Worker Voice in America: A Current Assessment and Exploration of Options

Source: Thomas Kochan, William Kimball, Duanyi Yang, and Erin L. Kelly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute for Work and Employment Research, Working Draft 1/17/2018

This article reports the results of the first phase of a multi-method study of the state of worker voice in America and options available to workers for closing the gap between the amount of say or influence they expect to have on their job and their actual level of influence. The authors draw on a nationally representative survey of workers that both updates the Freeman and Rogers 1995 survey and one conducted by the Department of Labor in 1977 and goes beyond the scope of these previous efforts to assess worker interest in a wider array of workplace issues including workplace/personal issues, personnel/collective bargaining issues, and higher level organizational values and related issues. The array of voice options examined is also expanded to capture internal firm provided options such as supervisors, coworkers, ombuds systems, grievance procedures, joint committees along with union representation and the newer examples of worker advocacy such as online petitions, occupational associations, and protests. Results indicated that workers believe they ought to have a voice on this full set of workplace issues, there are substantial gaps between their expected and actual voice, a higher percentage of non-union workers want to join a union than was observed in the two prior national surveys, and there are significant variations in the preferences, rates of use, and satisfaction with different voice options. The results suggest that there is a sizable voice gap in American workplaces today but there is no “one sized shoe” (voice option) that fits all workers or all issues.

Here’s how workers would spend the corporate tax cut – if they had a voice
Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, January 30, 2018

White-Collar Unionization is Good for Everybody

Source: Alex Press, The Nation, January 29, 2018

Some have argued that it creates a class divide in labor—they’ve got it backward. ….

In a recent Atlantic article, Alana Semuels asks: “Why have high-profile organizing campaigns succeeded for white-collar workers and failed for blue-collar workers?” Semuels presents new BLS data that demonstrates the growth of white-collar unions: union membership in professional and technical jobs grew by nearly 90,000 last year, and several white-collar occupations saw an uptick in union density, which grew from 4 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2017. Contrasting this with recent defeats of blue-collar unionization drives, Semuels argues that there is a growing “class divide” within organized labor. …..

…..But this is where Semuels’s argument reveals its flaw: white-collar workers aren’t organizing because they feel secure, but because they have more in common with precarious blue collar workers than ever…..

The Economic Effects of Providing Legal Status to DREAMers

Source: Francesc Ortega, Ryan Edwards, Amy Hsin, IZA – Institute of Labor Economics, IZA DP No. 11281, January 2018

This study quantifies the economic effects of two major immigration reforms aimed at legalizing undocumented individuals that entered the United States as children and completed high school: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the DREAM Act. The former offers only temporary legal status to eligible individuals; the latter provides a track to legal permanent residence. Our analysis is based on a general-equilibrium model that allows for shifts in participation between work, college and non-employment. The model is calibrated to account for productivity differences across workers of different skills and documentation status, and a rich pattern of complementarities across different types of workers. We estimate DACA increased GDP by almost 0.02% (about $3.5 billion), or $7,454 per legalized worker. Passing the DREAM Act would increase GDP by around 0.08% (or $15.2 billion), which amounts to an average of $15,371 for each legalized worker. The larger effects of the DREAM Act stem from the expected larger take-up and the increased incentive to attend college among DREAMers with a high school degree. We also find substantial wage increases for individuals obtaining legal status, particularly for individuals that increase their educational attainment. Because of the small size of the DREAMer population, legalization entails negligible effects on the wages of US-born workers.

‘Dreamers’ could give US economy – and even American workers – a boost
Source: Amy Hsin, IZA Newsroom, January 24, 2018

How protests can affect elections

Source: C.K., The Economist, Democracy in America blog, January 26, 2018

America is seeing a new era of female political activism.

