Author Archives: afscme

Officers’ Physical and Mental Health and Safety: Emerging Issues and Recommendations

Source: Strategic Applications International, COPS-W0862, released: November 2018

From the abstract:  
The OSW Group’s April 2018 meeting expanded on previous discussions of ways to support officers’ emotional health and organizational wellness. This meeting focused particularly on line-of-duty deaths in felonious assaults as well as in accidents, mental health and suicide, and crisis hotlines and other programs. Families, community members, and others can contribute to the important work that is needed in this area by supporting officer safety and wellness, participating in conversations and programming, and working to reduce the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Stalking In The Workplace

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36 Issue 6, March 18, 2019
(subscription required)

An employee reports that a co-worker is making her uncomfortable. Despite repeatedly telling him she is not interested in any type of relationship with him, he regularly leaves presents on her desk. When you ask him about his behavior, he says they are just small things and he gives them to her only because he is sure they are something she will like. If you find yourself in a similar situation, your alarm bells should go off. Giving of unwanted presents is a characteristic often found in stalking situations….

Governors’ Top Education Priorities in 2019 State of the State Addresses

Source: Heidi Macdonald, Sarah Pompelia, Policy Report, March 2019

From the abstract:
A signature product, this special report is the result of tracking, analyzing and identifying trends in education policy proposals featured in governors’ State of the State addresses. Check out the six education priorities – school finance, workforce development, teaching quality, early learning, postsecondary financial aid and school safety – identified by governors across the states in 2019, as well as state highlights for each priority area.

Click here to access a more in-depth resource — searchable by year, state or issue — of State of the State addresses, starting at 2005.

How to Use Grievances to Organize

Source: Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, Labor Notes, March 8, 2019

The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure…..

Water and sewer affordability in the United States

Source: Manuel P. Teodoro, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 2, March/April 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The ability of low‐income families to pay for basic water and sewer services is a subject of increasing concern. Large‐scale assessments of affordability across large numbers of American utilities are rare, however, and are limited by poor measurement and biased samples. The present study uses improved metrics and data from an original, representative sample of water and sewer utilities in the United States to calculate the affordability of basic single‐family residential water and sewer service for low‐income households. Results indicate that low‐income households must spend an average of 9.7% of their disposable income and/or work 9.5 h at minimum wage to pay for basic monthly water and sewer service but also that these values vary considerably across the country. Community‐level demographic and economic data are used to identify some correlates of affordability. Region, utility size, and local income inequality emerge as strong correlates of affordability.

Income Stratification among Occupational Classes in the United States

Source: Xiang Zhou, Geoffrey T Wodtke, Social Forces, Vol, 97 no. 3, March 2019
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From the abstract:
Stratification and inequality are among the most central concepts in sociology, and although related, they are fundamentally distinct: inequality refers to the extent to which resources are distributed unevenly across individuals or between population subgroups, whereas stratification refers to the extent to which population subgroups occupy distinct hierarchical layers within an overall resource distribution. Despite the centrality of stratification in theories of class structure, prior empirical studies have focused exclusively on measures of inequality, which do not accurately capture the degree of class stratification and suffer from a variety of methodological limitations. In this paper, we employ a novel rank-based index of stratification to measure the degree to which occupational classes inhabit distinct, non-overlapping, and hierarchically arranged layers in the distribution of personal market income. The stratification index is nonparametric, both scale and translation invariant, and independent of the level of inequality. Based on this index, our results show that the US income distribution is highly stratified by occupational class and that the degree of class stratification increased substantially from 1980 to 2016. Moreover, we find that this trend is almost entirely due to growing stratification among aggregate occupational classes rather than among the disaggregate occupations nested within them. Finally, a set of counterfactual analyses indicate that the rise of occupational class stratification is driven by increases in the income returns to education, deunionization, and deindustrialization, although the relative importance of these factors varies by gender.

