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Why Do We Have Labor Protection

Matt BruenigTimothy B. Lee has this to say about labor protection:


The bottom line is that conventional labor laws are based on the assumption that employers dictate employees
hours and working conditions, and so we need things like mandatory breaks, sick leave, and safety regulations to
ensure employers dont take advantage of workers. But in an on-demand economy model, rules designed to
protect workers dont necessarily do that. Uber drivers can take breaks whenever they want. Uber doesnt care.
So a rule requiring employees to take breaks after working for a certain number of hours simply reduces drivers
freedom for no good reason. If Uber drivers are going to be subject to employment law, there needs to be a legal
category for employees who genuinely set their own schedules.
This just-so story about labor laws is not correct. It fits into a neat one-off individualist story for why these laws
exist and what they hope to accomplish. This makes it helpful for a Vox-style explanation and even for economics
textbooks. But its totally detached from historical reality.
Modern labor protection, and social insurance for that matter, is the provenance of organized working class
movements. The goal of these movements was to increase the share of income going to working class people and
to enhance their well-being and security more generally. It was not just about balancing some power relationship
between the worker and the boss. It was about securing for working class people a certain kind of life.
Hours restrictions were not pushed by labor because of some wonky estimation of the relative bargaining strength
of labor and capital. They were pushed because the labor movement believed that the good life meant adequate
time for rest, leisure, and family. Paid sick leave (which doesnt really exist statutorily but did find its way into most
all collective bargaining agreements) was installed as a kind of income-smoothing insurance that gives workers the
ability to stay home sick without missing a beat in their paycheck. Paid vacation and breaks operate similarly.
Lees analysis falls into that old libertarian trap that corrupts almost all of our economic discussion in this country.
Under this trap, laissez-faire economic arrangements operate as the baseline and then economic rules that diverge
from those arrangements come in specifically to correct some market problem (here the outsized power of a boss
in a specific kind of employment relationship).
In reality, of course, laissez-faire is not the baseline and divergent economic rules dont exist only to correct
identified defects in laissez-faire. Instead, economic rules of all sorts are created to affirmatively carve up the
national income and to establish the terms under which production, consumption, and economic life more
generally will proceed.
If you believe, as labor generally does, that economic life should proceed such that normal working class people
generally have predictable schedules, predictable (and adequate) income, and paid leave for various life events,
then it doesnt matter that new-fangled app-based employment systems have come on to the scene. That changes
exactly nothing about your perspective on the proper aim of our economic rules. You still think that the rules
should (one way or another) be constructed so as to facilitate the good and comfortable life as you see it.
Now you can call this anti-freedom (as Lee does) because it means workers who deeply prefer some other
economic arrangement are effectively prevented from having it. But this is not a charge freshly relevant to the
app-based worker economy. Its a charge thats been lobbed at all economic arrangements forever. What if they
want to work on-demand without minimum wages and paid leave is just an updated version of what if they want
to work 60 hours a week at normal pay. Some people have always been persuaded that non-laissez-faire
economic rules were freedom-infringing, while others have always correctly observed that they are no more
freedom-infringing than any other economic rules.
Here, if Uber is legally placed under conventional employment rules, those whod prefer to work for Uber under an
independent contractor arrangement are out of luck, but likewise if its placed under independent contractor
rules, those whod prefer to work for Uber under a conventional employment arrangement are out of luck. A
preferred choice is being taken off the table for some set of people no matter what route you go. If you try to solve
this by letting the parties decide whether to have an independent contractor or conventional employment
relationship, you can declare that youve achieved actual true freedom, but in reality we know that will just mean
Uber and similar companies offering take-it-or-leave-it independent contractor arrangements, effectively
eliminating any other choice for would-be app-based drivers.
Of course, you dont necessarily have to share in these particular views of what a good economic life looks like.
And, even if you do share in those views, you dont have to believe that reasserting the employment-based model
is the best way to achieve the good economic life (I personally think there are better ways, and that there have
always been better ways). But if we are going to have this debate, its important that we actually do so on accurate
terms. Backfilling narrow rationales for labor protection that you can possibly say no longer apply is helpful for
reaching certain conclusions, but its dishonest about the historical reason labor protection exists.

