There is no consensus among economists about the reasons why firms resort to profit sharing compensation, especially in larger firms. This paper presents evidence for France showing that firms with unions are more likely to resort to profit sharing than those without and, moreover, that strike incidence decreases with its usage. Inspired by these stylized facts, I develop a model to study the effects of profit sharing on union behavior that introduces two novel mechanisms. First, by making employee compensation depend on output, profit sharing makes unions internalize the cost of their strikes so that they are less inclined to organize collective actions. This in turn damages the credibility of their strike threats. Second, over time unions lose reputation, which further reduces their bargaining power. Lastly, I test the model using exogenous dates of elections of union representatives that give incentives for unions to organize collective actions in a competition for voters. I show that employers anticipate the effect of elections by increasing the usage of profit sharing. Its payment leads to a reduction in strike length the same year, and to a drop in wage growth by about 13 percent the year after. The effect is concentrated on lower occupations for whom wage growth is almost halved and driven by a reduction in the bargaining power of unions.
• Labor Facing Capital in the Workplace: The Role of Worker Representatives
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.