274 Neoliberal Labor Market Reforms & Workers' Rights

Friday, July 14, 2017: 2:00 PM-3:45 PM
JWS - Room J7 (J361) (University of Glasgow)
After decades of liberalization, states across the OECD have consistently abandoned labor market regulations developed during the social democratic century. Centralized bargaining has crumbled, pushing industrial conflict from the national level into the workplace, where the state has allowed employers to replace guarantees of lifetime employment with fixed term contracts. Low-wage workers face the precarity of frequent unemployment due to the proliferation of temporary jobs, while high-wage workers face mass dismissals due to shareholder pressure. As union membership drops, workers are increasingly left without the power resources necessary to protect their rights against employer discretion, leading to rising inequality and insecurity where social democracy once ensured social citizenship.

This panel focuses on the challenges facing labor and the strategies that workers have developed to protect their rights in the political economic context of neoliberal labor market reforms. Engaging a comparative perspective that includes Western Europe and Scandinavia, as well as the United States, contributions address two questions. First, what led states to adopt neoliberal labor market reforms? Second, against this backdrop, what explains variation in workers’ ability to protect their rights? By identifying how neoliberal labor market reforms constrain workers’ traditional power resources, and sometimes create opportunities for new ones, this panel offers a fresh account of labor in capitalist democracies.

Discussant :
Virginia Doellgast
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