Working Paper No. 07-30:
What Workers Want or What Labor Experts Want Them to Want? A Review Essay of What Workers Want by Richard B. Freeman & Joel Rogers, Updated Edition, ILR Press (2006)
Date Posted: 2007
Richard B. Freeman & Joel Rodgers offer an important addition to the industrial relations literature. This work is grounded in survey methodology. The authors' original thesis, premised on the Worker Representation and Participation Study (WRPS) which Freeman & Rogers designed more than ten years ago, concludes that there is "a large gap between the kind and extent of representation and participation workers had and what they desired." The updated edition of their book, What Workers Want, does not present new or innovative polling or original empirical research directed by the authors. Instead, much of the new data cited come from several polls "that come closest in spirit to the WRPS focus on particular aspects of the workplace and compensation package as opposed to job satisfaction broadly defined."
This review essay examines Freeman and Rogers's conclusions drawn from the survey material they put forth and their latest recommendations and proposals. Torn between optimism and despair, What Workers Want (Updated edition)endeavors to offer a balanced approach to labor relations in America. From a positive perspective, their approach puts forward an alternative to another round of endless proposals and counter-proposals for reforming the National Labor Relations Act. However, closer scrutiny is likely to uncover grave problems in their analysis and proposals for reform. Because factual and analytical gaps exist in their analysis and because actual data appear to be available which undermine their conclusions and recommendation, this essay finds that Freeman & Rogers's book is less than fully persuasive.