The Westchester County Business Journal: Article by Pace Professor John Alan James on the Demise of Organized Labor

John Alan James, professor of management and corporate governance at Pace’s Lubin School of Business, published an article on organized labor in The Westchester County Business Journal in print and online March 17, 2011. (Left: Professor James).

The Demise of Organized Labor by John Alan James

The demise of the American trade union movement is a topic of lively current debate. Many reports tally the significant downturn in union membership in the private sector from its high points in the post-war 1950s to its lowly 15 percent level of all workers today. Commentators also highlight the rise in public service worker unionization to its current high level of 36 percent of total employment.

Most analyses of the current situation miss key points:

  • Private-sector unionization levels include membership among public employee groups. For example, the Teamsters Union, private sector’s largest, boasts more than 250,000 members in the public employee sector. Therefore, the 15 percent figure for private-sector unionization is overstated.
  • Public-employee unionization at state and municipal levels is concentrated among teachers, by far the largest group, and lower paid hospital, hotel and other so-called service employees.
  • Both trade-union sectors are facing strong pressures from their collective bargaining counterparts for major concessions. Even the largest industrial unions are being forced by current economic conditions to grant both short- term and longer-term concessions especially on costs of health insurance and pensions.
  • Public service unions are facing the greatest challenges in history from both Democrat and Republican governors who are demanding wage freezes, increased employee contributions to benefit costs and in the case of Wisconsin a major reduction in union collective-bargaining rights. Gov. Scott Walker has guaranteed retention of collective bargaining on wage issues, but his pending legislation removes work rules, health and pension benefits and state administered union dues paying from the list. He tops his “anti-union” demands by legislating that each collective bargaining unit must hold a recertification election on an annual basis. Requiring members to pay their $1,000 annual dues to the union and re-voting the union in once a year are seen as a huge danger to continued union membership levels.
  • And last, and most important, is why the trade unions, both private sector and public employees, are in great trouble and perhaps in danger of becoming irrelevant on the industrial and economic scenes (a disaster for the Democrat Party).

There are several key reasons. One rarely mentioned is how company managers, having discovered human resource management during and following World War II have with skill and endurance developed policies and programs that have convinced employees in the private sector that unionization brings no needed benefits. New unionization campaigns have fallen to a near zero level and recertification elections have also reduced membership levels. In short, employees ask, “Who needs a union?”

Co-incidentally, management of public service unions has not kept pace with upgrading the managerial skills of their top managers, local unit managers and have continued to rely on union organizers from the big industrial unions or their out of date methods in organizing new employee groups. All union leaders could use an effective development course in modern management, especially HR, methods and techniques.

So what does all this mean to the owners and managers of small and medium-size companies? First, if the governors – both Democrat and Republican – are successful, we may see major progress in at least halting the increasing state and local deficits, and, hopefully some “clawback” financial support for health and pension costs.

Perhaps in time these could lead to lower property taxes or at least lower increases. At minimum, the factors creating the current high levels of uncertainty facing operational and capital investment decisions could become clearer and possibly more attractive. And, of course, reducing personnel costs at state and local levels should encourage our legislators to think long and hard about lowering income and the multitude of fees and taxes currently a burden to businesses – big, medium and small.

Speaking of state legislators, the situation in Connecticut should focus all of our attention as to how governance operates at the state level. If as many claim, the current game played by union officers and elected political officials uses increased benefits to union members to enable them to pay more dues and feed the union political campaign coffers which in turn are used ($600 million in 2008, $250 million in 2010) to support their favorite politicians. (In grade school we had a game called “ring around the rosie”). Newly elected Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy has created a furor by suggesting that from now on the state legislature should carry out its governance and oversight function by reviewing and voting on each and every negotiated settlement or arbitration decision. When asked recently why the Connecticut legislature has not reviewed any negotiated settlement agreements for the past 30 years, the current Speaker of the House was quoted as saying, “If we are going to pass them anyway why bother to review?” So our ring- around game gets extended to elected political officials who have a legislated responsibility and obligation for oversight of every contract negotiation at State and local level.

In corporate governance, the laws require that the company’s board of directors act in a fiduciary manner regarding the rights of the equity shareholders. The Connecticut law gives the lawmakers the same fiduciary responsibilities. They have failed to carry out their oversight responsibilities and the state finances are in a shambles.

One last item.  If state legislators are our taxpayers’ board of directors, where have we as “shareholders” been in making sure they carry out their duties. They haven’t and like many others who stood by and allowed the offenses to bring down the economy in 2008 we voters, too, are to blame.

It is clear that a better educated and informed electorate will be required to oversee the proposed solutions to the present crisis and hopefully do a far better job in the future in supporting candidates who will take their fiduciary responsibilities a lot more seriously than they have had to date.

One great political observer once opined, “a people get the kind of government they deserve!” I believe what he had in mind is that if you don’t care enough about who or what for you vote for, well, who really is to blame?

John Alan James is professor of management and corporate governance, Lubin School of Business, Pace University, New York City. He can be reached at

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Neil Braun, Former NBC Television Network President and Viacom Entertainment CEO, Named Dean of Pace’s Lubin School of Business

Highly respected in the media industry, Braun has been involved in multiple new business startups as both entrepreneur and investor. With his significant knowledge in the area of corporate environmental sustainability and the issues challenging public companies today, Braun will lead the more than century-old business school known for innovative programs and blending theory with practice.


