Employees Accuse Google of Developing ‘Surveillance Tool’ to Prevent Unions

Source: Ryan Gallagher, Bloomberg, October 24, 2019

Google employees are accusing the company’s leadership of developing an internal surveillance tool that they believe will be used to monitor workers’ attempts to organize protests and discuss labor rights.

Earlier this month, employees said they discovered that a team within the company was creating the new tool for the custom Google Chrome browser installed on all workers’ computers and used to search internal systems. The concerns were outlined in a memo written by a Google employee and reviewed by Bloomberg News and by three Google employees who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk to the press.

The tool would automatically report staffers who create a calendar event with more than 10 rooms or 100 participants, according to the employee memo. The most likely explanation, the memo alleged, “is that this is an attempt of leadership to immediately learn about any workers organization attempts.”

How pronoun policies can help HR referee when gender and religion clash

Source: Ryan Golden, HR Dive, October 18, 2019

In general, employers have a lot of leeway over workplace policies, but they should be careful with phrasing, attorneys told HR Dive. ….

….This particular case concerns public-sector employment and state law claims but it may not be too much of a stretch to imagine how a similar situation could arise in the typical U.S. workplace.

Consider the landscape: nearly one-fifth of U.S. adults in a 2019 Pew Research Center survey said they personally know someone who uses pronouns such as “they” over pronouns such as “he” or “she.” A recent report by the Chicago Tribune on inclusive language policies at IBM indicated employers are beginning to encounter issues around pronouns more frequently. And at this year’s annual Society for Human Resource Management conference, pronouns were included as part of an early session on LGBTQ awareness and best practices for the workplace.

So could an employer, hypothetically, discipline an employee who does not adhere to a rule that employees must properly address co-workers, pronouns included? Does it matter if the employee cites a sincerely held religious belief?….

The Progressive Labor Platform is Popular

Source: Kevin Reuning, C. M. Lewis, Data for Progress and Strikewave, October 3, 2019

From the summary:
Data for Progress surveyed key components of Bernie Sanders’s “Workplace Democracy Plan” and Elizabeth Warren’s “Empowering American Workers and Raising Wages” and found that the platform’s policies are broadly supported by voters. The policies tend to have broad support from Democrats, but many also have net positive support among independents and Republicans. In addition, we find that there is a potential key bloc of voters that either did not vote in 2016 or voted for Trump that support components of the platform, making them potential targets for 2020 election efforts. One caveat is important: many of these policies also showed high rates of voters having no strong opinion, meaning the numbers could change.

The highlights:
– A federal “Just Cause” law, which would radically change employee-employer relations and is included in Sanders’s plan, is somewhat or strongly supported by 56 percent of voters and opposed by 30 percent of voters. Even among Republicans, “Just Cause” is two percent underwater (42 percent support, 44 percent oppose).
– Expanding federally protected union rights to farm and domestic workers has bipartisan support and is included in both plans. Democrats support it at 66 percent to 21 percent, and Republicans support it at 41 percent to 38 percent.
– A ban on forced arbitration, which is included in Warren’s plan, is supported by 45 percent of voters and opposed by only 27 percent.

The Recent Evolution of Wisconsin Public Worker Unionism since Act 10

Source: David Nack, Michael Childers, Alexia Kulwiec, Armando Ibarra, Labor Studies Journal, OnlineFirst Published July 30, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines the experience of four major public sector unions in Wisconsin since the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 in 2011. The four unions are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-Wisconsin), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), an affiliate of the National Education Association. Wisconsin’s prior legal framework for public sector collective bargaining is explained and compared to the new highly restrictive framework established by Act 10. That new framework, established by state legislation, is analyzed, as are its impacts on the membership, revenues, structures, and practices of the four unions. In general, we find the impacts to have been very dramatic, with a loss of active union membership averaging approximately 70 percent overall, and concomitant dramatic losses in union revenues and power. These shocks have engendered the restructuring of two of the unions examined, the downsizing of the third, and the de facto exiting from the state’s public sector in another. There have also been significant changes in representation practices in one union, but less so in the others. We conclude by discussing best union practices based on this experience, as well as considering what the recent public sector union history in Wisconsin may portend for public worker union membership nationwide, since the issuing of the Janus Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gartner: Of the 4 manager types, only 1 boosts employee performance 26%

Source: Deborah Barrington, CIO Dive, October 22, 2019

….Part of building a strong team, according to Jaime Roca, senior vice president, Gartner, during a panel at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, lies in the type of managers charged with the development and enrichment of employees. Roca is the co-author “The Connector Manager — Why Some Leaders Build Exceptional Talent and Others Don’t.”

A Gartner survey of 7,000 people asked how proficient they are in their current roles on a scale of 1-7, with 1 as the lowest and 7 as the highest degree of proficiency. The bulk of respondents, 70%, rated their skills between 1-5.

That means managers, already up against productivity goals, must find time and opportunity to upskill the people who report to them.

There are four basic types of manager, said Roca on Monday:
– Teachers: Managers who develop employees’ skills based on their expertise. Expect teachers to steer employee development on a track that matches their skills and experiences.
– Cheerleaders: This style of manager takes a mostly hands off approach and offers very supportive feedback.
– Always on: Opposite of hands off. This group provides feedback and coaching constantly.
– Connectors: This is the ideal management style for developing talent. These leaders give feedback that aligns with their area of expertise. Where they stand out is in their ability to connect people who can offer strength in a variety of skills. Connectors join people on the same team, but can reach out to the broader organization or outside of the organization to match people who have complementary skills.

