Category Archives: AFSCME

Laws Enabling Public-Sector Collective Bargaining Have Not Led to Excessive Public-Sector Pay

Source: Jeffrey Keefe, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Briefing Paper #409, October 16, 2015

From the summary:
Unlike many other countries, when the United States enacted its private-sector labor law, the National Labor Relations Act, in 1935, it did not include public employees within the same or similar framework for collective bargaining. Not until the late 1950s and 1960s did state and local governments grapple with a labor law to govern their rapidly growing public-sector labor forces. No state or local government chose to transplant the private-sector model of collective bargaining; instead they adopted some parts of it, chose to create no bargaining framework at all, or prohibited collective bargaining. This paper describes the rapid growth of labor laws that have enabled public-sector collective bargaining, and examines the effects of various labor law frameworks on public employee wages.
• Only 2 percent of the state and local public-sector workforce in 1960 had the right to bargain collectively. By 2010, that share had grown to 63 percent.
• While early on, many policymakers were concerned about the right to strike, a number of states did eventually extend the right to strike to more than 20 percent of public employees; however, all of these employees are in non–public safety positions. Thus the right to strike has not had catastrophic results in terms of threats to public safety or welfare.
• The right to strike has also not led to massive wage increases: Employees covered by the right to strike earn about 2 percent to 5 percent more than those without it.
• Public safety employees are effectively covered by binding interest arbitration, which has prevented strikes and has resulted in cost-effective and widely accepted settlements by the participants.
• This research finds no wage effect for public employees covered by collective bargaining attributable to binding interest arbitration when compared with mediation.
• Fact-finding, the most widely employed final dispute-resolution procedure, tends to favor the public employer, resulting in significantly lower wages for public employees, in the range of 2 percent to 5 percent less than other dispute resolution procedures.

Union security provisions, which require employees to contribute to the financial support of the union that has the exclusive right to represent them with respect to terms and conditions of employment, vary by state, locality, and various occupations.
• Dues checkoff, which is widespread in the public sector, has a small positive effect on wages, ranging from 0 percent to 3 percent; however, we suspect it has a major effect on union membership.
• Open-shop laws, which prohibit union security agreements, are associated with significantly lower public-employee wages, with estimates ranging from -4 percent to -11 percent, compared with no policy on union security.
• Agency-shop provisions, which require the payment only of a fee narrowly tailored to support a union’s collective bargaining activities, its contract enforcement, and employee grievance processing, are associated with significantly higher wages, ranging from 2 percent to 7 percent for public employees.

In summary, it is difficult to conclude that the relatively small wage effects of collective bargaining have led to serious distortions in the democratic process. Collective bargaining has resulted in higher public-employee wages in the range of 5 percent to 8 percent. There is some indication that collective bargaining has offset employer monopsony power in the public sector (Keefe 2015; Lewin, Kochan, and Keefe 2012), thus not producing excessive or distorted public-employee compensation, and has promoted internal equity (Keefe 2015, forthcoming).
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Scott Walker’s Real Legacy

Source: Donald F. Kettl, Washington Monthly, Vol. 47 nos. 6/7/8, June/July/August 2015

What did the Wisconsin governor’s union busting actually accomplish for the “hardworking taxpayers” of his state? And what do his actions tell us about how he might govern as president? …..

….But let’s presume he does become the nominee. Walker’s triumph over the unions could continue to be a useful tool for him, not only in firing up the GOP base but also in reaching out to independents, 47 percent of whom take a dim view of unions, according to the same Pew poll, and even to persuadable Democrats. The 2016 elections will be a battle over the role of government in failing to spur a too-weak economy and boost stagnant incomes. The Democratic nominee will likely present herself (or, less likely, himself) as a champion of the middle class who will wrest control of government away from the big banks and other powerful corporate interests and use it to benefit average Americans. Walker will be armed with an equivalent reform narrative. The problem with government, he can say, is not just that it is too big, holds back private-sector growth, and robs us of our freedoms—the standard Republican view, which he tirelessly proclaims—but that it has been captured by its own employees, who run it for their own benefit, not the public’s. Just as he took on the unions in Wisconsin, he can say, so will he take on the bureaucrats in Washington, returning power back to “the hardworking taxpayers.”

