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Unionization and Firm Performance: The Impact on Profits, Growth and Productivity

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  • Kim B. Clark

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of unionization on profit- ability, growth and productivity using time series data on over 900 product line businesses in the North American manufacturing sector (predominantly U.S.). The first section of the paper develops a simple theoretical framework for studying the effect of the union on firm performance. A key result of this analysis is that information about union wage and productivity effects is not sufficient to permit prediction of the sign (or magnitude) of consequent changes in the rate of return on capital; one must know the parameters of production and demand. Expanding the model to allow for the effects of market structure and alternative bargaining regimes establishes the need to examine several indicators of firm performance in assessing the impact of the union. The empirical analysis reveals sizeable negative union effects on profitability, but growth, productivity and the capital-labor ratio appear to be little affected by unionization in this data. The data are thus consistent with a model of union-firm interaction in which collective bargaining affects the distribution of profits, but leaves real magnitudes unchanged. The evidence suggests, however, that unionization may have longer term implications for efficiency since the impact on profitability appears to fall most heavily on firms with relatively little market power.

Suggested Citation

  • Kim B. Clark, 1982. "Unionization and Firm Performance: The Impact on Profits, Growth and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 0990, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0990
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    1. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1979. "The Two Faces of Unionism," NBER Working Papers 0364, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1978. "The Percent Organized Wage (POW) Relationship for Union and for NonunionWorkers," NBER Working Papers 0305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Stephen Martin, 1979. "Advertising, Concentration, and Profitability: The Simultaneity Problem," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(2), pages 639-647, Autumn.
    4. 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.
    5. Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1978. "Trade Unions in the Production Process," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 355-378, June.
    6. Kim B. Clark, 1980. "The Impact of Unionization on Productivity: A Case Study," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(4), pages 451-469, July.
    7. Ashenfelter, Orley & Johnson, George E, 1972. "Unionism, Relative Wages, and Labor Quality in U.S. Manufacturing Industries," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 13(3), pages 488-508, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dongphil Chun & Yanghon Chung & Chungwon Woo & Hangyeol Seo & Hyesoo Ko, 2015. "Labor Union Effects on Innovation and Commercialization Productivity: An Integrated Propensity Score Matching and Two-Stage Data Envelopment Analysis," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(5), pages 1-19, April.

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