On economic expansions: LERA member and Rutgers public policy professor, William M. Rodgers III (at right) appeared on PBS' Nightly Business Report on Sept. 19th with commentary, "An Economic Fork in the Road," on the national debate on how to spur economic growth. He presented the debate in terms policy choices that led to the 1990s economic expansion as national policies that resulted in economic "gains broadly shared," as opposed to the 1980s expansion when policy put "less emphasis on growing the middle class and protecting America's most-vulnerable citizens." He concluded with a policy warning: "A move to re-create the 1980s will jeopardize the ability of Americans and their families to compete in today and tomorrow's 21st century global economy." Rodgers served as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor 2000-01 and is currently chief economist at the Rutgers' Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Rodgers also has a blog on the health of the U.S. labor market and its impact on American families. Click here to read Rodgers' blog. Rodgers was back on PBS Nightly Business Report on Nov. 8 with a commentary "Can a Divided Government Stand?"
Labor Ed:LERA member Bob Bruno, associate professor and director of the University of Illinois' School of Labor and Employment Relations' Labor Education Program, on Nov. 8 was on Chicago public radio station WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight show, "Labor faces Tough Battles in Illinois." Bruno said the state public-sector union attacks that began in Wisconsin and then spread to other states was "bad policy with serious long-term implications. Attacking public-sector unions is an unthought-out, uncritical attempt for states to deal with their budget problems. ... Attacking [negotiated] agreements can't solve states' fiscal problems. ... Destroying some pretty good partnerships between states and public-sector unions ... will be a failed strategy." You can listen to this story or download it by clicking here.
Boeing Boeing: On Oct. 28, Penn State law professor Ellen Dannin gave a talk, "Inside the National Labor Relations Board," at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. You can read the talk posted on the Employment Policy Research Network by clicking here. Dannin is the topic leader of the Employment Policy Research Network’s Labor and Employment Law research topic and editor of the Labor and Employment Law Newsletter, available each month via the LERA-L email listserv.
Reaching agreement: As the GM-UAW contract talks went to the 11:59 p.m., Sept. 14 expiration and beyond, Unversity of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations Dean and Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld (at right) was quoted in a Sept. 16 Bloomberg News article, "UAW 'Close to Framework' for GM Agreement, Official Says." Cutcher-Gershenfeld said: “There’s a certain point in which they can’t let it continue to drag out as one side might get sufficiently frustrated as to call for arbitration. It’s quite a few more days of bargaining before anything like that might happen.” Cutcher-Gershenfeld is a longtime LERA member and past president. GM and the United Automobile Workers agreed on a new contract on Sept. 17. It gave workers a $5,000 signing bonus and $1,000 in each of the contract's remaining three years and a commitment to creating or maintaining 6,400 jobs in the U.S. GM workers also received an average of $4,400 profit sharing. GM earned $4.7 billion in 2010. To read the New York Times story on the General Motors-United Automobile Workers contract, click here. Cutcher-Gershenfeld was also quoted in a Wall Street Journal article on Oct. 13 on the Chrysler-UAW contract negotiations: "What we see with these new contracts is a change in the definition of pattern bargaining. There is still a pattern in that they all have the same boxes, even if the numbers may be different in each case. This increases the ability of the parties to achieve mutual gains." Cutcher-Gershenfeld on Oct. 22 was quoted in the Detroit Free Press' article, "UAW votes on Chrysler deal divided."
More union negotiations: LERA member and Michigan State employment relations prof Peter Berg was interviewed on Sept. 27 on American Public Radio's Marketplace. With General Motors workers immenently voting on their new contract, United Automobile Workers negotiations moved to Chrysler and Ford. Berg (at left) said that with Ford's sales up and its gaining market share internationally, Ford workers would ask for bigger pay increases than the UAW negotiated at GM. Even more important, Berg said, were bringing "some security in the work, trying to move more work back to the U.S. and get[ing] some security that jobs will be maintained here for Ford UAW workers." To read the transcript of the story, click here. Berg co-directs the Sustainable Workforce Initiative on Workplace Flexibility and the Employment Relationship at MSU. He is an EPRN researcher as is the other Sustainable Workforce co-director, Ellen Ernst Kossek. Ford's vice president of global labor affairs is Martin J. Mulloy, the newly elected LERA Executive Board management representative. Mulloy (at right) has been a presenter at LERA National Policy Forums (2009 and 2011) in Washington, D.C., and a speaker at the LERA Detroit-area chapter. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Ford announced its agreement to add 12,000 jobs, bring work back to the U.S. from Mexico, China and Japan, and invest $6.2 billion in the United States as part of a four-year labor contract with the UAW. Bob King, the UAW president, said the company will add most of the new jobs by the end of 2012. To read the New York Times story about the UAW-Ford contract, click here.
