Category Archives: Public Sector

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits

Source: Wendy Ginsberg, Daniel J. Richardson Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, RL34631, March 16, 2016

…. This report provides a legislative and cultural history of the Former Presidents Act. It details the benefits provided to former Presidents and their costs. Congress has the authority to reduce, increase, or maintain the pension and benefits provided to former Presidents of the United States. This report considers the potential effects of maintaining the FPA or amending the FPA in ways that might reduce or otherwise modify a former President’s benefits. ….

State and Local Fiscal Facts: 2016

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), The Council of State Governments (CSG), National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC), U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), International City/County Management Association (ICMA), National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), National Association of State Auditors Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT), Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), 2016

State and Local Finances · Municipal Bonds · State and Local Pensions

In the past few years, state and local government revenues have been slowly improving. While challenges remain, officials have been taking steps to replenish rainy day funds and address long-term structural imbalances.

How Big a Burden are State and Local OPEB Benefits?

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Jean-Pierre Aubry, and Caroline V. Crawford, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, Issue Brief, March 2016

This brief attempts to answer the question: How big of a burden are OPEB benefits to state and local governments?
Key findings:
• Aggregate unfunded OPEB liabilities are an estimated $862 billion – nearly two thirds of which is held at the local level;
• These unfunded liabilities are equivalent to 28 percent of the unfunded liabilities of pensions when pension liabilities are calculated with an interest rate comparable to OPEBs; and
• While OPEB liabilities are large, several factors – such as sponsors’ flexibility to scale back benefits – limit their potential drain on resources.

Telling the Public Pension Story with Hard Data

Source: Elizabeth K. Kellar, Amber Snowden, Government Finance Review, February 2016

Public pensions have been a hot topic in the media and among state and local policymakers. News stories often depict pension funding in dire terms. But what are the facts? And how does the funded status of your government’s pension plan compare with others? Now it’s easy to find out with the Public Plans Database (PPD), a free, publicly accessible database of financial, actuarial, and other plan data for 150 of the nation’s largest local and state public pension plans…..

Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions

Source: National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), Issue Brief, February 2016

From the introduction:
As of September 30, 2015, state and local government retirement systems held assets of $3.56 trillion. These assets are held in trust and invested to pre-fund the cost of pension benefits. The investment return on these assets matters, as investment earnings account for a majority of public pension financing. A shortfall in long-term expected investment earnings must be made up by higher contributions or reduced benefits.

Funding a pension benefit requires the use of projections, known as actuarial assumptions, about future events. Actuarial assumptions fall into one of two broad categories: demographic and economic. Demographic assumptions are those pertaining to a pension plan’s membership, such as changes in the number of working and retired plan participants; when participants will retire, and how long they’ll live after they retire. Economic assumptions pertain to such factors as the rate of wage growth and the future expected investment return on the fund’s assets.

As with other actuarial assumptions, projecting public pension fund investment returns requires a focus on the long-term. This brief discusses how investment return assumptions are established and evaluated, and compares these assumptions with public funds’ actual investment experience.

Who Values Diversity? Comparing the Effect of Manager Gender Across the Public, Private, and Nonprofit Sectors

Source: Morgen Johansen, Ling Zhu, American Review of Public Administration, Published online before print February 26, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Researchers have focused on the role of managerial gender on attitudes toward diversity issues mainly in either the public or private sector, but there is little research that compares managerial attitudes on diversity across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. This article identifies important distinctions among the sectors that may influence gender differences in managerial priority placed on diversity. Using a national survey of nearly 1,000 top-level managers in public, private, and nonprofit hospitals in the United States, we analyze how managerial gender combined with cross-sector differences shape managerial priority on diversity. We find female managers place a higher priority on diversity than their male counterparts in nonprofit and private organizations compared with managers in public organizations. The differing effects of managerial gender on the priority placed on diversity are shaped by the organizational contexts of the three sectors. This research provides systematic evidence of sector differences in the patterns of managerial priorities regarding diversity.

What Will Become of Public-Sector Unions Now?

Source: Charlotte Garden, The Atlantic, February 16, 2016

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, organized labor may be spared—for a little while….
Friedrichs Is Dead; Labor’s Crisis Is Not. The ‘Scalia Dividend’ Is a Rare Opportunity for Unions.
Source: Shaun Richman, In These Times, February 16, 2016

The Friedrichs vs. CTA Supreme Court case, a nakedly partisan assassination attempt on the labor movement, has died with Justice Antonin Scalia. What cannot die with it is the sense of existential crisis within the labor movement. We need a far-reaching conversation about the pathway back to increased activism, membership and power…..

Menu of coverage about Justice Scalia
Source: Andrew Hamm, SCOTUSblog, February 16, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday at a ranch in Texas, after apparently having died in his sleep. Here is a collection of our coverage:….

