Skip to main content

The determinants and effects of right-to-work laws: A review of the recent literature

Abstract

I review the recent literature on the determinants and effects of right-to-work (RTW) laws. The focus is primarily on the econometric studies published since the early 1980s. Five major areas of impact are assessed: unionization, free riding, union organizing activities and successes in NLRB elections, wage structure, and state industrial development. While individual findings are quite sensitive to model specification, the accumulated evidence indicates that RTW laws have at least a significant short-run impact on all of these areas except perhaps wages.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Ahlburg, Dennis A. and James B. Dworkin. “The Influence of Macroeconomic Variables on the Probability of Union Decertification.” Journal of Labor Research 5 (Winter 1984): 13–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, John C., Gloria Busman, and Charles A. O'Reilly III. “Union Decertification in the U.S.: 1947–1977.” Industrial Relations 19 (Winter 1980): 100–107.

    Google Scholar 

  • Becker, Brian E. and Richard U. Miller. “Patterns and Determinants of Union Growth in the Hospital Industry.” Journal of Labor Research 2 (Fall 1981): 309–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Becker, Edmund R. and John Thomas Delaney. “South/Non-South Differentials in National Labor Relations Board Certification Election Outcomes: Comment.” Journal of Labor Research 4 (Fall 1983): 375–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, James T. and Manuel H. Johnson. “The Impact of Right-to-Work Laws on the Economic Behavior of Local Unions: A Property Rights Perspective.” Journal of Labor Research 1 (Spring 1980): 1–27.

    Google Scholar 

  • Block, Richard N. “Union Organizing and the Allocation of Union Resources.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 34 (October 1980): 101–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — and Steven L. Premack. “The Unionization Process: A Review of the Literature.” Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations 1 (1983): 31–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • — and Myron Roomkin. “A Preliminary Analysis of the Participation Rate and the Margin of Victory in NLRB Elections.” Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Winter Meeting. Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1981: pp. 220–226.

    Google Scholar 

  • Booth, Alison L. “The Free Rider Problem and a Social Custom Model of Trade Union Membership.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 100 (February 1985): 253–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calzonetti, F.J. and Robert T. Walker. “Factors Affecting Industrial Location Decisions: A Survey Approach.” In Industry Location and Public Policy. Edited by Henry W. Herzog, Jr. and Alan M. Schlottman. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991: pp. 221–240.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cappelli, Peter and John Chalykoff. “The Effects of Management Industrial Relations Strategy: Results of a Recent Survey.” Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Annual Meeting. Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1985: pp. 171–180.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlton, Dennis W. “The Location and Employment Choices of New Firms: An Econometric Model with Discrete and Continuous Endogenous Variables.” Review of Economics and Statistics 65 (August 1983): 440–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — “Why New Firms Locate Where They Do: An Econometric Model.” In Interregional Movements and Regional Growth. Edited by W. Wheaton. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 1979: pp. 13–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carroll, Thomas M. “Right to Work Laws Do Matter.” Southern Economic Journal 50 (October 1993): 494–509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cobb, James C. The Selling of the South. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooke, William N. “Determinants of the Outcomes of Union Certification Elections.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 36 (April 1983): 402–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coughlin, Cletus C., Joseph V. Terza, and Vachira Arromdee. “State Characteristics and the Location of Foreign Direct Investment within the United States.” Review of Economics and Statistics 73 (November 1991): 675–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, Joe C. and John H. Huston. “Right-to-Work Laws and Free Riding.” Economic Inquiry 31 (January 1993): 52–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — “Right-to-Work Laws and Union Density: New Evidence from Micro Data.” Journal of Labor Research 16 (Spring 1995): 223–29.

