Estimating the Economic Cost of Childhood Poverty in the United States

Source: Michael McLaughlin, Mark R Rank, Social Work Research, Advance Articles, Published: March 30, 2018
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From the abstract:
Poverty has been an issue of ongoing concern for social work practitioners and researchers over the decades. The societal impact of poverty on a broad range of problems is widely acknowledged throughout the field. However, one vital piece of information regarding poverty has often been missing—its economic cost. This study presents new estimates into the annual costs of childhood poverty in the United States by updating earlier research and including previously unmeasured costs. Cost-measurement analysis indicates that the annual aggregate cost of U.S. child poverty is $1.0298 trillion, representing 5.4% of the gross domestic product. These costs are clustered around the loss of economic productivity, increased health and crime costs, and increased costs as a result of child homelessness and maltreatment. In addition, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on reducing childhood poverty, the country would save at least seven dollars with respect to the economic costs of poverty. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Public Unions Under First Amendment Fire

Source: Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law Research Paper No. 2018-W-01, February 28, 2018

From the abstract:
Unions today are under First Amendment fire, with the compelled speech doctrine as the weapon of choice. Conservative interests are waging a legal war against agreements that include “fair-share service fees,” under which public-sector unions are permitted to charge non-union members to pay their share of the costs of collective bargaining. Espousing libertarian theories of free speech doctrine, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and its allies maintain that fair-share service fees, at least in the context of public-sector unions, constitute a form of political speech, and that laws mandating their payment by non-union members violate the First Amendment’s prohibition against compelled speech. The Supreme Court is poised to accept this position, having granted certiorari in Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31, a case that threatens to overrule the Court’s longstanding acceptance of the constitutionality of fair-share service fees.

Notwithstanding the superficial appeal of the compelled speech argument, this Article argues that pro-union interests have plenty of cover within the First Amendment’s freedom of association doctrine. Viewing Janus and its ilk through an associational lens demonstrates the fallacies that lie behind doubts concerning the constitutionality of such agreements. Although it is doubtful that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the constitutionality of fair-share service fees this term, it is important to air such arguments in order to head off potentially even more significant First Amendment attacks on unionism that are currently underway and to articulate a theory of the First Amendment that remains consistent with the basic New Deal compromise that leaves matters regarding labor policy to our legislatures, where they belong.

Whose Money Is It Anyway: Have We Been Wrong About Agency Fees All Along?

Source: Aaron Tang, Harvard Law Review Forum, March 9, 2018

From the abstract:
In Agency Fees and the First Amendment, Professor Benjamin Sachs offers a pair of novel arguments for why the Court should pause before invalidating public sector union agency fee agreements throughout the country.

First, he argues that the money sent to unions to offset their bargaining costs is better viewed as the government employer’s money than as the employees’. Collective bargaining agreements force employees to turn the money over to the union on pain of losing their jobs, after all, and so the workers never have a “genuine choice” whether to make the payment at all. That, Sachs explains, should lead us to “treat agency fees as a direct payment from employer to union.”

Second, Sachs argues that the money might instead be better understood as the union’s all along. But for the wage premium that unions bring about for their workers, the argument goes, the fees that unions receive would not exist — and so the money is properly viewed as the union’s property from the outset.

These arguments are among the best defenses of agency fees that I have seen. Ultimately, however, both arguments are susceptible to counterattack for reasons discussed in Parts I and II herein. In a final concluding part, I express my agreement with Sachs on another point: the twenty-two states that currently permit agency fee agreements in the public sector can undo the impact of an adverse outcome in Janus by authorizing government employers to reimburse unions directly for their bargaining costs. It is this legislative alternative that, in my view, warrants the greatest attention from labor proponents in the coming years.

Healthcare for All

Source: Dissent, Spring 2018
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Articles include:
Crisis and Opportunity
Adam Gaffney
The left will not live forever on the sidelines of political power. When we have an opportunity to remake our healthcare system, we must be sure to seize it.
Introducing the special section of our Spring issue.

How to Win Medicare for All
Josh Mound
For a progressive program of government-provided healthcare to make it into law, survive, and thrive, it must be popular.

Undocumented, Uninsured, Unafraid
Beatrix Hoffman
In the fight for healthcare for all, single-payer and immigrant rights activists face serious obstacles, but also the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of true universalism.

