NLRB Actions Increasingly Target Nonunion-Employer Policy Provisions

Source: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, Employment Relations Today, Volume 41, Issue 1, Spring 2014
(subscription required)

Facing a sharp decline in union membership and dwindling labor activity threatening both its dockets and its budget, the National Labor relations Board (NLRB) seems to be redefining itself in an apparent bid to remain relevant outside the world of organized labor. Unfortunately for nonunion employers, it is doing this by taking more aggressive steps to remind them that the National Labor relations act (NLRA) protects not only an employee’s right – both union and nonunion alike – to engage in certain activity, including the right to discuss terms and conditions of employment. One strategy that is sending shockwaves across nonunionized workplaces is the NLRB’s targeting of the ubiquitous employee handbook as a vehicle to enure that everyday policies and practices in no way restrict and employee’s right to engage in protected activity under the NLRA.

To that end, the NLRB has been scrutinizing standard policies, including social-media and confidentiality policies, to determine whether they are so vague and overbroad that an employee may reasonably believe that abiding by the policy will “chill” or restrict the employee’s right to discuss working conditions with coworkers. Most significantly, the NLRB will find a policy unlawful under the NLRA not only if it interfered with an employee’s ability to engage in protected activity, but also if the policy merely had the potential to do so…..

Educational Attainment and Earnings Inequality among US-Born Men: A Lifetime Perspective

Source: Josh Mitchell, Urban Institute, April 2014

From the abstract:
This report tracks the lifetime earnings of men born in the U.S. between 1940 and 1974, focusing on how earnings differences by educational attainment, age, and year of birth have evolved. Both annual and lifetime earnings inequality increased dramatically for men born in the mid-1950s onward. That increase reflects both absolute earnings gains to highly educated workers (especially those with more than a four-year college degree) and absolute earnings losses to less educated workers. Earnings inequality also increases substantially among those with the same level of educational attainment, complicating standard assumptions about the lifetime value of a college degree.

Benefits of a Department of Corrections Partnership With a Health Sciences University – New Jersey’s Experience

Source: Rusty Reeves, Arthur Brewer, Lisa DeBilio, Christopher Kosseff, Jeff Dickert, Journal of Correctional Health Care, Vol. 20 no. 2, April 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
More than half of the state prisons in the United States outsource health care. While most states contract with private companies, a small number of states have reached out to their health science universities to meet their needs for health care of prisoners. New Jersey is the most recent state to form such an agreement. This article discusses the benefits of such a model for New Jersey’s Department of Corrections and for New Jersey’s health sciences university, the Rutgers University, formerly the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The benefits for both institutions should encourage other states to participate in such affiliations.

Altruism by Job Sector: Can Public Sector Employees Lead the Way in Rebuilding Social Capital?

Source: Jaclyn Schede Piatak, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, First published online: April 2, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The face of public service continues to evolve as government copes with increasingly complex societal problems and changing means of service delivery. Public managers are now challenged to oversee programs that cut across sectors and organizational boundaries, and people carrying out the government’s work can be found across all sectors—government, nonprofit, and for-profit. Unlike those in previous generations, younger individuals see opportunities to engage in public service in nonprofit and for-profit organizations, which has undoubtedly affected the ability of government agencies to recruit and retain those with public service values. Have opportunities to engage in public service across sectors made differences between public, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations irrelevant? Are public and nonprofit employees any different from those in for-profit organizations, especially when it comes to public service values? Understanding why individuals engage in public service is arguably more important than ever as social capital and civic engagement decline. This article draws upon the “other-oriented” aspect of public service and builds upon the work of Brewer … and Houston … to examine the impact of sector on one area of prosocial behavior: volunteering. This article employs data from the September Volunteer Supplement of the 2011 Current Population Survey to examine how both formal and informal volunteering varies across sectors—public, nonprofit, and for-profit—as well as across levels of government—federal, state, and local. This study finds that government and nonprofit sector employees tend to volunteer more than their for-profit sector counterparts, but there are important nuances when taking work schedule, levels of government, and additional measures of volunteering into account.

What 19th-Century Populists Can Teach Americans about the Roots of Partisan Dysfunction

Source: J.S. Maloy, Scholars Strategy Network, SSN Basic Facts, April 2014

Citizen disgust with partisan trench warfare has soared in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, more Americans now identify as independents than as either Democrats or Republicans. Yet the electoral prospects of independent candidates and the policy prospects of reforms favored by independents remain low. Why?

