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Seniority Rules and the Gains from Union Organization

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  • Joseph S. Tracy

Abstract

This paper examines the optimality of several seniority provisions which are common to U.S. union contracts. The paper focuses on the attempts by the initial union members to maximize their return from organizing the union. An overlapping generations model is used in the analysis. Seniority wage increases are found to serve as implicit initiation fees and thus serve as one means of appropriating rents from future union members. Layoff rules are shown to be optimal only when the organizers are constrained in the types of contracts they can write. Without these constraints, the optimal contract provides full insurance making layoff rules unnecessary. The paper concludes with a plausible set of constraints which organizers may face and discusses the conditions necessary for seniority layoff rules to result.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph S. Tracy, 1986. "Seniority Rules and the Gains from Union Organization," NBER Working Papers 2039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2039
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Grossman, Gene M, 1983. "Union Wages, Temporary Layoffs, and Seniority," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 277-290, June.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Hajime Miyazaki, 1980. "The Implicit Contract Theory of Unemployment meets the Wage Bill Argument," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 321-338.
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    9. Imai, Haruo & Geanakoplos, John & Ito, Takatoshi, 1981. "Incomplete insurance and absolute risk aversion," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 107-112.
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    12. Gregory M. Duncan & Duane E. Leigh, 1980. "Wage Determination in the Union and Nonunion Sectors: A Sample Selectivity Approach," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 34(1), pages 24-34, October.
    13. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Leif Danziger & Gee San, 1982. "Cost-of-Living Adjustment Clauses in Union Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0998, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. MaCurdy, Thomas E & Pencavel, John H, 1986. "Testing between Competing Models of Wage and Employment Determination in Unionized Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 3-39, June.
    15. John M. Abowd & Henry S. Farber, 1982. "Job Queues and the Union Status of Workers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 35(3), pages 354-367, April.
    16. Tracy, Joseph S, 1987. "An Empirical Test of an Asymmetric Information Model of Strikes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 149-173, April.
    17. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Danziger, Leif & Katz, Eliakim, 1996. "A theory of sex discrimination," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 57-66, October.
    2. Paul Hek & Daniel Vuuren, 2011. "Are older workers overpaid? A literature review," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(4), pages 436-460, August.

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