Labor unions in America are in crisis. In the mid-1950s, a third of Americans belonged to a labor union. Today only 10.7 percent do, including a minuscule 6.4 percent of private sector workers. The decline of union membership explains as much as a third of the increase in inequality in the US, caused voter turnout among low-income workers to crater, and weakened labor’s ability to check corporate influence in Washington, DC, and state capitals.
The future for traditional unions looks so bleak that a growing number of labor scholars and activists are coming to the conclusion that the US approach is dead and can’t be revived.
Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School and former practicing labor lawyer, says, “The way I would think about it is that there’s an existential panic about what will happen to the labor movement. That’s not new, it’s just getting worse. … If we need unions for economic and political equality as I think we do, we have to do something to stop that downward spiral.”
Lecture by Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, HLS, given at TUC Leading Change Conference, October 30-November 3, 2017, held by LWP at Harvard Law School. Introduction by Sharon Block, LWP and John Kelly, Birkbeck, University of London [Video]
"If we are serious about making corporations more responsive to how their workers are treated, we need structural reform that will give workers a voice in the governance of their own work lives and the right to bring a greater diversity of views before the board."
"Michael S. Teitelbaum, an expert on science education and policy and LWP Senior Research Associate, believes that STEM advocates, often executives and lobbyists for technology companies, do a disservice when they raise the alarm that America is facing a worrying shortfall of STEM workers, based on shortages in a relative handful of fast-growing fields like data analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and computer security."... Read more about Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren’t)
Many companies collect metrics on employee training, fatalities, and other aspects of so-called human capital, but they often don’t report that information publicly, according to an Oct. 23 study from Harvard Law School.
Human capital metrics, including occupational safety and health data, frequently are collected by a majority of global companies, yet many of these firms are not publicly reporting the information, according to a study released Oct. 23 by the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program in conjunction with the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS). The study is: "Corporate Disclosure of Human Capital Metrics," authored by Aaron Bernstein and Larry Beeferman of the Harvard Law School Pensions and Capital Stewardship Project,
“It could have a devastating effect on employees being able to, possibly, hold any employer accountable for wage, hour and [National Labor Relations Act] violations,” Sharon Block says, noting that such a change would be unprecedented in labor law.
"Labor activists must aim much higher if we are to push through the severe structural obstacles that limit organizing in the US. And now is the time as workers’ rights in the US are at a 100 year low and sinking at both the national and state level. "..."In a symposium hosted at Harvard, Sharon Block and Ben Sachs asked, “Is it time to end preemption?” In recent years, partly because of NLRA reform failure, there have been many successful campaigns to pass higher state and local government minimum wages since the national law (FLSA) does not preempt state or local action as long as the federal floor is maintained."
The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will add a case critical to the future of public-sector unions to its docket. "If the Supreme Court rules that making agency fees mandatory is unconstitutional, unions in those states fear the loss of revenue from existing nonunion members and the loss of more members, who could quit unions if granted the right to avoid the paycheck deduction. Such a scenario would weaken unions' bargaining power and their political clout."
“It is an enormously big deal,” says Harvard law professor Benjamin Sachs, who often writes about labor issues. “Unions have to provide services and representation equally to everyone in a bargaining unit. But if you can get those services for free, a lot of people won’t pay them. You have a classic free-rider situation.”... Read more about How Unions Are Already Gearing Up for a Supreme Court Loss