Raising the floor: New directions in public and private enforcement of labor standards in the United States.

Fine, Janice, and Tim Bartley.

Journal of Industrial Relations 61, no. 2 (2019): 252-276.


Low-wage work in the US and many other places continues to be characterized by precarious and dangerous conditions, vulnerable immigrant workforces, and problems of misclassification and wage theft. Several recent initiatives are seeking to demonstrate that conditions can be greatly improved even when governments lack the capacity to broadly enforce the law on the books. In co-enforcement approaches, for instance, municipal governments are enlisting worker and community organizations to improve enforcement of wage and hour laws. Similarly, some private regulatory initiatives are taking ‘worker-driven’ approaches that favor enforcement by locally trusted organizations rather than unreliable ‘checklist auditing’. In this article, we examine one exemplary case of each approach in the US – namely, the Seattle Office of Labor Standards and the Fair Food Program in Florida. Comparing these initiatives reveals a convergence on civil society linkages, locally grounded monitoring capacities, and enforceable penalties. The cases differ in their bases of power and the expected role of the state, though the latter difference is perhaps not as stark as it initially seems. The comparison also suggests some challenges and opportunities for extending these models into new settings.

Much of what is available in the Library is publicly available and can be accessed through a link on this website. However, most academic journal articles reside beyond a paywall and only the abstracts are included here.