Professor Jack McGrory
The Need to Strike
The pubic sector in this country is currently under attack. Wages are stagnating, and benefit plans are getting slashed. It used to be a wide known fact that public sectors employees earn less than private sector employees, but in the public sector you earn better benefits and have better job security. This is no longer the case as Republican led legislators are fighting to cut public sector benefits and the right of public sector employees to collectively bargain. Public sector unions are still very strong, and the union members need to trust these unions to bargain for them.
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’ Taxpayers view public sector employers as their employees, and there is no tolerance for ‘wasting money.’ Since the 1980’s there has been a serious movement to starve the beast and have a cutback in public sector spending. “The essence of an effective employment relationship is one in which the parties both successfully resolve issues that rise from their conflicting interests and successfully pursue joint gains. Collective bargaining is only of the many mechanisms to resolve conflict in the workplace. (Katz 2008)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35.7% of public sector employees belong to a union, which is five times higher than that of the private sector, which 6.6% of employees belong to a union. Within the public sector, the union membership rate was highest for local government (41.9 percent), which includes employees in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the private sector, industries with high unionization rates included utilities (22.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (19.6 percent), telecommunications (14.8 percent), and construction (13.9 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.1 percent), finance (1.3 percent), professional and technical services (1.4 percent), and food services and drinking places (1.4 percent). (Bureau Labor Statistics)
In 2014, between full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $970, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $763. (Bureau Labor Statistics) Unions used to be common in both the public and private sectors throughout the counties. Unions have helped Americans get a five-day/40 hour workweek, improved working conditions, a minimum wage, and much more. Even with all the success of unions and higher wages for union members unions are becoming a rarity in America these days. Part of this is because of extreme laws passed in states like Wisconsin and Indiana, and part of it is very powerful unions hurting the general perception of all unions.
Union membership showed sharp drops in Wisconsin, which passed a law in 2011 curbing the collective bargaining rights of many public employees, and in Indiana, which enacted a right-to-work law last February that may have prompted many workers to drop their union membership. The Right to Work principle affirms the right of every American to work for a living without being compelled to belong to a union. (RighttoWork.org) This law is tricky because it does not matter if you pay to be in the union or not, you still get the same effects as the people who do pay. Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act affirms the right of states to enact Right to Work laws. Twenty-two states in total have passed Right to Work Laws. (New York Times)
The law put Wisconsin and Governor Scott Walker in the national spotlight. It has raised the important question of “can state lawmakers so...