Category Archives: Public Sector

The Great Recession’s Institutional Change in the Public Employment Relationship: Implications for State and Local Governments

Source: Helisse Levine and Eric Scorsone, State and Local Government Review, Vol. 43 no. 3, December 2011
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From the abstract:
Interest in public sector employee benefits and compensation has resurfaced due to the economic downturn spurring a wave of actions that may threaten a once secure future of millions of public workers. The purpose of this article is to explore the ramifications of compensation and benefit changes on the fiscal health of state and local governments. This article reviews the evolution of labor relations in the public sector, recent institutional changes in employment and compensation, and implications on the fiscal health of state and local governments and their employees. The authors argue that these changes or threat of such changes, including restructuring collective rights, unionization, union dues collection, and the issues that can be bargained, are shifting the playing field for public sector employees and employers. Not since the passage of the right to unionization and collective bargaining in the 1960s have such major changes been on the horizon. These institutional changes will have longstanding effects including cost of government, types of workers attracted to government and even type and quality of services provided. Given also that employee compensation typically represents a major portion of the overall cost of state and local governments, it is not unexpected that political officials will continue to seek to rethink the employment relationship in order to ensure the fiscal health of their governments and those who serve in the public sector.

America’s Public Sector Workers Under Attack

Source: Gerald Friedman, Dollars & Sense, no. 297, November/December 2011
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It’s not about their pay and benefits – it’s about what they do. From California to Massachusetts, from Texas to Wisconsin, whether by fiat or through bargaining, state governments would balance their budgets by taking a meat axe to public employee wages, benefits, and jobs. Behind the headlines, the relative strength of public-sector unions has long made them a target for economists and conservatives hostile to all forms of working-class collective action and any regulation of the capitalist marketplace.

Which governments pay public employees the most?

Source: Diana Lopez, Sunshine Review Issue No. 1, January 2012

Today, Sunshine Review released its first state government salary report, which analyzed public sector employee salaries in 152 local governments spanning eight states. Taking data from the last four years, Sunshine Review investigated benefits information as well as information on government perks like car fleets and cell phones for public sector employees in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin.

Sunshine Review’s study showed that of the states analyzed, California had the largest number of public sector employees making over $150,000 with 1332 employees. Illinois followed in second with 867 and Texas is in third with 194.

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

Source: Barry Bluestone, Thomas A. Kochan, 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.

In Defense Of Public-Sector Unions

Source: Anne Marie Lofaso, Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Vol. 28 no. 2, October 2011

The United States is currently in a heated debate over the extent to which public-sector workers should be permitted to band together for mutual aid or protection, to form, join or assist unions, and to bargain collectively….Public unions are not, however, the cause of the states’ ills. After all, public unions are not the source of wages and benefits –governments are. Furthermore, the evidence shows that, in general, public-sector-union pay is lower than the pay of their private sector counterparts even when benefits are taken into account; tenure is typically not collectively negotiated but grounded in civil-servant statutes; and arbitration is not a union benefit but the cost that unions pay for a no-strike promise.

Given the evidence, it is instructive to ask the following two questions. First, why are public workers, especially public-union employees, the subject of such vitriolic attack? Second, are public-sector unions worth defending?

The Constitutional Dimension of Unilateral Change in Public Sector Collective Bargaining

Source: Stephen F. Befort, ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, Vol. 27, 2012

From the abstract:
During cycles of public sector budgetary crises, governmental entities frequently undertake efforts to reduce workforce costs. Sometimes these efforts have gone beyond layoffs and furloughs to include modifications to the terms of existing collective bargaining agreements. In the private sector, such a unilateral alteration would be an unlawful breach of contract and an unfair labor practice. But, unilateral change is more prevalent in the public sector, particularly due to the constitutional structure of state government. This article examines two of these constitutional dimensions. The article first discusses diffused management authority resulting from the separation of powers with particular reference to legislative authority over appropriations. The article then goes on to explore the legality of governmental lawmaking that modifies previously negotiated labor agreements. In both instances, a state legislature that is not defined as an “employer” under the pertinent state labor-management statute may have authority to undo a contract negotiated by the jurisdiction’s executive branch. The article concludes with suggestions for limiting the potential for such mid-term unilateral modifications and for providing the same level of certainty to collective agreements as is afforded to other governmental contracts.

Public Sector Employment Under Siege

Source: Steve Befort, Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, No. 1, 2011

From the abstract:
This article was prepared for a symposium at Indiana University Maurer School of Law on Labor and Employment Law under the Obama Administration. The article analyzes the current spate of attacks on public employees with particular reference to three sub-topics: teacher tenure and evaluation “reform,” the periodic cycles of public sector fiscal crises, and the unilateral modification of public sector collective bargaining agreements. The article concludes with the assessment that cyclical attacks on public sector workers reflect a skewed viewpoint that public employees owe first-class obligations but possess only second-class rights.

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.
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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
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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….