Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A new type of labor law for a new type of workplace

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William Forbath and Brishen Rogers write in the NY Times:

Labor Day was born in the late 19th century, during a time of raw fear about the path of economic development. Opportunities for decent, middle-class livelihoods seemed to be shrinking, and the “laboring classes” confronted a grim future of what many called wage slavery. Conservatives held most of the seats of power, but reform-minded politicians, activists and policy mavens were thinking big about labor’s rights and wrongs.

Lately, driven by a sense that decent work is becoming a thing of the past, liberals and progressives have been thinking big about these things again: The Democratic congressional leadership has proposed a $15 minimum wage and a huge infrastructure investment, while the Center for American Progress has proposed a New Deal-style federal jobs guarantee. Those are good ideas. But good ideas about economic and social policy aren’t enough.

We can’t hope to build a more equitable economy unless working people have strong organizations of their own. During and after the New Deal, unions were essential to forging a broad new middle class — not only because they raised wages and benefits, but also because they countered corporate and financial political power, which today is the greatest impediment to serious change. Without a rejuvenated labor movement, it’s almost inconceivable that breakthrough reforms will come to pass.

Democratic lawmakers know that their party was founded on the proposition that concentrated wealth seeks to convert its economic power into political power and that left to its own devices, it puts our democracy at risk. A new workers’ movement would also be a bulwark against the old Jeffersonian nightmare of rule by a self-perpetuating economic oligarchy. For both reasons, progressive lawmakers and policy analysts need to promote a new generation of labor organizations.

They can do that by putting labor-law reform at the top of their agenda. The National Labor Relations Act was written in the 1930s, when big factories and large industrial companies dominated our economy; its provisions are a terrible fit for today’s economy in two basic ways.

First, because it arose out of the struggles of factory workers with big corporate employers, our labor law encourages bargaining at the employer or work-site level. This made sense when most workers were in large factories. But today’s workplaces are much smaller, even if they are owned or controlled by big corporations. Fast food workers are split among thousands of locations. Janitors labor in small groups, at night, out of the public eye. Warehouse workers in Wal-Mart and Target’s supply chains are often employed by temporary agencies and hired by day or even hour to load trucks. Uber drivers and Amazon delivery drivers work alone.

Second, our labor law holds businesses accountable only to the workers whom they “employ” in an old-fashioned, contractual sense.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2017 at 6:25 pm

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