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AFL-CIO urges full amnestry for illegal immigrants
2.17.00   Reuters   ¹

New Orleans   The 13 million strong AFL-CIO labor federation Wednesday called for a full amnesty to give permanent legal status to an estimated 6 million illegal immigrants and hold employers accountable for exploiting them. The AFL-CIO executive council unanimously approved the policy resolution, which calls for the repeal of the so-called "I-9" sanctions, a process that imposes sanctions on employers that hire undocumented workers.
It also called for a full amnesty program, as well as guarantees that all workers receive full protection on issues of workplace rights and freedoms. "Throughout our country's history immigrants have played an important role in building democratic institutions and vibrant new communities that enrich our lives," AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson said in a statement. "The current system of immigration enforcement in the U.S. is broken. If we are to have an immigration system that works, it must be orderly, responsible and fair," she said.

The labor federation said unscrupulous employers had systematically used the "I-9" sanctions process, which the union helped enact 15 years ago, to retaliate against workers who join together in unions. "Employers often knowingly hire workers who are undocumented, and then when workers seek to improve working conditions employers use the law to fire or intimidate workers," Chavez-Thompson said. "The law should criminalize employer behavior, not punish workers."

The resolution also called for creation of education programs and training centers to educate workers about immigration issues and assist workers in exercising their rights and freedoms. Chavez-Thompson said the AFL-CIO would sponsor a series of regional forums with immigrant workers and community and union leaders to stimulate more national dialogue and understanding on immigration issues.
The first forum is in New York City on April 1, followed by one in Atlanta on April 29, and Los Angeles on May 20. The AFL-CIO Executive Council is the governing body of the U.S. union movement, with representatives of unions with 13 million members.

Illegal immigrants can then speak against employers w/o fearing deportation
2.18.00   Dena Bunis Orange Cty Register

A booming economy and tight labor market could help fuel this week's call by organized labor for a new immigration amnesty. Such an amnesty, the first since 1986, would make legal an estimated 6 million undocumented workers and their families throughout the U.S.
The vote by the AFL-CIO's executive council represents a turnaround by the federation that speaks for organized workers. This same group supported employer sanctions against illegal-immigrant hiring 15 years ago. Immigration advocates have been pushing for such an amnesty for years. It would have to be enacted by Congress.

Election-year politics makes that a dicey proposition, although Republicans have been attempting to court the immigrant vote this year. And Democrats want to hold on to that vote as part of their base. Business leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, applauded labor's move. "This is an area where the business community and organized labor can work together," said Randy Johnson, vice president of labor policy for the chamber.

At Applied Medical Resources in Laguna Hills, Patrick McNenny needs more employees and would welcome such an amnesty. Family members and friends of current employees who would make prime candidates for his company cannot be considered because of their immigration status. "We manufacture 100 percent of our goods in Laguna Hills and we would like to continue to manufacture in the United States," said McNenny, vice president for operations.

The labor proposal immediately drew fire from those who believe the 1986 amnesty was wrong and that there are already too many immigrants taking jobs away from citizens.
"It would be a betrayal of all American workers," said Barbara Coe of Huntington Beach and a leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. "The bottom line is it would depress wages and take away the jobs that rightfully belong to American citizens."

The 1986 amnesty, says Frank D. Bean, demographics professor at the University of California, Irvine, did create some competition for jobs among the newly legalized immigrants and other immigrant workers. But he doesn't expect an amnesty now would have a major impact, given the current economy and job availability.

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to:   NSTAC Chair
Daniel P. Burnhamm, CEO, Raytheon Company
141 Spring Street Lexington, Massachusetts 02421

re: threat to nation's communications infrastructure ¹
1.24.02   Chicago Fed. Labor

Mr. Burnham: I am writing to you requesting an immediate inquiry and/or hearing by the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council (NSTAC) to investigate the training of foreign nationals from India by AT&T Corp. Training is currently taking place at an AT&T work location in Oakbrook, Illinois. When questioned by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) National Office, AT&T employee relations would only state that the ongoing training is a contingency plan to be used by AT&T in the event of a strike by the CWA on May 11, 2002. AT&T has denied CWA Local 4998 access to the Oakbrook IL work location and has changed all door codes. NLRB charges are in the process of being filed. However, time is of the essence.

Meanwhile, Indian nationals are being trained on work formerly performed by approximately 165 CWA Local 4250 & 4998 represented workers from Oakbrook IL and 10 South Canal, Chicago AT&T work locations. Most of these workers were fired by AT&T on 12.14.01. Trained Indian workers will have access to AT&T's network via all nationwide 4E and 5E switches. Access is needed to provide AT&T's large and small business customers services such as inbound and outbound 800 lines, ISDN and T1 pipes.

This information is being conveyed to you because of your position as Chairman of the NSTAC. As you know, former President Ronald Reagan created the council in 1982. It was accomplished via his Executive Order (E.O. 12382) due to the pending divestiture of AT&T, the increased reliance of the Govt on commercial communications, the potential impact of new technologies on NS/EP telecommunications and the growing importance of command, control and communications to military and disaster response. September 11, 2001 made us all too aware of the importance of protecting our nation's communications infrastructure. Obviously, our national air security and intelligence was breached when three of four terrorist-piloted planes hit their targets. One did not, solely because a few passengers decided to fight back.

As a CWA Local Union President and former AT&T technician, I represent AT&T/CWA employees in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. I know a little bit about AT&T security, or lack of, as a result of thirty-five years of experience in dealing with them. Did AT&T inform U.S. Security and/or Intelligence Agencies of "AT&T's contingency plan?" Should AT&T allow foreign nationals access to our nation's communications infrastructure? AT&T refuses to answer these questions and others. Their response has been, It's our contingency plan." It wouldn't take much for a computer hacker, with access to the AT&T network, to wreak havoc on our nation's critical communications infrastructure. Why should AT&T be allowed to continue with this un- American contingency plan? Especially, in the aftermath of 9-11, the ongoing war on terrorism and current stand off between India and Pakistan.

This is not just a CWA - AT&T labor relations issue. If unchecked, it could become a potential threat from hostile foreign intelligence agents to the telecommunications, energy, financial, transportation, health care, manufacturing and emergency service sectors of our great country.   God Bless America!   Fight Back:

    Steve Tisza, President CWA Local 4250 806 North Dearborn Street Chicago, Illinois cc: Homeland Security Business Round Table

Whether an amnesty is granted is likely to hinge on political, not economic, factors, Bean suggests. "What it does remove," Bean said, "is what historically has been one of the strong voices in favor of immigration restrictions. That's the voice of organized labor."

The AFL-CIO proposal would also repeal a 1986 law that requires all new employees to produce documents proving they are legally entitled to work in the U.S. Organized labor supported that system in 1986. But, they say, it has turned into a way to silence worker complaints and make organizing workplaces with many immigrants difficult.

Coe says it's labor's "greed" to add more members that is driving this proposal. In recent years as more immigrants have joined the work force, particularly in the service sector, unions say they have tried to organize those workers only to find many are afraid to come foward and talk about working conditions.
An employer may be willing to look the other way when presented with suspicious documents by an immigrant. But that same employer suddenly will question those same documents if an immigrant worker complains about conditions, advocates and labor leaders say.
"Employers use their status as a threat to co-opt them to keep silent," said Linda Sanchez, the incoming head of the Orange County Central Labor Council. An amnesty that freed workers from that fear would help improve conditions for all workers, she added.


" Despite two decades of plant closures, and the loss of most of its heavy industry, Los Angeles is still the largest manufacturing center in U.S. 717K workers walk through the gates of LA's factories every day, dwarfing the 400K strong industrial workforce of Chicago's Cook County, now the nation's second largest manufacturing concentration. Over half of LA's industrial workers are immigrants. Trapped in an apartheid-like subclass of minimum wages, bone-crushing injuries and intense speed up, they have become the backbone of militant labor protest in Los Angeles. "
" This is not a reality unknown to the city's unions, who have had to choose between being pushed into irrelevance by shrinking membership, or organizing these new workers. Increasingly, they have chosen the latter course. Their plan is called the Los Angeles Manufacturing Action Project (LAMAP) "
David Bacon, Mountain of Concrete paragraph 40


Los Angeles   An administrative law judge has ruled against MediaNews (Garden State Newspapers Inc.) on most counts in a case brought against it by the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of workers at the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. In a strongly worded decision, Judge Gerald A. Wacknov ruled that, among other matters: The judge further ordered that it "cease and desist from" unilaterally increasing the work load of district advisors in the circulation dept and not interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. Further he ruled that helpers must be reinstated to load and unload trucks.
He ordered that within 14 days of the ruling (dated June 30, but only recently received by the Guild), the company post a notice and mail to the transportation workers a strongly worded pronouncement that says, among other things: Bargaining resumed Thursday, July 13. Press-Telegram unionized workers have been without a contract since MediaNews took over the "assets" of the Press-Telegram in late 1997 and have given the bargaining team authority to call a strike. The contract that was in place there for nearly 60 years was not recognized by the NLRB as continuing because the pact did not specifically reference "asset" sales, even though the contract said the pact "shall inure and be binding upon the successors and assigns of the publisher."
Since the MN takeover, reporters, photographers, many editors and circulation workers went without sick leave, bereavement leave, in circulation even without any vacation leave; had their insurance premiums hiked above other workers (Knight-Ridder lost a similar case when it did the same thing to the Press-Telegram workers when KR owned the business); and wages were slashed up to 47%. One of the most recent company proposals was to pay P-T workers less than L.A. Daily News workers, even though P-T reporters' stories appear in the Daily News with bylines that say "staff writer."

"Today there are only two great sources of manpower. One of these is the women. They can & want to play their part in the war effort the same as their male relatives, … the faster we integrate them into the work, the quicker we will realize the victory."
Harry Bridges   Dec. 1942
    international domestics
    feminist
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) is a unique sort of trade union, first created in the state of Gujarat. Currently it has 217,000 members throughout the sub-continent. SEWA has set out to organise India's countless extremely poor women, whether they work at home, in the street or in the fields, doing a variety of jobs but having no permanent employer so that they may be considered self-employed This march in Las Vegas, Gramine Bank founder Prof. Mohamed Yunis addressed the issue of the digital divide in a keynote conversation at CTIA Wireless 2001, event sponsored by Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Assn. The Gramine Bank makes low-interest loans to the poorest of the poor living in Bangladesh to help them buy equipt, send a child to school, or even start a business.
95% of the bank's loans are granted to women; av. loan = $24. According to Yunis, the average income in Bangladesh is about 6¢ per day.

Yunis says he is now marrying telecommunications with his microcredit concept and is incorporating cell phones as part of his plan to empower impoverished people. The goal of the Gramine Bank appears to be twofold: first, to help people who normally don't get much help; and second, to exemplify to bigger financial institutions than the Gramine Bank that lending money to people who might be considered high-risk makes good business sense.

Yunis says the bad debt rate for Gramine is about half a percent, much lower than most business loans. "Financial institutions of the world say the poor aren't credit-worthy; the rich people are not credit-worthy," Yunis said. ¹
Bangladesh, with 130 million people, has 500,000 telephones, almost all of them in the major cities. The Gramine Bank is changing that and has financed cell phones for women in 3,500 villages. These telephone ladies, as Yunis calls them, create a business by becoming a mobile phone booth.

Villagers can now call their children who have gone out to find their fortune in the more developed parts of the world, or they can call doctors or the police for emergencies. The one idea I like the best is how farmers, formerly at the mercy of both the weather & middlemen, are now able to capture more control of their businesses.
Previously guessing at upcoming weather conditions, they now just make a call. "Middlemen used to squeeze these people because they had all the information. Now they can go directly to the marketplace and find the requirements," Yunis said.

The "telephone lady" entrepreneurs are earning nearly $500 per month, about the same as a bank CEO in Bangladesh. By the way, the telephone ladies also use solar panels on top of their homes because there is no electricity.
Microcredit is now available in more than 80 countries that have recently emulated Yunis' concept, incl U.S. & Canada. Yunis wants companies & financial institutions to create separate divisions to look at the underdeveloped countries to expand business and help people change their lives.
"Poor people don't create poverty. Poverty is created by our institutions. So why can't we design our institutions in a different way to create opportunities?" Yunis asked.

In Mexico, women take a siesta from housework
Symbolic work stoppage is held to highlight female contributions in a macho society
7.23.00   Mary Beth Sheridan L.A. Times pA1

Mexico City   For the first time in 23 years, Irene Ortega slept late this weekend. She didn't get up at 6 a.m. to fix her husband's meals for the day. She didn't haul out the washboard to scrub the clothes. Her husband was duly informed that he could fend for himself: She was on strike.
"He looked at me bug-eyed," the 60-year-old street vendor reported cheerfully. "He said, 'Why, you old copycat.' " Indeed, Ortega was joining an insurrection by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Mexican homemakers who dropped their mops, hung up their aprons and boycotted their ironing boards Saturday. They were participating in one of the most unusual work stoppages Mexico has ever seen: a one-day national strike against housework, intended to highlight women's contributions in a society known for machismo.

"This is aimed at converting the invisible into the visible," said Gabriela Delgado, head of the Women's Institute, referring to housework. Her institute is part of the center-left Mexico City govt, which helped promote the event. The strike appeared to be more symbolic than mass-based. But the widely publicized work stoppage captured the attention of a society in which women's roles are rapidly changing. Although about half of Mexican women are still principally homemakers, women have poured into the work force and universities in recent years.
What hasn't changed is their place in the home. Even those with outside jobs, like Ortega, find that they must do the household chores that traditionally have fallen to women. That is, just about all of them.

"Before I leave home, I have to work. When I get home, I have to work," said Ortega, a stocky woman in a bright pink sweatshirt adorned with a Virgin of Guadalupe medal who puts in 10-hour days selling music cassettes in Mexico City's Alameda Park. Her husband, who repairs small appliances, she says, is "macho" and only reluctantly pitches in.
On Saturday, however, he was on his own. Ortega slept in until 8 a.m., bathed, then headed out to a street stand to indulge in some consomme and barbacoa, rich lamb tacos. It was, says the mother of two grown children, her first day off from housework since 1977, when she spent a day in bed. Normally, she works seven days a week, in addition to keeping up the house. "I'm a Mexican woman," she explained. The strike had lofty aims. Its organizers, various women's organizations and the city govt, hope to have domestic work included in national figures on economic growth. They want men to help out more at home.

And they would like the media and textbooks to portray housework as a mutual responsibility. To press these goals, they sponsored a protest march to the traditional heart of Mexico's political power, the capital's giant Zocalo plaza, on the eve of the strike. About 500 women participated, banging pots and chanting: "Democracy begins at home!"
Once in the Zocalo, the protesters listened as speakers denounced the inequity: Statistics show only half of working men pitch in at home, compared with 94% of Mexican women with outside jobs. Such data didn't surprise Laura Quiroz, 48, a television production worker who joined the march. She had announced to her spouse that she planned to take part in Saturday's strike. He was not amused.
"He said, 'I don't care. In this house, we need to eat,' " she said with a grimace. Women were making progress, she said, sighing. "But it's little by little." Like her, Rosario Rosas, 47, a homemaker in Mexico City's working-class Tepito neighborhood, had limited hopes for the strike. The mother of three wasn't interested in making housework part of the gross domestic product. She hoped for something much more modest: a tiny income of her own. All the money she received from her husband was earmarked for the household, she explained.

"Men can go to the cantina with their friends. Women can't" because they lack money and are criticized for such independence, she said. While macho practices endure, however, the protest pointed up the dramatic transformation of women's roles in Mexico. Birthrates have plummeted in recent decades because of extensive govt family-planning programs. Young women often have twice as many years of education as their mothers. The percentage of women in the work force has more than doubled since 1970, to nearly 40%.
And women, who didn't get the vote until 1953, have become far more politically active. In this year's presidential race, candidates made an unprecedented effort to hold rallies with women and make campaign promises tailored to them. In Mexico City, women's issues have been a priority, with the local govt setting up special centers to address problems such as female unemployment and domestic abuse. Delgado of the Women's Institute said it was impossible to calculate how many women observed the strike. But the impact of the annual event appeared to ripple far beyond those who actually put down their oven mitts and brooms.

There were discussions like the one between Angelica Cruz, 45, and her husband, a 48-year-old copy editor, who were eating with their daughter at an outdoor taco stand in Mexico City. Asked her opinion of the strike, Cruz told a reporter: "Good."
"Good?" exclaimed her husband. He said the strike made sense only for women who held outside jobs. His wife disagreed. "We don't receive a salary. We work and have no benefits," she shot back. "Who's paying for the tacos?" demanded her husband. Turning to a reporter, he said his wife didn't have time to participate in the strike. But it seemed that he wouldn't have the last word. "It's new; I only heard about it yesterday," Cruz said. "But I may participate the next time round."


U.S. seeks dismissal of McSally's complaint
4.25.02   John E. Mulligan
Providence Journal RI

Wash.D.C.   The govt yesterday asked a federal judge to dismiss Lt. Col. Martha E. McSally's complaint against an Air Force rule, now rescinded, that servicewomen be covered in traditional Muslim robes when traveling off base in Saudi Arabia. But RI native McSally argued for a strong federal declaration that the rule was an unconstitutional infringement of her religious freedoms and that she will not be punished for fighting the dress code & related regulations. U.S. Dist. Judge James Robertson tried to prod McSally & the govt toward an agreement that would prevent a trial on areas, including McSally's religious views and the military's need to protect troops in wartime, where he said the courts should tread lightly. After a hearing that ran about an hour, Robertson said that he would rule as soon as possible on the govt's motion to dismiss the case. But afterward, he kept the parties in his chambers for almost an hour to discuss a possible agreement to conclude the case.

The govt's lawyers did not talk to reporters after the session but one of McSally's lawyers, John B. Williams, said McSally was open to a possible settlement. He did not discuss specific terms, however. Robertson told the govt's lawyers that McSally, first American woman to fly in combat, "stuck her neck way out" to challenge Air Force regulations requiring servicewomen to wear the head-to-toe "abaya" robes when away from their base in Riyadh, to travel off-base only in the company of men and to sit in the back seat of vehicles. The Air Force has said that the rule was a response to Saudi laws & religious traditions and that it was intended to protect Air Force personnel who might otherwise be arrested and possibly punished by local religious police.
McSally resisted the regulation, first through her chain of command and, late last year, by filing her suit, which apparently led the Air Force to loosen its regulation early this year. For "a successful career officer, taking on the Air Force in a highly publicized case like this" was "not an easy thing to do," Robertson said. McSally argues that the relaxation of the Air Force dress code for women in Saudi Arabia, and related rules, has not been sufficient. While women are no longer under orders to wear the abaya off-base, the local Air Force commander has "strongly recommended" they do so. As a practical matter, the average military person treats that kind of direction from a top officer as the equivalent of a direct order, McSally said.

McSally's lawyers also argued that she has effectively felt reprisals for bucking the chain of command. After superior fitness reports throughout her career and 2 key promotions ahead of her peers, she was passed over last year for a command position, McSally said. But Robertson asked McSally's lawyers a series of questions about how the court could step in and draw conclusions about McSally's progress through the ranks or lack of it.

    McKinney address re VOA
    2.28.01   House IOHR SubCommittee hearing
This being our first Subcommittee hearing of the 107th Congress, and my second Congress as Ranking Member on this subcommittee, I want to acknowledge our new Chairwoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen. I very much look forward to working with her in this Congress, as we look to shed light on the many dire human rights predicaments around the world. I want to welcome Mr. Marc B. Nathanson and wish him a happy 2nd Anniversary as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

To many, the Voice of America has been a beacon of hope. From Nelson Mandela, who listened to the VOA while imprisoned in apartheid South Africa to the citizens of Burkina Faso who listened to the VOA as the only source of news when govt critic Norberto Zongo was murdered, certainly some areas of the world, especially those on the most poverty and oppression stricken continent, need good journalism. Yet, when it comes to funding programs like Radio Free Africa, the priority is simply not there. Africa is earmarked for well less than one percent in the recent yearly budgets. Not many beacons of hope are going out to the African continent clouded by resource wars and genocide conditions much like the situation in Europe during the Second World War when the VOA was formed and used heavily to fight the fascist propaganda wars.

One can only wonder might have happened in Rwanda in 1994, with the messages of hate being broadcast for days leading up to the genocide, if the VOA had been there in some way to counteract with alternative and constructive messages. It is utterly embarrassing that, at the dawn of a new millennium, the Federal Govt is funding Radio Free Africa with the paltry totals that it is.
The VOA also has announced the closing of its Uzbekistan service, and, to add insult to injury, are replacing it with Russian language service. VOA's Uzbek service is the only one bringing light to the Uzbek govt's violation of human rights. The VOA claims that the Uzbek service is redundant because it is already provided by Radio Liberty . However, Radio Liberty's objectivity has been in question by some that see it as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Uzbek dictatorship. Uzbek VOA service has been a godsend to the people of Uzbekistan, covering such important issues as massive environmental degradation. So, before closing down this beacon of hope, I would like a comparative study done to determine the quality and objectivity of both VOA Uzbekistan and the surrogate Radio Liberty.

Last session, I introduced a bill to authorize the Broadcasting Board of Governors to make available to a private entity archival materials from the Africa Division of the Voice of America. Representative Barbara Lee of this subcommittee is a co-sponsor of the bill. The bill authorized the Broadcasting Board of Governors to make available to the Institute for Media Development, a non-profit organization, archival materials of the Africa Division of the Voice of America (VOA). VOA programs are not broadcast in the United States. As a result, programs which may be of interest to students and scholars of African politics, history, literature and foreign policy are often inaccessible.

Currently there is no system in place to preserve the analog tapes on which VOA's Africa broadcasts are recorded. Programming that is rich in interviews of African political and cultural leaders is therefore being lost to posterity. Storing these VOA interviews and news stories in a central archive will make a substantial contribution to preserving the voices of Africans who are making history.

There are other concerns that I have regarding exactly how the BBG does its business; one centers on its hiring practices. Now, Mr. Chairman, I know that you were not at the helm when "Women & men were treated differently" at the VOA, where the court found that between 1974 & 1984 that "There were openings for 'warm bodies' as long as those bodies were male."

There was documented rampant sex discrimination at the VOA & its parent, the U.S. Information Agency, during this period, where some 1,100 women in the prime of their careers, were denied opportunity based on their gender. After 23 years of fighting, govt last year paid a steep price: $ 531 million, plus attorney's fees. It is by far the largest civil rights settlement in U.S. history. The govt blinked only after losing 46 of the first 48 compensation hearings held as part of the 1977 class action suit.

Court documents describe the VOA as an old-boy network run amok. The agency's male managers routinely whited out women's application test scores if they were too high. Another tactic used was the agency claim to a 'hiring freeze'. Meanwhile, men with less experience and education magically scored dozens of points better than women. Other men who flunked the test were given jobs anyway.

One woman, Michal Shekel, was denied a position because, she was told, she had a "girl's voice" and a "guy's name." Jahanara Hasan was advised that broadcasting was too strenuous a job for a woman. Shirley Hill Witt, the first American Indian woman to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, sailed through the admissions process in 1981 with some of the highest test scores. She wasn't offered a job, though, because the agency "had enough women in the Foreign Service at mid-level," according to a notation on her application.

Even today the VOA's hiring numbers are still out of whack, though. For instance, there are 68 male electronics technicians and no women in comparable jobs. Just six of 122 broadcast equipment operators are women. African Americans were also underrepresented for many years at the VOA.

While there has been advances at the VOA in minority hiring, certainly the agency has some way to go when you consider the backsliding of the past with this very public institution. When you consider how well some in the private sector have been in enforcing affirmative action for decades now, it is inexcusable for a govt agency such as VOA to have performed so poorly in the areas of Woman and minority hiring. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that you share my concern and that the improvement will continue under your steady leadership.

When Congress approved the Voice of America Charter in 1976, it dictated that foreign broadcasts should first of all be objective, but also reflect U.S. foreign policy. Present day U.S. broadcasting directors, with encouragement from Congress, go beyond this charter. They believe they have missions to influence the way foreigners think, live, and are governed. VOA's one-time purpose to report objective news is now being replaced by congressionally favored political programming with clear ideological agendas.

For example, it was politically expedient for Congress and the White House to approve $ 7 million to move Radio/TV Marti from well equipped quarters in Washington to new studios in Miami, heartland of the anti- Castro Cuban emigre community. The money was approved just a few months before the 1996 presidential election in which the Florida Hispanic vote was eagerly sought. The Cuban service has long been mired in emigre politics. Independent journalists, the state department's inspector general, and individual members of Congress all have criticized the service as biased, with few radio listeners in Cuba and virtually no TV viewers. Nonetheless, Congress continues to give Radio/TV Marti $22 million a year.

So, in closing, I wish the Chairman the best of luck and hope that he will fight to the best that he is able for more funds for Radio Free Africa, along with continued journalistic programs throughout Africa which, when funded, have been so successful. Talk about a " bang for the buck": about 20 percent of VOA's worldwide listeners are now in Nigeria alone. So I sincerely hope that you, Chairman Nathan, look to get govt broadcasting back to adhering to the Charter of '76, a charter which 'rang' the bell of objectivity so that the onetime concept or dream of a single American international broadcaster will be taken seriously enough to one day compete head on with the likes of the BBC World Service.


GB.280/MNE/1/1 synthesis analytic report   GB.280/MNE/1/2 country-by-country replies in separate vol.
Survey covers key human & workers' rights issues & development concerns, such as employment promotion and security; wages, benefits & conditions of work (e.g., safety & health issues); training; industrial relations; export processing zones; privatization; and MNE practice in relation to human rights/labour law policies.

ILO MNE reports   Multinationals' 1996-99 human rights impact in 100 countries from govts, workers' orgs, employers' assoc., & business reps. Representative sample of countries w/ FDI in- & out-flows in ILO regions.
Mary W. Covington covington@ilo.org
Assoc.Dir. Intl Labor Organization
1828 L St NW #600 WashDC 20036-5121
202.653.7652 fax 202.653.7687
For Unocal workers, anxiety fades but upheaval still awaits   8.3.05   Elizabeth Douglass L.A. Times

CNOOC Ltd.'s withdrawal Tuesday from the bidding for Unocal Corp. lifts the pall of uncertainty that had hung over the California oil co. worldwide workforce for months, leaving workers distracted, anxious and ripe for poaching by headhunters and rivals.
El Segundo-based Unocal noted in a recent regulatory filing that it had been operating under a cloud of takeover speculation since January and that the additional delay and uncertainty of a possible buyout by CNOOC would "impose difficulties in retaining and motivating" the company's 6,500 employees.

Now, however, CNOOC is out of the running, and Unocal shareholders are expected to approve Chevron Corp.'s pending $17.5-billion cash-and-stock deal at a shareholder meeting next week.
That could be welcome news for employees, according to employment recruiters and others who have contact with Unocal's workforce.
"I would expect that there's a big sigh of relief 133; because Chevron is a known and CNOOC is an unknown," said Tim Taylor, a professor and recruitment coordinator in the petroleum and geosystems engineering department at the University of Texas in Austin. "I think now things will calm down a bit."

Even so, Unocal employees, who have have been reluctant to discuss their concerns because their employer has prohibited them from talking to the media, are likely to face significant upheaval in the coming months, whether through job cuts, relocation, reassignment or the installation of new bosses.
Chevron, the nation's second-largest oil company, has said it will lay off an unspecified number of Unocal's workers. Although the layoffs are likely to be spread across Unocal's global operations, the hardest hit area is expected to be the company's headquarters staff in El Segundo, where 128 corporate employees work. Chevron, based in San Ramon, Calif., has said it will not keep that facility.

"A final decision on the number of jobs that will be cut has not been made, but we have made it clear that the vast majority of Unocal employees will be needed in the combined company," Chevron spokesman Donald Campbell said. "This is not an exercise in cutting people to attain savings."
Chevron, with 47,000 employees, has offered 71 Unocal employees supervisory and management-level jobs over the last few months, and 66 of them have accepted the positions, Campbell said. An additional 500 offers have gone out over the last few days. "We're adding more people to that list as quickly as possible," Campbell said.

Unocal spokesman Barry Lane said Tuesday that Chevron was continuing a transition and integration process it started months ago.
"Many, many people are getting offers from Chevron," he said. "There's every indication that Chevron is going to absorb a good proportion of the Unocal employees."
If that's true, it marks a huge departure for Chevron and the oil industry, and it represents the strongest sign yet that oil companies such as Chevron are already feeling the pinch of an industry-wide talent shortage that has been looming for years. It was Chevron that shed more than 4,500 jobs in the aftermath of its 2001 merger with Texaco Corp. Similarly large payroll cuts followed BP's acquisition of Amoco and Arco, as well as the deals that created ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Given that history, it has been more than a little unusual to hear Chevron Chairman and Chief Executive David O'Reilly pledge that job cuts would be minimal after the Unocal deal. Instead of currying favor with Wall Street by promising big post-buyout savings through layoffs, O'Reilly told analysts in April that he expected yearly pretax savings of more than $325 million from the "synergy" of the 2 oil companies, to be wrung mostly from overlapping operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Thailand and "within corporate and support functions."
Taylor, the University of Texas professor, said the statements by O'Reilly reflected a tightening market for petroleum engineers and other workers, a shortfall that has grown more pronounced as record-high oil prices have spurred new exploration projects. Indeed, as the fight over Unocal dragged on, rival companies stepped up efforts to steal away Unocal's employees, according to a former Unocal manager who has kept in touch with his former colleagues.

