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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Embargo Period


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Abstract: I explore the sources of union decline from 1970-2008, inspecting the shifting prominence of different causes at different points in time. Using a relational approach which views labor and capital as actors that gain or lose power at the expense of each other, I find that U.S. union decline is the result of several institutional transformations that benefitted capital relative to labor. Capital was advantaged and labor was disadvantaged due to: 1) the financialization of the economy in the 1980s, 2) weakening protections of labor policy by the 1970s, 3) the reconfiguration of productive capital in the 1970s and 1980s, 4) an anti-union business offensive gaining momentum in the 1970s, and 5) the failure of unions to sufficiently organize new members throughout the entire period. Combined, this confluence of factors led to a steep decline in union membership. Results highlight the complex nature of temporal dynamics in capital-labor power struggles.

First Advisor

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

Second Advisor

Tom Juravich

Fourth Advisor

Jasmine Kerrissey

Available for download on Monday, February 01, 2021