The William Anderson prize is awarded annually for the best dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state and local politics. Congratulations to Alexis Walker!
Why does organized labor punch below its weight in American politics? This project emphasizes the important role of institutions—namely divided labor law and federalism—in shaping the composition, size, strength and effectiveness of organized labor in the American politics. Utilizing an American political development approach as well as data from a number of different sources, the dissertation finds that the exclusion of public sector employees from the foundation of private sector labor law, the 1935 Wagner Act, and federalized American labor law delayed the growth of public sector unions and contributed to both their legal vulnerability divisions within organized labor that affect union members and leaders’ political behavior today.
The committee was impressed with the breadth of the data and methods Walker employed to investigate her research question. She combined interviews with labor leaders, statistical analysis of survey data, secondary source analysis, and archival research. We also found the broader historical approach to be extremely well done. We learned a lot reading this dissertation and were very happy to see these important and overlooked research questions being tackled in such an ambitious and thorough manner. While the dissertation makes a number of important contributions to the field of federalism and intergovernmental relations, Walker’s analysis of how and why federalism matters for public sector collective bargaining rights can be applied to other rights-based policy areas as well (e.g., gay marriage, election laws).
Melissa Marschall, Rice University
Rob Preuhs, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Kim Johnson, Barnard College
Recipient: Alexis Walker
Dissertation: “Solidarity’s Wedge: How America’s Federalized Labor Law Divides and Diminishes Organized Labor in the United States,” Cornell University