $60,000, the Budget Committee recommends the maintenance of parks and the Red Bluff Community and Senior Center be transferred to the Public Works Department, according to a committee report.
    The Parks and Recreation Department will be renamed the Recreation Department and director Debbie Carlisi will take on a new role at a lower salary.
    The only change in the proposal is that Carlisi's new role will not become effective until her employment agreement expires in order to prevent the city from having to give her severance pay. She will start her new role July 1, 2012.
    The Parks and Recreation Department administrative assistant's hours will be cut from full time to 28 hours a week.
    Those who oppose the proposal were concerned with the cuts involving the administrative assistant's position.
    Removing the assistant from the front desk for 12 hours is going to hurt the community center and parks and recreation programs, as there will not be a person there all the time to answer customer's questions, Debbie Morisch said.

    There's always someone in that office, and if there's not, it's like she's just now getting a break, Morisch said.
    If there is another budget proposal that keeps the administrative assistant at 40 hours, it should be considered, she said.
    Commissioners Tim Morehouse and Amanda Wigno, representing the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked the council to consider a proposal that Carlisi had shared with the Budget Committee, saying the commission favored Carlisi's proposal over the Budget Committee's.
    [So WHAT IS Carlisi's proposal, Tang??]
    Carlisi's proposal would achieve the savings without any staff cuts, the commissioners said. All positions need to stay at the levels at which they are now.
    The full council was not aware of Carlisi's proposal until the commissioners spoke of it Tuesday.
    But Budget Committee member Wayne Brown assured Councilman Rob Schmid and the rest of the council that the committee had seen the proposal and it was not what the committee wanted.
    Councilwoman Daniele Jackson, who isn't shy in showing her affinity for the Parks and Recreation Department, disapproved of the cuts, as she did in June.
    Her concern is that the administrative assistant's hours are being cut because theoretically the removal of parks would give her less to do, but in reality the assistant would still have to deal with parks issues, such as rentals.
    The reduction in hours means less face time with potential customers, which will result in fewer rentals.
    I'm confident this will cost us more money in the long run, Jackson said.
    Staff Writer Tang Lor can be reached at 527-2153, extension 110, or at tlor@redbluffdailynews.com

  3. CMC Lays Off More Than 100 Employees, WMUR Manchester via wmur.com
    MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Catholic Medical Center [CMC] in Manchester is laying off more than 100 employees and said changes in the state budget are responsible.
    CMC said 101 full-time positions will be eliminated, work hours would be reduced for some positions and employee benefits such as annual merit increases would be frozen.
    The hospital said the state budget that took effect on July 1 included a cut in Medicaid reimbursement that means CMC will have a $12 million tax due in October.
    "I am extremely saddened by the circumstances that have resulted in layoffs in health care," said CEO Alyson Pitman Giles. "At CMC, we took a lot of time assessing our options and reviewing our operations with the hope the new tax would not impact our mission or our people."
    The hospital said it will also change the focus of its ask-a-nurse service to offer only nonmedical advice and physician services. It will also have a limited schedule instead of operating 24 hours.
    CMC joins Elliot Health System and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in announcing layoffs because of the budget. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is offering early retirement to hundreds of employees, and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital is also considering layoffs.
    CMC is one of 10 hospitals that are suing the state over the budget.

  4. The Depression And Choice Corner Is NOW (Philly Fed), by Karl Denninger, istockAnalyst.com (press release) via beforeitsnews.com
    PHILADELPHIA. Pa. - "We're done folks. Responses to the Business Outlook Survey this month suggest that regional manufacturing activity has dipped significantly. The survey’s broad indicators for activity, shipments, and new orders all declined sharply from last month. Firms indicated that employment and average work hours are lower this month. Price indexes continued to show a trend of moderating price pressures. The broadest indicator of future activity also weakened markedly, but firms still expect overall growth in shipments, new orders, and employment over the next six months. The collection period for this month’s survey ran from August 8-16, overlapping a week of unusually high volatility in both domestic and international financial markets. The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009. This resulted in an immediate dive in the market, which was already down 300+, to more than -450. The fraud and phony games are over.
    The "Tea Party" claims to have taken the high ground. They're lying. All I hear is Bachmann and others wrapping themselves in the "cause of the day" but failing to stop it, and the idea that somehow "Guns, Gays and God" will carry the day or that we should have "Dominionism" in the Federal Government is an outrage. That's utter and complete bull****; having "dominion" over a smoking crater will be cold comfort in January of 2013. Where the hell were these people in 2008? Where were they in 2009? Where was the attempt to stop Bush, Paulson or Kanjorski? Oh I know, they [Bachmann and others] were all elected in 2010. Ok, it's 2011 now and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt in that you can't do anything until you get into office (despite, I note, your utter refusal to run on these issues in 2010 - I did call you all out on that) so let's start there.
    Has anyone heard any demands to lock up the fraudsters stealing homes with fraudulent documents? To break up the "too big to fail" banks and toss their executives in prison where they belong? To put a stop to the fraudulent issuance of credit economy-wide? To take Bernanke out behind the woodshed and stuff a sock in his mouth via adding an "or else" to The Federal Reserve Act so that he cannot debase the currency, and he and his cohorts will all be imprisoned (or hang on The Mall, which seems more appropriate to me) if they do? To enforce a zero-inflation mandate? To end ZIRP and distortions in the bond market? To balance the budget right damn now, and quit playing Ponzi with the Federal Budget, Medicare, Medicaid, Student Loans and more? To tell the truth to our Seniors and everyone else - you will NOT GET what you were promised, because YOU CAN'T - the money does not exist!
    [Sure it exists, but too many others, like "disabled" kids with asthma, have piled on.]
    No. You have not heard any of this. Not one damn word. Oh sure, there are the token claims, such as those from Southerland and Bachmann. That's very nice, but it's both insufficient and immaterial. Without legislation and regulation, which means punishment for those who have screwed the American public serially for 30 years none of this will change and you will keep getting bent over the table and serially violated.
    Unfortunately for Congress it's too damn late now. In 2007 I faxed a letter to all 535 members of Congress. I urged them to set aside a couple hundred billion dollars - cash, not bogus credit - to provide "three hots and a cot" [three hot meals and a bed] for up to 25% of the population for a period of at least one year. NOT subsidy via unemployment, food stamps or any such thing. A soup line, a bunch of cots in formerly-closed military base hangers and barracks, and a place to take a shower and a crap.
    [How about just a good job, Karl?]
    One quarter - or less - than what we would spend now on the same thing. This would have allowed the housing market to collapse and subsequently clear, the banks would have [been] blown to bits, but from the rubble entrepreneurs would have started new banks, houses would have been resold into the market to new owners and the economy would have cleared the bad debt on its own through bankruptcy and liquidation, which is the essential purpose of recession.
    I was not only ignored I was called a lunatic and crazy, that things couldn't get that bad. Then 2008 happened and some eyes opened - a bit, because it sure looked like it might get that bad. The response? More fraud. By 2009 the callers of "fool", "lunatic", "haha" and "clown" began again. Well, how's it look now folks? Gee, almost back to the depths-of-hell 2009 lows, eh? So what's this crap about "no recession"? Oh wait - there is no recession: This is a continuing Depression that our government, conspiring with the banksters and media, have intentionally and fraudulently covered up and it is no longer working.
    Did you get back into the market, America? More to the point if you did get back in: Did you get out in time this time around or were you listening to "Tout TV" again? Gee, all bad numbers in that table on the current situation. New orders collapsed by twenty-six points, shipments collapsed by almost ten points, and both employee count and workweek collapsed by nearly 14 and 9 points, respectively. Worse, on a forward basis inventories, delivery times, unfilled orders and the employee workweek collapsed on a six-month forward look, with employment numbers remaining only mildly positive. This means that personal income is going to collapse as well and with it tax receipts, exactly as I have forecast. The government's revenue forecasts, to be blunt, are screwed.
    To our government: Either get your arms around this now and consolidate, meaning massive cuts in spending and a fundamental reorganization of tax and trade policy (and no, not more "free trade" either), or we will go "overcenter" on that nasty little debt table I've been talking about - at which point there will be nothing you can do about it.

8/17/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Time Off for Work Exercise Linked to Increased Productivity: Study, Occupational Health & Safety via ohsonline.com
    The results suggest that reducing work hours for exercise or other health promotion doesn’t necessarily lead to decreased productivity—and may even lead to increased productivity.
    STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Taking time out of the work week for an employee exercise program may lead to increased productivity—despite the reduction in work hours, reports a study in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
    In the study, one group of employees at a large Swedish public dental health organization was assigned to a mandatory exercise program carried out during regular work hours: 2.5 hours per week. Another group received the same reduction in work hours, but no exercise program. (A third group worked regular hours with no exercise program.)
    Employees assigned to the exercise program also had significant increases in self-rated measures of productivity: they felt more productive while on the job and had a reduced rate of work absences due to illness.
    The results suggest that reducing work hours for exercise or other health promotion doesn’t necessarily lead to decreased productivity—and may even lead to increased productivity. The productivity gains seem to result from higher output during work hours and fewer missed work day. “Work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources,” said study authors Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, Ph.D., and Henna Hasson, Ph.D., of Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

  2. Bellevue to return to 5-day work week, by Tony Evans tevans@mtexpress.com, Idaho Mountain Express & Guide via mtexpress.com
    BELLEVUE, Ida. - The Bellevue City Council voted on Thursday, Aug. 11, to restore city staff members' work schedules to 40 hours per week, and to open Bellevue City Hall five days per week beginning in October.
    Bellevue City Hall will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bellevue staff hours were cut from 40 hours to 32 hours per week two years ago due to financial constraints, and City Hall hours were reduced to four days per week.
    Staff hours have been increased over the past year to 38 hours per week, but City Hall has remained closed on Mondays.
    "Because of the savings we have made in the budget, we are able to do this," said Councilman Larry Plott in an interview.

    Last February, the council cut a 19-hour per week city administrator position from the city budget. The council recently made plans to contract with the city of Hailey for law enforcement services, a move that is expected to save the city almost $70,000.
    "All of the decisions within the budget are tough decisions when you are working with a small income," said Mayor Chris Koch. "You have to weigh the pros and cons."
    Koch said the city was not able to contribute as much as it wanted to Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and the Sustain Blaine business organization, but increased its annual payment to the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. All three organizations supply services that benefit Bellevue residents.
    "Staff and the council have worked tremendously hard to stay within their budgets," he said.
    - In other Bellevue news, Bellevue Public Works Director George Tanner reported that the street department had completed repairing selected potholes. However, he agreed for the department to repair several additional potholes at the request of city council members.

8/16/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. For Now, Germany Flies Above Economic Storm, NYT, A4 Boston edition, A1 NT edition.
    BERLIN, Germany — There is no one whose thoughts European officials would rather read than Chancellor Angela Merkel, who meets Tuesday at the Élysée Palace with France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as they struggle to find a lasting solution to the European debt crisis.
    The most common critique of Mrs. Merkel is that she lacks the necessary sense of urgency to restore confidence in the euro and calm the crisis. But a stroll through summertime Berlin makes clear why she remains so cool-headed. While the latest official figures on Tuesday showed German economic growth almost stalling in the second quarter, slowing growth across the euro zone, the streets are quiet and the cafes are full. Deeply tanned residents are returning to their jobs after vacations in fiscally compromised nations, like Greece and Portugal.
    Germany may be the only European nation that is large enough and rich enough to cover the debts of its struggling neighbors, but its citizens are reluctant to be the source of the bailout. Germany is in many ways in the eye of the storm, with barely a hint of the winds swirling nearby. There is no tear gas, as in Athens; no tires burning, as in London; no chanting crowds packing public squares, as in Spain. While much of the rest of Europe is struggling to pass harsh austerity packages, Germany is in the midst of a debate over cutting taxes by as much as $14.2 billion.
    “It’s as if there’s this black cloud floating overhead but nothing has fallen on us,” said Markus Ponick, 38, a teacher in Berlin, who on Monday was strolling down a tree-lined stretch of Bleibtreustrasse with a cup of coffee in his hand. The government had made cuts, Mr. Ponick said, but they had been “cleverly chosen” to spare the public pain. “The effects of this crisis are imperceptible here,” he said.
    The only major protests to strike Germany have been over tearing down an old train station in Stuttgart or calling for the end of nuclear power. Animal rights and affordable Internet, rather than jobs and spending cuts, are more likely to cause people to take to the streets right now, and even then not in terribly great numbers.
    The simplest explanation is jobs.
    By one government measure, 706,000 more Germans were employed in May of this year than the year before, of which 415,000 were full-time positions and 289,000 part time. In terms of relative size, that would be roughly comparable in the United States to nearly 2.7 million more people with jobs in 2011 versus 2010.
    With strong unions and legal protections for workers, Germany’s labor market for years was compared unfavorably with the more flexible American one. Even after embarking on painful reforms, it suffered from high structural unemployment. In July, German unemployment was 7 percent, compared with 9.1 percent in the United States.
    As Germany’s population shrinks, some economists and policy makers are more concerned about a shortage of qualified workers than joblessness.
    As for the young, the unemployment rate is the third lowest in Europe, behind only the Netherlands and Austria. Only 9.1 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed here, less than half the 20.5 percent average in Europe.
    “I wouldn’t protest because I’m very content with my situation,” said Kristina Kuhn, 21, a student out shopping on the upscale Kurfürstendamm boulevard on Monday afternoon. “Young people can study, find jobs on the side and have opportunities for careers.”
    A recent report in the daily newspaper Bild said that government experts expect the job boom to continue for another four years. In a survey of 1,800 Germans prepared for the business magazine WirtschaftsWoche by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, a majority spoke of an era of increased insecurity, but a full 53 percent said they were optimistic about the next 12 months. Only 12 percent were pessimistic.
    “They hear it on the news but for most Germans what they experience in their lives is completely different. The crisis is virtual,” said Renate Köcher, the institute’s director. “What’s decisive for most people is their own situation and for many people that has improved noticeably in the past three or four years.”
    Still, for a country reliant on exports for growth, the possible slowdown in the global economy could have drastic and fairly sudden repercussions. No one can predict how the inward-looking Germans would react if things get worse here, as would happen if there were less of a market for their exports, but if the past is any guide, Ms. Köcher said, they are likely to be even stingier toward their neighbors and even less inclined toward the European Union in general.
    In France, the second-largest economy in the European Union after Germany and that country’s largest trading partner, consumer spending fell 0.7 percent in the second quarter, and growth was flat. Industrial production for the entire 17-nation euro area fell 0.7 percent in June.
    “Germany is very dependent on its export markets and very dependent on world growth,” said Stefan Bach, an economic researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin. “But for now the job market continues to develop strongly in contrast to many other European countries.”
    It was not clear how long that assessment would hold. According to Germany’s state statistical agency on Tuesday, the economy expanded by only 0.1 percent in the second quarter, compared with the first quarter — an unsettling omen for the broader European economy that left the continent’s stock markets edgy. The slowdown was caused by weak consumer spending and lagging investment in construction projects, the agency said.
    In some ways Germany has already been down the bumpy road toward economic restructuring its European partners now find themselves on. Its competitiveness came at a cost. Under the government of Gerhard Schröder, Mrs. Merkel’s predecessor, large-scale protests broke out in response to difficult labor-market reforms, including making it easier to fire workers. German workers suffered through offshoring and layoffs, and even many who kept their jobs saw years of stagnant wages. But now, from the looks of things, the pain has paid off.
    Germany’s strength is not an anomaly but rather evidence of how the euro plays to its advantage. Now that less efficient economies like Greece and Portugal are locked into using the same currency, and cannot devalue to make their products more competitive in terms of price, Germany can keep selling to them.
    As a result, Mrs. Merkel is under increasing pressure from abroad to buoy the weaker states, facing accusations that she is risking the financial stability of the bloc and with it the world by endorsing only half-measures. At home, she faces sharp criticism for inching closer to what critics here call a transfer union, sending German funds to wastrel neighbors.
    The struggles and sorrows of their fellow Europeans are all over the nightly news. Yet so far, German trust in the euro appears steady. A survey of 2,366 people conducted by the Enmid polling institute in early August and published in Sunday’s Bild found that 65 percent of Germans expect the euro to still be there in 2021, versus 31 percent who do not.
    Ms. Köcher from the Allensbach Institute said that one result from the survey had truly surprised her. Of those questioned, 52 percent said they felt empathy for the protesters in Greece, while 39 percent said they did not.
    “You always hear in the media and even in private discussions that Germans have no sympathy for the Greeks,” Ms. Köcher said. “But people remember the difficult transition they went through in the last decade, and they know it isn’t easy.”

