Author Archives: afscme

Navigating the Threat of Pandemic Syllabus

Source: Duke University Press, 2020

Amid the worldwide spread of COVID-19, it’s a challenging time, and our thoughts are with those affected by this disease. In support and solidarity, we are providing free access to the following books and journal articles to help build knowledge and understanding of how we navigate the spread of communicable diseases.

Listed books are free to read online until June 1, 2020, and journal articles are free until October 1.

Breaking contracts over coronavirus: Can you argue it’s an ‘act of God’?

Source: Andrew Schwartz, The Conversation, March 31, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented countless people from fulfilling their contracts, from basketball players to babysitters. Could all of these people be sued for breach of contract, or are they excused due to this extraordinary event? What about payments made in advance, such as tickets bought for a concert that has now been canceled or a dorm room leased at a college that is now closed? ….

….Force majeure clauses are common in corporate contracts. They dictate which types of unexpected events will excuse performance and how to deal with payments already made or other losses. The precise wording of these clauses is key. Some might expressly mention pandemics or government orders, while others might not. Similarly, some clauses might call for full restitution, while others might provide for 50% refunds or no refund at all. Whatever the force majeure clause says will displace the ordinary rules of impossibility and restitution.

The contract between the NBA and its players, for example, includes a force majeure clause that specifically covers epidemics. It states that basketball teams can withhold part of their players’ salaries for each canceled game, and ESPN reported that the league was considering it. ….

Walkouts Spread as Workers Seek Coronavirus Protections

Source: Dan DiMaggio, Saurav Sarkar, Labor Notes, March 26, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here’s a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Can I Get Fired for Talking about Virus Risks?

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, March 31, 2020

Many workers still on the job during this pandemic are upset about their working conditions. But can you get in trouble for talking about your concerns—to your co-workers, on social media, or to the newspaper?

In a word: no. Not legally, anyway.

Below is a short run-down of your legal right to organize around wages, hours, and working conditions, even if you don’t have a union—and if you do have a union, your additional protection under your contract.

Let’s be real—employers have been known to break laws and contracts, and the bureaucratic remedies (court cases, grievances) are slow. But often threats are just meant to silence you. Showing that you know your rights may be enough to get management to back off its threats….

Related:
WEBINAR: Organizing without a Union During the Coronavirus / Organizándose sin sindicato durante el coronavirus
Source: Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, March 27, 2020

New federal sick leave law – who’s eligible, who’s not and how many weeks do you get

Source: Elizabeth C. Tippett, The Conversation, March 19, 2020

On March 18, President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. The legislation is an emergency intervention to provide paid leave and other support to millions of workers sidelined by school closures, quarantines and caregiving.

An obvious question you’re probably wondering is, “How will it affect me?”

The bad news is that the law does not provide blanket coverage for all workers. Instead, it’s a confusing mess – legislative Swiss cheese, full of exceptions and gradations that affect whether you are covered, for how long and how much pay you can expect to receive.

I study employment law and have combed through the bill to make sense of it. The law also provides emergency funding for unemployment insurance and subsidizes some employer health care premiums, but my focus here is on the core elements pertaining to sick and family leave.

Here’s what I learned.

Examining the Employment Profile of Institutions Under the Mission-Driven Classification System and the Impact of Collective Bargaining

Source: Louis Shedd, Stephen G. Katsinas, Nathaniel Bray, Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy, Vol. 11, Issue 1, 2020

From the abstract:
The focus of this study is an analysis of institutions, salary expenditures, employment categories (full-time professors by academic rank), and number and average pay of full-time faculty. Our new mission-driven classification system provides the framework for the analysis and specifically presents the data by both the presence or lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The goal of this paper is to illustrate differences in monetary compensation of full time faculty using the mission-driven classification system (as opposed to the Carnegie Classification) and to see the impact of the presence or lack of collective bargaining agreements. We argue that the Carnegie Classification is not how state officials–governors, legislators, and the general public view higher education in America. We argue that a public frame is needed to understand, support, and advance public higher education. We present data that shows difference by geographic type (rural, suburban, urban) for a much more precise understanding of how collective bargaining impacts faculty salaries.

The Aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME: An Ongoing Assault on Public Sector Unions

Source: Ann Hodges, American Constitution Society, ACS Issue Brief, March 2020

From the summary:
With the Supreme Court having overruled precedent and declared public sector “fair share” fees unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME, anti-union forces now have a new target: repayment of the fees paid to unions prior to the 2018 decision. Arguing that Janus should be retroactive, these advocates are seeking “millions of dollars from public sector unions, money collected in compliance with existing laws and already spent on representing employees.”

In a new ACS Issue Brief, Ann Hodges, Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond School of Law, explains the history of these restitution claims and why they are legally dubious. Hodges also questions whether “the employee plaintiffs in these cases [are] acting out of moral conviction and righteous motives or [if] they [are] being used by powerful interests to defeat the efforts of working people to join together collectively to combat the power of wealthy individuals and corporate actors.”

Healthcare employees concerned about profit, clients during COVID-19 outbreak

Source: Morgan Frey, S&P Global, March 27, 2020

More than half of healthcare workers are confident that consumer demand for their products and services will not decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, although some warned their businesses were facing serious challenges, according to a survey. The Voice of the Enterprise survey was conducted by 451 Research LLC, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, between March 10 and March 19 and represents 820 responses. Of the healthcare employees surveyed, 54.8% said they did not expect a loss or reduction of customer demand, which was higher than any other industry in the survey. S&P Global Ratings expects the coronavirus’ impact on the healthcare sector will be “moderate” versus other industries.

Related:
S&P: For-profit hospitals may weather procedure cancellations amid COVID-19
Source: Ricky Zipp, S&P Global, March 26, 2020

Most for-profit hospitals should have enough liquidity to overcome the next three to six months of volume declines as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stress health systems and take a toll on the U.S. economy, according to S&P Global Ratings analysts.

Not-For-Profit Acute Care Sector Outlook Revised To Negative Reflecting Possible Prolonged COVID-19 Impact
Source: S&P Global Ratings, March 25, 2020
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Key Takeaways:

  • We have revised our not-for-profit acute health care sector outlook to negative due to the quickly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent investment market deterioration which could pressure credit quality.
  • We believe certain credits, especially those with healthy unrestricted reserves and liquidity, may be better able to manage through this crisis.
  • Duration, location, and severity will be important considerations in determining the broader impact of this pandemic on the sector.

Pension investment losses are poised to inflict material damage on US municipal credit

Source: Moody’s, March 24, 2020
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Recent US public pension investment losses are likely to severely compound the pension liability challenge facing many state and local governments. At the same time, the economic fallout from the coronavirus is reducing revenue levels and threatening the ability of governments to afford higher pension costs.

Coronavirus-driven filing extension will delay income tax revenue, but states have resources to bridge the gap

Source: Moody’s, March 27, 2020
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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the deadline for filing federal income taxes and tax payments by three months, and many if not all states that levy personal income taxes will follow suit. States will therefore receive a large portion of their income tax revenue in July rather than April, which will force them to make adjustments to bridge budget gaps, but most have considerable financial flexibility to blunt the credit-negative effects of the delays.