Business roundtable; How do we handle labor disputes in public employment?
The following program is made possible through a grant from nation's business. This is business roundtable a program of current comment from leading members of America's business community. Today Robert Grove director of the Michigan State Employees Union which is a member of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and Jack Steber director of the school of labor and industrial relations at Michigan State. Versity well explore the question how do we handle labor disputes in public employment with series host. Alfred L. Seeley dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University and a number of government employees joining unions has been increasing at a rapid rate. So have the
number of work stoppages last year. The United State's Department of Labor reported one hundred forty two. Work stoppages and public employment involving approximately one hundred five thousand workers who were idled for a total of four hundred fifty five thousand work days. This was by far the largest number of strikes by government workers that we have had to date. All of these all but nine were in local government schools sanitation protection services and hospitals accounting for close to 90 percent of the total. Today strikes in public employment pose a major problem in labor management relations. All strikes in government are in violation of the law. Yet many of our citizens have defied the law described. These work stoppages pose a moral issue as well as the practical question.
The subject of our discussion today on the Business Roundtable. How do we handle labor disputes in public employment. Dr. Sternberg. How did we get to where we are in this situation today. Wilding silly before going into that I think it would be well to put some of the figures and the background that you have given us into perspective. While it is true that we had more strikes in 1066 and public employment than we've ever had before. As you know and as Mr. Grosvenor would certainly tell us if I didn't this still represents. Fewer strikes than we have in any other sector of our economy and any other industry. And even when we take industry in general strikes represent only an infinitesimal a small fraction of 1 percent of all of the. Contra contractual negotiations that go on and all of the relationships that we
have. So that actually to put the focus on strikes while it is important is really only part of the picture now. 30 years ago when we passed the Wagner Act which most people are acquainted with giving certain rights and protection to employees generally we didn't include public employees employees who work for government. And the reason was that there was no pressure in this area the unions were not organizing public employees they were striking organizing employees in private industry. And something had to be done. And we passed an act and which covered employees in private industry but left out those in government. And it is only recently in the last few years that we have begun to extend the same rights and protection to public employees that we have for the past 30 years extended to employers advertise it as a natural tendency because the numbers of increase unions have become more important and that this is simply following a pretty basic pattern. That's true
and I think there are some differences of course between public and private employment that will probably get into but. Certainly given the great increase in organization and some of the other factors that we hope to bring out there in the program this is not surprising. Well Mr. Governor why if the strikes occurred welding in the opinion of our International Union most of these strikes have occurred not because of economic reasons or the negotiation of the economic benefits. They were created basically for three reasons. First of all the employers refusal to bargain or Secondly the employers refusal to bargain in good faith or third the employers refusal to recognize the union which represents a majority of the employees in a given unit might say that were still at the foreground of the collective bargaining arena. Why are why in your opinion as this happened why have they not bargained in good faith and the other items that you mention is just because unions are relatively new to various branches of government.
I don't think that it's a question that they're new in the generally accepted sense of our International Union is over 30 years or many of the public employee unions are even older. I think it's a reluctance to accept the general concept of collective bargaining in the public service and I would suggest maybe one way to resolve these labor disputes would be to spend more time talking about ways of doing it than talking about the disputes themselves. While I think on this point we might bring out that Michigan and a number of other states have passed laws recently extending some of these rights and benefits to public employees. And I think that if as Mr. Grosvenor says. We had had some of the. Aspects in the various laws that we have today some of the strikes that we have had previously might not have occurred however the fact remains that even under a law as in the state of Michigan or New York or Wisconsin and Minnesota there will be disputes where the parties will not be able to resolve their differences. However
it is important to make provisions for our employees to be able to organize if they want to either in unions or in associations. To set certain guidepost and rules to govern collective bargaining or negotiations between employees and government and also in public employment we usually have provided for fact finding where the parties have not been able to get together even after mediation where you call in a state mediator. In Michigan the state Mediation Board may appoint an impartial fact finder to make recommendations to both sides. These are not binding but the idea is that these recommendations will have a bearing both on the individuals and the parties in dispute and also will influence the public. And in most cases we hope that they will enable the parties to reach agreement without a strike or a stoppage at all from the labor viewpoint at the Grosvenor of the union's viewpoint. Have you opposed in the lodges various forms of legislation the
restriction on the right to strike. Do you feel that government employee union should have the right to strike as they do in private business. Well it is the official policy position of our International Union. The public employees except we do custodial firemen. Should have the same rights as all other employees including the right to strike. But the point that we want to emphasize having is an entirely different thing. Well if the right is there of course isn't it going to be exercised at times because it is not inevitable in terms of some disputes you reach an impasse. Well we do have private sector also. If you say that a right is not there you're still having the strikes occurring today. So what's the difference. Well I think this is a good point and this is a matter for considerable concern as being silly brought out when we started this program that even though there are laws in the various states and for federal
