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Malfeasance in Long Term Employment Contracts: A New General Model with an Application to Unionism

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  • Peter Kuhn

Abstract

This paper argues that the structure of long-term employment contractsis influenced by the possibility that at least four different kinds of opportunistic behavior, or "malfeasance,"may occur in them. While the consequences of some of these problems have been examined in various papers,no single model has yet treated all four and thus brought out their essential symmetry. In particular, a certain kind of malfeasance by firms has apparently been universally overlooked-an oversight we try to remedy by developing a simple model here. Other advantages of the present model are that, unlike other models, it endogenizes the path of both sides of the contract -wages and effort -and has fairly intuitive first-order conditions. It also shows how earlier conclusions, such as the notion that wages are likely to rise faster than marginal products in equilibrium, are the results of less-than-general model specification, and has some interesting implications when applied to unionism: by proposing that unions act as workers'equivalent to certain contract enforcement policies like the disciplinary dismissals used by firms, it provides what is to the author's knowledge the only consistent theoretical explanation of the quite commonly observed U-shaped pattern of the union wage effect by age and shows how unions might play a positive efficiency role in this regard.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Kuhn, 1982. "Malfeasance in Long Term Employment Contracts: A New General Model with an Application to Unionism," NBER Working Papers 1045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1045
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Masanori Hashimoto & Ben T. Yu, 1980. "Specific Capital, Employmemt Contracts, and Wage Rigidity," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 536-549, Autumn.
    3. Hall, Robert E & Lazear, Edward P, 1984. "The Excess Sensitivity of Layoffs and Quits to Demand," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 233-257, April.
    4. Baumol, William J, 1982. "Contestable Markets: An Uprising in the Theory of Industry Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 1-15, March.
    5. Grossman, Herschel I., 1978. "Risk shifting, layoffs, and seniority," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 661-686, November.
    6. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-641, August.
    7. Richard B. Freeman, 1978. "The Effect of Trade Unionism on Fringe Benefits," NBER Working Papers 0292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "Involuntary Terminations under Explicit and Implicit Employment Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    10. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    11. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lazear, Edward P, 1984. "Incentives and Wage Rigidity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 339-344, May.
    2. Joseph S. Tracy, 1986. "Seniority Rules and the Gains from Union Organization," NBER Working Papers 2039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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