International Handbook of Trade Unions

International Handbook of Trade Unions

Elgar original reference

Edited by John T. Addison and Claus Schnabel

This Handbook is an authoritative and invaluable reference tool, uniquely analysing the forces governing unionism, union behaviour and union impact from a variety of perspectives, both theoretical and empirical. The 14 chapters are written in an accessible style by acknowledged leading specialists from the fields of economics and industrial relations. They offer a truly international perspective on this important subject.

Chapter 14: Contemporary Developments in and Challenges to Collective Bargaining in the United States

John Delaney

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


John Delaney 1. Introduction To paraphrase Dickens, the start of the twenty-first century represents both the best and worst of times for unions and collective bargaining in the USA. Evidence indicates that workers represented by unions earn considerably more than their non-union counterparts. In 2001, for example, the government data presented below indicate that union members earned nearly 40 per cent more in hourly total compensation than similar nonunion workers. At the same time, union density rates have experienced a free fall for the past four decades. This has led to a situation in which less than 10 per cent of US private sector workers were covered by collective bargaining in 2001. These clashing extremes have created a difficult conundrum for organized labour and provide an appropriate backdrop for an examination of the current state of collective bargaining in the USA. The substantial gains negotiated by unions during the last 60 years will likely erode unless organized labour enrolls more members. Unfortunately for unions, none of the strategies developed to revive the labour movement has yet been successful. In general, the current situation is bleak for unions and bargaining in part because organized labour has not changed with the times. While much of my argument rests on conjecture and speculation, 50 years of declining union density suggests that today’s workers may want something different than unions can or are willing to provide. The inability of unions to organize new members, the rigid US legal framework governing collective...

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