Unocal's change-of-control plan has limited their success thus far, according to the former executive, who asked not to be identified because he still works in the industry. Under the plan, which is available in some form to all Unocal workers, a laid-off Unocal employee with five or more years of service can receive four months' salary, plus enhanced retirement benefits and credit for additional years of service. Those with fewer than five years of service get a less valuable payout.
"There are several head hunters going around Unocal actively pursuing people," the former Unocal executive said. "I've got my eyes on a couple [of] guys. The only thing keeping them there right now is that severance package."

Japanese say sayonara to last 'jobs for life' bastion
7.25.01   Colin Joyce
News Telegraph UK   ¥

Tokyo   Japan has gone into mourning after the "last bastion of lifetime employment", the electronics company Panasonic, announced that it was to lay off thousands of employees.
After a decade of recession, most Japanese companies were long ago forced to abandon the principle of "jobs for life" that lay at the core of their once-admired employment system. But the news of redundancies at Matsushita, as the electronics giant is called in its homeland, has prompted nostalgic obituaries for that system. Matsushita is expected to lay off 5,000 employees, in the first cuts at the company since the Second World War.

Many Japanese had looked up to Matsushita as a company that had remained profitable and internationally competitive while adhering to the Japanese tradition of not sacking staff in hard times. The weekly magazine Aera reminisced how, when the Great Depression struck in 1929, a manager told company founder Konosuke Matsushita that half the workforce would have to be sacked.
Matsushita famously replied that employers were "family" and would not be dismissed. Instead, they would be put on half time for half pay, and asked to give up days off to sell excess stock.
They did so enthusiastically, enabling the company to weather the crisis and thrive.

The Matsushita approach was seen to have shaped Japan's post-war employment system. The salarymen were famous for their loyalty and their willingness to work long hours for no extra pay.
In return, companies offered them the promise of lifetime employment and salaries that grew year-on-year. Japan's post-war recovery was partly attributed to the co-operative atmosphere that resulted. However, the system proved ill-suited to recession and has largely collapsed in the past decade.

Matsushita's large overseas market share is seen as merely having enabled it to avoid the inevitable for longer than others. While Japanese companies have learned that they have to make cuts, their history has led to a tentative approach that can backfire.
Matsushita is expected to offer generous redundancy packages to volunteers in an attempt to minimise the negative publicity of the lay-offs. When other Japanese companies tried this approach they lost many valued employees who were confident of finding work elsewhere. Less able employees opted to stay.

The weekly tabloid magazine Shukan Gendai, read widely by Japanese salarymen, headed its coverage of the cuts: "The fall of the last bastion of lifetime unemployment." A reporter from the magazine waited on the doorstep of Kunio Nakamura, the Matsushita president, to ask him: "Have you renounced the 'family principle' of your founder?"

Japan's lost generation   Japan Inc. is back, but millions of young workers have been left behind
5.17.07   I. Rowley, K. Hall, H. Tashiro
Business Week

By just about any measure, Japan is back. The economy is growing at 2% a year, company profits are soaring, and land prices are rising. Unemployment, meanwhile, is down to 4% as Japan Inc. has started hiring again, with many college grads receiving multiple job offers. Suddenly, the future looks bright for a new generation of Japanese.
Try telling that to Sadaaki Nehashi. The 31-year-old contract worker at delivery company Yamato Transport makes just $1,100 a month sorting packages, about a third of the average income for full-time employees in Japan. Thats a step up from when he landed the job 6 years ago, though not enough for Nehashi to afford a place of his own, so he lives at his parents' modest home in central Tokyo.

"I've had to lower my expectations a bit," says Nehashi, who graduated from university with a degree in marine biology in 2000. "But if I had waited around for a full-time job, I might have been waiting forever."
If a rising tide lifts all boats, then why are millions of Japanese like Nehashi treading water? There's an entire generation of people in their late 20s and early 30s who came of age during Japan's so-called lost decade, a stretch of economic stagnation that started to ease in 2003.

Through that period, with Japanese companies in retrenchment mode, young people faced what came to be known as a "hiring ice age." Many settled for odd jobs or part-time work to make ends meet but hoped eventually to find their way into regular employment with the stars of corporate Japan.
Instead, they're being passed over in favor of new graduates, a serious problem in a country that still values lifetime employment and frowns on midcareer job-hopping. This group is called the "lost" or "suffering" generation.

Some 3.3 million Japanese aged 25 to 34 work as temps or contract employees, up from 1.5 million 10 years ago, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. These young people have earned various less-than-desirable classifications in hierarchy-conscious Japan.
They might be

  • keiyakushain, contract workers typically lower-paid than full-time staff with fewer benefits and minimal job security, or
  • hakenshain, people employed by temp agencies, or
  • freeters, those who flit from one menial job to the next, or,
  • at the bottom, NEETS, an acronym coined in Britain that stands for not employed, in education, or in training.
Their plight was the subject of a recent TV drama called Haken no Hinkaku, or Dignity of the Agency Worker, saga of a 20something temp who must put up with the snobbery of full-time colleagues despite her long list of qualifications.

With Japan's economy on the mend, ranks of underemployed might be expectedto shrink fast. But the number of agency and contract workers continues to swell.
To spur employment during the lean years, Tokyo made it easier for companies to add temporary employees. Now, even with fat times back, big employers are reluctant to take those people on permanently.
In their defense, Japanese companies say people from the lost generation aren't equipped to move into the middle rungs of the corporate world.
"No matter how much companies want to hire from among this pool, many in their early 30s just don't have the needed skills," says Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute sr economist Toshihiro Nagahama. Employers also fear that freeters who have drifted from one job to another will be less loyal than ambitious grads hoping to work their way up through the ranks.

These millions of young people face a life that's vastly different from that of their parents. For Japan's postwar baby boomers, jobs provided certainty, spurring them to partner and procreate.
Faced with insecurity, many of Japan's 20 & 30somethings are doing neither. The number of marriages fell to 714,000 in 2005 from 1 million-plus in the 1970s. That could exacerbate a drop in
Japan's birthrate, already among the lowest in the developed world.
"You don't get maternity pay, and you have no job to return to; that makes it hard," says Masako Ikeda, a 30-year-old who works at a video game company in Tokyo but is employed by a job agency.

The suffering generation also suffers from more mental illness. Workers in their 30s accounted for 61% of all cases of depression, stress, and work-related mental disabilities last year, up from 42% in 2002, according to a study by the Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development.
"Because of the anxiety stemming from job insecurity, it is quite natural that these people have problems," says Susumu Oda, psychiatrist in charge of the survey.

Fates of those like Nehashi & Ikeda worry Japan's economists. If members of the lost generation don't land higher-paying, salaried jobs, they won't have much pocket change to spend or funds to sock away for their old age. Credit Suisse Group (CS) estimates these people could saddle Japan's taxpayers with $67 billion a year in retirement and health-care costs if their number remains at current levels for the next 3 decades.
  [ The destiny of the ice age victims being that of Eskimo seniors, the ice floe. ]

Tokyo is waking up to the problem. Last year it set targets for paring the ranks of the underemployed, and it is offering companies $2,500 for each new hire of a freeter aged 25 to 34.
In September, the Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry unveiled projects to help NEETS join the workforce. It plans to double the number of NEET outreach centers, staffed by psychologists and job counselors, to 50 this year and to increase training schools to 40 from the current 25.

"The govt is finally realizing that it has a crisis on its hands," says Bunka Gakushu Cooperative Network dir. Yosaku Sato, a nonprofit based on the outskirts of Tokyo that receives $200,000 a year in public funds to run training and placement services targeted at young people.
Some companies are pitching in, too. Toyota Motor Corp. tripled the number of workers it employs on short-term contracts to 10,000 since 2001, put 943 into permanent positions last year, and plans to convert 1,200 more by next March.
Phone co. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. and Fast Retailing Co., owner of the Uniqlo clothing chain, have announced similar plans.

  rankled ranks
Some disgruntled Japanese contract workers are pressing for change the old-fashioned way. Electronics giant Canon Inc. is in the spotlight after Hideyuki Ohno, a 32-year-old temporary worker at the company's Utsunomiya factory, near Tokyo, organized 17 other temps into a union.
His complaint was that, after 7 years on the job, he's still employed by an agency, not Canon. Ohno, who earns $2,200 a month polishing glass lenses for steppers, the complex machines used to make semiconductors, says he hasn't had a raise in 5 years.
"I heard my salary was nearly half of a regular staffer of the same age, but I tried not to care about it too much," says the father of two. Then Ohno read in a newspaper that Canon may have violated employment law in not offering him a permanent position after his many years with the company. That spurred him to file a complaint with the Labor Standards Office.

Despite growing profits, Canon still relies heavily on outside help. In 2006, it increased its ranks of contract employees by 19%, to 37,000; permanent staff rose 4%, to 50,753. Canon declined to comment on Ohno's case but says it treats temporary workers fairly and follows all labor laws.
Ohno says the dispute has opened a rift between temps and full-timers at the plant where he works. After he launched his lawsuit, tape was put on the floor to demarcate the line between permanent employees and temps. "We used to all work together," says Ohno. "But now they don't even say, Good morning.'"

Japan looks to a robot future
3.1.08   Hiroko Tabuchi AP

Tokyo   At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate 6 basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust. Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot, dubbed Kansei, or "sensibility", responds to the word "war" by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears "love," and its pink lips smile.
"To live among people, robots need to handle complex social tasks," said project leader Junichi Takeno of Meiji University. "Robots will need to work with emotions, to understand and eventually feel them".

Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies. There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now startups are marching out robotic home helpers.

They aren't all humanoid. The Paro is a furry robot seal fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers, designed to comfort the lonely, opening and closing its eyes and moving its flippers. For Japan, the robotics revolution is an imperative. With more than a fifth of the population 65 or older, the country is banking on robots to replenish the work force and care for the elderly.
In the past several years, govt has funded a plethora of robotics-related efforts, including some $42 million for the first phase of a humanoid robotics project, and $10 million a year between 2006 and 2010 to develop key robot technologies. The government estimates the industry could surge from about $5.2 billion in 2006 to $26 billion in 2010 and nearly $70 billion by 2025.

Besides financial and technological power, the robot wave is favored by the Japanese mind-set as well. Robots have long been portrayed as friendly helpers in Japanese popular culture, a far cry from the often rebellious and violent machines that often inhabit Western science fiction.
This is, after all, the country that invented Tamagotchi, the hand-held mechanical pets that captivated the children of the world. Japanese are also more accepting of robots because the native Shinto religion often blurs boundaries between the animate and inanimate, experts say. To the Japanese psyche, the idea of a humanoid robot with feelings doesn't feel as creepy or as threatening as it might do in other cultures.

Still, Japan faces a vast challenge in making the leap, commercially and culturally, from toys, gimmicks and the experimental robots churned out by labs like Takeno's to full-blown human replacements that ordinary people can afford and use safely.
"People are still asking whether people really want robots running around their homes, and folding their clothes," said Macquarie Bank sr technology analyst Damian Thong in Tokyo. "But then again, Japan's the only country in the world where everyone has an electric toilet," he said. "We could be looking at a robotics revolution."

That revolution has been going on quietly for some time. Japan is already an industrial robot powerhouse. Over 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan in 2005, about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees, according to a recent report by Macquarie, which had no numbers from subsequent years.
They won't be claiming overtime or drawing pensions when they're retired. "The cost of machinery is going down, while labor costs are rising," said Eimei Onaga, CEO of Innovation Matrix Inc., a company that distributes Japanese robotics technology in the U.S. "Soon, robots could even replace low-cost workers at small firms, greatly boosting productivity."

That's just what the Japanese govt has been counting on. A 2007 national technology roadmap by the Trade Ministry calls for 1 million industrial robots to be installed throughout the country by 2025. A single robot can replace about 10 employees, the roadmap assumes, meaning Japan's future million-robot army of workers could take the place of 10 million humans. That's about 15 percent of the current work force.
"Robots are the cornerstone of Japan's international competitiveness," the Trade Ministry's chief of manufacturing industry policy Shunichi Uchiyama said at a recent seminar. "We expect robotics technology to enter even more sectors going forward."

Meanwhile, localities looking to boost regional industry clusters have seized on robotics technology as a way to spur advances in other fields. Robotic technology is used to build more complex cars, for instance, and surgical equipment. The logical next step is robots in everyday life.
At a hospital in Aizu Wakamatsu, 190 miles north of Tokyo, a child-sized white and blue robot wheels across the floor, guiding patients to and from the outpatients' surgery area. The robot, made by startup Tmsk, sports perky catlike ears, recites simple greetings, and uses sensors to detect and warn people in the way. It helpfully prints out maps of the hospital, and even checks the state of patients' arteries.

The Aizu Chuo Hospital spent about some $557,000 installing three of the robots in its waiting rooms to test patients' reactions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, said spokesman Naoya Narita.
"We feel this is a good division of labor. Robots won't ever become doctors, but they can be guides and receptionists," Narita said.
Still, the wheeled machines hadn't won over all seniors crowding the hospital waiting room on a weekday morning.
"It just told us to get out of the way!" huffed wheelchair-bound Hiroshi Asami, 81. "It's a robot. It's the one who should get out my way." "I prefer dealing with real people," he said.

Another roadblock is money. For all its research, Japan has yet to come up with a commercially successful consumer robot. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. failed to sell even one of its pricey toddler-sized Wakamaru robots, launched in 2003 as domestic helpers.

Though initially popular, Sony Corp. pulled the plug on its robot dog, Aibo, in 2006, just seven years after its launch. With a price tag of a whopping $2,000, Aibo never managed to break into the mass market.
One of the only commercially successful consumer robots so far is made by an American company, iRobot Corp. The Roomba vacuum cleaner robot is self-propelled and can clean rooms without supervision.
"We can pretty much make anything, but we have to ask, what are people actually going to buy?" said iRobot CEO Helen Greiner. The company has sold 2.5 million Roombas, which retail for as little as $120, since the line was launched in 2002.

Still, with the correct approach, robots could provide a wealth of consumer goods, Greiner stressed at a recent convention. Sure enough, Japanese makers are catching on, launching low-cost robots like Tomy's $300 i-Sobot, a toy-like hobby robot that comes with 17 motors, can recognize spoken words and can be remote-controlled.
Sony is also trying to learn from past mistakes, launching a much cheaper $350 rolling speaker robot last year that built on its robotics technology.
"What we need now isn't the ultimate humanoid robot," said Kyoji Takenaka, the head of the industry-wide Robot Business Promotion Council. "Engineers need to remember that the key to developing robots isn't in the lab, but in everyday life."

Still, some of the most eye-catching developments in robotics are coming out of Japan's labs. Researchers at Osaka University, for instance, are developing a robot to better understand child development. The "Child-Robot with Biomimetic Body" is designed to mimic the motions of a toddler. It responds to sounds, and sensors in its eyes can see and react to people. It wiggles, changes facial expressions, and makes gurgling sounds.
The team leader, Minoru Asada, is working on artificial intelligence software that would allow the child to "learn" as it progresses.
"Right now, it only goes, 'Ah, ah.' But as we develop its learning function, we hope it can start saying more complex sentences and moving on its own will," Asada said. "Next-generation robots need to be able to learn and develop themselves."

For Hiroshi Ishiguro, also at Osaka University, the key is to make robots that look like human beings. His Geminoid robot looks uncannily like himself, down to the black, wiry hair and slight tan.
"In the end, we don't want to interact with machines or computers. We want to interact with technology in a human way so it's natural and valid to try to make robots look like us," he said. "One day, they will live among us," Ishiguro said. "Then you'd have to ask me: 'Are you human? Or a robot?'"

Border where the best free land is being settled is called the "margin of production."

Wages are determined at the margin of production. Wage at the margin sets the wage for all lands. That is the "law of wages."

Production in better lands left after paying wages goes to rent. That is the "law of rent."
The margin in the least productive land sets low wages, and the rest goes to rent, resulting in inequality, with poverty for low-skilled workers.

Remedy is clear: stop taxing workers and let everybody share the rent. Shift public revenue from labor to land to eliminate poverty thus any need for welfare state.

prof. F.E. Foldvary, Seeing the cat
  [ Cat theory doesn't recognize monetarist aspect of developed economies, nor can it or any other effective policy resolve unsustainable skew of corporations' false citizen status ]
refs
    Right-to-work movement reborn
    6.26.01   AP
Oklahoma City   Route to economic salvation or blatant union busting; those are the polarized shouts as Oklahoma, still trying to shed its Dust Bowl image and boost its economy, revisits a divisive issue known as "right to work." Voters will decide whether Oklahoma is the 22nd state, first since 1986, to ban labor contracts that require employees to pay union dues. With fewer than 9% of its workers unionized, Oklahoma might seem an unlikely place for a right-to-work fight to arise, but Gov. Frank Keating has been pushing the issue since he took office in 1995. "I have fathered this, mothered this, nurtured this from the first coo," he said. "If this fails, it would be disastrous." Right-to-work forces hope an election victory on Sept. 25 will boost efforts to pass similar laws in Colorado, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Montana, said Barry Kelly, spokesman for the National Right-to-Work Committee in Springfield, Va.
Keating contends that many companies avoid Oklahoma in favor of Texas and other nearby states that have right-to-work laws. He contends the state needs a right-to-work law to compete. The governor, however, can't point to any specific economic snubs for Oklahoma over right-to-work. Opponents say a variety of factors unrelated to labor unions have limited manufacturing in Oklahoma, among them the state's traditional dependence on oil and cattle and enduring problems with its educational system. "We have had virtually a Third World economy, based on selling raw materials," said state Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.

Critics say the proposed ban on mandatory union dues would mainly attract companies that pay low wages. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that 18 of the top 20 states in personal income do not have right-to-work laws, while six of the bottom 10 states in income growth do. Alexander Holmes, an economist at the University of Oklahoma, said numerous studies agree that one of the best things the state could do to improve its economy would be to improve its schools. "That's where the culture of the people is critically important," he said. "They need to make sacrifices for future generations without regard to their own bettterment." Union members booed Keating, a Republican, when he mentioned right-to-work during his state-of-the-state speech in February at the beginning of this year's legislative session. Later in the session, 2,000 union members rallied against it.
But legislators handed Keating a major victory when they put the issue on the ballot. When Oklahoma last voted on the issue in 1964, it failed by less than 25,000 votes. Many of the state's 124,000 union members are emotional in their opposition; they fear a loss in bargaining power and declining union membership if the constitutional referendum is adopted. Stickers on motorized carts at the local General Motors plant say, "Right-to-work is a ripoff." The same slogan appears on bus benches and T-shirts worn around town by union members. "Right-to-work is directed at the unions to bust them up, but it's going to affect everyone in the state," said Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2021 vp Monnie Hutson.

Oklahoma ranks 43rd in the country in wages. Its workers earn 79 percent of the national average, down about a percentage point from a year ago. Texas & Arkansas, both right-to-work states, rank 25th and 47th, respectively.
The ad battle has not yet begun, and many people are unfamiliar with the issue. The response from state govt employee Linda Vaughn was typical of people asked at random about right to work.
"I think it's a good deal; everybody should go to work, make a living somehow," she said, sipping a soft drink inside a suburban Oklahoma City mall.

AFL-CIO state pres. Jimmy Curry said only about half of his members work under contracts forcing them to pay dues. Included are an American Airlines plant in Tulsa, the state's largest manufacturing facility, and a General Motors factory in Oklahoma City.
Some workers resent mandatory dues. "It's just a waste of money," said retiree Bob Jones, who paid union dues for years as a civilian worker at Tinker Air Force Base. Idaho was the last state to approve a right-to-work law. Voters ratified it in November 1986 after a $3 million campaign.

For many firms, jobless recovery is a good thing   U.S. employers are in no hurry to resume hiring as increased productivity cuts their need for workers.
11.12.03   David Streitfeld
L.A. Times

The economy roared last quarter, and so did Falcon Plastics Inc. A family-owned firm in the eastern South Dakota city of Brookings, Falcon posted record sales in Sept. 2003. Yet there's no impulse to celebrate, no rush to hire. The bad times are still too vivid.
"We want to make sure that when we add someone, we won't have to turn around in 3 months and let them go," Falcon president Jay Bender said. Multiply Falcon's situation by tens of thousands of other companies, and a picture begins to develop of an economy climbing a wall of worry.

Friday, the Labor Dept announced that employers added a net 126,000 payroll jobs in Oct. 2003. In all, the economy has added 286,000 positions over the last 3 months, best showing since early 2001. But 2.4 million more jobs would be needed to regain all the ground lost since March 2001, when the last recession began. When, or even if, those positions will come back is far from clear.
Many companies like the notion of a jobless recovery. The leaner they can keep their U.S. payrolls by using overtime, automating the production process and outsourcing jobs overseas, the higher their profits.

The murky hiring picture affects not only the 8.8 million unemployed but the 1.6 million who want a job but aren't actively looking for work. It affects millions more who want a full-time job but must get by with part-time work. And it weighs on the more than 130 million employed.
"The greatest single concern people appear to have about the economy is jobs," investment house Fred Alger Management Inc. said in its November market review. "We have companies and an economy that can shift gears quickly, but not the kind of job creation and job security that people understandably seek."

For Falcon, as for many companies, the 2001 downturn was swift & harsh. Annual sales tumbled from $20 million to $14 million. The 305 employees shrank to 175. "Sometimes," Bender said, "you have to cut off your arm to save your life." The emergency surgery was a success. For the fiscal year that ends in April, Falcon expects again to hit sales of $20 million. But the payroll is back to only 200 workers. Any further growth, Bender said, "will be incremental. We're still very cautious."

So, too, are consumers. Although the economy expanded during Q3 at its fastest rate in 19 years, people's confidence in the future remains "middling," noted Richard Curtin, who directs the University of Michigan's monthly consumer survey. The tenuous job situation is a big reason.
"It used to be understood that when business weakened, layoffs went up. When it improved, people were called back to do the same jobs at the same employers," Curtin said. "Now, if people lose their jobs, they have to find new skills and a new job at a new employer. It's a more daunting challenge."

Job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that planned layoffs at U.S. firms were 171,874 in October, more than double September's total and the highest in a year. Duke Energy Co. said it would eliminate 8% of its global workforce, or 2,000 jobs. Sony Corp. will cut several thousand U.S. jobs as part of a major restructuring. Tyco International Ltd. said it would do away with 7,200 jobs, or 3% of its labor force.
In some cases, the cuts were accompanied by solid earnings reports. Boise Cascade Corp. said Q3 sales increased 9% and profit nearly quadrupled. But the wood products firm is continuing layoffs, which have reduced the number of employees by 460 this year and will lop off an additional 90 during the fourth quarter.
Electronic Data Systems Corp. fulfilled Wall St Q3 expectations, but the computer services company nonetheless announced it would cut an additional 2,500 jobs in its third layoff in a year.

One major company going against the trend is IBM Corp.; chairman Samuel J. Palmisano says he foresees the need in 2004 "for approximately 10,000 new positions in key skill areas." IBM has 315,000 employees, roughly the same number it had when the boom peaked in 2000. However, fewer than half its workers are in the U.S., and Palmisano didn't specify where the hiring would take place.
Alliance@IBM, a union representing workers at the technology company, said the announcement was a "smokescreen" for the fact that many IBM jobs were being transferred overseas, where they would be filled by Indian or Chinese software engineers.

For its part, the Bush administration suggests that the employment picture is bound to improve next year as the economy continues to strengthen. There are some promising signs. First-time unemployment claims unexpectedly dropped last week to their lowest level since early 2001. Although initial claims often are revised upward, economists were heartened by the report, saying it could be further evidence that the drought in jobs was coming to an end.
Analysts say 150,000 jobs must be created every month just to keep pace with population growth. Only if more than that number are created would the unemployment rate, currently 6%, continue to fall. "There can't be a jobless recovery," Treasury Sec. John W. Snow recently told the Economic Club of Washington. "The nature of a recovery is to recover. You don't recover if lots of people are looking for work and can't find work."
Yet that's just what's happening in some places. A survey of 74 companies by Pacific Staffing, which supplies temporary workers to hundreds of local businesses in the Sacramento area, found that most weren't planning to add employees. "We haven't seen a big spike the way you would have in previous recoveries," said Pacific Staffing President Jay Jurschak.

If investments aren't being made in new people, money definitely is being put down for new equipt. Q3 business spending on equipt & software rose 15.4%, biggest jump since the first quarter of 2000. Pine Hall Brick Co. in Winston-Salem, NC, just built its fourth factory and retooled part of an older plant. Both are now heavily automated. As a result, Pine Hall's brick-making capacity is up about 25%, but its employee count has risen only 10%.
"It's better for us now, and for our employees," said Pine Hall president Fletcher Steele. "We took the guys who used to move bricks by hand and trained them to operate machines. The employees who remain are more highly skilled."

Falcon Plastics, which makes custom injection moldings, restructured during the recession out of necessity. It also gambled on a better future, increasing the size of one plant from 30,000 square feet to 50,000. By this point, the Falcon factories are fairly humming. Employees are working 48 hours a week, "some voluntary, some mandatory," president Bender said. Despite the fact that they're getting time-and-a-half for those extra hours, Bender said it's no more expensive than giving benefits to new workers.
All of this helps explain why the unemployment rate in Falcon's home state, where two of its three factories are located, isn't dropping faster. South Dakota's jobless rate nearly doubled from 1.9% in March 2000 to a recessionary peak of 3.7% in December 2001. The most recent rate, in September, was only marginally improved at 3.4%.

Doing more with fewer workers cuts across the economy. Silicon Valley chip maker Intel Corp. reported Q3 sales rose 20% and net income more than doubled compared with the same period last year. The reason: increased productivity. Over the last 4 years, Intel has been building wafer fabrication plants in New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon and Ireland.
"They're a huge capital investment, but the payoff is tremendous," spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. "We can make more than twice the number of units with the same staff." Intel projects Q4 sales as high as $8.7 billion. That would equal its record achieved in the fourth quarter of 2000, when the company had 86,000 employees. Current employment is 79,000. There are no plans to add more in the U.S. until the economy "improves significantly," Mulloy said.

Productivity is up just about everywhere. Q3 nonfarm productivity rose 8.1%, a rate exceeded only twice in the last decade. "If you survived the last few years, you've done it by being really mean & lean," said National Assn. of Manufacturers spokesman Scott Montrey. "Once you get lean & mean, you don't go back to being fat & lazy."
The trouble, economist Nick Perna said, is that "if every company was lean & mean, the economy would be in serious recession." Perna, who is credited with coining the term "jobless recovery" more than a decade ago, is hopeful that, as confidence builds and the economy expands, hiring will follow. After all, the jobless recovery of the early '90s eventually gave way to a lengthy, job-packed expansion.
"In the best of all worlds, we'll get rapid productivity growth and, when people are displaced, they're able to find work in other sectors," Perna said.

Placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas chief exec. John Challenger is more bleak. "My sense is that hiring & job creation will be meager," he said. "There are huge transformative forces at work, with technology & globalization forcing us in different directions. I think we're in uncharted territory."

Dangerous cracks appearing in job market
Dangerous cracks hit job market as employers cut positions, thousands drop out of labor force
3.8.08   Jeannine Aversa AP

Wash.D.C.   Dangerous cracks in the nation's job market are deepening. Employers slashed jobs by the largest amount in 5 years and hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the labor force, ominous signs that the country is falling toward a recession or has already toppled into one.
For the second straight month, nervous employers got rid of jobs nationwide. In February, they sliced payrolls by 63,000, even deeper than the 22,000 cut in January, the Labor Department reported Friday. The grim snapshot of the country's employment climate underscored the heavy toll the housing and credit debacles are taking on companies, jobseekers and the economy as a whole.

"It sounds like the recession bell is ringing for the U.S. economy, although it is still faint," said PNC Financial Services Group chief economist Stuart Hoffman.
On Wall Street, stocks tumbled. The Dow Jones lost 146.70 points, a little more than 1 percent to close at 11,893.69. The Dow was down 370 for the last two days of the week. The worsening situation will prompt the Federal Reserve to cut a key interest rate deeply, perhaps by as much as three-quarters of a percentage point, at its next meeting 3.18.08, or possibly sooner, to help brace the teetering economy, analysts predicted.

The shower of pink slips was widespread. Factories, construction companies, mortgage brokers, real-estate firms, retailers, temporary-help firms, child day-care providers, hotels, educational services, accounting firms and computer designers were among those shedding jobs. All those cuts swamped job gains at hospitals and other health care sites, bars and restaurants, legal services and the govt.
"Losing a job is painful, and I know Americans are concerned about our economy; so am I," said President Bush. "It's clear our economy has slowed."
The big question: Just how much? The weak employment report pushed an increasing number of private economists into believing the economy is probably shrinking now. Under one rough rule, the economy would have to contract for 6 months for the country to be considered in a recession.

The unemployment rate actually dipped slightly from 4.9 percent to 4.8 percent, as 450,000 people left the labor force for any number of reasons. Economists thought many people probably gave up looking for work.
"It stands to reason that a large share of the people left because they didn't feel like anything was there for them, that the market was too weak to be searching for a job at this point," said Moody's Economy.com chief economist Mark Zandi.
To relieve persistent credit problems, the Federal Reserve announced Friday that it will increase the amount of loans it plans to make available to banks this month to $100 billion. The Fed already has provided a total of $160 billion in short-term loans to cash-strapped banks since December. The Fed, in another step, said it will make $100 billion available to a broad range of financial players through a series of separate transactions.

