Explain the principle of job unions, consisting of membership levels and also wagesEvaluate arguments for and against labor unionsAnalyze reasons for the decrease in U.S. Union membership

A labor union is an organization of workers that negotiates v employers end wages and working conditions. A labor union looks for to adjust the balance the power in between employers and also workers through requiring labor to attend to workers collectively, quite than together individuals. Thus, negotiations in between unions and firms space sometimes called collective bargaining.

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The topic of job unions can be controversial. Supporters of labor unions watch them as the workers’ primary line that defense against efforts by profit-seeking firms to hold down wages and benefits. Movie critics of job unions check out them as having a tendency to grab as much as they have the right to in the quick term, also if it means injuring employees in the long run by driving firms into bankruptcy or by prevent the brand-new technologies and production techniques that lead to financial growth. We will begin with some facts about union membership in the joined States.

Facts around Union Membership and also Pay

According come the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, around 11.1% of every U.S. Employees belong come unions. Adhering to are few of the facts noted by the bureau because that 2014:

12.0% of U.S. Male employees belong to unions; 10.5% that female workers do11.1% that white workers, 13.4 % of black color workers, and 9.8 % the Hispanic employees belong to unions12.5% of full time workers and also 6.0% of part-time workers space union members4.2% that workers periods 16–24 belong come unions, as do 14% of workers eras 45-54Occupations in which reasonably high percentages of workers belong come unions space the federal federal government (26.9% belong to a union), state federal government (31.3%), local federal government (41.7%); transportation and also utilities (20.6%); herbal resources, construction, and also maintenance (16.3%); and also production, transportation, and material moving (14.7%)Occupations the have fairly low percentages that unionized workers are agricultural workers (1.4%), financial solutions (1.1%), professional and business services (2.4%), recreation and hospitality (2.7%), and wholesale and also retail trade (4.7%)

In summary, the portion of workers belonging to a union is greater for men than women; greater for blacks than for whites or Hispanics; greater for the 45–64 period range; and higher among employees in government and also manufacturing than workers in agriculture or service-oriented jobs. Table 2 perform the biggest U.S. Job unions and also their membership.

National education Association (NEA)3.2 million
Service Employees worldwide Union (SEIU)2.1 million
American Federation of teachers (AFT)1.5 million
International Brotherhood the Teamsters (IBT)1.4 million
The American Federation the State, County, and also Municipal employees (AFSCME)1.3 million
United Food and also Commercial Workers worldwide Union1.3 million
United Steelworkers1.2 million
International Union, unified Automobile, Aerospace and farming Implement workers of America (UAW)990,000
International combination of Machinists and Aerospace Workers720,000
International Brotherhood of electrical Workers (IBEW)675,000
Table 2. The largest American unions in 2013. (Source: U.S. Room of Labor, office of labor Statistics)

In terms of pay, benefits, and also hiring, U.S. Unions offer a good news/bad news story. The an excellent news for unions and also their members is the their members earn about 20% more than nonunion workers, also after adjusting for determinants such as years of work experience and also education level. The negative news for unions is that the share of U.S. Workers who belong come a job union has been steadily declining for 50 years, as presented in number 1. Around one-quarter of every U.S. Workers belonged to a union in the mid-1950s, however only 11.1% of U.S. Workers are union members today. If you leave out employees employed through the federal government (which includes teachers in windy schools), only 6.6% of the workers employed by private firms currently work for a union.

Figure 1. percentage of Wage and also Salary employees Who room Union Members. The re-publishing of wage and also salary workers that belong come unions rose sharply in the 1930s and also 1940s, however has tailed off since then come 11.1% of all workers in 2014.

The complying with section analyzes the greater pay union employees receive compared the pay rates for nonunion workers. The complying with section analyzes declining union membership levels. An overview of these two issues will enable us to talk about many aspects of how unions work.

