Article Title

Labor Unions, Alternative Forms of Representation, and the Exercise of Authority in U.S. Workplaces


The authors draw on a telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. workers to explore whether alternative, nonunion forms of representation are filling the gap left by union decline; whether this matters to authority relations at work; and whether these first two points help to explain union decline. The authors find that nonunion associations do not appear to be filling the gap, but that management-established, nonunion representation systems are one-and-a-half times as widespread as is union representation and are evaluated somewhat more favorably by workers. Both unions and management-established systems bear positive associations with authority relations at work before controlling for management practices, but these are substantially weakened once management practices--especially "bureaucratic" practices--are entered. The authors argue that, in the case of unions, this is likely because unions cause employers to adopt these practices. This is not likely to be the case in management-established systems, however, which are more likely to be set up in conjunction with these practices. Finally, results suggest that management-established systems are often in violation of the Wagner Act, but they bear no association with the propensity to vote for a union. Instead, bureaucratic practices matter, independently of these systems.

As of August 31, 2014, the ILR Review is published by SAGE. Please visit the journal site to read this article.