From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging

How Public Employees Win and Lose the Right to Bargain

Dominic D. Wells
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1959-0
Publication: Nov 20

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1958-3
Publication: Nov 20

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1960-6
Publication: Nov 20

198 pages
5.5 x 8.25
22 tables, 1 figs., 9 maps

Analyzes the expansion and restriction of collective bargaining rights for public employees

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).


How do public employees win and lose their collective bargaining rights? And how can public sector labor unions protect those rights? These are the questions answered in From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging. Dominic Wells takes a mixed-methods approach and uses more than five decades of state-level data to analyze the expansion and restriction of rights.

Wells identifies the factors that led states to expand collective bargaining rights to public employees, and the conditions under which public employee labor unions can defend against unfavorable state legislation. He presents case studies and coalition strategies from Ohio and Wisconsin to demonstrate how labor unions failed to protect their rights in one state and succeeded in another.

From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging also provides a comprehensive quantitative analysis of the economic, political, and cultural factors that both led states to adopt policies that reduced the obstacles to unionization and also led other states to adopt policies that increased the difficulty to form and maintain a labor union. In his conclusion, Wells suggests the path forward for public sector labor unions and what policies need to be implemented to improve employee labor relations.


Wells offers an informed and needed road map for where public-sector trade unions and practitioners should be heading to make gains in public policy and to protect their collective bargaining rights, as well as a baseline text for scholars in the field of employment relations in the public sector.
—ILR Review

“Few issues stirred partisan passions in the 2010s more than the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. In this engaging account, Dominic Wells sheds new light on the explosive battles over public sector unionism that inflamed Wisconsin, Ohio, and the courts in those years. Pondering how weakened unions might learn from and redress their recent losses, he offers a timely agenda for the 2020s.”—Joseph A. McCartin, Georgetown University, author of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America

“From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging is an ambitious, comprehensive mixed-methods analysis of the expansion and retrenchment of public sector labor rights. Wells explains a broader span of labor law development than has been addressed by scholars, looking from when Wisconsin passed the first public sector collective bargaining bill in 1959 to the recent battles over labor retrenchment in the 2010s. With rich, compelling case studies, Wells shows that partisanship is not destiny—coalitions and framing strategy matter in labor law battles. This is a must-read for labor scholars and activists alike.”—Leslie K. Finger, University of North Texas

Table of Contents


1. The Public Sector Union Puzzle
2. The Difference between Public Sector Unions and Private Sector Unions
3. The Expansion of Rights into the Public Sector
4. The Restriction of Rights in the Public Sector
5. The Stories of Ohio Senate Bill 5 and Wisconsin Act 10
6. The Narrative Strategies in Ohio and Wisconsin
7. The Paths Forward for Public Employee Labor

Appendix: Methodological Notes

About the Author(s)

Dominic D. Wells is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of the Fire Administration program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.