Higher salaries for Union Workers

Why might union workers receive higher pay? What space the borders on just how much greater pay they deserve to receive? To analyze these questions, let’s take into consideration a instance where every firms in an market must negotiate with a single union, and no firm is enabled to hire nonunion labor. If no job union exist in this market, then equilibrium (E) in the labor industry would take place at the intersection that the need for labor (D) and also the supply of job (S) in figure 2. The union can, however, threaten that, uneven firms agree to the wages they demand, the workers will certainly strike. Together a result, the job union manages to achieve, through negotiations v the firms, a union fairy of Wu for its members, above what the equilibrium wage would otherwise have been.

Figure 2. Union wage Negotiations. Without a union, the equilibrium at E would have connected the fairy We and the quantity of job Qe. However, the union is maybe to use its bargaining strength to advanced the fairy to Wu. The result is an excess supply of labor for union jobs. The is, a quantity of job supplied, Qs is greater than firms’ amount demanded because that labor, Qd.

This labor market case resembles what a monopoly firm go in marketing a product, but in this case a union is a syndicate selling labor to firms. At the higher union fairy Wu, the this firm in this sector will hire much less labor 보다 they would have actually hired in equilibrium. Moreover, an excess supply of workers want union jobs, yet firms will certainly not be hiring because that such jobs.

From the union allude of view, workers who receive higher wages are far better off. However, notification that the quantity of workers (Qd) hired at the union wage Wu is smaller than the quantity Qe that would have actually been rental at the original equilibrium wage. A judicious union should recognize that as soon as it pushes up the wage, it likewise reduces the motivation of firms to hire. This situation does no necessarily average that union workers room fired. Instead, it may be that when union workers move on come other tasks or retire, they room not always replaced. Or perhaps when a firm expands production, it broadens employment somewhat less with a higher union wage than it would have done with the lower equilibrium wage. Or possibly a firm decides to purchase inputs from nonunion producers, fairly than developing them v its own extremely paid unionized workers. Or probably the firm move or opens a new facility in a state or country where union are much less powerful.

From the firm’s suggest of view, the vital question is even if it is the greater wage of union workers is matched by greater productivity. If so, climate the firm have the right to afford to pay the higher union salaries and, indeed, the demand curve because that “unionized” labor can actually change to the right. This could reduce the task losses together the equilibrium employed staff level shifts to the right and the difference in between the equilibrium and the union salaries will have been reduced. If worker unionization does not rise productivity, climate the greater union fairy will cause lower earnings or losses for the firm.

Union workers might have higher productivity than nonunion employees for a number of reasons. First, greater wages might elicit greater productivity. Second, union workers have tendency to stay much longer at a offered job, a trend that reduces the employer’s expenses for training and also hiring and results in workers with more years the experience. Numerous unions likewise offer project training and apprenticeship programs.

In addition, firms that are faced with union needs for higher wages may pick production approaches that involve more physical capital and less labor, resulting in raised labor productivity. Table 3 provides an example. Assume that a for sure can create a home exercise cycle through three different combinations that labor and also manufacturing equipment. Say the labor is payment $16 one hour (including benefits) and also the machines for manufacturing expense $200 each. Under this circumstances, the total cost of producing a house exercise cycle will be lowest if the firm adopts the setup of 50 hours of labor and also one machine, as the table shows. Now, expect that a union negotiates a wage of $20 one hour consisting of benefits. In this case, it makes no difference to the firm whether it uses much more hours the labor and also fewer equipments or less labor and more machines, though it could prefer come use more machines and also to hire fewer union workers. (After all, machines never threaten come strike—but they do not purchase the final product or business either.) In the final column the the table, the wage has risen to $24 one hour. In this case, the firm clearly has an impetus for utilizing the setup that requires paying for fewer hrs of labor and using 3 machines. If monitoring responds come union needs for higher wages by investing an ext in machinery, climate union workers have the right to be more productive because they are working with an ext or far better physical resources equipment 보다 the common nonunion worker. However, the certain will must hire fewer workers.

