Marion Crain


For professionals, work is not a commodity to be sold on the market, but a calling that constitutes personal identity while simultaneously conferring a relatively privileged class status. Historically, the professions avoided commodification through a social bargain in which they exchanged their professional expertise and dedication to public service for autonomy, the ability to self-regulate through peer review, and monopoly power over their knowledge base. Over the last twenty-five years, market instability and technological development have fundamentally altered the conditions under which this social bargain was formed, and the professional class has been transformed from self-employed to salaried employee status. New profit-maximizing strategies and updated scientific management techniques are threatening to commodify professionals and generating widespread interest in professional unions. This Article examines the forces that are prompting unionization in the medical profession and the legal profession, assesses unionization and collective bargaining as effective vehicles for the defense of professional identity, addresses potential barriers posed by the Court's interpretation of the labor laws, and outlines an argument for coverage of professionals by the NLRA that is grounded in the commodification process.