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Title: How to Expand Labor’s Toolbox: Alternative Forms of Organizing in the Modern Economy
Authors: Schriever, Leigh Anne
Advisors: Frymer, Paul
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: Labor organizing in the United States is at an historic low since the ground-breaking New Deal laws around labor and employment were implemented. The question of how to turn this trend around and once more empower workers around the country to stand up for their individual and collective rights is one that is under discussion within both labor and policy circles. Answering it is critical to try maintaining some semblance of a power balance between workers and their employers. While this decline and discussion have been ongoing, new organizations have begun to spring up around the country. Members-only unions and worker centers are two examples of a growing trend to organize workers through unconventional methods, and they have already been exhibiting a good deal of success. Yet, each of these models, including the traditional majority union currently protected under federal law, are only well-suited to certain kinds of workers under certain circumstances. Trying to revive the single organizing model of the past or find a replacement model that will work under all circumstances is implausible given the diversity of work and workplaces in today’s economy. This thesis argues that labor organizers and policy-makers need to rethink their approach to unions and other forms of organizing. Instead of hoping for a single or select few models to organize workers, they need to begin to think creatively about how to tailor each organization to the specific group’s needs and problems. For organizers, this means listening to what workers want and not being afraid to start small or without any intention to pursue an NLRB election. For policy-makers, it will involve a rethinking of our most basic labor and employment laws in order to expand the kinds of workers and organizations that are legally protected by the laws. That kind of policy overhaul may not be practicable in the near future, but knowing the end goal of policy changes allows incremental steps forwards to build on each other most effectively. Unsurprisingly, laws and organizing models created in the 1930s and 1940s are no longer as relevant or effective as the workers of today require, and an overhaul of the way the United States thinks about workers acting collectively will be necessary to revitalize labor organizing.
Extent: 111 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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