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Union bargaining power in the coal industry, 1945û1981

  • Peter Navarro

In examining the bargaining record of the coal industry since the mid-1940s, this paper demonstrates that union power in this industry has fluctuated considerably over the years and then describes the reasons for that fluctuation. The author argues that the level of coal consumption has had a consistently strong effect on the balance of bargaining power throughout the postwar period and that industry profits have also influenced settlements, but to a lesser extent. In recent negotiations, the most important power factor has been the sharp decline in the percentage of coal produced by mines covered by UMW contracts. In addition, not only has pre-strike stockpiling by major consumers blunted the union's strike weapon, but also the weakness of union leadership in recent years has helped to precipitate and prolong strikes. Only the evidence on the union's democratic contract ratification procedure, adopted in 1973, is mixed: although providing a slight strategic advantage to the union on occasion, it has also led to confusion at the bargaining table and contributed to the weakness of the leadership. The author also illustrates the importance of including rule changes in measuring union power. (Abstract courtesy JSTOR.)

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Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

Volume (Year): 36 (1983)
Issue (Month): 2 (January)
Pages: 214-229

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Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:36:y:1983:i:2:p:214-229
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