  2. Didn't Anyone Tell the NYT About Work Sharing in Germany? by Dean Baker, BusinessInsider.com
    [Actually, the NY Times told itself on 3/26/2009 #1.]
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The NYT has a front page piece [NYC edition, A4 in Boston edition, copy immediately above] touting the health of the Germany economy. While the piece notes employment protections in Germany that make it difficult for employers to lay off workers, it doesn't explicit mention the country's shortwork program. This program (noted today by columnist Joe Nocera [we caught it yesterday, see 8/14-15 #2 below) encourages companies to reduce work hours rather than lay off workers. Largely as a result of German policies promoting short work (which go beyond the official program), the unemployment rate in Germany is now a full percentage point lower than it was at the start of the downturn.
    Germany's extraordinary record on unemployment is almost entirely due to its labor market policy. Its record on growth since the start of the downturn is not especially impressive.
    This article also should have used the OECD harmonized unemployment rates, which are calculated in a way similar to the U.S. measure, rather than the German government measures. While the German government measure shows an overall unemployment at 7.0 percent, the OECD measure shows German unemployment at 6.1 percent in June. Since almost no readers will be familiar with the distinction between the German government's methodology and the U.S. methodology with which they are familiar (Germany counts some part-time workers as unemployed) there is no reason not to use the OECD measure.

  3. U.S. workers are the victims of a speedup, by Monika Bauerlein & Clara Jeffery, Los Angeles Times via Kansas City Star via KansasCity.com
    LOS ANGELES, Calif. - [Is your] mind racing at 4 a.m.? Guiltily realizing you've been only half-listening to your child for the past hour? Checking work email at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed? Dreading once-pleasant diversions, like dinner with friends, as just one more thing on your to-do list?
    Guess what: It's not you. It's the speedup. To keep profits climbing in tough times, corporations have laid off staff and piled more and more work onto the remaining employees.
    Webster's defines speedup as "an employer's demand for accelerated output without increased pay," and it used to be a household word. Bosses would speed up the line to fill a big order, goose profits or punish a restive workforce. Workers recognized it, unions (remember those?) fought it - and, if necessary, walked out over it.
    Now the word we use is "productivity," and pundits across the political spectrum revel in the fact that year after year, American companies are wringing more value out of their employees than they did the year before. Just counting work that's on the books (never mind those 11 p.m. emails), we now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans. Worldwide, almost everyone except Americans has, at least on paper, a right to at least one day a week off, paid vacation time and paid maternity leave.
    Sure, but we all have to do more with less - employers struggling to survive the downturn are just tightening their belts, right?
    That's true for some. But in the big picture, the data show a more insidious pattern. After a sharp dip in 2008 and '09, U.S. economic output quickly recovered to near pre-recession levels. The United States did better than most of its fellow G-7 economies. But U.S. workers didn't see the benefit: During the recession far more people here lost their jobs than anywhere else, and far fewer were hired back once the recovery began. And who knows what will happen now that the economy has made another downward turn?
    Yes, some positions always get "rationalized" away, thanks to technological or organizational improvements - and, of course, offshoring remains a major factor. But increasingly, U.S. workers are also falling prey to what we'll call offloading: cutting jobs and dumping the work onto the remaining staff. Consider a recent Wall Street Journal story about "superjobs," a nifty euphemism for employees doing more than one job's worth of work - more than half of all workers surveyed said their jobs had expanded, usually without a raise or bonus. All that extra work helped fuel nearly a sixfold increase in U.S. productivity from 2008 to 2010.
    Workforce down, output up: No wonder corporate profits are up 22 percent since 2007, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute. To repeat: Up. Twenty-two. Percent.
    To understand how we got here, first consider the Ben Franklin-Horatio Alger-Henry Ford ur-myth: To balk at working hard - really, really hard - brands you as profoundly un-American. All well and good. But today, the driver is no longer American industriousness. It's something much more predatory. As Rutgers political scientist Carl Van Horn told the Associated Press recently: "The employee has no leverage. If your boss says, 'I want you to come in the next two Saturdays,' what are you going to say - no?"
    Which brings us to another shared delusion: multitasking. It seems the obvious fix - I'll just answer this email while I help with your homework. But research shows most of us cannot actually multitask. And not only that: If you attempt to multitask constantly, your mental circuitry erodes and your brain loses its ability to focus.
    Think you're the exception? Nope, warns Stanford sociologist Clifford Nass. "You're really lousy at it. No one talks about it - I don't know why - but in fact there's no contradictory evidence to this for about the last 15, 20 years."
    Actually, it's not hard to guess why no one talks about it: We need to believe there's a personal workaround for what we're conditioned to see as a personal shortcoming. When, in fact, the problem is the absurd premise that our economy can produce ever more with ever less.
    How have we been so brainwashed? For a lucky few, money and perks help sugarcoat the daily frenzy. But for most Americans, it's just fear - of being passed over at best, downsized at worst. Even among college grads, unemployment is twice what it was in 2007. McDonald's recently announced that it had gotten more than 1 million applicants for 62,000 new positions. Enough said.
    Not that there aren't winners in the speedup economy. Although incomes for 90 percent of U.S. workers have stagnated or fallen for the last three decades, the wealthiest 0.1 percent are making 6.4 times as much as they did in 1980. And that 22 percent increase in profits? Most of it accrued to a single industry: finance.
    In other words, all that extra work you've taken on - the late nights, the skipped lunch hours, the missed soccer games - paid off. For them.
    This will keep up as long as we buy into three fallacies: One, that to feel crushed by debilitating workloads is a personal failing. Two, that it's just your company or industry struggling - when in fact what's happening to hotel maids and salesclerks is also happening to project managers, engineers and doctors (visit our website to read their tales). Three, that there's nothing anyone can do about it.
    We got to this point because of decades of political decisions. We've turned over the financing of elections to wealthy interests; we've made it harder for unions to organize; we've deregulated Wall Street and then completely wimped out on reregulating it after the financiers nearly destroyed the global economy.
    But there is another way. European companies face the same pressures that ours do - yet in Germany's vigorous economy, for example, six weeks of vacation are de rigueur, weekend work is a last resort, and companies' response to a downturn is not to fire everyone, but to institute Kurzarbeit - temporarily reducing employees' hours and restoring them when things start looking up. Sure, they lag ever so slightly behind us in productivity [ed: by whose slanted measures?]. But ask yourself: Whom does our No. 1 spot benefit?
    Exactly. So maybe it's time to come out of the speedup closet. Rant to a friend, neighbor, co-worker. Hear them say, "Me too." That might sound a little cheesy. But if you're in an abusive relationship - which 90 percent-plus of the U.S. currently is - the first step toward recovery is to admit you have a problem.
    ABOUT THE WRITERS - Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are co-editors of Mother Jones. Their extended essay about the speedup, along with charts and first-person tales, can be found at Motherjones.com.

8/14-15/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Germany Uses Work Sharing, by Dean Baker, 8/14 BusinessInsider.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Roger Cohen has an interesting column touting the performance of Germany compared to the United States in the years since the onset of the crisis. He concludes by suggesting that Germany can save the United States with its ideas as to how to manage an economy and society.
    While Cohen mentions several important differences between the United States and Germany, remarkably he did not mention Germany's work sharing system. Even though growth in Germany and the United States has been comparable since the beginning of the downturn, Germany has actually seen a decline in its unemployment rate of more than half a percentage point from the pre-recession level.
    This is due to the fact that Germany encourages firms to reduce work hours rather than lay people off.
    In a standard arrangement, workers may put in 20 percent fewer hours and end up taking home 4 percent less pay. Most of the difference comes from a government unemployment benefit that is converted to a subsidy for short-time work. The company is also expected to make up some of the pay. This system is very popular across the political spectrum in Germany. It has been embraced by the conservative government although it was originally put forward by a Social Democratic minister in the previous unity government.

  2. What Is Business Waiting For? - Our current government isn't going to create jobs op ed by Joe Nocera, 8/15 New York Times via NYtimes.com; 8/16 NYT hard copy; A19 Boston edition, A21 NYC.
    [And neither is the opposition.]
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - When the German economy turned south after the 2008 financial crisis, the pain was mitigated by a program known as “Kurzarbeit.”
    The word means short work. Instead of laying off workers, German companies cut back their hours. The government then used money set aside during good times to pay the workers around 60 percent of their lost wages
    . The labor unions went along because they believed it was better to keep people employed even at reduced pay. This is the German social compact.
    As we suffer through our own economic hard times, the German approach is something we can only envy. Here, companies quickly lay off workers, many of whom never find their way back into the full-time labor force. Corporations shy away from investing for the future, even though investment is what will turn the economy around. The government, for its part, invariably starts talking about “job creation,” but rarely does anything that makes a difference.
    This downturn is no exception. What are the latest unemployment figures? Some 25 million people — more than 16 percent of the work force — are looking for full-time work. Companies are hoarding cash while reporting record profits.
    As for the government, President Obama’s idea of job creation is extending unemployment insurance, on the one hand, and painting grandiose pictures of far-off “green jobs,” on the other. He is bereft of ideas for creating jobs in the here and now. Meanwhile, the Republicans insist — despite mounds of evidence to the contrary — that more tax cuts would create jobs. By now, most Americans have lost hope that our current government will come up with a viable jobs program. It won’t.
    I am coming more and more to think that with the government essentially paralyzed for the foreseeable future, the only way we’re going to get jobs is by turning to actual job creators: business itself. With all their cash, companies shouldn’t be waiting for Congress to give them tax incentives to hire people. They should be trying to jump-start the economy — and fend off another recession — by making investments, and hiring workers, that will lead to renewed prosperity.
    The only way that’s going to happen, however, is if our society implicitly makes the kind of compact that German society makes explicitly: We have to be willing to allow companies to sacrifice short-term profits for the long-term good of the country. As the leadership expert Michael Useem wrote recently on The Washington Post’s Web site, business needs to make “people a priority, not just earnings.”
    What makes that hard for executives is that they’ve spent the last 30 years having it beaten into them that the only thing that matters is delivering “shareholder value.” Over time, this phrase has become code for focusing on short-term profits — and chief executives who have ignored this mantra have often found themselves kicked to the street by impatient investors like Carl Icahn.
    But as Useem points out, it hasn’t always been this way — and doesn’t have to be in the future. “What might seem an idée fixe of the American way is really a moment’s artifice,” he writes, “a prescription that served a past era but less well the current one.”
    Indeed, it turns out that the focus on short-term profits is nowhere enshrined in the law. On the contrary: Delaware law, where many big companies are incorporated, gives directors enormous leeway to ignore short-term gain if they believe that doing so would ultimately benefit the corporation.
    Does it ultimately benefit American business if the country gets back on its feet again? It seems to me that you can make a pretty strong case for that. If enough companies started hiring — while wrapping their actions in the mantle of patriotism — even Carl Icahn might have trouble complaining about it.
    There is, of course, another reason corporate executives might be reluctant to sacrifice short-term profits by putting people to work. What if their competitors didn’t go along? Then they would find themselves at a disadvantage. Useem would tackle that by having a credible group like the Business Roundtable leading the charge, rounding up companies that would agree to start hiring.
    But Marc Groz, a financial risk expert I’ve gotten to know, has what I think is a more intriguing approach, which he calls a “contingent commitment facility.” “Everyone is waiting for someone else to go first,” he told me the other day. Using his facility, a company would agree to hire X number of new workers. But the commitment would only become binding if certain conditions were met — such as having other companies in the same industry agree to do likewise. Once that happened, all the companies would have to do what they’d promised.
    Groz’s idea is new and fresh and untested. It could fail. In other words, it is exactly the kind of out-of-the-box “job creation” idea that our stymied government no longer has the ability to come up with. The ball’s in business’s court now.
    A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 16, 2011, on page A19 of the Boston edition...