employees prohibiting. Employees from striking in public employee employment as Mr Grosvenor says when they get to a point where they feel that they cannot get what they are entitled to in any other way they will strike. However I think it is important that we try to resolve these disputes before they get to that point. Now what happens if they do reach an impasse and they cannot. Resolve their differences. Now is it a good idea and I think this is an interesting question to explore is it a good idea to have a law which prohibits strikes right across the board whether it's in state liquor stores or in sanitation or transit or even schools. Orac should we try to differentiate between those activities in government that are absolutely essential and those that we can do without. I take it's inherent in what you said in the previous statement Mr. Grosvenor that there are some areas where you feel that the right to strike
should be restricted. You mentioned police firemen. What was your other one the custodial officers in the prisons in the prisons. In other words you are setting up in a sense some classifications of employees where you say well the public interest is too important here to have the right to strike. But in perhaps some other areas this is not true. Well this is true and this provision was written into the international Constitution when it was founded in 1935. And that restriction remains unchanged. You may say it's a bit inconsistent and I would agree an International Union would agree but it is the position that these groups should have other means available to them to resolve the disputes not normally available to the average public employee. But next to be you and your statement I think implied that in your thinking there. Perhaps some classifications of employers where you might have different legislation with regard to which suits. Yes I think I would differ from Mr Grosvenor here but let me say.
That this is an area where we are dealing with situations that are completely different from private industry at least in many respects and I think we have an excellent opportunity in the fact that these are subject to state law rather than federal law. We have an excellent opportunity for experimentation after all our federal state system is designed so that we can in the states have differences between one state and another. And I am not at all sure that it wouldn't be a good idea to have state laws which differ one from another so that for example one state might have a law which prohibits strikes in government activity generally and this is. Where most states do today. However I would see nothing wrong and I think it would be a good idea for some other state legislature to feel well perhaps we should distinguish between absolutely essential activity those that are not so essential and other activities which we could do without for a month or two or three at a time. And
here is where I would make a proposal that I think might go sort of halfway. First I would agree with Mr Grosvenor and his union that when we're talking about policemen firemen prison guards that these people. Cannot. Be permitted to strike even for. A few hours or a day. However we must provide that these people should have some avenue. To resolve their disputes there are going to be differences. And here I would propose that after all other. Methods of resolving disputes of failed that we should try compulsory arbitration for these three groups. And I'd like to state your name as flatly opposed to the use of compulsory arbitration in the settlement of these disputes. How would you resolve. I think that if we spend as much time discussing ways in establishing procedures. To eliminate the disputes in the first place they wouldn't occur. I think one of the things we
always talk about is what happens when the enemy has occurred. Why shouldn't we spend a lot more time talking about how to avoid him. Well I would agree with that Mr. Grosvenor but I think that. You will get to a point as we did in Lansing for example with the fireman where there may be a situation and you will have a withdrawal of services. Now if we are agreed that these are areas in which you just cannot withdraw services I think the employees are entitled to have some way in which to resolve their dispute. Now obviously the best way would be if the employer or the municipality or the state whoever is involved and the employee organization would agree voluntarily. To accept the recommendations of a third party the fact finder or impartial arbitrator I think this would be far better than having compulsory arbitration. But I think you have to take a look at the record of the International Association of Firefighters has been advocating arbitrations and has been very active in the Michigan
legislature and throughout the country. They would like to have this and it's the fact that it's denied to them that you do have these kind of encounters with those cases. Obviously you're just lation for compulsory arbitration there wouldn't be any problem. Yeah well what you're saying is that in terms of your union there wouldn't be any problem because. You would accept voluntary arbitration in these cases almost invariably. But we must remember that there are other organizations and there may be situations in which one party or the other the city for example might not be willing to accept voluntary arbitration and then unless you have some way of resolving the impasse you could have a work stoppage but I think we ought to move on from this area because it's. It's by far a small number of employees and there are other areas that are more important. I think that we should sort of underlying that. In Michigan for example in the first two years of the new public Employment Relations Act over 1500 agreements were negotiated and there have been something less than 30 work
stoppages. So I think that what we're doing is trying to resolve the problem that really doesn't exist in the proportion it's cooked up to be you know a number of people. That are active in this area both on the union side and on the government side. I think that it's almost impossible to have real collective bargaining. And I guess the employees have the right to strike that that is inherent in the nature of real collective bargaining. Unless you have some kind of compulsory arbitration at the end of the street. But your thinking on this. All I can do is go back and perhaps restate international Union's basic policy position with respect to the right of employees to strike and simply say having said that let's move on to discuss some of the ways that you can avoid the impasse from occurring in the first place. All right what would you suggest in this respect. Well one of the programs which our International Union very strongly recommends as a program recently established
