Unions and the Public Sector

Public Sector.BlogDid you hear about the recent government workers strike in Quebec? Quebec schools were closed in early December when a group of unions representing about 400,000 government workers went on strike. Health care workers and civil servants kept essential services humming, but many were not working, causing a disruption that frustrated elected leaders.

Public-sector members might wonder if the same could happen in the U.S. The answer depends on the extent to which the public-sector employer has unions and what rights union members hold.

Unionizing in the public sector is a horse of a different color. The National Labor Relations Act does not cover government employees, yet many government employees belong to a union. Why is this?

A union usually exists in the public sector either because a state law requires it, or an employer allows it. As we know, state laws change more often than they used to, and legislatures are passing more state laws to protect employees. Allowing certain classes of employees, such as firefighters, to unionize by law is but one example. More often, the employer allows it. Public-sector employers are most often governed by elected officials who may want to support their constituents by allowing employees to unionize. Local elections may allow the same thing.

If you have heard talk of unions in your workplace and are unsure of how to proceed, give us a call. We can sort through the state or local laws, as well as the other issues, and help you navigate these waters.