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Social Attitudes, Labor Law, and Union Organizing: Toward A New Economics of Union Density

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  • Thomas I. Palley

Abstract

Much has been written about union wage bargaining. Much less has been written about union density, which has been viewed as simply the employment outcome under the wage bargain. This paper presents a new dynamic model of union density that exhibits multiple equilibria and path-dependency. The model builds upon Freeman (1998) who identified the importance of union spending on organizing and business spending on opposing unions. It emphasizes the demand for union representation which depends on wage bargaining outcomes, the state of labor law, and socio-economic factors impacting public attitudes to unions. The model is used to provide a narrative account of the historical evolution of union density in the U.S. and to identify factors important for its future evolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas I. Palley, 2005. "Social Attitudes, Labor Law, and Union Organizing: Toward A New Economics of Union Density," Working Papers wp93, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp93
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1979. "The Two Faces of Unionism," NBER Working Papers 0364, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1990. "Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(4), pages 351-365, July.
    3. Ian M. McDonald & Robert M. Solow, 1985. "Wages and Employment in a Segmented Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1115-1141.
    4. Richard B. Freeman, 1998. "Spurts in Union Growth: Defining Moments and Social Processes," NBER Chapters,in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 265-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
    6. McDonald, Ian M & Solow, Robert M, 1981. "Wage Bargaining and Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 896-908, December.
    7. William R. Cline, 1997. "Trade and Income Distribution," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 58.
    8. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1984. "Involuntary Unemployment as a Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1351-1364, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jacek Lewkowicz & Anna Lewczuk, 2017. "An Institutional Approach to Trade Unions’ Density. The Case of Legal Origin and Political Ideology," Working Papers 2017-06, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.

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