Reforming Collective Bargaining and Public Labor Laws

Collective bargaining for public sector workers represents a large part of state and local expenditures.  Some states are looking to reform their collective bargaining laws because most states and municipalities are finding it harder and harder to collectively bargain with their public sector workforce in the current economic climate.  Last year, Gov. Cuomo of New York was able to negotiate concessions with the state’s public workforce avoiding massive layoffs.  However, most states are looking to reform their collective bargaining laws as opposed to negotiating with the unions.


The most prominent news story and collective bargaining reform bill was passed in Wisconsin.  Less than a year ago Gov. Walker signed the Budget Repair Bill that limited the public worker’s right to collectively bargain and would potentially save 30 million dollars in state and local budgets for this year.  As reported by the Wisconsin Bar Association the bill limits collective bargaining to the subject of base wages, limits base wage increases to a percentage, prohibits collective bargaining on matters not permitted by the Wisconsin Municipal Employment Relations Act, limits contracts to one year terms, allows unions to only collect their dues directly from the employee not through salary deductions by the employer, allows employees to stay in the union without the payment of dues, and denies employees of the University of Wisconsin System, UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority, and certain home/child care providers the right to collectively bargain.


Indiana was one of the first states to ban collective bargaining through an executive order in 2005 which was codified into law by the budget bill passed in April 2011.  Indiana has recently taken it one step further singing into law a right-to-work bill.  This bill prohibits employers from mandating union membership for employment, which will weaken the strength of the unions.  Indiana is the twenty-second state to enact a right-to-work statute.


Adding to the list of states who are seeking to reform collective bargaining laws is the State of Ohio which passed Senate Bill 5 eliminating the rights of union members to bargain collectively.  However, unions were able to gather enough support to trigger a referendum vote which defeated the collective bargaining reform legislation.


Arizona is now attempting to join the club of public workforce reform.  The Arizona Senate Committee voted to introduce a bill that would ban collective bargaining with public employee unions.  This bill will be watched closely as it travels through the approval process and makes its way to the Governor. 

Collective bargaining is an area that state governments are focusing on when trying to reform.  Most of these initiatives were passed in the face of large public sector layoffs as a way to save money and avoid laying off the workers.

Government Reform Proposed by GOP, Dems, in Minnesota

Following the infamous government shutdown in Minnesota last summer (which the State is still feeling the effects of), Republican members of both the House and Senate began gathering a variety of proposals for the current legislative session. The list of proposals, commonly called “Reform 2.0” covers a variety of areas, including economic development, education, health care, and government reform.

As State Rep Keith Downey noted, “[o]ne of the biggest challenges we face in state government is we’re about 20 years behind in improving state operations.” To that end, the “Reform 2.0” includes a number of  government reform provisions that would: make government pay and benefits competitive with the private sector, reduce the number of departments in the Executive Branch, require local governments to present budget and spending information in an easier to understand format for the general public, work with local governments on mandate relief, require the state budget to include federal insolvency contingency planning, and fix the problems which were encountered during the government shutdown.

Not surprisingly, State Democrats remain skeptical of the Reform 2.0 proposals. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen was reportedly disappointed by the GOP plan, echoing the claim of other Democrats who believe that many of the ideas are recycled from previous, unsuccessful proposals. To counter, Democrats have announced their own reform package which would emphasize reforms in the Legislature. Highlights of the Democratic package include: a plan to prevent future state shutdowns, requiring politicians to disclose any outside income, preventing private meetings whenever the State Capitol is closed, prohibiting public meetings between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m., prohibiting officials of political parties from holding public jobs, and a provision on “unallotment.”