(Un)Happy Anniversary

This weekend was the 12th anniversary of the establishment of the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Unfortunately, in the ensuing 12 years that amount has not changed.

This is the longest period since the first minimum wage legislation that the amount has not been adjusted. As a result, the federal minimum wage is worth 24% less than it was in 2009 and 34% less than the minimum wage in 1968. The impact of this has been devastating for workers and their families.

A full-time employee earning the minimum wage would make around $15,000 per year before taxes. That is not a living wage. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports minimum wage employees working 40 hours a week can no longer afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the country.  They add that a full-time minimum wage earner can only afford a one-bedroom rental in 7% of all U.S. counties, and workers would need to earn almost $25 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental in most areas. WFLA TV reports that A Florida minimum wage worker would have to work 93 hours a week to afford a one bedroom apartment in the Tampa area.

Although the minimum wage in Ohio is higher at $8.80, it would still require an employee to work over 80 hours per week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment in Columbus based on data from rentdata.org. To make matters worse, the Pandemic has resulted in reduced availability of rental properties and has increased rents.

Clearly there is a need for action to increase the minimum wage. That is obvious to everyone, except some politicians and business leaders. They tell us the minimum is enough. It might have been had the wage been indexed for inflation. The 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 per hour would now be over $10 today by accounting for inflation and over $21 per hour if it were adjusted for increases in productivity.

While some claim raising the minimum wage would harm the economy and lead to more unemployment, an increase to $15 per hour would raise over 100 million Americans out of poverty, providing them with more money to spend on basic needs. As we emerge from the pandemic we see employers claiming unemployment benefits are keeping workers from returning to work, but they also raising the minimum will hurt employment. You can’t have it both ways. Increasing the minimum will help the economy by attracting more workers giving employers more choice over whom they hire. It will also reduce employee turnover, further reducing the expense of recruiting and training new employees.

We are also told most workers earning the minimum are teenagers or part-time employees. This argument is also false. Oh his website, Dr. Robert Reich points our only 10% of minimum wage workers are teenagers, while more than half are adults between the ages of 25 and 54. They claim increasing the minimum wage would cause inflation and wipe out any gains even though past increases in the minimum did not produce significant inflation.

Raising the minimum wage would be good for workers, help the economy, and would create jobs. Instead of holding back workers and their families, it would offer new opportunities for them.

It’s been 12 years since the last increase. The time has come.

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, The Electrical Industries Labor =Management Cooperation Committee, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, Skinner Diesel Repair, and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust.

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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Is Your Workplace Considering Different Work Options?

There has been a lot of media coverage about what the workplace will be like during the pandemic recovery.  Workplaces are identifying different options. The popularity of working from home during the stay-at-home months of the pandemic has created many workplaces to consider work from home options.  Some are considering hybrid work environments with part working from home and part working at an office.  Others are looking at an all work from home environment.  Some workplaces are also considering physically redesigning the work space to accommodate different work options, especially with a hybrid setting.

Something else that has gotten attention since the pandemic has eased is employees are rethinking their work options.  Many are looking for better opportunities to match their needs.  The idea more employees are looking at other jobs is a first in a very long time. Employees like some of those different work options so they’re using them to help them determine where they would prefer to work.  For some employers this has caused a worker shortage.

Another work change that has received lots of attention is one from Iceland. Many organizations in the country are  reducing the required number of hours worked from 40 to 35 or 36.  This occurred from very well-done trials held at various types of workplaces with different shifts to determine if reducing work hours would be beneficial to the workplace and employees.  The trials involved more than 2,000 workers and lasted four years.  The result was that by 2020 and 2021 more organizations decided to change hours and  language in union contracts reflected the shorter work week without reducing pay structures.  Workplaces benefitted by seeing an uptick in productivity with greater cooperation among employees and improved performance.  Employees saw a better work-life balance with less stress.

So how did all the work get accomplished with less hours?  Some media outlets, such as National Public Radio and The Hill, said meeting structures were changed or meetings were eliminated.  That’s partially true but that’s also not the only item changed at workplaces.  According to the Iceland report, work processes were changed that included reviewing meetings, workplace schedules, jobs and duties, and shifts.  The report also said some workplaces had  committees of workers and managers look at the necessary changes to reduce the number of hours worked but maintain the actual work.

Having workers and managers working together on workplace changes is important and can make a significant difference in the ability to create workplace change.  Telecommuting, flexible work arrangements, redesigning work spaces and shorter work weeks are definitely topics that need the input of both sides.  If the change is to be successful, it will need the support and buy-in of everyone.  In a unionized setting, those items are probably  contractual items so it definitely will be necessary to involve the union.

Unfortunately, it’s been reported some workplaces like Uber and Synchrony Bank made the decisions as to what a post-pandemic workplace will look like without the involvement of workers.  While one of them did survey employees to get their thoughts, there were no committees formed to look at the changes like some of those workplaces in Iceland.  According to the article about Uber, employees will have choices to make when they return to the workplace.  Without having any input as to what those choices are could make the change more difficult for some employees.

