Coalminers and Coordination Rights

Coalminers and Coordination Rights

In the two decades before the Hepburn Act’s enactment, two entities vied for the right to coordinate the price and distribution of coal. The first—a group known as the Joint Conference of Miners and Operators of the Central Competitive Field—was the child of the United Mine Workers.The second—a group of coal-hauling railroads known as the Seaboard Coal Association—was the child of J. P. Morgan and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Understanding their struggle for power (and why capitalists rather than workers won), can help us better understand the stakes of antitrust.

Where is the Political Economy?

Where is the Political Economy?

Embracing the terms “economy” and “political economy,” as LPE has done, risks – unless we are careful – invoking just the kind of separate, reified realm that we are trying to critique. In our view, defining “the economy,” and studying how legal institutions have done so, should be central issues that LPE scholarship aims to address.

On Law and Racial Capitalism in Palestine

On Law and Racial Capitalism in Palestine

The anti-discrimination framework imagines a situation where authorities unjustifiably favor some categories of its population over others. While this analysis is not wrong, it obscures how Zionism – the political movement for a state for all Jews in the world and Israel’s official ideology – privileges even foreign Jews, to varying extents, over indigenous Palestinians. The systemic harm here is not merely discrimination; it is one of colonialism. And when we speak of colonialism – and especially settler colonialism, which seeks not only to rule native populations but to replace them – the logic of racial capitalism is seldom far behind.

Woke Capital?

Woke Capital?

Anti-monopolists are right to worry about the concentrated power of institutional investors, but they are wrong to treat them as all bad. Common ownership presents an opportunity for the left to divide the interests of capitalists.

The Law & Political Economy of Disability Accommodations

The Law & Political Economy of Disability Accommodations

The touchstone of contemporary disability law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, was a victory of the militant disability rights movement, and was drafted with the social model in mind. However, Congress essentially delegated the design for this mandate to the Reagan-era EEOC, which in turn operationalized accommodations through private exchanges between employees and employers. Market logic further limited its redistributive work and society’s ability to critique its effectiveness.

Law and Organizing for Countervailing Power

Law and Organizing for Countervailing Power

Readers of this blog need no reminder of the pervasive inequalities that define American society. Nor do readers need to be convinced that a perverse concentration of wealth has had profoundly corrosive effects on the viability of American democracy. In a recent article published in the Yale Law Journal, we argue that the traditional approaches to combatting political inequality—campaign finance reform, voting rights, participatory governance—do not go far enough, and we ask what else might be done to redress the fundamental power imbalances that define our politics. We argue that the key lies in building countervailing power among poor and working-class people, and that law can and should be used to facilitate organizing by the poor and working class: not only as workers, but also as tenants, debtors, welfare beneficiaries and others.

Labor Governance in the Shadow of Racialized Mass Incarceration

Labor Governance in the Shadow of Racialized Mass Incarceration

The threat of precarious work does not come exclusively from marketization swamping a shrinking welfare and regulatory state. It comes as well from a metastasizing and thoroughly racialized carceral state, one that simultaneously speaks the language of public violence and sings in the liberal key of choice. Even critical accounts of the criminal legal system fail to fully capture the relevance of this dynamic, focusing only on how it produces economic exclusion, not also incorporation on subordinated terms.

Reconstructing the Algebra of Race and Rights

Reconstructing the Algebra of Race and Rights

I follow Patricia Williams, Angela Harris & Aysha Pamukcu, in arguing universal rights, to basic income and other resources, are insufficient but necessary ingredients for justice. Indeed, I argue for permanent, non-discretionary funding of these rights. No one truly knows how much money the U.S. government spends encoding and encasing private property rights, much less private capital’s rights to coordinate or contract. In many ways, these costs are “baked into” society. So, ultimately, should it be for rights to income, healthcare, housing, education, employment for all.

Leftist Benefits are In-Kind, Actually

Leftist Benefits are In-Kind, Actually

The argument goes that cash benefits, such as UBI, afford recipients the dignity to choose what they need, versus in-kind benefits which paternalistically define that need for them. By removing government restrictions on spending, they allow recipients the freedom to consume on their terms. However, this so-called choice is in name only without a guarantee that basic needs will be met. The context of housing provides one example of this. The reality of cash benefits is that even where choice is not restricted by the state, it remains restricted by the failures of the market.

Basic Income and the Freedom to Refuse

Basic Income and the Freedom to Refuse

It would be ironic indeed if a UBI slipped quickly through the fingers of lower-income people of color and into the coffers of jurisdictions most aggressively criminalizing poverty. This would negate UBI’s ability to facilitate work refusal because UBI—devoured by debt—would no longer be available to meet basic needs without a wage (or connection to a wage-earner). Moreover, this negation’s radically unequal racial distribution would mock UBI’s pretensions to universalism. Substantive universality requires more than formal inclusion and nominally equal payments. It requires cash receipts that deliver equal capacity to refuse work.

Constitutionalizing Property’s Priority over Farm Worker Organizing: The Threat of Cedar Points

Constitutionalizing Property’s Priority over Farm Worker Organizing: The Threat of Cedar Points

This year the Supreme Court will hear Cedar Points Nursery v. Hassid, a case out of California which challenges a forty-five-year-old farm labor regulation. The petitioners are alleging that this regulation, which grants farm labor unions a limited right of access to an employer’s property, is unconstitutional on the grounds that it amounts to the government taking their property rights without compensation. This case potentially represents the culmination of a decades-long reactionary campaign against the ability of unions to access an employer’s property. It’s another legal gut-punch to the labor movement and part of a long history of judicial antagonism against workers.

A Labor Theory of Negotiation: From Integration to Value Creation

A Labor Theory of Negotiation: From Integration to Value Creation

American negotiation theory started as, and for a long time remained, an engagement with labor and class relations. When early scholars developed their theories of negotiation in the context of workplace conflict, they did so in a moment when many workers were familiar enough with Marxist theories of class struggle to readily believe that some differences—for example, between management and labor—were not reconcilable, no matter how one performed in a negotiation. In this context, negotiation theorists aimed to open a space for potentially harmonious group relationships by introducing the concept of “integration”— the idea that labor and management could reorient their interests by creating new common values together.