Crumbling employment conditions are feeding fears the economy will fall victim to all the stresses. Until recently, positive forces of job and wage growth have helped to offset the negative forces hitting people from the housing and credit crises. Now people and businesses alike are more cautious, spelling more trouble for the economy.
"The debate should no longer be about whether there is or is not a recession, only about how deep it will be," said Global Insight chief economist Nigel Gault.
The elimination of 63,000 jobs in February was the most since March 2003 and marked the second month in a row of job losses. The last time the economy suffered two consecutive months of job losses was in May and June 2003, when the labor market was still struggling to recover from the blows of the 2001 recession.

"Businesses got cold feet, and when that happens the easiest thing to do is to put hiring on hold and wait until the dust clears," said ClearView Economics economist Ken Mayland. Economic growth slowed to a near standstill of just a 0.6 percent pace in the final quarter of last year. Before Friday's employment report, many thought growth would weaken further, around a 0.4 percent pace. Now, however, a growing number think the economy is contracting.
Bush's top economic adviser, Edward Lazear, acknowledged Friday that the economy may dip into negative territory in the current quarter. Lazear's comment was the most pessimistic assessment heard out of the White House. He would not discuss whether the White House believes the economy will actually fall into a recession.

The Bush administration was hoping govt's speedily enacted economic stimulus package, including tax rebates for people and tax breaks for businesses, will help bolster the economy in the second half of this year.
"I know this is a difficult time for our economy, but we recognized the problem early and provided the economy with a booster shot," Bush said. "We will begin to see the impact over the coming months," the president predicted.
Democrats, however, said more relief is needed now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi D-CA spoke of charting a "new direction for our economy." House Financial Services Committee chair Rep. Barney Frank D-MA called for action to stem record-high home foreclosures.

Democratic presidential contenders, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, blamed the job losses on what they believe are failed Bush policies. "The news should put to rest any doubts that our economy is in deep trouble," Clinton said. Obama said the employment news meant "more heartache and struggle" for Americans.
On the employment front, workers with jobs saw modest wage gains. Average hourly earnings for jobholders rose to $17.80 in February, a 0.3 percent increase from the previous month. Over the last 12 months, wages were up 3.7 percent. With lofty energy and food prices, though, workers may feel like their paychecks are shrinking.

Spreading fallout from the housing and credit troubles are the main factors behind the economic slowdown. People and businesses alike are feeling the strains and have turned cautious. Adding to the stresses on pocketbooks, budgets and the economy: skyrocketing energy prices. Oil prices, which have set a string of record highs in recent days, now top $105 a barrel. Gasoline prices have marched higher, too. All those problems are putting consumers in a gloomy state of mind.
Consumer confidence sank to a new low of 33.1 in early March, according to the RBC Cash Index. That was the worst since the index began in 2002.

To help shore up the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled last week that the central bank is prepared to lower interest rates again. Economists are now predicting a deep rate reduction by the Fed on or before its regularly scheduled meeting March 18. The Fed, which has been slicing the rate since September, recently turned more forceful. It slashed the rate by 1.25 percentage points during just eight days in January, biggest one-month reduction in a quarter-century.

Why stocks are surging as jobs disappear
The gap between Wall St and Main St has rarely been wider. Eventually, they'll have to run in parallel. But in which direction?
10.16.09   U.S. News & World Report

Stocks are up. Jobs are down. Since bottoming out in March, the stock market has soared by about 60%, one of the most awesome rallies in market history. Dow Jones Industrial Average crossing above 10,000 may not be strategically significant, but it's a psychological breakthrough that's worth cheering after the demoralizing crash that preceded it.
While the Dow has been racing upward, however, the unemployment rate has also skyrocketed, from 8.5% in March to 9.8% now. The economy has lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession began at the end of 2007, and the trend is still going the wrong way. The unemployment rate will almost certainly hit 10% and hover near there before gradually declining.

Job losses are good for the stock market at least for a while. Stocks are rising because many companies are earning more money than analysts have expected. But earnings aren't up because companies are selling more stuff; most companies are still selling less and grappling with falling revenue.
Earnings are rising because companies have cut their costs more than revenues have fallen. "Costs" are often the same as "jobs." Consider some recent earnings reports:

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) said Q3 revenue declined 5.3% percent but net earnings rose 1.1%.Domino's Pizza (DPZ) said Q3 revenue declined 6% while net earnings soared 77%. Abbott Laboratories (ABT) reported Q3 revenue rose 3.5% but net earnings shot up 36.5%. PepsiCo (PEP) Q3 revenue slipped 1.5% but its net earnings climbed 9.5%. Alcoa (AA) said its Q3 revenue rose 9% and it swung to a narrow profit of $124 million, compared with a $459 million loss in the previous quarter.
Each of these companies laid off workers over the last two years, probably necessary to keep the companies healthy. When earnings outperform revenue, it's a sign that the company is well-run, assuming no Enron-style hocus-pocus.

CEOs also know that you can't grow a company or keep juicing the stock price by cutting costs and slashing jobs. Real growth only comes from new customers, new business and increased revenue. Outlook is murky for both the stock and job markets.
The same workers who have been getting laid off, improving the cost profile for many companies, are also consumers running out of money to spend. Some are going bankrupt, defaulting on bank loans and losing their homes. That's a major risk to corporate profits and stock prices down the road.

Some companies will be able to coast for a while. The weak dollar and relatively strong economies in Asia and parts of Europe and South America, for example, are good news for U.S. exporters, since it helps them offset weak domestic sales with stronger business overseas. More efficient companies can withstand lean times longer.
But most American companies still rely on American consumers to keep business humming. Sooner or later, the U.S. job and stock markets need to go in the same direction. Will the job market will hitch onto the coattails of the stock market, with companies starting to hire as their fortunes improve or stocks will turn south as the ranks of the unemployed swell. Workers and investors both have become familiar with uncertainty.


Millennials need to get real about work world
2.21.08   Cheryl Hall
Dallas Morning News

Advertising executive Owen Hannay placed a moratorium on hiring people fresh out of college unless they've done a work-related internship or have an advanced degree. That's quite a shift for the 45-year-old principal of Slingshot LLC, whose Dallas agency is known for its leading-edge marketing.
It's not that millennials lack the creative genius or technological know-how that he's looking for. Far from it, he says. It's more that they lack the real-world grounding it takes to deal with responsibility, accountability and setbacks.

"They wipe out on life as often as they wipe out on work itself," says Hannay, who let go more than a dozen millennials from his 130-person staff over the course of 2006. That's when he stopped hiring them.
"They get an apartment and a kitty, and they can't cope. Work becomes an ancillary casualty. They're good kids with talent who want to succeed. That's what makes me nuts."
He turned to Dallasite Cathie Looney, a nationally known speaker and generational expert, to help him understand this age group, the oldest of whom are 27 and just entering the workforce. He's still not hiring them, but she's teaching him and his largely Gen X and late boomer staff how to work better with the younger folks.

"The biggest thing she does is help us understand where these kids are coming from," Hannay says. "Their orientation is so different from Gen Xers, who were the latchkey kids and are self-starters. These kids are fabulous at building teams, but they're challenged by responsibility and accountability."
All true, says Looney, certified reality therapist and retired director of children and family ministry at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. Many employers are backing away from hiring them because they're so high maintenance.
"They've been overparented, overindulged and overprotected," she says. "They haven't experienced that much failure, frustration, pain. We were so obsessed with protecting and promoting their self-esteem that they crumble like cookies when they discover the world doesn't revolve around them. They get into the real world and they're shocked. You have to be very careful in how you talk to them because they take everything as criticism."
  [ Inevitable result of declining birthrate which escalates value of each child, esp. when
cost of childrearing is exorbitant. ]

They are also imminently teachable, Looney contends, and well worth the effort. "I love this generation. They're high achievers. They're confident. These kids are go, go, go," she says. With a growing skilled labor shortage, employers can't just kiss off this group.
"If you want to get the best out of the millennials, you have to invest in them. You have to give them a mentor to teach them how to navigate the adult world," Looney says. "You have to tell them in black and white what your expectations are for them and what the consequences will be if they don't meet those expectations."

Looney holds degrees in elementary and secondary education from the University of Mississippi and a master's degree in counseling from the University of Arkansas. Her certification comes from the William Glasser Institute of Reality in California. Looney sees the humor in both her name and her certification.
"I chose reality therapy because I'm from Mississippi, and there is no reality in Mississippi. So I thought I might find out a little bit about it."
But she's serious about her mission and her message. "Reality therapy is about taking responsibility for your own actions. You can't change other generations. They are what they are. All you have control of is how you deal with them."

She tells employers like Hannay to start by looking at how this generation was parented. Women who put careers on the backburner to have children brought a strong work ethic and intensity into parenting, Looney says.
"We think that our child's success in school is emblematic of our success as a parent. A Harvard decal on the back of your Hummer is a stellar performance review," she says.
But parents of millennials also turned into agents who worried about building self-esteem. Unfortunately, such coddling can lead to workplace meltdowns, Looney says. "Healthy, resilient people learn life skills from failure and frustration. These are kids who have a bunch of participation awards. They think they should be rewarded for showing up at work. You have to say, 'No, no darlin'. You're paid to show up. But you have to do a good job to get a raise.'"

Employers need to play to this group's significant strengths. Millennials are highly educated, well-traveled, goal-oriented, technologically superior and great team players.
"They're connected 24/7. They know people all over the world. Their pen pal is in Singapore, and by pen pal I mean Facebook. They're willing to share their networks. If they see an injustice done in the workplace, they band to fight that injustice."
She says you can tell a lot about the generations by their homes: "Gen Xers wanted to reclaim the inner city. Millennials say, 'I don't mind living with my parents.' These kids are fabulous, but they need to cut the umbilical cord," she says. "Parents are showing up at their kids' work. They call about their kids' reviews or whether they're going to get a raise."

To fend off such parental intervention, Looney suggests employers write thank-you notes to offending parents: 'Thanks for this great kid. We're really enjoying him or her. Aren't you glad your work's now over?' To understand the millennials, you have to understand all of the generations and how they fit together," says Cathie Looney, who, at 57, is a baby boomer in age but not in spirit.
Here's her take on her generation and the next two.

"Parents, both boomers and Gen Xers, thought they could give their kids self-esteem, forgetting that each one of us earns our own self-esteem."

Legislators voice concerns about H-1B visas
2.4.02   D.R.Khirallah
InformationWeek

When Congress voted a year and a half ago on a bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to increase the number of H-1B visa workers allowed into this country, the IT job market was very different than it is today. The dot-com boom was in full swing, and there seemed to be a severe shortage of technology talent. That helps explain why the Senate voted nearly unanimously, 96 to 1, to approve the bill.
Some members of Congress, however, are still unhappy at how the bill was slipped through the House of Representatives late at night, with little debate. Reps. Eva Clayton, D-NC, and Thomas Tancredo, R-CO, are 2 who objected to the process. They say the bill was sent to the House late on the same day it passed the Senate and not all members of the House knew a vote was coming. As they recall, the proposed legislation was presented 3 hours after legislators were told they could go home for the day. It was passed by a voice vote. At the time, Clayton circulated a letter asking for a presidential veto, without success. One of her main concerns was that the bill didn't contain provisions or money for retraining out-of-work Americans in rural areas such as the one she represents in eastern N.Carolina, just 40 miles outside the vaunted Research Triangle. "It's a depressed area," she says.

Tancredo, who chairs the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, opposed the bill then and has filed a new bill (HR 3222) to immediately roll back H-1B visas to 65,000, the pre-1998 level. In years when unemployment tops 6% the number would be rolled back by another 10,000 for each quarter-point over the 6% figure. "Importing hundreds of thousands of foreign workers at a time of growing unemployment in America is obviously absurd," he says. The bill has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. Tancredo is seeking co-sponsors and trying to get the legislation considered during this session of Congress.

Bill in U.S. Congress to abolish H1-B visas
7.12.03   Times of India

Wash.DC   U.S. Congress is moving to do away with the H1-B visa category that has benefited countries like India, particularly its software exports & IT professionals. Rep. Tom Tancredo R-CO has introduced a 15-line bill proposing to eliminate all visas under the H1-B category, created in 1952 to provide the US economy with technically skilled foreign workers.
The bill comes at a time of slump in the US economy and unemployment, resulting in an outcry against H1-B visas and tech jobs being shipped abroad, particularly to India, via outsourcing. Cong. Immigration Reform Caucus chair Tancredo earlier tried to limit H1-B visas without success.

Calling Tancredo's latest bill as "an anti-immigration, anti-tech move disguised as an economic stimulus", Indian American Ctr for Political Awareness chair Gopal Raju said: "Tancredo has argued that current unemployment levels in the US warrant an outright cancellation of the H1-B pgm in order to save those jobs for American engineers & programmers."
"This move is patently unfair and will not help unemployment. Rather it will cripple the high-tech & other technical industries and undercut American hi-tech industry's ability to be a competitive global leader." Raju statement, issued in NY, said, "There is little evidence that these jobs could be filled immediately by permanent residents & citizens. These jobs would most likely be outsourced, further hurting the economy by removing a substantial tax base."

IACPA pres. Bhupi Patel said: "Indian Americans who have come to this country via the H1-B pgm have added significantly to our economy, our culture and our nation as a whole. Any attempt to eliminate this pgm would have a profound effect on the Indian American community and would also signal to the world that the US has turned its back on the spirit of diversity that has made us a great nation."
The statement said IACPA would work with other national organisations to highlight this legislation and educate members of the Indian American community on its impact. IACPA is a strong advocate for stronger civil rights and better immigration & hate crimes legislation.

The latest report from India's National Association of Software & Service Companies said India accounted for 77,000 H1-B visas in 2001 but only 33,000 in 2002, and the total is expected to drop to 30,000 this year. "As of March 2003, India's software exports industry has approximately 120,000 H-1B visas and 15,000 L1 visas. These are a fraction of 195,000 H1-B and 315,000 L1 visas issued in a year by the US," Nasscom stated.
  [ Double Tancredo's goal of 1997's 65K in India alone. ]
The report adds that about 40,000 Indian H1-B visa holders have returned to India in the past 2 years, as the US economy has slumped. The Nasscom report contended that outsourcing has not caused layoffs but has, on the contrary, helped some US companies avert them. US banks, financial services companies and insurance firms saved $6 billion in the past 4 years by sourcing work to India, it said.
During that time, part of the money saved via outsourcing went toward the addition of 125,000 jobs at those institutions.

"Indian IT companies have and continue to contribute to the US economy by employing nearly 60,000 people in the US in 2001," Nasscom report said. "Nearly 170 Indian IT companies have physical establishments in the US" Nasscom's report was based on the findings of a study by the global consulting firm McKinsey & Co.


Where does H-1B fit?
Many blame H-1B visa pgm for taking jobs from American workers, particularly during recession; hiring managers say it's not that simple
2.4.02   D.R. Khirallah & M.K. McGee InformationWeek As unemployment in the business-technology sector continues at near-record levels, a growing chorus is questioning whether the United States needs to continue bringing tens of thousands of foreign IT workers here each year under the visa program known as H-1B. It's a topic that can stir up emotions quickly. "High-tech companies paid off Congress so they could have cheap labor" and similarly heated accusations can be found on chat boards and in discussion forums where the unemployed hang out to swap job-hunting tips and rumors of employment opportunities. Other postings charge that major tech companies lay off thousands of American workers and replace them with cheaper foreign labor. This dialogue has become more vitriolic since suspicion of foreigners rose after 9.11.01.
The anger and frustration of some unemployed IT workers is palpable. One mainframe consultant with more than 20 years of experience in Cobol and CICS (who insisted on anonymity) says he's been looking for work in the Boston area for more than 15 months without success, "due mostly to the flood of foreigners with six-year visas that the fools in Congress allowed to enter the country."

Are foreign technology workers really taking jobs away from Americans? In most cases, it's not that simple, employers and industry groups say. So what is the right role for the H-1B visa program in what's now a slowed- down technology industry? The program may simply be an anachronism, a holdover from the heady days when technology was booming and talent was in short supply. Or it may be an indication of something deeper: that the country isn't training enough IT people with the right skills to fill corporate America's needs. Most business- technology managers, however, say bashing H-1B misses the point, which is finding qualified people, wherever they are, for increasingly demanding work.
Computer makers, software developers, consulting firms, and service providers employ the vast majority of H-1B workers in the IT field (H-1B visa holders also include physicians, chefs, and others such as "fashion models of distinguished merit and ability," according to the wording of the legislation). Numbers are hard to get. Most companies contacted by InformationWeek that import foreign IT workers declined to discuss the topic. The Labor Dept and the Immigration and Naturalization Service won't release current information on the largest corporate sponsors of H-1B workers because a coalition of attorneys representing many of the biggest users of the program has challenged the accuracy of the method used to compile H-1B statistics, an INS spokeswoman says. The most recent list of leading employers of H-1B workers dates back to February 2000, before the economic downturn: Motorola, Oracle, Cisco Systems, Intel, and Microsoft make up five of the top six on the list; PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and Deloitte & Touche are in the top 35.

What angers some unemployed American IT workers and labor supporters is that many of the companies that have announced large layoffs have been among the biggest users of H-1B visa workers. Motorola, which declined to discuss its use of H-1B workers, revealed plans to lay off more than 40,000 workers last year. U.S. unemployment rates for computer scientists, analysts, programmers, and operators more than doubled last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Labor dynamics are changing," says Howard Rubin, an analyst at Meta Group and former adviser on technology issues to President Clinton. "Major companies can now hire people with top skills for $60,000 a year. We don't need people on H-1Bs anymore. We can replenish staff from our own population."
Gurdeep Kaur, an H-1B worker, came to the U.S. from India in 1998. The 30-year-old Windows NT security administrator was, by her own admission, a bit naive: On her first job, she took the salary she was offered without question. Only later did she learn that salaries can be negotiated, to a point. Kaur now works for a New Jersey Internet consulting firm, which she declines to identify, and estimates she's paid 20% less than her American-born peers. "They told me that I can't get more, that there were visa and H-1B fees, and that later they'll pay for my green-card application," she says. Keeping her technology skills up to date and learning new ones is very important for someone in her situation, Kaur says. "You have to get the background; it gives you an edge over others" applying for the same position, she says.

Microsoft is one of the few companies that's still hiring a substantial number of technology workers, both Americans and those with H-1B visas. The software company expects to hire about 5,000 new employees this year, down from around 7,000 last year. "Microsoft is big on aggressively following up on laid-off workers," says David Pritchard, Microsoft's senior director of technology staffing. Workers with H-1Bs are most likely to be used in jobs for which it's hard to find U.S. workers, such as programming in Arabic or Chinese, he says. Even so, the company is hiring fewer H-1B workers because the domestic technology-talent pool is better now than it has been in years.
The number of H-1B visas issued last year came in under the maximum allowed by law: 163,200 H-1B slots were filled, while the limit was 195,000. Still, that's an increase from the year before, when the limit was 115,000. "The combination of increasing unemployment and increasing immigration concerns us," says Ned Sauthoff, past president of the U.S. chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a professional group of more than 350,000 members in 150 countries. "We don't know if there's a causal relationship, but we're concerned. If a company needs to increase workers, the primary source should be from our own population," he says. "We wouldn't complain if H-1B [workers] were more qualified. But if the guest worker is equally or less qualified than an American worker, that's not good."

HCA CIO Noel Williams, Nashville, TN operator of 200 hospitals & health-care facilities, hasn't noticed any falloff in the number of H-1B workers since the economy soured in comparison with the high-flying days when IT talent was scarce. HCA comes in contact with H-1B workers mainly through the consulting firms it works with, incl one in India.

"We still have a lot of projects under way and we use a lot of contractors, particularly for software development, so they [H-1B workers] come in from there," she says.
The H-1B program is about saving money, not hiring the best & brightest, says Independent Computer Consultants Assoc. govt relations committee head Sharon Marsh Roberts. "Companies want cheap labor," Roberts says. "The question isn't whether one can find a Visual Basic programmer, but whom to find at the price one wants to pay."

Hewlett-Packard says it's no bargain to get workers through the H-1B visa program. In truth, it's less expensive to recruit and hire American IT workers, says Mary Dee Beall, HP's govt affairs consultant. HP found that the relocation, applications, and legal fees to convert an H-1B worker to permanent-resident status with a green card averaged $15,000 to $20,000 per worker, Beall says. But she adds that the company will continue using them, though the decline in tech spending has reduced its need for H-1B workers. A year or two ago, HP used the program to hire a lot of software engineers. Its use of the program now is aimed more at unusual skills "such as a scientist working on a particular research project or someone you meet at a conference," Beall says. "And because they're uniquely talented, we end up paying more."

That the full quota of H-1B visas wasn't issued last year shows that the marketplace is working as it's supposed to, says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, a group that lobbied for an increase in the number of H-1B visas granted yearly. "The cutback is occurring naturally in the marketplace," he says. Unemployed business-technology workers need to do a better job of upgrading their skills and keeping them upgraded. "People with marginal or submarginal skill sets are finding it harder to get jobs," Miller says.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Tancredo, R-Colo., doesn't buy that argument. He's introduced a bill to roll back the number of H-1B visas granted each year to the 1997 level of 65,000 (see story, below). Tancredo says he's "absolutely opposed" to the visas: "I was never convinced of organizations' claims of a great need for people with particular skills." The H-1B program started in 1932, when the Immigration Act was amended to permit foreign workers to come to America to fill on a temporary basis jobs that couldn't be filled by the domestic labor force. The number of visas was set at 34,000. It was increased to 58,000 in 1976 and then to 65,000 in 1990.
During the Internet boom, the ITAA declared there were more than 1.6 million unfilled IT jobs in the United States. It launched an intense lobbying campaign and, with support from large tech companies such as Intel, Motorola, and Sun Microsystems, convinced Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas to 115,000 in 1998 and to 195,000 in 2001. The cap will revert back to 65,000 in 2004. To bring in a foreign worker, a company must file an application with the Labor Dept specifying the job, the salary, the duration of the assignment, and where the work will be performed. The company must also promise to pay the prevailing wage and provide evidence that the pay is fair. Once the application is certified by the Labor Department, the company files a petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service for an H-1B visa for a specific person and pays a fee of around $1,000 for the visa. H-1B visas are good for three years and can be extended for another 3 years.

One reason the number of applications filed is much higher than the number of visa recipients is that consulting firms and other companies file applications for workers to staff jobs they've bid on but haven't yet won. If a project goes through, the company continues the application; if not, it drops the application. "It's not unusual for companies like Motorola and Deloitte & Touche to warehouse them," says a source in the Labor Department, who says those 2 companies remain among the leaders in filing H-1B applications. In general, the source says, the department "usually processes at least two to three times as many applications as visas."
Foreign workers in the United States under H-1B are supposed to leave once their jobs are completed, but some don't claim their plane tickets home and end up staying illegally. Tracking H-1B workers with expired visas and expelling them isn't high on the INS's priority list, because it's focused on finding foreigners who have expired student and tourist visas or who pose a criminal threat. Jim Ziegler, CEO of consulting firm Pace, discovered that on his own. Last year, he had to let go six of his 12 H-1B consultants. After trying unsuccessfully to find them other assignments, he offered them tickets home. "Most said they were going to stay in the United States," he says. As required by law, he informed the INS that the H-1B sponsorship was over, but he says it made no difference. The report "just goes into a black hole once you send it to INS," he says.

The life of a foreign technology worker isn't all milk and honey here in the land of opportunity. ICCA's Roberts recently got a call from a young H-1B technology worker who wanted the organization to intercede on her behalf with the contract agency that held her visa.
The worker said her pay was too little to live on and she had to share a small apartment with three other people. In addition, the company wanted her to repay her travel expenses, though travel costs usually are paid by the hiring firm. "The agency was trying to save money and she was the nearest possible scapegoat," Roberts says. The Labor Dept received 269 complaints involving abuse of H-1B workers in 2001, up from 140 the year before. It found violations in 54 cases and ordered companies to pay more than $1.3 million in back wages. A typical case was that of Kay Software Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., staffing firm that was ordered to restore back pay of more than $17,000 to 4 H-1B workers. Kay was later acquired by HCL Perot, a subsidiary of Perot Systems Corp.

Raj Subbaram, a manager at HCL Perot and himself an immigrant from India with permanent resident status, often hires H-1B tech workers to fill the staffing needs of clients such as Cisco, eBay, and Sun. Among other reasons, he says foreign workers' willingness to work long hours adds to their appeal. "The H-1B guy is ready to put in a lot of hours, up to 14 hours a day, and they don't charge for the extra hours," Subbaram says. They're often paid less than American workers, despite requirements that they be paid prevailing wage rates. Employers seeking to hire H-1B workers can base their prevailing wage rate on third-party salary surveys up to 2 years old. An H-1B worker in a job since the beginning of 2001 might still be getting the 1999 prevailing wage. During that time, annual increases in IT salaries averaged about 8%.

The INS requires a company applying for an H-1B slot to state that it searched for and couldn't find a qualified American worker for the job. But the INS doesn't verify that a search was conducted unless a complaint is filed. Many hiring managers say they prefer to recruit the best person for the job--and if that person turns out to be a foreign national, so be it. Some unemployed Americans don't believe that most employers conduct thorough searches for U.S. workers before hiring foreign ones. As to whether foreign workers are taking American jobs, "that's not how we look at it," Owens Corning CIO and senior VP David Johns says. The goal at the Toledo, Ohio, manufacturer is to find the most qualified person for the job, and only then to consider his or her immigration status. "We don't look specifically for H-1B workers; we have to find the appropriate resources" for the work, he says. The company has 220 IT employees, and "not that many" are on H-1B visas. "The more technical they are, the more applicable H-1B is," Johns says. H-1B workers aren't cheaper than American workers, he adds.

Terry Shea, director of IS for The Sporting News, a publishing company in St. Louis, doesn't have an H-1B worker on his 3 person IT staff, but he has no objections to hiring one. "I don't care who, what, or where they are," he says. "I just want to find the best person." Shea blames the bad job market for the growing outcry about the H-1B visa program. "People are simply afraid in times of uncertainty, and they're going after the most vulnerable target," he says. IT project manager Peter Fitzgerald of Walnut Creek, Calif., was laid off in November--along with his entire development team--and says he's run the course of emotions: depressed, stressed, and as he puts it, "incredibly frustrated." He's been looking for work in everything from project management to networking to help-desk support, and hasn't turned up anything. But he doesn't blame H-1B workers, the INS, or the govt. "It doesn't matter who's taking the jobs because most people are out of work," he says. "The H-1B workers are getting dumped on, too."

Orlando FL   Walt Disney World's hourly workers approved a contract that will raise the starting minimum wage 35 cents to $6.70 an hour over three years and raise the highest hourly wage to $18.88. Workers who play Mickey Mouse and Cinderella, drive the buses, work in the resort's restaurants and clean the hotel rooms voted nearly 2-to-1 for the contract on Friday. They had rejected an offer from the company last month. Leaders of the Service Trades Council, a coalition of six unions that negotiated the contract, endorsed the agreement covering 25,000 of Disney World's 55,000 workers. "Overall, it's a fair and equitable contract," said Harvey Tzotzke, leader of the Service Trades Council. Tzotzke said union leaders were unable to accomplish all their goals because less than half of eligible workers belong to the unions.
Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder said the contract offered workers a good combination of wages, overtime and benefits. "We think it's a great overall package," Ledder said. "We offer one of the premium employment opportunities in the area and the package reflects that." Some union leaders grumbled that Disney was offering lump-sum annual bonuses to some workers instead of significant wage increases. "When we negotiate again in 2004, we're basically starting at the same wages as in 2001," said Ed Chambers, president of Local 1625 of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union.
One important victory the unions won in the contract is the right to organize the more than 6,100 part-time workers at Disney World. Disney also agreed to raise the caps on pension benefits and to limit the annual increase for health benefits that can be deducted from weekly wages.
    US actors reject agents deal
    4.21.02   BBC
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) voted to reject a proposal which would have allowed the ownership of talent agencies by film production companies. The proposal would have changed a system that has operated in Hollywood for more than 60 years, union officials said. But members apparently feared a conflict of interest if their movie producer employers were also their agents. They voted the move down by 54% against 46% in a postal ballot. SAG pres. Melissa Gilbert said: "The membership has spoken. "SAG's mandate remains unchanged." The SAG board had voted in favour of the move in March, advocating a deal with Association of Talent Agents (ATA) & National Association of Talent Representatives.

ATA executive director Karen Stuart expressed her anger at the decision. "Agents now twice have been left without an agreement after negotiation and approval by the SAG National Board," she said. Ms Stuart said that negotiators had worked hard for more than 3 years to come up with a fair proposal. Ms Stuart also raised the possibility of legal action against the Guild, saying the ATA would "seek redress for the considerable damage that SAG has caused." SAG was recently embroiled in controversy over the election of its president. An e-mail gaffe forced the union to re-stage an election which had put former Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert in office, after it emerged voters in New York were given an extra 2 days to return their votes. Ms Gilbert was successfully elected, for the second time, in March.

Unions flex muscle via increased investor activism
4.25.02   Phyllis Plitch
AP

NEW YORK   By most traditional measures, union clout isn't what it used to be. After all, the percentage of union members in the U.S. work force has declined significantly in the last 50 years, as have the number of strikes, labor's most potent weapon. But labor has continued to flex its muscle and even bulk up in one area where it has sought influence over corporate behavior, shareholder activism. Since the 1980s, unions have increasingly put their energies into changing corporate practices through various shareholder campaigns. This year is no exception, with union funds escalating sponsorship of shareholder proposals on a range of compensation and corporate governance issues.
"It's become another tactic in the arsenals of unions, to use their leverage with recalcitrant employers and to alter corporate policy," said Labor Research Association exec. dir. Greg Tarpinian, research & NY advocacy organization. Union funds filed record-high 160 shareholder proposals this year, per, Investor Responsibility Research Ctr analyst Rosanna Landis-Weaver, Wash.D.C. based proxy research firm.