Allowing worker voice helps not just with change but it helps maintain workers.  When workers are involved in the  day-to-day operations, or with any changes, they feel like they’re more a part of the organization and have a greater incentive to do more and help the organization thrive.  That means greater productivity just like in Iceland and it also means workers are less likely to leave the workplace so turnover is lower. With worker shortages becoming more prevalent, maintaining employees becomes more important.

There are a few things mentioned in the Iceland report that are important for workers and managers to understand about working together.  One is  they talk about the amount of time that was spent to reorganize work processes.  It was not an easy task for those overseeing the necessary changes.  Working together takes patience.  Identifying the concerns and issues of the parties involved may sound overwhelming but labor-management groups have done it and they’ve worked on significant tasks such as the work reorganization done in Iceland workplaces.  We’ve had labor-management committees work on telecommuting and work schedules.  What made the difference in these groups to successfully work through these issues was their level of commitment to work together and to take the necessary time to really explore the issues.  Taking that amount of time can be hard because people are inpatient.  We live in a instantaneous world so for groups to spend months looking at issues can be a challenge.

Another item in the report that groups need to recognize is  everyone in a  committee must “take off their hat,” or, everyone is equal.  In the study, one manager noted everybody had to have the same outcome.  Workers needed to do the same work but in less time.  Managers had to do the same so everyone was equal in their objective.  If one side would have worked more hours than the other, the project would fail.  In labor-management committees, we seek solutions to problems that everyone can support or solutions where everyone wins.  Each side  may have different interests or concerns to the problems but identifying some common concerns or interests first helps with developing solutions that encompass those different ones.  Once again, it may require a little more work to come up with those type of solutions but that work is beneficial because the outcomes are so much better.

The idea of a shorter week sounds great but is that something all workplaces can do?  Not necessarily.  There are a lot of reasons why some workplaces are unable to do it.  In an article off the Society for Human Resource Management(SHRM) website, they say only 15 % of American workplaces have reduced work schedules.  For some workplaces reduced work schedules may be difficult.  The article says customers may not be happy if there’s a reduced schedule.  Some workplaces may not be able to afford it because it would require hiring more workers than they can afford. This becomes another reason why both labor and management should be involved in workplace changes.

Not only do both sides need to think if certain changes will work but they need to share information that may help one side or both understand why changes may not work.  Having both sides involved will provide different perspectives that can identify other alternatives that everyone can support.  Plus, having that information only makes it easier to make improvements or solve problems successfully.  That’s something else the Iceland report showed was the information collected and shared helped to make the determination whether a  reduced work schedule had benefits for the workplace, managers and employees.

If your workplace is faced with workers leaving or changes are needed at the workplace, this can be a reason for both sides to work together.  The strategies that are developed through a labor-management committee can be tremendous.  It may be good to get some help.  We at CALMC are available.  We have online training capability and are available to answer questions.  It can overall save time, money and create an opportunity to advertise what a great workplace you have.  That’s what they found out in Iceland!

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It’s Not Over Until the ……….

This week saw the end of a months-long contract dispute, as stagehands at the Metropolitan Opera in New Your City returned to work.

Stagehands represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local One had been locked out by management since early December. The prolonged closure of the Met due to the pandemic resulting in the cancellation of 276 performances and an international tour undoubtedly contributed to the length of this dispute. While the union members returned to work when the tentative agreement was reached, the ratification vote will not happen for another week. With the completion of the agreement, the Met will open their season on time.

ABC News reports the Met reached an agreement in May with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the chorus. Its contract with Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra, expires July 31, and negotiations are ongoing.

As would be expected, the prolonged lockout created dissention with many of the employees. Union president James J. Claffey stated, “Getting to this point required overcoming hard feelings due to the lockout of our members and crafting some innovative solutions.” We hope the union and Met management will recognize the need for a continuing partnership to address the needs of workers and find ways to improve the work system for everyone.

We have also seen, at least for the short term, ending increased unemployment benefits early has had little impact in those industries facing worker shortages. This is particularly in the food service, hotel, retail and salon areas. What we have seen is an increase in employment for employers who have increased wages, benefits, and other perks.

Vanessa Yerkevich reports raises and hiring bonuses in those industries have begun to outpace the overall wage growth rate and inflation, though wages still fall below the overall private-sector average hourly wage.

Yahoo! Finance reported an increase in the hiring of teens to fill open positions. Teenagers accounted for 36% of recent hires in June, in comparison to a median rate of 10% during this same period from 2017 to 2019. Wages paid to teens also increased by 13% over the past couple of months.

Those experiencing the greatest difficulties in hiring are employers clinging to traditionally low wage rates in these industries. They apparently believe workers will flock back to them even though their former employees have largely moved on to better jobs, Another area still seeking new hires are those that require specific skills when employees come on board.

