Category Archives: Benefits

Fighting for a Better Life: How Working People Across America are Organizing to Raise Wages and Improve Work

Source: AFL-CIO, January 2016

From the blog post:
Marking nearly one year since the first ever Raising Wages Summit, the AFL-CIO today released a new report detailing the successes, struggles and path ahead to raise wages for working people. The report, “Fighting for a Better Life: How Working People Across America are Organizing to Raise Wages and Improve Work,” finds that over the last year income inequality has shifted from a problem we discuss to a problem we can solve. The report points to clear and unequivocal steps for a path forward. Armed with the solutions outlined in the report, the central conclusion is that America is ready to move beyond the discussion of income inequality and is beginning to write new rules that will shape the economy….. The report goes well beyond direct wage increases, highlighting successes that demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of the raising wages agenda. Numerous organizing victories, paid sick leave laws in multiple states and municipalities and new protections against wage theft if five states are outlined as part of the effort to create an economy built on raising wages. The report also outlines hurdles to further victories, and challenges that remain as the raising wages agenda grows…..

Effects of ACA Medicaid Expansions on Health Insurance Coverage and Labor Supply

Source: Robert Kaestner, A. Bowen Garrett, Anju Gangopadhyaya, Caitlyn Fleming, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21836, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examined the effect of the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act on health insurance coverage and labor supply of adults with a high school education or less. We found that the Medicaid expansions increased Medicaid coverage by approximately 4 percentage points, decreased the proportion uninsured by approximately 3 percentage points, and decreased private health insurance coverage by 1 percentage point. The Medicaid expansions had little effect on labor supply as measured by employment, usual hours worked per week and the probability of working 30 or more hours per week. Most estimates suggested that the expansions increased employment slightly, although not significantly.

State and Local Government Unfunded Pension Liabilities Rise by $268 billion in the Third Quarter of 2015

Source: Donald J. Boyd and Yimeng Yin, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, By the Numbers Brief, January 2016

Investment shortfalls in the July-September quarter of 2015 caused unfunded state and local government pension liabilities to increase by $268 billion, reaching $1.7 trillion, according to Federal Reserve Board data examined in a By the Numbers Brief of the Rockefeller Institute. The increase was a full 1.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), bringing unfunded liabilities to 9.5 percent of GDP —- undoing about one and a half years of improvement. In the last 25 years, unfunded liabilities have increased by 1.4 percent or more of GDP in 13 quarters, while these liabilities have fallen by 1.4 percent or more in just two quarters. These issues are particularly important given the significant stock market declines since the start of the year, suggesting that further substantial increases in unfunded liabilities are likely.

Who’s In, Who’s Out: A look at access to employer-based retirement plans and participation in the states

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, January 2016

Key Findings:
– 49% of all U.S. private-sector workers participate in a retirement plan.
– 70% of Wisconsin workers have access to retirement plan, the most of any state.
– 32% of workers earning less than $25,000 a year have access to a retirement plan
– 38% of private-sector Hispanic workers have access to a retirement plan.

Examining Inequities in Teacher Pension Benefits

Source: James V. Shuls, University of Missouri at Saint Louis – Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, EDRE Working Paper No. 2016-02, December 1, 2015

From the abstract:
From funding to teacher quality, inequities exist between school districts. This paper adds to the literature on inequities by examining the impact of pension plan formulas on pension benefits. Using data from the salary schedules of 464 Missouri school districts, this paper analyzes how various final average salary calculations would impact the benefits of teachers in different districts. All of the schools in this analysis belong to Missouri’s Public Employee Retirement System, which is a defined-benefit pension plan. A teacher’s benefit in this plan is based on her years of experience and her final average salary. The system uses a three-year final average salary calculation. This captures salaries when they are most inequitable, at the end of the schedule. When more years of service are used in the final average salary calculation, inequities in benefits are reduced, but not eliminated.

Employee Wellness Programs Not So Voluntary Anymore

Source: Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 15, 2016

Take a blood test or lose your health coverage….

….Like many employers, Flambeau uses a wellness program to cut insurance costs by encouraging healthy employee habits. In the past, submitting to on-site tests of blood pressure, body-mass, and cholesterol meant saving a few hundred dollars. Now companies such as Flambeau have gone a step farther, denying healthcare entirely to those who don’t participate. People like Arnold must instead pay for more expensive coverage through the government’s COBRA program.

According to several federal courts—including one that ruled in favor of Flambeau—this is all perfectly legal.

In a case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. government argued that Flambeau’s wellness program didn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which limits companies from requiring medical exams or personal health information from workers. Denying employer-sponsored coverage crosses the line from voluntary to coercive, the EEOC contended…..

Public-sector workers are paid less than their private-sector counterparts—and the penalty is larger in right-to-work states

Source: Jeffrey Keefe, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Economic Snapshot, January 14, 2016

State and local government employees already earn less than similar private-sector workers. The wage and compensation gaps between public- and private-sector workers are significantly higher in right-to-work states, which allow “free-riders” to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining without paying their fair share of fees to support the union’s ability to negotiate on their behalf. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could effectively render the entire public sector right to work, pushing down wages for workers in the public sector and beyond….

Can Public Pensions Be Saved? A Perspective From Oregon

Source: Ed Lamb, HR News, Vol. 81 no. 11, November 2015
(subscription required) (scroll down)

…Thomas spoke realistically about the need to alter how Oregon PERS gets funded because implementing cost-containment measures has already failed. One change he advocates has the potential to address criticisms nonparticipants have that beneficiaries enjoy retirement security solely at the expense of taxpayers…

Parental Leave Legislation and Women’s Work: A Story of Unequal Opportunities

Source: Sari Pekkala Kerr, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 35 Issue 1, Winter 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
U.S. federal and state family leave legislation requires employers to provide job-protected parental leave for new mothers covered under the legislation. In most cases the leave is unpaid, and rarely longer than 12 weeks in duration. This study evaluates disparities in parental leave eligibility, access, and usage across the family income distribution in the United States. It also describes the links between leave-taking and women’s labor market careers. The focus is especially on low-income families, as their leave coverage and ability to afford taking unpaid leave is particularly poor. This study shows that the introduction of both state and federal legislation increased overall leave coverage, leave provision, and leave-taking. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leads to an increased probability of leave-taking by nearly 20 percentage points and increased average leave length by almost five weeks across all states. The new policies did not, however, reduce gaps between low- and high-income families’ eligibility, leave-taking, or leave length. In addition, the FMLA effects on leave-taking were very similar across states with and without prior leave legislation, and the FMLA did not disproportionately increase leave-taking for women who worked in firms and jobs covered by the new legislation, as these women were already relatively well covered by other parental leave arrangements…..