NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Bankruptcy and the Cost of Organized Labor: Evidence from Union Elections

Murillo Campello, Janet Gao, Jiaping Qiu, Yue Zhang

NBER Working Paper No. 23869
Issued in September 2017
NBER Program(s):CF, LS

Unionized workers are entitled to special treatment in bankruptcy court. This can be detrimental to other corporate stakeholders in default states, with unsecured creditors standing to lose the most. Using data on union elections covering several decades, we employ a regression discontinuity design to identify the effect of worker unionization on bondholders in bankruptcy states. Closely won union elections lead to significant bond value losses, especially when firms approach bankruptcy, have underfunded pension plans, and operate in non-RTW law states. Unionization is associated with longer, more convoluted, and costlier bankruptcy court proceedings. Unions further depress bondholders' recovery values as they are assigned seats on unsecured creditors' committees.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23869

 
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