AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions

Source: AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions, Report to the AFL-CIO General Board, September 2019

….We present this report with fresh optimism that working people can and will build a future of work that works for all of us. But getting the job done requires more than engaging with innovation in the workplace. We must innovate ourselves, strengthen our unions, organize new ones and bring more workers into our ranks. The stakes are enormous. A system that fails to provide a decent standard of living for its people will not stand. So if technology and public policy continue to be used to further concentrate economic power in the hands of the wealthy few, our system of government and our way of life are in grave danger. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The labor movement can be inclusive enough and strong enough to raise living standards across the economy and ensure good jobs for everyone who wants to work.

This report is our plan to make that happen…..

2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, September 25, 2019

From the press release:
Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 5% to average $20,576 this year, according to the 2019 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey released today. Workers’ wages rose 3.4% and inflation rose 2% over the same period.

On average, workers this year are contributing $6,015 toward the cost of family coverage, with employers paying the rest.

Despite the nation’s strong economy and low unemployment, what employers and workers pay toward premiums continues to rise more quickly than workers’ wages and inflation over time. Since 2009, average family premiums have increased 54% and workers’ contribution have increased 71%, several times more quickly than wages (26%) and inflation (20%).

Sections include:

Financial Asset Inequality and Its Implications for Retirement Security

Source: Nari Rhee, Tyler Bond, National Institute on Retirement Security, Issue Brief, September 2019

From the summary:

A new research brief finds that financial asset inequality among Americans continues to increase, and the inequality is consistent across generations. This wealth inequality, combined with dangerously low retirement savings among most households, poses a significant threat to retirement for working Americans.

The new analysis indicates that from 2004 to 2016, the share of financial assets owned by the top 25 percent of Baby Boomer households grew from 86 percent to 91 percent. Meanwhile, the share of assets owned by the bottom 50 percent of Baby Boomer households shrank from three percent in 2004 to below two percent in 2016.

Among GenX households, the wealthiest top 25 percent owned 87 percent of financial assets in 2016. Millennials in 2016 reached a comparable degree of financial asset concentration, with 85 percent of financial assets owned by the wealthiest 25 percent.

The research brief also recommends three well-established public policies to help improve retirement security for working Americans:

Stress Testing Your Reserves with Advanced Analytical Techniques

Source: Shayne Kavanagh, Government Finance Review, June 2019

Financial reserves, or “rainy day” funds, safeguard local governments against budget-straining risks like recessions or extreme events that demand a quick and decisive public safety response. The perennial question local governments have about reserves is how much is enough. Too little and you may be underprepared for the risks you face, but too much may mean you’re overtaxing the public or failing to make investments in needed infrastructure or services. …. GFOA recommends maintaining general fund reserves equal to two months of operating revenue — or, put another way, equal to 16.7 percent of annual revenue. ….

Using Data Analysis for Better Decision Making

Source: Sanford Hess, Government Finance Review, June 2019

Let’s start with the bad news: There are no magic solutions here. Data connectivity is an aspirational goal, like operational efficiency. As defined in this article, “data connectivity” is the act of taking information from different computer systems and combining it to gain better insights. As you have probably seen already, that’s harder than it sounds. Why is data connectivity so difficult? It makes sense that computer systems should be able to talk to each other. And in fact, they can. There are endless ways for computer systems to share information, starting with the prosaic .csv file (.csv = comma-separated values) and going all the way through realtime direct access. The problem is the data…. The challenge of data connectivity is finding the commonality between systems. How do you make a financial system “speak” to a property database? Or police arrests? They usually have different transaction formats, reference codes, and even inconsistent code values to represent the same thing….

Helping Employees Speak Up

Source: Larry Johnson, Government Finance Review, May 2019

…. The question for all managers is how to make sure their employees aren’t afraid to tell them what they need to know. There are three critical things a manager can do to encourage honest feedback from subordinates:

1. Make It Clear that You Want the Feedback.
Let people know — repeatedly — that you are not perfect and you expect them to help you make the best decisions possible, so any help they can offer will be appreciated, especially if they see you about to do something stupid.

