Gaëtan Fournier : gaetan.fournier[at]univ-amu.fr
Evgeny Tsodikovich : evgeny.tsodikovich[at]univ-amu.fr
The paper studies how the personal career of union (or worker) representatives is tied to the conditions in which revenues are shared between labor and capital at the firm-level. We argue that employers can have a strategic interest in either favoring or discriminating against union representatives in order to lower workers’ bargaining power. The first strategy (favoritism) amounts to “buying the social peace” and can only be implemented with willing representatives. The second (discrimination) is a way to stigmatize vindictive representatives and curb their demands, notably by discouraging other workers to join the union. The behavior of union representatives during firm negotiations and the stake of those negotiations influence employers’ willingness to use one or the other of those strategies. We provide evidence supporting this theory using a rich survey for France in 2017 combined with administrative data on earnings. Union representatives that are most active during their mandate or represent the most campaigning unions have worse career outcomes, while those that do not participate in strikes experience a wage premium. Workers are in turn more likely to think that joining a union will negatively affect their career in firms where union representatives are paid less than their colleagues or feel discriminated against. We conclude that the employer ability to affect representatives’ careers can impair the quality of workers’ representation and workers’ ability to organize collectively in order to take part in the firm decision-making process.