Author Archives: afscme

The State of the Unions 2012: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States

Source: Ruth Milkman, Laura Braslow, Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies and the Center for Urban Research, CUNY, September 2012

These are difficult times for organized labor in the United States. In addition to the challenges of an anemic economic recovery and persistently high unemployment, unions are confronting continuing attacks on public-sector collective bargaining rights and aggressive demands for concessions from both public- and private-sector employers. Against this background, the long-term decline of unionism has continued unabated. Although relative to the nation as a whole, organized labor remains strong in New York City and State, significant erosion has occurred there in recent years, as Figure 1a shows. Nearly one-fourth (22.3 percent) of all wage and salary workers residing in New York City were union members in 2011-12, compared to 22.9 percent a year earlier, and 24.6 percent two years earlier. This proportion was slightly higher in New York State (23.7 percent), which ranks first in union density among the nation’s fifty states, and whose unionization rate is more than double the U.S. average of 11.7 percent. In absolute terms, New York State had more union members — almost 1.9 million — than any state except California, which has a far larger population. In 2011-12, there were about 735,000 union members in the five boroughs of New York City, representing almost two out of every five union members in the state. At the national and state level, and to an even greater extent in New York City, losses in union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector over the past decade, as Figure 1b shows. The Great Recession that began in late 2007 accelerated the long-term decline in private- sector unionization in the City (see page 5). In the public sector, by contrast, union density has been relatively stable, and has actually increased slightly in New York City recently (see Figure 1c), although ongoing budget cuts and, in other parts of the country, direct attacks on collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers may change that in the future.

Is Your Social Medial Policy Unlawful?

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 29 no. 17, August 22, 2012
(subscription required)

Think your social media policy is first-rate? Better take another look. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently reviewed the social media policies of seven employers and found six of them contained unlawful provisions. This news affects more than just six organizations whose policies were at issue. From confidentiality clauses to reminders for respectful dialogue, the provisions that were rejected appear in countless employers’ social media policies. Union status doesn’t matter in this case; the rules cited by the NLRB cover most private sector employees, union members or not. …

Occupational Injuries among U.S. Correctional Officers, 1999-2008

Source: Srinivas Konda, Audrey A. Reichard, Hope M. Tiesman, Journal of Safety Research, Volume 43, Issue 3, July 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study describes fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries among U.S. correctional officers…. While workplace violence is the primary cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among correctional officers, transportation events and bodily reactions are also leading causes of occupational injury. Future research is needed to identify risk factors unique to these events and develop appropriate prevention and intervention efforts….This study adds to the literature on occupational injuries among correctional officers and provides a national level description of fatal and nonfatal injuries across a 10-year period. Given that assaults and violent acts, transportation events, and bodily reaction and exertion were significant injury events, future research should describe detailed injury circumstances and risk factors for correctional officers unique to these events. This would allow appropriate prevention and control efforts to be developed to reduce injuries from these events…

► There were 113 fatalities among correctional officers from 1999–2008. ► Eighteen officers were killed by inmates from 1999–2008. ► Nonfatal work-related injuries were estimated at 125,200 over 10 years. ► Violent acts were responsible for 45% of fatal and 38% of nonfatal injuries. ► Transportation related events were responsible for as many deaths as assaults.

Risk factors associated with bus accident severity in the United States: A generalized ordered logit model

Source: Sigal Kaplan, Carlo Giacomo Prato, Journal of Safety Research, Volume 43, Issue 3, July 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
► Generalized ordered logit model for bus accident severity in the United States ► Marginal effects of risk factors on bus accident severity are identified ► Bus severity is linked to driver’s age, gender and risky behavior ► Bus severity is linked with intersections, low-speed areas and road curves ► Driver training, career length, vehicle standards and education are proposed…

Results show that accident severity increases: (i) for young bus drivers under the age of 25; (ii) for drivers beyond the age of 55, and most prominently for drivers over 65 years old; (iii) for female drivers; (iv) for very high (over 65 mph) and very low (under 20 mph) speed limits; (v) at intersections; (vi) because of inattentive and risky driving….

