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Work Rules, Featherbedding, and Pareto-Optimal Union Management Bargaining

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  • George E. Johnson

Abstract

The recent literature on the economic behavior of unions is dominated by a controversy over whether or not bargaining is Pareto optimal. If unions care about employment as well as wages, efficient bargains between unions and management "should" involve both these variables rather than only wages. In fact, explicit bargaining over employment levels is virtually unknown. There is, however, implicit bargaining over employment in the form of rules concerning the labor/capital ratio, job assignment, work speeds, and the like.This paper examines a model of "semi-efficient" bargaining in which the unionand the firm bargain over wages and various types of work rules. The results are compared to the outcomes that are associated with fully efficient bargaining (i.e, over wages and the level of employment) and bargaining solely over wages. Of particular interest is the case in which the union and the firm mutually consent to "feather bedding" agreements (requiring the hiring of workers with zero marginal product). The major conclusion of the paper is that the outcome of collective bargaining is different in the case of negotiations over work rules and wages than in both the cases of fully efficient bargaining and of bargaining solely over wages. In general, however, the outcome of this "partially efficient" bargaining process is closer to the outcome of bargaining solely over wages than to that associated with fully efficient bargaining over both wages and employment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1820.

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Date of creation: Jan 1986
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Publication status: published as Johnson, George E, 1990. "Work Rules, Featherbedding, and Pareto-optimal Union-Management Bargaining," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S237-59, January.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1820

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  1. Carruth, Alan A & Oswald, Andrew J, 1985. "Miners' Wages in Post-war Britain: An Application of a Model of Trade Union Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(380), pages 1003-20, December.
  2. John Abowd, 1987. "Collective Bargaining and the Division of the Value of the Enterprise," Working Papers 598, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  3. McDonald, Ian M & Solow, Robert M, 1981. "Wage Bargaining and Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 896-908, December.
  4. Steven G. Allen, 1985. "Union Work Rules and Efficiency in the Building Trades," NBER Working Papers 1733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Henry S. Farber, 1984. "The Analysis of Union Behavior," NBER Working Papers 1502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ashenfelter, Orley & Johnson, George E, 1969. "Bargaining Theory, Trade Unions, and Industrial Strike Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 35-49, March.
  7. Pencavel, John, 1985. " Wages and Employment under Trade Unionism: Microeconomic Models and Macroeconomic Applications," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 87(2), pages 197-225.
  8. Henry S. Farber, 1984. "The Analysis of Union Behavior," Working papers 355, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Orley Ashenfelter & James N. Brown, 1985. "Testing the Efficiency of Employment Contracts," Working Papers 573, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  10. Duncan, Greg J & Stafford, Frank P, 1980. "Do Union Members Receive Compensating Wage Differentials?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 355-71, June.
  11. MaCurdy, Thomas E & Pencavel, John H, 1986. "Testing between Competing Models of Wage and Employment Determination in Unionized Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S3-S39, June.
  12. Oswald, Andrew J, 1985. " The Economic Theory of Trade Unions: An Introductory Survey," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 87(2), pages 160-93.
  13. Tauman, Y & Weiss, Y, 1987. "Labor Unions and the Adoption of New Technology," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 477-501, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J & Garrett, Mario D, 1990. "Insider Power in Wage Determination," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 57(226), pages 143-70, May.
  2. Julia Darby & Robert A Hart, . "Wages, Productivity and Work Intensity in the Great Depression," Working Papers 2002_7, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Jul 2002.
  3. Klasa, Sandy & Maxwell, William F. & Ortiz-Molina, HernĂ¡n, 2009. "The strategic use of corporate cash holdings in collective bargaining with labor unions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3), pages 421-442, June.
  4. William T. Dickens, 1990. "Does It Matter What We Trade? Trade and Industrial Policies When Labor Markets Don't Clear," NBER Working Papers 3285, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Haskel, Jonathan & Sanchis, Amparo, 1998. "A Bargaining Model of Farrell Inefficiency," CEPR Discussion Papers 1902, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Menezes-Filho, Naercio & Van Reenen, John, 2003. "Unions and Innovation: A Survey of the Theory and Empirical Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3792, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Janet Currie Neelin, 1989. "What Do (Public Sector) Unions Do? Wage and Employment Determination Among Ontario Public School Teachers," UCLA Economics Working Papers 542, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Hirsch, Barry T. & Prasad, Kislaya, 1995. "Wage-employment determination and a union tax on capital: Can theory and evidence be reconciled?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 61-71, April.
  9. Darby, Julia & Hart, Robert A. & Vecchi, Michela, 2001. "Wages, work intensity and unemployment in Japan, UK and USA," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 243-258, May.
  10. Falch, Torberg, 2001. "Collective bargaining in the public sector and the role of budget determination," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 75-99, March.
  11. Adriana Cassoni, 1996. "A bargaining model with uncertainty and varying outside opportunities," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1096, Department of Economics - dECON.
  12. Nicholas Lawson, 2011. "Is Collective Bargaining Pareto Efficient? A Survey of the Literature," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 282-304, September.
  13. William T. Dickens, 1995. "Do Labor Rents Justify Strategic Trade and Industrial Policy?," NBER Working Papers 5137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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