Federal, State and Local Models of Strategic Enforcement and Co-enforcement Across the U.S.

Janice Fine and Jenn Round


This paper advocates for strategic enforcement of labor laws, in contrast to complaint-based enforcement. The purpose of strategic enforcement is not to process each case as an incident divorced from the structural context of the labor market, but rather to treat cases as indicators of broader— and inherently malleable—power asymmetries between workers and employers. Strategic enforcement, then, is a mechanism to redress the underlying structural problems in the labor market including specific industry dynamics and business models. Strategic enforcement renders co-enforcement– that is, formal and sustained partnerships with worker and community organizations, which are authorized to conduct outreach and education, identify and report violations, and potentially play a role in the investigation process. The paper presents several case studies discussing opportunities and challenges of strategic enforcement at the federal, state and local level.

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