Law, Organizing, and Status Quo Vulnerability

Source: Benjamin I. Sachs, Texas Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 2, 2017

From the abstract:
In an era of deep economic and political inequality, academics and policymakers are paying renewed attention to the decline of unions and asking how the labor movement might be revived. For legal scholars, the question is how law can facilitate unionization among workers who desire it. This essay aims to expand our understanding how labor law enables union organizing, and, by doing so, to provide insight into both labor law reform and the relationship between law and organizing more broadly. Drawing on social movement theory, the essay shows how law can facilitate organizing by rendering the status quo vulnerable to challenge. In the labor law context, this means that law works to enable unionization by demonstrating to workers that management – and the non-union system of workplace relations it supports – is susceptible to challenge and change. The essay reinterprets a range of labor law rights and remedies through this theory. Having done so, the essay then suggests a different set of reforms for those interested in combating inequality through unionization. It also suggests that law’s ability to demonstrate status quo vulnerability may explain the relationship between law and social movements across contexts.