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Determinants of Union Membership: A Review


  • Nicola-Maria Riley


The recent drastic decline in trade union membership levels in most Western countries has led to renewed interest in the factors which influence the decision of employees to join unions. This paper discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the three main approaches: structural determinism, individual-level analysis, and conceptual models of trade union joining behaviour. Structural determinism is discussed in the context of the Bainian model and its various extensions. In contrast, the diverse findings in the field of individual-union joining behaviour is assessed by drawing on a comprehensive table comprising all variables examined in this area. The first two sections focus exclusively on trade union joining behaviour as the independent variable whereas the third part of the paper uses an individuals' voting behaviour in the USA. This focus was necessary due to the lack of causal models using union joining behaviour as their dependent variable. The author selects two of the most advanced models for a detailed analysis, and relates the findings to the preceding sections. It is the objective of the paper to critically evaluate the three approaches and their contributions towards understanding this complex field of research. Copyright Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini and Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1997.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola-Maria Riley, 1997. "Determinants of Union Membership: A Review," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 11(2), pages 265-301, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:11:y:1997:i:2:p:265-301

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