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What Do Unions Do?-- The 2004 M-Brane Stringtwister Edition

  • RICHARD B. FREEMAN

The Journal of Labor Research 20th anniversary symposium review of What Do Unions Do? offers a unique opportunity to examine how the claims made in the book have fared in ensuing research and to ponder what parts of the book I would change if I could. This paper responds to the 18 critical essays in the journal. It recognizes three major errors of omission: failure to take account of unionism outside the US; failure to analyze public sector unionism; and failure to analyze the effects of unionism on economic growth; and the problem of determining the "optimal level of unionism" on the basis of estimates of what unions do. Ensuing research has found that What Do Unions Do? correctly identified union effects on turnover, fringe benefits, earnings inequality, political action, profits, managerial flexibility and human resource management, and that wage effects vary widely. Estimates of the union effect on productivity tend to be positive but modest, ruling out negative effects on average, but not conclusively establishing positive effects. Critical comments from some of the symposium panelists notwithstanding, I believe that the bulk of the evidence supports the What Do Unions Do? claim that management opposition has been a major factor in the decline in union density in the US.

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Article provided by Transaction Publishers in its journal Journal of Labor Research.

Volume (Year): 26 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 641-668

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Handle: RePEc:tra:jlabre:v:26:y:2005:i:4:p:641-668
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  1. Laroche, P., 2000. "What do Unions do to Productivity? A Meta-Analysis," Papers 2000-5, Groupe de recherche en économie financière et en gestion des entreprises, Universite Nancy 2.
  2. Addison, John T. & Belfield, Clive R., 2003. "Union Voice," IZA Discussion Papers 862, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. James T. Bennett & Bruce E. Kaufman, 2004. "What Do Unions Do?: A Twenty-Year Perspective," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 339-350, July.
  4. Freeman, Richard B. & Ichniowski, Casey (ed.), 1988. "When Public Sector Workers Unionize," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226261669, March.
  5. Richard B. Freeman & Martin L. Weitzman, 1986. "Bonuses and Employment in Japan," NBER Working Papers 1878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Toke Aidt & Zafiris Tzannatos, 2002. "Unions and Collective Bargaining : Economic Effects in a Global Environment," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15241, October.
  7. Feldstein, Martin & Horioka, Charles, 1980. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Flows," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 314-29, June.
  8. Richard Freeman, 2005. "Labour market institutions without blinders: The debate over flexibility and labour market performance," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 129-145.
  9. Bruce E. Kaufman, 2005. "Historical Insights: The Early Institutionalists on Trade Unionism and Labor Policy," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(1), pages 1-32, January.
  10. Richard B. Freeman & Robert Valletta, 1988. "The Effects of Public Sector Labor Laws on Labor Market Institutions and Outcomes," NBER Chapters, in: When Public Sector Workers Unionize, pages 81-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Pencavel, 2005. "Unionism Viewed Internationally," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(1), pages 65-97, January.
  12. Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1978. "Trade Unions in the Production Process," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 355-78, June.
  13. Freeman, Richard B, 1976. "Individual Mobility and Union Voice in the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 361-68, May.
  14. Hirsch, Barry, 2003. "What Do Unions Do for Economic Performance?," IZA Discussion Papers 892, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Richard B. Freeman & Casey Ichniowski, 1988. "When Public Sector Workers Unionize," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free88-1, November.
  16. David G. Blanchflower & Alex Bryson, 2004. "What Effect Do Unions Have on Wages Now and Would Freeman and Medoff Be Surprised?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 383-414, July.
  17. Bruce E. Kaufman, 2004. "What Unions Do: Insights from Economic Theory," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(3), pages 351-382, July.
  18. Chris Doucouliagos & Patrice Laroche, 2007. "Unions and Profitability: A Meta-Analysis," Economics Series 2007_01, Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.
  19. Richard B. Freeman & Edward P. Lazear, 1994. "An Economic Analysis of Works Councils," NBER Working Papers 4918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Clark, Kim B, 1980. "Unionization and Productivity: Micro-Econometric Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 613-39, December.
  21. Barry T. Hirsch, 1991. "Labor Unions and the Economic Performance of Unions," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number luepf, December.
  22. Clark, Kim B, 1984. "Unionization and Firm Performance: The Impact on Profits, Growth, and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 893-919, December.
  23. David Card & Thomas Lemieux & W. Craig Riddell, 2004. "Unions and Wage Inequality," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(4), pages 519-562, October.
  24. repec:ucp:bknber:9780226723761 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. John W. Budd, 2004. "Non-Wage Forms of Compensation," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 25(4), pages 597-622, October.
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