The world of work is changing, along with the nature of the American economy and its workforce. But the traditional structures that governed the American labor market and employment relationships since the New Deal have not kept up with many of these changes. These structures no longer well serve the critical needs of many workers and their families, nor of corporations seeking to compete in competitive global and domestic markets with high employment standards. As a result, the social contract that has governed relations between American workers and their employers appears to be breaking down.
Precisely at the time when individual firms appear less able to provide long-term employment security and income growth, two external institutions -government and unions- have become less able to perform their individual functions of complementing the behavior of individual firms. Yet, workers still require the steady employment, living wages, health insurance, and pensions that many traditional employment relationships supplied.
The terms of employment are often changing faster than public policy can accommodate them. And while falling unemployment rate and vigorous job growth of recent years is to be applauded there are a series of negative outcomes that need to be addressed. High on this list are worsening earnings inequality and wage stagnation, racial and gender disparities, and weak employee representation.
At the moment, there is no national dialogue over how to update our labor market institutions to better serve the needs of workers, families, employers, or the American economy. The purpose of this Task Force is to stimulate analysis and discussion of these issues, to explore the potential of innovations and experiments underway in different organizations and communities that are addressing these issues, and to provide a structure and body of evidence for policy makers and practitioners to use in updating American’s labor market institutions.
The Task Force on Reconstructing American’s Labor Market Institutions is a group of researchers, corporate and labor representatives, leaders of community organizations, and policy makers who recognize the need to update our labor market institutions and policies, but bring diverse perspectives to the discussion of how to do so. The Task Force will pull together research results, study innovative approaches and experiments aimed at particular problems and issues, disseminate the results of its analysis and dialogue, and seek to stimulate further innovation and debate over how to create a better match between the needs of the workforce and the economy and our labor market institutions.
The Task Force is created with the support of the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and is coordinated through the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research.