DOES THE DECLINE OF UNIONS MATTER?
Between 1973 and 1997, the proportion of male workers belonging to unions dropped from 31 percent to just 19 percent. As union membership has declined, so a long tradition of research on the role of unions and the process of collective bargaining has dried up. Most explanations of current trends in wages and employment concentrate upon technology, trade, and immigration, paying little attention to the diminishing power of unions. Craig Olson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, believes de-unionization has also had an impact, especially as a factor in widening wage dispersion. He received a grant in support of a conference which will assess the residual bargaining power of unions, the effect of arbitration on wages, and the impact of declining unionization on pay and fringe benefits. The conference will go on to forecast the future prospects of the labor movement. Papers from the conference will form the basis of a book, which will be submitted to the Russell Sage Foundation for publication.