The Troubling Turn in State Preemption: The Assault on Progressive Cities and How Cities Can Respond

Source: Richard Briffault, Nestor Davidson, Paul A. Diller, Olatunde Johnson, and Richard C. Schragger, Advance: The Journal of ACS Issue Briefs, Vol. 11 no. 1, Fall 2017
(scroll down)

….This Issue Brief canvasses the current wave of preemption and the primary legal theories that these state-local conflicts present, as well as claims that might arise as these battles continue. The Brief also explores other possibilities for strengthening home rule to advance progressive local policymaking at a moment when cities increasingly stand on the front lines of economic justice, civil rights, sustainable development, and so many other critical policy domains…..

The Digital Activism Gap: How Class and Costs Shape Online Collective Action

Source: Jen Schradie Social Problems, Volume 65, Issue 1, February 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
What is the relationship between social class and online participation in social movements? Scholars suggest that low costs to digital activism broaden participation and challenge conventional collective action theories, but given the digital divide, little is known about cost variation across social movement organizations from different social classes. A focus on high levels of digital engagement and extraordinary events leaves scant information about the effect of social class on digital mobilization patterns and everyday practices within and across organizations. This study takes a field-level approach to incorporate all groups involved in one statewide political issue, thereby including organizations with different social class compositions, from Tea Parties to labor unions. Data collection spans online and off-line digital activism practices. With an index to measure digital engagement from an original data set of over 90,000 online posts, findings show deep digital activism inequalities between working-class and middle/upper-class groups. In-depth interviews and ethnographic observations reveal that the mechanisms of this digital activism gap are organizational resources, along with individual disparities in access, skills, empowerment and time. These factors create high costs of online participation for working-class groups. Rather than reduced costs equalizing online participation, substantial costs contribute to digital activism inequality.

Don’t Fall for the Members-Only Unionism Trap

Source: Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, January 4, 2018

One of corporate America’s next big goals might surprise you: passing legislation to prevent unions from having to represent workers who don’t pay dues. This is just the latest of many business-friendly labor law reforms proliferating across the country. …..

….. Some union supporters have argued that the way to solve the free-rider problem is by allowing unions to simply kick out the “freeloaders.” ….

…. Now, employer-backed groups are making similar arguments. The State Policy Network (SPN)—a coalition of corporate-financed right-wing think tanks—is also advocating for laws that would eliminate the requirement that unions represent non-members in a unionized workplace.

What do right-wing advocates of this strategy hope to accomplish? For an answer, we can look at the case of unionized teachers in Tennessee. ….

The Attack on Workers’ Retirement

Source: Dean Baker, Labor Notes, January 12, 2018

While many current retirees are reasonably comfortable because they have pensions, the future does not look bright for those yet to retire.

Traditional defined-benefit pensions are rapidly disappearing in the private sector—less than 15 percent of workers have them. Most public sector workers still have them—more than 20 million are either now receiving or looking forward to a pension. However, public sector pensions are coming under attack from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other right-wing groups.

Over the last four decades employers have been anxious to convert the traditional defined-benefit pensions into defined-contribution 401(k) plans.

The difference is that with a defined benefit, the worker is secure while the employer does not know exactly how much it will have to pay in. Workers are guaranteed a lifetime benefit based on their salary and years of service; the employer’s bill depends on the worker’s longevity and on stock market performance.

With a defined-contribution plan, the employer knows just how much it will pay each year, and the worker shoulders all the uncertainty. This means that workers face the risk that the market will plunge just after they retire—and they may quite possibly outlive their savings.

By getting rid of defined-benefit plans, employers are transferring risk to workers. In addition, they often contribute less to a defined-contribution plan than to the defined-benefit plans they replaced, in effect cutting workers’ pay. ….

Steward’s Corner: Union Newsletters: Two-Way or No Way

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 2, 2018

For union members trying to breathe a little life into their local, a newsletter is often the “go-to” solution. But what should go in it?

Say you and a group of buddies at work want to push your union in the right direction, toward greater member involvement. It’s not that things with the union are all terrible; in fact you’ve got a decent contract and stewards do a reasonable job handling grievances. But day to day a lot of problems come up that the union doesn’t seem to touch. Morale is low. There aren’t many union meetings, and attendance is often poor. You’ve got a sense that things could be different.

Perhaps there already is a newsletter—either print or electronic—but no one pays much attention to it. You may be thinking that a new and improved newsletter would be an easy way to stimulate interest in the union, educate co-workers, increase transparency, and motivate engagement. And you’d be right… but only if you keep certain basic organizing principles in mind.

Consider these scenarios, and ask yourself how best to report on them in a newsletter in a way that helps encourage more members to get involved in the union:….


Newsletter Distribution: Worst to Best
• Posted on the union website
• Left on a table in the mail room or break room
• Put in mailboxes or cubbies
• Sent via postal mail
• Email blast
• Hand distributed by stewards/reps
• Individually distributed with conversations
• All of the above
• All of the above, plus the newsletter includes “discussion topics” for members
• All of the above, plus discussions are organized around members’ responses….

