DC LERA members enjoy lively session on AI and Jobs at ILO Office for US and Canada

By Mindy Reiser, Ph.D. Consulting Sociologist and Board Member, DCLERA

Just wanted to let you know what a lively and stimulating session fellow Board member, Amber Barth, the Director of the ILO Office  for the United States and Canada, along with Andrea Cuba Sanchez, her Communications and Information Assistant, organized on April 9, 2024 for DCLERA.

L to R — Pawel Gmyrek, Janine Berg and Amber Barth

The session, focusing on the recent ILO Working Paper on Generative AI and Jobs: A global analysis of potential effects on job quantity and quality (available here) brought to the gathering two of the study’s authors, Pawel Gmyrek and Janine Berg, who deftly summarized the report’s highlights. A lively discussion followed. Those of us in the ILO office for the session, also enjoyed a delicious lunch, courtesy of the ILO.

Stacy Hickox elected as Board Secretary after joining DC LERA board

 

Stacy Hickox

Stacy Hickox joined the DC LERA board after being elected at a member meeting on February 14, 2024. On February 21, 2024, the board elected Stacy to serve as Board Secretary.

In March 2024, Stacy became Staff Counsel with the National Educational Association. She also serves as a facilitator for Cornell University’s online DEI courses.

Previously, Stacy taught for the Business College at University of Maryland and for the professional development unit of Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources & Labor Relations (MSU SHRLR).  Until August 2022, she was an Associate Professor in MSU’S SHRLR, where she taught in the human resources & labor relations programs.

Stacy’s research has focused on barriers to employment for people with disabilities and a criminal record, as well as arbitration as a means to support accommodations and address harassment and bullying in the workplace. Stacy also practiced law with private law firms including Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch in Washington, D.C., and Disability Rights Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Michelle Kochosky of Defense Health Board joins DC LERA Board

Michelle Kochosky joined the DC LERA board as a Student Board Member after being elected by members at a virtual meeting held on February 14, 2024.

On March 10, 2024, Michelle accepted a promotion to serve as the Human Resources Chief for Defense Health Agency – Region 9 Continental. She started her new position in April. For the previous two years, Michelle served as a Human Resources Specialist for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon.

Past experience includes serving in Human Resources at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Defense Contract Audit Agency. From 2008 to 2018, Michelle served as the Branch Chief for the Oregon National Guard covering all benefits and quality of life programs for Reserve Component members, focusing on those serving in a combat zone.

Michelle is currently pursuing a Masters in Human Resources from Penn State World Campus. She expects to graduate and receive Society of Human Resource Managers certification in 2025.

Michelle celebrated fifteen years as a Department of Defense civilian employee in December 2024. Her previous educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Education and English from Muskingum University in Ohio. Michelle is married to Air Force veteran, Matthew Kochosky. They have boy-girl twins in sixth grade.

Asha Ault of DC OLRCB highlights importance of mutual respect between management and unions in DC

By Aekrama Ahmed, American University – Class of ’25

On October 26, 2023, the Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations (DC LERA) and the Women’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) co-sponsored a sit-down conversation with Asha Ault, Chief of Staff of the District of Columbia Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining (OLRCB), to discuss her perspective and experiences on workplace laws and labor relations in the District.

Moderated by Dr. David Jacobs, a professor at the American University Kogod School of Business, the conversation started off with a discussion of the fundamental elements of DC workplace laws and policies. Ms. Ault shared a simple truth: getting along in the workplace helps everyone achieve more. She expressed the opinion that when management and unions see each other as partners, they often find they are aiming for the same goals. “The more we fight, the less we get done,” she observed, pointing out that cooperation is key. For Ms. Ault, it’s about more than just working together – it’s about making sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect at work. She made it clear that success in the workplace comes from everyone pulling in the same direction.

Ms. Ault went on to describe the primary function of the OLRCB. She explained that the goal of the OLRCB is to represent the mayor and city agencies when they engage in negotiations with unions and address disputes about workplace issues. But what is really important, she pointed out, is that they focus on creating and keeping a good relationship with labor unions. For Ms. Ault, this is about making sure that there is a strong, cooperative, and lasting connection with the unions that represent the District’s public workforce. In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and City Administrator Kevin Donahue are committed to partnering with the City’s labor leaders and engage with them to identify, address and resolve workforce concerns before they become major issues.

