Category Archives: Public Sector

Summary of the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions for 2015: Q4

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, G15-QSPP4, March 31, 2016

For the 100 largest public-employee pension systems in the country, assets (cash and investments) totaled $3,243.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, increasing 0.9 percent from the third quarter level of $3,215.9 billion. This increase in assets is mainly due to positive earnings, as evidenced by a gain of $63.6 billion in the fourth quarter. Compared to the same quarter in 2014, assets for these major public pension systems decreased 3.0 percent from $3,343.6 billion. The major asset categories highlighted in this summary (equities, debt instruments, and cash equivalents) do not reflect all the categories published for the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions…..

Opinion analysis: Result but no guidance on public unions’ fees

Source: Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog, March 29, 2016

The most important labor union controversy to reach the Supreme Court in years sputtered to an end on Tuesday, with a four-to-four split, no explanation, and nothing settled definitely. The one-sentence result in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will leave intact, but on an uncertain legal foundation, a system of “agency fees” for non-union teachers in California — with the legal doubts for public workers’ unions across the nation probably lingering until a ninth Justice joins the Court at some point in the future.

The practical effect was to leave undisturbed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had simply found itself bound by a prior Supreme Court precedent upholding such fees against constitutional challenge. The Ninth Circuit had before it a case specifically filed as a test of that precedent, and only the Supreme Court could revisit that prior ruling, binding on all lower courts…..

Friedrichs Opinion
Source: Juhyung Harold Lee, OnLabor blog, March 29, 2016

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court has handed down a 4-4 affirmance of the lower court’s opinion in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The Court’s 1977 opinion in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education thus remains good law, and public-sector unions may continue to collect agency fees from nonmembers.

A Narrow Escape for Public-Sector Unions
Source: Matt Ford, The Atlantic, March 29, 2016

The justices split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. CTA, leaving a pro-union ruling in the lower courts intact. …. Tuesday’s deadlock means that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the teachers’ union will stand. But it also signaled that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who almost certainly joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas on one side of the split, would be willing to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the decision that became the basis for public-employee contracts. That tosses the precedent’s ultimate fate to the next justice who serves on the Court. ….

Supreme Court Deadlocks On Challenge To Union Fees
Source: Nina Totenberg, NPR, March 29, 2016

Split Supreme Court Means A Win For Public Sector Unions
Source: Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News, March 29, 2016

The Supreme Court split 4-4 on a case over public union fees for non-members, leaving in place a lower court decision that allows the fees to continue.

Mandatory Union Fees Survive as U.S. Supreme Court Deadlocks
Source: Greg Stohr, Bloomberg, March 29, 2016

BREAKING: The Biggest Legal Attack On Unions In Decades Is Dead
Source: Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress, March 29, 2016

Supreme Court deadlocks over public employee union case; Calif. teachers must pay dues
Source: Robert Barnes, Washington Post, March 29, 2016

SCOTUS 4-4 decision hands public sector unions a victory
Source: Ariane de Vogue, CNN, March 29, 2016

Unions Win Fee Victory as Supreme Court Ties 4-4
Source: Adam Liptak, New York Times, March 29, 2016

Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-proof? Were They Ever?

Source: Jason L. Kopelman, Harvey S. Rosen, Public Finance Review, Vol. 44 no. 3, May 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use data from the Displaced Worker Surveys from 1984 to 2012 to investigate the differences in job loss rates between workers in the public and private sectors. Our focus is on how recessions affect the differential between job loss rates in the two sectors. We find that even after accounting for worker characteristics, the probability of job loss is higher for private sector workers than for public sector workers at all levels of government. The advantage of public sector employment in terms of job loss rates generally increases during recessions for all groups of public sector workers. Thus, the answer to the question posed in the title is that public sector jobs, while not generally recession-proof, do offer more security than private sector jobs, and the advantage widens during recessions. These patterns are present across genders, races, and educational groups.
Other versions:
Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever?
Source: Jason L. Kopelman, Harvey S. Rosen, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 20692, November 2014
(subscription required)

Going Green in Public Organizations: Linking Organizational Commitment and Public Service Motives to Public Employees’ Workplace Eco-Initiatives

