Author Archives: afscme

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

Source: James Walker, Labor Notes, September 20, 2017

Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.

Munson nurses tried to organize years earlier, unsuccessfully. “I was involved in the effort to organize 15 years ago,” said critical care pool RN Dagmar Cunningham. “Since then benefits have decreased and the workload due to sicker patients has increased. Something had to change.”

This time around, we succeeded. How did we do it?. ….

Employment trends by typical entry-level education requirement

Source: Audrey L. Watson, U.S. Department of Labor, Monthly Labor Review, September 2017

From May 2007 to May 2010, the U.S. economy lost nearly 7.4 million jobs in occupations that typically require a high school diploma or no formal educational credential for entry. In contrast, the economy had no statistically significant employment change in occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry. During the recovery, the economy gained jobs in almost all the typical entry-level education categories. By May 2016, employment exceeded May 2007 levels for occupations that typically require no formal educational credential for entry and occupations that typically require postsecondary education. However, employment in occupations that typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent for entry remained nearly 1.3 million lower than in May 2007. This trend is projected to continue. From 2014 to 2024, occupations that typically require a high school diploma for entry are projected to grow more slowly than average, causing a further employment shift away from these occupations and toward occupations that typically require postsecondary education.

Fetal death rate in Flint rose 58% after lead crisis

Source: George Diepenbrock, Futurity, September 21, 2017

Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis resulted in fewer babies born there—the result of reduced fertility rates and higher fetal death rates—compared to other Michigan cities during that time, research shows.

Since 2014, Flint—which was once an automobile manufacturing powerhouse outside of Detroit—has faced a major public health emergency due to lead poisoning in the local water supply when the city temporarily used the Flint River as its primary source. The crisis has affected thousands of residents, and some officials in Michigan face criminal charges related to events there. ….

Related:
The Effect of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan
Source: Daniel Grossman and David Slusky, University of Kansas, Working Papers Series in Theoretical and Applied Economics, No 201703, August 7, 2017

From the abstract:
Flint changed its public water source in April 2014, increasing lead exposure. The effects of lead in water on fertility and birth outcomes are not well established. Exploiting variation in the timing of births we find fertility rates decreased by 12%, fetal death rates increased by 58% (a selection effect from a culling of the least healthy fetuses), and overall health at birth decreased (from scarring), compared to other cities in Michigan. Given recent efforts to establish a registry of residents exposed, these results suggests women who miscarried, had a stillbirth or had a newborn with health complications should register.

Surveying the Home Care Workforce: Their Challenges & The Positive Impact of Unionization

Source: Anastasia Christman, Caitlin Connolly, National Employment Law Project (NELP), Data Brief, September 22, 2017

From the summary:
In the closing months of 2016, we asked home care workers (i.e., caregivers who provide non-medical in-home assistance with daily living tasks such as mobility, eating, dressing, toileting, and bathing) to participate in an online survey about their jobs and their lives. More than 3,000 workers located in 47 states and the District of Columbia responded to a short survey; 2,600 of them went on to complete a second, more detailed section. These responses reveal an experienced and committed workforce that puts in long hours caring for consumers but receives unsustainably low pay and few benefits. A sizeable percentage of respondents are treated as independent contractors and may be misclassified. These workers are overwhelmingly women of color, many of whom are in their prime earning years. Despite the importance of the work they do, they frequently have to supplement their home care work with other jobs to make ends meet.

In addition to examining the experience of the workforce as a whole, we also compared the responses of unionized versus non-unionized home care workers. In doing so, we found several trends that speak to the difference that unionization makes—not only for home care workers but for the consumers they care for as well. To gain additional insight into the impact of home care unionization, we conducted phone interviews with four unionized home care workers whose stories are included in this report…..

Graham-Cassidy ACA Repeal Bill Would Cause Huge Premium Increases for People with Pre-Existing Conditions

Source: Sam Berger and Emily Gee, Center for American Progress, September 18, 2017

With only two weeks left to move forward with a partisan health care repeal bill, some Senate Republicans are trying one last time to rip coverage from millions of Americans. Their latest effort, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would make devastating cuts to Medicaid and cut and eventually eliminate funding that helps people in the individual insurance market afford coverage, leading to at least 32 million fewer people having coverage after 2026.

Those who did not lose coverage would see their premiums increase significantly. In the first year, premiums would increase by 20 percent. But the increases would be even greater for people with pre-existing conditions because the bill would let insurers in the individual market charge a premium markup based on health status and history, which could increase their premiums by tens of thousands of dollars…..

Organizational Restructuring in US Healthcare Systems: Implications for Jobs, Wages, and Inequality

Source: Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), September 2017

From the summary:
The healthcare sector is one of the most important sources of jobs in the economy. Healthcare spending reached $3.2 trillion in 2015 or 17.8 percent of GDP and accounted for 12.8 percent of private sector jobs. It was the only industry that consistently added jobs during the Great Recession. In 2016, the private sector healthcare industry, which is the focus of this report, added 381,000 private sector jobs, the most of any industry. It is a particularly important source of employment for workers without a college degree, most of whom, as we document in this report, earn low wages.