8/13/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. License office to cut hours - Roan proposes reduction to keep open satellite tag office in Lacey’s Spring, by Ronnie Thomas, The Decatur Daily (subscription) via decaturdaily.com
    LACEY'S SPRING, Alab. - In an effort to keep open a satellite tag office in Lacey’s Spring, Morgan County License Commissioner Sue Baker Roan proposes to cut work hours of her 20 employees.
    Roan said Friday she plans to limit the weekly hours of the three employees at the District 4 shop in Lacey’s Spring to 36 hours. All other employees, including four at the satellite office in Hartselle and 13 at the courthouse, will see their weekly hours drop from 40 to 37.5.
    Commission Chairman Ray Long and the commissioners are requiring all departments to make a 10-percent cut in hopes of eliminating a $2 million general fund deficit.
    Roan’s proposal, delivered to commission accountant Carol Long before noon Friday, helps slice her budget from $1,015,938 to $857,712, a reduction of $158,226, more than 10 percent. Roan said the difference is because of adjustments on employees’ health insurance.
    Ray Long said the commission could review the budget at its next regular meeting Aug. 23.
    “We’ll probably meet on it again a couple more times and let everybody have a chance to review all the numbers,” he said. “We plan to pass (the budget) at our Sept. 13 meeting.”
    The new commission budget is effective Oct. 1. Long said he likes the way Roan is approaching her budget dilemma.
    “I spoke to her Friday, and I think she has come up with some creative ways to keep from laying off employees,” he said.
    “That has been our main goal, to keep people working. The whole (budget) process has been hard this year because of the economy and the lack of funds.”
    Roan said she never actually intended to close the Lacey’s Spring office.
    “I know how bad those folks need it out there, and I’m trying to serve the people the best I can,” she said.
    Sonya Patterson, an advanced data clerk at the courthouse and a 20-year employee, said she is comfortable with the pay reduction.
    “Sometimes we have to do what we have to do,” she said. “I’d rather see that happen than for someone to lose their job. Jobs are vital.”
    Clerk Lauri Boardman said she believes the reduced hours will be good in more ways than one.
    “Sacrificing a few hours isn’t too much to ask to save somebody’s job,” she said.
    “And I think the schedule will be better for parents who have school children. They will be able to spend a little more time with them in the mornings and get them to school.” 
    Operating hours
    If the commission approves the budget, the license office at the courthouse will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., five days per week.
    The office now opens at 8 a.m.
    New hours for the Lacey’s Spring office will be from 6:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., four days a week. The office is now open from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., four days a week.
    Rather than open at 8 a.m., the Hartselle office, which is open five days a week, will open 30 minutes later.
    No one was available for comment at the Lacey’s Spring office. Workers in Hartselle’s office refused comment.

  2. 5 IE state parks to cut hours due to budget, KABC-TV/DT via abc7.com via abclocal.go.com/kabc
    INLAND EMPIRE, Calif. -- Five state parks in the Inland Empire will be closed two days a week in the off season because of budget cuts.
    Starting in October, Lake Perris will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Day-use hours are also being trimmed.
    Silverwood Lake will be shut down Wednesdays and Thursdays.
    The parks return to full schedule next May.
    Also facing partial closures are California Citrus State Park, Chino Hills State Park and Mount San Jacinto State Park.

8/12/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. A Viable Jobs Policy - Work Sharing is the Answer, by Dean Baker, The American Prospect via CounterPunch.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The stock market's recent plunge has caused normally sane people to panic about the economy's prospects. It is important to recognize that the stock market has little direct impact on the economy. Few firms raise capital for investment by selling stock. The stock market primarily affects the economy through its impact on consumption. Most estimates of the stock-wealth effect put it in the neighborhood of 3 percent to 4 percent, which means that an additional dollar of stock wealth will add 3 cents to 4 cents to annual consumption.
    This implies that the roughly $2 trillion in value that the market has lost in recent weeks can be expected to shave between $60 billion and $80 billion off annual consumption, or between 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. This drop in consumption is not helpful to the economy right now, but it is not devastating. Also, it will take a couple of years for the full effect of the lost stock wealth on consumption to be felt.
    In short, people should not panic about the economy because of the plunge in the stock market. (The impact on your 401(k) is another matter.) However, this hardly means that everything is smooth sailing. Even before the market turmoil took over the news, the economy was largely dead in the water, expanding at a pace too slow to even keep up with the growth rate of the labor force, much less to make up for the 10 million jobs lost due to the downturn.
    The best way to create jobs would be to boost demand with another round of stimulus. Any serious stimulus, though, seems to be off the table at this point. If it is not possible to increase demand enough to bring the economy back to full employment, we can go the opposite route of sharing the work that does exist.
    The basic point is simple. If we encourage employers to deal with reduced demand by shortening work hours rather than laying people off, we can get back to full employment relatively quickly. Every month, firms lay off or fire roughly 2 million people. If this figure can be reduced by 10 percent through work sharing, it would be equivalent to creating 200,000 additional jobs a month.
    A work-sharing policy uses the money that would otherwise go to unemployment benefits to compensate workers for part of their reduction in hours. For example, if workers have a 20 percent reduction in hours, under a work-sharing program, they might end up with an 8 percent to 10 percent reduction in take-home pay with the government making up the difference. Germany has used this policy with great success. Its unemployment rate has actually declined since the start of the downturn even though its growth has been only slightly better than ours.
    Work sharing should not be an impossible leap politically. Twenty states already use work sharing as part of their unemployment-insurance system. However, the take-up rate is low because the programs are not well publicized and are overly bureaucratic. A bit of modernization and a relatively small amount of additional funding may go a long way.
    This is something that could conceivably garner Republican support. Kevin Hassett, one of the top Republican economists, advocates work sharing. The German program is being pushed by a conservative government; although its origins were with a Social Democratic minister in the prior coalition government. German employers like the program because it means that they can keep skilled workers on the payroll. When demand does eventually pick up, they will only have to increase hours rather than find new workers.
    From a progressive standpoint, work sharing can be an important step toward a more family-friendly work place. It may also lead to more environmentally friendly consumption patterns as people have more leisure and less income.
    In short, there are lots of reasons to like work sharing. And when it comes to politically viable policies to create jobs, not much else is in the cupboard right now.
    Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy" and "False Profits: Recovering From the Bubble Economy."

  2. Loyalty. Is it dead in working America? - Look for a company that inspires loyalty, by Marie Stempinski, St. Petersburg Times via TheRepublic.com
    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Ray B. Williams, in his blog Wired for Success at psychologytoday.com, recently wrote, "Organizations are at a crossroads in their challenge to develop committed workers but not enough executives are taking notice. Or if they do, they may not be addressing the most serious root causes. And part of this problem is the concept of loyalty."
    ABC News re-emphasized that fact when it recently reported that 36 percent of employees say they would walk out the door if something better came along.
    It's no secret that the recession has beamed the spotlight on employer pressures, demands and employee dissatisfaction. In fact, many say that corporations have found out that they can make more money with fewer employees. So they are hiring less. And research shows that the relationship between employers and current employees is often strained. Many cry that loyalty on both sides seems to be a thing of the past. But all is not lost.
    Loyalty can still be an important part of business culture. Money.CNN recently quoted a Fortune 100 list of the best businesses to work for. They included Publix Supermarkets, Cisco, Alcon Laboratories (eye care), General Mills, Mayo Clinic, S.C. Johnson and Intel. All of them had less than 5 percent turnover -- a sure sign of employee loyalty.
    Further investigation shows that there are plenty of reasons for this employee faithfulness. All the companies had excellent health and benefit packages and paid well in comparison to the competition in their market. Most also provided excellent amenities like training, child care, vacation time, flex time, teleconferencing and employee involvement in profit sharing.
    So, people looking for a job should add loyalty to their list as they interview prospective companies. Ask yourself this question: "What would keep me loyal to the company I work for?" Here are some things to think about as you shop employers:
    -- Look for businesses that know how to retain, attract and motivate employees so that there's a very low turnover rate.
    -- Look for employers who believe in motivating and training their staff and promoting from within.
    -- Look for employers with a history of standing by employees in hard times. For example, firms that, despite financial downturns, did not lay off workers but instead may have cut hours or days while still keeping their people employed until business rebounded.
    -- Look for companies that strongly abide by state and federal laws such as wage and hour, Family and Medical Leave and Americans With Disabilities acts, and that have good safety, health and benefit packages.
    Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She can be reached at sstratcomm(at)cs.com.
    [But loyalty's not dead outside USA -]

  3. Kajola Kristada Denies Layoff Rumors, by L.K. Hewlett, The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer via thestkittsnevisobserver.com
    BASSETERRE, St.Kitts, BWI - Some employees at local manufacturing company Kajola Kristada Ltd remain anxious despite management's dismissal of layoff rumors.
    The Observer contacted Kajola Kristada on Thursday (August 11) and spoke to the Human Resources Manager. That individual vehemently denied that some 30 employees would be sent home at the end of the month.
    "That is just rumor. That did not come from us; it's just a rumor," was all the manager would say.
    The Observer also spoke with Labour Commissioner Spencer Amory on Thursday who said while he could not give details about the matter, he was not aware that the company would be laying off staff.
    "As far as I understand Kajola Kristada is seeing how best it can maneuver in order that the company would not have to go that route of letting people go. I am not aware that there is any plan to lay off staff and the company would have to inform the Labour Department before taking such action," he said. He declined further comment on the issue.
    When questioned, a few employees told this media house they knew nothing of possible layoffs. Others admitted to hearing the rumor and informed that top management met Thursday morning and they feared an announcement to this end was imminent. At the end of the work day Thursday, all appeared calm at the company, The Observer was reliably informed.
    One employee said after working for only 3 days out of a 5-day work week almost a month ago, staff had worked full hours up until the present time. The person told The Observer that there were times when "work was slow" but the General Manager Jose Rosa preferred to cut hours than to send people home.
    "They told us about two months ago that things were slow and we could possibly work reduced hours some weeks, so we knew about it. We work according to the orders the company has to fill; sometimes we have so much work we get over time and other times we work 3 days or 4 days per week. That's nothing to new to us. Our boss is a fair man; he tells us as it is so we can prepare ourselves. He'd rather reduce hours that to send people home," the employee said.
    The individual said although financial challenges is forcing companies to cut back on expenditure, the General Manager was still planning the company's annual family beach-nick [=picnic on beach]. The person said layoffs would mean the company had no other alternative.
    "If people do get laid off it's because nothing better could be done because that's not how Mr. Rosa operates. For him terminating people is a last resort," the person said.
    Kajola Kristada, located at the CAP Southwell Industrial Park, manufactures electronic components for televisions and employees a staff of more than 150 persons.

  4. Making the Most of Recession's Lost Work Time, by Erik Hurst, Bloomberg.coom
    CHICAGO, Illin. - The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the time American workers spent at their paying jobs decreased by more than 8 percent between 2007 and 2010.
    This sharp decline in aggregate market work hours occurred for two reasons: The unemployment rate increased dramatically during this period, and the downturn reduced the average hours worked per week for those who were employed. It isn't surprising that the time people spend working in the labor market falls during recessions. But a close look at what individuals do with the lost work hours yields important insights into how they adjust to the hardships of a weak economy.
    Recent news articles suggest that the foregone work hours during this recession were being fretted away, as people increased the time they spent watching television and sleeping by the exact amount that their market work hours fell. In the study I co-wrote with Mark Aguiar and Loukas Karabarbounis, "Time Use During Recessions," we show that such claims simply aren't true. To figure out how individuals spent their time away from market work during the past recession, we needed to first determine what would have been the allocation of time across different activities had the economy not gone into decline.
    Creating such a counterfactual is important given that during the decade before the recession, individuals had been steadily changing the way they used their time. For example, from 2003 to 2007, people within the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 65 increased their television-watching time by about 0.7 hours per week. Between 2007 and 2010, individuals in that age range spent an additional hour per week watching television. The important question is this: How much of the 2007-2010 uptick in television-watching was due solely to the recession and how much of that would have occurred anyway, given that TV time had been trending up steadily during the prior period?
    In our paper, we used business-cycle variation across U.S. states to better control for potential pre-recession trends in time use. We document that the trends in time use across different categories of activity (like television watching) were roughly similar across the U.S. before the recession. We then gauged the effects of the downturn by comparing the change in time spent on different activities within states that experienced big declines in market work between 2007 and 2010 (such as Nevada or California) with the change in the time spent on those activities within states that experienced smaller declines in market work (such as New York and Texas).
    To perform this analysis, we relied on the detailed time-use data provided by the American Time Use Survey, which is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get a more complete picture of how individuals are allocating their time. These surveys sample a large cross-section of Americans and ask them to complete detailed time diaries about how they used their time the previous day. 
    Our first major finding was that about 35 percent of the foregone market work hours during the recession were reallocated to housework (about 30 percent) and child care (about 5 percent). Housework includes the time individuals spend on activities such as cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing laundry, shopping for groceries and fixing their cars. According to the BLS, about 260 million hours per week of market work was lost between January 2007 and December 2010. Our findings suggested that during that time period, total time spent in housework and child care increased by about 92 million hours per week.
    From an economic perspective, why is the reallocation of time toward housework and child care important? There is strong evidence that by engaging in such home production, people can reduce their family expenditures and save money. Instead of going out to restaurants, for example, they can prepare meals at home. Similar stories can be told about laundry and house-cleaning services and car repair. Increased shopping intensity can also yield better bargains for the household.
    How do households spend the remainder of their foregone market work hours during recessions? About 13 percent of that time is reallocated to individual investments in education (8 percent), civic and religious activities (2 percent) and health care (3 percent). Surprisingly, very little of the foregone work hours go to job searches (about 1 percent). The bulk of the remaining time (about 50 percent) is devoted to “leisure” activities. These include socializing with family and friends, exercising, engaging in hobbies, and, of course, television-watching and sleeping. Our results conclude that television watching and sleeping absorb roughly 30 percent of the foregone market work hours during the recession. This isn't a trivial amount, but it belies claims that all the lost market work hours during this recession were reallocated to these activities.
    Overall, our findings suggest that some of the work time lost to recessions is allocated to productive activities. The ability of individuals to be more involved in housework and child care, as well as their ability to increase the time they invest in improved health, increased human capital, and larger community and civic investments, all help to mitigate the burden of recessions.
    There is no doubt that recessions are hard on individuals. But the data don't support the belief that the "Great Recession" was akin to a "Great Vacation."
    (Erik Hurst is professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a contributor to Business Class. The opinions expressed are his own.)
    To contact the writer of this column: Erik.Hurst@chicagobooth.edu.
    To contact the editor responsible for this column: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net

  5. SF Superior Spares 25 Employees From Layoff, by Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News Service via courthousenews.com
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- A group of 25 court workers in San Francisco's state courthouse have been spared from a mass layoff last month that resulted in pink slips for 200 workers at the low end of the seniority ladder.
    The reprieve comes on the heels of an announcement last week by the court's top administrator, Michael Yuen, who said the court will cut hours in the clerk's office and close 25 civil law courtrooms.
    "We simply will not have enough staff to handle the filings or staff the Judges on any given day," said Yuen. "Employees will need time to process and file documents that pile up due to the lack of adequate staffing - and even then, backlogged filings will persist for many months and civil cases will languish for up to five years."
    The court's operating fund contains only $4.6 million, which Yuen said "only gets us through two weeks and three days of salaries and operations."
    The court only has $200,000 left in its back-up reserve fund, down from $10 million just three years ago. It was three years ago that the court also had 591 employees, but with layoffs effective September 30, it will leave the court with a mere 280.
    In reaction to the layoffs, a court employee authored an anonymous letter to Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein, saying lower-level employees were unfairly being given the ax while the better-paid management was left unscathed.
    That letter has apparently been disavowed by the local leadership of the Service Employees International Union, urging its members to complain instead to the Legislature. That disavowal in turn has brought complaints about the adequacy of the union's representation.
    A court spokesperson said the 25 employees were spared layoffs based on seniority and they will be notified this week that their layoff notices are being rescinded.

