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Workplace Issues Today

Daily News for Thursday, April 24, 2014

Selected by the Catherwood Library Reference Staff each Monday through Friday, excluding University holidays, WIT is a free alert service, providing abstracts and links to workplace-related news stories covered in the major media. Subscribe to WIT »

Established in 1999, this service also includes a searchable archive.

Sherpas strike may end Everest climbing season

Last Friday at least 13 Sherpas were killed in an avalanche as they attempted to carry supplies for Western climbers up the side of the Mount Everest. The deaths were the last straw in a debate that had been brewing among the Nepal natives renowned for their mountaineering skills. For years the Sherpas have witnessed the expansion of the mountain as a tourist attraction, but also the declining technical expertise and lack of experience of tourists who seek to summit the world’s highest peak. The tourists typically pay very well to have Sherpas accompany them and ferry supplies to each base camp, but with less experienced and skilled mountaineers, the Sherpas work has grown more dangerous every year. Tales of customers who demand to reach the summit at all costs have grown more commonplace. The local economy has grown significantly and the Sherpas who assist climbers or carry their supplies are paid very well, but the deaths last week were another sign that the Sherpas may need to have more ability to impose their judgment on the expeditions that they undertake and so more than two-thirds of Sherpas working in jobs related to climbing the mountain have gone on strike. A list of demands was presented to Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism which agreed to some of the conditions on Tuesday such as increasing the insurance rates from about $410 to $15,000 and creating a memorial and a fund for the families of the lost guides, but has yet to respond to other demands.

See “Sherpas Move to Shut Everest in Labor Fight,” by Ellen Barry, Bhadra Sharma, & Nida Najar, The New York Times, Apr 24 2014 (BCS)

Coke shareholders OK plan to pay executives nearly $30B in stock

Coca-Cola won the approval of its shareholders to distribute $29.8 billion to the company’s managers with 83% of votes cast. Several voices sought to stay Coke’s plan, namely money manager David Winters and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan by arguing that pay packages have outpaced company growth and shareholder returns. The company’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, rebutted saying that paying executives with company stock was strongly in line with the company’s pay-for-performance philosophy. Mr. Kent had seen his total compensation drop from about $30.5 million in 2012 to $20.4 million in 2013. Although Warren Buffett, whose company owns about 9% of Coke, had said that the plan was “excessive”, Berkshire Hathaway did not participate in the vote.

See “Coca-Cola Wins Compensation Vote, Overcoming Winters’ Fight,” by Noah Buhayar & Laura Marcinek, Bloomberg News, Apr 24 2014 (BCS)

American Postal Workers Union expands rallies against Staples

The American Postal Workers Union is continuing to protest Staples stores and those protests are growing in size and frequency. The newest planned protests encompass 50 Staples stores in 27 states. The labor action comes after the USPS move to pilot selling some mail services at the office supply stores last November. The postal union, which represents about 220,000 active and retired USPS employees, has expanded its opposition by asking the California Federation of Teacher, which has about 120,000 members, to rally behind the union cause and boycott Staples until the risk to union jobs has been withdrawn.

See “Postal workers to protest at Staples,” by Jennifer Liberto, CNN Money, Apr 24 2014 (BCS)