Category Archives: Public Sector

A Discussion on the Challenges Facing Government, Public Services and Public Sector Collective Bargaining in the U.S.

Source: Albert Shanker Institute, December 2011

Based on a transcript of a seminar in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute entitled “The War Against Public Service and Public Employee Unions.”

On June 8, 2011, leaders of U.S. public employee unions met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the crisis facing government and public services in the U.S. and to consider strategies and actions that would introduce balance into a public discourse dominated by an anti-government and anti-union narrative. The meeting featured expert speakers, including top economists, legal scholars, and public opinion researchers, as well as national, state and local union officers….

…Accordingly, with the permission of the speakers, the Institute has posted some of the key presentations, with their follow up discussions, on its website. The Q & A’s are featured without identification. The presentations are derived from taped transcripts of the meeting and have been edited only for clarity and readability.

The issues presented are far ranging, and touch on a number of critically important topics, including the impact of government spending on economic growth and healthy democratic participation; comparisons of public/private sector employee compensation; the legal status and history of public sector collective bargaining and suggested innovations to that process; the relationship of good government and a strong union voice to a healthy democracy; and the political forces driving the anti-union, anti-public services campaign and how they are funded. An underlying theme of all the talks was the role government and public services had played in complementing and sustaining such American values as economic opportunity for all — that hard work can still be the route to a decent, middle class life. …

… Below are links to the transcripts. We hope you find the information useful.
Demos transcript.f
Finkin Malin Kochan.f
DiCarlo-Keefe-Brynien Transcript.fl
MK Shanker PPT 06 08 2011 RED

Assessing New Public Management’s Focus on Performance Measurement in the Public Sector: A Look at No Child Left Behind

Source: Barbara A. Patrick and P. Edward French, Public Performance & Management Review, Vol. 35 no. 2, December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
New Public Management, with its emphasis on debureaucratization, decentralization, and accountability, has attempted to make public sector organizations function in the same way as those in the private sector. Its implications for traditional government entities, including the public school system, are yet to be fully determined. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was intended to decrease achievement gaps caused by race, class, first language, and learning abilities. The act’s foci of accountability, testing, sanctions, and rewards in the educational process are central to the federal government’s framework for shaping the goals and outcomes of educational policy across the United States. The present research indicates that the development and use of performance measures to hold educators accountable and improve performance is limited by organized employee groups and enhanced by minority student populations. At this, time, significant increases in student performance as a result of NCLB efforts are not evidenced.

Walkerville, New Democrats & “Wishes in the Wind”: Rolling Back the 20th Century in Wisconsin

Source: Joyce M. Latham, Progressive Librarian, #36/37, Fall 2011
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…These programs [Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society], spearheaded by two flawed but visionary presidents, provide the targets for the current wave of rightwing rollbacks of social justice earned bit-by-bit through the 20th century. The “Gilded Age” of the late 19th century was an era dominated by capitalist elites that was, in short, a “white man’s democracy.” The United States at that point was a liberal democracy that gloried in a competitive marketplace, a taste for imperialism and a disregard for the common worker. The Wisconsin budget battles of 2011 represent a concentrated view of the rightwing strategies to drive a radical reshaping of American society that would reinstate the “Gilded Age” and dismiss the progress of the 20th century….

AFGE’s Minority-Union Campaign And The Largest U.S. Organizing Victory In Decades: TSA Workers’ Journey For Rights And Union Representation

Source: Sharon Pinnock, WorkingUSA, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
It has been over a decade since Juravich and Bronfenbrenner published their findings on public sector certification elections and employer opposition–in which they warned public sector unions to “prepare for the worst.” Since then, public sector unions have faced unprecedented attacks at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. In 2001, responding to the tragic events of September 11, the Bush Administration created a new federal agency–the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)–with the intent of denying collective bargaining rights to the 44,000 workers it would soon employ. In March 2011, the Wisconsin State Senate successfully gutted the collective bargaining rights of the state’s workforce. Illinois, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee have all mounted similar assaults on the rights of public sector workers. Unions seeking to combat this disturbing trend may find hope in the recent organizing victory waged by the American Federation of Government Employees on behalf of worker rights at TSA.

This article has three goals. First, it means to summarize the 9-year organizing campaign that culminated in June 2011 with the largest union victory in the history of the federal sector–and the largest for any U.S. union in 70 years. Second, it seeks to examine current thinking about the reasons workers in the U.S. join unions. Finally, it hopes to share a few of the lessons learned from a nontraditional organizing campaign about new ways to organize and win.

