Has Public Sector Labor Topped Out? What is the Clinton Administration Doing About It? By Leo Troy Ph.D. Professor of Economics, Rutgers University

I. The New Unionism and the New AFL-CIO

It appears that public sector unionism (I call it the New Unionism) has topped out, both in membership and market share. The data, though limited at this time, show a slippage in both measures of union strength. Between 1994 and 1995, memberships dropped off by 168,000 (just over 2%), and market share decreased from 38.7% to 37.8%. The larger relative decline in market share was the effect of a gain in employment at the State and local levels, combined with the decrease in membership. 

Despite the probability that the New Unionism is topping out, American unionism in the next century will be dominated by the public sector wing of organized labor. Historically composed mainly of workers employed by business, in the new millennium most union members will be employed by Federal, State and local governments. Added to this clearly identifiable group are another segment of organized workers, namely, "quasi-government workers" who are in industries extensively dependent on public monies, health care and construction. Those in the private sector in each of these industries are, of course, excluded from the concept of the New Unionism. Because of these changes, the symbol of unionism in the twentieth century, the industrial worker, will be replaced early in the next century by a white-collar or service employee working for the government, or financed mainly by public funds.

The underlying explanation for this transformation is the continuing decline in the number of members and in the market share of private sector unions, coupled with the dramatic surge in government labor organization over the past generation—at least until recently. Just about thirty years ago, public sector unionism accounted for approximately 6% of total membership; now it is 42% of the entire union population. Since peaking in 1970, private sector unions have shed about 7 million members; currently government unions enroll almost 7 million adherents. Moreover, government unions' penetration rate of Federal, State and local employment (38%) is a penetration rate never achieved by their counterpart in business. Private sector unions peaked at 36% of non-farm, private employment; and that occurred more than forty years ago, in 1953.

The changeover from a private to a government dominated labor movement has already begun, as evidenced by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations' (AFL-CIO) election of its new leadership in October 1995. John J. Sweeney was chosen as the new president of the AFL-CIO. He had been serving as the president of the Service Employees International Union, whose membership straddles both government and private employment, but is predominantly government. Like his union, Mr. Sweeney represents a transition that reflects the current change in unionism, that is, from the industrial worker to the government employee. 

The AFL-CIO's new Secretary-Treasurer and second-in-command, Richard Trumka, also epitomizes the transition. His appointment recognizes the diminishing status of the private union labor organization within the Federation and unionism as a whole. Mr. Trumka was president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), a union which once numbered 600,000 members (in 1944), but now enrolls perhaps 30,000-40,000. Thus, Trumka symbolizes the historic past of organized labor—the private sector. Paradoxically, Trumka is slated to lead the Federation's efforts to organize the unorganized, despite the inability of the UMW to organize the unorganized in its own jurisdiction, and even though the union itself hovers on the brink of extinction.

Sweeney, as a candidate and now as president of the AFL-CIO, called on the Federation to boost funding ($20 million) to organize the unorganized, particularly women and minorities. He plans to revitalize its Organizing Institute, and to deploy 1,000 new union organizers. The new organizers are to be recent college graduates fired by the zeal to organize. They contrast sharply with the CIO’s recruitment of ideologically committed organizers during the 1930s—individuals prepared to accept physical punishment and jailing to serve the cause. In many instances, these were Communists who saw the organizing campaigns of the 'thirties as the opportunity to fulfill a mission. 

The focus on the planned efforts of the Federation to spearhead the organization of the unorganized distorts the actual strategies of how unions organize. Most organizing is done by the unions affiliated with the Federation, not the AFL-CIO itself. When the Federation gets directly involved, before a single worker is organized, it must be decided to which affiliated union the newly organized workers will belong. Jurisdictional conflict between affiliates still survives, and this factor limits the extent to which the Federation will actually be able to assist its affiliates. Also, in the run-up to his election, Sweeney called for a special fund aimed at organizing in the South. This evokes recollection of the CIO's "Operation Dixie," announced with great fanfare after World War II, but which came to naught. I believe a similar outcome awaits the new "Operation Dixie." 

To further revitalize a dying AFL-CIO, Sweeney promised to enlarge its Executive Council. This step would presumably lead to more representation from public sector unions, minority groups and women. To that end, Sweeney created a new office of executive vice-president, and had a woman (a minority person), Linda Chavez Thompson, elected to the position. Mrs. Chavez Thompson comes from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the largest public sector unions in the Federation; her selection reemphasizes the changing composition of union membership from private to public. Since the public sector union movement enrolls proportionately (and perhaps absolutely) more women and minorities than the private sector, the creation of the new post and the election of Mrs. Chavez Thompson conforms in yet another way to the emerging profile of organized labor.

As part of his program to rejuvenate the union movement, Mr. Sweeney also said he would seek an age limit of 70 on the future leadership of the Federation. In general, he has portrayed himself as a leader embracing change and diversity, while distancing himself from what he termed "a pattern of gradualism" in past leadership. Nevertheless, my expectation is that despite the best efforts of the new leadership of the AFL-CIO, private unionism will continue to dwindle, both in number of members and market share. As the French expression has it, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." In fact, I expect that by the turn of the century, private union market share will fall to 7 percent, about the same as it was at the beginning of this century. Currently, it is approaching 10 percent of the work force, a figure below that of 1929.

Sweeney's new staff appointments also underscore the transition of the AFL-CIO to a public sector dominated Federation. Most are from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and other purely government unions. This insures that day-to-day functions of the Federation will be in the direction of the New (Government) Unionism. Among the first appointments to staff positions announced by President Sweeney were Robert W. Welsh, who will serve as his executive assistant, the same position he held at the Service Employees International Union during Sweeney's 15-year tenure as president of that union. Serving as executive assistant to AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez Thompson will be Arlene Holt, who had been serving as area director for California for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the union in which Mrs. Chavez Thompson most recently served as vice president. The Federation's new general counsel is Jon Hiatt, who held that position in the Service Employee International Union. Another SEIU staff member, Denise Mitchell, was named special assistant to the president for public affairs. She held the same position at SEIU and also is a partner with her husband in Abernathy and Mitchell, an advocacy and public affairs firm. Gerald Shea will serve as assistant to the president to oversee the transition as well as government affairs. For the last two years Shea served as executive assistant to former AFL-CIO President Thomas Donahue, Sweeney’s opponent for the presidency of the Federation. Shea also comes from SEIU, where he served as Sweeney's assistant for government affairs and earlier headed the union's health care division (The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., GERR, Vol. 33, No. 1639; November 6, 1995, p. 1399).

Some claim that the new leadership of the AFL-CIO will bring new ideas to resolve old problems and formulate plans for the future of organized labor. Is there any evidence of "new ideas"? Let me refer to a recent Ben Wattenberg program, "Think Tank," in which I participated with other scholars. When I challenged another panelist to cite examples of his—and the Federation’s claim—that the AFL-CIO leadership had new ideas, Albert Shanker (president of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the TV panel) jumped in to say that in all his years on the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, he had never heard any new ideas. And the Council members with whom he served included John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and others who have announced that new ideas were in the offing. 

The Clinton Administration, a close ally of organized labor, took steps soon after coming into office to strengthen both the private and public sectors of organized labor. The Secretaries of Labor and Commerce established a Commission on the Future of Labor-Management Relations (the Dunlop Commission) to bring in recommendations for amending labor law in the private sector of the labor market. In the public sector, the Administration’s first step was to establish the National Performance Review, headed by Vice-President Albert Gore; its purpose is to address Federal labor relations and personnel issues. Next, to deal with State and local government labor relations, the Secretary of Labor appointed a task force in May 1994, with a mandate paralleling that of the Dunlop Commission. The task force was to make recommendations on labor relations in the State and local sector of public employment (BNA, GERR, Vol. 33, No. 1616; May 22, 1995, p. 702), which the Administration hoped would re-ignite the expansion of the New Unionism at State and local levels.

Meanwhile, the Administration’s efforts on behalf of the Old Unionism have come to naught. Before the Dunlop Commission’s recommendations could even be considered, the Republicans gained control of Congress, which quelled the prospects for enacting the Commission’s proposals. However, even if the Republicans had not gained control of Congress, I don’t believe much of the Dunlop Commission’s agenda would have been enacted. Likewise, for reasons to be discussed below, the Administration’s efforts on behalf of the New Unionism will not spark any new major expansion of membership and market share. However, these efforts do mark a turning point in the Administration’s bid to build the power of the New Unionism at all three levels of public employment—Federal, State and local—because they coincide with the topping-out of labor organization in the public sector. I begin with the Administration’s actions to enhance the strength of unions in the Federal government. 

II. Reinventing Federal Government—Works Councils

The Administration's proposals for Federal labor relations were part of a general review of personnel policies, dubbed the reinvention of government. The review encompassed the hiring, classification, and management of Federal employees, and labor relations. (Labor relations were treated as part of human resource management.) The review, headed by Vice-President Gore, is known as the National Performance Review (NPR). To carry out the recommendations of the NPR, the Administration established a National Performance Council (NPC). The Clinton-Gore "reinvention of government" was singled out (along with the Administration's "activist style") by editors of the Bureau of National Affairs' Government Employees' Relations Report (GERR) as the Administration's leading achievement in Federal labor relations during its first year in office (BNA, GERR, Vol. 32, No. 1546; January 3, 1994, p. 3). (Parenthetically, these editors also endorsed President and Hillary Rodham Clinton's proposals to bring health care under government control, proposals which became a major disaster for the Administration). 

The most important change in Federal labor relations made by the Administration was the establishment of what it euphemistically called "partnership councils" between unions and government agencies. Actually, these are "works councils"—a form of employee relations which many union supporters had been advocating for the private sector. Adopting the recommendation of Vice-President Gore's National Performance Review report, Clinton issued Executive Order No. 12871, creating a National Partnership Council (NPC) of federal union presidents, agency officials, and government labor and personnel experts. According to a statement issued by the labor members, individual agencies were instructed to establish their own councils, which are to "work to create an environment where the workers and their ideas are regarded as valued assets with a vested interest and say in government operations rather than a budget item to be slashed." At the beginning of 1996, two organizations of federal managers and supervisory personnel were added to the National Partnership Council, and in due course will join councils at the agency levels as well. The two groups are the Senior Executive Association and the Federal Managers Association. In emulation of the Federal action, the Secretary of Labor's Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government Through Labor-Management Cooperation (its full, official name), promptly recommended "partnership councils" (works councils) at the State and local levels of government. This was the Task Force’s most important recommendation.

Not only did the Administration enhance the power of federal unions to participate in decision-making under Executive Order 12871, but that Order also gave federal unions the right to negotiate matters hitherto only permissive (or at the option) of management. This sweeping change now mandates that Federal agencies bargain with unions on such matters as "the numbers, types and grades of employees or positions assigned to any organizational subdivision, work project or tour of duty," and the "technology, methods and means of performing work" (BNA, GERR, Vol. 33, No. 1623; July 17, 1995, p. 897). 

These inroads into managerial prerogatives exceed comparable inroads in private industry. Moreover, the establishment of the partnership (works) council also negates possible benefits of the Performance Review’s recommendation that every department and agency designate a chief operating officer who would bring effective management to the operation of that body. The councils will inhibit any steps to rationalize managerial functions and operations. The two steps illustrate the contradictory nature of the Clinton Administration’s policy-making in labor relations.

The Gore report compared the establishment of partnership councils to similar groups in private industry. But this is misleading, at least in part. Indeed, many nonunion companies had established employee participation committees to enhance productivity, but these have been vigorously opposed by organized labor. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that these groups constitute employer interference with employees’ rights of self-determination and therefore in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The difference between these private sector efforts and the Administration’s partnership councils is that in the governmental set up, employee participation in the councils is nearly always (or always) in the hands of unions.

The establishment of works councils in Federal departments and agencies is only the beginning of the Administration’s reinvention of labor policies. In May 1995, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said that although the Administration's programs were already fostering genuine partnerships (through the partnership councils) between Federal agencies and unions, "we're not there yet." This was echoed in the remarks of Robert M. Tobias, president of the National Treasury Employees Union—one of the largest Federal employee unions. He explained that Clinton created these councils because he believed that the Federal government cannot be streamlined without the cooperation of federal unions. He asserted that the councils give unions a significant role in deciding how to reduce the size of the Federal government by 272,000 slots by 1998. 

Looking ahead, perhaps what Secretary Reich meant is that the Administration will, in collective bargaining agreements, grant the agency shop to Federal employee unions. This step would go far to enhance the financial power of Federal employee unions, not only in collective bargaining but also in political action. It would also strengthen the unions’ hand in disciplining those whom it represents. Meanwhile, the Administration has virtually eliminated the historic political limitations on Federal employees under the Hatch Act, and has enhanced the power of federal unions to bring even greater resources to their alliance with the Democrats. This illustrates what I have called the incestuous relationship between some political (public) employers and the unions. 

In 1993, the Administration and a Democratic Congress pushed through the Federal Employees Political Activities Act, under which Federal employees now may manage partisan political campaigns, raise money for candidates, and hold positions within political organizations. Although Federal employees may not run for partisan political office themselves, nor conduct any such activity on government time or property, these are not severe restrictions on their political activities. Meantime, to conciliate the public, the Act continues current restrictions upon employees of certain agencies and offices which deal with national security or government integrity. Many Republicans opposed reform of the Hatch Act, arguing that it would politicize career workers. Meantime, it is worth noting that the BNA editors, presumably neutral observers, endorsed the Administration's legislation changing the Hatch Act. Likewise, the BNA editors singled out for approval the Administration's decision to take back the PATCO strikers (air traffic controllers). 

III. Works Councils for State and Local Governments

When the editors of the BNA looked for the leading public sector development at the State and local levels in 1994, they chose the Clinton Administration's appointment of a task force to review and make recommendations on labor relations in State and local governments (GERR, Vol. 33, No. 1597; January 9, 1995, p. 53). As already noted, the official title of the task force is the Secretary of Labor's Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government. According to the Secretary, the Task Force was created to respond to requests from several governors and unions to examine and foster labor-management relations in State and local governments. 

The Secretary established the Task Force in May 1994 after the public sector was specifically excluded from the jurisdiction of the Commission on the Future of Labor-Management Relations (the Dunlop Commission), which dealt with labor relations in the private sector. The Task Force complements the National Partnership Council (at the Federal level) and the Dunlop Commission. When Secretary Reich convened the first meeting, he characterized the Task Force as the "third leg of the three-legged stool" of the Department's labor relations policies (October 19, 1994). 

The Task Force consisted of 14 members and an executive director. James Florio, former Governor of New Jersey (D), and Jerry E. Abramson, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky (D), are co-chairmen. The executive director is Jonathan Brock, associate professor, graduate school of public affairs, and chair of the Cascade Center for Public Service at the University of Washington in Seattle. Other members of the Task Force include: Arvid Anderson, retired chairman of the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining; Martha Bibbs, State personnel director for the Michigan Civil Service Commission; Al Bilik, president of the AFL-CIO Public Employee Department; Hezekiah Brown, director of labor-management programs at Cornell University, N.Y., School of Industrial and Labor Relations; Lucille Christenson, assistant director for the Office of Human Resources in the Washington State Department of Labor; Arthur Hamilton, minority leader of the Arizona House of Representatives; Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of Education International and former president of the National Education Association; Michael Lipsky, governance and public policy program officer for the Ford Foundation; James Mastriani, chairman of the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission; Beverly Stein, chief executive of Multnomah County, OR; Kenneth Young, retired executive assistant to the AFL-CIO president; and Kent Wong, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Labor Research and Education, and president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (BNA, GERR, October 24, 1994). The make up of the membership was clearly tilted toward the interests of organized labor, an orientation which foreshadowed its eventual recommendations. 

The stated mission of the Task Force (promoting cooperative efforts in labor relations to improve efficiency) mimics that of the National Performance Review (and its progeny, the National Performance Council), and the Dunlop Commission. Actually, all have the same goal—enhancing the power of labor organization. Nominally, the mission of the Task Force was to address: 

• Should new methods or institutions be encouraged to enhance the quality, productivity and cost-effectiveness of public sector services through labor-management cooperation and employee participation, recognizing the broad variety of functions performed by different levels of government and various other agencies and public organizations? 

• Should changes to legal frameworks that impact labor-management relations, including collective bargaining and civil service legislation, be considered to enhance cooperative behaviors that would reduce conflict, duplication and delays? 

• What, if anything, should be done to encourage the parties themselves to resolve workplace problems rather than resorting to administrative bodies and the courts? 

• What, if anything, can be done to improve the coordination between appropriate executive and legislative bodies to enhance labor-management relations in the public sector and to create a climate where productivity, improvement, innovation and risk-taking are encouraged and rewarded? 

• What conditions are necessary to enable elected political leaders, public managers, public employees and labor organizations to work together to achieve excellence in State and local governments? What are the obstacles, and how can they be overcome? 

• What examples of successful cooperative efforts are appropriate to serve as public sector models? Why have some initially successful efforts failed, and what can be done to enhance prospects for success (BNA, GERR, October 24, 1994)?

A. What the Unions Wanted

Not surprisingly, unions representing employees at the State and local levels came out for "labor-management cooperation"; that is, partnership arrangements between unions and public management. Thus, Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) told the Task Force that the cooperative movement between unions and management was an essential ingredient in improving the quality and delivery of government service. AFSCME is the largest public employee union in America outside the teachers' union (the National Education Association [NEA]). AFSCME represents about 1.3 million State, county and city workers; the NEA represents over two million teachers and related groups. 

Like the National Policy Review at the Federal level, Mr. McEntee told the Task Force that it must be an agent for change in redesigning State and local governments. Like the Federal policies of the Clinton Administration, he insisted that "re-inventing State and local government" could only be effective with participation limited to the unions and their members. To deny their participation would deny the very idea of empowering workers, according to Mr. McEntee. On the other hand, he said excellence and privatization were "mutually exclusive." 

The Task Force evidently agreed. Its comments on privatization and contracting out were negative: "Within a cooperative partnership [works councils] for most core services, reforms that emerge from employee participation usually produce equal or better quality and results than contracting out." (U.S. Department of Labor, Working Together for Public Service, May 1996, p. 12). The Task Force’s antagonism to privatization and contracting out is evident from the details of its analysis of "Trends In Privatization and Contracting Out" (in Chapter 3 of its report). 

Mr. McEntee also demanded that the Task Force endorse legislation to facilitate organizing. Another of AFSCME's fundamental tenets, he said, is the right of all workers, including public employees, to be represented by an organization of their own choice because "no free government has the right to deny workers this basic right of self-organization and representation." He stated that more than five million State and local government workers are deprived of self-protection rights (ostensibly because of the absence of government to protect their right to organize), and that this was an issue which the Task Force must address. 

In his testimony (prior to becoming president of the AFL-CIO), John J. Sweeney reiterated the theme that workers (read union members) and their unions are the keys to improving the quality of public service, but that these efforts will fail unless labor is an equal partner in the process of change. (As noted above, the Service Employees International Union, of which Sweeney was then president, is more of a public than a private sector union.) 

Even more significant, Mr. Sweeney reiterated a longstanding demand of public employee unions, namely, a Federal law "nationalizing" labor relations at the State and local levels. He called for the enactment of a Federal statute to establish minimum labor relations standards which would guarantee collective bargaining for all State and local employees. He cited the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and said that "states would be free to establish their own labor laws so long as they met the prescribed minimum standards," adding that SEIU is currently drafting such a proposed law.  

 Meantime, the first step would be to enforce public sector collective bargaining laws currently on the books.  Furthermore, Mr. Sweeney said, unlike private sector bargaining where employees are protected by Federal labor and retirement laws, collectively bargained economic packages in the public sector too often are overridden by legislators.  (Consider the arrogance of this criticism—that the duly elected legislators of a State would veto what the public employers and unions have agreed to.)  He also complained about what he called raids on the pensions of public employees.  (Of course, these "raids" are again actions taken by duly elected officials with reference to monies which the government had provided in the first instance.)  

 Mr. Sweeney contended that the inability to enforce negotiated contracts (because of legislative actions) weakens the entire bargaining structure in the public sector.  "In other words, bargaining rights are inadequate to give workers the secure and independent voice which they need to become full and effective partners in achieving excellence."  

 Mr. Sweeney also warned against subcontracting government work to contractors who, according to him, pay sub-minimum wages and perform sub-standard work.  He wanted the government to compel employers who receive government contracts to pay what he termed minimum wage and benefit protections, which would be comparable to those paid to public employees performing the same work.  He said, "These standards would force contractors to compete on the basis of management efficiency or quality of services, rather than by slashing workers' wages and benefits [so that] the cost savings come from improved efficiency and not from lowering wages and benefits."  Actually, Mr. Sweeney was advocating the application of Davis-Bacon type legislation to discourage governmental contract work in order to insure that contracting out would become prohibitively costly.  

 Besides Sweeney and McEntee, the leaders from the two major teachers' unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) told the Task Force that the absence of collective bargaining impedes mutual problem-solving in government.  They said that the right of teachers to organize and bargain is essential to improve education through cooperation.  According to Ed McElroy, secretary-treasurer of the AFT, school employees can only experiment on educational changes when they have the right to elect their representative and bargain over terms of employment.  According to him, "common goals cannot mean a union-free environment," and "excellence in education means management and the union set common goals where employees have the right to collective bargaining and job security, and the union's security is not threatened" (BNA, GERR, January 16, 1995).  