For example, CNN notes the construction industry is still down 238,000 workers from pre-pandemic levels. With wages increasing to remain competitive and the price of raw materials skyrocketing, construction companies are facing exorbitant rising costs and a massive labor shortage. It seems the industry is looking to hire many workers that simply don’t exist.

This also demonstrates the need for apprenticeship programs to help prepare workers to enter these fields. We have written before about the labor-management partnership apprenticeships offered in many of the skilled trades, such as those between the IBEW an d the National Electrical Contractors Association. These programs provide an attractive opportunity for those seeking to enter these professions and demonstrate the positives that can result from labor-management cooperation.

These stories are examples of the benefits of labor and management working together. Cooperation is the key to moving past the pandemic and helping the economy grow. Threatening and blaming workers is counterproductive and will only serve to hold employment down.

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, The Electrical Industries Labor =Management Cooperation Committee, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, Skinner Diesel Repair, and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust.

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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Let’s Honor America’s Earliest Workers On 4th of July

It’s that time of the year again for one of Americans’ favorite summer holiday, 4th of July.  The celebration of the country’s birth is a big tradition despite all the tumultuous activity the country has endured over the years.  While the image of the country is about being the home of the free and the brave, it has not always been the best home  for everybody.

I have to admit for a long time I had that glossy, Hollywood image of colonial America but now I have a more realistic image of life in colonial America and it hasn’t always been pretty.   One of my favorite sources about has been the Omohundro Institute at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.  They have been doing a great podcast called Ben Franklin’s World but they also have some great links on early life in America.  Some of that includes interesting information from Harvard on colonial labor.

The information from Harvard tells about female labor at Harvard.  Many times women during colonial times were portrayed as only taking care of their homes or selling their goods for income but as the Harvard  information tells, women did work outside of the home.  It’s also important to remember that for many years only males attended Harvard and that included the colonial period.  Women working at the school were basically maids.   They were considered employees or servants and were paid less than the men who also helped to take care of  the school.   Women sometimes received money but they also could have received leftover food as their payment or, sometimes, they’d get paid in lieu of student bills.  In addition to the work done by women, Negros helped in the kitchen either by preparing some of the food or cleaning kitchen utensils.  They would be paid even smaller wages than the white people working there.

The Harvard information also tells  about slavery.  Slaves were treated as part of a plantation owner’s economic system.  They were considered property and provided output for the goods of the plantation.  The slaves could be bought and sold and that  included children.  We also know from other reports families were split up.  Children were taken from their mothers or mothers and fathers were separated from their family.  They obviously were not treated like human beings.  In the Harvard piece they tell about one slave in Delaware tried to go through legal means to obtain his freedom but instead was convicted of raping a white woman and was executed.  His “owner’s” only concern was how much the slave was worth and would he get his money for him.

The Ben Franklin podcast, though,  gives us some lesser known information about another group of slaves and that was the indigenous people.  The two episodes I listened to about it were Episodes 139 and 220.  Indigenous slavery in New England began before African slaves came.  Europeans coming to the New World brought indentured servants but when the terms of the indentured servants were over it created a labor shortage so Native Americans became an available source.  There were more indigenous slaves in the colonies than African slaves.  Indigenous slavery also lasted much longer than African slavery.  Indigenous slavery was still thriving in the 20th century.  Native Americans were simply acquired as slaves as New Englanders took over the land or other personal belongings of Native Americans or many times New Englanders would start a war with the Native Americans.  The Native Americans usually lost so the result was they would be taken into slavery.  Enslaving Native Americans was much easier and not as expensive as acquiring African slaves.  Women and children helped with work in the home while men did farm work, shipping, fishing,  or were made to be soldiers  in wars.  Many were physically abused or sexually abused. The slaves in the north lived in the homes of their owners unlike the African slaves living in the south.  This helped to assimilate the Native Americans into the white Anglican cultures and at the same time eliminate the culture of Native Americans.  Many indigenous slaves were put on ships to be sent to European countries but most did not survive the voyage.  Some were sent to the Caribbean.  They were also sent to Mexico and countries in South America where they worked in dangerous silver mines that became some of the deepest mines on earth.  They also had to process the silver which included working with mercury making the processing even more dangerous.  It was very difficult for indigenous slaves to obtain freedom as many slave owners had too much power or were also judiciary representatives or had legislative connections.

Our history may not be exemplary.  All men, women, and children were not created equal as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the  Declaration of Independence but on July 4th we can reflect about those people who were considered nothing more than property. We need to think about those who were forced to work in unbelievable horrible conditions and, unfortunately, also sacrificed their lives to help build this nation.  Let’s enjoy our holiday but also we need to remember and honor those workers.  Listen to the Ben Franklin Podcast for more information about American history.

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Feeling More Stress in Your Job? You’re Not Alone.

There has been a great deal of speculation about why some workers are not returning to work. In the past few weeks we have considered issues such as low pay, safety concerns, and child care. This time, we will consider another reason some workers choose to stay home.

