Widening the Scope of Worker Organizing

By Roosevelt Institute |

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For legal, social, and economic reasons, it is difficult for worker organizations to organize, bargain, and strike across entire contractual supply-chains, networks, industries, occupations, or regions.

This paper proposes four large-scale reforms to diminish these difficulties and actively facilitate organizing and striking across multiple employers:

First, an entity should be deemed an “indirect” employer of multiple “direct” employers’ workforces if it has “sufficient bargaining power” to determine the standards of all the employees in question, even if the entity is not currently exercising such power. By organizing and bargaining with that single entity, a worker organization would effectively organize and bargain with what is currently deemed a multi- employer association.

Second, the law should authorize worker organizations to unilaterally choose multi-employer units. And, if a government agency is called upon to select among differing units chosen by different worker organizations, the agency should define units based on the criterion of “maximum potential worker empowerment.”

Third, legal reform should authorize bargaining units that are defined not only by employer boundaries
but also by such categories as geographic region, production-and-distribution network, occupation, or industry.

Fourth, bargaining rights or the substantive terms of collective agreements should extend across multiple employers even if only a minority of unit workers have affirmatively shown their support for the organization.

Each of these reforms would require large-scale legislative transformation and zealous enforcement that are only imaginable in the event of deep progressive renewal in our politics. The four reforms could be enacted separately but would, if concurrently implemented, be mutually reinforcing.

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