Hours that LaborNumber of MachinesCost of labor + cost of machine $16/hourCost of labor + price of maker $20/hourCost of labor + cost of machine $24/hr
303$480 + $600 = $1,080$600 + $600 = $1,200$720 + $600 = $1,320
402$640 + $400 = $1,040$800 + $400 = $1,200$960 + $400 = $1,360
501$800 + $200 = $1,000$1,000 + $200 = $1,200$1,200 + $200 = $1,400
Table 3. three Production choices to manufacture a home Exercise Cycle

In part cases, unions have actually discouraged the use of labor-saving physical funding equipment—out that the reasonable are afraid that brand-new machinery will alleviate the variety of union jobs. Because that example, in 2002, the union representing longshoremen that unload ships and the firms that run shipping companies and also port facilities staged a occupational stoppage the shut down the port on the western coast of the joined States. Two key issues in the conflict were the desire the the shipping companies and port operator to usage handheld scanners because that record-keeping and computer-operated cabs for loading and also unloading ships—changes i beg your pardon the union opposed, together with overtime pay. President Obama threatened to use the Labor management Relations act of 1947—commonly recognized as the Taft-Hartley Act—where a court have the right to impose one 80-day “cooling-off period” in bespeak to enable time because that negotiations to proceed without the risk of a job-related stoppage. Federal mediators were called in, and also the two sides agreed come a deal in February 2015. The ultimate agreement permitted the brand-new technologies, but additionally kept wages, health, and pension benefits high because that workers. In the past, presidential use of the Taft-Hartley act sometimes has actually made job negotiations much more bitter and also argumentative but, in this case, it appears to have actually smoothed the road to one agreement.

In various other instances, unions have proved quite willing come adopt brand-new technologies. In one prominent example, during the 1950s and also 1960s, the United Mineworkers union demanded that mining carriers install labor-saving machine in the mines. The mineworkers’ union realized that over time, the new machines would minimize the variety of jobs in the mines, but the union leaders also knew the the mine owners would need to pay higher wages if the workers became an ext productive, and mechanization to be a important step toward higher productivity.

In fact, in some situations union workers may be much more willing come accept new technology 보다 nonunion workers, because the union workers think that the union will certainly negotiate to defend their jobs and also wages, conversely, nonunion workers might be much more concerned the the brand-new technology will replace their jobs. In addition, union workers, who commonly have greater job industry experience and training, are likely to suffer less and benefit much more than non-union workers from the introduction of brand-new technology. Overall, the is tough to do a definitive instance that union workers as a group are constantly either much more or less welcoming to brand-new technology than space nonunion workers.

The decrease in U.S. Union Membership

The relationship of U.S. Workers belonging to union has declined dramatically since the early 1950s. Economists have offered a variety of possible explanations:

The shift from production to service industriesThe pressure of globalization and increased vain from foreign producersA decreased desire for unions since of the workplace protection laws now in placeU.S. Legal setting that provides it reasonably more challenging for union to organize workers and expand their membership

Let’s talk about each of these four explanations in much more detail.

A an initial possible explanation for the decline in the re-superstructure of U.S. Workers belonging to unions involves the fads of job development in the manufacturing and service sectors that the economy displayed in number 3. The U.S. Economic climate had around 15 million manufacturing tasks in 1960. This total rose come 19 million by the so late 1970s and then declined to 17 million in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of jobs in business industries and in government linked rose indigenous 35 million in 1960 to over 118 million by 2013, follow to the office of labor Statistics. Since over time union were more powerful in manufacturing than in business industries, the expansion in tasks was not happening where the unions were. That is exciting to keep in mind that number of of the greatest unions in the nation are comprised of government workers, consisting of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employee (AFSCME); the Service Employees worldwide Union; and the National education and learning Association. The membership of each of this unions is listed in Table 2. Exterior of government employees, however, unions have not had great success in organizing the business sector.

Figure 3. The development of organization Jobs. Jobs in services have actually increased significantly in the last few decades. Tasks in federal government have boosted modestly. Tasks in manufacturing have not adjusted much, back they have trended down in recent years. Source: U.S. Department of Labor, office of labor Statistics.

A 2nd explanation for the decline in the re-superstructure of unionized employees looks at import competition. Starting in the 1960s, U.S. Carmakers and steelmakers confronted increasing competition indigenous Japanese and also European manufacturers. Together sales that imported cars and steel rose, the variety of jobs in U.S. Auto production fell. This industry is heavily unionized. Not surprisingly, membership in the joined Auto Workers, which was 975,000 in 1985, had actually fallen to approximately 390,000 through 2015. Income competition not only decreases the employed staff in sectors whereby unions were when strong, but additionally decreases the bargaining strength of unions in those sectors. However, together we have actually seen, unions the organize public-sector workers, who space not intimidated by income competition, have ongoing to view growth.

A third possible reason because that the decrease in the variety of union workers is the citizens often call on their chosen representatives to pass laws worrying work conditions, overtime, parental leave, regulation of pensions, and also other issues. Unions offered solid political assistance for these laws aimed in ~ protecting employees but, in an ironic twist, the i of those legislations then made numerous workers feel much less need because that unions.

These first three possible reasons for the decrease of unions room all rather plausible, yet they have actually a common problem. Many other emerged economies have experienced similar economic and political trends, such together the transition from production to services, globalization, and also increasing government social benefits and also regulation that the workplace. Plainly there are cultural differences in between countries regarding their acceptance of union in the workplace. The share of the populace belonging to union in other countries is really high compared with the re-superstructure in the united States. Table 4 mirrors the proportion of employees in a variety of the world high-income economic situations who belong come unions. The United states is near the bottom, in addition to France and also Spain. The last shaft shows union coverage, characterized as consisting of those employees whose wages are identified by a union negotiation even if the workers carry out not official belong to the union. In the joined States, union member is almost identical to union coverage. However, in numerous countries, the wages of many workers who carry out not officially belong come a union space still identified by cumulative bargaining in between unions and also firms.

CountryUnion Density: percentage of workers Belonging to a UnionUnion Coverage: percentage of workers Whose salaries Are figured out by Union Bargaining
United Kingdom29%35%
United States11.1%12.5%
Table 4. worldwide Comparisons of Union Membership and Coverage in 2012. (Source, CIA civilization Factbook, retrieved from www.cia.gov)

These international distinctions in union membership suggest a 4th reason for the decline of union membership in the unified States: probably U.S. Laws are much less friendly come the formation of unions than such legislations in various other countries. The close connection in between union membership and also a familiar legal setting is obvious in the history of U.S. Unions. The good rise in union member in the 1930s followed the passage of the National Labor-Management relationships Act the 1935, which specified that workers had a ideal to theorem unions and that management had to provide them a fair chance to perform so. The U.S. Government strongly encouraged the development of unions during the at an early stage 1940s in the id that unions would aid to coordinate the all-out production efforts needed during civilization War II. However, after people War II come the passage of the Taft-Hartley act of 1947, which offered states the strength to permit workers come opt out of the union in their rectal if they so desired. This regulation made the legit climate much less encouraging to those seeking to form unions, and union member levels soon started declining.

The actions for forming a union differ considerably from country to country. Because that example, the steps in the united States and those in Canada are strikingly different. As soon as a group of workers wish to form a union in the united States, they announce this fact and also an election date is collection when the employees at a firm will certainly vote in a mystery ballot on even if it is to kind a union. Supporters of the union lobby because that a “yes” vote, and also the monitoring of the firm lobbies because that a “no” vote—often even hiring exterior consultants for help in swaying workers to poll “no.” In Canada, by contrast, a union is developed when a sufficient proportion of employees (usually around 60%) sign an official card saying the they desire a union. Over there is no separate “election date.” The monitoring of Canadian firms is minimal by legislation in its capability to lobby against the union. In addition, despite it is illegal to discriminate and also fire workers based on their union task in the unified States, the penalties space slight, making this a no so costly means of deterring union activity. In short, developing unions is easier in Canada—and in plenty of other countries—than in the united States.

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In summary, union membership in the United claims is reduced than in countless other high-income countries, a distinction that may be early out to various legal settings and cultural attitudes towards unions.