The Past as Prologue? A Brief History of the Labor Movement in the United States

Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Of the approximately 20 million public employees in the United States, more than eight million are either members of or represented by labor unions—a penetration rate of just over 40 percent. What is remarkable about this phenomenal growth is that most of the expansion of union activity in government has occurred within the last 40 years, and almost mirrors the decline of union strength in the private sector.

The rise and fall of labor in the private sector is a backdrop to the growth of public sector collective bargaining. Explanations for the dramatic increase in government union activity can be explored from a number of different perspectives. Current public policy efforts to reform civil service and allow managers greater flexibility are seen by some researchers as having the potential to impact the ability of public sector unions to represent their members effectively.

Collective Bargaining and Deputy Sheriffs in Florida: An Unusual History

Source: Joan E. Pynes and Brian Corley, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

There is an unusual history of collective bargaining and deputy sheriffs in the state of Florida. While police officers have been allowed to unionize and collectively bargain since 1968, it has only been since 2003 that deputy sheriffs have been given that right. (Please note that despite the similarities in job duties, deputy sheriffs were not considered to be public employees for the purposes of collective bargaining.)

Labor Management Relations: Conditions for Collaboration

Source: Barry Rubin and Richard Rubin, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

The failure to consider the collective bargaining relationship already established between labor and management constitutes a major deficiency in the research on collaboration, especially since labor unions are likely to play a significant role in organizational reform. The purpose of this research is to analyze the successful labor-management reform initiative in the city of Indianapolis using a model of collaboration developed by the authors.

Alternative Approaches to Interest Arbitration: Lessons from New York City

Source: David B. Lipsky and Harry C. Katz, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Scholars have not taken adequate account of variation in the interest arbitration process in their research on the effects of interest arbitration on bargaining outcomes. There are two fundamental approaches to interest arbitration, which they term the “judicial prototype” and the “negotiation prototype.” The recent cases involving the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) of New York City and the city of New York illustrate the differences in these two approaches. There is a relationship between the arbitration prototype and the bargaining power of the parties. A party with greater bargaining power should prefer the negotiation prototype in interest arbitration. The New York City police cases—especially the effects of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001—are analyzed to determine whether changes in the parties’ bargaining power affected their approach to interest arbitration.

A Word (or Two) About Public Sector Collective Bargaining

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.

The Myths and Realities of Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Source: Bill Tait, Employee Benefit Plan Review, December 2006, Volume 61, no. 6

Few will argue that health care costs have increased at a record rate over the last few years in America. While much has been written on consumer-driven health plans, concerns still exist as to whether they are the best strategy for controlling health care inflation and ensuring appropriate utilization of and access to the health care system on a sustainable basis. The following are some of the most common myths about consumer-driven plans, along with the reality. 1. Consumer-driven plans are merely a cost-shifting strategy for employers to save money at the expense of their employees. 2. Consumer-driven plans force members to deny themselves necessary treatment because they have to cover more of the cost of care. 3. Prescription drug compliance rates for effective management of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, will decline with the increasing prevalence of consumer-driven plans. 4. Consumer-driven health plans will attract “adverse selection,” with only younger, healthier consumers joining them.

Are Sick Days Contagious? Connecting the Relationship Between Employee Absence and Corporate Benefits

Source: Chris Navarro and Cara Bass, Employee Benefit Plan Review, December 2006, Volume 61, no. 6

When employees call out sick, medical illness may not be the only reason keeping them out of the office. Paid time off (PTO) is one of the most expensive employer-provided benefits, yet many organizations do not have a firm grasp on how much employee absences are really costing them. Just as each organization is unique, so are the factors that influence the rate of employee absenteeism. Armed with absence data, organizations are able to take a rigorous look at absence trends to uncover anomalies and patterns, such as days of the week when absence rates are accelerated, certain departments that experience an elevated rate of absenteeism, or other issues, in addition to illness, that contribute to employees missing work. By removing the administration of absence and attendance policies with an automated process, HR professionals are able to focus on addressing productivity issues and improving morale.

In New Orleans, Workers are Still Battered by the Flood

Source: Jane Slaughter, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, December 2006, Volume 9, no. 4

In New Orleans, as corporate profiteers scramble to benefit from the aftermath of the flood, the history of Black-Brown relations has been compressed into a volatile six months. As contractors welcome Latino immigrants, displaced Black New Orleanians find they neither have jobs nor homes to return to. Unions and grassroots groups, using different methods, are trying to build unity as they fight for a voice for workers in the city’s rebuilding.

More Mandates, Less Dollars: Emergency Management Agencies Focused on Standards

Source: PA Times, December 2006, Volume 29, no. 12

Lexington, KY–The just-released 2006 Biennial Report from the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) reveals ever-increasing responsibilities for state emergency management agencies; an on-going struggle for adequate federal funding and states leading the way in continuous improvement for their emergency management programs.

While all states have homeland security functions, most are tasking significant homeland security responsibilities to their state emergency management agencies.

Customer Service is Just 3 Digits Away in San Antonio

Source: Cory Fleming, and Bryan Barnhouse, Public Management, December 2006, Volume 88, no. 11

Local governments exist to serve the needs of their residents, but determining the needs of these customers is not a simple task, whether in a community of a few thousand people or in a city with millions of residents. Defining and providing excellent customer service in local government also differs from these processes regarding customer service in the business community.

Local governments must provide equitable services to all residents, whereas businesses can vary their service levels based on a customer’s ability to pay. So, how do local governments determine customer needs and offer better customer service to their residents?