The Paradox of Federal Sector Labor Relations: Voluntary Unionism Without Collective Bargaining Over Wages and Employee Benefits

18 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2015 Last revised: 19 Dec 2015

Date Written: September 30, 2015

Abstract

Federal sector unionism is a paradox. Despite the outlawry of union-security provisions and strikes, sharp limits on the scope of collective bargaining (outside the U.S. Postal Service and airport air traffic controllers), and the absence of card-check certification, federal employees join unions and pay dues. The union membership rate is lower than in state and local governments but considerably higher than in the private sector. Somewhat fewer employee pay dues than are covered by collective agreements but the free-riding effect is smaller than one would expect. The federal sector suggests a model of relatively low-stakes unionism and collective bargaining that perhaps should be considered as an alternative by labor organizations and policymakers. The federal-sector mode may, however, require certain features that are not readily replicable in the private sector: the absence of a right to strike in favor of some measure of interest arbitration as a deadlock-breaking device, an absence of employer opposition, and statutory employment protections.

Keywords: unions, union dues, collective bargaining, civil service, free rider effect, scope of bargaining

JEL Classification: D70, D74, H11, J30, J51, J52, J53, J58, K31

Suggested Citation

Estreicher, Samuel, The Paradox of Federal Sector Labor Relations: Voluntary Unionism Without Collective Bargaining Over Wages and Employee Benefits (September 30, 2015). Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2, 2015 ; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-40 ; NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 15-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2663113 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2663113

Samuel Estreicher (Contact Author)

New York University Law School ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
(212) 998-6226 (Phone)
(212) 995-4341 (Fax)

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