Unions and unionized

Assume that evidence can be generalized as follows: Unionized firms as compared to nonunionized firms have lower rates of productivity, employment creation, and investment, other things equal. Even putting aside all the contrary evidence, we still ask: So what?

These are generalizations only. Localized scenarios in which the opposite holds are possible and counter-cases available. Considerable evidence suggests that the ‘‘union/nonunion’’ dichotomy masks great variability in collective bargaining laws and wage arrangements across countries and regions.

That variability, in turn, suggests we take a deeper look at the macro-design standpoints with respect to unions or not. What human rights, for instance, are at issue when one talks about unionization? In reviewing the literature, one quickly realizes that the rights concerned relate less to any ‘‘right to unionization’’ and more to traditional rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association.

Taking the latter as the point of departure surfaces an issue missed by some observers.

First, focusing on different rights means the earlier starting focus on empirical generalizatons about unionization and economic growth is narrow. We should also be looking at the evidence related to economic growth and collective bargaining arrangements, both generally and specifically. We would then better understand why local conditions are so variable with respect to ‘‘unions,’’ now variously defined and found.

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