20 March 2024, at 14.30 to 16.30 • Fondazione Marco Biagi

Dipartimento di Economia Marco Biagi, Università di Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italia

University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, U.S.A.


This class will introduce students to the basic structure of the labor and employment laws in the United States.  It will use this national framework as a starting point to discuss how legal systems adapt to changing social reality.  Social movements are crucial for legal change, and social movement theorists have identified requisites for successful social movements.  As the rate of unionization in the U.S. continues to decline in the U.S., even during a moment of renewed organizing, how is the labor movement adapting and what other alternatives to unions have or are emerging?  Adaptations include  bargaining for the common good, the stand-up strike, and retail organizing.  Alternatives include workers centers and worker-owned cooperatives. 
The pace of technological change, the replacement of the vertical firm with a horizontal economy, the rise in authoritarianism and racism as viable political platforms, and the impacts of climate change threaten the very notion of work as currently legally constituted in the U.S.  What is the labor movement doing to address these challenges? 
Unions advocate for changes to the labor laws, bring misclassification actions so that workers are brought under the umbrella of employment law protections, engage in industry-wide organizing, and bargain for and advocate for retraining programs.  But perhaps, as some scholars argue, more is needed.  Attacking wealth inequality in a system where the need for labor is decreasing may require changes to corporate law and ownership structures and significant tax and social welfare system reform.

Within the U.S., discrimination and segregation have taken and do take place by unions.  Despite that reality, historically Black unions were powerful forces, and currently unionization benefits people of color.  Policing in the U.S. is hotly contested because of its origins in slavery and its disparate impact on Black men.  Some within the labor movement have argued for disaffiliation from police fraternal organizations. 

Likewise, U.S. unions have and do take positions that protect job security over environmental protection.  There are also, however, multiple examples of unions establishing programs consistent with a Just Transition or the Green New Deal.

Scholars agree that union membership correlates with greater likelihood of voting and participation in political democracy.  The mechanisms by which union membership or cooperative ownership can increase workers propensity to participate in political democracy and to advocate for democratic processes rather than authoritarian leadership remain underexplored and warrants further research.

Il seminario si terrà in lingua inglese e la partecipazione è libera.
Ulteriori informazioni: +390592056092 | phd_lavorosviluppoinnovazione@unimore.it

Seminario: U.S. Labor and Employment Law – Implications for the Social Sciences