Publications: Labor Regulations

A number of the pieces mentioned below are available from this site. A link is provided at the end of each listing for which there is a pdf available.

Rethinking the Regulation of Vulnerable Work in the USA: A Sector-based Approach. By David Weil. March 24, 2009. Journal of Industrial Relations. This article discusses one of the major challenges of US workplace policy: protecting roughly 35m workers who are vulnerable to a variety of major risks in the workplace. After laying out the dimensions of this problem, I show that the vulnerable workforce is concentrated in a subset of sectors with distinctive industry characteristics. Examining how employer organizations relate to one another in these sectors provides insight into some of the causes as well as possible solutions for redressing workforce vulnerability in the US as well as other countries facing similar problems. 

Does Ownership Structure Influence Regulatory Behavior? The Impact of Franchisee Free-Riding on Labor Standards Compliance. By Min Woong Ji and David Weil. March 13, 2009. This paper examines the effect of franchising on compliance with labor standards regulations in the U.S. Franchisees who typically own and manage their own outlets seek to maximize profit of only their units whereas the franchisor benefits from increases in sales of all outlets in the chain, whether franchised or company-owned. Franchisors are therefore more concerned about the deterioration of brand reputation leading us to hypothesize that compliance is worse at franchisee-owned outlets than at comparable company-owned outlets as a result of the free-riding problem. By using a unique pooled cross-section of the top 20 branded fast food restaurants in the U.S., we observe that total back-wages (wage repayment equal to the difference between those received and those owed to workers by statute) found by per investigation at a given franchised outlet are $4,265 larger than at a comparable company-owned outlet. This franchise effect grows further in magnitude with the use of relevant instruments for franchising status.

A Strategic Approach to Labour Inspection. By David Weil. International Labour Review, Vol. 147, no. 4, December, 2008. The problem facing national governments in regulating conditions in the workplace is daunting. Public policies on health and safety, discrimination and basic labour conditions often cover millions of workers, located in hundreds of thousands of workplaces across dispersed geographic settings. Conditions within those workplaces vary enormously – even within a single industry – and employers often have an incentive to make those conditions as opaque as possible. In this paper, David Weil argues that inspectorates must go beyond calls for more inspectors by adopting a clear strategic framework for reacting to incoming complaints and targeting programmed investigations in order to maximize effectiveness in the use of their overstretched resources. To do so, he proposes, their work must be guided by the principles of prioritization, deterrence, sustainability and achieving systemic effects. The article (available in english, french, and spanish) concludes with an outline of the requirements of a coherent regulatory strategy.
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Regulating Labour Standards via Supply Chains: Combining Public/Private Interventions to Improve Workplace Compliance. By David Weil and Carlos Mallo. December 2007. British Journal of Industrial Relations. Concern over global labour standards has led to a profusion of nongovernmental forms of regulation. Systematic evaluation of these systems has been very limited to date. This article empirically explores an innovative system to regulate labour standards in the US garment industry combining public enforcement power and private monitoring, thereby drawing on different elements of global labour standards systems. We examine the impact of this system over time and in two distinct markets on employer compliance with minimum wage laws and find that these initiatives are associated with substantial reductions in minimum wage violations. The system therefore offers a useful model for international labour standards regulatory systems.

Why Complain? Complaints, Compliance, and the Problem of Enforcement in the U.S. Workplace. By David Weil and Amanda Pyles. Comparative Labor Law and Public Policy Journal, vol. 27, no. 1., 2006. The conventional image of government regulation of the workplace is of inspectors sent out to factories, construction sites, and service establishments, seeking to ensure that employers comply with promulgated standards. Because of limitations in available resources in many agencies, however, and the often politicized environment surrounding regulatory decisions, complaint activities have become the primary driver of enforcement activity. If we care about the adequacy of workplace laws in protecting workers generally and low-wage workers in particular, we must pay more attention to the question of "why complain?" under workplace policies. This article examines this question by focusing on complaint activity across two of the most important U.S. statutes regulating workplace conditions, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets minimum wage levels and overtime compensation requirements, and restricts child labor; and OSHA, which regulates safety and health conditions in most private-sector establishments. Our findings suggest that the likelihood of complaining relates only somewhat to underlying conditions at the workplace, but are also driven by other factors associated with workers and their employers such as unionization, fear of discrimination, the workplace size. We discuss the policy implications of these findings for agencies and for other parties interested in workplace conditions.

