Who is a Worker? Partisanship, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Social Content of Employment

56 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2014

See all articles by Julia Tomassetti

Julia Tomassetti

Center for Law, Society, & Culture, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington; City University of Hong Kong School of Law

Date Written: February 9, 2012

Abstract

In opinions addressing whether graduate students, medical residents, and disabled workers in nonstandard work arrangements are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, I analyze partisan differences in how National Labor Relations Board members, under the previous two US presidents, confronted the contradictory permeation of wage-labor into relatively noncommodified relationships. I argue that Republicans mediated the contradictions by interpreting indicia of employer property rights as status authority. They constructed employment as a contractual relationship consummated through exchange relations and demarcated a nonmarket social sphere in which to locate the relationships before them. This construction suppressed the class dimension of employment and the connection between relations of production and relations in production (Burawoy 1979). Democrats mediated the contradictions by recognizing them in part and arguing that the workers were engaged in commodity production. They proposed the Act as a means for workers to negotiate “differentiated ties” (Zelizer 2005) in nonstandard employment.

Keywords: employment, nonstandard work, labor law, NLRA, economic relationships, ideology, partisanship, commodification

JEL Classification: A14, K31, P16, L23, J59

Suggested Citation

Tomassetti, Julia, Who is a Worker? Partisanship, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Social Content of Employment (February 9, 2012). Tomassetti, Julia. Who is a Worker? Partisanship, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Social Content of Employment. 37 Law & Social Inquiry 815 (2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2379582

Julia Tomassetti (Contact Author)

Center for Law, Society, & Culture, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

City University of Hong Kong School of Law ( email )

6/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
Kowloon, Shatin, New Territories
Hong Kong

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