Author Archives: afscme

Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role Of Money In The 2012 Elections

Source: Adam Lioz, Blair Bowie, Dēmos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, January 2013

From the summary:
This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the fundraising and spending in federal races in the 2012 elections. The primary goal is to provide a quantitative analysis to describe tangibly what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the populace—threatening the very concept of government of, by, and for the people. … But, more important than the total amount spent in any election is where all this money comes from. If candidates for federal office were mostly raising money in small contributions from average citizens, and if outside spending groups were organizing these average citizens to give them a louder voice in the political process, the sheer volume of money raised and spent might not present such a troubling problem. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, this is not the case. Spending on modern U.S. elections is dominated by a small minority of special interests and wealthy donors who use their economic clout to amplify their preferred messages and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in the public square. The wealthy translate their greater electoral role into increased influence over public policy in two basic ways: by helping elect candidates who share their values, and by limiting the range of acceptable policy positions that candidates may take if they want to remain competitive—effectively shaping the agenda in Washington and state capitals across the country.

The Longer The Shifts For Hospital Nurses, The Higher The Levels Of Burnout And Patient Dissatisfaction

Source: Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, Douglas M. Sloane and Linda H. Aiken, Health Affairs, Vol. 31 no. 11, November 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Extended work shifts of twelve hours or longer are common and even popular with hospital staff nurses, but little is known about how such extended hours affect the care that patients receive or the well-being of nurses. Survey data from nurses in four states showed that more than 80 percent of the nurses were satisfied with scheduling practices at their hospital. However, as the proportion of hospital nurses working shifts of more than thirteen hours increased, patients’ dissatisfaction with care increased. Furthermore, nurses working shifts of ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction and to intend to leave the job. Extended shifts undermine nurses’ well-being, may result in expensive job turnover, and can negatively affect patient care. Policies regulating work hours for nurses, similar to those set for resident physicians, may be warranted. Nursing leaders should also encourage workplace cultures that respect nurses’ days off and vacation time, promote nurses’ prompt departure at the end of a shift, and allow nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution.

Vital Signs 2012: A National Nursing Attitudes & Outlook Report

Source: Jackson Healthcare and Jackson Nurse Professionals, 2012

From the summary:
According to our year-end 2012 national survey, nurses throughout the country give high marks to their jobs but anticipate challenges within the coming years.

Topics surveyed and included in this report:
– Employment demographics, including compensation
– Career and retirement plans
– Overall job satisfaction and drivers of satisfaction
– Preferred work environment
– Threats to job satisfaction
– Preferences for advanced practitioners

Union Membership, 2012

Source: John Schmitt and Janelle Jones, Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 17, 2013

The BLS “Union Membership” numbers for 2012 will be released on January 23rd at 10 a.m. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), we have compiled advance estimates for union membership and coverage for 2012. These estimates are based on the full year of 2012 data and should be very close (within 0.1 percentage point) of published membership and coverage rates. As of January 2011, the publicly available CPS data use a slightly different weighting scheme than the internal version of the data used at the BLS. As a result, our estimates of the numbers of unionized workers will differ slightly from the final published numbers. (According to the BLS: “…estimates generated using the public use files should be similar but will rarely exactly match the estimates produced by BLS.”)

Sticky Ages: Why Is Age 65 Still a Retirement Peak?

Source: Norma B. Coe, Mashfiqur Khan and Matthew S. Rutledge, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, WP#2013-2, January 2013

From the abstract:
When Social Security’s Full Retirement Age (FRA) increased to age 66 for recent retirees, the peak retirement age increased with it. However, a large share of people continue to claim their Social Security benefits at age 65. This paper explores two potential explanations for the “stickiness” of age 65 as a claiming age: Medicare eligibility and workers’ lack of knowledge about their future Social Security benefits. First, we analyze the impact of Medicare eligibility by comparing two groups – one has an FRA of exactly 65; the other, between age 65 and 2 months and age 66. We find that the group with later FRAs who do not have access to retiree health benefits through their employer are more likely to claim Social Security at age 65. We interpret this finding as evidence that Medicare eligibility persuades more people to retire, because they can begin receiving federal health coverage. Individuals without access to retiree health insurance at work are 7.5 percentage points more likely to retire soon after their 65th birthdays and are 5.8 percentage points less likely to delay retirement until the FRA than those with that insurance. This result fits into extensive research showing that access to health insurance is an important component of the retirement decision. On the question of whether misinformation about Social Security benefits may drive individuals to claim at age 65, we find that some individuals are unable to accurately forecast their retirement benefits. However, our analysis suggests that there is no relationship between this confusion and the age 65 peak for claiming Social Security.
See also:
Executive Summary

Holding Out or Opting Out? Deciding Between Retirement and Disability Applications in Recessions

Source: Matthew S. Rutledge, WP#2012-26, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, November 2012

