Blue Solidarity: Police Unions, Race and Authoritarian Populism in North America

Source: Mark P Thomas, Steven Tufts, Work, Employment and Society, OnlineFirst, July 26, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
With a focus on police unions in the United States and Canada, this article argues that the construction of ‘blue solidarity’, including through recent Blue Lives Matter campaigns, serves to repress racial justice movements that challenge police authority, acts as a counter to broader working class resistance to austerity and contributes to rising right-wing populism. Specifically, the article develops a case study analysis of Blue Lives Matter campaigns in North America to argue that police unions construct forms of ‘blue solidarity’ that produce divisions with other labour and social movements and contribute to a privileged status of their own members vis-a-vis the working class more generally. As part of this process, police unions support tactics that reproduce racialised ‘othering’ and that stigmatise and discriminate against racialised workers and communities. The article concludes by arguing that organised labour should maintain a critical distance from police unions.

Employee Benefits—Proposed Regulations Provide Employers with More Flexibility in Offering HRAs to Employees

Source: Mark E. Bokert and Alan Hahn, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
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From the abstract:
The Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services jointly issued proposed regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”) providing employers with greater flexibility in offering health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) to employees. Importantly, if the Proposed Regulations are finalized in substantially its current form, employers would be able to offer employees an HRA that “integrates with” individual health insurance coverage. As a result, these Proposed Regulations, in essence, would enable employers to offer HRAs in lieu of a traditional group health plan to their employees. Additionally, the Proposed Regulations set forth conditions under which an HRA can be recognized as a limited excepted benefit HRA, which provides employers with another vehicle to provide employee benefits to their employees.

The Proposed Regulations are set to take effect for plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2020, although this is dependent on the regulations being finalized. The deadline for submitting comments on the Proposed Regulations was December 28, 2018.

PERB Addresses Need for Procedural Admonitions for Post Investigation Union Member Interviews

Source: William A. Diedrich, Neel Ghanshyam, and Marleen L. Sacks, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors of this article discuss a case that highlights the need for employers to conduct thorough, neutral investigations in any situation involving allegations where a union member accused of misconduct, or who files a grievance, has the right to an adversarial hearing.

For Public Employees, Speech Is Free, But Is Anyone Listening?

Source: Dina Kolker, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
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In the current political environment many groups feel that “government” is not listening to their needs and issues, but most would be surprised to discover that the government has no legal obligation to listen to any of us. This legal “secret” is of particular import to the long-run wrestling match between the public sector labor movement and their right-wing opponents, where the so-called “right to work,” presented as a positive, often translates into the right to be ignored, a decided negative.

The “Right to Work” movement often touts its focus on empowering workers through the First Amendment. The name itself is designed to indicate a right to a job and implies some individual control over the terms of that employment. “Give yourself a raise,” and other variations of that sentiment, are declared on mass mailings targeting public employees in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, overturning a four-decades old precedent that had permitted unions to collect fair share fees from nonmembers. The decision is praised by some as a win for worker free speech, but what does it mean for a public employee’s right to be heard? Anyone who has ever repeated the same request multiple times to a distracted child knows that there is a world of difference between speaking and being heard.

Indeed, the admittedly catchy invitation only thinly veils the reality of what was won and what was at risk of being lost in Janus. The mailing does not say call your boss and demand a raise higher than the one your union was able to negotiate for everyone in the last contract. Yet, individual negotiation of terms and conditions of employment is implicit (if not explicit) in the employee-facing rhetoric of Right to Work groups. The implication is that by turning down the volume knob on public sector unions you somehow inherently amplify the voices of individual workers. Nothing could be further from the legal — and practical — truth. The simple fact is that, absent collective bargaining laws, the government, neither as employer nor as sovereign, has any obligation to listen. In fact, government generally has no obligation to listen to any citizen, from the president on down…..

Employee Benefits—It’s Time to Start Talking About Annuities in 401(k) Plans

Source: Mark E. Bokert and Alan Hahn, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Autumn 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When an employee retires, he or she typically has three sources of income to draw upon: personal savings, Social Security, and a retirement plan (typically a 401(k) plan). These income sources are subject to certain risks. There is “longevity risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree will outlive his or her savings. There is also “inflation risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree’s purchasing power will erode over time. There is also an “incapacity risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree will have a diminishing capacity to oversee his or her investments as he or she ages.

