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

JAN 29, 2020

CNN | Labor law makes it too hard to start unions. Workers deserve a bigger voice (Opinion)

“The upshot is that even where they exist now, unions are handicapped by outdated laws built for a post-war economy. Although workers want and need unions that can operate across different sectors, American labor law is built around unions that organize and bargain at a single plant, factory or store. Given these obstacles, expanding worker voice will require more than tinkering around the edges of existing law. Instead, we need to start from scratch.”

FEB 28, 2019

American Prospect | How to Rebuild the Labor Movement, State by State (Opinion)

“The next time Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House, they will need to put major reforms of federal labor law front and center. In the meantime, they ought to learn from conservative anti-union efforts about pursuing change through the states and developing a politically minded strategy for labor reform. In particular, Democrats need to think about labor law reform not just as yet another area of public policy, but rather as conservatives do: as a set of reforms that can build durable political power that enables further policy wins on other issues.”

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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.