Member Notes

Member Notes

American Rights at Work: LERA member Erin Johansson is research director for American Rights at Work. Her recent publications include "Checking Out: The Rise of Wal-Mart and the Fall of Middle Class Retail Jobs" in the Connecticut Law Review, and two American Rights at Work reports: "Fed Up With FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights," and "Broken Promises: Verizon Neglects its Commitment to Provide Good jobs and Quality Service." She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Maryland College Park, and a B.A. from Skidmore College (Phi Beta Kappa). She serves on LERA's Editorial Advisory Board. She is a member of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, serves as a co-chair of the Labor Studies Committee and is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. American American Rights at Work, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers (nurses, cooks, computer programmers, retail cashiers ...) to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers. Johansson has been at the American Rights at Work since 2004. (From the American Rights at Work website)

Worker Deaths and the 'Fissured' Workplace: LERA's and Boston University's David Weil was interviewed on a PBS Frontline investigation in cell-tower installation workers' deaths. The cell-tower companies bear no responsiblity or liablity for the workers' injuries or deaths because the work is subcontracted out to other companies. Weil has been researching these new business structures and practices and is completing a book on what he calls "fissured" employment. In an op-ed on the subject he names biggies like AT&T and Verizon that "have spun off that work to other parties, who in turn subcontract it to others who may subcontract out even further. Layers of employment are created, with the lead company setting the overall prices for work and often dictating specific conditions regarding quality, scheduling, deadlines, and other requirements that affect how the work is done." He also cites Apple "our economy’s most highly valued company while employing only 43,000 workers in the U.S. of the more than 750,000 globally responsible for designing, manufacturing, and assembling its products." The Frontline video, an accompanying interview with Weil and the op-ed are posted on the Employment Policy Research Network web site.

Click here to view the Frontline video "Cell Tower Deaths."

Click here to read the Frontline David Weil interview, "How Subcontracting Affects Worker Safety."

Click here to read David Weil's "Cell-tower Danger and the New American Workplace" op-ed.

Schurman named Rutgers dean: Excerpted from the Rutgers web site: "On May 9, 2012, Susan J. Schurman was appointed dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations. Dr. Schurman served as acting dean of the school since September 2011. She replaces LERA member David Finegold and has been interim dean since Finegold was named Rutgers' senior vice president for lifelong learning and strategic growth in September 2011. With the AFL-CIO Schurman founded the National Labor College and served as its president from 1997-2007. During her tenure at the National Labor College, Schurman secured a $1 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation to create a system of partnerships among the NLC, community colleges, and apprentice programs so that workers would not encounter obstacles in their pursuit of higher education. She originated one of the most extensive distance-education degree programs in the nation. ... A bus driver early in her career, Schurman became the head of her local union and director of driver training. ... In 2012, Dr. Schurman earned high praise from both sides for mediating the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Hollywood’s two largest actors' unions." <Read more> For profiles of Schurman, click here to read a 2012 article in the L.A. Times and here for a February 2008 story in Rutgers' Focus magazine.

Job cuts in Governing Magazine: Two LERA members were quoted in the June 4 article, "Public vs. Private Jobs Cuts: a State-by-State Breakdown," by Mike McCiag. Here's LERA's and U-Mass-Boston economist Randy Albelda on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds likely helping states avoid laying off workers: “This is the first recession in the post-World War II period where the federal government really stepped in and gave money to the states,” she said. “Compared to what usually happens for states and localities during a recession, this was totally different.” Also quoted is LERA member and Rutgers associate professor Jeffrey Keefe. Both Albelda and Keefe are Employment Policy Research Network researchers. Click here to read the Governing article.

