Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for November, 2010

NFL Collision: Management Control vs. Player Safety

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Roger BybeeHere we have a multibillion-dollar industry. Where does their responsibility begin? Say you’re a kid and you sign up to play football. You realize you can blow out your knee, you can even break your neck and become paralyzed. Those are all known risks. But you don’t sign up to become a brain-damaged young adult. —Dr. Julian Bailes, neurologist who has studied football-caused brain damage

John Mackey is remembered as the founding president of the NFL Players Association union and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. Mackey is generally seen as the best tight end in the sport’s history, combining an unmatched combination of strength, speed, and great hands hauling in passes from the Baltimore Colts’ legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas.

But now the past tense is often used when talking about Mackey, 69, who has been afflicted with concussion-induced dementia for more than a decade, reducing him to a shell of his former self. “John was a phenomenal athlete who defined the tight-end position and was a great leader,” recalls his long-time friend and colleague Ed Garvey, who formerly served as the Players Association director and masterminded the stunningly successful 1982 players strike.

The tragedy of Mackey was one of a string of highly-publicized cases that has eventually forced the NFL to end many years of intransigence on the issue, and come to grips with the debilitating brain damage resulting from the thousands of collisions players undergo thoughout their careers.

Watching the deterioration of Mackey has been particularly painful for Garvey, who worked closely with him in leading the NFLPA. “John was
a great strategist and a great orator who could inspire people,” says Garvey. “By the time he was done talking to players, they were ready to break down the walls to get to the bargaining table.”

NFL OWNERS ERECT BARRIERS TO DEALING WITH CRISIS

But the NFL owners erected formidable walls to deal with the issue of chronic brain injuries resulting from the constant high-speed collisions of NFL play and the frequent concussions they often produce. Repeated concussions result in memory loss, depression, disorientation and moments of uncontrollable rage.

Admitting the syndrome of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) —manifested in dementia, the early onset of Alzheimer’s, and episodes of bizarre and anti-social behavior—drew fierce resistance for years from the NFL and its owners. The NFL used panels of doctors utterly lacking qualifications in brain physiology to deny and minimize the effects of concussions, much like how the lead-paint industry systematically concealed the devastating effects of lead poisoning on children.

GAME PROMOTED ON BASIS OF ITS VIOLENCE

All the while, the league was actively promoting the game on the basis of its violent collisions, “smash-mouth football,”  and constantly-replayed “greatest hits”—often involving vulnerable players in mid-air being grotesquely speared helmet first and slammed to the turf, as Garvey points out.

Meanwhile, the players’ helmet surfaces became harder and harder, rendering them more devastating weapons, enhanced by increasingly larger faceguards as well. “Generally, it’s just evolved where helmets get harder and faceguards got bigger,” Garvey notes, with helmet-first contact stressed by coaches and more serious head injuries resulting.

Where football players in the early NFL wore only light leather helmets without face masks and therefore sought to avoid head-to-head collisions, coaches of the modern era taught and expected players to lead with the new super-hard plastic helmets in order to make the most devastating block or tackle possible.

The outcome has been an epidemic of concessions, as a hard collision sends the brain bouncing against the inside of the skull, with each concussion producing more and more damage.

ENORMOUS PRESSURE BUILDS ON NFL

Only under enormous pressure from former players’ wives and families, the public and Congress did the NFL begin to deal with the problem of brain injuries. Belatedly, the NFL finally responded to a mounting wave of bad publicity caused by the disabling and destructive impact on much-beloved former players like Mackey.

Only after appalling cases of neglect became public—like the immensely popular former Pittsburgh Steelers star center Mike Webster, a victim of brain damage after 15 years in the NFL who became homeless and eventually committed suicide—did the NFL begin to address the problem.

The league and the NFL Players’ Association finally initiated the “88 plan” – named after Mackey’s number. Under the program, the league provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care. The NFL also finally adopted strict policies on monitoring players who had suffered concussions.

TOP-DOWN FIX: BLAME THE PLAYERS

This year, the NFL—led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, Jr.—has imposed a top-down “solution”—targeting the conduct of players who use their helmets as weapons.

But this step means fining and eventually suspending players who are simply engaging in the high-impact hits which they were constantly trained to inflict from the time they were eight years old playing in kiddies’ leagues, through high school, college, and NFL training camps—always with the threat of being benched or cut from the team if they failed to hit with maximum force at every opportunity.

