Collective Bargaining in the Twenty-First Century: A Negotiations Institution at Risk


Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld is dean of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is also codirector of the Negotiations in the Workplace Project, at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. His e-mail address is

Thomas Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at MIT's Sloan School of Management and codirector of both the MIT Workplace Center and the Institute for Work and Employment Research. His e-mail address is

John-Paul Ferguson is a doctoral candidate at MIT's Sloan School of Management. Previously, he served as a consultant at the World Bank. His e-mail address is

Betty Barrett is director of Socio-Technical Systems at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Previously, she served as a research scientist in MIT's Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development. Her e-mail address is


Collective bargaining, a core social institution, faces a fundamental transformational challenge. National survey data provide unique insights into the current status of the bargaining process — revealing challenges and opportunities. Awareness and use of interest-based bargaining principles is widespread but complicated by underlying tensions between labor and management. The findings illustrate the value of conducting an institutional-level analysis of a negotiations process.