Annuities can help solve several of these issues because they provide benefits over a retiree’s lifetime. As a result, some employers are adding annuities to their 401(k) plan. Congress is also encouraging 401(k) plan sponsors to offer in-plan annuities. Proposed bipartisan legislation alleviates many concerns that 401(k) plan sponsors have about offering annuities within their plans. This legislation is expected to be enacted into law later this year. As in-plan annuities solve important retirement issues and are far less expensive to participants than those available in the retail market, plan sponsors may wish to consider making in-plan annuities available to their 401(k) plan participants.

On the Grid 24/7/365 and the Right to Disconnect

Source: C. W. Von Bergen, Martin S. Bressler, and Trevor L. Proctor, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Autumn 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Technological developments over the past few decades in laptop computers, smartphones, wifi connectivity, and other digital communication approaches have made it easier for people to work remotely. While many appreciate the flexibility and increased productivity these technological advancements provide, some lament that the ability to work anywhere, anytime has transformed into the expectation to work everywhere, all the time. The authors of this article discuss the issue and examine domestic and international right to disconnect practices.

US Labor Studies in the Twenty-First Century: Understanding Laborism Without Labor

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 45, July 2019
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From the abstract:
In recent years, labor studies has flourished even as labor unions in the United States have continued their long-term downward trajectory. One strain of this research has situated the labor movement, and its decline, at the center of economic inequality’s rise in the United States. Another has explored the labor movement’s interconnections with political dynamics in the contemporary United States, including how labor’s demise has reshaped the polity and policies. This body of scholarship also offers insights into recent stirrings of labor resurgence, ranging from the teachers’ strikes of 2017 to the Fight for 15 minimum wage initiatives. Yet the field’s reliance on official union membership rates as the standard measure of union strength, and on official strike statistics as the standard measure of union activism, prevents it from fully understanding the scope and durability of worker activism in the post-Wagner age.

Stay or Exit: Why Do Nonprofits Maintain Collaborations With Government?

Source: Shuyang Peng, Yuguo Liao, Jiahuan Lu, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published August 13, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although the public-management literature has demonstrated a growing interest in public–nonprofit collaborations, it pays little attention to the sustainability of collaborations. This study proposes that nonprofits’ intentions to maintain collaborations with government are influenced by both instrumental and relational factors. Using a national sample of human service nonprofits, this study demonstrates that both nonprofits’ continuance commitment and affective commitment play a role in shaping their intentions to maintain collaborative relationships with government. Specifically, continuance commitment is driven by the presence of a formal agreement and the dependence on government funding, and affective commitment is shaped by distributive and procedural justice. The findings have implications for public managers to effectively manage their collaborations with nonprofits.

“Felony assault should stick:” Assaulted EMS responders’ frustration and dissatisfaction with the legal system

Source: Jasmine Y. Wright, Andrea L. Davis, Sherry Brandt‐Rauf, Jennifer A. Taylor, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: August 16, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction:
The prevalence of violence to first responders is reported in ranges of approximately 40% to 90%. Pennsylvania has a felonious assault statute to address such violence, but the prosecutorial process has been noted to cause first‐responder dissatisfaction.

Methods:
An exploratory qualitative study using individual interviews with snowball sampling was conducted with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to understand the prosecutorial process when a first responder is assaulted and injured in a line of duty. The Philadelphia Fire Department provided a list of first responders who sustained a work‐related injury from a patient or bystander assault so that particular cases could be discussed during the interviews.

Results:
Emergent themes fell into two categories: factors that lead to a charge (prosecutorial merit, intent, and victim investment), and the judge’s discretion in sentencing (“part of the job” mentality, concern for the defendant, and the justice system’s offender focus). Immediately actionable tertiary prevention recommendations for fire departments, labor unions, and district attorney’s offices were developed.

Conclusion:
Violence against fire‐based emergency medical service (EMS) responders is a persistent and preventable workplace hazard. While felonious assault statutes express society’s value that it is unacceptable to harm a first responder, this study found that such statutes failed to provide satisfaction to victims and that support when going through the court process is lacking. Assaulted EMS responders, their employers, and labor unions would benefit from the recommendations provided herein to help them extract a stronger sense of procedural justice from the legal process.

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..