Policies + Practices that require union participation, implementation, or stewardship.
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 pass laws to create mechanisms for digital picket lines, requiring employers to allow workers to mirror in-person collective action in online transactions. Functioning essentially as a disclosure regime, the digital picket line would require employers to allow workers to inform online customers about strikes occurring at the employer’s physical site.
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 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.
Labor unions should include wage coordination and sectoral agreements in their collective bargaining strategies to help companies and workers adapt to the new world of work. Governments should also intervene to provide better access to collective bargaining rights and to make these changes possible. Ideal outcomes for employment, productivity and wages are measurably reached when sectoral agreements set broad conditions for worker's rights, and when social partners negotiating for different groups of workers establish common wage targets.
Workers and labor unions should be partners in the process of implementing electronic health records, and policymakers can promote or require such participation. One approach could be to model work councils in some European countries, where worker representatives are elected and the committees are given certain powers over a range of decisions related to technology. Alternatively, workers and unions could be granted greater influence over existing labor-management safety and health committees in some states in the U.S. Research documents superior outcomes in the implementation of electronic health records when workforce planning was integrated in the policy, operations, and design process.
Unions can experiment with a form of membership or affiliation founded on ideological alignment rather than provision of services—an organization of people who want to learn about and support unions but are not currently represented by a union—similar to the American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club or National Rifle Association. These diffuse supporters could be a source of leaders and support for efforts by working people to come together in a union or to bargain a fair contract, as well as for pro-worker policy initiatives.
Governments should pass regulations to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of new data collection and surveillance tools on job quality and human dignity. In addition to a general default legislative framework, unions should also push for tailored regulation through collective bargaining, since optimal rules for data collection and use may vary considerably among workplaces.
Unions should broaden their mandate in recognition of the ways that employers and labor markets influence workers' lives outside of the workplace. Unions should apply techniques such as collective action and collective bargaining to the problems that workers encounter as "taxpayers, renters, mortgage-holders, consumers, students, student-loan debtors, and citizens of an endangered biosphere." This will help unions to achieve better outcomes for workers that go beyond the simple employee-employer relationship.
Technological workers should organize to form a dedicated union so that they are empowered to address labor issues that affect them uniquely. Such a union could result in technology agreements that create minimum standards for the introduction of new machines in the workplace, as well as a greater influence over which technologies are developed and who they are sold to.
Unions can develop and offer financial services like, portable benefits, directly to their members.
Few traditional unions serve the needs of atypical workers. Union leaders need to adapt their models to include the growing number of self-employed and non-standard workers. To do this, they could consider partnering with and potentially funding co-working spaces and other organizations that house and represent such workers.
Governments should create lifelong learning programs and, along with labor unions, subsidize workers’ access to them. This can be done in the form of pilot "personal learning accounts" that give every worker a budget to spend on training modules. Lifelong learning programs allow workers to upgrade their skills throughout their working lives and remain competent through changing workforce demands.
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.
Unions should advocate in new ways for workers through legal means, alliance formation, and regulatory reform, taking into account the potential impacts of automation on their fields. The authors advocate for decentralized and/or innovative collective bargaining structures to include more isolated groups of workers, particularly in light of the rise of flexible work arrangements. Non-standard employment in fields vulnerable to automation creates substantial opportunities for membership, since more and more individuals are in need of the services and support that workers’ organizations offer.