Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector

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Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector
Linda Howerton
PHI 103 Informal Logic

Instructor: Ms. Tanya Martin

October 22, 2012

Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector
Union membership is today at an all time low. It has been steadily declining since the 1980’s. Private sector union membership has been affected the most, while that of the public sector has remained relatively strong (Devinatz, 2011 Spring). Public worker unions, especially state and federal government unions, must be allowed to continue to bargain collectively to ensure the rights and job security of their members. Collective bargaining allows union members to have a voice regarding their wages, benefits, and working conditions. According to Raymond Hogler, in the “Labor Law Journal”, Fall 2012, “The erosion of institutions of collective bargaining will inevitably lead to a diminution of wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers” (Hogler, p. 163). Many public employees, especially teachers who work for the state, receive much lower pay than other professionals. Collective bargaining allows public employees a much needed say about their jobs, wages, and benefits. Whereas teachers, for instance, have lower pay than many other professionals, collective bargaining has ensured that they have one of the best retirement systems. In addition, collective bargaining has protected teachers’ job tenure, thus preventing them from being fired without a due process hearing and other protections. The need for unions were a direct result of the unfair labor practices employed during the Industrial Revolution beginning in the late 18th century and continuing on into the early 20th century. Since there were no labor laws initially, especially regarding child labor, women and children were often employed for long hours at low wages. At one time, women and children made up 75% of the factory work force since they could be hired for lower wages. Children proved more malleable and adapted more easily to the newer methods employed. Children as young as eight years old were sent to work in the factories or in the mines where their smaller bodies could fit into tight and often highly dangerous places (Bond, Gingerich, Archer-Antonson, Purcell, & Macklem, 2003). Children were also preferred at times to work in factories since their small hands could reach into tight places when moving parts became jammed. There were few safeguards in place to prevent the children’s hands and arms from becoming maimed if caught between moving parts on a machine. During the late 1700s in England, a man named Slater employed a Pauper system whereby he used children from poor families as workers in his mills. These children worked twelve to sixteen hours a day for six days a week. Instead of being paid wages, these children received room and board, thereby alleviating the burden of feeding them from their families. Families of the children were appalled at the tight discipline, lack of heat, and the working conditions in the mills. Many of the children chose to run away. When the employment of just children proved problematic, entire households were hired. The father negotiated the contract and stipulated the conditions for each family member (Tucker, 2005 May, p. 24). During the Industrial Revolution, government adopted a hands-off or laissez-faire attitude towards business. Therefore, business owners could treat their workers however they wished. Since children could be hired for less pay, they were hired in great numbers, working 12 to 14 hour days under horrible conditions. Many of these children became apprentices to the factory owners where they lived in miserable dormitories. They were frequently under-fed, ill-clothed, and beaten with fist and whip. There was a high death rate among child laborers (Hackett, 1992). Since all or most members of the family were working for upwards of eighteen hours daily, the family...
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