A State/Society Approach to Labor Standards Enforcement

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Janice FINE , Labor Studies and Employment Relations, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Matthew AMENGUAL , MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA
Given the tremendous gap between passing laws and outcomes for workers, how can labor organizations improve enforcement? We contrast two sets of strategies for labor organizations which align with distinct conceptions of the state and enforcement.  On the one hand, labor organizations can advocate for laws to be passed and then push the state to enforce them using its own capacities.  This strategy accepts a view of enforcement as primarily a technical problem to be solved by regulators.  Once there is political will for implementation, it is up to the state to provide the resources and choose the best strategy to ensure compliance.  On the other hand, after getting legislation passed, labor organizations can work to create conditions for partnering with agencies in enforcement and can become directly involved in the operational aspects of enforcement.  This approach is based on a fundamentally different view of state capacity, which is constituted by a combination of the regulators and organized groups in society that complement the state.  Such a view challenges the notion that getting enforcement right is a technical problem that can be solved with the right strategy or correct internal organization of the bureaucracy.  By contrast, it treats enforcement as apolitical problem of constructing institutions that can facilitate collaboration across the state and society divide, thus ensuring greater enforcement capacity.  Using cases from highly different political and institutional contexts (US and Argentina), we contend that the latter approach has the potential to help labor organizations further enforcement and argue that these findings suggest a need to develop more expansive theories of the enforcement process.