The Unequal Power project is a multiyear interdisciplinary initiative to reexamine the foundational assumptions about the balance of power in labor market relationships. By commissioning new research in economicslawpolitical science, and philosophy, the initiative will examine the extent and implications of asymmetrical bargaining power—including impact on employee rights and protections, freedom, democracy, and fairness. The goal is to build an intellectual foundation for a deeper and more policy-relevant understanding of labor markets. The initiative has four dimensions:

Advancing the fields

Advancing thinking about the imbalance of power in labor markets in key fields: law, philosophy, political science, economics and sociology. This will be accomplished through convenings, literature reviews, and newly commissioned research.


Engaging empirically oriented social scientists with the claims made about labor markets in debates within philosophy (Private Government, for example) and law (the “at-will doctrine” and other employment law issues such as forced arbitration).


Relying on the newly expanded analyses and empirical contributions made by the project to synthesize the material; reflecting on themes and narratives to communicate the overall findings for academics of all fields, students, activists, media, and policymakers.

Public engagement

Incorporating activists, advocacy groups, policymakers, and citizens more generally into the conversation through convenings, popular writings, and thought leadership in widely read publications.


This project is made possible through a general operating grant from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust.


Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Columbia University

Ann Rosenthal

Benjamin Schoefer

University of California, Berkeley

Bruce E. Kaufman

Georgia State University

Charlotte Garden

Seattle University

Chetan Cetty

University of Pennsylvania

Daniel J. Galvin

Northwestern University

David Card

University of California, Berkeley

Hana Shepherd

Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Heidi Shierholz
Economic Policy Institute

Jane Liu

Janice Fine

Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jennifer Berkshire

Boston College

Jenny R. Yang

John Schmitt
Economic Policy Institute

Josh Bivens
Economic Policy Institute

Julia Tomassetti

Kathleen Thelen

Lane Windham

Lawrence Mishel
Economic Policy Institute

Les Boden

Boston University School of Public Health

Lynn Rhinehart
Economic Policy Institute

Nancy Folbre

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Samuel Bagenstos

University of Michigan

Simon Jäger

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Soumyajit Mazumder

Valerie Wilson
Economic Policy Institute

William E. Spriggs

This project is made possible through a general operating grant from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust.