Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2017

Disciplines

Labor and Employment Law | Law | State and Local Government Law

Abstract

A well-documented problem motivates this symposium: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not effectively protect workers’ rights to organize, bargain, and strike. Though unions once represented a third of American workers, today the vast majority of workers are non-union and employed “at will.” The decline of organization among workers is a key factor contributing to the rise of economic and political inequality in American society. Yet reforming labor law at the federal level – at least in a progressive direction – is currently impossible. Meanwhile, broad preemption doctrine means that states and localities are significantly limited in their ability to address the weaknesses in labor law, even where local politics would permit such gains.

A well-documented problem motivates this symposium: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not effectively protect workers’ rights to organize, bargain, and strike. Though unions once represented a third of American workers, today the vast majority of workers are non-union and employed “at will.” The decline of organization among workers is a key factor contributing to the rise of economic and political inequality in American society. Yet reforming labor law at the federal level—at least in a progressive direction—is currently impossible. Meanwhile, broad preemption doctrine means that states and localities are significantly limited in their ability to address the weaknesses in labor law, even where local politics would permit such gains.

Comments

This paper was prepared for the Harvard Law School Labor Law Reform Symposium, "Could Experiments at the State and Local Levels Expand Collective Bargaining and Workers' Collective Action?"

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