Author Archives: afscme

Room for Debate: Should Social Security Cuts Be on the Table? (5 essays)

Source: New York Times, January 2, 2013

Leave It Alone; It’s Irrelevant To The Deficit By Dean Baker, Center For Economic And Policy Research
Social Security, with its own revenue, is totally separate from the budget. Our large deficits were caused by the collapse of the housing bubble.

Act Now To Prevent Future Debt By Alice Rivlin, Former Federal Budget Official
Modest adjustments would prevent an increase in debt as revenue from workers continues to fall short of what’s needed to pay benefits.

No Need To Cut The Little That Recipients Get By Jeff Madrick, Roosevelt Institute
A modest increase in payroll taxes and a slight rise in the incomes covered by those taxes will largely take care of any future shortfall.

Major Changes Are Needed By Andrew Biggs, American Enterprise Institute
Raising the retirement age and other measures would guarantee the program’s solvency and ease our debt burden.

Too Important To Ignore By Alicia H. Munnell, Center For Retirement Research
Fear for the system’s future, as outlays are projected to exceed income, leads many to retire early, with reduced benefits.

Book Review: AFSCME’s Philadelphia story: municipal workers and urban power in the twentieth century

Book by: Francis Ryan, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, ISBN 143990278X, 2011
Review by: Joseph Hower, Labor History, Vol. 53 no. 4, November 2012
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From the revelation in January 2010 that government employees constituted a majority of all union members in the United States to the political campaigns to curtail union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, few issues have commanded as much attention in the past two years as public sector union power. Francis Ryan’s AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story thus comes at a key time. A revised doctoral dissertation, the book is part of a welcome recent surge in interest in public sector labor history. But it is much more than a local study of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). As the subtitle implies, the book is also self-consciously a work of urban history. The evolving relationship between the union and the city is Ryan’s central analytical thread….

Compensation of Foreign and Domestic Nurses in the US

Source: Richard McGregory, James Peoples, Journal of Labor Research, December 2012
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From the abstract:
This study tests the union skill homogeneity hypothesis by examining whether the erosion of foreign-domestic wage differentials reported in past studies varies by union status. We argue that the common practice of unions negotiating standardized wages promotes skill homogeneity that allows high credential-low unmeasured skill foreign nurses the opportunity to receive wages that match high credential domestic nurses without foreign nurses relying heavily on their labor mobility. Findings show returns to domestic experience accrue faster for foreign nurses belonging to a union compared to returns for non-union foreign nurses. In general, findings on pension coverage indicate foreign nurses also benefit from belonging to a union, while findings on employer sponsored health care benefits indicate a lack of any notable differences in the receipt of this compensation by foreign and union status.

Retirement Costs For Defined Benefit Plans Higher Than For Defined Contribution Plans

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Beyond the Numbers, Pay & Benefits, Vol. 1 No. 21, December 2012

Beginning in the 1980s, a dramatic shift occurred in employer-sponsored retirement plans. This shift was away from traditional defined benefit plans and towards portable defined contribution plans, such as the popular 401(k). Reasons for this shift were due, in part, to costs and flexibility for both employers and employees. Employer contributions required for defined benefit pension plans can fluctuate based on plan investment returns. By comparison, employer costs for defined contribution plans are often based on a fixed formula that matches employee contributions.1  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) March 2012 Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), private industry employers now spend more per employee hour worked for defined contribution plans than for defined benefit plans.2  However, a slightly different picture can be revealed when ECEC data are averaged by plan participants only (those employees that use or are enrolled in a plan).

Losing a Job: The Nonpecuniary Cost of Unemployment in the United States

Losing a Job: The Nonpecuniary Cost of Unemployment in the United States
Source: Cristobal Young, Social Forces, Vol. 91 no. 2, December 2012
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From the abstract:
Drawing on the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I track the subjective well-being of individuals as they enter and exit unemployment. Job loss is a salient trigger event that sets off large changes in well-being. The factors expected to improve the lot of the unemployed have limited efficacy: (1) changes in family income are not significantly correlated with well-being; (2) unemployment insurance eligibility seems to partly mitigate the effect of job loss, but is a poor substitute for work; and (3) even reemployment recovers only about two thirds of the initial harm of job loss, indicating a potential long-term scar effect of unemployment. This highlights the deep and intractable hardship caused by unemployment in America….

Testing the Effects of Striker Replacement and Employer Implementation of Final Offers on Employer and Union Bargaining Powe

Source: Ellen Dannin, Terry Wagar, Gangaram Singh, Michelle Dean, Penn State Law Research Paper No. 24-2012, September 23, 2012

From the abstract:
Many sorts of quantitative and qualitative empirical research are regularly used to answer questions related to work and workplace issues. However, some issues involving human behavior may be difficult to capture using standard empirical methods. Common barriers include access to people or information; problems with accurate or honest reporting; behavior that occurs over long periods of time; cost; and ethical barriers as to research using human subjects.

Important information related to collective bargaining can be difficult to collect for all of these reasons. Participants in collective bargaining may not want outsiders present for all or critical parts of negotiations. They may not be candid about motives or actions, or they may be honest but not fully self-aware as to motives or actions. Bargaining sessions may be long and extend over months or years. In the case of gathering information about collective bargaining within the larger union-employer-employee contexts may require decades of access and involvement. As a result, costs in terms of time and funding and other issues may rule out examining certain sorts of questions using actual participants engaged in collective bargaining.