  Marilyn Monahan, secretary-treasurer of the NEA, said labor-management cooperative efforts are only possible when the rights of employees to bargain collectively are respected and protected.  She asserted that bargaining has an enormous and positive impact on the quality of public education because it links compensation with the ability of school districts to attract and retain qualified staff.  Bargaining, she contended, has always been a means of maintaining a dialogue about school improvement, and has helped create a forum for ongoing reform and shared decision-making.  She claimed that since schools are facing complex challenges in a fast-changing world, bargaining should not be limited to annual bargaining.  Furthermore, Monahan claimed that employers and employees must be engaged in a constant dialogue about improving educational services, with bargaining providing a structure for discussions (BNA, GERR, January 16, 1995).  

 While the NEA's secretary-treasurer said that no single model of bargaining is advocated, a management representative who is a member of the National Association of School Boards (NASB) reduced any union claims of variation in models to a single model—one in which “the union gets all it wants."  Needless to say, given the composition of the Task Force, it did not offer any recommendation favoring vouchers to stimulate competition in education.  

 In addition to promoting collective bargaining, unions urged the removal of civil service and the merit system, which is used to recruit, classify and promote government employees.  Thus, Mr. McEntee claimed that "all too often this [merit] system serves neither management nor workers ... that it does not serve the customers for whom we all work."  He described the civil service system as "the self perpetuating maze of laws, regulations, rules, personnel requirements, and written and unwritten procedures and processes" (BNA, GERR, Vol. 32, No. 1587; October 24, 1994, p. 1311).  In addition, union leaders urged the Task Force to further reduce managerial rights now set by law and contracts.  

 In summary, union leaders want a revolution in State and local government labor relations—a revolution which would dilute managerial authority, civil service, and, yes, even sovereignty.  In its place they would substitute a new regime of work councils limited to unions and management, with authority for decision-making transferred to these groups.  While genuine cooperation between unions and management can contribute to efficiency, I believe the typical result of such cooperation in the public sector will be the creation of more rules governing how services are provided, and thus add to inefficiency.   
 

B.  What Professional Negotiators  
 Representing the Public Wanted

 Although critical of many practices of unions in the public sector, professionals who negotiate on behalf of the public find merit in some of the union demands—most notably, the “cooperative partnerships.”  This mixed assessment appears in the testimony, before the Task Force, of Mr. Roger E. Dahl, executive director of the National Public Employer Labor Relations Association (NPELRA).  The Association has more than 2,000 members, many of whom are negotiators for State and local governments.  

 Mr. Dahl pointed out that most union proposals would not help NPELRA members manage more efficiently or reduce costs, but would increase costs and maintain the status quo on work practices.  Indeed, Mr. Dahl’s comment on work practices goes to the heart of the problem of work councils.  Under the guise of “cooperation,” the advocates were actually pushing to increase the unions' ability to impose new work rules.  In effect, work councils should be construed as a synonym for work rules.  Thus, in his testimony before the Task Force, Mr. McEntee, president of AFSCME, acknowledged that the union “may have negotiated a few contract work rules that inhibited effective service delivery ... [but that this was done] to counter overly restrictive civil service rules.”  But for whatever reason, he went on to say that "we will open them up for examination and review and debate ... whether through negotiations or some collaborative venture" [read works councils].  

 Mr. Dahl also apparently endorsed works councils, even though they will add many new work rules and make public service less efficient, an issue he complained about.  Thus, he recommended that the Task Force consider labor-management committees (emphasis supplied), which I interpret as an endorsement of works councils.  In that vein, he also recommended investment in training for all employees to prepare them for the potential flattening of the work place structure (that is, works councils).  As noted elsewhere in this essay, such reorganization of work coupled with employee participation committees in the nonunion private sector have been held illegal.  Private sector unions usually oppose them; only in the context of a collectively bargained arrangement would they countenance them.  So also in the public sector, it is clear that the unions favor reorganization of the work place and labor management cooperation only under a collective bargaining agreement.  

 Mr. Dahl had the following managerial perspectives on labor relations in the public sector: 

1.  On collective bargaining, he pointed out that the States which have laws on collective bargaining modeled them on out-of-date legislation, that is, on the National Labor Relations Act of 1935; and that the adjustments made to accommodate State requirements have not served public management interests.  

2.  On bargaining units, he criticized the inclusion of supervisors in bargaining units with the people they supervise because this weakens the supervisors' allegiance and results in the following:  a less disciplined and focused workplace, wasted dollars and lost productivity.  

 Again, this is another example of a mixed assessment.  It is surprising that Mr. Dahl would find acceptable the organized representation and bargaining for supervisors, and object only to their inclusion in the same unit as those they supervised.  To be analytically consistent, he should have objected to their being able to organize and bargain.  

 This issue was fought out in the private sector during the 1940s until it was ended by the Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act in 1947, which excluded supervisors from the definition of an employee and therefore excluded them from coverage under the law.  It effectively brought the unionization of supervisors to an end.  Several members of the Dunlop Commission would have restored the right of supervisors to unionize and bargain in emulation of the public sector practices.  In the public sector, neither management nor its negotiators challenge the rectitude of unionizing supervisors.  

3.  On impasse arbitration and strikes, Mr. Dahl noted that compulsory interest arbitration to resolve bargaining impasses exists in some 20 States, and that 10 States allow a limited right to strike.  These conditions have resulted in arbitration awards that out-paced inflation and encouraged costly avoidance of strikes.  Mr. Dahl urged the Task Force to look at all types of arbitration to see if any work fairly for all parties.  He also suggested it reconsider the right to strike.  

 Needless to say, the Task Force ignored these suggestions when it came to its recommendations. 

4.  On the duty of fair representation, Mr. Dahl urged the Task Force to propose ways to give unions leeway to put aside non-meritorious grievances without fear of a lawsuit.  According to him, unions seem to be required to process every grievance to the fullest extent.  

 Are unions “compelled” to process each and every grievance?  Significantly, the unions made no such request of the Task Force.  Neither did the academics or the professional staffs of many State and local agencies.  

5.  Mr. Dahl said that public employers see the scope of bargaining as already far too broad.  Under existing interpretations, management is required to bargain over the effect of some management decisions, which essentially amounts to bargaining over the decision itself.  This is expensive and time-consuming and tends to decrease the desire to make changes that would benefit the public, he added.  

 If Mr. Dahl thought the existing scope of bargaining was already too broad, the establishment of works councils will significantly increase the domain of union input, and further reduce managerial authority.  He would appear to be arguing against himself.  The Task Force apparently paid little heed to his concerns over the diminution of managerial authority.  

6.  Mr. Dahl also commented on the negative impact of many Federal mandates.  Many Federal laws now apply to State and local governments, such as wage and overtime, job bias, family medical leave, disabilities, and drug testing laws, which taken together are expensive and impose further costs on State and local governments.  He noted that Federal mandates often dictate only one way to reach a desired goal, which prohibits flexibility and consideration of alternatives.  

 Mr. Dahl offered some useful insights on what is going on in public sector labor relations at the State and local levels, but he offers what I regard as a mixed assessment of what and why the unions do what they do.   
 

C.  What Academics Wanted

 In their testimony before the Task Force, professors Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. and Tom Juravich of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (hereafter, B&J) argued for works councils but disguised them as a “workplace partnership between labor and management” at State and local levels.  They agreed (not surprisingly) with the union testimony that workplace partnership between labor and management is not possible without union representation, or as they put it, “an institutional voice for workers.”  They contended that excellence in governmental services on State and local levels will continue to be seriously undermined as long as most State and local workers are unorganized, or are "denied the right to form organizations of their own choosing."  In the absence of union representation, efforts to involve public employees in improving service quality will be short lived and wasteful, they told the Task Force.  

  Moreover, based on a study B&J did for the AFL-CIO, they could claim public employees want union representation (Economic Policy Institute, The Impact of Employer Opposition on Union Certification Win Rates:  A Private/Public Sector Comparison, Working Paper, No. 1113, Revised Edition, Feb. 1995).  Using certification win rates in public sector representation elections at the State and local levels (held in 1991 and 1992), they found that unions won with commanding margins, winning an average 85% of representation elections and 83% of votes cast.  Moreover, they noted that this high win rate spanned a wide range of governmental units, and was consistently high across a broad range of employers, regions and occupations.  Unlike the private sector where professional and technical workers rejected union organization, public sector professionals such as teachers, social workers, doctors, engineers and city planners have voted decisively for representation.  Professional groups accounted for nearly 20% of all State and local elections; another 9% of elections occurred in supervisory and managerial units.  In all of these, the unions averaged higher than an 80% win rate (BNA, Inc., Government Employee Relations Report, March 20, 1995).  

 B&J said their findings clearly point to employer behavior as the primary reason for the win rate difference between the private and public sectors.  Aside from a few cases of intensive anti-union campaigns in higher education and health care, where those public sector employers are more insulated from public pressures than their State and local government counterparts, the authors said the public sector tactic data make clear that there is little opposition to unions by State and local government employers.  

 B&J made six recommendations to the Task Force to benefit public sector unionism.  All six points would be familiar to those who have observed public sector labor relations over the past quarter century and longer.  Topping the list was “full bargaining rights” for public sector unions; which is, 

• to extend to all public workers the right to organize and to bargain, and  
• to eliminate most limitations on the right of public sector unions to negotiate or strike.  

B&J noted that there are still 14 States without any public employee bargaining laws, and 13 States where the bargaining laws only apply to specific groups such as State employees, firefighters or teachers.  Consistent with their demand for full rights of collective bargaining, the two academics decried privatization and contracting out because they weaken collective bargaining.  However, they did not address the question of why public agencies might wish to privatize or subcontract.  

 To underpin “full rights of collective bargaining,” B&J urged that State and local labor relations laws be amended to provide clear and effective penalties for employer interference in workers' efforts to organize.  They said these changes are necessary to preserve a positive labor relations climate in the public sector, and ensure that it does not deteriorate to the destructive level of hostility and conflicts which pervade private sector labor relations.  

 To assist unions in organizing, B&J also called for rapid representation elections.  They found lags between the time a petition for an election was filed and the date on which the election was held.  They found the lag time was more than twice as long as in the private sector, although it did not seem to affect the outcome.  

 To further speed up the process of choosing a representative, B&J called for card check certifications, where there is only one union on the ballot.  They said that South Dakota, Washington, Ohio and New York, among other States, permit certification through card checks as long as employers do not contest the unit or demand elections.  An average of 87% of eligible voters in such units had signed cards.  

 B&J also indicated they want labor relations agencies to adopt a standardized reporting system for data collection on all phases of their activity.  Such standardization would allow reliable data to be collected, computerized, compared and stored, they said, adding that good planning requires comprehensive and accessible data on which to base decisions.  This would enhance the power of States to increase their regulation of labor relations (BNA, Inc., Government Employee Relations Report, March 20, 1995 ).  

