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Organized Labour and the Moral Economy: Effects of Union Density on Egalitarian Attitudes (1970s-2010s)

Sat, August 11, 8:30 to 9:30am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 113A


Do unions influence attitudes in the United States? The “moral economy” perspective argues that high union densities within industries and interstate regions make full-time workers more egalitarian. These attitudes are also expected to “materialize,” reducing inequality for unionized and non-unionized workers via welfare policies and equitable compensation practices. However, despite showing a correlation between inequality and union density, scholars have not yet empirically verified the hypothesized link between unions and egalitarian attitudes. This is an important limitation because the “union threat” perspective predicts the same association between union density and inequality, but attributes this relationship to employers’ efforts to discourage non-unionized workers from organizing. My research addresses this limitation by measuring the effects of union density on egalitarian attitudes. This will be achieved through multivariate analysis of the United States Current Population Survey matched with attitudinal data from the General Social Survey (1970s-2010s). Findings will remove some ambiguities surrounding whether unions influence community cultures and provide new evidence that may help scholars judge between the competing moral economy and union threat perspectives.


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