Source: Justin M. Stritch, Robert K. Christensen, The American Review of Public Administration, Vol. 46 no. 3, May 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public servants are expected to be good stewards of resources, including the energy and environmental resources consumed in a public organization’s day-to-day operations. Many government organizations have enacted policies to mitigate the environmental impact of their operations. Even in the absence of formal policies, however, individual public employees might engage in a number of discretionary, pro-environmental behaviors known as eco-initiatives. What motivational factors cause a public employee to exhibit eco-initiative? To answer this question, we draw on a theoretical framework based on connectedness to nature, organizational commitment, public service motivation (PSM), and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). We use employee-level data from a large city in the southeast United States to examine employee participation in individual eco-initiatives. We contextualize these discretionary initiatives as interesting forms of OCB, which are directed toward the environment (OCB-E). Our findings suggest that connectedness to nature, organizational commitment, and PSM are significant predictors of eco-initiative in the public workplace. In addition, we find that PSM conditions the impact of organizational commitment on eco-initiatives for certain types of employees. We conclude with a discussion that underscores the importance of individual employee motivation in discretionary efforts that advance OCB-E and effective public stewardship generally.

The Impact of Decoupling of Telework on Job Satisfaction in U.S. Federal Agencies – Does Gender Matter?

Source: Kwang Bin Bae, Dohyeong Kim, The American Review of Public Administration, Vol. 46 no. 3, May 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study analyzes the effects of decoupling of telework on job satisfaction using the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The research divides telework programs for public employees by two criteria: (a) whether or not federal agencies have officially adopted the program, and (b) whether or not public employees actually participate in the program. We find that both organizational adoption and employee participation in telework have a positive relationship with job satisfaction, and these results support the social exchange theory. We also observe that the effects of decoupling of telework on job satisfaction are more significant for female public employees than for male public employees. The results imply that female employees have the lowest levels of job satisfaction when agencies officially adopt telework but employees cannot utilize the program. However, male employees have the lowest levels of job satisfaction when they are unable to utilize a nonexistent telework program.

Illinois HB 580: The Political Battle Over Interest Arbitration

Source: Kelsey Bleiweiss, On Labor blog, March 23, 2016

When it comes to labor news in Illinois, most attention is on the Chicago Teachers Union and its likely strike in April. But HB 580, a labor bill pending in Illinois, merits attention as well, as it has ignited fierce debate in the state for over a year. Though the future of the bill is uncertain, it raises important questions about public sector unions that have little choice but to engage with partisan politics.

Private and Public-Sector Retirement Plan Trends

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, EBRI Databook on Employee Benefits, Chapter 5, Updated October 2015

Tables include:
• Percentage of Employees Participating in Retirement and Capital Accumulation Plans, by Type of Plan: Medium and Large Private Establishments, 1980-2003
• Percentage of Employees Participating in Retirement and Capital Accumulation Plans, by Type of Plan: Medium and Large Private Establishments, 2004-2015
• Percentage of Employees Participating in Retirement and Capital Accumulation Plans, by Type of Plan: Small Private Establishments, 1990-2015
• Percentage of Employees Participating in Retirement and Capital Accumulation Plans, by Type of Plan: State and Local Governments, 1987-2015
• Summary of Private-Sector Qualified Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans and Participants, Selected Years 1975–1990
• Summary of Private-Sector Qualified Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans and Participants, Selected Years 1991-2006
• Summary of Private-Sector Qualified Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans and Participants, Selected Years 2007-2013

Data-sets used in this chapter:
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey – Tables 10.1a-d The National Compensation Survey (NCS) covers the incidence and de tailed provisions of selected employee benefit plans in private establishments. The data are presented as the percent of employees who have access to or participate in certain benefits, or as average benefit pro visions. Before 1999, data from the Employee Benefit Survey were released in three separate publications covering medium and large private establishments (establishments with 100 or more employees), small private establishments (establishments with 99 or fewer employees), and stat e and local governments. Starting with the 1999 data, BLS began publishing data for all private industry. For further information on the data collection, survey method ology, and data usage please go to the following web site: in the section general overview.

U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefit Security Administration, Tabulations off the Form 5500 – Tables 5.2. In compliance with Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) all private-sector plan sponsors must file a Form 5500 with the IRS. These forms contain extensive financial, participant, and actuarial data. Such plans may be defined benefit or define d contribution. They generally cover private wage and salary employees and are sponsored either by employers or jointly by employers and unions.

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.