When asked by Dr. Jacobs how the District of Columbia’s labor laws and policies differ from other jurisdictions, Ms. Ault outlined the distinct legislative framework that governs labor relations in the District. She pointed out that DC relies heavily on the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act, a set of laws specific to the city, which is bolstered by actions of the Council of the District of Columbia and Mayoral orders. These form the backbone of labor laws in Washington, DC. These labor laws and regulations are guided by the District Personnel Manual and collective bargaining agreements that dictate workplace conditions and compensation.

Dr. Jacobs brought up the topic of Paid Family Leave, and Ms. Ault explained that in the District of Columbia, getting this benefit for workers was fairly straight-forward thanks to the DC Council. Ms. Ault emphasized the forward-thinking stance of law makers in DC, noting that such progressive policies are not as easily enacted or even entertained in other jurisdictions. DC Law establishes certain requirements in order to qualify for Paid Family Leave, but for the most part if you work in DC for a certain amount of time you will qualify for the benefit.

Dr. Jacobs and Ms. Ault also discussed bargaining over women’s issues. Ms. Ault explained that in DC, fighting for women’s rights in collective bargaining is not as tough as it might be in other jurisdictions because of the city’s progressive stance on working women’s rights. Ms. Ault also reflected on her personal experiences, noting a welcoming culture in the OLRCB.

When asked about sexual harassment law and collective bargaining in DC, Ms. Ault explained that under the DC Human Rights Act, all claims of sexual harassment and discrimination go through specific channels (for example, the DC Office of Human Rights) and are not subjects for negotiation in the collective bargaining process. Ms. Ault emphasized the strong influence of women within DC public unions. She also noted the high level of unionization in DC government, where about 70% of the 37,000 strong public workforce is unionized.

Ms. Ault wrapped up her remarks with a pivotal piece of advice that could serve as a model for other jurisdictions. The best practice in DC government labor relations is to see labor as a partner. Building a strong relationship and fostering open communication with labor unions are cornerstones of this approach. Ms. Ault stressed the importance of this partnership and urged other jurisdictions to consider adopting a similar collaborative mindset.

DC LERA elects 3 new board members and 2024 board officers

On Wednesday, February 14, 2024, members of DC LERA elected three new board members to serve on the Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. Below are DC LERA’s three new board members:

  • Stacy Hickox, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland
  • Homer La Rue, Law Professor, Howard Law School and Arbitrator (National Academy of Arbitrators)
  • Michelle Kochosky, Master’s Candidate (Human Resources), from Penn State World Campus and Human Resources Chief for Defense Health Agency – Region 9 Continental

Each of the new board members was elected to serve a 3-year term. Michelle Kochosky was elected to serve as a student board member. She will become a regular board member upon graduation.

In addition, at its meeting on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, the Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (DC LERA) elected the following officers to serve in 2024:

  • President: Tequila Brooks, Attorney and Labor Law Scholar (2nd term)
  • President Elect: Amaury Pineda, Researcher at Georgetown University and Policy Analyst at National Jobs With Justice
  • Secretary: Stacy Hickox, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland
  • Treasurer: Steve Silvia, Professor, American University

Keep an eye out for more detailed profiles of DC LERA’s newest board members and, to all our new board members and the 2024 officers – Congratulations! We look forward to working with you this year.

Please consider becoming a member of DC LERA or renewing your membership this year. You can do so here. Lots of exciting stuff happening this year and in the future!

US and International Perspectives on Sexual Harassment in Organized and Unorganized Workplaces

By: Adina Aamir, Cornell MPS Global Development – Class of ’23

On October 6, DC LERA hosted a webinar for its 3rd Annual Labor Law Forum to discuss US and international perspectives on sexual harassment in organized and unorganized workplaces.

Moderated by Tequila Brooks, a Comparative Labor and Employment Law Scholar, the discussion featured presentations by ITUC’s expert on gender equality and domestic work issues Marieke Koning, International Coordinator of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance Anannya Bhattacharjee, adjunct professor at University of Maryland and Michigan State University Stacy Hickox, and Princeton University postdoctoral fellow Garima Sharma.

