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Workers, Collectivism and the Law

Grappling with Democracy

Laura Carlson

Workers, Collectivism and the Law offers a captivating historical account of worker democracy, from its beginnings in European guild systems to present-day labor unions, across the national legal systems of Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Analysing these legal systems in light of a Habermasian concept of participatory democracy, Laura Carlson identifies ways to strengthen individual employee voice in claims against employers.
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Chapter 11: Employee voice in the United States

Laura Carlson


Although technically a one-channel system of employee representation, American federal law creates several avenues of employee voice in addition to labor organizations. Individual employees can bring claims to state and federal agencies alleging unfair labor practices or unlawful discrimination, which agencies investigate such claims. Employees can also act together concertedly outside the scope of a labor organization and still be afforded legal protection. Extensive statutory requirements exist with respect to labor organizations and procedural due process demands. The labor unions also have a duty of fair representation, entailing that they must, as the exclusive representative of the employees, represent all employees equally. This duty is regardless of an individual’s union membership status, sex, race, religion, disability status, or age. This emphasis on employee voice and access to justice in American law is very much a legacy of past discrimination.

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