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The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998

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  • A Charlwood
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    Abstract

    To what extent can the decline in British trade union density between 1990 and 1998 be attributed to declining opportunities to unionize compared to declining propensity to unionize among workers with the opportunity to do so and to compositional change? This question is answered using data to from both workplaces (from 1990 and 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Surveys) and individuals (fro m the British Household Panel Survey). Results show that both falling opportunities and falling propensities to unionize accounted for membership decline during this period. Membership fell because unions lacked the power to maintain bargaining relationships with management, to organize new workplaces, or to uphold the ¿social custom¿ of union membership among new workers who took union jobs. However, there was little evidence that declining union membership was the result of a change in employee attitudes towards unions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0601.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0601

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    Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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    Keywords: Labour Management Relations; Trade Unions; Collective Bargaining;

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    1. David Metcalf, 2001. "British Unions: Dissolution or Resurgence Revisited," CEP Discussion Papers dp0493, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0455, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. Blanden, Jo & Stephen Machin, 2003. "Cross-Generation Correlations of Union Status for Young People in Britain," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 24, Royal Economic Society.
    4. Henry S. Farber & Bruce Western, 2002. "Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Declining Union Organization," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 385-401, 09.
    5. Stephen Machin, 2004. "Factors of Convergence and Divergence in Union Membership," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 42(3), pages 423-438, 09.
    6. John Pencavel, 2003. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," NBER Working Papers 9564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth, 2000. "Union status of young men in Britain: a decade of change," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 289-310.
    8. Seymour Martin Lipset & Ivan Katchanovski, 2001. "The Future of Private Sector Unions in the U.S," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 229-244, April.
    9. Jelle Visser, 2002. "Why Fewer Workers Join Unions in Europe: A Social Custom Explanation of Membership Trends," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 403-430, 09.
    10. Phillip B. Beaumont & I. D. Harris, 1995. "Union de-recognition and declining union density in Britain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 389-402, April.
    11. Morris M. Kleiner, 2001. "Intensity of Management Resistance: Understanding the Decline of Unionization in the Private Sector," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(3), pages 519-540, July.
    12. Jack Fiorito, 2001. "Human Resource Management Practices and Worker Desires for Union Representation," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 335-354, April.
    13. Carruth, Alan A & Disney, Richard F, 1988. "Where Have Two Million Trade Union Members Gone?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 55(217), pages 1-19, February.
    14. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    15. Booth, Alison L, 1985. "The Free Rider Problem and a Social Custom Model of Trade Union Membership," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 253-61, February.
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