    Google Scholar 

  • Delaney, John Thomas. “Union Success in Hospital Representation Elections.” Industrial Relations 20 (Spring 1981): 149–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dickens, William T. and Jonathan S. Leonard. “Accounting for the Decline in Union Membership, 1950–1980.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 38 (April 1985): 323–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • —, Douglas R. Wholey, and James C. Robinson. “Correlates of Union Support in NLRB Elections.” Industrial Relations 26 (Fall 1987): 240–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elliott, Ralph D. and James R. Huffman. “The Impact of Right-to-Work Laws on Employer Unfair Labor Practice Charges.” Journal of Labor Research 5 (Spring 1994): 165–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellwood, David T. and Glenn Fine. “The Impact of Right-to-Work Laws on Union Organizing.” Journal of Political Economy 95 (April 1987): 250–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fantus Company. “A Study of the Business Climate of the States.” Prepared for the Illinois Manufacturers Association. Chicago, November 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farber, Henry S. “The Extent of Unionization in the United States.” In Challenges and Choices Facing American Unions. Edited by Thomas Kochan. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985: 15–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Right-to-Work Laws and the Extent of Unionism.” Journal of Labor Economics 2 (July 1984): 319–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fiorito, Jack. “Research on Unions: Agenda for the 1990s.” Proceedings of the Forty-Third Annual Meet-ing. Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1990: pp. 284–286.

    Google Scholar 

  • — and Charles R. Greer. “Determinants of U.S. Unionism: Past Research and Future Needs.” Industrial Relations 21 (Winter 1982): 1–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Florkowski, Gary and Michael Schuster. “Predicting the Decisions to Vote and Support Unions in Certification Elections: An Integrated Perspective.” Journal of Labor Research 8 (Spring 1987): 191–207.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freeman, Richard B. “Contraction and Expansion: The Divergence of Private Sector and Public Sector Unionism in the United States.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 2 (Spring 1988): 63–88.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Why Are Unions Faring Poorly in NLRB Representation Elections?” In Challenges and Choices Facing American Unions. Edited by Thomas Kochan. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985, pp. 45–64.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fulmer, William E. “When Employees Want To Oust Their Union.” Harvard Business Review 56 (March/April 1978): 163–70.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garofalo, Gasper A. and Desinder M. Malhotra. “An Integrated Model of the Economic Effects of Rightto-Work Laws.” Journal of Labor Research 13 (Summer 1992): 293–305.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hirsch, Barry T. “The Determinants of Unionization: An Analysis of Interarea Differences.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 33 (January 1980): 147–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holmes, Thomas J. The Effects of State Policies on the Location of Industry; Evidence From State Borders. Minneapolis: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Research Department Staff Report 205, December 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hundley, Greg. “Collective Bargaining Coverage of Union Members and Nonmembers in the Public Sector.” Industrial Relations 32 (Winter 1993): 72–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Who Joins Unions in the Public Sector? The Effects of Individual Characteristics and the Law.” Journal of Labor Research 9 (Fall 1988): 301–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, Janet C. and Rudolph A. White. “The Effects of Management Practices on Union Election Returns.” Journal of Labor Research 6 (Fall 1985): 389–403.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “The Effects of Right-to-Work Legislation on Union Outcomes: Additional Evidence.” Journal of Labor Research 4 (Winter 1983): 47–63.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hyclak, Thomas. “Union-Nonunion Wage Changes and Voting Trends in Union Representation Elections.” Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Winter Meeting. Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1981, pp. 344–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ichniowski, Casey and Jeffrey S. Zax. “Right-to-Work Laws, Free Riders, and Unionization in the Local Public Sector.” Journal of Labor Economics 9 (January 1991): 255–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jermier, John M., Cynthia Fryer Cohen, and Jeannie Gaines. “Paying Dues to the Union: A Study of Blue-Collar Workers in a Right-to-Work Environment.” Journal of Labor Research 9 (Spring 1988): 167–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • —, Cynthia Fryer Cohen, Kathleen J. Powers, and Jeannie Gaines. “Paying Dues: Police Unionism in a ‘Right-to-Work’ Environment.” Industrial Relations 25 (Fall 1986): 265–75.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, Ethel. “Union/Nonunion Differentials: Membership or Coverage.” Journal of Human Resources 17 (1982): 276–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz, Lawrence. “Union Status Determination and the Free-Rider Problem in Right-to-Work States.” Working Paper OBIR-7, University of California at Berkeley, 1985.

