NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Employees' Union Opposes Privatization

August 26, 1998

Privatization is "public enemy No. 1," union president Gerald W. McEntee told delegates of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) earlier this week. The AFSCME delegates agreed to what amounts to a $7 million-a-year dues increase to recruit more members and fight "extremist politicians."

  • AFSCME has 1.3 million members, but in the last three years has had a net loss of about 4,000 members.
  • The union plans to use increased dues to hire dozens of new recruiters, and fight efforts by many states to privatize public-sector jobs such as those associated with welfare, social services and state prisons.
  • Beginning in January 1999, the union plans to focus organizing efforts on Puerto Rico, where 140,000 public-sector workers recently won the right to bargain collectively.
  • But nationwide, the union estimates there are at least two million unorganized public-sector workers in states that allow bargaining -- while 13 states don't require local governments to bargain with unions.

Research Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University found in an early 1990s study that public employees, though typically better educated and higher earning than their private-sector counterparts, are much more receptive to joining unions. She found unions are successful in about 90 percent of their public-sector organizing drives, compared with a 50 percent success rate in the private sector. AFSCME now accounts for about 10 percent of the membership of the AFL-CIO, the largest group of American unions.

Source: Glenn Burkin, "Big Public-Sector Union Back a Move to Boost Dues to Organize and Lobby," Wall Street Journal, August 26, 1998.


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