The majority of resolutions were planned & submitted to companies before Enron Corp. collapse. ¹   But the Enron fiasco, viewed by many as a corporate governance failure of extreme magnitude, has brought increased visibility to some key union-backed shareholder resolutions and put more oomph into their efforts to exert influence in the boardroom. Tne high-profile initiative, for example, has been serendipitously bolstered by the increased focus on auditor independence in the wake of the Enron accounting scandal. Led by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, several building trade unions submitted nearly 3 dozen proposals, calling for auditors to stick strictly to audit work. The thinking behind the proposals is that auditor objectivity can be compromised by the lure of hefty fees for non-audit work.

While these proposals are coming to a vote at a number of companies, the unions have reached settlements or are in negotiations with nearly a third of their corporate targets. There was some retreat on the issue of strict separation of audit & non-audit work; the unions accepted auditors handling other number-crunching activities, for instance. But a range of companies, including pharmaceutical giants Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Johnson & Johnson and utility FirstEnergy Corp., have adopted policies, pledging tougher board oversight of the process of engaging auditors for non-audit work and limits on consulting jobs. "Unions, through their pension funds, have become some of the most articulate, far-reaching and successful of shareholder activists," said the IRRC's Landis-Weaver. "Once again this year, they've proven themselves to be on the cutting edge, identifying issues before other folks thought of them."

It's not surprising that union investor activism has taken off, say labor and investment experts. For one thing, union leaders maintain the ability to mount, organize and coordinate large-scale, sophisticated campaigns. Further, while membership statistics tell one story, growing pension assets tell another. Money managers who oversee union pension investments are clearly going to hear the unions out on their concerns. In recent years, the AFL-CIO also has pointedly ranked money managers on their record of supporting shareholder proposals that are union pension- friendly. "You still have 50 years worth of invested capital from all the pension funds," said Proxy Voter Services dir. of policy Robert Kellogg, unit of proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services, Rockville, MD. "From Wall Street's perspective, there's a lot of money that's out there."

As a key player in organizing campaigns, the AFL-CIO ordinarily keeps a tight focus on corporate accountability, explicitly connecting the dots between shareholder proposals & other actions and the direct impact on the value of worker capital. In doing so, the labor federation has been able to draw in investors who share similar corporate governance concerns. At times, however, a union initiative overlaps with more traditional labor concerns, exemplified at Coca Cola Co.'s recent annual meeting. A Teamster-sponsored shareholder proposal urged the board to adopt a policy barring executives from cashing in on stock options within a year of the announcement of a significant work-force reduction. The Teamsters framed the proposal in terms of benefits to shareholders and the long-term growth of the company, but it also contained an arguably broader worker-themed message: Executives shouldn't be allowed to exploit short- term stock run-ups that often accompany announcements of major layoffs, and workers shouldn't be the only ones making sacrifices.

While labor shareholder activism can sometimes dovetail with more direct worker concerns, the campaigns are "first & foremost" directed at the bottom line, maintains longtime union activist Bill Patterson, who heads up the AFL-CIO's office of investments. If union campaigns point out huge pay disparities between executives and the rank & file or incidentally improve worker morale, ultimately it all rolls into building a successful company, which in turn boosts the value of worker investments, he said. AFL-CIO affiliate union sponsored benefit funds have over $400 billion in assets, according to the labor federation. AFL-CIO represents 13 million members.

Congress derails new rules on pensions
11.14.03   Kathy M. Kristof L.A. Times

Lawmakers appear to have derailed proposed federal regulations that would have encouraged tens of thousands of U.S. companies to convert traditional pension plans to a new type of retirement plan that critics say discriminates against older workers. So-called cash-balance plans, already in place at some 1,200 U.S. companies and covering about 7 million workers, had been expected to be widely adopted by corporate America.
But in a late-night compromise, House & Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday to an amendment that would stop the Bush administration from crafting regulations that would have made it advantageous for employers to convert traditional corporate pensions to cash-balance plans.

The amendment is part of the Treasury appropriations bill, which must be approved by both houses of Congress before going to the president. Although it's possible the amendment could be cut from the final bill, congressional analysts say that is unlikely. Congress' move to forestall the new regulations leaves the cash-balance plans in "suspended animation," said American Benefits Council president James Klein in Washington, trade group that represents big companies.

A cash-balance pension is a hybrid that aims to combine aspects of traditional defined-benefit plans, which pay guaranteed monthly benefits for life, and defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k) accounts. A major difference between defined-benefit plans and cash-balance plans is that the latter allow workers to transfer their retirement benefits from one employer to another.
What has made the cash-balance plans controversial is that traditional pensions tend to provide the bulk of their benefits to workers who have been with a company the longest, while cash-balance plans tend to benefit all employees more evenly.

As a result, when companies have converted from a defined-benefit plan to a cash-balance pension, veteran workers frequently have seen their benefits cut to fund more generous payments to younger employees, said AARP legislative dir. David Certner.
In some cases, retirement benefits were cut across the board, saving the company money, but costing employees significant sums. Numerous California companies have adopted cash-balance plans, and several contacted Thursday, Edison Intl, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., either declined to comment or said they were unsure what the action in Congress would mean long term.

Pension advocates called the legislative move a victory for workers whose pensions were reduced when their employers switched from a traditional defined-benefit pension to a cash-balance plan. "If this stands, it will be a major victory in the fight against these age-discriminatory cash-balance pension schemes," said Rep. Bernard Sanders I-VT.
Added Rep. George Miller D-CA: "Time & again we appealed to the administration to listen to the stories of people whose pensions were cut in half, saving their employers millions but leaving the workers with no ability to recoup their losses. The president refused to listen. Treasury Sec. Snow refused to back down. But now, on behalf of these employees, we have won."

The flap over cash-balance plans was ignited several years ago when IBM Corp. workers filed suit against the company. A judge ruled that such arrangements were illegal because they discriminated against older workers. IBM is appealing.
The Treasury Dept came up with pension rules that addressed the age discrimination issue, but they were highly controversial and eventually were shelved. Wednesday's conference committee action, if it ultimately becomes law, would put those regulations on hold for a least a year. That would leave it to lawmakers to come up with a legislative solution to the debate over cash-balance plans.

"This throws the battle to Congress," said Pension Rights Ctr policy dir. Karen Friedman in Washington. The White House on Thursday referred questions to the Treasury Dept, which said it would work with Congress to find a long-term solution to the issue of cash-balance pensions.


    Hollywood agents get more power
    2.26.02   BBC
Hollywood agents have agreed a tentative agreement with the actors union to give them more power in movies & tv production. The deal, which is the first change since 1939, will allow agents to invest in or receive investments for movie productions, as long as they do not become the employers of the actors they represent. The two sides had been locked in intense discussions for 5 weeks. Assoc. of Talent Agents/National Assoc. of Talent Representatives (ATA/NATRA) wanted an increase in the current 10% they are allowed to invest in productions. They have now agreed a 20% limit with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Agents argued that the business rules were out of date, however opponents of the scheme said any new deal would result in agents becoming producers. The current deal, brought into place in 1939, was drafted in to curb conflicts of interest and protect actors from exploitation by talent agents. Tess Harper from SAG said the new deal covers 3 important principles. She said: "First, a guarantee of uncompromised representation; second, assurance that agents will not become employers of the actors they represent; and third, benefits must flow to both sides of the table." The new deal aims to allow actors to make fully informed decisions about the choice of their agents. The proposed deal has yet to be ratified by SAG's 96,000 members, however the union's Tom LaGrua believes his members will back it. He said: "This agreement is a win-win for actors. "It empowers actors with the essential information needed to choose the kind of franchised agent who works best for them." In addition, the accord would establish an Actor Benefit Fund for contributions from agents to SAG's health plan.

  Enron utility's 'dead peasant' policies rankle   ¹
  4.24.02   L.M. Sixel Houston Chronicle

When workers at Portland General die, there's a little more money to spend on the top executives of the Enron subsidiary. The utility has bought life insurance policies on the lives of its rank & file employees where the company is the beneficiary when an employee dies. That money goes for special compensation & retirement benefits for its top executives & directors. That's a galling realization for workers, many of whom bet their retirement on Enron stock, which cratered last year as the Houston energy giant slid into bankruptcy. The company says its use of this life insurance program is legal in Oregon and was properly disclosed to employees. But workers sounded surprised when told about it Tuesday. "Good God!" shouted Tim Ramsey, 56-year-old power tester who was reached by phone in Portland. Ramsey is one of the many workers who has sued the company after he lost $1 million in his 401(k) account because he had put most of it in Enron stock.

The fact Portland General bought such policies isn't extraordinary. Many companies have bought corporate-owned life insurance, which is also known as "dead peasant" or "dead janitor" insurance. The nicknames reflect the fact that these policies are on low-ranking employees, rather than the top-ranking executives whose death could be a financial blow to the company. While Texas law bans "dead peasant" coverage on most workers here, Oregon is one of the many states that allow it. While employees said they'd never heard of the company's program, Portland General spokesman Kregg Arntson said its employees signed consent forms allowing the company to insure their lives. That didn't make a big impression with Gary Kemper, foreman at the company's maintenance center. When asked if he'd been told about company-owned life insurance, he said, "I don't know a thing about it." Kemper, who lost $200,000 in his 401(k) plan when Enron stock plunged, has also sued the company seeking compensation for his retirement savings plan loss.

The Portland General fund has set aside nearly $80 million for two purposes:
- About three-quarters of the money goes for a long-term compensation plan for managers, directors and top officials.
- The rest helps pay for supplemental executive retirement payments.
This approach is used by Portland General to reward top executives with more than just their 401(k) and the traditional defined benefit pensions that are allowed by federal pension laws, which cap how much the company can contribute to the benefits. Money from its "dead peasant" policies fund what are known as nonqualified deferred compensation plans. The advantage of these plans is that the limits on 401(k) & pension plans don't apply.
"Corporate-owned life insurance enables companies to recover the cost of nonqualified benefit plans that provide additional income & benefits to key & highly compensated employees," boasts Northwestern Mutual's Web site, which has a section promoting them.
Cash value component of the company-owned plans, which build up value like a whole-life insurance policy, is an asset that can be used to offset liabilities, like promises to make enhanced executive retirement payments, according to the Travelers Life & Annuity Web site promoting them.

Company-owned life insurance, and the nonqualified compensation program, go back to the mid-1980s. Arntson wouldn't reveal the details of the compensation packages, saying they're "internal employee matters." The insurance policies, which are now called "Trust Owned Life Insurance," are currently in effect and also continue to cover the lives of ex-employees, he said. Scott Simms, another Portland General spokesman, said the money was put in a trust and cannot be moved to compensate employees who lost money in their 401(k) accounts. Besides, Simms said many senior executives also suffered big losses on Enron stock.

Internal Revenue Service has sued several companies that bought company-owned life policies, challenging their deduction of the interest cost. In each case, when the companies have sued the IRS to recover the money they had to pay in back taxes, the courts have said the insurance was a tax dodge, said Mike Myers, a lawyer with McClanahan & Clearman in Houston. He has sued Wal-Mart on behalf of Texas families seeking to collect the insurance proceeds that went to the big retailer.
But one of the companies that ran into tax trouble with the IRS is annoyed that it is lumped in with the "bad guys" when it used this life insurance strategy to fund another type of benefit plan. American Electric Power in Columbus, OH, bought company-owned life insurance policies in 1990 to deal with the surging cost of medical benefits for retirees. AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp said the utility was faced with the choice of either eliminating the benefits or raising electric rates if it didn't use this approach. AEP has extensive properties in Texas. Utility officials discussed the options in public meetings with representatives of the state agencies that regulate the utility, sent letters to all employees and did an article about the policies in its in-house paper. "We were not trying to hide it," said Hemlepp. While the policies are no longer in effect, the utility announced it would include $317 million reflecting 6 years of back taxes in its earnings for 2000. The company has appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Our heart was in the right place," said Hemlepp. "The employees understood what we were doing."

Are you paying your boss's taxes?
Payroll taxes that companies ought to pay may be getting dumped on independent contractors, but a case involving FedEx gives workers new ammunition.
2.20.08  Jeff Schnepper
MSN

Just before Christmas, package-delivery company FedEx was slammed with a $319 million tax bill. The Internal Revenue Service ruled the company had misclassified about 13,000 drivers as independent contractors when, the IRS said, they really were employees.
For FedEx, this could get a lot more expensive. The penalties and back taxes are just for 2002. The IRS is still auditing FedEx for 2004 through 2006 (the status of 2003 is unclear). The Teamsters union, which has been pushing this fight, thinks it could ultimately cost FedEx $1 billion.
Perhaps. But FedEx plans to fight this ruling for as long as it takes.

What got the IRS and FedEx into a tussle was the package company's assertion that drivers were contractors who operate their delivery routes as independent businesses, even though the drivers use FedEx equipment, wear FedEx uniforms and work under explicit FedEx rules.
This fight bears watching by employers and workers alike. Big money is at stake.
Govt will argue that misclassification of workers deprives it of billions of dollars of tax revenue annually. The Govt Accountability Office has estimated the amount at $4.7 billion a year.

The bosses will argue that the ruling upsets precedents in place since the 1990s. Workers will argue that employers have gone too far in pushing taxes and payroll costs onto them, effectively forcing workers to subsidize their bosses.
If the IRS wins, you can bet many more workers classified as independent contractors will try to change their classifications.
Companies like independents; it saves them a bundle of money. If you're an independent contractor, the company doesn't pay state workers compensation or federal unemployment and disability taxes. It is released from matching your 7.65% Social Security and Medicare taxes; an independent contractor pays the full 15.3% load.

In addition, the employer is saved the burden and cost of income-tax withholding. The worker has to remit the appropriate payments. Independent contractors don't qualify under minimum-wage laws and have no govt rights to a safe work environment. They can't qualify for employee benefits.
Microsoft suffered a stinging judicial slap several years ago when it misclassified employees as independent contractors and denied them benefits granted to other employees. It proved to be a $97 million lesson.
Before I could start writing tax columns for MSN Money, I had to sign a mountain of documents proving I was an independent contractor. I even had to get a Washington state business license as a contractor, even though I have never physically worked there.

Say you have one worker making $102,000. Just in Social Security and Medicare taxes, the company saves $7,803 (7.65% of $102,000). Multiply that by the number of real "employees," add other payroll-tax savings plus a little interest, toss in a few penalties, and it becomes a $319 million kick in the wallet.
Money is the reason that IRS' chief of employment-tax operations John Tuzynski made worker classification "a major focus" for fiscal 2008, which ends Sept. 30.

Migrant workers and many illegal immigrants are misclassified as independent contractors, never have any withholdings taken out and don't file or pay income taxes. That magnifies the tax gap, difference between what govt is due and what it collects in taxes. To coordinate enforcement, IRS entered partnerships with Labor Dept, National Association of State Workforce Agencies, the Federation of Tax Advisers and the agencies that administer state employment and unemployment taxes. For employers who are caught misclassifying, monetary pain is just the beginning.
They can be criminally charged with evasion of payments, filing of false tax returns and conspiracy. Another tax code section, Section 7202, makes it a felony to willfully fail to collect or pay tax to the govt. It should be; in such cases, the employers are stealing from the employees.

If workers are treated as independent contractors, they are responsible for 100% of their payroll taxes. They're paying twice what they truly owe for Social Security and Medicare. The difference goes into the employers' pockets.
The big problem is determining if a worker really is an employee. The National Labor Relations Act, Civil Rights Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act each use a different definition for the word "employee". Each has different criteria for distinguishing independent contractors.
In May 2007 testimony before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Sigurd Nilsen of the Government Accountability Office complained that "no definitive test exists to distinguish whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor."

Internal Revenue Code has never been a model for clarity. Worker classification is both complex and subjective. In the Revenue Act of 1978, Congress created a safe harbor for employers (referred to as Section 530) by prohibiting the IRS from collecting employment taxes when workers were "reasonably" misclassified as independent contractors.
That provision includes only a $50 penalty for employers who file the wrong forms. Compare that to the thousands of dollars of potential payroll-tax savings, and you have a legislative incentive to cheat govt.
IRS 20-factor test for determining whether you're really an employee are contained in Form SS–8, Determination of Worker Status at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss8.pdf and boil down to 3 main categories

  1. Behavioral control.
  2. Financial control.
  3. Relationship of the parties.
Does the employer control not only the nature of the work performed but the circumstances under which it is performed? If the employer contracting for services has the right to control not only the result of the services but also the means by which that result is accomplished, you're an employee.
If your boss tells you not only what to do but how to do it, you're an employee.
Do you have a stake in the action? Do you have a personal risk of loss? If not, you're probably an employee.
Most importantly, if you don't make your services available to more than one person or company, you're likely an employee.

If you think you're being misclassified, file Form SS-8 and have the IRS make a determination of your status. Remember, it's a 20-factor test, so the final resolution will be subjective.
If you have been misclassified, Form 8919, Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Tax on Wages at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8919.pdf should be filed to ensure that the proper Social Security and Medicare taxes are credited to your account. Don't use the older form, No. 4137.
In September, Sen. Barack Obama D-IL and 3 other senators filed legislation aimed at closing what was termed the safe-harbor Section 530 "loophole." The Independent Contractor Proper Classification Act is pending.


401(k) reality check   If the last 10 years have taught us battered and bruised 401(k) survivors anything, it's that financial planners and market bulls are blowing smoke.
10.4.09   Joe Queenan L.A. Times

Across the street from Madison Square Garden stands a building that sports an electronic scroll reporting the latest movements in the stock market. One afternoon in September 2008, I stopped outside and phoned my daughter, who worked in a high-rise across the street. I asked if she would like to come down and have a cup of coffee. She would. But she had a few items to tidy up first, so I would have to cool my heels. While I was waiting, I kept an eye on that scroll bar, as the stock market went down 300 points. I couldn't have been standing there much more than 25 minutes.
In 2008, such previously unimaginable disasters were routine. The Dow would be up 200 points, then down 400 in a matter of minutes. One day it lost 8% of its value.

These cataclysms are ingrained in my psyche because I used to wait downstairs for my daughter a lot, so I would gaze up at the scroll, watching the world disintegrate before my eyes. It was like regularly going to a movie theater that showed only one film: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
Lately, the visceral memory of these horrors seems to have retreated into the realm of mythology. These days, I see more and more reports about the market stabilizing, about the little guy dipping his toes back into the water. The old catch-phrases are returning: We are in the midst of one of the great bull markets in history; March was a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity.
Balderdash.

The current bull market is a classic sucker rally in the middle of a bear market. This happened all the time during the Depression. The recent 50% bounce still leaves the Dow about 4,000 points below its all-time high. March was not a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity; it was a once-in-a-lifetime salvage opportunity. It was a chance to buy back your lost shirt while conceding that your pants are gone for good.
Even more infuriating are the "experts" advising people how to invest the money they plan to retire on. On several occasions, I have seen articles in which financial planners or academics discuss the optimum amount of money retirees should take out of their 401(k)s in their twilight years. Usually, that number is pegged at 4%.

A New York Times article suggested that this figure might be overly cautious. Based on a reasonably plausible projected rate of return, retirees might be able to take out as much as 6% and not have their nest egg run out before they buy the farm.
Presumably, this forecasting technique was developed by Rip Van Winkle, working in conjunction with Pollyanna and Dr. Pangloss. The idea that anyone could make solid, meaningful estimates of the amount retirees will be able to withdraw from their 401(k)s a few years down the road is top-shelf lunacy.
If you started calculating how much you could withdraw from your 401(k) back in 1999, based on the "traditional" average annual return of 7% to 9% on stocks, you would be dining on Alpo today.

Unless you were adept at ducking in and out of the market, or a master short-seller, or canny enough to buy Apple at six bucks, you haven't earned a nickel in the stock market since the millennium dawned. Even if you took the sage advice of the wizened pros and diversified across a wide spectrum of investments, stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, you still got annihilated.

  [ ed. If you aren't adept at ducking in & out of stock market, you should not be in it at all, which is why 401(k)s are irresponsible and inappropriate pension substitutes.
The stock market is originally & fundamentally designed for speculation, not strategic investment.

Acknowledgement of this for sake of birthing SOES is one of the few positive accomplishments of the Reagan administration. SOES does not function to any positive effect unless predesignated limit orders are used by the individual portfolio owner.
With the ability to preset limit order prices, any idiot can read a chart and do his own rational investment planning.

Queenan's unspoken presumption that a paid money manager can profitably wield large aggregate funds of individual pension holders is no less a baseless myth, regardless if a greater majority believe it.
Stop loss orders are easily preset so nobody is "annihilated", which is why their use should be taught in junior high school.
]

The idea of forecasting what a portfolio can reasonably be expected to earn over the next 10 to 20 years seems to be based on the belief that the events of the last 10 years were a statistical anomaly, a fluke. Yes, we had a crash in 2000 that caused the market to lose almost half its value. Yes, we had another crash in 2007 that caused the Dow to lose more than half its value. Yes, everyone who dreamed of retiring on X amount of money got hosed. But now, happily, things have gone back to normal.

The suggestion that order has been restored, now that cooler heads have prevailed and George W. Bush is gone, and that the markets will now proceed in a stately, decorous fashion is like betting that college kids will stop drinking as soon as they understand that it's dangerous.
The assumption is that we will have no more bubbles; that the sharpies who fleeced the public during the last two bubbles have either retired, seen the errors of their ways or run out of ingenious ways to bamboozle the public. The facts suggest otherwise.

Already, as reported in The Times, Wall Street is devising cunning, dangerous new investment vehicles. And more are on the way. Con artists don't just go away. They find new ways to con people.
Here are a few sobering facts: People who invested in the stock market just before the crash in 1929 were not made whole until Dwight Eisenhower took office. People who invested in 2000 or early in 2007 could wait years to get their original investment back, and only if the market jumps another 40%. This at a time when consumers are not spending, banks are not lending, employers are not hiring and taxes are almost certain to go up.

Where, then, are the earnings going to come from that will lift stock prices? Do we think the Chinese are going to buy T-bills forever?
In the last decade, Americans have had to swallow some bitter truths about the economy. Unless you work for the govt, you are not going to spend your entire career working for one employer. You may have to switch careers entirely. You are certainly going to have to be nimble.

The same holds true for managing one's 401(k). It is simply not possible to predict how the stock market will perform over the next decade, making it impossible to devise hard-and-fast rules about retirement. If you are going to depend on your return from stocks for your daily bread in your autumnal years, you will need steady nerves, a strong stomach, lots of Pepto-Bismol and the prescience to buy the next Google at three bucks and change.
If not, it might be best to heed Tom Snyder's famous sign-off line: Bye-bye. And buy bonds. And just forget about earning 7% to 9%.
Federal overtime regs deemed of little consequence for Calif.
8.20.04   SD Daily Transcript

San Diego attorneys said new federal regulations governing overtime pay for white-collar jobs would have little impact in California, which already has some of the most stringent wage and hour laws in the country. The regulations take effect 8.23.04, but are trumped by state laws that offer more employee protections, according to the Labor Dept. The changes would mostly affect California businesses with operations in other states. Labor lawyers said businesses should audit their payrolls for compliance now and every time a position is filled.
The Bush administration has been promoting its so-called FairPay rules as a necessary clarification to regulations that haven't been changed for more than 50 years.
To be exempt from overtime pay, employees must make at least $455 per week, which is about $23,660 annually, and meet a series of what the government calls "duties tests." In California, the minimum pay required to exempt an employee from overtime is 2 times the minimum wage, or about $29,000 annually. California also provides daily overtime, which means that an employee working 12 hours in one day is entitled to 4 hours overtime regardless of whether that employee works more than 40 hours over the entire week.

Labor Dept claims the increased clarity will cut back in a reported surge in wage and hour class-action litigation. The reality is that no one really knows the effect of the overtime regulations because the classification of positions is still something of a guessing game, several attorneys said. "We're not going to know Monday afternoon how many people are impacted by this," said San Diego labor law firm managing shareholder Jeremy Roth Littler Mendelson.
Employees can generally be paid in one of three ways: hourly, nonexempt salaried and exempt salaried. Distinction between nonexempt & exempt salaried can create confusion among some employers & employees who often assume that salaried employees are all exempt. That's particularly true in jobs that are generally considered professional positions.

San Diego Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton partner Julie Dunn, said too many employers have long assumed that positions are exempt without actually doing any analysis. "It sounds like a professional type job that needs a certain level of education, they must be exempt," Dunn said, demonstrating a common business approach. In fact, instead of reviewing state and federal regulations that lay out exemption guidelines, many employers have simply surveyed their counterparts in the industry and copied the mold. "That's not a defense," Dunn said. "It's not an industry-standard test."
Some positions that are commonly misclassified include computer personnel, lower-level human resources & accounting employees, and production supervisors that oversee the assembly of a product but don't have any real management responsibility, according to Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps partner Marie Burke Kenney. Computer employees are perhaps the biggest concern for area employers. Dunn sees the high-tech industry as the next target for wage & hour litigation.

New federal rules lay out a detailed test of job descriptions for a computer-employee exemption that includes pay of not less than $27.63 an hour. By comparison, to qualify for California overtime exemption, computer-related employees must be paid at least $43.58 hourly, which is about $91,000 annually. The job description test generally requires that the person be at a high-level, or example, a software developer who actually writes software that manages a company's operations. The Web page designer, IT manager or help desk employee are not exempt employees, Kenney said.
Dunn said whether the federal regulations ultimately affect California businesses will depend on state court interpretations in future lawsuits. Littler's Roth said the California Supreme Court is considering an appeal by Sav- on Drug Stores that could have significant impact on overtime pay. In Sav-on v. S.C. Rocher, the court is being asked to determine whether a trial court erred in certifying as a class all employees who were designated by the company as salaried managers exempt from overtime pay.


Groups differ on impact of overtime rules
8.23.04   Leigh Strope AP

Wash.D.C.   Paychecks could surge or shrink for a few or for millions of workers across the country starting Monday, when sweeping changes to the nation's overtime pay rules take effect. There is little agreement by Bush admin, employer groups, labor experts and others on how many workers will gain or lose the right to overtime pay under the new rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"To be candid, no one knows," said Bryan Cave LLP labor lawyer Jerry Hunter in St. Louis and former general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board during the first Bush administration.

Employers sought changes for decades, complaining the regulations were ambiguous and out of date, and questioning why highly paid professionals should get overtime pay. Labor unions, however, say the new rules are intended to reduce employers' costs by cutting the number workers who are eligible for overtime pay. Estimates of how many workers will lose their overtime eligibility range from 107,000 to 6 million. Workers who could become newly eligible range from very few to 1.3 million.
"Not only is the Labor Dept unsure, but a lot of people in a lot of industries are unsure," Hunter said. "This is all very fluid right now." The major overhaul, the first in more than half a century, is aimed at mostly white-collar workers. Labor Dept says manual laborers and other blue-collar workers will not be affected.

New rules are intended to limit workers' multimillion-dollar lawsuits, many of them successful, claiming they were cheated out of overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. Retailers, restaurants, insurance firms and banks have been targets, and jobs in those places are generally exempted from overtime in the new rules. They include chefs, pharmacists, funeral directors, embalmers, journalists, insurance claims adjusters, low- and midlevel bank managers and dental hygienists.
Whether the new rules will reduce litigation is questionable, experts said. Lawyers representing workers have found the suits lucrative. "This has become a very big area of plaintiffs' employment law, and it is not simply going to go away because of these new regulations," Seyfarth Shaw labor lawyer Bill Schurgin in Chicago.

Critics say the changes will eliminate overtime for millions of middle-class Americans struggling in a weak jobs market. "These are drastic changes that will hurt working families," said Working America exec. dir. Karen Nussbaum, AFL-CIO organization created for workers unable to join unions. The AFL-CIO is holding a protest outside the Labor Dept on Monday.
Labor Sec. Elaine Chao has created a task force that will be "looking very closely and critically at any reclassifications that result in workers losing their overtime status," said deputy secretary Steven Law. No new funds have been added, but the dept's Wage & Hour Division "will be very, very carefully monitoring and following up with enforcement," especially in high-violation industries, he said. The dept won $212 million in back wages for overtime violations in 2003, a 21% increase.

At public utility Denver Water, none of the 1,050 employees will be reclassified, said benefits manager Jim Crockett. "We were in compliance before, and when I analyzed the jobs for the new rules, it came up that no changes were necessary," he said. When in doubt, the utility classifies workers as overtime-eligible, Crockett said. For example, its survey chiefs are in the field only during only summer months supervising crews; the rest of the year they oversee few workers, if any. But the chiefs are given overtime status, he said.

About 107,000 white-collar workers now eligible for overtime pay who earn $100,000 or more annually could lose it under the new rules, the Labor Dept said. About 1.3 million workers, mostly low & midlevel managers at stores & restaurants, who earn less than $23,660 a year will be newly eligible. However, employers can avoid paying them overtime by raising their salaries, so critics say far fewer will benefit from overtime.

For white-collar workers who fall between those salary levels, their overtime status depends on their job duties & experience. Rules revamp the definitions of professional, administrative and executive employees, called "duties tests," that are used to determine eligibility. For example, professional employees exempt from overtime had professional degrees. New rule allows employers to substitute work experience & instruction.

