Category Archives: Public Sector

The Aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME: An Ongoing Assault on Public Sector Unions

Source: Ann Hodges, American Constitution Society, ACS Issue Brief, March 2020

From the summary:
With the Supreme Court having overruled precedent and declared public sector “fair share” fees unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME, anti-union forces now have a new target: repayment of the fees paid to unions prior to the 2018 decision. Arguing that Janus should be retroactive, these advocates are seeking “millions of dollars from public sector unions, money collected in compliance with existing laws and already spent on representing employees.”

In a new ACS Issue Brief, Ann Hodges, Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond School of Law, explains the history of these restitution claims and why they are legally dubious. Hodges also questions whether “the employee plaintiffs in these cases [are] acting out of moral conviction and righteous motives or [if] they [are] being used by powerful interests to defeat the efforts of working people to join together collectively to combat the power of wealthy individuals and corporate actors.”

Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit of Public Pension Dollars in Small Towns and Rural America

Source: Dan Doonan, Maryna Kollar, Nathan Chobo, Tyler Bond, National Institute on Retirement Security, March 2020

From the summary:
As many small towns and rural communities across America face shrinking populations and slowing economic growth, a new report finds that one positive economic contributor to these areas is the flow of benefit dollars from public pension plans. In 2018, public pension benefit dollars represented between one and three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on average among the 1,401 counties in 19 states studied.

These findings are detailed in a new study, Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit of Public Pension Dollars in Small Towns and Rural America.

This new report finds that public pension benefit dollars also account for significant amounts of total personal income in counties across the nineteen states studied. For all 1,401 counties in this study, pension benefit dollars represent an average of 1.37 percent of total personal income, while some counties experience more than six percent of total personal income derived from pension dollars.

The report’s key findings are as follows:

  • Public pension benefit dollars represent between one and three percent of GDP on average in the 1,401 counties studied.
  • Rural counties and counties with state capitals have the highest percentages of populations receiving public pension benefits.
  • Small town counties experience a greater relative impact both in terms of GDP and total personal income from public pension benefit dollars than rural or metropolitan counties.
  • Rural counties experience more of an impact in terms of personal income than metropolitan counties, whereas metropolitan counties experience more of an impact in terms of GDP than rural counties.
  • Counties with state capitals are outliers from other metropolitan counties, likely because there is a greater density of public employees in these counties, most of whom remain in these counties in retirement.
  • On average, rural counties have lost population while small town counties and metropolitan counties have gained population in the period between 2000 and 2018, but the connection between population change and the relative impact of public pension benefit dollars is weak.

Millennial State & Local Government Employee Views on Their Jobs, Compensation & Retirement

Source: Kelly Kenneally, Tyler Bond, National Institute on Retirement Security (NRIS), February 2020

From the summary:
A new issue brief finds that Millennials working in state and local government are satisfied with their jobs and intend to stay with their employers so long as their benefits are not cut.

Millennial State & Local Government Employee Views on Their Jobs, Compensation & Retirement provides a deeper analysis of NIRS’ November 2019 opinion research report, and it drills down to examine the views of Millennials working in state and local government.

This nationwide poll finds that 84 percent of Millennials working in state and local government say they are satisfied with their job. This high job satisfaction comes despite sentiment that they could earn a higher salary in the private sector. Most Millennials in state and local government (80 percent) believe they could earn a higher salary working in the private sector, and only about one on four see their salary as very competitive.

The research also finds that state and local Millennial employees (85 percent) say that they plan to stay in their job until they retire or can no longer work. But, Millennials’ job loyalty would alter if their benefits were changed. Some 78 percent say their healthcare benefits is one reason they chose a position in the public sector, and 77 percent say they would be more likely to leave their job if this benefit were cut. A high number of these Millennials (84 percent) say that a pension benefit is the reason they stay in a state and local government job. These Millennials say that cutting their pension benefits would make them more likely to leave their state or local government job (71 percent).

Hiring Challenges Confront Public-Sector Employers

Source: Mike Ramsey, SHRM, All Things Work, February 15, 2020

Only a few years ago, applying for a job with the Pennsylvania state government could be a daunting process. Posted jobs had vague, bureaucratic titles like “Administrative Officer 1.” Applicants had to take written exams at a testing center. Some waited months for a civil service commission to respond by mail before they could interview. Many had moved on by then. …. Things changed in early 2019, after state lawmakers agreed to streamline the 1940s-era system. Now, Walsh’s agency oversees a centralized website, where job seekers apply for positions that are more clearly defined. Testing and scoring is folded into the online application process, which administrators track closely. ….

The Impact of Janus on Public Employee Unions So Far

Source: Irma Rodríguez Moisa, Nate J. Kowalski, Jay G. Trinnaman, and Eric T. Riss, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3, Winter 2019
(subscription required)

The authors examine the primary effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus , particularly for California employers under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.

