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Title: Union Membership in the United States: The Divergence between the Public and Private Sectors
Authors: Farber, Henry S.
Issue Date: 1-Sep-2005
Series/Report no.: Working Papers (Princeton University. Industrial Relations Section) ; 503
Abstract: I document the dramatic divergence between the fortunes of unions in the public and private sectors in the United States since the 1970s. While the union membership rate in the private sector fell from 25 percent in 1975 to 8.2 percent in 2004, the rate in the public sector increased from the same level in 1975 to over 35 percent in 2004. I propose reasons for this divergence, focusing on di erences in four factors: 1) employment dynamics, 2) the nature of products produced, 3) the role that unions can play, and 4) incentives faced by employers. I examine the e ect of legislation governing collective bargaining in the state and local government sectors on union density and wages of union and nonunion workers. Exploiting within-state variation in laws by type of worker, I nd that union density is signi cantly higher where unions are allowed to negotiate union security provisions (e.g., agency shop) and where employers have a legal duty to bargain with labor unions. I nd there is a small positive e ect on earnings of legislation allowing union security union security provisions and a surprising negative e ect on earnings of a legal duty to bargain. On balance, unions in the public sector have grown relative to unions in the private sector for important structural reasons. Lack of market competition for the products of the public sector and lack of scal discipline through the political process makes the value of unions to public sector workers relatively high. Public policy governing labor relations in the public sector, working in conjunction with these structural factors, has provided an environment in which unions can thrive.
Appears in Collections:IRS Working Papers

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