Chapter Eleven Personnel Management and Labor Relations

PAD 3003 Intro to Public Administration Module 6 Chapters 11-12

The book is Introducing Public Administration 8th edition by Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. P.


Overview chapters link


Chapter Eleven Personnel Management and Labor Relations

The United States has long had a history of unions. Some people love unions, some people hate them. It is the rare occasion that you will find someone who is just lukewarm with how he or she feels about a union. Still today, we have unions. Even in a right to work state, such as Florida where employees can decide whether or not to join a union, unions involve public sector employees such as teachers and police. The definition of a right to work state can be seen from the Florida Constitution:

“The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or non-membership in any labor union or labor organization. The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged. Public employees shall not have the right to strike. (Constitution Amended by General Election, 1944; Revised by General Election November 5, 1968)”

Unions are intended to protect the interests of members and give them a fighting chance against the whims of political maneuvering. Conversely, opponents say that they protect poor performers and make it difficult to achieve results.

In 1883, Congress passed the Pendleton Act that focused on a civil service that was based on a merit system following the assassination of President James Garfield by a disgruntled job seeker, Charles Guiteau, an attorney who had worked on his election campaign. Named after Senator Pendleton, President Chester Arthur signed into law the Act which provided that federal jobs be awarded based on merit, that civil servants be protected, and that they be kept from having to contribute to campaigns. It created the Civil Service Commission and laid the groundwork for removing the “spoils” system where to the victor goes the jobs for his friends. States, and then local municipalities, followed suit through the early to mid-20th century to continue to pass their own statutes and ordinances to protect or reform civil service.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act passed Congress creating laws against discrimination and in 1973, Congress passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act that was intended to protect and level the playing field for people. President Jimmy Carter presided over the passage of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 which divided the Civil Service Commission into the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board and created the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Performance Appraisals

Our text describes five different types of appraisals:

1. Supervisory, which is the most common and is where the supervisor evaluates the employee.

2. Self, where individuals fill out a form and submit other information about their job performance as they see it.

3. Peer evaluations in which everyone rates the others job performance.

4. Subordinated where subordinates get the opportunity to rate the performance of supervisors.

5. Group which is when they call in an outside expert to rate an entire group or office or department.

The underlying problem with appraisals is that they always contain bias, whether in the records that have been kept, a lack of employee training, or other nondescript ways, no matter how professionally they are done. Likewise, there are bad personnel and even unions that may or may not want to allow changes to the way the system runs. This issue, of civil service performance and reform, was what prompted Woodrow Wilson to write his treatise back in 1887.

It’s not something new.

Merit systems and legislation affecting civil service had unintended consequences in that employees, politicians, and management knew the rules and knew also how to bend them. It wasn’t until 1993 and President Clinton that the federal government began to deregulate the administrative rules that had resulted from the legislation that had been passed. What had been noble, in that merit based employment and retention is better than patronage and nepotism, had turned into a nightmare of paperwork. At the same time, privatizing government operations rose as government was pressured to streamline activities and keep personnel numbers from ballooning.

Privatization, even included hiring private security companies to serve alongside soldiers in Iraq during George W. Bush’s presidency. In some cases, they were even responsible for security for military personnel.

Some things ought to be done by government: things like running courts, policing pollution and protecting the border. But most everything else should be left to private actors.” -John Stossel

Labor unions form to protect the interests of labor employees or workers with management. One of the largest is “union of unions” the AFL-CIO or the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. And union leaders have been successful in the past, possibly attributable to the fact that they have a single-objective, protect the interests of their union members. They are not bound by the diverse and often special interests of a diverse constituency. They are likewise not bound to play by the same rules as the management and elected officials who serve in office. They can, therefore, be much more “Machiavellian” in their political maneuvering.

There have been established national labor relations boards to facilitate the discussions between labor and management. Some of these are the National Labor Relations Board, The Federal Labor Relations Authority, and the Public Employment Relations Boards in states. The ultimate power that unions hold is to collectively strike, or stop working. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan “busted” the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization when some 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike for not having their demands met. They felt they were irreplaceable and they made demands of raises, time off, benefits, and more. Instead of meeting the demands, Reagan brought in retired air traffic controllers and the military. He went on national television and warned the union members to report for work within 48 hours because they were federal employees and had signed paperwork that they would not strike. 1,000 workers did return and the rest were fired and then Reagan prosecuted the union.

