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The failure to negotiate first contracts: Determinants and policy implications


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  • William N. Cooke
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    This study examines why unions, after winning certification rights, fail to secure agreements in roughly one of every four first-contract negotiations. Hypotheses are derived from Chamberlain's theory that the relative power of the negotiating parties is a function of the costs of agreeing and disagreeing, costs that are shaped by economic, legal, and organizational factors. The author analyzes data through 1982 on 118 cases in which unions had won NLRB elections in Indiana in the years 1979 and 1980. He finds that an employer's discrimination against union activists and his refusal to bargain, measured by section 8(a)(3) and 8(a)(5) charges deemed meritorious by the regional office of the NLRB, have substantial negative effects on the probability that a first contract will be reached. Similarly, negative effects result from lengthy delay in the NLRB's resolution of employer objections and challenges to lost elections. On the other hand, unions are also more likely to obtain first contracts when firms pay wages well above the industry average, when national union representatives participate in negotiations, and when bargaining units are relatively large and cohesive. (Abstract courtesy JSTOR.)

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

    Volume (Year): 38 (1985)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 163-178

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    Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:38:y:1985:i:2:p:163-178

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    Cited by:
    1. David Lee & Alexandre Mas, 2009. "Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961-1999," NBER Working Papers 14709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:fth:prinin:460 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:fth:prinin:437 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. S Johnson, 1999. "Automatic Certification or Mandatory Representation Votes? How the Choice of Union Recognition Procedure Affects Union Certification Success," ESRC Centre for Business Research - Working Papers, ESRC Centre for Business Research wp139, ESRC Centre for Business Research.
    5. Henry S. Farber, 2009. "Rational Choice and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Union Representation Elections," Working Papers, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies. 1200, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    6. Lee, David S. & Mas, Alexandre, 2009. "Long-Run Impacts of Unions on Firms: New Evidence from Financial Markets, 1961-1999," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley qt1j93n8gj, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.


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