“The players are put in very odd position,” observes Garvey. They risk losing their jobs if they fail to deliver as much pain as possible to opponents, while the NFL continues to market its violence as a central part of its appeal.

Moreover, the player-centered penalties conveniently sidestep theresponsibility of owners and coaches. “Coaches know their careers depend on winning, and they will teach whatever it takes to win games under the present rules, ” Garvey says. With the hard-plastic helmets a powerful weapon to use in blocking and tackling, the coaches are bound to demand helmet-first hitting that leads to concessions.

OWNERS SEE PLAYERS, EVEN STARS, AS REPLACEABLE

The owners could scarcely be more removed from the pain of players and the suffering of families of repeated concussion victims, Garvey says:

For the owners, they seem distant from the process, like the war in Afghanistan with someone else’s kids are out there being hurt and dying. The owners are relatively unaffected. They just bring in another player.

As John Mackey used to say, if you think of the NFL as a machine, it has replacement-parts factories known as colleges like Ohio State and USC and Wisconsin all over the country.

With a plentiful supply of eager and talented young players capable of making the fans forget the damaged and discarded super-stars of just a few weeks back, owners are content to make minor changes and blame the players for the concussions they suffer.

But the activism of families and players is certain to produce a vastly different game. The culture is going to change,” predicts Garvey. “Players and parents are realizing these injuries could be lifelong. Millions of youngsters are facing long term injury under the present setup—it will be a strange moment if Congress says we’re not interested in this.”

The long-term solution lies not in unilateral changes laid down from above by management, but by dialogue involving players and medical experts and coaches. “If you take the best medical minds and bring in players and coaches, you could come up with a series of recommendations that are better than what  Roger Goodell and Wellington Mara’s kid have done,” Garvey says.

Such discussions would cover equipment like the helmets, rules regarding hits on vulnerable players and medications to help treat concessions, among other issues.

But owners have seen all efforts to improve safety as encroachments on their essential management powers, says Garvey.

The introduction of plastic “Astroturf” by agri-business giant Monsanto was supposed to reduce ankle and knee injuries compared to natural turf, while saving money on maintaining football fields, the corporation promised. But the players soon discovered that being knocked to Astroturf was like landing on a thinly-covered concrete surface, meaning that players’ heads would be smacked against a totally inflexible floor again and again.

Further, knee and ankle injuries actually rose, because if a player’s cleats got tangled in Astroturf, there was no natural “give” as with natural sod. “But there was no way we could lead people out on strike over playing on Astroturf,” Garvey remembers.

“When we first talked about Astroturf, [the owners] went nuts,” Garvey says. “They said that it’s their game and they will make the rules.”

Garvey vividly recalls a discussion with the late Cleveland Browns owner Art Model about Astroturf. Modell responded by pointing to a nearby asphalt parking lot and declaring, “If I tell my team to go play on that, they had better do it.”

“We got together a team of medical experts with players and the owners wouldn’t yield, but it got discussion started,” says Garvey. Eventually, the NFL came to discourage the use of Astroturf.

MANAGEMENT CONTROL ABOVE ALL ELSE

Essentially, the NFL owners have perceived the introduction of brain injuries and other safety issues as an intrusion on sacrosanct management prerogatives and a challenge to their customary dictatorial rule.

But by now, public horror over the fate of much-beloved heroes like John Mackey and Mike Webster and anxiety about their children’s long-term health are fueling a full-scale challenge that will inevitably crack the owners’ vise-like grip over decisions affecting player safety.

Moreover, with more and more medical research on football-caused brain damage coming forth outside the NFL’s control, the league’s responsibility for their players’ long-term health is becoming undeniable.

“The liability issue now just jumps out at NFL owners,” Garvey argues. “If juries start awarding huge awards to permanently brain-damaged players, then the NFL will really have to sit up and take notice.”

This article was originally posted on Working In These Times.

About The Author: Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus. Bybee edited The Racine Labor weekly newspaper for 14 years in his hometown of Racine, Wis., where his grandfathers and father were socialist and labor activists. His website can be found here, and his e-mail address is [email protected]

More People Quitting Than Being Laid Off, Really

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerIf you’re not sitting down when you read the next paragraph, please do.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the geeks you pay to watch such trends, the number of people quitting their jobs now outnumbers those being laid off. In August there were 1.998 million quits and 1.83 million layoffs.