in the city of New York and this is the use of a tripartite seven member panel. Two of the members are selected by the city. Two are selected by the unions which choose to become a party to those four so like the other three. One of whom is a full time salaried chairman of the board and the public employer and the unions share his salary and expenses and expenses of the public employee members so that they then have a. Stake in the success of the operation. This tripartite paneled and is charged with the responsibility of determining unit handling representation election prophecies and handling the investors which may occur through the use of such things as Dr. Steven has described. What do you think of this suggestion. I think that the New York City law is an excellent law and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works actually as Mr. Grosvenor knows it's just been put into operation I
haven't actually started to to use the office of collective bargaining. However I would remind Mr. Grosvenor that. The New York City employees even those that are coming under the city law still are subject to the state law in New York which prohibits strikes in government generally and there is a somewhat different procedure. But I like the New York procedure and and I think that it would be highly desirable if large cities and even States might well try to follow the pattern that was established there. Is this a common part of the law in any of the other stories on the contrary I think this is something that has to be underlined and underscored time and time again that these states and cities that have established procedures even though we know about them they are the exception rather than the rule. Most states do not provide for employees and employers in government to negotiate in good faith. They do not provide for the
establishment of mediation facilities to give the parties assistance. They do not provide for fact finders to go into the dispute. Hear what each side has to say and try to make recommendations that will be fair and impartial and therefore that these are the states in which I think Mr. Grosvenor when he was talking about disputes over recognition disputes over the right to organize disputes because. The employer the government may say I'm sorry we really cannot negotiate with you we do not have the authority to do this. Here you have disputes which never get to the point where the parties disagree. They don't even talk to each other. I think the state of Ohio is an excellent example of that. Ferguson I. Have had more strikes in Ohio recently than practically any other state in the country. I think this proves the point that legislation against the employees simply won't work. Nor do I think that the New York law will work in the sense that it attempts to destroy the Union as an institution
by imposing the system of very heavy fines. Also by removing the Union as a collective bargaining representative and eliminating the check off of union dues for 18 months all of which are designed to punish the Union as an institution not the individual. And I don't think this is going to work either. You think that there shouldn't be any penalties on unions evading or avoiding the law. Well if you don't have the law in the first place and you know you're not first to that problem. But one thing on a recent development in the Michigan State classified service which I think is worthy of note. It's a very complex system of a constitutional commission. But it has the same problems of the determination of conditions of employment. Another recent meeting this terribly story tripartite committee to investigate some specific conditions of employment dealing with orders and overtime and work schedules which the committee instructed to submit a proposal to the commission by March 1st of 1960 or
so I think the burner moving somewhat in the direction of the New Yorkers surely I'd like to return to the question that you asked Mr Grover before about the question was I believe can we really have collective bargaining without the right to strike. And I think that if you think of collective bargaining in the traditional sense as we have it in private industry and as we had it when we established. The Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act. The answer is no not this kind of collective bargaining. On the other hand I think one must recognize that even in the private sector. We have areas today when for all practical Polak for all practical purposes we really do not have. The right to strike for example. The United States will not permit a strike in railroads. Even though there is no law prohibiting a strike in railroads as you know in terms of the national ID. That's right. The steel industry and the
steel Union. Have been discussing in recent months. An understanding whereby they would agree. Before going into negotiations that if they cannot agree when they negotiate they will submit their differences to a voluntary arbitration. Again the reason behind this I believe is that there is a recognition that there that the public is becoming more and more intolerant of strikes generally whether or not this is good or bad or right or wrong is not the question. And therefore I think that you are having situations even in private industry where you have a moment of collective bargaining where both parties know that at the end of the road the government is likely not to permit them to carry on a strike. So this is. Kind of collective bargaining that's right here on this parking lot certainly does. Well I would like to make the observation that I think you can have genuine collective bargaining and I would
submit Michigan is a prime example of formal collective bargaining agreements with nine of the 11 states supported colleges and universities. We believe these represent the results of good faith collective bargaining and both for both parties. Both of whom realize that the law does prohibit the right to strike but we still sit down at the bargaining table with the thought in mind if we're going to reach an agreement not an impasse. I do agree with Mr. Grover I had the opportunity to serve as factfinder and some of our disputes and schools in Michigan. This past summer and certainly I would say that that both sides were prepared to discuss issues negotiate and there was some good on both sides and fortunately this amount of good was. It was available so that we could make a recommendation which they would examine her drugs to bring some of these kind of cases of municipal employees where there is just so much money in their budget.