 Perhaps to assist researchers, and, I believe, to further assist unions in organizing, B&J recommended that a non-Federal clearinghouse be established to collect information from State labor relations boards on a regular basis and that it adopt a standardized collection and reporting system.  The researchers noted that unlike baseline information on the private sector available from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), there is no centralized database for public employees.  Union organizing data must be collected in myriad formats by more than 40 different State and local labor agencies in 35 States, they said.  Although the NLRB has published detailed data on representation elections, it has not helped unions, at least in recent years.  B&J's study was showcased at the AFL-CIO's Public Employee Department Convention in 1993 (31 GERR 1344), and they presented their findings in the sixth annual Larry Rogin lecture at AFL-CIO headquarters in March 1994 (32 GERR 383). 
 

D.  A Critique of the B&J Study

 Bronfenbrenner and Juravich’s (B&J) explanation for the high union win rate in representation elections among public sector workers identifies the absence of public employers’ opposition to organization and collective bargaining.  They observed that “... the employers’ tactic data make clear that there is little opposition to unions by State and local government employers” (B&J, p. 20).  Again, they state that “the data point to employer behavior as the primary reason for the dramatic difference [between] the 85 percent public sector union win rate [and] the 48 percent private sector win rate" (B&J, p. 22).  

 However, B&J do not explain public employers’ behavior toward the unionization of "their" employees.  Their finding of little opposition to unions by most public employers is a fact well known in the field long before their study.  The significant question, which they did not ask, is, "Why don't public employers oppose unionization and bargaining?"  

 The closest B&J come to this issue is their assertion that “[m]any public officials are elected and regardless of their individual attitudes are constrained from engaging in activities that the public might perceive negatively” (B&J, p. 21).  However, they offer no evidence for their opinion of what the public thinks about this matter.  Polls of public attitudes toward unions could hardly be described as favorable.  

 Another dimension of public employers’ attitude toward unionization is revealed in their acceptance of consent elections.  Not only did two-thirds of public employers in the B&J study agree to consent elections but they made no challenge to the determination of the bargaining unit (B&J, p. 14)!  In other words, unions designed the unit so it would be most favorable to their desired outcome, and public management ignored any impact on their ability to manage.  When an election was stipulated or ordered, the union win rate dropped from the average of 85% to 60%.  In contrast, B&J report that in the private sector, less than half of the elections are consent elections, with win rates at about 50%.  In NLRB ordered elections, the win rate drops to 17%.  

 Employer opposition is hardly an appropriate characterization of the attitude of public employers.  Indeed, public employers’ support of union representation could even be described as incestuous!  As noted above, the Clinton Administration’s amendment of the Hatch Act was intended to reinforce the political power of their union allies in the Federal government.  In general, both parties have strong motives for assisting one another—the public employer gains a powerful political ally, and the union easily becomes the representative of large numbers of dues’ payers.  Many public employers actually foster labor organization.  If their attitude and activities were practiced in the private domain, they would often be in violation of a workers’ right of self-determination.  And government workers probably believe their bosses want them to join.  At no time did B&J ever consider these issues.  

 B&J also addressed the absence of a profit motive in the public employer’s attitude and practices toward the unionization of public employees.  Where budget issues come to the fore quickly, as at the level of local school boards, apparently there is some opposition.  In such instances, the public employer’s behavior toward unionization of employees begins to resemble that of private employers.  

 B&J argue that employer opposition in the public sector is virtually absent, and that this is the reason for the decisive union win rates in representation elections.  They hope to demonstrate that a similar result will occur in the private sector if private employers are stripped of their ability to oppose union organization of their employees.  B&J's remedy, as so many of their academic colleagues have already pleaded, is to revise the National Labor Relations Act in order to force private employers to behave as public employers with the hope that this would reverse the deterioration of private sector unionism.  

 Blaming employer opposition for the decline of private unionism, while popular among union officials and the politically correct in academia and the media, misrepresents the real explanation for the decline of private, Old Unionism.  There are at least three reasons for the decline of the Old Unionism:  

• markets,  
• increased global and domestic competition, and  
• structural change.  

It is important to note that private sector union movements in all G-7 countries have declined (Germany is a mixed situation, but private density, if not membership, has decreased).  

 Paralleling the absence of B&J’s inquiry as to why public employers did not oppose the unionization of "their" employees, they also did not attempt to explain why public sector employees voted so overwhelmingly for union representation.  B&J admit that their data do not explain why “public sector workers are enthusiastically joining unions” (B&J, p. 8; emphasis added).  This is a mystery.  

 B&J did identify several reasons which should lead public sector workers to not join unions.  

• Public sector workers are better paid than in the private economy;   
• Public sector workers hold jobs in occupations (professional, technical and generally white collar) which are difficult to organize in the private sector;  
• The lag between the petition for an election and the vote are longer in the public sector than in the private sector; and  
• Unions do not work as hard to organize in the public sector as in the private labor market (B&J, pp., 12, 15, 17, 21, 22).  

Despite reasons which should slow the unionization of public workers, why do they join in such large numbers?  As I have already emphasized, it is because of the encouragement of the public employer.  

 Insofar as I know, no one has carefully examined the issue of employer interference fostering unions in the public sector.  Presumably, this would be an unfair labor practice.  I believe that there has been substantial interference by public employers affecting employees’ decisions to choose a union—interference which in the private sector would be viewed as an unfair labor practice because the employer was dominating or assisting the union.  B&J do not consider this issue, but make a considerable effort to track employer actions which might interfere with the right to join unions.  In the end, they do not demonstrate why government workers vote for union representation; their argument seems to be only that public management does not oppose their actions.  In my judgment, many government employees believe their managers want them to be represented by a union.  

 How important are the representation elections examined by B&J to the growth of public sector unionism?  In the two years of their study, 1991 and 1992, some 45,000 employees per year were in bargaining units won by public sector unions.  (Bargaining units are not the equivalent of membership; they include workers who are not union members.)  Interestingly, between 1990 and 1991, public sector unions added 147,000 members, but between 1991 and 1992, they added only 21,000 members.  Of these gains, it is not known how many can be attributable to organizing the unorganized, and how many to employment growth in existing bargaining units.  The percentage of workers represented in the 1990-91 year remained unchanged at 43.3%, while between 1991 and 1992, the percentage represented actually dropped slightly to 43.2 %.  It is clear that despite the success rate of public sector unions in representation elections, this form of organization played little role in increasing membership or density.  Consequently, the actual impact of the B&J study is speculative.  

 From its inception to the present composition of the New Unionism, representation elections have played a small role in generating total membership (6.9 million) or density (38%).  The size and market penetration of the New Unionism are owed primarily to what I term the organization of the organized, as described with examples below:  

• The transformation of large professional and public employee associations into unions  
•  (e.g., the National Education Association);  
• The merger of many public employee associations into established unions  
•  (e.g., the Civil Service Employees of New York into the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees); and  
• The transformation of some unions from predominantly private sector membership to  
  predominantly public sector membership  
•  (e.g., the Service Employees International Union).  

 The era of rapid public sector union growth has passed.  As already indicated, there is evidence that it has topped out both in membership and density.  For the first time since the BLS began its membership series (1983), public sector unionism has declined both in number of members and density.  Between 1994 and 1995, density declined from 39% to 38%, and membership fell by 164,000.  While one year does not make a trend, taken in conjunction with the growing struggle to restrict the size of government, I believe that these statistics foreshadow the future.  

 The largest decrease in membership took place at the State level (65,000), second largest at the Federal level (50,000), followed by Local Government (35,000), and then Postal Service (14,000) (Hirsch, Barry T., and Macpherson, David A., Union Membership and Earnings Data Book: 1996).  Proportionately, the hardest hit was the Federal sector (I am including the Postal Service in that group).  Most of the decline at the Federal level can be explained by the closure of military bases, accounting for two-thirds of the reduction, while many other reductions came from releasing part-time and temporary workers.  Most of the shrinkage in employment was centered in the Department of Defense, the largest Federal employer of civilian employees.  On the other hand, even as membership fell, public employment grew at the State and local levels, thereby contributing to the overall public sector decline in density.  While Federal employment dropped by about 50,000 (virtually the same as the number of members it lost, although this should be treated as a coincidence), State and local governments added more than 200,000 jobs between 1994 and 1995.  

 The gain in the number of jobs at the State and local levels is particularly interesting in light of the B&J findings on the success rate of public sector unions in winning elections at the State and local levels.  If State and local government employees have such a proclivity for joining unions, why was there a loss of 90,000 members coincident with such a large gain in employment?  Although not all States have laws encouraging unionism and bargaining (and I have not tracked down in which States employment gained), there are public sector organizations in all States which offer a base for organization.  Surely some of the 200,000 increase in employment occurred in States with laws fostering union organization.  Perhaps the answer lies in the attitudes of non-union government employees.  Polls of workers, including government workers, reported that about two-thirds said they would not vote for a union in a secret ballot election.  The Lou Harris organization found such results in the most comprehensive examination of the failing union movement (in the private sector) in 1984, and similar findings have emerged (including in Canada) since as late as 1990.  

 The apparent topping out of public sector unionism is occurring not only in the U.S., but abroad as well.  Just as there has been convergence in the decline of private sector unionism (the Old Unionism)—across the U.S., and in Canada, the U.K., France, Italy and Japan—in all probability, there is also an international convergence producing a decline in the public sector, the New Unionism.  

 The driving forces affecting the topping out of the New Unionism, include the following:  

• public policy toward labor organization, and  
• the size and scope of the public budget.  

Once public budgets slow down in growth, or face actual reductions, employment growth tapers off or even declines; then the size and scope of the New Unionism must slow and decline in tandem with employment.  

 Privatization must also be noted as a factor, but unless and until such huge enterprises as public education and the postal services become privatized to a substantial degree, little downsizing of the unions in these sectors can be expected.  Indeed, at this time in the U.S., the largest union in the country (and in the world) is the National Education Association.  It probably enrolls some 2.25 million members.  If it should merge with the American Federation of Teachers, the new conglomerate will top the three million mark!  The merger, I believe, will occur within a year.  

 While the potential for growth of the New Unionism remains in the public sector, it is not likely to be realized without one or all of the following changes:  

• public policy changes favoring unions (such as advocated by B&J) in States which do not now have such policies, or  
• a national law covering State and local government labor relations, or  
• a renewed explosion of public spending.  

Surprisingly, one recommendation I expected B&J to make, and which they did not, was to recommend a national law governing State and local labor relations.  Since the decision in Garcia v. Samta, decided in 1985 by the Supreme Court, Congress may have the authority to enact such legislation.  Perhaps the realization that such legislation is impossible explains the absence of a recommendation.  Sweeney, as noted above, did recommend such an approach before the Task Force (when he was president of the Service Employees International Union).   
 

IV.  TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS  
  AND MY CRITIQUE

 Before examining the recommendations of the Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government Through Labor-Management Cooperation, it is necessary to characterize the report as a whole.  It is a pro-union document.  The Public Employees Department of the AFL-CIO has made that clear:  

With the publication of Working Together for Public Service comes good news for public sector unions.  Thumbs up for collective bargaining and privatization simply is not the pervasive panacea some would like to believe.  Among the report’s union-friendly findings (emphasis supplied):  "Collective bargaining relationships, applied to cooperative service-oriented ways, provide the most consistently valuable structure for beginning and sustaining a workplace partnership for effective service results”  (Public Employees Department, Issues & Answers, June 1996).