Labour code
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A labour code, (also called a code of labour laws) is a codification of labour laws in legislative form.
One of the first labour codes was first introduced in 1918 in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic,
as a legal framework underlying the requirement to ensure the right to work declared in the first Soviet
Constitution.[1]
In the aftermath of post-war the labour codes basing upon the same set of social guarantees were introduced
in German Democratic Republic, People's Republic of Hungary, People's Republic of Poland and the other
socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Presently the Labour Code exists in Russian Federation and in some other former Soviet Republics.
In Canada the Labour Code (R.S., 1985, c. L-2) was adopted in 1985 superseding the Industrial Relations and
Disputes Investigation Act of 1948.[2]

Importance of Labor Laws


by Van Thompson

Related Articles
1The Importance of Employment Laws and Compliance with Intentions of the Laws
2What Are the Functions of Labor Laws?
3Objectives of Labor Laws
4The Importance of Obeying the Rules and Regulations in the Workplace
Labor laws clarify and codify business owners' obligations to their employees. The labor movement has a long
history of lobbying for laws that protect worker's rights, improve worker safety, prevent child labor and increase
workers' bargaining power relative to their employers. While labor laws might seem like a bureaucratic hassle for
your business, these laws help keep your employees safe, healthy and happy, and satisfied employees tend to be
more productive.

Proper Classification

Independent contractors -- people who work for themselves and who control the time and method of their work --
are not covered by most labor laws, and employers do not have to pay payroll taxes on independent contractors.
The Fair Labor Standards Act prevents employers from improperly classifying employees as independent
contractors in an attempt to save money. This prohibition ensures that employees are not overburdened with
taxes, that employers pay into worker's compensation insurance where required and that employees are eligible
for minimum wage. If you're not sure whether your employees are independent contractors, examine the nature
of their work. If you can control how, when and where they do their work, they're probably employees. But if you
hire someone to complete a specific task and that person works on their own schedule, he may be an independent
contractor.

Child Protection

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employment of children under the age of 14, unless they work in a
parent's business. The law also regulates the hours children between 14 and 16 can work and prohibits dangerous
occupations for all children under 18. The documentation requirements of the FLSA can help you avoid
inadvertently running afoul of child labor laws.

Fair Wages

The FLSA establishes a federal minimum wage -- $7.25 an hour as of 2013. Employers cannot pay their employees
less than this hourly wage, but employees under 20 can be paid the youth minimum wage of $4.25 per hour during
their first 90 days of employment. The federal minimum wage can provide you guidance about how to pay your
employees; even employees who make more than minimum wage often use minimum wage as a guideline for fair
pay.

Employee Protections

Several labor laws offer protections that guard against unfair treatment and unsafe working conditions. Your
business, for example, must take reasonable safety precautions. If you work in certain hazardous industries, such
as construction or coal mining, you'll be subject to additional regulations and oversight to ensure your employees
remain safe. The Department of Labor's Whistleblower Protection Program prohibits employers from retaliating
against employees who report workplace safety problems and other legal violations, and also bars employers from
terminating employees who sue them or file complaints with government agencies.

Reasonable Hours

Prior to the FLSA, employers could force employees to work extended hours with little compensation. The FLSA,
however, mandates that most employees who work in excess of 40 hours in a given work week are compensated
at time-and-a-half. Employers must also keep records of employee hours and have a reliable way of tracking when
and how long employees work. This statutory requirement can make it much easier to manage employee
scheduling and to avoid breaking the FLSA.

Discrimination Prevention

Discrimination laws are primarily products of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While these laws aren't overseen by the
U.S. Department of Labor, they do affect your relationships with your employees. Your business can't discriminate
based on sex, age, religion, disability, race or ethnicity, and can't pay members of protected groups different
salaries or hourly wages.

Definition
Popular Terms
Body of rulings pertaining to working people and their organizations, including trade unions and employee unions,
enforced by government agencies. There are two categories of labor laws; collective and individual. Collective
labor law involves relationships between the union, the employer and the employee. Individual labor law involves
concerns for employees' rights in the workplace. Labor laws first became standard during the Industrial Revolution.
Also called employment laws

Use 'labor laws' in a Sentence


The human resource department is responsible for assuring that labor laws governing an employer's hiring and
workforce practices are adhered to at both the Federal and State levels.
20 people found this helpful
To be the best intermediary possible between corporate higher-ups and his union, a good union leader should be
completely conversant in the labor laws of his region, constantly updating his understanding of any pertinent
changes as they occur.
18 people found this helpful
When judging which companies would be a best fit, you should not only consider companies compliance with labor
laws, but a company being willing to consistently go above and beyond those laws.
16 people found this helpful