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Union Success in Representation Elections: Why Does Unit Size Matter?

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  • Henry S. Farber
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    Abstract

    I establish four facts regarding the pattern of NLRB supervised representation election activity over the past 45 years: 1) the quantity of election activity has fallen sharply and discontinuously since the mid-70's after increasing between the mid-1950's and the mid-1970's; 2) union success in elections held has declined less sharply, though continuously, over the entire period; 3) it has always been the case that unions have been less likely to win NLRB-supervised representation elections in large units than in small units; and 4) the size-gap in union success rates has widened substantially over the last forty years. I develop a simple optimizing model of the union decision to hold a representation election that can account for the first three facts. I provide a pair of competing explanations for the fourth fact: one based on differential behavior by employers of different sizes and one purely statistical. I then develop and estimate three empirical models of election outcomes using data on NLRB elections over the 1952-98 time period in order to determine whether the simple statistical model can account for the size pattern of union win rates over time. I conclude that systematic union selection of targets for organization combined with the purely statistical factors can largely account for observed patterns.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7229.

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    Date of creation: Jul 1999
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    Publication status: published as Farber, Henry S. "Union Success In Representation Elections: Why Does Unit Size Matter?," International Labor Relations Review, 2001, v54(2,Jan), 329-348.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7229

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    1. William T. Dickens & Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Accounting For The Decline in Union Membership," NBER Working Papers 1275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. William T. Dickens, 1983. "The effect of company campaigns on certification elections: "Law and Reality" once again," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 36(4), pages 560-575, July.
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    Cited by:
    1. repec:fth:prinin:437 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Paolo Malighetti & Stefano Paleari & Renato Redondi, 2005. "Financing and Managing Health Expenditure: Evaluation of Aging and Capitation Criteria in the Italian Healthcare System," Working Papers 0504, Department of Economics and Technology Management, University of Bergamo.
    3. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2000. "Private Sector Union Density and the Wage Premium: Past, Present, and Future," Working Papers 0015, East Carolina University, Department of Economics.
    4. Susan Johnson, . "'Legal' versus 'Economic' factors in the growth and decline of unions: A stock-flow analysis of Canada and the US," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 44, McMaster University.

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