Ratcheting Up Workplace Protections

By David Weil, 4.1.19. Originally appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Regulatory Review


State legislatures and agencies have an important role to play in improving workplaces for workers.

Louis Brandeis famously wrote, “it is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

But Brandeis also commented, in a famous dissenting opinion concerning competition between states and regulation, that “the race was one not of diligence, but of laxity.”

In the current world of workplace regulation, where the federal government has stepped back from the proactive role it played during the Obama Administration, an important question to ask is which of Brandeis’ views characterizes the relationship between federal and state workplace policy today: laboratory of democracy, or race to the bottom?

Read more.

David Weil is Dean and Professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management. He served as US Wage and Hour Administrator at the Department of Labor during the last three years of the Obama administration. He is a leading international expert on workplace and labor market policy and was the Peter and Deborah Wexler Professor of Management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business before coming to Brandeis. The materials on this site arise from analysis contained in The Fissured Workplace and a growing body of research regarding the fundamental restructuring of employment and its impacts on workers and businesses. It also discusses approaches to dealing with the fissured workplace developed during the Obama administration as well as new ideas and efforts being discussed and undertaken today. 


“Labor Dept. Says Workers at a Gig Company Are Contractors,”
by Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, 4.29.19. Read the article. 

“On May Day, assessing what a Sanders presidency would mean for
labour,” by Adam D.K. King, The Conversation, 4.29.19. Read the article. 

“The mystery of stagnating wages. David Weil elucidates.” David
Weil interviewed on a podcast issued by Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development. 4.19. Listen.  

“U.S. Moves to Limit Wage Claims Against Chains Like McDonald’s,”
by Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, 4.1.19. Read the article. 

“Trump’s Labor Department Does McDonald’s Another Solid,”
by Dave Jamieson, HuffPost, 4.1.19. Read the article. 

“Why are Australian workers getting the smallest pay rises since
WWII?,” by Stephen Long and Michael Janda, ABC  (Australian 
Broadcasting Commision), 
3.27.19. Read the article. 


“Workers Shouldn’t Have to Sign Away Their Rights to Class Action
Lawsuits,” Harvard Business Review. 6.5.18. Read the article.

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