Book consolidating democracy democracy journal third wave
Workers who support unions sacrifice money and risk their jobs, even their lives.Success comes only when large numbers simultaneously follow a different rationality.Quitting, exit, is straightforward, a simple act for individuals unhappy with their employment.By contrast, collective action, such as forming a labor union, is always difficult because it requires that individuals commit themselves to produce “public goods” enjoyed by all, including those who “free ride” rather than contribute to the group effort.This article explores the nature and development of labor unions in the United States.It reviews the growth and recent decline of the American labor movement and makes comparisons with the experience of foreign labor unions to clarify particular aspects of the history of labor unions in the United States.
By the end of the nineteenth century, labor unions and labor-oriented political parties had become major forces influencing wages and working conditions.
Unions must persuade whole groups to abandon individualism to throw themselves into the collective project.
Rarely have unions grown incrementally, gradually adding members.
If the union succeeds, free riders receive the same benefits as do activists; but if it fails, the activists suffer while those who remained outside lose nothing.
Because individualist logic leads workers to “free ride,” unions cannot grow by appealing to individual self-interest (Hirschman, 1970; 1982; Olson, 1966; Gamson, 1975).
We favor, instead, a narrower definition of democratic consolidation, but one that nonetheless combines behavioral, attitudinal, and constitutional dimensions.