How bad does your job, and boss, have to be in this economy to voluntarily leave it? Especially when 1.83 million of your closest friends are being pushed out of theirs.

Apparently pretty bad, 1.998 million times bad.

So exactly what is going on here? The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that quit rates, “can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to change jobs” and that normally, “quits tend to rise when the perception is jobs are available, and fall when jobs are scarce.”

Sure some people move, get a better job or retire. Having more people quit than are laid off still shouldn’t cover this many workers.

Significantly, the quits represent most industry sectors, manufacturing, retail, real estate, construction and hospitality, but are MOST significant in financial services and professional and business service.

I’d like to give a shout out to Globoforce for digging out these amazing numbers from the reams of data flowing out of the DOL. Remarkable stuff.

Wow, we really suck at management. In a terrible economy, more workers are actually jumping off the boat than are being pushed.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]

Protected freedom of speech for workers on Facebook?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Image: Richard NegriIn an era where it’s not unheard of for an employee’s use of social media to lead to their dismissal, one question that comes up more frequently these days regarding a worker’s rights is “Can I say that on Facebook?

This week, the National Labor Relations Board alleged that a Connecticut company acted illegally when they fired an employee after she bad-mouthed her supervisor on Facebook. The labor board charged that the company wrongfully denied the employee union representation during an investigatory interview, as well as “maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and Internet posting policy.”

CAUTION: This Is Not A Green Light To Trash Talk Your Boss on Facebook

This complaint issued by the NLRB should not be interpreted to suggest that anything employees say on Facebook about their employer will be protected. It doesn’t do that.

Although the National Labor Relations Act bars employers from penalizing their employees for talking about workplace conditions (like wages) or forming a union with their coworkers, as noted on the NLRB’s own Facebook page and on Mashable, Facebook comments can lose protected status depending on a number of factors.

  1. Where the discussion takes place
  2. The subject matter
  3. The nature of the outburst
  4. Whether the comments were provoked by an employer’s unfair labor practice

Although workers’ speech online is still a relatively new medium for the labor board, their position on this case presents the real possibility that workers won’t have to fear speaking up, being heard, and communicating about work issues on Facebook in the future.

As The New York Times‘ Steven Greenhouse notes:

This is the first case in which the labor board has stepped in to argue that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.

Implications for Online Organizing

Educating, mobilizing and organizing workers online is what our union does to assist traditional boots-on–the-ground union work. There are many tools that enable us to do our work as online organizers, and we certainly rely heavily on social media.

Why? Because with social media platforms like Facebook, we can help establish an environment where workers can freely talk to one another about their issues at work–whatever they may be. This is not so different than member-to-member organizing, except it takes place online and doesn’t require workers to be face-to-face in order to connect with one another.

The Bottom Line: As this investigation moves forward and the January 2011 hearing draw closer, we anticipate push back from the opposition. However, whatever happens, the outcome of this case will go a long way toward defining what employees can and cannot do when it comes to online communications and airing their work issues with their co-workers on Facebook.

This article was originally posted on SEIU.

About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Will Albany Stop the Wage Thieves?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

amytraub4It’s difficult to imagine anything more basic to a free economy than the right of an employee to be paid for his or her work. Yet this fundamental right is violated in New York’s low-wage industries as a matter of routine. Research from the National Employment Law Project concludes that a fifth of the city’s low-wage workers – an estimated 317,200 working New Yorkers – are paid less than the minimum wage in a given week. Even more are cheated out of the tips they’ve earned, their overtime pay, or the meal breaks they’re legally entitled to. It’s not a case of a few “bad apples” but a well-documented, pervasive pattern of wage theft throughout the city.

In March, I wrote about powerful state legislation drafted and promoted by community organization Make the Road New York to cut the state’s epidemic of wage theft. The Wage Theft Prevention Act stiffens penalties for cheating employees out of wages, encourages workers to come forward, and provides new avenues for investigating and prosecuting wage theft cases – and ensuring violators will pay up.

The bill passed both the state Assembly and Senate in the last legislative session. Yet because each chamber passed a slightly different version of the legislation the bills must be reconciled before the law can be enacted. Legislators will have a small window to act on the bill in the upcoming legislative special session: The Wage Theft Prevention Act sponsored by Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Carl Heastie should be a priority.