The United States has seen this movie before. The People’s Party was founded in 1891 by disgruntled Democrats and Republicans who wanted to do something about partisan dysfunction. Unlike the better-known progressive reformers that gained visibility later, the Populists regarded partisan polarization and gridlock not as a defect of character or a rash of incivility but as grounded in more serious maladies – plutocracy, culture war, and electoral duopoly…

Tackling unstable and unpredictable work schedules: A Policy Brief on Guaranteed Minimum Hours and Reporting Pay Policies

Source: Center for Law and Social Policy, Retail Action Project, and Women Employed, 2014

From the press release:
A new report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Retail Action Project (RAP), and Women Employed released today reveals that the unstable and unpredictable work schedules faced by many hourly wage workers have serious implications for families, women, caregivers, communities, as well as businesses and consumer spending. The report highlights model employer practices, as well two policy approaches that would lift up the economy and create more economy-boosting jobs that provide enough for workers to make ends meet. Tackling Unstable and Unpredictable Work Schedules examines the recent trend toward “just-in-time” scheduling practices, where employers create jobs that schedule workers based on hour by hour consumer demand. It provides solutions implemented by companies voluntarily and through bargaining agreements such as guaranteed minimum weekly hours and advance notice policies, and provides an overview of states’ laws requiring employers to pay a set amount even if they send a worker home early or decide the worker is not needed for a shift (i.e. reporting pay). Both types of policies provide crucial stability and predictable income levels for workers, and also lower turnover for businesses. However, widespread implementation, strengthening and stronger of enforcement of such laws is needed to ensure these policies are successful….

Appendix 2:
Collective Bargaining Agreements with Reporting Pay Clauses

Following are examples of collective bargaining agreements that include reporting pay clauses. These are the product of a broad Internet search and are not meant to be an exhaustive list…

Medicaid And Marketplace Eligibility Changes Will Occur Often In All States; Policy Options Can Ease Impact

Source: Benjamin D. Sommers, John A. Graves, Katherine Swartz, and Sara Rosenbaum, Health Affairs, Vol. 43 no. 4, April 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), changes in income and family circumstances are likely to produce frequent transitions in eligibility for Medicaid and health insurance Marketplace coverage for low- and middle-income adults. We provide state-by-state estimates of potential eligibility changes (“churning”) if all states expanded Medicaid under health reform, and we identify predictors of rates of churning within states. Combining longitudinal survey data with state-specific weighting and small-area estimation techniques, we found that eligibility changes occurred frequently in all fifty states. Higher-income states and states that had more generous Medicaid eligibility criteria for nonelderly adults before the ACA experienced more churning, although the differences were small. Even in states with the least churning, we estimated that more than 40 percent of adults likely to enroll in Medicaid or subsidized Marketplace coverage would experience a change in eligibility within twelve months. Policy options for states to reduce the frequency and impact of coverage changes include adopting twelve-month continuous eligibility for adults in Medicaid, creating a Basic Health Program, using Medicaid funds to subsidize Marketplace coverage for low-income adults, and encouraging the same health insurers to offer plans in Medicaid and the Marketplaces.

What’s a Union For?

Source: Carla Murphy, Colorlines, April 16, 2014

Labor unions in the U.S. are at a crossroads and workers of color—particularly women, and immigrants— figure prominently in how well they move forward. Big labor, now down to representing only about one in every 10 American workers, knows this. But incorporating immigrants and non-union and unemployed workers will also mean addressing their community issues, too—like mass incarceration and immigration reform. And for many young workers facing a bleaker present and future than many current pensioners, advancing non-workplace issues affecting low-income and working class people of color makes the difference between joining up or observing from a distance. Some unions get that. And that’s all some young workers are demanding…. How unions use (or, don’t use) their organizing power was a key theme among young workers of color and young whites, too, at a recent Chicago labor conference attended by 3,000 rank-and-file members from around the country. In an era of cutbacks in jobs, public services, wages and, until recently, healthcare, a union’s willingness to represent the hard issues facing their generation and all working communities appears to matter even more. It is not enough to work for members’ on-the-job concerns, only….

How a Small County in California Went Grid Positive

Source: Laurie Guevara-​Stone, Rocky Mountain Institute, RMI Outlet blog, April 16, 2014

California is known for being a leader in solar energy, but a small county in Northern California has taken things a step further. It has become the first county government in the state to not only zero-out its electric bill with renewable energy, but also to become grid positive. Yolo County (population 200,000), just west of Sacramento County, now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses…. Working with SunPower, Yolo County installed a 1-megawatt solar power system at the Yolo County Justice Campus in the county seat, Woodland. Yolo County owns the system and associated renewable energy credits, and financed the purchase using multiple funding sources, including a $2.5 million loan from the California Energy Commission, and clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The system produced $162,000 the first year of operation, and is predicted to earn the county $10 million over the first 25 years….