As the economy reopens, many workers are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. Andrea Hsu of NPR notes it is leading to a dramatic increase in resignations. The Labor Department reports a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April. More than 740,000 people who quit in April worked in the leisure and hospitality industry.

Workplace stress has become an issue keeping employees from returning to work. The Gallup State of the Global Workplace report finds U.S. workers are some of the most stressed employees in the world.

U.S. and Canadian workers ranked highest for daily stress levels of all groups surveyed. Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, reports Jennifer Liu of CNBC.

Gallup found the rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward for American workers since 2009. Concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurity and racial trauma all contributed to added stress during the pandemic.

In the last year, these numbers have shown significant spikes. May was the third month in a row the number of jobs in Ohio decreased since the economy began to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, resulting in 321,000 fewer jobs on Ohio than in February 2020. 62% of working women in the U.S. and Canada reported daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of men. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2.3 million women have left the U.S. workforce. Concerns about child care contribute to this, along with the overrepresentation of women in the low-wage service jobs most disrupted by the pandemic.

 By contrast, the daily stress levels for women in Western Europe went down in the last year, which researchers attribute to social safety nets for parents and workers to prevent unemployment.

The ability to work remotely and the increased flexibility it offers have also caused workers to rethink their jobs, “We have changed. Work has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed,” says Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere. Workers now crave the flexibility given to them in the pandemic, which had previously been unattainable, she says.

Another contributor to difficulty in getting workers to return is the expectations of younger generations that their workplaces provide more than just a paycheck, Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist for Gallup, says organizations have a responsibility to help improve employee well-being if they want to support a resilient workforce; improve learning and performance; and attract top talent.

Harter points to five elements workplaces can focus on to improve employee engagement and help individuals thrive: career well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, physical well-being and community.

If levels of stress are to be reduced, it is the responsibility of management, in conjunction with labor, to determine the causes. Harter believes it is the responsibility of good leaders to assess the reasons for increased stress, including the use of surveys and focus groups, to determine if any of their company policies, structures, communications or programs negatively impact their employees’ overall well-being. When leaders introduce new programs or benefits, Harter says, they “should connect their value to those five elements, so people understand why you’re providing various benefits, and why you’re trying to provide an overall culture of thriving.”

Harter states, “The most important thing employers can do is to equip managers to have the right kinds of conversations with people.”  He says companies should be doing more to upskill their managers to facilitate meaningful and ongoing conversations. At least once a week, he says, managers should take the time to get to know their employees’ personal lives, in addition to what they have going on at work and how the two intersect. “We have to equip them to have the right kinds of conversations so they can really impact people and help them find the resources they need.”

He also suggests managers should be trained to recognize workers who need the most flexibility and support, for example, a mom who needs flexibility to do her best work while also taking on child care. Managers should not only point their employees to the best resources, but also be an advocate to senior leaders about introducing new policies or benefits that their workers do not have but need.

Simple answers like higher unemployment compensation do not tell the whole story of why employers may not return to work. They only serve to put the blame on workers and excuse employers from accountability for the conditions that keep employees away. By working together, management and labor can look at causes of other factors, such as workplace stress, and better meet worker needs and make jobs more enticing,

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Welcome Back!

For some of us, we’ve had to transition this last year from working at our workplace to working out of our homes, but now, it’s decision time for workplaces.  Will they allow employees to continue remote work or will they have to return to a physical work environment?

The decision can have some definite implications for both employees and employers.  The Society For Human Resources(SHRM) offers a checklist employers can use to help with the transition.  The checklist includes such things as safety protocols, a recall process for workers, communications, what to do for those who request remote work and how to handle work equipment for remote work.  But there’s also  compensation and benefits on the list and, for some employees that want to work remotely, they may want to reconsider their plans especially if it involves relocating.

Some employers, like big tech firms, have decided to let employees work remotely but with a catch – their pay may be cut.  These employers believe larger paychecks are unnecessary if employees locate to more affordable areas.  For example, big tech firms located in or around San Francisco pay more because that area is more expensive but if employees leave the area, the income they received from living in the San Francisco may not be needed elsewhere.

Instead of receiving pay based on the work being done and on ability, pay will now be based on location.  This also means other negative consequences for workers.  The article says it could cause wage suppression  especially if other workplaces do the same.  There may be some  good news, though, as it may not be so easy to change compensation packages.  As Inc.com points out changing benefits can depend on states’ laws.  They site an example of sick leave benefits.  In some states, such as California or Colorado, it’s mandatory to pay sick leave benefits.  Another possible downfall for employees and remote work is jobs may be more competitive.  Large firms like remote work because it gives them a larger pool of job candidates.  With remote work, potential workers can be any place in the world and that, too,  can decrease compensation packages.

