The New Deal’s great innovation, the minimum wage, sets a national floor under hourly pay but has long since ceased to function as a national standard. In the nearly 10 years since Congress last adjusted it, multiple states and localities have enacted their own laws. Now 29 states with 63 percent of the U.S. population have minimums higher, often much higher, than the federal $7.25 per hour.
Twenty-eight states also have right-to-work laws, barring mandatory union dues, but no less a progressive man of labor than Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, thinks more decentralization of federal labor law might help unions escape their seemingly terminal decline.
In a recent National Affairs essay, Stern and free-market think-tanker Eli Lehrer called for state waivers under the National Labor Relations Act, so as to enable “experimentation with new business models that could, in turn, vastly increase the number of people involved in labor unions as well as unions’ own success as business enterprises.”