Author Archives: afscme

Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights – 2012

Source: International Trade Union Confederation, 2012

From the foreword:
2011 was a year of dramatic change, with the Arab Spring heralding new opportunities and new challenges. Trade union rights are more heavily repressed in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else on the globe. As people rose up to demand the recognition of their long-suppressed democratic rights, trade unions played a leading role, notably in Tunisia and Egypt. Sadly they paid a heavy price for that involvement, being among the many hundreds killed and the thousands arrested and detained. The struggle continues, both to remove other authoritarian regimes and to build real democracy where they have already fallen, creating an environment in which independent trade unions can flourish. The spirit and determination of the people remains unbowed, as shown by the huge turnout in the November elections in Egypt, and the continued protests in Bahrain and Syria, despite the repression.

The world economic crisis continued to impact unfairly on workers, as many governments persisted in favouring austerity measures over stimulating growth and employment. Unemployment rose to record levels in 2011, with over 205 million people out of work. In Europe, trade unions felt the impact of the Eurozone crisis, with Portugal, Hungary and Romania all further restricting workers’ rights as part of their austerity measures. The most dramatic changes were in Greece however where unemployment rose to 21%, wages and living standards fell sharply and collective bargaining rights were severely curtailed….

…For some workers, defending their trade union rights can cost them their life. In 2011 at least 76 workers died directly as a result of their trade union activities – in addition to those killed during the repression of the Arab Spring protests. There were 56 deaths in Latin America alone, including 29 in Colombia and a further 10 in Guatemala, crimes committed with almost total impunity. At least eight trade unionists lost their lives in Asia. Four were killed in the Philippines, all shot and killed, in four separate incidents, but all had played a prominent role in defending workers rights. A garment union leader and activist was brutally killed in Bangladesh, two years after the government had severely beaten him for his activity. And a one-year-old child died in Zimbabwe after spending a night on the roadside in the rain because its family was among the farm workers summarily evicted for daring to organise. …

The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework

Source: Jennifer K. Elsea, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, RS21900, January 10, 2013

This report provides an overview of the relationship between executive and legislative authority over national security information, and summarizes the current laws that form the legal framework protecting classified information, including current executive orders and some agency regulations pertaining to the handling of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by government officers and employees. The report also summarizes criminal laws that pertain specifically to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, as well as civil and administrative penalties. Finally, the report describes some recent developments in executive branch security policies and relevant legislative activity

Women and Power in the Wisconsin Uprising

Source: Mari Jo Buhle, Dissent, Winter 2013
(subscription required)

When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker opened his assault on collective bargaining in February 2011, few people realized it would open the door to the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate in November 2012. Baldwin, the first woman to represent Wisconsin in the Senate and the first openly gay senator in U.S. history, had been backed by many women’s organizations since her first run for Congress in 1998, but Walker’s successful attempt to roll back the collective bargaining rights of 360,000 public sector workers brought together an unprecedented coalition of labor and women’s groups. …

Financial Literacy and Defined Contribution Pensions: A Global Snapshot of an Unrecognized Problem

Source: John A. Turner, Dana M. Muir, Compensation Benefits Review, Vol. 44 no. 5, September/October 2012
(subscription required)

From that abstract:
The increasing importance of defined contribution plans, both as employer-provided plans and as mandatory individual accounts, has increased the responsibility placed on workers for making financial decisions. While early on it was assumed that workers would be capable of managing these accounts, studies have documented that many workers make financial mistakes. Financial education has been used as a remedy, but experience has shown that many workers are not interested and others do not follow up on changes they indicate they intend to make. The use of defaults for investments and increased transparency concerning fees are two further developments that have addressed this problem. Now, attention is turning increasingly to financial advice. However, often financial advisers have conflicts of interest that affect the quality and cost of the advice they provide. Some countries are enacting laws that address this issue.

Public-Private Pay Comparisons: An Analysis of Florida

Source: Robert E. Lee, Andrew M. Thompson, Compensation Benefits Review, Vol. 44 no. 5, September/October 2012
(subscription required)

From that abstract:
As state and local governments attempt to manage fiscal stress created by the Great Recession, the level of compensation received by public sector workers has become an increasingly debated policy issue. A significant amount of research exists that addresses national public sector compensation trends, but relatively few state-level studies have been performed. This analysis provides a preliminary analysis of public and private sector compensation in Florida. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, sector-level comparisons are made between public and private sector workers within the state with regard to compensation, age and education. This sector-level comparison is then supplemented by an occupational analysis of career fields found in both sectors. The sector-level analysis suggests public sector workers in Florida are, on average, not only better compensated than those in the private sector in aggregate but are also considerably more educated and older. The occupational analysis suggests that public sector workers in Florida are in general less well-compensated than private sector workers employed in the same field, even when older and more highly educated on average.

Coming to a State Near You: Tax Reform That Might Get It Wrong

Source: Citizens for tax Justice, January 17, 2013

Note to Readers: This is the first of a six part series on tax reform in the states. Over the coming weeks, CTJ’s partner organization, The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) will highlight tax reform proposals and look at the policy trends that are gaining momentum in states across the country.

Following an election that left half the states with veto-proof legislative majorities, 37 states with one-party rule and more than a dozen with governors who put tax reform high on their agendas, 2013 promises to be a big year for changes to state tax laws.

The scrutiny lawmakers will be giving to their state and local tax systems presents an extraordinary opportunity to assess and address structural flaws and ensure that states have the necessary revenue to provide vital public services now and in the future. Yet, it is already clear that “tax reform” for some state lawmakers may be little more than a vehicle for ideological goals like shrinking government spending or cutting taxes for profitable corporations and the wealthy.

Lawmakers in more than 30 states will take on taxes in some shape or form this year – at least 15 states are expected to consider a major tax overhaul (CA, IA, KS, KY, LA, MN, MO, NC, NE, NY, OH, OK, OR, VA, WI) and the list seems to grow by the week.

What to Do About the Gas Tax?

Source: Penelope Lemov, Governing, Public Finance, January 17, 2013

Two states, two different approaches for fixing how we pay for roads. … This year, gasoline taxes are on a number of state legislative agendas. But raising the tax is taking a backseat to newer approaches. One would use vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) rather than gas consumed as the base for assessing road use. The other would get rid of the state gas tax altogether and replace it with an increase in the sales tax. …

Proposal to Eliminate Income Taxes Amounts to a Tax Increase on Bottom 80 Percent of Louisianans

Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Policy Brief, January 2013

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said that he supports the elimination of the state’s personal and corporate income taxes. In fiscal year 2012, Louisiana collected nearly $3 billion in revenues from its personal and corporate income taxes. In order to pay for the drastic reduction in revenue that would come from eliminating them, lawmakers would likely raise the state’s sales tax rate or broaden its base by eliminating various exemptions. Governor Jindal is reportedly developing a plan along these lines that is said to also include some type of income tax relief for low income Louisianans who will be hit hardest by shifting the tax structure to rely more heavily on revenue generated from the sales tax.

Levee Repairs Needed Across America, Including Washington, D.C., Dallas And More, Study Says

Source: John Flesher and Cain Burdeau, Associated Press, January 17, 2013

Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states.

Levees deemed in unacceptable condition span the breadth of America. They are in every region, in cities and towns big and small: Washington, D.C., and Sacramento Calif., Cleveland and Dallas, Augusta, Ga., and Brookport, Ill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue ratings for a little more than 40 percent of the 2,487 structures, which protect about 10 million people. Of those it has rated, however, 326 levees covering more than 2,000 miles were found in urgent need of repair. …