Author Archives: afscme

Public-Sector Unionism vs. the Public Interest

Source: Brian Farmer, New American, December 5, 2011
(subscription required)

The unionization of government workers represents the ideal situation for labor unionism. The ultimate objective of labor unionism is to monopolize the available supply of labor to an employer and to eliminate all competing workers to that source of employment. If a labor union can accomplish that, it can raise the price of labor, be it through increased wages, more generous fringe benefits, or productivity-killing work rules in the determination of working conditions. And that is much easier to accomplish in the public sector than it is in the private sector, because private-sector businesses do not enjoy a monopoly in their provision of goods and services to consumers….By their very nature, collective bargaining laws create an adversarial relationship between the labor union and the employer, which makes strife inevitable. Labor unions know that no employer will seriously consider a labor union demand if it knows that the labor union has no power to enforce it. Obviously, to enforce their demands, labor unions will strike, no matter whether such strikes are contractually legal or not. In the public sector, it means the withholding of public services. Public officials become so desperate to settle the strike and restore public services that a settlement almost invariably involves an agreement not to penalize the labor union for engaging in an illegal strike. This gives the labor union disproportionate power and results in government decisions that have short-term political benefits but disastrous long-term financial consequences….

The Impact of Workplace Policies and Other Social Factors on Self-Reported Influenza-Like Illness Incidence During the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic

Source: Supriya Kumar, Sandra Crouse Quinn, Kevin H. Kim, Laura H. Daniel, and Vicki S. Freimuth, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 102 no. 1, January 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives. We assessed the impact of social determinants of potential exposure to H1N1—which are unequally distributed by race/ethnicity in the United States—on incidence of influenza-like illness (ILI) during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic….Conclusions. The absence of certain workplace policies, such as paid sick leave, confers a population-attributable risk of 5 million additional cases of ILI in the general population and 1.2 million cases among Hispanics. Federal mandates for sick leave could have significant health impacts by reducing morbidity from ILI, especially in Hispanics.

Caring in America: A comprehensive analysis of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs: Home health and personal care aides

Source: Dorie Seavey and Abby Marquand, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), December 2011

From the abstract:
This PHI report provides a thorough analysis of the home care and personal care industries in the U.S., as well as of the workers who provide both types of care. The authors detail the many difficulties facing workers in both fields, including uncompetitive wages with little to no benefits offered, inconsistent and often inadequate training requirements, high injury rates, and unpredictable hours. The report lists several recommendations to improve the quality of these jobs.

The State of the Unions 2011: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States

Source: Ruth Milkman, Laura Braslow, Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies and the Center for Urban Research, CUNY, September 2011

These are difficult times for organized labor in the United States. In addition to the challenges of an anemic economic recovery and persistently high unemployment, unions are confronting continuing attacks on public-sector collective bargaining rights and aggressive demands for concessions from both public- and private-sector employers. Against this background, the long-term decline of unionism has continued unabated. Although relative to the nation as a whole, organized labor remains strong in New York City and State, substantial erosion has occurred there in recent years, as Figure 1a shows. Nearly one-fourth (22.9 percent) of all wage and salary workers residing in New York City were union members in 2010-11, compared to 24.6 percent a year earlier. This proportion was slightly higher in New York State (24.1 percent), which ranks first in union density among the nation’s fifty states, and whose unionization rate is more than double the U.S. average of 11.9 percent. In absolute terms, New York State had more union members – over 1.9 million – than any state except California, which has a far larger population. In 2010-11, there were over 750,000 union members in the five boroughs of New York City, comprising about 40 percent of all union members in the State. At the national, state, and city levels alike, losses in union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector over the past decade, as Figure 1b shows. In the public sector, union density has been relatively stable (see Figure 1c), although government budget cuts and recent attacks on collective bargaining rights for public- sector workers may change that in the future.

The State of America’s Libraries, 2011

Source: American Libraries, Digital Supplement, 2011

The Great Recession may have come to an end, but there’s no end to libraries’ key role in helping hard-pressed Americans find employment or launch a bootstraps venture. These and other key trends in the library community are detailed in this report on the State of America’s Libraries, 2011. The trends are documented in a nationwide poll commissioned by the American Library Association (ALA) as part of a Harris Interactive telephone omnibus study conducted in January with a cross-section of 1,012 adults.

