David Bensman

David Bensman is a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University. He is the co-author of Rusted Dreams: Hard Times in a Steel Community.

Recent Articles

Seattle Progressives Fight Inequality: Teamsters Take On Uber

The metropolitan region's progressive groups have come together in a union-led, community-based movement for a sustainable city.

(Photo: AP/Ted S. Warren)
Metropolitan Seattle is two worlds. The city’s center is a gleaming fantasyland, with cruise ships on the bay, yellow construction cranes looming above the office towers, one-of-a-kind boutiques and ubiquitous coffee shops and bakeries. On the periphery sprawls a working-class world packed with immigrant-owned mom-and-pop shops and strip malls featuring chain drug stores and payday loan dealers. Connecting the two worlds is a service sector, where sales clerks, baristas, and taxi drivers meet the needs of techies and hipsters. What’s unique to Seattle is a progressive movement trying to bridge the two worlds to create a sustainable economy, with good jobs and efficient public services. Four big unions are at the center of the battle, but they’ve brought allies with them: environmentalists, faith leaders, NGOs, and above all, the organizations of the myriad immigrant populations of Sikhs, Somalis, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Vietnamese, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Mexicans...

Security for a Precarious Workforce

What will it take, economically and politically, to broadly regularize employment?  

AP Photo/David Goldman
AP Photo/David Goldman A worker carries a bucket to clean windows outside a Burger King restaurant before it opens as protestors demonstrate outside, Thursday, September 4, 2014, in Atlanta. This book review appears in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens By Guy Standing 440 pp. Bloombury Publishing $27.95 Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over By Caroline Fredrickson 256 pp. The New Press $25.95 Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement By Thomas Geoghegan 272 pp. The New Press $25.95 In recent years, the labor market has been marked by a shift from standard employment to new forms of contingent work. While Silicon Valley has painted a picture of opportunity, informality, ingenuity, self-reliance, and a sharing economy, for most people this new world turns out to offer mainly insecurity. The “fissuring” of workplaces, in David Weil’s term,...

Fair Work Schedules: The Next New Human Right

A great cultural transformation is driving demands for workers' control of job schedules.

(AP Photo/Detroit News, John T. Greilick)
Though it would be hard to see it in the midterm election results, we live in the opening phase of a great countermovement against neoliberalism. The evidence is everywhere you look, and not only in the United States and Latin America. The stunning success of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century can only be understood in this context. Throughout America, there are campaigns for raising the minimum wage and for setting a $15 floor. (On November 4, four red states approved ballot initiatives to up the minimum wage, and San Franciscans voted to follow Seattle’s lead by setting the floor at $15 per hour.) There are also accelerating campaigns for fair workweeks, a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and for granting home-care attendants the employment protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Fast Food workers, taxi drivers, port truckers, Wal-Mart employees, car washers, Fed Ex freight truck drivers and many health-care workers are all organizing unions...

Workers on the Edge

AP Images/Amy Sancetta
One of the most significant contributing causes of the widening inequality and insecurity in the American workforce is the accelerating shift to what economists call contingent employment. That means any form of employment that is not a standard payroll job with a regular paycheck. It can take the form of temps, contract workers, part time jobs, or jobs with irregular hours. A study by the GAO found that fully one-third of the U.S. workforce, or 42.6 million workers, was contingent, meaning in a work arrangement that is “not long-term, year-round, full-time employment with a single employer. “ It is a common myth that the shift to precarious, irregular employment reflects either the structure of the new, digital economy or the preferences of workers themselves. But in reality, most contingent work is the result of efforts by employers to undermine wages, job protections and worker bargaining power. Work that could be (and once was) standard payroll employment is turned...

A Long Haul

How the government's policy to modernize trucks collides with its policies to promote high-wage jobs

The Obama administration has defined the misclassification of employed workers as independent contractors to be an important problem resulting in workers losing legal protections and benefits, and governments losing tax revenue and insurance contributions from employers. Yet at the very same time, the administration's agencies are supporting and encouraging misclassification in at least two sectors of the trucking industry -- port trucking ("drayage") and ground express delivery. Drayage is that part of the trucking industry that hauls containers from ports to railroad yards, warehouses, and distribution centers, where containers are broken down and the goods repacked for delivery to retail stores. The industry "employs" more than 110,000 drivers at seaports on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic seaboard as well as at large inland ports such as Chicago. Most of the drivers work under the legal status of independent contractors, which means that they own their trucks and use...

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