Cashing in on Despair
George Karandinos
Profiteering is distorting the response to the opioid epidemic as much as it shaped its origin.

The Class Politics of Teeth
Mary Otto
Inequalities in oral health and dental access reflect our deepest social and economic divides.

Single-Payer or Bust
Adam Gaffney
By providing a single tier of coverage to all, with automatic enrollment, comprehensive benefits, and no cost-sharing, single-payer provides a distinct—and more egalitarian—vision of universality.

Union Co-Ops and the Revival of Labor Law

Source: Ariana R. Levinson, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Forthcoming, 2018, Date Written: March 16, 2018

From the abstract:
Union worker-owned cooperatives (union co-ops) offer a means to combat growing income and wealth inequality, create jobs, and recirculate money in the communities in which they are located. This article contributes to the academic literature about cooperative economics, worker ownership, and labor relations in two distinct ways. First, it relies on original author-collected data from interviews of those involved in establishing Our Harvest, an urban farm in Cincinnati, to discuss the issues involved in establishing a union co-op. Our Harvest was the first union co-op created because of a 2009 partnership to foster union co-ops in the United States. Second, the article addresses the labor law issues involved in establishing a union co-op. The issues include whether worker-owners are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, whether a co-op is required to bargain about worker ownership with the union representing its employees, whether a union co-op can require its employees to join a union, and how union co-ops can use interest-based collective bargaining. The article suggests ways that unions can legally support and finance union co-ops, provides an appendix of legal services, and includes tables to simply complex legal issues. At its best, the article will contribute to the scaling up of union co-ops and a concurrent revival of labor law that enables a more equitable economy for all.

The Power of Place

Source: Michael M Oswalt, The Cambridge Handbook of U.S. Labor Law: Reviving American Labor for a 21st Century Economy (Richard Bales & Charlotte Garden, eds.) (CAMBRIDGE UNIV. PRESS, Forthcoming). March 22, 2018

From the abstract:
While asking voters to make electoral decisions in spaces owned and curated by an interested party would be perceived as outlandish in a political context, labor law encourages it. This chapter presses for reform by highlighting cutting-edge electoral field research, backed by established work on context, memory, and decision-making, suggesting that voting in what is effectively the employer’s campaign headquarters is profoundly preference distorting. That change is possible is highlighted by the reality that although so-called “on-site” voting has long been the National Labor Relations Board’s practice, nothing about it is legally compelled. In fact, the law requires only that polling places be picked on a case-by-case basis through a variety of factors like convenience and integrity. The problem, however, is that non-binding administrative guidance makes workplace voting effectively automatic. Though the guidelines have proved surprisingly durable, the case for rewriting them has never been stronger. Doing so is important not simply to reclaim representation elections from the margins of democratic practice, but to initiate a modern era of neutral-site, mail, and even internet-based voting.

Sexual Harassment and Solidarity

Source: Marion G. Crain, Kenneth Matheny, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-03-04, March 26, 2018

From the abstract:
In the waning months of 2017, Americans endured an almost daily barrage of news reports describing sexual harassment by powerful men in entertainment, media, politics and law. While sexual harassment had been headline news before — most notably, during the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debacle — never had so many victims joined hands and come forward demanding change. The media spotlight presented a tremendous opportunity to reframe sexual harassment from an individual, personal and idiosyncratic instance of sexual desire to a common abuse of gender and economic power affecting millions of working women and men on a daily basis. Feminist legal scholars have known for years that expectations about appropriate gender roles create an environment where sexual harassment functions to protect male privilege. But the message that sexual harassment is a systemic feature of workplace gender inequality never reached the general public. Instead, the mainstream media’s systematic focus on sexual harassment as a twisted manifestation of male sexual desire grabbed headlines and implied that when the harasser is discharged, the story ends. But sexual harassment is about much more than men behaving badly. It is a structural problem linked to unequal pay and occupational segregation by sex.

One might think that labor unions would come forward as advocates for such a large segment of workers suffering economic disadvantage in the workplace. Yet despite the frequent use of the word “solidarity” in media reports about #MeToo, organized labor was conspicuously absent from the dialogue. While union leaders made public statements denouncing sexual harassment and promised to redouble union efforts to eradicate it, most disclaimed legal responsibility for preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Not all the blame for labor’s passive stance can be laid at labor’s doorstep, however. Unions are hamstrung by a legal structure that creates a fundamental role conflict where they represent a workforce that includes both potential harassers and victims, and NLRA protection for worker concerted action for mutual aid has been cabined by courts and the Board to the point that labor’s tradition of solidarity is barely recognizable.

