Author Archives: afscme

Union Co-Ops and the Revival of Labor Law

Source: Ariana R. Levinson, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Forthcoming, 2018, Date Written: March 16, 2018

From the abstract:
Union worker-owned cooperatives (union co-ops) offer a means to combat growing income and wealth inequality, create jobs, and recirculate money in the communities in which they are located. This article contributes to the academic literature about cooperative economics, worker ownership, and labor relations in two distinct ways. First, it relies on original author-collected data from interviews of those involved in establishing Our Harvest, an urban farm in Cincinnati, to discuss the issues involved in establishing a union co-op. Our Harvest was the first union co-op created because of a 2009 partnership to foster union co-ops in the United States. Second, the article addresses the labor law issues involved in establishing a union co-op. The issues include whether worker-owners are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, whether a co-op is required to bargain about worker ownership with the union representing its employees, whether a union co-op can require its employees to join a union, and how union co-ops can use interest-based collective bargaining. The article suggests ways that unions can legally support and finance union co-ops, provides an appendix of legal services, and includes tables to simply complex legal issues. At its best, the article will contribute to the scaling up of union co-ops and a concurrent revival of labor law that enables a more equitable economy for all.

The Power of Place

Source: Michael M Oswalt, The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law: Reviving American Labor for a 21st Century Economy (Richard Bales & Charlotte Garden, eds.) (CAMBRIDGE UNIV. PRESS, Forthcoming). March 22, 2018

From the abstract:
While asking voters to make electoral decisions in spaces owned and curated by an interested party would be perceived as outlandish in a political context, labor law encourages it. This chapter presses for reform by highlighting cutting-edge electoral field research, backed by established work on context, memory, and decision-making, suggesting that voting in what is effectively the employer’s campaign headquarters is profoundly preference distorting. That change is possible is highlighted by the reality that although so-called “on-site” voting has long been the National Labor Relations Board’s practice, nothing about it is legally compelled. In fact, the law requires only that polling places be picked on a case-by-case basis through a variety of factors like convenience and integrity. The problem, however, is that non-binding administrative guidance makes workplace voting effectively automatic. Though the guidelines have proved surprisingly durable, the case for rewriting them has never been stronger. Doing so is important not simply to reclaim representation elections from the margins of democratic practice, but to initiate a modern era of neutral-site, mail, and even internet-based voting.

Sexual Harassment and Solidarity

Source: Marion G. Crain, Kenneth Matheny, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-03-04, March 26, 2018

From the abstract:
In the waning months of 2017, Americans endured an almost daily barrage of news reports describing sexual harassment by powerful men in entertainment, media, politics and law. While sexual harassment had been headline news before — most notably, during the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debacle — never had so many victims joined hands and come forward demanding change. The media spotlight presented a tremendous opportunity to reframe sexual harassment from an individual, personal and idiosyncratic instance of sexual desire to a common abuse of gender and economic power affecting millions of working women and men on a daily basis. Feminist legal scholars have known for years that expectations about appropriate gender roles create an environment where sexual harassment functions to protect male privilege. But the message that sexual harassment is a systemic feature of workplace gender inequality never reached the general public. Instead, the mainstream media’s systematic focus on sexual harassment as a twisted manifestation of male sexual desire grabbed headlines and implied that when the harasser is discharged, the story ends. But sexual harassment is about much more than men behaving badly. It is a structural problem linked to unequal pay and occupational segregation by sex.

One might think that labor unions would come forward as advocates for such a large segment of workers suffering economic disadvantage in the workplace. Yet despite the frequent use of the word “solidarity” in media reports about #MeToo, organized labor was conspicuously absent from the dialogue. While union leaders made public statements denouncing sexual harassment and promised to redouble union efforts to eradicate it, most disclaimed legal responsibility for preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Not all the blame for labor’s passive stance can be laid at labor’s doorstep, however. Unions are hamstrung by a legal structure that creates a fundamental role conflict where they represent a workforce that includes both potential harassers and victims, and NLRA protection for worker concerted action for mutual aid has been cabined by courts and the Board to the point that labor’s tradition of solidarity is barely recognizable.

