The Power to Govern: Assessing Reform in the United States

By Richard M. Pious | Go to book overview

The Impact of Government
Employee Unions

JOHN M. CAPOZZOLA

The expanding unionization of public employees has brought about changes in the conduct of local and state governments that would have been regarded as impossible before the 1960s. Almost every element of the relationship between public employers and employees has been basically altered. Public employee strikes long regarded as illegal have become common occurrences. Union leaders proclaim that they are beyond abstract lessons in legality and willingly go to jail for defying court orders. Public employee organizations have augmented their power to such an extent that they codetermine many facets of public policy. The consolidation of organized public employee strength has moved public service labor-management relations away from long established unilateral determination of working conditions by the public employer toward the pattern of bilateralism prevailing in the private sector.

During the first three decades of the nineteenth century, employees' attempts to organize were regarded as sinister criminal conspiracies threatening the foundations of society. At the turn of the century, most public employers seized every opportunity to resist the development of unionism in public employment, just as employers in private industry did. But public employers had an additional weapon in their antiunion arsenal: they could invoke the doctrine of sovereignty to rationalize their unilateral authority over employees.

According to this doctrine, government employees assume an obligation not to strike as a condition of employment. Unlike private industry, the government is held to be a model employer without profit motives and unlikely to exploit servants of the people. A strike by public employees constitutes an assault on public authority and an invasion of the sovereign people's prerogatives, regardless of the magnitude of the challenge. Strikes are deemed inherently coercive, and surrender to such coercion would amount to an abdication of government responsibility. To countenance strike action would encourage other groups to defy the law, thus diminishing respect for the government. In short, strikes are not perceived as labor disputes, as in the private sector, but as intolerable

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The Power to Govern: Assessing Reform in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Power to Govern: Assessing Reform in the United States *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Contributors *
  • Prospects for Reform *
  • The Evolving Federal System *
  • The Intergovernmental System *
  • Reassessing the "Imperial Presidency" *
  • Congressional Power *
  • Developing Fiscal Responsibility *
  • Legislative Delegation to Regulatory Agencies *
  • The Changing Federal Courts *
  • Women in Politics *
  • Direct Participation in Politics *
  • The Presidency in the Age of Television *
  • The Impact of Government Employee Unions *
  • New Elites and Pluralism *
  • Formulating Foreign Policy *
  • The Revolution in Communications and Diplomacy *
  • Defining the National Interest *
  • The Impact of Population Shifts *
  • Cities of the Future *
  • The Politics of Scarcity *
  • The Power to Govern *
  • Index *
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