Thus, one important area that would benefit from empirical research – testing the effects of law and proposals for law reform in general and collective bargaining law reform in particular – has so many of these problems that many important issues cannot be tested using standard methods. In addition, testing law reform proposals requires gathering data on actions that have not yet happened.

Simulations provide one useful way to overcome many of these problems. In effect, simulations create a law reform laboratory. Of course, simulations are only useful if they are reflect reality. This article examines evidence as to participants’ actions in a simulation used to test various iterations of laws governing how collective bargaining impasses are to be resolved and whether those actions sufficiently mirror those of employer and union negotiators as to provide reliable data on the likely effects of law reform.

Confine Is Fine: Have the Non-Dangerous Mentally Ill Lost Their Right to Liberty? An Empirical Study to Unravel the Psychiatrist’s Crystal Ball

Source: Donald H. Stone, Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 20, No. 2, Winter 2012

From the abstract:
This Article will examine the reverse trend in civil commitment laws in the wake of recent tragedies and discuss the effect of broader civil commitment standards on the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, and the 2012 Aurora movie theatre shooting have spurred fierce debates about the dangerousness of mentally ill and serve as cautionary tale about what happens when warning signs go unnoticed and opportunities for early intervention missed. This piece will explore the misconception about the role medication and inpatient civil commitments should play in prevention of dangerousness and undermine the belief that we can medicate away the needs of the mentally ill. The adverse effect civil commitments can have on individuals’ long-term recovery, future employment prospects and overall mental, physical, emotional and economic stability can be far-reaching; so minimum due process protections must be carefully guarded. The contention is that civil commitment decisions should be based on concrete evidence that the individual is an imminent danger to self or others and not on a psychiatrists’ speculation about future deterioration absent coerced treatment. Statistical data, collected from a survey of 100 psychiatrists, will be examined to determine what is most significant to psychiatrists in commitment decisions and highlight the impact state standards and types of hospital facilities have on psychiatrists’ testimony at civil commitment proceedings. Finally, this Article will outline how “need for treatment” and “grave disability” provisions in commitment standards have stripped away due process protections for the mentally ill and discuss ways mental health advocates can fight back to reverse this troubling movement in commitment laws.

Organized Labor, Democracy, and Life Satisfaction: A Cross-National Analysis

Source: Lauren Keane, Alexander Pacek, Benjamin Radcliff, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 37 no. 3, September 2012

From the abstract:
In this paper we attempt to assess how labor unions affect cross-national variation in life satisfaction. We argue that cross-national differences in the extent of labor organization play a significant role in determining why citizens in some nations express greater subjective satisfaction with life than others. We examine this proposition using data on nations that cover the political and economic spectrum. To anticipate our findings, we show that individual union membership has a consistent positive effect on individual well-being. Our main focus, though, is the effects of the national level of union density on the general, overall level of satisfaction within a country, considering both union members and nonmembers. We find that union density is strongly associated with the general level of well-being but that this effect is conditioned, as we expect, by the level of democracy: in democratic countries, union density produces greater levels of life satisfaction, while in highly authoritarian settings, it appears to reduce satisfaction. In each case, these effects obtain for members and nonmembers alike, thus highlighting the importance of labor unions for the general, overall level of quality of life across nations

Optimal minimum wage policy in competitive labor markets

Source: David Lee, Emmanuel Saez, Journal of Public Economics, Volume 96, Issues 9–10, October 2012
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This paper provides a theoretical analysis of optimal minimum wage policy in a perfectly competitive labor market and obtains two key results. First, we show that a binding minimum wage–while leading to unemployment– is nevertheless desirable if the government values redistribution toward low wage workers and if unemployment induced by the minimum wage hits the lowest surplus workers first. Importantly, this result remains true in the presence of optimal nonlinear taxes and transfers. In that context, a binding minimum wage enhances the effectiveness of transfers to low-skilled workers as it prevents low-skilled wages from falling through incidence effects. Second, when labor supply responses are along the extensive margin only, which is the empirically relevant case, the co-existence of a minimum wage with a positive tax rate on low-skilled work is always (second-best) Pareto inefficient. A Pareto improving policy consists of reducing the pre-tax minimum wage while keeping constant the post-tax minimum wage by increasing transfers to low-skilled workers, and financing this reform by increasing taxes on higher paid workers. Those results imply that the minimum wage and subsidies for low-skilled workers are complementary policies.

The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Public Safety and Corrections Populations

Source: Susan D. Phillips, Sentencing Project, September 2012

…States are now in the process of planning and carrying out the implementation of the ACA. Groups concerned with high rates of incarceration and, in particular, with its accompanying racial disparities, will want to follow these decisions. What follows is a brief introduction to the implications the ACA has for:
(1) lowering the number of people cycling through the criminal justice system because of behaviors stemming from addictions and mental illness;
(2) lowering correctional health care expenditures through improved continuity of care; and
(3) reducing racial disparities in incarceration related to disparities in health care access…