What Workers Want

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Cornell University Press, 1999 - Business & Economics - 226 pages
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How would a typical American workplace be structured if the employees could design it? According to Richard B. Freeman and Joel Rogers, it would be an organization run jointly by employees and their supervisors, one where disputes between labor and management would be resolved through independent arbitration. Their groundbreaking book--based on the most extensive workplace survey of the last twenty years--provides a comprehensive account of employees? attitudes about participation, representation, and regulation on the job. More than anything, the authors find, workers want their voices to be heard. They desire a greater role in the workplace (but doubt management's willingness to share power), and have strong ideas about how their involvement could improve not just their lot but also their companies? fortunes. Many nonunion workers favor the formation of unions, and virtually all union workers strongly support their union. Most employees support the creation of labor-management committees--to which workers would elect their representatives--to run the organization and settle conflicts. And, contrary to commonly held assumptions, workers (including those in unions and those wishing to be) do not like dissension with their supervisors; they overwhelmingly prefer cooperative relations. The authors also report on the views of the supervisors, who confirm their wish to retain exclusive authority to make decisions, but demonstrate a willingness to listen more actively to labor's concerns by giving employees a more substantial voice on advisory committees. Freeman and Rogers present their findings within a broader picture of the evolving structure of labor and management in the United States. Their detailed description of their survey--how it was constructed and conducted--provides a model for workplace research in our time. And the results allow the voices of employees to be heard on matters profoundly affecting their jobs, their lives, and, ultimately, the state of the American economy.

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About the author (1999)

Richard B. Freeman is Ascherman Chair of Economics at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Joel Rogers, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" prize-winner and identified by Newsweek as one of the 100 living Americans most likely to shape U.S. politics and culture in the twenty-first century, is professor of law, political science, public affairs, and sociology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. The common thread in his academic work is democracy: how to define and measure it, what makes it work, how to make it work better. Rogers spends a lot of time outside the university advising people in politics, government, business, and social movements. He runs the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, which promotes high road (i.e., equitable, sustainable, democratic) economic development and governance, and has produced a stream of influential innovations in worker training; business and labor strategy; and local, state, and national policy.

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