….. Research suggests that protest movements can have a significant impact on elections. Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute and colleagues made a striking discovery when they studied the effect of rallies held by the Tea Party movement on April 15th 2009 against high taxes and government spending. …. Overall they estimated that a 0.1% increase in the share of the population protesting at a rally corresponded to a 1.9 percentage point increase in the share of Republican votes. From these results, they reckoned that the protests as a whole mobilised between 2.7m and 5.5m additional votes for the Republican Party in the 2010 House elections –or between 3% and 6% of all House votes cast that year.

…. Ms Chenoweth’s most conservative estimate of participants in the 2017 Women’s Marches (the biggest such rally that year) is five times Mr Veuger’s midpoint estimate of participants in the Tea Party rallies of 2009. If a similar relationship applied nationwide to Democratic Party vote share in the mid-terms after the women’s marches as to the Republican mid-term vote share after the Tea Party rally it would imply a Democratic landslide.  The impact is unlikely to be so dramatic, however. …..

The High-Tech Poorhouse: An Interview with Virginia Eubanks

Source: Sam Adler-Bell, Jacobin, January 29, 2018

When algorithms are introduced into public assistance programs, the effects are rarely good for poor and working-class beneficiaries. ….

…. Virginia Eubanks, associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, SUNY, has spent the past several years exploring how automation has played out in the American welfare system. Her new book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, investigates three experiments in which algorithms are replacing or augmenting human decision-making in public assistance: Indiana’s automated Medicaid eligibility process; Los Angeles’s coordinated entry system for the homeless; and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania’s predictive algorithm for assessing childhood risk of abuse and neglect. …..

Water and Wastewater Workforce: Recruiting Approaches Helped Industry Hire Operators, but Additional EPA Guidance Could Help Identify Future Needs

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-18-102, Published: January 26, 2018

From the highlights:
Projections from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggest that workforce replacement needs for water operators are roughly similar to workforce needs nationwide across all occupations; however, little is known about the effects of any unmet needs on compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. BLS has projected that 8.2 percent of existing water operators will need to be replaced annually between 2016 and 2026. Although BLS projections are intended to capture long-run trends, rather than to forecast precise outcomes in specific years, this predicted replacement rate is roughly similar to the predicted rate of 10.9 percent for all workers across the U.S. economy. Limited information is available to determine whether retirements, or other workforce needs, are affecting drinking water and wastewater utilities’ ability to comply with the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water acts. At a national level, neither the water utilities’ industry associations nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has analyzed whether there is a relationship between unmet workforce needs and compliance problems. EPA relies on states to inspect utilities to ensure compliance with the acts. EPA’s inspection guidance documents, for both drinking water and wastewater, advise states to examine the quality and quantity of staff operating and maintaining water utilities. However, the guidance does not advise states to examine future workforce needs. GAO has found that future workforce needs can be identified through strategic workforce planning, which involves developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve program goals. By adding questions to EPA’s inspection guidance on strategic workforce planning, such as the number of positions needed in the future, EPA could help make this information available for states to assess future workforce needs. Information on future workforce needs could help states and utilities identity potential workforce issues and take action as needed.

Representatives from 11 selected water utilities reported that by using various approaches, they were generally able to meet their current workforce needs but faced some challenges in doing so. Representatives from the selected utilities said that they recruit operators using word of mouth, websites, newspapers, and partnering with local technical schools. However, representatives from small utilities said that even with these approaches, they had difficulty hiring certified operators and instead hired and trained entry-level employees. Additionally, representatives from large utilities said they face difficulties in recruiting skilled workers, such as electricians and mechanics, part of a larger national pattern.

Five federal agencies that GAO reviewed—EPA and the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), Education, and Veterans Affairs (VA)—have programs or activities that can assist utilities with their workforce needs in several ways, including through guidance, funding, and training. EPA has worked with DOL and industry groups to develop a water-sector competency model to support industry training and with VA to help place disabled veterans in water industry jobs. In addition, USDA funds personnel who travel to rural utilities to provide hands-on assistance through its Circuit Rider program. Four of five small utilities GAO interviewed said they used this program and other USDA technical assistance for training operators.