Does Increasing Racial Minority Representation Contribute to Overall Organizational Performance? The Role of Organizational Mission and Diversity Climate

Source: Hongseok Lee, The American Review of Public Administration, Early View, March 10, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
One underexplored question in the representative bureaucracy literature is whether public employees advocate for their demographic groups at the expense of other groups or their organizational roles. Many studies have focused on the link between passive representation, or the extent to which the public workforce reflects the demographic characteristics of its clients, and active representation, or the extent to which policies advance the interests of those people. However, little research has been done on whether and when increased representation by a certain group enhances overall organizational performance. This study examines the relationship between racial minority representation in U.S. federal agencies and the agencies’ goal achievement while considering the moderating role of organizational mission and diversity climate. The panel data analysis shows that increased minority representation lowers agencies’ goal achievement. However, a positive relationship exists between the two in agencies that mainly work to promote social equity for disadvantaged populations and foster a positive diversity climate in the workplace. These findings suggest that racial minority employees can better contribute to organizational success in agencies where they balance advocacy and organizational roles well and they are treated fairly and respectfully.

Scaling Down Inequality: Rating Scales, Gender Bias, and the Architecture of Evaluation

Source: Lauren A. Rivera, András Tilcsik, American Sociological Review, Early View, March 12, 2019
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From the abstract:
Quantitative performance ratings are ubiquitous in modern organizations—from businesses to universities—yet there is substantial evidence of bias against women in such ratings. This study examines how gender inequalities in evaluations depend on the design of the tools used to judge merit. Exploiting a quasi-natural experiment at a large North American university, we found that the number of scale points used in faculty teaching evaluations—whether instructors were rated on a scale of 6 versus a scale of 10—significantly affected the size of the gender gap in evaluations in the most male-dominated fields. A survey experiment, which presented all participants with an identical lecture transcript but randomly varied instructor gender and the number of scale points, replicated this finding and suggested that the number of scale points affects the extent to which gender stereotypes of brilliance are expressed in quantitative ratings. These results highlight how seemingly minor technical aspects of performance ratings can have a major effect on the evaluation of men and women. Our findings thus contribute to a growing body of work on organizational practices that reduce workplace inequalities and the sociological literature on how rating systems—rather than being neutral instruments—shape the distribution of rewards in organizations.

Hiding in Plain Sight: PAC-Connected Activists Set Up ‘Local News’ Outlets

Source: Alex Kasprak, Bethania Palma, Snopes, March 4, 2019

On 6 February 2017, a website of uncertain origin named “The Tennessee Star” was born. At the time, it was unclear who funded or operated this “local newspaper,” which was largely filled with freely licensed content from organizations tied to conservative mega-donors. After some prodding by Politico in early 2018, the Tennessee Star revealed its primary architects to be three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri.

Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests. Gill, for example, is the political editor of the Tennessee Star, but he also owns a media consulting company that at least one candidate and one Political Action Committee (PAC) paid before receiving positive coverage in the Tennessee Star. Several Star writers have in the past or currently work for PACs or political campaigns that they write about, without disclosing that fact. Though its owners claim that the Tennessee Star is funded by advertising revenue, it appears to be supported by wealthy benefactors. Whatever the Tennessee Star is, it is not a local newspaper producing transparent journalism.

But this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.

OPEB Brief: The Credit Impacts Of OPEB Obligation Bonds

Source: S&P Global Ratings, March 11, 2019
(subscription required)

Other postemployment benefit (OPEB) underfunding of obligations is pervasive across U.S. state and local governments, and costs are likely to continue to rise rapidly. Although, compared with pensions, these obligations may have some more flexibility in how they’re provided, we recognize that funded levels are almost universally lower than those of pensions and could quickly become a challenge to budgets if not addressed. With the implementation of Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements Nos. 74 and 75, many governments are seeing large new OPEB liabilities on their balance sheets that are growing due to insufficient contributions (see “Credit FAQ: New GASB Statements 74 And 75 Provide Transparency For Assessing Budgetary Stress On U.S. State & Local Government OPEBs,” published March 14, 2018, on RatingsDirect). In response, governments are looking to OPEB obligation bonds (OOBs) as a way to address funding concerns. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the OOB, issuance could have rating implications.