US Public Pension Landscape Series

Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, June 14, 2019
(subscription required)

Many US states and local governments, though certainly not all, face heightened credit challenges stemming from exposure to pension obligations, resulting in a highly varied and complex landscape. The severity of public pension challenges can differ substantially between, and even within, states.

Unfunded liabilities in many cases have reached historic highs, rising costs increasingly pressure some budgets, and aging demographics leave government finances increasingly susceptible to pension asset volatility. Yet in some cases, low or declining levels of pension risk bolster the credit profile of a given state or local government.

Governments grappling with pension challenges must often navigate legal protections for employee benefits that can limit reform options. However, litigation on a variety of pension reforms continues to work its way through courts across the country, offering the potential for precedent-setting decisions.

This series provides a state-by-state, in-depth review of the key issues related to pensions facing state and local governments…..

State Listings:
California
Colorado
Florida
Illinois
Louisiana
Minnesota
New York
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Texas
Wisconsin

Local government – New York – Credit profiles will remain stable overall, though vary by municipality type, region

Source: Robert Weber, Thomas Jacobs, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, Local government – New York, June 28, 2019
(subscription required)

Credit profiles among New York local governments will remain stable over the next two years, though their strength will vary by type of municipality. Cities will remain more stressed than villages and towns because of their below-average socioeconomic profiles and small tax bases relative to liabilities. Towns and villages will enjoy greater stability because of stronger wealth and income profiles and financial reserves…..

A Seat at the Table: Negotiating Data Processing in the Workplace. A National Case Study and Comparative Insights

Source: Emanuele Dagnino, Ilaria Armaroli, A Special Issue of the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal on “Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection” guest-edited by Valerio De Stefano, Forthcoming, Date Written: June 13, 2019

From the abstract:
It is already a common understanding that datafication is one of the most important trends in our society and, as a consequence, in the economic environment. Datafication and big data are not only the core of the two most debated new business and technological models – platform economy and Industry 4.0 (or smart manufacturing) – but have also permeated more traditional organizations, entering all their departments (marketing, production, sales, finance). In the latest years, datafication is becoming ever more a reality in work organization and human resource management, considerably impacting on the way work is organized, managed and performed. Stemming from this background, this paper wants to analyze the topic of data processing in the employment context focusing on the specific role that collective representation can play. Although there are some interesting antecedents in research regarding the role of workers’ representatives in this context, the topic has received very limited attention as far as the new wave of digitalization is concerned, and almost no interest in its double — individual and collective — dimension. By contrast, we believe that ongoing technological and organizational changes raise new challenges and open a new room for intervention for workers’ representatives. In this sense, they are expected not only to limit the quantity and fix the typologies of data collected and processed, against the risk of workers’ surveillance, but also to co-decide over purposes and procedures of data processing, for the self-determination and concrete participation of workers. Negotiating the algorithm, in our opinion, starts here. In order to achieve the above-mentioned purposes, a case study analysis is developed and focused on the Italian context. Firstly, we focus on the legal framework to shed light on the prerogatives and powers formally attributed to workers’ representatives in the field of data protection and workplace monitoring. Emphasis will be placed on the changes made by the so-called Jobs Act reform from September 2015. Secondly, we examine a set of 1,161 company-level collective agreements concluded in Italy between late September 2015 and 2018 to investigate the actual role played by labor representation in this field. Moreover, we provide some insights into other national contexts, with a view to comparing the results of our analysis with the negotiated outcomes achieved in other countries, in an attempt to better understand the institutional determinants of varieties of actors’ orientations and collective solutions.

Related:
Introduction: Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection
Source: Valerio De Stefano, Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2019

From the abstract:
The Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal is publishing a collection of articles on “Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection” edited by Valerio De Stefano (KU Leuven). This collection gathers contributions from several labour lawyers and social scientists to provide an interdisciplinary overview of how new technologies, including smart robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and business practices such as People Analytics, management-by-algorithm, and the use of big data in workplaces, far from merely displacing jobs, profoundly affect the quality of work. The authors argue that these issues depend, and can be affected by, policy choices – since they are not just the “natural” result of technological innovations – and call for adequate regulation of these phenomena. Contributing authors are Antonio Aloisi, Ilaria Armaroli, Fernanda Bárcia de Mattos, Janine Berg, Miriam Cherry, Emanuele Dagnino, Valerio De Stefano, Elena Gramano, Matt Finkin, Marianne Furrer, Frank Hendrickx, Parminder Jeet Singh, David Kucera, Phoebe Moore, Jeremias Prassl, and Uma Rani. This article introduces this collection and gives an overview of the issues discussed by the authors.

Where jobs are concentrating and why it matters to cities and regions

Source: Chad Shearer, Jennifer S. Vey, and Joanne Kim, Brookings, June 18, 2019

From the blog post:
The relationship between place and economy is constantly evolving, and continually shaping the growth, development, and decay of our communities. Today, new ideas and innovations are fostering the creation of products and services that increase productivity and raise overall standards of living. But this digital revolution is also benefiting some industries, workers, and communities over others.

This report aims to help leaders and local stakeholders understand how the changing demands for place are shifting the concentration and dispersal of economic activity within 94 large metropolitan areas from 2004 to 2015—a period of dramatic urban and economic change.

The findings suggest a need for local leaders to embrace policies and investment strategies that advance more concentrated growth patterns, while also supporting transformative placemaking solutions that help such dense places become vibrant communities where businesses and workers thrive.

Related:
Press release
Data appendix

Know Your Members: Assessing the Bargaining Unit for Internal Organizing

Source: Steward Update, Vol. 30 no. 3, 2019
(subscription required)

To get a good contract, pass pro-labor legislation, support charities and community groups or just get one supervisor to stop harassing union members, unions need to do something called “mobilization.” Mobilization is a systematic effort to get members and other to act as a group in taking action – fill out a bargaining survey, lobby their elected officials, join an anti-cancer walk-a-thon, or challenge a supervisor.

