Working From Home And Worker Bargaining Power

A good deal of the narrative and debate over working from home focuses on workers—what do they get, why do they want it, how they are choosing it. But to work from home, someone has to pay you. Does telework signal a change in the power relationship between employers and employees?

Economist Teresa Ghilarducci told us in a recent Forbes blog that there are 10 indicators of workers’ bargaining power, and only 4 of them are up—quit rates, reservation wages, the unemployment rate, and the number of jobs per unemployed worker. But productivity and profits are rising faster than wages, the labor share of the nation’s wealth has fallen, and real income for workers also is down—all trends that favor employers over workers.

We shouldn’t

ThedaCare lawsuit shows how Covid-19 disrupted the nursing labor market

The staffing crisis in health care reached a farcical extreme last week when ThedaCare, a health system in Wisconsin, filed for a temporary restraining order to block a number of its employees from leaving their jobs and moving to another nearby hospital.

The hospital argued that, because the pandemic had created a shortage of health care workers, it needed the court to block the employees from leaving at least until it was able to come up with a staffing plan.

As medical workers burn out, isolate due to Covid-19, and leave for other professions, the ensuing staffing shortage has gotten so severe that ThedaCare turned to the courts to try to fix it. It was a striking example of how the pandemic has turned the health care labor market upside down, putting nurses and doctors in higher demand than ever even as they must face the most grueling working conditions of their careers.

The workers and the hospital that hired them, Ascension Northeast Wisconsin, countered that ThedaCare could have matched the offers made by Ascension, but didn’t. By declining to match and then failing to come up with a plan before the workers were to set to leave, they argued ThedaCare was attempting to punish the workers for its own shortsightedness.

It appeared for a moment that ThedaCare’s gambit might work: A local judge granted the temporary injunction. But the judge changed course a few days and lifted the order, allowing the workers — members of an interventional radiology and cardiovascular team — to start work at their new employer.

New complaint narrows scope of COVID-19 mandate lawsuit

A revised complaint in the wide-reaching federal lawsuit seeking to overturn executive and public health orders related to COVID-19 in Wyoming has narrowed the suit’s scope — and left off its most well-known plaintiff.

Thursday’s updated lawsuit comes after U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled that the initial 128-page complaint failed to state a succinct cause of action and did not follow federal filing rules.

As in the first complaint, the new version states that Wyoming has extended its state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic longer than necessary as a way to procure federal funding.

The new complaint includes nine parents of Wyoming school children, but not Grace Smith, the Laramie High School student arrested for trespassing in October after returning to school while suspended for refusing to wear a mask. Smith’s father, Andy, is also not named in the second amended complaint.

It is not clear why the Smiths, who gained national attention after Grace’s arrest, are not included in this most recent filing, or whether they still plan on participating in the suit. Their lawyer could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The complaint focuses primarily on mask mandates in Wyoming public schools, including districts in Sheridan, Albany, Laramie, Goshen, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.

Lawmakers move to extend protections for health providers against COVID lawsuits

For all that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s Republican leaders play up their “freedom” agenda at the expense of COVID-19 mitigation, an average Floridian might conclude the coronavirus isn’t such a big deal anymore.

So why are the state House and Senate advancing legislation extending the liability shield enacted last year, to protect health care providers against medical malpractice lawsuits arising from the COVID pandemic?  The shield is scheduled to expire on March 21.

That’s what Democrat Kelly Skidmore of Palm Beach County wanted to know during a House Health and Human Services Committee hearing Friday on a new bill, PCB 22-01, to extend that protection through June 1, 2023.

Skidmore couldn’t help remarking on the “contradictory narrative” between the COVID danger the bill ostensibly recognizes and coolness to mask-wearing and vaccinations expressed by the state’s GOP leaders.

“We keep pushing out that this is over, that we need to be back to normal, and yet we sponsor legislation and we have legislation that extends these liability protections,” she said.

In the end, Skidmore joined the 15-5 majority in approving the legislation.

Colleen Burton, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, who presented the bill, had this explanation:

“Optimistically, I think we all hoped that the pandemic would be in its final stages by this coming March but, unfortunately, we also are quite aware that mutations of the COVID-19 virus continue to prolong the pandemic. It is vitally important that we continue to protect our front-line workers as they fight the pandemic,” Burton said.

Identical legislation (SB 7014) has cleared both the Judiciary and Rules committees in the Senate.

Both versions would make it harder for people injured by medical providers to win compensation in court if the provider can attribute the harm to COVID.

Michigan auditor general says COVID deaths 30% higher than reported

The State of Michigan says of roughly 28,000 deaths related to COVID-19, a little more than 6,000 of them were in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes. But a new report coming out on Monday will reportedly show that number is higher. So why the discrepancy?

The state says their data is right, even as the data was released following a lawsuit filed by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, on behalf of former FOX 2 reporter Charlie LeDuff. The suit was to force MDHHS to turn over numbers and the department settled.

Steve Delie from the Mackinac Center says that the public has a right to know how many people in these facilities that house the elderly have passed away from COVID-19.

Facilities that have fewer than 13 beds are not counted in the state’s data – and that includes adult foster care, homes for the aged, and skilled nursing facilities. If those were included, the number would be at least 30% higher.

It may all come down to the definition of long-term care facilities.

“It seems to be a lot of definitional fighting,” he said

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