Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives

Richard B. Freeman, Morris M. Kleiner

NBER Working Paper No. 2805 (Also Reprint No. r1467)
Issued in December 1988
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

The direct role of employers in union organizing has long been a neglected part of the union organizing literature. In this study we examine the determinants and consequences of employer behavior when faced with an organizing drive. Our principal substantive findings are: - that there is a substitution between high wages/benefits/good work conditions/supervisory practices and "tough" management opposition to unionism. - that a high innate propensity for a union victory deters management opposition, while some indicators of a low propensity also reduce opposition. - that "positive industrial relations" raise the chances the firm will defeat the union in an election, as does bringing in consultants and having supervisors campaign intensely against the union. - that the careers of managers whose wages/supervisory practices/ benefits lead to union organizing drives, much less to union victories, suffer as a result. In general we interpret our results as consistent with the notion that firms behave in a profit maximizing manner in opposing an organizing drive and with the basic proposition that management opposition, reflected in diverse forms of behavior, is a key component in the on-going decline in private sector unionism in the United States.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2805

Published: Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1990. "Employer Behavior in the Face of Union Organizing Drives," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(4), pages 351-365, July. citation courtesy of

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