  • Kochan, Thomas A., Robert B. McKersie, and John Chalykoff. “The Effects of Corporate Strategy and Workplace Innovation on Union Representation.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 39 (July 1986): 487–501.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koeller, C. Timothy. “Determinants of Decertification Activity: An Interstate Analysis.” Industrial Relations 29 (Fall 1990): 491–500.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Employer Unfair Labor Practices and Union Organizing Activity. A Simultaneous Equation Model.” Journal of Labor Research 13 (Spring 1992): 173–87.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Union Activity and the Decline in American Trade Union Membership.” Journal of Labor Research 15 (Winter 1994): 19–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Wages, Trade Union Activity, and the Political Environment of Unionism: A Simultaneous Equation Model.” Journal of Labor Research 6 (Spring 1985): 147–65.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krislov, Joseph. “Union Decertification.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 9 (July 1956): 589–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lazear, Edward P. “A Competitive Theory of Monopoly Unionism.” American Economic Review 83 (September 1983): 631–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “Symposium on Public and Private Unionization.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 2 (Spring 1988): 59–62.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lumsden, Keith and Craig Peterson. “The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Unionization in the United States.” Journal of Political Economy 83 (December 1975): 1237–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maranto, Cheryl L. and Jack Fiorito. “The Effect of Union Characteristics on the Outcome of NLRB Certification Elections.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 40 (January 1987): 225–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meyer, David and Trevor Bain. “Union Decertification Election Outcomes: Bargaining Unit Characteristics and Union Resources.” Journal of Labor Research 15 (Spring 1994): 117–36.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, William J. “Membership and Wage Impact of Right-to-Work Laws.” Journal of Labor Research 1 (Fall 1980): 349–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • —, and Robert J. Newman. “A Cross-Section Analysis of the Postwar Decline in American Trade Union Membership.” Journal of Labor Research 9 (Spring 1988): 111–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • — “On the Prospects for American Trade Union Growth: A Cross-Section Analysis.” Review of Economics and Statistics 57 (November 1975): 435–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — “The Effects of Right-To-Work Laws: A Review of the Literature.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 38 (July 1985): 571–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — and R. William Thomas. “Determinants of the Passage of Right-To-Work Laws: An Alternative Explanation.” Journal of Law and Economics 17 (April 1974): 197–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moore, William J., James A. Dunlevy, and Robert J. Newman. “Do Right to Work Laws Matters? Comment.” Southern Economic Journal 53 (October 1986): 515–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naylor, Robin. “Strikes, Free Riders, and Social Customs.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 104 (November 1989): 771–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newman, Robert J. “Industry Migration and Growth in the South.” Review of Economics and Statistics 65 (February 1983): 76–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Growth in the American South. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nieswiadomy, Michael, Daniel J. Slottje, and Kathy Hayes. “The Impact of Unionization, Right-to-Work Laws, and Female Labor Force Participation on Earnings Inequality across States.” Journal of Labor Research 12 (Spring 1991): 185–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oaxaca, Ronald. “Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets.” International Economic Review 14 (October 1973): 693–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Olsen, Randell. “Comment on the Effect of Unions on Earnings and Earnings on Unions: A Mixed Logit Approach.” International Economic Review 19 (1): 259–61.