And the Big Three automakers trifecta: LERA member and Cornell labor relations professor Alex Colvin was interviewed on American Public Media's Marketplace radio on Oct. 12, the morning after Chrysler the UAW wound up contract negotiations. Colvin cited the relative financial strength of the Big Three American automakers: "To the degree that Ford was the one you look from the union perspective as the richest target, in a way. Chrysler is probably the weakest target here." All of the details of the contract were not available, but Marketplace reported that Chrysler agreed to create 2,100 jobs and invest $4.5 billion in new and upgraded vehicles by 2015, when the new contract expires. For a transcript of the Marketplace story, click here. Colvin is an EPRN researcher.
Unanimously confirmed: On Nov. 3, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed LERA member and Princeton labor economist Alan Krueger as chairman of President Barack Obama's Council of Ecomomic Advisers, the Wall Street Journal reported. Krueger previously served the Obama administration in 2009-10 as assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist. In 1994-95, he served as Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. Krueger received his B.S. from Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations and his master's and doctorate in economics from Harvard. Krueger's books include Inequality in America: What Role for Capital Policies? and What Makes a Terrorist? Economics and the Roots of Terrorism. In 2002, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The inaugural issue of "Member Notes" in the September LERA e-newsletter led with Krueger's apppointment.
Georgia works? Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and LERA past president, on Sept 8, the same day President Obama gave his big "jobs speech, published an op-ed, "Georgia Works May Work, But It Sure Doesn't Pay," on the Truthout website. Appelbaum explains that Georgia Works enables employers to train unemployed workers for six weeks and pay them no wages. Instead, the trainees continue to receive Unemployment Insurance plus $240 to cover travel costs for the six weeks. Appelbaum (at left) writes that at the end of the six-week training, 70 percent of the trainees found jobs as janitors, retail sales people, hotel clerks and maids and other low-wage jobs. Georgia Works is predicated on a current and future shortage of workers in middle-skill jobs, such as nuclear technicians, aircraft mechanics, electricians, plumbers and dental hygienists with salaries ranging from $31,000 to $68,000 annually, very different from the Georgia Works trainees' actual employment results. "This shouldn’t be a surprise," Appelbaum writes. "In Washington it is much easier to blame unemployed workers for their supposed lack of skills than to blame the bankers whose avarice fueled the housing bubble that eventually brought down the financial system and the economy with it." What's needed is "bold leadership to address the lingering effects of the economic downturn and a plan that can help millions get back to work in middle-class jobs." Click here to read the "Georgia Works" op-ed. Appelbaum's other op-eds and research papers can be found on her EPRN web page. On Oct. 12, Appelbaum was interviewed by economics reporter Paul Solman on PBS NewsHour as part of a story on Georgia Works. You can access the video of the NewsHour interview and a transcript by clicking here.
High-performance work: Appelbaum is co-author with fellow LERA members Jody Hoffer Gittell (at left, Brandeis) and Carrie R. Leana (at right, University of Pittsburgh) of a concise, contemporary classic, much-cited paper, "High-Performance Work Practices and Sustainable Economic Growth." This paper was originally a memo prepared for the Obama presidential transition. It is still a highly relevant guide to "high-performance work practices" on organizational productivity, worker engagement and a prosperous economy. It distills more than two decades of industry-specific and cross-industry research for other researchers, companies, policy makers and government officials. David Lewin and Thomas Kochan prominently cited "High-Performance Work Practices" in their foundational EPRN research-policy brief, "Getting It Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications from Research on Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining." Since "High-Performance Work Practices" was posted on the Employment Policy Research Network in April, it has been picked up on TRACC Times, a monthly newsletter of CCI-GrowthCon, a consulting company "driving operational improvement in Africa."
LERA and Detroit chapter member Robert Chiaravalli, Esq., pictured at right at the Sept 29 12th Annual "Metropolitan Detroit's 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For" at the Marriott Dearborn Inn with a conference participant. Bob called the LERA office before the conference and had the LERA banner, LERA publications and marketing materials sent to him. He reports he has a traveling set of LERA Detroit Chapter materials he sets up at conferences a couple of times a year. What a great idea. Bob, president, Strategic Labor & Human Resources, LLC. www.HRStrategy.biz, presented a session, Dynamics of a Changing Workforce: Finding Critical Skills and Filling the Knowlege Gap. Here's part of his session description: "The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the USA will need now and in the foreseeable future a workforce that can compete in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM jobs). College graduates with STEM degrees on average earn almost 20 percent more than graduates with non-STEM degrees. Even more striking, for non-college graduates the difference is a whopping 40 percent premium for STEM jobs. This session ... examine[s] generational issues in the workforce, career reinvention during turbulent times, and best practices for determining critical skills."
