This article describes US unions’ efforts at capital stewardship, that is, the investment and management of the assets accumulated in pension and other retirement plans (frequently termed ‘workers’ or ‘labour’s capital’) — on behalf of plan participants and in the interest of workers more generally. It focuses particularly on the opportunities for direct worker voice in the governance and management of those assets through workers serving as trustees of the plans. The article explores the challenges these trustees face in navigating that role in addition to their possibly conflicting role as a union member or official. It details unions’ visions for capital stewardship and their efforts to integrate trustees’ activities within the broader range of union activities. Finally, it describes ways in which unions have collaborated in support of their trustees and to develop a cross-union capital stewardship agenda.
This paper reviews: (1) what typically are seen as important near- or short-term causes linked to the financial crisis, (2) the kinds of individual and institutional behaviors that many believe contributed to these causes, (3) the most important among the provisions of recently enacted financial markets reform legislation – the Dodd-Frank Act – ostensibly calculated to change those behaviors, and (4) some critical perspective on whether the provisions are suited to the task.
Households in the United States face serious challenges to enjoying income security in retirement. This paper critically appraises two policy initiatives ostensibly geared to helping to meet those challenges. One already embodied in law - the federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 (the "Act") - and the other in the form of Obama administration and legislative proposals, use automatic enrollment in employment-based defined contribution (DC) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts, respectively, along with default investments as means toward that end.
The paper describes the rationales offered at the time for the Act's provisions, the manner in which the enacted policies have been implemented, and how effective they have been and are likely to be. It assesses the strength of the evidence available at the time to support advocates' contentions that automatic enrollment would be a success. It then considers the post-enactment literature on the outcomes of automatic enrollment. It follows with a review of the literature on persistence (over time) of contributions to defined contribution (DC) plans and how realistic or justifiable were expectations for the success of the Act's provisions. The paper then characterizes the IRA proposals and examines studies of the persistence of contributions to IRAs. Next it evaluates the workings and outcomes of New Zealand's KiwiSaver scheme, the one already in operation which most closely resembles what proponents urge should be done with respect to IRAs. Finally, drawing on the findings and observations in the preceding sections, the paper offers a broader perspective on the directions policy should take if there is to be a serious prospect of ensuring retirement income security for all households in this country.
The proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has led to fierce debate over how best to ensure employees a choice on the question of unionization. The debate goes to the core of our federal system of labor law. Each of the potential legislative designs under consideration — including both “card check” and “rapid elections” — aims to enhance employee choice by minimizing or eliminating managerial involvement in the unionization process. The central question raised by EFCA, therefore, is whether enabling employees to limit or avoid managerial intervention in union campaigns is an appropriate goal for federal law. This Article answers this foundational question in the affirmative. It reaches this conclusion by conceptualizing federal labor law in terms of legal default rules, drawing in particular on the preference-eliciting default theory of statutory interpretation and the reversible default theory from corporate law. Doing so leads to the argument that card check, rapid elections, and similar mechanisms are best understood as “asymmetry-correcting altering rules” — means of mitigating the impediments that block departure from the nonunion default. Understanding EFCA in this way also requires that we ask how such an altering rule should be constructed. This Article addresses this institutional design question by arguing that card check’s open decisionmaking process is flawed and that rapid elections, while an improvement over the status quo, are an insufficient method of mitigating the relevant impediments to employee choice. Accordingly, this Article offers two new designs — alternatives to both card check and rapid elections — that would accomplish the legitimate function of minimizing managerial intervention while at the same time preserving secrecy in decisionmaking.
This article explores the evolution of labor friendly US investments by pension funds in the period since the downturn of the financial markets in 2001. It argues that both pension funds and investment vehicles that bring intentional targeting to their investments are becoming increasingly sophisticated financial players. Labor friendly investments that focus on risk adjusted rates of return as the driver for investment are increasingly able to point to strong track records that encourage a wide range of pension fund investors to engage with these vehicles and practices.
Near majorities of large corporations have labor and human rights (LHR) policies covering their global supply chains, although far fewer have established follow-up monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. LHR supply-chain policies are also close to the norm among European companies, with the United States and Asia lagging behind. These findings are contained in the first study to benchmark LHR policies among the 2,500 companies found on the major stock market indices. The study was done by Pensions Project Senior Fellow Aaron Bernstein and Christopher Greenwald, Director of Data Content at the Swiss firm ASSET4, using ASSET4 data.
This paper explores how pension funds and other investors can obtain data on the long- term sustainability risks posed by the labor and human rights (LHR) activities of global corporations, with a specific focus on supply chains. It should be read as a companion piece to Bernstein's “Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk into Investment Decisions" (Occasional Paper, No. 2)
The historical relationship between capital and labor has evolved in the past few decades. One particularly noteworthy development is the rise of shared capitalism, a system in which workers have become partial owners of their firms and thus, in effect, both employees and stockholders. Profit sharing arrangements and gain-sharing bonuses, which tie compensation directly to a firm’s performance, also reflect this new attitude toward labor.
Shared Capitalism at Work analyzes the effects of this trend on workers and firms. The contributors focus on four main areas: the fraction of firms that participate in shared capitalism programs in the United States and abroad, the factors that enable these firms to overcome classic free rider and risk problems, the effect of shared capitalism on firm performance, and the impact of shared capitalism on worker well-being. This volume provides essential studies for understanding the increasingly important role of shared capitalism in the modern workplace.
National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report
This article briefly describes the recent growth of private equity, details some of the challenges such growth has posed for American labor, and outlines ways in which labor has chosen to respond. In so doing it suggests that the diverse, complicated, and practical choices labor has made to date have been shaped by the particular strengths and weaknesses of its position in American society. More particularly, these choices place the emphasis on (1) legislative change, relating mainly to tax rather than regulatory policy (labor-related or otherwise); (2) capital strategies, by which unions and pension funds engage companies in connection with corporate governance and investments that might be made in or withheld from them; and (3) high-profile campaigns relating to the reputation of private equity firms and the companies in their portfolio.
Beginning in the early 2000s, there was an upsurge of national concern over the state of the science and engineering job market that sparked a plethora of studies, commission reports, and a presidential initiative, all stressing the importance of maintaining American competitiveness in these fields. Science and Engineering Careers in the United States is the first major academic study to probe the issues that underlie these concerns.
This volume provides new information on the economics of the postgraduate science and engineering job market, addressing such topics as the factors that determine the supply of PhDs, the career paths they follow after graduation, and the creation and use of knowledge as it is reflected by the amount of papers and patents produced. A distinguished team of contributors also explores the tensions between industry and academe in recruiting graduates, the influx of foreign-born doctorates, and the success of female doctorates. Science and Engineering Careers in the United States will raise new questions about stimulating innovation and growth in the American economy
National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report