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.

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