Social Justice and Growth: The Role of the Minimum Wage

Source: International Labour Organization (ILO), International Journal of Labour Research, Vol. 4 no. 1, June 2012

From the summary:
This issue of the International Journal of Labour Research is wholly dedicated to the question of the minimum wage, a matter that has gained in importance and profile in recent years. No doubt, the main reasons behind this rise in prominence relate to the stagnation of wages in several parts of the world, a generalized increase in earnings inequality as well as the rise in social unrest across the globe.

Recognizing and Responding to Retirement Obligations: Other Postemployment Benefits in Florida Cities and Counties

Source: David S. T. Matkin and Alex Y. Krivosheyev, American Review of Public Administration, published online: June 26, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
With the implementation of recent accounting standards (GASB 43 and 45), local governments began reporting their liabilities and funding levels for postemployment benefits other than pensions—so-called OPEBs. In this article we pose three questions: (a) What factors affect the size of a government’s OPEB liability? (b) How did the OPEB standards affect the way governments manage their OPEB plans? and (c) What factors explain government responds to the OPEB standards? We draw data directly from audited financial reports in Florida counties and cities to examine those questions. Our results suggest that benefit policies, personnel characteristics, and actuarial cost methods are the most influential factors in determining a size of a government’s OPEB liability. Our results also provide evidence that many governments responded to the OPEB standards by reducing their benefits and changing their funding approaches. We show preliminary evidence of differences in governments that changed their policies or funding approaches with those that continued the status quo.

Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities, 1994-2008

Source: University of Chicago, Cultural Policy Center, June 2012

From the summary:
This study of cultural building began in 2006 as a response to inquiries from arts consultants who had for some time been working on dozens of building projects across the country and found themselves confronting the same sets of problems with each new client. In many cases, the actual need for a new facility had not been demonstrated (even though there was often great enthusiasm about getting underway with construction); the connection between a new facility and delivering more effectively on mission was in many instances quite murky; realism about how a new facility could be sustained once built was frequently missing – both in terms of the financial resources and staff needed to successfully run a new facility. The list goes on. New facilities would open, organizations would then run into financial problems because of insufficient revenue, or an inadequate endowment, or because they couldn’t service the debt they incurred to build, or because the building was too costly to operate, or it turned out to be beyond the organization’s capacity to administer and sustain.

The need to move beyond anecdotes and newspaper articles and toward an in-depth, empirical study based on the entire cohort of buildings constructed over the last few decades seemed obvious. Without such a study, institutions had no clear and systematic way to learn from one another’s experiences, both positive and negative. While it emerges that there is no single ‘right way’ to undertake a cultural building project, from conducting analyses of more than 800 cultural facilities built since 1994 there emerges a long list of things to avoid, and things to make sure to do.
The Determinants of Cultural Building
The Feasibility of Cultural Building Projects
An Overview of Cultural Building in the United States: 1994–2008
A Quick Overview
Case Studies
Follow the Money

Public Pay Disclosure in State Government: An Ethical Analysis

Source: James S. Bowman, Kelly A. Stevens, American Review of Public Administration, published online: May 16, 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This qualitative analysis examines state legislation that discloses public employee salary information. It asks, “Is such legislation ethical?” To address this question, an approach—the “ethics triangle”—is used that encompasses results-based utilitarian ethics, rule-based duty ethics, and virtue-based character ethics. The study begins with the importance of the problem, followed by its evolution and current status. After describing the method of study, the article analyzes arguments for and against the ethics of salary disclosure using the ethics triangle. Although there are no easy answers, the Discussion section provides a synthesis of the findings. The concluding section suggests that open compensation systems encourage justifiable salary decisions and help personnel to better understand agency missions and why they earn what they do whereas a closed pay system can compromise the greatest good, duty, and integrity. Yet disclosure requirements applied across the board to all employees, with no distinction regarding the nature of the work or position involved, disregards important factors that deserve consideration. Alternative ways to disclose salary data without revealing individual identities and directions for future research are offered.

