Students' attitudes toward unions and employment rights issues: a preliminary investigation

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1993
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

The decline of trade unionism is a well-documented phenomenon. Possible causes for this decline include the changing demographic composition of the workforce and effective anti-union campaigns by employers. Unions and employers share several common avenues in their respective efforts (1.c., increasing union membership and continuing effective anti-union efforts) including issues of importance to employees and socializing new labor market entrants. Such issues of importance include employment rights issues (e.g., drug testing, polygraphs, privacy, and scheduling work). Such groups of new labor force entrants include forthcoming college graduates. This study, therefore, investigates employment rights issues and attitudes toward unions in a sample of college students. More specifically, the study is formulated as a test of the classic Fishbein and Ajzen theory of beliefs and attitudes. Fishbein and Ajzen proposed that one’s attitude regarding an issue (e.g., drug testing) or object (e.g., unions) is a function of one’s factual knowledge regarding that issue or object and one’s socialization experiences regarding that issue or object. Thus, attitude toward unions is a function of factual knowledge about unions and socialization experiences. This study extends this model by proposing that attitudes toward employment rights issues should be related to attitude toward unions, such that individuals valuing employee rights should be more pro-union or view unions as protectors of employee rights. In this sample, factual knowledge about unions was not found to be related to attitude toward unions. However, personal experience with activities such as drug use was found to be inversely related to attitude toward an employer’s right to engage in activities such as drug or polygraph testing. Furthermore, work experience was found to be negatively related to attitude toward an employer’s right to engage in typical business activities such as scheduling work and determining pay. Factual knowledge regarding the legality of employer activities was also found to be negatively related to attitude toward an employer’s right to engage in personal inquiries. Finally, consonance between attitude toward unions and attitude toward employee/employment rights issues was demonstrated with respect to attitude toward an employer’s right to engage in activities such as personal inquiries and employer’s right to engage in normal business activities.

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