Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is This The Truth At Your WorkPlace?

This financial crisis is forcing companies to make tough decisions, there is a risk that we might need to lay off Andre ....

I could not resist this photograph. And I chuckled. But it did make me think too. Is this the truth at your workplace? If so, perhaps you need to rethink things.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Job Sharing: "Unlikely To Be Popular in the U.S."

The title of this post is a quote from an article entitled "Japan turns to 'work-sharing' to avoid layoffs" which appeared in the Herald Tribune, online. The article describes how Japanese companies are having employees share jobs and thus avoid getting laid off. Job sharing is popular in Europe, especially in countries that provide unemployment benefits to make up for the short-fall. Japan's culture, as well as practical and legal reasons, increase the likelihood of the success of the program. An economics professor at McGill University, in Canada, said the practice is unlikely to work in the US "where companies prefer to "concentrate the misery in a few people," and simply reduce workers."

I know some companies in the U.S. do job sharing. But the practice is not widespread. There are a number of things that would hinder the practice in the U.S., such as COBRA, lack of unemployment benefits, unions and attitudes. However, given the success of it in other countries I wonder why this was not "required" of companies in the new "stimulus" bill.

What do you think? Would it work? Is anyone doing it? Do you think it will come?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Carnival of HR for February 18th

Jon Ingram has posted the newest version of Carnival of HR. He is calling it Carnevale delle Risorse Umane. Check it out, there is a great assortment of HR blog articles that cover the present, the past and the future of HR. Layoffs, EFCA and more appear.

Also, here is a link to a blog post I wrote for the online version of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on How to Stand out at a Job Fair.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Merit Pay Going the Way of the Dinosaur: Fallout From Ledbetter

A SHRM alert I received today had this quote in it: "Camille Olson, an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, said that some HR executives have wanted to revisit their companies’ entire pay systems as a result of the new law. Here’s why: An annual pay increase based on merit has a life under the new law until the employee no longer receives a paycheck, she explained." The article went on to discuss alternative methods of paying people as a way to people because of the passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Included in these was " Employers might instead adopt policies awarding pay based on objective factors such as job title and years of service, she noted. Employers would pay employees a certain amount, and everyone would get the same percentage increase. " This will certainly eliminate individual merit increases.
An alternative suggestion was “A lot of HR executives are asking me if they should move from performance-related increases to lump-sum payments” so that pay won’t have a continuing effect, she remarked. The merit portion of this compensation scheme would result in bonus payments but not increases in base salaries." This suggestion certainly keeps merit in the pay system, but will require a large attitude change in how compensation is seen, by both employers and employees. Who knows it may open the door to putting everyone on a system of having a significant percentage of compensation "at-risk."
Either way, it appears that merit increases of base wages will be going the way of the dinosaur. What do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Apparently Executive Order Means Union Friendly

In his less than one month in office President Obama has had his Executive Order pen working overtime, especially when it comes to pro-union EOs. On January 30th he signed three pro-union orders and then signed more on February 6th. These include:

  • An executive order that requires employers with federal contracts above $100,000 in value to post a notice in the workplace informing their employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), including the right to join a union. This repealed "Beck" orders that President Bush has put in place.

  • A second order applies to federal contractors who provide services to government buildings. Under this new executive order, when a federal agency changes contractors, the new contractor will be required to offer jobs to the non-supervisory employees of its predecessor. This order is designed to try to ensure that when a unionized contractor is replaced, its successor will be obliged under existing labor laws to bargain with the original contractor’s labor union.

  • A third order prevents federal contractors from being reimbursed in federal funds for money spent to oppose (or support) union organizing efforts among their employees.

  • A fourth executive order, dealing with what are called Project Labor Agreements, requires basically that all covered contractors with contracts of $25 million or more for federal construction contracts (defined as work involving construction, rehabilitation, alteration, conversion, extension, repair or improvement of builds, highways or other real property) use union labor.

All these orders are effective immediately.

So there you have it. Making sure the unions get some payback. And you thought it was all going to be through EFCA and RESPECT. I am suprised the ARRA ("stimulus bill" for you uninformed) does not require that everyone that is going to get a tax cut, tax break, unemployment, workers' comp or any other assistance or money become a union member. MMM.. maybe I should not speak too soon, afterall has anyone really had time to read the 1000+ pages???

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stimulus = Free COBRA: Say What?????

According to an alert sent out by the law firm SeyfarthShaw, LLC, one of the provisions of the "stimulus" bill (also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009) is subsidised COBRA for people involuntarily terminated. Depending on what the final version is, employers will have to subsidise COBRA payments by either 50% or 65%. This will be available to anyone involuntarily terminated since September 1, 2008. If someone did not elect to have COBRA at that time they will be given a 60 day opt-in period.

The ex-employee would pay their portion to the employer or insurer and the employer would make up the remainder. The employer would then apply that amount as a deduction against payroll taxes. If that is insufficient to cover the COBRA expense then the U.S. Treasury would pay the remaining amount. This payment would continue for a period of 12 months, rather than the 18 months of COBRA. They would cease if someone became covered by other insurance, including Medicaid.

An additional provision would allow involuntarily terminated workers over the age of 55 to take COBRA on a permanent basis.

All of this could be effective as early as March 1st of 2009. To read SeyfarthShaw's full alert click here.

Welcome to the Brave New World. (I have provided a link to a description of Huxley's work in case you missed it in high school.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Career Opportunity for HR in the EFCA

Here is a great blog post by Alan Collins on the HR opportunity in the Employee Free Choice Act. I could not have written this any better (or for that matter even as well as). It is a discussion about the four opportunities for HR. Read it and learn.