How the National Labor Relations Act Was Stolen and How it Can Be Recovered: Taft-Hartey Revisionism and the National Labor Relations Board’s Appointment Process

Source: Charles J. Morris, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2012

From the abstract:
This article challenges and refutes the conventional wisdom that the Taft-Hartley Act changed the basic policy of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act). It identifies two interrelated phenomena as factors primarily responsible for the longstanding inability of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) to adequately protect employees in their right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. One phenomenon is the longstanding revisionism that distorted perception of the Act’s policy. The other is the repetitive abuse of the Board’s appointment process. The article also demonstrates that the NLRB’s shortcomings have resulted primarily from the agency’s failure to vigorously enforce existing law and to utilize innovative measures already available under the Act rather than from the Act’s textual insufficiencies.

The article points out that although Taft-Hartley in its substantive content is a union- regulatory statute that severely reduced the power of unions in the collective bargaining process and in their relationship to their members, the Taft-Hartley Congress nevertheless reenacted – and even enhanced – the Wagner Act’s statutory policy of encouraging and protecting union organizing and collective bargaining. That unambiguous declaration of policy, plus total retention of the Wagner Act’s pro-union and pro-collective-bargaining substantive provisions, was the price Taft-Hartley’s sponsors had to pay to garner sufficient votes to override President Truman’s anticipated veto. Yet, notwithstanding the textual clarity of that policy and its consistent legislative history, and even its later reenactment with stronger language in the Landrum-Griffin Act, organized management and their Republican allies disseminated over a period of several decades false and revisionist versions of that policy. Those versions assert that Taft-Hartley altered the Act’s policy by emphasizing employee free-choice – a concept allegedly based on Taft-Hartley’s recognition of the right of employees “to refrain” from union activity. That provision, however, was originally viewed as minor and of little consequence. By explicit amendment on the floor of the Senate it was strictly confined to protecting only against union acts that “restrain or coerce” employees in the exercise of their right to refrain, thus expressly allowing unions to “interfere with” that right – which is consistent with the Act’s statutory encouragement of union organizing and collective bargaining. Consequently, this “right to refrain” was conspicuously excluded from each of Congress’s several declarations of national labor policy. Nevertheless – despite such unambiguous statutory text and clear legislative history – the revisionist version became conventional wisdom, which has resulted in serious damage to the credibility of the NLRB and the public’s perception of that agency.

The phenomenon of abuse of the appointment process was the practice by every Republican President of appointing a critical number of Board Members and General Counsels who were opposed to the NLRA’s basic policy. This resulted in Boards that were highly successful in protecting employers from disruptive union economic power – such as secondary boycotts and economic strikes without permanent replacements – but relatively impotent in providing strong protection for employees regarding their rights to join unions and engage in meaningful collective bargaining in accordance with the Act’s underlying policy.

The article recommends a corrective program of intensive truth-telling that might produce Labor Boards willing to use the broad and flexible text of the Act to accomplish effective enforcement.

Insurer Rebates under the Medical Loss Ratio: 2012 Estimates

Source: Cynthia Cox, Larry Levitt, and Gary Claxton, Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance, publication number 8305, April 2012

From the summary:
Beginning in 2011, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance plans to pay out a minimum percentage of premium dollars towards health care expenses and quality improvement activities, limiting the amount spent on administrative and marketing costs and profit. Under the law, large group plans are required to spend at least 85 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvement, while small group plans must spend at least 80 percent. These ratios are known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR). This analysis looks at the latest estimates provided by insurers to state insurance commissioners.The analysis finds that consumers and businesses are expected to receive an estimated $1.3 billion by this August in rebates from health insurers who spent more on administrative expenses and profits than allowed by the ACA. The rebates include $541 million in the large employer market, $377 million in the small business market, and $426 million for those buying insurance on their own. Rebates in the group market will generally be provided to employers, and in some cases be passed on to employees as well.Rebates are expected to go to almost one-third (31%) of consumers in the individual market. Among employers, about one-quarter (28%) of the small group market and 19% of the large group market is projected to receive rebates. The share of consumers in the individual insurance market expected to receive rebates ranges from near zero in several states to as high as 86% in Oklahoma and 92% in Texas.