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Seniority Rules and the Gains from Union Organization

  • Joseph S. Tracy

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2039.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2039.

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Date of creation: Oct 1986
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2039
Note: LS
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  1. Andrew Oswald, 1984. "Efficient Contracts are on the Labour Demand Curve: Theory and Facts," Working Papers 555, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Weiss, Yoram, 1985. "The Effect of Labor Unions on Investment in Training: A Dynamic Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(5), pages 994-1007, October.
  3. John M. Abowd & Henry S. Farber, 1982. "Job queues and the union status of workers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 35(3), pages 354-367, April.
  4. Harris, Milton & Holstrom, Bengt, 1982. "A Theory of Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 315-33, July.
  5. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "The Role of Seniority at U.S. Work Places: A Report on Some New Evidence," NBER Working Papers 0618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bull, Clive, 1983. "Implicit Contracts in the Absence of Enforcement and Risk Aversion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 658-71, September.
  7. Grossman, Gene M, 1983. "Union Wages, Temporary Layoffs, and Seniority," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 277-90, June.
  8. 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 S3-S39, June.
  9. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
  10. Peter Kuhn, 1982. "Malfeasance in Long Term Employment Contracts: A New General Model with an Application to Unionism," NBER Working Papers 1045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. David Card, 1983. "Cost-of-living escalators in major union contracts," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 37(1), pages 34-48, October.
  12. Freeman, Richard B, 1976. "Individual Mobility and Union Voice in the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 361-68, May.
  13. Farrell Bloch & Mark S. Kuskin, 1978. "Wage determination in the union and nonunion sectors," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 31(2), pages 183-192, January.
  14. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
  15. Imai, Haruo & Geanakoplos, John & Ito, Takatoshi, 1981. "Incomplete insurance and absolute risk aversion," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 107-112.
  16. 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.
  17. McDonald, Ian M & Solow, Robert M, 1981. "Wage Bargaining and Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 896-908, December.
  18. Joseph S. Tracy, 1986. "An Empirical Test of an Asymmetric Information Model of Strikes," NBER Working Papers 1870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Akerlof, George A & Miyazaki, Hajime, 1980. "The Implicit Contract Theory of Unemployment Meets the Wage Bill Argument," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 321-38, January.
  20. Kahn, Charles M, 1985. "Optimal Severance Pay with Incomplete Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 435-51, June.
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