The American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law has selected Barbara Zack Quindel as the recipient of the 2014 Arvid Anderson Public Sector Labor and Employment Attorney of the Year Award. She accepted the award at the ABA Section meeting in Los Angeles on November 7th, dedicating it to Wisconsin’s public workers and their unions in her remarks which appear below.
I am deeply honored and thank the Section for this award.
Just as the labor movement represents collective action, labor law is best practiced as a collective endeavor. I have been so fortunate to have worked as part of a labor team and thank my partners and my colleagues throughout the country from whom I’ve learned so much.
In 2005, the National Academy of Arbitrators published remarks from a fireside chat with Arvid Anderson. In the chat he reflected on his career in public sector labor-management relations, including his 20 years of service on Wisconsin’s Employment Relations Commission starting in 1948.
When asked how he got into the business, Arvid Anderson related how in 1937, when he was 15 years old, he took a streetcar from his home in Hammond, Indiana to the Republic Steel’s South Works in Chicago. He was there the day before and the day after the Memorial Day Massacre when Chicago police killed 10 strikers. And he heard union leaders vow to picket the plant forever.
He said, “I was convinced there had to be a better way to resolve labor disputes.”
In this chat, Arvid Anderson talks about Wisconsin’s pioneering role in worker protection legislation:
• first state to enact a workers compensation law in 1911,
• first state to have an unemployment compensation statute,
• and the first state to enact a comprehensive bargaining law for public employees in 1962.
Over the subsequent years all but 14 states passed some form of bargaining legislation for public employees. These laws survived constitutional challenges and (Arvid Anderson says in this 2005 chat) none had been repealed.
While not repealed, Wisconsin’s public sector bargaining law that Arvid Anderson contributed so much to build has been dismantled. In the process, public sector employees and government itself have been attacked and scapegoated, leaving Wisconsin a bitterly divided state.
While Arvid Anderson may not have foreseen the virtual repeal of collective bargaining in Wisconsin, he offered some cautionary words that ring so true today:
“I still think it is a good thing to serve the public,” he said.
“I hope our political leaders at all levels of government will recognize the importance of saying good things about the value of public service, rather than contributing to the decline of public employee morale by demeaning the role of government and trampling on the dignity of public service. That somehow the people who serve the public, whether by teaching school, or fighting fires, or providing police protection or collecting the garbage, or healing the sick or yes, even collecting taxes, are somehow less worthy or less efficient than those who work in the private sector, in offices, factories, businesses, and professions, is a myth that needs to be dispelled.”
I want to echo those sentiments today.
The quality of services in our communities is absolutely dependent on the working conditions and fair treatment of our public employees.
So I dedicate this award to those Wisconsin public employees, their unions and to our elected officials who recognize we need to restore a framework that gives a meaningful voice to public workers and a fair way to resolve disputes.
As Arvid Anderson recognized back in 1937, there must be a better way.
I’m confident that we’ll keep working in Wisconsin to recreate one.