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Perspectives on Union Corruption: Lessons from the Databases




Most of the surprisingly small number of studies of union corruption done over the years have focused either on longitudinal analysis of particularly aggressive unions in their prime or on the relationship between union leaders and organized crime characters who have acquired middle names in quotes. Since the 1930s, these studies have usually been based on prosecutorial initiatives of federal or state agencies seeking to rein in Mafia, Cosa Nostra, or Outfit crime families for whom control of unions has been a major income source, not the unions, themselves. I use two new, recently available data sources that allow an overview of the whole spectrum of union corruption, that quantify it, and that differentiate certain aspects of it from the corruption found in other societal organizations. My analysis reveals that union corruption is both broadly practiced and multifaceted, with some forms having brutal ancient antecedents not yet completely lost while others are new and not yet completely developed. Only a few are broadly shared with businesses or other societal organizations. Overall, I identify 25 separate categories of significant union corruption and find that among these embezzlement remains the most common, but kickbacks and malfeasance with respect to pension plan management are of much greater financial concern. Peculation associated with gaining and maintaining high union office together with the bloated perks and emoluments that obtain thereto fuel internal corruption without diminishing the practice of extortion, bribery, conspiracy, selling labor peace, licensing loose contracts, selling job access, and other traditional external corrupt practices. All are a blight on organized labor.

Suggested Citation

  • A. J. Thieblot, 2006. "Perspectives on Union Corruption: Lessons from the Databases," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 27(4), pages 513-536, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:tra:jlabre:v:27:y:2006:i:4:p:513-536

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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher K. Coombs & Richard Cebula, 2011. "The Impact of Union Corruption on Union Membership," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 131-148, January.

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