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The Anatomy of Union Decline in Britain: 1990-1998

  • A Charlwood
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    To what extent can the decline in British trade union density between 1990 and 1998 be attributed to declining opportunities to unionize compared to declining propensity to unionize among workers with the opportunity to do so and to compositional change? This question is answered using data to from both workplaces (from 1990 and 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Surveys) and individuals (fro m the British Household Panel Survey). Results show that both falling opportunities and falling propensities to unionize accounted for membership decline during this period. Membership fell because unions lacked the power to maintain bargaining relationships with management, to organize new workplaces, or to uphold the ¿social custom¿ of union membership among new workers who took union jobs. However, there was little evidence that declining union membership was the result of a change in employee attitudes towards unions.

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    File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp0601.pdf
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    Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0601.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0601
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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    1. Stephen Machin, 2002. "Factors of convergence and divergence in union membership," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20056, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Phillip B. Beaumont & I. D. Harris, 1995. "Union de-recognition and declining union density in Britain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 389-402, April.
    3. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    4. Stephen Machin, 2000. "Union decline in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20191, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. 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.
    6. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth, 2000. "Union status of young men in Britain: a decade of change," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 289-310.
    7. Jo Blanden & Stephen Machin, 2002. "Cross-Generation Correlations of Union Status For Young People in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0553, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Booth, Alison L, 1985. "The Free Rider Problem and a Social Custom Model of Trade Union Membership," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 253-61, February.
    9. David Metcalf, 2001. "British Unions: Dissolution or Resurgence Revisited," CEP Discussion Papers dp0493, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. Henry S. Farber & Bruce Western, 2002. "Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Declining Union Organization," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 385-401, 09.
    11. Seymour Martin Lipset & Ivan Katchanovski, 2001. "The Future of Private Sector Unions in the U.S," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 229-244, April.
    12. Jelle Visser, 2002. "Why Fewer Workers Join Unions in Europe: A Social Custom Explanation of Membership Trends," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 403-430, 09.
    13. Pencavel, John, 2003. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 818, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Jack Fiorito, 2001. "Human Resource Management Practices and Worker Desires for Union Representation," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 335-354, April.
    15. Morris M. Kleiner, 2001. "Intensity of Management Resistance: Understanding the Decline of Unionization in the Private Sector," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(3), pages 519-540, July.
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