Unpaid Caregiving Roles and Sleep Among Women Working in Nursing Homes: A Longitudinal Study

Source: Nicole DePasquale, Martin J Sliwinski, Steven H Zarit, Orfeu M Buxton, David M Almeida, The Gerontologist, Advance Access, Published: January 19, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background and Objectives:
Although sleep is a critical health outcome providing insight into overall health, well-being, and role functioning, little is known about the sleep consequences of simultaneously occupying paid and unpaid caregiving roles. This study investigated the frequency with which women employed in U.S.-based nursing homes entered and exited unpaid caregiving roles for children (double-duty-child caregivers), adults (double-duty-elder caregivers), or both (triple-duty caregivers), as well as examined how combinations of and changes in these caregiving roles related to cross-sectional and longitudinal sleep patterns.

Research Design and Methods:
The sample comprised 1,135 women long-term care employees who participated in the baseline wave of the Work, Family, and Health Study and were assessed at three follow-up time points (6-, 12-, and 18-months). Sleep was assessed with items primarily adapted from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and wrist actigraphic recordings. Multilevel models with data nested within persons were applied.

Women long-term care employees entered and exited the unpaid elder caregiving role most frequently. At baseline, double-duty-child and triple-duty caregivers reported shorter sleep quantity and poorer sleep quality than their counterparts without unpaid caregiving roles, or workplace-only caregivers. Double-duty-elder caregivers also reported shorter sleep duration compared to workplace-only caregivers. Over time, double-duty-elder caregiving role entry was associated with negative changes in subjective sleep quantity and quality.

Discussion and Implications:
Simultaneously occupying paid and unpaid caregiving roles has negative implications for subjective sleep characteristics. These results call for further research to advance understanding of double-and-triple-duty caregivers’ sleep health and facilitate targeted intervention development.

The Dark Side of the “World’s Most Admired” Companies

Source: Neil Gordon, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), January 26, 2018

Fortune magazine recently released its 2018 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. From a pool of roughly 1,500 candidates, Fortune picked the 50 “best-regarded companies in 52 industries.” Apple topped the list for the eleventh year straight. General Electric plummeted in the last year from number 7 to number 30. Lockheed Martin and Adidas both cracked the top 50 for the first time.

Of course, Fortune’s ranking is somewhat skewed and self-serving. It is based on a survey of corporate executives and financial analysts. “Admiration” is measured according to criteria that emphasize companies’ financial shape over their track record of integrity and business ethics.

So, we took it upon ourselves to document the dark side of the world’s 50 most admired companies. Ten of the companies are in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), which includes civil, criminal, and administrative misconduct instances dating back to 1995 for 220 of the federal government’s largest contractors. All but 3 of the top 50 are in Good Jobs First’s Violation Tracker corporate misconduct database, which includes enforcement data from the federal regulatory agencies and the Justice Department dating back to 2000 for over 2,800 companies. Both databases show that most of the companies have multiple instances of misconduct for which they paid millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, and settlements…..

Will the Supreme Court deal a blow to trade unions?

Source: S. M., The Economist, Democracy in America blog, February 1, 2018

The court will consider whether unions can require non-member workers to help pay for collective bargaining.

OF ALL the blockbuster cases at the Supreme Court this year, Janus v American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is expected to hold the fewest surprises. Janus, which is due to be argued on February 26th, asks whether public employees who choose not to join their designated union may nevertheless be charged “agency fees” to support collective bargaining. Since 1977, when Abood v City of Detroit Board of Education was decided, it has been acceptable to require non-members to subsidise contract negotiations over their salary, benefits and working conditions, but a no-no to make them pay toward a union’s lobbying or political organising. This compromise was teetering on the edge in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died while a case raising the same question, Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, was pending. Bereft of a fifth vote to seal Abood’s demise, the justices split 4-to-4 in Friedrichs and put the 40-year precedent back on life support. 

The man everyone expects to help pull the plug this time is Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s pick to replace Justice Scalia. Observers think Justice Gorsuch will join his four conservative brethren to say that workers should not be compelled to subsidise union negotiations for higher wages any more than they are required to pay for efforts to elect candidates or advocate for political causes. Undoing that distinction may be how Janus is resolved. But a brief from two libertarian legal scholars, alongside a brief submitted by a bevy of eminent economists, supplies a strong case for preserving what unions call “fair-share fees”…..

The Eminent Libertarians Who Might Save Public Sector Unions
Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, February 2, 2018

The Supreme Court will hear arguments this month in a case challenging the constitutionality of so-called agency fees, payments that workers represented by a union must pay if they do not wish to be dues-paying members. Conservatives have been crusading against these fees for years on First Amendment grounds, and with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench, the labor movement’s odds seem grim.

But last month, unions got a surprising lifeline from an unlikely friend: Two prominent conservative legal scholars filed an amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31 — the case before the court — urging the justices to uphold a 1977 decision that ruled the agency fees constitutional…..

