Helping Workers Online and Offline: Innovations in Union and Worker Organization Using the Internet

Richard B. Freeman and M. Marit Rehavi

in Studies of Labor Market Intermediation

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226032887
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226032900 | DOI:
Helping Workers Online and Offline: Innovations in Union and Worker Organization Using the Internet

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Unions have historically solved collective action problems among atomistic workers by organizing collective bargaining, sanctioning employers for misconduct, and regulating employers' hiring and dismissal policies. A key to their ability to perform this function in the United States is the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which compels employers to bargain collectively with a labor union if a majority of the firm's employees votes for union representation. This chapter offers an innovative study of the changing shape of labor unions. It argues that the innovative use of the Internet and other computer-related technologies will enable unions to resurrect their role. In these analyses, modern information-communication technology is a tool to revolutionize the way unions provide services to workers that will allow them to reinvent their role in market capitalism and regain lost ground. The chapter considers the success of a non workplace-based union, Working America (a “community-affiliate” of the AFL-CIO union), which enrolled two million workers between 2004 and 2007 by canvassing at homes and over the Internet. Working America's success in drawing membership suggests, consistent with survey evidence, that there is considerable latent demand for organized labor as a political movement.

Keywords: Working America; activism; Internet; cost; information; online

Chapter.  13718 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Econometrics and Mathematical Economics

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