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Union Work Rules and Efficiency in the Building Trades

Listed author(s):
  • Steven G. Allen

This paper estimates the effect of union work rules in the building trades on employment and costs by comparing factor demand elasticities for union and nonunion contractors and subcontractors over micro data from two different types of construction. The results show that the elasticities of substitution between labor and nonlabor inputs and own-price elasticities for nonlabor inputs are about the same for union and nonunion contractors. In contrast, the elasticities of substitution among different skill categories of labor and the own-price elasticities for each category are much lower under unionism. A simulation based on a typical office building subcontract shows that these lower factor demand elasticities result in excess staffing of 3.2 percent, excess labor costs of 5.0 percent, and excess total costs of 2.0 percent. This study also examines directly the effect of union work rules on the use of prefabricated components and finds that union contractors are justas likely to use them as nonunion contractors.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1733.

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Date of creation: Oct 1985
Publication status: published as Allen, Steven G. "Union Work Rules and Efficiency in the Building Trades," Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 4, No. 2, (April 1986), pp. 212-242.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1733
Note: LS
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  1. Steven G. Allen, 1983. "Unionization and Productivity in Office Building and School Construction," NBER Working Papers 1139, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Allan B. Mandelstamm, 1965. "The Effects of Unions on Efficiency in the Residential Construction Industry: A Case Study," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 18(4), pages 503-521, July.
  3. Freeman, Richard B & Medoff, James L, 1982. "Substitution between Production Labor and Other Inputs in Unionized and Nonunionized Manufacturing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(2), pages 220-233, May.
  4. Denny, Michael & Fuss, Melvyn A, 1977. "The Use of Approximation Analysis to Test for Separability and the Existence of Consistent Aggregates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 404-418, June.
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