Political economists?: Daniel J.B. Mitchell (UCLA), a longtime LERA member and and Employment Policy Research Network researcher and senior academic editor, on April 6 posted the following rather surprising research result on the LERA Dialog listserv from an Inside Higher Ed article: "Economists are known as scholars who value 'scientific,' 'objective' work. Some have been known from time to time to put down other disciplines for being too ideological or political. So when a group of scholars polled economists on whether they would appreciate an economist they were reading or listening to disclosing his or her ideological leanings, the scholars expected the economists to say that they really wouldn't, that personal politics were irrelevant. But it turns out that the scholars were wrong, and most economists would like to know the political leanings of their colleagues presenting work. 'The results surprised us,' write the scholars in their paper, released by the Social Science Research Network, and slated for subsequent publication in The Independent Review. The survey was based on a representative sample of 299 economics faculty members at American colleges and universities who were first asked: 'Suppose you are reading or listening to an economist, and he discloses his own ideological proclivities. Which best represents your attitude toward his doing so?' The responses:
• 'I welcome it.' — 63 percent.
• 'I am indifferent' — 20 percent.
• 'I dislike it' —10 percent.
• 'I'm not sure' — 6 percent  ...
To access the complete Inside Higher Ed article, click here

Labor prof on Fox Business News? You read it here first (or second). Monica Bielski Boris, assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign School of Labor and Employment Relations' Labor Studies Program (pictured, left), was quoted in a Fox Business News Story, "Pros and Cons of Joining a Labor Union." Here's some of what Bielski Boris had to say: "Employers' relationships with unions have become more acrimonious since the 1970s, Bielski Boris says. And nowadays, some governors of revenue-starved states are blaming public-sector unions for their woes and aggressively attempting to reduce benefits and curtail collective bargaining rights. (Public sector unions account for more than half of all union members in the United States.) 'The political climate can often turn against unions and their members,' Bielski Boris says. The political attacks, combined with declining membership rolls, could weaken gains made by unionized employees." Also quoted in the article is another LERA academic, Hoyt Wheeler, professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina (pictured, above right), who is quoted: "What you [when joining a union] gain is the muscle of collective action." Here's the real news on the piece. It's remarkably "fair and balanced." Check it out. 

Job polarization: Past LERA president Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Employment Policy Research Network researcher, is blogging for U.S. News and World Report's Economic Intelligence. In her April 10, 2012 blog, "Low-Wage Jobs to Blame for Slow Economic Recovery," she writes: Many of the ills of the labor market have been attributed to a supposed hollowing out of the job distribution — to 'job polarization.' Indeed, the claim that middle-skill/middle-income jobs in the United States are disappearing while jobs at the top and bottom of the occupational ladder are growing has been put forward as the explanation for four decades of wage stagnation for men. Today, the claim that employers have good jobs but can't find workers with the right skills to fill them has gained currency in the popular press. Yet such an imbalance between supply and demand would cause wages to rise in those occupations, and no such increase in pay can be observed." She credits the job-polarization thesis to research by LERA member and MIT economist David Autor. Like Appelbaum, he is an EPRN researcher. You can read the job polarization blog on EPRN. You can access Appelbaum's other blogs by clicking here.

Four decades of arbitration: Charles E. Donegan Esq. writes: "Last year i celebrated my fortieth year as a labor arbitrator. I am a long time member of the national and Washington, D.C. LERA organizations. Over the years the arbitration cases have become more legalistic and complicated. The need for excellent arbitrators and mediators is greater than ever."

Click here to email member notes and photos in electronic formats to Mike Lillich or snail mail to LERA, 115 Labor and Employment Relations Building, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 504 E. Armory Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.

Union friendly? On April 30 LERA member, University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations professor Bob Bruno was interviewed on WBEZ Chicago public radio station on "Is Illinois Still a 'Union-Friendly' State?" Here's what Bruno had to say: "'[Illinois] Gov. Quinn doesn’t get elected without the labor movement. That’s no secret there. He absolutely needed them ...' Bruno said the state’s fiscal crisis is bound up with rising Medicaid costs, costs for state pensions and public jobs. It’s enough to cause some friction in the once happy marriage of unions and Illinois Dems. 'At the end of the day, it certainly does leave organized labor fighting with its friends just as it fights with its political enemies and that has certainly made labor relations in a state like Illinois much more hostile.'" You can access the story and the audio file here. Bruno is director of the University of Illinois' School of Labor and Employment Relations Labor Education Program in Chicago. Bruno was back in the news in a Chicago Sun-Times story about how Caterpillar Inc.'s record profits announcement a week before 780 employees at the company's Joliet plant went on strike over a contract with no wage or cost-of-living increases. Here's an excerpt: "What’s happening in Joliet is not unique, said Robert Bruno, a labor studies professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Unions that make concessions in lean years are finding that they don’t gain back what they lost once the company profits. 'Unions begin to believe this is not a short-term sacrifice. This is the new normal,' Bruno said. 'Employers are trying to impose a new wage structure. ... You either surrender to it or wage some kind of last stand.” You can read the whole story here.

