This study examines the dynamic relationship between union elections and occupational safety among manufacturing establishments. Data on union elections come from the National Labor Relations Board, and data on workplace inspections and accident case rates come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The results indicate that union elections improved occupational safety. First, workplace inspections trended upwards before the election, then decreased immediately after the election, due almost entirely to employee complaints. Second, accident case rates were relatively stable before the election, then trended downwards after the election, due to accidents involving days away from work, job restrictions, and job transfers. These effects are evident regardless of the election outcome. Based on the value of statistical injury, the improvement in occupational safety is equivalent to an increase in the hourly wage between $0.47 and $2.62.

Document Type

Working Paper


Summer 7-2017


Unions, Occupational Safety, OSHA, Job transfers, Job restrictions, National Labor Relations Board




Working Papers Series


Economic Policy | Labor Economics | Labor Relations | Unions | Work, Economy and Organizations



Additional Information

Working paper no. 205

For helpful comments and suggestions, the authors would like to thank Gary Engelhardt, Brigham Frandsen, Hugo Jales, and Jeffrey Kubik. The authors would also like to thank Jeanette Walters-Marquez for providing data from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
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