Future of Work & Workers

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The Labor Center conducts in-depth research on how work is changing in the US labor market, especially for low-wage workers, women, immigrants, and workers of color. Our research helps policymakers, unions, and other stakeholders respond to the challenges and opportunities facing workers in the years ahead. We consider both new and ongoing trends, including technological change, outsourcing, and gig work.

The impact of new technologies in the workplace, and how workers and public policy can respond

Independent contracting, gig work, and employee misclassification

Fissured workplaces, subcontracting, and effects on wages and job quality

Research & Publications

Sara Hinkley

Technology in the public sector and the future of government work

This report explores how governments use technology, what drives technology adoption, and how technologies affect public sector workers and the delivery of public services. Using examples across local, state, and federal governments, the report finds that transparency and accountability have lagged behind rapid technology adoption in the wake of COVID-19, and that public sector workers play a critical role in ensuring that technology is used to strengthen the ability of governments to provide quality and equitable public services.

Lisa Kresgeand MT Snyder

35 Years Under Electronic Monitoring and Still Waiting for Worker Rights

A 1987 report from the federal Office of Technology Assessment recognized the potential for employers to misuse and abuse new technologies resulting in adverse effects for workers, but recommended a “wait and see” approach due to lack of data to justify regulation. This blog post reviews decades of research since publication of the report that finds electronic performance monitoring (EPM) systems do increase worker stress and cause other harms.

Press Coverage

Barron's

Will Robots Replace Humans At Amazon?

A 2019 study by the University of California’s Labor Center at Berkeley warned that while some technologies can alleviate arduous warehouse tasks, they could also contribute to increasing the “workload and pace of work.”

Capital & Main

How Millions of Gig Workers Could Be Impacted by a New Labor Rule

Under Biden’s proposed rule, “There is a very strong case that gig workers are misclassified,” Jacobs wrote in an email to Capital & Main. “The proposed rule would make it easier to prove misclassification in industries with a long history of misclassification, like janitorial, trucking and construction.”

HR Dive

Surveillance, AI tech may violate labor laws, NLRB general counsel says

The memo cited a variety of research, legal cases and news stories on the subject. One citation is a 2021 report from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center that detailed the use of data and algorithms to analyze worker productivity, automate hiring processes and monitor activity.

Current Affairs

The Boss is Watching

As Kresge observes, unions in the U.S. are currently in the throes of negotiating for limitations on how data can be used by employers and against the unnecessary uses of countless surveillance technologies in the workplace

Program Contacts