We are All Waiters Now: Why Higher Taxes Would Make Americans Happier, and Why, Despite This, We Won’t Raise Them

Source: Thomas Geoghegan, In These Times, December 2006, Vol. 30 no. 12

Now that the Democrats run Congress, the question becomes, “What should they do?” Yes, raise the minimum wage. And yes, fix the Medicare drug program. But will this bind a new majority to the party?…

… But what the Democrats don’t have is a serious commitment—the political nerve—to make people happier in the only way they can: by raising people’s taxes. How happy more of us would be if only we could pay higher taxes! More of us at last could joyfully retire.

In May 2005, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put out a sort of Michelin Guide to the pensions of the world’s 30 wealthiest nations: the United States, Ireland and their ilk. While the United States is rich, comparatively it’s a beggar at the bottom, with a Burger King-type pension, paying on average 39 percent of after-tax income at retirement. Others pay about 70 percent on average. Germany, Sweden: pick a country. Some pay even more.

Smashing the Clock

Source: Michelle Conlin, Business Week, December 11, 2006, No. 4013

One afternoon last year, Chap Achen, who oversees online orders at Best Buy Co., shut down his computer, stood up from his desk, and announced that he was leaving for the day. It was around 2 p.m., and most of Achen’s staff were slumped over their keyboards, deep in a post-lunch, LCD-lit trance. “See you tomorrow,” said Achen. “I’m going to a matinee.” ….

….At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation’s leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical–if risky–experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for “results-only work environment,” seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek

Source: Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce, Harvard Business Review, December 2006, Vol. 84 no. 12

Today’s overachieving professionals labor longer, take on more responsibility, and earn more than the workaholics of yore. They hold what Hewlett and Luce call “extreme jobs,” which entail workweeks of 60 or more hours and have at least five of ten characteristics–such as tight deadlines and lots of travel–culled from the authors’ research on this work model. A project of the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, a private-sector initiative, this research consists of two large surveys (one of high earners across various professions in the United States and the other of high-earning managers in large multinational corporations) that map the shape and scope of such jobs, as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews that get at extreme workers’ attitudes and motivations. In this article, Hewlett and Luce consider their data in relation to increasing competitive pressures, vastly improved communication technology, cultural shifts, and other sweeping changes that have made high-stakes employment more prominent. What emerges is a complex picture of the all-consuming career–rewarding in many ways, but not without danger to individuals and to society. By and large, extreme professionals don’t feel exploited; they feel exalted. A strong majority of them in the United States–66%–say they love their jobs, and in the global companies survey, this figure rises to 76%. The authors’ research suggests, however, that women are at a disadvantage. Although they don’t shirk the pressure or responsibility of extreme work, they are not matching the hours logged by their male colleagues. This constitutes a barrier for ambitious women, but it also means that employers face a real opportunity: They can find better ways to tap the talents of women who will commit to hard work and responsibility but cannot put in overlong days.

Left Behind: Workers and Their Families in a Changing Los Angeles

Source: Alissa Anderson Garcia, David Carroll, and Jean Ross, California Budget Project, Special Report, September 2006

For generations, Los Angeles has been known as a place where one could go to achieve the American dream. Not long ago, this dream was easily realized in Los Angeles. California’s most populous county was once a place where jobs brought the middle-class lifestyle within reach of anyone who worked hard. Such jobs formed the foundation of Los Angeles’ prosperity and enabled the county to become one of the most vibrant places in California.

Over the past few decades, however, economic and demographic changes have recast the landscape of the Los Angeles economy. Today, low-wage jobs have replaced many of the jobs that once provided a gateway to a middle-class life. As the county’s labor market has changed, many Los Angeles workers and their families have been left behind. Job growth in Los Angeles has lagged that of the rest of the state, and the gap between the wages earned by workers in Los Angeles and the rest of California has widened considerably. As Los Angeles enters the twenty-first century, its promise of the good life has faded. Workers tend to have lower wages, families tend to have lower incomes, and residents have a higher rate of poverty in Los Angeles than in the rest of the state.

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ Women Caring for Parents and Children

Source: Charles R. Pierret, Monthly Labor Review, September 2006, Vol. 129 no. 9

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey are used to estimate the number and characteristics of women 45 to 56 years old who care for both their children and their parents; these women transfer a significant amount of money to their children and time to their parents.

The 2nd Annual EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey, 2006: Early Experience With High-Deductible and Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Source: Paul Fronstin and Sara R. Collins, EBRI Issue Brief, December 2006, No. 300

This report presents findings from the EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey, 2006, the second annual version of this survey. The online survey of 3,158 privately insured adults ages 21–64 was conducted to provide nationally representative data regarding the growth of consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), and their impact on the behavior and attitudes of health care consumers.

The New Crisis of Public Service Employment

Source: Gerald W. McEntee, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

These are unprecedented times for public service workers and the unions that represent their interests. The largest of these unions is the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. In recent years, AFSCME has been thrust into the role of defending sweeping attacks on public employees and public budgets at every level of government.

Throughout its 70-year history, AFSCME has waged effective battles that have enabled public employees to join the ranks of the middle class—winning collective bargaining rights, facilitating the adoption of merit-based job performance systems, growing public employee pension plans, securing wage increases, and helping create a vibrant public sector that provides effective services to citizens and helps local economies realize their potential.
Today, much of the historic progress achieved by public workers is at risk. Ultimately, how successfully AFSCME and its fellow public unions meet five core challenges in the areas of privatization—fiscal limits, civil service reform and pension reform—will determine the future of America’s public sector.

The Psychological Contract and the Union Contract: A Paradigm Shift in Public Sector Employee Relations

Source: Thomas J. Calo, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

This article examines the changing nature of employee and labor relations in the United States. A significant shift has occurred in the employee relations environment between the public and private sectors. As union representation in the private sector workforce has steeply declined, there had been a sharp and steady increase in third party representation in the public sector workforce. The reasons for these changes are explored.

The article goes beyond the issue of labor relations to the broader issue of positive employee relations in the workplace. Exploring employee relations from a behavioral science perspective, the article describes and discusses the psychological contract as an organizing framework for understanding and achieving positive employee relations in the workplace. The article also draws upon the author’s professional human resource experiences in the public and private sectors.

The Past as Prologue? A Brief History of the Labor Movement in the United States

Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Of the approximately 20 million public employees in the United States, more than eight million are either members of or represented by labor unions—a penetration rate of just over 40 percent. What is remarkable about this phenomenal growth is that most of the expansion of union activity in government has occurred within the last 40 years, and almost mirrors the decline of union strength in the private sector.

The rise and fall of labor in the private sector is a backdrop to the growth of public sector collective bargaining. Explanations for the dramatic increase in government union activity can be explored from a number of different perspectives. Current public policy efforts to reform civil service and allow managers greater flexibility are seen by some researchers as having the potential to impact the ability of public sector unions to represent their members effectively.

Collective Bargaining and Deputy Sheriffs in Florida: An Unusual History

Source: Joan E. Pynes and Brian Corley, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

There is an unusual history of collective bargaining and deputy sheriffs in the state of Florida. While police officers have been allowed to unionize and collectively bargain since 1968, it has only been since 2003 that deputy sheriffs have been given that right. (Please note that despite the similarities in job duties, deputy sheriffs were not considered to be public employees for the purposes of collective bargaining.)