From the abstract:
Workers over age 55 with chronic health conditions must choose between applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or continuing to work until their Social Security retirement benefits become available. Previous research has investigated the influence of macroeconomic conditions on disability application and, separately, on retirement claiming. This project uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation Gold Standard File to determine whether there is a relationship between national and state unemployment rates and disability applications, taking into account the current or future receipt of Social Security retirement benefits. First, reduced-form estimates indicate that retirement beneficiaries are more likely to apply for SSDI as unemployment increases – and, conversely, eligible individuals who have not yet claimed benefits are less likely to apply when unemployment rises. But after accounting for unobserved characteristics associated with both the decision to apply for disability insurance and Social Security benefits, individuals are no more likely to apply for disability benefits when unemployment is high. Second, we find that the probability of SSDI application among individuals age 55-61 is unrelated to macroeconomic conditions and unrelated to proximity to one’s 62nd birthday. These results suggest that, unlike prime-age adults, the decision among older individuals to apply for disability is based primarily on health, and not financial incentives.
See also:
Executive Summary

Employee Mobility and Employer-Provided Retirement Plans

Source: Gopi Shah Goda, Damon Jones, and Colleen Flaherty Manchester, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, WP#2012-28, November 2012

From the abstract:
This paper provides new insights into the effect of the widespread transition from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) pension plans on employee mobility. Pension plans may affect employee mobility both through an “incentive effect,” where the bundle of benefit characteristics, such as vesting rules, relative liquidity and the risk/return tradeoff affect turnover directly, and a “selection effect,” where employees with different underlying mobility tendencies select into firms with different types of pension plans. In this paper, we quantify the role of selection by exploiting a natural experiment at a single employer in which an employee’s probability of transitioning from a DB to a DC plan was exogenously affected by the default provisions of the transition. Using a differences-in-regression-discontinuities (DRD) estimator, we find evidence that employees with higher mobility tendencies self-select into the DC plan. Furthermore, we find a negative direct effect of DC enrollment on turnover that takes place within one year. Our results suggest that selection likely contributes to an observed positive relationship between the transition from DB to DC plans and employee mobility in settings where employees choose plans or employers.

We’ll All Miss Unions When They’re Gone

Source: Michael Kazin, New Republic, Plank blog, December 15, 2012

Unionists have never enjoyed true security in America. During the early nineteenth century, they got hauled into court for “conspiring to restrain trade.” In the heyday of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, they got accused of fomenting violence and revolution. During the first decade of the Cold War, they had to purge their ranks of radical activists or be slammed as “soft on Communism.” Since the 1970s, they have been condemned as a greedy and privileged “special interest”—even as their numbers and political clout keep dropping.

Now they have to figure out how to turn back a fresh wave of conservative laws, such as the one enacted this week in Michigan, which aim to make existing unions too poor and powerless to affect conditions in all but a few workplaces. The very term “right to work” puts labor on the defensive in a culture which cherishes individual liberty. If unions are to come back, they will have to respond persuasively to the question: What exactly have they done for this country? …

Caring on Stolen Time: A Nursing Home Diary

Source: JOMO, Dissent, Winter 2013

… Over time, I would also learn that reporting the health hazards, safety violations, and broken equipment to the overworked staff nurses or the arrogant charge nurses was useless. Only when someone got injured would it matter. Unless the state inspectors were conducting their annual visit, no one updated the care plans, gave us crucial information about new residents, thought it important to train us in health precautions, or bothered to fix faulty wheelchairs in a timely manner.

We had to push hard, ask relentlessly, and document, document, document our attempts, so that when some avoidable accident did happen, we would not be blamed. Too many times, we had to strain our backs and arms to compensate for lack of equipment and training. …

… By the end of the week, all twenty-five of the dayshift CNAs had signed a petition against the new staffing ratio. We calculated that the new plan would leave us with a mere twenty-five to thirty minutes of care for each resident per eight-hour shift. We were determined to make the case that it was neither safe for us nor the residents for us to be so rushed on the job.

When eight of us marched down the shiny bright hallway, into the boss’s office, the few short steps marked a longer journey. For the first time, we were going to speak up collectively. We were all nervous. We did not know how this would go down.

Our answer came the next day, when the director of the nursing home called us all to a huge meeting.

“If you form unions, we will have no choice but to fire all of you.”

End of meeting….

The Ugly Racial History of “Right to Work”

Source: Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, Dissent, Online Articles, December 20, 2012

The victory for so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Michigan, the heartland of industrial unionism in America, has spurred talk of expanding efforts to pass similar laws to weaken unions in other states, such as Kentucky and even New Jersey. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer goes so far as to suggest that the spread of such anti-union laws is “inevitable,” given economic globalization—a conclusion that might surprise Germans, who have strong labor laws and collective bargaining agreements yet nevertheless manage to compete quite well. Most of the discussion has centered on the political and economic effects of right-to-work laws—which allow workers to benefit from collective bargaining but withhold dues or agency fees to support the bargaining process…

…But as other states consider such laws, it is important also to remember the ugly racial history of right-to-work legislation. A key driver of the right-to-work movement beginning in the 1930s was Texas businessman and white supremacist Vance Muse, who hated unions in part because they promoted the brotherhood of workers across racial lines. … Indeed, unions have a powerful interest in reducing racial discrimination and animus because racial hostility inhibits worker solidarity and union organizing. Southern segregationists knew this, which is why they eagerly signed on to right-to-work efforts to weaken unions in the middle part of the twentieth century….