Introducing  the discussion, Marieke Koning talked  about  the ITUC’s #RatifyC190 Campaign which calls on governments to adopt the International Labour Organization’s  Convention 190 (C190)1 on  Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

C190 is the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).

ITUC’s #RatifyC190 Campaign

Representing 191 million workers from 167 countries, the ITUC has been supporting its affiliates in their initiatives to promote and advance C190. Marieke mentioned that countries like Lesotho, South Africa, and France have ratified C190, and other like Pakistan and Indonesia have made progress in making dignified and decent work a reality for all.

Following Marieke’s presentation on ITUC’s international efforts to end GBVH, Anannya Bhattacharjee  shifted the focus to an innovative example of reducing violence and harassment in clothing factories. The Dindigul Agreement, a first of its kind in the Asian garment industry, delivers power and support to women workers to monitor, prevent, and remediate GBVH collectively and with management.

AFWA: Dindigul Agreement

Negotiated by the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), the agreement was established in response to the horrific violence and harassment that took the life of Jeyasre Kathiravel at a factory supplying to H&M. It legally holds both suppliers and fashion brands accountable to prevent such violence in their factories and has led to a remarkable 67% decrease in employee attrition rates and 98% grievance resolution rate.

After these two examples from the World of Work, Stacy Hickox turned the conversation to academic research on GBVH reduction. She discussed findings from the paper she co-authored with Michelle Kaminsky questioning whether arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution designated in collective bargaining agreements to resolve conflicts between employers and employees, is an effective method for resolving issues of workplace harassment. In cases where employers discipline employees based on reports of harassment, an alleged harasser can file a grievance requiring their employer to show a just cause for disciplining them. Hickox and Kaminsky found that in 54.1% of arbitrations they examined for the period 2008-2018 the discipline of the alleged harassers was upheld, while discipline was reduced in 29.7% and overturned in 16.2% of cases.

Their overall finding was that arbitration can sometimes offer a resolution in such situations but only if supported by an adequate policy framework. Rather than relying on arbitrators to eradicate harassment, Stacy recommends that employers and unions work together to holistically address the issue.

After some very engaging presentations, the last panelist of the series was Garima Sharma a postdoctoral scholar from Princeton University who discussed why workplaces are not better designed for women in this paper and explained how union agreements can support female-friendly jobs.

Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT) – Brazilian Trade Union

She used the example of Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), the largest trade union in Brazil, as it instituted a 50% quota for female representation in its leadership, and compared their performance with other unions that had not implemented any reforms. The study noted an increase in female centered amenities both in paper and practice with no change in wages, greater female workforce participation, and no evidence to indicate men were worse off due to the reforms. She concluded that firms can decrease the gender wage gap by simply shifting institutional priorities.

In summary, the webinar brought together various examples of frontline progress made to protect women in the workplace, and provided recommendations on areas of improvements, particularly highlighting the close collaboration between stakeholders such as unions, employers and international organizations required to reduce GBVH.

  1. C190 is one of the most comprehensive set of guidelines advancing international labor law by defining violence and harassment as a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices that result in physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm, and notes the disproportionate impact of such acts faced by those of a particular gender or sex. It extends these protections to all workers, whether formal, informal, interns, applications, and more in all sectors, in the full World of Work. This includes any acts of violence and harassment occurring in the course of, linked with or arising out of work such as in spaces where workers take rest breaks, sanitary facilities, work-related trips, and employer-provided accommodation in addition to the workplace.

Amaury Pineda, Georgetown University fellow researcher and Jobs With Justice policy analyst joins DC LERA as Director of Communications.

Amaury Pineda joined the DC LERA Board of Governors representing Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in October of 2023.

As a researcher and policy analyst, Amaury Pineda uses his research skills to find new ways to increase workers’ power through local, state, and federal policy. Before joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative and Jobs With Justice, Pineda represented and advocated for graduate students’ rights as the Graduate Student Association president at Western Michigan University.

