Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Public-sector’

Women Account for 72 Percent of the Decline In Union Membership from 2011 to 2012

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Katherine GallagherToday the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on union membership for 2012. We did some number-crunching which shows that while unions are really important to women, their membership is dropping.

What’s going on with women and unions?

  • Between 2011 and 2012 the number of union members dropped by 398,000. Women were less than half (46 percent) of union members in 2011 – but they accounted for 72 percent of the decline.
  • Men are more likely than women to be members of unions. The gap between men’s and women’s union membership has narrowed over time. Last year it grew, for the first time since 2008, by 25 percent. Women’s rate of union membership (11.2 percent) was 1.2 percentage points lower than men’s (12.4 percent) in 2011. In 2012, women’s rate (10.5 percent) was 1.5 percentage points lower than men’s (12.0 percent).

Why does this matter?

  • Union membership is critical for women’s wage equality. Among union members, the typical full-time woman worker has weekly earnings that are 88 percent of the typical man’s. Among workers not represented by unions, this figure is 81 percent.

Why is it happening?

  • It’s likely that women’s concentration in public sector jobs (women comprised 57 percent of the public sector workforce in 2012) was a key factor in this union membership decline.
  • The rate of union membership in the public sector workforce in 2012 was more than five times higher than in the private sector (35.9 percent as compared to 6.6 percent). Public sector workers comprise just over half (51 percent) of union members in 2011, but they accounted for 59 percent of the declines in union membership between 2011 and 2012.

A few wonky data details: BLS data on union membership include all employed wage and salary workers 16 and older. Figures are 2011 and 2012 annual averages. Data are not available broken down by gender and sector. Data on the wage gap for union members differ slightly from the often-used measure of median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers. Using this figure, the typical woman makes 77 percent of what the typical man makes.

This post was originally posted at NWLC. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Katherine Gallagher Robbins is a Senior Policy Analyst for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center where she examines how tax and budget policies influence the financial stability and security of low-income women and families.  Before joining the Center in 2010, Ms. Gallagher Robbins worked as an organizer for the California Public Interest Research Group at the University of California, San Diego. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a graduate of the College of William and Mary.

Federal Judge Rules Yet Another Florida Drug-Testing Program Unconstitutional

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Laura ClawsonWelfare applicants aren’t the only people the courts have forced the state of Florida to stop drug testing. A federal court ruled on Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott also doesn’t get to randomly drug test 80,000 state workers.

Judge Ungaro said Mr. Scott had overreached in his executive order because there was no evidence of a large-scale problem and no reason to mandate drug tests.The governor’s drug testing requirement “does not identify a concrete danger that must be addressed by suspicionless drug-testing of state employees,” Judge Ungaro wrote. “And the governor shows no evidence of a drug-use problem at the covered agencies.”

Scott plans to appeal. Not only that, Florida may face two more drug-testing lawsuits, one over another requirement in Scott’s executive order, calling for drug testing of applicants for state jobs, and one over a law passed last month and taking effect in July, “that allows all state workers to undergo random drug testing but does not make it a requirement.” Because obviously there would be no pressure to take a drug test that you were “allowed” but “not required” to take at work.

I fully expect that soon Rick Scott will be trying to “randomly” drug test everyone to cross the border into Florida, and using state money to fight off those lawsuits, too.

*Disclaimer: The opinions of this blog are those of the author and not those of Workplace Fairness.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on April 26, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Why Is the Recovery So Feeble? Ask (Laid-Off) Public-Sector Workers

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Roger BybeeThe slashing of public-sector jobs—concentrated in states Republicans took control in 2010—is accounting for a major slowing of the nation’s economic recovery. In a recent report issued by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), economist Josh Bivens calculated that the U.S. has lost 584,000 government jobs during the recovery, an “unprecedented drag.”

Bivens argues that if America had emulated the strategy used to strengthen previous recoveries, it would have added 1.2 million public-sector jobs since the recovery’s start in June 2009. And the expanded buying power of these workers would have led to an additional 500,000 jobs in the private sector.

“If we had been following normal path, we’d have 1.7 million more jobs,” Bivens told In These Times last week. “Given that we have a shortfall of 10 million jobs in this country, we would have created nearly one fifth of the jobs we need.”