Chapter Twelve Social Equity

Social equity, as our text describes it, is “fairness in the delivery of public services; it is egalitarianism in action – the principle that each citizen, regardless of economic resources or personal traits deserves and has a right to be given equal treatment by the political system.” Social Darwinism is a concept borrowed from Charles Darwin that applied the idea of survival of the fittest to the realm of human behavior and social activities. Constitutionally speaking, this kind of behavior was to have been protected by the federal government, in order to prevent one person’s behaviors from impacting another person’s ability to be a part of the government of, for, and by the people. However, the very document that enacted that concept was the very one that did not consider slaves to be endowed with the same inalienable rights. But, social Darwinism essentially led to a nation of men and not a nation of laws as can be seen with slavery in this country.

Civil Rights Act

Slavery is perhaps the worst scourge in the history of the United States. It has left scars that are still impacting the way people think about things and communities are constituted. It started in 1619 with slaves being brought to Jamestown. In the US Constitution, slaves were to be counted in drawing congressional districts as 3/5 of a man.

By 1804 all of the states of the North had abolished slavery, but it wasn’t until the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 863 that freed black slaves in some (not all) southern states and then subsequently the 13th Amendment that completely outlawed slavery.“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.“ But while slaves were free, they were anything but equal in this nation.

Dred Scott was a slave who was purchased and then moved to live with his master in Wisconsin where slavery was illegal. Later in life, after his master had died, Scott sought to buy his freedom but was refused by his master’s widow. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans of African descent, whether free or slave, were not American citizens and could not sue in federal court; that Congress lacked power to ban slavery in the U.S. territories; and that the rights of slaveowners were constitutionally protected by the Fifth Amendment because slaves were property.

In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and finally put an end to slavery. Moreover, the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) strengthened the legal rights of newly freed slaves by stating, among other things, that no state shall deprive anyone of either “due process of law” or of the “equal protection of the law.” Finally, the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) further strengthened the legal rights of newly freed slaves by prohibiting states from denying anyone the right to vote due to race.

In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of “separate but equal” when it came to facilities because a black man wouldn’t give up his seat on a train. Segregation, the Court said, was not discrimination. Laws that mandated separate but equal were passed in states and referred to as Jim Crow laws, named after white actor Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice who did a skit about “Jim Crow” who was a fool and dimwitted.

In 1954, the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Board of Education changed the trajectory of interracial education; it was decided that separate but equal educational facilities are unconstitutional. This decision helped to begin what scholars refer to as the “second reconstruction” – the first being the physical reconstruction of the South after the Civil War, the second being the reconstruction of the laws affecting racial equality.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law as a tribute to John F. Kennedy after he was killed. The country was still dealing with the issue of racism caused by a deep scar in the moral fabric of America left by slavery. Chapter VII of the legislation is perhaps the most well known and protects against discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. This was important in the work place and especially for our discussion because it affects public administration personnel. And it was an official change in the laws to be fully equitable for all races.

Equal Employment Opportunity

The Civil Rights Act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help “combat” discrimination in the private sector. It was followed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which gave people remedies and means to bring an issue of inequality forward. Eventually, it brought racial inequality cases before the Supreme Court in cases such as Grutter v. Bollinger where the Court affirmed the right of the University of Michigan Law School to give preference to minority applicants. All of this legislation and court cases resulted from the black eye of slavery.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act also provided protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and disability. Many women have suffered under “glass ceilings,” where they can become gainfully employed, but never rise up the ranks and always remain looking up on other men, who are more or even less qualified than they are, being promoted through a “glass ceiling.” There is protection under the law for discrimination based on pregnancy and age, but legislation doesn’t always protect unwritten rules and policies in hiring.

If you think about it, only about 50 years or so ago, George C. Wallace then governor of Alabama blocked entrance of a black student into the doorway of the University of Alabama with the Alabama National Guard. The student, Vivian Malone, was eventually allowed to enter escorted by 3,000 federal troops, but the issues resulting from slavery are still fresh in the hearts of people in this nation.

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