The Wage and Employment Impact of Minimum‐Wage Laws in Three Cities

Source: John Schmitt and David Rosnick, Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 2011

From the summary:
This report analyzes the wage and employment effects of the first three city-specific minimum wages in the United States -San Francisco (2004), Santa Fe (2004), and Washington, DC (1993). We use data from a virtual census of employment in each of the three cities, surrounding suburbs, and nearby metropolitan areas, to estimate the impact of minimum-wage laws on wages and employment in fast food restaurants, food services, retail trade, and other low-wage and small establishments.

Cost Savings Potential of the Department of Correctional Services Cook-Chill Program

Source: New York Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Local Government and School Accountability, 2010-MS-3, 2010

This report explains how the use of cook-chill food services in county correctional facilities is an effective way to provide food services to inmates in the most efficient way possible. “Under the Cook-Chill process, large quantities of food are cooked to a just-done state, then chilled rapidly and stored under tightly controlled temperature conditions. The food is then shipped and requires only reheating in order to be served, with an average ordering-to-consumption window of about three weeks. The majority of the food is shipped in large, sealed plastic bags and is reheated at the prisons for serving. Other cold food items, including juice and salads, are packaged in individual serving containers. The typical Cook-Chill bulk items come in 20-portion bags” (p. 4). The major part of this report looks at: potential cost savings; cost savings; other long-range operational improvements; and recommendations. Counties in New York have the potential to save over $11 million per year by using cook-chill processing.

The Impact of Prison Conditions on Staff Well-Being

Source: David M. Bierie, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 56 no. 1, February 2012

From the abstract:
Prison conditions have been at the center of long-standing debates among corrections scholars. Interestingly, this debate has focused on inmates alone while paying little attention to the potential impact of prison conditions on staff. Addressing this limitation, the study draws on survey data collected from a stratified random sample of prison staff working at all federal prisons in 2007 to examine the impact of prison conditions on staff well-being (substance use, psychological symptomatology, physical duress, and sick leave use). Mixed-level models show that harsh physical conditions correspond to significant problems for staff on all outcomes measured (individual-level impacts). The data also show that prison-level aggregations of harsher conditions correspond to significant deterioration in staff physical and psychological symptomatology above and beyond individual-level effects.

The Labor Movement’s Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Source: AFL-CIO and Change to Win, August 2009

Immigration reform is a component of a shared prosperity agenda that focuses on improving productivity and quality; limiting wage competition; strengthening labor standards, especially the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively; and providing social safety nets and high-quality lifelong education and training for workers and their families. To achieve this goal, immigration reform must fully protect U.S. workers, reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers and reduce employers’ incentive to hire undocumented workers rather than U.S. workers. The most effective way to do that is for all workers—immigrant and native-born—to have full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety and other laws. Comprehensive immigration reform must complement a strong, well-resourced and effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers’ rights and workplace protections. This approach will ensure that immigration does not depress wages and working conditions or encourage marginal low-wage industries that depend heavily on substandard wages, benefits and working conditions.

This approach to immigration reform has five major interconnected pieces:
1. An independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need;
2. A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism;
3. Rational operational control of the border;
4. Adjustment of status for the current undocumented population; and
5. Improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.

The Recent Surge In Nurse Employment: Causes And Implications

Source: Peter I. Buerhaus, David I. Auerbach and Douglas O. Staiger, Health Affairs, Vol. 28 no. 4, July 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this paper we examine the recession’s impact on current RN employment and on projections of the future size of the nurse workforce. Clarifying the effect of the recession on RN employment can help employers and policymakers anticipate the possibility that the long-standing nurse shortage is finally winding down. But before concluding that it is safe to turn attention away from the nurse workforce, we examine trends in the composition of the RN workforce that lie underneath the recent employment changes. This assessment suggests the need to strengthen the current workforce before the recession lifts and imbalances in the supply and demand for RNs reappear. Next, we focus on the future workforce and project the age and supply of RNs through 2025, noting the impact of the recession on these projections. We conclude with policy implications to support the current nurse workforce and remove barriers that are blocking efforts to expand the long-term supply of RNs.