Reaction to Workplace Relations Report Uniform

By Noble, Barbara Presley | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 7, 1994 | Go to article overview

Reaction to Workplace Relations Report Uniform


Noble, Barbara Presley, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Barbara Presley Noble

N.Y. Times News Service

What does it mean that everyone with a stake in labor-management relations had the same reaction to the report on the state of workplace relations issued last week by the Dunlop Commission?

Once amity wandered lonely as a cloud among warring interests _ unions, business organizations, advocacy groups.

Now it seems to have settled more like a low bank of fog over the reaction to the completion of the fact-finding half of the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations, as the panel headed by former Labor Secretary John T. Dunlop is more formally known.

During the next six months or so, the commission, which was appointed by Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich and Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown last year, will use its facts to draw up recommendations.

The uniformity of the reaction, of course, doesn't mean much because no one in Washington, except Newt Gingrich and all the folks on the McLaughlin Group, ever disagrees publicly about anything. They reason together, and they reframe, but never do they truly dispute.

This first commission report was, as the chorus went, a "good first step."

It thereupon became the elephant, the 10 blindfolded men and the different perspectives afforded by the enormity of the beast. It's a good first step, but the nature of the step depends on what part of the elephant you're touching.

Labor groups latched onto findings indicated extensive abuse of employees' right to organize.

The report "confirms publicly what we in labor have struggled with for many years," said John J. Sweeney, president of the Service Employees International Union, one of the few unions with a growing membership. "On an unprecedented scale, our outdated labor laws have eroded the balance in employer-employee relations and allowed employers to `game' the laws in order to defeat union organizing campaigns and pervert the bargaining process."

Women's groups, which came relatively late to the labor-management discussion but have found in it a way into the pocketbook issues women care about, applauded the commission's sensitivity to the plight of low-wage workers, many of whom are women.

Judith Lichtman, president of the Women's Legal Defense Fund, speaking on behalf of 24 women's organizations, told the commission in April that in 1992, roughly 70 percent of women who worked made less than $20,000. "The report surfaces the kind of issues that working women face and the extent to which they are really in dire economic straits," Lichtman said. …

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