Public Sector Unions

  • In recent years, a disturbing number of politicians have tried to blame public sector unions for their states’ budget crises. The basic argument is that unions have seriously exacerbated budget shortfalls because a significant proportion of state spending is tied up in employee compensation, and unions, via collective bargaining, increase salaries and benefits. A look at the data, however, shows that these assumptions are almost wholly untrue, especially since the wages and benefits of public sector workers tend to be lower than comparable private sector employees.

    So what accounts for the concerted attack on public sector workers and their unions at the national state, and local levels, too often resulting in the diminishment of collective bargaining rights, pensions, and union check off arrangements? To a large extent, this is an ideological argument waged on the basis of opinion, rather than fact. In response, the Institute has attempted to present a balanced and factual picture of the positive role of public services, public employees, and public sector unions through research and analysis, conferences, presentations, papers, and blog posts which examine 1) the importance of the union voice on the job both to workers and employers; 2) the role of collective bargaining in encouraging innovation and efficiency; 3) the strategic responses to opponents of public services and public service unions; and, 4) the relationship of good government and a strong union voice to a healthy democracy.

     

  • Eugenia Kemble Research Grants

    In honor of its founding executive director, the Albert Shanker Institute announces the creation of the “Eugenia Kemble Research Grants Program.” Tax-deductible donations to this program are welcome. Please make donations through PayPal or by check to the Albert Shanker Institute (555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001). More information. Watch the Memorial Service.

  • The Albert Shanker Institute Research Grant Program

    The Shanker Institute awards small seed grants to emerging scholars doing promising work in our focus areas of education, labor and international democracy.

  • The Global State of Workers Rights: Free Labor in a Hostile World

    The Shanker Institute conceived of and supported the creation of a first-of-its-kind map of labor freedom in the world, by Freedom House and a report entitled: “The Global State of Workers’ Rights: Free Labor in a Hostile World” which examined the conditions in 165 countries.

  • American Labor in U.S. History Textbooks

    The study conducted by the Institute in cooperation with the American Labor Studies Center (ALSC) makes the argument that labor history is central to an accu

  • Why We Need New Workplace Partnerships for Skills Development

    This report, signed by a diverse group of labor, business and policy experts, calls for far-reaching changes in the way our country manages its work-force skills and training efforts.

  • Finding Their Voices/Professionals and Workforce Representation

    A significant percentage of unorganized professionals would like to be represented in their workplaces by a union or some other type of “employee organization.” This conclusion, drawn from two Shanker Institute-sponsored studies, comes in spite of the fact that many professionals hold a stereotypical view of unions as overly confrontational.

  • Professional Workers, Unions, and Associations: Affinities and Antipathies

    This paper, by Richard Hurd, director of labor studies at Cornell University, explores the changing nature of professional work, examines the attitudes of pr

  • Keeping Public Education Together

    In the essay, Al talks about his lifelong dedication to "gaining collective bargaining rights for teachers and using the collective bargaining process to improve teachers’ salaries and working conditions." He also makes it clear that the teacher union movement always had an equally important aim: making schools work better for kids. His tireless efforts, during the past 15 years or so, on behalf of high standards of conduct and achievement and against the fads and follies that threaten to destroy public education were not an "about face" but a logical extension of his trade unionism.
     
    The essay closes with Al’s reflections on the reasons for his long fight to preserve and strengthen public education.
  • Adding Rooms to the 'House of Labor '

    The AFL-CIO is often called the House of Labor.
  • Creating an Innovation Ecosystem that Works for Working People

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute. In the ninth of these essays, guest authors Amanda Ballantyne et al explore how labor unions help workers navigate economic turmoil and play a crucial role in shaping sweeping societal and workplace technological changes.

    The digital transformation of the economy is disrupting workplaces, daily life and the social fabric. Workers face new challenges from advanced robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, and social media that exacerbate economic and racial inequality. Big business and Big Tech companies, supercharged by taxpayer-funded research, are imposing these changes on workers without their consent or input. This has minted a host of tech billionaires, but workers have not gotten a fair share of the economic benefits. Labor unions have long helped workers navigate economic turmoil and have a crucial role to play in shaping the technological changes that are sweeping society and the workplace.
    Read the full article.

  • AFT Solidarity with Ukraine

    “We have a long history of showing up. Showing up for freedom, showing up for democracy, showing up for education, both here and abroad.”

    This is what American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Nicole Wallace of MSNBC News about why she led a delegation to Lviv, Ukraine this month to meet with Ukrainian educators, trade unionists, medical workers and others engaged in the life and death struggle for Ukraine’s survival against Russian aggression.

    The AFT’s history of showing up is longstanding in Central and Eastern Europe. It dates to efforts before, during and after World War II to save trade unionists from fascist and communist tyranny in the region. As well, the AFT was the most active international union among AFL-CIO and international trade secretariat affiliates supporting the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland, both during the decade of martial law repression as well as the country’s dramatic transition from Soviet-imposed communism to democracy in 1988-89.

  • A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the first of these essays.

    In “A.I.’s Impact on Jobs, Skills and the Future of Work: the UNESCO Perspective on Key Policy Issues and the Ethical Debate,” Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General at UNESCO, discusses how artificial intelligence does not necessarily need to be a boogeyman. If AI is developed with people in mind, then the inclusive possibilities of AI are infinite. Ramos discusses these possibilities, and the path to get there, while focusing on the key issues of gender and discrimination.