Executive employees had authority to hire & fire. The new rule expands that provision, saying an executive can make recommendations that carry weight regarding employment status. Labor leaders say slight changes in wording could exempt millions from overtime pay. Labor Dept says duties are more clear and make status more certain, resulting in "few, if any" losing overtime.
The changes will prompt "a whole new round of litigation to determine what these phrases mean," said Washington labor lawyer Baldwin Robertson hired by Working America to answer workers' questions on its Web site.
    NatSec hiring hall
3 million truckers sought for anti-terror watch
5.13.02  
AP ¹ ²   ³

Wash.D.C.   Paul Barnes spends 8 to 10 hours on the road each day. He drives across bridges and through cities. He already makes a point of looking for drunken drivers & disabled vehicles. Now he's enlisting in the war on terrorism.
Barnes, 46, of South Portland ME, is one of the 3 million truck drivers the industry hopes will sign up for training in how to spot suspicious activities that could indicate a potential terrorist attack. "9.11.01 really made me aware of what could happen," said Barnes, who hauls paper products for Pottle's Transportation of Bangor, ME. "You take for granted nothing's going to happen because we live in a pretty safe country. Now something like this happens and it's 'Wow, what can you do to make things different."'

The trucking industry plans to offer classes for drivers and provide a toll-free number to report anything unusual, with the information forwarded to law enforcement agencies. "We know what should & should not be on the highway," said industry group American Trucking Associations spokesman Mike Russell. "If we see something wrong that has security implications, we're going to make a call." The program will be an extension of what truckers already do, such as routinely alerting local police when they see erratic drivers or broken-down vehicles.
This time, the stakes are higher. There has been concern that terrorists could use a truck hauling gasoline or other hazardous materials to kill thousands of people, the way 9.11.01 hijackers turned 4 commercial airliners into flying bombs.
[ Getting slaughtered on the highway by a distracted overworked truck driver is infinitely more likely than dying from terrorist attack. ]

CIA official Robert Walpole recently told Senate Govtal Affairs Committee that terrorist groups or rogue nations were less likely to fire a missile at the U.S. than to use trucks, ships or planes to deliver chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Last week, the Transportation Dept's inspector general said there were insufficient federal & state safeguards to stop would-be terrorists from illegally obtaining commercial truck driver's licenses. State transportation officials have stepped up surveillance of bridges & tunnels and have begun training maintenance workers on what to look for. Truckers will be asked to monitor bridges, highways, tunnels and ports.

Barnes said he's already keeping a closer eye on his surroundings as he crosses bridges, looking at not just the traffic in front of him but vehicles going the other way, stalled cars and even pedestrians walking across the span. Drivers are also being asked to watch out for other truckers.
"Most trucks are identifiable. You have your name on the truck, your truck number's on the truck," Barnes said. "When you see these trucks that are covered up, you have the feeling inside that something's not right. You want to make the call and let someone else be aware of it."

FBI wary of relying on amateurs   Bureau acknowledges fighting domestic terror threats requires assistance of 2 unreliable allies: the public & informants.   5.11.07   Josh Meyer L.A. Times

Wash. D.C.     Even as the FBI hails as a major success story its breakup of an alleged plot by "radical Islamists" to kill soldiers at Fort Dix NJ, federal authorities acknowledge that the case has underscored a troubling vulnerability in the domestic war on terror.
They say the FBI, despite an unprecedented expansion over the past 5½ years, cannot possibly counter the growing threat posed by homegrown extremists without the help of two often unreliable allies. One is an American public that they lament is prone to averting its attention from suspicious behavior and often reluctant to get involved.

The other is a small but growing army of informants, some of whom might be dodgy and in it for the wrong reasons such as money, political ax grinding or legal problems of their own.
Such dependence on amateurs is "not something that we would like. It's something that we absolutely need," said Special Agent J.P. Weis, who heads the FBI's Philadelphia field office and the Southern New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force, which conducted the Fort Dix investigation.

Weis and other FBI & Justice Dept officials acknowledged they probably never would have known about the 6 men and their alleged plans had it not been for a Circuit City employee who reported a suspicious video to police. They said an FBI informant was instrumental in gathering the evidence needed to file criminal charges against the men by infiltrating their circle for 16 months as they allegedly bought and trained with automatic weapons, made reconnaissance runs and discussed their plans.
Weis and others said the bureau's reliance on the public and on informants in domestic counterterrorism investigations is a necessary byproduct of the changing nature of the global jihad and the threat it poses within U.S.

Militants who associated with known Al Qaeda figures or who spent time in training camps have for the most part been identified and either arrested, deported or placed under constant surveillance, senior FBI & Justice Dept officials said.
The primary threat now comes from an unknown number of individuals with no criminal backgrounds and few if any ties to militants overseas. ª   Operating locally without the need to travel or send communications overseas, these groups and individuals can evade security nets such as international wiretaps and travel surveillance.

Weis, like other federal law enforcement, counterterrorism and intelligence officials, described them as "lone wolves, cells that stay below the radar screen."
"Nobody really knows about them, they're not affiliated with any major group, but held together by a common ideology", ¹ Weis said. "So to try and infiltrate them, some of the traditional means may not be effective."
FBI officials estimate there are potentially thousands of these disaffected individuals in U.S., ranging from radical fundamentalist Muslims to individuals who sympathize with the global jihad for political, nonreligious reasons, such as opposing the war in Iraq.

Counterterrorism officials said the bureau's agents and local police cannot possibly be everywhere they need to be in order to identify potential terrorists. Even the most expert of the FBI's counterterrorism profilers have no sure way of predicting which individuals might take the extra step and turn their radicalized thoughts into deadly acts of violence, they say.
"When does a person who has been a passive supporter of the cause cross over and become an operational person; that's the tough question," said one senior FBI counter-terrorism official in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he cannot discuss ongoing investigations. "It's risk management where the stakes are as high as they can possibly be. As we saw in the Virginia Tech shooting, it doesn't take more than the will to do something to actually be able to pull it off."

In recent years, authorities have arrested about 60 individuals from the much larger pool of angry and disaffected people, and charged them with terrorism, according to the FBI official and others. Dozens of other suspects have been quietly deported, or are being kept under surveillance.
Many of these suspects do not fit any easily identifiable profile, which was also true of some of the men arrested this week in and around Cherry Hill, NJ. Although they were all foreign-born Muslims, 5 of the defendants, Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and brothers Shain, Dritan and Eljvir Duka, were described by friends & family as not particularly religious and rarely if ever discussing anti-American views.

They were arrested Monday night when 2 of them allegedly tried to buy automatic weapons from the FBI's main informant, and charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel. The Dukas, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia who were in U.S. illegally, were also charged with violations of federal gun laws. A sixth man, Agron Abdullahu, was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in obtaining weapons.
At a news conference after their arrests, Weis saluted the unidentified Mount Laurel NJ store clerk as the "unsung hero" of the case. "That's why we're here today, because of the courage and heroism of that individual," said Weis.

The clerk or his supervisors alerted authorities in January 2006 after he saw a "troubling" video that the men allegedly wanted copied onto a DVD. An FBI affidavit says it shows the 6 men & 4 others shooting assault weapons "in a militia-like style while calling for jihad" and yelling extremist slogans in Arabic.
Also, at least one gun enthusiast has claimed that he notified the Pennsylvania Game Commission of the men's suspicious behavior at a shooting range, and others may have done so confidentially.
But if some neighbors, acquaintances and law enforcement officials are to be believed, there were many other suspicious signs that were not reported to authorities, such as the alleged acquisition of illegal firearms and surveillance of several military bases.

Federal authorities have disrupted other alleged "homegrown terrorist" plots in recent years, in northern VA, Lodi CA, San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Toledo, Miami and New Jersey. Few if any of the arrests made in those cases were the result of a member of the public reporting suspicious activity, according to interviews with authorities and court records of their prosecutions.
Bureau officials conceded that they are disappointed that more people don't come forward with tips, despite their pleas for assistance. "In some ways, it's human nature. A lot of times people think that someone else will report it," Weis said. "But now, with the changing times, you can't take that chance."

The bureau has also spent millions of taxpayer dollars cultivating a wide range of paid informants, particularly in Muslim communities.
"We've got to put eyes & ears on the street," said the senior FBI counter-terrorism official. He said he could not disclose the number of paid informants currently being used by the FBI in domestic counter-terrorism cases, but that the bureau has blanketed cities and small towns alike with them in recent years.
"It's very fair to say that we have significant numbers of people who are working with us," said the official.

On many occasions, as was the case this week, the FBI has benefited from evidence allegedly collected by those informants. But in some cases, the bureau has been accused of not vetting its sources, or of allowing them to cross the line and pressure some suspects into committing illegal acts or even entrapping them.
In one highly publicized case, the FBI paid an informant $230,000 to infiltrate a suspected terror cell in Lodi CA only to see many of his claims about the Pakistani immigrants go unfounded, but only after they were arrested and prosecuted.

In the Fort Dix case, FBI officials used 2 confidential informants, one of whom is allegedly a former Egyptian military officer. The FBI affidavit filed in the case shows that the man was intimately involved in many aspects of the alleged plot, from talking about hatred of U.S. to trying to procure weapons for the suspects.
He went on at least 2 surveillance missions, and, at one point, had grown so trusted that one suspect asked him to lead the alleged plot.

Court-appointed lawyer for Shnewer Rocco C. Cipparone said he has suspicions that the informant might have crossed the line from "legal normal prodding" of the suspects into entrapment. A former federal prosecutor himself, Cipparone said informants can be the most valuable weapon in the current fight against domestic terrorism.
"But it also comes with a lot of risks, a lot of pitfalls and unless there is absolute careful monitoring and even sometimes then, there can be a host of problems, including setups, entrapment, a whole range of things of that nature," Cipparone said. "Informants can be crafty, they can be creative, and informants can dupe law enforcement officers as well."

Weis said the FBI & federal prosecutors worked closely with the informants every step of the way to make sure they were behaving appropriately.
"This was clearly a case where the cooperating witness was very good, very capable and above all, was able to be extremely credible to these individuals, to be able to insinuate himself into their thinking and their environment," added U.S. Atty Christopher J. Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak in New Jersey. "These individuals, well before our cooperating witness became involved, had propensity and desire to carry out an attack on America."

Police state: a workable draftee miltary
11.2.03  
Al Lorentz Prison Planet.com

Congress has been discussing a draft army lately, mostly it is just an opportunity to engage in partisan political bickering & name calling. For some it is being used to advance the idea that we need more soldiers so that we can support our current military tempo of endless occupations & wars (God forbid they read the Constitution and decide to scale back on this nonsense). For others it is being used to advance a socialist idea, a way of having even more Federal employees.
But there is a way to make the draft not only Constitutional but affordable, workable and fair. Bring back the militia.

Currently we are told that the National Guard is the militia, an argument falsely advanced by the left to attempt yet another gun grab. The National Guard, while local to each state, are actually nothing but Federalist puppets under the control of the Federal Govt and hardly fulfill one of the major requirements of the militia. The major requirement of course is that they stand as a force loyal to the people of their respective states against Federalist tyranny.

I have been to many countries in the world to work with their military across the decades and believe though there is a way to make the draft not only possible but also much less a financial burden and of course to stay within the U.S. Constitution. It has to do primarily with command & control …
Every man between 17 & 50 will be required to serve in his local militia: he will do all his training locally. Instead of being sent to a basic training camp; he will train at the local drill hall. There will be a 2 week summer camp and all will be led by a professional soldier who is also local.

The federal govt will be required to provide professional training for the unit's professional soldier cadre and also to provide guidance on weaponry, caliber of ammunition and other details that will allow, voluntarily, the respective states to send their troops to the defense of the US Constitution from enemies foreign & domestic.
Soldiers will be required to take their weapons & ammunition home with them for safekeeping & maintenance. Soldiers will be required to muster at a moments notice and have their gear ready for this.

The Professional soldier will be a full time soldier and will receive a check from his state. His performance will be evaluated against a high standard set at Federal level that will be based upon his soldiering ability, NOT upon his political views. Every professional soldier will be required to be a Constitutional authority, capable of teaching his soldiers the US Constitution.
A militia will or will not deploy based upon a democratically held vote by that militia. Members who are desirous to deploy may form up with a unit that is and vice versa. No man will be forced to go to war.

On this last point especially I can hear people saying "but what if nobody wants to deploy". I say good, this would have prevented Viet Nam or at least it being fought by the criminals MacNamara & Westmoreland with their idiotic "body count" that killed tens of thousands of our fine young men and a good number of young women too. Conversely, after the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, you couldn't keep us out of the war, Americans are good about supporting a just cause.

I wonder how this would have affected the current war in Iraq, especially if a unit, while in country decides to go home. This would mean that unit commanders would actually have to lead by example, to inspire their men instead of coercing them by threat of imprisonment. I doubt if we'd see the current spectacle of military commanders living in opulent splendor while their men exist in subhuman & filthy tent cities.
In short, it would no doubt prevent America from turning into GloboCop, cost us less money and most importantly, less American blood. It would also remove from socialist presidents & politicians the big stick they use to bully the rest of the world. It would require them to use diplomacy instead of just sending in the Battleships.

With an army loyal to the Constitution and not just the plaything & personal weapon of the federal govt, I guarantee there would be no deployment of troops against citizens (unless of course they were hell bent on overthrowing the Constitution), send the troops from Washington D.C. down to Houston and they would be met in the field by the troops of Houston!
Socialist utopians with their dreams of total subjugation of the masses would have no ability to threaten the people, instead, they would have to gain our support. Tax increases would no doubt disappear and we might see the end of big govt. A local militia would simply ask the IRS where their "authority" to tax was being derived from and then send them back to D.C. (or to the morgue). The same with any other Federal agency attempting to usurp the rights of the people.
Bring back the militia!

Labor battle escalates in Homeland Security ¹
9.4.02   Thomas Ferraro & R.Mikkelsen Reuters

Wash.DC   A labor rights battle in proposed Homeland Security Dept escalated Wed. as a top Democrat hosted a rally with scores of federal workers and the White House warned that the dispute could scuttle its anti-terror effort. Shortly before the Senate began a second day of consideration of legislation to create the dept in response to 9.11.01, Sen. Joseph Lieberman D-CT lashed out at the administration.
Flanked on Capitol Hill by union leaders & members and a few fellow Senate Democrats, Lieberman claimed Bush has tried to "turn this into an effort to strip federal workers of just civil service & collective bargaining protections." Under a threat of veto, Bush has demanded broad power to hire, fire, transfer and reward workers to obtain an efficient dept to better protect against terrorism.
"Why are they (administration members) putting this issue (labor rights) on the table," said Lieberman. "I fear it is because they are a group of partisan, ideological, anti-worker advisers who have steered the president in the wrong direction."

White House Office of Homeland Security policy & plans sr dir. Richard Falkenrath , said: "I don't know exactly how it's going to work out. It has become a partisan issue." "No student of the legislative process could look at the current configuration and conclude that there was no risk that a bill would not be enacted before the end of Congress," Falkenrath told a Brookings Institution seminar on the proposed dept.
He dismissed suggestions of a deal in which Bush would delay his push to reform civil service rules in exchange for Senate concessions giving him more spending flexibility and more authority to reorganize agency depts. "There is no deal to be had in that area because the antagonists are totally different," Falkenrath said.

Key Democratic & Republican congressional leaders voiced optimism that a compromise could be reached. But no one appeared to be ready to offer one. Instead, the 2 sides seemed to dig in their heels. Sen. minority leader Trent Lott R-MI denounced Lieberman's criticism and defended Bush's proposal. "All the president's asking is, 'Give me the tools to ... make some movements of people, requirements and money around to get the job done so we can protect the American people,"' Lott said. Bush wants to implement the biggest U.S. govt reorganization in a half century by folding all or parts of 24 existing agencies into the new dept, incl Secret Service, Coast Guard and Border Patrol.

The Senate is expected to take at least a few weeks to wade through a number of possible amendments and complete work on its homeland-security legislation. The Senate may hold its first votes on proposed amendments on Thursday. One would allow commercial pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit. The other would bar U.S. companies who reincorporate overseas to avoid U.S. taxes from getting contracts with the Homeland Security Dept.
Next week, votes are expected on proposed amendments aimed at giving Bush the "management flexibility" he has demanded. Others would address his concerns in such areas as funding & intelligence gathering. "I expect all the votes will be close," said Sen. Fred Thompson R-TN, helping manage the legislation. Top Democratic aides agreed. Bush prefers a bill approved by the GOP led House, which largely gives him what he wants in labor & other areas. Lieberman is chief author of the Senate bill that Bush has vowed to veto as unacceptable.

Differences between the House & Senate measures would have to be ironed out before a final bill could be sent to Bush to sign into law. Thompson said, "I think when it comes right down to it, most people will vote for a bill. But if we don't improve this bill, the president will veto it and that veto will be sustained."

Army to recall some local reservists to active duty
7.6.04   Kyle Davian
Sweetwater Reporter

Some area Army reservists may find themselves headed back to active duty. U.S. Army announced it expects to involuntarily recall 5,674 Texans from Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). IRR is comprised of about 118,000 former soldiers who still have nonactive-duty service obligation remaining under their original contracts. The Army, this week, is beginning the task of notifying over 5,600 members of the IRR that they are being involuntarily recalled to active duty.
A recent plan by the Pentagon was to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. But current resistance from the enemy has risen in numbers and their effectiveness. For example, troop numbers in Iraq have grown from approximately 105,000 to 140,000.

Once they are officially notified, reservists have 30 days in which to report. They are first given administrative & medical checkups and then sent for refresher training prior to deploying overseas. These reservists will be placed on active duty for a minimum of 18 months. A lot of these reservists will undoubtedly be surprised to receive their notices because this pool of people is so rarely used. In fact, there have only been two other such call-ups. The Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) of 1991 called up some 20,300 reservists. Prior to that, it happened back in 1968 during the Vietnam War. The Army is having to pull people from the IRR because they have no more eligible personnel for specialized military jobs that they can call from the National Guard or Mary Reserve.

Upon discharge, Army personnel usually go into the IRR status for two or more years. There are about 480,000 soldiers currently on active duty. The first recall notifications are expected to be received today. The Army plans to call for IRR soldiers over an extended period, broken into several phased groups, from July through December. The soldiers will be assigned to designated mobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard units. Exactly which units will be based upon the Army's needs.
The Army has said that "unlike new recruits, these are seasoned, experienced soldiers who can contribute significantly to Army readiness and operational capabilities." In an Independence Day speech released to the media, the Army said, "As long as America is blessed with such young heroes, the efforts of the Founding Fathers will not have been in vain and the fruits of their labors will be preserved for each future generation of Americans."

Part of the shortage controversy centers around gays in the military. Approximately 1,000 service members with needed special skills have been ousted from the military in the last 5 years under the "don't ask, don't tell" rule. This rule prevents homosexuals from serving in the military.
Ironically, the Army is looking for almost 800 truck drivers to pull a year of duty in Iraq. Yet, at least 113 military truck drivers were forced out of the armed forces between 1998-2003, according to statistics. In another example, at least 153 gay food service operators were ousted between the same years, even though the Army is now seeking 211 food service operators for Iraq duty.

Reservist faces punishment after questioning waiver   11.28.03   AP ¹ ² ³ ª

Rochester, NY   Long time Army reservist Capt. Steve McAlpin, who spent most of last year deployed in Afghanistan, learned this week that he is facing insubordination charges that could end his 25-year military career. His breach of discipline is questioning the legality of a waiver his battalion was asked to sign that would put his unit back in a combat zone after only 11 months at home. Under federal law, Captain McAlpin noted, troops are allowed a 12-month "stabilization period."
Capt. McAlpin, 44, was notified in a memorandum on Wednesday that he was being removed from the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion's battle roster. He said he could face other punishment, incl court-martial & loss of rank. Members of the 401st will be deployed for duty overseas next Wednesday. Commander Lt. Col. Phillip Carey says in his memorandum that Captain McAlpin had a "negative attitude" and was being "insubordinate towards the leadership" of the 401st.

Capt. McAlpin said he questioned the waiver last Saturday in a teleconference with Col. Guy Sands, commander of the captain's parent unit, the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade in Fort Jackson, SC. About a dozen other officers refused to sign the waiver, as well as 4 enlisted soldiers called to redeploy, Captain McAlpin said.
"Soldiers are proud to serve any time, anywhere. I'd go tomorrow," he said on Friday from his home in Victor, 20 miles southeast of Rochester. "But I have 4 soldiers that don't want to go."

The memorandum orders Capt. McAlpin to clear up his affairs at the unit by Monday, when it bans him from battalion grounds. It also transfers him to the Individual Ready Reserves, whose soldiers can be called up in the event of a national emergency. Instead of signing the reprimand document, Captain McAlpin wrote a note of protest, stating that his performance evaluations had been excellent and that his record showed "no pattern of incompetence."
Captain McAlpin served in Bosnia in 1996. Last year, while stationed in Afghanistan, he was a liaison to local warlords, coordinated relief supplies and organized an English-language teaching program. He said the military should "honor soldiers that have gone already" by giving them "a break from the hazards of combat."

401st spokesman Capt. Brian Earley said Captain McAlpin's questioning of the waiver was only one reason he was being disciplined, with others incl difficulties on the mission to Afghanistan.

8,000 desert during Iraq war
3.7.06   Bill Nichols USA Today

Wash.D.C.   At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since 9.11.01. Since fall 2003, 4,387 Army soldiers, 3,454 Navy sailors and 82 Air Force personnel have deserted. The Marine Corps does not track the number of desertions each year but listed 1,455 Marines in desertion status last September, the end of fiscal 2005, says Capt. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman.
Desertion records are kept by fiscal year, so there are no figures from the beginning of the war in March 2003 until that fall.>

Some lawyers who represent deserters say the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service and that the Pentagon is cracking down on deserters.
"The last thing they want is for people to think … that this is like Vietnam," says anti-war group offering legal aid to deserters Citizen Soldier head Tod Ensign.
The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.

The desertion rate was much higher during the Vietnam era. The Army saw a high of 33,094 deserters in 1971, 3.4% of the Army force. But there was a draft and the active-duty force was 2.7 million. Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.
Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins.
"People always desert, and most do it because they don't adapt well to the military," she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.

Most deserters return within months, without coercion. Naval Personnel Command spokesman Commander Randy Lescault says that between 2001 and 2005, 58% of Navy deserters walked back in. Of the rest, the most are apprehended during traffic stops. Penalties range from other-than-honorable discharges to death for desertion during wartime. Few are court-martialed.

Decades later, Marines hunt Vietnam-era deserters
3.7.06   Bill Nichols, USA Today

Wash.D.C.   In the summer of 1965, Marine Cpl. Jerry Texiero quietly disappeared from his California base, plagued by personal demons and a mounting opposition to the Vietnam War. 40 years later, in the summer of 2005, Texiero, now known as Gerome Conti, was taken into custody by police in Tarpon Springs FL after the Marine Corps tracked him down.
30 years after the war ended, hundreds of Vietnam-era deserters are still on the loose. Conti's attys Louis Font & Tod Ensign say the Pentagon, and the Marine Corps in particular, are cracking down on long-term cases in an effort to warn current-day troops in Iraq against deserting.

"My view is that the Marines are trying to send a message to people in the ranks today that they, too, will be required to participate in a war, whether they think it's illegal or immoral," Font says.
Marine spokesman Capt. Jay Delarosa says there was nothing unusual about the treatment of Conti. However, the Marine official in charge of bringing in deserters said after Conti's arrest that his office was being more aggressive.

Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart, who commanded the Marine Corps Absentee Collection Center since September 2004, told the St. Petersburg Times that he had ordered cold cases reopened and that his squad had caught 27 deserters in his first 11 months on the job, a rate he suggested was higher than those of his predecessors. The Corps last month updated that number to 33 cases.
"I have a different leadership style than the guys who have had this job. My job is to catch deserters. And that's what I do," Averhart told the newspaper.

Delarosa said Averhart would not answer questions from USA TODAY. Asked whether the Marine Corps stands by Averhart's comments, Delarosa said, "I wasn't involved in that particular interview with CWO Averhart." He added that the Marine Corps has "discouraged most requests for interviews because CWO Averhart has been frequently misquoted."
Will Van Sant, who wrote the Times article, says the Marines never contacted him after it appeared. Conti, 65, says he was surprised. "I thought they couldn't possibly be looking for me anymore. I would think they would have stopped looking for anybody who had been gone as long as I had."

Conti was held for 5 months, 4 in solitary confinement, then given an other-than-honorable discharge in January. If he had been court-martialed and convicted, he could have faced 3 years in the brig and a dishonorable discharge.
Another long-term Marine deserter, Ernest "Buck" McQueen, was arrested in Fort Worth in January. McQueen was Ernest Johnson Jr. when he left Camp Lejeune NC in November 1969 because of concerns about going to Vietnam. McQueen, 55, also was discharged without disciplinary action.

McQueen says he didn't take a new name to hide. His Social Security card says "McQueen." He says he was born Ernest Johnson Jr., but when his biological father left, his mother raised her son by her married name, McQueen. When he joined the Marines, he says, they insisted he go by Ernest Johnson Jr.

The govt drafted men for the armed forces during wartime from the Civil War until 1973. Conti and McQueen enlisted. In 1974, President Ford offered clemency to Vietnam draft resisters and deserters. Only 27,000 of 350,000 eligible applied. The offer expired 4.1.75. In 1977, President Carter pardoned those who dodged the war by not registering or fleeing the country. Neither Conti nor McQueen applied for the Ford pardon.
Both spent decades hiding their past from families and employers. McQueen kept his military experience from two wives and two children, and even Conti's best friend in Florida, Elaine Smith, knew nothing of his history with the Marines.

McQueen says he had been in the Marines for nearly 2 years when he learned of the My Lai massacre in 1968, when hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers. "I saw photos of guys with ears on their chains. I lost my desire to be a part of it."
Conti says his decision to desert was a combination of lingering emotional scars from a childhood lived in foster homes and concerns about stories he also was hearing about Vietnam.

Special Agent Tom Lorang of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) says most older desertion cases are filed away after an initial investigation is completed, although some are re-examined. Except for the Marine Corps, military officials say long-term cases normally are closed when deserters voluntarily come back in or are stopped by civilian law officials, not through efforts to track them down.
That's not Conti's or McQueen's story. Conti says he was told his file was reopened and his fingerprints were run through a national database. He was in the database because he had been convicted of fraud and theft in 1998. He was on probation and paying restitution when the Marines caught up with him.

McQueen, a carpenter, says his former brother-in-law was called by Marine investigators, and he told them where to find him. "This kind of … put me in a financial bind," says McQueen, who had been doing carpentry for a church when he was seized.
Conti has returned to his job selling boats, which his employer kept open for him while he was locked up.
"They just need to declare amnesty for everybody from a certain time back or from certain conflicts," says Elaine Smith, Conti's friend. "These guys … just had issues, as we all did back in the '60s."

Military officials maintain that those who deserted the service are liable under law, no matter how unpopular a war was. "We actively investigate all cases of desertion," says Fred Hall, a spokesman for the Naval Personnel Command. "For each of the active deserters we have on our rolls, 1,190 as of 31 Jan. '06, there is a federal warrant out for their arrest."

Soldiers flee to Canada to avoid Iraq duty
3.28.06 & Duncan Campbell The Guardian

Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum. A decision on a test case involving 2 US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border.
At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003.

Ryan Johnson, 22 from near Fresno CA was due to be deployed with his unit to Iraq in January last year but crossed the Canadian border in June and is seeking asylum. "I had spoken to many soldiers who had been in Iraq and who told me about innocent civilians being killed and about bombing civilian neighbourhoods," he told the Guardian.
"It's been really great since I've been here. Generally, people have been really hospitable and understanding, although there have been a few who have been for the war." He is now unable to return to the US. "I don't have a problem with that. I'm in Canada and that's that."

Johnson said it was unclear exactly how many US soldiers were in Canada but he thought 400 was a "realistic figure". He had been on speaking tours across the country as part of a war resisters' movement and had come across other servicemen living underground.
Toronto lawyer Jeffry House, who represents many of the men, said that an increasing number were seeking asylum. "There are a fair number without status and a fair number on student visas," he said, and under UN guidelines on refugee status they were entitled to seek asylum.

The first test cases involve Jeremy Hinzman, 26, who deserted from the 82 Airborne Div. and Brandon Hughey from the 1st Cavalry Div.. A decision on their applications is due within the next few weeks. If they are turned down the case will be taken to the federal appeal court and the Canadian supreme court, according to Mr House, a process that would last into next year at least.
All deserters, past and present, are placed on an FBI wanted list. Earlier this month, Allen Abney, 56, who deserted from the US marines 38 years ago during the Vietnam war, was arrested as he crossed into the U.S., a journey he had taken many times before without problem. He was held in a military jail in California for a few days, then discharged.

"They have resuscitated long-dormant warrants," said House. "I know 15 people personally who have crossed 10 or more times without problems and then all of a sudden they are arresting people. It seems like it would be connected to Iraq."
War Resisters' Support Campaign coordinator Lee Zaslofsky, 61, in Toronto, said that he was impressed by the young men who were seeking asylum. "Some have been to Iraq and others have heard what goes on there," he said. "Mainly, what they discuss is being asked to do things they consider repugnant. Most are quite patriotic … Many say they feel tricked by the military."
During the Vietnam war between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans crossed the border to avoid serving.

Ex-soldier appeals conviction for refusing order
2.17.06   Rowan Scarborough
Wash.Times

A former U.S. soldier asked a federal appeals court yesterday to throw out his decade-old conviction for refusing an order to don a United Nations uniform and deploy as a peacekeeper to Macedonia. Michael New of Willis TX, then a medic stationed in Germany, has petitioned a string of military and federal courts on the grounds that his Army court-martial judge refused to let the jury decide whether New received a lawful order.
New contends that the order was illegal because Congress, under the United Nations Participation Act, never approved the Clinton administration's deployment on a U.N. mission to a hostile area, as the law requires.