This report describes how organizational restructuring is affecting the job opportunities and wages of healthcare workers. We focus on changing employment and wages in hospitals and outpatient clinics, where the most profound restructuring is occurring. Over the last decade or more, hospitals have restructured the organization of care delivery in response to major technological advances, regulatory changes, and financial pressures. This restructuring has occurred at two levels: the consolidation of hospitals and providers into larger healthcare systems on the one hand; and the decentralization of services and the movement of jobs to outpatient facilities on the other. Outpatient care facilities include a wide range of services — from primary care centers to specialized units such as urgent care centers, ambulatory surgery centers, free-standing emergency rooms, dialysis facilities, trauma and burn units, and other specialty clinics. These organizational changes began before the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), but have accelerated considerably since then, and are likely to continue even as the ACA is revamped in the future.

This shift to outpatient care centers offers benefits to patients — convenience as well as opportunities for preventative care — and most healthcare providers and unions have supported the move to more community-based care. But in this report, we show that workers are bearing the costs of this organizational restructuring.

Related:
Supplement
Press release

Without Strong Unions, Middle-Class Families Bring Home a Smaller Share

Source: Alex Rowell and David Madland, Center for American Progress, September 14, 2017

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in 2016, the median U.S. household earned $59,039, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year. Seven years after the end of the Great Recession, the median household’s income has approximately recovered to its pre-recession level, when adjusted for inflation, but has effectively remained stagnant since the late 1990s.

Middle-class households are not seeing the high levels of income growth that are being enjoyed by America’s highest-income earners. Furthermore, the share of income that is earned by the middle 60 percent of households, by income, has fallen to record lows. A revitalized union movement could help reverse the decades-long trend of growing inequality and a shrinking middle class. But anti-union attacks at the state and national levels threaten to further tilt our nation’s economy against workers…..

The President’s House Is Empty: Losing and Gaining Public Goods

Source: Boston Review, Forum III, 2017
(subscription required)

Many of the critical issues of our time—from clean water to health care to schools—are about public goods, things that are owed to the members of a democratic society. In the United States, these goods are endangered and access to them is constricted by class and race. Against this background, Trump’s nearly empty White House stands as a symbol of the crisis our democracy faces. In this Forum we consider public goods: what they are, how to provide them, how to ensure equitable access. The debate about public goods is at heart a debate about what it means to be an American. What is at stake is not only what we owe to each other but who we are.

Articles include:
Losing and Gaining Public Goods
K. Sabeel Rahman

To build a tangible, inclusive, meaningful, and durable community, we must begin with public goods….

Free College for All
Marshall Steinbaum

The movement for free college has gained considerable momentum in the past year, in no small part thanks to the sad state in which many college graduates currently find themselves. …. The United States has never had free, high-quality college education. But that does not mean we can’t. In the past, we have included world-class public education in our understanding of public goods, and we have successfully expanded public education on the premise that society as a whole benefits from a well-educated population. Previous generations and social movements fought hard to create good educational institutions at public expense. The current generation is discovering why that matters. ….

A Public Good Gone Bad: On Policing
Tracey Meares

….However, the best way to solve the epidemic of police violence against black Americans is far from obvious, and it should not be surprising that the solutions advanced by communities of color often run counter to conventional solutions. In some communities marked by extreme levels of violent crime—those one would think most in need of police—residents are calling for a complete and total end to policing….

Draining the Swamp: On Mar-a-Lago
Julian C. Chambliss

….Mar-a-Lago is the apotheosis of the Florida Dream in which wealthy interests degrade the environment and hollow out prospects for the poor. But as Hurricane Irma shows, this dream was never sustainable….

The Third Rail
Elaine Kamarck

….Although we are a long way from the pioneer era, a nation’s DNA dies hard. A substantial number of Americans still glorify the individual and believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to work hard and take care of their own. It’s why, for instance, America has never had a successful socialist party while Europe has. Progressive or liberal policy that ignores this strain in the public consciousness will always be vulnerable to the argument that government that takes from those who work and gives to those who do not is illegitimate. Fortunately policy that is constructed with an understanding of this tension can stand the test of time…..

Saving the Commons from the Public
Michael Hardt

Sabeel Rahman’s argument against the privatization of public goods and services contributes to a rich stream of contemporary critiques of neoliberalism that rightly focuses on how privatization creates and maintains forms of exclusion and hierarchy. In response to privatization, Rahman calls to make public goods public again—that is, to design and bolster government programs that foster social inclusion and equality, broadening both our conception of public goods and the populations whose membership grants them access to those goods. Rahman’s argument, however, rests on a notion of the opposition between public and private that obscures the full range of political possibilities. …. Fortunately the private and the public are not our only options. The common—defined by open access to, and shared democratic management of, social wealth—provides an alternative. ….

