Category Archives: Public Sector

Five Lessons from the History of Public Sector Unions

Source: Priscilla Murolo, Labor Notes, June 11, 2018

As public sector unions contemplate losing key rights under the law, it’s worth remembering that for much of their history, such unions organized with no rights at all.

It wasn’t till 1958 that New York became the first city to authorize collective bargaining for city employees. Wisconsin did the same for state employees in 1959, and federal workers got bargaining rights in 1962.

Yet as early as 1940, a book titled One Thousand Strikes of Government Employees described strikes dating back to the 1830s, when workers at U.S. Navy shipyards stopped work multiple times to press demands for better wages and conditions. ….

Supreme Court decision in Janus threatens the quality of public-sector jobs and public services: Key data on the roles these workers fill and the pay gaps they face

Source: Celine McNicholas and Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute, June 13, 2018

In the last decade, an increasingly energized campaign against workers’ rights has been waged across all levels of government—federal, state, and local. Much of the focus of this anti-worker campaign has been on public-sector workers, specifically state and local government workers. For example, several states have passed legislation restricting workers’ right to unionize and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. Beyond these legislative attacks, public-sector workers have been targeted by repeated legal challenges to their unions’ ability to effectively represent them. The Supreme Court will soon issue a decision in the most recent of these challenges, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. As a previous EPI report explained, the corporate interests backing the plaintiffs in Janus are seeking to weaken the bargaining power of unions by restricting the ability of public-sector unions to collect “fair share” (or “agency”) fees for the representation they provide. In this new report, we argue that the decision in Janus will have significant impacts on public-sector workers’ wages and job quality as well as on the critical public services these workers provide.

Related:
Press release

A profile of union workers in state and local government

Source: Julia Wolfe and John Schmitt, Economic Policy Institute, June 7, 2018

Key facts about the sector for followers of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31

The forthcoming Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 will likely have profound implications for the 17.3 million workers in state and local government across the country. The case involves a First Amendment challenge to state laws that allow public-sector unions to require state and local government workers who are not union members, but who are represented by a union, to pay “fair share” or “agency” fees for the benefits they receive from union representation. By stripping unions of their ability to collect fair share fees, a decision for the plaintiffs in Janus would hurt all state and local government workers by impeding their ability to organize and bargain collectively. This report provides a profile of the 6.8 million of these workers who are covered by union contracts, and it reviews some key long-term trends in unionization in state and local governments.

As this report shows:
• A majority (58 percent) of union workers (workers covered by a collective bargaining contract) in state and local government are women.
• African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up one-third of unionized state and local government workers.
• While teachers constitute the single largest subgroup of union workers in state and local government, union workers also include those serving the public as administrators, social workers, police officers, firefighters, and other professionals.
• On average, union workers in state and local government have substantially more formal education than workers in the private sector. Over 60 percent of state and local government union workers have a four-year college degree or more education, compared with one-third in the private sector.

Data on union membership trends shed light on why a Supreme Court decision affecting the unionized state and local government workforce has broad implications. State and local government workers constitute the largest subgroup (42.1 percent) of all union members in the country. Over a third (36.1 percent) of state and local government workers belong to a union, compared with just 6.5 percent of workers in the private sector nationally. This 36.1 percent share is down from the roughly 38- to 40-percent share sustained throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In the 2010s, state and local government worker union membership has been slowly declining as attacks on public-sector unions have ramped up.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2018 Data and 10 Year Trends

Source: Gerald Young, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and the National Association of State Personnel Executives, May 2018

From the summary:
Since 2009, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence has partnered with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and the National Association of State Personnel Executives to conduct a study on state and local workforce issues. This year’s report contains both 2018 data on emerging issues like the gig economy and flexible work practices and longitudinal data on recruiting challenges, retirement plan or health benefit changes, hiring, and separations from service.

Illinois (State of) – Pension burden will erode credit without offsetting actions

Source: Ted Hampton, Thomas Aaron, Emily Raimes, Nicholas Samuels, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Issuer In-Depth, May 30, 2018
(subscrption required)

When fiscal 2019 begins on July 1, the State of Illinois faces a sharp jump in its budgetary fixed costs, which include debt service, retiree healthcare, and pension contributions. These cost pressures are likely to intensify in future years.