Battle of the Wages: Who gets paid more, public or private sector workers?

Source: Toby Sanger, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), December 2011

From the summary:
The recession and resulting public deficits have put a spotlight on public sector pay and compensation levels. Many governments have enacted pay freezes, pay constraints and are proceeding with contracting out of public services, partly on the perception that public sector workers are consistently paid more than those working in comparative jobs in the private sector.

This study uses the most detailed comprehensive data available on earnings by occupation and finds the reality is quite different. Overall average pay in the public sector is very similar to pay for comparable occupations in the private sector. Public sector pay is also considerably more equitable, whether measured by gender, age, occupational group or by region.

Finances of Selected State and Local Government Employee Retirement Systems: 3rd Quarter 2011

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, CB11-TPS.52, December 28, 2011

From the summary:
This quarterly survey provides national summary statistics on the revenues, expenditures and composition of assets of the 100 largest state and local public employee retirement systems in the United States. These 100 systems comprise 89.4 percent of financial activity among such entities, based on the 2007 Census of Governments. This survey presents the most current statistics about investment decisions by state and local public employee retirement systems, which are among the largest types of institutional investors in the U.S. financial markets. These statistical tables are published three months after each calendar quarter and show national financial transactions and trends for the past five years.

Toward a New Grand Bargain: Collaborative Approaches to Labor-Management Reform in Massachusetts

Source: Barry Bluestone, Thomas A. Kochan, The Boston Foundation, October 2011

In the face of continuing fiscal crisis, the governors of some states including Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey have taken to attacking public sector unions using new legislation to undermine the collective bargaining rights of state and municipal employees. The reaction has been widespread protest and a growing rift between political leaders and civil servants. We believe this painful struggle can not only be avoided in Massachusetts, but that the continuing fiscal crisis facing the Commonwealth and its municipalities can provide the motivation for forging a fundamental change in public sector labor relations that not only could lead to more efficient and effective government service, but in the case of our teachers’ unions, could play a critical role in improving public education and closing the achievement gap.

The approach we put forward in this report is developed on the basis of “interest-based collective bargaining” plus the empowerment of teachers, staff, and principals in the schools where they work. Instead of seeing unions as a barrier to fiscal prudence and better schools, we believe a new collective bargaining framework in the Commonwealth can lead to a “win-win-win” outcome for teachers, students, and taxpayers. The same approach generally can be used for all public sector labor-management relations.

Public Sector Compensation: Panacea or Pandora’s Box

Source: Rollie Waters and TL Cox, Public Management, Vol. 93 no. 10, November 2011
(subscription required)

The salaries and benefits of public employees, when compared with the private sector, have always been under a microscope and scrutinized by citizens, elected officials, and the media. Stakeholders are challenging the equity of local government’s pay systems when compared with the private sector. Managers need practical tools in place to ensure that elected officials and staff are following best practices and pay policies that are in the best interest of the constituents served. …This article attempts to highlight key areas for action in order to ensure basic compliance with acceptable compensation practices. Traditional approaches are explained as well as the roles of the manager and elected officials. First, however, it is necessary to understand the basics of a sound compensation system prior to discussing emerging technologies.

Enactment and Implementation of the National Security Personnel System: Policy Made and Policy Unmade

Source: Douglas A. Brook and Cynthia L. King, Public Administration Review, Volume 71, Issue 6, November/December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This case study reviews the enactment and implementation of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) in the U.S. Department of Defense. Proponents of reform seized the opportunity to enact reform in the aftermath of 9/11, basing their arguments on national security concerns. However, the policy-making process did not produce a consensus for reform among key stakeholders in the personnel management policy community. Instead, the NSPS angered and alienated the Office of Personnel Management, the public employee unions, and a number of congressional Democrats. Implementation of the NSPS became problematic as Defense Department officials attempted to move quickly and independently to get the new system online, eventually forcing the department to put the system on hold. In the end, Congress imposed limits on its implementation, advocates for the system disappeared, and a new president supported the repeal of NSPS. This case provides useful insights into the formulation of future strategies for personnel management reform.

Policy Forum: The Future of Public Sector Unions

Source: Perspectives on Work, Vol. 15 nos. 1-2, Summer 2011/Winter 2012
(subscription required)

Articles include:
– The Future of Public-Sector Unions: A System Struggling to Adjust to the Financial Crisis by Robert McKersie
– Fiscal Crisis and the Future of Public Unions by Barry Bluestone
– Not Just about Pensions by Dave Low
– Collective Bargaining: A Critical Value of a Democracy by Ernest DuBester