How Industrial Relations Affects Plant Performance: The Case of Commercial Aircraft Manufacturing

This analysis examines how changes in major industrial relations policies affected productivity over the years 1974–91 at one of the most important manufacturing plants in the United States. The authors find that productivity fell greatly, both in percentage terms and in absolute dollars, during strikes and a slowdown and during the terms of office of tough union leaders. In contrast with much of the firm performance literature, they find only small initial productivity effects of a movement from adversarial labor-management relations, which is the norm in this industry, to total quality management (TQM) and back again. How and why TQM is adopted, the authors suggest, may be as important as whether it is adopted. Finally, major industrial relations events like strikes, a slowdown, and the TQM program did not have long-term productivity effects; the firm returned to pre-event levels of productivity within one to four months.

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