 FIRST RECOMMENDATION.  As its first recommendation the Task Force said State and local governments have the obligation to transform the way public services are planned and delivered, and to change the management of the public workplace.  To fulfill these obligations, these governments are further instructed to engage the knowledge of public workers.  

 CRITIQUE.  The language of the recommendation—“obligation,” “must transform” and “engage public employees knowledge”—smacks of arrogance.  An unelected group, appointed by an official of the Federal government tells the duly elected officials of State and local governments how they are to handle labor relations.  Of course, the reference to public employees actually refers to organized employees, not the unorganized.  This reference is made clear by what it considered successful examples (termed “snapshots") of labor (meaning organized labor) management cooperation.  There are five such examples, and in four of these five illustrations of cooperation between management and labor, a union is featured.  Only in Charlotte, North Carolina did the cooperation involve unorganized workers; and in that instance, the employee participated in an activity that is currently outlawed in the private labor market.  The key point I wish to make, is that although the nonunion sector in State and local governments comprises more than one half of employment, the Task Force reported on only one example of nonunion employee participation!  

  In a press release, the Task Force’s Executive Director provided nine examples of what he described as “cooperative workplace arrangements.”  All nine involved unions.  The nonunion sector was ignored, and the Charlotte, North Carolina example was omitted.  

 An interesting sidelight into their preference for works councils is the Task Force’s comment on Mayor Stephen Goldsmith’s program for instituting competition between city agencies and private companies for public business in Indianapolis.  They said, 

Although Indianapolis receives much attention for its competitive initiatives, the Task Force found in its site visit that the structured cooperative relationship pervading city operations is the unsung hero of the service and cost improvements (Working Together For Public Service, p. 35).  

 SECOND RECOMMENDATION.  The next recommendation is essentially a repeat of the first.  It states, 

In most places, the public workplace of the future will have to be different from what it is today in order to meet the challenges it will face.  Traditional methods of service delivery, traditional personnel and administrative systems, traditional styles of supervision and workplace communication, and traditional approaches to collective bargaining will not be sufficient.  

 CRITIQUE.  To repeat, this is another call for works councils.  Their statement that “traditional styles of supervision and workplace communication, and traditional approaches to collective bargaining will not be sufficient,” begs the replacement system—works councils.  

 Meanwhile, the Task Force offered no support for its claim that the public workplace will be different in the future; nor for what it will look like, if it does change; nor for what “challenges” that new workplace will face in the future.  Although the Task Force shrunk back from declaring so, surely one of the future “challenges” are works councils.  

 THIRD RECOMMENDATION.  The third recommendation of the Task Force is employee participation.  They declared that in order to meet new challenges, many State and local governments have begun to move away from traditional ways of doing business.  Like many successful private sector companies, they are depending upon the participation of employees.  When successful, this strategy leads to continuous improvement, not merely one-time changes.  

 CRITIQUE.  Yes, nonunion private companies have introduced employee participation plans, plans which the unions oppose, and which the National Labor Relations Board has declared to be violations of the National Labor Relations Act.  These plans currently await a judicial ruling.  In the present context, the Task Force defines works councils with unions as those with employees’ representatives.  Only in its “snapshot” of Charlotte, North Carolina did it report on a nonunion example.  

 FOURTH & FIFTH RECOMMENDATIONS.  The next two recommendations elaborate on the same theme.  The fourth recommendation states that, 

service improvement through workplace cooperation requires that the confrontational rhetoric be lowered and that elected officials, union leaders and workers focus on their common tasks.  

Likewise, the fifth recommendation points out that “employee participation can also be a doorway to reducing confrontation in collective bargaining relationships that have had a history of conflict.”  

 CRITIQUE.  To accomplish these objectives, the Task Force report says that government will need new tools—tools already in use in many places.  And what are these “tools?”  All “tools” cited are only those of union-management cooperation.  

 Although the Task Force made no explicit call for public policies to promote unionism, it is certainly an implicit recommendation.  Such a conclusion is clearly implied by their incessant drumbeat calling for employee participation (meaning union participation) in the management of State and local governments.  

 And this returns us to the initial recommendation, which I had termed arrogant.  Actually, it was more than that; it was a demand for unions to share in the governance of the allocation of public resources.  It was another attack on sovereignty.  

 Significantly, the Task Force either ignored or gave little attention to subjects which several members wanted on the agenda.  One member, Beverly Stein, chief executive of Multnomah County, Ore., said the Task Force should compare organized jurisdictions having strong labor-management cooperation with areas that have cooperative efforts without unions, to decide what recommendations to make about State legislation.  Apparently this might have been too hot a potato to handle, because the Task Force limited itself to implicit, not explicit, endorsement of collective bargaining.  Perhaps the Task Force heeded the advice of another member, James Mastriani, chairman of the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission, who urged the Task Force to be cautious in considering the impact of bargaining laws on cooperation—while they may protect public employees' rights, they restrict labor-management cooperation.  Mastriani indicated that the absence of bargaining laws may make cooperation easier to achieve.  In the end, the Task Force did not examine the impact of bargaining laws on labor-management cooperation.  

 Member Michael Lipsky, governance program officer for the Ford Foundation, agreed that the Task Force should review labor-management settings whether organized or not, and whether they operate under a bargaining law or not.  Lipsky said the Task Force report should "speak to all jurisdictions and allow people to make progress wherever they are."  However, there is little evidence that the Task Force made any special effort to learn about cooperation in nonunion settings.  

 Hezekiah Brown, director of labor-management programs at Cornell University's school of industrial and labor relations, stressed that the Task Force needs to look hard at places where cooperative efforts have failed.  Again, the Task Force paid little heed to that advice.   
 

V.  CONCLUSIONS:  IS PUBLIC SECTOR  
 UNION POWER TOPPING OUT?

 The apparent topping out of the New Unionism in membership and market share should not be construed to imply a parallel topping out of their political or bargaining muscle.  This is true of both the Old and the New Unionism, but is even more the case in the public sector.  The reason for this conclusion is the wealth of the major labor organizations and the concentration of power they wield in their respective markets.  While the average penetration rate of the New Unionism is currently 38% (compared to just over 10% in the private sector), in key public employment occupations, the rate is not far from double the average—teaching, about 65%; police, 67%; and fire, 70%.  The U.S. Postal Service tops them all, with just under 75% (Hirsch and Macpherson, 1996).  

 In the public domain, high market penetration and the concentration of membership adds significantly to the New Unionism’s monopoly power.  (Unions in the private domain, with some exceptions, lack the parallel degree of market power.)  In the public sector, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have a combined membership exceeding three million; and that accounts for nearly 40% of all public sector membership.  (There is no parallel union dominance in the private sector.)  The teachers, police, fire, sanitary and public service organizations, although localized in structure, occupy monopoly power in their markets in excess of that which national penetration rates would suggest.  The average for the country cannot adequately represent the reality at the local level.  Because of their immense monopoly power, the topping out of the New Unionism does not yet imply a decrease of their bargaining and political power.  Only privatization on a large scale in education and the Postal Service could undermine the bargaining power of unions in these services.  And that outcome is very distant.  

 Can reinvention of government (works councils) at the Federal level, and the recommendations of the Task Force at the State and local levels (also works councils) bring about a resurgence of the New Unionism?  Works councils at the Federal level, already in place, should provide some small gains in membership and market share to federal unionism.  However, reducing employment will offset these gains.  A greater impetus to federal union growth will occur if the Clinton Administration, as expected, grants the agency shop to federal employee unions.  However, nothing can be expected like the historic surge in federal unionism following President Kennedy’s executive order in 1962.  

 The prospect for the enactment of the Task Force’s recommendations for State and local labor relations is unfavorable.  My conclusion is based on the strong tradition of localism in government, an attitude which has been reinforced in recent years.  This, I believe, will ensure opposition to any Congressional efforts to legislate State and local labor relations; the opposition is likely to cross political parties.  Consequently, the status quo can be expected at the State and local levels.  And since the bulk of public sector unionism (93%) is at the State and local levels, there is little reason to expect a renewal of the New Unionism.  Coupled with efforts to reduce the growth and even the size of the public budget at all levels of government, these developments suggest that the New Unionism has topped out in the U.S.  

 In part, this assessment of the future of the New Unionism parallels the history of the Old, private sector, Unionism.  Shortly after World War II, it became apparent that private sector unionism had topped out in terms of both membership and market share.  Its market share peaked in 1953, at 36%.  Even so, in the 1960s, its membership increased, mainly as a consequence of the Vietnam War’s stimulation of goods industries in which unions had a substantial presence.  Corresponding to the winding down and termination of that war, private sector membership peaked in 1970, and then declined in each and every year but one—1994—and that may be a statistical artifact.  The plateau in private membership after World War II was the result of stagnation in the process of union growth.  Later stagnation became decline.  

 It is my contention that the New Unionism has also entered a period of stagnation.  However, unlike the process which led from stagnation to decline in the private sector, the stagnation process in the public sector will continue—stagnation will foster stagnation, and not lead to a decline.  This forecast is based on the slowing in public expenditures, and the inability of union-friendly governments to enact legislation which would re-ignite the growth of the New Unionism.  There remains a strong tradition of localism in government.  Also, there will likely be a reduction in government expenditures in nominal or real terms.  

 Even so, the New Unionism will retain its formidable bargaining and political power.  Moreover, it will become the dominant part of organized American Labor just as it already has in Canada, the U.K., France and Italy.  This may also be true of Japan.  At this time, the breakdown in Germany is too clouded to ascertain the relative strengths of public and private unionism.  Over all, it is clear that if the 20th century was the century of the Old Unionism, the 21st will be the century of the New Unionism.   
 

minimum standards," adding that SEIU is currently drafting such a proposed law.  

 Meantime, the first step would be to enforce public sector collective bargaining laws currently on the books.  Furthermore, Mr. Sweeney said, unlike private sector bargaining where employees are protected by Federal labor and retirement laws, collectively bargained economic packages in the public sector too often are overridden by legislators.  (Consider the arrogance of this criticism—that the duly elected legislators of a State would veto what the public employers and unions have agreed to.)  He also complained about what he called raids on the pensions of public employees.  (Of course, these "raids" are again actions taken by duly elected officials with reference to monies which the government had provided in the first instance.)  

 Mr. Sweeney contended that the inability to enforce negotiated contracts (because of legislative actions) weakens the entire bargaining structure in the public sector.  "In other words, bargaining rights are inadequate to give workers the secure and independent voice which they need to become full and effective partners in achieving excellence."  

