The class dynamics of income shares: Effects of the declining power of unions in the US airline industry, 1977-2005

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Although class relations are situated within workplaces, research on class income shares has neither examined firm-level mechanisms nor distinguished between managerial and non-managerial workers within the class of labor. This article analyzes the effects of union power on the distribution of shares of income between capital, top managers, and non-managerial workers at the firm-level during the neoliberal era. Using data on US airlines from 1977 to 2005 I find that strikes are central to shaping the firm-level distribution of income shares, but in an unexpected way. Strikes redistribute income away from non-managerial workers, without affecting either profit or top managerial income shares. These results suggest that analyses of income distribution across classes must incorporate a more detailed class schema as well as observe effects of deunionization at the firm level. Moreover, the findings provide further evidence that firm-level mechanisms are shaped by the institutional context in which firms operate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-625
Number of pages23
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019



  • and effects
  • class
  • industrial jurisprudence
  • inequality
  • J31 wage level and structure
  • J51 trade unions: Objectives
  • J53 labor-management relations
  • neoliberalism
  • structure
  • trade unions
  • wage differentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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