On an information level visit , scroll down and watch the video. Then scroll down and read the list of "notables" that are against the EFCA. Very informative blog.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Card Check, Email and Social Media: A Clash of Interests

If you have been reading these posts at all, you know by now that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) contains a provision allowing unions to organize using a method referred to as "card check." Wikipedia defines card check " a method of organizing employees into a labor union in which employers enter into an agreement to recognize the unionization of its employees if a majority of employees in a bargaining unit sign authorization forms, or "cards". " What most people do not realize is that the signed "card" does not need to actually be a card, that is a holdover from the days when it actually was a card, back in the days when there was nothing like email and electronic signatures. Many experts feel today that union organization will be done in large part by use of email and to a lesser extent through the use of social media, such as FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter. Their recommendation to employers is to severly restrict the use of email to business only purposes and eliminate access to social media from work computers.

Unfortunately, this butts heads with the increasing trend of (primarily) younger workers using email and social media for personal communication throughout the day. In fact many recruiters are using social media for recruitment purposes. People access and read blogs throughout the day. Web 2.0 use is a mix of work and personal that becomes almost impossible to limit. If you try you may have push back from younger workers who complain that this makes the workplace too stifling, which is the opposite type of workplace you want to have to remain union free.

It will be a fact that unions will use your email system to try to organize workers against you. Expression of interest through an email response may very well count as having "signed the card." So what do you do? You need to educate your workers. Educate them on:
  • The company position on remaining union free. Let them know how the company will be harmed economically.
  • Educate them on how unions may try to organize them, forewarning them about emails and contacts on social media. Letting them know not to respond to these contacts without first checking out the facts that may be presented.
  • Encourage open communication with your employees about the economy, unions and the continued well being of the company.

You can draft tighter non-solicitation policies, which includes the use of email. But it may be difficult to totally control email use. But there is software to monitor email traffic if you want to do so.

I would like to hear from some of you who have email policies that restrict use of email. Please leave a comment and let us know how you do it, monitior it, and how effective that has been.

As a closing note, the card check provision is getting alot of attention. This attention may be a diversion to keep our attention away from the second provision of EFCA, Interest Arbitration and enforced contracts, which is the much BIGGER EVIL of EFCA.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Update on Hilda Solis

A report in the Los Angeles Times indicates that the reason Solis' nomination is being held up is her membership in American Rights at Work, a tax-exempt group dedicated to helping workers unionize. Her membership in this group, and her continued work on behalf of the EFCA, may violate House ethics rules on lobbying or assisting lobbying. Causing some additional concern was the fact that she didn't report this membership in House documents. The White House called this an "unintentional oversight." (Hmmm, that sounds vaguely familiar.) So the wrangling over the nomination goes on. You can read the article by clicking the link above.

In the meantime, President Obama has named Ed Hugler, a career Labor employee and the deputy assistant secretary for operations, to serve as acting secretary, as reported in The Hill.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Carnival of HR: The 4th of February Edition

It is time for another visit to the Carnival of HR, which should not be confused with the circus we are currently witnessing in Washington confirmation hearings. So step up, step up Ladies and Gentlemen. Read the best, the most incredible, the most stupendous blog posts in the world!Visit Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership to get some of the best recent HR blog posts.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Andy Sterns: Business' Biggest Enemy?

Andy Sterns is the president of the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, an AFL-CIO breakaway and the fast growing union organization in the United States. He is also one of the biggest threats to American businesses. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal in December called Let's 'Share the Wealth' : America's most powerful union boss says Europe offers a good economic model Sterns makes it no secret that he feels unions got Obama elected and he intends to hold Obama's feet to the fire. "Mr. Stern sets this simple bar for the Obama presidency: "I expect nothing less than what he said he was going to do, and we should hold him accountable."

And Stern seems to have Obama's ear. Stern recommended Rep. Hilda Solis as a nominee for Labor Secretary (see yesterday's blog post) and was on the inauguration stand right beside the new President as he was sworn in. Stern is obviously a big proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act. So he will be bringing a great deal of pressure to bear on Congress and the Obama administration to get it passed. After all $450 million buys alot of favors.

Stern is not your stereotypical leader. He is highly educated and articulate. He has never held a blue collar job and had been trained in union tactics by a reputed socialist organization. He has been able to team with WalMart, a hated enemy, to argue for universal healthcare (see my post from Feb. 08, 2007 called Strange Bedfellows.)

However, he is not without his warts. There are union members in California who feel that he has run roughshod over their rights and many union leaders are unhappy with his strong-arm tactics against unions he wants possession of. See SEIU President Andy Stern is a threat to labor soul published at

So do not take this man lightly. He is out to get business. And other unions. And, by the way, politicians if they do not do what he wants. The WSJ had this fact and quote. "The bit about accountability is no idle warning. Organized labor put up some $450 million to get Democrats elected. The SEIU accounted for $85 million of that, making Mr. Stern's union the single biggest contributor to either party in this election cycle. And just in case, the SEIU set aside an additional $10 million fund to get people unelected if need be. "We would like to make sure people appreciate that we take them at their word and when they don't live up to their word there should be consequences," he says."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oh Where, Oh Where Is Hilda?

Representative Hilda Solis, the congressional representative from California's San Gabrial valley, is one of the remaining Obama nominees that has not yet been approved. Apparently her confirmatin as Secretary of Labor is on hold because of her refusal to answer questions about her views on the Employee Free Choice Act. Why she is hesitating is strange. Her views are well known. She is a liberal Democrat and daughter of a Teamster local president. She co-sponsored the EFCA along with then Senator Obama. So why she is stalling is a puzzle.
I can understand why the Republicans are holding up her confirmation. She will become unions best friend in Washington when confirmed. So I have no problem with her cooling her heals.

Here is an article from that has a different take, though they too are puzzled by her hesitancy to answer questions.