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Frustrated Demand for Unionisation: the Case of the United States and Canada Revisited


  • Rafael Gomez
  • Seymour Martin Lipset
  • Noah Meltz


In this paper we demonstrate that there is a substantial union representation gap in the United States. We arrive at this conclusion by comparing Canadian and American worker responses to questions relating to desired union representation. We find that a majority of the gap in union density between Canada and the US is a function of greater frustrated demand on the part of American workers. We then estimate potential union density rates for the United States and Canada and find that, given current levels of union membership in both countries, if effective demand for unionisation among non-union workers were realised, then this would imply equivalently higher rates of unionisation (37 and 36 percent in the US and Canada respectively). These results cast some doubt on the view that even minor reforms to labour legislation in the US, to bring them in line with those in most Canadian jurisdictions, would do nothing to improve the rate of organising success in the United States. The results also have implications for countries such as Britain who have recently moved closer to a Wagner-Act model of statutory recognition.

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  • Rafael Gomez & Seymour Martin Lipset & Noah Meltz, 2001. "Frustrated Demand for Unionisation: the Case of the United States and Canada Revisited," CEP Discussion Papers dp0492, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0492

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen Nickell & Patricia Jones & Glenda Quintini, 2002. "A Picture of Job Insecurity Facing British Men," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 1-27, January.
    2. Stephen Nickell & Glenda Quintini, 2003. "Nominal wage rigidity and the rate of inflation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 762-781, October.
    3. P Willman, 2000. "The Viability of Trade Union Organisation: A Bargaining Unit Analysis," CEP Discussion Papers dp0477, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union Decline in Britain," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 38(4), pages 631-645, December.
    5. Marsden, David, 2000. "Teachers before the 'threshold'," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3641, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Stephen Nickell & John Van Reenen, 2001. "Technological Innovation and Performance in the United Kingdom," CEP Discussion Papers dp0488, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & Morley Gunderson & Noah Meltz, 2005. "Youth-Adult Differences in the Demand for Unionization: Are American, British, and Canadian Workers All That Different?," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 26(1), pages 155-167, January.

    More about this item


    Frustrated Demand for Unionisation: the Case of the United States and Canada Revisited;

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General


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