Category Archives: Collective Bargaining – Public Sector

The Effects of Collective Bargaining Rights on Public Employee Compensation: Evidence from Teachers, Firefighters, and Police

Source: Brigham R. Frandsen, ILR Review, Vol. 69 no. 1, January 2016
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From the abstract:
Widespread public-sector unionism emerged only in the 1960s, as individual states opened the door to collective bargaining for state and municipal workers. In this study, the author exploits differences in timing of legislative reforms across states to construct estimates of the causal effects of public-sector collective bargaining rights on pay, benefits, and employment for teachers, firefighters, and police. Perhaps surprisingly, estimates that allow for state fixed effects and state-specific trends show little effect on teachers’ pay, benefits, or employment, despite significantly increasing union presence among teachers. For firefighters, the results show a substantial positive effect on wages. For police, the wage effect was more modest but the workweek was significantly shortened.

Which Parts of Their Collective Bargaining Agreements Do the Friedrichs Plaintiffs Oppose?

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, November 24, 2015

The theory of the Friedrichs case is that requiring the plaintiffs to pay fair share fees imposes a “severe and ongoing infringement” of their rights to free speech. Their Complaint asserts that each plaintiff “objects to many of the unions’ public policy positions, including positions taken in collective bargaining.” The fair share fees that are at issue in the case do not go to fund the unions’ public policy initiatives. Instead, they only fund activities that are germane to collective bargaining. And because of the way the case has been litigated, the plaintiffs have not identified which specific provisions in their collective bargaining agreements they oppose.

In their Supreme Court brief, the Friedrichs plaintiffs argue that wages and benefits for teachers can be controversial, and they assert that collective bargaining involves matters relating to education policy, but they never assert that they personally oppose their union on any issues addressed by their own collective bargaining agreements. While the brief is full of generalized assertions about collective bargaining agreements, it never addresses any of the specific collective bargaining agreements that apply to the plaintiffs. ….

….The unwillingness of the Friedrichs plaintiffs to identify the specific collective bargaining activities that they find objectionable is at odds with the heated rhetoric in their lawyers’ Supreme Court brief. While their lawyers assert that the Friedrichs plaintiffs are being forced to contribute money “for the propagation of opinions which [they] disbelieve[],” in fact, it appears that their agency fees are going to fund negotiation and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements that directly benefit them…..

Massive Rolling Strikes Shut Down Quebec

Source: Sonia Singh, Labor Notes, November 23, 2015

After provincial bargaining stalled, 400,000 public sector workers across Quebec walked out in October and November on rolling one-day strikes.

The government is proposing pension cuts and only a 3 percent salary increase over five years. Since coming to power in April 2014 it has already begun cuts to services, including slashing health and education funding.

The Common Front, a coalition of Quebec public sector unions, is coordinating the strikes, which include teachers, health care workers, and government employees. Members voted to authorize six days of strikes per union. These began with one-day strikes, staggered by region. The Common Front vowed that if no agreement was reached, all members would strike at the same time December 1-3.

Labor Notes interviewed Benoit Renaud and Philippe de Grosbois, who have both been on strike. Renaud is an adult education teacher in the city of Gatineau and a member of the La Fédération Autonome de L’enseignement. de Grosbois teaches in a pre-college program in Laval and is an executive of his local, which is part of the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux.

At the time of the interview, a December general strike was still planned. However, the Common Front recently announced it’s postponing the strike while negotiations continue…..

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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The Paradox of Federal Sector Labor Relations: Voluntary Unionism Without Collective Bargaining Over Wages and Employee Benefits

Source: Samuel Estreicher, New York University Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-40, September 30, 2015

From the abstract:
Federal sector unionism is a paradox. Despite the outlawry of union-security provisions and strikes, sharp limits on the scope of collective bargaining (outside the U.S. Postal Service and airport air traffic controllers), and the absence of card-check certification, federal employees join unions and pay dues. The union membership rate is lower than in state and local governments but considerably higher than in the private sector. Somewhat fewer employee pay dues than are covered by collective agreements but the free-riding effect is smaller than one would expect. The federal sector suggests a model of relatively low-stakes unionism and collective bargaining that perhaps should be considered as an alternative by labor organizations and policymakers. The federal-sector mode may, however, require certain features that are not readily replicable in the private sector: the absence of a right to strike in favor of some measure of interest arbitration as a deadlock-breaking device, an absence of employer opposition, and statutory employment protections.

Collective Bargaining and District Costs for Teacher Health Insurance: An Examination of the Data from the BLS and Wisconsin

Source: Robert M. Costrell, Journal of School Choice, Vol. 9 no. 4, 2015

From the abstract:
District costs for teachers’ health insurance are, on average, higher than employer costs for private-sector professionals. How much of this is attributable to collective bargaining? This paper examines the question using data from the National Compensation Survey (NCS) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the state of Wisconsin. In addition, the impact of collective bargaining on employer costs is decomposed into the impact on total premiums and the employer’s share of those premiums.