  • NEJPP Editor's Introduction to the Future of Work Series

    A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. Each week for the next nine weeks the Shanker Blog will feature one of these essays. This is the introduction to the series by NEJPP's founding editor, Padraig O'Malley.

  • School Nurses: We Have Been Here All Along

    In honor of National School Nurse Day, guest author Dr. Thomas Stinson, a school nurse and AFT member, talks about the vital role of school nurses which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    How many people actually know what school nurses do? Probably not many. This is undoubtedly why, as National School Nurse Day approached, one of my mentors asked if I was willing to write a blog. As a practicing school nurse in an urban public school since November of 1997, I thought this was a great opportunity to share my perspective on the important role school nurses play within society which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Classrooms and Class Struggle at Indiana University: Graduate Student Workers Seek Recognition, Administration Refuses

    Guest author Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science, has been teaching at Indiana University for over 35 years. This is the first of a number of reports he will file on the unfolding labor situation at Indiana University.

    As anyone familiar with the operations of higher education in the U.S. knows, graduate students play an indispensable role as workers on campuses across the country.

    They work as Graders, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Classroom Instructors.

    Much of the work they do is work that better-paid full-time faculty members once did. But for a variety of reasons, universities have discovered that much of this work can be done much more cost-effectively, i.e., cheaply, by contingent faculty and graduate students. At some universities, upwards of 20% or more of the work of undergraduate teaching is being done by graduate students.

    The corporate officials who run our universities, in league with the Boards of Trustees to whom they are accountable, choose to regard the work being done by graduate students as “professional development” rather than as work. And they choose to regard the graduate student workers who do this work as students subject to various forms of tutelage and authority, rather than as workers capable of speaking and acting for themselves.

  • We're Not Slowing Down: The Labor Movement Must Keep Up The Fight For Voting Rights

    Our guest author today is Elizabeth "Liz" Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO and a member of the Shanker Institute Board of Directors.

    It was deeply disappointing that just days after our nation paid homage to the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday, the same senators who praised his name struck down critical legislation that would have strengthened our election systems and ensured every American has the fundamental right to vote.

    Even though this was not the outcome we wanted, it is imperative that America’s labor movement does not give up this fight. There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote, and we will remember those senators who chose to stand on the wrong side of history.

    On behalf of the AFL-CIO’s 12.5 million union members who fight for the rights of all working people, including the 1.7 million educators, paraprofessionals and school personnel in the American Federation of Teachers, we are going to continue to stand for voting rights and speak out against racial discrimination and voter suppression.

    Because we simply cannot afford to ignore what is unfolding across this country at breakneck speed. On January 6, 2021, empowered by President Trump’s green light to overturn the will of the people, an extremist mob tried and failed to violently overturn a free and fair election. We witnessed one of the greatest assaults on our democracy since the Civil War. And even though the insurrectionists failed in that attempt, extremist efforts to subvert our election process did not end on Jan. 6.

  • Strikesgiving

    October has ended with Scranton educators and Las Cruces bus drivers announcing job actions, along with the on-going strikes of miners in Alabama, nurses in Worcester, MA, hospital workers in Buffalo, NY, 10,000 John Deere workers and  Kelloggs’ workers, but #Striketober is far from over. But we both see this optimistically.

    Certainly these are labor disputes, however, seen in contrast to all the news around The Great Resignation (also known as The Big Quit), these workers are actually demonstrating an enduring commitment to their work via their united voice. These workers have had every opportunity to walk away from their work permanently, like those who have done so amidst the Great Resignation. However, they are using their collective agency to commit to their jobs by telling their employers (after trying every other way of making their point) how to be a place that will retain them and how to make their workplaces better. These workers are so committed to their work that they are willing to strike to get their employers’ attention, and to make their work bearable so they don’t have to quit. They are walking out rather than walking away and by doing so, giving their employers the opportunity not to be another Big Quit statistic.

    At 6 percent, U.S. private sector collective bargaining is near the bottom of the world’s democracies. In part the quit rate celebrated in the media is directly connected to the slugfest with employers that workers must endure in order to organize and bargain. Passage of the PRO (Protect the Right to Organize) Act and further reforms would help, along with increasing union support for the organizing upsurge now evident across the private sector.

  • A Continued Commitment To The Common Good

    I am proud to announce my position as Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute on Labor Day. Labor Day is the federal holiday dedicated to workers, and it signals both a traditional back to school and a traditional start to election season. The Albert Shanker Institute is a think tank dedicated to voices for working people, strong public education, and freedom of association in the public life of democracies. These ideals are interdependent. 

    Strong public schools are the foundation of our democracy. Workers’ voices—in their workplaces, professions, and at the ballot box—contribute to a vibrant democracy. A resilient and sustainable democracy protects and secures the voices of workers, the right to participate in our democracy, and the support of our public schools as a common good. I am honored to be immersing myself in this confluence of ideals at a time when our collective recommitment to the common good would create so much mutual progress in our communities, our country, and our world. ASI has a mission to generate ideas, foster candid exchanges and promote constructive policy proposals related to public education, worker voice, and democracy. Ideas, candid exchanges, and constructive policy proposals are all necessary avenues to our cooperative commitment to progress to the common good. My lived experience and my study of history convinces me that the triad of strong public education, healthy worker voice, and a vibrant democracy can make progress for all unstoppable. I relish the opportunity to convene great and divergent thinkers and successful activists to make meaning, shape plans, and accomplish policy to improve people’s lives across our country.