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MPIDR Working Paper

Working 9 to 5? Unionization and work variability, 2004-2013

Finnigan, R., Hale, J. M.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2017-002, 41 pages (January 2017).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Abstract

Millions of workers in the United States experience irregular and unpredictable weekly working hours, particularly following the Great Recession. This work variability brings greater economic insecurity and work-life conflict, particularly for low-wage workers. In the absence of strong and widespread policies regulating ‘precarious work,’ labor unions may significantly limit work variability. However, any benefits with union membership could depend crucially on union density, which varies widely between states. This paper analyzes the relationship between unionization and two measures of work variability among hourly workers using data from the 2004 and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The results show union members were significantly less likely to report a varying number of hours from week to week, but only in states with relatively high unionization rates. In contrast, union members were more likely to report irregular schedules, but not in states with the highest unionization rates. Finally, we find the monthly earnings penalty for work variability is significantly weaker among union members than non-members. Altogether, the paper’s results demonstrate some of the continued benefits of unionization for workers, and some of its limitations.

Keywords: unionization, precarious employment, work scheduling, earnings

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