Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Excerpt

Is public sector unionism a brand new phenomenon, or is it simply an extension of the American trade union movement?

Certainly the sharpest distinction is that unions representing governmental employees are not dealing with a profitoriented employer, who in economic contest is fair game. Government, at any level, is nonprofit, essential, and sovereign -- at least in theory. But this may become a theoretical distinction, as the illegal, supposedly intolerable, strike against governmental bodies becomes almost openly accepted in many areas. Further, resolution of differences is more and more frequently referred to a third party for final and binding decision.

On this basis, the growing strength of unions in the public sector may be considered an extension, a development in a tangential direction, of the American trade union movement. In its historical context, as many observers have noted, the sequence follows this pattern: The decade of the 1930s, with the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act of 1935, witnessed the early development of mass industrial unions. The 1940s, with World War II freezes on wages and prices and the Taft-Hartley Act amendments to the basic labor law in 1947, saw a stabilization of labor-management relations; growth in union power was offset by legal restrictions that favored management. The 1950s brought legal attention to the protection of the individual union member (and nonunion employee) against so-called big unions and, in a few particular instances, corrupt union practices. In the decade of the 1960s, the simultaneous rise of government employment at all levels, Federal encouragement of collective bargaining by President John F. Kennedy, civil rights activism and civil disobedience in defiance of the legal pro-

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