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Why Have Workers Stopped Joining Unions?

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  • Alex Bryson
  • Rafael Gomez

Abstract

This paper tracks the rise in the percentage of employees who have never become union members (¿nevermembers¿) since the early 1980s and shows that it is the reduced likelihood of ever becoming a member rather than the haemorrhaging of existing members which is behind the decline in overall union membership in Britain. We estimate the determinants of ¿never-membership¿ and consider how much of the rise can be explained by structural change in the labour market and how much by change in preferences among employees. We find a similar trend in the unionised sector, indicating that the rise in never-membership for the economy as a whole is not linked solely to a decline in the number of recognised workplaces.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez, 2003. "Why Have Workers Stopped Joining Unions?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0589, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0589
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carruth, Alan A & Disney, Richard F, 1988. "Where Have Two Million Trade Union Members Gone?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 55(217), pages 1-19, February.
    2. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez, 2003. "Segmentation, Switching Costs and the Demand for Unionization in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0568, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. Richard Freeman & Jeffrey Pelletier, 1990. "The Impact of Industrial Relations Legislation on British Union Density," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 141-164, July.
    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. Green, Francis, 1990. "Trade Union Availability and Trade Union Membership in Britain," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 58(4), pages 378-394, December.
    6. Peter Kennedy, 2003. "A Guide to Econometrics, 5th Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 5, volume 1, number 026261183x, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke, 2011. "Slip Sliding Away: Further Union Decline In Germany And Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 58(4), pages 490-518, September.
    2. Alex Bryson, 2006. "Union Free-Riding in Britain and New Zealand," CEP Discussion Papers dp0713, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. John T. Addison & Alex Bryson & Paulino Teixeira & André Pahnke & Lutz Bellmann, 2013. "The Extent of Collective Bargaining and Workplace Representation: Transitions between States and their Determinants. A Comparative Analysis of Germany and Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, pages 182-209.
    4. Rupayan PAL, 2010. "Impact Of Communist Parties On The Individual Decision To Join A Trade Union: Evidence From India," The Developing Economies, Institute of Developing Economies, vol. 48(4), pages 496-528, December.
    5. Schnabel, Claus & Wagner, Joachim, 2005. "Who Are the Workers Who Never Joined a Union? Empirical Evidence from Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 1658, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. canegrati, emanuele, 2007. "The single-mindedness of labor unions when transfers are not Lump-Sum," MPRA Paper 2320, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & P Willman, 2008. "Trading Places: Employers, Unions and the Manufacture of Voice," CEP Discussion Papers dp0884, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Bryson, Alex & Freeman, Richard B., 2006. "What voice do British workers want?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19850, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Jonathan E. Booth & John W. Budd & Kristen M. Munday, 2010. "Never Say Never? Uncovering the Never-Unionized in the United States," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 26-52, March.
    10. Rupayan Pal, 2008. "Estimating the Probability of Trade Union Membership in India: Impact of Communist Parties, Personal Attributes and Industrial Characteristics," Working Papers id:1669, eSocialSciences.
    11. Cem Baslevent & Hasan Kirmanoğlu, 2012. "Do Preferences for Job Attributes Provide Evidence of 'Hierarchy of Needs'," Working Papers 201201, Murat Sertel Center for Advanced Economic Studies, Istanbul Bilgi University.
    12. John Schmitt & Alexandra Mitukiewicz, 2012. "Politics matter: changes in unionisation rates in rich countries, 1960–2010," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, pages 260-280.
    13. Canegrati, Emanuele, 2007. "The Single-Mindedness of Labor Unions: Theory and Empirical Evidence," MPRA Paper 1398, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Blanchflower, David G., 2006. "A Cross-Country Study of Union Membership," IZA Discussion Papers 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. J. Shackleton, 2007. "Britain’s Labor Market Under the Blair Governments," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 454-476, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Union membership;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects

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