LAW 537

Low-Wage Workers

Low-wage work is widely seen as both the cause of poverty in the United States and the solution to it and other social ills. It is structured by a changing labor market, a globalizing economy, multiple social movements, and forms of government regulation stretching from social welfare policy to the criminal legal system. This course surveys legal and policy topics with special significance for low-wage, and sometimes no-wage, workers, such as minimum and living wage laws and the application of labor and employment law to gig work, sub-contracting, temp agencies, the informal economy, and domestic work. Attention is paid to how gender, race, immigration status, and criminal justice contact structure low-wage work and the law governing it, including which forms of work receive legal protection as such. Consideration is given throughout to the effectiveness of direct regulation of the employer-employee relationship, efforts to enhance enforcement, and potential alternative policy mechanisms such as cash and in-kind government benefits or regulation of the many institutions that influence labor markets. Evaluation is based on class participation and a series of response papers, with a research paper (SAW) option for an additional credit by instructor permission.

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