Author Archives: afscme

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

Source: Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, February 24, 2019

For the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity—promising identity, transcendence, and community, but failing to deliver.

…. The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism. ….

The ‘Hidden Mechanisms’ That Help Those Born Rich to Excel in Elite Jobs

Source: Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, February 26, 2019

When two sociologists interviewed highly paid architects, TV producers, actors, and accountants, they encountered work cultures that favor the already affluent. ….

Over the past five years, the sociologists Daniel Laurison and Sam Friedman have uncovered a striking, consistent pattern in data about England’s workforce: Not only are people born into working-class families far less likely than those born wealthy to get an elite job—but they also, on average, earn 16 percent less in the same fields of work.

Laurison and Friedman dug further into the data, but statistical analyses could only get them so far. So they immersed themselves in the cultures of modern workplaces, speaking with workers—around 175 in all—in four prestigious professional settings: a TV-broadcasting company, a multinational accounting firm, an architecture firm, and the world of self-employed actors.

The result of this research is Laurison and Friedman’s new book, The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to Be Privileged, which shows how the customs of elite workplaces can favor those who grew up wealthier. The authors describe a series of “hidden mechanisms”—such as unwritten codes of office behavior and informal systems of professional advancement—that benefit the already affluent while disadvantaging those with working-class backgrounds. ….

…. Laurison: I think that a lot of people, on some level what they think they’re doing when they sponsor young co-workers is spotting talent—they called it “talent-mapping” in the accounting firm we studied. But a lot of people we talked to were also able to reflect and say, “Part of why I was excited about that person, probably, is because they reminded me of a younger version of myself.” The word we use in sociology is homophily—people like people who are like themselves.

One of the big ideas of the book, for me, is it’s really hard for any given individual in any given situation to fully parse what’s actual talent or intelligence or merit, and what’s, Gosh, that person reminds me of me, or I feel an affinity for them because we can talk about skiing or our trips to the Bahamas. Part of it is also that what your criteria are for a good worker often comes from what you think makes you a good worker.

Pinsker: In the workplaces you studied, who tended to lose out in these systems of sponsorship?

Laurison: In three of the four fields we studied, it was poor and working-class people, and also women and people of color. There are lots of axes along which homophily can cloud senior people’s judgment about who’s meritorious. ….

Organizational Dissolutions in the Public Sector: An Empirical Analysis of Municipal Utility Water Districts

Source: Tima T Moldogaziev, Tyler A Scott, Robert A Greer, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, February 17, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The proliferation of special-purpose districts and the increasing complexity of local governance systems has been well documented. However, even as new special districts are created, others are being dissolved. This article investigates the extent to which both internal and external factors are at play in municipal utility district dissolutions. Decades of existing empirical studies on private, nonprofit, and interest organizations show that factors internal to organizations, such as institutional structure and resources are significant covariates of organizational mortality. Equally important are external factors, where density dependence and resource partitioning pressures influence organizational survival. Public sector organizations, such as special-purpose water districts, operate in relatively well monitored and statutorily constrained environments, however. Drawing upon the organizational mortality literature, we examine when and why municipal utility water districts that operate in fragmented service delivery systems dissolve. The results show that the relationship between internal and external organizational variables and special-purpose organizational dissolutions is more nuanced than existing research suggests.

Library Systems Embracing Their New Roles As Social Service Hubs

Source: Emily Nonko, Next City, January 22, 2019

…. Starting from Esguerra, the San Francisco Public Library now has a team of Health and Safety Associates (now known as HASAs) who use the bathrooms as outreach space. HASAs have since expanded their work outside bathrooms and provide outreach on all seven floors of the main branch. They also work at other branches to support staff and inform patrons about resources and services. The program has placed at least 130 patrons into stable housing, Esguerra says.

San Francisco’s experience directly inspired change at the Denver Public Library. In 2012, the Homeless Services Action Committee — an internal working group with the Denver library — made recommendations to add a social worker to staff. The library eventually hired social worker Elissa Hardy in 2015 to begin building the library’s Community Resource program, bringing on additional social workers and peer navigators. The program has gone from serving 434 library customers in 2015, when it was just Hardy, to 3,500 served in 2018.

Both the San Francisco and Denver programs have grown as affordable housing needs and homelessness increase in each city. The San Francisco Public Library budgeted to hire six HASAs this year; currently, five work with Esguerra. For 2019, Denver Public Library budgeted for a team of 10, including four social workers and six peer navigators — the team now covers all 26 locations within the Denver Public Library. ….

The Surprising Power of Simply Asking Coworkers How They’re Doing

Source: Karyn Twaronite, Harvard Business Review, February 28, 2019

….Our study substantiated existing evidence that exclusion is a growing issue. We found that more than 40% of those we surveyed are feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. This group spanned generations, genders, and ethnicities.

In fact, the majority of individuals look to their homes first (62%), before their workplaces (34%) when it comes to where they feel the greatest sense of belonging. While the workplace exceeds neighborhood communities (19%) and places of worship (17%), many individuals spend most of their time at work, and creating workplace communities where people feel like they belong is imperative.

This tells us that many people want more connection with those they work with. So how can companies connect more effectively with employees and help them feel like they belong within their workplace community? The results of our survey pointed to one simple solution: establish more opportunities for colleagues to check in with one another.

