The 2007 US Trade Policy Template: Opportunities and Risks for Workers’ Rights

Source: Human Rights Watch, Number 2, June 2007

On May 10, 2007, congressional leaders and the US Trade Representative (USTR) reached an historic agreement on a “new trade policy template” (template) that has the potential to be an important step towards ensuring that workers’ rights are better protected in US trade accords.1 The template applies to the US-Panama and US-Peru Free Trade Agreements and could also apply to other pending and future US free trade accords. Human Rights Watch is concerned, however, that ambiguities in the template could prevent it from reaching its full potential.

Human Rights Watch believes that the template could lead to major improvements in the workers’ rights protections contained in US free trade accords and commends those who have worked diligently on its provisions towards this goal. Nonetheless, we fear that failure to resolve the template’s troubling ambiguities with strong, clarifying labor rights language could leave labor provisions in pending and future free trade agreements vulnerable to narrow interpretation, to the detriment of workers’ human rights and contrary to the spirit of the template.

REAL Nightmare

Source: Ellen Perlman, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 9, June 2007

States are on the hook to turn driver’s licenses into secure ID cards. The size of the job is scaring them.

For the past five years, clerks at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles have been enforcing new rules for getting a driver’s license. It hasn’t been pleasant. As the new system has been put in place — a new requirement here, followed by another one there — DMV employees have been dressed down, yelled at, spat on and cursed by those in line.

This is not the usual situation at today’s DMVs, because states have gone to great efforts in the past decade to make license renewal a friendlier, more convenient experience — letting drivers renew online or by mail; putting small DMV offices in local shopping malls. But there’s a reason why Colorado clerks are under fire: The new rules, which have to do with creating a more secure license, have brought back long lines and frustrating misunderstandings about just exactly what documents drivers need to bring in and how long it will take the DMV to verify those papers. That’s why Colorado, which established its own rules for securing licenses, may be the best place to look to see what it’s going to be like when the REAL ID Act, the 2005 federal law that calls for a higher level of security for driver’s licenses, starts going into effect next year.

AHRQ’S Annual State Snapshots Highlight States’ Gains and Lags in Health Care Quality

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, June 11, 2007

AHRQ released new State Snapshots that show States have made promising gains in health care quality while identifying needed improvements in areas ranging from cancer screening to treatments of heart attack patients. The 51 State Snapshots—every State plus Washington, D.C.—are based on 129 quality measures, each of which evaluates a different segment of health care performance. While the measures are the products of complex statistical formulas, they are expressed on the Web site as simple, five-color “performance meter” illustrations. AHRQ’s annual State Snapshots is based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities, and health care organizations.

U.S. Labor 2006: Strategic Developments across the Divide

Source: Richard W. Hurd, Journal of Labor Research, Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2007

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win have learned to co-exist without debilitating acrimony. The AFL-CIO has established Industry Coordinating Committees to facilitate cooperative bargaining and organizing ventures. On the political front, the AFL-CIO took the lead in labor’s 2006 electoral operations and conducted an extensive, efficient, and unified campaign. Change to Win unions worked together to build strategies for a growth agenda. The success of UNITE-HERE’s Hotel Workers Rising Campaign indicates the potential of this approach. Difficult challenges remain, but the strategic developments show signs of life and offer hope that labor may find a path to the future.

The AFL-CIO Split: Does It Really Matter?

Source: Gary Chaison, Journal of Labor Research, Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2007

In 2005, the AFL-CIO split and the Change to Win Coalition (CtW) was founded because of the personal ambition of dissident union leaders and their frustration with the severe and continuing decline in union membership. The CtW was build on a shared faith that only a fresh start could lead the unions out of their crisis. But a convincing case has not been made that the seceding unions would be more successful outside of AFL-CIO. When it is seen against the backdrop of the crisis in the labor movement and the enormity of the task of union organizing and revival, the AFL-CIO split does not really matter.

Civil Service Reform, At-Will Employment, and George Santayana: Are We Condemned to Repeat the Past?

Source: Russell L. Williams, Ph.D. and James S. Bowman, Ph.D., Public Personnel Management, Volume 36, No. 1, Spring 2007
(subscription required)

The competing values found in private and public sector models of personnel management animate today’s civil service reform debate. Unfortunately, the antagonists frequently produce as much heat as light as their positions become entrenched and genuine dialogue suffers. In such situations, insights from another time and place can provide a perspective on issues and events. A case in point is philosopher and poet George Santayana who observed in 1905 that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Drawing upon his work, this critique of civil service reform first briefly reviews the origins of the merit system and the objectives of contemporary changes. Then, a case study in the trendsetting “megastate” of Florida is analyzed. The conclusion speculates on the future of radical reform.

The Supreme Court Rulings in Grutter v.Bollinger and Gratz v.Bollinger: The Brave New World of Affirmative Action in the 21st Century

Source: Robert K. Robinson, Ph.D., SPHR, Geralyn McClure Franklin, Ph.D., and Karen Epermanis, Ph.D., Public Personnel Management, Volume 36, No. 1, Spring 2007
(subscription required)

On June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a five to four decision, substantially altered the nature of state imposed affirmative action permissible under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when it held that diversity could serve as a compelling government interest, thus justifying public sector preferential programs. Though this ruling pertained specifically to race-based preferential university admissions, it is likely to have wide ranging implications for all public sector affirmative action programs. One implication may include making it easier to justify state initiated affirmative action by diminishing the requirement to demonstrate the remedial motive behind such action. This article discusses the impact that the Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger decisions are likely to have on preferential admissions policies in public higher education.

The Minimum Wage is a Middle-Class Issue

Source: Oren Levin-Waldman and Charles Whalen, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, Volume 50, Number 3, May-June 2007
(subscription required)

If raising the minimum wage affected only 2.5 percent of the labor market, as many argue it does, than it would not be such an explosive political issue. In truth, it affects wages well up the income ladder. The authors show why. They argue that a higher minimum wage is an essential part of any American wage policy.

Mind If I Peek At Your Paycheck?

Source: Brian Hindo, Business Week, no. 4039, June 18, 2007

It still isn’t easy to find out how you stack up against your colleagues.

You probably know what the guy who sits next to you at work has for lunch every day, how often he calls his wife, how much money he bet on the Astros last weekend, maybe even how much his house is worth. But how much he makes for a living? That’s off limits. After all, there is possibly no matter more shrouded in secrecy, nor a riper topic for office gossip, than what everyone gets paid.

The Work, Family, and Equity Index – How Does the United States Measure Up?

Source: Jody Heymann, Alison Earle, and Jeffrey Hayes, Institute for Health and Social Policy and Project on Global Working Families, 2006

When it comes to ensuring decent working conditions for families, the latest research shows many U.S. public policies still lag dramatically behind all high-income countries, as well as many middle- and low-income countries. This report is based on updated and expanded research used in the first Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?, released in 2004.