Policies + Practices to aid workers wishing to prepare for the Future of Work.
Governments should support the expansion of worker-owned and -controlled job-matching services, which would give workers power in the job-matching process and allow them to establish floors for wages and benefits and otherwise improve workplace standards, all while creating an empowered worker community.
A Worker Organization Administration should be established to provide technical assistance and counseling to workers interested in starting worker organizations and organizations interested in initiating organizing campaigns. In addition, the WOA could contract with worker organizations to train workers participating in works councils, serving as workplace monitors, and serving on corporate boards.
Governments should create partnership with unions, worker centers, and other worker organizations to enforce labor standards and proactively address issues in the work environment. A partnership with a government agency can play a legitimizing role for a worker organization, encouraging workers to take the organization more seriously and encourage support for collective organizing.
Governments should allow workers to express their desire for collective representation by signing a card or petition, whether physical or digital, without the need for a formal election process administered by an external review board. Cards or petitions would be presumed valid and would trigger bargaining obligations until they are actually declared invalid by the board.
Governments should pass statutes mandating that workplaces of a predetermined size have a worker-elected workplace monitor. In workplaces with 500 or fewer workers, there would be a single workplace monitor; in workplaces with more than 500 workers, the workers would elect 1 workplace monitor for every 500 workers. The monitors would be empowered to help ensure the workplace’s compliance with all state, federal, and local employment and labor laws and receive paid time off for their monitoring work.
Governments should expressly protect the right to collectively bargain among any independent contractors who: (1) do not employ any employees; (2) who make little capital investment—roughly defined as investment that is limited to the needs of the independent contractor personally (e.g., one car, one set of tools, one computer, etc.)—in their “businesses”; and (3)who share the same economic relationship with a single company.
Rather than opposing computer augmentation outright, workers should recognize and leverage the skills in their field that computers cannot easily replicate. These include what psychologist Howard Gardner calls “multiple intelligences"-- the mental strengths that go beyond IQ such as the as interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. This can allow workers to identify the qualities that make them valuable while also benefiting from the technologies that will shape the future of their field.
Workers may respond to computer augmentation by identifying areas of niche knowledge in their field that are not economical to automate. A worker would develop a deep expertise on a narrow topic, then create augmented databases and workflows that allow their knowledge base to remain up-to-date. This would allow workers to leverage their unique field knowledge while still benefiting from technological advancement.
Workers may respond to computer augmentation in their field by heading for the intellectual high ground. These workers will strive for senior-level management roles that require experience and insight to quickly understand how the world is changing. This will put such workers in have a position that is comfortably above the level of simple automation while allowing them to rely on machines only for their "intellectual spadework."
Worker networks and labor organizations can establish worker centers to help workers organize and more effectively engage in collective bargaining. Workers centers are nonprofit, community-based organizations that provide social services and labor resources. They help fill a void in sectors where non-standard forms of employment predominate and in industries where workers face barriers to formal unionization.