Discussion of Principles on Public Sector Bargaining

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) strongly supports the freedom of all public-sector workers to voluntarily decide whether it is in their best interest to join or pay fees to a union.

Public sector employees, and their unions, are unique. They are paid with taxpayer dollars, and the terms of their employment are largely determined by state legislatures and localities in collective bargaining agreements.

Government unions spend member dues derived from taxpayers to support campaigns and lobby state legislatures and localities for laws and collective bargaining agreements favorable to their members. This creates an inherent conflict of interest where public sector unions support politicians and policies that are then responsible for oversight over the unions and their members.

Unions, through the collective bargaining process, determine the pay for teachers, government employees, police and emergency workers, but also other aspects of employment such as prohibitions on merit pay, grievance procedures, union release time, staff reduction policies and “cooling off periods.” The union’s role is to bargain for the benefit of their individual members, which is not always in line with the goals of the elected body or the greater good of the public.

This can lead to systemic issues with accountability in the relationship between public sector unions, the government and the public.

At the ALEC Annual Meeting, the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development (CIED) Task Force will discuss strategies for reform in the public sector bargaining process. The principles to be discussed will focus on:

Transparency: Collective bargaining processes should be transparent to the public with ample time for the public to provide input to elected officials.

Accountability: State legislators and governors are held accountable through regular elections. In the same way, union recertification through regular secret ballot elections ensures that public sector unions are held accountable to the employees they represent.

Public Sector Bargaining: As an extension of the taxpayers who elect them, state legislators should have oversight of collective bargaining agreements and public sector employees. States and localities should examine collective bargaining agreements with a focus on addressing areas that could be used to protect or shield bad actors. The elected legislative body and the governor should be the primary decider of working conditions in public sector employment.