Government managers and union leaders share very similar views of how well collective bargaining worked before Act 10 all but ended public-sector unions, according to initial analysis of a survey of employees of state government, local government and schools in Wisconsin.
But the 445 labor and management leaders surveyed aren’t nearly as close to seeing eye-to-eye about how well the post-union environment works, said the Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, a professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.
Cutcher-Gershenfeld unveiled the study, which is still being analyzed, at a conference put on Thursday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
In February and March, questions were posed electronically to 1,577 labor and management leaders, and 28.2 percent responded. Responses came from employees at 12 state agencies, 42 counties, 118 municipalities and 133 school districts.
Managers more often said workplaces were operating smoothly and efficiently now, while rank-and-file workers were more likely to say working conditions have grown unfair, and are likely to become worse, said Cutcher-Gershenfeld, who is leading a team of academics in the study of Wisconsin public employee attitudes.
He said the survey indicates the quality of services to the public are likely to decline unless new forms of management relations are put in place. If public-sector work becomes unattractive, fewer competent workers will take those jobs, he said.
He pointed to Ford Motor Co. and Kaiser Permanante as models of innovative relationships in which labor and management research problems together and find new solutions.
Some public-sector union contracts include provisions declaring both sides responsible for providing better public service, and that can help pull the focus away from adversarial bargaining, he said.
The survey appears to be the first of its kind since a 2011 law removed most public-sector union rights in Wisconsin.
“There is risk in the future if the current trend continues,” Cutcher-Gershenfeld said. “Work in the public sector will be less attractive and the quality of public services will suffer.”