The drop in public employment further reduces consumer demand at a time when American households and small businesses are only reluctantly spending. Families are devoting more of their income to getting out of debt caused by credit cards, underwater mortgages and skyrocketing college tuition.

Of, course the nearly three-year “recovery” is still far from solid, as David Moberg has shown on the website:

The official unemployment rate in March [2012] fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.2 percent—the only good political news for President Obama. But that gain largely reflected the numbers of people who dropped out of the labor market. The 120,000 increase in jobs [are] about half the recent rate and a third of what’s needed to return to relatively full employment in three years…

While most of the cutbacks have occurred at the state and local levels thus far, federal jobs and federal programs that stimulate the economy will be increasingly under the gun. President Obama appears to be acceding to vast cutbacks in the U.S. Postal Service demanded by Republicans, which will be “a further drag on the recovery,” Bivens says.

Moreover, there are several stimulative federal programs that will be ending in January 2013, Bivens stated. “The payroll tax cut will be ended, the unemployment compensation extensions will be halted, and all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for moderate income families, will be stopped. This will all be contractionary for overall employment,” Bivens said.

In part, cutbacks in government employment during the current recovery are the result of the extraordinarily devastating impact of the economic meltdown and its connection to the deflated housing bubble.

“The budget gaps have been deeper for the states, and have required more fiscal contraction,” Bivens noted. “The impact on housing values has created a laser targeting of states that are so dependent on property taxes, as property values have declined so steeply. At the same time, “There has been a conscious decision this time to target public workers.”

Public workers targeted

Over the last several years, the Right and Republican-allied politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have tried to focus public anger against supposedly privileged public employees, much like earlier Republican-led crusades against “welfare recipients” receiving benefits from the public, as Adam Bessie has pointed out.

Along with stigmatizing public employees including teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers, GOP lawmakers have promoted a number of remarkably hollow slogans that assert the need for draconian cuts in public spending and public employment. To wit:

  • “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy” (title of Republican commentary by Republican members of Joint Economic Committee.
  • “Deficit reduction is part of job creation.” (Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas)
  • “Taxes cost jobs,” (Republican billboards in Wisconsin in 2010)

Cutbacks in public employment have been heavily concentrated in Republican-controlled states, as Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert document:

Of the eleven states in which Republicans came into power in 2010 – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – five were among the seven states that lost more than 2.5 percent of their workforce from December 2010 to December 2011. The remaining 42 states lost an average 0.5 percent (there is no data for Mississippi).

The cutbacks in public employment have not produced economic miracles for any of these states. Particularly noticeable is the failure of Gov. Walker, who faces a recall election in June, to make any progress on his pledge of producing 250,000 jobs. In fact, Wisconsin, after cutting its public employment by about 2.8% has had the worst overall performance in job creation of any of the 50 states.

Nonetheless, Republicans can find important gains for their corporate constiutents.

In a paper called “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy,” Republican members of the Joint Economic Committee hailed the benefits of  “decreasing the number and compensation of government workers”:

The effects of this will ripple into the private sector in the form of lower wages: A smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.

In Wisconsin, this stance is especially stunning, as Walker campaigned on the notion that public employees should absorb the same kind of pay and benefit cuts inflicted by corporations upon private-sector workers. But in this report, Republicans argue that reductions in public-sector jobs and compensation will pave the way for yet more pay slashing among private-sector workers.

Funding for corporate tax cuts

In states ruled by the new crop of hard-line Republican governors, the GOP has claimed to be enacting massive cuts—especially reductions in allocations to education, cuts in public employment and reductions in public employees’ pay and benefits—to close budgetary deficits.

But Wisconsin’s Walker, leading the wave of anti-worker attacks, essentially transformed pay cuts for public workers into corporate tax breaks, as Bessie insightfully argued before the enactment of Walker’s program:

Walker’s tax cuts for private business appear to be underwritten by cuts in public sector benefits. If he succeeds, the money will literally be handed from the pockets of public servants to private business owners.

While Democrats may be enjoying Walker’s mounting problems, the weakness of the recovery will also be a problem for President Obama. His failure to defend the USPS is emblematic of his larger failure to consistently make the case for a strong public-sector that serves the 99%.

This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on April 16, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus. His e-mail address is winterbybee@gmail.com.

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