By Deborah Hargreaves

LONDON — The issue of pay ratios has become the latest front in a worldwide debate about inequality and the widening gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else. In the United States, the financial reforms of the Dodd-Frank Act contained a provision that would force American companies to disclose the ratio of the compensation of their chief executive officer to the median compensation of their employees. Yet fierce criticism from the business sector has succeeded in delaying this measure for four years — and counting.

Now the European Commission in Brussels has weighed in, with a proposal currently under discussion that the European Union’s 10,000 listed companies reveal their pay ratios and allow shareholders to vote on whether they are appropriate. This has unleashed howls of protest against the European Union’s unpopular, unelected commissioners. Fund managers have called the plan weird, and business leaders have objected that shareholders don’t want such power.

Pay ratio proposals, in fact, have a venerable history. In his 1941 essay “The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius,” George Orwell advocated a limitation of incomes so that the best-paid would earn no more than 10 times the lowest-paid. But this was controversial territory, even for Orwell. A few paragraphs on, he retreated and wrote: “In practice it is impossible that earnings should be limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested.”

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Jerry A. Jacobs.


In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University.

Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Interdisciplinarity has become an increasingly powerful current in US universities and colleges. The virtues of promoting interaction among researchers from diverse fields and building bridges across academic units are taken for granted by many observers and university administrators. But the longer I investigated the matter, the more I became convinced that disciplines are an indispensable component of a dynamic university system. At the very least, any viable interdisciplinary arrangement will need to stand on a firm disciplinary foundation. A stronger version of the argument holds that interdisciplinary arrangements are much more specialized and transitional than most analysts have recognized.

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Steve Early. Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress. Monthly Review Press. February 2014.

Book review by Melanie Simms

Steve Early is a well-known commentator on the complex world of US trade unionism. His analyses are often provocative and always well-informed as he has worked in and around the US labor movement for more than 40 years. This is his third book since he retired from the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union. Evidently he is a man who intends to use the freedom of retirement to stir up debate.

As the subtitle suggests, the book brings together a series of previous pieces he has written for a range of audiences. Typically, they are from the journals, newspapers and websites that cover US labor issues: Labor Notes, Huffington Post, Working In These Times etc. And the tone of the dispatches taken as a whole is distressing. The reader is undoubtedly left with a strong view that the US labor movement is in very deep trouble and that strategies to plot a future course have been ill-fated

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by Erin A. Cech and Mary Blair-Loy

The widespread fascination with the TV series Mad Men is partly due to the stark contrast it draws between the postwar professional workforce portrayed in the series and the realities of that same workforce today. Although still largely male-dominated, professional occupations are no longer predominantly populated by men who serve as family breadwinners and have stay-at-home spouses. Women are in the workforce standing shoulder to shoulder with men as household earners and nearly half of couples with young children now juggle childcare responsibilities along with two careers. Despite a professional workforce demographic that is decidedly post-Mad Men, workplace arrangements and expectations of “ideal workers” in professions today could be ripped right out of a Mad Men script.

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Kain Coulter (R), Northwestern University’s football quarterback, and Ramogi Huma (L), head of the College Athletes Players Association ; Source: CBS Sports

The regional arm of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled last week that Northwestern University’s scholarship football players have the right to unionize. This is only the first step for the players, who will likely face an appeal from the University to the NLRB’s full board in Washington, D.C. If the initial ruling passes muster with the NLRB, it can also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, so there is a long road ahead for this case that has exposed quite publicly the tensions within big-ticket college athletics. The crux of the case is this – do scholarship athletes qualify as employees of the University?

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by Noelle Chesley


Credit: LexnGer (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0)

As technology has become an inescapable part of most workplaces, it has become ever more important to understand its impact on employees. Using data from two surveys of U.S. workers, Noelle Chesley examines the effects of both personal and job-related technology use. She finds that increased technology use, especially when it extends work into personal life, is linked with higher levels of worker distress. However, it is also associated with gains in productivity, and personal technology use at work may help employees to manage work-related stress.



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A news story has been making the rounds in academic circles about a newly minted PhD job candidate who, when offered a tenure track faculty position at Nazareth College, attempted to negotiate salary and conditions only to have the college rescind the offer entirely. Here is the email the candidate says she sent the search committee:

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