State and local government workers preparing for retirement: Do you understand your plan formula?

Source: Natalie Kramer and Jesus Ranon-Hernandez, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Beyond the Numbers, Vol. 7 no. 6, May 2018

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) publishes information on the coverage and provisions of employer-sponsored benefit plans for private industry and state and local government workers. For workers approaching retirement age, trying to make sense of retirement options can be daunting. The NCS can provide answers to questions such as the following:

– How much of a benefit will I receive at retirement?
– If I retire early, will my benefits be reduced?
– Will my benefits be increased if I work a few more years?

This issue of Beyond the Numbers describes basic retirement formulas by using different retirement scenarios and formulas to illustrate the monthly retirement benefit. Two examples are provided for specificity…..

“A Little Is Better Than Zero” or “Pay Enough or Don’t Pay at All”? Evidence on the Size of Pay-for-Performance Across the Sectors

Source: Chung-An Chen, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 47 no. 2, June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Regarding the effect of pay-for-performance (PFP), standard economic reasoning suggests that “a little is better than zero,” meaning that even small performance payments can improve employees’ work morale. An alternative view, “pay enough or don’t pay at all,” suggests that paying too little may instead erode employees’ work morale. Using the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS) data, the present study finds evidence that the two views actually complement each other: Small payments can improve employees’ work effort (e.g., working hours), but can also potentially compromise their work attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction). In addition, employees in different working sectors may have different understanding of what “small size” really means. Findings are followed by theoretical and practical implications.

How Have Pension Cuts Affected Public Sector Competitiveness?

Source: Laura D. Quinby, Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, and Jean-Pierre Aubry, ons for the 2014 improvements, according to their, Issue Brief, April 9, 2018

Summary:
State and local data from 2005 to 2014 show the impact pension cuts have on the ability of governments to recruit, retain, and retire talented employees.

Key findings:
One of the central findings is that, especially for new hires, the implementation of pension reform hampered governments’ ability to attract new employees. This is important to note in an environment where governments are experiencing increases in retirements and are competing for talent at a time when unemployment rates, especially for those with college degrees, are relatively low.

Accounting, Politics, and Public Pensions

Source: Steven W. Thornburg and Kirsten M. Rosacker, CPA Journal, April 2018

Defined benefit pension plans offer politicians a convenient way to satisfy public employee demands while providing the means to defer budgeted cash payments and hide the accumulation of public debt from taxpayers. The authors describe how this plays out in practice and how accounting standards facilitate such activity. The accounting profession, and Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) in particular, could do more to inform taxpayers about the state of public finances. The longstanding failure to do so, the authors argue, allows public debt to accumulate until a crisis is reached.

I Work with Mark Janus. Here’s How He Benefits from a Strong Union.

Source: Donnie Killen, Labor Notes, May 11, 2018

Like everyone else in the labor movement, I’m nervously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would weaken public sector unions by letting workers receive the benefits of representation without contributing toward the cost.

But I’ve got a unique vantage point: I work in the same building as the plaintiff, Mark Janus.

We’re both child support specialists for the state of Illinois, where we do accounting on child support cases. I do this work because it’s fulfilling to help kids and single parents get the resources they need to support themselves.

What convinced Mr. Janus to join this destructive lawsuit? Your guess is as good as mine. I do know it’s much bigger than him. He’s the public face, but this case is backed by a network of billionaires and corporate front groups like the National Right-to-Work Foundation.

But the truth is, even Mark Janus himself benefits from union representation. Here are a few of the ways:

1. Without our union, Mr. Janus’s job would probably have been outsourced by now. ….
2. Mr. Janus has received $17,000 in union-negotiated raises. ….
3. The public—including the parents and kids Mr. Janus serves—has access to resources like childcare that our union has fought to defend. ….
4. Our union blocked the employer from doubling the cost of Mr. Janus’s health benefits. ….
5. We make sure Mr. Janus’s office is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. ….
6. Thanks to our union, Mr. Janus will retire with a pension. ….
7. Mr. Janus can get sick and still have a job when he comes back. ….
8. Our union ensured that Mr. Janus could be fairly hired, regardless of his politics. ….