So it’s worth looking carefully at Walker’s arguments for why he busted the state’s public employee unions. To what extent were those unions the obstacle to getting the state’s fiscal house in order—a key argument Walker made during the 2011 standoff? To what degree do state and local government employee unions drive government’s costs up and push its performance down?

Even more important is the question of how Walker’s experiences and management choices at the state level might translate at the federal level. Is a governor whose greatest accomplishment is the crushing of state and local government unions the right person to lead the government in Washington?….

….To what extent, then, did Walker’s crushing of the unions help Wisconsin’s “hardworking taxpayers”? The $3 billion he saved in his first term was certainly something. But that amounted to less than 1 percent of overall state and local government spending over that time period. Those savings came from the pockets of teachers and other public servants who are also taxpayers and whose compensation, by most measures, was not out of line. The law Walker signed didn’t contribute to the fiscal health of the state’s public pension fund. It provided management flexibilities that could ease school reforms down the road but that the governor himself hasn’t taken much advantage of. And, as we’ve seen, Walker could have won most or all of that $3 billion through tough negotiating without going for the jugular and virtually eliminating collective bargaining. Why, then, did he do it?

It’s tempting to portray the struggle over Wisconsin’s unions as a matter of high policy. In reality, however, it was the culmination of decades of increasingly fierce partisan wrangling that pitched the state’s Democrats, along with their union supporters, against resurgent Republicans and their allies in the business community…..

Labor at a Crossroads: The Case for Union Organizing

Source: Paul Booth, American Prospect, January 23, 2015

The labor movement has been growing while shrinking—growing through organizing.

he union movement is 3.5 million members smaller than 40 years ago, and the forces that brought that about are as energetically engaged and powerful as they have ever been.

From that undeniable fact, it has been wrongly concluded:
∙ Union organizing is impossible, futile, or a thing of the past
∙ The labor movement is dead, or dying
∙ The best hope for workers is through something different from trade unions and collective bargaining.

These conclusions are very disconcerting to this organizer. I am upset that there’s so little acknowledgement of the millions of workers who have risked much to try to unionize. Thousands are doing it today.

And so little acknowledgement of those who have done it and succeeded. They number a million and a half….

Open Shop Trend Makes Organizing “the Organized” Top Union Priority

Source: Steve Early, Talking Union blog, August 30, 2014

For many years, American unions have been trying to “organize the unorganized” to offset, and, where possible, reverse their steady loss of dues-paying members. In union circles, a distinction was often made between this “external organizing”–to recruit workers who currently lack collective bargaining rights–and “internal organizing,” which involves engaging more members in contract fights and other forms of collective action aimed at strengthening existing bargaining units.

Thanks to the growing success of corporate-backed “Right-to-Work” campaigns, these two forms of union outreach now greatly overlap. Virtually all labor organizations face the expanded challenge of recruiting and maintaining members in already unionized workplaces where the decision to provide financial support for the union has, for better or worse, become voluntary. (Some left-wing critics of “contract unionism” have long argued that automatic deduction of dues, by employers for their union bargaining partners, makes the latter overly dependent on management and less responsive to rank-and-file workers.)…

‘Flexibility’ Hits University of Wisconsin Custodians

Source: Jason Lee, Labor Notes, August 14, 2014

Glenn Khalar is ex-military, a vet. He’s worked at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for 16 years. He was raised in the area, and brought up his own family there. He loves Superior, and partially credits the university’s program to retrain and hire veterans for getting him his job. But despite his passion, dedication, and modest wage, his job could soon be gone. In May, the campus announced plans to cut half its graduate programs, and sent “at-risk” notices to all 26 custodians and grounds workers—meaning they could be laid off at any time, and their jobs outsourced. The bookstore was outsourced on July 1. Why? It’s the familiar refrain, budget cuts—and jobs like Khalar’s are the first ones to go. In their quest for financial stability in dire times, campus administrators seem to think eliminating his $12 an hour will make all the difference. … But what happens to custodians here isn’t isolated. It’s part of a trend to apply a market-based, private model to public higher education. And the danger is spreading south. The threatened custodians and grounds workers are members of AFSCME. They have held protests and begun an online petition against the layoffs. The AFT local representing faculty and staff is supporting them. …

