button Vol. 10
No. 2
Winter
2007

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Health Care Crisis
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Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

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Top Employer Briefs


Checkmark Graphic Another Ruling Against FedEx Ground

In a popular article of ours here at Braun Consulting Group titled "FedEx Ground vs. UPS: Two Worldviews" we first noted the following:

"In the California case L.A. County Superior Court Judge Howard J. Schwab issued a 23-page ruling on July 26th, 2004. He ruled that those contractors with multiple routes were legitimate contractors who operate more like businesses than employees. But he decided that single-route contractors should be classified as employees."

Now, over 3 years later, FedEx Ground has lost an appeal in California over whether a group of former route drivers whom the company considered independent contractors should actually have been treated as employees.

The California Court of Appeal panel decided that, despite owning their own trucks, the drivers who sued were actually controlled by the company just the same as employees would be. It follows that they should have been compensated like employees.

The August decision applies to 200 drivers (out of 15,000 nationwide) who worked for FedEx Ground in California. It is expected that FedEx will appeal the decision.

And for the future (who knows how many years down the road) a class-action lawsuit involving FedEx Ground workers in 35 states is working its way through federal court in Indiana.

So if you read articles implying that the "contractor model" will be overturned or changed because of these cases, keep in mind the timetable of these efforts up to this date. There are years between appeals and decisions. Think of all the packages that will be delivered before the next decisionů

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Checkmark Graphic Fighting Questionable Disability Claims with DNA

New DNA technologies are being used to detect questionable disability claims. A company called Cytokine Institute has developed a technology which uses DNA to determine a link between exposure to a toxin and a serious illness.

This technology can identify a toxin's unique DNA signature on a person's affected cells.

Cytokine Institute CEO Bruce Gillis notes that this technology has already been used in two dozen civil lawsuits between workers and insurance companies attempting to verify the connection between exposure to toxins and a serious illness.

For example, in a recent civil case this technology was used to determine whether a firefighter's leukemia was caused by exposure to benzene. Ultimately it was determined that the unique benzene signature could not be found in the firefighter's genes, so the case was settled for much less.

Privacy and discrimination issues are concerns for many where the collecting of DNA for this sort of procedure is involved. For now there are no federal laws, and state laws vary with how DNA testing can be used. More than 20 states have laws on the books that address employers collecting genetic information.

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Checkmark Graphic Facebook and Job Boards

Facebook is a "social networking" internet web site with over 41 million active users at this point. Because of its demographic of "Generation Y" users it is becoming an area of great interest for recruiters.

Facebook applications have been developed by Yahoo, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, Jobster, and JobsinPods.com, among others. It is estimated that more than half of Facebook's users are out of college, and many may be seeking full-time jobs.

In a related development, there is a growing demand to build greater interactivity and social networking capabilities into HR software.

Lawson, for example, has a new set of HR software tools can allow employees to post jobs from their company web site directly onto their page on Facebook.

Companies can even set it up so that employees will earn a referral bonus if a job is filled by someone who applied through their Facebook page. The power of this type of networking is recognized by the big players in this field, and as the demand to tap into it grows the competition among them will be growing as well.

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Checkmark Graphic Unions Global Concern

The AFL-CIO hosted a "historic" conference this year that brought more than 200 union leaders from 63 countries to the National Labor College near Washington D.C. to discuss union rights around the world. The "Going Global: Organizing, Recognition and Union Rights" conference was sponsored by the Council of Global Unions (CGU) and was held on December 10th and 11th of this year.

"Corporations are sinking to new lows in the United States, thwarting workers' freedom to form unions at every turn, and our nation's labor laws are helpless to stop them. The U.S. is exporting this lawless corporate culture, creating a domino effect that's toppling workers' rights worldwide," according to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.

Though the purpose of the conference was to be global, there appeared to be a bit of a lopsided focus on The Employee Free Choice Act in the conference. This act would force a company to recognize a union when 50 percent of its workforce signs cards authorizing one. (To find out more, read our earlier article "Employee Free Choice Act Blocked".)

Advocates of the "Free Choice Act" at the global union conference said it would set a precedent for the freedom to unionize that would be felt far beyond U.S. borders. For example, Sharan Burrow said if the act were passed it would "shine a light of hope around the world". She is president of the International Trade Union. We question the wisdom of any law that denies workers the right to a secret ballot - a procedure that is the foundation of US Democracy. Denying the secret ballot is the tool of global despots.

Considered to be one of the hallmarks of the conference was the determination of the extent of unionization around the world. To this end union leaders at the conference produced charts that purported to show that 35 percent of workers in the U.K., 92 percent of workers in Sweden, and 95 percent in France all belong to unions.

One attendee at the conference claimed that "The obstacles [to unionization] are far greater in the United States than in any other developed country - employer opposition is much more aggressive, much more intense and often illegal", and that despite these figures from other countries around the world, the U.S. is stirring up anti-union behavior that could be damaging elsewhere.

Apparently the fear is that this anti-union attitude and activity can be exported through individual U.S. companies throughout the world. And further, there is a fear that the international activities of anti-union consultants can spread as well.

AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff sums up the global summit this way:

"This summit will identify the global economic crisis for workers and declining union density and bargaining coverage caused by the assault on workers, unions, and worker rights by right wing politics and policies and corrupt corporate employers that put profit ahead of human beings".

"We will begin the work of confronting this crisis and this assault in a comprehensive, collective, global way instead of simply country by country. And this summit will identify the role of U.S. corporations and policies in driving the assault not just here but all over the world".

Whether this turns out to be anything more than a publicity event will remain to be seen. What the AFL-CIO declines to address is the rising number of union employees who are decertifying unions because of employee discontent with their union. It is not hard to believe that employees are dissatisfied with an organization that has a 1950's business model, 1950's rhetoric and 1950's antagonist approach to building their market-share.

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