"It was a foreign insignia totally and wholly unauthorized," his attorney, Herb Titus, told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The trial judge's ruling "deprived Michael New of his constitutional due process right."
He also said the military judge erred when he refused to hear arguments concerning the U.N. Participation Act because it was a "political issue."

This could mark Mr. New's last appeal, because he lost at the military appeals level and then in U.S. District Court. The govt, in a case now called "New, M. v. Rumsfeld, Donald," has argued that the trial judge properly followed the Manual for Courts-Martial. The manual explains military criminal proceedings and dictates that judges, not juries, decide whether an order is illegal.
The judge decided the order was legal. A jury convicted Mr. New of disobeying a direct order and sentenced him to a bad conduct discharge.

Wash. D.C. U.S. attorney special asst Kevin Robitaille told the court, "A commander has the authority to order his troops into uniform."
Judge A. Raymond Randolph expressed skepticism that New's attorney was raising a constitutional issue. If not, the court had no reason to review what the military appeals courts decided. Judge Merrick B. Garland noted that if it was up to juries to decide a lawful order, there could be multiple juries coming to different conclusions on the same order to deploy to a war.

New balked at wearing the U.N. blue helmet and insignia at a time when some Republicans complained that President Clinton was sending American troops on too many peacekeeping missions and subjecting them to U.N. control.
After the arguments, Titus said he would like the appeals court to either throw out the conviction or order the lower district court to reconsider the due process argument.

About a dozen supporters of New traveled to Washington from Texas, Alabama, Virginia and other Southern states to attend the arguments. New's father Daniel went to Capitol Hill later in the day to drum up support for the proposed Citizen Soldier Protection Act of 2006.
"It bars forced-serving in a U.N. uniform," the elder New said. "It does not bar serving in the U.N. You could have volunteers."


Women in combat   11.17.03   Bonnie Erbe PBS

Wash.D.C.   … The Army offered to release Spec. Simone Holcomb from active duty and return to her Colorado National Guard unit. But as of this writing, she was not ready to accept.
Holcomb & her atty Ra'Shadd told a newspaper reporter they want the Army to give her a "compassionate reassignment" to her home in Ft Carson until April. After that, she says she'll be able to go back to her one- weekend-a-month Guard duties because her husband's deployment in Iraq will end and he plans to retire from service.

Holcomb's reason? By remaining on active duty, Holcomb would reportedly earn "roughly $2,200 a month in take home pay (after taxes) as opposed to $220 a month from the Guard."
Why should the military have to accommodate a dual-career couple's decision to have 7 children? It is simply not equipped to, and it should not have to do so. Well in advance of deciding to take on such enormous parental responsibilities, either husband or wife should have made the decision to retire from the Guard, so one parent would always be available to take care of the kids. …

Should military throw the book at an AWOL military mom?   11.10.03   Fox News

Bill O'Reilly, host   Now for the top story tonight. An Army medic refuses to return to duty in Iraq because of her children. Specialist Simone Holcomb is an Army medic married to an Army sergeant. They have 7 children and are involved in a custody battle over 2 of those kids. Holcomb was ordered back to Iraq, but said she will not go because she fears losing the custody suit.
The Army says she's now AWOL and they will prosecute. Joining us now from Washington is the Giorgio Ra'shadd, attorney representing Specialist Holcomb.

All right, the Army's charges are willfully disobeying the lawful order of a superior commissioned officer and AWOL. All right, this is one step below court martial. She was read her rights on the telephone by her commander. What say you, counselor?

Giorgio Ra'shadd, Holcomb's atty   Well, the circumstances are more difficult than I believe the commander and the field understands. Under Colorado law, Title 19, the Colorado children's code, if she were to comply with the order of the commander, and that order is get on a plane, get back to Iraq; she has 7 kids, 2 of those kids could conceivably go back to their birth mother, but 5 of them will be at the airport. And when mom gets on the plane, they'll be waving goodbye, turning around, and going into the hands of Colorado state troopers or Denver police because there's no one to care for them.

B.O.   But wait a minute. Wait a minute. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
G.R.   Yes.

B.O.   Her husband's already in Iraq, all right.
G.R.   He's in Iraq.

B.O.   American Army sergeant.
G.R.   That's right.

B.O.   She was in Iraq. Both of them were there. And then family, relatives, and friends cared for the children. Are you saying that situation has changed?

G.R.   Yes. Her mother-in-law cared for the children in the home on Ft Carson, but her father-in-law became ill. The mother-in-law & father-in-law live in Akron OH. And the mother-in-law was forced to go back home to care for her ill husband.

B.O.   OK. And I think we can all understand that and feel sorry.
G.R.   Right.

B.O.   Now shouldn't the specialist then ask for humanitarian discharge?
G.R.   Well, this is what she asked for in sequential order. She asked for an extension of emergency leave. That was denied. Then she asked for a compassionate reassignment so that she could continue her military duties but right there at Ft Carson where the kids were. That was denied.
Then she said OK, if you won't do that, at least give me a compassionate discharge because the kids are here, the house is here, and I'm here. That was denied.

B.O.   Why? I mean, if I'm the Secretary of the Army...
G.R.   They don't have, right.

B.O.   … I give her a compassionate discharge immediately because there are, as you said, 7 children involved, two in a custody fight. So why did the Army say no?
G.R.   They didn't give a reason. And a commander in the field doesn't really have to give a reason why they won't give you emergency leave or a compassionate re-assignment, but you have the right to ask for it.

B.O.   Right.
G.R.   That's what we did.

B.O.   All right, now I am, she has 48 hours to respond to these charges. OK?
G.R.   Correct.

B.O.   And I'm pretty sure, counselor, that you can get this compassionate discharge. I mean, I would be stunned if they didn't give it to her. I think what they're trying to do is they don't think she handled it the right way. That's what I think is going on here. Now are you telling me you don't think she's going to get the discharge?

G.R.   Well, the interesting thing is that the Colorado National Guard was working feverishly to bring this to a resolution. I went to the Pentagon this morning where I spoke with the public affairs officer for the Dept of the Army. And they were actually trying to get something resolved. But out of the blue at about 2:00 in the morning, the commander from the field called my client, not me, but called my client, read her her rights over the phone.

B.O.   Right, it's we said, right.
G.R.   And imposed punishment under Article 15.

B.O.   What's the punishment?
G.R.   Well, under Article 15, you're told that you have, -- what you have violated, you've violated this, you've violated that, and that I intend to punish you. Now then you get 48 hours to respond to the Article 15.

B.O.   Right. Right. So it looks to me -- look...
G.R.   Right.

B.O.   ...the commander in the field is one thing. But you're in D.C.
G.R.   Right.

B.O.   You're at the Pentagon. It looks to me like you can work this thing out because look, the Army has an obligation to all, you know, there are a lot of specialists, a lot of personnel in the Army and in the Marines and in the Navy that have children.

G.R.   That's correct.
B.O.   And every time there's a situation, they can't be saying to the Army or Marines or Navy, I'm not showing up, or Air Force, because I got kid problems. You know that. You'd have anarchy.
G.R.   Oh, absolutely.

B.O.   So there's way to do this. And I'm pretty confident you can work it out.
G.R.   Well, that's my intention. And I believe also that's the intention of the Colorado National Guard. But in this instance, apparently the Army had been trying to resolve this, too, but there was a fundamental disconnect between the work of the Colorado National Guard, the Army, and this commander in the field.

B.O.   All right, forget about the Colorado National Guard for a moment. The Army told you today, and correct me if I'm wrong, to come back with more a detailed request for compassionate reassignment. Isn't that correct?
G.R.   That's correct. …

[ per SOP, Fox News only got half the story in their rush to cut to commercial ]
    public service
The spark of industrial action has to be snuffed out
11.13.02   Stephen Pollard sr fellow, Brussels-based Ctr for the New Europe
Times

I doubt if there are many of us who would climb into a burning tower block for £80. How much money would it take for you to go in if you were standing outside a blaze? £1,000? £2,000? I wouldn't go in for £10,000.
Even if the firemen were given the full 40% increase that they are after, they'd still be paid only £80 a day. So whatever the rights & wrongs of a strike, one thing is clear: they risk their lives for a sum of money which does not even come close to representing the risk involved.

But it's not that simple. It is neither possible nor desirable to determine pay by such criteria. Salaries paid to public servants are not, after all, an expression of our appreciation. If they were, the public coffers would long ago have been bankrupted by our gratitude to firemen, nurses and the police. In the real world, salaries represent something more pragmatic: a combination of the rate that ensures there is a sufficient supply of workers, and the amount that we can afford.
Take nurses. On almost any criteria, nurses are underpaid. On the most basic measure , recruitment, it is clear that nurses need to be paid more. Latest Health Dept figures show a shortage of 9,000 nurses, and that is a severe underestimate, as it only incl positions vacant for more than 3 months.
On the existing pay scales, we can neither recruit a sufficient number of new nurses for our needs, nor hang on to them once they are trained. We have more than enough trained nurses in the country; the problem is that too many no longer work as nurses, having left the profession because they are not paid enough.

The same, however, is simply not true for firemen. On that basic measure of recruitment, the situation is very different. We have all the firemen we need. Unlike nursing & teaching, there is no recruitment crisis; quite the opposite. For every vacant fireman's post, an average of 40 people apply.
Which is not surprising when you realise that, even on their existing pay of £21,000, firemen are in the top half of the pay league table of full-time workers. And that's without incl holiday and one of the most generous final salary pension schemes in the country. With the "2 days & 2 nights on, four days off" rota, many firemen also do an additional job.

Of course they deserve more money. So too do care assistants, teachers and nurses. The list of workers who deserve more money is almost endless. But that's not the point.
What matters is whether we need to pay them more. The evidence is clear: it makes economic & political sense to pay nurses more; it makes no such sense to pay firemen more. If the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had more deft leadership, it might have found a way to secure something approaching its pay demand by offering to negotiate its antediluvian work practices. Instead, it has dug in & resisted any change.

Its tactics, and the mindset of the FBU leader, Andy Gilchrist, are straight out of the 1970s. When the firemen last went out on strike in 1977, Labour Govt caved in. The message sent out was clear: demand money with menace, and you'll get it. It led directly to the Winter of Discontent.
For most of Tony Blair's first term, govt wanted nothing more than a big public sector dispute. It wanted to lance the boil, and show that this was a different sort of Labour govt. Indeed, the PM & Chancellor were so successful in putting across the message that they would not give in that no such strike materialised. They were thus denied the opportunity to lay to rest the ghost of 1978-79.

Labour's appetite for a confrontation has now gone flat: neither the PM nor the Chancellor needs to prove his credentials any more. But they are now faced with a new wave of hard Left union leaders, of whom Mr Gilchrist is merely the outrider, who look back to the strikes of the 1970s as a crib sheet. Where Mr Gilchrist leads, Dave Prentis of Unison, Mark Serwotka of the PCS, Derek Simpson of Amicus, and the train unions follow.
When govt launched its public spending bonanza 2 years ago, union leaders' collective heart skipped a beat at the thought of all that money for their members' pockets. That, quite rightly, has long been Blair & Brown's main fear. Ministers know how easy it is for union leaders to make the case that their members are underpaid, just as Mr Gilchrist is now doing for the firemen.

But if they give way to the firemen, the entire new Labour edifice will crash down like a house of cards as the rest of the unions take their cue. Labour will have ratcheted up public spending, increased taxes to pay for it, and got absolutely nothing in return. The words "modernisation" & "investment", the key to Labour's plans, will be so much hot air.
The firemen are thus a direct challenge to Mr Blair's nostrum that "investment only works if it levers in change. Without the change, money is simply wasted on outdated practices." To that extent, the firemen could not be a more apposite test case. Teachers & NHS workers, for instance, have, however reluctantly, accepted that pay increases have to be accompanied by reform. The FBU has, however, specifically ruled out any reform of existing working arrangements in return for extra money.
The firemen will get some more money. But the sort of money the FBU is demanding is not only economically untenable, it is politically impossible. Tony Blair & Gordon Brown built new Labour on the idea that the old Labour habits were gone. At this, the first real test, they cannot afford to give in.

U.S. to privatize Park Service jobs
Critics fear plan will weaken protection of priceless resources   1.27.03   Julie Cart
L.A. Times

As part of its push to privatize federal workers, the Bush administration has identified about 70% of full-time jobs in the National Park Service as potential candidates for replacement by private- sector employees. Interior Sec. Gale Norton, Park Service overseer, earmarked 11,807 of 16,470 full-time positions for possible privatization. They range from maintenance & secretarial jobs to archaeologists & biologists.
Interior Dept officials stressed, however, that the number of people replaced would not be nearly that high. Moreover, they said that law enforcement personnel, managerial positions and most park rangers would keep their jobs.

The institution's 86-year- old tradition of public service to greet visitors and lead them on nature walks, could be replaced by volunteers. Critics fear outsourcing federal positions, incl Park Service's entire corps of scientists, could undermine protection of the nation's vast inventory of archaeological & paleontological sites within parks and hand over the care of forests, seashores and wildlife to private companies not steeped in the Park Service culture of resource protection.
"This is about respect for professionals. It is about a recognition that people spend a lifetime learning their profession and how to resist pressures, political or commercial, in the public interest," said Clinton admin Park Service dir. Roger Kennedy. "The public understands that parks are not parking lots, they are places that require a high degree of professional skill to manage. Not just anyone can do it."

Potential cuts are part of Bush admin effort to identify as many as 850,000 federal jobs that could be performed by private-sector employees. Park Service dir. Fran Minella said she wants to maintain uniformed personnel in the parks as a "public face" to visitors. Still, some duties performed by rangers, such as nature walks, could be conducted by volunteers, Park Service officials said.
Interior Dept officials say there is little likelihood that all of the jobs identified by Minella will be outsourced. Deputy Asst Interior Sec. Scott Cameron said he anticipated that no more than 4% of the current workers would actually lose their jobs. He said much of the changeover would occur as current employees retire. Cameron estimated 20% of Park Service staff will reach retirement age in the next 5 years.
  [

  •   Will PGLC (privatised govt labor contractors) ¹ have administrative control of "uniformed" personnel such that they have no latitude to exercise Dir. Kennedy's vaunted "professionalism" ?
  •   Is the Park Service retirees' pension balance sheet upside down? ]

    Positions identified by Norton will be examined to determine whether they can be eliminated or filled more cheaply & efficiently with nongovt contract employees. Park Service employees would be given a chance to argue why they are better equipped to perform their jobs than private sector workers.
    Officials say the injection of free market-style competition would bring out the best in employees.
      [ False; myth of laissez faire religion. ]
    "This is a way to capture the benefits of competition to produce better performance and better value," Cameron said. "Competition makes for a much more exciting Lakers game than if only one team were on the court."
      [ Facile Sunday school metaphor, not a valid analogy. Govt is not sports. The purpose of the nation is egalitarianism derived from democratic oversight of liberty, not championships & Spartan victors. Public resources, esp. those in perpetual trust such as pristine public lands, require stewardship, not speculation as commodities.. ]

    But critics say the responsibility of overseeing the country's 388 parks & monuments is too important to entrust to people with little or no preparation for working in the nation's park system. "The Park Service is not a business enterprise," said Joshua Tree National Park former asst superintendent Frank Buono, former Mojave National Preserve manager. "There is a fundamental ideological binge that the free enterprise system will heal all wounds and solve all problems. Ask Enron about efficiency of the unregulated private marketplace."
    Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility & others charge that replacing Park Service scientists with "hired hands" creates conflict of interest and produce a vacuum in parks where esoteric specialists are required. "What you get is a pliant & controllable science staff," said public employees organization exec. dir. Jeff Ruch . "Our concern is that a biologist who works for the park will be replaced by a private consulting firm, which, in order to get its contract renewed, will tell the park what it wants to hear."

    Interior Dept is just one federal agency told to trim jobs. The outsourcing trenc is inexorable, said Wash.D.C., free- market advocacy group Competitive Enterprise Institute pres. Fred Smith. "Govt is way behind the curve," Smith said. "Something as mulch-ridden as the Park Service is long overdue for this. Allow voluntary groups to work in the parks. Let people & groups who care deeply about bats and sea turtles and caves do the work. The private museum system has been using docents for years. It's about time the govt caught up."

  • NEW YORK   The drums … pounding, pounding, pounding … punctuated by whistles & chants … over & over … all day long. Up from the street and through our newsroom. Our neighbor has a labor problem. At CNN/Money, we are hearing about it for more than 2 weeks now. "Sometimes it's not that bad. They get some rhythm going," smirked one reporter who sits near the window. "I'm going insane," lamented another. He's taken to listening to a "falling rain" soundtrack on headphones connected to his computer.
    I'm glad he found a way to deal. It doesn't look like the noise will end any time soon. "We're staying out here as long as it takes," said one striker, taking a break from the "No Work"-chanting conga line weaving in front of GHI Inc. It's a boisterous group, made up of folks who answer the phones and take the claims for the health insurer. Their compadres at other offices in Manhattan, as well as Syracuse & Albany, are on strike, too. Negotiations are going nowhere, concede spokespersons for both the insurer and the Office & Professional Employees Intl Union.

    GHI, citing tough times & tough competition, is offering a 3-year contract with raises of roughly 3% a year. The union, pointing to a growing health-care market & an improving economy, wants at least 4% increases in the first 2 years, and 5% in the last year. Here's the real flashpoint, though: The co. wants to institute a co- pay system in its health plan. The union employees never faced that before.
    It does tickle the irony meter a bit, ahealth insurer needing a co-payment plan. And for its own plan. GHI is the employer AND the insurer here. Hotel workers get discounts. Airline workers get free tickets. Shouldn't health insurance workers, the union argues, get some sort of break too? "These health benefits are comparable to the benefits people receive in other industries," said OPIEU Local 153 secretary-treasurer Richard Lanigan.
    "The argument is spurious," counters Iline Margolin, the company's spokeswoman. "Empty seats on a plane don't cost you (to fill them). And what we're proposing is a very modest cost." (It starts at $10 an office visit, with various prescription options.)

    The manager side of me gets the point. Whether it's your employee or an employee of one of your clients, providing someone with a health plan means administrative costs, medical maintenance charges, and risks. If some of your subscribers are getting the plan for free, others will have to pick up the slack. In general, health outfits make their employees co-pay, according to the American Assoc. of Health Plans.
    On the other hand, I get my Money Magazine for free. And other little perks exist for the AOL Time Warner "family." It is, after all, a modest cost to the Empire and it makes me feel somewhat special. A little full disclosure here: I used to belong to the striking union many years ago when I was a newspaper reporter. And I've covered many a strike story, usually chatting up folks on the picket line and doing the "color pieces" on what the workers were going through. So the drums & chants kind of give me a (short-lived) nostalgic thrill.

    But since then I've gone to business school and have become responsible for not so much doing the job as seeing that the job gets done. Arguments that don't make sense on the picket line sometimes do make sense on a budget sheet. Not that I'm going to get either side to see the other's point. That job belongs to a federal mediator, who so far hasn't made much progress. I'll just listen to the drums & chants. Labor versus capital. The beat goes on.
      campesino
    Gov. Gray Davis was an eyewitness to one of the most dramatic & historic episodes ever seen in the California Capitol. There had been decades of sometimes violent strife in Calif. agricultural fields as United Farm Workers union, under charismatic leader Cesar Chavez, tried to organize low-paid workers. For those involved, the UFW's struggle, with picket lines, sit-ins, boycotts and court battles, reached mythic status of the Southern civil rights movement. Underlying, however, was the simple fact that the National Labor Relations Act exempted agricultural workers, so there was no legal framework for settling organizational or contract disputes. But election of UFW sympathizer Jerry Brown as governor in 1974 gave Chavez and his backers an opening.

    Davis was Brown's chief of staff in 1975, when his boss presided over marathon negotiations that resulted in a historic agreement between Chavez & agricultural leaders on a system for union organization, supervised elections and contract negotiations. Enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, however, was only the beginning of another phase of the seemingly eternal labor struggle in the nation's most important agricultural state, one that continues more than a quarter-century later.
    UFW's own organizational shortcomings, continued resistance of farmers to having their workers unionized, and 16 years of Agricultural Labor Relations Board appt by farmer-friendly Republican governors meant that only a handful of farm labor contracts were ever signed. And when Chavez died in 1983, the UFW was still more of a cause than an institution.

    Union advocates complain that even when they win elections, growers stall on contract negotiations, and even when the ALRB imposes "make whole" penalties on foot-dragging farmers, the result is usually just a years-long court battle. Only a third of the UFW's election wins have resulted in contracts.
    What's needed, unionists contend, is binding arbitration of contract disputes. Farmers, however, resist arbitration, saying that the current law provides enough safeguards. UFW has a powerful champion in Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, who carried binding arbitration legislation. But the bill's very existence created a problem for Davis, who has cultivated political support, incl lavish contributions, from big farmers.

    Davis, facing a potentially difficult re-election this year, didn't want to have to choose between the UFW & growers, whose influence could be important in the Central Valley. He wanted the bill to be stalled or watered down, but Burton was adamant and whipped the binding arbitration bill through both houses of the Legislature this week, capped by the Senate's 22-11 vote Thursday. The Senate's vote puts Davis on a very big spot.
    He has to worry not only about the bill's impact on this year's election, but also about how it might affect any future bids for office, such as the presidency in 2004 or the U.S. Senate in 2006. Union leaders, incl top hierarchy of the national AFL-CIO, are telling Davis that his status as a friend of labor may hinge on whether he signs the UFW's bill. At the same time, however, Davis must deal with the farmers whose money he has taken. They also consider the binding arbitration bill to be a top-drawer issue, saying that it will force them to sign contracts that will raise their costs as farm commodity prices drop to unprofitable levels.

    Burton will delay the delivery of the bill to Davis' desk by a few days, thus blocking him from doing a quick weekend veto that would bury its significance. The delay will give UFW time to ramp up its own demonstrations, incl Capitol "vigil (that) will continue each day ... until the governor announces his decision."
    Davis will have roughly 2 weeks to accept or reject the legislation. He'll probably veto it, fearing farmer backlash more than labor's wrath. But that would give Burton & UFW time to place another binding arbitration bill on Davis' desk by the end of the month and force Davis to do it all over again. Davis remembers the noisy Capitol demonstrations that attracted so much television attention in 1975. He may have new memories from 2002.

    There's a good chance that mushroom on your pizza came from a farm in Oxnard, and I don't mean to alarm you, but I might have touched it. Curiosity got the best of me, but I only fingered a few nubs while touring the Pictsweet Mushroom Farm. I went up there because the mushroom finds itself at the epicenter of California politics these days. Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty, Martin Sheen, the usual suspects, stand in unison behind the rights of California farm workers and a bill that would give them greater bargaining power with employers. The bill has cleared the Legislature and now sits before Gov. Gray Davis. It's classic Gray's Anatomy.
    On one hand, he's got a relatively pro-labor record, and happens to be the guy who officially designated the state holiday for Cesar Chavez. On the other hand, he has an undiagnosed compulsive fund-raising disorder, and growers just forked over $100,000 to his campaign. Unsurprisingly, insiders say Davis is leaning toward growers and a veto of the bill. Or, as a Davis flack explained it to me, "He's going to do what's best for the economy."

    As GWBush is going to do what's best for the environment. On Monday, I met with a Pictsweet employee named Alfredo Zamora at a downtown Oxnard cafe. Zamora, 43, works between seven and 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. This was his day off. Zamora & 20-plus colleagues grub away in dank, primitive growing rooms that smell faintly of barnyard manure, giving them a great deal in common with the state Legislature. He wears a miner's flashlight helmet and climbs mushroom bunk beds to pick the vegetable, secured against falls with a ceiling cable attached to a belt harness.
    For each 3-pound basket of mushrooms Zamora picks, he gets 48 cents. In 14 years, he said, his annual pay has gone from roughly $18,000 to $22,000, which means he's losing ground in real dollars. "If you don't like it," Zamora quotes his boss as saying, "there's the door. And the door is wide."

    Pictsweet workers are represented by the UFW, but the union hasn't been able to negotiate a contract with Pictsweet the entire time Zamora's been there. Dozens of farm worker groups are in the same boat across the state, and the bill on the governor's desk would send such disputes to an arbitrator.
    Growers cry that the UFW doesn't bargain in good faith, and they claim many farms will go under if forced to make concessions. This whole mess can actually be blamed on Bill "Simple" Simon. If the Republican candidate for governor weren't such a brick, farmers would have hopped aboard his wagon, and Davis would have signed this bill by now. The poor, put-upon ag industry loves to bankroll pols who wave the flag for smaller govt, even as farmers scam public subsidies like champs. But with Simon showing no detectable pulse, the aggies threw money in the direction of Davis, who fetches like a wirehair terrier. He's up to $1.5 million, and still sniffing.

    Another side to the story found when I drove out to the farm. "If it's so horrible here," a plant official asked me, "why have some of these guys stayed 20 to 30 years?" Because in relative terms, it's a pretty good deal. Unlike itinerant pickers who slave away in the fields, this is a year-round operation, with limited medical benefits and 3 weeks of paid vacation after 2 years, plus bonuses. The plant official claimed some salaries top $30,000. A union mushroom farm in Monterey offers a slightly better package, and employees can more easily air grievances. But at Pictsweet, I saw employees wearing "No to UFW" T-shirts. The union calls them company stooges, but many Pictsweet employees have tried to dump the UFW, claiming it hasn't done a thing for them.
    "We are not willing to pay another tax/fee of any kind to the union," one employee wrote me in a 4 page screed. I'm not sure how Pictsweet workers became Exhibit A in the argument for the arbitration bill. But it seems to me a much better case can be made for the hundreds of people I saw bent over the fields of the Oxnard Plain as I drove away. Many of those workers have union representation but no contract, just like Pictsweet employees. But they make half the salary and have none of the benefits. That's $10,000 a year or so. Certainly not enough to take up a collection and match the campaign contribution made by their ag bosses.

    I had a cup of coffee recently with Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate for governor, and he had a thought. "Do you know how to get Gray Davis to change his position on an issue?" he asked.
    No, how?
    "Tell him the check bounced."

    Democrats compare Bush to Hoover on jobs
    8.30.03  
    Reuters

    Wash.DC   Democrats marked Labor Day weekend 2003 by attacking Bush²'s record on jobs, declaring the country suffered the worst job losses under Bush's tenure since Herbert Hoover was president during the Depression. Rep. Sherrod Brown D-OH said in the weekly Democratic radio address that manufacturing jobs had been particularly hard hit, with 10% having disappeared since Bush became president 2½ years ago.
    "The manufacturing job losses are part of the 3.2 million private sector jobs that have vanished during the Bush presidency," Brown said. "No U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has brought us this kind of job loss. "In fact, President Bush is first president in 7 decades to have actually lost jobs during his presidency," Brown added.

    Bush plans to visit Brown's state on Labor Day, a state that Brown said had been hit particularly hard, with nearly 200,000 private sector jobs gone since Jan. 2001. "And what is President Bush's response to this unprecedented job loss? More tax cuts for the most privileged people in our society," Brown said. Meanwhile govt surplus of $5.6 trillion had been turned into an estimated debt of $3.3 trillion, he added.
    Brown said Democrats favored providing tax cuts to middle-income Americans, small businesses & manufacturers, while extending relief to states and the unemployed and investing in highways to create more jobs. …

    Bush to mark Labor Day with union workers
    8.31.03   AP

    Wash.DC   The nation celebrates Labor Day this year with est. 9 million Americans on unemployment rolls, 700,000 more than last year when President Bush went to a union workers picnic and said he was encouraged about job growth, but "not satisfied." The president is marking Labor Day 2003 in Richfield OH, where he will address members of the Intl Union of Operating Engineers & their families. Later in the week, Bush is to give economic speeches in Kansas City MO & Indianapolis.

    In north-central Ohio, the president planned to push his agenda to create jobs. The nation's unemployment rate hit a 9 year high of 6.4% in June then edged down to 6.2% in July, possible signal the economy may come back. That improvement, however, partly reflected the fact that 500,000 discouraged workers gave up looking for a job and left the labor market.
    The economy grew at a 3.1% annual rate in the second quarter of the year, better performance than govt thought just a month ago. Consumers increased spending in July by the largest amount in 4 months. Manufacturers saw demand for big-ticket products rise for the second straight month in July.

    "Now we must build on this progress and make sure that the economy creates enough new jobs for American workers," Bush said in his weekend radio address. While labor leaders acknowledge some positive economic reports, they also point to the nation's 6.2% unemployment rate in July and the 2.7 million net jobs that have been lost in the economy since the recession began March 2001.
    "The single most important issue on the minds of Ohioans right now is the economy," Ohio Democratic Party chair Denny White said in a letter to Bush last week. "Your failed economic policies have had a devastating effect on our state. Since you took office Jan. 2001, Ohio lost 137,200 jobs. Ohio unemployment rate has gone from 4.0 to 6.3%, with 7,900 jobs lost just this year."

    Bush insists his tax cuts will provide the stimulus necessary to rev up the economy. But Democrats say the tax cuts passed by Congress have gone to the wealthiest taxpayers and have sent the deficit soaring to $480 billion for next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. "The president's economic strategy of tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% combined with an aggressive foreign policy will make it impossible for our economy to recover and will lead to continued cuts in important domestic needs," said Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH. "Of all days to use Ohio as a political backdrop, the president, no friend of working people, has chosen Labor Day. I hope his tour of the state will include the empty factories & bankrupt corporations."

