Anticipation, free-rider problems, and adaptation to trade unions: re-examining the curious case of dissatisfied union members

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2011


The author studies the past, contemporaneous, and future effects of union membership on job satisfaction. Using eleven waves (5-15) of the British Household Panel Survey, he documents evidence rejecting the paradox of dissatisfied union members. By separating union "free-riders" from union-covered non-members in fixed-effects equations, he finds significant anticipation effects to unionism for both prospective and covered non-members of both genders. Workers go on to report, on average, a significant net increase in their overall job satisfaction in the year unionization occurs, although this decreases with time. Moreover, adaptation to unionism is complete within the first few years of unionization. One explanation for this is that workers adapt their reported satisfaction over time to support their union bargaining efforts, which would be consistent with at least one explanation given for a union's role in fanning the flames of discontent with management during contract negotiations. That is, members may not actually be as dissatisfied with their jobs as it appears.

Published in

Industrial and Labor Relations Review

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 64 , p.1 -1





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no DOI

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