Ronald Reagan and the politics of declining union organization

Henry S. Farber, Bruce Western

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


New union members in the United States are typically gained through workplace elections. We find that the annual number of union elections fell by 50 per cent in the early 1980s. A formal model indicates that declining union election activity may be due to an unfavourable political climate which raises the costs of unionization, even though the union win-rate remains unaffected. We relate the timing of declining election activity to the air-traffic controllers' strike of 1981, and the appointment of the Reagan Labor Board in 1983. Empirical analysis shows that the fail in election activity preceded these developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-401
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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