Author Archives: afscme

Social Justice and Growth: The Role of the Minimum Wage

Source: International Labour Organization (ILO), International Journal of Labour Research, Vol. 4 no. 1, June 2012

From the summary:
This issue of the International Journal of Labour Research is wholly dedicated to the question of the minimum wage, a matter that has gained in importance and profile in recent years. No doubt, the main reasons behind this rise in prominence relate to the stagnation of wages in several parts of the world, a generalized increase in earnings inequality as well as the rise in social unrest across the globe.

Recognizing and Responding to Retirement Obligations: Other Postemployment Benefits in Florida Cities and Counties

Source: David S. T. Matkin and Alex Y. Krivosheyev, American Review of Public Administration, published online: June 26, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
With the implementation of recent accounting standards (GASB 43 and 45), local governments began reporting their liabilities and funding levels for postemployment benefits other than pensions—so-called OPEBs. In this article we pose three questions: (a) What factors affect the size of a government’s OPEB liability? (b) How did the OPEB standards affect the way governments manage their OPEB plans? and (c) What factors explain government responds to the OPEB standards? We draw data directly from audited financial reports in Florida counties and cities to examine those questions. Our results suggest that benefit policies, personnel characteristics, and actuarial cost methods are the most influential factors in determining a size of a government’s OPEB liability. Our results also provide evidence that many governments responded to the OPEB standards by reducing their benefits and changing their funding approaches. We show preliminary evidence of differences in governments that changed their policies or funding approaches with those that continued the status quo.

Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities, 1994-2008

Source: University of Chicago, Cultural Policy Center, June 2012

From the summary:
This study of cultural building began in 2006 as a response to inquiries from arts consultants who had for some time been working on dozens of building projects across the country and found themselves confronting the same sets of problems with each new client. In many cases, the actual need for a new facility had not been demonstrated (even though there was often great enthusiasm about getting underway with construction); the connection between a new facility and delivering more effectively on mission was in many instances quite murky; realism about how a new facility could be sustained once built was frequently missing – both in terms of the financial resources and staff needed to successfully run a new facility. The list goes on. New facilities would open, organizations would then run into financial problems because of insufficient revenue, or an inadequate endowment, or because they couldn’t service the debt they incurred to build, or because the building was too costly to operate, or it turned out to be beyond the organization’s capacity to administer and sustain.

The need to move beyond anecdotes and newspaper articles and toward an in-depth, empirical study based on the entire cohort of buildings constructed over the last few decades seemed obvious. Without such a study, institutions had no clear and systematic way to learn from one another’s experiences, both positive and negative. While it emerges that there is no single ‘right way’ to undertake a cultural building project, from conducting analyses of more than 800 cultural facilities built since 1994 there emerges a long list of things to avoid, and things to make sure to do.
Related:
The Determinants of Cultural Building
The Feasibility of Cultural Building Projects
An Overview of Cultural Building in the United States: 1994–2008
A Quick Overview
Videos
Case Studies
Follow the Money

Public Pay Disclosure in State Government: An Ethical Analysis

Source: James S. Bowman, Kelly A. Stevens, American Review of Public Administration, published online: May 16, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This qualitative analysis examines state legislation that discloses public employee salary information. It asks, “Is such legislation ethical?” To address this question, an approach—the “ethics triangle”—is used that encompasses results-based utilitarian ethics, rule-based duty ethics, and virtue-based character ethics. The study begins with the importance of the problem, followed by its evolution and current status. After describing the method of study, the article analyzes arguments for and against the ethics of salary disclosure using the ethics triangle. Although there are no easy answers, the Discussion section provides a synthesis of the findings. The concluding section suggests that open compensation systems encourage justifiable salary decisions and help personnel to better understand agency missions and why they earn what they do whereas a closed pay system can compromise the greatest good, duty, and integrity. Yet disclosure requirements applied across the board to all employees, with no distinction regarding the nature of the work or position involved, disregards important factors that deserve consideration. Alternative ways to disclose salary data without revealing individual identities and directions for future research are offered.

How the National Labor Relations Act Was Stolen and How it Can Be Recovered: Taft-Hartey Revisionism and the National Labor Relations Board’s Appointment Process

Source: Charles J. Morris, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2012

From the abstract:
This article challenges and refutes the conventional wisdom that the Taft-Hartley Act changed the basic policy of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act). It identifies two interrelated phenomena as factors primarily responsible for the longstanding inability of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) to adequately protect employees in their right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. One phenomenon is the longstanding revisionism that distorted perception of the Act’s policy. The other is the repetitive abuse of the Board’s appointment process. The article also demonstrates that the NLRB’s shortcomings have resulted primarily from the agency’s failure to vigorously enforce existing law and to utilize innovative measures already available under the Act rather than from the Act’s textual insufficiencies.

