Category Archives: Labor Unions

Union Organizing Decisions in a Deteriorating Environment: The Composition of Representation Elections and the Decline in Turnout

Source: Henry S. Farber, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w19908, February 2014

From the abstract:
It is well known that the organizing environment for labor unions in the U.S. has deteriorated dramatically over a long period of time, contributing to the sharp decline in the private sector union membership rate and resulting in many fewer representation elections being held. What is less well known is that, since the late 1990s, average turnout in the representation elections that are held has dropped substantially. These facts are related. I develop a model of union decision making regarding selection of targets for organizing through the NLRB election process with the clear implication that a deteriorating organizing environment will lead to systematic change in the composition of elections held. The model implies that a deteriorating environment will lead unions not only to contest fewer elections but also to focus on larger potential bargaining units and on elections where they have a larger probability of winning. A standard rational-voter model implies that these changes in composition will lead to lower turnout. I investigate the implications of these models empirically using data on turnout in over 140,000 NLRB certification elections held between 1973 and 2009. The results are consistent with the model and suggest that changes in composition account for about one-fifth of the decline in turnout between 1999 and 2009.

Work-Life Flexibility Policies: Do Unions Affect Employee Access and Use?

Source: Peter Berg, Ellen Ernst Kossek, Kaumudi Misra, Dale Belman, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 67 No. 1, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors examine the influence of individual and collective voice mechanisms on employee access to and use of six work–life flexibility practices. Their multilevel analyses are based on an original survey of 897 workers nested in departments across eight unionized establishments in the United States. Collective voice measures include the effectiveness of union pay benefits and union schedule support at the individual and union (group) levels. The authors’ analyses indicate that when unions are perceived to effectively support workers’ schedule needs, individual access to flextime, gradual return to work, and a compressed workweek is higher. By contrast, when unions are perceived to effectively negotiate higher wages and benefits and enforce the collective agreement, individual access to flextime and a compressed workweek is lower. Collective voice measures are also significantly related to the use of a number of work–life flexibility practices. These findings suggest that union behavior can have a significant and varied influence on access to and use of work–life flexibility practices.

Temporary Weapons: Employers’ Use of Temps against Organized Labor

Source: Erin Hatton, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 67 No. 1, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since the 1970s, U.S. employers have restructured their relationship to the labor market. This restructuring has included their rising use of nonstandard workers, particularly agency temps, and their systematic attacks on labor unions. These two trends are generally understood to be related but separate facets of a broader restructuring of the employment relationship. In this article, the author shows where and how these trends intersect by analyzing 106 labor-management disputes. Employers use temps as weapons against unions in four primary ways: to prevent unions from forming, to weaken existing unions, to apply pressure on unions during negotiations, and to intimidate or harass striking workers. The author concludes that deploying agency temps in this way is a qualitatively new phenomenon–not simply a continuation of employers’ longstanding practice of replacing union workers with “scab” labor.

Union Advantage for Black Workers

Source: Janelle Jones and John Schmitt, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), February 2014

From the press release:
For over 50 years, black workers in the United States have found union representation to be a source of higher quality jobs than would otherwise be available. These jobs played an important role in creating a path to the middle class for many African Americans and their families. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), demonstrates that despite a long decline in unionization rates in the United States, unions continue to boost the wages and benefits of black workers. ….

… Among the highlights of the “Union Advantage for Black Workers” report:
– Unionized African-American workers earn, on average, 15.6 percent more than their non-union counterparts.
– Almost three-fourths of unionized black workers had health insurance through their employer or union, compared to less than half of non-unionized black workers.
– Almost twice as many black workers had an employer-sponsored retirement plan as black workers who were not in a union.
– While unionization boosted the wages and benefits of black workers at all levels of educational attainment, the benefits of union representation were largest for less-educated workers.
See also:

The Emerging Role of Worker Centers in Union Organizing – A Strategic Assessment

Source: Jarol B. Manheim, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, November 2013

From the press release:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative (WFI) today released a study exposing financial and organizational ties between activist foundations and many of the union front groups at the forefront of various recent protests against employers. The study, The Emerging Role of Worker Centers in Union Organizing: A Strategic Assessment, shows that from 2009-2012 alone, such foundations provided those union front organizations, also called worker centers, with over $57 million in support…. The study, completed for the U.S. Chamber by Jarol B. Manheim, Professor Emeritus of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, exposes how an extensive web of foundation support fuels prominent union front organizations. For example, the Kellogg Foundation channeled over $1.2 million to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Open Society Institute gave the National Domestic Workers Alliance $695,000, and the Rockefeller Foundation gave Restaurant Opportunities Center United $300,000. The study also examines how many union front groups receive taxpayer-funded support from the federal government. For example, the group Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York received grants totaling more than $940,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services over four years. …

Gender Wage Gap for Union Members Is Half the Size of Non-Union Workers’ Wage Gap

Source: Joan Entmacher, Katherine Gallagher Robbins, National Women’s Law Center, blog, January 24, 2014

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on union membership for 2013. The data show women’s union membership held steady in 2013 after dropping sharply the year before – and that’s a relief for women seeking better wages and equal pay.

NWLC analysis reveals that the wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers and female union members earn over $200 per week more than women who are not represented by unions—an increase that represents a larger union premium than men receive.

This release is especially timely. Earlier this week the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that challenges the right of low-wage workers, overwhelmingly women, who provide home care services under Illinois’ Medicaid program—and potentially the right of all public employees—to be represented by unions. Today’s data make it clear that this case has high stakes for working women and men.

Union Members – 2013

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, USDL-14-0095, January 24, 2014

In 2013, the union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions–was 11.3 percent, the same as in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.5 million, was little different from 2012. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.