What Do Unions Do for Economic Performance?
Twenty years have passed since Freeman and Medoff's What Do Unions Do? This essay assesses their analysis of how unions in the U.S. private sector affect economic performance - productivity, profitability, investment, and growth. Freeman and Medoff are clearly correct that union productivity effects vary substantially across workplaces. Their conclusion that union effects are on average positive and substantial cannot be sustained, subsequent evidence suggesting an average union productivity effect near zero. Their speculation that productivity effects are larger in more competitive environments appears to hold up, although more evidence is needed. Subsequent literature continues to find unions associated with lower profitability, as noted by Freeman and Medoff. Unions are found to tax returns stemming from market power, but industry concentration is not the source of such returns. Rather, unions capture firm quasi-rents arising from long-lived tangible and intangible capital and from firm-specific advantages. Lower profits and the union tax on asset returns leads to reduced investment and, subsequently, lower employment and productivity growth. There is little evidence that unionization leads to higher rates of business failure. Given the decline in U.S. private sector unionism, I explore avenues through which individual and collective voice might be enhanced, focusing on labor law and workplace governance defaults. Substantial enhancement of voice requires change in the nonunion sector and employer as well as worker initiatives. It is unclear whether labor unions would be revitalized or further marginalized by such an evolution.
|Date of creation:||Oct 2003|
|Publication status:||published in: Journal of Labor Research, 2004, 25 (3), 415-455|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
|Order Information:|| Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Richard B. Freeman, 1980. "The Exit-Voice Tradeoff in the Labor Market: Unionism, Job Tenure, Quits, and Separations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(4), pages 643-673.
- Fallick, Bruce C & Hassett, Kevin A, 1999.
"Investment and Union Certification,"
Journal of Labor Economics,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(3), pages 570-582, July.
- Bruce C. Fallick & Kevin A. Hassett, "undated". "Investment and Union Certification," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1996-43, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
- Bruce C. Fallick & Kevin A. Hassett, 1996. "Investment and union certification," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-43, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
- Richard B. Freeman & Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "An Economic Analysis of Works Councils," NBER Chapters,in: Works Councils: Consultation, Representation, and Cooperation in Industrial Relations, pages 27-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Richard B. Freeman & Edward P. Lazear, 1994. "An Economic Analysis of Works Councils," NBER Working Papers 4918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- James T. Bennett & Bruce E. Kaufman, 2001. "The Future of Private Sector Unionism in the U.S," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 227-228, April.
- 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.
- Steven G. Allen, 1985. "The Effect of Unionism on Productivity in Privately and Publicly Owned Hospitals and Nursing Homes," NBER Working Papers 1649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Domowitz, Ian & Hubbard, R Glenn & Petersen, Bruce C, 1986. "The Intertemporal Stability of the Concentration-Margins Relationship," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 13-34, September.
- Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1, October.
- Addison, John T & Hirsch, Barry T, 1989. "Union Effects on Productivity, Profits, and Growth: Has the Long Run Arrived?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 72-105, January.
- Macpherson, D.A. & Dunne, T., 1992. "Unionism and Gross Employment Flows," Working Papers 1992_10_5, Department of Economics, Florida State University. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp892. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.