ILR School

Faculty Publications - Labor Relations, Law, and History

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    Manufacturing Disruption and Constructing Power: Worker and Union Response to Technological Innovation in New York City’s Taxi Industry, 1968-2022
    Wolf, Andrew B. (2024)
    This paper synthetizes and refines the emergent power resource approach (PRA) to explain labor contestation, applying the case of labor’s response to the rise of the gig economy in New York City’s taxi industry. The study utilizes a matched case comparison of the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance’s success against the rise of Uber in the 2010s and the Taxi Driver Union’s failure to sustain themselves in the face of their employer-driven technological crisis in the 1970s. The analyses advance the notion that power resource construction and deconstruction projects are a means of articulating and synthesizing the PRA, bringing it into conversation with social movement theory. Adding in power construction solves four problems that have plagued the PRA: the lack of a clear taxonomy; the under theorization of capital and the state’s power resources; poor incorporation of temporality; and the struggle to bridge the micro-macro divide. This study is based on archival research on the two unions and two years of ethnographic research with the contemporary union.
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    Technological Change and Frontline Care Delivery Work: Toward the Quadruple Aim
    Litwin, Adam Seth (Emerald, 2021-12)
    The COVID-19 pandemic stressed the health care sector’s longstanding pain points, including the poor quality of frontline work and the staffing challenges that result from it. This has renewed interest in technology-centered approaches to achieving not only the “Triple Aim” of reducing costs while raising access and quality, but the “Quadruple Aim” of doing so without further squeezing wages and abrading job quality for frontline workers.
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    Paying the Price for a Healthcare System: Rethinking Employment, Labor, and Work in a Post-Pandemic World
    Avgar, Ariel C.; Eaton, Adrienne E.; Givan, Rebecca Kolins; Litwin, Adam Seth (SAGE, 2020)
    Even before the word pandemic reentered the lexicon, pressures stemming from institutional and technological change challenged policymakers and provider organizations to rethink core features of the manner in which we deliver healthcare. This essay introduces a special issue devoted to the consequences of change on the healthcare sector’s varied stakeholders. It does so in the context of our eventual, post-coronavirus reemergence and a renewed interest in remaking the healthcare system in light of its obvious deficiencies. Towards that end, we introduce the five papers composing this special issue, each of which informs the ways that change actually transpires in healthcare organizations and systems.
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    Information Technology, Business Strategy and the Reassignment of Work from In-House Employees to Agency Temps
    Litwin, Adam Seth; Tanious, Sherry M. (Wiley, 2021-09)
    Though we now understand how information technology (IT) influences work, we know much less about how it reshapes the actual relationship between workers and their employers. That is, to what extent do employers deploy new technologies towards the erosion of traditional employment relationships? This study relies on a cross section of British workplaces to provide statistical evidence that IT actually facilitates managers’ reassignment of work once done by in-house employees to those working instead for a staffing agency, an effect that trebles in magnitude where managers have simultaneously cut employment. Furthermore, IT differentially serves opposing business strategies. While employers electing to compete on price rather than quality are more likely to reassign work, managers enacting quality-centred strategies are more likely to rely on IT to avert work reassignment. The findings demonstrate that new technologies may facilitate this form of externalization, but they do not unilaterally drive it. The estimates also illuminate IT's indirect impact on workers via managers’ use of it as a tool for restructuring employment.
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    Leveraging Technological Change to Address Racial Injustice and Worker Shortages in Frontline Care Delivery
    Litwin, Adam Seth (BMJ Publishing Group, 2021-10)
    [Excerpt] Pandemic conditions may be a relatively new development for these workers, but the abhorrent quality of frontline healthcare jobs is not. While ‘job quality’ remains a subjective and elusive construct, we can all imagine a ‘high-quality’ bundle of economic, sociological and psychological attributes—generous or at least sufficient pay and benefits, job security and opportunities for advancement, a modicum of discretion over and interest in one’s work, and perhaps some control over one’s working time.1 2 We might even hope that over time, technological advances including smartphones and robots could somehow encourage an upward drift in the incidence of all of these sought-after ascriptions. But for decades, technology-centred automation has eroded job quality, making it easier for managers to squeeze wages and ignore poor employment conditions.