As far as employees are concerned, one survey conducted by the consultant company McKinsey and Company of both private and public sector employees gave good insight as to employee preference.  Most employees are not interested working entirely from home but like hybrid work arrangements better.  In another survey conducted by Morning Consult for Prudential Insurance, the results are very similar.  Employees prefer the hybrid arrangement because they want that connection to work but they like the flex scheduling remote work offered and the financial savings from not having to commute.

Even with a hybrid work arrangement both employees and employers will have to adjust to being back at the workplace.  From my personal experience it’s kind of a tug-pull situation.  Yes, I really want to go back but I also have developed my own work routine at home.  It’s similar to having to adapt to stay-at-home orders at the beginning of the pandemic but this time it’s the reverse.  We’re going back but it’s not as familiar as before.  The American Psychological Association recognizes this and suggests employers should be prepared to help employees that may need assistance coming back to the workplace.  One of their suggestions is to include employees and work together on the decisions about the workplace.  It may be about decisions on where to work or it could be about employees’ workspaces or anything else that’s needed to make the workplace inviting and more comfortable.  The APA has listed a number of strategies to help employees as they adapt.

My closing of this blog is from my personal experience of this long year.  When I returned to our office and saw  some of the things on my desk it’s as if time stopped.  Dates on documents or letters were from March 2020 and I remembered how we were at work one day and the next day we were told to stay home.  Everything  just stopped.  The adjustment was difficult.  When I stopped in one day long enough to grab mail and other essentials I also realized I needed to take my plant home.  That’s when it hit me we could be away from the office for a long time.  Some days were good and other days were bad.  It truly seemed like a grieving process.  The smallest things could change your mood in an instant.  When we were two months in to remote work, we thought surely we’d be returning to the office by Fall but as the summer went on it was obvious it would be longer before we could return.

We all have our stories about the last year but here we are and many of us are gradually returning.  We thought about leaving our office for good but decided it was important we have our own workplace to connect and work together on what we do so once again we’re adapting to a “new” old way of life.

Hopefully, employers and employees will come together to look at some of these transitional issues.  It could be the start of working together on other issues!  Welcome back to those who have been away for a year!

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A Week of Good, Bad, and Incredibly Stupid

This was a week featuring some real positives for workers, some setbacks, and some unfortunate examples of stupidity. We want to take a quick look at examples of each.

A positive for workers occurred when the Supreme Court rejected an appeal is the case of Minnesota State Board v. Knight, denying a claim the plaintiff had a First Amendment right not to be represented by a union.  Even though the Janus case had decided public employees could not be required to join a union, this case would have further weakened the ability of public sector unions to represent the members as exclusive representatives of their bargaining units. Although the decision did not give any new rights for employees, it did prevent further erosion of their union protections. Based on recent history, that is a victory for workers.

In Oregon, state legislators’ staffers and state Capitol office employees became the first state legislative employees in history to unionize as they joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89. Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell, predicts the successful Oregon effort will spread to other state legislatures.

Another positive for workers is the realization by many employers of the need to increase pay and benefits in order to attract employees. While there are a lot of available jobs, many pay little above the minimum wage, or in the case of food service jobs in many states, below the minimum.

The New York Times reports in addition to increased wages, companies have introduced incentives ranging from education subsidies and enhanced training programs to free hotel rooms and appetizers. Companies are offering bonuses for new hires and employees who stay with the company as well as hourly rate increases.

Workers have come to realize the power they have due to the difficulty employers face in attracting and retaining employees. The Times noted this has forced companies to become creative and think “more holistically about their employees and their goals.”

In Ohio this week, our major amusement parks reported they were finally able to hire enough employees after raising wages. Many area restaurants are now offering starting wages of $15-17 per hour. This is further evidence workers are ready to return to work, but not at the previous wage rates.

In spite of this, many still believe the myth workers are not seeking employment because of temporary increases in unemployment benefits. While they are unable to provide evidence to support their claims, they continue to take actions to support businesses at the expense of workers.

Reuters reports that earlier this month, Maryland became the 25th state on Tuesday to decide to end the $300 per week federal unemployment benefit early before it lapses in September.

All of the states ending the benefit early are led by Republican governors. When Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced the cut last month he stated, “many business owners and employers across our state are still struggling, not because of COVID-19, but because they can’t find people to fill the jobs.” By choosing to cut worker benefits rather than find ways to be better able to attract employees, they have chosen to place the blame on workers. They have clearly shown who they believe their constituents are.

Another example of the support shown for select constituents over others was also seen in the

Tax cuts included in the budget bill passed by the Ohio Senate. Policy Matters Ohio notes the proposal to cut income-tax rates by 5% would favor the richest Ohioans. They found the top 1% of Ohio tax filers, with income of at least $526,000 a year, iwill get an average cut of $1,712, while the bottom three-fifths of taxpayers with income between $41,000 and $64,000 will receive an average cut of $22. Ohioans making less than $22,000 a year will receive no benefit from this.

