Research shows that labor unions and other forms of voice and representation on the job have positively influenced workers’ wages and upward economic mobility. At the same time, union membership has declined in recent decades, accompanied by rising income inequality and stalled mobility for low-wage workers. Yet, despite a decline in union membership, surveys show workers’ desire for voice, representation, and collective organizing at work has not diminished.
How are we to understand the gap between what workers say they want and the options for workplace representation and organizing available to them? What issues motivate current organizing efforts, and what outcomes do workers and other stakeholders experience as a result? What are the equity implications of organizing efforts in industries that employ large shares of low-wage workers and workers of color? These questions animate a project led by a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School that seeks to build evidence on how different workers across industries and by race and gender experience efforts to gain voice and representation on the job.
The project will field surveys of both workers and labor organizers in key industries, including but not limited to health care, hospitality, and warehousing and logistics. The results of this project will inform policies and practices to support the ability to workers to achieve greater voice and representation at work and build high-quality labor-management relationships.
U.S. Workers’ Organizing Efforts and Collective Actions: A Review of the Current Landscape