To explore the role public welfare employee unions play in the formulation, implementation, and outcomes of public assistance policy, a study was conducted of the Pennsylvania Social Services Union (Local 668, SEIU, AFL-CIO) and its relationship with Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare. The study consists of three components: a history of the union drawn primarily from oral sources; an analysis, modeled on Gilbert and Secht's framework, of Pennsylvania's public assistance policy; and a summary of the responses of 243 union members and 15 union leaders surveyed in the summer of 1980 and 46 union members surveyed in July 1984. The survey instrument asked respondents to provide demographic information and data on selected attitudes and union activities. Scales of union participation and loyalty were developed. Descriptive statistics and correlations were employed in the data analysis. The study found that the organizers of the union were influenced by an egalitarian and client-oriented ideology. The union's egalitarianism promoted the substitution of experience for education in job requirements. Costs of public assistance administration per recipient adjusted for inflation fell annually since 1973, shortly after unionization. The state's limits on bargaining restricted union demands to self-interest. Evidence was found of two general clusters of members, with one younger, better educated, less satisfied with the job, and more liberal than the other. By educational background and skills required for performance, the public welfare work force was found becoming increasingly less like social workers and more like clerks. Social values of helping the poor are widely and strongly held by welfare workers. Career expectations widely held on appointment to a welfare work position diminish after being on the job. Stewards were found to have demographic characteristics and personal attitudes similar to those of the rank and file members; their attitudes on union goals conformed closely with those of union leaders. The study concludes that the union's role in policy development is reactive. As public assistance system functions are transformed from "people-changing" to "people-processing," changes made possible by the existence of a union anticipate efficient managerial practice rather than expand benefits or services for public assistance clientele.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 46-03, Section: A, page: 0811. Thesis (D.S.W.)--University of Pennsylvania, 1985.