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Kenneth Dau-Schmidt
IU Maurer School

Ken Turchi
IU Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011

Banning public employees’ rights could create long-term damage, IU legal expert says

Feb. 24, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Efforts under way in several state legislatures to prohibit collective bargaining for public employees could damage employer-employee relations for years to come, according to an IU Maurer School of Law expert on labor and employment law.

"Limiting collective-bargaining rights of public employees strikes at the core of the employer-employee relationship," said Professor of Labor and Employment Law Kenneth Dau-Schmidt. "Asking public employees to cut back on pension and healthcare benefits is one thing; forcing them to give up the right to be heard is altogether different -- and much more dangerous."

Kenneth Dau-Schmidt

Kenneth Dau-Schmidt

Print-Quality Photo

Dau-Schmidt added that the situation in Wisconsin is particularly alarming, given that it was the first state to confer collective-bargaining rights on public employees. "Wisconsin has a proud tradition of constructive and cooperative collective bargaining in the public sector that has produced a quality workforce. It's not clear to me what public purpose would be served by abolishing these rights."

Dau-Schmidt pointed out that unlike private workers, whose employment rights -- including collective bargaining and the right to strike -- are governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act, public employees' rights are a question of state law. "This accounts for the varying degrees of employee protection from state to state," he said. Dau-Schmidt added that in Indiana, for example, public employees' right to collectively bargain was granted by an executive order, which Gov. Mitch Daniels revoked after he took office.

Dau-Schmidt noted that most employers say that they would like to have more rather than less input from employees on topics such as the terms and conditions of employment, customer feedback and workplace efficiency. "The collective bargaining process is the best way for employers to hear the voice of their employees," he said. "Taking it away silences their voice and could lead to even worse management-labor strife as time goes on."

Dau-Schmidt is the Willard and Margaret Carr Professor of Labor and Employment Law at the IU Maurer School of Law. An expert on labor and employment law and the economic analysis of legal problems, he is available to comment on collective-bargaining laws and other labor-related matters. He can be reached at, or at 812-855-0697.