Public-Sector Collective Bargaining in the States

Thousands gather inside Madison Wisconsin's capitol rotunda to protest Governor Walker's bill on February 16, 2011.

Source: Joe Rowley (Wikimedia Commons).

Milla Sanes and I have a new CEPR report out today on the regulation of public-sector bargaining at the state-and-local level.

The first two paragraphs give a short summary of the 68-page document:

While the unionization of most private-sector workers is governed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the legal scope of collective bargaining for state and local public-sector workers is the domain of states and, where states allow it, local authorities. This hodge-podge of state-and-local legal frameworks is complicated enough, but recent efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and other states have left the legal rights of public-sector workers even less transparent.

In this report, we review the legal rights and limitations on public-sector bargaining in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as of January 2014. Given the legal complexities, we focus on three sets of workers who make up almost half of all unionized public-sector workers: teachers, police, and firefighters, with some observations, where possible, on other state-and-local workers. For each group of workers, we examine whether public-sector workers have the right to bargain collectively; whether that right includes the ability to bargain over wages; and whether public-sector workers have the right to strike.

We see the report as very much a work-in-progress. We plan to update the contents as we receive new information and as state law changes. Please let us know if you think we got anything wrong.

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