Public Enforcement/Private Monitoring: Evaluating a New Approach to Regulating the Minimum Wage, by David Weil, January 2005. This paper examines compliance with federal minimum wage laws in the U.S. apparel industry and analyzes the impact of new methods of intervention designed to improve regulatory performance. Drawing on data from a randomized survey of apparel contractors, the author evaluates the impact of agreements between manufacturers and the government used to monitor contractor behavior as a means of improving compliance outcomes. Several non-regulatory variables predicted by theory to be important influences--the level of works skills, for example, and product market factors related to the elasticity of labor demand--are indeed found to be correlated with compliance. Nontheless, stringent forms of contractor monitoring are associated with substantial reductions in violations of minimum wage standards. The results suggest that well-designed public/private monitoring efforts can lead to significant improvements in compliance with labor standards.

Compliance with Minimum Wage Laws: Can Government Make a Difference? by David Weil, December 2002. This paper examines patterns of compliance and noncompliance with federal minimum wage laws in the U.S. apparel industry and analyzes the impact of new methods of intervention designed to improve regulatory performance. Drawing on contractor-level data from a randomized survey of apparel contractors, the paper assesses the major correlates of compliance with minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and evaluates the impact of agreements between manufacturers and the government used to monitor contractor behavior as a means of improving compliance outcomes. Conclusions? Non-compliance is significantly correlated with characteristics predicted by theory including employer size, skill content, and the elasticity of labor and product demand. Nonetheless, stringent forms of contractor monitoring are associated with significant reductions in the presence, incidence, and severity of violations of minimum wage standards.

“Regulating Noncompliance to Labor Standards: New Tools for an Old Problem” Challenge, January-February 2002, pp. 47-74. Regulating labor standards in the apparel industry has been a problem for more than a century. However, changes over the last decade in the relationships between retailers and apparel manufacturers have altered the product market forces governing the apparel industry. This paper explores how new regulatory approaches are attempting to take advantage of these changes in market forces to create greater pressure on multiple parties in the supply 'channel' to monitor and enforce domestic labor standards. The paper explores new data on the performance of traditional and new regulatory approaches given these changes. It then speculates on the implications of these findings to regulating labor standards internationally as well as the application of market pressure as a regulatory tool for other venues.

“Diffusion and Performance of Modular Production in the U.S. Apparel Industry,” by John T. Dunlop and David Weil, appeared in Industrial Relations, July 1996. This paper examined the determinants of the diffusion of team production systems (modular assembly) and the impact of these systems of firm performance relative to traditional assembly systems in the apparel industry. The paper draws on an extensive survey providing detailed information on a wide range of manufacturing practices and retail relationships in the U.S. apparel industry. We find that recent diffusion of modular practices is driven primarily by the product market. We also show that modular systems affect business unit performance (particularly operating profits) where they are combined with complementary investments in information systems linking apparel suppliers and retail customers.

"Work Organization in the U.S. Apparel Industry: A Historic Perspective,” by John T. Dunlop and David Weil, November 1993. This paper explores the principal determinants governing the diffusion of innovation human resource practices. It does so by analyzing the emergence of the present system of apparel assembly in the late 1930s, and the failure of wide-scale diffusion of the group assembly systems in the apparel industry in the 1980s, drawing on performance data from both time periods. The authors argue that diffusion of human resource practices deemed “innovative” within an industry arises primarily from the link between those practices and the competitive strategy position of firms adopting them in relation to those which do not. Thus, rather that focusing on characteristics of the innovative practices per se—as is common the “high performance work organization” literature—analyses of human resource diffusion must concentrate on the context of the product markets, technologic and work organization choices and their resulting impacts on the competitive position of the adopters.

Case Study: Doré-Doré, by Janice H. Hammond, Harvard Business School case study. Describes the implementation of a cellular manufacturing system in a French knitwear company.

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