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Recently, labor law scholars have examined the emergence of "identity caucuses," in unions and in nonunion workplaces. Some scholars have pointed to identity caucuses as a source of division in unions, while others have pointed to them as alternatives to traditional unions. The author argues that race and gender caucuses in unions are not a source of division in the labor movement today, nor are they a viable alternative to traditional unions. In spite of the National Labor Relations Act's subordination of minority rights to majority rule, the author determines that women and people of color in union-based identity caucuses maintain a strong faith in traditional unions. Using a critical realist approach, the author argues for the importance of identity caucuses in the labor movement from a critical race and feminist perspective, and the need for strong unified unions in the global economic context from a realist perspective. Then, the author looks at the legal environment in which identity caucuses operate, which is dominated by the "exclusive representative" rule ("exclusivity") that names the union as the sole bargaining representative for the entire unit certified by the National Labor Relations Board. Through case studies and survey interviews with members of union identity caucuses, the author concludes that members of these groups are not troubled by exclusivity, but they do favor a place for identity caucuses in the labor movement today. Finally, the author examines reforms to federal labor law that might facilitate the existence of union race and gender caucuses in a legal regime of exclusivity.

Publication Citation

54 Hastings L.J. 79 (2002)