The article points out that although Taft-Hartley in its substantive content is a union- regulatory statute that severely reduced the power of unions in the collective bargaining process and in their relationship to their members, the Taft-Hartley Congress nevertheless reenacted – and even enhanced – the Wagner Act’s statutory policy of encouraging and protecting union organizing and collective bargaining. That unambiguous declaration of policy, plus total retention of the Wagner Act’s pro-union and pro-collective-bargaining substantive provisions, was the price Taft-Hartley’s sponsors had to pay to garner sufficient votes to override President Truman’s anticipated veto. Yet, notwithstanding the textual clarity of that policy and its consistent legislative history, and even its later reenactment with stronger language in the Landrum-Griffin Act, organized management and their Republican allies disseminated over a period of several decades false and revisionist versions of that policy. Those versions assert that Taft-Hartley altered the Act’s policy by emphasizing employee free-choice – a concept allegedly based on Taft-Hartley’s recognition of the right of employees “to refrain” from union activity. That provision, however, was originally viewed as minor and of little consequence. By explicit amendment on the floor of the Senate it was strictly confined to protecting only against union acts that “restrain or coerce” employees in the exercise of their right to refrain, thus expressly allowing unions to “interfere with” that right – which is consistent with the Act’s statutory encouragement of union organizing and collective bargaining. Consequently, this “right to refrain” was conspicuously excluded from each of Congress’s several declarations of national labor policy. Nevertheless – despite such unambiguous statutory text and clear legislative history – the revisionist version became conventional wisdom, which has resulted in serious damage to the credibility of the NLRB and the public’s perception of that agency.

The phenomenon of abuse of the appointment process was the practice by every Republican President of appointing a critical number of Board Members and General Counsels who were opposed to the NLRA’s basic policy. This resulted in Boards that were highly successful in protecting employers from disruptive union economic power – such as secondary boycotts and economic strikes without permanent replacements – but relatively impotent in providing strong protection for employees regarding their rights to join unions and engage in meaningful collective bargaining in accordance with the Act’s underlying policy.

The article recommends a corrective program of intensive truth-telling that might produce Labor Boards willing to use the broad and flexible text of the Act to accomplish effective enforcement.

Insurer Rebates under the Medical Loss Ratio: 2012 Estimates

Source: Cynthia Cox, Larry Levitt, and Gary Claxton, Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance, publication number 8305, April 2012

From the summary:
Beginning in 2011, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance plans to pay out a minimum percentage of premium dollars towards health care expenses and quality improvement activities, limiting the amount spent on administrative and marketing costs and profit. Under the law, large group plans are required to spend at least 85 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvement, while small group plans must spend at least 80 percent. These ratios are known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR). This analysis looks at the latest estimates provided by insurers to state insurance commissioners.The analysis finds that consumers and businesses are expected to receive an estimated $1.3 billion by this August in rebates from health insurers who spent more on administrative expenses and profits than allowed by the ACA. The rebates include $541 million in the large employer market, $377 million in the small business market, and $426 million for those buying insurance on their own. Rebates in the group market will generally be provided to employers, and in some cases be passed on to employees as well.Rebates are expected to go to almost one-third (31%) of consumers in the individual market. Among employers, about one-quarter (28%) of the small group market and 19% of the large group market is projected to receive rebates. The share of consumers in the individual insurance market expected to receive rebates ranges from near zero in several states to as high as 86% in Oklahoma and 92% in Texas.

State of America’s Libraries Report 2012

Source: American Libraries, Digital Supplement, April 2012

From the press release:
Publishers limiting library e-book lending, budget cuts and book challenges are just a few library trends of the past year that are placing free access to information in jeopardy. These trends as well as other are detailed in the 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report released today by the American Library Association (ALA) in conjunction with National Library Week (April 8 – 14)….

…The single-minded drive to reduce budget deficits continued to take its toll on essential services at all levels of society in 2011, with teachers and librarians sometimes seen as easy targets for layoffs. Even the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services suffered budget cuts, and the Library of Congress lost nearly 10 percent of its workforce.

School librarians faced especially draconian budgetary challenges in 2011. Cuts began at the federal level in May 2011, when the Department of Education eliminated fiscal 2011 funding for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program, the only federal program solely for school libraries in the United States. The effects were soon felt at the state and local levels

Academic librarians and their colleagues in higher education in the United States also continued to navigate a “new normal,” characterized by stagnating budgets, unsustainable costs, increased student enrollments and reduced staff.

Sounding the Alarm

Source: Pennsylvania State Education Association, March 2012

From the summary:
Pennsylvania’s public schools are in the midst of their toughest fiscal crisis since the 1930s. Following the nearly $860 million in cuts in 2011-12 and the proposal of $100 million more for next year, districts are being forced to make increasingly difficult decisions about how to meet the education needs of their students. Many of these decisions will result in cuts to programs necessary to provide the challenging, well-rounded, and comprehensive curriculum required for success in the 21st Century global economy. These cuts are not in the best interests of America’s students, therefore risking the future of our children.

Recent reports revealed that some school districts, such as Chester Upland and York City, had insufficient cash on hand to meet payroll. These are only the first instances of districts pushed to the breaking point. More will follow. If legislative action isn’t taken now, the financial viability of a significant number of school districts will be threatened by 2014. Pennsylvania could do a disservice to an entire generation of students who will not get a second chance.
See also:
Appendix A: Program Curtailment Requests
Appendix B: Impact of Funding Cuts
Appendix C: Chart on Salaries and Benefits
Appendix D: Solutions That Work
Press release

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.