Category Archives: Public Sector

Decisions, Decisions: Retirement Plan Choices for Public Employees and Employers

Source: Mark Olleman, and Ilana Boivie, National Institute on Retirement Security, September 2011

From the summary:
A new study finds that defined benefit (DB) pensions are strongly preferred over 401(k)-type defined contribution (DC) individual accounts.

The study analyzes seven state retirement systems that offer a choice between DB and DC plans to find that the DB uptake rate ranges from 98 to 75 percent. The percentage of new employees choosing DC plans ranges from 2 to 25 percent for the plans studied.

In recent years, a few states have offered public employees a choice between primary DB and DC plans. The new study, Decisions, Decisions: Retirement Plan Choices for Public Employees and Employers, analyzes the choices made by employees and finds that:

* When given the choice between a primary DB or DC plan, public employees overwhelmingly choose the DB pension plan.
* DB pensions are more cost efficient than DC accounts due to higher investment returns and longevity risk pooling.
* DC accounts lack supplemental benefits such as death and disability protection. These can still be provided, but require extra contributions outside the DC plan which are therefore not deposited into the members’ accounts.
* When states look at shifting from a DB pension to DC accounts, such a shift does not close funding shortfalls and can increase retirement costs.
* A “hybrid” plan for new employees in Utah provides a unique case study in that it has capped the pension funding risk to the employer and shifted risk to employees.
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Comparing Compensation: State-Local Versus Private Sector Workers

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Jean-Pierre Aubry, Josh Hurwitz, and Laura Quinby, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#20, September 2011

From the abstract:
The comparability of state-local versus private sector pay has become a major issue in the wake of the financial crisis. Funded levels of public pension plans declined sharply, and governments’ ability to make required contributions has been severely constrained by the collapse of state-local budgets. Politicians everywhere are looking for ways to reduce pension costs and increase revenues. Often such efforts are couched in terms of excessively generous existing compensation – especially, current pensions. Dueling studies have appeared arguing that state-local workers are paid less or more than their private sector counterparts. Virtually all agree that wages of state-local employees are lower than for private sector workers with similar education and experience, but researchers differ on the extent to which pensions and other benefits compensate for the shortfall. This brief builds on the recent wave of studies by refining the estimates of the value of benefits.

Will Today’s Excluded Workers Midwife Labor’s Rebirth?

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 3, Fall 2011
(subscription required)

Worker Centers: Entering a New Stage of Growth and Development
By Janice Fine
Do worker centers represent the next stage of labor insurgency?

The Excluded Workers Congress: Reimagining the Right to Organize
By Harmony Goldberg and Randy Jackson
A report from the founding convention.

The Anatomy of Austerity

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 3, Fall 2011
(subscription required)

Marching Backwards: The Consequences of Bipartisan Budget Cutting
By Josh Bivens
Slashing federal spending is a recipe for disaster.

State and Municipal Alternatives to Austerity

By Robert Pollin and Jeff Thompson
How governments can preserve social services and help jumpstart economic recovery.

Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Challenges of Policy Leadership in a Hostile Environment

Source: Richard C. Kearney, Public Administration Review, Volume 71, Issue 5, September/October 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Randi Weingarten is the president of the most vocal and influential teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers. Since rising through the ranks to AFT president in just two years, Weingarten is now a major, if not the most prominent, nongovernmental player in national education policy. She has earned deep respect from many educational policy actors. Likewise, Weingarten elicits withering criticism from others. This fascinating profile explains why, in such a brief period, she has proved to be a fierce, fearless, and effective leader under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Her experience offers invaluable lessons applicable for others working in similarly intense policy arenas.

Family-Friendly Human Resource Policy: Is It Still Working in the Public Sector?

Source: Jungin Kim and Mary Ellen Wiggins, Public Administration Review, Vol. 71 no. 5, September/October 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The balance between work and family plays a pivotal but evolving role in human resource policy. Ensuring that human resource policy responds to rapidly changing American family demographics, particularly the recent sharp increase in single unmarried Americans, is a major challenge. Compensation policy long has focused on family-oriented values by promising increased capacity to provide for a family in exchange for higher work performance. Now, employees are voicing concerns about matters such as quality time with family, and, in turn, employers are responding by implementing more benefits to achieve a better work-family balance. Strong counterarguments against human resource goals targeted only at families advocate personal policies that emphasize work-life balance for all employees. How well has personal policy kept pace with the shifting compensation preferences of public employees? Results suggest that implementation policies are keeping pace with employee satisfaction. However, levels of employee satisfaction often differ widely by demographic characteristics.

Women and Men in the Public Sector

Source: Jeff Hayes, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), IWPR #Q001, September 2011

From the press release:
A new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), finds that women employees lost 81 percent (473,000) of the 581,000 jobs lost in the public sector since December 2008. Many of these jobs were lost at the local and state level where women in the public sector are most likely to be employed as elementary and middle school teachers.

At the local level between December 2008 and July 2011, the number of women in public sector employment decreased by 4.7 percent while the number of men decreased by only 1.6 percent. At the federal level in the same period, women employees saw a decrease of 3.2 percent in their ranks while the number of men employed actually increased by 5.3 percent, possibly due to increased employment in areas such as homeland security and civilian employment in the Department of Defense.

Most Americans Still Think Those in Private Sector Work Harder, Earn Less Than Government Employees

Source: Rasmussen Reports, August 15, 2011

Americans still overwhelmingly believe that those employed in the private sector work harder than government workers but receive less compensation and have less job security.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 70% say private sector employees work harder than their counterparts in the government. That’s up four points from June and is just a point below the highest result measured in December 2009. Only 11% think government employees work harder than those in the private sector. Nineteen percent (19%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)