Grapevine, Fiscal Year 2017-18

Source: Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, January 2018

From the summary:
Data reported by the states in the latest Grapevine survey indicate that initially approved state fiscal support for higher education nationwide increased by a modest 1.6 percent from fiscal 2016–2017 (fiscal 2017) to fiscal year 2017–2018 (fiscal 2018). This is the lowest annual percent increase in the past five years. Almost all of the increase between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 was accounted for by appropriations in only three relatively large states: California, Florida, and Georgia. Total funding across the remaining 47 states rose by only 0.2 percent.

Examining Exposure Assessment in Shift Work Research: A Study on Depression Among Nurses

Source: Amy L Hall Renée-Louise Franche Mieke Koehoorn, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Advance Access, January 11, 2018

From the abstract:
Coarse exposure assessment and assignment is a common issue facing epidemiological studies of shift work. Such measures ignore a number of exposure characteristics that may impact on health, increasing the likelihood of biased effect estimates and masked exposure–response relationships. To demonstrate the impacts of exposure assessment precision in shift work research, this study investigated relationships between work schedule and depression in a large survey of Canadian nurses.

The Canadian 2005 National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses provided the analytic sample (n = 11450). Relationships between work schedule and depression were assessed using logistic regression models with high, moderate, and low-precision exposure groupings. The high-precision grouping described shift timing and rotation frequency, the moderate-precision grouping described shift timing, and the low-precision grouping described the presence/absence of shift work. Final model estimates were adjusted for the potential confounding effects of demographic and work variables, and bootstrap weights were used to generate sampling variances that accounted for the survey sample design.

The high-precision exposure grouping model showed the strongest relationships between work schedule and depression, with increased odds ratios [ORs] for rapidly rotating (OR = 1.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.91–2.51) and undefined rotating (OR = 1.67, 95% CI = 0.92–3.02) shift workers, and a decreased OR for depression in slow rotating (OR = 0.79, 95% CI = 0.57–1.08) shift workers. For the low- and moderate-precision exposure grouping models, weak relationships were observed for all work schedule categories (OR range 0.95 to 0.99).

Findings from this study support the need to consider and collect the data required for precise and conceptually driven exposure assessment and assignment in future studies of shift work and health. Further research into the effects of shift rotation frequency on depression is also recommended.

The State of the Unions 2017: A Profile of Unionization in Wisconsin and in America

Source: Jill Manzo, Monica Bielski Boris, Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Midwest Economic Policy Institute, September 4, 2017

From the summary:
A new study conducted by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the School for Workers at the University of Wisconsin–Extension, and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, evaluates the impact that labor union membership has on a worker’s hourly wage in Wisconsin and in the United States. A key finding in the report, The State of the Unions 2017: A Profile of Unionization in Wisconsin and in the United States, indicates that unionization benefits low-income and middle-class workers most in Wisconsin, helping to foster a strong middle class and reduce income inequality.

Since 2007, unionization has declined in Wisconsin and in the United States. There are about 157,000 fewer union members in Wisconsin today than there were in 2007, accounting for 14.3 percent of the 1.1 million-member drop in union workers across the nation over that time. There are 155 fewer labor unions and 2,247 fewer individuals working for labor unions in Wisconsin today than there were in 2006. This is in part due to Wisconsin’s Governor Walker’s fight against collective bargaining….

As of 2016, the overall union membership rate is 8.1 percent in Wisconsin:
• Men are more likely to be unionized (10.5 percent) than women (5.7 percent);
• Veterans are among the most unionized socioeconomic groups in Wisconsin (8.4 percent);
• By educational attainment, the most unionized workers in Wisconsin hold Master’s degrees (15.2 percent) and associate’s degrees (10.9 percent);
• Public sector unionization (22.7 percent) is four times as high in Wisconsin as private sector unionization (5.5 percent)…..