How U.S. Workers Think About Workplace Democracy: The Structure of Individual Worker Preferences for Labor Representation

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How U.S. Workers Think About Workplace Democracy: The Structure of Individual Worker Preferences for Labor Representation

Summary: 

Although never as powerful as in other advanced democracies, unions remain incredibly important economic and political organizations in the United States. Yet we know little about the structure of workers’ preferences for labor unions or other alternative labor organizations. In this working paper, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and William Kimball and Thomas Kochan, both of the MIT Sloan School of Management, report the results of a conjoint experiment fielded on a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 employees. The authors explore how workers’ willingness to join and financially support labor organizations varies depending on the specific benefits and services offered by those organizations. While workers value some aspects of traditional American unions very highly, especially collective bargaining, they would be even more willing to join and support organizations currently unavailable under U.S. law and practice. The authors also identify important cleavages in worker support for labor organizations engaged in politics and strikes. Their results shed light on the politics of labor organization, as well as civic association and membership more broadly.

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