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

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1045.

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Date of creation: Dec 1982
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1045
Note: LS
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  1. 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 615-41, August.
  2. Grossman, Herschel I., 1978. "Risk shifting, layoffs, and seniority," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 661-686, November.
  3. Robert E. Hall & Edward P. Lazear, 1982. "The Excess Sensitivity of Layoffs and Quits to Demand," NBER Working Papers 0864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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 841-64, October.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
  8. George E. Johnson & Kenwood C. Youmans, 1971. "Union relative wage effects by age and education," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 24(2), pages 171-179, January.
  9. Richard B. Freeman, 1978. "The Effect of Trade Unionism on Fringe Benefits," NBER Working Papers 0292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
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