Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-27-2021

Abstract

After 9/11, Congress, federal agencies, and scholars exposed the devastating results of the national security agencies’ failure to coordinate. The financial crisis has been linked to similar coordination failures in the context of interagency banking regulation, with jurisdictional gaps and blind spots resulting in failure to prevent a global recession. But despite Gilded Age-levels of inequality, little attention has focused on the failures of interagency coordination to secure Americans’ access to economic opportunity through work—whether through securing higher wages and higher union density, coordinating government enforcement to achieve redistributive goals and combat consolidation of employer buyer power, or overcoming systemic abuses in employers’ wage theft, discrimination, and worker mistreatment. The crippling spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic demands that now, more than ever, agencies coordinate in their regulation of labor markets to accomplish micro– and macroeconomic policy goals.

This Essay is a component of a larger project that seeks to document federal agencies’ selective coordination along six core policy vectors that impact work- or income-based avenues towards equality—macroeconomic, microeconomic, institution-building, industry-specific, anti-subordination, and democratic/expressive policy. It presents the results of a novel data set collecting and systematizing existing Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) authorized by the core agencies involved in labor market regulation: the Department of Labor (DOL), its sub agencies, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice-Antitrust Division, and the Federal Trade Commission. By hand-coding and analyzing the 112 discoverable MOUs from the 1950s to the present, the Essay presents a novel history of interagency coordination on labor regulation, highlighting which labor agencies coordinate most and least, what such coordination facilitates as a substantive and administrative matter, and the broad scope and areas of labor market regulation on which coordination has not yet occurred. It concludes by arguing that the federal government lacks a coherent, aligned vision on labor market regulation and economic mobility through work, and proposes next steps for improving agency coordination.

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