State Employee Bargaining: Policy and Organization

By Tanimoto, Helene S.; Inaba, Gail F. | Monthly Labor Review, April 1985 | Go to article overview

State Employee Bargaining: Policy and Organization


Tanimoto, Helene S., Inaba, Gail F., Monthly Labor Review


State employee bargaining: policy and organization

At least 35 State governments engage in some type of labor negotiations with their employees, according to a survey conducted during the 1981-83 period by the Industrial Relations Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A majority have formal negotiations; others have some type of "meet and confer' procedure.

States which engage in formal negotiations have bargaining units reflecting the history of organizing and negotiation activities in the respective States. The larger groups of organized State employees are in administrative/clerical, corrections, engineering/science, hospital, maintenance/ trades, and public welfare occupations. Some professional employees--dentists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, and administrators--also are in bargaining units.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the major State employee union, representing 44 percent of the more than 943,000 covered employees in the survey. State employee associations represent about 75,000, or 18 percent of the employees, but the employee associations are affiliating with other unions, the most recent being the affiliation of the California State Employees' Association with the Service Employees International Union (AFL-CIO).

In the fall of 1981, a questionnaire was sent to the board responsible for collective bargaining procedures or the agency involved in personnel administration in each of the 50 State governments. By the fall of 1983, responses had been received from all States except New Mexico. The questionnaire was designed to identify States according to the extent of employee bargaining activity and to obtain basic data for a study of the characteristics of such activity. Questions were asked about State labor relations policy, organization of the administering agency, unit determination, and impasse resolution procedures. This summary discusses information related to policy and unit determination.

Labor relations policy

Collective bargaining occurs in 27 State governments and, in most instances, is authorized by law. (See table 1.) State employee collective bargaining is now authorized in Illinois by the Public Labor Relations Act (which became effective on July 1, 1984) and by the Education Labor Relations Act (effective January 1, 1984), and in Ohio with the enactment of a comprehensive statute (effective April 1, 1984). Informal consultations with no written agreements take place in four States--Utah, Indiana, Nevada, and Wyoming. In Utah, the State constitution1 and attorney general opinion are the legal basis for such informal consultation. The other three States report no legal basis for their policies. "Meet and confer' discussions with mutual understandings outlined in a memorandum of understanding occur in Alabama. Informal negotiations with written memorandum of understanding are authorized by State law and attorney general opinion in North Dakota. North Dakota also confers exclusive recognition status to unions for the purpose of informal negotiations. In Maryland and Missouri, informal "meet and confer' sessions are authorized by law. Such discussions are held between the Governor and the employee organizations in Maryland.

Five States--Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas--report that State employees had "no bargaining rights.' There was no legal basis in Arkansas for this policy. Mississippi reported "there is no State legislation relative to collective bargaining in the public sector.' Oklahoma and South Carolina replied that State employees were not among employees permitted to bargain, with South Carolina noting attorney general opinions and court rulings as the legal basis for not bargaining. Oklahoma did not provide the legal basis for the State policy. Texas reported that the "employer [is] not required to meet with employee groups, except to accept their grievances. …

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