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Public Sector Labor Law and History: The Politics of Ancient History?

27 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2011 Last revised: 14 Oct 2011

William A. Herbert

Hunter College, City University of New York

Date Written: June 11, 2011


This article discuss three books that address various aspects of public sector labor history. It seeks to contextualize the current debate over public sector labor law and relations through the lessons of relevant history. The first book discussed is entitled The Man Who Saved New York: Hugh Carey and the Great Fiscal Crisis of 1975, by Seymour P. Lachman and Robert Polner. It recounts the leadership of Governor Carey and public sector labor leaders in reaching negotiated solutions through collective bargaining that helped solve New York City's fiscal crisis in 1975. The second book is a long-forgotten 1948 treatise Government as Employer by Sterling D. Spero, published at the dawn of public sector collective bargaining in the United States. Unlike most histories of American labor, Spero's book focuses on the public sector, providing an important antidote to the dominance of the private sector narrative in United States labor historiography. The final book examined is a labor history published last year: There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray. Dray's book presents an episodic labor history of America's private sector from the rise of industrialization to today, which touches upon certain events in public sector labor history.

Keywords: union, labor, public sector, history, collective bargaining

Suggested Citation

Herbert, William A., Public Sector Labor Law and History: The Politics of Ancient History? (June 11, 2011). Hofstra Labor and Emploment Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 339, pp. 339-365, 2011. Available at SSRN:

William A. Herbert (Contact Author)

Hunter College, City University of New York ( email )

695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
United States

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