Unfortunately, the week in Ohio was also punctuated by a show of extreme stupidity on display in the Ohio legislature. Republicans invited Dr. Sherri Tenpenny to testify on a bill that would restrict vaccinations. This person, a known conspiracy theorist, promoted her unfounded theories about false problems with COVID-19 vaccines.

She claimed, “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”

To make it clear, there is absolutely NO evidence to support claims of magnetic reactions or tracking devices with the vaccine.

The legislators also invited a registered nurse to claim she had been magnetized by the vaccine, stating keys would stick to her. She demonstrated by placing a key against her neck, which immediately fell off. She had no explanation for why this failed.

Fortunately a voice of reason from the Republicans was heard from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, He stated, “Before modern medicine, diseases such as mumps, polio, whooping cough were common and caused great, great, great suffering and death to thousands of people every single year.”

What can be stupider than the claims of magnetic people? It is those who believe this junk. Whether it is the latest conspiracy theory, absurd hyper-partisan election audits, racist rhetoric, anti-vaxers, or The Big Lie, people blindly accept what they want to believe rather than thinking critically about what is said. The result threatens us all and our freedom.

A strong message was delivered by Franklin County, Ohio, Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court Judge Kim A. Browne, who announced she is changing party affiliation from Republican to Democrat becoming the third Republican judge in the county to do so. She stated, “As an African American woman, I have become very disturbed by what the GOP has come to stand for, tolerate and encourage.” She went on to note judges “are more reliant than any other elected official to insist upon strict adherence to the rule of law and to observe basic democratic norms, and it has become plain that the Republican Party at all levels has abdicated this responsibility.

“I’ve been a Republican for 36 years and I have just never been more disillusioned or disappointed about what the GOP has become. Whatever it is, it is no longer the party of Lincoln.”

Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend of Republican leaders willing to state the current behaviors of their party do not reflect their own beliefs. If this happens, the extremist politics currently being practiced will come to a stop. If it does, the county and workers will benefit.

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Labor and Management Need To Work Together On The Child Care Crisis

According to a podcast by the Boston Federal Reserve, a major crisis has been occurring.  That crisis is about child care  in the U. S.  It’s been an ongoing problem but it only becomes more obvious during emergency situations such as the pandemic.

The child care crisis involves pre-school age children from infancy to five years. It’s a multi-faceted problem that impacts child care businesses and their workers, parents and the children and the overall economy.  With past emergencies, and the recent pandemic included, the United States government has responded to the crisis  but once emergency situations are over, the crisis gets shoved aside and is ignored.  Now, though, it’s becoming almost impossible to do that and it’s why labor and management need to work together to address the issue.

One issue about child care is the cost and who should pay for it.  Polls show most Americans are mixed about it.  One poll conducted during the pandemic from a bipartisan think tank shows most Americans agree government should provide financial assistance but the Boston Fed podcast identifies another poll where Americans believe parents should provide financial support.  That poll also shows that financial support for child care is defined by age with younger Americans, probably impacted parents, believing government is responsible and older Americans saying parents are responsible.

The Boston Fed also has a written report on their website about the crisis.  The report is more detailed but the child care podcast is a beginning series so similar information will be provided later.

The report explains the challenges of this dilemma.   For child care providers wanting to provide quality care there are many issues.  The costs alone, especially for start up, can be an issue.  During the pandemic, some providers had very little carry over revenue to help them maintain or continue operations as they were forced to close or took care of fewer children.  Equipment, training, licensure and accreditation can be costly. There usually is a specific staff to child ratios required which means it may be difficult to pay good strong wages particularly as the provider tries to make child care affordable for parents.  That can cause increased turnover which not only creates additional hiring costs but it also doesn’t help to maintain a quality facility.  Because the work is so reliant on workers, there isn’t enough money to make improvements in the services.   Many child care facilities are considered small business so they are subject to the same risks other small businesses go through.  Another issue providers struggle with is being available for parents’ schedules.  Some parents work second or third shift with providers unable to fulfill their childcare needs.  These problems plus other issues have created a shortage of quality child care facilities.

Another part of the child care crisis is the child care worker and the low wages they receive and without any benefits.  Because the providers are concerned about the fees they charge parents, the ability to pay workers well is impossible.  If they have any extra money, which doesn’t necessarily occur, it goes back to the care of the children.  According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute(EPI), the percentage of child care workers in 2014 living at the poverty rate was 14% more than all other so most of the workers couldn’t even afford child care.  EPI also provided a description of child care workers.  Many are natural citizens of the United States and some are non-white but many are white.   Most of the workers are between the ages of 23 – 49, and have had some college.  The job itself is extremely  intense since it is taking care of pre-school children.  With the low pay and no benefits, it’s not surprising turnover is great within this job category.  These workers are no different than many others.  They want to have decent wages and benefits to make ends meet and if they have to look elsewhere for that job, they will.