    Labor Day, officially designated by President Cleveland in 1894, also is the day when voters tend to start paying closer attention to the upcoming presidential race. With 15 months to go to the election, polls show voters are far more concerned about the economy than Iraq or terrorism.
    "Ohio? That's a battleground state if there ever was one. He barely won it," says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2002. Bush garnered 50% of Ohio vote in 2000 to Gore's 47%. The Bush-Cheney campaign "has to go out there and make an appeal to voters based on their strengths," Brazile said, "and right now, the only strength is national security because on the other issues, economy & some domestic issues, they're quite vulnerable."

    Labor Day 2002, Bush visited the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Ctr near Pittsburgh PA. to express his worry about Americans who can't find work. "I'm encouraged about job growth, but I'm not satisfied," he said. Bush began his first week back in Washington after a month long stay at his Texas ranch with a Sunday church service. The president & first lady, who returned from Crawford TX Saturday afternoon, joined about 75 others at an 8 am service at St. John's Church near the White House.
    A sermon by the Rev. Spencer M. Rice implored followers to keep their souls clean of negative, external influences, and refuse to be directed by what others do. "The question is, Do we open ourselves up to the germs?" he asked. Before communion, during an informal greeting time among the parishioners, Bush kissed his wife and shook the hands of others in nearby pews. Afterward, he returned to the White House, where he talked on the phone about postwar Iraq with Russian President Putin & Italian Premier Berlusconi. ¹

    Gene tweak ends procrastination   Lacking brain receptor, slacking monkeys become workaholics   8.12.04 Betterhumans

    Researchers have turned procrastinating monkeys into workaholics by suppressing a gene that encodes a receptor for a key brain chemical. The receptor, for the neurotransmitter dopamine, is important for reward learning. By suppressing it, researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda MD caused monkeys to lose their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it.
    "Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward a distant goal. They work more efficiently, make fewer errors, as they get closer to being rewarded," says Barry Richmond of the NIMH Laboratory of Neuropsychology. "But without the dopamine receptor, they consistently stayed on-task and made few errors, because they could no longer learn to use visual cues to predict how their work was going to get them a reward."

    The ability to associate work with reward is thought to go awry in many mental disorders, says Richmond, including schizophrenia, mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). "For example, people who are depressed often feel nothing is worth the work," says Richmond. "People with OCD work incessantly; even when they get rewarded they feel they must repeat the task. In mania, people will work feverishly for rewards that aren't worth the trouble to most of us."
    For their study, Richmond & colleagues used a molecular technique to shut off expression of a gene encoding receptors called D2. They created a DNA antisense agent, a genetic mirror image that shuts off production of target proteins, and injected it into an area of the brain called the rhinal cortex. The area was targeted because it's rich in dopamine and was previously associated with reward learning. The antisense agent turned off D2 expression for several weeks.

    Injected monkeys had been trained to release a lever when a spot on a monitor turned from red to green. If they did it right, the spot turned blue. A gray bar on the monitor indicated their progress, and when they successfully completed a trial they would get a juice treat.
    Before the gene tweak, the monkeys would make fewer errors as they got closer to receiving a reward. After the gene tweak, they couldn't associate visual cues with workload and therefore couldn't figure out how much more they had to work to get a reward. "The monkeys became extreme workaholics, as evidenced by a sustained low rate of errors in performing the experimental task, irrespective of how distant the reward might be," says Richmond. "This was conspicuously out-of-character for these animals. Like people, they tend to procrastinate when they know they will have to do more work before getting a reward."

    Besides helping researchers understand reward learning, the study also points to a new technique for exploring molecular aspects of behavior. The research is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Americans hate their jobs more than ever
    2.26.07   LiveScience.com

    Americans hate their jobs more than ever before in the past 20 years, with fewer than half saying they are satisfied. The trend is strongest among workers under the age of 25, less than 39 percent of whom are satisfied with their jobs. Workers age 45 to 54 have the second lowest level of satisfaction (less than 45 percent), according a survey conducted by The Conference Board, a market information company that also puts out the Consumer Confidence Index and the Leading Economic Indicators.

    Older people like their jobs more. Nearly half of all workers over 55 are satisfied with their employment situation. Overall, dissatisfaction has spread among all workers, regardless of age, income or residence. Twenty years ago, the first time the survey was conducted, 61 percent of all Americans said they were satisfied with their jobs, according to the representative survey of 5,000 U.S. households, said Conference Board's Consumer Research Center dir. Lynn Franco.
    "Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one's job is to be expected, the breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated and productive on the job," Franco said.

    Money rarely buys happiness but it can buy job satisfaction, people making under $15,000 per year reported the lowest satisfaction while those making more than $50,000 per year said they were the most satisfied.
    People living in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the most disgruntled (less than 410 percent say they are satisfied with their current job), and people living in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico were most likely to whistle while they work (56 percent reported being satisfied).

    The thing that bugged most workers the most about their jobs were bonus plans and promotion policies. Workload and potential for growth were rated poorly also. But the majority of workers polled found their work and co-workers interesting and their commute satisfying.


    Sizing up emotions   ¹ ²
    Value of emotional intelligence tests, widely used by employers, is questioned.
    3.15.04   Benedict Carey   L.A. Times

    Do you realize how your feelings affect your judgment? Can you openly acknowledge your weaknesses? Do you have "presence"? More to the point: Would your co-workers and boss agree with your answers?
    It's worth thinking about. Because in the last 10 years, these kinds of inquiries have made their way into employee development programs, management coaching seminars and selection criteria for upper-management positions. The answers help measure what is one of the most popular concepts in workplace psychology: emotional intelligence.

    Daniel Goleman, journalist &anp; author of 1995 bestselling book "Emotional Intelligence," describes this quality as a type of sixth sense, one distinct from educational achievement or book smarts that allows people to skillfully manage their emotions and perceive those of others. Goleman and others who have since commercialized tests based on this idea say that emotional intelligence trumps previous pop-psych theories of workplace behavior: It can actually predict success, better than IQ, and accounts for an astounding two-thirds of the skills of top-flight leaders.
    These claims sound so authoritative that thousands of business consultants & executive coaches have adopted emotional intelligence as a working theory for evaluating & advising companies. In 2001, Johnson & Johnson began measuring emotional aptitude in employees in its consumer products division being considered for key management jobs. Avon Products Inc. uses similar measures of emotional competence to evaluate employees & train managers. In all, roughly 10% of Fortune 1,000 companies have used emotional intelligence concepts in employee development, according to estimates by the Hay Group, Philadelphia-based firm marketing the programs.

    "We developed a 7 hour training program on emotional intelligence; about 500 people a year go through it," said organization development manager Stephen Sutton at BB&T Corp., large financial services co. based in Winston-Salem, NC. "We have adjusted a lot of budgets over the past year, but not this one. We believe it really helps people grow as employees."
    But some social scientists & psychologists are skeptical of the claims being made about the theory, including the 2 researchers who coined the term "emotional intelligence" in 1990. "We have not made claims about this being a powerful predictor of success, and think it's unlikely that they're true," said University of New Hampshire psychologist John Mayer, who, with Peter Salovey of Yale University, continues to research the concept.

    "I think many in the field feel that the whole concept of emotional intelligence has been over-hyped," said University of Cincinnati psychologist Gerald Matthews, coauthor of "Emotional Intelligence, Myth & Science" (MIT 2002). "It's quite amazing how this kind of movement can take off without any good empirical data to support it."
    Measurements of emotional intelligence vary depending on who's doing the testing, and for what purpose. Typically, commercial programs involve asking people to complete a self-evaluation, rating their patience, flexibility, decisiveness and emotional self-awareness. Peers & co-workers are asked to do a similar evaluation of that person. Counselors compare the results from the self-test with reports from peers, or with comparable national or international test results. Counselors may then use the results to discuss similarities & differences between how individuals perceive themselves and how co-workers view them.

    For example, a counselor or coach might point out to a taciturn manager that her silences frighten or confuse co-workers, or to a jocular executive that his jokes can be unnerving. A manager who believes he or she is open & attentive to people's needs may discover that most co-workers consider him or her aloof & unapproachable.
    According to proponents, emotional intelligence can be used to rate leadership skills including self-confidence, moral character, adaptability, motivation, initiative, a sense of humor and the ability to manage conflict. But the broadness of this definition of emotional intelligence provides another target for critics. "It seems to include so many disparate things it's hard to know what we're measuring, except maybe a kind of introspection," said Edwin Locke, psychologist studying business at University of Maryland. "Good businessmen & women are not known primarily for their introspection; they're very externally focused, and in complex businesses they have to have real, rational intelligence. And that seems to be the one thing that's not included" in the definition.

    Contrary to common perception, experts say, traditional tests of general mental ability (GMA) or IQ do not measure some single, fixed genetic aptitude. They measure a variety of mental skills, as well as the ability to learn, qualities that are partly linked to genes. These generally include numeric ability, verbal fluency and spatial aptitude (the ability to rotate & visualize objects mentally). Each of these skills functions differently in each individual: A mechanic may have sublime spatial skills but limited numeric ability, and vice versa for an accountant. But the idea is that by measuring several things at once you detect an intelligence that shares all three, said Frank Schmidt, industrial psychologist who studies intelligence testing at the University of Iowa.
    Psychologists have been searching for ways to improve the effectiveness of the GMA test for about a century but have not been able to do so, Schmidt said. A person who scores high on a 15- to 30-minute general mental ability test goes on to become a productive & valued employee about 50% of the time, his research shows.

    Although thousands of studies have looked at GMA, there is scant research about emotional intelligence, Schmidt said. But, he adds, "there's no question that people like the sound of emotional intelligence much better than they do things like 'general mental ability' or 'IQ.' " Measures of emotional intelligence do reflect some rational ability, experts say. The person who can quickly sense his or her rising anger, understand its origin, and then decide if it's an appropriate emotion in the moment is demonstrating reasoned reflection.
    High scores on emotional intelligence tests also appear to reflect enduring personality traits. In particular, psychologists have identified 5 personality dimensions that tend to remain constant through much of life: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability/neuroticism, and openness or intellectual curiosity.
    "If I were a chemist examining emotional intelligence to see what it was made of, I'd say, 'Hey, what you've got here is emotional stability, conscientiousness and agreeableness,' " said former Pennsylvania State Univ. psychology professor Frank Landy who now works as a business consultant on psychological testing. "There's nothing wrong with that; you're measuring personality traits and maybe some mental ability. But the point is that it takes massive effort & time to get significant increases in them. You can't take a weeklong course and walk out as Dale Carnegie."

    Microsoft's Bill Gates, Miramax's Harvey Weinstein, GE's former Chief Executive Jack Welch, food & decorating entrepreneur Martha Stewart: All have been extremely successful, visionary leaders, but it's hardly clear that they would ace tests of emotional intelligence. Psychologists who have studied workplace dynamics cite these executives as extraordinary people who might be missed by a program meant to help select leaders based on emotional competency.
    "Welch was a tough customer, and I'm not sure I'd call him emotionally sensitive," said Locke, who has studied GE. "But I think there's little question he was an excellent leader." UCLA psychologist Steven Berglaswho also coaches business executives, says emotional intelligence programs are useful in catching managers who are souring work relationships through bullying, arrogance or social awkwardness. "But to the extent that these qualities reflect a deeper emotional disturbance, trying to address them with emotional intelligence workshops or pamphlets is like putting Bengay over a broken bone," he said. "It's not only ineffective but may create false hope or exacerbate the situation."

    This is not to say that researchers have abandoned the notion of a separate emotional aptitude. During the last decade Mayer & Salovey have refined measures of emotional intelligence, and now base it on a multidimensional exam in which people assess emotions in pictures and in various social situations. The more adept a person is at identifying sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment and other emotions (as judged by experts), the higher he or she scores.
    The test also includes a component that asks people how their moods affect their ability to solve particular kinds of problems. When people are in a good mood, for example, that's often when they're most creative. In a low mood, they may be better suited to critical analysis, such as evaluating work on a project. "That would be a good time to edit something, for instance," said Mayer. "The point is that people who do well on emotional intelligence recognize these relationships between their own moods and the moods' effect on what they're doing."

    Researchers have found that people who score high on this 45-minute exam tend to have fewer social problems and get into less trouble than those who do poorly, Mayer said. Several studies are underway to determine whether the test predicts more specific outcomes, such as work success.
    "We're seeing some interesting evidence in this area, but it's not conclusive yet," Mayer said. "We are really in a gray area. On the one hand, we have not made these grand claims you see in the popular press. On the other hand, we defend emotional intelligence and say it absolutely exists & has important predictive power."

    For his part, Goleman considers the growing skepticism surrounding emotional intelligence a natural part of the scientific process. The concept is still new, he said, and only rigorous testing will clarify how it plays out in a person's life. His own reviews of data involving business & govt leaders suggest that the most successful people have a strong sense of how emotions affect their decisions and workplace relationships.
    "What you see in these star performers that you don't see as often in average managers are emotional competencies: empathy, sensitivity, whether the person's tuned in, can cooperate well, takes initiative. Technical skill is important, but you can hire other people to do that."

    Your boss really is clueless
    1.16.07   Charles Q. Choi
    LiveScience

    Your boss and other people in power often really have no idea what you and others feel and think, new experiments suggest.
    Power is often defined as the capacity to get what you want or the ability to influence others.
    "The powerful have a profound effect on others, and you would naturally hope they would be sensitive to other points of view," said Northwestern University social psychologist Adam Galinsky.

    Galinsky's team wanted to see whether having power changed how well people understood the viewpoints of others.  The researchers asked volunteers to recall personal incidents where either they had power over others or others had power over them.
    Past studies have revealed that such recollections had exactly the same effects as actually placing people in positions of power or powerlessness, Galinsky said. For instance, regardless of whether people were given power or simply remembered possessing it, they were more likely to assert themselves and take risks.

    Galinsky and his colleagues at New York University and Stanford then asked 57 student volunteers to draw the letter E on their own foreheads. More than a decade of experiments have shown that people who write the E in a way that is legible to themselves but backwards to others have not thought or cared about how others might perceive the letter. On the other hand, people who draw the E backward to them but legible to others have considered another's point of view.

    Galinksy’s study subjects who had recollected power were almost three times as likely to draw the E in a way that was backwards to others than those who recollected an experience of powerlessness.
    "This corroborates other studies that show when people have power, they are more likely to egocentrically focus on themselves," Galinsky told LiveScience.

    In other experiments, Galinsky and his colleagues gave volunteers a standard test for empathy. Students were shown faces expressing happiness, sadness, fear or anger and then asked what emotions they saw. Those who had recollected being in power beforehand were more likely to misjudge expressions than volunteers who did not, suggesting they were less likely to understand how others felt.
    Past studies also have found that people with power became less inhibited and were more likely to act on impulses, while those with less power were more concerned about risks and felt more vulnerable.

    "Basically, these findings together paint powerful people as impulsive and oblivious, while the powerless are more cautious and worried," Princeton University social psychologist Susan Fiske said in a telephone interview.  Fiske did not participate in the study, which is reported in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science.
    "There are good components to power's effects on a person, in that it helps lead people to action, but sometimes these actions are misguided because the powerful have not taken other perspectives into account," Galinsky said. "It's like having a gas pedal without a good steering wheel."

    Future research could look into situations where people both have power and are good at seeing other points of view.
    "Leaders are more effective when they pay attention to other perspectives," Fiske said.
    IWLU  
    "We never got to where we are now by being respectable."
    Harry Bridges   1977
    "Talking about retraining the technologically displaced is pap. We have come to grips with the essential issue here.
    Unions aren't social service agencies. Why should we take it upon ourselves to pick up the pieces after industry discards people for machines? Isn't it about time unions got in there before the fact to insist that there must be some obligation to people in all this?"
    Harry Bridges   Dec. 1961
    U.S. longshore officials cave in to West Coast shippers' anti-union demands
    11.8.02   Andrea Cappannari & Rafael Azul
    WS²

    ILWU leadership last week agreed to the main concessionary demands put forward by West Coast shipping companies in the protracted negotiations for a new contract. While other contract issues remain to be settled, an agreement was reached between the ILWU & PMA on the introduction of labor-saving technology. The deal, announced by the director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Nov. 1, will mean the destruction of some 1,000 jobs and further attacks on dockworkers' working conditions & living standards.

    The technology agreement suggests that the two sides will announce a contract package in the coming days. Any such agreement must go to the rank & file for a ratification vote. Having already secured an accord on health care provisions, the parties are scheduled to begin discussions on the question of pension benefits Nov. 13.
    The deal reached on Friday resolves, in the PMA's favor, the terms under which new computerized technologies will be introduced on the docks. These computer-based techniques track the movement of shipping containers from the beginning of their trip to their final destination, employing bar codes & scanners to collect data, thereby moving cargo through the ports at much faster speeds. Although the ILWU leaders had already consented to the elimination of hundreds of union jobs, they had insisted that new jobs created by the introduction of the computer technology remain under union jurisdiction.

    ILWU negotiators have now surrendered on this key issue, giving up union representation for newly created clerical positions. Nonunion personnel will now do these so-called "planning" jobs. In addition, the union dropped a demand for maintaining certain minimum manning levels for some operations.
    For months the union leadership had been assuring longshore workers that it would not give in on the technology issue. In an attempt to avert or minimize a conflict with the rank & file over this reversal, the bureaucracy is demanding that some of the revenues from the new technology be set aside for improvements in pensions, incl an early retirement option.

    This is a calculated & cynical move to curry support for the deal from the most senior & highest-paid section of longshoremen, many close to retirement, urging them to place their individual self-interest ahead of class solidarity and the interests of dockworkers as a whole. It will create a two-tiered labor force in which older workers, whose jobs will gradually disappear through retirement, retain the benefits of union-negotiated pensions, while a new layer of younger workers is brought on board without many of the conditions that longshoremen fought for over many decades.

    The consequences of the agreement go far beyond the initial loss of jobs and introduction of nonunion clerks. The increasing use of nonunion workers will weaken the traditional ability of the union to intervene in what up to now have been routine matters, such as health & safety and the assignment of jobs through the hiring hall.
    ILWU workers have faced the direct collusion of the Bush administration with the shippers. Early in the negotiations, Bush officials told the ILWU that the administration was prepared to order troops onto the docks in the event of a strike or work action. The PMA utilized the de facto support of the federal govt to assume a provocative posture in the negotiations, demanding massive concessions and, in general, making sure that the talks dragged on without a resolution.

    PMA imposed a lockout Sept. 29, which served as the pretext for the White House to intervene under the anti-union provisions of the Taft-Hartley law. In early Oct., Bush invoked Taft-Hartley with the full agreement of the shippers and after consulting with other sections of big business. Under a federal court injunction ending the lockout, the union & longshore workers were ordered to resume full work schedules without any slowdowns or work actions.
    White House intervention placed the full weight of federal govt behind shippers' demands, with the threat of financial & criminal sanctions against the ILWU. In mid-Oct., PMA initiated legal action for the imposition of such sanctions, formally complaining to the Justice Dept that the union was conducting a slowdown and accusing it of being in "noncompliance" with Taft-Hartley.

    Ultimately, the ILWU leadership capitulated to the PMA because to wage a struggle would have entailed a direct challenge to the Bush administration. This would have immediately exposed the fraud of supposed Democratic "support" for the longshoremen, and it would have required a genuine struggle to mobilize the working class nationally & internationally behind the West Cost dock workers.
    In this betrayal, the AFL-CIO has played a central role. Once again, as in scores of previous struggles over the past 2 decades, the national union federation made sure that an embattled section of workers remained isolated, while it worked to broker a sellout deal. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka played a direct role in the most recent talks between the ILWU & the PMA.


    Shipping lines withhold key papers
    10.19.02   AP

    San Francisco   After promising this week to produce proof of a dockworker slowdown at West Coast ports, shipping companies embroiled in a labor dispute with longshoremen again delayed filing the documents with federal prosecutors. The records are key because Justice Dept lawyers will review them and decide whether to go after the longshoremen's union based on a federal court order that reopened the ports last week after a 10-day lockout.
    Officials with the Intl Longshore & Warehouse Union pounced on Friday's delay as evidence the association was scrounging for a case and unable to grasp one because workers are doing their best to move cargo under difficult & dangerous conditions.

    But a spokesman with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies & port terminal operators, dismissed that suggestion. Association lawyers were reviewing the document, a narrative sprinkled with data that asserts work productivity is off up to 30% in some ports, and would either e-mail it Friday night or Monday.
    "We had hoped to complete the document and make the submission to the Justice Dept earlier this week, but we want to ensure that the case we make is air-tight," association spokesman John Pachtner said Friday. "Everyone would like to move from analysis to action as quickly as possible."

    Association officials had said the submission would be made Thursday, and on Friday morning said it was about to go but by close of business Friday, the document had not been sent. "They don't have a case and they've got to keep searching & searching for something that'll hold up to cross-examination," said union spokesman Steve Stallone. "And they don't have it."
    A federal judge may determine that. On Wednesday, U.S. Dist. Judge Wm Alsup formally approved the 80-day "cooling-off" period that President Bush requested last week. Under the order, longshoremen must work "at a normal pace". If Alsup determines they are deliberately slowing down, he has broad discretion to impose penalties.

    In an interview Friday, association President Joseph Miniace said he didn't want Justice Dept lawyers to drag the union to court. Rather, Miniace said he wanted prosecutors to tell union officials to "stop screwing around" and hunker down at the bargaining table.
    It was a meltdown over a new contract that led to the lockout late last month.
      [ Expecting AP to report labor issues with balance & due diligence is hopeless.
    IWLU left the bargaining table when PMA representatives arrived for negotiation in the company of armed guards. The union understandably said they would not discuss anything while confronted with firearms. PMA deemed this repudiation cause for lock-out.
    The source for this information was the daily IWLU dispatch phone message at the San Diego, CA union hall which that day notified union members to report for picket duty.
    ]

    A federal mediator met with union officials Wednesday and may meet with association representatives next week. Chief atop his list of issues will be how to modernize 29 major Pacific ports covered by the contract to the satisfaction of the 10,500-member union, that is, how to introduce labor-saving technology without slashing too many union jobs.
      [ More vague obfustication by the libel-shy newswire.
    The exact issue is implementation of Wi-Fi inventory management. Cargo tally records continue to be kept using paper & manual entry. Justifiably, all sides want to modernize these methods with bar code scanners wirelessly connected to computers.

    The union contends at least some postions on the far side of the computer from the scanner should be union positions.
    Unionizing computer operators & systems administrators scares corporate management tremendously because they are quite aware corporate governance cannot be kept confidential if unionized, since the suits are already absolutely dependent on ponytailed morlocks to provide balance sheets.
    ]

    It won't be an easy task, not least with both sides busy trading blame for the slow pace of cargo movement. The union says the association has sabotaged the reopening by undersupplying equipt such as truck chassis to move containers so that the congested docks will remain a mess, even going on 2 weeks after the lockout ended.
    "They are purposely not moving the containers off the docks so that the whole place is a disaster," Stallone said. Nonsense, said Miniace. "We know the union is going to say it's a backlog from the shutdown," he said. "Yes, it is a little congested, but have we handled these volumes in the past? Absolutely." Miniace said the association is documenting slowdowns in each port, from a 28% drop in productivity at Oakland to around 20% in Tacoma, Seattle and Portland to around 10% in Los Angeles/Long Beach, the nation's largest port complex.
    Meanwhile, lingering effects of the shutdown continue to shiver through the economy.

    Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. temporarily halted production Friday at 4 Ohio plants to allow parts to build up in the automaker's supply line, disrupted because of the labor dispute at West Coast ports. The move affected nearly 12,000 workers. The work should resume early next week.
    Also, a ship with thousands of cameras the San Francisco Giants were going to give away during Game 4 of the World Series is stalled outside the Port of Los Angeles. They won't arrive in time.
    "One of the main reasons for war against us is that there is a war in the making. And when there is a war in the making, such things as strong unions which don't believe in war are not wanted by those who make war."
    Harry Bridges,   circa 1935
    … during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, dock workers refused to load war materials on an Italian freighter. While, according to Bridges, "the union was finally forced by the ship owners, with whom the union had a contact, to load this ship … our organization intends, in the future, to prevent all war supplies from being shipped to fascist nations, for war on defenseless or democratic people"

    As early as 1954, Harry publicly condemned US policy in Indo-China and predicted with startling accuracy the perils of US involvement.
    In 1965, the ILWU called for an end to the war in Vietnam, the first American union to do so, and demanded the U.S. implement the "free elections that were called for by the Geneva Accords of 1954."


    Protests shut down West Coast ports
    5.1.08   Heather Ishimaru KGO TV

    Oakland, CA   The shipping companies say the longshoremen's participation in today's protests may have been less about the war, and more about contract talks, now underway. Longshoremen from Seattle to San Diego walked off their jobs today or didn't show up, shutting up 29 ports on the West Coast.
    The Port of Oakland was quiet on Thursday. Streets normally clogged with big-rigs were empty, there were no containers on the trains. In Seattle, longshoremen demonstrated at the port and joined students for a march and rally.

    The Pacific Maritime Association says 6,000 longshoremen should have been at work on Thursday at ports up and down the West Coast. Instead they were on strike, to protest the Iraq war. Nearly 30 cargo ships sat idle. One of those was at Oakland. The port says normally three to five ships come in, but today there was only one scheduled.
    "I think there was quite a bit of advance notice in terms of the possibility that this could happen, so our customers were aware that planned activities today could disrupt their business," said Marilyn Sandifur from the Port of Oakland.

    On Tuesday, an arbitrator ordered the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, ILWU, to come to work on Wednesday as usual. The companies went to a federal judge in Oakland in an attempt to get an injunction to enforce the arbitrator's order. The judge declined to get involved in the matter.
    Kevin Elliot is spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association. It represents the shippers who employ the union workers.
    "The fact is it's an illegal strike. The contract does not permit this kind of job action," said Elliot.
    "It's one of the ways that working people can really make a difference, with being able to withhold our labor," said ILWU mechanic Marcus Holder.
    Elliot thinks the strike is not really about the Iraq war, but about current contract negotiations.
    "Clearly some conversations are going to have to happen with the union to figure out how to move past this," said Elliot.

    Truckers who were not union members were unaware of the strike. They say they will now be behind schedule by a day. On Thursday morning, there was a brief demonstration by an anti-war group who tried to block rail workers from going to their jobs.
    The work stoppage appears to be done. One longshoreman went back to work on Thursday afternoon. When asked to calculate the cost of Thursday's work stoppage, the Pacific Maritime Association doesn't know the cost, but any impact is too much in today's fragile economy.

    The ghost of the Australian seafarer who rose to establish one of the strongest U.S. trade unions returned to Trades Hall this week to warn of a new attack on the waterfront by Pres. GWBush. L.A. based actor Ian Ruskin briefed delegates in the guise of ILWU founder Harry Bridges, whose members are currently involved in a protracted strike on the West Coast.
    In town to perform the one-man play 'Bringing Harry Home' as part of the Waterfront Workers Federation centenary celebrations, Ruskin-Bridges outlined how Bush threatens to send in the troops to break the strike. Recalling Bridges' own career, he warned Bush that attempts to break the unions in the past with troops had failed. In 1934, 6000 national guard attempted to break a strike & failed when violence against workers sparked widespread community support. "They attacked workers in the name of fighting Communism, now they are using the War on Terror for the same purpose," he warned.

    Employer group Pacific Maritime Association representatives have threatened to lockout workers along the entire West Coast and the worlds maritime workers have retaliated with the calls for worldwide port protests. PMA is made up of 80 shipping & port companies incl Wilhemsen Lines, Hapag Lloyd, K'Line, Maersk, OOCL, P&O Nedloyd, Zim Lines, COSCO and CSX, all of which also operate in Australia.
    MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has pledged full backing to the US dockers, as have Japanese dockworkers and other waterside workers of the world affiliated with the powerful Intl Transport Workers' Federation. …

    British anger as port contract goes to US firm rather than to locals
    3.28.03   Rory McCarthy & Vikram Dodd The Guardian

    Camp as-Sayliya, Qatar   Serious divisions emerged last night between Britain & America over plans for the running of Iraq's largest port at Umm Qasr. Britain's chief military officer in the Gulf Air Marshal Brian Burridge said it should be run by Iraqis as a model for the future reconstruction of the country. Earlier this week the Bush administration handed the $4.8m (£3m) contract to the private Stevedoring Services of America (SSA).
    The Seattle-based firm has clashed with workers across 3 continents and faced accusations of being union busters. SSA will manage the port and handle cargo & shipping at Umm Qasr whose docks are a similar size to those at Dover.

    U.S. & UK military say Umm Qasr is vital for the delivery & unloading of humanitarian supplies, though some experts think it could also be very useful if the war drags on and fresh supplies are needed for the troops. Air Marshal Burridge said yesterday he wants it to be handed to the Iraqis once the area is secure. "The best outcome is that we find the people who ran it before."
    British soldiers have found the port's former manager, an Iraqi army colonel who was arrested in Umm Qasr during the first days of the operation. Officers are trying to find other former staff. The British military say they do not want to appear as imperialist invaders. "This is not the pax Britannica. We don't want to conquer a second Mesopotamia. The ultimate goal is to hand everything over to the Iraqi people," an officer said.

    The Umm Qasr contract was the second awarded by the US agency for intl development to a U.S. co. for reconstruction work in Iraq. The first went to the US engineering firm Kellogg Brown and Root, part of Halliburton, co. once headed by U.S. VP Cheney. The firm won a contract to put out oil well fires & repair oil facilities.
    Until Stevedoring Services take over the port, it will be run by 17 Port & Maritime Regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps, first time the British military have run a port in wartime since WW2. The Seattle-based co. has business interests at 150 sites around the world, incl Vietnam, India, Chile and Panama. Its president, Jon Hemingway, has given political donations to Republican candidates.

