IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Trade Unions and Productivity: Some New Evidence on an Old Issue

Listed author(s):
  • Richard B. Freeman
  • James L. Medoff

This paper summarized some new evidence concerning the impact of collective bargaining on productivity for workers of a given quality working with the same amount of capital. The new findings, which are based on econometric investigations, indicate that in many sectors,in particular manufacturing and construction, unionized work places are on average more productive than those that are nonunion. This positive union productivity effect is not an immutable constant. For example,in the underground bituminous coal industry, unionized mines were significantly less productive than nonunion mines in 1975 although they were significantly more productive in 1965.The routes by which unions affect productivity have not yet been carefully delineated, and they appear to differ from sector to sector. In manufacturing, reduced turnover and improved management seem to be key; in construction, better trained workers and more rationalized hiring and supervision seem to be primary. Finally, while the union/nonunion productivity differential is likely to be positive, it is on average not large enough to offset the greater compensation and capital intensity under unionism. Hence,higher productivity and lower profitability appear to go hand in hand under collective bargaining.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1249.

in new window

Date of creation: Dec 1983
Publication status: published as Freeman, Richard B. and James L. Medoff. "Trade Unions and Productivity: Some New Evidence on an Old Issue." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 473, The Future of American Unionism (May, 1984): 149-164.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1249
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1249. 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: ()

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.