Workplaces once were unionized or open shops, and workers either were or were not represented by a union. Today the situation has changed dramatically. Unions are organizing in new ways and workers are also finding alternative forms for organizing themselves.
On January 27–28, 2005, New York Law School’s Labor & Employment Law Program, Justice Action Center, and Institute for Information Law & Policy presented the NextWave Organizing conference to examine how workers organize in the 21st Century and how new tools and techniques can be harnessed to improve organizing.
The Conference convened students; union and other worker organizers; scholars in labor and employment law, industrial relations, economics, and political science; as well as technologists to discuss the future of worker organizing and organizing, generally. Panelists addressed various issues, including: What societal changes have led to next-wave organizing? Have next-wave organizers targeted new groups of workers, identified new goals for their organizing, and found new sources of leverage? How does technology help organizers, particularly organizers of low-wage workers, to increase their organizations’ leverage and how might they use technology even more effectively? Do next-wave organizations directly affect labor market outcomes, like wages, hours, and working conditions, in the way that traditional unions do? If not, should that be their goal and how can they accomplish that goal?