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Accounting for the Decline in Union Membership, 1950-1980

William T. Dickens and Jonathan S. Leonard
ILR Review
Vol. 38, No. 3 (Apr., 1985), pp. 323-334
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.2307/2523761
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2523761
Page Count: 12
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Accounting for the Decline in Union Membership, 1950-1980
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Abstract

This study analyzes the components of the post-1950 trends in the share of the private work force organized by unions, which rose from 1950 to 1954 and then fell steadily to 1980. The authors decompose the sources of growth and decline into changes in organizing activity, success in certification elections, losses from decertification elections, and net growth due to economic causes-the last a residual measure designed to capture the effect of factors such as plant closings, layoffs, and new hires. They find that all factors except decertifications accounted for a substantial part of the decline since 1954. When the level of aggregate economic activity is held constant, loss of membership due to other economic causes shows no downward trend, a finding that challenges the view that the decline in the unionized share of the work force has been due primarily to a secular decline in employment in the strongly unionized industries.

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