Author Archives: afscme

The Increase in Unemployment Since 2007: Is It Cyclical or Structural?

Source: Linda Levine Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R41785, January 24, 2013

…This report assesses the relative magnitudes of cyclical and structural unemployment as they respond to different policy measures. An analysis of changes since 2007 in a variety of labor market indicators across industries and areas finds patterns that strongly suggest most of the increase in the U.S. unemployment rate is cyclical (i.e., due to depressed aggregate demand). Empirical studies suggest that, although structural unemployment has temporarily increased, it accounted for a minority of the rise in the unemployment rate in recent years…

The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Overview, Policy Changes, Issues, and Options

Source: Nathan James, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42937, January 22, 2013

Since the early 1980s, there has been a historically unprecedented increase in the federal prison population. Some of the growth is attributable to changes in federal criminal justice policy during the previous three decades. An issue before Congress is whether policymakers consider the rate of growth in the federal prison population sustainable, and if not, what changes could be made to federal criminal justice policy to reduce the prison population while maintaining public safety. This report explores the issues related to the growing federal prison population….Changes in federal sentencing and correctional policy since the early 1980s have contributed to the rapid growth in the federal prison population. These changes include increasing the number of federal offenses subject to mandatory minimum sentences; changes to the federal criminal code that have made more crimes federal offenses; and eliminating parole….

Healthcare Facility Public Safety-Related Deaths Reached All-Time High in 2012

Source: Campus Safety Magazine, January 28, 2013

….According to Dr. Victoria Mikow-Porto, the principal researcher and writer on the recently-released 2012 Crime and Security Trends Survey underwritten by the Foundation of the IAHSS, healthcare facility crime increased in nearly every category since the most recent survey in 2010, with a significant rise in the number of simple assaults, larceny and thefts, vandalism, and rape and sexual assaults. It’s also the highest number of crimes ever recorded in the history of the IAHSS Crime Survey, with 20,515 crimes reported: an increase of 5,524 compared to 2010.

Additionally, 98% of healthcare facilities now experience violence and criminal incidents. Porto attributes the surge to a number of factors, among them:
-Greater access to weapons, particularly guns
-Generally 24/7, open access to an expanding number of large and small healthcare complexes
-long, frustrating waits in emergency rooms
-Increased size and violence of gangs, and carry over of gang warfare into HCFs
-Deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients who are unable or unwilling to take meds
-Increasing treatment of forensics patients who are at high risk for violence
-Rise in substance abuse and easily-accessed hospital pharmacies

Impact of Attending Physician Workload on Patient Care: A Survey of Hospitalists

Source: Henry J. Michtalik, Hsin-Chieh Yeh, Peter J. Pronovost, Daniel J. Brotman, JAMA Internal Mededicine, Published online January 28, 2013
(subscription required)

From the preview:
Up to 98 000 patients die each year in the hospital as a result of preventable medical errors. Most errors are caused by well-intentioned individuals working within faulty systems, processes, or conditions. One such condition is excess clinical workload. For resident physicians, workload so heavy as to result in physician fatigue is associated with increased medical errors and has led to the implementation of work-hour restrictions. For nurses, a recent cross-sectional analysis showed a significant association between patient mortality and low staffing. Fourteen states have enacted legislation and/or adopted regulations to address nurse staffing.

An Incentive-Based Approach to Regulating Workplace Chemicals

Source: Jason R. Bent, Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 73 no. 6, 2013

From the abstract:
The United States’ system for regulating employee exposures to hazardous chemicals is broken. Absent regulation, the labor market fails to produce efficient levels of precaution against chemical exposures. Information asymmetries, long disease latency periods, and other characteristics of chemical exposures thwart the market’s ability to produce efficient risk/wage tradeoffs. These same characteristics permit employers and chemical manufacturers to externalize the costs of injuries caused by chemical exposures. The current U.S. regulatory system, including a combination of OSHA regulations and state workers’ compensation programs, is not correcting the labor market’s failure. The result is a level of workplace chemical exposure risk that is systematically too high, and a level of precaution that is systematically too low.

The reforms proposed in the literature to date do not harness the financial incentives of the least-cost information providers and least-cost risk avoiders: chemical manufacturers and employers. This Article takes the search for a solution in a new direction by using state workers’ compensation laws to capitalize on the incentives of chemical manufacturers and employers. The Article argues that state workers’ compensation laws should be amended in two ways: (1) shift the default burden of proof on causation to the respondents, but only in cases where there is no applicable OSHA exposure limit, and (2) allow employers to include chemical manufacturers as respondents in workers’ compensation proceedings for purposes of apportioning liability. These amendments could be implemented by convening a new National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws. The result would be a new push for OSHA chemical exposure limits by chemical manufacturers and employers – the entities in the best position to provide the toxicity and precaution information necessary to support OSHA regulations.

