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July 1989, Vol. 112, No. 7
Can employee associations negotiate new growth?
Sar A. Levitan and Frank Gallo
The evolution of Government employee associations into virtual unions and the absorption of associations by established unions have played a major role in the growth of public-sector unionization. For many years now, most of the growth experienced by unions has come through the latter route of absorption. This article examines the ways in which Government employee associations have flourished and briefly traces their history and interaction with unions throughout the 20th century, concluding that further unionization of Government employees by absorption is unlikely.
Two broad types of Government employee associations had evolved by the mid-20th century. Single-profession associations like the National Education Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and American Association of University Professors originated in the latter half of the 19th or early 20th century. Associations that served members united by a common employer (for example, the Federal Government or a State or local government) without regard to occupation were founded in the 1940's and 1950's. Generally, both varieties of association began with limited agendas and sometimes existed only to pool members in order to purchase insurance or organize social events. Even bonafide Government unions often behaved like associations before the 1960's, because public workers had no legal right to bargain collectively.
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