Clearly low-wage workers and their families are hurt deeply when income they’ve earned is stolen from them. But an environment of pervasive lawlessness at the bottom of our labor market also harms New York’s small businesses, drains revenue from the already depleted city and state budgets, and retards the city’s overall economic recovery.

When enforcement of workplace laws is as lax as it is now and penalties are so low, corrupt employers can simply factor the risk of getting caught into their cost of doing business. As a result, businesses that cheat their employees can come out ahead, leaving responsible, law-abiding business owners at a competitive disadvantage. Small businesses with low margins face the greatest difficulty competing against rivals that are willing to break the law to lower their costs. Enforcing the law would level the playing field for everyone.

Both New York City and New York State face daunting revenue shortfalls that have led to very tight budgets. New York’s epidemic of wage theft makes the situation worse. The state loses an estimated $427.9 million a year in reduced unemployment insurance payments, workers’ compensation premiums, and personal income tax revenue as a byproduct of wage theft. New York City also loses income and sales tax revenue when employees get cheated out of their wages. By improving enforcement of wage and hour laws New York can begin to reclaim a portion of this lost revenue.

There are also broader economic consequences when money is taken from the pockets of New York’s lowest income workers. Workplace violations rob low wage workers of an estimated $3,016 annually out of average wages of just $20,644 a year. New Yorkers living on such low incomes tend to spend their paychecks quickly, buying food, clothing, and other essentials in their communities. By deterring violations, the Wage Theft Prevention Act will keep these wages from being sucked out of our neighborhoods, enabling workers to support their families and put dollars to work rebuilding New York’s economy.

This article was originally posted on DMI Blog.

About the Author: Amy Traub is the Director of Research at the Drum Major Institute. A native of the Cleveland area, Amy is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. Before coming to the Drum Major Institute, Amy headed the research department of a major New York City labor union, where her efforts contributed to the resolution of strikes and successful union organizing campaigns by hundreds of working New Yorkers.

Wynn Casino Dealers Approve Historic Contract

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Image: James ParksThree years after voting to join a union, dealers at the casino in Wynn Las Vegas late last week ratified a collective bargaining agreement, the first-ever union contract for dealers in Las Vegas.

With the contract, the 600 Wynn dealers, who are members of Transport Workers (TWU) Local 721, now have a voice on the job. They are no longer “at-will” employees who can be fired at any time, and management no longer has the ability to make arbitrary decisions and alter work policies on a whim.

TWU President James Little said:

This was a long and tough fight, but when we stick together we can win against big companies. This is a crucial step for the dealers at Wynn and workers in Las Vegas.

Dealers at Wynn and Caesars Palace withstood a massive anti-union effort by Las Vegas casino owners and voted to join TWU in 2007. But they soon  faced company opposition to signing a decent contract.

“We are so proud of our members for passing this historic vote with such a strong margin and extremely high voter participation,” said Kanie Kastroll, president of Local 721.

They have demonstrated that they truly understand the value of union protection, brotherhood and a labor contract.

The contract, which was approved by a 4–1 margin, includes grievance procedures and protections against terminations.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Kiss The Jobs and Wages Goodbye: Hello "Free Trade" Again

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Jonathan TasiniYesterday, I wrote about the disastrous state of labor in the wake of the elections. Suffering from either a lack of sleep or simple brain lock, I neglected to include one of the most dangerous coming debacles: we have lost much of the ground built opposing so-called “free trade” agreements, which have played a central role in undermining jobs and wages here–and have caused the decline in wages across the planet. And it is now about to get worse, thanks to “bi-partisanship”.

I can almost guarantee–if I was a pollster, I’d use a fancy chart and put the certainty of this happening at 99 percent–that, in searching for areas of “bi-partisanship”, to show the voters and the country that the two parties have “heard” the message of the election, that so-called “free trade” will be one of the first things on the cooperation agenda. I would not be surprised to hear that declared within the next few weeks.

Here is my long-held view: our so-called “free trade” agreements are directly connected to the decline in wages–both because they encourage the movement of high-wage jobs to lower-wage countries (though, let’s be clear that such movement can happen without these trade deals–the deals just make it easier) AND because so-called “free trade” is based on the fundamental principle of the race to the bottom on wages.

