54 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2006 Last revised: 6 Apr 2009
Date Written: July 18, 2006
Union membership, as a percentage of the private sector workforce, has been in decline for 50 years. I argue that the cause of this unrelenting decline is due to a single fundamental factor - the change in the United States economy from a corporatist-regulated economy to one based on free competition. Most labor commentators have explained the decline by a confluence of unrelated economic and legal forces. In my approach, to understand the causes of the decline in union membership it is critical to return to the period of the original growth in union power; that is, to the New Deal. In examining the differences in the economy between today and the New Deal, one must look not only to labor law, but also to corporate law and antitrust. For unions to be successful, the goals of labor law need to be consistent with the goals of corporate law and antitrust. While the goals were consistent in the 1930s, they are in conflict today.
Keywords: Corporations, Economics, Employment Practice, Labor Law, Organizations, Antitrust, Labor Unions, Law and Economics, Union Membership
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Wachter, Michael L., Labor Unions: A Corporatist Institution in a Competitive World (July 18, 2006). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 155, p. 581, 2007; U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 06-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=920458