 Mr. Sweeney also warned against subcontracting government work to contractors who, according to him, pay sub-minimum wages and perform sub-standard work.  He wanted the government to compel employers who receive government contracts to pay what he termed minimum wage and benefit protections, which would be comparable to those paid to public employees performing the same work.  He said, "These standards would force contractors to compete on the basis of management efficiency or quality of services, rather than by slashing workers' wages and benefits [so that] the cost savings come from improved efficiency and not from lowering wages and benefits."  Actually, Mr. Sweeney was advocating the application of Davis-Bacon type legislation to discourage governmental contract work in order to insure that contracting out would become prohibitively costly.  

 Besides Sweeney and McEntee, the leaders from the two major teachers' unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) told the Task Force that the absence of collective bargaining impedes mutual problem-solving in government.  They said that the right of teachers to organize and bargain is essential to improve education through cooperation.  According to Ed McElroy, secretary-treasurer of the AFT, school employees can only experiment on educational changes when they have the right to elect their representative and bargain over terms of employment.  According to him, "common goals cannot mean a union-free environment," and "excellence in education means management and the union set common goals where employees have the right to collective bargaining and job security, and the union's security is not threatened" (BNA, GERR, January 16, 1995).  

  Marilyn Monahan, secretary-treasurer of the NEA, said labor-management cooperative efforts are only possible when the rights of employees to bargain collectively are respected and protected.  She asserted that bargaining has an enormous and positive impact on the quality of public education because it links compensation with the ability of school districts to attract and retain qualified staff.  Bargaining, she contended, has always been a means of maintaining a dialogue about school improvement, and has helped create a forum for ongoing reform and shared decision-making.  She claimed that since schools are facing complex challenges in a fast-changing world, bargaining should not be limited to annual bargaining.  Furthermore, Monahan claimed that employers and employees must be engaged in a constant dialogue about improving educational services, with bargaining providing a structure for discussions (BNA, GERR, January 16, 1995).  

 While the NEA's secretary-treasurer said that no single model of bargaining is advocated, a management representative who is a member of the National Association of School Boards (NASB) reduced any union claims of variation in models to a single model—one in which “the union gets all it wants."  Needless to say, given the composition of the Task Force, it did not offer any recommendation favoring vouchers to stimulate competition in education.  

 In addition to promoting collective bargaining, unions urged the removal of civil service and the merit system, which is used to recruit, classify and promote government employees.  Thus, Mr. McEntee claimed that "all too often this [merit] system serves neither management nor workers ... that it does not serve the customers for whom we all work."  He described the civil service system as "the self perpetuating maze of laws, regulations, rules, personnel requirements, and written and unwritten procedures and processes" (BNA, GERR, Vol. 32, No. 1587; October 24, 1994, p. 1311).  In addition, union leaders urged the Task Force to further reduce managerial rights now set by law and contracts.  

 In summary, union leaders want a revolution in State and local government labor relations—a revolution which would dilute managerial authority, civil service, and, yes, even sovereignty.  In its place they would substitute a new regime of work councils limited to unions and management, with authority for decision-making transferred to these groups.  While genuine cooperation between unions and management can contribute to efficiency, I believe the typical result of such cooperation in the public sector will be the creation of more rules governing how services are provided, and thus add to inefficiency.   
 

B.  What Professional Negotiators  
 Representing the Public Wanted

 Although critical of many practices of unions in the public sector, professionals who negotiate on behalf of the public find merit in some of the union demands—most notably, the “cooperative partnerships.”  This mixed assessment appears in the testimony, before the Task Force, of Mr. Roger E. Dahl, executive director of the National Public Employer Labor Relations Association (NPELRA).  The Association has more than 2,000 members, many of whom are negotiators for State and local governments.  

 Mr. Dahl pointed out that most union proposals would not help NPELRA members manage more efficiently or reduce costs, but would increase costs and maintain the status quo on work practices.  Indeed, Mr. Dahl’s comment on work practices goes to the heart of the problem of work councils.  Under the guise of “cooperation,” the advocates were actually pushing to increase the unions' ability to impose new work rules.  In effect, work councils should be construed as a synonym for work rules.  Thus, in his testimony before the Task Force, Mr. McEntee, president of AFSCME, acknowledged that the union “may have negotiated a few contract work rules that inhibited effective service delivery ... [but that this was done] to counter overly restrictive civil service rules.”  But for whatever reason, he went on to say that "we will open them up for examination and review and debate ... whether through negotiations or some collaborative venture" [read works councils].  

 Mr. Dahl also apparently endorsed works councils, even though they will add many new work rules and make public service less efficient, an issue he complained about.  Thus, he recommended that the Task Force consider labor-management committees (emphasis supplied), which I interpret as an endorsement of works councils.  In that vein, he also recommended investment in training for all employees to prepare them for the potential flattening of the work place structure (that is, works councils).  As noted elsewhere in this essay, such reorganization of work coupled with employee participation committees in the nonunion private sector have been held illegal.  Private sector unions usually oppose them; only in the context of a collectively bargained arrangement would they countenance them.  So also in the public sector, it is clear that the unions favor reorganization of the work place and labor management cooperation only under a collective bargaining agreement.  

 Mr. Dahl had the following managerial perspectives on labor relations in the public sector: 

1.  On collective bargaining, he pointed out that the States which have laws on collective bargaining modeled them on out-of-date legislation, that is, on the National Labor Relations Act of 1935; and that the adjustments made to accommodate State requirements have not served public management interests.  

2.  On bargaining units, he criticized the inclusion of supervisors in bargaining units with the people they supervise because this weakens the supervisors' allegiance and results in the following:  a less disciplined and focused workplace, wasted dollars and lost productivity.  

 Again, this is another example of a mixed assessment.  It is surprising that Mr. Dahl would find acceptable the organized representation and bargaining for supervisors, and object only to their inclusion in the same unit as those they supervised.  To be analytically consistent, he should have objected to their being able to organize and bargain.  

 This issue was fought out in the private sector during the 1940s until it was ended by the Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act in 1947, which excluded supervisors from the definition of an employee and therefore excluded them from coverage under the law.  It effectively brought the unionization of supervisors to an end.  Several members of the Dunlop Commission would have restored the right of supervisors to unionize and bargain in emulation of the public sector practices.  In the public sector, neither management nor its negotiators challenge the rectitude of unionizing supervisors.  

3.  On impasse arbitration and strikes, Mr. Dahl noted that compulsory interest arbitration to resolve bargaining impasses exists in some 20 States, and that 10 States allow a limited right to strike.  These conditions have resulted in arbitration awards that out-paced inflation and encouraged costly avoidance of strikes.  Mr. Dahl urged the Task Force to look at all types of arbitration to see if any work fairly for all parties.  He also suggested it reconsider the right to strike.  

 Needless to say, the Task Force ignored these suggestions when it came to its recommendations. 

4.  On the duty of fair representation, Mr. Dahl urged the Task Force to propose ways to give unions leeway to put aside non-meritorious grievances without fear of a lawsuit.  According to him, unions seem to be required to process every grievance to the fullest extent.  

 Are unions “compelled” to process each and every grievance?  Significantly, the unions made no such request of the Task Force.  Neither did the academics or the professional staffs of many State and local agencies.  

5.  Mr. Dahl said that public employers see the scope of bargaining as already far too broad.  Under existing interpretations, management is required to bargain over the effect of some management decisions, which essentially amounts to bargaining over the decision itself.  This is expensive and time-consuming and tends to decrease the desire to make changes that would benefit the public, he added.  

 If Mr. Dahl thought the existing scope of bargaining was already too broad, the establishment of works councils will significantly increase the domain of union input, and further reduce managerial authority.  He would appear to be arguing against himself.  The Task Force apparently paid little heed to his concerns over the diminution of managerial authority.  

6.  Mr. Dahl also commented on the negative impact of many Federal mandates.  Many Federal laws now apply to State and local governments, such as wage and overtime, job bias, family medical leave, disabilities, and drug testing laws, which taken together are expensive and impose further costs on State and local governments.  He noted that Federal mandates often dictate only one way to reach a desired goal, which prohibits flexibility and consideration of alternatives.  

 Mr. Dahl offered some useful insights on what is going on in public sector labor relations at the State and local levels, but he offers what I regard as a mixed assessment of what and why the unions do what they do.   
 

C.  What Academics Wanted

 In their testimony before the Task Force, professors Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. and Tom Juravich of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (hereafter, B&J) argued for works councils but disguised them as a “workplace partnership between labor and management” at State and local levels.  They agreed (not surprisingly) with the union testimony that workplace partnership between labor and management is not possible without union representation, or as they put it, “an institutional voice for workers.”  They contended that excellence in governmental services on State and local levels will continue to be seriously undermined as long as most State and local workers are unorganized, or are "denied the right to form organizations of their own choosing."  In the absence of union representation, efforts to involve public employees in improving service quality will be short lived and wasteful, they told the Task Force.  

  Moreover, based on a study B&J did for the AFL-CIO, they could claim public employees want union representation (Economic Policy Institute, The Impact of Employer Opposition on Union Certification Win Rates:  A Private/Public Sector Comparison, Working Paper, No. 1113, Revised Edition, Feb. 1995).  Using certification win rates in public sector representation elections at the State and local levels (held in 1991 and 1992), they found that unions won with commanding margins, winning an average 85% of representation elections and 83% of votes cast.  Moreover, they noted that this high win rate spanned a wide range of governmental units, and was consistently high across a broad range of employers, regions and occupations.  Unlike the private sector where professional and technical workers rejected union organization, public sector professionals such as teachers, social workers, doctors, engineers and city planners have voted decisively for representation.  Professional groups accounted for nearly 20% of all State and local elections; another 9% of elections occurred in supervisory and managerial units.  In all of these, the unions averaged higher than an 80% win rate (BNA, Inc., Government Employee Relations Report, March 20, 1995).  

 B&J said their findings clearly point to employer behavior as the primary reason for the win rate difference between the private and public sectors.  Aside from a few cases of intensive anti-union campaigns in higher education and health care, where those public sector employers are more insulated from public pressures than their State and local government counterparts, the authors said the public sector tactic data make clear that there is little opposition to unions by State and local government employers.  

 B&J made six recommendations to the Task Force to benefit public sector unionism.  All six points would be familiar to those who have observed public sector labor relations over the past quarter century and longer.  Topping the list was “full bargaining rights” for public sector unions; which is, 

• to extend to all public workers the right to organize and to bargain, and  
• to eliminate most limitations on the right of public sector unions to negotiate or strike.  

B&J noted that there are still 14 States without any public employee bargaining laws, and 13 States where the bargaining laws only apply to specific groups such as State employees, firefighters or teachers.  Consistent with their demand for full rights of collective bargaining, the two academics decried privatization and contracting out because they weaken collective bargaining.  However, they did not address the question of why public agencies might wish to privatize or subcontract.  

 To underpin “full rights of collective bargaining,” B&J urged that State and local labor relations laws be amended to provide clear and effective penalties for employer interference in workers' efforts to organize.  They said these changes are necessary to preserve a positive labor relations climate in the public sector, and ensure that it does not deteriorate to the destructive level of hostility and conflicts which pervade private sector labor relations.  

