IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1983. "Trade Unions and Productivity: Some New Evidence on an Old Issue," NBER Working Papers 1249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1249
    Note: LS

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. S. Dobbelaere, 2003. "Joint Estimation of Price-Cost Margins and Union Bargaining Power for Belgian Manufacturing," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 03/171, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    2. Yannick Kalantzis & Ryo Kambayashi & Sébastien Lechevalier, 2012. "Wage and Productivity Differentials in Japan: The Role of Labor Market Mechanisms," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 26(4), pages 514-541, December.
    3. Joseph Gyourko & Albert Saiz, 2006. "Construction Costs And The Supply Of Housing Structure," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 661-680.
    4. Joseph Gyourko & Albert Saiz, 2003. "Urban decline and housing reinvestment: the role of construction costs and the supply side," Working Papers 03-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. 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: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.