Public-Employee Unions

April 8, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 14
Are the current attacks justified?
By Kenneth Jost


Gov. Scott Walker's plan (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
Gov. Scott Walker's plan to restrict collective bargaining for government workers in Wisconsin draws heavy union opposition and a smattering of support during a rally at the state capitol in Madison on March 5. Lawmakers approved the sweeping measure a week later, but it is on hold pending a legal challenge. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

Public-employee unions, which represent somewhat over one-third of the nation's 21 million government workers, have come under pointed attacks in several states. Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio won passage of laws to limit the scope of collective bargaining between unions and government agencies. They say the moves are needed to bring workers' pay under control to help ease state and local budget deficits. Union leaders and their Democratic allies say the measures take away workers' rights for the purpose of reducing unions' political influence. The legislative battles have touched off broad debates about whether government workers are overpaid. Most economists say government workers' wages and salaries are generally not out of line, but benefits and pensions are often more generous than those in the private sector. Unfunded pension liabilities are a looming problem for many states, and governors of both parties are calling for changes to trim the costs.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Public Employees
Apr. 08, 2011  Public-Employee Unions
Sep. 19, 1975  Public Employee Militancy
Oct. 25, 1967  Organization of Public Employees
Jul. 10, 1957  Unionization of Public Employees
May 18, 1955  Government Jobs
Nov. 01, 1952  Good Men for Government
Oct. 12, 1951  Government Employment
Jan. 19, 1942  Pay of Public Employees
Jun. 26, 1939  Extension of the Merit System
Jan. 20, 1932  Compensation of Public Employees
Unions and Labor-Management Relations