Law, Organizing, and Status Quo Vulnerability

27 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2018

Date Written: 2017


In an era of deep economic and political inequality, academics and policymakers are paying renewed attention to the decline of unions and asking how the labor movement might be revived. For legal scholars, the question is how law can facilitate unionization among workers who desire it. This essay aims to expand our understanding how labor law enables union organizing, and, by doing so, to provide insight into both labor law reform and the relationship between law and organizing more broadly. Drawing on social movement theory, the essay shows how law can facilitate organizing by rendering the status quo vulnerable to challenge. In the labor law context, this means that law works to enable unionization by demonstrating to workers that management - and the non-union system of workplace relations it supports - is susceptible to challenge and change. The essay reinterprets a range of labor law rights and remedies through this theory. Having done so, the essay then suggests a different set of reforms for those interested in combating inequality through unionization. It also suggests that law's ability to demonstrate status quo vulnerability may explain the relationship between law and social movements across contexts.

Keywords: labor law, labor union, social movements, collective action

JEL Classification: K31

Suggested Citation

Sachs, Benjamin I., Law, Organizing, and Status Quo Vulnerability (2017). Texas Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 2, 2017, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 18-11, Available at SSRN:

Benjamin I. Sachs (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts Avenue
Griswold 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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