8/11/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. 12 Ways to Jump-Start Economic Growth Now: Spending Money Edition, by Catherine Hollander and Jim Tankersley, NationalJournal.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - With markets trampolining up and down, Washington lawmakers appear to be getting the message that the U.S. economy needs more help—specifically, a renewed push for job creation.
    “Americans need jobs,” Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, wrote in a Dear Colleague letter this week. “We hear this message every time we go home, we read this message in every e-mail and letter that we open, and we discuss this message in every town hall meeting that we hold. Unfortunately, it seems that the more we hear the message, the more we shift our attention to other matters.”
    Larson wants Congress to create a super committee—modeled on the one now being formed for deficit reduction—to hash out policies to return the United States to full employment.
    If such a committee were to take shape, what “outside the box” policies should it consider? National Journal posed that question to economic experts across the ideological spectrum—seeking out both policies that would not affect the budget deficit (for political feasibility reasons) and those that would (because many respondents insisted, as the Center for American Progress’s Michael Ettlinger put it, that “it’s the economy, and the economy costs money”).
    We published the first wave of suggestions on Thursday, laying out ideas that would cost money, and have a new batch Friday morning at the top of the list. Want to add your own? Drop us a line at chollander@nationaljournal.com or jtankersley@nationaljournal.com.
    Ideas That Would Increase the Deficit
    .\.National Journal [also has] 11 ways the economy can be jump-started without increasing the deficit...
    1. Start a tariff holiday.
    Waiving tariffs on home goods such as clothes, shoes, TV sets, luggage, and a handful of other products would reduce store prices and encourage more shopping while having only a modest budget impact, according to Ed Gresser, the director of the ProgressiveEconomy project at the GlobalWorks Foundation. This would give the labor-intensive businesses that traditionally employ a large number of young people, such as retailers, a reason to hire, he said. Tariff-waiving could even be limited to goods manufactured outside of the United States. Gresser cited the Affordable Footwear Act and U.S. Outdoor Act as examples.
    [But it would further clobber US manufacturing and jobs.]
    2. Or a sales-tax holiday.
    [Yes! Detax what you want, like sales, and tax what you don't want, like hoarding = the rich. During WW2 when we had "wartime prosperity," we had steeply graduated income and estate taxes, but after the war, the economy gradually sank back into depression as the wealthy gradually reduced and removed the steeply graduated income and estate taxes (and transferred the tax burden to the people who had been doing most of the consumer spending).]
    In the same vein as waiving tariffs on home goods, the 45 states with sales taxes could eliminate or sharply cut them for a year and Congress could pick up the revenues from those states. The money would be repaid to the federal government later, Gresser said, resulting in a short-term deficit increase followed by a minor long-term increase while extending the tariff holiday’s impact to restaurants as well as retailing. The tariff and sales-tax holidays would help tackle unemployment among younger and less-educated people who have been hard-hit by the recession by boosting the labor-intensive restaurant and retail sectors of the economy in which they usually hold a large share of jobs.
    3. Implement a pumped-up hire tax credit program.
    The standard version of this idea is that businesses would receive a $5,000 credit for hiring a new employee, and part of his or her salary would be subsidized. Michael Greenstone, director of the Hamilton Project and a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, said the U.S. should implement that program—“but on steroids.” Companies could receive as much as $10,000 for hiring, and up to 10 percent of new hires’ salaries could be subsidized. Unlike the payroll tax cut, this policy would only affect new hires and would target the country’s employment issues.
    4. Borrow money to get people working.
    Borrowing at the country’s historically low interest rates and putting people to work is the “obvious solution,” according to Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets. The government should borrow $1 trillion or more, spending half to put unemployed people to work in a WPA-type program with a conservation corps and a focus on improving the country’s infrastructure. The other half should be used to pay a quarter of the salary of each new private-sector hire for three years on a first-come, first-serve basis.
    5. Use work-sharing as an alternative to unemployment insurance.
    [This should be Number One.]
    Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said the best way to increase employment would be using work-sharing as an alternative to unemployment insurance, in which people are paid not to work. In a work-sharing program, employees are given half of the pay they lose as a result of working fewer hours—for example, if they had 20 percent fewer hours, they would receive 10 percent less pay. By staving off 10 percent of the 2 million layoffs that occur each month, the effect would be the same as creating 200,000 jobs, he said, adding that Germany had used the same policy with “enormous success.” “This seems an obvious winner when it comes to keeping people at work at a minimal cost,” Baker said.

    6. Implement an import-recapture strategy.
    New funding for a Bureau of Labor Statistics study could identify the industries where U.S. companies are “close to competitive,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. Targeted subsidies and tax cuts for those companies could help close-to-competitive industries regain market share from imports and create jobs at a relatively low cost, he said.
    7. Launch "green banks."
    Mark Muro, senior fellow and director of policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, said financing clean-tech scale-ups would be a relatively low-cost investment that would be paid back to the Treasury Department over the longer time. “Green banks” such as the Clean Energy Deployment Association, which would provide credit enhancements, loans, and loan guarantees to facilitate less expensive lending in the private sector, and the Energy Independence Trust, which would expand access to low-cost financing, would be “a cost-effective initiative with large returns,” Muro wrote in a recent Brookings report.
    8. Capitalize an infrastructure bank.
    The Infrastructure Financing Authority proposed by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is a good idea, Muro said, because it would be revenue neutral after the $10 billion start-up fee. The bank would provide loan guarantees and direct loans for large infrastructure projects. President Obama called for the creation of an infrastructure bank in a speech earlier this month.
    9. Provide product warranty or performance insurance on new tech.
    The financing of new technologies could be accelerated through product warranties and performance insurance, according to Muro. The program would be cheap and would help promising technologies grow rapidly through quick financing by making them less risky. “Providing such a risk backstop—akin to crop insurance—to emergent game-changing technologies could help get things moving relatively fast—and at low cost,” he said.
    10. Stop laying off government workers.
    Michael Ettlinger, a budget and fiscal policy expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the No. 1 thing the administration could do right now to improve the economy would be to stop laying off government workers.
    11. Allocate money for the equivalent of Social Security benefits a year early.
    Ettlinger emphasized the need for economic policies to focus on easing the burden on the middle class. He proposed allocating money to let people get the equivalent of their full Social Security benefits a year early, which would allow them to retire sooner and make room for younger people to enter the job market. It would also help people out who have been laid off but are close to retirement age.
    12. Put in place a one-year student loan repayment holiday.
    A one-year student loan repayment holiday would ease the burden on recent graduates who either could not find a job or who found low-paying work, Ettlinger said. It would also help out middle-class parents, many of whom are picking up the tab. It wouldn’t cost the government much to institute the holiday, he said.
    13. Bring back the Making Work Pay tax credit.
    Bringing back the Making Work Pay tax credit would help the middle class while encouraging businesses to hire and invest, Ettlinger said. Making Work Pay, which was a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provided a refundable tax credit for working individuals in 2009 and 2010, resulting in larger paychecks for many wage earners.
    14. Institute a tax credit targeted at small businesses.
    A tax credit targeted at small businesses would help them expand their payrolls, said Karen Dynan, vice president and codirector of the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution. “The challenges facing Main Street are underappreciated, with so many of the channels that small-business proprietors have traditionally relied on to sustain and grow their businesses—home equity, credit cards, and family savings—in short supply,” she said, adding that the credit should be tied to the wage bills businesses already report to minimize additional paperwork and eliminate the need to hire accounts or lawyers to take advantage of the credit.
    15. Lower the corporate tax rate.
    Another positive step would be lowering the corporate tax rate, according to Aparna Mathur, an economist and resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. A lower rate could result in an increase in capital flows and investment, higher worker productivity, higher wages for workers, and higher corporate tax revenues, all of which would help the economy, she said.

  2. Workers, by Chuck and Pat Wemstrom, Freeport Journal-Standard via journalstandard.com
    FREEPORT, Illin. - here are two traditional ways to attack unemployment. We can wait for the private sector to rebuild the economy and create new jobs. Or we can hope that the private sector and the government will work together to create new jobs. Or we can try to try to think about work from a different perspective.
    We can start with two ideas. Worldwide unemployment is nearly 50%. There will probably never be enough jobs for everyone. If the Middle East suddenly had the money to buy consumer goods, the Chinese would simply add a second shift. If more South Americans or Africans could buy more consumer goods, Indonesia would simply add a second shift. The function of tools and machines is all about saving work and eliminating the need for workers. In one sense, the great success of the American farmer has been that he has been able to produce more and more food with fewer and fewer workers. American steel manufactures produce more steel than they did twenty years ago with fewer workers. New tools, new technology, destroy jobs, they do not solve the worldwide unemployment problem.
    Let’s look at employment from another perspective. Work is overrated. Some people love their jobs. They can’t wait for Monday morning, they take work home with them, they are constantly on their I-pad, Blackberry, cell phone or laptop, keeping in touch 24/7. But that’s not the majority. Most workers might like their jobs, but they don’t love them and they are aware of the all the negatives. (After all, there’s the old joke, “that’s why they pay you.”). Work is not meant to be the be-all and the end-all. People want a more balanced approach to their lives.
    Historically people had to fight and some even died fighting for the 40-hour week. Strangely, many workers have allowed themselves to be pushed back into a 45, 50 and even 60-hour week and even when they want to, they can’t disconnect from the office. They have to be on call 24/7. To complicate the discussion even more, at the same time that some people are being told to work harder and longer hours, others are being fired. And no one has explained how European workers can be nearly as productive as American workers and work only 30-35 hours a week, have more paid holidays, longer paid leaves and much longer vacations.
    [With shorter hours, you don't have to mount so much makework and resistance to automation ("luddism") as American workers. Check out American trucking - tens of thousands of individual locomotive engineers pulling one freightcar apiece and tearing up the highways, all of which could and should be on the railways with a fraction of the workforce - and a fraction of the worktime.]
    And most German families have only one person employed outside the home. The Norwegians dedicated the profits from their North Sea oil wells to their social safety net.
    We’re beginning to think that one idea might be to change the definition of work and remuneration and it should be workers who define work, not their employers. What used to be called part-time can become the new full-time. We’ll probably still need some 30-35 hour a week workers, especially as we transition from the old, outdated, obsolete, failed economy of Wall Street and Corporate America and start to build the new green economy. But in the new economy most workers will work less than forty hours a week but will be fairly paid.
    Right now we’re laying off millions. We need to rehire them, but at the same time we also need to hire millions more so that most workers can work part-time, not at part-time wages, but at prorated full-time wages and benefits. American retailers employ millions of part-time workers at subsistent wages. They need to be paid more for what they’re already doing.
    Right now the old economy is creating situations where workers have to work a variety of part-time jobs instead of one full-time job. Sadly, even combined, these jobs don’t pay as well as one full-time job. We have to insist that all workers, including part-time workers, are adequately paid for their labor. Many nurses work three twelve-hour days. A nurse should be allowed to work three eight-hour days and earn two-thirds of a full-time salary with full benefits. Part timers now fill forty percent of university teaching positions; they need to be fairly reimbursed for their labor.
    Modern workers work more hours than their hunter-gathering ancestors or even the Anglo-Saxon yeoman. That’s nuts! We want more time to raise our own children, more time to spend with our spouses, to pursue our hobbies, jog, garden, drink beer, sip wine or have a second cup of coffee with our friends, read the paper and to sit on the porch with a neighbor and watch the sunset.
    Workers need to say, “We want our fair share of the wealth that we’ve created, our fair share of the wealth generated from our planet’s resources and we want to redefine what it means to be a human. We’re not simply workers. We’re human beings with a life outside of work.”

8/10/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. DeLauro: America Needs to Stop Consuming [What Others Make], Start Building [Our Own] - Congresswoman DeLauro lays out a four-point plan for economic growth, by Ben Lasman, Patch.com
    NORTH HAVEN, Conn. - At a round-table discussion this morning at the Southern Connecticut Regional Council of Governments office in North Haven, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3) discussed a four-point plan to boost the economy with local business leaders, economists and workers.
    Encompassing a broad range of incentives, programs, and financial solutions aimed at helping small businesses, utility and construction industries, and the unemployed, DeLauro's proposal consists of four bills currently under review by the House:
    * National Infrastructure Bank Act (H.R. 402)
    * Manufacturing Reinvestment Account Act (H.R. 110)
    * Layoff Prevention Act (H.R. 2421)
    * Fair Employment Opportunity Act (H.R. 2501)
    Taken together, the legislation aims to, in the Congresswoman's words, "Put America back to work while rebuilding our country, growing our manufacturing capacity, and fueling business innovation."
    "We are no longer a nation that builds things," said DeLauro to preface the meeting. "Instead, we have become a country that consumes what others build. That's not the way it should be."
    Building Bridges
    The National Infrastructural Bank Act, currently before the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, aims to bolster the rebuilding of America's aging infrastructure through the creation of a government-owned bank responsible for leveraging private dollars to invest in bridges, rail systems, air transport, energy grids, telecommunication lines, and other projects of regional and national necessity.
    "There are billions of dollars in private money available to invest in infrastructure," said Don Shubert of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association. "A dedicated infrastructure bank makes sense, and it has for a long time."
    Despite bipartisan support for the concept, Shubert worried that the rancorous political climate in Washington could derail the bill. "What's holding up the process is widespread panic over government involvement in business," he said.
    DeLauro stressed the importance of infrastructure as a driver of economic growth, clarifying that the plan is not to privatize public resources, but rather to guide private capital into large-scale civic projects.
    "China devotes 9 percent of its GDP to infrastructure. There's a European infrastructure bank managing resources for high-speed rail. Brazil has worked on the idea," she said, citing successful international models of the proposed bill.
    Edward Deak, an economics professor at Fairfield University and a past adviser to former Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, noted the abundance of resources available for such an initiative.
    "Corporate balance sheets have never been fatter than they are right now," he said. "They're holding onto that money. The key to making private investment in infrastructure attractive is to prove that these projects will be self-liquidating, and generate revenue."
    Big Returns for Small Businesses
    The second component of DeLauro's plan, the Managing Reinvestment Account Act, is to assist small manufacturing companies by allowing them to make pre-tax contributions of up to $500,000 to special accounts (MRA's) set up at community banks. Distributions from these MRA accounts, taxed at a low 15-percent rate, can then be used only for the purchase of equipment and facilities for job training.
    Jamie Scott, of Air Handling Systems in Woodbridge, said this legislation provides a much-needed incentive for small business owners to reinvest in their own companies.
    "An MRA is just like an IRA, but for small corporations," he explained. "Small businesses are the engines of economic growth. They help Main Street, curb unemployment, and they give hope to the small man trying to make ends meet."
    The bill, H.R. 110, is currently before the House Committee on Ways and Means.
    Sharing the Load
    Up next, the panel discussed the Layoff Prevention Act, a bill designed to provide businesses with alternatives to laying off employees that simultaneously cuts rehiring costs for companies, and reduces unemployment among workers.
    Such "work sharing" programs, currently active in 23 states, including Connecticut, allow companies to reduce work hours without firing employees, and provide workers with government benefits to compensate for lost wages.

