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ERIC Number: EJ963305
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Aug
Pages: 20
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Public Employee Unionism: A Neglected Social Movement of the 1960s
Shaffer, Robert
History Teacher, v44 n4 p489-508 Aug 2011
The chapters on the 1960s and early 1970s in recent editions of secondary-level United States history textbooks have done an impressive job in getting beyond the traditional political narratives of presidential administrations to include the movements of protest and reform based on citizen activism. But despite their laudable efforts to broaden coverage to include issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, and to show how the efforts of such ordinary Americans have changed the society, textbook authors continue to neglect entirely an important social movement of the 1960s and 1970s: the rise of labor unions among public sector employees. Unionization among public sector employees--teachers, sanitation workers, postal employees, police, clerical workers, and others--gave rise to some very bitter conflicts of those decades, and ever since, it has had an important impact on debates over the role of government, on the social mobility of certain demographic groups, and on the base and power of the labor movement as a whole. Given that some of the first union members that most students today encounter are their classroom teachers, and that the rise of public sector unionism corroborates the main lines of analysis of today's textbooks about the 1960s, it is incumbent upon textbooks, and U.S. history teachers, to discuss this movement with students. In order for students to understand its significance, the author argues that they must be informed about the earlier surge in public employee organizing, and about both the successes of earlier strikes as well as the backlash these strikes engendered among some Americans. Recognition of the rise of public employee unionism would also enhance the discussion of several other issues that are already in some textbooks. (Contains 2 figures and 56 notes. An appendix contains a list of textbooks that were consulted for this study.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A