How Scalia’s death may save teachers unions — for now
Source: Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2016

….In Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., many court watchers had expected Scalia to deliver the deciding vote against unions, limiting their ability to collect membership dues and other fees. Without Scalia, a 4-4 split is considered likely. That would maintain the status quo — a huge win for unions, at least for now. Though union opponents could mount a new case, that would probably take at least another year, said Jeffrey H. Keefe, a research associate at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute…..

Scalia’s death and Friedrichs
Source: Brian Mahoney, Politico, Morning Shift, February 16, 2016

….Morning Shift guesses (though of course we can’t be certain) that an Obama appointee to the court — were he or she to win Senate confirmation — would vote against the Friedrichs plaintiffs, if only to avoid overturning a 1977 Supreme Court precedent. Were that to occur, the re-hearing’s practical result for public employee unions — continued collection of fair share fees — would be the same as an inconclusive 4-4 ruling this term. It would just take longer to resolve itself … during which time the unions would continue to collect fair share fees.…

Commentary: Unions could still lose Friedrichs – even if we win
Source: Dave Kamper, Workday Minnesota, February 14, 2016

….Unions can still lose, but the important point is that losing doesn’t depend on what the Court does. We will lose if we fail to learn the lessons of these few months of panic, a panic that has shown both the depths of strength and the glaring weaknesses in the American labor movement. Three lessons stand out….

The most significant Supreme Court case that could be immediately affected by Scalia’s death
Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington Post, Wonkblog, February 13, 2016

A grave threat to public sector unions may have been averted — for now….So now, all signs point to the court deadlocking 4-4. In that scenario, the decision of the lower court — rejecting Friedrichs’ argument — would be affirmed. That decision would carry no precedent, so the court would be free to accept another case with a similar fact pattern, and rule the other way. But that would take at least another year, probably more….

The Labor Prospect: What Scalia’s Death Means for Unions
Source: Justin Miller, American Prospect, February 16, 2016

The impact of Scalia’s death goes way beyond Friedrichs, plus West Virginia goes right-to-work, and Minneapolis moves toward mandatory sick leave.

Justice Scalia’s Death: This Changes Everything
Source: Roger Parloff, Fortune, February 13, 2016

….On our closely divided Supreme Court, which sooner or later seems to decide all of the most emotionally freighted political questions of the day—affirmative action, abortion, gun rights, gay rights, labor and employment issues, immigration, Obamacare, the death penalty, and on it goes—a decisive, conservative 5-4 majority has just been shaved to a 4-4 toss-up……

Scalia’s Death Probably Flips Big Cases
Source: Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View, February 16, 2016

….How will the death of Justice Antonin Scalia affect the major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, all of which are expected to be decided by the end of June? The answer doesn’t depend entirely on how Scalia would’ve voted. It also depends on a necessary rule of procedure: When the Supreme Court is divided equally, it upholds the decision below. Applying this dual analysis to five major cases in the pipeline yields some surprising results. The issues involved are: fees in lieu of union dues for nonunion workers, the University of Texas’s affirmative-action admissions program, Texas’s restrictive abortion law, President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, and a group of nuns’ demand to be exempted from filing a certificate so they won’t have to pay for employees’ contraceptive insurance under the Affordable Care Act….

When Scalia Died, So Did ‘Friedrichs’—And an Even Grander Scheme To Destroy Unions
Source: Moshe Z. Marvit, In These Times, February 15, 2016

….Last week, in a little-noticed case called D’Agostino v. Baker, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lost at the First Circuit in their attempt to argue that the First Amendment does not allow exclusive representation of home healthcare workers. This case sought to expand the Harris holding by arguing that the First Amendment prohibits home healthcare unions not only from collecting fees from workers who don’t want to pay, but also from bargaining on behalf of any worker who doesn’t opt to be a member. Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote the decision for the First Circuit in D’Agnostino, relying heavily on Abood and its progeny. If history is any indication, National Right to Work was planning on appealing this case to the Supreme Court. The case provided a glimpse of what the likely post-Friedrichs plan of attack would have been: After you win on the dues front, go after membership. In addition, other cases, such as Bain v. CTA, that attacked the membership rights of unions but had been thrown out by lower courts, were likely to reappear…..

Here Are Six All-Important Cases Now Pretty Much Decided After Scalia’s Death
Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, February 13, 2016

….Because of the polarized nature of the court, Scalia’s death makes it all but certain that in most of those cases, the votes will result in a 4-4 tie, which means that the decision of the lower courts will likely stand unless one of the justices goes off the reservation and votes with the opposite side. That means we can probably predict the outcome of several key cases without having to wait until June.
The results are a mixed bag. The Obama administration is likely to lose an important fight over immigration. Unions win. Reproductive rights for women could suffer. And challenges to redistricting are likely to founder.

Here’s a rundown of how six of those cases are likely to unfold:
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of Scalia’s death are public sector unions. This case, which produced one of the more contentious oral arguments of the term, was headed towards a 5-4 decision in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs who were challenging the California’s teachers’ union’s right to charge public school employees fees to cover the costs of the collective bargaining it did on their behalf, even though they aren’t members of the union. The case was teed up by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, and labor supporters feared a ruling against the union could devastate what’s left of labor’s power. The lawyers for Friedrichs asked the lower court to rule against them to hasten the case’s arrival at the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals complied, and now that decision is likely to stand if the liberal-conservative split on the court delivers a 4-4 vote. Labor wins…..

The untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia will likely decide several hot-button cases.
How Scalia’s Death Will Affect Pending Cases Before the Supreme Court
Source: Massimo Calabresi, Time, February 13, 2016

….When the Supreme Court justices split evenly on how to rule, the decision of the lower court stands. This can happen when a justice is recused from a case, or when there is a vacancy on the court. Scalia represented the fifth vote for conservatives on the court and in those cases that were expected to split 5-4 along ideological grounds, his death may affect the outcome. In the event of a tie among the justices, the Supreme Court effectively upholds the lower court’s ruling and any opinions issued are considered non-binding. The most likely case currently before the court to be affected by Scalia’s death is a union case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which could have restricted unions’ ability to collect fees from non-members for collective bargaining. If the court issues a ruling this year, it is unlikely to break with the settled constitutional interpretation that unions can do so…..

How Scalia’s Death Affects This Term’s Biggest Supreme Court Cases
Source: Jordan Weissmann, Slate, February 13, 2016

Here’s a brief rundown of how Scalia’s passing will (or won’t) affect the biggest cases of this term…..
Case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association
Issue: Public sector union rights
Outcome in a split: The liberals win.
Not to be too blunt, but presenting this case before a post-Scalia court is an enormous break for American labor unions. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the court is considering whether public servants can be forced under “fair share” laws to pay fees to unions in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining on their behalf, even if they’re not members. A ruling against the teachers’ unions would effectively extend right-to-work laws to government employees across the nation and significantly cut into public-sector union revenue. And as of oral arguments, it looked as if that was about to happen. But with Scalia no longer on the court, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which upheld fair share rules, may still stand…..

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al.
Source: The Center for Individual Rights, February 17, 2016

….If these predictions are correct, then the current panel of eight Justices would result in a 4-4 decision which would not settle the question of whether compulsory dues are constitutional. If the Court were to issue such a decision, the lawyers for Rebecca Friedrichs and the nine other plaintiffs will file a motion for rehearing….

Labor Movement Needs to Organize Against Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association

Source: Shamus Cooke, Speakout, February 10, 2016

…..Every historic victory of organized labor was won with “no justice, no peace” at its foundation, and every other organized group of oppressed people used the same approach to win power.

This is the only way to fight Friedrichs, since it was how unions won the decision that Friedrichs seeks to destroy. When unions won Abood v. Detroit in 1977, it was the culmination of years of mass strikes in the public sector, where public transportation grinded to a halt and teachers shut down school districts, demanding the dignity that comes with strong unions.

The pro-union Abood decision wasn’t a gift from the Supreme Court, but a recognition of the existing power that unions were actively expressing. The 1977 Supreme Court said publicly that the Abood decision was, in large part, motivated in order to deliver “social peace.” And after the court gave the unions justice, the unions gave the government peace.

Unions are under attack now precisely because they aren’t viewed as a potential threat. But there is still time to show that the court has misjudged union power. The court will not decide Friedrichs until June, and until then, labor remains on the battlefield. If unions engage and mobilize their memberships to strike preemptively, it may lessen the blow of Friedrichs, while a powerful strike could avoid the blow completely…..

Can Renewal Emerge from Destruction? Crisis and Opportunity in Wisconsin

Source: Don Taylor, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article explores public sector labor relations in Wisconsin after the 2011 “uprising” and subsequent attempts to recall public officials, including the governor. While unions there have faced catastrophic setbacks and confront an uncertain future, the potential exists for Wisconsin to forge a new approach to escape the confines of the “service model,” which has left unions as “houses of straw.” If Wisconsin public sector unions can combine lessons from history and nonbargaining states with comprehensive plans for organizational culture change, a crucially important model could take shape for the entire U.S. labor movement.

Public Employees and Performance Appraisal: A Study of Antecedents to Employees’ Perception of the Process

Source: Taehee Kim, Marc Holzer, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 36 no. 1, March 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
There is considerable agreement that organizations can benefit from using performance appraisal. Nevertheless, some studies find that both supervisors and employees have negative reactions to the process. This article addresses this contradiction by emphasizing the importance of cognitive aspects of performance appraisal. Without understanding individual employees’ reactions to performance appraisal and its supportive organizational context, it is less likely for performance appraisal to be used for its original objective, which is performance improvement. Given the importance of employee acceptance of a performance measurement system, this article attempts to identify key factors which can heighten employee acceptance of performance appraisal using data from the 2005 Merit Principles Survey. The findings indicate that the developmental use of performance appraisal, employee participation in performance standard setting, the quality of the relationship they have with their supervisors, and employee perceived empowerment are positively associated with employee acceptance of performance appraisal.