 To assist unions in organizing, B&J also called for rapid representation elections.  They found lags between the time a petition for an election was filed and the date on which the election was held.  They found the lag time was more than twice as long as in the private sector, although it did not seem to affect the outcome.  

 To further speed up the process of choosing a representative, B&J called for card check certifications, where there is only one union on the ballot.  They said that South Dakota, Washington, Ohio and New York, among other States, permit certification through card checks as long as employers do not contest the unit or demand elections.  An average of 87% of eligible voters in such units had signed cards.  

 B&J also indicated they want labor relations agencies to adopt a standardized reporting system for data collection on all phases of their activity.  Such standardization would allow reliable data to be collected, computerized, compared and stored, they said, adding that good planning requires comprehensive and accessible data on which to base decisions.  This would enhance the power of States to increase their regulation of labor relations (BNA, Inc., Government Employee Relations Report, March 20, 1995 ).  

 Perhaps to assist researchers, and, I believe, to further assist unions in organizing, B&J recommended that a non-Federal clearinghouse be established to collect information from State labor relations boards on a regular basis and that it adopt a standardized collection and reporting system.  The researchers noted that unlike baseline information on the private sector available from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), there is no centralized database for public employees.  Union organizing data must be collected in myriad formats by more than 40 different State and local labor agencies in 35 States, they said.  Although the NLRB has published detailed data on representation elections, it has not helped unions, at least in recent years.  B&J's study was showcased at the AFL-CIO's Public Employee Department Convention in 1993 (31 GERR 1344), and they presented their findings in the sixth annual Larry Rogin lecture at AFL-CIO headquarters in March 1994 (32 GERR 383). 
 

D.  A Critique of the B&J Study

 Bronfenbrenner and Juravich’s (B&J) explanation for the high union win rate in representation elections among public sector workers identifies the absence of public employers’ opposition to organization and collective bargaining.  They observed that “... the employers’ tactic data make clear that there is little opposition to unions by State and local government employers” (B&J, p. 20).  Again, they state that “the data point to employer behavior as the primary reason for the dramatic difference [between] the 85 percent public sector union win rate [and] the 48 percent private sector win rate" (B&J, p. 22).  

 However, B&J do not explain public employers’ behavior toward the unionization of "their" employees.  Their finding of little opposition to unions by most public employers is a fact well known in the field long before their study.  The significant question, which they did not ask, is, "Why don't public employers oppose unionization and bargaining?"  

 The closest B&J come to this issue is their assertion that “[m]any public officials are elected and regardless of their individual attitudes are constrained from engaging in activities that the public might perceive negatively” (B&J, p. 21).  However, they offer no evidence for their opinion of what the public thinks about this matter.  Polls of public attitudes toward unions could hardly be described as favorable.  

 Another dimension of public employers’ attitude toward unionization is revealed in their acceptance of consent elections.  Not only did two-thirds of public employers in the B&J study agree to consent elections but they made no challenge to the determination of the bargaining unit (B&J, p. 14)!  In other words, unions designed the unit so it would be most favorable to their desired outcome, and public management ignored any impact on their ability to manage.  When an election was stipulated or ordered, the union win rate dropped from the average of 85% to 60%.  In contrast, B&J report that in the private sector, less than half of the elections are consent elections, with win rates at about 50%.  In NLRB ordered elections, the win rate drops to 17%.  

 Employer opposition is hardly an appropriate characterization of the attitude of public employers.  Indeed, public employers’ support of union representation could even be described as incestuous!  As noted above, the Clinton Administration’s amendment of the Hatch Act was intended to reinforce the political power of their union allies in the Federal government.  In general, both parties have strong motives for assisting one another—the public employer gains a powerful political ally, and the union easily becomes the representative of large numbers of dues’ payers.  Many public employers actually foster labor organization.  If their attitude and activities were practiced in the private domain, they would often be in violation of a workers’ right of self-determination.  And government workers probably believe their bosses want them to join.  At no time did B&J ever consider these issues.  

 B&J also addressed the absence of a profit motive in the public employer’s attitude and practices toward the unionization of public employees.  Where budget issues come to the fore quickly, as at the level of local school boards, apparently there is some opposition.  In such instances, the public employer’s behavior toward unionization of employees begins to resemble that of private employers.  

 B&J argue that employer opposition in the public sector is virtually absent, and that this is the reason for the decisive union win rates in representation elections.  They hope to demonstrate that a similar result will occur in the private sector if private employers are stripped of their ability to oppose union organization of their employees.  B&J's remedy, as so many of their academic colleagues have already pleaded, is to revise the National Labor Relations Act in order to force private employers to behave as public employers with the hope that this would reverse the deterioration of private sector unionism.  

 Blaming employer opposition for the decline of private unionism, while popular among union officials and the politically correct in academia and the media, misrepresents the real explanation for the decline of private, Old Unionism.  There are at least three reasons for the decline of the Old Unionism:  

• markets,  
• increased global and domestic competition, and  
• structural change.  

It is important to note that private sector union movements in all G-7 countries have declined (Germany is a mixed situation, but private density, if not membership, has decreased).  

 Paralleling the absence of B&J’s inquiry as to why public employers did not oppose the unionization of "their" employees, they also did not attempt to explain why public sector employees voted so overwhelmingly for union representation.  B&J admit that their data do not explain why “public sector workers are enthusiastically joining unions” (B&J, p. 8; emphasis added).  This is a mystery.  

 B&J did identify several reasons which should lead public sector workers to not join unions.  

• Public sector workers are better paid than in the private economy;   
• Public sector workers hold jobs in occupations (professional, technical and generally white collar) which are difficult to organize in the private sector;  
• The lag between the petition for an election and the vote are longer in the public sector than in the private sector; and  
• Unions do not work as hard to organize in the public sector as in the private labor market (B&J, pp., 12, 15, 17, 21, 22).  

Despite reasons which should slow the unionization of public workers, why do they join in such large numbers?  As I have already emphasized, it is because of the encouragement of the public employer.  

 Insofar as I know, no one has carefully examined the issue of employer interference fostering unions in the public sector.  Presumably, this would be an unfair labor practice.  I believe that there has been substantial interference by public employers affecting employees’ decisions to choose a union—interference which in the private sector would be viewed as an unfair labor practice because the employer was dominating or assisting the union.  B&J do not consider this issue, but make a considerable effort to track employer actions which might interfere with the right to join unions.  In the end, they do not demonstrate why government workers vote for union representation; their argument seems to be only that public management does not oppose their actions.  In my judgment, many government employees believe their managers want them to be represented by a union.  

 How important are the representation elections examined by B&J to the growth of public sector unionism?  In the two years of their study, 1991 and 1992, some 45,000 employees per year were in bargaining units won by public sector unions.  (Bargaining units are not the equivalent of membership; they include workers who are not union members.)  Interestingly, between 1990 and 1991, public sector unions added 147,000 members, but between 1991 and 1992, they added only 21,000 members.  Of these gains, it is not known how many can be attributable to organizing the unorganized, and how many to employment growth in existing bargaining units.  The percentage of workers represented in the 1990-91 year remained unchanged at 43.3%, while between 1991 and 1992, the percentage represented actually dropped slightly to 43.2 %.  It is clear that despite the success rate of public sector unions in representation elections, this form of organization played little role in increasing membership or density.  Consequently, the actual impact of the B&J study is speculative.  

 From its inception to the present composition of the New Unionism, representation elections have played a small role in generating total membership (6.9 million) or density (38%).  The size and market penetration of the New Unionism are owed primarily to what I term the organization of the organized, as described with examples below:  

• The transformation of large professional and public employee associations into unions  
•  (e.g., the National Education Association);  
• The merger of many public employee associations into established unions  
•  (e.g., the Civil Service Employees of New York into the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees); and  
• The transformation of some unions from predominantly private sector membership to  
  predominantly public sector membership  
•  (e.g., the Service Employees International Union).  

 The era of rapid public sector union growth has passed.  As already indicated, there is evidence that it has topped out both in membership and density.  For the first time since the BLS began its membership series (1983), public sector unionism has declined both in number of members and density.  Between 1994 and 1995, density declined from 39% to 38%, and membership fell by 164,000.  While one year does not make a trend, taken in conjunction with the growing struggle to restrict the size of government, I believe that these statistics foreshadow the future.  

 The largest decrease in membership took place at the State level (65,000), second largest at the Federal level (50,000), followed by Local Government (35,000), and then Postal Service (14,000) (Hirsch, Barry T., and Macpherson, David A., Union Membership and Earnings Data Book: 1996).  Proportionately, the hardest hit was the Federal sector (I am including the Postal Service in that group).  Most of the decline at the Federal level can be explained by the closure of military bases, accounting for two-thirds of the reduction, while many other reductions came from releasing part-time and temporary workers.  Most of the shrinkage in employment was centered in the Department of Defense, the largest Federal employer of civilian employees.  On the other hand, even as membership fell, public employment grew at the State and local levels, thereby contributing to the overall public sector decline in density.  While Federal employment dropped by about 50,000 (virtually the same as the number of members it lost, although this should be treated as a coincidence), State and local governments added more than 200,000 jobs between 1994 and 1995.  

 The gain in the number of jobs at the State and local levels is particularly interesting in light of the B&J findings on the success rate of public sector unions in winning elections at the State and local levels.  If State and local government employees have such a proclivity for joining unions, why was there a loss of 90,000 members coincident with such a large gain in employment?  Although not all States have laws encouraging unionism and bargaining (and I have not tracked down in which States employment gained), there are public sector organizations in all States which offer a base for organization.  Surely some of the 200,000 increase in employment occurred in States with laws fostering union organization.  Perhaps the answer lies in the attitudes of non-union government employees.  Polls of workers, including government workers, reported that about two-thirds said they would not vote for a union in a secret ballot election.  The Lou Harris organization found such results in the most comprehensive examination of the failing union movement (in the private sector) in 1984, and similar findings have emerged (including in Canada) since as late as 1990.  

 The apparent topping out of public sector unionism is occurring not only in the U.S., but abroad as well.  Just as there has been convergence in the decline of private sector unionism (the Old Unionism)—across the U.S., and in Canada, the U.K., France, Italy and Japan—in all probability, there is also an international convergence producing a decline in the public sector, the New Unionism.  

 The driving forces affecting the topping out of the New Unionism, include the following:  

• public policy toward labor organization, and  
• the size and scope of the public budget.  

Once public budgets slow down in growth, or face actual reductions, employment growth tapers off or even declines; then the size and scope of the New Unionism must slow and decline in tandem with employment.  

 Privatization must also be noted as a factor, but unless and until such huge enterprises as public education and the postal services become privatized to a substantial degree, little downsizing of the unions in these sectors can be expected.  Indeed, at this time in the U.S., the largest union in the country (and in the world) is the National Education Association.  It probably enrolls some 2.25 million members.  If it should merge with the American Federation of Teachers, the new conglomerate will top the three million mark!  The merger, I believe, will occur within a year.  