Privatizing Workplace Privacy

Source: Paul M. Secunda, Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 1, 2012

From the abstract:
Perhaps “the” question in this age of workplace technological innovation concerns the amount of privacy employees should have in electronic locations in the workplace. An important related question is whether public-sector and private-sector employees, who have different legal statuses under the state action doctrine, should enjoy the same level of workplace privacy. Recently, in the Fourth Amendment workplace privacy case of City of Ontario v. Quon, the United States Supreme Court considered both of these questions. Quon involved alleged privacy violations by a city police department when it audited an officer’s text messages from his city-issued pager.

In a cryptic decision, Justice Kennedy held for a unanimous Court that assuming the officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the pager, the City’s search of the pager was reasonable under two possible legal tests. First, under the plurality test enunciated by the Supreme Court in O’Connor v. Ortega, it was reasonable because it was motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and was not excessive in scope. Second, under the test outlined by Justice Scalia in his concurring opinion in O’Connor, it was reasonable because it would be considered “reasonable and normal” in the private-sector workplace. To varying degrees, both of these legal tests suggest that questions of workplace privacy in the public and private sectors should be treated the same.

Rather than elevating private-sector privacy rights to the public-sector level, however, Quon suggests that public employee workplace privacy rights should be reduced to the level of employees in the private sector. Maintaining that public-sector workers are entitled to greater levels of privacy protections based on the text of the Constitution, the power of the government as employer, and the critical oversight role public employees play in American democracy, this Article argues for a new, two-step workplace privacy analysis which first focuses on the purpose of the search and then applies presumptively the Fourth Amendment’s warrant and probable cause requirements to those searches undertaken for investigatory purposes.

Investigation of the Effects of Split Sleep Schedules on Commercial Vehicle Driver Safety and Health

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), December 2012

As part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated “Investigation into Motor Carrier Practices to Achieve Optimal Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Performance” Indefinite Date/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Research and Technology Program, a laboratory study was conducted between February 2010 and April 2011 to examine the effect of split sleep versus consolidated sleep on human performance and long-term health-related parameters. This technical report presents the design, methods, research findings, and conclusions of this study.

The study compares the effects of consolidated nighttime sleep, split sleep, and consolidated daytime sleep on total sleep time, performance, participant subjective state, and biomedical parameters. It appears that if consolidated nighttime sleep is not possible, then split sleep is preferable to consolidated daytime sleep. This conclusion is based on the findings of relatively less total sleep time and greater subjective sleepiness in the daytime sleep condition compared to the split sleep and consolidated nighttime sleep conditions. Performance was equivalent across all three of the sleep conditions in the present study. Further, there were some changes in biomedical parameters associated with the different sleep conditions…
See also:
Research Brief

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy

Source: Jenny Brown, Labor Notes, January 23, 2013

Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically. … [R]etail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labor law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union. Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not. One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation. “We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.” …

The Job-Creation Shell Game: Ending the Wasteful Practice of Subsidizing Companies that Move Jobs from One State to Another

Source: Greg LeRoy, Kasia Tarczynska, Leigh McIlvaine, Thomas Cafcas and Philip Mattera, Good Jobs First, January 2013

From the abstract:
This study describes how state and local governments waste billions of dollars each year on economic development subsidies given to companies for moving existing jobs from one state to another rather. It also looks at how the existence of relocation subsidies emboldens some large companies to demand large job blackmail subsidies to stay put. The report offers policy recommendations to address the problem.
See also:
Press Release

A Report on Assaults, Disturbances, Violence, and Prosecution in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction: January 1, 2007 through September 30, 2012

Source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, 2013

From the OCSEA press release:
A study showing major increases in staff assault rates at the state prisons confirms what leaders of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association have been saying for months: that violence in Ohio prisons has escalated. The new report, which was conducted by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and required under House Bill 86, indicates their own findings are “disturbing” and further states, “Assaults on staff resulting in serious injury to one or more staff members is a significant problem at the present time….” Despite the DR&C’s analysis last year that prisons were getting safer and less violent, this report indicates just the opposite to be true. According to the study, in 2008, assaults on staff that resulted in serious injury doubled. After a slight decrease in 2009, that number went up another 25 percent in 2010, and then held steady in 2011 and in 2012. Even the researchers had to admit that assault-rate figures for these last three years are, “The greatest current problem in the prison system.”…