    Concern has grown that lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq, after the allied bombing and years of neglect under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, are going to U.S. firms with British companies missing out. After the harbour at Basra was destroyed during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Umm Qasr became the country's most important docks. It was the main access for food delivered under Iraq's oil for food pgm and will be vital for the military, aid agencies and the UN world food pgm to deliver food, water and medical supplies.

    With deluge, longshore jobs become long shots
    8.18.04   Ronald D. White L.A. Times

    Hundreds of thousands of applications have poured in for 3,000 temporary jobs at the ports of Long Beach & Los Angeles, about 10 times as many submissions as expected, underscoring just how hungry people are for high-paying work in a weak labor market. Intl Longshore & Warehouse Union was so concerned about the crush of applicants that it asked a mediator Tuesday whether the hiring process could be delayed to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The mediator, however, ordered the union & West Coast shipping lines to proceed with their lottery and begin picking the 3,000 new dockworkers Thursday, as planned.
    As word spread Tuesday about the flood of applications, some would-be dock hands were discouraged. "This is almost like going to the horse track and betting on the long shot," said Raymond Sheets, a 47-year-old tree trimmer from San Diego who hopes to improve his lot by landing a job at the harbor. The 3,000 slots, which are being offered to help handle a record amount of cargo coming through the ports, will pay $20.66 to $28 an hour, substantially higher than the average $8.38-an-hour entry-level wage in L.A. County.

    On Friday, the state reported that California's employers cut a net 17,300 jobs in July, illustrating how cautious many businesses remain when it comes to hiring. "It's very rare in this economy, particularly for non-college- educated positions," to be so lucrative, said WCL Consulting Co. principal Michael Mische in Long Beach and USC Marshall School of Business adjunct management prof. "These are highly desirable jobs, with the opportunity of becoming skilled in a vocation" that could lead to better things down the road.
    Indeed, it's not clear how long any of the 3,000 jobs might last. But in at least some cases, if workers accumulate enough hours, they may be able to join the union full-time. To apply, people were supposed to fill out a postcard bearing name, address and telephone number, and get it in the mail by last Friday. The only requirements: Be at least 18 years old, have a driver's license and be legally eligible to work in the U.S.

    A Long Beach post office spokesman said Tuesday that a conservative estimate put the number of mailed-in applications at between 220,000 and 250,000. A shipping lines' representative suggested that the tally could climb substantially higher before Thursday's lottery. The number of cards may have been inflated by applicants sending in more than one each, though officials have said people who do so would be rejected.
    Even the current count far outstrips the most imaginative estimates of both dockworkers & shipping co. executives, who were expecting no more than 25,000 to 30,000 to sign up for the jobs. The hiring spree has not been without controversy. One longshoreman filed a complaint this month with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the shipping lines & ILWU conspired to manipulate the jobs lottery. The complaint by Neal Schreiner, which alleges that the selection process has been unfairly rigged to favor friends & relatives of union & shipping officials, was first reported by the Daily Breeze in Torrance. The newspaper also first reported the deluge of job applications.

    At the heart of Schreiner's complaint is an agreement under which the union and the shipping lines handed out 8,000 special "longshore opportunity interest cards" to friends, relatives and acquaintances of ILWU & co. officials. If, say, 5,000 of these special postcards are filled out and returned, those running the lottery will randomly pick an additional 5,000 postcards from the hundreds of thousands submitted by the public. From there, the final 3,000 will be drawn.
    In other words, half the cards in the final drawing will be from people with some kind of connection to the ports. As a result, those applicants "have a chance of maybe one out of two or three" to win a job, Schreiner said. "The public at large has one chance in about 1,200," he added. "This is a fraud and a scam."
    Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents West Coast shipping lines, had no comment on Schreiner's complaint. An NLRB spokesman also declined to comment.

    Experts disagreed about whether the process was improperly biased. Mark Theodore, attorney who frequently represents management in labor disputes, said that the ILWU & maritime association, when soliciting applications in newspaper ads, may have erred by not fully disclosing how the lottery would work. When the rules aren't spelled out, "you subject yourself to liability," he said.
    But Jerry Hunter, who served as a general counsel of the NLRB in the early 1990s, said that it would be difficult to prove that the process favored those running the lottery, when all of the postcards have been given out to people not formally associated with the union or the companies.
    Applicant Sheets was miffed when told about Schreiner's allegations. "It makes me feel very discouraged," he said. "It was supposed to be an even, fair drawing. Why did I even bother?"

    In all, ILWU & shipping lines expect to select 12,000 to 14,000 people out of the lottery. That way, they'll have extra bodies available in case some of the initial 3,000 winners don't pass their physicals or drug tests, or aren't up to the grueling task of lashing 40-foot-long shipping containers so they don't shift around at sea.

    Coast Guard / TSA issue TWIC final rule   Final rule postpones card reader requirement and addresses certain challenges facing the program
    Feb. 2007   Blank Rome LLP

    On January 25, 2007, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) jointly published a final rulemaking implementing the majority of the requirements associated with the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (“TWIC”) program. See 72 Fed. Reg. 3492.
    This rule, which will go into effect on March 26, 2007, amends the Coast Guard’s pre-existing facility and vessel security regulations (located at C.F.R. Title 33, Chapter I) to require the use of the TWIC as an access control measure. All credentialed merchant mariners and individuals requiring unescorted access to secure areas of a regulated facility or vessel will now need a TWIC, which shall be issued over the next 20 months based on a phased-in schedule to be announced in the Federal Register.

    Before TSA will issue a TWIC, applicants must provide biographic and biometric information, and successfully complete a “security threat assessment.” The Coast Guard intends to issue a Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (“NVIC”) to provide guidance as to its expectations.
    This rule implements the majority of the requirements contained in the joint notice of proposed rulemaking (“JNPR”) issued by TSA and the Coast Guard on May 22, 2006. As the JNPR was the subject of two previous Blank Rome Maritime Developments Advisories (May 2006 and August 2006), this Advisory focuses on the differences between the final rule and the JNPR.

    summary of key changes
    The major changes set forth in the final rule include:

      •   deleting the TWIC reader requirement (which will be considered in a subsequent rulemaking);

      •   revising/clarifying the definition of “escorting”;

      •   relaxing the TWIC requirement for certain new hires;

      •   adding provisions to allow limited unescorted access for those who have lost their TWIC;

      •   (5) creating “employee access areas” aboard passenger vessels (but not cruise ships) and ferries;

      •   eliminating the requirement (at this point) to submit a TWIC Addendum and maintain records;

      •   allowing owners/operators to amend their facility security plans (“FSP”) to designate smaller portions of the site as “secure areas”;

      •   eliminating the requirement, under certain circumstances, for Area Maritime Security Committee members to have a TWIC;

      •   changing the definition of “secure area” for U.S.-flag vessels operating outside the United States;

      •   eliminating the need for emergency responders to have TWICs when responding to emergencies;

      •   eliminating the voluntary compliance option; (12) expanding the immigration standards so that additional aliens can apply for a TWIC; and

      •   revising the compliance dates for owners/operators of vessels and facilities.

    While some of these changes are self-explanatory, other key changes warrant further elaboration.
    With few exceptions, individuals requiring unescorted access to secure areas of facilities and vessels must have a TWIC. Thus, most individuals without a TWIC must be escorted when inside a secure area.
    The final rule clarifies that the terms “escorting” and “unescorted access” are performance standards rather than strict definitions. A new definition in 33 C.F.R. § 101.105 states that “escorting” in a secure area means “ensuring that the escorted individual is continuously accompanied while within the secure area in a manner sufficient to observe whether the escorted individual is engaged in activities other than those for which escorted access was granted.”

    The definition further explains that this requirement may be met by either having a physical, side-by-side escort or through monitoring. Per the draft NVIC, the Coast Guard’s expectation is that, in a restricted area, escort means a “live, physical side-by-side escort".
    Whether that means one-to-one or multiple persons per escort will depend on the specific vessel or facility. Outside restricted areas, side-by-side escorts are not required, so long as the method of surveillance or monitoring is sufficient to allow for a quick response should an individual “under escort” be found in an area he or she has not been authorized access to or is engaging in activities other than those for which access was granted.

    In response to a significant number of comments regarding the potential delays that the JNPR would have imposed on the hiring process, the final rule adds new sections to the vessel and facility regulations to provide owners and operators with the ability to put most new hires to work in secure areas immediately after they apply for their TWIC and successfully complete a name-based check through the Coast Guard’s Homeport website (estimated to take 48-72 hours).
    This relief, however, is limited in several regards. First, the exemption terminates after 30 days unless extended by the Captain of the Port (“COTP”) for an additional 30 days.

    Second, the new hire must be “accompanied” by an individual with a TWIC while within the secure area of the vessel or facility. The Coast Guard’s NVIC will clarify that the term “accompany” is performance-based, and has different applicability depending on the circumstances.
    For example, the draft NVIC states that the relaxed requirements are only applicable if the vessel’s total licensed and documented crew, as listed on the Certificate of Inspection, is ten or less.

    Third, to take advantage of the new hire provisions, an owner or operator must identify a hardship to its operation if it is not able to employ new hires immediately in secure areas.
    Finally, this provision does not apply to a company, facility, or vessel security officer, or someone tasked with security duties as a primary assignment.

    The Coast Guard and the TSA recognize that many facilities have areas within their access control area that are not related to maritime transportation, such as areas devoted to manufacturing or refining operations. As such, the Coast Guard is giving facility owners/operators the option of amending their FSPs to redefine the secure area to include only those portions of their facilities that are directly related to maritime transportation or at risk of being involved in a transportation security incident.
    The Coast Guard notes that redefining “secure area” does not necessarily reduce the original facility footprint covered by the FSP where security measures are already in place, which could only be achieved by reevaluation of the facility as a whole.

    Rather, the amendment process available here only affects locations where TWIC program requirements will be implemented. The Coast Guard also notes that the proposed secure area must have an access control perimeter that ensures only authorized individuals with TWICs have unescorted access.
    Amendments redefining “secure area” must be submitted to the cognizant COTP by July 25, 2007. Additional guidance will be forthcoming in a NVIC.

    Unlike shore-based facilities, U.S.-flag vessels and outer-continental shelf (“OCS”) facilities do not have the option of amending its security plan to redefine secure areas. Also, the TWIC program does not apply to foreign-flag vessels and U.S.-flag vessels carrying foreign crew pursuant to a valid waiver.
    Foreign-flag crewmembers going ashore, however, are subject to the TWIC requirements applicable to the facility except when working immediately adjacent to their vessels (e.g., line handling, reading drafts, executing Declarations of Security, etc.).

    The JNPR defined the term “passenger access area” as a defined space within the access control area of a passenger vessel or ferry that is open to passengers. These areas would not be considered “secure areas,” thus obviating the need for maritime workers seeking entry to have a TWIC.
    However, this limited definition effectively required a variety of employees, who had the need to enter non-passenger spaces, such as the galley, to apply for and receive a TWIC. To exempt these employees from TWIC coverage, the Coast Guard has now created an exemption for “employee access areas,” which are defined as spaces within an access control area of a passenger vessel or ferry, excluding cruise ships, that are open to employees but not passengers.
    These areas, which may not include “restricted areas” specified in the vessel security plan, would not be considered a secure area, but would be more akin to non-secure islands within a secure area, and employees would not require a TWIC for unescorted access.

    •   Vessels have 20 months (until September 25, 2008) to implement the new access control provisions.

    •   Mariners do not need a TWIC until September 25, 2008, and may use their existing credentials until that time for unescorted access.

    •   The Coast Guard will implement the TWIC program at facilities on a rolling basis based on COTP zones. Thus, the actual compliance date for facilities will vary, and will depend on the date the TWIC enrollment process is completed in a particular COTP zone.
    While the Coast Guard has not yet announced a firm enrollment schedule, enrollment is expected to begin in March. The enrollment dates for each COTP zone will be announced 90 days in advance via publication in the Federal Register. If not noticed in this manner, the latest date by which facilities will have to comply will be September 25, 2008.

    •   The Coast Guard and TSA will address proposed requirements relating to biometric readers in a separate rulemaking action, with certain performance specifications expected to be published in the Federal Register in February 2007.

    Owners and operators should review the final rule to determine the potential impact on operations and closely monitor the Federal Register and the Coast Guard and TSA websites for:

    •   the TWIC reader rulemaking;

    •   a final version of a Coast Guard NVIC entitled, “Guidance for the Implementation of the [TWIC] Program in the Maritime Sector” (a draft version is available on Homeport); and

    •   notices implementing TWIC in the various COTP zones.


    Bush threatens to use troops against W.Coast dockworkers
    8.30.02   David Walsh & Ron Jorgenson
    WS²

    … In the name of national security & its open-ended global war, the White House is threatening to use military force to destroy the basic rights of workers to organize and fight for decent wages & conditions.
    The ILWU, representing 10,500 dockworkers at 29 major Pacific ports, is embroiled in contract dispute with PMA representing the shipping lines. The longshoremen's contract expired July 1; ports have been operating on the basis of day-to-day contract extensions ever since.

    The key sticking point involves management demands for concessions that would allow for the introduction of new technology. In July the ILWU offered to accept technologies that it said would eliminate 30% of marine clerk jobs.
    The employers are also demanding cutbacks in health care and no increase in pensions. ILWU & PMA negotiators resumed talks Aug. 27, after a recess caused by the death of ILWU Pres. James Spinosa's father. The union reports that discussions centered on the issues of health care benefits, the arbitrator selection process & port security.

    According to ILWU Communications Dir. Steve Stallone, Labor Dept official Andrew Siff, representing a govt task force, informed the union on several occasions in July of the draconian steps the Bush administration was considering. These included declaring a national emergency and delaying a strike for 80 days under the Taft- Hartley Act, placing the union under the Railway Labor Act (giving the president greater powers to halt a walkout), breaking up the union's bargaining unit into individual ports on "anti-trust" grounds (so the union could only strike one facility at a time) and having the National Guard or Navy personnel run the ports.

    Stallone told NY Times 8.11.02 "He [Siff] made these threats in a meeting with our top officers … The govt said these weren't threats, that they were just giving us information they thought we should know. This is mobster talk." According to Stallone, Siff told union officers that they were looking at a "PATCO-type scenario," reference to Pres. Reagan's 1981 mass firing of air traffic controllers.

    Homeland Security Dir. Tom Ridge & DefSec Rumsfeld have also intervened. Ridge reportedly telephoned the ILWU's Spinosa and suggested any job slow-down or strike would be viewed as a threat to national security.
    L.A.Times 8.5.02 quoted an unnamed Labor Dept official (presumably Siff, whose name was later revealed the ILWU) who confirmed that various options had been discussed with the union "in the context of a job action occurring during wartime." The official told the newspaper, "We have been very candid. We have told them if they act in a manner that is disruptive, we will use any means necessary to make sure our troops in the field get what they need."

    Siff, counsel to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, has connections to the extreme right. He is a member of the Federalist Society, the group of right-wing lawyers & judges that played a key role in the anti-Clinton impeachment drive, and served as law clerk to Judge Danny Boggs of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a Reagan appointee.
    In the same L.A. Times article, the "Labor Dept official" said of the longshoremen, "The way these guys have negotiated, they make demands and when they don't get what they want, they engage in slowdowns. This time, before the normal historical pattern was allowed to unfold, we went in to assess the situation." The "normal historical pattern" that the Bush administration finds so outrageous is the ILWU members' legally-guaranteed right to strike or engage in work slowdowns to pursue their demands.

    The L.A. Times further reported that soon after negotiations began on the new West Coast longshore contract, "the White House convened a working group to monitor them, with representatives from the depts of Commerce, Labor & Transportation and the Office of Homeland Security."
    The existence of this task force was revealed in a memorandum from the West Coast Waterfront Coalition (WCWC), a business group bringing together giant retailers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Ikea, Nike, Target and The Gap. The WCWC is lobbying the Bush administration to prevent a work stoppage that would disrupt the flow of Asian-made goods. The Pacific ports handle nearly $300 billion worth of goods each year.

    The June 5 memo, which reports on the WCWC's lobbying efforts in Washington the day before, is a revealing document. It notes that group members "met with key Bush Administration Officials to convey the message that there is a need both to obtain labor concessions at the West Coast ports that will allow the application of technology and to avoid labor disruptions on the West Coast this summer that could stall a fragile economy."
    The memo reveals that the administration had already established "an inter-agency working group on this issue" (the longshore negotiations), chaired by Carlos Bonilla of the National Economic Council (a White House office). The WCWC delegation met with Bonilla, Siff, Labor Dept chief of staff Steven J. Law, and Office of Homeland Security John McGowan.

    The memo explains: "The attendance of Mr. McGowan from Homeland Security underscores the White House's concerns that the lack of technology at the ports is a particular problem for security." The WCWC also reports on a discussion with deputy secretary of commerce Samuel Bodman, who told the business group members that "the Commerce Dept understood the impact labor disruptions could have on the economy." According to the WCWC memo, "He [Bodman] also commented that the strategy of delay, followed by disruptive slowdowns obviously gives the union a great deal of negotiating leverage. He suggested that the union will employ these tactics and that the question was really how could the Administration stop them."

    While Labor Dept spokespersons officially claim that the govt is strictly neutral in the PMA-ILWU dispute, these remarks make clear that the Bush administration is plotting with the employers to weaken or break the ILWU under the cover of the "war on terrorism." Administration officials consider workers' entirely legal efforts to win better wages & conditions as impermissible disruptions of the flow of profits to big business.
    The use of national security & the "war on terrorism" as pretext for stripping workers of their democratic & collective bargaining rights is already the policy adopted by the Bush administration in relation to the new Dept of Homeland Security. Bush is demanding that the 170,000 federal employees being transferred into the new dept lose both their civil service protection & union representation.

    Bush's threats have angered longshoremen up & down the Pacific Coast. Rallies attended by thousands of dockworkers & their supporters were held 8.12.03 in port cities such as Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles. East Coast dockworkers, members of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), in Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston, rallied in support of the ILWU.
    The response of the ILWU & AFL-CIO bureaucracy to the Bush administration threats has been predictably cowardly. It has consisted chiefly of lobbying the Democrats in Congress to restrain the administration, on the one hand, and reassuring the media of the union's patriotism, on the other. The principal message of Democratic Party officials who addressed the ILWU rallies, such as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in Portland, was that the administration should stay out of the negotiations. In a June 28 letter, Sen. Edward Kennedy D-MA and Diane Feinstein D-CA & Barbara Boxer D-CA called on Bush officials to withdraw from the dispute. "We strongly believe that the parties should be left to resolve their differences through good-faith bargaining," they wrote.

    Democrats, fearful of the political implications of open strike-breaking, are pressing the govt to rely on the union bureaucracy to implement job-cutting on the docks. The ILWU has presided over precisely that during the last few decades. In Seattle, for example, there are only 550 workers left out of a workforce of 2,400 in 1963. ILWU Local 10 president Richard Mead in San Francisco acknowledges that "We handle 10 times the amount of cargo that we did decades ago, but now we have one-twentieth the people."
    The ILWU was born out of the 1934 San Francisco general strike and a break with the AFL's ILA in 1937. In 1950 the ILWU was expelled from the CIO due to the presence of Communist Party members or supporters in its leadership, incl long-time leader Harry Bridges, and only rejoined the AFL-CIO in 1988. The ILWU officially opposed the Vietnam War and took a number of stands in opposition to US Cold War policies.

    Its Stalinist-influenced politics, however, were always laced with nationalism and the union opposed a political break by the working class from the Democratic Party. The ILWU officials' response to the current crisis has been to plead their case in terms of American patriotism. ILWU President Spinosa declared, "There is nothing unpatriotic about American workers insisting on their rights under American law." At the Oakland & Long Beach ILWU rallies, the union handed out a sign that read, "Fight terrorism, not workers." Spinosa's Aug. 27 statement boasted about the union's efforts to improve security on the docks, adding, "Unfortunately it is not clear that the representatives of the PMA have the same commitment for increasing our national security."

    Peter Peyton, from the ILWU Coast Legislative Action Committee, asserted that the driving force behind the federal interference in the negotiations "are the giant retailers who import huge quantities of overseas products to sell to American working families." He continued: "They have joined together under the banner of the West Coast Waterfront Coalition to hold secret meetings with the administration in an effort to squeeze every last drop of profit at the expense of good American jobs." Such national-chauvinist rhetoric only plays into the hands of Bush & the employers.
    … If the longshoremen can be described as holding "the entire national economy hostage," in the words of the WCWC memo, why not other sections of workers as well, in basic industry, transportation and even retail? Moreover, this "wartime" condition, imposed without a congressional declaration of war, is permanent, since govt officials refuse to define its endpoint. …

    Port workers to get background checks
    4.26.06 & Lara Jakes Jordan, Amy Oakes AP

    Wash.D.C.   Port workers will undergo background checks for links to terrorism and to ensure they are legal U.S. residents, the Bush administration said yesterday. The announcement came after months of scathing criticism about security gaps at the nation's ports.
    The heightened scrutiny, which will begin immediately, drew praise from some lawmakers and port associations that said the checks were long overdue. Others jeered the security measures as either too weak or too invasive of workers' privacy rights.

    Names of an estimated 400,000 employees who work in the most sensitive areas of ports will be matched against govt terror watch lists and immigration databases, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. They will be among roughly 750,000 workers, including truckers and rail employees, who have unrestricted access to ports and will be required to carry tamper-resistant identification cards by next year.

    “What this will do is it will elevate security at our ports themselves so that we can be sure that those who enter our ports to do business come for legitimate reasons and not in order to do us harm,” Chertoff said. He called the safeguards part of a “ring of security” around U.S. ports.
    The background checks will not examine workers' criminal history, although Chertoff left open that possibility for the future. How much the background checks will cost was not immediately available.

    The Bush administration has been under fire for months for what critics call holes in security measures at ports, which were highlighted after a Dubai company's purchase of a British firm gave it control of 6 U.S. ports. An outcry in Congress led the United Arab Emirates-owned company, Dubai Ports World, to decide to sell the U.S. operations to an American firm.
    Congress is considering port security legislation this week, prompting some to question the sincerity and timing of Chertoff's announcement.
    “It appears that DHS steps up to the plate to protect our national security only when the cameras are rolling and the whole world is watching,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson D MS, top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. He gave tepid praise for the push for ID cards, which he said should have been issued years ago.

    In 2002, Congress ordered the Transportation Security Administration to issue biometric ID card to workers who passed criminal background checks. Those cards were supposed to be issued to port workers beginning in August 2004. By that December, the Government Accountability Office said, bureaucratic delays and poor planning were hampering development of the card.
    In San Diego, port district officials will wait for direction from Homeland Security as to who should be checked at its 2 marine cargo terminals and one cruise ship terminal, said agency spokeswoman Irene McCormack. The level of the background checks and funding also must be clarified.

    Cargo industry officials have worried that a federal ID system aimed at boosting security could cost many port workers their jobs, leading to bottlenecks in the flow of goods destined for virtually every U.S. community.
    “It seems to us that the biggest security threat is coming from the outside, and not from the workers who live and work in those communities,” said Steve Stallone, spokesman for the San Francisco-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
    The added scrutiny “looks a lot like harassment of the workers,” Stallone said. Because some truck drivers are illegal immigrants who would quit rather than face identity checks, that could “seriously cripple” major ports, he said.

    California Trucking Assn vp Stephanie Williams said she supported background checks if they are quick and don't interfere with the work of the nearly 12,000 truckers at the state's harbors.
    “If it take 4 months to get back the information and the driver can't drive in the meantime, then we have a problem,” Williams said.
    Still others questioned the wisdom of checking for terror links without also examining a worker's criminal history.
    “While today's announcement is an important and necessary first step, criminal background checks must eventually become a part of the screening process,” said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chair Anthony Coscia.

    Since the DP World furor, Democrats have lambasted Homeland Security for failing to screen and inspect all cargo that enters the United States at seaports. Senate Democrats are pushing legislation to require Homeland Security to outline how it will scan all cargo containers within five years. The department currently inspects 6 percent of cargo containers that enter U.S. ports.
    A group called Americans United for Change, which has close ties to the Democratic Party, has started a television advertising campaign featuring a man identified as Mike Mitre, a longshoreman, who questions Bush's commitment to port security.
    “After 9/11, I thought President Bush and his backers would get serious about security,” Mitre said. “But four years later, terrorists can still put a dirty bomb in one of those.”
    The man points to a shipping container.

    Chertoff, trying to counter the campaign, said that since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the administration's investment in port security has totaled $9 billion, including spending proposed in the coming year.
    Chertoff also said that 214 radiation monitors had been installed at ports and that by October they would screen 65 percent of incoming cargo. Chertoff said it would be impractical to inspect all the arriving containers.
    To call for physical inspection of every container is like saying we ought to strip search everybody who gets on an airplane,” he said. “I mean, in theory, that would make us very safe. But I think it would destroy the airline industry.”

    TSA, industry dispute TWIC flaw claims
    1.30.07   Wilson P. Dizard III GCN

    Govt & industry organizations supporting the current technology and management path for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential joined this week to reject criticisms of the program issued by sources close to the project.
    Meanwhile, some industry organizations went on the record to seek additional changes in TSA’s plans for the credentials.
    Transportation Security Administration officials presented point-by-point rebuttals of statements reported earlier in GCN about the TWIC program that cited flaws in the cards’ security and durability. The flaws could expose the cards to counterfeiting and rapid failure that would facilitate their use as “breeder documents” to illegally obtain secure credentials, the sources said.

    TSA now is developing the final TWIC technology regulation for the card readers with the assistance of industry stakeholders, an agency spokesman responding to the criticisms said. He added that:

    •   The TWIC cards will contain multiple security features specified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Federal Information Processing Standard 142 and other standards that will make them hard to counterfeit. The card will, for example, include a biometric fingerprint template, the agency said. The sources questioning the project said the low number of security measures, among other shortcomings, wouldn’t slow sophisticated counterfeiters.

    •   The cards will meet NIST’s Personal Identity Verification standards for Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 cards and others that will provide physical and electronic security, TSA said.

    •   Rather than failing at a rate of 25 percent to 50 percent, as sources with firsthand knowledge of the process stated, a TSA spokesman said that he had been told that the failure rate would be less than 1 percent.

    •   The card reading delay, rather than lasting up to nine minutes as testing has shown, will be a matter of seconds, TSA said.

    •   TSA plans to specify card stock that will assure the reliability of the card and that the credential’s authentication features will meet appropriate industry standards, the agency said.

    •   TSA rejected assertions that TWIC cards issued overseas would not be secure, because it said it did not have current plans to issue TWIC cards to U.S. contractors overseas.

    •   TSA said the card would contain biometric identifying information, and that a breakdown in telecommunications links, caused for example by a widespread storm, would not snarl the credential’s identification function.

    The agency went on to reject assertions that contract winner Lockheed Martin Corp. had lowballed the price, stating that the project’s competitive bidding method had reduced the likely cost of the cards from between $39 to $159 to a level of $137.25. Industry sources had suggested that TSA might have fallen for a “bait and switch” tactic.
    TSA earlier expected to pay $100 million to $110 million for the TWIC work, while Lockheed Martin’s winning bid came in at $70 million. BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., bid $87 million, sources said. TSA confirmed the contract yesterday and said the first cards would be distributed in March.

    Despite the fact that TSA rejected the criticisms of the TWIC project, the technology for the cards still appears to be a work in progress. Port officials and executives continue to provide technical advice to TSA about the system’s final specifications.
    “As far as we are concerned, the technology has not even been selected yet,” said George Cummings, homeland security director for the Port of Los Angeles.
    DHS has already run a small pilot in Los Angeles and Cummings is negotiating with TSA on the specifics of a field trial of TWIC cards that likely will involve thousands of units. Cummings is not the source of the detailed criticisms of the TWIC card technology.
    Other industry participants, including the American Association of Port Authorities, still are trying to influence TSA’s technology decisions on the TWIC project, which remain fluid. AAPA endorses TSA’s efforts to incorporate suggested industry tests and changes to its plans.

    The long-delayed TWIC project is intended to furnish smart cards to workers at ports and similar transportation hubs to close off access to the strategic zones by terrorists. If the credentials’ authentication measures fail, the cards will revert to a flash-pass mode and provide minimal security, sources close to the program said. At that point, illegal aliens and terrorists would be able to use the TWIC cards to obtain “Real ID” drivers’ licenses, the sources said.
    The Smart Card Alliance also issued a letter condemning the criticisms of the TWIC program and made similar points to that of TSA. As the TWIC story developed, additional sources chimed in with perspectives on potential weak points in the credential production process.

    For example, they suggested that the Corbin, KY, facility where DHS plans to provide the “personalization” function to link the cards to the persons using them might not have sufficient quality control. The sources suggested that the facility lacks the International Standards Organization 9000 certification that such facilities routinely have to assure quality control.
    The Corbin plant is located in the district of Hal Rogers, former chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. That fact has attracted some skeptical comment in public circles, while Rogers has rejected any criticism of the facility and the choice of its location in rural southeastern Kentucky.
    TSA said it has implemented appropriate quality monitoring and maintenance programs at the plant

    AAPA contends that TSA should intensively test the TWIC card readers that are central to the reliability of the card authentication process, and that TSA should shun the use of personal-identification numbers for the cards. AAPA also holds that “The recent [Government Accountability Office] report critical of the TWIC program suggests the program has been underfunded from the beginning and needs to have a higher priority in the DHS budget going forward. AAPA agrees".



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