Bankruptcy and the Cost of Organized Labor: Evidence from Union Elections
70 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017 Last revised: 22 Mar 2023
Date Written: September 2017
Unionized workers are entitled to special treatment in bankruptcy court. This can be detrimental to other corporate stakeholders in default states, with unsecured creditors standing to lose the most. Using data on union elections covering several decades, we employ a regression discontinuity design to identify the effect of worker unionization on bondholders in bankruptcy states. Closely won union elections lead to significant bond value losses, especially when firms approach bankruptcy, have underfunded pension plans, and operate in non-RTW law states. Unionization is associated with longer, more convoluted, and costlier bankruptcy court proceedings. Unions further depress bondholders' recovery values as they are assigned seats on unsecured creditors' committees.
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