    H.R. 2421, now before the House Committee on Ways and Means, would widen the reach of these efforts, and strengthen the incentives already available for participating businesses.
    Attendees at the round-table praised the ease of applying to the program, and commented on its value in improving employee morale at struggling companies.
    "Work sharing maintains the esprit de corps in the corporation and the community," noted one business owner. "So far, the program has worked out really well for us."
    Getting Back into the Game
    Finally, DeLauro talked to the group about the Fair Employment Opportunity Act, a proposed piece of legislation that would make it illegal for employers to refuse to consider a job applicant based on his or her unemployment status.
    "The recession has taken an incredible toll on the dreams and aspirations of American workers," said George Wentworth of the National Employment Law Project. "We talk to men and women everyday who are fighting against negative stereotyping in the job market."
    "There seems to be the false perception that if someone has been unemployed for a long period of time, then something must be wrong with him," he added.
    By outlawing discrimination against applicants based on employment status, DeLauro hopes to renew faith amongst workers who fear they may have lost their edge in today's turbulent economy.
    "We define ourselves by what our jobs are, how we contribute to society," DeLauro said. "The system we have is broken. It's vital that unemployed people understand that they are competent at what they do, that they have marketable skills, and that they have support."
    The House remains in recess for the rest of August, and will resume its work Sept. 5.
    Complicated by a Lack of Confidence
    While many expressed doubts that the economy would turn around before the 2012 elections, DeLauro contended that what the nation lacks most at the moment is confidence in their government to establish a blueprint for the way forward.
    "What we need is not just one program, but a series of pieces we can begin to work with," she said. "We need to begin to marshal resources around this kind of work. You have a sense or urgency, I have a sense of urgency, and the nation has a sense of urgency about the long-term economic viability of this country."

  2. Lex-Care: Rent unpaid after work hours cut, Lexington Herald Leader via kentucky.com
    LEXINGTON, Ken. - Danielle Gilchrist, a case manager at Community Action, submitted the only case received at Lex-Care last week. Her client is a single mother who needs $650 to pay her rent.
    She was employed at a local fast-food restaurant. She fell behind on her rent when her employer reduced the number of hours she could work. Since then, she has been promoted. She now works full-time as a crew trainer, and her hourly wages have increased. She plans to continue working and improving her work status.
    Once her past-due rent debt is cleared, she will be able to maintain the household she has created for herself and her 5-year-old daughter.

  3. Strike is canceled, but the strife continues, by Mark Couhig, SequimGazette.com
    SEQUIM, Wash. - The 350-plus members of SEIU 1199NW have agreed to call off their planned strike, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to pause in their ongoing protest.
    Two dozen workers were busy Sunday, Aug. 7, creating the picket signs and posters for their planned Aug. 11 “informational picket.” The picket will take the place of the planned 18-hour walkout, which this week was declared illegal by a Kitsap judge.
    Virginia Majewski, a nurse at the hospital, said a number of tough issues remain to be solved, including disagreements with management over wage increases, insurance premiums, rules regarding subcontractors and minimum staffing guidelines.
    Majewski also is upset over what she sees as OMC management’s manipulation of the facts of the case.
    For example, she said, a letter recently written by OMC to those in the hospital district (and printed as a full-page ad in last week’s Sequim Gazette), said, “For an average full-time RN, OMC pays over $100,000 annually in wages and benefits.”
    Majewski was quick to note that just 34 of the 205 members of the union’s “RN unit” are full-time, with most required to work a 0.8 position. “I work four days a week,” she said. “The only way I can make $100,000 is by working a lot of overtime and stand-by time.”
    Majewski said the base salary of a nurse begins at $25 an hour. “At the top — after 28 years in acute care,” it rises to a little more than $45 an hour.”
    Rhonda Curry, OMC’s assistant administrator for strategic development, disagreed with Majewski’s comments, saying the facts and figures are available to anyone who wants to look. “We’re transparent with the data,” she said.
    “Our hourly cost for RNs is in fact over $43 an hour. And our salaries and benefits for all other workers are available, too, and they stand up favorably when compared to other wages in Clallam County.”
    Hospital officials say there are in fact just 29 full-time, 40-hour-a-week workers, but that another 134 work 32 hours a week or more and are thus available for “full-time” benefits.” Laura Joshel, OMC’s employee relations coordinator, said, “Many nurses prefer working less than the traditional 40 hours per week that constitutes full-time employment. OMC accommodates this preference even though it may impact our staffing flexibility.”
    Budget strains
    Linda Bryant, also a nurse at OMC, said it’s disingenuous for OMC CEO Eric Lewis to say the wages and benefits paid by OMC to employees total 60 percent of its budget. It’s true, she said, but Lewis fails to mention the 60 percent includes Olympic Medical Physicians doctors and OMC management, including Lewis himself.
    She said the phrasing in the letter suggested it was all spent on union members.
    Majewski provided another perspective, saying, “You should be dang glad to say 60 percent is spent on the people providing direct care. That’s what people want.”
    Cliff Brown, RN, also commented on management tactics in the latest issue of the SEIU newsletter, saying, “It has been very disheartening to see OMC repeatedly using slanted statistics to make their case. They are focusing on RN wages and saying nothing at all about our service and dietary workers.”
    Dan Mintey, a maintenance worker at the hospital, said after 18 years at OMC he now makes between $39,000 and $40,000 a year. This year he pays $234 a month for his family’s health insurance. If the new contract is approved with the changes sought by management, that figure will rise to $346 a month.
    “I’m going to keep my kids insured,” he said. “But I’ll have to decide what bills I can pay. I’ll have to start juggling.”
    The changes would hit the hospital’s part-time workers particularly hard, with those who work less than 0.8 of full-time (fewer than 32 hours a week) seeing their portion of insurance coverage cost rise from $234 to $459 month.
    Most of the less than 0.8 workers are in the hospital’s dietary and maintenance departments, they say. Hospital officials say that of the 106 workers in those two departments, 10 workers are now at less than 0.8.
    The same all over
    Majewski said she knows other workers in other industries also are dealing with cuts in insurance and rising costs for coverage. She said she further knows many in other positions would like to have the coverage she receives from OMC.
    “I believe health care is a right, not a privilege,” she said. “But that’s where we are.”
    Bryant said she also understands others see the OMC benefits as generous. “I totally get it. But every single day I deal with feces, urine, contaminated blood, AIDS ... I willingly do it every single day of my life.
    And I deal with (patients) with the utmost respect.”
    Bryant said she also believes those in other departments should continue receiving the current benefits package, pointing in particular to dietary workers. “Even if you don’t care about justice, you should care about having them prepare your food,” she said.
    Bryant also said OMC’s managers have their priorities skewed. Majewski agreed, citing the board’s recent $10 million emergency room expansion.
    Curry countered their criticisms, saying “our nation’s financial health and our local unemployment rate have dominated headlines and it’s clear to us this recession isn’t over. And yet, regardless of the financial situation, OMC is still offering full health care benefits for our full and part-time employees, plus raises every year for the next three years.”
    Both sides agree they want to see the contract settled soon.

8/09/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. UK riots: advice for businesses, by Amy Paxton and Stephen Thomas, FreshBusinessThinking.com
    LONDON, England - The unrest that has occurred in the UK in the past few days demonstrates just how quickly situations can escalate and how businesses and their employees can be affected.
    Croner has put together the following guidance document to help businesses concerned with the impact this, or similar situations, may have on their organisation.
    Employment issues
    What if our business has been damaged and we cannot open as usual?
    - If an employer is unable to provide its employees with work they would be responsible for continuing to pay them or find alternative work for them to do. Consideration should be given to whether or not it is possible for them to work from home or at other sites on a temporary basis. Employees could be offered the opportunity to take holiday.
    - Employers may be able lay off employees or put them onto short time working for a short time if there is an express term in the Contract of Employment allowing such actions or if employees consent to it.
    - If employers have to lay staff off or put them onto short time working, they should, as far as is reasonably practicable, give employees as much notice and as much information as possible. The period of lay off should be reviewed regularly and should not last any longer than necessary.
    - Alternatively, employers may be able to force the employee to take annual leave, however this would require the employer to issue twice the notice as the time you require them to take. This may not be possible. Care should also be taken to ensure that in forcing employees to take leave, the employer is not acting in breach of contract.
    Employees with at least one month’s service, who are not provided with any work throughout a day during which .they would normally be required to work under their contract of employment are entitled to be paid a guarantee payment. The current rate of Guarantee Payment is £22.20 per day and is limited to five days in any period of three months....

  2. Bill would authorize back pay for furloughed workers, by Kellie Lunney klunney@govexec.com, GovExec.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Furloughed employees at the Federal Aviation Administration would receive retroactive pay for the two weeks they were off the job under legislation introduced Tuesday in the House.
    Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., is sponsoring the bipartisan legislation that would authorize back pay for the 4,000 federal employees furloughed when the agency's funding expired July 23 after Congress failed to come to an agreement. The funding for the retroactive pay would come from the Aviation Trust Fund.
    President Obama on Friday signed a temporary measure that funds FAA through Sept. 16, and those employees returned to their jobs Monday.
    Several Republicans joined LoBiondo in introducing the back pay legislation: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla.; House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y.; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.; and Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly co-sponsored the bill.
    "For the past two weeks it was important to get these workers back on the job," LoBiondo said in a statement. "Now my focus is to get them back pay and to ensure this avoidable situation never happens again." LoBiondo, whose district includes workers who were affected by the furlough, sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
    Essential employees who remained on the job will receive retroactive pay for the time they worked during the partial shutdown, as per usual shutdown protocol. In addition, the 40 airport safety inspectors who were on the job during the furlough and have been paying travel and work-related expenses out of their own pockets will be reimbursed.
    "Congressman LoBiondo is a steady and consistent supporter of workers, including federal employees," said Matt Biggs, assistant to the president and legislative and political director at the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. "He has a long-standing history of standing with government workers at both the federal and state levels so his introduction of this bill comes as no surprise to IFPTE members."
    Biggs said that LoBiondo's support should serve as an example "for others in his Republican caucus that workers should not be used as a political pawn to fulfill an ideological goal."
    The FAA standoff began as a dispute between House Republicans and the Democrats over rural airport subsidies, but it has since grown into a broader blame game about who is responsible for failing to grant long-term funding for FAA. The two parties also have been at odds over a labor provision that would overturn a National Mediation Board decision that would make it easier for rail and aviation workers to unionize. That issue also will come up again when Congress reconvenes in September.
    [Sounds like a nice goodnews story, right? But there may be a darker side -]

  3. Delta's Greed Helps Shut Down the FAA, by: Dave Johnson, truthout.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - You probably don't know that another act of hostage-taking by Republicans is underway. They have shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help Delta Airlines in its battle to keep its workers from voting in a union. This is costing the government $200 million a week, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 87,000 construction workers and other contractors around the country are being laid off. The agency has been shut down for more than a week and so far the Republicans have refused to let it open before Congress leaves town for the summer. All this apparently so one company can keep employees who want a union from winning an election.
    The FAA is the agency that regulates and overseas civil aviation. That is airports, airlines, pilots, employees, air traffic control, and other components of our aviation system. But the agency has been shut down. FAA inspectors and others are working without pay and paying for their own job-related travel. The shutdown is keeping the FAA from collecting federal taxes on airline tickets at a cost of $200 million in revenues each week even as the country struggles with deficits. Republicans said they don't like deficits, but they clearly hate working people more – this shutdown adds $30 million a day, over $200 million a week to deficits.
    A Shutdown Engineered For A Company
    This shutdown of the FAA has occurred because of a form of "government shutdown" by Republicans, at the behest of Delta Airlines, over rules about unionization elections. Delta is in the middle of a fight to keep workers from being able to form a union. Delta wants the rules changes so a nonvoting worker, including one who might be sick, on vacation or otherwise absent from the workplace on election day, is counted as a "no" vote for unionization. Republicans inserted this anti-union language into the FAA funding reauthorization and are refusing to fund the agency unless Democrats agree to change these union election rules to help Delta.
    Delta is apparently calling in favors to get this. According to Campaign Money Watch, in "Is Delta Using Its Campaign Cash to Influence the FAA Debate?",
    Delta's been spending money wisely to try to overturn the decision to let workers organize more easily. They spent $1.6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Over the past ten years they spent at least $32 million to influence Washington.) Their PAC has given $826,243 to members of Congress since 2000. Adding additional incentive for Republicans in Congress to stand with them, Richard Anderson, Delta's CEO, made a $5,000 contribution to the Senate Republican's campaign committee earlier this year — apparently his first one ever.
    Not Delta's First Anti-Labor Problems
    This is hardly the beginning of anti-labor activities by Delta's management. There has been a string of actions against its workers to the point that the government has had to step in. WSJ: "Delta Probed on Union Drive",
    The National Mediation Board said Wednesday it will conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations by a flight attendants union that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in last year's fractious organizing drive at the world's second-largest airline by traffic.
    Joan McCarter elaborates in Daily Kos in June, "Delta Air's anti-union practices earns federal probe",
    Delta isn't just a crappy airline for passengers, it's a crappy employer, too. At least it is if you can judge by the lengths it has gone to to prevent fairness in the workplace. Around the World Blog has some of the gory details of Delta's extreme anti-union activities:
    * Open advocacy against fair American elections: Delta issued a press release commending the news that Darrell Issa's deranged Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate the NMB's 2010 decision to conduct union elections for air/rail workers the same as all other types of American elections. … Unfortunately for Delta, the facts aren't on their side -- there's no reason to conduct NMB elections differently from every other form of election, union or non-union, in the nation...
    * Bumping paying customers…so Delta employees can lobby: Delta is so committed to its anti-union ideology that it offered its employees the chance to travel to Washington to lobby against fair union elections under a provision that may bump paying customers...
    It goes beyond, however, a general fight against the rights of airline and railroad employees to organize, to a very specific fiht among Delta employees to organize. The airline's fight against that union drive has made the airline a target for federal investigators.

