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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.

 

  • The Challenge for Business and Society Book Discussion and Reception with Stanley Litow

    October 2, 2018

    October 2, 2018, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. Discussant: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teacher and the Albert Shanker Institute. More information and Registration.
  • Puerto Rico: The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction

    March 1, 2018

    Puerto Rico: The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction (#rebuildPR), March 1, 2018, co-sponsored by Albert Shanker Institute, American Federation of Teachers and Hispanic Federation. With the future of Puerto Rico hanging in the balance, this national conference focused on what needs to be done to rebuild the Puerto Rican economy and its educational system in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.  Watch the video.

     

  • The Crisis of Democracy Conference

    October 5, 2017

    We are experiencing an organic crisis of democracy, international in scope. This conference will draw together intellectuals and activists from across the globe to examine and explore different dimensions of that crisis. The speakers will venture into a deeper analysis of the political forces and dynamics at work, with an eye to identifying opportunities in the resistance as well as dangers. October 5-6, 2017, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. Watch the sessions.

  • "TEACHER STRIKE!" Book Discussion & Reception

    June 27, 2017

    A wave of teacher strikes in the 1960s and 1970s roiled urban communities. Jon Shelton illuminates how this tumultuous era helped shatter the liberal-labor coalition and opened the door to the neoliberal challenge at the heart of urban education today. Join us for a book discussion and reception on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 4:30 -6:30 pm. 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. Register Here.

  • The Challenge of Precarious Labor

    December 5, 2016

    December 5, 2016, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001.  Co-sponsored by AFL-CIO | American Federation of Teachers | The American Prospect  |  DISSENT | Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University | New Labor Forum |  United Association for Labor Education    More information and to view the conference sessions, go here.

  • New Visions of Collective Bargaining in American Education

    May 11, 2016

    May 11, 2016. When the first collective bargaining agreements in American education were negotiated a half century ago, they were largely focused on wages, working conditions and due process. School district officials resisted the inclusion of educational issues as encroachments on “management prerogatives.” Meanwhile, the fledging teacher unions modelled themselves after progressive unions, such as the United Auto Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, using industrial-style contracts as a template for their own collective bargaining. But the democratic idea that teachers should have a collective voice in their educational workplace could not be contained within such limited parameters. For a generation, teacher unions have struggled, with increasing success, to expand collective bargaining into the professional sphere. Our panel will investigate some of the most promising efforts on that front around the country, as teacher unions find new ways to negotiate contracts for educational innovation and improvement and build new partnerships with community around that work. Watch the video.

  • Organizing the Workers of Walmart: From Bentonville to Beijing

    June 15, 2015

    Speakers will discuss campaigns to organize the workers of Walmart, in the United States and in China. They include: Han Dongfang, Nelson Lichtenstein, Ph.D., Yi Duan, and Emily Stewart.
  • In Defense of the Public Square

    May 1, 2015

    A robust and vibrant public square is an essential foundation of democracy. It is the place where the important public issues of the day are subject to free and open debate, and our ideas of what is in the public interest take shape. Watch the sessions.

  • Is There A Pension Crisis?

    March 11, 2015

    Elected officials seeking to diminish the pensions of public sector employees have argued that they are responding to a fiscal crisis. Is this crisis real or contrived? March 11, noon-2.
  • American Labor Movement at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies

    January 15, 2015

    This conference examines new thinking and new initiatives in labor organizing, viewing them critically in the light of ongoing union imperatives of cultivating member activism and involvement, fostering democratic self-governance and building the collective power of working people.

  • Good Schools VI / Multiple Measures of Teacher Performance: What Does It Mean? How Is It Implemented?

    November 9, 2010

    The quest to define and measure teacher effectiveness has sparked useful research on many different fronts, using different means to gauge various important outcomes. But it has also prompted many ieffective, punitive redesigns of techer evaluation systems. How do we create a system that is clear, fair, and useful for improving practice? 

  • Creating Jobs: Delivering Education and Skills; Expanding Labor’s Role

    May 2, 2008

    This June 2008 meeting focused on three priorities: (1) the need for a seamless web of providers from high schools to community colleges and universities to unions and employers; (2) technology and how teaching is delivered; and (3) access to learning in multiple settings.

  • Unions and Workforce Development (a discussion with John Monks)

    January 4, 2003

    This is the transcript of a 2003 luncheon discussion on the revitalization of the labor movement with John Monks, general secretary of Britain's Trades Union Congress (TUC).

  • 'Shanker Lecture' Given By Hong Kong Democracy Leader

    May 15, 2002

    The late Szeto Wah, founder of Hong Kong's teachers' union, was the featured speaker at the Institute's Albert Shanker Lecture on May 15, 2002.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 accurate depiction of U.S. history and argues that a fuller, more balanced depiction of U.S.

  • 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 professionals toward work and unionization, and analyzes the possibility of convergence between the roles and operations of unions and profess

  • 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. As with all houses, it was built by the skilled handiwork of plasterers, carpenters, bricklayers, cement masons—and one very great teacher.