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.