Temporary workers benefit from labor-management tensions, study finds

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According to a new study from Cornell University, temporary workers see their average salary increase by 21% when employed by a company with a unionized workforce.

“What is surprising is that the wage premium is only for unions that clash and fight with employers,” said Adam Seth Litwin, associate professor of labor relations, law and history. at the ILR School and lead author of the study. “Unions that ‘cooperate’ or ‘associate’ with employers do not get wage gains for agency workers.”

According to research by Litwin and ILR Ph.D. student Or Shay, unions that work constructively with employers do a lot of good for core union members and the broader economy, but may do so on the backs of employers. casual workers.

In their article, “What are the unions doing… for temporary workers? Collective bargaining and the wage penalty”, published on December 14 in industrial relationsLitwin and Shay study the effects of collective bargaining on the “temporary wage gap” – the substantial wage penalty attached to temporary workers’ fixed-term contracts.

The authors expected unions to reduce the wage penalty for temps. They found strong evidence of this, but only when the employment relationship is adversarial from the perspective of workers and management.

“The results may irritate some ‘progressive’ trade unionists,” Litwin said. “Old-fashioned, adversarial, non-cooperative organizing is out of fashion. And there can be a number of good reasons for this. But at least when it comes to helping non-traditional or non-essential workers, unions are much more helpful when they’re one-on-one with management, rather than partnering with them.”

Analyzing UK employer-employee data from 2,500 workplaces, Litwin and Shay found that the pay gap between agency workers and regular workers narrows in unionized workplaces if the union’s relationship with management is contradictory. When a union instead partners with management, rank-and-file members benefit, but both the union and the employer seem to place less importance on the needs of non-essential workers, such as agency workers.

Litwin and Shay draw on existing research to explain why. They theorize that unions that approach employers in contradictory ways are more likely to see themselves as representing the needs of all workers, not just their core members. As a result, they are striving first and foremost to raise wages for their own members, but not at the expense of non-essential workers.

A contradictory orientation between unions and employers also provides economic explanations for the researchers’ findings. By maintaining higher wages for temps, the union reduces the likelihood that employers will want to substitute temps for permanent workers. And employers in adversarial relationships can highlight the higher salaries of their temps to show that their workers don’t need to be unionized or pay dues to be treated well.

Interestingly, Litwin and Shay found that a cooperative employment relationship does not reduce the temporary wage gap; in these cases, “the union need not mitigate the threat of rank-and-file substitution by seeking higher wages for temps,” they write. Moreover, partner employers do not have to increase the wages of temps to show their strength to the union or to discourage the unionization of those who are not unionized.


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More information:
The research paper is available in PDF format at deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery. … 1&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

Provided by Cornell University


Quote: Temporary Workers Benefit from Union-Management Tension, Research Finds (2022, February 3) Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-temp-workers-benefit-union-management -tension.html

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