Quantitative Data Tools for Service Sector Organizing

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Suresh Naidu, Adam Reich, and Patrick Youngblood, New Labor Forum, February 2021
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…The fundamental problem for a labor organization is persuading individual workers to commit to personally costly (and often risky) actions that yield collective benefits for workers within a workplace and for the labor movement as a whole. Such collective action is critical for workers since the labor movement will always have a hard time matching business in terms of money, technology, and influence with elites and politicians. Instead, labor’s power lies in its ability to mobilize large numbers of everyday people, whether to strike, sign petitions, canvass voters, or even target their pension investments (see “Capital Strategies for the Common Good: A Tool for Labor’s Revival” by Patrick Dixon in this issue). Despite being the source of organized labor’s power, bursts of worker collective action are rare and difficult to sustain. What can be done to make such action easier in the current U.S. political climate, in which organized labor appears to have limited durable influence?

Modern quantitative social science provides some new tools to address this challenge. These tools have been used to allocate scarce resources, for example, matching medical residents with hospitals, allocating food donations across food banks, assessing tactics in political campaigns, and evaluating anti-poverty initiatives in developing countries….