Media Contacts/Pace Public Information: Samuella Becker, 212-346-1637 or 917-734-5172, and Bill Caldwell, 212-346-1597,

Neil Braun, Former NBC Television Network President and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, Named New Dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business

Highly respected in the media industry, Braun has been involved in multiple new business startups as both entrepreneur and investor.  With his significant knowledge in the area of corporate environmental sustainability and the issues challenging public companies today, Braun will lead the more than century-old business school known for innovative programs and blending theory with practice.

NEW YORK, NY, June 24, 2010 – Neil S. Braun, who has more than 30 years of experience in senior management including positions as president of the NBC Television Network and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, has been appointed dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, effective July 1, announced Stephen J. Friedman, president of Pace University.

Braun, 57, will take the helm from Joseph R. Baczko, former president and CEO of Blockbuster Entertainment and founder of Toys “R” Us International, who is returning to private industry after five years in the position.

“As the new dean, Neil will add industry dimension and vision to Lubin’s expertise and innovative programs,” said Aniello A. Bianco, chairman of Pace’s Board of Trustees. “The hire of Braun is a bold, confident move infusing a 100-year institution founded as a business school with a 21st century pedigree. Consensus building and collaborative, he’ll be a very positive force for faculty, staff, students, and alumni.”

“Pace has hit a home run with the appointment of Neil Braun,” said Frank Biondi, former CEO of Universal Studios, Viacom, and HBO, who hired Braun both at HBO and Viacom. “He’s a world-class guy with impeccable credentials who leads by collaboration and clarity of thought.”

Braun is currently CEO of The CarbonNeutral Company, which assists companies in analyzing and reducing their carbon footprints (greenhouse gas emissions). CarbonNeutral has invested in more than 200 projects on six continents for more than 300 major corporate clients and 1,000 small business clients. The company combined with Braun’s start-up, The GreenLife Organization, in late 2008 in order to achieve a more significant global presence.

Braun’s experience with CarbonNeutral and The GreenLife Organization will serve him well when he joins Pace, which has a strong commitment to teaching and practicing sustainability and boasts one of the top environmental law programs in the country.

“I am excited to build upon the history of success at Pace,” said Braun. “Providing students with strong fundamentals in the business disciplines and the ability to nimbly apply them has never been more important.  The emergence of the developing world, the proliferation of interactive and mobile media, and the scarcity of natural resources will continue to shape markets and competition. Preparing our students to be effective in a rapidly changing world is a tremendous responsibility and opportunity.”

Additional career highlights. Braun began his career as a corporate attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York (1977-1978).

As senior vice president and general counsel for International Film Investors (1978-1982), he structured and negotiated financing and distribution for feature films including Ghandi, The Killing Fields, Hopscotch, Escape from New York, and The Howling. He headed HBO’s film financing and home-video activities (1982-1986) and was part of the negotiating team for the licensing of pay-television rights from the studios. He also created Silver Screen Partners and HBO Video.  As president and COO of Imagine Films Entertainment (1986-1988), he took the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer production company public while structuring financing and distribution for 30 feature films through Showtime and Universal Pictures.

In addition to serving as a senior executive in major public corporations such as NBC (1994-1998) and Viacom (1988-1994), Braun has been involved in venture stage companies.

With the producer of the Shrek computer-animated franchise, Braun formed Vanguard Animation (2002). He was named president, Feature Films and Television for IDT Entertainment, a division of the long-distance phone company, which was Vanguard’s primary funding partner (2005). When Liberty Media acquired IDT Entertainment the following year and merged it into its Starz Entertainment Group, Braun assumed the role of president, Distribution and Marketing of Starz Media, which included in its stable Film Roman, the longtime animator of Fox’s The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

Frank Biondi praised the work Braun did at HBO, “Neil restructured how we licensed films from independent producers by creating Silver Screen Partners and HBO Video, which significantly lowered our program acquisition cost. At Viacom, he had a wide scope of responsibility from real estate and human resources to the production and distribution of programming for broadcast networks and stations. Neil’s intellect, experience, and people skills are a great match for the challenges and opportunities facing business schools today.”

Braun serves on the board of directors, audit committee and compensation committee of IMAX Corporation, a NASDAQ company. He also serves on the board of directors and compensation committee of Share Our Strength, and the board of directors and executive committee of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. He has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors since 2008.

Since 2000 Braun has been a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Overseers for the School of Arts and Sciences and, since 2008, the Trustee’s Social Responsibility Advisory Committee.  He has also been a faculty lecturer at the Wharton School of Business on the topic “Economic Models of Media and Entertainment” (2001).  Braun holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania (1974) and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School (1977) where he was a member of the Law Review.

Pace’s Lubin School of Business enrolls nearly 4,000 students. Lubin boasts a number of graduates who have gone on to become major industry leaders.

About Pace University: For more than 100 years, Pace University has been preparing students to become leaders in their fields. A private university, Pace provides an education that combines exceptional academics with professional experience and the New York advantage. Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, and enrolls almost 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lienhard School of Nursing, Lubin School of Business, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.