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Labor standards, labor-management bargaining and international rivalry

  • Hur, Jung
  • Zhao, Laixun

Using the labor union's bargaining power as an indication of government policy on labor standards issues, we analyze the competition between a domestic (North) firm and a foreign (South) firm, and their relationship with optimal labor standards (LS). First, we show that the optimal level of LS is higher when labor unions are employment-oriented than when they are not. Second, it is higher under free trade than under the optimal tariff system if labor unions are employment-oriented. Third, 'a race to the bottom' of LS occurs in the case of wage-oriented unions. Fourth, the North's imposing a tariff to force the Southern government to raise its LS is effective only if the Southern union is wage-oriented. In order to raise Southern LS, both countries may need some deeper form of economic integration, if the North does not want to abandon its free trade system.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 71 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 259-272

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:71:y:2009:i:2:p:259-272
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Chau, Nancy H & Kanbur, Ravi, 2001. "The Race To the Bottom, From the Bottom," CEPR Discussion Papers 2687, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2001. "The WTO as a Mechanism for Securing Market Access Property Rights: Implications for Global Labor and Environmental Issues," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 69-88, Summer.
  3. Zhao, Laixun, 2001. "Unionization, vertical markets, and the outsourcing of multinationals," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 187-202, October.
  4. Basu, Kaushik, 1998. "Child labor : cause, consequence, and cure, with remarks on International Labor Standards," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2027, The World Bank.
  5. Neumayer, Eric & Soysa, Indra de, 2006. "Globalization and the Right to Free Association and Collective Bargaining: An Empirical Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 31-49, January.
  6. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1999. "Domestic Policies, National Sovereignty and International Economic Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Mezzetti, Claudio & Dinopoulos, Elias, 1991. "Domestic unionization and import competition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 79-100, August.
  8. Jonathan Eaton & Gene M. Grossman, 1983. "Optimal Trade and Industrial Policy Under Oligopoly," NBER Working Papers 1236, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Clask, A. & Oswald, A., 1992. "Trade Union Utility Functions: A survey of Union Leaders' Views," Economics Series Working Papers 99132, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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