Why Public Employees Rebel: Guerrilla Government in the Public Sector

Source: Gary E. Hollibaugh Jr., Matthew R. Miles, Chad B. Newswander, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Employee recalcitrance and employer reprisal are ever‐present conditions in public service. Yet we have limited knowledge of the forces that move administrators away from acquiescence and toward antagonism. The authors follow the theoretical thrust of behavioral public administration to better understand administrative behavior by targeting the determinants of guerrilla government actions. They do so by presenting the results of a conjoint experiment embedded in a survey of federal bureaucrats. Findings show that decisions to pursue guerrilla activities are conditional on a multitude of factors—namely, the bureaucrat’s personal views of the directive as a policy solution, the compatibility of the directive with the bureaucrat’s ethical framework, the status of the person issuing the directive, and the probability that the directive might cause harm to others. Notably, these decisions generally are not affected by the probability of retribution or the expected type thereof. However, they are affected by the magnitude of harm that may ensue if orders are obeyed and not resisted.

Evidence for Practice
– Ethics matter. When employees see that a policy might contribute to considerable human suffering, the likelihood of guerrilla government activities (“the actions taken by career public servants who work against the wishes—either implicitly or explicitly communicated—of their superiors”) increases.
– Managers should seek to persuade employees of the moral fabric of their decisions, which is one option that may curtail guerrilla government behaviors.
– Managers should be aware that the probability of punishing employees does not significantly deter their acts of guerrilla government.
– Managers should also be aware that the type of retribution employees may suffer does not significantly deter their decision to engage in guerrilla activities.

Prosocial Behaviors: A Matter of Altruism or Public Service Motivation?

Source: Jaclyn S Piatak, Stephen B Holt, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, December 6, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, public service motivation (PSM) research has grown substantially, but is still largely limited to the field of public administration. To be able to export the theory and measures of PSM to other disciplines, we need more conceptual clarity. Some suggest PSM is analogous to altruism, whereas others warn not to confound the two concepts. Is PSM separate from altruism? How does each motivational construct relate to prosocial behaviors? We use a nationally representative panel of respondents to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to measure both altruism and PSM among respondents before the 2016 election and measure respondents’ participation in prosocial behaviors after the 2016 election. Using linear probability models with state fixed effects, we find that although PSM and altruism predict prosocial behaviors separately, altruism has no effect after controlling for PSM. PSM is a more consistent predictor of some prosocial behaviors than altruism, particularly in more formal contexts such as volunteering with an organization.

Pension Reforms and Public Sector Turnover

Source: Evgenia Gorina, Trang Hoang, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Published: June 24, 2019

From the abstract:
Over the past decade, many states have reformed their retirement systems by reducing benefit generosity, tightening retirement provisions, introducing non-defined-benefit (DB) plan options and even replacing DB plans with defined-contribution plans. Many of these reforms have affected post-employment benefits that public workers will receive when they retire. Have these reforms also affected the attractiveness of public sector employment? To answer this question, we use state-level data from 2002 to 2015 and examine the relationship between state pension reforms and public employee turnover following the reforms. We find that employee responsiveness to the reforms was tangible and that it differed by reform type and worker education. These results are important because the design of public retirement benefits will continue to influence the ability of the public sector to recruit and retain high-quality workforce.

A correction has been published.

Service Professionals’ Response to Volunteer Involvement in Service Production

Source: Mette Kjærgaard Thomsen, Ulrich Thy Jensen, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, Published: October 15, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Involving volunteers in the production and delivery of public services is a core policy objective of governments around the world. While existing research on volunteer involvement in service production, for example, has focused on advantages and disadvantages of such involvement and different dimensions of volunteer involvement, little is known about service professionals’ response to volunteer involvement in public service production. Integrating perspectives from multiple theories, we build a theoretical framework for understanding how and when service professionals come to see volunteers as a threat to the quality of service, the profession’s privileged position and monopoly, and professionals’ own work tasks and job security. Based on a central distinction between production of core and complementary tasks, we propose that volunteers come to be seen as a threat in the eyes of service professionals when volunteers solve core rather than complementary tasks. Using a survey experiment among health assistants at nursing homes, we find partial support for our argument. Health assistants are more likely to perceive volunteers as a threat to the quality of care when volunteers solve core rather than complementary tasks. The study guides research toward a more nuanced understanding of volunteer involvement in service production in public organizations.

Antipolitics and the Hindrance of Performance Management in Education

Source: Jeffrey W Snyder, Andrew Saultz, Rebecca Jacobsen, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 29, Issue 4, October 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Performance management reforms are a popular way to try to create responsive and improving government. These types of reforms have become commonplace in education policy and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART) has been one of the leading venues for research on these topics. However, under-analyzed are the ways in which performance management policies represent antipolitical bent to education reform. We outline an argument that avoiding political decisionmaking in favor of reforms that create authoritative or purportedly neutral data risks undertaking policy change are not as meaningful as hoped. We select eight articles that represent research on performance management broadly and are thought provoking for a broader consideration of performance management in education policy.