Why the 21st Century Antitrust Act is Critical for New York Workers

May 10, 2022 LaborState and Local Policy


New York workers are facing stagnant wages, deteriorating working conditions, and fewer options to change employers due to increasing corporate consolidation and unchecked monopoly power.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Treasury Department, corporate power is costing workers about 20 percent of their wages. The report highlights three key ways in which corporations have increased their power over workers: increased consolidation, meaning workers have fewer options for changing jobs; increasing use of restrictive contracts such as non-compete and no-poach agreements; and “fissuring” of the workplace, as more employers rely on contractors, many of whom are misclassified as “independent.”

The report broadly fits within the growing body of research showing that as corporate concentration increases, workers are harmed, whether through wage cuts, degrading work conditions, wage theft or labor law violations. In fact, dominant employers have been shown to not only increase concentration across local labor markets, but to drive down the labor force participation rate, meaning some workers are pushed out of the labor market entirely due to corporate power.

Labor markets are more susceptible to corporate concentration because changing jobs is difficult and time-consuming, and many factors prevent workers from leaving a labor market, such as family obligations. Employers can therefore exert power over workers at much lower levels of concentration than current antitrust law takes into account.

New York legislators can begin to rein in corporate power and give workers vital new protections and powers to challenge abusive corporations by passing the 21st Century Antitrust Act (S933A/A1812A). This legislation will ban restrictions on workers’ ability to change jobs and hold dominant corporations accountable for anti-competitive practices that undermine wages and working conditions.