Alex Hertel-Fernandez

Columbia SIPA Assistant Professor and author of State Capture, Alex Hertel-Fernandez joined JFI virtually for research session discussing collective action during a pandemic, and lessons for building labor power. The talk centered around research that led to his recent report with the Roosevelt Institute, “American Workers’ Experiences with Power, Information, and Rights on the Job: A Roadmap for Reform,” as well as a forthcoming paper with Suresh Naidu, “Schooled by Strikes? The Effects of Large-Scale Labor Unrest on Mass Attitudes Towards the Labor Movement.”

In particular, Hertel-Fernandez discussed trends in the meatpacking and food industries and their rates of COVID-19 contraction, alongside survey research on whether employers have ever required workers to not wear protective equipment for COVID-19, such as masks and gloves. Hertel-Fernandez frames the workplace as a “sphere of governance—a private government.” That frame, he says, emphasizes the rights of workers and their lack of voice within that governing system.

What Hertel-Fernandez calls dictatorial practices within private governments (workplaces) include lack of access to information, requests by employers for work their employee is not paid to do, and other shows of “arbitrary or unfair managerial power.”

See below some of Hertel-Fernandez’s published survey information from his April Roosevelt Institute report, and follow this link for more work on his website.

JFI researchers and guests really enjoyed the discussion and we thank Alex for joining us.

Roosevelt Institute Report Graph on Employer Power - Survey Results. 53% of workers experienced some form of employer action that negatively reflects worker input and power.