The world of trade today is not based on the best product. It is based on wage and regulation arbitrage. That is, worldwide corporations are simply looking for the places to do business where they can get the cheapest wages and the lowest level of regulation possible (as in lax environmental standards, no labor standards and no protection for anything–except for capital and corporate intellectual property right). And they are clear: they do not care about creating jobs here.

And, simply on the question of do they work, Public Citizen destroyed the idea that so-called “free trade” agreements live up to their claims of increasing trade.

To outline what we face legislatively: First, the Nancy Pelosi-led House (and I invoke her name positively because she deserves credit for this) was the finger in the dike preventing the passage of the so-called “free trade” agreements with South Korean and Colombia (and Pelosi did that even when there were senior Democrats like Charles Rangel who were trying to do the bidding of corporate lobbyists). You can bet your life that the John Boehner-led Lobbyist Convention (what we once used to call the “House of Representatives”) will now press for the passage of those deals. While a smattering of Republicans in the past did oppose so-called “free trade”, their numbers have never been consequential. These deals will now pass the House. Absolutely guaranteed.

Take no comfort about the Senate. On trade, the Senate Democratic caucus has been, as a whole, much more inclined to support so-called “free trade”. I am not even sure whether Sherrod Brown–the main Senate sponsor of the TRADE Act, which would try to usher in a new sane era on trade–could muster enough votes to filibuster a so-called “free trade” deal. The House has been the bulwark. With the House gone, it’s over in the Senate. There will be no reason for the Senate leadership to hold these deals back.

And the president has not been an ally in this area. He has consistently, going back to the 2008 presidential primaries, referred to himself as a “free trader”. In his last State of the Union address, he said:

And that’s why we’ll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia.

As important, this is also terrible politics. I think it is understandable why people are angry. The truth is the people have been robbed by the entirely bankrupt system of the “free market”–and so-called “free trade” has been an important oil in that robbery. Rather than focus on the phony deficit “crisis”, the president and the Democrats should be talking about how to stop the robbery–and approving more so-called “free trade” agreements is, to put it mildly, off message.

If we want to “hear the message”, it is that everyone is sick and tired of being screwed by the big corporations and the top one percent of the wealthy in this country who care only about draining more of our national wealth into their own pockets.

Stan Greenburg and James Carville demonstrated, in an otherwise useless memo, that opposition to so-called “free trade” was an electoral winner:

There is a second message that centers on made in America, creating American jobs and opposing the Republicans who supports trade agreements and tax breaks for companies that ex-port American jobs. The message is strongest with older women and seniors and with inde-pendents. These can be used in a targeted way, while working in our next poll and focus groups to bring these two messages together.

My passion is “made in America,” working to support small businesses, American companies and new American industries. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDI-DATE) has pledged to support the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and protect the loophole for companies outsourcing American jobs. I have a different approach to give tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers and give tax subsidies for companies that create jobs right here in America.

This message framework for the election is helped by an attack on the Republican candidate for supporting trade agreements and tax breaks that lead to lost American jobs. Those at-tacks are very strong with white older women and seniors.

I am not for a message that opposes trade by targeting workers abroad i.e., “[Fill in the blank] is taking our jobs and we have to build everything here because we’re better” or words to that effect. In my humble opinion, that leads us down the same track that fosters anti-immigrant feelings and a moral superiority that does not do our country well.

I am for–and I believe many Americans will respond to–a message that says, “No more greed in American–whether it’s on Wall Street or in corporate trade. Vote against any candidate who will vote to let corporations attack our wages and pensions and the American Dream by forcing workers everywhere to work for slave wages.”

Over the past few election cycles, opposition to so-called “free trade” was an electoral winner. Public Citizen showed how in 2006 and 2008 Democratic gains came partly because of a rejection of the so-called “free trade” model.

In a new analysis by Public Citizen released today, the organization says:

House Democrats that ran on fair trade platforms in competitive and open-seat races were three times as likely to survive the GOP tidal wave than Democrats who ran against fair trade, according to a comprehensive 182-race, 70-page report released today by Public Citizen. The GOP tsunami obliterated many candidate-specific features of the midterm contests, but trade, job offshoring and/or government purchases of foreign-made goods were a stunningly persistent national focus of midterm election campaigns, with 205 candidates campaigning on these issues. A record number of 75 Republicans adopted some fair trade messaging as well, 43 of whom won their races. More than sixty races became “fair trade offs,” where both the Democrat and Republican ran on fair trade themes. Only 37 candidates campaigned in favor of more North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style trade agreements – about half of these candidates lost.

