Union Mergers in the United State and Abroad

TitleUnion Mergers in the United State and Abroad
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsChaison, G.
JournalJournal of Labor Relations
Pagination97 - 115
Keywordsindustrial relations, labor movement, legislation, union mergers

[Excerpt] It might seem to many that the study of union mergers is an esoteric speciality in industrial relations--the work of a small group of scholars who write mostly for each other in a common language and who work together for a better understanding of why and how unions merge. There is some truth to this--mergers are studied by a small, but active, group of researchers--but actually there is little communication among them and cross-fertilization in their work. Research on union mergers is seldom replicated or extended by anyone other than its originator. Theories of union mergers are rarely debated at conferences or in journals. The body of research on mergers expands but by moving in several directions at once without any sense of common purpose or method.

The idiosyncratic character of research on union mergers contrasts with the broad interest in the topic. Mergers have always fascinated academics, practitioners, and the public because they raise some fundamental questions about unions; Are bigger unions better unions? Is there a future for small, highly specialized unions? Are workers and the public best served by a streamlined labor movement consisting of only a few large, industry-based unions with very little competition between them?


The theme of this literature review is the need for a common foundation for research on union mergers. I demonstrate this need by reviewing the approaches to studying union mergers, asking what is known and not known about mergers, and suggesting an agenda that can draw together divergent streams of research.