Managing Unemployment: The Role of Union Business Agents and the Use of Work Sharing

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Abstract

When work sharing was proposed in the United States in the early 1930s, unions rejected the idea as “misery sharing.” Forty years later, California unions overwhelmingly accepted a short-time program known as Shared Work Unemployment Insurance, in spite of its conflict with the seniority provisions of labor contracts. This paper examines the role of union business agents in the decision to use the California program. Using agents' reports of program acceptance and rejection, I conclude that workers accept work sharing because they face labor cutbacks under duress, and because agents play an important role in flexibly administering seniority rules. But workers reject the program when senior workers rely heavily upon full-time earnings or believe management to be acting in bad faith. I also find that, although agents and workers may have diverging interests, when it comes to unemployment, their interests are similar and they share a similar fate.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-143
JournalSocial Problems
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 1984
Externally publishedYes

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