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29 Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal 407 (2012)


American public sector unions and collective bargaining have been subjected to a vicious attack under the auspices of balancing government budgets, promoting "equity" between private and public employees and limiting the impact of "special interests" on government policy. The American and world financial crisis of 2007 resulted in the Great Recession of 2008 and substantial budget shortfalls for local and national governments world-wide. This financial crisis and the resulting disintegration of aggregate demand and employment are eerily similar to the financial crisis and collapse that led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. However, unlike the calamity of the 1930’s, in the present emergency American conservatives, funded by the moneyed class, are attempting to use the predicament as an opportunity to attack collective bargaining and other institutions of support and power for the American middle class. This grasp for power represents and assertion of power and control by the American upper class not experienced since rise of scientific management and the deskilling of jobs and the destruction of the trade union system of collective bargaining in the 1890’s.

In this paper I will outline the recent attack on public sector unions’ power in the American economy and the accompanying changes, and proposed changes, in American law. I will briefly describe the impact of the recent financial crisis on the American economy and the balance sheets of American state and national governments and the opportunism of the American plutocracy in using this crisis to propose and enact legislation to undermine the institution of collective bargaining and political proponents for the Middle and Lower classes. In particular I will discuss the recent efforts in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan to severely limit or prohibit public sector collective bargaining and the political influence American public sector workers. This attack on collective bargaining amounts to the largest grab for economic and political power by the American upper class since the destruction of the labor guilds in the 1890’s and the rise of the "gilded age" from the 1890’s-1930’s.