Publication in: Spring 2023 Issue

Labor Power in Times of Crisis
Joshua Kelch
Political Science
Faculty Mentor(s):
Ashley Moraguez
Abstract / Summary:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen numerous instances of extreme overwork, workplace safety concerns, and the changing of labor markets to attempt to meet unique circumstances. Struck by the abnormality of these conditions, I sought to examine the effects of crises on labor power as an answer to my research question: What explains variation in labor power and behavior over time? I hypothesize that different types of crises, specifically international, which in this paper will be limited to wars and major military actions, and domestic, such as economic recessions, depressions, and pandemics, will have different effects on the potency of labor in the United States. I argue that international crises will hinder labor efforts to exact concessions from employers, while domestic crises will strengthen them. To test this, I use a regression analysis to examine the different traditional expressions of labor power in the workplace during these crises, specifically work stoppages, worker involvement in stoppages, and the percentage of workers in unions. The results of these regressions are mixed, providing some support for my hypotheses, but primarily serving as a guidepost for future research, specifically a need for more precise studies, and in varying contexts.
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