    "Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines." Joe Sudbay sums up Delta management's attitude at AmericaBlog:
    "Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines. It wants to be known as anti-worker. And, of course, the GOPers in Congress are great allies in that quest. They'll join together to fight this investigation and undermine NMB."
    Two Senators Weigh In On Delta And FAA Shutdown
    In an NPR report, "Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines", Senate Majority Leader Reid explains,
    "It's not a battle over essential air service. It's a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board]." The issue, Reid says, is Delta's "non-union" stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers' votes on labor representation.
    Senator Rockeffeller, in a USA Today op-ed, Rural America needs Essential Air Service, talks about Delta's attack on workers rights,
    Unfortunately, the Republican House is holding the FAAhostage and using the EAS program to distract from its acknowledged goal: overturning a workers' rights rule that makes sense and has been upheld in court.
    This ugly backroom deal is the work of Delta Air Lines' anti-worker allies in the House. They want to overturn a decision of the National Mediation Board that allows airline and railroad workers to organize with their votes counted the regular way — yes and no — rather than by counting people who don't participate at all in the election.
    Delta lost in court, and so it lobbied the Republican House leadership for help. That now involves blocking critical FAA legislation and attacking the EAS program, which creates jobs and economic opportunity in small communities by giving business access to travel.

    Delta Greed Also Not Good For Customers
    Delta's management provides us an example of what happens to a company that prioritizes greed over all else. We see a company that is not just bad for its workers, it is also bad for its customers. Here are examples.
    Greed: When the FAA shutdown meant that taxes would not be collected some airlines let their customers keep the money. But not Delta's management -- they decided to keep that extra cash for themselves. Memphis Business Journal, "Delta raises ticket prices amid FAA shutdown",
    Air travelers are getting a break from federal taxes as the Federal Aviation Administration has partially shut down, but some airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. , have raised fares and nullified the tax break. ... While some airlines will allow customers to take advantage of the tax break, others, like Delta, have increased fares following the shutdown...
    Greed: Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post: Delta Charges US Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees,
    Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 US soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.
    The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

    Greed: According to Delta Nightmares, a website devoted to describing Delta's bad customer service,
    I'm apparently not the only one who thinks so. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Delta is having serious issues…ranking LAST among major carriers in customer service last year.
    …among major airlines Delta finished with the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in the first nine months of last year, and was second-to-last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling through November. Delta also had the highest rate of canceled flights among major carriers in 2010, according to FlightStats.com.

    Greed: Delta has earned the #65 place in BNet's "Business Blunders of the Year" for offering a $200 flight credit after losing a customer's dog.
    "Delta told Josiah Paco had "escaped" and the best they could do is refund his $200.00 pet transportation fee, but only as a "credit" for future Delta travel. That doesn't do Josiah any good, as he's vowed to never fly Delta again"
    Greed: just Google Delta Airlines bad customer service and see the thousands and thousands of results that pop up...
    Part Of Larger Anti-Worker Campaign
    This effort by Republicans in Congress is really just a part of a larger fight against workers' rights. As we have seen in several states, most notably Wisconsin, this is a coordinate, all-out attack by the larger corporations and their allies in the Republican Party. New Jersey, as just one more example, just passed, and Governor Christie signed an anti-union bill. In Ohio there is a campaign to repeal a law restricting collective bargaining rights. In Florida it is revealed that ALEC was behind the state's anti-union legislation efforts. In Missouri large protest turnouts beat back anti-union legislation.
    FAA Still Shut Down
    So the FAA is still shut down, possibly until September when the Congress returns. This is the Tea Party dream, government destroyed, financed and pushed by private companies, this time Delta Airlines. Delta is showing itself as a model of bad corporate behavior. Delta couldn't keep their workers from joining a union, so they try to get the laws rigged. Meanwhile the Republicans are showing themselves willing to contract out their legislative power to the highest bidders.
    Delta Airlines is certainly not the only example of bad, greed-inspired behavior by corporate management these days -- far from it. But with the FAA shutdown over Delta's request for a rule to keep its workers from being able to unionize Delta is putting itself forward as a top example of bad corporate behavior.
    Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

8/07-08/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. A demographic dilemma for Korea - Impact can be mitigated by more women, youth and seniors in the workforce, 8/07 (8/8 over dateline) JoongAng Daily via joongangdaily.joins.com
    [They never heard of robotics?]
    SEOUL, S.Korea - Korea’s population is aging at the fastest rate in the world. Last year, Korea’s birth rate was 1.22, the lowest among OECD nations. By 2018, Korea is expected to be an “aged society” with 14 percent of the nation being elderly.
    The 18 years in which Korea is expected to take in shifting from an aging society to an aged society contrasts starkly with the time it took France (115 years), the United States (73 years) and Japan (24 years) to do so.
    This rapid aging can cause three problems in the labor market: labor shortages; productivity shrinkage; and job competition between generations.
    [Even S.Korea has its nitwits crying Labor Shortage! during the age of automation and robotization. And this particular nitwit isn't even aware that his third problem contradicts it. A labor shortage implies a job surplus, and if there's a job surplus meaning plenty of jobs for everyone, why would there be "job competition between generations"? As for the second "problem," productivity doesn't shrink unless it's unmarketable, and it's not unmarketable unless markets, mostly domestic, aren't shrinking, and domestic markets aren't shrinking unless there's a wage&spending-depressing labor surplus, and if there's a labor surplus, there definitely IS "job competition between generations" and there definitely is NOT "labor shortages" unless management is sooo spoiled by labor surplus that they don't want to train = meaning it's really just a training shortage, and a bunch of spoiled, lazy, cheap, short-sighted and incompetent managers - quite the opposite of what we see today in the most successful large economy, Germany.]
    The first two concerns are fast approaching, but the third is being played out now, stoking worries about long-term youth unemployment, which has been stubbornly high the last several years.
    [Oops, here's another contradiction of labor shortage and confirmation of training shortage and a laborsurplus-spoiled private sector.]
    The shrinking labor force will likely dilute potential growth. [There he goes again! What a double-talker.] Korea’s economically active population, or the entire national labor force, is projected to climb to 26.68 million in 2018 from 25.82 million in 2010, and then begin a decline in 2019.
    This would exacerbate potential growth that is forecast to sink by 0.4 percent in 2011-2018 from 4.1 percent in 2000-2010. In addition, the nation’s labor force is expected to decline by 0.7 percent annually from 2019-2030, which will drag down potential growth by 1.1 percentage points in the same period compared to 4.1 percent in 2000-2010.
    The core productive population, the main drivers of economic activity, which refers to people aged 25-49, started to fall in 2009, and the pace of decline will likely accelerate. Accordingly, the size of the core productive population will drop to 14.25 million in 2020 and then to 11.98 million in 2030, or 90 percent and 76 percent of the 2010 size, respectively.
    In contrast, the proportion of those aged 50 and above in the nation’s labor force is expected to increase sharply in the next decade. Many older workers lack knowledge and technological savvy, and are typically are less adept at updating their capabilities. Thus, the explosive growth in the 50-plus labor population would likely blunt national productivity. According to an analysis of data, from 2000 to 2010, a 1 percentage point increase in the proportion of workers in their 50s and above eroded the nation’s labor productivity by 0.21 percent. Since the proportion of workers in their 50s and above is expected to decline by 8.9 percentage points in 2010-2020 and 6.4 percentage points in 2020-2030, labor productivity will likely fall by 1.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
    As for the job competition between generations, it began to appear in 2005. According to an empirical analysis, the employment rate for those in their 20s fell by 0.5 percentage points when that for those in their 50s increases by 1 percentage point. This is because baby boomers started to turn 50 in the mid-2000s and work sharing during the global financial crisis maintained the existing workforce, reducing room to hire new employees.
    [Like it's going to make more jobs for 20-somethings if well-paid big-spending 50-somethings get downsized and quit spending? This guy is unclear on the concept. Worksharing, the reduction of the workweek in SK from 44 to 40 from 2004 to 2011, had the effect of creating jobs and increasing room to hire new employees rather than reducing it. And without maintaining the existing workforce, domestic consumer markets would have shrunk, and so would marketable productivity, and so would the number of jobs needed to satisfy those reduced markets, and so would "room to hire new employees." This is a prime example of economist confusion, twisted logic and self-contradiction.]
    In short, the productivity shrinkage stemming from the falling core productive population and job competition between generations will emerge as major issues in the next decade. From 2019, the labor shortage will become real as the nation’s total working population starts to drop. However, the labor shortage and retirement of most baby boomers by 2019 will mean better job prospects for young adults.
    To tackle these demographic challenges, response strategies should be set up in stages and customized to each issue. Greater support for vocational training will help maintain productivity. Wider adoption of work sharing and a wage peak system, which keeps seniors employed but at lower pay, will help free up work space and budgeting to hire more young adults.
    While the shrinkage of the entire labor force is unavoidable, the impact can be mitigated by a greater accommodation of women, young adults and seniors, currently not employed, in the workplace.
    The writer is a research fellow in Macroeconomics Dept. at the Samsung Economic Research Institute. For more SERI reports, please visit www.seriworld.org.

  2. Long working hours linked to alcohol addiction: New Zealand study, Xinhua via news.xinhuanet.com
    WELLINGTON, N.Z. -- A New Zealand study has found that people who work at least 50 hours a week can be up to three times more at risk of alcohol problems than people who work fewer hours.
    The study, conducted by the University of Otago, used data that followed more than 1,000 people born in Christchurch in 1977 through to age 30.
    Study leader Dr Sheree Gibb said it aimed to examine whether working hours were related to alcohol problems in early adulthood.
    Data from more than 1,000 participants at ages 25 and 30 showed a significant association between longer working hours and alcohol- related problems.
    Longer working hours were associated with higher levels of alcohol problems including frequent alcohol use and alcohol abuse or dependence.
    People who worked 50 hours or more on average a week were 1.8 to 3.3 times more likely to have alcohol-related problems than those who were not working, and about 1.2 to 1.5 times more likely to have alcohol-related problems than those who worked 30 to 49 hours a week.
    The higher risk of alcohol abuse for those who worked longer hours was evident in both men and women, according to the study.
    Gibb said the finding could suggest a need for consideration of policies and programs targeting individuals who worked long hours, with the aim of reducing rates of alcohol-related problems.
    The article had been accepted for publication by the UK-based journal Addiction.

  3. Businesses can benefit from flexible working hours, by Marcus Leach, 8/8 FreshBusinessThinking.com
    LONDON, U.K. - The right to request flexible working should be extended to all employees and the Government should stick to its implementation timetable of 2015.
    Flexible working benefits both employers and employees and the Government should resist pressure to create a two-tier labour market through exempting micro-businesses and start-ups.
    This is the argument set out in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) response to the Modern Workplaces consultation.
    “Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees is long overdue. Restricting it to groups of parents and carers creates a mistaken assumption that flexibility is a perk that is good for some but not others," Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser, CIPD, said.
    “The truth is that many employers — large and small — have anticipated the Government’s proposal and are willing to consider requests from any employee. They see the business benefits of helping employees balance their work with their lifestyle and personal commitments, at a time when organisations need to be driving competitive edge through their people.
    "Organisations have grasped the reality that an employee who gives everything they can within flexible working hours offers more than someone reluctantly working a ‘typical’ working day because that is all that is on offer.
    [And the same goes for an employee who gives everything they can within, say, a six-hour day compared to someone reluctantly working a 'typical' eight-hour-or-more day because that is all that is on offer.]
    “We are concerned that the Government has even considered exempting micro-businesses and start-ups from the proposals — particularly when the regulations will come into effect after the current three-year moratorium. Excluding businesses of any size from the application of employment regulation would tend towards the creation of a two-tier labour market and could be a perverse disincentive for small businesses to expand.
    “We believe that the flexible working regulations are a great example of light-touch legislation and we see no case for excluding micro-businesses and start-ups when the regulations are extended.”
    The CIPD also responded on the issue of parental leave and pay and whether it should be available to mothers and fathers on an equal basis.
    “CIPD members support the direction of travel outlined in the flexible parental leave proposals," Emmott continued.
    "We believe that encouraging fathers to play a bigger role in bringing up children will help more women fulfil their potential in the workplace and have a positive impact in tackling deep-seated issues, such as discrimination in recruitment, equal pay and women in the boardroom. Without more equal sharing of parental leave and pay, it is unlikely that the current division of caring responsibilities will shift.”

8/06/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Budget problems force Community Action Coalition to cut hours despite increased need, by George Hesselberg ghesselberg@madison.com | 608-252-6140, Wisconsin State Journal via host.madison.com
    MADISON, Wisc. - Facing increased demand but a strained budget, the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin last week cut back the hours it serves the hungry, homeless and others in need.
    The reduced hours at the CAC building, 1717 N. Stoughton Road, came with a warning from director Greta Hansen, who is trying to stretch her $5.5 million budget: "This is a much bigger problem than just us at Community Action Coalition. This is Head Start, this is tenant services."
    Survival, she predicted, is going to require "us reinventing ourself again. For a country to so dispassionately disregard the needs of its most vulnerable is shameful. And it's not just the very low-income people, either. There is a chipping away at the quality of life for everyone."
    The CAC already has reduced hours for its staff of 35, Hansen said.
    The CAC building now is closed all day Friday, when customers use the building the least, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. other weekdays.
    The Clothing Center, which provides free clothing to individuals and families in need, will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Intake hours for people seeking assistance from CAC's programs will be 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, people seeking assistance can call 608-246-4730, ext. 230, to be connected to the intake office.
    The CAC operates in Dane, Jefferson, and Waukesha counties.
    Services provided from CAC's Madison building include the Clothing Center, a food warehouse serving the 70 food pantries, homeless prevention and housing case management services, and CAC's Community Gardens program.
    "We hope this is temporary, but given what we know already about the cuts we have gotten in some federal funding and the anticipating cuts everybody tells us are coming both locally and nationally, it doesn't look good," Hansen said.

  2. Furlough days balance Kingman charter school's books, by Ahron Sherman, Miner Staff Reporter via KingmanDailyMiner.com
    KINGMAN, Ariz. - Faced with a 4-percent reduction to its budget, the Kingman Academy of Learning decided to enact three furlough days for the 2011-2012 school year rather than eliminate more positions.
    The furloughs affect all KAOL employees other than nighttime custodians and classroom assistants, said the district's business manager Brownell Hamlyn. The first two scheduled furloughs come Monday and Tuesday, and the third takes place May 24, the day after school ends.
    It's a pay cut for everyone and an attempt to spread the suffering around equally, Hamlyn said. But at the same time, the dates of furloughs were picked with a goal in mind to keep the impact to students to a minimum while still saving money.
    Each furlough day will save the district approximately $35,000, saving a total of $105,000, Hamlyn said.
    Teachers are salaried and make anywhere from $31,000 to $52,000 a year depending on their education. For a teacher making $31,000 a year, the pay cut works like this: Divide the salary by how many days the teacher is scheduled to work in the year, take that amount and multiply it by three and then divide it by 26 - the amount of paydays.
    With that in mind, KAOL teachers making $31,000 a year can expect each paycheck to be short $23.84 before taxes. The paychecks of teachers making $52,000 a year will be $40 less than they traditionally expect.
    Despite the furloughs, teachers will still need to get their classrooms ready for the upcoming school year and "Meet the Teacher" days Wednesday and Thursday.
    But that is no different than normal because teachers are in and out of their classrooms all year, including weekends and breaks, Hamlyn said.
    Other than hourly-wage employees who would normally start working on Aug. 8, all pay cuts will be evenly dispersed throughout the school year, Hamlyn said. However, employees who would normally start work the day of the first furlough, such as school clerks, will take the two-day hit on their first paycheck.
    "The state cut the budget dramatically," Hamlyn said.
    This is the third year KAOL's funding was cut by about 4 percent, but it's the first year the district enacted furloughs as a mechanism to save money, she said. In previous years, KAOL found ways to cut spending - including shutting down one bus route - and it also eliminated some positions as well as lay off a few employees. The school has laid off two teachers for this school year.
    The budgeted revenue for the 2010-2011 school year was about $11.045 million, Hamlyn said. As a comparison, this year's budgeted revenue is approximately $10.7 million. The district receives federal, state and local funding. The bulk of the funding comes from the state and is based on enrollment, but it also receives about $500,000 from the federal government. Local funding comes from various outlets such as preschool tuition, donations, private grants and the shirt store, Hamlyn explained. The school receives no money from county property taxes, she added.
    "We're doing the best we can," Hamlyn said. "You never know when the state will decide to cut more. It's always a fear, but we just don't know yet."