The overall economy is another part of the problem.  Without the ability to find quality child care, parents are forced to find other means of employment or no employment.  Because of the difficulty parents have in finding quality child care, the Center For American Progress says the economy looses about $57 billion a year.  Parents have to choose between staying home, reducing their work hours or choosing inadequate care.  Workplaces struggle finding replacements for absent workers who have to stay home with their children.  It also means that lack of quality child care can have an impact on their employment levels which also can reduce their overall productivity.  That trickle-down effect can have a strong effect on business survival which is why some workplaces support or have child care facilities or are sympathetic to parents and help them with flexible work arrangements around child care.

The impact on parents and children is, of course, a big part of the problem.  The costs of child care is expensive with some parents dropping out of the workforce to stay home with the child or children. While there are subsidies for some families, not all families can receive them or there isn’t enough funding in subsidies for everybody.  Parents can also face  the problem of lost wages  if the child care center is closed because of bad weather or holidays.  All of  this, of course, impacts the family’s income potential.  If they can’t find a day care center, some parents rely on friends or family which may not be the best  alternative.  Child care facilities can have a huge influence on children.  While it may be true that some facilities may not provide the best quality care, many try very hard.  Good facilities help with child development.  Children learn how to appropriately interact with others.  They’re also  better prepared when they enter kindergarten or elementary school.

Within President Biden’s infrastructure plan, are provisions for child care.  There also could be more coming in a second phase.   Money has been targeted to build more child care facilities as well as assistance to help parents with their child care needs.  That assistance helps a range of families  from low-income  to those making up to $400,000.  Starting in July of this year, some families will be able to receive an advance tax credit for child care.  Will this all be enough?  Some are happy about it but some also want more and are hoping a second phase will provide more especially for child care workers.

The President’s plan is a good start to a big problem but it’s also something labor and management need to be part of as well.   They have experience in working on child care and family issues.   The problem isn’t just about providing a benefit or flexible working conditions for workers.  It goes beyond that and how to create good, quality child care centers.  Providers would gain huge benefits by working with labor and their workers to identify ideas and solutions to the issues they face so that it would help not just parents but workers too.  While it’s important for child care workers to get good pay for the demanding job they do, they also need to have a good working environment and part of that is having a voice in the workplace.  Sometimes having a voice in a positive workplace environment can be the difference between staying at or leaving a job.

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How Often do You Use Cursive Writing?

Are there things you do simply because you have always done them? There may have been a good reason for them at one time, but their importance has long since faded. Even so, it is difficult to give them up, especially if we believe we are good at that skill.

We want to consider an example of one of these skills, and it is one that has been getting some attention lately. There is continuing pressure on schools about teaching cursive writing. I assure you we will tie this into our labor-management process.

I remember spending a lot of time in elementary school practicing cursive writing. We were taught the correct techniques, drilled on them, and graded on how neatly we wrote. It was deemed an essential skill for success in our schools. Sound familiar?

It’s been quite a while since then, so let me ask a question: How often do you write in cursive?

For me, the answer is “Rarely.” Other than signing a document or checks, I can’t recall the last time I wrote something in cursive. Even those signatures are more often being done electronically. Technology has diminished the importance of writing in cursive. When I do sign something, my technique is very different than what I was taught in school.

It is a skill that has little use or importance to most of us. It never was a measure of intelligence, the ability to write with good content, or anything else except fine-motor skills or even gender.

This is not sufficient to keep those who believe they are experts on education from pushing for a a renewed emphasis on teaching cursive writing. According to My Cursive, as of 2020, 21 states still require cursive writing be taught in schools, including Ohio. More states are seeing political pressure to teach or expand cursive writing in the curriculum.

Even this pro-cursive organization appears to have difficulty in finding reasons to teach cursive. The first two reasons on their web site relate to fine-motor skills, and these can be developed though many mother more relevant tasks. Their third reason is inherently flawed, that cursive builds self-discipline and professionalism. The number of doctors, scientists, and other professionals who write poorly seems to exceed those who do, and is not at all related to their success. I would rather students spend their time learning and practicing critical thinking and analysis skills.

The primary reason for teaching cursive often comes down to one, it is how we have always done it. That brings us to labor and management.

When we engage in traditional labor-management behaviors we perpetuate skills that are not only not required, they are harmful. We scrutinize the behaviors of those on the other side waiting and hoping they will make a mistake. When they do, we jump all over it to question their wisdom, judgement, or sincerity. Some make decisions based on their ability to take certain actions, not whether they are the best for the organization or everyone involved.

We do things because they are what we have always done or they are convenient. Whether it is labor looking for ways to file grievances or hamstring management or managers who enjoy the power of their position, they are behaviors that have to stop.

Instead, everyone needs to work together to find the best ways to operate. This can build a strong, cooperative relationship that is better for everyone and is based on the real needs of everyone. Continuing outmoded behaviors is like requiring cursive writing just because we always have. We should not accept going back to the techniques dating back to quill pens and parchment.

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Is There Reason for Skepticism?

The use of algorithmic systems within the workplace has grown significantly and has been creating problems for both workers and employers.

