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Worker’s rights aim to promote the welfare, equity, and success of those employed. The idea has been discussed and employed many times throughout history, and current advancements in business have added new threats to the wellbeing of workers. In the U.S., this concept is propagated by many different organizations, both public and private. We will discuss the recent history of worker’s rights in the U.S., the current state of the movement, and implications for the future.

History of Worker’s Rights

The history of labor in the U.S. is complex and subject to many different political, social, and economic influences. Unions were a major development in the worker’s rights of Americans, and they began gaining sizable power by the 1930s. These organizations were created as a way to unite workers so that they could better fight for their interests. These interests primarily included fair wages, reduced hours, and additional benefits. Laws concerning labor rights were not very comprehensive or effective at this time, so unions became a main support system.

Unions grew larger and more powerful throughout the century, catalyzed by war and population booms. They began covering more sectors, moving away from their traditionally industrial focus. This may have been due to both increasing occupational choices and the proven success of previous unions.

While often battling resistance and failure from their inception, unions especially struggled in the 70s and 80s, when much of the influence fueling their progress vanished. Political landscapes shifted, and many businesses took advantage of these new conditions. After noticing increased disparities and threats to employee wellbeing, the government created laws to help minimize them. They used organizations such as The Department of Labor (DOL) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to exact authority over workplace procedures and wages.

The 2010s saw a resurgence of union activity alongside support from both governmental and non-governmental organizations. This increased the strength of the movement and expanded its focus to improve equity among disadvantaged workers. This included the formation of new laws, occupational standards, and social practices that aimed to both improve diversity and the treatment of it in the workforce.

Developing New Standards for Workers

The fight to improve worker’s rights is burning as bright as ever, and many recent events have informed our current outlook on the matter. The pandemic stopped many industries when it began and demanded that some take indefinite measures to adapt. This brought to light many occupational hazards and societal perceptions of work that conflicted with the aims of employee welfare. As a result, movements such as the Great Resignation ensued, demonstrating the desire for better working conditions and compensation.

In attempts to counter such anti-work sentiments and further worker’s rights, local and state governments have stratified their labor laws. New York City is the latest to adopt a law forcing companies to display an accurate salary range on their job postings. This is similar to laws in place elsewhere in the country and expected to spread nationwide. This law hopes to improve the experience of job-seekers, providing them with a trusted range of compensation for a given role. This may help to decrease pay disparities as well as increase ease-of-placement for the millions of workers in the city. The law applies to NYC residents as well as businesses operating in the city, which may mean that companies nationwide might change their policies to conform to the large percentage of business conducted in the city.

As mentioned in a previous post, AB5 is a California law concerning independent contractors that may become standard nationally. The state took these measures to ensure proper use of independent contractors by businesses. They also provide a reference for such contractors who would like to operate legitimately and in good faith. This furthers the rights of employees by decreasing the grey area that has traditionally dominated this concept.

The Future of Worker’s Rights

As mentioned, many local and state laws may soon extend to organizations nationally. This will help governmental and non-governmental entities control the promotion of employee welfare and success across the nation. More and more businesses addressing their employee’s rights will help improve the market overall as the workforce moves toward better-adapted organizations.

With enforcement of wage transparency and employee management nationally should come an improvement to the current standards as more theories become actualized. There is already a desire to improve these practices in many companies, and this added pressure will help open industries to new solutions we have yet to think of. Worker’s rights is a continuous process, since many political, social, and economic events can change how the workforce functions. This means that there will always be a need for new and inventive practices to ensure the proper treatment of workers and job-seekers.

What This Means for Staffing Firms

Staffing agencies deal with the job postings of many organizations. This means they must be up-to-date in recent changes to labor rights and how that applies to their work. For example, a recruiter broadcasting a role that is open to New York residents must provide the salary range. With remote work structures, this can easily become hard to manage. In this, staffing firms would do well to start adding this information in all of their postings, especially since more states will likely demand the practice in the future.

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