The Future of Worker Power: Labor Organizing and Labor Law at a Crossroads

Oct. 18, 2022
12:10PM - 1:30PM
SLB Room 127
Open to the Yale Community

What is the future of worker power in the US? On the one hand, the last several decades have been characterized by declining labor power and legal retrenchment. Private sector union membership is at an all-time low, and the Supreme Court recently dealt a major blow to public sector unions. “Right to work” laws, and a raft of other rules make the legal environment inhospitable to organizing and help explain some of labor’s decline. Yet in the last few years there has also been a startling upsurge in interest in unions and labor militancy, both in the US and beyond its borders. Nearly seventy percent of people in the U.S. express approval of unions—the highest level on record since 1965. And in “Striketober” alone, more than 100,000 U.S. workers either participated in or prepared for strikes against multinational corporations, followed by a wave of unionizing among Amazon and Starbucks workers.

This panel will convene key leaders in labor organizing with academics to ask: why are we seeing an upsurge in organizing now? What might a longer view of labor power, political economy, and labor law tell us about today? How can we reconcile the surge in interest in unions with the previous declines in labor law and traditional unionism? Can law and lawyering play a role in increasing worker power, and what might that do to address questions of corporate power, democratic decline, and inequality in the US today?

Panelists will include Sara Nelson (Association of Flight Attendants), Lorena Lopez (UNITE HERE Local 11), Eric Blanc (Rutgers University), and Charles Du (SEIU 32BJ). Gabriel Winant (University of Chicago) will moderate.

This event is co-organized by the Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project and the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights.

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Law and Political Economy (LPE) at Yale