The next chapter: LERA member Wilma Liebman, former chair and longtime member of the National Labor Relations Board, will spend fall semester 2012 at the University of Illinois. She will be jointly hosted by the School of Labor and Employment Relations and the School of Law. At the former, Liebman will teach "Contemporary Challenges in Labor and Employment Law." At the School of Law she will co-teach "Labor Law I" with Matt Finkin, the Albert Harno Professor of Law and longtime LERA member. Liebman is a former Executive Board member of the Industrial Relations Research Association, LERA's former appellation. Liebman has visited the University of Illinois previously as the Milton Derber Lecturer in December 2011. She was the keynote speaker at LERA's 64th Annual Meeting in Chicago in January 2012. Her speech title was "Rhetoric, Reaction and the Rule of Law at the NLRB."

"Getting It Right," The Sequel: LERA President David Lewin (UCLA, pictured at right, below), Past President Thomas Kochan (MIT) and LERA member Jeffrey Keefe (Rutgers) have published a new paper, "Toward a New Generation of Empirical Evidence and Public Policy Research on Collective Bargaining." This paper, published on the Employment Policy Research Network web site in April, builds on last year's "Getting It Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications from Research on Public Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining," a policy response to the public-sector collective-bargaining conflicts that began in Wisconsin and spread to several other states. As with the first paper there were many LERA member writing and editing contributors to "Toward a New Generation of Empirical Evidence and Public Policy Research on Collective Bargaining." They included LERA Past President Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld (Illinois); LERA members Rebecca Givan (Cornell), Teresa Ghilarducci (New School for Social Research), Matt Finkin (Illinois), Harry Katz (Cornell), Richard Locke (MIT), Robert McKersie (MIT), Peter Feuille (Illinois), Daniel J. B. Mitchell (UCLA), and Christian Weller (U-Mass, Boston).

Macro economic policy: LERA past president Stephen R. Sleigh has been appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank's Baltimore Board of Directors. The announcement was made by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The latter serves the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, most of West Virginia and Washington, D.C. There are 12 regional Federal Reserve banks. The Federal Reserve Bank manages the nation's money supply and is in charge of regulating financial institutions. The Fed's mission is to strengthen the economy and keep inflation under control. Sleigh, whose tenure officially began Jan. 1, 2012, and will serve the remaining year of an unfilled term.  Sleigh is the director of the IAM Pension Fund in Washington, D.C. To read the news release from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, click here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            JobsUnemploymentUnemploymentUnemploymentUnemploymentUnemployment Unemployment reportage: On the March 9 PBS NewsHour Brandeis Dean and LERA president-elect Lisa Lynch discussed the February jobs report with reporter Ray Suarez and Mesirow Financial's Diane Swonk. Lynch was cautiously optimistic: "... it is important to start doing a little bit of addition and looking at what we're seeing on the employment front, having three very strong months of robust job growth, well beyond the number of jobs we need to keep pace with the growth of the population, on top of 17 months overall of adding jobs every month to the economy. Seeing the unemployment rate coming down, even as more people are entering if into the labor market, seeing wages increasing, seeing temporary help go up, seeing hours of work go up, all of that added together on top of decreasing unemployment insurance claims data, really suggest that we have turned a significant corner with regards to improvement in the labor market. ... And consumers can actually actualize that demand when they have money in their pocket. And they need to have jobs and good wages in order to be able to produce — to buy goods that then producers will produce more of. So, clearly, as we add more jobs to the economy, the unemployment rate drops, this helps feed a virtuous circle. But there are headwinds that one has to worry about undermining that circle, that virtuous circle. So that's why it's important that we still have in place the extension of the payroll tax cut. We have extension for the unemployment insurance for those people that are out of work, as Diane mentioned, for long periods of time. ..." Click here to listen to, view or read the transcript of the interview.

