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What Can We Learn About the Decline in U.S. Union Membership from International Data?

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Author Info

  • Polachek, Solomon

    ()
    (Binghamton University, New York)

Abstract

This paper is composed of two parts. First, using international data, I corroborate that union density in the U.S. declined because of asymmetric growth between the union and nonunion sectors. I show union density to increase in countries experiencing strong manufacturing growth, and to decline in countries undergoing large women’s increases in nonagricultural employment. Second, I borrow from international relations research on war and peace to develop a cogent reason why union density differs by sector. In this vein, I apply a model primarily used to describe bilateral political interactions to figure out why workers often engage in hostile activities such as strikes. In doing so, I look at the contentious rather than the cooperative “face” of unions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 896.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Phanindra V. Wunnava (ed.), The Changing Forms of Unions: New Forms of Representation, M.E. Sharpe 2004
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp896

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Related research

Keywords: manufacturing growth; union density; unions; international relations;

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  1. Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Spurts in Union Growth: Defining Moments and Social Processes," NBER Working Papers 6012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Freeman, Richard B, 1988. "Contraction and Expansion: The Divergence of Private Sector and Public Sector Unionism in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 63-88, Spring.
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