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Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives


  • Richard B. Freeman
  • Morris M. Kleiner


The direct role of employers in union organizing has long been a neglected part of the union organizing literature. In this study we examine the determinants and consequences of employer behavior when faced with an organizing drive. Our principal substantive findings are: - that there is a substitution between high wages/benefits/good work conditions/supervisory practices and "tough" management opposition to unionism. - that a high innate propensity for a union victory deters management opposition, while some indicators of a low propensity also reduce opposition. - that "positive industrial relations" raise the chances the firm will defeat the union in an election, as does bringing in consultants and having supervisors campaign intensely against the union. - that the careers of managers whose wages/supervisory practices/ benefits lead to union organizing drives, much less to union victories, suffer as a result. In general we interpret our results as consistent with the notion that firms behave in a profit maximizing manner in opposing an organizing drive and with the basic proposition that management opposition, reflected in diverse forms of behavior, is a key component in the on-going decline in private sector unionism in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1988. "Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives," NBER Working Papers 2805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2805
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Freeman, Richard B, 1988. "Contraction and Expansion: The Divergence of Private Sector and Public Sector Unionism in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 63-88, Spring.
    2. William T. Dickens, 1983. "The Effect of Company Campaigns on Certification Elections: Law and Reality Once Again," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 36(4), pages 560-575, July.
    3. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1988. "The Impact Of New Unionization On Wages And Working Conditions: A Longitudinal Study Of Establishments Under NLRB Elections," NBER Working Papers 2563, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Clark, Kim B, 1984. "Unionization and Firm Performance: The Impact on Profits, Growth, and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 893-919, December.
    5. William T. Dickens & Jonathan S. Leonard, 1985. "Accounting for the Decline in Union Membership, 1950–1980," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(3), pages 323-334, April.
    6. Thomas A. Kochan & Robert B. McKersie & John Chalykoff, 1986. "The Effects of Corporate Strategy and Workplace Innovations on Union Representation," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(4), pages 487-501, July.
    7. Ashenfelter, Orley & Johnson, George E, 1969. "Bargaining Theory, Trade Unions, and Industrial Strike Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 35-49, March.
    8. William N. Cooke, 1985. "The Failure to Negotiate First Contracts: Determinants and Policy Implications," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(2), pages 163-178, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Hickey & Sarosh Kuruvilla & Tashlin Lakhani, 2010. "No Panacea for Success: Member Activism, Organizing and Union Renewal," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 53-83, March.
    2. Cynthia Estlund, 2007. "The Ossification of American Labor Law and the Decline of Self-governance in the Workplace," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 591-608, September.
    3. Rebitzer, James B., 1994. "Structural, Microeconomic and Institutional Explanations for Union Decline in the United States," Economic Review, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 45(1), pages 41-52, January.
    4. Rafael Gomez & Konstantinos Tzioumis, 2006. "What Do Unions Do to Executive Compensation?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0720, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    5. Cassandra M.D. Hart & Aaron J. Sojourner, 2015. "Unionization and Productivity: Evidence from Charter Schools," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 422-448, July.
    6. Bryson, Alex & Freeman, Richard B. & Gomez, Rafael & Willman, Paul, 2017. "The Twin Track Model of Employee Voice: An Anglo-American Perspective on Union Decline and the Rise of Alternative Forms of Voice," IZA Discussion Papers 11223, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Marco de Pinto & Jochen Michaelis, 2017. "Firm Selection and the Role of Union Heterogeneity," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201743, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    8. Richard Disney & Amanda Gosling & Stephen Machin, 1994. "British Unions in Decline: An Examination of the 1980s Fall in Trade Union Recognition," NBER Working Papers 4733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ruiz-Verdu, Pablo, 2007. "The economics of union organization: Efficiency, information and profitability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 848-868, October.
    10. Palley, Thomas I. & LaJeunesse, Robert M., 2007. "Social attitudes, labor law, and union organizing: Toward a new economics of union density," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 237-254, February.
    11. Ruiz-Verdú, Pablo, 2002. "Employer behavior when workers can unionize," DEE - Working Papers. Business Economics. WB wb020803, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía de la Empresa.
    12. COZZI, Guido & TAROLA, Ornella, 2004. "Mergers, innovation, and inequality," CORE Discussion Papers 2004006, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    13. Corneo, Giacomo, 1995. "Social custom, management opposition, and trade union membership," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 275-292, February.

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