A claim was made today by an equipment manufacturing industry representative that in the last 10 years Non-Union labor had far out paced Union labor in productivity gains and that Non-Union Shops where now significantly more productive than Union Shops.

Are there any statistics that can confirm or refute this?

  • More productive in what sense? It seems productivity could be measured in terms of production per hour, production per salary-dollar, production per day, production per employee, or perhaps other metrics, and you may get vastly different results.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 20 '11 at 20:39
  • @Flimzy - I suppose that is true and the point of the rep staying vague probably easier to side step challenges to the vague claim. I just find it difficult to actually believe that there is any significant difference consistently favoring one over the other for similar work.
    – Chad
    Oct 20 '11 at 20:53
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    Related to @Flimzy's first comment, if one manufacturer can produce items 20% cheaper, but has twice as many workplace deaths per year by taking safety shortcuts, does that factor into productivity measurements? Other confounding factors include plant-size (are bigger plants more likely to be unionised?)
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 21 '11 at 2:41
  • @Oddthinking - If a bigger plant is more likely to be unionized I would expect it to be more productive anyway with the economics of scale. But yes it would not be apples to apples to compare a small company assembling boxes to a complex machine assembly plant. And most any business analyst will show that (at least in the US) it is much more productive to work safely. And the more skill and training involved in the position the greater the effect.
    – Chad
    Oct 21 '11 at 13:29
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    Please keep comments on the correct topic, I.e. about how the question can be improved. Please remember there's our wonderful Skeptics Chat for sharing war stories about your previous jobs :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 26 '12 at 20:18

here is a link to an empirical study conducted by a professor of mine. It may help answer your question.


A small exerpt from section IV

Based on the extant evidence to date, a reasonable conclusion is that the average effect of unions upon productivity is small and, if anything, more likely to be negative than positive


In short, union firms clearly display substantially slower productivity growth than do nonunion firms, but most (if not all) of this difference is associated with effects attributable to industry differences, since union firms are located in industries or sectors with slow growth. As with the evidence on productivity, it is concluded that there exists no strong evidence that unions have a causal effect on productivity growth.


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