Complex Incentive Alignment in Bargaining Associations
Abstract: This paper addresses the issue of how intra-organizational incentive alignment mechanisms evolve to solve the free rider problem in collective bargaining. We focus on agricultural bargaining cooperatives (ABCs), a particular form of producer-owned firms mainly observed in the West Coast states of the US. These organizations play several crucial institutional roles that include, among others, enhancing farmers’ countervailing power vis-à-vis powerful processors, deterring postcontractual opportunism, enabling price discovery, and ameliorating moral hazard and adverse selection problems. The single most important factor that constrains ABCs’ ability to play such roles is the free rider problem. We review quantitative and qualitative evidence collected for more than ten years from ABCs to explore the evolution of solution instruments used to align member incentives and thus minimize the inefficiencies arising from the free rider problem. The obtained results suggest that mechanisms evolve from Market to Community to Contract to Hierarchy solutions. In organizations characterized by highly heterogeneous memberships the provision of a combination of intra-organizational incentives is the only means to addressing the free rider problem efficiently.