Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers into Lobbyists


Monday, April 30, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Allison Dining Room

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

Co-sponsored by the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Join us for a discussion with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez about his new book, Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers into Lobbyists (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Employers are increasingly recruiting their workers into politics to change elections and public policy. Using a diverse array of original evidence, including national surveys of workers, employers, and top Congressional aides, as well as in-depth interviews with top corporate managers, Politics at Work explains why mobilization of workers has become an appealing corporate political strategy in recent decades.

The book also assesses the effect of employer mobilization on the political process more broadly, including its consequences for electoral contests, policy debates, and political representation.

Politics at WorkPolitics at Work shows that while employer political recruitment has some benefits for American democracy – for instance, getting more workers to the polls – it also has troubling implications for other aspects of political participation. Workers face considerable pressure to respond to their managers’ political requests because of the economic power employers possess over workers. What is more, many workers report fearing political retaliation from their managers. In spite of these worrisome patterns, corporate managers report that mobilization of workers is an important strategy for influencing politics.

By carefully examining a growing yet underappreciated political practice, Politics at Work contributes to our understanding of the changing workplace, as well as the ways that businesses influence politics in the United States. The book offers fresh perspectives on debates over money in politics and will be valuable to anyone interested in the connections between inequality, public policy, and American democracy.

About the speaker

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is a political scientist who studies the political economy of the United States, with an emphasis on the politics of organized interests, especially business and labor, and public policy. 

He is an Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He received his PhD in Government and Social Policy from Harvard University in 2016. His thesis, on corporate-conservative mobilization across the states, received the 2017 Harold D. Lasswell Prize for best dissertation in the field of public policy from the American Political Science Association.

Hertel-Fernandez's research has been published, or is forthcoming, in the Journal of Politics, Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and LawPerspectives on PoliticsStudies in American Political Development, and the Social Service Review. He is the 2017 winner of the American Political Science Association's Fiona McGillivray Prize for best paper in political economy presented at the previous year's APSA annual meeting, and the Midwest Political Science Association's Patrick J. Fett Award for best paper (joint with Leah Stokes and Matto Mildenberger) on Congress and the presidency presented at the previous MPSA annual meeting.

His work has also appeared in the American Prospect, Democracy Journal, the Harvard Business ReviewMSNBC, the New York Times, the New YorkerNPRSalonTalking Points Memo, the Washington Post, and Vox

His new book, Politics at Work (Oxford University Press, 2018), examines how employers are increasingly recruiting their workers into politics – and why Americans should care.

Learn more about Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's work

See also: Spring 2018