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Labor, Globalization and Inequality: Are Trade Unions Still Redistributive?

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Baccaro, L. (2011). Labor, Globalization and Inequality: Are Trade Unions Still Redistributive? In D. Brady (Ed.), Comparing European Workers Part B: Policies and Institutions (pp. 213-285). Bingley: Emerald. doi:10.1108/S0277-2833(2011)000022B010.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-D171-A
Abstract
Purpose – Ascertaining the extent to which the generalized decline in union density, as well as the erosion in centralized bargaining structures and developments in other labor institutions, have contributed to rising within-country inequality. Methodology – Econometric analysis of a newly developed dataset combining information on industrial relations and labor law, various dimensions of globalization, and controls for demand and supply of skilled labor for 51 Advanced, Central and Eastern European, Latin American, and Asian countries from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, followed by an analysis of 16 advanced countries over a longer time frame (from the late 1970s to the early 2000s). Findings – In contrast to previous research, which finds labor institutions to be important determinants of more egalitarian wage or income distributions, the chapter finds that trade unionism and collective bargaining are no longer significantly associated with within-country inequality, except in the Central and Eastern European countries. These findings are interpreted as the result of trade unionism operating under more stringent structural constraints than in the past, partly as a result of globalization trends. In addition, despite much talk about welfare state crisis, welfare states, historically the result of labor's power and mobilization capacity, still play an important redistributive role, at least in advanced countries. Practical implications – Union attempts at equalizing incomes by compressing market earnings seem ineffective and impractical in the current day and age. Unions should seek to increase the workers’ skill levels and promote an egalitarian transformation of the workplace. This type of “supply-side” egalitarianism is not a new strategy for unions, but is very much embedded in the unions’ DNA.