8/05/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. County workers vote to reinstate 36-hour workweek, By Matthew Hedger, Amador Ledger-Dispatch via ledger-dispatch.com
    AMADOR COUNTY, Calif. - The results of a “straw poll” taken by union leaders representing 220 Amador County workers this week indicate a majority of them favor reinstituting a 36-hour workweek to try and avoid layoffs.
    Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Field Representative Mike Fouch said 185 employees took part in the vote.
    “There was a poll to go to the workers to see if they preferred going back to the 36 hours,” explained Fouch. “For anyone who wanted to show up and take the poll, we scheduled meetings around the county and basically did a secret ballot, and there was a strong majority to return to a 36-hour workweek.”
    Fouch said 116 workers indicated they would prefer a 36-hour workweek, with 69 voting for the longer, 40-hour timeframe, leading him to contact county officials with the results.
    “We notified the county and they said they would like to reconvene negotiations on Friday (today) for discussing the workweek again,” he said.
    In June, Fouch accused county negotiators of acting in bad faith, by sending personnel he said had no authority to bargain to the bargaining table and attempting to deal directly with employees represented by SEIU. Asked about his current relationship with county leaders, Fouch declined to elaborate.
    “I’m not very happy with the county, but there are no specifics I want to go into right now,” he said.
    Fouch did say he had heard one supervisor giving an interview on the radio on the day of the poll who indicated a return to a 40-hour workweek could result in layoffs affecting dozens of workers.
    “Actually, Ted Novelli went on the radio and said 23 to 25,” said Fouch. “That was the day we voted to actually return to a 36-hour workweek. The last thing I was told by the county, and there’s been a lot of numbers flying around, but I think it was 17 positions, but not 17 people. They’re going to eliminate some budgeted positions is what they’re going to do.”
    County Administrative Officer Chuck Iley said he had been notified of the poll and confirmed negotiations are re-opening today.
    “Their leadership has told us that we need to meet and confer again to begin negotiations, again,” he said. “So that’s where we are. We’ve sent them a request to meet and confer, meet and negotiate again, on an extension of the 36-hour workweek.”
    County supervisors met Tuesday in a closed-session special meeting, which listed a conference with the county’s labor negotiators as the lone item agenda.
    Iley said he could not comment on the outcome of that meeting.
    The Ledger Dispatch located two county employees this week who said they voted differently in the union’s poll.
    Mike Cangelosi, an appraiser in County Assessor Jim Rooney’s office, gave a short answer when asked why he voted to return to a 40-hour workweek.
    “I need my 10 percent back to be able to effectively pay my bills,” he said.
    [Get a grip - you're living too close to the edge!]
    Gwen Johnson, who also works in the assessor’s office, said she had looked long and hard at the issue before casting her vote.
    “I was on the fence about this issue for a long time, because it is hard for me to make ends meet every month,” she said. “But I know if more people are working, they’re paying taxes. When people lose their jobs, they’re not paying property taxes, they’re not spending money, so they’re not paying sales tax. And their money doesn’t circulate in the economy, and therefore, we don’t get taxes.”
    Johnson said her decision became clear when she looked at the economics driving the situation.
    “The county gets money through taxes,” she explained, “so we really want to keep as many people working as possible. That was why I voted for the 36-hour workweek.”
    Johnson said the abbreviated work schedule personally results in a gross loss of approximately $65 a week for her — about $200 take-home pay per month — but despite that hit to her pocketbook, she was also thinking about fellow workers.
    “One of the reasons I was on the fence is I have no seniority or ‘bumping rights,’ she explained. “So my neck is on the line and I don’t want to lose my job. But even if it weren’t on the line, I still think it’s better to have more people working who are making a little bit less money than to have some people making a little bit more money, while other people aren’t making any money at all.”

  2. Most Canadians feel good about EI system, survey says, By Laura Baziuk lbaziuk@postmedia.com, Postmedia News via MontrealGazette.com
    OTTAWA, Canada — Well over half of Canadians believe the country's employment insurance [EI] system is working fine, and needs only minor fixes, a new survey says.
    About 59 per cent of respondents in a national survey commissioned by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada said the benefits program is on the right track, a second slight rise since 2009.
    "It seems as though some people, who are not repeat (EI) users, are saying, 'Yeah, the benefits were there for me,'" said David Gray, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, who has also done some outside consulting work for the ministry.
    "We're not just indemnifying fish-plant workers in rural New Brunswick. It does seem as though at least some of the people who ought to be covered during recessions . . . were covered."
    Nearly two thirds (61 per cent) said the EI program responded well in helping people during the 2008 recession, such as extending the benefits period by five weeks, while 15 per cent disagreed.
    The poll, conducted by Ottawa's Phoenix SPI, surveyed 1,501 people of various employment statuses last January, and delivered the results in March.
    While most respondents did report they felt the EI system was working well, 33 per cent said they felt major reforms were needed, such as a longer benefit period, more benefits and looser eligibility criteria.
    More than one in four said they believe longer benefits should be offered to those who have contributed to EI for many years. Another 53 per cent said if it were up to them, they would opt for a lower amount of benefits over more weeks, while 35 per cent said they would prefer a higher amount to fewer weeks.
    The findings of satisfaction perhaps point to the latest drop in Canada's jobless rate, from 7.4 per cent in June to 7.2 per cent in July. About 7,100 more people were working in July, though that was only half of what economists had anticipated.
    The survey also measured the public's awareness of EI benefits.
    Roughly 41 per cent said they did not know about short-term sickness benefits — the highest level of unawareness since tracking it began in 2007.
    Another 50 per cent said they were not aware of compassionate-care benefits, which are provided to people who must temporarily leave work to care for a gravely ill or dying relative.
    More than three-quarters (77 per cent) said they had not heard of certain benefits for self-employed people, such as maternity leave, up from last year's 72 per cent.
    And 62 per cent were not aware of work-sharing benefits. Instead of an employer laying off a few workers, work-sharing has the whole staff to take a pay cut instead so no one is left without a paycheque.
    [And if you do it on a region- or economy-wide basis, there's no pay cut because you absorb the 5000 desperate resumes coming in for every 5 job openings, each underbidding the next.]
    "That's obviously something that they have to work on," Gray said. "It shows you that the information is not being very widely diffused."
    [Generally the worksharing programs in
    He suggested the government might solve this by separating some benefits, such as compassionate care, away from EI. Divisions could then decide upon their own marketing strategy, he said, and thus better target and inform people in need.
    Canada's labour force is diversifying more and more, Gray said, and government is still working with a mostly one-size-fits-all EI system.
    "The 9-to-5 standard employment positions? Well, that's the minority now," he said. "These workers with different types of jobs and different employment patterns also have different unemployment patterns.
    "In today's increasingly complex labour market, it's an enormous challenge."
    The Employment Insurance (EI) Tracking Survey 2011 is considered accurate to within 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

8/04/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. SF Courts Cut Hours, Lay Off 200 Employees, by Julia Cheever, Bay City News via The San Francisco Appeal via sfappeal.com
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday announced reduced hours of its clerks' offices to adjust to deep budget cuts and staff layoffs put in motion last month.
    [And there'd have been more layoffs without reduced hours. But there should have been no layoffs, and more deeply reduced hours. But California's wealthy, like America's at large, will find they can't both withdraw from taxation and require taxpayer bailouts for their riskier ventures, without jeopardizing the entire bubble they live in.]
    Beginning Oct. 3, all criminal and civil clerks' offices will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., court Chief Executive Officer Michael Yuen announced.
    The change will be a reduction of one hour per day in the clerks' offices of the criminal and traffic divisions at the Hall of Justice. Those offices have previously been open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    The civil clerks' office hours at the court's Civic Center Courthouse were previously decreased to the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule and thus will remain the same.
    The changes will not go into effect until Oct. 3 because state law requires a 60-day notice.
    The schedule change is part of a drastic restructuring of the court announced July 18 by Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein in response to funding slashes in the current state budget.
    Twenty-five civil courtrooms, out of a total of 63 civil and criminal courtrooms, will be closed indefinitely, and 200 of the court's 480 employees--or 40 percent--are being laid off.
    The closed courtrooms include 14 out of 17 civil trial departments, leaving only three courtrooms open for civil trials and causing delays of up to five years in some cases, Yuen said.
    Criminal courtrooms at the Hall of Justice will remain in operation because criminal cases are a priority under state law.
    "The court regrets having to limit access to our clerks' offices and close these busy civil departments," Yuen said. "But we simply will not have enough staff to handle the filings or staff the judges on any given day.
    "Employees will need time to process and file documents that pile up due to the lack of adequate staffing--and even then, backlogged filings will persist for many months and civil cases will languish for up to five years," Yuen said.
    The court currently has a deficit of $6.2 million out of a $65 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, Yuen said.
    The amount is less than the $13.75 million deficit estimated by Feinstein last month; the difference is caused by $1.5 million more than expected in state funding, among other factors, Yuen said.
    But Yuen said the revised deficit is not reduced enough to avert the changes required by an expected cumulative budget gap of $20.4 million over the next three years, resulting from budget measures already taken by the state Legislature, even if no further funding cuts are made.
    The layoffs of 40 percent of the court's staff should save $17 million of that amount over three years, said court spokeswoman Ann Donlan.
    "Looking at the multi-year process, if we don't have any more cuts, we hope we won't have to lay off any more employees," Donlan said.
    Yuen said, "We must prepare for what's coming--fee increases that expire in 2013, the sunset of one-time temporary fund shifts that do not address the structural deficit that has built up over four years of state budget cuts, and wishful increases in state revenue that are unlikely to materialize amid this enduring economic downturn."
    The 200 workers who are losing their jobs include clerical and administrative staff, research attorneys and 11 of the court's 12 commissioners, who conduct hearings on matters such as traffic court cases.
    The court's 51 civil and criminal judges cannot be laid off because they are constitutional officers. But some will be assigned to other duties, such as taking over the hearings now conducted by commissioners, Feinstein said last month.
    The San Francisco court is undergoing deeper cuts than some other superior courts in the state partly because it previously dipped into reserve funds to avoid layoffs and is no longer able to do so.
    An audit of the court conducted by the state Judicial Council last year also noted some financial management problems, which court officials said they would correct.

  2. Plans in Ashley to hire cops put on hold - Paperwork glitch means taking on new part-timers is put on hold - Part-time chief also delayed, Wilkes Barre Times-Leader via timesleader.com
    ASHLEY, Penn. – Borough council met Wednesday night in a special meeting to bring on three new, part-time police officers, but the lack of paperwork to hire them scuttled the plans.
    Ashley Council President Jim Mullen said council would not be hiring new officers Wednesday due to a lack of paperwork.
    Council will have to delay the swearing in of the officers that was set for its regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday.
    It also will have to hold off on hiring a part-time police chief because there may be additional candidates besides the one who has applied for the position.
    The borough has been struggling to provide police protection around the clock. Finances forced a cutback in the force and the firing last March of former Chief Dave Cerski after his pregnant ex-girlfriend obtained a protection from abuse order against him further reduced the force to one full-time officer, Sgt. Joe McGlynn. The state police cover the borough when there is no one else available.
    [But basically, if we understand correctly, ociffer McGlynn needs the new hires to get the time to fill out the paperwork to get the new hires? "Catch 22."]
    The meeting was called with the intent to allow council more time to devote to the agenda for next week, explained council chairman Jim Mullin.
    “We have a lot on our plate for Tuesday,” said Mullin.
    Council member Joe Gorham said McGlynn, the officer-in-charge, has not forwarded the necessary paperwork. Council is “waiting for the officer in charge” to provide the paperwork, said Gorham.
    He expressed his frustration over trying to work with McGlynn.
    “I want cooperation,” said Gorham. “We have extended every courtesy available and ask for the same courtesy back, and we’re not getting it.”
    McGlynn was not at the meeting, but borough resident James Barberio spoke in his defense, saying the council might want the officer to do something that the mayor won’t let him do.
    “Don’t get Mr. McGlynn hamstrung between you and the mayor,” said Barberio.
    Mayor Rick Oravic did not attend the meeting.
    The new hires would be brought on in a staggered fashion over the next three months and bring the force up to six part-time officers. They work a maximum of 32 hours a week under state law.
    [Sounds like a rahthah enlightened state (but let's not inquire too deeply).]
    Gorham said the goal is to have coverage around the clock and the borough might be able to do so because to date the borough is operating under budget.

8/03/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. S.C. BMW to add 100 jobs amid increased X3 demand, AP via CanadianBusiness.com
    GREER, S.C. — German automaker BMW is adding 100 new jobs at its South Carolina plant and shifting to a six-day work week as it ramps up production for its vehicles.
    [A German company shifting to a six-day workweek?? Hopefully they're doing this on 6 1/2-hour days or some other plan that observes the 40-hour workweek max. Otherwise it would be another example of not even the Germans knowing what they're doing right - with Kurz-arbeit (work sharing) for instance.]
    BMW Group Board Member Harald Krueger announced Wednesday the company will be looking for engineers, information technology specialists and production management associates to work at the plant in Greer.
    Krueger said the company also is adding a new recruitment program and a health services center for employees, retirees and dependents.
    Gov. Nikki Haley was present for the announcement, saying in a statement issued by her office that BMW is an example of "manufacturing excellence. They understand what it means to take care of and invest in their employees."
    In cooperation with Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Tech and Tri County Tech, the firm will be involved in what will be known as the BMW Scholars Program.
    The schools will be part of a two-year program where students can attend classes while working part time at the BMW plant. Fifteen students have begun working with the program and another 35 are expected to start later this year.
    Officials said the program has been used to recruit and train workers in Germany.
    The German automaker said it expects to increase production at the South Carolina plant by 11 percent to 300,000 vehicles in 2012.
    BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer said Tuesday the first half of 2011 was the best six-month period in the group's history. He says the company had difficulties meeting demands for its X3 sports activity vehicles, which are built in Greer.
    Demand has been particularly high in China, BMW officials said.
    BMW reported its earnings increased sharply during the second quarter to nearly $2.6 billion compared with $1.8 billion during the same quarter last year.

