Author Archives: afscme

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: David Michaels, Gregory R. Wagner, JAMA, September 16, 2020

With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the US is facing an unprecedented, massive worker safety crisis. Thousands of workers are at risk for workplace exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as they provide care for patients with COVID-19 or perform other “essential” services and daily functions and interact with other workers or the public. By law, employers in the US are required to provide workplaces free of recognized serious hazards. Enforcement of this law is the responsibility of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While OSHA could be making an important contribution to reversing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and mitigate risk to workers, their families, and communities, the federal government has not fully utilized OSHA’s public safety authority in its efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 150 000 hospital and nursing home staff have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus at work, and more than 700 have died, although the actual numbers are unknown because of inadequate data collection systems. As the epidemic has spread, many other workers, including emergency responders, corrections officers, transit workers, and workers in meat and poultry factories, farms, grocery stores, and warehouses, also have been infected with SARS-CoV-2…..

When Do Unions Matter to Social Policy? Organized Labor and Leave Legislation in US States

Source: Cassandra Engeman, Social Forces, Advance Articles, Published: July 29, 2020
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From the abstract:
Trade union institutions are historically and comparatively weak in the United States, and union membership has been in steady decline over several decades. Scholars thus question the contemporary relevance of organized labor to social policy. Yet, there is considerable state-level variation in social policy and union institutional strength that remains underexamined. Focusing on variability across US states, this paper uses mixed-methods analysis to examine relationships between organized labor and parental and family leave legislation under varying political conditions. Event history analysis of state-level leave policy adoption from 1983 to 2016 shows that union institutional strength, particularly in the public sector, is positively associated with the timing of leave policy adoption. These findings are robust to the inclusion of other factors, including Democratic control of state houses, which is also shown to facilitate leave policy adoption. Comparative case studies support event history findings and illustrate how state house partisanship informs the level of government that leave advocates target for policy change. The paper concludes by suggesting further attention to subnational policies and investigation into the social movement practice of target-shifting and its effects. Ultimately, the paper demonstrates the operation of power resources at the subnational level within a liberal market national context.

Why Public Sector Union Members Support Their Unions: Survey and Experimental Evidence

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ethan Porter, Social Forces, Advance Articles, Published September 7, 2020
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From the abstract:
Despite their decline, unions, and especially public sector unions, remain important civic and economic associations. Yet, we lack an understanding of why public sector union members voluntarily support unions. We report on a field experiment conducted during a 2017 Iowa teachers union recertification election. We randomly assigned union members to receive emails describing union benefits and measured effects on turnout effort (N = 10,461). Members were more likely to try to vote when reminded of the unions’ professional benefits and community—but not legal protections or political representation. A follow-up survey identified the specific aspects of professional identity and benefits that members most valued and why. In a context where union membership and support is voluntary among professionalized workers, our findings emphasize the possibility of training for fostering shared identities and encouraging support for public sector unions. Our results have broader implications for understanding the public sector labor movement in a context of legal retrenchment.

Disparate Disruptions: Intersectional COVID-19 Employment Effects by Age, Gender, Education, and Race/Ethnicity

Source: Phyllis Moen, Joseph H Pedtke, Sarah Flood, Work, Aging and Retirement, Advance Articles, Published: September 12, 2020
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From the abstract:
These are unprecedented times, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts public health, social interaction, and employment attachments. Evidence to date has been about broad shifts in unemployment rates as a percent of the labor force. We draw on monthly Current Population Survey data to examine subpopulation changes in employment states across the life course, from January through April 2020. COVID-19 downturns produced disparate life-course impacts. There are increases in unemployment and being out of the workforce at all ages, but especially among young adults, with young women most at risk. Intersectional analyses document conjoint life-course vulnerabilities by gender, educational attainment, and race/ethnicity. For example, Black men aged 20–29 with a college degree experienced a 12.4 percentage point increase in being not in the labor force for other reasons (NILF-other). Individuals with less than a college degree in their 50s and 60s were more likely to become unemployed, regardless of race. And more non-college-educated Asian men in their 60s and 70s reported being retired (6.6 and 8.9 percentage point increases, respectively). Repercussions from the pandemic may well challenge assumptions and possibilities for older adults’ working longer.

Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy

Source: Kendra Bozarth, Grace Western, and Janelle Jones, Roosevelt Institute, Issue Brief, September 2020

From the summary:
This brief explains how centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.

