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Based on my reading of polsci and econ literature, I believe there is an extensive literature studying how collective action (e.g., through labor strikes or occupation groups) can influence economic policies. But I am trying to find relevant literature that studies how introducing a specific economic policy (e.g., raising the minimum wage) or subsidy (e.g., government childcare allowance for working mothers) shapes interest in participating/engagement in collective action. I am curious to read any relevant papers on this question.

For instance, I wonder if we should theoretically expect that post the implementation of policies such as California's min wage increase, that we observe more/less participation in labor strikes for minimum-wage workers and increases/decline in union memberships?

On the one hand, we may expect greater interest in participating in future labor strikes because workers see that their strikes have been "successful" in delivering better economic policies. On the other hand, some minimum-wage employees might become less engaged with labor unions and less interested in organizing future labor strikes because they believe that their economic demands (e.g., increasing wages) have been met and are thus not as enthusiastic/engaged in organizing future labor strikes.

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If you're looking for empirical studies focused directly on this precise question, I don't think you'll find them.

An interesting near-exception is a 2022 study which found "that recent increases in New York’s minimum wage increased voter turnout among low-income workers by several percentage points."

Regarding your assertion of competing hypotheses in opposite directions, I think scholars of labor movements would broadly agree that the impact could go either way and any net positive or negative correlation between such reforms and the level of labor militancy will depend on interaction with other variables.

To elaborate on this complexity a bit, sociologist Beverly Silver published an interesting large-scale study of the frequency of labor strikes worldwide from roughly 1870 to 2000. She found evidence for what she calls both "Marx-type" and "Polanyi-type" labor unrest. The Marx-type waves of labor activism happen when new industries are building up and the increasing demand for labor simultaneously produces grievances and raises expectations. The Polanyi-type waves happen when industries decline and the gains of previous organizing (of which minimum wage laws might be an example) get rolled back. Overall I think her findings are consistent with the broad idea that the impacts of social and economic policy on labor militancy will be complex and have to be viewed in their overall historical context, not reductively as an independent variable.

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  • Thanks for the thorough answer! The first paper example that you provide is particularly useful, and is super relevant to my question, thanks.
    – nesta1990
    Feb 25 at 12:48

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