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Union Maids: Unions and the Female Workforce


  • Richard B. Freeman
  • Jonathan S. Leonard


How have women fared in unions in recent years? The major findings of this paper are that unions have been more beneficial for women in the public sector than in the private sector, and that unionism for women is primarily a public sector wriite collar phenomenon distinguished from that of males. According to our analysis:(1) Women have come to be an increasingly large proportion of the unionized work force, and are critical in the one area in which unions have recently succeeded --the public sector.(2) In the public sector and in white collar occupations where women unionists are concentrated, unions raise women's wages more than they raise the wages of men.(3) In the private sector unions have essentially the same effect on women in wages, turnover, employment and so forth, and do not deter affirmative action programs to raise female employment. (4) Comparable worth presents a rare confluence of interests of unions in search of members, particularly in the public sector,and women in search of higher wages, and will likely continue to be used by both especially within the confines of collective bargaining.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman & Jonathan S. Leonard, 1985. "Union Maids: Unions and the Female Workforce," NBER Working Papers 1652, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1652
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Henry S. Farber, 1982. "The Determination of the Union Status of Workers," NBER Working Papers 1006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. R. G. Gregory & R. C. Duncan, 1981. "Segmented Labor Market Theories and the Australian Experience of Equal Pay for Women," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(3), pages 403-428, April.
    3. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    4. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1985. "The Effect of Unions on the Employment of Blacks, Hispanics, and Women," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(1), pages 115-132, October.
    5. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1984. "The Impact of Affirmative Action on Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 439-463, October.
    6. Farber, Henry S & Saks, Daniel H, 1980. "Why Workers Want Unions: The Role of Relative Wages and Job Characteristics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 349-369, April.
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