Author Archives: afscme

State Union Membership, 2012

Source: John Schmitt, Janelle Jones, and Milla Sanes, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Issue Brief, January 2013

From the abstract:
On January 23, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its estimates for union membership in the United States in 2012. This issue brief focuses on the union membership numbers by state. In addition to presenting the BLS estimates for overall union membership in each state, we also provide our own breakdown of state union membership in the private and public sector.

Figure 1: Change in Union Membership, 2011-2012, All Workers
Figure 2: Change in Union Membership. 2011-2012, Private Sector
Figure 3: Change in Union Membership, 2011-2012, Public Sector

Changing Sources of Income Among the Aged Population

Source: Barry P. Bosworth and Kathleen Burke, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Working Paper, WP#2012-27, November 2012

From the abstract:
This paper focuses on an explanation for the large shift over the past two decades in the composition of the income of the aged (65+), increasing the role of earned income and reducing the importance of income from their own assets. We find that the pattern of change is consistently reported in all of the major household surveys. The increase in the importance of labor income can be attributed to delayed exit from the labor force by workers at older ages. We attribute the increase in work time to a rise in the proportion of more educated workers who choose to continue working, changes within the pension system that previously encouraged early retirement, and a decline in the availability of retiree health insurance. The increase in work time is concentrated among the highest income groups and those with the most education, suggesting that it is largely voluntary. The fall in asset income can be traced to lower interest rates and a reduced propensity for the aged to convert their wealth to annuities. It does not reflect reduced wealth at older ages. A measure of the annuity equivalent of their wealth holdings suggests that there has been no decline for aged units. We also find only a weak relationship between changes in asset income and the decision to remain in the workforce.
See also:
Executive Summary

Layoffs and Furloughs and Their Effect on Internal Controls

Source: Jacob Lenell, CliftonLarsonAllen, State and Local Government, Perspectives, July 23, 2012

Faced with increasing pressure to reduce costs, hold the line on taxes, and balance the budget, local governments are turning to furlough days and layoffs as a way to generate cost savings. While this may be an effective cost-cutting strategy, government officials must also consider the impact it can have on internal control structures.

There are several things to consider when determining if furlough days or layoffs are an appropriate mechanism to achieve savings:
-The impact on the level of services provided by the affected employee group
-The impact on employee morale
-The expected savings from a reduction in workforce

The Wages of Peace and Justice

Source: RoadMap, DataCenter and the National Organizers Alliance, July 2012
(purchase required)

Retaining and developing talented staff is vital to building strong, sustainable, and high-impact organizations. Yet compensation policies in small to mid-sized social justice organizations have been largely unexamined until now. In collaboration with DataCenter and the National Organizers Alliance, RoadMap has produced The Wages of Peace and Justice, a 2012 National Compensation Survey of Social Justice Organizations. This survey provides invaluable information about salary and benefit trends among community organizing and advocacy organizations and the extent to which these compensation policies reflect social justice values. DataCenter’s researchers alongside with DataCenter interns designed the survey, collected the responses, and analyzed the data to produce the comprehensive report. …
See also:
Executive Summary

Debt Limit and Ongoing Fiscal Debate: County Risks and Opportunities

Source: National Association of Counties (NACo), January 2013

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has released a new legislative presentation which provides a quick guide to understanding the debt limit debate and the significance to U.S. counties. The presentation also examines areas of risk and opportunity for counties in the ongoing negotiations.

The presentation highlights:
• Why Counties Should Care about the Debt Limit Debate
• What is the Debt Limit
• Why is there a Debt Limit
• Extraordinary Measures to Prevent Default
• Context for Federal Debt and Deficit Discussion
• Ongoing Fiscal Debate and the First Fiscal Cliff Deal
• County Risks and Opportunities

Raising the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap: How Many Workers Would Pay More?

Source: Nicole Woo, Janelle Jones and John Schmitt, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Issue Brief, January 2013

From the press release:
On January 1, the Social Security payroll tax cap rose from $110,100 in 2012 to $113,700. This meant that annual income up to $113,700 per year became subject to the 6.2 percent payroll tax but that the tax is not applicable to anything above that. A new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrates that the extension or elimination of the cap on the payroll tax would affect only a tiny fraction of workers while strengthening Social Security for all Americans.

The issue brief, “Raising the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap: How Many Workers Would Pay More?” finds that just the wealthiest 1 in 20 workers (the top 5.2 percent) would pay the Social Security tax on their annual income above $113,700 if the payroll tax cap were eliminated in its entirety and only 1 in 75 (the top 1.3 percent) workers would be affected if the cap were applied to yearly earnings over $250,000. In the current system, someone making twice the cap, or $227,400 per year, pays the Social Security tax on only half of their income and someone making $1.1 million per year only pays the tax on about a tenth of their income. …
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Government employment: Job insecurity

Source: Ronald A. Wirtz, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Fedgazette, January 24, 2013

Despite the imprimatur of job security, the ax has (belatedly) fallen on public sector employment, especially at the local level… Government employment has seen significant job losses since 2010 across all levels of government and most district states. While private employment dropped dramatically with the recession, public sector employment actually rose, thanks to the federal stimulus. A slow economic recovery and the end of stimulus funding have led to hard budget decisions, particularly among local governments. Local governments in Minnesota and Wisconsin have seen the largest cuts. But rather than a recent phenomenon, local government employment in these states has fluctuated for the past decade, thanks to periodic state budget deficits and subsequently less state aid to local governments. …

State-Level Policies Threaten to Further Weaken Unions

Source: David Madland and Nick Bunker, Center for American Progress, January 23, 2013

…State-level policy has recently become increasingly important to the fate of unions. States such as Indiana and Michigan passed “right-to-work” laws in 2012 that undermine the strength of unions by requiring them to provide services for which they are not compensated, while Wisconsin passed a law in 2011 that repealed collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public-sector workers. These policy choices, as well as similar ones made in the past, can significantly impact unionization rates, and they help explain the wide variation in unionization among states. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today, along with data from an online database managed by economists Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson, we can see how trends in unionization have differed across states in recent years….

Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding: A Primer for State and Local Decisionmakers

Source: Paul Sorensen, Liisa Ecola, Martin Wachs, RAND Corporation, Document Number: TL-104, 2012

From the abstract:
This primer presents some promising and innovative mileage fee system designs and transition strategies. For states or localities that are just beginning to consider the idea of mileage fees, awareness of these strategies can help determine whether shifting from fuel taxes to mileage fees merits further consideration. For jurisdictions already engaged in detailed assessments of mileage fees, these concepts can help refine system design — with the ultimate aim of reducing costs and building public support.

Employer Access to Social Media Usernames and Passwords: 2012 Legislation, Year-end summary

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, January 17, 2013

Increasing numbers of Americans use social media, both on and off the job. Recently, some employers have asked employees to turn over their username or passwords for their personal accounts. Some employers argue that access to personal accounts is needed to protect proprietary information or trade secrets and to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities. But others consider requiring access to personal accounts an invasion of employee privacy. State legislators introduced legislation beginning in 2012 to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts—including email, banking and social networking sites—in order to get or keep a job. Some states have similar legislation protect students in public colleges and universities from having to grant access to their social networking accounts. …