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A Contest of IdeasCapital, Politics, and Labor$
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Nelson Lichtenstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037856

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037856.001.0001

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Bashing Public Employees and Their Unions

Bashing Public Employees and Their Unions

(p.197) Chapter 14 Bashing Public Employees and Their Unions
A Contest of Ideas

Nelson Lichtenstein

University of Illinois Press

This chapter considers the idea of governmental “sovereignty,” as used by the right, to undermine the rationale for collective bargaining in the public sector. From the Boston Police Strike of 1919 forward, conservatives have considered the organization of government workers to be incompatible with the sovereign status of those entities sustained by taxes and elected by the populace. Public employee unions subverted the will of elected officeholders and undermined state power. That antiunion ideology faded in the two decades after 1958 when public employee unionism grew by leaps and bounds, but in recent years it has returned, albeit in a distinctively neoliberal, antistate guise. Conservatives today charge that instead of challenging the power of the state, public sector unionism is illegitimate because these institutions support those governmental functions that regulate commerce, sustain public education, and provide other public goods now under attack from the neoliberal right.

Keywords:   governmental sovereignty, collective bargaining, public sector unionism, government workers, public employee unions, conservatives

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