Funded on July 1, 2024

The project will scrutinize state preemption of local workers' rights policies, focusing on how these laws influence local government efficacy and public engagement, particularly within communities of color. It examines the organizing strategies of Black-led community groups and their interactions with governmental bodies in the face of restrictive state legislations.  

This research will address multiple gaps in knowledge. First, we have little understanding of how preemption shapes constituent perceptions of the effectiveness of local government and their willingness to engage with local government. Citizens elect local officials and expect those officials to address their concerns. Preemption creates a dynamic where communities’ may demand their local government to legislate on issues where they have no authority to act. This may shape how citizens view their local government and their willingness to engage in local decision-making processes. Secondly, community organizing among people of color has been central to the trend of local governments advancing workers’ rights, but we do not know how and if preemption shapes community organizing strategies, particularly among Black-led organizations. Lastly, state preemption creates challenging policymaking environments for both local elected officials and state legislators representing urban jurisdictions that are targeted by preemption. Limited research has been done to understand how preemption affects their policymaking. Filling in these knowledge gaps will help us understand the far-reaching effects of workers’ rights preemption and inform strategies to advance workers’ rights in policy environments that are hostile to low-income and racially minoritized workers.  

Key Research Questions: 

  1. How does state preemption influence community organizing and governmental engagement in the context of workers' rights? 

  2. What insights do urban and suburban policymakers offer regarding their experiences with local workers' rights policy preemption? 

  3. How does the impact of workers' rights preemption vary across different state labor policy environments? 

This research is set to provide groundbreaking insights into the systemic barriers imposed by preemptive state legislations and propose strategic measures to bolster advocacy and policy reform efforts aimed at enhancing workers' rights and racial equity in the American South.