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Article

Unions  

Howard Karger

This article deals with the goals and tensions between professionalism and social work unionization. This article addresses obstacles to the unionization of social workers, such as the mixed messages about unionization inherent in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, the incipient antiunion sentiment within social work (which partly explains the dearth of social work strikes when compared with teachers’ strikes), the impact of privatized social services on unionization, and the chilling effects of a business union perspective on professional issues that concern social workers. This article calls for a fusion between union and professional concerns.

Article

Social Policy: History (1980 to Present)  

P. Nelson Reid

With the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 the United States entered an era of social policy development shaped in large measure by themes associated with political conservatism: privatization, federalism, work-linked benefits, personal responsibility, and “family values.” These themes have resulted in changes to the basic structure of American social welfare that will persist into the 21st century.

Article

Privatization  

Andrew Dobelstein

Privatizing social services has taken a new turn as America enters the 21st century. Although it was once possible to separate private and public social services, the growing trend toward public–private partnerships has made such earlier distinctions meaningless since more and more private social services are supported with public money. There are advantages and disadvantages inherent in the mixing of public and private social services, but perhaps the greatest problem may be the support of a growing trend for all levels of government to dissociate themselves from their longstanding public social service responsibilities.

Article

Neoliberal Managerialism and the Human Services  

Mimi Abramovitz and Jennifer Zelnick

Neoliberalism emerged in the United States in the mid-1970s in response to the second economic crisis of the 20th century. Seeking to undo the New Deal enacted in response to the 1930s economic collapse, neoliberalism redistributes income upward and downsizes the state using tax cuts, budget cuts, privatization, devolution, and reducing the power of social movements. Privatization, a key neoliberal strategy, is typically understood as shifting responsibility for entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare from public to the private sector. Managerialism (i.e., the adoption of business principle and practices) refers to operationalization privatization within human service agencies. The growing dominance of managerialist productivity, accountability efficiency, and standardization has redefined the landscape of the human services The troubling impact on service provision, working conditions, and the well-being of human service workers leads us to ask if the social work mission will become a casualty of managerialism.

Article

Labor Unions in the United States  

Paul A. Kurzman

Labor unions are major participants in the world of work in the United States and abroad. Although union membership in the United States has steadily declined since the 1950s, unions continue to provide a critical countervailing force to the largely unchecked power of employers, whose strength has increased. Hence, to be successful in meeting their goals, unions must learn to deal creatively with the realities of automation, globalization, privatization, de-unionization, and the trend toward contingent work arrangements. Nonetheless, despite the disadvantages and struggles they face, labor unions in 2020 represented almost 16 million wage and salary workers, who have families who vote; therefore, they remain a core constituency for political and corporate America and a significant part of the economic landscape in this country and abroad. Unions remain a core constituency and continue to be a significant part of the economic landscape in this country and beyond.