Beyond Unprecedented: You Can’t Hire Me, I Quit

Do Americans want to go back to work? And on what terms? Co-hosts Professor Eric Talley and Millstein Center Research Fellow Kate Waldock ’23 are joined by Professor Kate Andrias to talk about labor shortages, strikes, and the future of work.

A graph showing a descending and then ascending line features the silhouette of a coronavirus.

It’s being called the Great Resignation: Reports show that millions of American workers have disappeared from the labor force since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. A record number of people are quitting their jobs. Restaurants can’t find wait staff, retailers are searching for seasonal sales help, and airlines have canceled flights. At the same time, a wave of workers is unionizing and even going out on strike, and public support for labor unions is at a 55-year high. 

Have Americans looked at the current economy and decided they want work to be fundamentally different? 

Professor Kate Andrias, a scholar on labor law and a commissioner and the rapporteur for the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, joins co-hosts Professor Eric Talley and Research Fellow Kate Waldock ’23 to discuss how workers are asserting their rights and the future of work in the post-pandemic era. Download the transcript.

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Meet the Experts

Professor Kate Andrias line drawing

Kate Andrias, professor of law, teaches and writes in the fields of constitutional law, labor law, and administrative law. Her scholarship examines the failures of U.S. law to protect workers’ rights, the efforts of worker movements to transform legal structures, and how labor law and constitutional governance might be reformed to enable greater political and economic democracy. After receiving a J.D. from Yale Law School, Andrias clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 on the U.S. Supreme Court. Andrias practiced political law at Perkins Coie and served as associate counsel and special assistant to President Barack Obama and as chief of staff in the White House Counsel’s Office. She joined the faculty of Michigan Law School in 2013 and the faculty of Columbia Law School in 2021. Andrias currently serves as a commissioner and the rapporteur for the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States.

“A lot of the Great Resignation and the growing labor unrest is not due to positive changes, but rather to feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction at work. Some of that is COVID related: Some people’s jobs got a lot harder during COVID. But a lot of the problem . . . has to do with choices about how we structure work and the society.”
—Professor Kate Andrias

Line drawing of Eric Talley on a green background

Eric Talley, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, writes and researches at the intersection of corporate law, governance, and finance. As a co-director of the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership, Talley shapes research and programs focused on the future of corporate governance and performance. Talley is a frequent commentator in the national media, and he speaks regularly to corporate boards and regulators on issues pertaining to fiduciary duties, governance, and finance. He is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, and he earned a J.D. and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. Talley also hosted the first season of Beyond Unprecedented.

“The number [of workers] sitting on multiple job offers is also at an all-time high. It’s surprising since the pandemic directly led to 20 million layoffs and business shutdowns and mile-long waits at food pantries.”
—Professor Eric Talley

Line drawing of Millstein Center Research Fellow Kate Waldock with long hair

Kate Waldock ’23 is a research fellow at the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership and is the first student to take part in the Academic Scholars Program at Columbia Law School, where she is pursuing a J.D. She was previously an assistant professor of finance at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. From 2017 to 2020, Waldock served as the co-host, with Luigi Zingales, of the economics podcast Capitalisn’t. On the last season of Beyond Unprecedented, she was a featured guest on episode three, “A New Chapter for Bankruptcy?” Waldock’s research interests include bankruptcy, corporations, and banking. Waldock has a B.A. in economics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in finance from New York University.

“We’ve gone through this long period where there’s been some negative feelings about organized labor and unions. Fast-forward to the pandemic, when we were banging pots and pans at 7 [o’clock] in appreciation of essential workers.”
—Kate Waldock ’23

Seal of the 2021 Webby awards reading Webby Award Nominee

About the Series
Beyond Unprecedented is brought to you by Columbia Law School and the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership and is produced by the Office of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs at Columbia Law School. The first season was recognized as a 2021 Webby Awards honoree by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.