For some time I have suspected that collective bargaining (CB) cannot result in an increase in public servants’ wages to the level they require to compensate for the historical and moral deficiencies they believe they are sustaining. Now a 2018 study, which has found that CB in the USA does not increase teachers’ pay, appears to support my fears. When coupled to the manner in which this dispute has been developing the teachers and their union need to proceed very carefully.
Focusing on education, the study examined the normal belief that CB by public employees increase the size of government, i.e. it ‘empowers unions to extract sizable material benefits such as more jobs, better job protections, and higher compensation.’ From the 1960s onwards, mandatory CB laws were passed in 33 states and are believed to be the main reason why teachers are the largest group of unionized public employees in the country. The study examined what happened to the level of resources devoted to education when states passed laws ending prohibitions on teachers’ CB and required that education districts bargain with teachers’ unions. ‘The results … indicate that the positive correlation between collective bargaining rights and the size of government is spurious – at least for teachers.’ Districts with collective bargaining laws do spend more per student on education, but ‘they already did so well before the emergence of collective bargaining rights or modern teacher unions.’