I have no reason to doubt the analysis–Public Citizen is quite on top of the issue and has done incredible work. BUT–

I think we are whistling in the dark here. We should be afraid–very afraid: The votes are not there to stop these deals from going through.

UNLESS:

We can make the real argument that the American Dream–and a decent livelihood for workers all across the planet is at stake. And that unless the Democratic Party understands this, it will not win elections in the future–and will not deserve to.

This article was originally posted on Working Life.

About the Author Jonathan Tasini: is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.

Reality? Nah, I’d Rather Not.

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerI think I have a new favorite quote of all time. Time Warner Cable’s Chief Operating Officer, Landel Hobbs, recently said he doesn’t see evidence of people dropping cable in favor of the Internet.

Hello?

I cut the cord and so did many of the people I know. The tsunami of departures from cable might only be a trickle now, but does anyone really believe that it won’t happen over time?

Let me give you proof that this is a “when” question and not an “if” question. Do you know what generates the most traffic during peak TV viewing hours on the Internet these days? Not social networking or porn, but Netflix on-demand video service. Hint, hint.

Why isn’t this news to me? Because I’m busy watching Netflix.

Ironically we’ve seen this all happen before. Remember when phone companies thought that everyone would continue to have a landline and a cell phone? Sure there are technologies that compliment existing technologies. But when you can get what you need, and more, from a new technology most of us eventually move on.

Back to Mr. Hobbs. He has become my poster boy for denying reality. And unfortunately the people who work at his company will undoubtedly pay for this in lost opportunities and layoffs.

If you think this is too strong a statement, look no further than Blockbuster. Once a dominant player in entertainment, they whistled into the winds of change when Netflix first appeared. And ever since they’ve been satisfied to try to copy each strategic advance by Netflix. You know what happened, people figured this out. And they decided they’d rather be on board with the leader, and not the industry laggard.

No executive today can afford to write off the canaries in the coal mine any longer. Today you’ve not only got to keep your eyes open for competitors, you’ve got to assume they’re coming, like a freight train. Are you listening to me Mr. Cable Guy? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Mr. Hobbs, a.k.a. Mr. Asleep at the Switch, getting run over by reality. But I’m sad that a lot of the people inside his company, who are awake and ready to offer alternative strategies for surviving the changes that lay ahead, have to exist under someone who is in denial.

Ever heard the phrase “that’s why he earns the big bucks?” Mr. Hobbs, using that same logic you are doing nothing short of stealing from your company and it’s people.

Sorry to be so bold, but I have this old-school belief that leaders should lead.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]

Election About Jobs, Not Republican Mandate

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Image: Mike HallLast night’s election, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters today in a conference call, “was about jobs, plain and simple. It was a mandate to fix the economy and create jobs. But here’s what it wasn’t”:

It wasn’t a mandate for the policies most Republicans campaigned on.

An election night survey of voters in 100 swing congressional district bears that out. That survey, Trumka says:

shows clearly that the election wasn’t an endorsement of tax cuts for the wealthy—or for undermining Social Security or the minimum wage. It wasn’t a rejection of building a middle class economy. And it wasn’t an ideological purge—as many Blue Dogs lost as progressives.

Overall, union members voted for the union-endorsed candidate by 64 percent. The union movement’s mobilization included 200,000 union volunteers who distributed 19.4 million fliers while talking with workers one on one at the workplace. They knocked on 8.5 million doors and made millions of  phone calls.

Members of Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate for people without a union, was in 13 cities, nine states and more than 80 electoral races around the country and knocked on nearly 800,000 doors and made half a million phone calls to voters around the country.

While Republicans today are claiming a mandate for their “Pledge to America” agenda—more or less a return to Bush-era economic policies—the survey numbers show a different story. When asked about specific Pledge to America agenda items, just 34 percent of all voters and 49 percent of Republicans support extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. By almost the same small numbers, they support rolling back Wall Street reform.