  2. Thirty years since the PATCO strike, Part one, By Tom Mackaman, World Socialist Web Site via wsws.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - On August 3, 1981, 15,000 members of the union of air traffic controllers in the US—the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO)—went out on strike against their employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). For years, employment levels and safety measures had failed to keep up with increasing commercial air traffic. Extreme stress forced a majority of controllers into early retirement. PATCO workers demanded a shorter workweek, increased wages and increased staffing.
    Hours after they walked out, President Ronald Reagan, speaking from the White House Rose Garden, invoked the anti-strike Taft-Hartley Act to fire the strikers if they did not return to work within two days. The Reagan administration’s terms were simple: the ending of the strike and the total submission of the union to all White House demands. There would be no negotiations. 
    Air traffic controllers defied the back-to-work order en masse, with 12,000 to 13,000 remaining on strike. Yet in spite of their militancy and solidarity and deep support within the working class as a whole—expressed in the 500,000-strong Solidarity Day demonstration on September 19 in Washington DC—the struggle was isolated and betrayed by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, which ordered members of other airline unions to cross the PATCO picket lines.
    By the end of the year, it was clear that the air traffic controllers had been defeated. The Reagan administration and the courts outlawed the union, and all of the striking air traffic controllers were blacklisted from their profession for life.
    The ferocity of the ruling class stunned workers. But Reagan’s ruthlessness—which included dozens of arrests and the jailing of four militant controllers in Texas—was enabled by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. Though the threat posed by Reagan’s attack on the controllers to the entire labor movement was clear, the AFL-CIO steadfastly refused to authorize a broader working class mobilization, in spite of persistent calls for a general strike from workers. The unions instead sought to channel working class anger into support for the Democratic Party.
    In reality, the union-busting operation was a bipartisan operation, carried out with the tacit support of the Democrats. The plan Reagan implemented for smashing PATCO, including the military scabbing operation known as the Management Strike Contingency Force, had been drawn up under Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
    The AFL-CIO gave the Reagan administration assurances that it would do nothing in response to government strike-breaking and union-busting. In the face of pressure from workers calling for broader strike action in support of PATCO, AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said early in the struggle that he opposed “anything that would represent punishing, injuring or inconveniencing the public at large for the sins or transgression of the Reagan administration.” So confident was Reagan in the acquiescence of the labor bureaucrats, he delivered his August 3 back-to-work ultimatum even as the AFL-CIO Executive Council was meeting in New York City.
    The government-organized destruction of PATCO was a signal to big business to launch a massive assault on the entire labor movement. Over the next decade, strike-breaking and union-busting operations were carried out in virtually every sector of the economy—air and ground transport, auto, steel, the mines, retail. Methods not seen since the 1930s were revived to crush the bitter resistance of workers to wage cuts and other concessions. The 1980s saw the reemergence of company goons, armed private police, labor frame-ups and violent attacks on picket lines. Every major strike battle was deliberately isolated and betrayed by the union leadership. The United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO and virtually every other union adopted the policy of corporatism—the complete subordination of the working class to the corporations and the establishment of joint union-management structures to suppress the class struggle.
    Thus, the betrayal of PATCO marked the collapse of the trade unions and their rapid transformation into agencies of the corporations and the state.
    The Workers League, predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, played a prominent role in the PATCO strike. Its defense of arrested workers earned the Workers League the support of many PATCO members. Reporters for the Bulletin, the newspaper of the Workers League and forerunner of the World Socialist Web Site, interviewed dozens of strikers and their families in cities across the country.
    The Workers League persistently called for widening the struggle to encompass the entire working class. It insisted that the conditions for expanding the strike could be achieved only through a political struggle against the union bureaucracy and the Democratic Party. The Workers League raised the demand for an emergency Congress of Labor to bring together unionized workers and unorganized sections of the working population for the purpose of establishing a Labor Party based on the unions to fight for a workers’ government and socialist policies. Without the initiation of such a struggle, the party declared, the PATCO strike could not be won. If the PATCO strike were allowed to be isolated and defeated, the Workers League warned, this would set the stage for an assault on the entire working class.
    While a strong sense of solidarity prevailed among workers—along with a desire for a showdown with the Reagan administration—the need for socialist political conceptions to guide the struggle was not broadly understood. This was itself a product of long historical processes. By the 1980s, decades of anti-communism promoted by the AFL-CIO had blocked many workers from knowledge of key historical experiences, including the decisive role socialists had played in building the industrial union movement in the 1930s.
    The PATCO defeat sets off two distinct periods in US history. From the 1930s through the 1970s, the trade union movement in the US commanded significant authority in the working class. The victories of the industrial unions in the 1930s, the mass upsurge of the working class at the end of World War II, the persistence of large-scale strike activity through the 1950s and the 1960s, and the strike wave of the late 1960s through the mid-1970s—these had managed to wrest significant concessions from the American ruling class, which feared the emergence of working class revolution led by socialists, as had taken place in Russia in 1917. The epoch saw major improvements in living standards, the expansion of democratic rights to black workers in the South, and the creation of a limited welfare state.
    The PATCO defeat established a pattern for every strike that followed in the 1980s and through the early 1990s. At Phelps Dodge, Greyhound, United Airlines, AT Massey, Hormel, Caterpillar, etc., workers carried on militant and bitter struggles. It was not for lack of fight that these and other strikes in the period went down to defeat. Rather, in each case the union bureaucracy consciously worked to isolate, demoralize and defeat the strikers.
    Since the crushing defeats of the 1980s and 1990s, strikes have virtually disappeared in the US. The lack of organized resistance by the working class has whetted the appetite of the bourgeoisie, reflected in the staggering concentration of wealth in the US that has taken place since the 1970s. Steadily, the gains of the 20th century have been reversed, a process that has accelerated since the financial crisis of 2008 and the coming to power of the Obama administration.
    The erosion of the membership rolls of the trade unions—down to their lowest share of the private sector workforce in more than a century—and the ongoing decline in the wages and wealth of working class Americans has not been reflected in a decline in the income and wealth of the union bureaucrats, thousands of whom award themselves salaries of more than $100,000 per year, and hundreds of whom take home upwards of $200,000. The unions have only deepened their integration into the Democratic Party, each election cycle funneling tens of millions of dollars to “friends of labor” who at very turn side with the corporations and the banks.
    Thirty years on, it is clear that PATCO was one of a series of international events that signaled a global ruling class offensive against the working class. It presaged not only the collapse of the American trade unions, but of all the labor bureaucracies and political parties internationally that based themselves on nationalism and class compromise. The process that has culminated in the conversion of the American labor unions into business enterprises akin to labor syndicates was mirrored in the decision of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s to complete its counterrevolutionary mission by liquidating the property relations established by the 1917 October revolution.
    The far-reaching implications of the smashing of PATCO were well understood by the American ruling class at the time. Writing only days after the beginning of the strike, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that Reagan had to prevail over the air traffic controllers “for all sorts of far-reaching reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with relations between the Federal Aviation Administration and PATCO.” The more important issues, the editorial declared, were “commitments to rebuild military strength, to restore the dollar to soundness, to cut taxes and regulations, to resist Soviet imperialism, and to curb the wild ascent of federal spending.”
    The Bulletin commented on August 11, 1981: “In short, the ruling class considers the destruction of PATCO as inseparable from its overall capitalist policy of defending the profit system with a program of unrestrained militarism internationally and savage austerity for the working class within the United States.”
    Rosa Luxemburg said of the working class that “historical experience is its only school mistress.” She continued: “Its thorny way to self-emancipation is paved not only with immeasurable suffering but also with countless errors. The aim of its journey—its emancipation depends on this—is whether the proletariat can learn from its own errors.”
    Drawing out the lessons of past defeats is a life-and-death matter for workers today. With PATCO, history exposed as unviable and bankrupt a labor movement that based itself on anti-communism, defense of the profit system, and nationalism. The aim of this review of the PATCO struggle is to extract the central political lessons of that experience in order to arm workers with the socialist perspective needed to insure victory in the mass struggles into which they are entering today.

8/02/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Airline Regulators Delay New Rules on Pilot Fatigue, by Andy Pasztor, Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last-minute lobbying of the White House by charter and cargo airlines has delayed—and could jeopardize—new regulations to combat pilot fatigue, according to industry officials.
    A congressional funding fight halted work in late July on an unfinished FAA control tower at Oakland International Airport in California.
    Issuing strict new rules to replace decades-old limits on pilot work hours and rest periods has been a top priority for the Federal Aviation Administration and its chief, Randy Babbitt. Until a few weeks ago, the FAA was on track to release the revamped rules by an Aug. 1 deadline mandated by Congress.
    But the timing and details of an announcement are now up in the air, industry officials said, following direct appeals last Friday by representatives of charter and cargo carriers to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the proposal.
    Release of the rules could be weeks or months away, according to industry officials and others familiar with the issues. Many charter and cargo airlines, which under the FAA's proposal would remain subject to the same pilot-fatigue rules as passenger carriers, object to tighter limits on maximum daily work hours and imposition of longer mandatory rest periods.
    FAA efforts to keep tired pilots out of the cockpit were revved up following the 2009 crash of a Colgan Air turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed 50 people. Once investigators determined both pilots were sleep-deprived from long commutes on planes before starting work, Congress mandated tougher FAA rules on pilot fatigue and training.
    Missing the Monday deadline sparked complaints from some safety experts, lawmakers, pilot union leaders and a group representing crash victims.
    In a statement Tuesday, a spokeswoman said the FAA "is committed to ensuring that airline pilots are fit and rested when they report for duty," and is "working aggressively to complete a new pilot fatigue rule." She declined to elaborate.
    A Department of Transportation spokeswoman declined to comment, and White House officials have a standing policy of refusing to discuss pending regulations.
    Announced by the FAA in 2010 and based on advances in sleep research, the proposed package aims to base schedules and rest periods on variables such as time of day, as well as the number of takeoffs and landings pilots are scheduled to make during each work day.
    The FAA's proposal sought to guarantee pilots at least nine hours of rest between shifts, instead of the eight currently mandated. Maximum work days, including tasks on the ground, generally would be restricted to 13 hours, rather than the current 16-hour limit. But commuter pilots who make multiple landings and takeoffs—particularly late at night or early in the morning—could have that work limit cut to nine hours.
    Charter and cargo operators, which often fly long routes overnight and don't rely on predictable daily schedules used by nearly all passenger airlines, argue the changes would be expensive and eliminate necessary flexibility to transport commercial goods and even troops for the Pentagon. Some cargo carriers are pushing to be left out of the current regulations, or want the FAA to craft separate restrictions just for them.
    Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association, said new rules "should be enacted at some point in some fashion." But he said the FAA wanted to stick with "a one size fits all" approach that fails to recognize that cargo carriers depend on "a completely different operating model" than passenger airlines.
    As part of a stepped-up campaign against the proposal, other cargo-airline officials have enlisted the help of the Pentagon. To appease such concerns, according to industry and government officials, the FAA has reassured charter airlines that they could receive exemptions if the rules ended up adversely affecting flights carrying U.S. troops.
    A spokesman for the National Air Carrier Association, some of whose members carry troops and military supplies, couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the association tried but failed to get Congress to exempt such charter flights from pending FAA pilot-fatigue rules. At the time, the group's president said the proposed changes would have a "disastrous" economic impact on nonscheduled carriers, requiring a roughly 40% increase in the number of pilots on their payrolls.
    In crafting its comprehensive proposal last year, the FAA sought to give airlines greater flexibility to allow pilots more hours on the clock, for example, in case of unexpected weather delays. Other parts of the proposal, envisioned to kick in by 2013, were intended to provide unions additional assurances that carriers would be required to establish realistic schedules for pilots. But from the beginning, representatives of cargo and charter carriers stressed that they weren't happy with the trade-offs, and some privately threatened to eventually file suit against the FAA.
    The Air Transport Association, whose members account for 90% of U.S. cargo and passenger traffic, has objected to the proposal as overly restrictive and met with White House regulatory officials last week. But ATA also has privately signaled that, with some revisions, it could live with portions of the package, industry officials say. An ATA spokeswoman declined to comment.
    The largest North American pilot union, a big supporter of the FAA's efforts, on Tuesday issued a statement expressing "serious concern" about what it called the White House's "unacceptable" role in delaying the announcement of the package.
    Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor@wsj.com

  2. State Seeks Reinstatement of Ban on Funding Planned Parenthood - Appeal argues anti-abortion law should be debated with HHS, not in court, By Eric Berman, 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis via wibc.com
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As expected, Indiana [meaning who, exactly?] is asking a federal appeals court to let it cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood.
    Planned Parenthood briefly cut hours and furloughed employees before a judge blocked the defunding law in June. CEO Betty Cockrum says she's not taking anything for granted, but expects that court order to be upheld.
    The state argues Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's ruling short-circuited a process set out by federal law for state Medicaid rules to be approved or rejected by the Department of Health and Human Services. ACLU attorney Ken Falk contends a court had to step in because patients were already being denied access to services.
    Falk also rejects the state's claim that it has the right to determine which providers are qualified to receive Medicaid dollars. He argues providers can only be shut out of the program for gross misconduct, such as fraud.
    The law denies state funding to any organization other than a hospital which performs abortions.

  3. Workers strike at Iamgold mine in Suriname, BusinessWeek.com
    PARAMARIBO, Suriname [Dutch Guiana] - A strike over working hours has halted operations at the large Rosebel gold mine operated by Toronto, Canada-based Iamgold Corp., union and company officials said Tuesday.
    The 1,100 workers walked off the job because management demanded employees work an additional four hours on the final day of their 14-day shifts, said union president Freddy Burg.

    An Iamgold spokesman in Toronto, Bob Tait, said the company was in talks with the union to end the walkout. He declined to give details. A statement issued by the company in Suriname acknowledged that the strike had halted production but predicted a quick resolution.
    [There ya go. It's them nasty money-grubbing Torontonians again (Phil Hyde being a Torontonian and desperate to restore our reputation as "Toronto the Good"). Thank God, Calgary stole our title as Canada's most hated city!]
    Burg was scheduled to meet with President Desi Bouterse to discuss the situation.
    The mine is 90 percent owned by Iamgold with the remainder owned by Suriname's government.
    The mine produced about 434,500 ounces of gold in 2010 and is among the country's largest employers. It is located about 52 miles (85 kilometers) south of the capital at the edge of the forest in the largely undeveloped South American country.

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