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

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

Chapter:
(p.273) 8 Helping Workers Online and Offline: Innovations in Union and Worker Organization Using the Internet
Source:
Studies of Labor Market Intermediation
Author(s):
Richard B. FreemanM. Marit Rehavi
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226032900.003.0009

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

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