Characterizing change in the public sector labor-management relationship: A comparative study

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


Joseph B. Shedd


Education sector, Public sector, Labor-management relationship

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


For the last sixty years or so, the Labor-Management Relationship (L-M-R) in the private sector (and for a shorter, but still considerable length of time in the public sector) has been characterized by a fairly stable organizational arrangement which has served to govern the various parties and their connection to each other. Recent events, however, have indicated that this perceived stability, particularly in the public sector of Education, may be in jeopardy as the L-M-R has begun to show signs of stress; especially as succeeding waves of challenge have been made upon both the issues and/or features of employment, as well as by collateral discussion, even upon the basic relationship, itself (Kerchner and Koppich, 1993, Shedd and Bacharach, 1991, McDonnell and Pascal, 1988, Kochan and Katz, 1988).

This qualitative research utilizes a multi-site case study design and employs a series of open-ended interviews to replicate a subset of a study conducted by Bacharach and colleagues in 1980, with focus on identifying and detailing the manner in which key participants to the educational L-M-R relate to each other. Data gathered from both studies is analyzed and compared longitudinally, first for evidence of change in the bargaining attitudes and the L-M-R, itself. Second, employing constructs derived from those above as well as Gersick (1991) and Erickson and Kuruvilla (1998) this research describes the application of an appropriate framework for describing the characteristics of any revealed change.

In three school districts reviewed: one exhibited a changing relationship that was moving in the direction of revolutionary change; a second was observed to have retained status quo and undergone only ad hoc or non-transformational change; the third is described as at yet undetermined, but tending toward gradually-adaptive change.

Data indicate that use of the constructs of "deep structure" as described by four Mapping Questions can serve as a useful way to determine whether a change in the L-M-R may be said to have occurred while the applied framework points to a possible way for characterizing the results.


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