Worker Voice in America: Is There a Gap between What Workers Expect and What They Experience?

Source: Thomas A. Kochan, Duanyi Yang, William T. Kimball, Erin L. Kelly, ILR Review, Volume 72 Issue 1, January 2019
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From the abstract:
This article is the fifth in a series to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the ILR Review. The series features articles that analyze the state of research and future directions for important themes this journal has featured over many years of publication. The decline in unionization experienced in the United States over the past 40 years raises a question of fundamental importance to workers, society, and the field of industrial relations: Have workers lost interest in having a voice at work, or is there a gap between workers’ expectations for a voice and what they actually experience? And if a “voice gap” exists, what options are available to workers to close that gap? The authors draw on a nationally representative survey of workers that both updates previous surveys conducted in 1977 and 1995 and goes beyond the scope of these previous efforts to consider a wider array of workplace issues and voice options. Results indicate that workers believe they should have a voice on a broad set of workplace issues, but substantial gaps exist between their expected and their actual level of voice at work. Nearly 50% of non-union workers say they would vote for a union, compared to approximately one-third in the two prior national surveys, which points to continued interest in unions as a voice mechanism. Additionally, the authors find significant variation in the rates of use of different voice options and workers’ satisfaction with those options. The results suggest that a sizable voice gap exists in American workplaces today, but at the same time, no one voice option fits all workers or all issues.