We found that 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally. This was true across genders and age groups, with checking in being the most popular tactic for establishing a sense of belonging across all generations. By reaching out and acknowledging their employees on a personal level, companies and leaders can significantly enhance the employee experience by making their people feel valued and connected.

What didn’t seem to matter that much for belonging? Face time with senior leadership that wasn’t personal. Being invited to big or external events or presentations by senior leaders, as well as being copied on their emails, was simply less meaningful to employees when it came to feeling a sense of belonging….

Related:
New Cigna Study Reveals Loneliness at Epidemic Levels in America
Research Puts Spotlight on the Impact of Loneliness in the U.S. and Potential Root Causes
Source: Cigna, Press Release, May 1, 2018

Today, global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) released results from a national survey exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The survey, conducted in partnership with market research firm, Ipsos, revealed that most American adults are considered lonely.

The evaluation of loneliness was measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire developed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness, as well as social isolation. The UCLA Loneliness Scale is a frequently referenced and acknowledged academic measure used to gauge loneliness.

How Much Did Households in the United States Pay for Child Care in 2012?

Source: National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE), Snapshot, January 22, 2019

From the introduction:
These snapshots describe U.S. households’ costs for, and usage of, ECE in 2012, looking at differences by age of child, household income, and community urbanicity. These snapshots use data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE), a nationally representative study of U.S. households and early care and education providers conducted in 2012.

Key Findings:
• In 2012, 50 percent of infants and toddlers and 63 percent of 3-to-5-year-olds were in regular nonparental care. An additional 10 percent of 3-to-5-year-olds were already in kindergarten.
• Within every income level, 3-to-5-year-olds were more likely than infants and toddlers to be in regular nonparental care.
• Among children in regular nonparental care, infants and toddlers were more likely than 3-to-5­ year-olds to only use care provided by an individual, such as a family member, friend, or family child care home.
• Among children using regular nonparental care, 3-to-5-year-olds were more likely than infants and toddlers to be in center-based care only.
• Among children using regular nonparental care, about half of infants and toddlers and one-third of 3-to-5-year-olds had no out-of-pocket costs associated with their care. Free care was much more common among households with lower incomes than households with higher incomes. Still, 27 percent of infants and toddlers from higher-income households had no out-of-pocket costs associated with their care.
• Considering only children whose care had out-of-pocket costs, the median weekly cost of care was about $100 for an infant or toddler, and about $80 for a 3-to-5-year-old.

Despite legal protections, most workers who face discrimination are on their own

Source: Maryam Jameel, Joe Yerardi, Center for Public Integrity, February 28, 2019

Thousands of people report workplace discrimination to the government each year. Employers are rarely held accountable. ….

…. To understand how well the nation protects victims of employment discrimination, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed eight years of complaint data — through fiscal 2017 — from the EEOC as well as its state and local counterparts, reviewed hundreds of court cases and interviewed dozens of people who filed complaints.

What emerged is a picture of a system that routinely fails workers.

No group of employees alleging discrimination — age, gender, disability or otherwise — fares well. Race claims are among the most commonly filed and have the lowest rate of success, with just fifteen percent receiving some form of relief.

Workers file complaints with the EEOC under penalty of perjury. The agency closes most of them without concluding whether discrimination occurred. Sometimes, workers’ lawyers say, an EEOC investigation involves no more than asking the employer for a response.

A key part of the issue, according to experts and former EEOC employees, is that the agency doesn’t have the resources for its mammoth task. The EEOC has a smaller budget today than it did in 1980, adjusted for inflation, and 42 percent less staff. At the same time, the country’s labor force increased about 50 percent, to 160 million. ….

A Union Default: A Policy to Raise Union Membership, Promote the Freedom to Associate, Protect the Freedom not to Associate and Progress Union Representation

Source: Mark Harcourt, Gregor Gall, Rinu Vimal Kumar, Richard Croucher, Industrial Law Journal, Volume 48, Issue 1, 21 February 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Workers are defaulted to being non-union in employment relationships across the world. A non-union default likely has substantial negative effects, consistent with the empirical literature reviewed, on union membership levels, because of switching costs, inertia, social norms and loss aversion. A union default would likely have positive effects on union membership, and has the additional virtues of partially internalising the public goods externalities of unions, improving the freedom to associate (the right to join a union) and preserving the freedom not to associate (the right not to join a union). A union default would also strengthen the extent and effectiveness of union representation.

National Archives Releases Kavanaugh Emails on Surveillance Programs Identified in EPIC Suit

Source: Electronic Privacy Information Center, January 7, 2019

EPIC v. NARA Case No. 18-2150

Seeking disclosure of records concerning Brett M. Kavanaugh’s work at the White House between January 2001 and May 2006 related to surveillance programs.

The National Archives has released thousands of emails Justice Kavanaugh sent between January 2001 and July 2003 while working in the White House Counsel’s office. The release includes hundreds of emails concerning controversial White House surveillance programs the Archives previously identified in response to EPIC’s lawsuit. In October, the National Archives revealed that Kavanaugh sent 11 e-mails to John Yoo, the architect of warrantless wiretapping; 227 e-mails about “surveillance” programs and the “Patriot Act;” and 119 e-mails concerning “CAPPS II” (passenger profiling), “Fusion Centers” (government surveillance centers), and the Privacy Act. Subsequent searches revealed thousands more emails sent to Kavanaugh about mass surveillance programs.