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1999 / 2000 REVIEW & OUTLOOK

People to Watch in 2000

22 Movers and Shakers Likely to Reshape Business and the Economy

January 02, 2000|NANCY CLEELAND

Who will make big news in the business world this year? Who will emerge from relative obscurity to become a major player? To start the new year, Times business reporters selected people from their beats who they believe will be among those to watch in 2000--in Southern California, across the country and around the world. Some are well known, having made big news in previous years. Others are not exactly household names but nevertheless are likely to make a major impact in their fields.

Of course, there's no way to predict just what's going to happen in the next 12 months. Nor can any such list be complete--there's always the come-from-nowhere phenom who'll surprise everyone. But it's a good bet that if you follow the fortunes of these 22, you'll see the top business stories of 2000 unfold.

Labor Leader John Wilhelm

Part of a cadre of smart, innovative and pragmatic thinkers who have re-energized the U.S. labor movement, John Wilhelm reformed a sagging union of hotel and restaurant workers and made it one of the fastest growing in the private sector.

Now the Yale-educated general president of the 250,000-member Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union has been asked to help guide the umbrella labor federation AFL-CIO through difficult terrain as it reexamines its policies on undocumented immigrant workers.

Wilhelm is chairing a hastily formed AFL-CIO committee that will consider whether to call for a repeal of so-called employer sanctions. The sanctions, created under a 1986 federal law with strong backing from labor, criminalized the act of hiring illegal immigrants. The goal was to penalize bad employers, but organizers who work with immigrants say that instead the law is often used to fire workers who agitate for a union or better working conditions.

Wilhelm's committee will make a recommendation to the AFL-CIO executive council in February--giving labor plenty of time to force the controversial issue into the presidential campaign. If anyone can find a diplomatic way to do that, it's Wilhelm, 53, who joined the movement as an organizer 30 years ago.

He earned a reputation as a coalition builder while serving on the National Gambling Impact Study Commission from 1997 to 1999, and gets respect even from those he's battled at the negotiating table.

Wilhelm also may become a familiar figure in Los Angeles this year as his union helps fund a major organizing drive targeting luxury hotels in Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles.

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