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  • Department of Global Development
  • Global Development

A study exploring how the unionization of local governments impacts contracting for services earned the top research article award from the journal Local Government Studies. 

Mildred Warner, professor in the Department of Global Development (CALS) and in the Department of City and Regional Planning (AAP) and co-author Amir Hefetz, MPS '04 (now principal of DataGraph in Israel), earned the John Stewart Award for their 2019 study “Contracting dynamics and unionisation: managing labour, contracts and markets.” 

The award judges lauded the authors for a “novel approach....to examine dynamics and drivers of contracting out and remunicipalisation. By focusing on the role of unionized labor, they uncover a hitherto under-researched factor in organizational decision-making and suggest pathway for important future research in this rapidly growing field.” 

In the study, Warner and Hefetz show that unionized municipalities are better able to balance political and labor interests when it comes to contract and market management compared to non-unionized governments. The study draws from theories of industrial relations and pragmatic municipalism to explain the differences. 

The results are counter intuitive, Warner said. “Privatization is actually higher in unionized governments and remunicipalization (reverse privatization) is lower. The reason is that unions force managers to manage better.  

“Unionized governments are more likely to monitor contracts,” Warner added. “Unions are a force for ensuring service quality and contract compliance – and this protects the public interest.” 

The study is now available as an open access article for the next year. 

Mildred Warner

Mildred Warner is an international expert on restructuring local government services, how to plan for more child and age-friendly cities, and how to promote environmental sustainability at the local level. She is a professor in the departments of Global Development and City and Regional Planning, and serves as director of the Polson Institute for Global Development.

Mildred Warner

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