Big Brother Unionism? The Landrum-Griffin Act and the Fight for AFSCME’s Future, 1961 – 1964

Source: Joseph E. Hower, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 11 no. 2, Summer 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this article, Joseph Hower examines the regulation of union elections by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin act) through a case study of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Drawing on local and national union records and oral history transcripts, he reconstructs Jerry Wurf’s campaign for the union presidency (1961–64) and shows how Wurf and his dissident caucus were reluctant to invoke Landrum-Griffin’s protections, even in the midst of a fiercely contested election campaign, for fear that it would legitimize the anti-union intentions of the law’s architects. Instead, Wurf and the other dissidents turned the law to their own ends, holding out the threat of legal action to force incumbent president Arnold Zander to curb his worst excesses, while using his administration’s misdeeds to underscore their broader case for union reform. Narrowly defeated in 1962, Wurf managed to unseat Zander at the union’s 1964 convention. The successful challenge, a rarity in twentieth-century labor history, ratified a more militant vision of the union, setting the stage for AFSCME’s impressive growth during the second half of the twentieth century.

Women’s Committees in Worker Organizations: Still Making a Difference

Source: Lois S. Gray and Maria Figueroa, Cornell ILR, Worker Institute, January 2014

From the summary:
…Lois S. Gray and Maria Figueroa (Cornell ILR, Worker Institute) collected interviews and data on programs sponsored by six national unions, six local unions, and two non-traditional workers organizations to provide insights on their value to unions and to their women members. They found that the programs continue to increase women’s union activism, develop leaders, expand collective bargaining issues, and address problems like unequal pay and sexual harassment….Gray gave special credit to AFSCME for its leadership in addressing the issues studied in the report, noting that in addition to holding a biennial national women’s conference and regional women’s conferences, it currently is undertaking a national women’s leadership academy—a six- week intensive course to develop women leaders, with a particular focus on moving them up from one level of the organization to the next one (a spot where the union found many women getting stuck)….

The State of Unions in the U.S. Health Care Industry

Source: Paul Clark, Perspectives on Work, Vol. 17 nos. 1-2, Summer 2013/ Winter 2014
(subscription required)

– Health care workers’ union membership is up as Obamacare comes online.
– Efforts are under way to organize home health providers, who receive low wages and no benefits.
– Several unions are competing to represent RNs and other health care workers.

Reform, new labor issues likely to keep unions busy in 2014

Source: Joe Carlson, Modern Healthcare, January 15, 2014
(subscription required)

Labor unions didn’t break any records for organizing activity in healthcare in 2013, but opponents and supporters of organized labor think conditions are ripe for a major surge in the coming year. Factors driving that surge include the National Labor Relations Board likely approving new rules expediting union elections, and healthcare workers are feeling greater anxiety over wages and job security due to partly market and policy pressures to reduce healthcare costs. …

The latest data on union activity in healthcare show that for the first 11 months of 2013, there were 185 votes on whether to certify a union of hospital workers, and unions won 68% of those votes, according to NLRB data. That compares with 238 votes in 2012, 72% of which went for the union.

The number of elections and the win rate for unions were slightly below their respective averages for the past decade. But Jim Trivisonno, president of labor-management advisory firm IRI Consultants, said the dip suggests union activity will increase. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Trivisonno, whose firm analyzes labor trends for the American Hospital Association. “The Affordable Care Act means people will have to look at costs, and that sometimes leads to change and less job security. And that leads to more organizing activity.”

IRI’s most recent report on healthcare labor activity found that the SEIU filed 42% of all the healthcare organizing petitions during the first six months of 2013, followed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which filed 17% of the petitions. The rest were divided among a few unions, including the National Nurses United, which filed 2%. …