A key part of getting members in motion is having a strong connection between union leadership and membership. Stewards who regularly share information from leaders with their members and communicate members’ concerns to leaders are the most important part of any effort to harness member power to make positive change. To perform this role well, stewards need to maximize their relationship with each member. ….

The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor

Source: Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50 & ProPublica, June 27, 2019

Nonprofit hospitals pay virtually no local, state or federal income tax. In return, they provide community benefits, including charity care to low-income patients. In Memphis, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has brought 8,300 lawsuits for unpaid medical bills in just five years. ….. Its own employees are no exception. Since 2014, Methodist has sued dozens of its workers for unpaid medical bills, including a hospital housekeeper sued in 2017 for more than $23,000. That year, she told the court, she made $16,000. She’s in a court-ordered payment plan, but in the case of more than 70 other employees, Methodist has garnished the wages it pays them to recoup its medical charges….

Related:
This Memphis Hospital System Flouts IRS Rules by Not Publicly Posting Financial Assistance Policies
Source: Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50 & ProPublica, June 27, 2019

Nonprofit hospitals must post financial assistance policies for the public to see, including in emergency rooms. But Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s five Shelby County emergency rooms had no signs or displays when a reporter checked.

Prevalence and Characteristics of Virginia Hospitals Suing Patients and Garnishing Wages for Unpaid Medical Bills
Source: William E. Bruhn, Lainie Rutkow, Peiqi Wang, Stephen E. Tinker, BS3; Christine Fahim, Heidi N. Overton, Martin A. Makary, JAMA, Research Letter, June 25, 2019

An estimated 20% of US consumers had medical debt in collections in 2014. Medical debt has been increasing with direct patient billing, rising insurance deductibles, and more out-of-network care being delivered, even at in-network facilities. Bills sent directly to patients may use the undiscounted price of a hospital’s services and can result in financial hardship and avoidance of future medical care. Hospitals need to be paid for care delivered, but some bills are unpaid. Hospitals may negotiate, reduce, or write off payments. Some have begun adopting a range of aggressive strategies for collecting unpaid bills, including suing patients and garnishing their wages or bank savings. We examined garnishment legal actions among Virginia hospitals.

See Where Teachers Got Pay Raises This Year – Protests across the country swayed governors to push for salary bumps

Source: Daarel Burnette II & Madeline Will, Education Week, Vol. 38 Issue 36, Published in Print: June 19, 2019

More than a year after teachers across the country began walking out of their classrooms en masse to demand higher salaries, at least 15 states have given their teachers a raise.

And lawmakers in several more states are putting the final touches on plans to raise teacher salaries, according to an Education Week analysis…..

….Here’s what you need to know about each state’s plan (as of June 17) to raise teacher pay. (The average teacher salary for each state reflects the National Education Association’s estimate for the 2018-19 school year, which would not include these raises.)

Click a state in the dropdown to jump to that section: ….

More Single Mothers Means More Need For Protection

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36 Issue 13, June 26, 2019
(subscription required)

You have several open customer service positions and receive a recommendation for a candidate through your employee referral program. When describing the potential candidate’s work experience, the referring employee also mentions the individual is a single mother. Afterwards, a member of the hiring team says he doesn’t want to bother interviewing the potential candidate because “single mothers are always a problem.”

Attitudes like this can put your organization at risk. Depending on the jurisdiction, single parents may be protected by statutes prohibiting discrimination based on marital status, parental status or caregiving responsibilities. Sex-based discrimination protections may also come into play….

Phishing Scams: Should Employees Be Held Accountable?

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36 Issue 12, June 13, 2019
(subscription required)

An administrative assistant receives an email from a senior executive asking her to purchase 100 $25 gift cards to be distributed electronically to staff as a thank you for their hard work. The employee purchases the cards, charging the expense on her personal credit card. She sends the executive the cards as requested and submits the charge for reimbursement. When the accounts payable team contacts the executive for approval of the reimbursement, everyone gets a big surprise—the executive never asked for the gift cards. The employee had fallen for what’s known as a “phishing” scam and the scammers have already emptied the cards of their balances.

While the employee is contrite, the executive does not want to reimburse her because she believes the employee should have known better. The entire company had recently received correspondence from the IT department about phishing scams and how to avoid becoming a victim. The employee argues you have an obligation to pay her because she was acting in good faith to perform what she perceived as a duty of her job. The CEO of your organization wants to fire her for putting the company at risk.

If this sounds far-fetched, it’s not. A similar scenario recently played out at a company in the Washington, D.C. area. In the end, the company reimbursed the employee for half of gift cards’ costs, but hard feelings remain on all sides…..

Paid Parental Leave: On The Table

Source: Rob Taylor, Employment Alert, Volume 36 Issue 12, June 13, 2019
(subscription required)

Doubtless, teachers have taken notice. Last year Delaware Gov. Carney approved a new law giving state workers—including educators—12 weeks of paid parental leave. That’s dramatically different from the situation nationwide where just a few states offer that benefit. Also, the United States is widely known to be one of the least responsive of developed nations in this regard, a somewhat surprising occurrence given the push in this country to find creative solutions to the large, ongoing problem of teacher shortage.

In most places in the U.S., according to an EdWeek series, since teachers do not have paid time off related to pregnancy and birthing, they first use accumulated sick days to stay home with their newborn, and then go to unpaid leave, getting back to the classroom and a needed paycheck as rapidly as possible.

Related:
With No Paid Parental Leave, Many Teachers Return to Class Before They’re Ready
Source: Madeline Will, EdWeek, April 1, 2019
(subscription required)