Research Paper Ryan Finnigan

Work Variability and Unionization in the Great Recession
Ryan Finnigan and Jo Hale (Affiliates in Sociology)

Millions of workers experienced increased variability in the regularity and predictability of their working hours in the Great Recession. This volatility brings negative consequences for their economic security and family lives, which can be as profound as job loss. The growth of work variability was facilitated by the decline of labor market institutions protecting workers from such volatility, particularly the profound decline of labor unions.


This paper analyzes the relationship between unionization and multiple measures of work variability using data on hourly workers from the 2001, 2004, and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The results show union members were significantly less likely to report varying hours from week to week or mixed full-time/part-time/no work within the same month, but more likely to report irregular schedules. The difference between union members and nonmembers is also moderated by state-level union density. Finally, we find the negative association between work variability and total monthly earnings is significantly weaker among union members than nonmembers. Altogether, the paper’s results demonstrates some of the continued benefits of unionization for workers, and some of its limitations.