  • Palomba, Neil A. and Catherine Palomba. “Right-To-Work Laws: A Suggested Economic Rational.” Journal of Law and Economics 14 (October 1971): 475–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pearce, Thomas G. and Richard B. Peterson. “Regionally in NLRB Decertification Cases.” Journal of Labor Research 8 (Summer 1987): 253–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, Richard B., Thomas W. Lee, and Barbara Finnegan. “Strategies and Tactics in Union Organizing Campaigns.” Industrial Relations 31 (Spring 1992): 370–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • Plaut, Thomas R. and Joseph E. Pluta. “Business Climate, Taxes and Expenditures, and State Industrial Growth in the United States.” Southern Economic Journal 50 (July 1983): 99–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reder, Melvin W. “The Rise and Fall of Unions: The Public Sector and the Private.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 2 (Spring 1988): 89–110.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reed, Thomas F. “Do Union Organizers Matter? Individual Differences, Campaign Practices, and Representation Election Outcomes.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 43 (October 1989): 103–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reid, Joseph D. Jr. and Roger L. Faith. “Right-to-Work and Union Compensation Structure.” Journal of Labor Research 8 (Spring 1987): 111–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rose, Joseph and Gary N. Chaison. “New Measures of Union Organizing Effectiveness.” Industrial Relations 29 (Fall 1990): 457–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmenner, Roger W. Making Business Location Decisions. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  • —, Joel C. Huber, and Randall L. Cook. “Geographic Differences and the Location of New Manufacturing Facilities.” Journal of Urban Economics 21 (1987): 83–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, Clyde, Anson Seers, and Robert Culpepper. “Determinants of Union Election Outcomes in the Non-hospital Health Care Industry.” Journal of Labor Research 17 (Fall 1996): 701–715.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, Clyde and Jim Simpson. “An Empirical Analysis of Union Election Outcomes in the Elective Utility Industry.” Journal of Labor Research 14 (Summer 1993): 355–65.

    Google Scholar 

  • Seeber, Ronald L. and William N. Cooke. “The Decline in Union Success in NLRB Representation Elections.” Industrial Relations 22 (Winter 1983): 34–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sobel, Russell S. “Empirical Evidence on the Union Free-Rider Problem: Do Right-to-Work Laws Matter?” Journal of Labor Research 16 (Summer 1995): 347–65.

    Google Scholar 

  • Soffer, Benson and Michael Korenich. “‘Right To Work’ Laws As a Location Factor: The Industrialization Experience of Agricultural States.” Journal of Regional Science 3 (1961): 41–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stephan, Paula E. and Bruce E. Kaufman. “Factors Leading to a Decline in Union Win Rates: 1973–1981.” Proceedings of the Thirty-Ninth Winter Meeting. Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1986, pp. 296–305.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stepina, Lee P. and Jack Fiorito. “Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Union Growth and Decline.” Industrial Relations 25 (Fall 1986): 248–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tollefson, John O. and Joseph A. Pichler. “A Comment On Right-To-Work Laws: A Suggested Economic Rationale.” Journal of Law and Economics 17 (April 1974): 193–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Voos, Paula B. “Trends in Union Organizing Expenditures, 1953–1977.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 38 (October 1984): 52–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warren, Ronald S. and Robert P. Strauss. “A Mixed Logit Model of the Relationship between Unionization and Right-To-Work Legislation.” Journal of Political Economy 87 (June 1979): 648–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wessels, Walter J. “Economic Effects of Right to Work Laws.” Journal of Labor Research 2 (Spring 1981): 55–75.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodward, Douglas P. and Norman J. Glickman. “Regional and Local Determinants of Foreign Firm Location in the United States.” In Industry Location and Public Policy. Edited by Henry W. Herzog, Jr., and Alan M. Schlottmann. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991, pp. 190–217.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zax, Jeffrey S. and Casey Ichniowski. “Bargaining Laws and Unionization in the Local Public Sector.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 43 (April 1990): 447–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • — “Excludability and the Effects of Free Riders: Right-To-Work Laws and Local Public Sector Unionization.” Public Finance Quarterly 19 (July 1991): 293–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Moore, W.J. The determinants and effects of right-to-work laws: A review of the recent literature. J Labor Res 19, 445–469 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12122-998-1041-z

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12122-998-1041-z

Keywords

  • Union Membership
  • Union Wage
  • Labor Relation Review
  • Stock Model
  • Union Wage Premium