The practice of preparation for complex negotiations

Source: Morten Lindholst, Anne Marie Bülow, Ray Fells, Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation, OnlineFirst, Published February 21, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Negotiators are routinely exhorted to prepare well, but what do they do in practice? This article draws on data collected as a team of negotiators prepared their strategy during the lengthy negotiations over a major power generation infrastructure contract. Using a framework that we developed using terms from the literature, the team’s preparation meetings were observed and then analysed for content, timing and changes in participation.

It is shown that the standard checklist notion of preparation needs to be reconsidered as a multilevel, dynamic concept that changes in character over time. Far from just a first stage, the team’s continued preparation occurred in feedback meetings after rounds of negotiation at the table, between negotiation sessions and immediately before the next round of negotiations, and progress was seen to hinge on the differentiation of the preparation. Consequently, this long-term study provides insight into a key element of any general theory of negotiation while also suggesting implications for practitioners working with negotiating teams.

Social Security Is a Great Equalizer

Source: Wenliang Hou and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, IB#20-2, January 2020

The brief’s key findings are:

  • As the U.S. grows more diverse, it is important to understand how much Social Security affects the relative economic status of retirees by race/ethnicity.
  • This analysis uses the Health and Retirement Study to examine Social Security as a share of retirement wealth for whites, blacks, and Hispanics during 1992-2016.
  • Without Social Security, a typical white household has 5 to 7 times the wealth of a minority household, but adding in Social Security reduces the gap to 2 to 3.
  • Social Security has a similar leveling effect across the wealth distribution, but is particularly important for lower- and middle-income households.
  • Social Security reduces inequality because it covers nearly all workers and has a progressive benefit design, making it the most equal form of retirement wealth.

Measuring Racial/Ethnic Retirement Wealth Inequality

Source: Wenliang Hou and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, WP#2020-2, January 2020

From the abstract:
As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, it will be increasingly important for policymakers addressing Social Security’s solvency to understand how reliant various racial and ethnic groups will be on the program versus other sources of retirement wealth. Yet, to date, studies on retirement wealth have tended not to focus on race and ethnicity, have largely ignored the role of Social Security, or have excluded the most recent cohort approaching retirement – the Late Boomers. This project uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to document the retirement resources of white, black, and Hispanic households at various points in the wealth distribution for five HRS cohorts of 51-56 year olds between 1992 and 2016.

The paper found that:

  • In 2016, the typical black household had 46 percent of the retirement wealth of the typical white household, while the typical Hispanic household had 49 percent.
  • This inequality would be much higher but for the presence of Social Security – black households had just 14 percent of the non-Social Security retirement wealth when compared to white households, and Hispanic households had just 20 percent.
  • The 1992 to 2010 HRS cohorts showed little change in retirement wealth inequality, although a decline in 51-56 year old white households’ retirement wealth between 2010 and 2016 narrowed the racial and ethnic gaps in retirement wealth slightly.
  • The progressivity of Social Security combined with lower average incomes for minority households means that replacement rates are more equal than wealth – in 2016, the replacement rate of black households was 82 percent of white households and Hispanic households was 95 percent.

The policy implications of the findings are:

  • Across-the-board benefit cuts, such as increases in the Full Retirement Age, will have an outsize impact on black and Hispanic households’ retirement wealth.
  • As policymakers consider changes to the Social Security program to shore up its finances, considering ways to mitigate any impact on these groups may be important.

An Introduction to Police and Fire Pensions

Source: Jean-Pierre Aubry and Kevin Wandrei, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#69, February 2020

The brief’s key findings are:

  • Pension and retiree health benefits for public safety workers are more expensive than those of other local government workers, largely due to earlier retirement ages.
  • Perhaps surprisingly, though, their retirement benefits make up only a very small share of total local government spending.
  • Some evidence suggests that public safety workers could work longer, which may have implications for plans’ retirement age.
  • However, raising retirement ages would have little impact on government finances, particularly since it might involve higher wages to maintain a quality workforce.

The Power in Water Infrastructure

Source: Anne E. Sibree, Journal AWWA, Volume 112 Issue 2, February 2020
(subscription required)

Key Takeaways:

  • Municipalities, water districts, and the agricultural industry can use new streamlined hydropower authorizations and exemptions to offset business costs by producing hydroelectric energy.
  • Small hydropower opportunities include experimental and hydrokinetic projects, conduit projects, and projects relying on manmade dams or natural impoundments.
  • Hydropower is a clean energy that provides benefits at multiple levels, adding resilience to the energy grid with a lower carbon footprint.

