Collaborative Management: A Positive Approach to Public Sector Employee Relations

Source: Thomas J. Calo, HR News Magazine, April 2008

For the public sector HR professional, the challenge is not, as it may be in the private sector, to actively resist or avoid unions. Rather, because of increasing demands for ensuring accountability in government, good customer service, and government effectiveness, the public sector HR professional is challenged with creating positive employee-management relations with unions and individual employees. Public sector agency and HR managers are well advised and well served to continually explore and implement strategies fro maintaining satisfaction and effectiveness among both unionized and nonunionized employees.

Working with Unions in Tough Fiscal Times: A Guide to Labor-Management Cooperation

Source: M. Scott Milinski, HR News Magazine, April 2008

Many unionized organizations in the private sector have successfully responded to the competitive challenge through labor-management cooperation programs. These programs have also been used effectively in the public sector to reinvent and streamline government, saving taxpayer dollars and jobs. However, many jurisdictions have had poor results with these programs. The reasons are fairly simple; labor-management cooperation initiatives usually fail due to lack of proper support, purpose and structure. This article lays out the critical elements for an effective labor-management initiative. Address these issues, and labor-management efforts will be more successful.

Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation

Source: America’s Promise Alliance

Graduation rates have become a prominent feature in the landscape of high school reform and within the larger world of educational policy. Studies conducted over the past several years have repeatedly demonstrated that far fewer American students are completing high school with diplomas than had previously been realized. Whereas the conventional wisdom had long placed the graduation rate around 85 percent, a growing consensus has emerged that only about seven in 10 students are actually successfully finishing high school. Graduation rates are even lower among certain student populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and males.

That same conventional wisdom also suggests that the type of community in which a student lives and attends school will exert a strong and pervasive influence on a variety of educational outcomes. This connection between place and performance applies to both the experiences of individual students and the collective performance of schools and school systems. Striking differences between schools situated in urban and suburban environments, for instance, have frequently been documented in the area of tested achievement. An analysis by the EPE Research Center also shows that high school graduation rates are 15 percentage points lower in the nation’s urban schools when compared with those located in the suburbs. Despite the acknowledged importance of such contextual factors, apart from attention to broad national-level patterns, there has been limited detailed investigation into the connection between where a young person lives and his or her chances of graduating from high school.

This report takes a geographically-informed approach to the issue of high school completion. Specifically, we examine graduation rates in the school districts serving the nation’s 50 most-populous cities as well as the larger metropolitan areas in which they are situated. Results show that graduation rates are considerably lower in the nation’s largest cities than they are in the average urban locale. Further, extreme disparities emerge in a number of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, where students served by suburban systems may be twice as likely as their urban peers to graduate from high school.

Full report (PDF; 1.8 MB)

AAUP Releases Annual Report on Faculty Salaries

Source: American Association of University Professors

After a short-lived recovery in 2006-07, faculty salaries are lagging behind inflation again this year. Yet the salaries paid to head football coaches, presidents, and other top administrators do not seem to reflect an economic downturn. Over the past three decades, the ranks of contingent faculty, nonfaculty professionals, and administrators have swelled while the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty stagnated. These are the central findings of Where Are the Priorities? The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2007-08, released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) today. The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Overall average salaries for full-time faculty rose 3.8 percent this year, the same as the increase reported last year. But with inflation at 4.1 percent for the year, the purchasing power of faculty salaries has declined for the third time in four years.
• Long-term salary trends also indicate a widening differential between the average salaries of faculty members at private colleges and universities and the average salaries of their colleagues at public institutions. When public institutions struggle to attract (and keep) the best faculty, our nation faces the risk of creating separate but unequal systems of higher education.
• The salaries paid to head football coaches at Division I-A universities are ten times as high as the salaries of senior professors. What does this say about the priorities of these universities?
• The gap between faculty salaries and salaries paid to administrators continues to grow. What does that tell us about institutional priorities? This year’s report builds on previous discussions of presidents’ salaries by including data for other top administrators.
• Over three decades, employment patterns in colleges and universities have been radically transformed. While the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty has grown 17 percent, the ranks of contingent faculty (both part and full time) and full-time nonfaculty professionals have each tripled, and the count of administrators has doubled.

Full Report (PDF; 1.2 MB)
Appendix I State tables (for specific institutions) (PDF; 233 KB)
Appendix II Two-Year Institutions without Academic Ranks (PDF; 52 KB)

USDA Releases School Meals Cost Study

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service

From press release:
The study compares the cost of producing school meals in the 2005-2006 school year to the total revenue to schools from Federal reimbursements, state and local contributions, and payments by participating households. That year, the average cost to produce a lunch was $2.28 and the Federal subsidy for a free lunch, including cash and commodity food, was about $2.50. Other key findings include:
• On average, revenue generated from reimbursable lunches exceeded the reported cost of production.
• On average, revenue generated from reimbursable breakfasts and a la carte foods did not cover the reported costs for production. As a result, revenue from reimbursable lunches subsidizes a portion of the cost to produce and serve both breakfasts and a la carte foods.
• On average, school food services operated at a break-even level in 2005-06, with revenues equal to costs.
• While most lunches cost less to produce than the USDA subsidy for a free lunch, not all did. For almost four out of five school districts, the average cost of producing a lunch was less than the free subsidy; in the rest, the average cost exceeded the subsidy.
Reported costs reflect all costs that a school food service must cover with the funds they receive. The study also examined the combination of reported costs and other costs, described as “full costs”. School districts do not always charge some expenses – such as time spent by school staff to support the application process and some overhead costs – to this account. There are many factors that may lead districts not to allocate some costs to that account. Since the last study in 1992-93 school districts are charging a higher proportion of these costs to the food service accounts.

Summary (PDF; 31 KB)
Executive Summary (PDF; 270 KB)
Full Report (PDF; 1.32 MB)

Health-Care-Associated Infections in Hospitals: Leadership Needed from HHS to Prioritize Prevention Practices and Improve Data on These Infections

Source: Governmental Accountability Office, March 31, 2008

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health-care-associated infections (HAI) are estimated to be 1 of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. HAIs are infections that patients acquire while receiving treatment for other conditions. GAO was asked to examine (1) CDC’s guidelines for hospitals to reduce or prevent HAIs and what the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does to promote their implementation, (2) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) and hospital accrediting organizations’ required standards for hospitals to reduce or prevent HAIs and how compliance is assessed, and (3) HHS programs that collect data related to HAIs and integration of the data across HHS. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from CDC, CMS, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and accrediting organizations.

Full report

Who Will Pay the Cost of Government Employer Retiree Health Benefits?

Source: Harvey M. Katz, Labor Law Journal, Spring 2008

Who will pay the cost of government employer retiree health benefits? The short answer to that question is that the union worker will pay the cost in the form o decreased benefits, higher contributions, and/or fewer union jobs–unless they act now. This unequivocal statement may seem a bit extreme, however, thirty years of experience as a benefits attorney tells me that it is true. As explained below, my reasons for making such an extreme statement are sound and the cost of ignoring the impending crisis will be enormous.

Pension Reform in the United States: Lessons from the Italian Experience

Source: Raymond L. Hogler and Herbert Hunt III, Labor Law Journal, Spring 2008

This article examines the Italian pension reforms and draws insights from the Italian experience that could be useful in developing a program in the U.S. We argue that both process and substance are important in dealing with pension issues. An adequate process ensures that political interest groups are sufficiently engaged to support the idea of reform, that a sufficient time frame exists for citizens to adapt to the changes, and that the overall direction of change remains consistent with reform, even if minor adjustments are made in the implementation. The substantive concepts from the Italian model involve a compulsory private savings program, an integrated approach to health care, and a political commitment forceful and visionary enough to rise above ideological squabbling.

Not a Limited, Confined, or Private Matter–Who Is an “Employee” Under the National Labor Relations Act

Source: Ellen Dannin, Labor Law Journal, Spring 2008

The issue of who is an employee is now before the National Labor Relations Board in New York New York Hotel, LLC. The importance of this case is signaled by the Board’s decision to hold oral argument and invitation to file amicus briefs. Briefly, the case raises the question whether employees of a subcontractor, the Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corporation, who perform their work for Ark on the premises of the New York New York Hotel and Casino, have a statutory right to distribute handbills to guests and customers while on New York New York’s property during the Ark employees’ off-duty hours. The handbills protested the Ark’s nonunion status and wages.

Psychological Testing in Personnel Selection, Part I: A Century of Psychological Testing

Source: Wesley A. Scroggins, Steven L. Thomas and Jerry A. Morris
Public Personnel Management, Spring 2008

This article is the first in a three-part series that examines the development of selection testing. Part I focuses on the historical development of personnel selection testing from the late 19th century to the present, with particular attention given to personality testing. Attention is given to the efforts of early industrial psychologists that shaped and defined the role of testing in the scientific selection of employees. Part II examines the development of methods and standards in employment testing with particular emphasis on selection validity and utility. Issues of selection fairness and discrimination in selection are explored as they relate to psychological testing. Part III explores the development and application of personality testing. The transient nature of models of personality is noted, and current paradigms and the utility and fairness of personality testing for modern organizations are discussed.