The Long Gray Line: Older Workers and the Correctional Workforce

Source: Joyca Fogg, Charles J. Kehoe, and Timothy O. Kestner, Corrections Today, Vol. 69 no. 1, February 2007

If projections come true, more workers will reach retirement age with fewer younger workers to take their place. One option will be to see older workers as a resource. Many in this age group want to continue to work, but would like less stress, flexible hours, the feeling of making a difference and enjoyment from performing the work. Boredom, nothing to look forward to and no feeling of self-worth drive many boomers back into the workplace.

Health Savings Accounts in National Compensation Survey Data

Source: Alan Zilberman, Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 29, 2006

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that 6 percent of private industry workers have access to a health savings account (HSA), a relatively new kind of employer-provided health benefit. These data were published in the summary National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry in the United States, March 2006. Data on HSAs currently are available for 2005 and 2006. BLS plans to continue to collect HSA data on workers in private nonagricultural industries.

The States Step Up

Source: Marilyn Werber Serafini, National Journal, Vol. 39 no. 11, March 17, 2007
(subscription required)

The ink was barely dry on then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s bold new plan to achieve nearly universal health coverage for Massachusetts residents when Vermont Gov. James H. Douglas signed similar legislation into law last year. “We have a goal of 96 percent coverage within the next three years, and I think we can do that,” Douglas recently boasted to National Journal. “We’re going to be quite aggressive with enrollment.”

Other state officials had been closely watching this pair of Republican governors as they steered away from the safe political path to push plans requiring employers to either offer their employees health insurance or pay a compensating fee to the state. The Massachusetts Legislature went a controversial step further when it decided to require all residents to certify on their state income tax forms that they had health insurance — or face a penalty. Before Massachusetts and Vermont took the plunge, most politicians had spoken only in muffled tones about health care mandates, fearful of a backlash from constituents — voting constituents.

Libraries Key to Building Local Economic Base

Source: PA Times, Vol. 30 no. 3, March 2007
(subscription required)

Evanston, IL-Public libraries build a community’s capacity for economic activity and resiliency, says a new study from the “Urban Institute. Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development” adds to the body of research pointing to a shift in the role of public libraries-from a passive, recreational reading and research institution to an active economic development agent, addressing such pressing urban issues as literacy, workforce training, small business vitality and community quality of life. The study was commissioned by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Assessing Nursing Staffing Ratios: Variability in Workload Intensity

Source: Valda V. Upenieks, Jenny Kotlerman, Jaleh Akhavan, Jennifer Esser, Myha J. Ngo, Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, Vol. 8 no. 1, February 2007
(subscription required)

In 2004, California became the first state to implement specific nurse-to-patient ratios for all hospitals. These mandated enactments have caused significant controversy among health care professionals as well as nursing unions and professional organizations. Supporters of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios cite patient care quality, safety, and outcomes, whereas critics point to the lack of solid data and the use of a universally standardized acuity tool. Much more remains to be learned about staffing policies before mature links may be made regarding set staffing ratios and patient outcomes—specifically, how nurses spend their time in terms of variability in their daily work. This study examines two comparable telemetry units with a 1:3 staffing ratio within a California hospital system to determine the relative rates of variability in nursing activities. The results demonstrate significant differences in categorical nursing activities (e.g., direct care, indirect care, etc.) between the two telemetry units (X² + 91.2028; p ≤ .0001). No correlation was noted between workload categories with daily staffing ratios and staffing mix between the two units. Although patients were grouped in a similar telemetry classification category and care was mandated at a set ratio, patient needs were variable, creating a significant difference in registered nurse (RN) categorical activities on the two units.

Shafted: How the Bush Administration Reversed Decades of Progress on Mine Safety

Source: Ken Ward Jr., Washington Monthly, Vol. 39 no. 3, March 2007

…More than five years later, the Bush Administration can claim that, indeed, no more terrorist attacks have occurred on American soil. But its record on mining safety is decidedly more troubling. As of mid-January of this year, 165 coal miners had been killed on the job since the Jim Walter disaster…. While administration supporters can point to a steady drop in the number of coal mining deaths through 2005, when a record low of twenty-two occurred, those numbers don’t tell the whole story…. [Elaine] Chao’s promise to the families of Brookwood was not, as many probably assumed, a call for tighter rules and stricter enforcement. Instead it was a signal for greater cooperation with mining companies. Under the Bush appointee Dave Lauriski… he filled the agency’s top jobs with former industry colleagues, dropped more than a dozen safety proposals initiated during the Clinton administration, and cut almost 200 of the 1,200 coal mine inspectors. Mine-safety experts have linked many of these actions to the causes of deadly mine accidents since 2001.

Remembering Norma Rae: Why is the Working Class Invisible in Movies Coming Out of Hollywood Today?

Source: Robert Nathan and Jo-Ann Mort, The Nation, Vol. 284 no. 10, March 12, 2007
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“Unionized” isn’t a word you hear in many American movies. “A decent wage,” now there’s a phrase that doesn’t crop up too often. As for the evocative “your lives and your substance,” poetic descriptions of the human condition aren’t generally found in contemporary entertainment.

The Care Crisis

Source: Ruth Rosen, The Nation, Vol. 284 no. 10, March 12, 2007

For four decades, American women have entered the paid workforce–on men’s terms, not their own–yet we have done precious little as a society to restructure the workplace or family life. The consequence of this “stalled revolution,” a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is a profound “care deficit.” A broken healthcare system, which has left 47 million Americans without health coverage, means this care crisis is often a matter of life and death. Today the care crisis has replaced the feminine mystique as women’s “problem that has no name.” It is the elephant in the room–at home, at work and in national politics–gigantic but ignored.