Labor Relations at the Woke Corporation

20 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2022 Last revised: 6 Mar 2023

See all articles by Matthew T. Bodie

Matthew T. Bodie

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: December 9, 2022


Shareholder primacy has been a foundational premise of corporate law for at least the last twenty years, and of corporate law academia for even longer. The last few years, however, have seen a dramatic shift in this paradigm. Investors have rallied around the idea of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles in evaluating company performance. Employees and consumers have pushed companies to address social and political issues in much more engaged ways. And corporate consortiums like the Business Roundtable have recognized that shareholder success is not enough; customers, workers, and communities must be included as well.

There is one curious omission at many of these socially conscious companies - namely, collective rights for workers. Some of the most "woke" corporations have engaged in very traditional methods to discourage unionization in their ranks and punish employees who support these efforts. Although these antiunion campaigns have led to public criticism, the companies do not seem nearly as sensitive to censure - instead, they have redoubled their efforts to prevent a collective relationship.

This symposium essay seeks to describe and expose the jarring disparities between the corporate rhetoric of social consciousness and the overt illegality called forth to defeat unionization efforts. Stakeholders in these companies need to push them to make credible commitments to workers to respect their desires for collective bargaining. A corporation cannot be socially conscious - cannot be committed to its employees, to its community, to the basic precepts of justice - if it refuses to recognize its own members' labor rights. A respect for these rights should be a key feature in any metric of stakeholder theory.

Keywords: Labor law, collective bargaining, corporate governance, union organizing, ESG

JEL Classification: K22, K31

Suggested Citation

Bodie, Matthew T., Labor Relations at the Woke Corporation (December 9, 2022). NYU Annual Survey of American Law, Vol. 79, No. 2, 2023 , Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 22-21, Available at SSRN: or

Matthew T. Bodie (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

United States

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