Labor Unions and the Problem of Monopoly: Collective Bargaining & Market Governance 1890-Present
Forthcoming, Politics & Society
21 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2022 Last revised: 10 Jul 2022
Date Written: January 21, 2022
The labor movement has long had an ambivalent relationship to antitrust policy in the United States. Trade unionists have considered concentrated markets to be more favorable environments for union power than decentralized markets: Oligopoly demands fewer union resources for organizing and contract bargaining campaigns, and oligopolists can tame cutthroat competition and share product market rents with workers. This paper takes a different view. Looking to the strategies employed by unions in decentralized industries, where unions rather than corporations took on the role of taming and regulating competition, it explains how unions have leveraged power over market governance into bargaining power over wages and working conditions. In the current age of vertical dis-integration and fissured workplaces, union power over market governance is more important to shop-floor power than ever. Antitrust policy is one tool that can help restrain the power of corporations and make them more accountable to workers’ collective power.
Keywords: Antitrust, monopoly, trade unions, market governance
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