Need something done? Ask somebody who's busy: Longtime Mid-Michigan LERA chapter member Mary Pollock (at right) recently retired from her position as the manager of the Employment Relations Board for the Michigan Civil Service Commission and is now the legislative representative for the Michigan State Employee Retirees Association (SERA). She reports she takes the "slipper express to work" every day and works more hours as a volunteer than she did in her preretirement job. She lobbies for SERA, recently attending 14 of 19 legislative tax-policy committee meetings, when the legislature was threatening to tax retirees' pensions. She writes a monthly column, "Capitol News," for the dead-tree SERA organization newsletter and puts out an email compilation of media stories and commentary on Michigan retiree legislative issues called News of the Day — she's up to 123 issues, more than one a day if Michigan retirement issues du jour are sufficiently dire. Issue No. 123 ran 18 virtual pages. Pollock cut her political teeth at the University of Illinois as a graduate student when she ran for and won a seat on the Champaign City Council in 1973. These days, she's also president of the Lansing chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Helping everybody except payday loan companies: LERA and the University of Illinois' Edward Hertenstein, an assistant professor at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, was recently featured in a popular U of I homepage feature, "A Minute with ..." The concise interviews are so popular that the campus News Bureau trademarked "A Minute With." Hertenstein discussed collective bargaining. You can access the one-minute interview by clicking here. Hertenstein said: "If you try to lift up a lot more workers to even just the poverty line, that alone would strengthen the middle class. The low wageworkers will have more money to spend, and that all gets spent on goods and services. When that happens, the demand for consumer products goes up. That helps American workers; it helps business; it helps stock values; and it increases tax revenue without raising tax rates. It would help everyone except the payday loan companies."
Manufacturing big pic: Thomas A. Kochan (at left) was quoted in a very good New York Times' article "Is Manufacturing Falling Off the Radar," by Louis Uchitelle on Sept 10, 2011. It details how, if not exactly when, China took the lead over the U.S. in manufacturing. Here's what Tom had to say: "'Despite its goals for manufacturing, the administration lacks an explicit plan for achieving them. The United States today is alone among industrial powers in not having a strategy or even a procedure for thinking through what must be done when it comes to manufacturing,' says Thomas A. Kochan, an industrial economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology." Kochan is a past LERA president and co-founder of the Employment Policy Research Network.
The New Unionism: Barry Bluestone (at left) dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, LERA member and EPRN researcher, and Kochan presented their paper, "Toward a New Grand Bargain: Collaborative Approaches to Labor-Management Reform in Massachusetts," at an Oct. 19 Boston Foundation forum and panel discussion. Here's the crux from the report's executive summary: "The approach we put forward in this report is developed on the basis of 'interest-based collective bargaining' plus the empowerment of teachers, staff, and principals in the schools where they work. Instead of seeing unions as a barrier to fiscal prudence and better schools, we believe a new collective-bargaining framework in the Commonwealth can lead to a “win-win-win” outcome for teachers, students, and taxpayers. The same approach generally can be used for all public-sector labor-management relations." The "Toward a New Grand Bargain" paper is the successor to the first major research-policy brief, "Getting it Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications from Research on Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining," by Kochan and David Lewin et al. and published on the Employment Policy Research Network. The video of the Bluestone-Kochan presentation and panel discussion is available here.
Two-tier wages? UCLA professor, LERA president elect and EPRN researcher David Lewin (below, right), who is LERA president-elect, was featured in an on-air interview Sept. 13 on Southern California Public Radio about the debate many workers are facing between being unemployed and accepting a job with a significantly lower pay, specifically two-tier pay systems in unionized settings. Exhibit A: a Chrysler plant in Detroit, new autoworkers are making half the salary — about $14 per hour instead of $28 long-term employees were making. Moderator Pat Morrison asks if two-tier employment is the wave of the future in auto and other industries. Lewin points out that two-tier employment isn't a new idea, that in the 1980s recession Kroger and the airlines replaced retirees with lower-pay hires, and fairly quickly the dominant lower wage becoming the company standard. Lewin: "Would existing workers take a 50 percent wage cut? How about management?" The way out, Lewin said, is "increasing macro-economic demand" — a better economy, lower unemployment, robust job creation and rising wages. Interviewed with Lewin was Kristin Dziczek, director of the Program for Automotive Labor and Education at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Click here to listen to or download the two-tier wage interview. Lewin was back on Southern California Public Radio on Oct. 28 to discuss Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point pension-reform plan. Lewin said public-sector pension plans nationally were more than $1 trillion underfunded mainly because of the decline in equities in the Great Recession.
(Send Member News, photos, books and story ideas to the editor Mike Lillich at LERA’s offices at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 504 E. Armory Ave., 115 LER Building, Champaign, IL 61820.)