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    Technological Change on the Frontlines of Health Care Delivery
    Litwin, Adam Seth (Cornell University, 2022-08)
    [Excerpt] Technological advances in health care have long helped clinicians extend and save lives, increasing the quality of care and the level of comfort they can provide their patients. But, do today’s emergent technologies, predicated on digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI), have a qualitatively distinct impact on the quality of care and the efficiency with which providers deliver it? Likewise, how are these advances changing work and labor market outcomes for those frontline workers tasked with care delivery?
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    Understanding the Impact of Novel Technologies at Work through an Industry Studies Lens
    Litwin, Adam Seth; Hammerling, Jessie H. F. (Cornell University, 2022-08)
    As part of ILR Review’s new special series “Novel Technologies at Work,” this article introduces a forum composed of five industry studies that examine the drivers and impact of recent and impending technological change. Each of the studies, condensed from longer reports published over the past two years, relies on interviews with sectoral actors and other primary data to determine the relevant technologies confronting workers and managers and the sorts of strategies and policies that will mediate their effects.
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    Equity in Focus: Job Creation for a Just Society
    Brady, Anne Marie; Lieberwitz, Risa; Cunningham, Zach (Cornell University, ILR School, The Workers Institute, 2023)
    [Excerpt] Prioritizing gender and racial equity to promote a strong and just economy is a high priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. Historic levels of financing have been made available to support a range of infrastructure projects across the United States through key pieces of legislation, chief among them the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November 2021. The immediate issue is ensuring that the $1.2 trillion in direct government spending made available through the law is distributed in an equitable manner; that the jobs created or bolstered through this major infusion of federal funding include groups of people who historically have been excluded from past opportunities, and importantly, that these jobs are quality jobs—jobs that pay well, have strong social and labor protections, and where possible, are union jobs. This report explores these themes and discusses how policymakers, practitioners, and advocates are addressing the inequities in three sectors: the child care economy, the clean energy economy, and the construction trades, as presented in the Equity in focus—Job Creation for a Just Society series. The series was a year-long engagement made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau and The Worker Institute at the Cornell University ILR School. The webinar series and summit brought together local, state, and federal policymakers, practitioners, unions, workers, industry stakeholders, policy researchers, philanthropy, and advocates to explore how best to prioritize gender and racial equity as core components of a strong and just economy. This report captures the key social, economic, and political issues discussed during the Equity in focus webinar series and summit, which explored the challenges and solutions to achieving equity in job creation in these three sectors. The solutions highlighted in this report are rooted in local-level innovations designed to reverse inequalities in job creation and access that are supported through partnerships with the state and federal government.
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    Review of the book [The marketing of higher education: The price of the university's soul]
    Lieberwitz, Risa L. (Cornell University, 2004)
    [Excerpt] These commercialization trends have been the focus of recent scholarly commentary from such fields as history, sociology, education, and law. Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University and former Dean of Harvard Law School, joins the debate in his book Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education, inquiring "why this [commercialization] trend has developed, what dangers it poses for universities, and how academic leaders can act to limit the risk to their institutions." Bok defines commercialization as "efforts within the university to make a profit from teaching, research, and other campus activities.' He begins his study of commercialization trends with the oldest of commercialized university activities athletics-and then expands the discussion to include more recent commercial activities that involve research and teaching.
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    Faculty in the Corporate University: Professional Identity, Law and Collective Action
    Lieberwitz, Risa L. (Cornell University, 2007)
    Over the past two decades, major social and legal developments have made an enormous impact on U.S. universities' core functions of research and teaching, leading to a move away from the traditional "public interest" model of the university towards a "corporate" model of higher education. Such trends toward "corporatization" include the commercialization of academic research, as universities have enthusiastically embraced federal legislation giving them the right to patent and license federally funded research results, thereby cementing university-industry ties. Universities have cut back on tenured faculty lines, which provide lifetime job security, and have instead expanded nontenure-track faculty, including teaching by adjunct faculty and graduate assistants. Universities have created for-profit corporations offering distance education courses. In each of these developments, faculty have played key roles in either promoting or resisting the changes. This article seeks to explain these responses, in two parts: first by studying the faculty's professional identity, and second, by addressing the question of whether the faculty's professional identity shapes their responses to these important changes in universities.