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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

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

Contexts/Settings: Private/Independent Practice Settings  

Sandra A. Lopez

Private independent practice (known historically as private practice) is a growing segment of the social work profession. Social workers entering this context are providing a range of services, including clinical and nonclinical. Major considerations for establishing, maintaining, and marketing a successful and ethical private independent practice will be discussed. Existing tensions and challenges in the social work profession and in the field of social work education will be briefly examined. Future directions for private independent practice of social work will be explored.

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.

Article

Neoliberalism  

Jessica Toft

Neoliberalism is an international, transdisciplinary, and interdisciplinary concept with political, economic, and social dimensions. Neoliberalism is a governing rationality based on market logic that protects free markets by reducing business regulations, restricting citizen and resident welfare state protections, and increasing welfare state discipline. This entails three dimensions: First, neoliberalism consists of economic governing principles to benefit free markets both globally and domestically to the advantage of corporations and economic elites. Second, this includes concurrent state governing principles to limit welfare state protections and impose disciplinary governance so service users will be individually responsible and take up precarious work. A third component is neoliberal governmentality—the ways neoliberalism shapes society’s members through the state to govern themselves as compliant market actors. Neoliberalism is at its core a political reasoning, organizing society around principles of market rationality, from governance structure to social institutions to individual behavior in which individuals should behave as responsible and accountable market actors. Among its central tenets are that individuals should behave as independent responsible market actors; the social welfare state should be downsized and delegated to lower levels of government; and public welfare should be privatized, marketized, and commodified. While neoliberal policy design sets public provision parameters, its signature tool is to govern through state public administration. New public managerialism is a common example, as is managerialism more generally; they both borrow business management principles and apply them to the management of all aspects of social services. Because of its prescriptive nature, there is concern that neoliberalism dictates practice, threatening professional authority of social workers and challenging the implicit trust the public puts in professions. Writ large, there are concerns about democracy itself as neoliberalism works against the will of the people and collective responses to social problems. Resistance to neoliberalism is growing and early examples are provided.