2. Don’t Be Defensive.
When someone gives you this kind of feedback, control your defensiveness. None of us like to be criticized, and it’s easy to argue and even respond with hostility when a subordinate suggests there might be another, better, approach. You aren’t going to agree to something you know to be wrong — you just need to listen openly to the incoming information.

3. Thank the Employee — and Mean It.
Whether or not you take the advice the subordinate offers, be sure to thank her and express your appreciation for bringing the matter to your attention. Reinforced behavior tends to get repeated, so if you want people to give you more feedback, reward them for doing so…..

Democracy Counts 2018: Increased Student and Institutional Engagement

Source: Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, 2019

From the Washington Post article:
College students across the United States more than doubled their rate of voting between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, according to a study published Thursday by Tufts University — a dramatic spike in political engagement that could draw unprecedented attention to these voters in next year’s presidential election. The study found that 40 percent of students who are eligible to vote cast ballots last year, up from 19 percent in 2014.

Related:
2018 Data Portal

Partisan divide creates different Americas, separate lives

Source: Robert B. Talisse, The Conversation, September 20, 2019

….It turns out that people’s physical communities, surroundings and lifestyles can be their own form of an echo chamber. This separation is so complete that it includes not only the communities and neighborhoods where people live, but also where people shop and what brands they buy, what sort of work they do, where they worship, what sorts of vacations they take and even how they decorate their homes…..

Do Targeted Business Subsidies Improve Income and Reduce Poverty? A Synthetic Control Approach

Source: Jacob Bundrick, Weici Yuan, Economic Development Quarterly, OnlineFirst, September 20, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Interstate competition for economic development has led many states to adopt targeted economic development incentive programs known as deal-closing funds. Deal-closing funds allow state officials to provide discretionary cash grants to select businesses to attract and retain economic development projects. However, whether these targeted business subsidies increase prosperity in the local economy remains unclear. The authors use evidence from Arkansas’s Quick Action Closing Fund to analyze how effective deal-closing funds are at increasing incomes and decreasing poverty. Specifically, the causal effects of the Quick Action Closing Fund on Arkansas’s county-level per capita personal income and poverty rates are estimated using a synthetic control approach. The results largely suggest that the business subsidy program fails to increase incomes and lower poverty rates over the long term, at least at the county level. These findings should serve as a caution to policy makers who wish to improve incomes and poverty rates with targeted business subsidies.

Ballotpedia releases research on public-sector union membership

Source: Dave Beaudoin, Ballotpedia, Daily Brew, September 20, 2019

Nearly 50% of the country’s public-sector union employees are located in five states, according to a new Ballotpedia study released this week. This finding is based on data for 228 of the most prominent public-sector labor unions nationwide as selected based on media reports, consultation with local and state experts, and our own research efforts. In total, we counted 5,654,109 members in those 228 public-sector unions. Throughout 2019, Ballotpedia researched and analyzed the membership, finances, and political spending of public-sector unions. We’ll be sharing these findings in the weeks ahead in Union Station — our newsletter covering the latest developments in public-sector union policy.

Since it is nearly impossible to collect comprehensive data on membership of every public-sector union, we identified the most prominent public-sector unions in each state and determined their membership. This included state-level affiliates of national unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and the Fraternal Order of Police. ….

Among the 228 unions, these five states had the highest number of public-sector union members:

– California: 811,483 members belonging to six large unions—approximately 14% of the nationwide total.

– New York: 808,669 members belonging to five unions—14% of the nationwide total.

– Illinois: 342,518 members belonging to five unions—6% of the nationwide total.

– New Jersey: 324,750 members belonging to four unions—6% of the nationwide total.

– Pennsylvania: 324,411 members belonging to five unions—6% of the nationwide total…..