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Labor Unions and the Electoral Consequences of Trade Liberalization

Pedro Molina Ogeda (), Emanuel Ornelas and Rodrigo Soares
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Pedro Molina Ogeda: Sao Paulo School of Economics

No 14849, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: We show that the Brazilian trade liberalization in the early 1990s led to a permanent relative decline in the vote share of left-wing presidential candidates in the regions more affected by the tariff cuts. This happened even though the shock, implemented by a right-wing party, induced a contraction in manufacturing and formal employment in the more affected regions, and despite the left's identification with protectionist policies. To rationalize this response, we consider a new institutional channel for the political effects of trade shocks: the weakening of labor unions. We provide support for this mechanism in two steps. First, we show that union presence—proxied by the number of workers directly employed by unions, by union density, and by the number of union establishments—declined in regions that became more exposed to foreign competition. Second, we show that the negative effect of tariff reductions on the votes for the left was driven exclusively by political parties with historical links to unions. Furthermore, the impact of the trade liberalization on the vote share of these parties was significant only in regions that had unions operating before the reform. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that tariff cuts reduced the vote share of the left partly through the weakening of labor unions. This institutional channel is fundamentally different from the individual-level responses, motivated by economic or identity concerns, that have been considered in the literature.

Keywords: trade shocks; elections; unions; Brazil (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 F13 F14 F16 J51 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 64 pages
Date: 2021-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-his, nep-int, nep-lab, nep-lam and nep-pol
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (8)

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Related works:
Working Paper: Labor unions and the electoral consequences of trade liberalization (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Labor Unions and the Electoral Consequences of Trade Liberalization (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Labor Unions and the Electoral Consequences of Trade Liberalization (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Labor unions and the electoral consequences of trade liberalization (2021) Downloads
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