Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dunlop Panel Ideas Face Political Reality Check Slow Economic Growth and a Shortage of Blue-Collar Jobs Has Helped Heighten Tensions in the Workplace, Report Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dunlop Panel Ideas Face Political Reality Check Slow Economic Growth and a Shortage of Blue-Collar Jobs Has Helped Heighten Tensions in the Workplace, Report Says

Article excerpt

WILL the Dunlop Commission report - about the future of American worker-management relations - end up gathering dust on a shelf like so many previous reports by various government commissions?

The commission, headed by former Labor Secretary John Dunlop, was appointed by the Clinton administration last year. Its report says slower economic growth, stagnant real wages, and a shortage of blue-collar jobs has heightened tensions between employees and their managers. The commission submitted its findings last week to Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

The commission was set up to revamp the laws that govern the American workplace, including the right to collective bargaining, payment for overtime work, antidiscrimination mandates, and eligibility for unpaid medical leave. The White House hopes to stimulate debate and to devise a new direction for worker-management relations.

But skeptics doubt whether the dialogue will affect change. "What the {commission} tried to do is set up an environment in which there can be a discourse" between the two sides, says Jeffrey McGuinness, president of the Labor Policy Association, an organization of the top human-resource managers of 220 Fortune 500 companies.

Because they operate in such an emotionally charged environment, the two players have never "given {each other} a full and fair hearing," Mr. McGuinness says. "They have `always been at each other's throats.' " While the commission gives each side an opportunity to voice its concerns, McGuinness says he does not expect extensive changes in labor laws. "Neither side is going to be giving in," he says.

The needs of today's workplace "arguably differ in some important ways from those of the workers who were envisaged in traditional labor laws," the Dunlop Commission says. The profile of the typical worker and his or her job has changed dramatically since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

The commission identifies these trends:

* More Americans are working, a development that reflects the larger percentage of women in the work force.

* Technology has changed the way information is exchanged, jobs now require more education, and workers are expected to take more management initiative. …

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