Who Sits at the Table in the House of Labor? Rank-and-File Citizenship and the Unraveling of Confederal Organizations

Source: John S. Ahlquist, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization Volume 28, Issue 3, August 2012
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From the abstract:
Labor unions, religious denominations, political interest groups, and others often aggregate the interests of their members through confederally structured organizations. But governance rules, central authority, scale of membership, and scope of activity vary across time and organizations. Furthermore, unlike citizens of federally organized nation-states, individual members are rarely direct (voting) members of confederal organizations. I present a simple model of public goods provision under the threat of exit showing that distributive conflict over the appropriate balance between the gains from cooperation available in confederal organizations with the loss of control for individual groups can explain this variation in governance as well as the infrequent enfranchisement of the rank-and-file at the confederal level. I illustrate my conclusions with a comparative examination of the origins and development of the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor. I conclude with some observations about the recent schism in the American labor movement.

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