Between Rome and Jerusalem: Labor and the Law in the 21st Century
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum
600 South Gregory Street
Should the law distinguish the lease of labor from the lease of a house? Roman law said “no.” Jewish law said “yes.” The debate echoes down the centuries and in America today.
By the end of the 1940s, the United States settled upon a modus vivendi: a low statutory floor for wages and hours upon which collective bargaining would build. That experiment, in terms of raising income and achieving fairness at work, enjoyed some success. But collective representation has evaporated in the private sector; and, though the floor of federal protections has been raised, realization is problematic. Legal address to new and pressing problems rests with the states, with piecemeal results; and efforts to privatize public law and to blunt the growth of law abide.
Consequently, we are summoned anew to confront an ancient issue: What is the role of the law in the employment relationship? Are we to be Rome — or Jerusalem?