The BLS data show that unionization is associated with higher total premiums, higher employer costs, and lower employee contributions in both the public and private sectors. This suggests that the high unionization rate among teachers plays a significant role in districts’ higher average cost. Varying strength of teachers unions across states also helps explain the wide variation in district costs. In states with strong unions, such as Wisconsin, prior to 2011, district insurance costs can be very expensive. It is in those states that the opportunities for district cost reduction are most promising. I examine newly available data from Wisconsin to quantify the impact of that state’s 2011 change in collective bargaining law, Act 10. I find a sharp reduction in district costs from lower-cost policies and higher teacher contributions: 13 to 19 percent in the first year after Act 10, and 18 to 23 percent after the second year, relative to projected district costs.

The Right to Strike

Source: Ari Paul, Jacobin, September 18, 2015

“Right-to-work” is coming to the public sector. The key to survival is social movement unionism. ….. If anything, the fear Friedrichs inspires could force unions to do the type of everyday, internal organizing that dissidents and reform activists often complain doesn’t happen. While this could distract from other efforts, it could also drive unions to reconnect with their membership — actually improving their chances of surviving in the long term. In addition, some argue it’s too fatalistic to equate right-to-work with union decline, because a well-organized union could still thrive. Union membership in Indiana has remained steady despite right-to-work legislation passed in 2012 (although a failure to reach good contracts in the years to come could spark a mass exodus). Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which primarily represents Las Vegas casino workers, maintains a 90 percent density rate in a right-to-work state because of its on-the-ground organizing. The obvious counterexample to this is Wisconsin, where union membership has plummeted since going right-to-work. But there’s an obvious explanation: public unions there can’t collectively bargain. For unions who can demonstrate dues money makes it possible to fight and win, it’s a much easier sell. …..

Pay Just Part of Cities’ Solutions to Recruitment and Retention Challenges

Source: Ed Lamb HR News, Vol. 81 no. 7, July 2015
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….Though their timelines shift and the exact details vary, Las Vegas and Wausau have also labored under tight labor budgets, shrinking workforces and diminishing institutional memory for the better part of the past decade. Those two cities also had to navigate potentially contentious negotiations with public employee unions. In Wisconsin, Proposition 10 eliminated most collective bargaining rights for state and local employee who are not firefighters, law enforcement officials and other public safety workers. Las Vegas city workers are represented by a mix of six unions, plus those for fire crews and police. ….Recounting his experiences in Las Vegas, Tarwater said that union representatives recognized early that keeping jobs was a much more achievable goal than negotiating raises and enhanced benefits. Therefore, unions largely agreed to suspend collective bargaining in exchange for assurances that maximal efforts would be made to avoid layoffs and to rework contracts when the economy improved…. Significant aspects of the new union contracts Las Vegas has adopted include moving toward merit-based pay increases, cash bonuses awarded for exemplary performance in lieu of guaranteed annual raises and cost-of-living adjustments linked explicitly to the federal Consumer Price Index….

Organized Labor, the Supreme Court, and Harris v. Quinn: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

Source: William B. Gould IV, Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2572695, March 2, 2015

From the abstract:
Harris v Quinn presented this issue anew in 2014 – it was the most recent chapter of litigation concerning “union security agreements” and their permissibility in the public sector – but by no means will it be the last. Harris relates to the constitutionality of such agreements, which compel membership or financial obligations on the part of union represented employees (frequently as a condition of employment) and endure throughout our economy in the private sector, as well as the more recently-organized public portion of it. The resolution of this and related issues inevitably affect, in some measure, the role of trade unions in American society. It cannot be gainsaid that this involves the democratic process itself in a pluralistic society, through which unions attempt to achieve their objectives through both the collective bargaining and political processes. For more than two centuries, the issue of so-called union security agreements, which compel membership in a labor organization in some sense of the word, has been fought out in American labor-management relations and in the courts. Complicating the contemporary relationship is that organized labor is in a period of retreat and decline. Related to this issue is the question of appropriate union discipline authority imposed on workers who defy various kinds of union rules and who are ostracized, for instance, over such matters such as strike-breaking.

The Whiteness of Wisconsin’s Wages: Racial Geography and the Defeat of Public Sector Labor Unions in Wisconsin

Source: Hannah Walker & Dylan Bennett, New Political Science, Volume 37 Issue 2, 2015
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From the abstract:
In 2011, the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 eliminated substantive collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. How did politicians in Wisconsin invoke racial symbolism in the policy contest over public sector collective bargaining rights? To what extent did this policy battle reconstruct racial identities of blackness and whiteness? In this analysis, we leverage a multi-method approach to speak to these questions. We use a historical analysis of race in Milwaukee and current public opinion around support for public sector cuts to frame a discourse analysis of political rhetoric employed by the Walker campaign. We join critical race perspectives to examine how politicians play on existing inequalities as a method of gaining political and electoral legitimacy and achieving a retrenchment of the modern state. Moreover, we build a case supporting the claim that Governor Walker and his allies activated the racial animus of white workers.