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Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Declining Union Organization


  • Henry S. Farber
  • Bruce Western


New union members in the United States are typically gained through workplace elections. We find that the annual number of union elections fell by 50 per cent in the early 1980s. A formal model indicates that declining union election activity may be due to an unfavourable political climate which raises the costs of unionization, even though the union win-rate remains unaffected. We relate the timing of declining election activity to the air-traffic controllers' strike of 1981, and the appointment of the Reagan Labor Board in 1983. Empirical analysis shows that the fall in election activity preceded these developments. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd/London School of Economics 2002.

Suggested Citation

  • 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, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:40:y:2002:i:3:p:385-401

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    Cited by:

    1. Jordi Galí & Thijs van Rens, 2008. "The vanishing procyclicality of labor productivity," Economics Working Papers 1230, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2010.
    2. repec:pri:cepsud:196farber is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Herz, Benedikt & van Rens, Thijs, 2015. "Accounting for Mismatch Employment," Economic Research Papers 270222, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    4. Charlwood, Andy, 2003. "The anatomy of union decline in Britain: 1990-1998," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20006, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 173-192, Spring.
    6. Michael Reich, 2013. "The rising strength of management, high unemployment, and slow growth; revisiting Okun's Law," Chapters,in: Capitalism on Trial, chapter 11 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Hornstein, Andreas & Krusell, Per & Violante, Giovanni L., 2005. "The Effects of Technical Change on Labor Market Inequalities," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1275-1370 Elsevier.
    8. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & P Willman, 2003. "Why Do Voice Regimes Differ?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0591, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    9. A Charlwood, 2003. "The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998," CEP Discussion Papers dp0601, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. repec:pri:cepsud:113krusell is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Farber, Henry S, 2014. "Union Organizing Decisions in a Deteriorating Environment: The Composition of Representation Elections and the Decline in Turnout," IZA Discussion Papers 7964, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Kevin Leicht & David Brady, 2007. "Party to Inequality: Right Party Power and Income Inequality in Affluent Western Democracies," LIS Working papers 460, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    13. Henry S. Farber, 2014. "Union Organizing Decisions in a Deteriorating Environment: The Composition of Representation Elections and the Decline in Turnout," NBER Working Papers 19908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. repec:eee:quaeco:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:326-333 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Jack Fiorito & Paul Jarley, 2012. "Union Organizing and Membership Growth: Why Don’t They Organize?," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 461-486, December.
    16. repec:bla:indres:v:56:y:2017:i:4:p:605-639 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Dr Alex Bryson, 2012. "Employee Voice: A Transaction Costs Perspective," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 399, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
    18. Lane Kenworthy, 2010. "How Much Do Presidents Influence Income Inequality?," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(2), pages 90-112.

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