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Michigan's Public EMPloyEE RElations act - Mackinac Center

Michigan's Public EMPloyEE RElations act - Mackinac Center

Mackinac Center for Public Policy 12the automobile industry continues, government employees are likely to loomlarger in the Michigan labor movement. This is in keeping with national trends:Government employees made up 34.6 percent of the unionized work force in1983, but that increased to 48.9 percent in 2008. 13Graphic 1: Government andPrivate-Sector Workers asPercentages of Michigan WorkersCovered by Collective BargainingAgreements, 1983 vs. 200870.0Graphic 2: Government andPrivate-Sector Workersas Percentages of U.S. WorkersCovered by Collective BargainingAgreements, 1983 vs. 200870.060.060.0Workers (Percentage)50.040.030.020.069.930.161.039.0Private SectorGovernment1983 2008Source: Author’s calculations based on “UnionMembership and Coverage Database,” Unionstats.com.Workers (Percentage)50.040.030.020.065.434.651.148.91983 2008Private SectorGovernmentSource: Author’s calculations based on “Union Membershipand Coverage Database,” Unionstats.com.As the union movement’s membership shifts from private-sector, for-profitcompanies to government employment, the goals and strategies of unionsthemselves are beginning to shift as well, giving rise to what retired Rutgerseconomist Leo Troy describes as the New Unionism. 14According to Troy, the New Unionism, increasingly under the influence ofgovernment employees, is more ideological than the old unionism of private-sectorworkers. The Old Unionists, in his view, accepted free-market economics, albeitgrudgingly. The Old Union movement rejected the traditional Marxian socialistprescription of nationalizing the means of production, and instead focused ontransferring a larger share of privately derived income toward its members throughcollective bargaining. As such, it paid close attention to traditional objectives ofcollective bargaining; Old Unionists tended to view their role primarily in termsof workplace representation. To the extent that government employees wereunionized, their unions shared the priorities of private-sector unions, meaningthat contract negotiations were less likely to involve public policy issues.Troy’s New Unionism grows out of a new form of socialism. Where classicalsocialism sought state control over the means of production, the more modernform leaves day-to-day control of firms in the private sector, but redistributesincomes via the state. According to Troy: “[T]he New Unionism is closely tied

Michigan's Public Employee Relations Act 13to the New Socialism. Its members and the employees it represents are the laborforce providing and facilitating the redistribution of income.” 15This shift in the union movement, from the private-sector-oriented Old Unionismto the public-sector-oriented New Unionism, involves a thorough reworkingof union goals and strategies. The New Unionism, according to Troy, is moreideological and its goals are broader: Rather than win benefits for its members,the New Unionism intends to reorder society with wealth increasingly doledout by government. The Old Unionism valued economic growth — a larger piemeant more jobs, income and benefits were available for its members. The NewUnionism is more willing to ally itself with environmental and other movementsthat threaten growth and job creation. Its purpose is not to improve conditionsfor union members as much as to ensure that the government can redistributeincomes in a way the unions deem equitable. The shift seems less radical becauseenterprises remain in at least nominally private hands, but nonetheless theideology is sweeping and centered on government: “From each according to hisincome, to each according to his entitlement.” 16 This is a formula for both moregovernment redistribution of wealth and higher tax rates. The result is a morepoliticized union movement, not just among government employees, but amongprivate-sector unions as well.Troy’s observations also explain why government employers, unlike privatecompanies, rarely resist unionization. Especially when elected officials withina governmental unit are themselves ideologically inclined toward supportingextensive public services, the recognition of a union means an ideological ally ispermanently installed in the structure of government.Troy is not the only person to observe a shift in union priorities from theworkplace to politics. Paul Johnston, a former organizer for the Service EmployeesInternational Union in the San Francisco-Oakland California area, chronicled hisexperiences with government employee unions. Like Michigan, California’s laborlaw is based on the NLRA model, and most of the unions that represent Californiagovernment employees are active in Michigan, so Johnston’s observations shouldapply to Michigan. While Johnston’s analysis differs sharply from Troy’s in manyways, the two mesh very well on one point: Politics weighs heavily among risinggovernment employee unions:“In defense of their own status, wages, and working conditions, they can(and do) easily embrace interests that pit themselves against the urbanpoor. … [H]owever, public employee unions that are mindful of their

Michigan's Public EMPloyEE RElations act - Mackinac Center
Michigan's Public EMPloyEE RElations act - Mackinac Center
Michigan's Public EMPloyMEnt RElations act - Mackinac Center
Michigan's Public EMPloyMEnt RElations act - Mackinac Center
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