The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequality between workers and their employers, and decreased worker power over their terms and conditions of employment. At the same time, the workers are more dispersed than ever, with more employers disestablishing the traditional office in favor of a hybrid model that further atomizes workers and makes collective action harder. At the same time, the ability for workers to organize themselves on social media and on company e-mail systems has been limited by recent decisions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and are always subject to possible employer discovery and retaliation. New technologies are needed to build collective action and solidarity among workers but also to provide a conduit to government agencies to make complaints and provide anonymous information. This Article sets a template for development of mobile applications (“apps”) that employees can use to communicate with each other and the government when necessary. Private companies, government agencies and unions have all developed technology tools to meet their needs. The challenge for the development of the next generation of apps will be, inter alia: 1) to require the employer to distribute these apps to their employees without the employer exerting control over them; (2) to assure the employees that the apps provide a space for candid exchange of information free from surveillance and retaliation; (3) to provide unions the ability to access these “digital spaces” while the courts and the NLRB have made access to physical spaces increasingly difficult; and (4) to provide a store of data for government agencies to enforce workplace law statutes, while at the same time maintaining employee privacy for sensitive information. This Article proposes ways to address each of these challenges. In the end, building worker power through technology also depends on increasing unionization, and lessening economic and technological inequality as well.
Ruben J. Garcia,
Building Worker Collective Action Through Technology,
St. Louis U. L.J.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.slu.edu/lj/vol65/iss1/4