News in Brief

March 03, 2004 1 min read

Fed Chairman Stresses Value of Education

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan says U.S. elementary and secondary schools need to improve in teaching basic skills such as mathematics and science if the nation is to remain competitive in the fast-changing global economy.

In a Feb. 20 speech in Omaha, Neb., the chairman said that American workers would benefit more over the long run from better education and skills than from protectionist trade policies.

“Many of our students languish at too low a level of skill,” Mr. Greenspan told attendees at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, according to a text of his speech. The economy is becoming more “conceptual,” he added. Workers in the United States will need to be better trained to compete for good jobs, and having a skilled workforce available to employers will sustain the economy and promote innovation in the long run, the chairman added. Mr. Greenspan held up community colleges as vital to retraining adult workers for more challenging jobs.

—Sean Cavanagh

Supreme Court Clarifies Age-Discrimination Law

The federal law barring on-the-job age discrimination was not meant to protect relatively younger workers from being treated less favorably than their older colleagues, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 last week.

In General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. v. Cline (Case No. 02-1080), the court held that a labor agreement that cut retirement benefits for workers who were under 50 at the time did not violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Workers at the defense contractor who were at least 40, and thus protected by the act, sued on the grounds that denying them benefits available to older workers was illegal age discrimination.

"[T]he statute does not mean to stop an employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one,” Justice David H. Souter said on Feb. 24 in the majority opinion, from which Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The National Education Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that a ruling going the other way would throw into question school district policies offering incentives for early retirement.

—Caroline Hendrie