by Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies, Cato Institute
Labor unions play a diminishing role in the private sector, but they still claim a large share of the public-sector workforce. Public-sector unions are important to examine because they have a major influence on government policies through their vigorous lobbying efforts. They are
particularly influential in states that allow monopoly unionization through collective bargaining.
Collective bargaining is a misguided labor policy because it violates civil liberties and gives unions excessive power to block needed reforms. To provide policymakers with greater flexibility and to improve government efficiency, states should follow the lead of Virginia and ban collective bargaining in the public sector.
Growth in Public-Sector Unions
In 2009, 39 percent of state and local workers were members of unions, which was more than five times the share in the private sector of 7 percent, as shown in Figure 1.1 About two-thirds of government fire department and education workers are members of unions.2 If you include federal workers, the public sector accounts for more than half of all union members in the nation. Prior to the 1960s, unions represented less than 15 percent of the state and local workforce.3 At the time, courts generally held that public-sector workers did not have the same union privileges that private workers had under the 1935 Wagner Act, such as collective bargaining.
That changed during the 1960s and 1970s, as a flood of pro-union laws in dozens of states triggered a dramatic rise in public-sector unionism.4 Many states passed laws that encouraged or required collective bargaining in the public sector, and states also passed laws to impose
compulsory union dues and fees on government workers. Full Article