What, then, are the prospects for engaging unions in combating workplace sexual harassment? And how could a more proactive role for labor be realized within the existing legal structure? The answer is both deceptively simple and complex: unions must take sexual harassment seriously. This means not only cleaning labor’s own house, but dedicating resources to efforts in partnership with feminist, civil rights and “alt-labor” groups in a coordinated campaign to challenge sexual harassment at the worksite and sectoral levels, modeled on the Fight for $15. A new, more collaborative understanding of solidarity will be essential. Unions should dedicate legal expertise to translating solidarity into labor law, pressing for an understanding of concerted activity for mutual aid that includes eradicating sexual harassment for the benefit of all workers. Finally, if ensuring redress for victims of sexual harassment were at the front of union consciousness, unions could invoke that goal as a lever to challenge employer rules that tend to silence efforts to raise rights-consciousness among victims or undermine claims assertion, such as rules prohibiting discussion of workplace investigations and arbitration clauses banning class claims. Ultimately, challenging sexual harassment could re-brand labor unions and offer an opportunity for partnerships with their social justice allies that would capture hearts and minds.

Distributional Effects of Alternative Strategies for Financing Long-Term Services and Supports and Assisting Family Caregivers

Source: Melissa M. Favreault and Richard W. Johnson, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, WP#2018-1, March 2018

From the abstract:
We use two historical data sources – the Health and Retirement Study and the Medicare Current Beneficiary Study – to consider the patterns in older Americans’ severe disability and their use of long-term services and supports (LTSS) by age and socioeconomic status.  We then use a dynamic microsimulation model to project how the effects of various interventions to support those with severe disabilities and their caregivers would be distributed across the income distribution.  The interventions that we examine fall into three broad classes: tax credits for caregiving expenses, respite care for people in the community with family caregivers, and new social insurance programs.  Within each broad class of policies, we examine how sensitive outcomes are to changes in policy details (such as, in the case of tax credits, deductible levels, refundability, and income phase-outs).

This paper found that:
– Older adults with less education and less wealth are more likely to report disabilities and service use than their more educated and wealthier counterparts.
– This pattern persists when we look at people at a point in time but also, more robustly, when we look at their disabilities prospectively. In a sample of older adults who do not report disabilities at baseline, we find that those with fewer economic resources earlier in life are generally more likely to develop disabilities and use paid LTSS over the next two decades, but the differences narrow when we restrict the sample to people who do not develop disabilities until their late 70s.  

The policy implications of this paper are:
– The uneven distribution of disability risks across the population poses challenges for developing effective LTSS policies. Those most likely to need LTSS often lack enough resources to contribute to LTSS programs, and programs that try to contain costs by using underwriting or imposing work requirements often disqualify those who most need coverage.
– Certain classes of policies, such as respite care benefits, tend to direct much of their benefits to those in lower income quintiles, according to our projections. Caregiver tax credits and social insurance programs generally distribute benefits more proportionally, although impacts vary depending on how the policies are specified.
– Policy design details can significantly affect distributional outcomes. Provisions’ effects can be sensitive to the stacking order in which they are implemented.
– It can be useful to examine trends and proposals not only cross-sectionally but also over longer time periods. For example, the distributional effects of social insurance programs depend on the relatively high early-life mortality of those with less education and lower earnings and wealth.

The Funded Status of Local Pensions Inches Closer to States

Source: Jean-Pierre Aubry, Caroline V. Crawford and Alicia H. Munnell, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#58, January 2018

The brief’s key findings are:
– Since 2001, the aggregate funded status of local pension plans has lagged behind that of state plans, but the gap has been closing recently for two reasons.
– First, local plans continue to receive more of their required contributions than state plans and are a bit more likely to use stringent funding methods.
-Second, in recent years, local plans have earned stronger investment returns than state plans, perhaps partly due to a lower allocation to alternative investments.
– Despite this progress, many local plans – like their state counterparts – still face significant funding challenges.

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