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PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONISM: AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR EVERYONE
For far too long, public sector employee relations has been regarded as the exclusive concern of public managers and union officials.
Disputes over union contracts have been regarded as problems between "labor" and "management," rather than the important questions of public policy they are. Public concern about public sector union contracts has been best characterized by a "what's it going to cost me" attitude. This attitude has been felt by elected officials who, far too often, when there wasn't enough money to satisfy union contract demands, have traded away the right to manage the size, cost and quality of essential public services.
Nowhere has this trend been more evident than in the field of public education. Teacher unions, frequently with the active support of school administrators, have used collective bargaining agreements to seize control of public education.
While this concern is most obvious in public education, it certainly isn't limited to that field. Unions in police, fire, sanitation - in virtually every area of public service -- are increasingly bargaining for the right to run the government.
The Public Service Research Foundation was established to provide information about public sector unionism and union influence on public policy to foster a better public understanding of the issues involved in public sector employer-employee relations.
It is hoped, as a result, that all parties concerned, whether they be elected public officials, public managers, public sector union officials, public employees, academicians or the general public, will come to understand that public sector labor policy is an important public policy arena and should not be the exclusive preserve of unions and management.
ARE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONISM AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST?
One of the most fundamental questions about public sector employer-employee relations in America today is whether unionism and collective bargaining in the public sector are good public policy.
When the first law mandating public sector collective bargaining was enacted in Wisconsin in 1959, policy makers had no empirical evidence on which to base their hopes that it would lead to more harmonious and equitable employee relations. They ignored the warnings of many that unionism and collective bargaining, by their very nature, would give public sector unions disproportionate power. Collective bargaining has somewhat of a "motherhood and apple pie" aspect about it. Without a thorough understanding of all the issues involved, the average person is likely to believe there is nothing wrong with it.
In Beyond Public Sector Unionism: A Better Way, David Denholm, president of the Public Service Research Foundation, sets forth a comprehensive, yet easy to understand, case against public sector unionism and collective bargaining and makes suggestions for both public employees and managers who are looking for a better way to conduct employer-employee relations to move away from the confrontational, adversarial union approach.
GOVERNMENT UNION REVIEW AN ALTERNATIVE JOURNAL
From the outset, it was clear that a major reason there was so little well informed public debate on the public policy issues underlying public sector unionism and collective bargaining was that academic journals on the subject were in the hands of the public sector labor relations establishment. Through its quarterly journal, Government Union Review, the Foundation provides a forum for scholars to challenge conventional wisdom in this area of study.
UNIONISM IN EDUCATION: A SPECIAL CONCERN
The Public Service Research Foundation was founded by Carol Applegate, a Michigan public school teacher, who, after being a union member for twenty years, realized that what her union, the Michigan Education Association-National Education Association, was doing wasn't in the interests of the students, the teachers or the general public.
Due to that influence and because such a great percent of state and local public expenditures are in the area of public education and because public education is one of the most heavily unionized elements of the public sector, unionism in education, particularly teacher unionism, is of special concern to the Public Service Research Foundation.
The Foundation maintains strong contacts with and encourages the development of organizations which provide teachers with an alternative to unionism. These organizations are growing in many areas, and in some states, their membership already outnumbers that of the NEA's state affiliate.