 While the potential for growth of the New Unionism remains in the public sector, it is not likely to be realized without one or all of the following changes:  

• public policy changes favoring unions (such as advocated by B&J) in States which do not now have such policies, or  
• a national law covering State and local government labor relations, or  
• a renewed explosion of public spending.  

Surprisingly, one recommendation I expected B&J to make, and which they did not, was to recommend a national law governing State and local labor relations.  Since the decision in Garcia v. Samta, decided in 1985 by the Supreme Court, Congress may have the authority to enact such legislation.  Perhaps the realization that such legislation is impossible explains the absence of a recommendation.  Sweeney, as noted above, did recommend such an approach before the Task Force (when he was president of the Service Employees International Union).   
 

IV.  TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS  
  AND MY CRITIQUE

 Before examining the recommendations of the Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government Through Labor-Management Cooperation, it is necessary to characterize the report as a whole.  It is a pro-union document.  The Public Employees Department of the AFL-CIO has made that clear:  

With the publication of Working Together for Public Service comes good news for public sector unions.  Thumbs up for collective bargaining and privatization simply is not the pervasive panacea some would like to believe.  Among the report’s union-friendly findings (emphasis supplied):  "Collective bargaining relationships, applied to cooperative service-oriented ways, provide the most consistently valuable structure for beginning and sustaining a workplace partnership for effective service results”  (Public Employees Department, Issues & Answers, June 1996).

 FIRST RECOMMENDATION.  As its first recommendation the Task Force said State and local governments have the obligation to transform the way public services are planned and delivered, and to change the management of the public workplace.  To fulfill these obligations, these governments are further instructed to engage the knowledge of public workers.  

 CRITIQUE.  The language of the recommendation—“obligation,” “must transform” and “engage public employees knowledge”—smacks of arrogance.  An unelected group, appointed by an official of the Federal government tells the duly elected officials of State and local governments how they are to handle labor relations.  Of course, the reference to public employees actually refers to organized employees, not the unorganized.  This reference is made clear by what it considered successful examples (termed “snapshots") of labor (meaning organized labor) management cooperation.  There are five such examples, and in four of these five illustrations of cooperation between management and labor, a union is featured.  Only in Charlotte, North Carolina did the cooperation involve unorganized workers; and in that instance, the employee participated in an activity that is currently outlawed in the private labor market.  The key point I wish to make, is that although the nonunion sector in State and local governments comprises more than one half of employment, the Task Force reported on only one example of nonunion employee participation!  

  In a press release, the Task Force’s Executive Director provided nine examples of what he described as “cooperative workplace arrangements.”  All nine involved unions.  The nonunion sector was ignored, and the Charlotte, North Carolina example was omitted.  

 An interesting sidelight into their preference for works councils is the Task Force’s comment on Mayor Stephen Goldsmith’s program for instituting competition between city agencies and private companies for public business in Indianapolis.  They said, 

Although Indianapolis receives much attention for its competitive initiatives, the Task Force found in its site visit that the structured cooperative relationship pervading city operations is the unsung hero of the service and cost improvements (Working Together For Public Service, p. 35).  

 SECOND RECOMMENDATION.  The next recommendation is essentially a repeat of the first.  It states, 

In most places, the public workplace of the future will have to be different from what it is today in order to meet the challenges it will face.  Traditional methods of service delivery, traditional personnel and administrative systems, traditional styles of supervision and workplace communication, and traditional approaches to collective bargaining will not be sufficient.  

 CRITIQUE.  To repeat, this is another call for works councils.  Their statement that “traditional styles of supervision and workplace communication, and traditional approaches to collective bargaining will not be sufficient,” begs the replacement system—works councils.  

 Meanwhile, the Task Force offered no support for its claim that the public workplace will be different in the future; nor for what it will look like, if it does change; nor for what “challenges” that new workplace will face in the future.  Although the Task Force shrunk back from declaring so, surely one of the future “challenges” are works councils.  

 THIRD RECOMMENDATION.  The third recommendation of the Task Force is employee participation.  They declared that in order to meet new challenges, many State and local governments have begun to move away from traditional ways of doing business.  Like many successful private sector companies, they are depending upon the participation of employees.  When successful, this strategy leads to continuous improvement, not merely one-time changes.  

 CRITIQUE.  Yes, nonunion private companies have introduced employee participation plans, plans which the unions oppose, and which the National Labor Relations Board has declared to be violations of the National Labor Relations Act.  These plans currently await a judicial ruling.  In the present context, the Task Force defines works councils with unions as those with employees’ representatives.  Only in its “snapshot” of Charlotte, North Carolina did it report on a nonunion example.  

 FOURTH & FIFTH RECOMMENDATIONS.  The next two recommendations elaborate on the same theme.  The fourth recommendation states that, 

service improvement through workplace cooperation requires that the confrontational rhetoric be lowered and that elected officials, union leaders and workers focus on their common tasks.  

Likewise, the fifth recommendation points out that “employee participation can also be a doorway to reducing confrontation in collective bargaining relationships that have had a history of conflict.”  

 CRITIQUE.  To accomplish these objectives, the Task Force report says that government will need new tools—tools already in use in many places.  And what are these “tools?”  All “tools” cited are only those of union-management cooperation.  

 Although the Task Force made no explicit call for public policies to promote unionism, it is certainly an implicit recommendation.  Such a conclusion is clearly implied by their incessant drumbeat calling for employee participation (meaning union participation) in the management of State and local governments.  

 And this returns us to the initial recommendation, which I had termed arrogant.  Actually, it was more than that; it was a demand for unions to share in the governance of the allocation of public resources.  It was another attack on sovereignty.  

 Significantly, the Task Force either ignored or gave little attention to subjects which several members wanted on the agenda.  One member, Beverly Stein, chief executive of Multnomah County, Ore., said the Task Force should compare organized jurisdictions having strong labor-management cooperation with areas that have cooperative efforts without unions, to decide what recommendations to make about State legislation.  Apparently this might have been too hot a potato to handle, because the Task Force limited itself to implicit, not explicit, endorsement of collective bargaining.  Perhaps the Task Force heeded the advice of another member, James Mastriani, chairman of the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission, who urged the Task Force to be cautious in considering the impact of bargaining laws on cooperation—while they may protect public employees' rights, they restrict labor-management cooperation.  Mastriani indicated that the absence of bargaining laws may make cooperation easier to achieve.  In the end, the Task Force did not examine the impact of bargaining laws on labor-management cooperation.  

 Member Michael Lipsky, governance program officer for the Ford Foundation, agreed that the Task Force should review labor-management settings whether organized or not, and whether they operate under a bargaining law or not.  Lipsky said the Task Force report should "speak to all jurisdictions and allow people to make progress wherever they are."  However, there is little evidence that the Task Force made any special effort to learn about cooperation in nonunion settings.  

 Hezekiah Brown, director of labor-management programs at Cornell University's school of industrial and labor relations, stressed that the Task Force needs to look hard at places where cooperative efforts have failed.  Again, the Task Force paid little heed to that advice.   
 

V.  CONCLUSIONS:  IS PUBLIC SECTOR  
 UNION POWER TOPPING OUT?

 The apparent topping out of the New Unionism in membership and market share should not be construed to imply a parallel topping out of their political or bargaining muscle.  This is true of both the Old and the New Unionism, but is even more the case in the public sector.  The reason for this conclusion is the wealth of the major labor organizations and the concentration of power they wield in their respective markets.  While the average penetration rate of the New Unionism is currently 38% (compared to just over 10% in the private sector), in key public employment occupations, the rate is not far from double the average—teaching, about 65%; police, 67%; and fire, 70%.  The U.S. Postal Service tops them all, with just under 75% (Hirsch and Macpherson, 1996).  

 In the public domain, high market penetration and the concentration of membership adds significantly to the New Unionism’s monopoly power.  (Unions in the private domain, with some exceptions, lack the parallel degree of market power.)  In the public sector, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have a combined membership exceeding three million; and that accounts for nearly 40% of all public sector membership.  (There is no parallel union dominance in the private sector.)  The teachers, police, fire, sanitary and public service organizations, although localized in structure, occupy monopoly power in their markets in excess of that which national penetration rates would suggest.  The average for the country cannot adequately represent the reality at the local level.  Because of their immense monopoly power, the topping out of the New Unionism does not yet imply a decrease of their bargaining and political power.  Only privatization on a large scale in education and the Postal Service could undermine the bargaining power of unions in these services.  And that outcome is very distant.  

 Can reinvention of government (works councils) at the Federal level, and the recommendations of the Task Force at the State and local levels (also works councils) bring about a resurgence of the New Unionism?  Works councils at the Federal level, already in place, should provide some small gains in membership and market share to federal unionism.  However, reducing employment will offset these gains.  A greater impetus to federal union growth will occur if the Clinton Administration, as expected, grants the agency shop to federal employee unions.  However, nothing can be expected like the historic surge in federal unionism following President Kennedy’s executive order in 1962.  

 The prospect for the enactment of the Task Force’s recommendations for State and local labor relations is unfavorable.  My conclusion is based on the strong tradition of localism in government, an attitude which has been reinforced in recent years.  This, I believe, will ensure opposition to any Congressional efforts to legislate State and local labor relations; the opposition is likely to cross political parties.  Consequently, the status quo can be expected at the State and local levels.  And since the bulk of public sector unionism (93%) is at the State and local levels, there is little reason to expect a renewal of the New Unionism.  Coupled with efforts to reduce the growth and even the size of the public budget at all levels of government, these developments suggest that the New Unionism has topped out in the U.S.  

 In part, this assessment of the future of the New Unionism parallels the history of the Old, private sector, Unionism.  Shortly after World War II, it became apparent that private sector unionism had topped out in terms of both membership and market share.  Its market share peaked in 1953, at 36%.  Even so, in the 1960s, its membership increased, mainly as a consequence of the Vietnam War’s stimulation of goods industries in which unions had a substantial presence.  Corresponding to the winding down and termination of that war, private sector membership peaked in 1970, and then declined in each and every year but one—1994—and that may be a statistical artifact.  The plateau in private membership after World War II was the result of stagnation in the process of union growth.  Later stagnation became decline.  

 It is my contention that the New Unionism has also entered a period of stagnation.  However, unlike the process which led from stagnation to decline in the private sector, the stagnation process in the public sector will continue—stagnation will foster stagnation, and not lead to a decline.  This forecast is based on the slowing in public expenditures, and the inability of union-friendly governments to enact legislation which would re-ignite the growth of the New Unionism.  There remains a strong tradition of localism in government.  Also, there will likely be a reduction in government expenditures in nominal or real terms.  

 Even so, the New Unionism will retain its formidable bargaining and political power.  Moreover, it will become the dominant part of organized American Labor just as it already has in Canada, the U.K., France and Italy.  This may also be true of Japan.  At this time, the breakdown in Germany is too clouded to ascertain the relative strengths of public and private unionism.  Over all, it is clear that if the 20th century was the century of the Old Unionism, the 21st will be the century of the New Unionism.