Among other proposals from Republican candidates this fall, only 29 percent of all voters and 35 percent of Republicans back raising the Social Security retirement age, while only 28 percent of all voters and 45 percent of Republicans back privatizing Social Security.

Reducing or eliminating the minimum wage draws the support of just 18 percent of all voters and 25 percent of Republicans.

Instead, the voters surveyed are big supporters of many of the economic proposals the AFL-CIO and most Democrats have called for and want Congress to invest money in job creation and help for the unemployed. Voters say they want:

  • A major job creation tax credit for business to create jobs in the United States—89 percent of all voters and 87 percent of Republicans.
  • Job creation by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure of roads, bridges, schools and energy systems—77 percent of all voters and 63 percent of Republicans.
  • Job investment to maintain U.S. competitiveness with China, India and Germany—77 percent of all voters and 74 percent of Republicans.
  • Federal unemployment insurance benefits extended for those who have lost their jobs and are unable to find new ones—65 percent of all voters and 47 of Republicans.

Trumka also said voters were angry and rightfully so because, “They’ve felt the pain of economic collapse, and paid for it with their jobs, their homes and often their hope.”

That anger is directed at everyone in Washington. Our election night survey showed that, quite frankly, voters don’t make a distinction between Democrats and Republicans on having a plan to strengthen the economy.

The survey shows that just 35 percent of the voters believe the Republicans have a clear economic plan to rebuild the economy and create a jobs plan. Those numbers are just slightly better than the 30 percent who believe Democrats have an economic fix it plan.

While Republicans picked up huge gains in the House and some Senate seats, Trumka told reporters:

The months of intense, grassroots organizing on the ground by working people and their unions prevented yesterday from being even worse—particularly in places like Nevada, West Virginia, and California. In those states and many House districts, union members voted for our endorsed candidates by huge margins—40 percent in Nevada, for example—and we were the firewall.

Trumka also pointed to the huge amount of corporate money that played a major influence in the election.

According to Open Secrets, 74.2 percent of ALL money spent in the elections was spent by corporations—and their spending started well before the elections. In 2009 alone, the top three business industries—the health care and pharmaceutical industry, business associations like the Chamber of Commerce, and the oil and gas industry, spent $626 million on lobbying to defeat and distort President Obama’s agenda.

But, despite last night’s outcome, Trumka promised the fight

begins all over again for working families—for jobs, for building the middle class, for protecting retirement security and more.

That includes stepping up efforts to end corporate outsourcing of U.S. jobs, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, fighting to help jobless workers, asking multimillionaires to pay their fair share in taxes and investing in a 21st century infrastructure.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

Ten Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

JeffreyRobinsonSmRandal PinkettEstablish a strong identity and purpose. Your ethnic and cultural identity is a great asset. Amplify it as a competitive advantage. A strong identity reflects an appreciation of your uniqueness and its value. A strong identity grounds you; a well-defined purpose gives you the self-confidence to know you can choose your own path, rather than follow society. Start by asking yourself, “What does it mean to be Black or African American?”

Obtain broad exposure. Seek out different experiences, perspectives, places, and people that bring about a healthy level of discomfort. Moving beyond your comfort zone will expand your worldview and sense of possibilities, contribute to how you construct your identity and define your purpose, and enable you to develop and grow.

Demonstrate excellence. Being good at what you do is not enough. You must be excellent. Achieving excellence takes combining the gifts and passion you naturally possess with discipline (the time, effort, and hard work you are willing to put forth) and your beliefs (the translation of your thoughts into empowering actions and outcomes).

Build diverse and solid relationships. Historically, African Americans have had to adapt to the codes of the white majority. But in a global marketplace and a United States where minorities are the majority, code switching encompasses a wide array of standards and norms. Reach out and network with the aim of creating a culture where everyone sees the value in learning more about one another.

Seek the wisdom of others. There is always something you can learn from others, whether younger, older, less experienced, or more capable. Learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. When you seek the wisdom of others, you develop your own. Learn from your peers. Find a mentor, and be one, too. The best way to learn is to teach.

Find strength in numbers. Surround yourself with people who share your perspective, affirm your values, and support your goals. Cultivate an inner circle whose members are all comfortable with each other, trust each other, and watch out for each other. (The key isn’t necessarily ethnicity, but compatibility.) Get involved in collaborative organizations, which range from Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities to the NAACP.

