Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining

February 3, 2011

The United States is in the throes of a public-policy debate about public-sector unionism and collective bargaining.

The ostensible trigger of this debate is the fiscal crises that state and local governments have been experiencing since 2008. The debate largely centers on the extent to which public employee unions have contributed to this crisis through the pay and benefits they have negotiated for public employees. The role of government as employer is connected in this debate to the role of government as a taxing authority and provider of public services. These roles are often claimed to be in conflict with one another — that is, governments as employers are seen as not exercising the same due diligence in setting pay and benefits as private-sector employers. The research evidence indicates, however, that these claims about public employment are based on incomplete and in some cases inaccurate understanding.

Authors: David Lewin, Thomas Kochan, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Teresa Ghilarducci, Harry Katz, Jeff Keefe, Daniel J.B. Mitchell, Craig Olson, Saul Rubinstein and Christian Weller
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