All Good Things
Jacob T. Levy

….What do we want in the provision of a good? Is it sufficiency, equality, progress, or simply more? Different answers to these questions call for genuinely different kinds of responses. If we want sufficiency, as we do with dignity goods and necessities, very often we should not pay much attention to the provision of the goods themselves; we should pay attention to the problem of poverty, and worry about economic growth, barriers to entering the labor market, redistribution and poverty relief, or some combination of these. (Direct public provision of food, or indirect provision through food stamps, is certainly not better for recipients’ dignified membership in the community than their having enough money to be able to simply afford food.)….

Naming the Villain
Lauren Jacobs

Sabeel Rahman’s essay is a call to action. Progressives should take seriously the coming political struggle over public goods generally and infrastructure specifically. They should also be better skilled in the administration of government and learn how to use the tools available to incrementally transform the material conditions of our current system. But as a lifelong organizer, dedicated to the dignity and economic security of all workers, I know that this is not enough. It is also critical that we see the big picture: the corporate power and its accompanying dogma of the supremacy of profit that brought us to this brink. They are the enemies we face. And they must be named. From fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, many of the stories of our childhood teach us the same lesson: we must name the villain before we stand any chance of defeating it. Any discussion of public goods is ultimately a discussion of values. How we define who is included in the notion of a “public”—and what we think is in the best interest of that public—are inherently political and therefore always contested. Those definitions live at the intersection of race, wealth, gender, and work….

A Beautiful Public Good
Joshua Cohen

Sabeel Rahman’s democratic conception of public goods is founded on the idea of a public responsibility for ensuring the essentials of a democratic society. Public goods are among those essentials. They answer to the basic needs of persons, conceived of as free and equal members of a democratic society. What those public goods are and the best methods for providing them vary across time and circumstance. In our time and circumstance, public goods should include clean water and air, good schools, broadband Internet access, and quality health care. Discharging the responsibility to provide those goods is not only a core public responsibility, Rahman says. It will also help to foster a sense of commonality—of a we with a common fate. Rahman calls this dimension of public provision the “constitutive” aspect of public goods.
I agree with much of Rahman’s view, but found his account of this constitutive aspect surprisingly thin. In a collaborative spirit, I propose to thicken this aspect of the democratic conception with a story about how the ambition to foster democracy and democratic sensibilities helped to shape the design of Central Park, one of the country’s truly great public goods…..

The Last Word
K. Sabeel Rahman

Throughout this forum, the idea of public goods has been linked to water, housing, parks, and more. Taken together, the thoughtful responses highlight two crucial questions about our understanding of public goods. First, what types of goods qualify as “public” in a democratic conception? Or, more precisely, what makes a good “public,” as opposed to merely ordinary? And second, what kinds of policy tools—including but not limited to direct state provision—can we employ to ensure more equitable and inclusive access to these goods?….

The Haves & Have Nots of Paid Family Leave

Source: PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States, May 2017

In the United States today, paid family leave is an elite benefit: 94% of low-income working people have no access to paid family leave. Millions of Americans don’t get even a single day of paid time for caregiving. 1 in 4 new moms in the U.S. is back at work just ten days after childbirth. While public discourse often focuses on income inequality, there is another critical way families experience inequality: the inability to be with their babies and families for the most important moments of their lives.

Over the last year, a slate of the largest employers in the United States have announced paid family leave policies: Starbucks, Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), and others. While the media has largely heralded these announcements as a boon for working families, most of these benefits are only accessible for people who work in white-collar corporate jobs, leaving out the hourly employees who comprise the vast majority of a company’s workforce. In fact, overall access to paid family leave in the United States has actually declined over the last decade. We’ve conducted independent research to uncover the paid family leave policies at the largest employers in the country to understand who has access to family leave, who doesn’t, and what that says about the need for change in both corporate and public policy.

Many of the companies that employ the most people have policies that provide significantly more paid family leave to corporate employees, while offering little — or nothing at all — to hourly/field/part-time workers…..

Related:
Left Out: How Corporate America’s parental leave policies discriminate against dads, LGBTQ+ and adoptive parents
Source: PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States, June 2017

In America, Parental Leave Is Still A Class Issue
Source: Lea Rose Emery, Brides, September 12, 2017

….Unfortunately, Starbucks is correct when they argue that they provide better benefits than some. Walmart, Kroger, Nike, and Marriott are just some of the corporations offering no paid leave at all. Yum! Brands, owner of chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, employs hundreds of thousands of US workers, and none of the staff working the restaurants get any paid leave. Yet birth mothers working in the headquarters get 16 weeks. At Amazon, it’s 20 weeks for full-time birth mothers and nothing for those in the warehouse. While all parents deserve adequate paid leave (a guarantee in so many other countries), there is something especially perverse about a company recognizing the need for its corporate employees while denying it to its lower paid staff—people who are much more likely to have trouble affording child care to being with.

The worst part? It doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to treat your retail and corporate employees equally, to give part-time workers the same benefits of those working full-time while still flourishing. Wells Fargo and Nordstrom give all new mothers at least 12 weeks of paid leave, though they do give less to fathers and adoptive parents. Bank of America and Ikea give all new parents 16 weeks. These are huge companies with huge profits. If they can do it, why can’t others?….