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.


Elizabeth Anderson
University of Michigan

Samuel Bagenstos
University of Michigan

Josh Bivens
Economic Policy Institute

Leslie Boden
Boston University

Chetan Cetty
University of Pennsylvania

James Conran
University of Oregon

William Darity
Duke University

Peter Dorman
Evergreen State College

Kathryn Edwards

John Evans

Janice Fine
Rutgers University

Nancy Folbre
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Charlotte Garden
Seattle University School of Law

Andy Green

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez
Columbia University

Simon Jäger
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bruce Kaufman
Georgia State University

Shom Mazumder
Harvard University

Larry Mishel
Economic Policy Institute

Suresh Naidu
Columbia University

Lynn Rhinehart
Economic Policy Institute

Ann Rosenthal
Former Department of Labor General Counsel for OSHA

Benjamin Schoefer
University of California-Berkeley

Hana Shepherd
Rutgers University

Heidi Shierholz
Economic Policy Institute

Kathleen Thelen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Julia Tomassetti
City University of Hong Kong

Valerie Wilson
Economic Policy Institute

Lane Windham
Georgetown University

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