A bill in the current Congress, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 (H.R. 980), would provide collective bargaining rights for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel in state and local governments that do not already provide such rights. The legislation has three primary objectives: it requires public safety employers to recognize public safety employee labor organizations freely chosen by a majority of the employees; it compels public employers to bargain with the labor organization once recognized; and it requires that, if any agreements are made, they be committed to a contract or memorandum of understanding.
The National Administrative Office (NAO) of Mexico’s trade pact enforcement agency in the Labour Ministry has issued an immediate call for answers to questions on the progress in gaining collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in the US state of North Carolina.
Unions Charge North Carolina Violating NAFTA Labor Rules
Source: United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, October 26, 2006
From the abstract:
The rapid increase in charter schools has been fueled by the view that traditional public schools have failed because of their monopoly on public education. Charter schools, freed from the bureaucratic regulation that dominates traditional public schools, are viewed as agents of change that will shock traditional public schools out of their complacency. Among the features of the failed status quo are teacher tenure, uniform salary grids and strict work rules, matters that teacher unions hold dear. Yet unions have begun organizing teachers in charter schools. This development prompts the question whether unionization and charter schools are compatible.
Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4
Public Sector Collective Bargaining is a relatively recent phenomenon—its lifecycle can be traced to and indeed may be a lasting legacy of the “baby boomers” entering the public sector workforce in record numbers. Outside of a few traditionally union-friendly or politically progressive jurisdictions, union activity among government employees was virtually unknown and unheard of in the 1950s. During the next two-plus decades, however, union membership rates saw explosive growth so that by 1979 about 38 percent of public employees were either members of or represented by unions. Despite an occasional setback, public sector unions managed to stay close to this rate for the next 27 years. Ironically, the ascendancy of public sector unions almost mirrors the decline of private sector unions; at one time they represented more than one-third of America’s workers; today they represent less than nine percent.
At the initial stages of public sector union organizing there was a robust discussion among practitioners, researchers, and others concerning the changes unionization might cause to the body politic over resource allocation, the determination of public policy, the use of political pressure at the bargaining table and the role of the “public” in bargaining, plus the potential shift in power favoring unionized employees. Acceptance of collective bargaining in government has indeed resulted in changes both at the macro public policy/administration level, and the micro human resource administration level. It is hoped that this special issue rekindles the inquiry and debate both from an academic as well as a practitioner perspective.
This article considers the reasons why labor historians have continued to neglect the history of workers and unions in the US public sector. It argues that the most compelling explanation for hisotrians’ failure to examine the history of public sector unions is that conducting such an examination would challenge a number of deeply rooted preconceptions regarding the history of American labor since World War II. The article goes on to suggest what we might learn if US labor historians began to probe the experience of public sector workers more fully.
Vol. 47, No. 1, February 2006