This isn't like a private corporation for example there they've already got the budget based on the taxes that have come in and earn too good to school teachers or some other significant group a substantial increase the money simply isn't there in the budget for your part of the sky. Well I think you've got your finger on an area which distinguishes public from private employment and some respects. However when you get right down to it though there is a question how do you distribute that money. How do you allocate that money. And when. A government employer or municipality or some department says to. His employees. Well I'm sorry we do not have any more money to give you much of that much as I would like to. What he is really saying in addition to saying that we have a total budget. He is also saying that I have allocated certain parts of that budget to areas that I cannot or will not. Or do not desire to change. And there you have a
legitimate area for dispute and discussion it's not much different than a private corporation in that respect where they put aside a certain amount for materials and advertising and other things and they want a certain. Wage. Increase our union does. And yet the employer is not prepared to give it because he feels that he needs the money for other purposes. What do you do in terms of your bargaining on this issue where the municipality says well we agree even that perhaps these are where they do deserve this increase but it simply isn't here. Well in my 16 years of experience with the union I have never yet met a public employee who would admit that there was any money and her heart broke. I would also point out that having listened to that statement and we promptly proceed to negotiate agreements and it has been interesting to see over a period of years all a public employer will increase wages. And provide additional benefits. But I mean you additional revenue is or additional sources and the money is still there someplace. So
we just frankly don't believe. The story when they say there isn't any money. We also feel that there is too much of a temptation to say that the public employer is different and we feel that if if you were to take a look at the similarities with private industry you would find that there are a lot more of those than there are differences. But but there is. There is a point and I think we can use schools as an example where especially as in Michigan where school boards are elected and where a substantial part of the funds come from village where the citizens are really the ones who are responsible for the impasse. And here I would say that the employer school teachers let us say may well be trying to impress upon the citizens the people who kids they're teaching that you people want an educational system. Which is not commensurate with the salaries that you're prepared to pay and the board
may agree with the teachers but what they would say well look we've gone to the citizens once we've gone through it twice and they've turned down Milledge. Now what do you do in a case like that and this is a very knotty problem. And I think in the last analysis the citizens have to face up to this. This is a nationwide problem. Yes that's true it is basically nationwide. I think we have to consider that in the areas where public employees now have the opportunity for formal blood to burning through statutes that they're in a sense trying to catch up pretty rapidly. You know here in Michigan just two years we've made tremendous strides towards in terms of basic labor agreements and you can only crack or do we still have a long way to go and we will continue to present vigorously as we can. Well now you both of you man I have suggested several possibilities for improving this general situation to kind of sum up what what do you think we ought to be doing. Well I would suggest that we ought to try in public employment to distinguish. Between the kinds of activities that government is
engaged in and I would pose this as as one possible experiment that I would like to see tried first with the area with the three areas that we've mentioned. Police firemen and prisons here we cannot permit strikes. Second those areas where the activities are essential but where we could submit to a work stoppage for a matter of days or weeks perhaps even months. I would include in there such activities as hospitals sanitation and schools and of course the number of days that a work stoppage might be tolerable differs. I think there we ought to permit stoppage is subject however to. An injunction by the courts in the event the stoppages become intolerable. Just to be on that I think strike should be dismissed reasonable reasonable alternatives drug or perhaps right up to his last statement where he involves the courts and the use of the injunction which obviously our union would. Vigorously oppose. We feel that the procedures that we have suggested we would agree in the area
of the police matter of marital storied interrupted but we've come to the end of our time for the Business Roundtable and thank you and Dr. Stabler very much for the most interesting discussion. Participating in today's Business Roundtable were Robert Grosvenor director of the Michigan State Employees Union and Jack's director of the school of labor and industrial relations at MSU. Most of the program was Alfred L. Seeley of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University. The topic for next week's Business Roundtable is the European Common Market. The guests on the program will be Hendrix Martin Stein of the Department of Business Law and office administration and Mordecai greening of the Department of Economics at Michigan State University.
- Business roundtable
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Guests on this program are Robert Grosvenor and Jack Stever.
- A program of current comment from leading members of America's business community.
- Media type
Host: Seelye, Alfred L.
Interviewee: Grosvenor, Robert C.
Interviewee: Stever, Jack
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-4-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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