What, then, are the prospects for engaging unions in combating workplace sexual harassment? And how could a more proactive role for labor be realized within the existing legal structure? The answer is both deceptively simple and complex: unions must take sexual harassment seriously. This means not only cleaning labor’s own house, but dedicating resources to efforts in partnership with feminist, civil rights and “alt-labor” groups in a coordinated campaign to challenge sexual harassment at the worksite and sectoral levels, modeled on the Fight for $15. A new, more collaborative understanding of solidarity will be essential. Unions should dedicate legal expertise to translating solidarity into labor law, pressing for an understanding of concerted activity for mutual aid that includes eradicating sexual harassment for the benefit of all workers. Finally, if ensuring redress for victims of sexual harassment were at the front of union consciousness, unions could invoke that goal as a lever to challenge employer rules that tend to silence efforts to raise rights-consciousness among victims or undermine claims assertion, such as rules prohibiting discussion of workplace investigations and arbitration clauses banning class claims. Ultimately, challenging sexual harassment could re-brand labor unions and offer an opportunity for partnerships with their social justice allies that would capture hearts and minds.

Distributional Effects of Alternative Strategies for Financing Long-Term Services and Supports and Assisting Family Caregivers

Source: Melissa M. Favreault and Richard W. Johnson, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, WP#2018-1, March 2018

From the abstract:
We use two historical data sources – the Health and Retirement Study and the Medicare Current Beneficiary Study – to consider the patterns in older Americans’ severe disability and their use of long-term services and supports (LTSS) by age and socioeconomic status.  We then use a dynamic microsimulation model to project how the effects of various interventions to support those with severe disabilities and their caregivers would be distributed across the income distribution.  The interventions that we examine fall into three broad classes: tax credits for caregiving expenses, respite care for people in the community with family caregivers, and new social insurance programs.  Within each broad class of policies, we examine how sensitive outcomes are to changes in policy details (such as, in the case of tax credits, deductible levels, refundability, and income phase-outs).

This paper found that:
– Older adults with less education and less wealth are more likely to report disabilities and service use than their more educated and wealthier counterparts.
– This pattern persists when we look at people at a point in time but also, more robustly, when we look at their disabilities prospectively. In a sample of older adults who do not report disabilities at baseline, we find that those with fewer economic resources earlier in life are generally more likely to develop disabilities and use paid LTSS over the next two decades, but the differences narrow when we restrict the sample to people who do not develop disabilities until their late 70s.  

The policy implications of this paper are:
– The uneven distribution of disability risks across the population poses challenges for developing effective LTSS policies. Those most likely to need LTSS often lack enough resources to contribute to LTSS programs, and programs that try to contain costs by using underwriting or imposing work requirements often disqualify those who most need coverage.
– Certain classes of policies, such as respite care benefits, tend to direct much of their benefits to those in lower income quintiles, according to our projections. Caregiver tax credits and social insurance programs generally distribute benefits more proportionally, although impacts vary depending on how the policies are specified.
– Policy design details can significantly affect distributional outcomes. Provisions’ effects can be sensitive to the stacking order in which they are implemented.
– It can be useful to examine trends and proposals not only cross-sectionally but also over longer time periods. For example, the distributional effects of social insurance programs depend on the relatively high early-life mortality of those with less education and lower earnings and wealth.

The Funded Status of Local Pensions Inches Closer to States

Source: Jean-Pierre Aubry, Caroline V. Crawford and Alicia H. Munnell, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#58, January 2018

The brief’s key findings are:
– Since 2001, the aggregate funded status of local pension plans has lagged behind that of state plans, but the gap has been closing recently for two reasons.
– First, local plans continue to receive more of their required contributions than state plans and are a bit more likely to use stringent funding methods.
-Second, in recent years, local plans have earned stronger investment returns than state plans, perhaps partly due to a lower allocation to alternative investments.
– Despite this progress, many local plans – like their state counterparts – still face significant funding challenges.