Think and act intrapreneurially. Apply an entrepreneurial mindset within an established organization to effect institutional change. You must maintain a strong sense of self-determination and work within the system to make a big impact.

Think and act entrepreneurially. You must take control of your career; you must dare to be in the driver’s seat of your destiny; and you must be in a position to pursue your economic prosperity. The entrepreneurial mindset of passion, creativity, resourcefulness, courage, and resilience is mandatory for success in the twenty-first century. Work outside the system to build wealth for yourself and the community as a whole.

Synergize and reach scale. To redefine the game you must create mutually beneficial connections between people and between organizations to fulfill their collective purpose — and then amplify their collaborative actions to have the broadest or deepest possible impact in a way that levels the playing field for everyone.

Give back generously. Each and every one of us represents the continuation of a countless number of legacies and we can blaze trails for others to follow. Today, African-American giving is no longer only about survival or even helping each other; it is about empowerment and collective self-determination. To address the many challenges in our community, we must leverage our combined efforts through organizations and businesses to reach as many people as possible.

© 2010 Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson, authors of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

About The Authors:
Randal Pinkett, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, was the winner of season four of The Apprentice and the show’s first minority winner. He is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of BCT Partners, an information technology and management consulting firm. Dr. Pinkett is based in Somerset, New Jersey.For more information please visit www.randalpinkett.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, is a leading business scholar at Rutgers Business School and lives in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Employee Rights Short Takes: GOP Private Club Sued For Race Discrimination, Latino Discrimination On The Rise And More

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

It’s a political week, so here are a few short takes – admittedly- with a political twist::

GOP Social Club Sued For Racial Discrimination

The National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, an exclusive club known to be the place where the DC Republican “backroom deals” get made, is being sued for raImage: Republicance discrimination by its former human resource manager. The plaintiff, Kim Crawford,  alleges that she was repeatedly passed over for raises while “less qualified, less deserving male and white counterparts were given” increases.

Crawford also claims she was fired in July after investigating a racial complaint from the club’s acting executive chef. Race discrimination in employment and retaliation are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For more about it read here.

Being A Liberal And Hating Sarah Palin May Be Genetic

I must say this story caught my eye – particularly since we have three generations of Sarah Palin bashers in my immediate family. A new study in the Journal of Politics, as reported in Time,  says that there’s a biological explanation why some people favor big government, oppose the death penalty and can’t stand Sarah Palin – and it’s called the liberal gene.

The DRD4-7R gene affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine has already been linked to a personality type driven to seek out new experiences. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University hypothesized that this predisposition might affect political beliefs.

The researches suspect that the D4 novelty seekers would have more exposure to a wider variety of lifestyles, a wider circle of friends and more exposure to broader  views, attitudes and beliefs. Apparently, all of this does have an effect on D4 inidviduals’ political views and the new study bears out their hypothesis  —  those born with the D4 gene are more liberal. It’s all quite interesting. I wonder if we’re going to hear about a conservative gene too?

More Latinos Concerned About Discrimination

Nearly two thirds of Latinos in the United States think that discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem” according to a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center. There are 47 million Latinos in the US, which make up 15% of the population and constitute the nation’s largest minority group. According to the study:

Asked to state the most important factor leading to discrimination, a plurality of 36% now cite immigration status, up from a minority of 23% who said the same in 2007. Back then, a plurality of respondents-46%-identified language skills as the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics.

The Pew study was released days before the mid-term elections in which the Latino vote is expected to play an important role, particularly in the Florida gubernatorial race and Nevada Senate contest between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Tea Party Republican Sharon Angle. Anlge has been sharply criticized for ads run in recent weeks which portray Latinos as menacing interlopers. 17% of voters in Nevada are Latinos who are expected to vote in high numbers this Tuesday.

images: ktnv.images.worldnow rlv.zcache.com politicalmuse.com

This article was originally posted on Employee Rights Blog.

About the Author: Ellen Simon is recognized as one of the leading  employment and civil rights lawyers in the United States. She offers legal advice to individuals on employment rights, age/gender/race and disability discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment. With a unique grasp of the issues, Ellen’s a sought-after legal analyst who discusses high-profile civil cases, employment discrimination and woman’s issues. Her blog, Employee Rights Post has dedicated readers who turn to Ellen for her advice and opinion. For more information go to www.ellensimon.net.

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