Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs,
Columbia University

New York, NY



  • Office of Management and Budget (Biden Administration)
  • U.S. Department of Labor


  • Organized labor and collective action
  • Workers’ rights and workplace standards
  • Design and administration of public benefits
  • Democratic participation in economic policymaking


  • Harvard University, A.M., Ph.D.
  • Northwestern University, B.A.

Recent Coverage

MAY 16, 2024

Axios | UAW hoping for snowball effect as Mercedes-Benz workers take union vote

“In the labor context, victories are really contagious,” Columbia University public affairs professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez tells Axios. “When workers win, it inspires other workers to take action of their own.”

MAY 6, 2024

Newsweek | SNAP Recipients Struggle With Application

“Americans of color, including Hispanic and Black applicants to SNAP, may also be more likely to encounter bias in their encounters with program staff,” Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, visiting fellow at The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told Newsweek.

APRIL 24, 2024

AP | New federal rule would bar ‘noncompete’ agreements for most employees”

But Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a professor at Columbia University who is a former Biden administration Labor Department official, argued that lower-income workers don’t have the ability to negotiate over such provisions. “When they get their job offer,” he said, “it’s really a take-it-or-leave-it-as-a-whole,” he said.

Feb 20, 2024

NPR | 21 Starbucks stores see petitions for union elections in the same day

Jackson says if workers had a union, they could fight for changes to the attendance policies and for guaranteed minimum hours. But to date, contract talks at the nearly 400 unionized Starbucks stores have stalled. Starbucks and the union blame each other for the lack of progress. Alex Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia University says the lack of a contract is a real impediment for the union effort, especially in a high turnover sector like Starbucks.

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About Alexander

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and serves as Vice Dean for Curriculum and Instruction. His teaching and research focuses on understanding the intersection between politics and markets in the United States, the politics of policy design, and labor policy. He is co-director of Columbia’s Labor Lab, which uses social science tools in partnership with labor organizations to build worker power.

Hertel-Fernandez recently returned to Columbia after serving in the Biden-Harris Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. While at the Department of Labor, he led the Department’s research and evaluation activities, including launching initiatives to study and address disparities in access to unemployment insurance and to better measure job quality. He also led the Department’s implementation of President Biden’s historic executive order on racial equity. At the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, he led efforts to expand public participation and community engagement in the regulatory process, reduce burdens in access to government benefits, and served as the lead handling White House review of regulations and forms related to nutrition and food assistance, support for underserved farmers, and rural development.

Hertel-Fernandez is the author or co-author of three books, including most recently The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power (Cambridge, 2021, with Jacob Hacker, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen), which lays out a new framework for assessing the evolution of distinctive political and economic institutions in the United States in comparative perspective. His previous book, State Capture (Oxford, 2019), examined how wealthy donors, businesses and trade associations, and political entrepreneurs built cross-state organizations to reshape policy across the United States—with implications for democracy, accountability, inequality, and political representation. His first book, Politics at Work (Oxford, 2018), examined changing patterns of political mobilization in the workplace.