by Eileen Appelbaum
LERA’s 62nd annual meeting in Atlanta, organized under the leadership of Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld and marked by sessions that were lively and intellectually stimulating, set a high bar for our Association. Thanks to Joel and everyone who made this a great success.
Thanks to this year’s Program Committee for its hard work creating an exciting program for the 63rd annual meeting, to be held in Denver on January 6-9, 2011. Plan to be there a day early on January 5 for all the exciting pre-conference activities. New this year, from 8:45 to 4 pm on January 5, we will hold a series of sessions – research presentations, round tables, discussions – to examine “Labor Across the Boundaries” – which will present perspectives on labor from three disciplines. This is a new collaboration of academics from Labor and Employment Relations, Political Economy, and Labor and Working Class History.
LERA’s focus on Employment Relations for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth at the 2011 meetings is of central importance as the nation continues to confront the dual challenges of (1) replacing the more than 8 million jobs lost since December 2007 with high quality employment opportunities and (2) positioning U.S. employers to emerge from the recession poised to succeed in the new, more competitive environment. Despite evidence that a recovery is underway, employment has been slow to recover. At this writing, nearly one in ten workers is unemployed, and the numbers are even higher if a broader definition of who wants and needs a job is used. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the unemployment rate will be above 9.5% in 2011 and won’t drop below 9% before 2012. LERA stands out as a key organization where all of the stakeholders with an interest in restoring the growth of good quality jobs can meet to put research and experience to work in the service of policy and practice. In this vein, I am very pleased to report that submissions of symposia and workshops for the Denver LERA meeting that address these challenges have been of extraordinary quality – watch for the announcement of the Denver conference program on the LERA website.
LERA is undertaking three exciting initiatives this year. The organization continues to make significant progress with the certification initiative that began last year. Employers, unions and government officials have articulated a need for people skilled in negotiating collective bargaining agreements, operating labor-management committees, and building constructive labor-management relations. Led by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Gordon Pavy and Robert Chiaravalli and others, committees representing our organization’s diverse membership have been formed to develop skill standards and design the certification process. LERA’s goal is to coordinate training and skill certification in labor and employment relations to fill that gap.
David Lewin is heading up the reexamination of LERA’s meeting architecture. The goal of this undertaking is to make LERA’s annual meeting the premier “go-to” event for everyone concerned with work or employment – academics from the many disciplines that focus on employment, labor process, work organization, and management practices; employers; managers; union leaders and members; labor and employment lawyers; mediators and arbitrators; policy makers; and practitioners of all types. We want to increase the number of hands-on sessions that impart knowledge and skills that can be used immediately by practitioners, to enhance the number and diversity of the academic fields of research presented in symposia; and to bring together policy makers, practitioners, and academics for meaningful dialogue about the challenging labor market issues confronting the nation.
The third project is to increase LERA’s membership by reaching out to the local LERA chapters and encouraging more of their members to join the national organization. Key to that will be the change in meeting architecture which will open up additional slots for sessions designed specifically to meet the needs of this LERA constituency. This will mean a greater emphasis on policy questions important at the state as well as the national level, and parallel sessions that specifically address the interests of the practitioner community. Look for exciting sessions at the Denver meeting of broad interest to the LERA community. Rose Batt and I will also be reaching out to LERA’s many active members to invite you to become contributing members. LERA is very close to resolving its structural budget issues, and this support can make the critical difference.
I look forward to continue working with all of you to strengthen LERA and to help the organization meet the needs of all of its constituents. Please feel free to contact me or the LERA office to share your ideas and suggestions.