Improvisational Unionism

Improvisational Unionism

Recent fights for a $15-an-hour minimum wage at Walmart and in the fast-food industry have interested academics, captivated the press, and energized the public. For good reason. The campaigns upend conventional wisdom about what unions do (help workers win collective bargaining rights) and why they do it (build the membership). Scattered flash strikes for seemingly impossible or idiosyncratic goals on no obvious timeline have shattered that mold. Though much has already been said about these developments, scholarship has yet to provide a rigorous theoretical frame to categorize and explain the new form of activism. This Article argues that improvisation—long the engine of comedy and jazz but more recently a topic of serious academic inquiry—does both. Improvisational unionism is an intentional social practice that galvanizes courageous conduct, inspires new relationships, and, most importantly, spreads. It also functions as a legal strategy selected for its unique potential to unlock worker militancy amid law and institutional restrictions that have corroded labor’s power for decades.


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When Loving Is Not Enough

Loving v. Virginia is a landmark case that banned antimiscegenation laws over forty years ago. Today, we credit Loving with dismantling legal barriers to interracial relationships. Despite this legacy, the incidence of interracial coupling and multiracial families is still low. Scholars have acknowledged this disconnect and have attributed the low rates of interracial relationships to […]

Stars, Dragons, and the Letter “M”: Consequential Symbols in California Prison Gang Policy

California prison policy relies on symbols to identify prison gang affiliated inmates. This policy leads to many false positives and results in long-term solitary confinement of individuals who, in fact, are not affiliated with any gang at all. This Note examines the evolution of California’s symbol-driven policy, including regulations before 2012, after 2012, and the […]

Big Data’s Disparate Impact

Advocates of algorithmic techniques like data mining argue that these techniques eliminate human biases from the decision-making process. But an algorithm is only as good as the data it works with. Data is frequently imperfect in ways that allow these algorithms to inherit the prejudices of prior decision makers. In other cases, data may simply […]