I study the political economy of wealthy democracies through the lens of comparative labor relations. In my work, I address macro-level questions of capitalist development by immersing myself in actors’ experiences in order to understand the perspectives they bring to political action. I am particularly interested in what I call “unlikely activists” – white-collar workers and anti-union members of the middle class – who develop novel organizational strategies to limit the power of business.
My dissertation explains why job security in wealthy democracies is universally but not uniformly undermined as countries replace manufacturing with services-based growth models. I argue that tech workers can protect their job security if they mobilize against mass dismissals, even when managers claim that economic conditions demand workforce reductions. Comparing worker responses to mass dismissals at German and American multinational technology firms in the early 2000s, I show that workers were able to defend their jobs when labor organizers used data-driven arguments that challenged management’s economic rationale for dismissals. I argue that variation in workers’ beliefs about managers’ credibility accounts for firm-level variation in flexible, and hence precarious, employment.