Furthermore, Pineda holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he worked as a labor lawyer before pursuing a Ph.D. at Western. He completed his Ph.D. in political science in Dec. 2021, focusing on comparative politics and political theory.

You can find Pineda watching movies, playing chess or basketball, and spending time with friends in his free time.

Christian Collins of Johns Hopkins University and CLASP joins DC LERA as First Student Board Member

On September 6, 2023, the DC LERA Board of Governors adopted a measure designating 2-3 new positions on the board for Student Board Members. The purpose of these positions is to bring a student perspective to the board and serve as a short- and long-term organizational succession strategy.

Christian Collins joined the DC LERA board as its first Student Board Member.

Christian is a current graduate student attending Johns Hopkins University and a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)’s education, labor, and worker justice team. A native of Akron, Ohio and proud product of public schools, he brings expertise in labor rights advocacy and workforce and economic development. He holds a strong commitment to promoting racial justice through public policy and advocacy. Preceding his career at CLASP, Christian was a researcher with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In this role, he assisted local union chapters with organizing efforts, while partnering with outside organizations and partners to advocate for increased rights and benefits for workers. Additionally, he’s served as a research assistant at Urban Institute and a state fiscal project campaigns intern with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities since moving to DC. While in his home state of Ohio, Christian spent time as an intern for both the Ohio State Senate and Columbus City Council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in public policy from The Ohio State University and also attended Kent State University during his undergraduate studies.

Japanese Labor Attache Takahito Fushiki joins DC LERA Board

Takahito Fushiki, Labor Attache with the Embassy of Japan, has joined the Board of Governors of DC LERA. He replaces Yoshi Suzuki, who returned to Japan in August 2023.

Taka joined the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in 2007. He has worked in departments related to Pharmaceutical Safety, Labor Standards, Welfare for Persons with Disabilities, and Unemployment Insurance.

Welcome to Washington, Taka!

A Farewell Address from Yoshi Suzuki, former Labor Attaché with the Embassy of Japan

By: Yoshi Suzuki, Former Labor Attaché, Embassy of Japan

I arrived in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I remember as if it were yesterday that I addressed a virtual board meeting. The exchange of information and interactive discussion in DC LERA was so stimulating and meaningful to me. I would like to briefly describe my impressions after working in DC for three years.

The pandemic hit the U.S. economy hard, with the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7% in April 2020, but it soon recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and the turbulence in the U.S. labor market has been remarkable. From the perspective of Japan, which is generally regarded as stable internationally (not only unemployment rate but also wage increase…), it should be admired the positive aspects of the dynamism of the U.S. economy. On the other hand, it looks like that there appears to be a steadily increasing number of voices in the U.S. that are concerned about the weak safety net for those left behind in the economic growth and calling for policy responses.

In response to these voices, Biden administration has been working to realize various social policies, including labor policies, but the existence of the Senate filibuster etc. has made the hurdles to policy realization through legislation extremely high, forcing the administration to rely on policy tools such as executive order. However, I think this is inextricably linked to the fragility of legal stability and predictability. Stricter scrutiny of administrative authority by conservative federal courts will also affect the policy formation process, and it is likely that even greater caution will be required in the future, not only in terms of policy content, but also in terms of procedures.

The Biden administration’s emphasis on labor unions in its various policies is a major characteristic of its administration, and while it is true that the bargaining power of labor unions and workers has increased under the recent labor market conditions in which workers are dominant, it will take more time to determine whether the trend of decline in labor unions over the medium to long term can be reversed. Whether or not the Democratic Party will be able to retain power and secure a sufficient base of support in the presidential election of 2024 will be the touchstone for the penetration and maturation of the various policies implemented by the Biden administration into the U.S. society.

Although it is difficult to make simple comparisons between Japan and U.S. because of differences in social systems, cultures, and practices, labor policy and labor market trends in U.S., where market functions are strongly activated, can provide hints toward more optimal policy formulation by making Japanese policies more relative. I would like to continue to observe them regularly in the future.

In Japan, I will return to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) and be in charge of unemployment benefit planning. Based on the reflections under the pandemic, a number of systemic revisions will be made, including the extension of employment insurance coverage to part-time workers and others.

Leaving DC is excruciating, but I am also excited about my new job.