Author Archives: afscme

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.

State of America’s Libraries Report 2012

Source: American Libraries, Digital Supplement, April 2012

From the press release:
Publishers limiting library e-book lending, budget cuts and book challenges are just a few library trends of the past year that are placing free access to information in jeopardy. These trends as well as other are detailed in the 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report released today by the American Library Association (ALA) in conjunction with National Library Week (April 8 – 14)….

…The single-minded drive to reduce budget deficits continued to take its toll on essential services at all levels of society in 2011, with teachers and librarians sometimes seen as easy targets for layoffs. Even the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services suffered budget cuts, and the Library of Congress lost nearly 10 percent of its workforce.

School librarians faced especially draconian budgetary challenges in 2011. Cuts began at the federal level in May 2011, when the Department of Education eliminated fiscal 2011 funding for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program, the only federal program solely for school libraries in the United States. The effects were soon felt at the state and local levels

Academic librarians and their colleagues in higher education in the United States also continued to navigate a “new normal,” characterized by stagnating budgets, unsustainable costs, increased student enrollments and reduced staff.

Sounding the Alarm

Source: Pennsylvania State Education Association, March 2012

From the summary:
Pennsylvania’s public schools are in the midst of their toughest fiscal crisis since the 1930s. Following the nearly $860 million in cuts in 2011-12 and the proposal of $100 million more for next year, districts are being forced to make increasingly difficult decisions about how to meet the education needs of their students. Many of these decisions will result in cuts to programs necessary to provide the challenging, well-rounded, and comprehensive curriculum required for success in the 21st Century global economy. These cuts are not in the best interests of America’s students, therefore risking the future of our children.

Recent reports revealed that some school districts, such as Chester Upland and York City, had insufficient cash on hand to meet payroll. These are only the first instances of districts pushed to the breaking point. More will follow. If legislative action isn’t taken now, the financial viability of a significant number of school districts will be threatened by 2014. Pennsylvania could do a disservice to an entire generation of students who will not get a second chance.
See also:
Appendix A: Program Curtailment Requests
Appendix B: Impact of Funding Cuts
Appendix C: Chart on Salaries and Benefits
Appendix D: Solutions That Work
Press release

Public-Sector Unionism vs. the Public Interest

Source: Brian Farmer, New American, December 5, 2011
(subscription required)

The unionization of government workers represents the ideal situation for labor unionism. The ultimate objective of labor unionism is to monopolize the available supply of labor to an employer and to eliminate all competing workers to that source of employment. If a labor union can accomplish that, it can raise the price of labor, be it through increased wages, more generous fringe benefits, or productivity-killing work rules in the determination of working conditions. And that is much easier to accomplish in the public sector than it is in the private sector, because private-sector businesses do not enjoy a monopoly in their provision of goods and services to consumers….By their very nature, collective bargaining laws create an adversarial relationship between the labor union and the employer, which makes strife inevitable. Labor unions know that no employer will seriously consider a labor union demand if it knows that the labor union has no power to enforce it. Obviously, to enforce their demands, labor unions will strike, no matter whether such strikes are contractually legal or not. In the public sector, it means the withholding of public services. Public officials become so desperate to settle the strike and restore public services that a settlement almost invariably involves an agreement not to penalize the labor union for engaging in an illegal strike. This gives the labor union disproportionate power and results in government decisions that have short-term political benefits but disastrous long-term financial consequences….

The Impact of Workplace Policies and Other Social Factors on Self-Reported Influenza-Like Illness Incidence During the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic

Source: Supriya Kumar, Sandra Crouse Quinn, Kevin H. Kim, Laura H. Daniel, and Vicki S. Freimuth, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 102 no. 1, January 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives. We assessed the impact of social determinants of potential exposure to H1N1—which are unequally distributed by race/ethnicity in the United States—on incidence of influenza-like illness (ILI) during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic….Conclusions. The absence of certain workplace policies, such as paid sick leave, confers a population-attributable risk of 5 million additional cases of ILI in the general population and 1.2 million cases among Hispanics. Federal mandates for sick leave could have significant health impacts by reducing morbidity from ILI, especially in Hispanics.

Caring in America: A comprehensive analysis of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs: Home health and personal care aides

Source: Dorie Seavey and Abby Marquand, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), December 2011

From the abstract:
This PHI report provides a thorough analysis of the home care and personal care industries in the U.S., as well as of the workers who provide both types of care. The authors detail the many difficulties facing workers in both fields, including uncompetitive wages with little to no benefits offered, inconsistent and often inadequate training requirements, high injury rates, and unpredictable hours. The report lists several recommendations to improve the quality of these jobs.

The State of the Unions 2011: 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 2011

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, substantial erosion has occurred there in recent years, as Figure 1a shows. Nearly one-fourth (22.9 percent) of all wage and salary workers residing in New York City were union members in 2010-11, compared to 24.6 percent a year earlier. This proportion was slightly higher in New York State (24.1 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 11.9 percent. In absolute terms, New York State had more union members – over 1.9 million – than any state except California, which has a far larger population. In 2010-11, there were over 750,000 union members in the five boroughs of New York City, comprising about 40 percent of all union members in the State. At the national, state, and city levels alike, losses in union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector over the past decade, as Figure 1b shows. In the public sector, union density has been relatively stable (see Figure 1c), although government budget cuts and recent attacks on collective bargaining rights for public- sector workers may change that in the future.

The State of America’s Libraries, 2011

Source: American Libraries, Digital Supplement, 2011

The Great Recession may have come to an end, but there’s no end to libraries’ key role in helping hard-pressed Americans find employment or launch a bootstraps venture. These and other key trends in the library community are detailed in this report on the State of America’s Libraries, 2011. The trends are documented in a nationwide poll commissioned by the American Library Association (ALA) as part of a Harris Interactive telephone omnibus study conducted in January with a cross-section of 1,012 adults.

The Wage and Employment Impact of Minimum‐Wage Laws in Three Cities

Source: John Schmitt and David Rosnick, Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 2011

From the summary:
This report analyzes the wage and employment effects of the first three city-specific minimum wages in the United States -San Francisco (2004), Santa Fe (2004), and Washington, DC (1993). We use data from a virtual census of employment in each of the three cities, surrounding suburbs, and nearby metropolitan areas, to estimate the impact of minimum-wage laws on wages and employment in fast food restaurants, food services, retail trade, and other low-wage and small establishments.