According to Roca, one of these types is toxic — and it likely isn’t the one most would guess. ….

Let’s Get To Work: Empowering Employees to Take Action on Domestic Violence

Source: Holly Rider-Milkovich and Elizabeth Bille, Ms., October 24, 2019

Americans spend more waking hours at work, on average, than we do anywhere else. The positive and negative aspects of our lives come to work with us, and our experiences at work impact our overall quality of life. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re reminded both of the devastating national impact of domestic violence on many individuals’ lives as well as the essential role that workplaces play in addressing this issue. ….

Together, we bring nearly a half century of experience in addressing domestic violence in the workplace and in our communities: Holly as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence on college campuses and in communities for over 20 years, and Elizabeth as an employment law attorney whose experience includes serving as General Counsel and Ethics Officer of SHRM and as a legal and policy advisor to the Vice Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In our current roles at EVERFI, we spearhead efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence in the workplace.

From this vantage point of both experience and expertise, we have identified three critical questions you can ask your company to assess whether your organization is ready to support employees who are experiencing domestic violence. ….

Assessing Responses to Increased Provider Consolidation in Six Markets: Final Report

Source: Sabrina Corlette, Jack Hoadley, Katie Keith, and Olivia Hoppe, October 2019

From the press release:
Most employers are implementing few, if any, changes to their health plans for the 2020 plan year. That’s not surprising – employers are generally reluctant to make big or abrupt adjustments to provider networks or cost-sharing that could cause pushback from employees. But many health care experts believe that if we’re ever to truly tackle out-of-control health care costs in this country, the employer community needs to take the lead.

A newly released report from Georgetown CHIR finds, however, that there are significant challenges facing insurers and employers who seek to constrain the rising provider prices that have driven the annual family premium above $20,000 this year. In six market-level, qualitative case studies, we examined strategies that private insurance companies and employer-purchasers use to limit health care costs and how these strategies are affected by increased provider consolidation. We focused on the following mid-sized health care markets, all of which had recently experienced some kind of provider consolidation activity:

Detroit, Michigan
Syracuse, New York
Northern Virginia
Indianapolis, Indiana
Asheville, North Carolina
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Across the six markets, we found:
Hospitals are empire-building. Hospitals’ motivations for consolidation are similar, with stakeholders reporting a pursuit of greater market share and a desire to increase their negotiating leverage with payers to demand higher reimbursement.

Payers have tools to constrain cost growth, but they lack the incentive and ability to deploy them effectively. While payers in our markets identified several cost containment strategies such as narrow networks and provider-payer partnerships, all come with downsides. Furthermore, some third-party administrators for self-insured employers actually have incentives to keep provider prices high when they’re paid a percentage of the overall cost of the plan.

Employers’ tools to control costs are limited. Employers are frustrated with existing strategies to reduce cost growth such as the exclusion of certain providers or higher deductibles in the face of employee dissatisfaction and limited evidence of savings. However, emerging strategies that could be more effective may be challenging for many employers to implement, and employers lack access to basic data to inform their efforts.

Public policy strategies have had limited effectiveness. Anti-trust and other policies to limit the ill-effects of consolidation have had a limited impact in our study markets, but there are nascent state-level efforts to push back on provider prices that are worth watching.

Pension Reforms and Public Sector Turnover

Source: Evgenia Gorina, Trang Hoang, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Published: June 24, 2019

From the abstract:
Over the past decade, many states have reformed their retirement systems by reducing benefit generosity, tightening retirement provisions, introducing non-defined-benefit (DB) plan options and even replacing DB plans with defined-contribution plans. Many of these reforms have affected post-employment benefits that public workers will receive when they retire. Have these reforms also affected the attractiveness of public sector employment? To answer this question, we use state-level data from 2002 to 2015 and examine the relationship between state pension reforms and public employee turnover following the reforms. We find that employee responsiveness to the reforms was tangible and that it differed by reform type and worker education. These results are important because the design of public retirement benefits will continue to influence the ability of the public sector to recruit and retain high-quality workforce.

A correction has been published.

How to Strike and Win: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, November 2019

From the introduction:
A good strike is an exercise of power, not just a rowdier form of protest. There is something you want, and a decision-maker who could give it to you but doesn’t want to. The point of the strike is to make it harder for this decision-maker to keep saying no—and easier for the decision-maker to stop the pain by saying yes.

For a private-sector employer, the primary way a strike exerts power is by hurting profits.

For a public-sector employer, it is by interfering with the normal functions of public service and creating a political crisis that elites must respond to.

It’s essential to carefully appraise all the forms of power, or leverage, the union can muster. Don’t hit the bricks without assessing what it will take to win.

Once your leverage is identified, you’ll have to do the organizing legwork to make it real. Leverage is only potential until you bring it to life. The union will rely on its own internal solidarity to remain united in the face of intimidation and to generate widespread solidarity from others. The advice in the rest of this manual is designed to build that internal and external solidarity.

But the best organizing in the world may fail to move your employer if you don’t start with a solid plan to win. That’s an analysis of how the actions by workers and supporters will add up to enough pressure to make the decision-maker back down.