33 prominent economists, 3 Nobel laureates to the Supreme Court: The anti-union position in Janus is simply wrong as a matter of basic economics
Source: Dan Jackson, American Constitution Society blog, January 25, 2018

Thirty-six distinguished economists and professors of law and economics including three Nobel laureates, two recipients of the American Economic Association’s prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, and two past presidents of the American Economic Association filed an amici curiae brief to assist the Supreme Court in understanding the free-rider problem at issue in Janus v. AFSCME….

CEO Pay Ratio Survey

Source: Equilar, February 2018
(subscription required)

From the press release:
Equilar has conducted an anonymous survey of 356 public companies to identify the CEO Pay Ratio they plan to report in their 2018 proxy statements. Overall, the survey found that the median was 140:1 among this group of companies.

In 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) passed a ruling that required public companies to report the ratio of compensation for their CEO in comparison to that of a median employee.

Key findings from the survey included:
• The median CEO pay ratio across all 356 submitting companies was 140:1. At the 25th percentile, the ratio was 72:1, and was 246:1 at the 75th percentile. The average was 241:1.
• Median employee compensation for all companies in the survey was $60,000.
• The median CEO pay ratio was larger in direct correlation to company revenue, totaling 47:1 for companies below $1 billion in revenue and 263:1 for companies above $15 billion in revenue.
• Similarly, companies with the greatest number of employees had the largest ratio (318:1) and the smallest median employee compensation ($46,000). The smallest companies, with fewer than 2,310 employees, had the lowest ratio (45:1) and highest median pay ($85,580). Equilar split companies by employee size into five equal quintiles for this particular analysis.
• Ratios by industry sector varied much more widely:
• “Consumer discretionary” companies, which include retail and hospitality, had the highest ratio with a median 350:1.
• Energy companies had the lowest ratio at 72:1.
• Median employee pay at the 48 consumer discretionary companies that responded to the survey was $21,840 vs. $107,887 for the 30 energy companies that responded.

Health Insurance Reform In The USA—What, How, And Why?

Source: Theodore Joyce, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 1, Winter 2018

The U.S. Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Will the country limp along with a politically unsupported ACA or is this an opportunity for a serious discussion about health insurance reform in the United States? In this Point/Counterpoint, Adam Gaffney, a physician and instructor in Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a member of the Cambridge Health Alliance, argues for a national insurance program that provides first-dollar coverage to all Americans. Dana Goldman, the Leonard D. Schaeffer Chair and distinguished Professor at the University of Southern California, and Kip Hagopian, co-founder of Brentwood Associates and Managing Partner at Apple Oaks Partners LLC, also argue for universal coverage, but one consistent with standard principles characteristic of automobile or home insurance. These widely differing approaches to health insurance reform could not be more timely or more cogently argued.


It Is Time For Universal Coverage Without Breaking The Bank
Source: Dana P. Goldman and Kip Hagopian, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 1, Winter 2018

….So what can be done now that “repeal and replace” has failed? There is a call for bipartisan solutions, but proposals are often short on details. What specifics we do get involve modest reforms to reduce cost-sharing and stabilize the existing markets. This is not enough; we need fundamental reform, and five goals should undergird a bipartisan plan:
• make coverage universal and progressive;
• build on, but do not replace, the private insurance system;
• keep it affordable and sustainable; reduce incentives for adverse selection (avoidance of bad health risks); and
• create incentives for prevention and long-term investment…..

Health Insurance Reform In The United States—What, How, And Why?
Source: Adam Gaffney, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 1, Winter 2018

Last summer, Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—seven-years in the making—dramatically collapsed. Yet, if the failed Senate vote in July marked a pause in conservative reform efforts, it only further animated the health care reform debate on the left side of the political spectrum.

In this article, I argue that one of the reform models under discussion—single-payer national health insurance (NHI)—is the most potent and realistic policy solution. First, I make the case that universal coverage is economically feasible. Second, I examine why achieving universal coverage remains paramount. Third, I describe how universal coverage can be quickly and effectively achieved via NHI enrollment. Fourth, I discuss benefit design, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive benefits, and first-dollar coverage. And finally, I explore the role of the public and private sectors, arguing that health care coverage must remain entirely within the public sphere if the goal of universal health care is to be, at long last, attained…..

Medicare-For-All: Not Our Only Option For Universal Coverage
Source: Dana P. Goldman and Kip Hagopian, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 1, Winter 2018

The failure to meet ambitious but attainable goals—cover everyone, control costs—has created opportunity for radical reform. Dr. Gaffney advocates for universal health coverage via the burgeoning “Medicare-for-All” approach that has dominated the progressive health reform landscape for decades. As appealing as it may be from the outside, the strategy ignores several key health policy realities, namely the proper amount of insurance, the historic limitations of Medicare, the pitfalls of cutting costs by reducing administration, and the rising pressure of private markets in international health insurance…..

Universal Underinsurance Is Not The Same As Universal Health Care
Source: Adam Gaffney, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 1, Winter 2018

I begin my response to Dana Goldman and Kip Hagopian’s admirably clear reform proposal on a point of agreement. Today, 28 million Americans remain uninsured according to the United States Census Bureau. The three of us clearly agree that this status quo is unacceptable, and that universal coverage is attainable, affordable, and right.

Beyond that, however, it becomes clear that we have very different visions for the future of American health care……