They’re  not going away anytime soon.  In fact, there probably will be  a lot more.  Developers and companies are coming up with new ways of using them all the time.  There can be huge financial incentives for those that develop the systems and those that use them.  That also means they can be developed or purchased for good reasons and not so good reasons.

Some systems monitor productivity, some are used for human resource activities, some help with healthcare needs,  and some help law enforcement.  The use of algorithms is endless.   Even as some of these systems have been around awhile, they’re being perfected to be better or do more.  Some of this has led to privacy issues, lawsuits and other problems.

The reasons for the lawsuits and other concerns are for a variety of reasons but some of it has to with the development of the algorithm and how the data derived from the algorithm is interpreted and used.

One concern is the financial implications these systems can create on certain people.  One mathematician in a Time magazine article said she is concerned the misuse of algorithms could eventually lead to economic problems as people and companies seek to use these to benefit themselves and create societies where algorithms will create a two-class system, those that will have and those that won’t.  Some of this has already begun.

Incidents in the education sector  provide good examples of how algorithms are creating those financial concerns.   School systems in various states have  used  algorithmic systems to determine  teachers’ performance evaluations.   These systems are based on student test scores.  To some people, that would make a lot of sense.  If test scores are good, the teacher is good and the opposite if test scores are bad.  But that’s not how it works.  There are other factors to consider with test scores and teacher performance.  Some of these factors have not been used in algorithmic systems.    One factor is some teachers teach more than  two subjects.  Some algorithmic systems only look at two subjects.   The scores from the other topics might offset the two topics that were used which could increase a teacher’s evaluation score.  Another factor is the type of student  some teachers teach.  There are those with language barriers or are special education students.  Both  can have significant impact not just on student scores but on teachers’ scores too.

These systems  also created  a couple of other issues for teachers.  Some wanted to use the data from the algorithmic systems to help improve their scores but were unable because the data wasn’t transparent enough to provide them with usable information . To make matters worse, some school districts used the system results to get financial assistance from the federal government.  The more improvements the school districts could show the greater the reward.  Some school districts were very aggressive and gave less pay increases to some teachers and others were terminated.   In other words, teachers who didn’t deserve to lose their jobs did because of bad algorithmic systems that didn’t include all the necessary factors of a job.

This last week the CBS news show, 60 Minutes, reported on a problem with a facial recognition system at one police department.  An innocent person was arrested because his old drivers’ license was in a state database and the system picked him out as the culprit of a crime because of similar features he had with the real perpetrator.  Unfortunately, instead of using additional information, police relied only on the facial recognition system.   It eventually led to disciplinary action against a police officer.

We don’t know all the reasons as to why the officer only relied on the facial recognition system but it could have been because of poor police work as the Chief of the department said or it could have been from lack of training or other practices.   Organizations, employees, and unions need to have a good understanding of these systems.   Algorithmic experts on 60 Minutes said these systems can be very good or very bad or anything in between.  They are not flawless.

The 60 Minutes episode also demonstrates the financial implications that can happen with algorithmic systems.  The innocent man had a family.  What would have happened to that family if he was sent to jail?  How about the police officer?  He’s just one example and he was disciplined but he could very easily have lost his job.  The same problem can happen to others and with so many lawsuits occurring from algorithmic systems, it can be financial ruin for a company.  Large lawsuits can quickly shut down companies  which can cause layoffs.  The consequences are endless as algorithmic systems are used more and more.

The Brookings Institute recently published a report by one of their fellows about algorithmic systems being used in the hiring processes of over 50% of workplaces.  In the report, the fellow says workplaces use the systems to reduce costs associated through hiring as well as to hire the best possible candidate.  He also mentions some companies may use the systems to create a more diverse workforce but he says   many of the systems that are being developed and used have an ability to discriminate and that can have an impact on the labor economy.  The fellow said the algorithmic systems can discriminate against race, age, gender, the disabled, those with certain dialects and much more.  Plus, he says, some systems that use facial scanning can also provide negative job consequences for certain individuals.  The fellow agrees with the mathematician from the Time magazine article. The negative economic implications of bad algorithmic systems  on so many people is not good.  He says some tech companies and accountants do audits of algorithmic systems but the audits don’t  always identify the deficiencies of these systems.  The fellow believes it’s up to the federal government to develop a strong impartial audit process that will correct the problems the systems have created.

In an article  on the website of the Society For Human Resource Management(SHRM), it says algorithms are more objective in determining an employee raise.  While they say it’s also important to know how the algorithm was developed and to make changes if need be after the results, they encourage managers to use them because it saves time.  Besides, they say,  if there are issues, the algorithm can always be changed.

If a manager can change the results and the algorithm itself can be changed because it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing, than that does not make the process  objective.   In the article it also mentioned not all managers are buying into algorithms which could be the need to emphasize the benefits.   But if both managers and employees are skeptical about the outcome, there may be good reason for it.

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