The New Yellow Book: What You Need to Know About the 2007 Revision of Government Auditing Standards

Source: Government Finance Review, April 2007

Earlier this year the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a revised edition of Government Auditing Standards, commonly known as the “Yellow Book,” to replace the 2003 edition currently in use. The new version will be mandatory for engagements beginning on or after January 1, 2008. The most recent changes in the 2007 revision of Government Auditing Standards reinforce the most fundamental of auditing ethics and principles, including transparency and accountability; update language to align with other standards; and give auditors an auditees additional guidance for a clearer understanding of what it takes to achieve high-quality government auditing to contribute to overall accountability in government.

Skill-Based Pay—Issues for Consideration

Source: Frank Giancola, Benefits & Compensation Digest, May 2007
(subscription required)

Compensation experts agree that skill-based pay is the wave of the future for compensating employees. In this approach, the skills of employees, instead of their jobs, are used to determine base pay. What compensation professionals may not realize is that this is much more than a new way to deliver pay. Adoption usually requires major changes in training and employee development programs, as well as the methods used to select and evaluate employees. Employers considering this method of pay should take into account a number of factors.

Is Presenteeism Hurting Your Workforce?

Source: Robin J. Samuel and Laura M. Wilson, Employee Benefit Plan Review, May 2007

It is a familiar problem. You hear a sneeze in the next cubicle, and you know it is only a matter of time before cold germs reach you and others working nearby. The cycle continues endlessly, as employees who come down with common colds or mild illnesses elect to work rather than stay home, and thereby continue the spread of illness through the workplace. A new buzzword has been coined to describe this phenomenon: Presenteeism. According to Wordspy.com, “presenteeism” is defined as “the feeling that one must show up for work even if one is too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive.” Recent studies indicate that presenteeism is a growing problem for U.S. employers, prompting human resources professionals to ask whether the hidden costs of the phenomenon must be addressed.

Rethinking the Tripartite Division of American Work Law

Source: Richard Michael Fischl, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 28 no. 1, 2007

In this article, Professor Fischl argues that the boundaries separating the constituent subjects of American work law—employment discrimination, labor law, and employment law—are becoming increasingly porous. He contends the continued embrace of the conventional subject-matter division reflects and reinforces an increasingly false opposition between the struggle for workplace democracy and the struggle for racial, gender, and other forms of workplace justice.

How Family Leave Laws Left Out Low-Income Workers

Source: Ann O’Leary, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 28 no. 1, 2007

Recent media attention has focused on professional women who have “opted out” of the paid labor market to care for their children. By contrast, the media has paid less attention to low-income women who have been required to “opt in” to the workforce over the past ten years as a result of the nation’s overhaul of the welfare system. As women’s overall workforce participation has increased, low-wage working women have become much less likely to have access to pregnancy and family leave than their professional counterparts. This article examines the historical and legal development of this disparity.

The 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law

Source: Victoria Pulos, Clearinghouse Review, Vol. 40 nos. 11-12, March-April, 2007
(subscription required)

Massachusetts last year passed legislation designed to ensure universal health coverage for all its residents. Tens of thousands who were previously uninsured now have coverage, but the impact of the law’s individual mandate remains to be seen. Other states have taken notice, although Massachusetts’ relatively generous Medicaid program and highly regulated insurance market could make Massachusetts’ approach difficult to replicate. The intensive involvement of advocates in both the legislative and implementation efforts has been critical to shaping the health reform law to meet the needs of low-income residents.

Work in Progress: The State of the Unions Two Years after the AFL-CIO Split

Source: Jim McNeill, Dissent, Spring 2007

So how should we gauge the performance of the two federations since the split? Mere survival has to be seen as an achievement for the AFL-CIO, which had to cut a quarter of its 420-person staff in 2005. And the old federation has done more than survive. It’s made important progress in the fight to improve the country’s terrible labor laws, and several AFL-CIO unions are doing some solid organizing. It shows signs of life that are worth exploring. The real pressure is on CTW to justify the breakup. The upstart federation made some bold promises when it bolted the AFL-CIO. As its two-year anniversary approaches, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether progress is being made. Has CTW got a realistic plan to revive America’s unions or is it squandering precious resources on a miracle cure?

Labor and the New Congress: A Strategy for Winning

Source: Nelson Lichtenstein, Dissent, Spring 2007

A labor victory in the new Congress depends on the definition of what it means to win. Labor’s broad agenda is passable in almost inverse relationship to that agenda’s capacity to strengthen the institutional and political power of trade unionism itself. This has been true for more than forty years, ever since the mid-1960s, when, during the second of the two great surges of liberal legislation in the last century (the mid-1930s is the other one) civil rights, Medicare, immigration reform, and aid to education passed with relative ease, while the repeal of 14b, which allowed Southern and Western states to pass and maintain right-to-work laws had no chance in a Congress dominated by ostensible liberals.

Today’s Congress is far less liberal than that of forty-two years ago, and of course there is a right-wing Republican in the White House, but the dynamic is much the same. Those elements of labor’s agenda that are the least attached to the institutional needs of trade unionism per se have the best chance of passage. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it provides some guidance for labor strategists.

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.