Author Archives: afscme

Levee Repairs Needed Across America, Including Washington, D.C., Dallas And More, Study Says

Source: John Flesher and Cain Burdeau, Associated Press, January 17, 2013

Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states.

Levees deemed in unacceptable condition span the breadth of America. They are in every region, in cities and towns big and small: Washington, D.C., and Sacramento Calif., Cleveland and Dallas, Augusta, Ga., and Brookport, Ill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue ratings for a little more than 40 percent of the 2,487 structures, which protect about 10 million people. Of those it has rated, however, 326 levees covering more than 2,000 miles were found in urgent need of repair. …

Bidding Adieu to the SEIU: Lessons for Its Next Generation of Organizers?

Source: Steve Early, WorkingUSA, Vol. 15 no. 4, December 2012
(subscription required)

Review of McAlevey, Jane, with Ostertag, Bob. Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement. New York and London: Verso Books, 2012.

From the abstract:
Few modern unions have done more outside hiring than the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), America’s second largest labor organization. Beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing unabated today, the SEIU and its local affiliates have employed tens of thousands of nonmembers as organizers, servicing reps, researchers, education specialists, PR people, and staffers of other kinds. While most unions hire and promote largely from within (i.e., from the ranks of their working members), the SEIU has always cast its net wider.

It has welcomed energetic refugees from other unions, promising young student activists, former community organizers, ex-environmentalists, Democratic Party campaign operatives, and political exiles from abroad. (One prototypical campus recruit was my older daughter, Alex, a Latin-American studies major who became a local union staffer for the SEIU after supporting the janitors employed at her Connecticut college.)

Many, if not most, of the SEIU’s outside hires no longer work for the union, in part because of its penchant for “management by churn.” This means that its network of distinguished alumni today is far larger than its current national and local workforce, which is not small. And not all of these SEIU alums have fond memories of their tour of duty in purple, the union’s signature color. For an institution that demands great loyalty from its staff, the SEIU is not known for its reciprocal attachment to those who do its bidding. Ex-SEIUers include many dedicated, hard-working organizers who were useful for a while, until they were not.

In several recent purges, the SEIU even managed to forget about the past services rendered by organizers sometimes described as “legendary.” I refer here to Bruce Raynor, former head of Workers United/SEIU, and Stephen Lerner, a fellow SEIU executive board member who directed the union’s Private Equity Project and devised its much-applauded “Justice for Janitors” campaigns two decades ago. …
See also:
Author Response to Steve Early’s Review of Raising Expectations
Source: Jane McAlevey, WorkingUSA, Vol. 15 no. 4, December 2012
(subscription required)

Can Occupy and Labor Coalesce?

Source: Peter Rugh, CounterPunch, January 17, 2013

…Backed against the wall in recent contract negotiations with the US Maritime Alliance (USMX), the ILA has threatened to strike. Picket lines could start popping up at ports from Maine to Texas on January 28. USMX has sought concessions from the union including reductions in hiring and healthcare payments, along with a slicing of the royalties workers receive on the cargo they handle. The strike threat comes as unions across the country are being urged to swallow concessions. Meanwhile, wages for both organized and non-organized labor have stagnated since Wall Street financiers crashed the economy in 2008, intensifying a four-decade earnings decline. The possible strike also arises at a moment of increased militancy among rank-and-file workers inspired by the Occupy movement, which shifted the national debate on to economic inequality. …
…With its emphasis on direct democracy, spontaneity and flexibility of tactics – and unbounded by union hierarchies or legal impediments such as the Taft-Hartley Act – Occupy has infused the labor movement with a fresh dose of radicalism…. Occupy has also leaned on labor at times. … But organized labor and Occupy haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. … In this sense, Muldoon said, Occupy wasn’t so much something new as it was a return to the basics. While expectations about the Occupy movement working successfully with organized labor may have been too high too early, OWS had a visible impact– and will continue to be a part of the fabric of the labor movement going forward, she said….

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