COVID-19 Projected to Worsen Racial Disparities in Health Coverage

Source: Chris Sloan, Robin Duddy-Tenbrunsel, Samantha Ferguson, Angel Valladares, Thomas Kornfield, Avalere, September 16, 2020

From the summary:
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing economic and healthcare inequalities between racial groups in the US. Nationally, employment decreased 13% from February to April 2020; this effect was disproportionately greater among Asian (-18%), Black (-15%), and Hispanic (-17%) workers compared to White (-11%) workers. Avalere analysis suggests that, because of these job losses, at least 1 million Asian, 2 million Black, and 3 million Hispanic people are likely to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance in 2020.

Labor, Poverty, and Power

Source: Cambridge Now Blog, September 3, 2020

Countries around the world are struggling with the economic repercussions of the pandemic, and the United States in particular has recorded levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. While the CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March, provided $600/week in supplemental income to some workers, this benefit lapsed at the end of July and no replacement program has been enacted, leaving millions in a state of housing and food insecurity. At the same time, states have made cuts or are considering steep cuts to Medicaid and other social safety programs precisely as need surges, with millions of Americans losing health insurance along with their jobs. A disproportionate number of those who are at risk are Black Americans and people of color who worked—or still work, in some cases, but at minimum wage—in industries without organized labor, which has also been in decline over the past several decades in the United States. Indeed, the precarious position of low-wage workers and the unemployed stands in contrast to legislation designed to protect businesses and employers—for example, a $25 billion bailout to the airline industry, or the GOP Liability Shield Bill, which would give employers sweeping immunity against Covid-19 related lawsuits brought by employees.

We spoke to several Cambridge University Press authors and editors about the legal, political, and historical factors that explain these converging crises and make low-income and unemployed Americans especially vulnerable. We also asked about connections between calls to end anti-Black racism and to reinvigorate organized labor, and, more generally, how anti-labor and anti-poor measures have exacerbated the systemic effects of racism.

A Look At Terminations For Protest-Related Activities

Source: Laura Scott, Employment Alert, Volume 37, Issue 19, September 16, 2020
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…Private employers may be wondering whether and when an employee may be fired for engaging in protest-related conduct. The First Amendment protects an individual’s freedom of speech, right to assemble, and therefore the right to peacefully protest. But, it does not guarantee an employee a job.

If an employee is “at will,” an employer can technically end the employment relationship at any time for any reason. But, it’s rarely a good idea to terminate someone “just because.”

Also, depending on the applicable state law, a private employer may be barred from taking adverse employment action against an employee for conduct engaged in at a protest while off duty…..

How to Defeat Trump and Heal America: Deep Canvassing and Political Persuasion in the 2020 Presidential Election

Source: People’s Action, September 2020

From the executive summary:
People’s Action has completed the first-ever deep canvassing political persuasion experiment this month and the results are groundbreaking.

The independent analysis of our deep canvass phone program found that it had a substantial impact on decreasing Trump’s vote margin, estimated to be 102 times more effective per person than the average presidential persuasion program.

Related:
The Best Way to Beat Trumpism? Talk Less, Listen More
Source: Andy Kroll, Rolling Stone, September 15, 2020

This summer, with Americans hunkered down at home as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, teams of organizers located in a half-dozen battleground states made thousands of phone calls and put a theory to the test: Can an empathetic, heartfelt conversation persuade a complete stranger to change their mind about how to vote in 2020?

The experiment was led by People’s Action, a liberal nonprofit that focuses on mobilizing rural and low-income Americans, and it utilized a tactic known as deep canvassing, a form of grassroots organizing that puts more emphasis on listening and finding human connection than the traditional check-a-box door-to-door canvassing done by political campaigns.

The results of that experiment — shared with Rolling Stone ahead of their release on Tuesday — are striking: Even when done by phone, deep canvassing can indeed have a measurable effect on an individual’s voting preference. According to a study conducted by political-science professors David Broockman and Josh Kalla in partnership with People’s Action, this summer’s deep canvassing by phone led to a 3.1-point swing on average in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden. In other words, for every 100 completed phone calls, three votes were added to Biden’s vote margin after they received a deep canvassing call. That number was even higher for independents (5 points) and independent women (8.5 points), according to the study.