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Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives


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  • Richard B. Freeman
  • Morris M. Kleiner


The direct role of employers in union organizing has long been a neglected part of the union organizing literature. In this study we examine the determinants and consequences of employer behavior when faced with an organizing drive. Our principal substantive findings are: - that there is a substitution between high wages/benefits/good work conditions/supervisory practices and "tough" management opposition to unionism. - that a high innate propensity for a union victory deters management opposition, while some indicators of a low propensity also reduce opposition. - that "positive industrial relations" raise the chances the firm will defeat the union in an election, as does bringing in consultants and having supervisors campaign intensely against the union. - that the careers of managers whose wages/supervisory practices/ benefits lead to union organizing drives, much less to union victories, suffer as a result. In general we interpret our results as consistent with the notion that firms behave in a profit maximizing manner in opposing an organizing drive and with the basic proposition that management opposition, reflected in diverse forms of behavior, is a key component in the on-going decline in private sector unionism in the United States.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2805.

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Date of creation: Dec 1988
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Industrial & Labor Relations Review, Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 351-365, (April 1990).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2805

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Cited by:
  1. Pablo Ruiz Verdú, 2002. "Employer Behavior When Workers Can Unionize," Business Economics Working Papers, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía de la Empresa wb020803, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía de la Empresa.
  2. Hart, Cassandra M. D. & Sojourner, Aaron J., 2014. "Unionization and Productivity: Evidence from Charter Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 7887, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Thomas I. Palley, 2005. "Social Attitudes, Labor Law, and Union Organizing: Toward A New Economics of Union Density," Working Papers, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst wp93, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  4. "Rebitzer, James B.", 1994. "Structural, Microeconomic and Institutional Explanations for Union Decline in the United States," Economic Review, Hitotsubashi University, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 45(1), pages 41-52, January.
  5. Corneo, Giacomo, 1995. "Social custom, management opposition, and trade union membership," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 275-292, February.
  6. Richard Disney & Amanda Gosling & Stephen Machin, 1994. "British Unions in Decline: An Examination of the 1980s Fall in Trade Union Recognition," NBER Working Papers 4733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rafael Gomez & Konstantinos Tzioumis, 2006. "What Do Unions Do to Executive Compensation?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0720, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  8. COZZI, Guido & TAROLA, Ornella, 2004. "Mergers, innovation, and inequality," CORE Discussion Papers, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) 2004006, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  9. Ruiz-Verdu, Pablo, 2007. "The economics of union organization: Efficiency, information and profitability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 848-868, October.
  10. Cynthia Estlund, 2007. "The Ossification of American Labor Law and the Decline of Self-governance in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 591-608, September.


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