Development and application of a noise‐hazard scheme for road maintainers

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Jennifer L. Garza, Jackie DiFrancesco, Alicia G. Dugan, Erica D. Walker, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 18, 2020

(subscription required)

From the abstract:

Background: Transportation road maintenance and repair workers, or “maintainers,” are exposed to hazardous and variable noise levels and often rely on hearing protection devices (HPD) to reduce noise‐exposure levels. We aimed to improve upon HPD use as part of the HearWell program that used a Total Worker Health, participatory approach to hearing conservation.
Methods: Full‐shift, personal noise sampling was performed during the routine task of brush cutting. Work activities and equipment were recorded and combined with 1‐min noise measures to summarize personal noise‐exposure levels by equipment. Using noise‐monitoring results, HPD noise reduction ratings, and input from worker‐based design teams, a noise‐hazard scheme was developed and applied to the task and equipment used during brush cutting.
Results: Average (standard deviation) and maximum Leq 1‐minute, personal noise‐exposure levels recorded during brush cutting included chainsaws at 92.1 (7.6) and max of 111 dBA, leaf blowers at 91.2 (7.5) and max 107 dBA, and wood chipper at 90.3 (7.3) and max of 104 dBA. The worker‐designed noise‐hazard scheme breaks down noise exposures into one of three color bands and exposure ranges: red (over 105 dBA), orange (90‐105 dBA), or yellow (85‐90 dBA). The scheme simplifies the identification of noise levels, assessment of noise‐hazard, and choice of appropriate hearing protection for workers.
Conclusion: Combining noise‐exposure assessment with intervention development using participatory methods, we characterized noise exposure and developed an intervention to educate and assist in protecting workers as they perform noisy tasks.

Workforce Capacity in Municipal Government

Source: Agustin Leon‐Moreta, Vittoria R. Totaro, Public Administration Review, Early View, First published: February 19, 2020

(subscription required)

From the abstract:

The central aim of this article is to examine trends in the municipal government workforce in metropolitan (urban) areas. It explores, from a local public economies perspective, how the intergovernmental organization of municipalities influences their workforce capacities. The article situates the local labor market in state‐local systems and examines how local governments respond to fragmentation in a metropolitan area. The main finding is that the employment capacity of municipalities varies widely across metro areas, with local and intergovernmental factors affecting municipal workforces and labor expenditures. Local capacities and the state’s labor framework appear to be influential in the level of government employment. Facing various challenges, municipalities adapt their workforce levels to changing conditions in urban areas. While its main contribution is to research on local government capacity, the article also draws from the intergovernmental literature to identify factors that influence the workforce capacity of municipal governments.

Prevalence of type II workplace violence among home healthcare workers: A meta‐analysis

Source: Ha Do Byon, Mijung Lee, Min Choi, Knar Sagherian, Mary Crandall, Jane Lipscomb, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: February 12, 2020

(subscription required)

From the abstract:

Background: Home healthcare workers (HHWs) provide medical and nonmedical services to home‐bound patients. They are at great risk of experiencing violence perpetrated by patients (type II violence). Establishing the reliable prevalence of such violence and identifying vulnerable subgroups are essential in enhancing HHWs’ safety. We, therefore, conducted meta‐analyses to synthesize the evidence for prevalence and identify vulnerable subgroups.


Methods: Five electronic databases were searched for journal articles published between 1 January 2005 and 20 March 2019. A total of 21 studies were identified for this study. Meta‐analyses of prevalence were conducted to obtain pooled estimates. Meta‐regression was performed to compare the prevalence between professionals and paraprofessionals.

Results: Prevalence estimates for HHWs were 0.223 for 12 months and 0.302 for over the career for combined violence types, 0.102 and 0.171, respectively, for physical violence, and 0.364 and 0.418, respectively, for nonphysical violence. The prevalence of nonphysical violence was higher than that of physical violence for professionals in 12 months (0.515 vs 0.135) and over the career (0.498 vs 0.224) and for paraprofessionals in 12 months (0.248 vs 0.086) and over the career (0.349 vs 0.113). Professionals reported significantly higher nonphysical violence for 12‐month prevalence than paraprofessionals did (0.515 vs 0.248, P = .015).


Conclusion: A considerable percentage of HHWs experience type II violence with higher prevalence among professionals. Further studies need to explore factors that can explain the differences in the prevalence between professionals and paraprofessionals. The findings provide support for the need for greater recognition of the violence hazard in the home healthcare workplace.

Hiring Challenges Confront Public-Sector Employers

Source: Mike Ramsey, SHRM, All Things Work, February 15, 2020

Only a few years ago, applying for a job with the Pennsylvania state government could be a daunting process. Posted jobs had vague, bureaucratic titles like “Administrative Officer 1.” Applicants had to take written exams at a testing center. Some waited months for a civil service commission to respond by mail before they could interview. Many had moved on by then. …. Things changed in early 2019, after state lawmakers agreed to streamline the 1940s-era system. Now, Walsh’s agency oversees a centralized website, where job seekers apply for positions that are more clearly defined. Testing and scoring is folded into the online application process, which administrators track closely. ….

U.S. Public Finance 2020 Outlook: A Precarious Balance

Source: Robin Prunty, Kurt Forsgren, David Bodek, Jane Ridley, Geoff Buswick, Jessica Wood, Ted Chapman Marian Zucker, Suzie Desai, S&P Global Ratings, January 2020

From the summary:
All sector outlooks are stable with the exception of Higher Education which continues with a negative outlook for the third year. The record economic expansion has translated to overall credit stability in U.S. Public Finance and we expect this to continue in 2020. Despite favorable economic and fiscal trends we do see a precarious balance for 2020 as key credit risks such as retirement liabilities, event risk disruptions, global aging, and pressing infrastructure needs present budget and policy challenges in 2020 and beyond. We will continue to highlight Environmental, Social and Governance issues, which could lead to both positive and negative credit influences.