Scholarly Publications

State and Local Policies and Sectoral Labor Standards

From Individual Rights to Collective Power


The US enterprise-based collective bargaining regime creates substantial limitations for organizing workers in an economy in which supply chains are increasingly disaggregated in ways that reduce worker power. Federal labor law generally preempts state and local policies that directly address private-sector bargaining. State and local governments, however, are not preempted from setting general labor standards. The authors examine four cases of recent experiments using sectoral standards at the local level. The cases show that sectoral standards have the potential to expand new forms of social bargaining through state and local public policy in areas of the country where worker organizations are already strong. Sectoral standards can do so in ways that promote worker organization and build institutional power, especially when combined with robust worker organizing. In presenting these cases, the authors show both the potential power, and limitations, of federalism in US workplace regulation.

Citation: Jacobs K, Smith R, McBride J. State and Local Policies and Sectoral Labor Standards: From Individual Rights to Collective Power. ILR Review. 2021;74(5):1132-1154. doi:10.1177/00197939211020706