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Labor contest seeks the bummer bosses

WASHINGTON - The labor movement is asking workers to shift beefs about their bosses from the water cooler to the Web.

Working America, the AFL-CIO union federation's affiliate for nonunion workers, invited workers throughout the country yesterday to share their best stories about their worst bosses in its "My Bad Boss Contest."

Top prize is a week's vacation.

"It's an opportunity for people to get this off their chests and to see what's happening out there and to shine a spotlight on this," said Working America Executive Director Karen Nussbaum.

It's also an opportunity for the worker advocacy group, which has more than 1 million members, to pick up new members, since contestants must go to workingamerica.org to enter.

Standing by to weigh in with on-line comments about the worst-boss stories are author Barbara Ehrenreich, who chronicled the plight of the working poor in "Nickel and Dimed," comedian-tuned-liberal-talk-show-host Al Franken, and liberal commentator Jim Hightower.

Voting for the best worst-boss stories will be done by Web readers over the next six weeks. Each week's top vote-getter will be eligible to compete for the grand prize, a seven-night vacation getaway and $1,000 for a round trip air fare, to be revealed by Aug. 16

Leading vote-getters as of yesterday were:

``Russ," whose table-thumping boss at a small Maryland company nixed bonuses, cut overtime, and ordered managers to ``instill fear" in workers to boost productivity, all because a competing company's owner had a more expensive car.

``Graphics Girl," who left her Pennsylvania media company, and was publicly berated for doing so, after 10 years, including the last five in which she worked 50 to 80 hours a week without overtime pay and often without seeing her children. ``I missed birthdays and health and years of seasons' changing since my office was in a basement with no windows, all for nothing," she wrote.

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