NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Worker Needs and Voice in the US and the UK

Alex Bryson, Richard B. Freeman

NBER Working Paper No. 12310
Issued in June 2006
NBER Program(s):   LS

Workers have responded differently to declining union density in the US and UK. US workers have unfilled demand for unions whereas many UK workers free-ride at unionized workplaces. To explain this difference, we create a scalar measure of worker needs for representation and relate desire for unionism to this measure and to the choices that the US and UK labor relations systems offer workers. Our measure of needs has similar properties across countries and is the single most important determinant of worker desire for unions and collective representation. Conditional on needs, we find that in both countries workers are more favourable to unions when management is positive toward unions, but also favor them when management strongly opposes unionism, compared to management having a neutral view. Much of the difference in the response of US and UK workers to declining unionism appears to be due to the different institutional arrangements for voice that the countries offer to workers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12310

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