Sustainable capitalism: LERA member and Employment Policy Research Network researcher Christian Weller a U-Mass.-Boston economist, contributed to Challenge magazine and EPRN a compelling article, “On Uneven Ground.” Weller and co-author Luke Reidenbach detail reforms needed in corporate governance and executive incentives to encourage long-term, sustainable company growth, increased productivity, better wages and a generally more prosperous economy. The subtitle of the article is "How Corporate Governance Prioritizes Short-term Speculative Investments, Impedes Productivity Investments and Jeopardizes Productivity Growth." Among the substantive reforms the authors suggest: Tie managerial compensation to long-term company productivity growth and stock performance, limit share buybacks and dividend payouts and empower independent boards of directors and shareholders vis à vis management to balance disprortiate managerial power and influence.

Bloomberg BNA webinars: On Feb. 21, LERA members and EPRN researchers Eileen Appelbaum (Center for Economic and Policy Research, at left) and Ruth Milkman (Columbia, at right) led off the new BNA-EPRN-LERA webinar series with their presentation, “California Leaves that Pay.” (EPRN researcher and LERA president David Lewin actually presented two BNA webinars last year before the current agreement was in place.) The takeaway was that employer-sponsored sick leave was good business for the employer. The webinar was very well received with an audience of about 40 large-company Bloomberg subscribers. BNA was a large employee-owned publisher of legal and business publisher and longtime LERA sponsor. When BNA was acquired last year, future LERA funding was in jeopardy. The BNA-EPRN-LERA webinar project was a very positive factor in Bloomberg BNA’s 2012 LERA sponsorship. In addition, while LERA is a big-tent, non-partisan organization with management members, our researchers don’t often have the opportunity to present their research and ideas to large corporate audiences. So this truly is a win-win situation, and EPRN is buoying LERA and spreading its message and philosophy to an important audience. The BNA-EPRN-LERA webinar project is long term and continuing.

Granted: Past LERA president Thomas A. Kochan (MIT) and Rosemary Batt (Cornell), both Employment Policy Research Network researchers, have received a $20,000 grant from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research to research and write two research papers and policy briefs on "financialization." The subject was raised at a panel at the 63rd Annual Meeting in Denver and connotes growth of the financial industry in general and increasing emphasis in companies on financial matters to the detriment of R&D, productivity increases and human capital development. Batt's paper is titled "Financialization and Labor Market Outcomes." Click here to read Kochan's paper titled, "Resolving America's Human Capital Paradox." The grant funds will go to LERA.

LERA member and EPRN researcher Lauren D. Appelbaum, research director for the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, in March released the research and policy brief, "California Crisis: The United States and California Two and One-Half Years After the End of the Great Recession." We're not out of the Great Recession woods yet, the report warns: while a recovery has begun " ... if job growth continues at its recent average monthly rate of 201,000 new jobs created, it will take more than eight years or until 2020 to return to pre-recession employment levels." There are no quick fixes, but the report concludes "... market policies such as work sharing need to be implemented to quicken the pace of recovery and relieve the pressure on working families, both in the country as a whole and in California."

Right to work? University of Illinois law and School of Labor and Employment Relations professor Michael LeRoy in February was quoted on the passage of "right-to-work" legislation in neighboring Indiana on the popular web site featurette "A Minute With ..." LERA member LeRoy challenged the idea that new jobs would come to Indiana as predicted by the Indiana governor was a "doubtful proposition." About the law's effect on unions: "It’s a real dent in labor’s ability to make an impact for workers. It certainly will make funding for union organizing and policing of contracts much more tenuous. I do think that this sets the table for a reduction in the enforcement of worker rights, and it also creates a climate for downward pressure on wages in Indiana." You can access the complete Q&A here.

Click here to email member notes and photos in electronic formats to Mike Lillich or snail mail to LERA, 115 Labor and Employment Relations Building, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 504 E. Armory Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.