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64 Emory Law Journal 1583 (2015)


The NLRA system of collective bargaining was born during the industrial age of the early twentieth century. As a result, key terms in the statute such as "employee," "employer," and "appropriate bargaining unit" were first interpreted in the context of long-term employment and large vertically integrated firms that dominated this era. Beginning in the late 1970s, the new information technology wrought a revolution in the organization of production increasing short-term contingent employment and the organization of firms horizontally in trading and subcontracting relationships across the globe. To maintain the relevance of collective bargaining to the modern workplace, the interpretation of the key terms of the NLRA must be updated to recognize the changed circumstances of production and interpret union access and employee mutual support in light of the new technology. However, new information technology promises further changes in the workplace with the accelerating mechanization of many jobs and perhaps a fundamental change in the relationship between labor and capital with the development of artificial intelligence. In this Essay, I explore the implications of new information technology for the workplace, the interpretation of the NLRA, and the continuing evolution of American labor policy.