How True is What Everyone Knows? Board Avoidance, First Contract and the Organizing Versus Servicing Model
Labor Law Journal, Vol. 51, p. 3, 2000
17 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2000 Last revised: 22 Feb 2010
Three key ideas about how unions should best respond to declining union membership have become gospel in the United States labor community. First, unions should avoid the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), because it is hostile to worker rights. Second, the biggest problem facing unions is the failure to win elections and then to secure first contracts. Third, the traditional servicing model of union representation is bad, and the organizing model is good. Numbers two and three mean that unions should move as many resources as possible into organizing and, implicitly, away from servicing current members.
We examine these contentions in the context of data derived from a study of NLRB decisions over a fifteen-year period from 1980-1994. Our data show that rather than being hostile to worker rights, unions have fared far better before the Board than has been suggested. Furthermore, we found that the current focus on organizing, if it means removing support for collective bargaining in established relationships, is a dangerous policy and may, in the end, undercut organizing success.
JEL Classification: J3, J5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation