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Government Unions Focus of Research Symposium

Leading scholars will offer perspective Oct. 13 and 14 on public sector unions

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September 20, 2011 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

CHICAGO --- Leading legal and finance scholars will come together at a Northwestern University School of Law conference to offer expert analyses about the evolution of unions and their costs as related debates now rage throughout the country.

Sponsored by Northwestern University School of Law’s Searle Center on Law, Regulation and Economic Growth, the symposium will take place from noon to 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, and from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the School of Law, in room 147 of Wieboldt Hall, 340 E. Superior St., Chicago.

“Academic analysis of public sector unions has a great deal to contribute,” said Max Schanzenbach, a professor of law at Northwestern, director of the Searle Center and symposium organizer.

“But, despite the important policy implications of public sector unionization,” he said, “the academic community has lagged behind the popular debate in analyzing and understanding the effects of public sector unions.”

The two-day “Research Symposium on Government Unions in the United States” will feature research from across a number of disciplines that will help inform the polarized political arguments over public sector compensation related to state budgets in crisis. Afterward, the scholarship will be disseminated to journalists and policymakers as well as to the academic community.

The Oct. 13 sessions are titled “The Evolution of the Public Sector Unions in the United States” and “Estimating the Costs of Public Unions.” The scholars who will present include economist Richard B. Freeman of Harvard University; political scientist Daniel DiSalvo of the City College of New York; finance professor Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester; and finance professor Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Rauh, associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School and a research associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Corporate Finance and Public Economics programs, has been quoted extensively in the media in recent months related to his research on funding pensions.

Concluding Thursday’s events, a keynote address will be delivered by David Crane, a lecturer and Stanford University Regent at the University of California and a former special advisor for jobs and economic growth in the Office of the Governor, State of California.

The Oct. 14 sessions are titled “The Law and Economics of State and Municipal Obligations to Employees,” “Public Sector Unions and the Democratic Polity” and “Public Section Unions: Is Reform Needed and Proposals for Reform.” The scholars who will present include Richard Hynes of the University of Virginia; Professor John O. McGinnis of Northwestern University School of Law; and Thomas A. Kochan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

Based at Northwestern University School of Law, the Searle Center on Law, Regulation and Economic Growth was founded in 2006 with a generous grant from the late Daniel C. Searle. The Searle Center has a dual mission of research and education. It is dedicated to studying the impact of laws and regulations on economic growth and to communicate the results of that research to academic, public policy and judicial leaders.

For the complete conference agenda, visit: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/searlecenter/conference/unions/