NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

A Workers' Lobby to Provide Portable Benefits

Joni Hersch

NBER Working Paper No. 9591
Issued in March 2003
NBER Program(s):   LS

How can workers have a voice in the face of declining unionization and rising nontraditional career paths? To demonstrate how a new labor market institution can emerge, I develop a model of fundraising by a workers' organization in which the founder must allocate resources between the provision of public goods, which attracts foundation grants, and the provision of private goods, which attracts individual members. My case study for analyzing the performance of the model is Working Today, a new organization founded with the objectives of representing all workers and shifting employment rights from the current employer-based regime to one that assigns rights to individuals. Working Today has evolved from an organization funded by foundation grants that attempted to represent all workers, to primarily serving as an intermediary to provide group health insurance for independent workers. In order to examine the market for health insurance supplied by an organization such as Working Today, I provide statistics on the insurance coverage status and demographic characteristics of non-standard workers and traditional employees.

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