Related:
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Big or Small Cities? On city size and economic growth

Source: Susanne A. Frick, Andrés Rodríguez‐Pose, Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy, Volume 49, Issue 1, March 2018

From the abstract:
Policy makers and academics frequently emphasize a positive link between city size and economic growth. The empirical literature on the relationship, however, is scarce and uses rough indicators for the size of a country’s cities, while ignoring factors that are increasingly considered to shape this relationship. In this paper, we employ a panel of 113 countries between 1980 and 2010 to explore whether 1) there are certain city sizes that are growth enhancing and 2) how additional factors highlighted in the literature impact the city size/growth relationship. The results suggest a nonlinear relationship which is dependent on the country’s size. In contrast to the prevailing view that large cities are growth‐inducing, for a majority of countries relatively small cities of up to 3 million inhabitants are more conducive to economic growth. A large share of the urban population in cities of more than 10 million inhabitants is only growth promoting in countries with an urban population of 28.5 million and more. In addition, the relationship is highly context‐dependent: a high share of industries that benefit from agglomeration economies, a well‐developed urban infrastructure, and an adequate level of governance effectiveness allow countries to take advantage of agglomeration benefits from larger cities.

MLK’s vision matters today for the 43 million Americans living in poverty

Source: Joshua F.J. Inwood, The Conversation, April 2, 2018

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, while fighting for a 10-cent wage increase for garbage workers. These efforts by King were part of a broader and more sustained initiative known as the Poor People’s Campaign.

King was working to broaden the scope of the civil rights movement to include poverty and the end of the war in Vietnam. King and his leadership team planned to bring thousands of poor people to Washington, D.C., where they would camp out on the National Mall until Congress passed legislation to eradicate poverty.

King was convinced that for the civil rights movement to achieve its goals, poverty needed to become a central focus of the movement. He believed the poor could lead a movement that would revolutionize society and end poverty. As King noted, “The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have little, or nothing to lose.”

With over 43 million people living in poverty in the United States today, King’s ideas still hold much power.

Related:
Martin Luther King Jr. had a much more radical message than a dream of racial brotherhood
Source: Paul Harvey, The Conversation, March 30, 2018

2017 Workplace Benefits Report

Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, ARKRNPFQ, 2017

From the summary:
Bank of America Merrill Lynch works with employers across the country to help provide employee education, guidance and retirement plan solutions that help employees take charge of their financial lives. As part of this ongoing effort, we conduct an annual study — the Workplace Benefits Report (WBR) — to talk to employers and employees about retirement readiness and larger financial wellness topics. Our current report examines how employees feel about their financial situation and the role employers play in supporting their overall financial wellness.

On behalf of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Boston Research Technologies conducted an online survey with a national sample of 1,242 employees between September 22, 2016 to October 7, 2016. Understanding the ever-evolving retirement landscape, monitoring and keeping abreast of these key indicators and opinions, helps us empower employers to stay ahead of the curve while helping meet the varied needs of their employees.

Related:
/2017_WBRInfographic_R6_060217.pdf”>Infographic Presentation
Millennials Supplement
Healthcare Supplement

The perk your employer is most likely to give you, and it’s not a raise
Source: Maria Lamagna, Marketwatch, March 27, 2018

Increased federal financial aid and research, funding is credit positive for universities

Source: Jared Brewster, Susan I Fitzgerald, Edith Behr, Kendra M. Smith, Moody’s, Sector Comment, March 28, 2018
(subscription required)

The recently enacted federal spending bill provides funding increases for key financial aid programs and federal agencies that provide research grants. Financial aid programs receiving a funding bump include Pell Grants, the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program and the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program. Significant providers of research and development (R&D) grants with a funding boost include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These funding increases are better than we expected in our 2018 outlook for higher education and are credit positive for the sector overall.

Related:
Federal capital programs provide credit positive financing for some universities
Source: Jared Brewster, Susan I Fitzgerald, Edith Behr, Kendra M. Smith, Moody’s, Sector Comment, March 29, 2018
(subscription required)

Medians – Property values key to stability, but pension burdens remain a challenge

Source: Shannon Bibby, Daniel Simpson, Natalie Claes, Leonard Jones, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, March 30, 2018
(subscription required)

The 2016 medians data shows cities, counties and school districts continue to demonstrate stability underpinned by steady property tax growth, healthy reserves and solid liquidity, but credit pressure surrounding growing pension burdens remains.