Law Review Symposium to Explore Law and the Labor Market

The University of Chicago Law Review will convene leading scholars of law, economics, history, and sociology at the Law School on May 6 to explore how law can regulate the labor market to address its failures.

Scholars from across the country will examine the role of antitrust enforcement, unionization, and other forms of market regulation in responding to labor monopsony, which occurs when a firm wields excessive power over wages and working conditions because it is the sole employer, or one of very few employers, in a highly concentrated market.

“With our first in-person symposium in three years, we wanted to find a particularly pressing topic that would bring in scholars from across disciplines and across the globe. Labor monopsony was a perfect fit for that,” said Caroline Veniero, ’22, the 2021-2022 symposium and reviews editor for the Law Review, an 89-year-old student-led journal that publishes print and online content generated from its annual daylong conference. “This year, we are especially excited to launch our first-ever corresponding online student symposium series, where students present their own ideas about the symposium topic. Symposia serve such a critical function in academia. One of my biggest goals for this year was to find a way to bring students into the fold.”

Students organized the conference with Eric Posner, the Kirkland and Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law. In his 2021 book, How Antitrust Failed Workers (Oxford University Press), Posner argued that antitrust law should be used to protect workers from monopsonies just as it protects consumers from monopolies. Antitrust laws like the Sherman and Clayton acts are viable tools, he wrote, because the law does not distinguish between monopoly and monopsony.

“Antitrust law is an important focal point of the event, but something that makes this symposium unique is the focus on market concentration more broadly,” Veniero said. “Market concentration can be addressed with more than just antitrust remedies, and our panelists really highlight the breadth of potential ways to come at this problem.”

Dean Thomas J. Miles, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics, will offer opening remarks, and Posner and Jonathan Masur, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law and the director of the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz Program in Behavioral Law, Finance and Economics, will present during the panel on antitrust. Other panels will focus on unionization and market regulation, as well as “alternative perspectives and critiques.” The latter will integrate insights from history, sociology, and international law to help shed light on the issues.

The symposium, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 6, is in person and open to the public. Participants can register online.